Beautiful Virus, Huh?

So this is an image of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.


Yeah, I never heard of it either. 


It is a virus that attacks and destroys tobacco and other plants. 


Viruses are ugly and evil in that they hurt and kill other living things


Yet in looking at this molecular image, I seriously hate to say it, but it is also beautiful in a way. 


The shape, color, complexity–the design and wisdom embedded in it–what can I say, but even this too is a miracle. 


Sure, it would be better in a mortal sense if there were no viruses to make us suffer and literally eat away at us. 


Yet, surely G-d has a plan even for these nasty virus molecules.  


Do they help us gain immunity to even worse diseases?


Do they help us to use ingenuity to discover, fight, and evolve to withstand their attacks and progress our society in larger ways?


Do they help us learn however horribly to turn to G-d, strengthen ourselves, and somehow try to cope with suffering and loss in life and death.


All sickness is unbelievably horrible and the suffering it causes is truly impossible to understand, and G-d should please, please have mercy on us. 


Yet, looking at this molecular image of even this virus, there is something comforting in the supreme intelligent design and creation of it all.  😉


(Source Andy’s photo of image by Visual Molecular Dynamics)

Hold On To Your Jobs

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These statistics are dismal for manufacturing in the U.S. 


Today, public sector (government) employment is 22.2 million vs. just 12.2 million manufacturing jobs. 


In other words, there are 10 million or 80% more people employed by the government than making things in this country. 


This is the complete opposite from 1979 when government employed 16 million people and manufacturing had 19.6 million workers.


So just 37 years ago, manufacturing employment was 22% more than our public sector employment.


Manufacturing lost 37% of it jobs, while government grew 39%.


It hasn’t been since 1989 that there was parity at 18 million between the two sectors. 


Lest you think that the loss in manufacturing jobs is due to automation and technology, the Economic Policy Institute states unequivocally:


“Trade, not productivity, is the culprit.”


In the U.S. the annual trade deficit is over half a trillion dollars–we are hemorrhaging and no one has been even trying to stop the bleeding.  


If we send all our manufacturing prowess and capacity abroad eventually we are not only going to lose our capability to make things, our ingenuity to invent things, but our finances to pay for anything. 


Trade is a great thing when it is mutual and equal, not when it is one-sided and damaging to our economy and jobs. 


Bad political decisions mean a poorer future for our economy and our nation. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hey, Pay Attention

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It’s funny, when the way forward is uneven, broken, or fraught with danger, and someone just puts out a sign (and orange cone) warning you to be careful. 


Sure, it’s the responsible thing to do–protect people from misstepping. 


But even with the largest, loudest warnings, there always seem to be some people who just go right ahead anyway and tempt fate–they step on that 2nd broken stair.


Maybe it doesn’t give way (this time for this person) or maybe it does.


But they are too busy, too much in a rush, or too cocky to pay heed or else they like to play the odds–hey, what are the odds that something will actually happen to “me”?


The more cautious, perhaps smarter folks look for another way–using their ingenuity to go over, under, or around the obstacle in their path–in this case stepping over the broken 2nd step. 


Other may yet be deterred altogether and just turn backwards, giving up on their trek or just stop in their tracks like a deer in the headlights frozen by indecision.


I’d suggest that it is well worth it to take the time to look around you, sense the environment, and make a sound judgement before giving up or stepping stupidly into the ditch, minefield, quicksand, or on the broken step. 


It’s much harder to get out of trouble than to avoid it to begin with. 


I joke with one of my colleagues that they always have time to do things a second time (always!), but because they are rushing, never enough time–or focus–to do it right the first one. 


Watch your step, because some of them of definitely broken. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Andy Blumenthal With Roberta Grossman

Andy Blumenthal and Roberta Grossman
What an honor today to be able to take this photo with Roberta Grossman, movie Producer/Director. 



First we saw her upcoming movie “Above and Beyond.”



It is the story about the birth of the Israeli Air Force, and it was co-produced with Nancy Spielberg (Yes, the sister of Director Steven Spielberg). 



In 1948 when the U.N. (under G-d’s guidance) established the State of Israel, the Arab nations prepared to attack the fledgling nation state.



Just 3 years after the end of Holocaust, the surrounded Jewish people with inferior arms, faced almost certain devastating defeat in their War of Independence. 



However, brave volunteer pilots from America, Canada, and South Africa answered the call to help their brethren in Israel. 



With ingenuity, some smuggled air planes, brief training by Czechoslovakia, and the blessings of Hashem, the Israel Defense Forces stopped the advancing Arab armies–of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq–in their tracks. 



It is an amazing story of courage and heroism, and Ms. Grossman did a wonderful job answering enthusiastic questions from the audience in Virginia today. 



Kol Hakavod on a excellent film–thank you!  😉

Resilient To The Core

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I circled back to an article that I saved away for the last 10 years (5 years before I started blogging and practically before it really even existed)!

