Cockroach Tea

So I went into this store in Chinatown in Washington, D.C. and was looking around. 


I saw this chest of draws with all sorts of herbs and insects listed. 


One draw included a label for “Cockroach”.


I asked innocently:

Do you have cockroaches in there?


The lady behind the counter responds in broken English:

Oh yes, there are roaches in there. 


Again, not understanding the relationship to the herbs for sale, I inquire:

What are the roaches used for?


The lady looks at me a little more intently and says:

It is for tea–cockroach tea!


My eyes literally bugged out and I go for a third round:

Do people drink that for health reasons?


She responds:

Yes, and it is good for managing pain. 


Hesitatingly, I asked her to take out the bag and open it so I could see for myself. 


I don’t know about you, but growing up in NYC, we definitely didn’t value cockroaches as part of our diet–in fact, we did everything we could to try and rid ourselves of these disgusting insects–but usually to no avail. 


The roaches survived everything we could throw at them!


If they are so resilient, maybe they can provide some health benefits to people (who knows–you’ve got to respect ancient alternative medicines), but I will only say this, you won’t get me anywhere near this roach tea–and not for all the tea in China!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Paul Allen And Steve Jobs – Both Left Us Early!


Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft died yesterday, Oct. 15, 2018.


His untimely death reminded me of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Microsoft who died Oct. 5, 2011.


Allen co-founder Microsoft in 1975 and Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976


Allen was 65 and Jobs was just 56 at time of death.


Both were pioneers in the IT Revolution.


Both died of cancer.


Both dropped out of college.


Both accumulated $20B of wealth in today’s money.


Both own(ed) 2 sports teams (Jobs posthumously)


Both were huge philanthropists in terms of what they left the world: money in Allen’s case and many innovations in Job’s.


Both have been in Time’s 100 Most Influential People.


Both died an early death–sadly too young!


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

The Horrible C Word

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Cancer is such an awful killer disease.


After heart disease, it is the #2 cause of death in the United States taking almost 592,000 lives a year or 22.5% of all deaths!


Usually, we don’t even like to say the word and even tempt fate.


Instead we just refer to it as the horrible “C word.”  


Today my daughter forwarded to me this poem written by a teenager with terminal cancer, and I thought this was worth sharing with you all…


SLOW DANCE

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?


You better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won’t last.


Do you run through each day on the fly?

When you ask, “How are you?”

Do you hear the reply?


When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,

with the next hundred chores running through your head?


You’d better slow down

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short

The music won’t last.


Ever told your child, 

We’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,

Not see his sorrow?


Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die 

Cause you never had time 

To call and say,’Hi’


You’d better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won’t last..


When you run so fast to get somewhere,

You miss half the fun of getting there.


When you worry and hurry through your day,

It is like an unopened gift….

Thrown away.


Life is not a race.

Do take it slower

Hear the music

Before the song is over.


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Excuses We Make

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So on the way to the airport, I am talking with the Uber driver. 


“There is such a discrepancy between the rich and the poor here,” I say.


“Yeah,” she says, “When I drive and stop at the lights, there are many poor people that come up to the car looking for a handout.”


She continues, “I usually have a few dollars here” pointing to the little cubby hole under the parking break. 


“But my friends make fun of me saying, they [the panhandlers] are just going to go out and buy a beer!”


Excuse #1 not to give poor people–they’ll misuse our charity and buy alcohol, drugs, or prostitutes. 


The driver says, “But so what…if I were in their shoes, I’d buy a beer too.”


I’m thinking, hey this is nice…she’s fighting the bad inclination and her friends pressure and still wants to give–this is great!


Sure enough, we stop at a red light, and a really poor man starts walking up to the window to ask for help.


This person is dressed in dirty battered rags of an undershirt, and has sores on their arms and body.


The driver says, “Yeah, if I gave him, he’d probably just switch his shirt inside out later [as if the other side would be magically less dirty and ripped] and go home to his Rolls Royce!”


Wow, when excuse #1 doesn’t hold…


Excuse #2–the poor people are just faking it…really they aren’t poor, but rather they are fantastically rich and trying to pocket some more money for free.


It’s like the evil inclination sitting on one shoulder telling us “don’t give,”  even as the good inclination is sitting over our other shoulder beseeching us to have mercy and “give, give, give.”


In this case, the evil inclination won out. 


I reached for my wallet and wanted to open my window, but honestly this person looked scary–dirty and maybe sick–I was afraid of this person. 


