The Truth Hurts

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So I purchase some nutrition bars from a prominent online store. 


If you click on 2 boxes (12 bars each), they charge you $30. 


But if you look over a little on the website page, they have 24 bars for $24. 


I contact customer service and start chatting with them about this. 


Basically, I wanted the difference refunded to me. 


Surely, not a lot of money, but more the principle of it. 


They are charging 2 different amounts for the very same thing! 


The lady on the other end of the chat asks me to forward her the link for the product. 


I comply. 


She says, “You see that link is 2 boxes for $30!”


I say, “No, that’s just the primary link to the product, and it has 2 different prices for basically the exact same thing.”


She says, “On that link you sent it has 12 bars x 2, which is different than ordering 24 bars!”


I’m thinking, Oh really!  What math class did she take in elementary school???


And then for good measure, she adds socking one to me:

“Truth Always Hurts!”


At this point, I couldn’t believe my chat “ears”.  


Aside from her “truth” not being “the truth” in any universe…


I was in shock and said something like “How dare you.  You are incredibly rude.  Put your supervisor on.”


She says: “Well, my supervisor will tell you the same thing!”


I repeated once more: “Please let me speak to a supervisor.”


Finally when I got the supervisor, who was a more normal, reasonable person, and also could do simple arithmetic, she immediately apologizes issuing me a refund. 


She asked if there was anything else she could assist with.


I asked, to confirm again, “Are you a supervisor?”


She responded affirmatively. 


I asked her to review the chat with the prior customer service rep and asked, “Is this how you want your company represented to your customers?”


Needless to say, she was flabbergasted by what she saw from their outsourced “customer service” representative.


She assured me she was flagging the chat for review by management and that this outrageous behavior from this company representative would be addressed. 


To me, it is amazing that our companies not only outsource the manufacture of our vital goods, but they also outsource customer service to people that barely seem to speak the language, can’t do basic math, and have zero customer service skills. 


This does not bode well for American competitiveness–in the age of Coronavirus or at any other time. 


I believe that this truth hurts much more than any company’s horrendous customer service. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

That Decisive Qualitative Edge

So I am reading this book called “Israel’s Edge.”


It’s basically about their elite genius program, “Talpiot,” in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  


Each year the program accepts only the top 50 out of 100,000 graduating high school students for a 9-year commitment. 


There are the mathematicians, physicists, and computer scientists that help give the IDF the cutting edge in military R&D and other innovations. 


These are the brain trust behind Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and Trophy tank active protection system and many more both military and industrial advances. 


This program was born after the almost disastrous 1973 Yom Kippur War where Israel misjudged the intelligence and the advances in their enemies capability and almost lost the war. 


I like the philosophy of General Yitzhak Ben-Israel who understands the importance of challenging the status quo and looking differently at critical situations and avoiding confirmation bias:

My method is not to look for supporting evidence. I look for refuting evidence…you see one white swan, then a second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. You still can’t conclude that all swans are white…nature builds us to be inductive, to make generalizations from past experience…this standard way of scientific thinking can be limiting and destructive.”

Instead we must be continuously curious, think outside the box, be creative, and innovate. 


Especially, where we don’t have a quantitative advantage like with Israel surrounded by many enemies, then we must rely on a very sharp qualitative edge. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

OOOC…Order Out Of Chaos

Life is not meant to be chaos (or partially that is). 


That’s why G-d created a natural order and rules of nature. 


From the laws of physics to repeatable mathematical formulations, the universe may be infinitely large and complex, but it is not without standards of function. 


According to the Law of Causality, the world is a pattern of action and reaction (or effect), where everything is a consequence of something prior. 


Even in Chaos Theory, we find that in apparent randomness, there are underlying patterns. 


Absent a miracle, the sun rises every morning and sets every evening. 


Yet, nature and man can also bring catastrophe whereby the world seems like one big chaotic mess. 


Whether from illness, natural disaster, or conflict, our world, can in a moment be turned on it’s head. 


Moreover, it’s all predictably unpredictable. 


And it’s up to us to make Order Out Of Chaos (OOOC). 


This is where many of us either sink or swim. 


When the chips are down, and all the world seems to be imploding with dysfunction, this is where we need to find and make sense and order.


Bad things happen even to good people. 


Good people need to find the faith and the strength, and with G-d’s help, rise to the challenge. 


Easier said than done, for sure. 


In the chaos of things, time may stop and everything becomes a blur.  


We may become like a deer in the headlights–frozen with panic and truly not knowing what to do. 


