Invasion of Dinosaur

So what’s with the invasion of dinosaurs. 


First one is standing next to the checkout line in Whole Foods in Maryland.


Second one is actually on someone’s terrace overlooking the beach in Fort Lauderdale.


Third one is the real McCoy from the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. 


Certainly, dinosaurs aren’t cute and cuddly–even the plush ones from Whole Foods–they’d eat you and I for dinner if they could!


So why do we gravitate to relics from the Ice Age past?


Perhaps, just like looking forward to Aliens from outer space, the dinosaurs represent an important historical link for us, and thus anchor us in a much larger perspective of time and space. 


In a way, it all points to the dichotomy between us as humans with great–almost endless–potential, and yet at the same time, how small we are relative to the enormous dinosaurs that roamed the earth of yesteryear as well as the distinct possibility of mighty extraterrestrials that we may someday (soon) encounter from outer space. 


From this context, I guess what’s really amazing is that we, as a people, are still here!


Despite our bad habits and unsustainable living, we continue to innovate our way out of own messes of greed, conflict, contagion, pollution, and resource depletion, and create a future far beyond what destroyed our predecessors or even what may come from current or potential future foes. 


Like the economy, we think we can grow ourselves out of all our troubles–and who knows, maybe we can if we can continue to stay at least one or two steps ahead of all the challenges and threats–but, at the back (or front) of our minds is what if we can’t or don’t?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Always An Evil Cersei

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So Games of Thrones session 7 was fantastic!


And the evil ruler of Westeros in King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister, never ceases to amaze in her deviousness and wrongdoing. 


There is a great existential threat to the 7 Kingdoms as 100,000 strong army of White Walkers and a zombie dragon (as Air Force) invades from beyond the wall in the far north.


And while Jon Snow (King of the North) and Daenerys Targaryen (Queen heir to the 7 Kingdoms) unites to fight them, Cersei seeks to win it all for herself. 


Cersei gives her word to join them with her armies in the fight against the invaders, but instead she backtracks and plans to conquer them from the south as they faceoff with the enemy to the north. 


This is the classic treachery of getting the upper hand and working to divide and conquer. 


As the Queen of Evil, Cersei will torture and kill anyone in her path to power, even threatening her own brother and incest partner, Ser Jaime, so turning on her competition to the Iron Throne is just a walk in the park for her. 


Unfortunately, this is really a tale of everyday life…where people band together to fight big enemies that threaten us–whether from violence, poverty, or illness–and someone always uses the war of the day as an opportunity to benefit themselves. 


Whether it’s arms trafficking, human smuggling, drug profiteering, intellectual property theft, money laundering or someone else trying to get rich, famous, and powerful by exploiting an opening for themselves, there is always a Cersei! 


Cerseis are people that don’t care about solving large institutional or global problems–but instead are selfish and seek to capitalize on them.


While the White Walkers invade, Cersei is counting bodies of her enemies fending them off, while she seeks to take over once the battlefield is full of everyone else’s corpses. 


Cerseis are people you know at work, school, in the community and in politics…they take when others give, and they don’t give back in return, because they want what everyone else has and works for, and that is how they win the Game of Thrones in everyday life.


How do you stop the Cerseis of the world–anyone got some Dragonglass? 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to HBO via the New York Times)

I Got The Call

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I got the call!


But not the one that I always wanted, which is to serve at the very highest echelons of government or/and industry for those values and things which I so hold dear. 


No, instead I got the call that my professor in college warned me about. 


He said:

“You will get a call one day from someone asking for a lot of cash–no questions asked! At that time, you will know who you’re real friends are.”


So I actually got this call (for real) and in the middle of my work day.


This person who contacts me is considered quite affluent and with an extensive network, and I know him/her for only a relatively short time


Person:

“You know you’re like family to me Andy…I need $2,000–in cash–by 7 pm. I’ll pay you back $500 on Friday and the rest by Monday.”


Me (Stunned):

“What–is this a joke or something?”


Person:

{Repeats again the request}


Me:

“OMG. What’s wrong–is everyone okay? Are you in any trouble?”


Person:

Uh, everyone’s fine…don’t ask me any questions–there’s no time for this now.”


