Love, Strength

Love, Strength

This has been an enormously tough year with the loss of my mom, my dad going into assisted living, and my hip replacement and complications.

I have found myself torn from my normal routine–my structure, my discipline–and thrown instead into a world of unknowns, hopes, and definitely prayers.

Throughout, my family and close friends have stood by me–as I gave the eulogy for mom, as I moved my father out of his loving home, and as I growled in pain with the osteoarthritis and then joint replacement.

When my daughter took my hand telling me all be well, when my youngest drove me to the doctors and PT, and when my wife fought for my care–I feel eternally grateful to have these people in my life.

With all the technology in the world, there is nothing like a human being to reach out and grab a hold off.

One of my colleagues asked me what I have learned from all of this, and I’d say three things:

– Take time to reflect on the direction of your life and work to make the tough changes while you’re able.
Empathize with the plight of others, be merciful and compassionate, and help where you see the slightest opportunity.
– Be sincerely grateful for everything you have and remember who is the Master of all. 😉

(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

Adaptability And Integrity In The Face Of Catastrophe

Adaptability And Integrity In The Face Of Catastrophe

The Walking Dead is the #1 TV show–and this past Sunday was just amazing not only in terms of the plot, but the lessons it provided.

The big question raised was can people change?

The Governor went through a seeming metamorphosis after the destruction of his prior town and murder of his people (by his own hand) and now he has a newfound family and tribe.

When he comes to attack Rick and the prison to take it for the protection of his own people, Rick says let’s just share it, it will be hard to overcome old rivalries, but we can do it–we can change!

But the Governor, yells in a blood curdling voice, “Liar!” and proceeds in a craze to chop off Hershel’s head.

What is particularly dramatics about this–aside from their opposing views of change–is that Hershel is the doctor who not only takes care of the physical health of his people, but also is the conscience of his group seeing that they don’t lose their moral way.

The Governor is a cold killer that truly can never change–and he not only executes Hershel, but screams “Kill them all!”

He also kills his newly adopted daughter after she is bitten by one of the walkers..he shoots her right in the face.

At first, this seems like the Governor has changed, he can kill a Walker even if it’s from his new family, as opposed to his own real daughter that he kept (unwilling to let her go) until Michonne kills her.

But this was not real change for the Governor, because as he told Hershel about attacking and killing someone else’s children to survive, “they aren’t mine!”

The Governor is all about himself and will do anything selfishly to survive without consideration of others–this does not change.

On the other hand, Rick and others survive by their ability to change and grow–they kill when they must, they have empathy when they can, they live by a code of right and wrong–in every situation, they adapt.

For example, in a prior episode, Carol is forced to leave Rick’s group because she brutally killed and burnt two of people in the prison when they got sick and were a threat of spreading the disease. However, Rick understood that this was wrong and banished her for what she did. Not all killing is justified, even if it helps you survive.

The Governor (and his new cohorts) are finally killed off in this episode, and although the safety of the prison is gone, and Rick and the others must leave and wander again, they continue to survive another day–changing with ever new challenges and adhering to an informal code of conduct that they maintain, even in the face of a world catastrophe.

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Rock Climbing With Rebecca

Rock Climbing With Rebecca

So we took my daughter, Rebecca, and a friend indoor rock climbing and it was awesome!

Each of them climbed three walls of increasing difficulty.

They ended with a 5.7 grade climb and did it more or less with ease.

We were yelling “Go Rebecca!” the whole time.

The guy who holds the rope, the belayer, told me its not so much about strength as it is willpower–and that is a terrific lesson not just for kids, but for all of us!

I was really impressed not only with how they climbed so energetically and with such determination, but how much fun they were able to have doing it.

I told my daughter that next time–I hope to climb with her–that’ll be interesting (oh G-d help me…).

I took a picture here of the place on the wall for the 5.10 climb, and it was funny for two reasons, it has this crazy looking skull on the wall, and someone taped underneath a note that said “Brush Your Teeth.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Holocaust To Holograms

From Holocaust To Holograms

My father told me last week how my mom had awoken in the middle of night full of fearful, vivid memories of the Holocaust.