It is from Harvard Business Review and it is called How Resilience Works (May 2002).

It is an incredible article about what differentiates the person that falls apart and seemingly gives up under immense stress and those that use it as a stepping stone to future success and greatness.

Resilience is “the skill and capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change.”

Literally, resilience means “bouncing back,” perhaps versus jumping throw a plate glass wall from the 50th story.

Everyone has their tests in life–whether loss, illness, accident, abuse, incarceration, poverty, divorce, loneliness, and more.

But resilience is how we meet head-on these challenges, and it “can be learned.”

The article looks at individual and organizational “survivors” of horrible things like the Holocaust, being a prisoner of war (POW), and terrorist attacks such as 9/11, and basically attributes resilience to three main things:

1) Acceptance–rather than slip into denial, dispair, or wishful-thinking, resilience means we see the situation exactly for what it is and make the most of it–or as they say, “make lemonade out of lemons.”

2) Meaning–utilizing a strong system of values, we find meaning and purpose even in the darkest of situations–even if it is simply to learn and grow from it!

3) Ingenuity–this is capacity to invent, improvise, imagine possibilities, make do with what you have, and generally solve-problems at hand.

Those who accept, find meaning, and improvise can succeed, where others fail.

Now come forward a decade in time, and another article at CNN (9 July 2012) called Is Optimism Really Good For You? comes to similar conclusions.

The article describes how optimism works for an individual or an organization only when it is based on “action, common sense, resourcefulness, and considered risk-taking.”

“It’s the opposite of defeatism”–we recognize that there are things not in our control and that don’t always turn out well, but we use that as an opportunity to come back and find a “different approach” and solve the problem.

The article calls this “action-oriented optimists” and I like this concept–it is not blind hope nor is it giving-up, but rather it is a solid recognition that we can do and must do our part in this world.

Fortune Magazine summed this up well in an article a few months back as follows–There are three kinds of people: “those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those wonder how the heck it happened.”

When things happen in your life–to you–which of these types of people will you be?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Words Matter A Lot

This is a great video on the power of words, but also on the caring of one for another.

We can make a difference with our words!

Words can help and can hurt, they can pursuade and they can punish, but the most important thing is that we are responsible for how we use them.

While we can say we’re sorry for hurtful words, they can never really be taken back (i.e. unspoken).

And just the opposite holds true as well–when we use words constructively, the impact for good reverberates.

I still hear the words of the most important people in my life guiding me, always.

Use your words with care, deference, ingenuity, and most important with kindness for others.

>Is Technology Measured by Progress or Unrealized Potential?

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Is technology progress measured by how far we’ve come or by what remains to be achieved?

The Wall Street Journal (9-10, October 2010) ran an interview with Peter Thiel, who in ranked #377 in Forbes 400 (2008) with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Thiel was a co-founder of Paypal. In 2004, Thiel made a $500,000 investment in Facebook for 25.2% of the company. Nice!

Remarkable for someone who has made a fortune in technology, Thiel now believes, as the Journal puts it, that “American ingenuity has hit a dead end.”

According to Thiel, “people don’t want to believe that technology is broken…Pharmaceuticals, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology—all (of) these (are) areas where the progress has been a lot more limited than people think.”

Thiel bemoans our inability to achieve the vision of The Jetsons, as he states: “We don’t have flying cars. Space exploration is stalled. There are no undersea cities. Household robots do not cater to our needs…” According to Thiel, we have reached and are stuck in a long-term stagnation.

Thiel’s theory of technology stagnation is completely contrary, I believe, to the reality that most, if not all, of us are living each and every day, where technology is constantly on the move and if anything, we as organizations and individual struggle to keep pace.

For me personally, the refresh rate for technology is 2 years or less, depending on available cash flow for all the new stuff constantly hitting the market.

In my experience, technology is as dynamic as ever, if not more so. In fact, I have seen no evidence that Moore’s Law has been overcome by events (OBE).

Across government, I am seeing the interest and rate of adoption of new technologies steady or on the rise in areas as diverse as cloud computing, mobile computing, social computing, green computing, knowledge management, business intelligence, and geospatial information systems, and more.

There is no shortage of technology investments to make, IT projects to work on, and new technical capabilities to bring to the business.

While we may not have achieved the full vision set out by Hollywood and other technology visionaries, yet—rest assured, we are well are on way and barring unforeseen events, we most certainly will!

I don’t know about Spacely Sprockets’, but I’d place a few good investments bets around on a future that looks pretty darn close to The Jetsons, along with a good dose of Star Trek ingenuity for measure.

Perhaps Mr. Thiel’s views are a result of frustration that we have not achieved all that we can, rather than a reflection that we have not gotten anywhere. In any case, I enjoyed reading his views and look forward to learning more.