Fruit Juice Want Some

Cartoon Juice
I took this photo in the supermarket.



It is of these Good 2 Grow juice bottles for kids with cartoon sip tops.Β 



Everyone from Ninja Turtles to Scooby Doo is here on the shelf.



And peeping out in the middle from the back is none other than SpongeBob SquarePants.Β 



I guess if I were still a kid holding hands with my mom coming down the aisle, I would stop right here and start yelling and jumping up and down for these.



Juice Smuice…I just like these fun, happy cartoon characters. πŸ˜‰

The Calorie Count Cookie

Fortune Cookie Calories
So we were out with family at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant.Β 



And at the end of the meal, of course there were fortune cookies to be had.



As someone opened the cookie, and was about to plop it in her mouth, she said, “Ah, there goes another 100 calories!”



Then I thought for a moment, and said, “wouldn’t it be great (for those of us watching our weight), if every food had an edible embedded chip and display that would flash the calorie count as you picked it up and were about to put it in your mouth.Β 



Rather than those esoteric calorie counts on the side of packages for G-d knows what serving sizes, you get a play-by-play count every time you reach, pick up, and are about to ingest the next big gulp.



I think having calorie counts tied to real portions and having these in your face in real time as you are eating could have a huge impact on portion size and weight control.Β 



It may not be sexy to see the calories in your face as you eat, but boy could it be healthy. πŸ˜‰



Copyright to Andy Blumenthal



(Source Photo: Me)

Garbage In, Repair The World Out

Garbage Truck

I’m sure you know the saying, “Garbage In, Garbage out”–in other words what you put into something is what you get out.



In this case, I took a photo of a garbage truck–of all things–that had prominently plastered on its side, “Tikkun Olam – Repair the World.”



That is quite a positive message to put on a garbage truck!



Maybe that is our challenge in life, to make good things happen from the garbage that life often throws our way.Β 



Make something sweet like lemonade out of something sour like lemons.



This is not easy without some sugar, but in life, we need G-d to supply the raw ingredients and we add the elbow grease. πŸ˜‰



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

10 Keys To Influencing And Selling Anything

Brilliant video by Kendra Eash for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

It is made entirely with stock footage from Dissolve.

What is amazing is how with some great video, nice background music, and a soothing confidant voiceover–we can sell, or be sold on, just about anything.

The 10 Keys to influencing and selling anything, including B.S.:

1. Vague words that show progress (innovation, hope, motherhod, and apple pie–I’ll have some of that)
2. Beautiful footage and sounds (who wouldn’t want to be there type?)
3. High-technology and science (we can solve the world’s problems and make money, yippee)
4. Research and development (we’re investing in the future and you should invest in us)
5. Global and U.S. (we’re beyond borders, but still “made in…”, headquartered, or otherwise a U.S. entity)
6. Environmentally conscious (clean water, breathable, air, lush forests, who can argue with that?)
7. High-speed (movers and shakers, we don’t stand still, join us or be left behind)
8. Attractive people (this is for real human beings, human kind, we care about you!)
9. Diversity and equality (we love and help everyone–including you and your family)
10. Inspiring (we’re thinking big and bringing positive change–buy from us, support our cause)

Throw/superimpose any company, product, country, person, or cause on this video–and poof, you’ve got an awesome brand–whether you deserve it or not!

This is how we’re manipulated one brand at a time, hundreds of brands a day. πŸ˜‰

Restraint or Recklessness?

Restraint or Recklessness?

Like many of you, as I watch the events unfold with the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, I am amazed at the “restraint” being shown by the West.

But I can’t help asking myself why a military invasion by the Great Bear into a sovereign nation that is leaning toward democracy is being met with restraint.

Sitting in Starbucks, I overheard one young women saying to an older gentlemen that she did not understand the reaction of the President in saying there would be “consequences” and that no one took that seriously as there was no specificity, almost as if their where no real consequences to even threaten Russia with.