Me {Reaching for some humor in this bizarre situation}:

“Oh, only $2,000–I thought maybe you needed $2 million–that’s no problem, of course.”


Person:

“Please don’t make jokes now Andy–this isn’t funny!”


Me {Trying once again to get some more–any–information}:

“Can you just explain to me what’s going on–I really want to understand, so I can help you.”


Person:

“Do you have the cash or not?”


Me: 

“To be frank no. I don’t keep any cash around. {Inquiring to learn more…} Could you take a check or something else?”


Person:

“No. Listen, can you go to the ATM now?”


Me {frustrated by the abruptness, lack of sensical communication, and pushiness, as well as more than a little suspicious at how this is all going down}:

“Well the ATMs have a cash limit. Also, I would really need to check with my {lovely} wife first,”


Person {seeing they weren’t getting what they wanted when they wanted it}:

“Okay, well if you can’t help, I’ll just call someone else–thanks {hanging up on me}!” 


WOW!


Despite having trusted this person and feeling very hurt by all this, I still called the person back later that evening to follow up and because I truly cared, and they were still not any more forthcoming with me, and in fact, were quite attacking that they were sorry to have called me.


But I wasn’t sorry…my college professor was right on, thank G-d–I do know who my friends are!


Whether its a lunch date, LinkedIn/Facebook contact, or social invitation, be discerning about the motives of people–outside of any sane and normal context–that are seeking to “friend” you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

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So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 


That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.


It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.


Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  


So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently…


A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 


He says, “Good morning. Where you from?”


I smile and respond, “Washington, D.C.,” and add proudly, “the nation’s capital!”


He then asks, “What do you do there?”


Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, “Oh, cleaning up the swamp.”


To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, “Yeah right!” 


There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.


Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:


– Change the status quo of big stumbling government


– Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money


– Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us


– Fairly and compassionately address the nation’s priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being


– Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein


And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Satisfied and Bless G-d

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I loved Chabad Rabbi Schneur Kaplan’s speech today in synagogue.


It was about how we can learn to be happy with what we have in life.


The biggest marketing gimmick is to say to the guy, “Look at what your neighbor has next door!”


Jealousy, desire, greed, having more and better than the next guy/girl…


That’s what many people live for and how they think.


Some can have as much as the founders of Apple, Google, and Facebook combined and still it’s not enough.


If just one person has something more…it can drive that person crazy.


Like Haman on Purim, who had wealth, power, large family and everyone bowed down to him…


Except one person named Mordecai who wouldn’t bow.


And despite having everything, but missing that one thing drove Haman so crazy–it was his downfall!


When we eat, we can be satisfied with one slice of pizza and say grace or we can have four slices and still not be satisfied.


How do we look at things?


We can be grateful for whatever we have and say that G-d gave us just what we needed at this time and place.


Or we can look at what we don’t have, and forever be bitter and unsatisfied.


What joy we can experience in life when we realize the graciousness for what G-d has bestowed on us and we are thankful for what we have. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mine and Yours

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In synagogue today, we read from Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers”).


And I talked with my friends at lunch about one passage from this timeless wisdom.


There are 4 types of people:


1) “Average Joe”

What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours in yours. 


Someone described this as “his and her–separate–accounts.”


2) Stupid

What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours in mine. 


Ah, this is just someone whose plain old confused.


3) Wicked

What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine.  


One guy described his ex-wife this way.


4) Righteous 


What’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is yours.  


We all agreed this is the meaning of life–to be kind and giving to others.


What type of person are you? And what type of person do you want to be?  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Better A Mensch Than Money

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Here is a lesson that I learned when it comes to love…

Better a mensch than all the money in the world.

Some people think that money is their Golden Calf.

They literally and practically worship it.

They are so greedy for it, hoard it, protect it, and believe in the power of it.

But what I say is you can choke on all the money!

Those who put the emphasis on money are sick and empty with materialism that means nothing in the end.

Better the love of a good, decent human being and best friend than all the money in China.

For money you can buy lots of meaningless things, but with a mensch you can have a potential for a life of real togetherness and even a chance at some soulful bliss.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)