But if we can just find which way is up. 


Then we can redirect ourselves–rising from the depths of despair to the surface, where the sun is shining and we can gasp a breath again. 


Even around our dysfunction is function to be had. 


Solve a problem, do something constructive, and help others…it’s all part of making order out of chaos.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Learning To Save For A Rainy Day

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This was so funny coming across this big bright red piggy bank in a thrift store. 


What a blast from the past!


I remember having one of these as a child. 


My parents taught me to put my allowance in to save for the future. 


When it accumulated $10, the metal door on the bottom would open and we could put the money in the bank.


It was like a game to try to get to the magic amount and get the register to pop open.


In those days, the bank had little books for your checking and savings accounts, and when you deposited the money, you’d get a line printed with the deposit and new balance printed in the dot matrix print of yesteryear. 


Again, these were all good lessons about savings and seeing the benefits in the toy register or in your bank book.


Maybe these were things that initially inspired me to get my bachelors degree in accounting.  


The discipline of numbers was great, but it was never as exciting as the promise and hope of ever new technology, but that’s what added up at the time to me. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When It Comes To Education, We’re Just Playing Around

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So I overhead a conversation of 2 young women in Starbucks talking about their college education. 

One of them while acknowledging that she enjoys her classes, says, “But I still don’t feel that I am learning anything practical!”

He friends responds saying, “Yeah, all we learn is X+Y, but what does that do for us in real life?”

The first young women says, “They need to emphasize the practical things and teach us personal finances, fitness, healthy cooking, and so on.”

The second young women starts repeating, “X+Y, X+Y, that’s all they teach us!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this point, even though it was sort of sad. 

The education system is known to be so bad in this country, especially until you get to college. 


We’ve gone from No Child Left Behind to Every Student Succeeds, but no matter what you call it–it’s still a big C-R-I-S-I-S. 

According to Ranking America, the US ranks 14 out of 40 countries in education–behind Netherlands and Poland.

Moreover, we rank 2nd in ignorance about social statistics like teen pregnancy, unemployment rates, and voting patterns. 

Moreover, we are falling behind in our competitiveness ranking in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and are now 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries.

We can’t innovate, improve productivity, and effectively compete if we are just playing around with our education system. 

If we don’t change, X+Y may soon equal the bottom of the education barrel. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

STEM Lost And Found

Discovery

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So this was a shirt of a local college campus that I took yesterday. 

It shows aspirations to be all sorts of things…from a doctor and lawyer to a cowgirl and princess. 

However, in this list of  22 professional aspirations there is a noticeable lack of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Yes, doctors do have to know science, but not necessarily the type that opens up the world of discovery and innovation like a researcher or scientist!

STEM are the fields that over and over again have been reported as grossly lacking in this country. 

America Desperately Needs More STEM Students” (Forbes 2012)

Americas Lack of STEM Students is Bad News For National Security” (US News and World Report June 2015)

Another article in IEEE Spectrum (August 2013) claims that while the “STEM crisis is a myth,” still “we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts.”

From my experience, while I certainly get to see a lot of awesome technical talent, I also see and hear too many moans and groans when it comes to a lot of basic skills in STEM.

One colleague said the other day (and in a public forum), “Oh, don’t depend on my math skills for that!”

Others that I know have difficulty with everything from simple spreadsheets, backing up their computer files, or even balancing a checkbook, and other such fundamental skills. 

Growing up with a dad who was a math whiz, a sister with a PhD in bio-medical science, and me majoring in accounting, business, and later diving into IT, I learned to appreciate, on many fronts, how important basic STEM skills are, and I in turn used to drill my own kids with workbooks and worksheets–and they perhaps at the time resented me for it, and maybe only later in life, started to love me for caring and trying.

In school, I found a lot of the education in STEM to be lacking coming across too often as esoteric and disappointingly devoid of day-to-day meaning and application in the real world for the regular people not building bridges or spaceships, so I certainly understand the frustration of young people who while they may be interested in pursuing these critical areas of education, may be turned off at the way it’s being presented to them. 

We need great teachers who not only know the material, but love what they do and know how to make the material come alive to their students. Also, we need jobs that pay commensurate to the value of the talent and not nickle and dime the developers, researchers, and engineers while lining the pockets of the executive suite. Finally, we should focus the hearts and minds of our people on the real meaning of the work they do and how it helps people and society, and not just on what often comes across as isolated tasks or the organization’s free dry cleaning and all you can eat buffet lunches. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)