So why all the word-mincing, dancing around the subject, and restraint by the West in light of this very dangerous escalation in eastern Europe:

1) Surprise – Was the West completely taken by surprise by Russia’s military intervention? Didn’t something similar happen with Georgia in 2008–less than 6 years ago? Did we not foresee the possibility of Russia lashing out against Ukraine to protect its interests when Ukraine turned back toward European integration and away from the embrace of Russia that it had made only weeks earlier? After Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and with all our “Big Data,” intelligence, and military planning–how did we miss this (again!)?

2) Duped – Were we duped by the misinformation from Russia saying that the 150,000 troops they called on a “training exercise” was planned months ago and it just happened to coincide with the toppling of Ukraine’s President? Also, were we fooled when the “mysterious” soldiers showed up without national markings and Russia said they weren’t their military–uh, where did they come from–did they float down from the heavens?

3) Apathetic – Are we just apathetic to Ukraine’s plight? Are they just a poor country of little strategic value to us? Are we so war weary from Iraq and Afghanistan that we just want to place our heads in the sand like ostriches even when democracy and freedom is threatened in a European nation of some 45 million people?

4) Fear – Are we afraid of the military might of the nuclear-armed Russian Federation? Is America, the European Union, NATO, the United Nations all not willing to stand up and hold Russia accountable even if that means a military confrontation? Not that anyone wants World War III, but if we don’t stand up and defend against wanton aggression, how can any country or anyone be safe going forward?

5) Optionless – Are we just out of options? Russia got the upper hand on this one and they are logistically right there on the border and in the country of Ukraine now and what can we do? Despite the U.S. assertion that it can project military power anywhere around the world and a defense budget bigger than the 10 next largest combined–how can we be out of options? Are we out of options because we tacitly understand that one wrong miscalculation and we could end up with WMD on our homeland doorstep?

6) Butter Over Guns – Have we retrenched from world affairs, downsized our military, and emphasized domestic issues over international ones? Have we forgotten the risk that comes from a world without a superpower that helps to maintain stability and peace? Are we just under so much financial duress with a growing mountain of national debt, a economic recovery still struggling, and the lowest employment participation in over 30 years that we can’t even entertain spending more treasure to fight again?

7) Leadership – Who is managing the crisis? We’ve seen our President speak, various other government officials from the U.S. and European Union, the Secretary General of the U.N., the Secretary General of NATO, and more? Who is in charge–setting the tone–deciding the strategy? Who has point so that we and Russia know who to listen to and what is just background noise?

What is so scary about this whole thing is how quickly things can escalate and seriously get out of control in this world, and this despite all the alliances, planning, and spending–at the end of the day, it looks like we are floundering and are in chaos, while Russia is advancing on multiples fronts in Ukraine and elsewhere with supporting dangerous regimes in Syria, Iran, North Korea and more.

Whether we should or shouldn’t get involved militarily, what is shocking is: 1) the very notion that there wouldn’t be any good military options, and 2) that the consequences are not being spelled out with speed and clarity.

In the streets, at the cafe, on the television, I am seeing and hearing people in shock at what is happening and what we are and are not doing about it.

Even if we get Russia to stop advancing (yes, based on what happened with Georgia, I doubt they will actually pull back out), the question is what happens the next time there is a conflict based on how we’ve managed this one?

I do want to mention one other thing, which is while I feel empathy for the plight of the Ukrainians seeking freedom from Russia now, I also must remember the events of Babi YarΒ where, between 1941-1944, 900,000 Jews were murdered in the Soviet Union by Nazi genocide and their Ukrainian collaborators. This is history, but no so long ago.

All opinions my own.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Utenriksdept)

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts.

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating.

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

– Homeland Security threat alerts
– Breaking news alerts
– Emergency/Disaster alerts
– Severe weather alerts
– Smog alerts
– Transportation delay alerts
– Accident alerts
– Fraud alerts
– Economic and financial alerts
– Amber missing child alerts
– Internet security alerts
– Power loss alerts
– Home or business intruder alerts
– Fire alerts
– Carbon Monoxide alerts
– Medical/health alerts
– Chemical spill alerts
– Product safety or recall alerts
– Unsafe drinking water alerts
– Active shooter alerts
– Work closure alerts
– Parking garage alerts
– Dangerous marine life alerts
– Dangerous current or undertow alerts
– Air raid siren alerts
– Solar eclipse alerts
– Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
– Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time.