In particular, she remembers when she was just a six year-old little girl, walking down the street in Germany, and suddenly the Nazi S.S. came up behind them and dragged her father off to the concentration camp, Buchenwald–leaving her alone, afraid, and crying on the street. And so started their personal tale of oppression, survival, and escape.

Unfortunately, with an aging generation of Holocaust survivors–soon there won’t be anyone to tell the stories of persecution and genocide for others to learn from.

In light of this, as you can imagine, I was very pleased to see the University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and the USC Shoah Foundation collaborating on a project called “New Dimensions In Testimony” to use technology to maintain the enduring lessons of the Holocaust into the future.

The project involves developing holograms of Holocaust survivors giving testimony about what happened to them and their families during this awful period of discrimination, oppression, torture, and mass murder.

ICT is using a technology called Light Stage that uses multiple high-fidelity cameras and lighting from more than 150 directions to capture 3-D holograms.

There are some interesting videos about Light Stage (which has been used for many familiar movies from Superman to Spiderman, Avatar, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) at their Stage 5 and Stage 6 facilities.

To make the holograms into a full exhibit, the survivors are interviewed and their testimony is combined with natural language processing, so people can come and learn in a conversational manner with the Holocaust survivor holograms.

Mashable reports that these holograms may be used at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. where visitors will talk “face-to-face” with the survivors about their personal experiences–and we will be fortunate to hear it directly from them. 😉

(Photo from USC ICT New Dimensions In Technology)

2 Eggs Are Better Than One

Aside from the cholesterol, generally speaking two eggs are better than one.Two eggs here, as you can see, are two friends–in it together, working together, putting their heads together, sharing life together.My father always told me that with that special someone the joys in life are twice the joy, and the sorrow in life is half the sorry–he is a smart man!

When it comes to friendships though, I have learned there are many types of friends and we have different names or references for them:

Childhood friends–“We go way back.”

Best friends forever–or BFF; often you’ll see this on bracelet charms, necklaces, or even t-shirts–this is reserved for your closest buds.

High school sweethearts–“first comes friends, then comes marriage, and then comes a baby in the baby carriage.”

Confidant friend(s)–these are people we feel we can talk to, connect with, and trust with our personal and emotional secrets. Ummm, don’t tell, but…

Neighbor friends–you live near or next to each other, so might as well bring over some welcome muffins or borrow some sugar–then again, “tall fences, make good neighbors.”

Casual friends–these are friends you keep in touch with “every so often” and share some laughs or have a “cold one” with.

On again off again friends–people you are friends with one minute and alienated from the next–often an endless cycle–you like somethings about the person and other things drive you mad!

Work friends –these are associates that you work with day in and out–40, 50, 60 hours a week or more–and who you share work experiences, challenges, projects, and sometimes frustrations with–and don’t forget “happy hour”.

Friends with benefits–this is a naughty friendship and is what it sounds like–at your own foolhardy risk!

Marriage partner and best friends–the most fortunate people are those who find their “beshert”–the one true one that they are destined to be with–and who is not only their life partner, but their soulmate and best friend.

Good luck finding and keeping your friends of all types–these are precious and make life worth living.

(Source Photo: Meme shared with me)

What Arms and Legs Can’t Touch

Unbelievable video of Nick Vujicic coaching people to believe in themselves.The catch is that Nick himself is missing all four limbs.Yet he shows how he can–without arms and legs–run, boat, dive, fish, water slide, play soccer, golf, and much more.I love when he says with conviction:

– “Forget about what you don’t have. Be grateful for what you do have.”

– Don’t be angry at your life and at others.

– You are worthwhile and you are beautiful.

– You have the strength to conquer.

I am inspired–no, I am amazed–by this human being.

Sometimes, like now, when I see such courage and strength, I wonder how people do it!

Life is so challenging even when we have all our limbs and faculties…

I think that G-d must give a special gift to these people so they can inspire others and be role models for us.

So that when times are tough, we can remember them and be elevated to break our own barriers and limitations.

>Five Lessons From The Chilean Rescue

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This week, we as humankind were renewed by the rescue of the 33 miners in Chile.