I hope G-d forgives me, because I feel it wasn’t my evil inclination making excuses, but this time it was genuine for me. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Locked Inside Your Own Body

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So being imprisoned in torturously tight spaces and uncomfortable positions is…physically, mentally, and emotionally harrowing. 


Of course, the criminal justice system centers around incarceration (and less so rehabilitation) and for most of history–from chains, cages, and dungeons–the most vile despots have placed people’s bodies in desperate restraints. 


But I have learned that people can be not only physically incarcerated and shackled, but they can also literally be imprisoned within their own bodies. 


My own dear mother suffered terribly with Parkinson’s Disease and I watched helplessly and in horror as the degenerative rigidity, contortion, and incredibly horrendous pain made her suffer so. No amount of pain medication could ease her unbelievable suffering…only death itself.


In another instance, a colleague’s spouse got sick with ALS and as this horrible disease ran it’s course, the person could not move, eat, speak, and eventually even breath on their own.  Their mind worked fine, but it was imprisoned within a body that continuously closed in on itself and could no longer function. 


In both these cases, the body itself was the prison of the mind and soul–no bars, no barbed wire, and no high walls necessary. 


Another case, I read and watched about his week, was of a husband and father who suddenly became a quadriplegic.  Kevin Breen was a healthy and active 44-year old, when suddenly he came down with a case of strep throat that traveled to his stomach and almost ended up killing him. He survived, but had to have his hands and feet amputated. Can you imagine the absolute horror of this?


There are so many good things that can happen in life, but also so many, G-d forbid, misfortunes–it is frightening to think about let alone confront. 


Locked up or imprisoned within our own failing bodies, leave mankind looking out into the darkest and deepest of the abyss, and that is when we need G-d’s ultimate mercy and to answer us more than ever.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Planetary Colonization Imperative

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I read something so simple yet profound from theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (The Guardian).


First, he enunciated many of the threats we face these days, including:


– Accelerating technological change [I would elaborate that these include more advanced weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them]


– Automation, [robotics,] and rise of artificial intelligence


– Economic inequality, mass migration, job destruction, [and divisiveness] augmented by immersive social media that accentuates “Instagram [and Facebook] Nirvana” versus the real poverty and struggling of the masses, 


– “Environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, and acidification of the oceans.”


In one sentence then, Hawking says it all about the high level of risk we face:

“We now have the technology to destroy the planet, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.”


His call to action:

“Perhaps in a few hundred years,  we will have established human colonies amid the stars. but right now we have only one planet. and we need to work together to protect it [and develop the means to eventually be able to escape it for the survival of humanity.]”


In short, we must get to and colonize other planets as quickly as possible, because it the realm of history, it’s only a matter of time and our collective lives are depending on it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal Via National Geographic)

Sukkah Surprise

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I’m in Washington D.C. and I look towards the World Health Organization (WHO) a specialized agency of the United Nations. 

And lo’ and behold, what do I see? 

It looks like a sukkah!

A sukkah is a small temporary hut that is put up on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles or Booths) which we are celebrating now. 

The sukkah commemorates when the Jewish people left Egypt and journeyed through the desert for 40 years until they reached the promised land of Israel. 

Sukkot is traditionally one of three times a year of historical pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, and this was fascinating to see this in DC just as the UNjust UNESCO failed history by erroneously declaring the Temple Mount in Jerusalem only sacred to Muslims. 

So while I’m thinking how cool is it that the WHO has a sukkah for the celebration–I’ve never seen a sukkah in Washington DC before.–I’m realizing this is something much more.

As I get closer, I see there are pictures of impoverished people with names of diseases like chagas and elephantiasis caused by parasites. 


As I then learn, this is not like any traditional sukkah–usually decorated, happy, and celebratory for the redemption from slavery and the founding of Jewish nationhood. 


I stop by some people outside and ask what this structure is and they tell me it’s a favela (like a shanty town hut from Brazil).


The WHO had this put up as a display for an important meeting of public health officials, and they said I am welcome to take a look. 


So what is to some a sukkah for celebrating the holiday of redemption to another is a favela for learning about critical health conditions around the world. 


People are so connected all over the world in more ways than we normally realize. 


Either way, this temporary shelter is no place to call home, even though seeing it from a distance made me feel just that way.


Unfortunately, the UN does not duly recognize and respect the Jewish homeland, it’s ancestry and religious connections to G-d, the Temple, and the Holy Land.


To the unfortunate bigoted and hateful UNESCO, I’m sure a sukkah is just another favela–that is the disease so prominent in their hearts and minds. 


But with hopefulness, perhaps even they can be miraculously redeemed like the symbolism we get from the sukkah. 


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)