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.

The alerts are short–up to 140 characters–so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you.

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item.

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed.

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

– Message source (for ensuring reliability)
– Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response).
– Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
– Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
– Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
– Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It’s good to know what’s going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I, U, Y Talk Like That

I, U, Y Talk Like That

Already young children in pre-school learn that “Words have meaning, and words can hurt.”

All through life, we refine our communication skills learning what works and what doesn’t.

Here are three letter-words with which to beware:

– “I” (Use sparingly) – I is usually people’s favorite word; they love to talk about themselves. I this. I that. I like. I hate. The problem is that “I” can also be selfish, egotistical, and narcissistic. Without tempering talking about I all the time, you run the very large risk of overdoing it. All the I can easily end up boring other people to near death or simply make them want to run the other way to get some needed healthy attention for themselves.

– “U” (Use carefully) – U is most often used to criticize. U should do this. U did something wrong. U are a blankety-blank. While it’s also caring, loving, and empathetic to talk about U (i.e. taking a genuine interest in the other person), talking about U can easily go astray and lead to disapproval, denunciation, and censure. We should and need to talk about U, but more from the perspective of understanding U and how can I help U.

– “Y” (Use almost never) – Y is used to ask questions, but usually ends up being used judgmentally. Y did you do that? Sometimes we question honestly and with positive intentions to understand, but very often we end up using the response to evaluate their actions, and pronounce judgement on them. From all the interrogative questions (who, what, where, when, Y, and how), Y should be used the absolute least, if ever.

I, U, Y – are letter-words that can imply selfishness, criticism, and judgement.

While, they can’t exactly be banned from the alphabet or dictionary, they are dangerous words that can get you misunderstood, alienate others, and hurt people in the process, and therefore use them, but with extreme caution, please. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to id-iom)

From Memorization To Thinking

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally.

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math–and I really like that.

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place.

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization–multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more.

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures.

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out.

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think.

You can’t memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning.

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success.

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts–from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc.

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine.

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age–memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance–in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way.

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

Getting It In Writing

Getting It In Writing

So this is funny, this company, Knock Knock makes witty office supply products.

This one is a picture of file folders that say, “Useless documents to provide appearance of importance in meetings.”

They have another set of folders with, “Papers to shuffle endlessly thereby accomplishing nothing.”

These reminded of the importance of getting things properly documented, in writing.

Otherwise you get the unfortunate scenario that goes something like this when coming to agreements with others:

– Person #1: “If it’s okay, can I get that in writing?”

– Person #2: “You have my word. Don’t you trust me?”

The end result is an undocumented verbal agreement, and this is invariably followed, at some future time, by a disagreement, as follows:

– Person #1: “Well we agreed [fill in the blank].”

– Person #2: “I don’t recall that. Do you have it in writing?”

When someone refuses to give it to you in writing that is a clear warning sign, and bells and sirens should be going off in your head–loudly–that there is a problem.

The lesson is:

– Get it documented in writing, period.

– Documents are not useless even if some people use them to look important or they get caught in paperwork paralysis.

– Verbal agreements are a he says, she says losing game.

– Avoid getting caught without the documentation that spells it all out–and you can put it in one of these cool folders too. πŸ˜‰

Note: This is not a vendor or product endorsement.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Performance and Transparency – 2gether 4ever

Performance and Transparency - 2gether 4ever

Really liked this performance measurement and transparency at Home Depot.

Here are their store performance measures prominently displayed.

Not a high-tech solution, but every measure has its place and metrics.

– Looks at friendly customer service.

– Tracks speed of checkout.

– Measures accuracy of transactions.

This lines up well with the management adage that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Some pointers:

– Identify, collaboratively, your key drivers of performance

– Determine whether/how you can measure them efficiently (i.e. qualitatively, quantitatively)

– Set realistic, stretch targets for the organization

– Communicate the goals and measures, 360 degrees

– Regularly capture the measures and make the metrics transparent

– Recognize and reward success and course correct when necessary

– Reevaluate measures and goals over time to ensure they are still relevant

Wash, rinse, repeat for continuous improvement. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)