“Viva Chile! They Left No Man Behind” writes Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal (16-17, Oct. 2010).

The Chileans took what was a human tragedy and instead turned it upside down and inside out into a worldwide victory!

Yet, as the rescue unfolded first with the search for the miners, their discovery, their being sustained while rescue tunnels were dug, and then ultimately as each miner—one by one—was brought to the surface safely—clean-shaven and smiling, I couldn’t help thinking to myself how perfectly everything was going—each time again and again—and then starting to worry that something has got to go wrong here (almost by Murphy’s Law)—this is too perfect!

Yet, nothing went wrong, it was a watertight rescue of all the miners.

As flawed human beings with all our warts and all, I think we were at some level shocked with disbelief by the flawless events that unfolded.

No cost overruns, no schedule delays, no one was hurt, no glitches in equipment or otherwise. It was a run of complete success that almost never happens in real life and yet, we all saw it unfold one, two, three…thirty-three before our very eyes.

This doesn’t happen in real life—only in fairy tales, right? This certainly doesn’t happen in most information technology projects! 😉

But even more stunning to us than the success of the rescue itself was the undercurrent of the prevailing of good over evil manifesting before us—almost like G-d was revealing himself to us again, as he did in Biblical times. As one of the miners poetically said: “I met G-d. I met the devil. G-d won.”

The shocker here was that a people, nation, and in effect the entire world was focused on saving these 33 simple miners. This in our day and age, when we have become more accustomed to those who dehumanize and devalue human life, rather than those who genuinely value and safeguard it as the Chileans did.

As Ms. Noonan puts it: “They used the human brain and spirit to save life. All we get every day is scandal.”

Recent events remind us of the huge contrast between those who value life and those who don’t, such as 9-11, almost daily suicide (read “homicide”) bombings for political aims, the blatant proliferation and threats of WMD (and now cyber warfare), the violation of human rights by dictatorships and thugs around the world, including political imprisonments, rigged elections, restrictions of free information flow, and more violent acts such as mass rapes, female genital mutilation, genocide, slave prison camps, and more.

Moreover, while we witness events going wrong everyday and governments, companies, and peoples seeming unable to set things right, in Chile, we saw a nation and a people that set their minds and might to bringing the miners home safely and they did, period.

There are some important lessons here for us for the future:

  1. Find the moral good. It starts with valuing and safeguarding human life. Our agenda should always be to prioritize helping others and saving lives. The Chileans did just that when they didn’t wring their hands and just walk away from the tragedy saying it was over. Instead, saving the lives was a national priority. Similarly, providing the speedy drill to the Chileans from the U.S. that tunneled in half the time to the miners was a gesture that we too value life and are partners with them in saving the miners.
  2. Contain the problem. The problems we face are “ginormous” (read: gigantic and enormous) and the only way we are gong to be able to overcome them is to break them down into pieces and attack them at their source. The Chileans took a big rescue operation and by decomposing it into plan A, B, and C, etc. and tackling each piece of the problem (locating the miners, sustaining them, rescuing them, etc.), they made the solution doable.
  3. Leverage technology. We are hampered in our abilities by our own human limitations. But we can extend our capabilities and expand those limits through technology. The rescue of the miners used many new technologies in drilling, communications, and materials to make the rescue not only possible, but also probable. We need to constantly innovate and use technology to make the impossible, possible.
  4. Stand united. No question, we are stronger together than apart. The Chilean nation and people united in their efforts to rescue and bring home the miners. It was a mission they believed in and which they stood together in accomplishing. Politics, infighting, and mudslinging can divide us when we need to be unified. We need to understand that when we take pot shots to score points, we undermine the mission and the successes we desperately need.
  5. Stay positive. Even in the face of what seems like assured calamity, we must keep our wits, stay strong, and focus on solutions. If we do this, we can say goodbye to Murphy’s Law, and helpless and hopelessness be gone. A renewed spirit of optimism and a can-do attitude can carry us forward to new heights that we can all be proud of.

As the article states: the Chileans “set to doing something hard, specific, physical, demanding of commitment, precision, and expertise. And they did it.” And we can again do it too.