The Meaning of Silence

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Is silence a good thing or a bad thing–what does it really mean?


On the plus or neutral side:


Silence can mean modesty and humility–you withhold speaking out of turn or having a big mouth; you recognize that you don’t know everything and what you do know is not intended to put down or shame others. 


Silence can means secrets and privacy–you don’t say everything; you treat information properly based on need to know and propriety of sharing. 


Silence can mean good situational judgement–that you know prudently when to let others have their say, or when your opinion isn’t really welcome, or when it’s best to just stay below the radar. 


Silence can mean you simply don’t know–and it’s something you need to listen and learn more about rather than speak; it’s why we’re told that we have two ears and one mouth.


Silence can mean that maybe you don’t care about something–why get fired up or “waste your breath” on it when it’s just not your thing.


When can it be a negative:


There was a sign in the local school window that silence means (wrongful) acceptance; that is also something I learned in in the Talmud in yeshiva; if you see something wrong and don’t say or do something, you are (partially) responsible.


Silence can mean fear–perhaps you don’t accept something, but you’re afraid to speak truth or morality to power; you sit silently cowering, when you should stand up tall and speak out. 


Silence may also mean shame–you’ve done something wrong or don’t want others to know something that could make you look bad or put you in jeopardy. 


Silence can mean you are hiding something–it can be that you don’t trust or aren’t trustful; silence at a time when you need to answer or respond can result in suspicion about why you are “holding back,” instead of being forthcoming and truthful.


When to talk and when to remain silent? 


Certainly, “you have the right to remain silent.”


We need to use words with care and intent–to always seek to help and not to hurt. 


Words are so potent–the mouth is perhaps the strongest part of the human body, just like the pen is mightier than the sword. 


That’s why I pray that G-d put the “right words” in my mouth–to be constructive, positive, effective and impactful–to do good as much as possible with words and with silence. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Way Out Of Social Bounds

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So on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone…


I want to say that the iPhone is probably one of the greatest inventions of all times…congratulations to Apple and especially to Steve Jobs!


I also want to say how far people have gone crazy in using these smartphones without any filters as to privacy or propriety. 


HERE IS A TRUE STORY THAT JUST HAPPENED :


We are in this building waiting for an elevator to come. 


A man comes around the corner speaking into his smartphone held at chest height with the speaker on blast!


He sees us, but apparently doesn’t even think to pause the conversation or turn off the speaker and put the device to his ear.


Instead, we hear from the phone from what is apparently his immediate family member.

“That’s right, it’s a yeast infection!”


We are looking at each other like is this really happening or are we on Candid Camera or something.


And he respond still on with the speaker as we get on the elevator:

“A yeast infection, yeah, yeah, you better not let it get any worse.”


Then from the phone:

“With these yeast infections, you know how it can be. I’ll try to take care of it today,”


Him again, now as he’s getting off the elevator:

“Well anyway, hope I’ll be seeing you over later today.”


My wife and I look at each other, and I blurt out after the elevator door closes:

“Yeah, yeah, I guess we’ll be seeing you later today–with that yeast infection and all–hope it’s not contagious!”


And we both start cracking up at how insane people are. 


While we can’t (completely) help what people are over-hearing -and seeing through surveillance mechanisms on our smartphones, this guy with his phone, he didn’t even flinch at the conversation he was having in the open on the speaker. 


It’s a different day and age, and some people have no sense of boundaries anymore. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Drones Vs. Man

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I took this photo of this man and drone in Florida. 


Look how close this machine is flying to his head!


Aside from the surveillance capabilities and offsetting privacy issues, these are bringing some dangerous fighting capabilities anywhere and everywhere.


Just today, I read about how the U.S. shot down an armed Syrian drone–presumably made and deployed by Iran!


I guess it’s not proprietary technology anymore!


As drones and robots become better, faster, and cheaper and ubiquitous on the battlefield and on main street, who will be (relatively) safe anymore? 


Unless of course, my drones are stronger than your drones!


It’s going to be a war of technology and machines more than ever before. 


Small ones like insects, swarms of them like engulfing locust, and large ones like Godzilla. 


What was once human flesh against a steel blade, arrow, and then bullet is now going to be an superfast artificially intelligent, armed to the hilt “man of steel” (and they don’t miss) against just regular everyday people.


Don’t hurt your hand punching that Robot in the face. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Can Take This Niqab And…

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So here is the quote of the day (compliments of the Wall Street Journal)…


From a woman fleeing the inhumane treatment in Mosul by ISIS religious terrorists:

“I want to take this niqab and stuff it down the throat of ISIS.”


I’ve now read over and over again how one of the first things the women do, who get away from these ruthless fanatics, is to remove their confining “religious”-mandated garb that covers them so fully and put on normal clothes and be free human beings again.


While I certainly and highly respect women who freely and modestly cover up–especially in marriage–it is abhorrent to violently force women to dress a certain way or make them in any way lessor than or subservient to men. 


The women under ISIS are taught to be ashamed, when they have nothing to be ashamed about!


ISIS and these other radical Islamists that force their distorted version of religion on others goes like this when it comes to women:


“It is permitted to buy her, sell her, and give her away as a gift. They are just a possession and you can do whatever you want with them.”  In their FAQS, they even ask, “Can I have sex with a slave who hasn’t reached puberty?”


Yet, while they are having sex with abducted pubescent and pre-pubescent girls, they force women to stay at home, and they are not allowed to go out unless accompanied by a man (forget education, working, driving or traveling). 


Even at home, “Woman are cautioned to stay away from rooftops, balconies, and windows so they wouldn’t be seen by outsiders.”


And should a women be accused of sex outside of marriage–even when the women are the ones forcibly (gang) raped–they are the ones subject to death by public stoning for their being licentious. 


Are these “religious” fanatics with guns so weak that they fear sexual temptation more than they trust in the bonds of family, personal righteousness, and the ability of people to freely choose right from wrong?


Imagine…as they abduct and enslave women and children, rape them, sell them, and force them into bogus marriages, starve and torture them, these people actually think they are religious. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Content Filtering – Should We Restrain Ourselves?

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So the Rabbi today spoke about thinking before you speak, and not letting your emotions overcome your logic. 


He mentioned, for example, how some people have so much rage–road rage, email rage, etc.–and you can’t let your rage dictate your actions. 


People can certainly get under your skin–just look at the candidates for President doing that to each other.


But rather than just react and blurt out stupid or horrible things in a tit-for-tat, we need to stop and think.


The Rabbi recounted the old advice of counting to ten before saying or doing something rash that you will regret. 


The joke was about the one guy bullying another, and the victim counts to ten like he’s supposed to, but then rather than take things down a notch or two, he surprises the bully when he hits ten by punching him right in the nose! (lol)


Another cute idea the Rabbi put out there was for marriage counseling–that husbands and wives should drink this “special water” that they hold in their mouth–this way when they are fighting, they have to pause and can’t say anything provocative and aggressive to each other. 


The speak then turned high-tech to some of the new apps for content filtering that help you not to send emails or texts that you are sorry for afterwards. 


And I leaned over to my neighbor in synagogue and said that is so funny, because I just saw this 16-year Indian old girl on Shark Tank who developed this app called ReThink that does just that. 


When you write something negative like ugly or stupid etc., a pop up box comes up and ask whether you really want to say that–it gives you pause to rethink what you are saying and doing. 


She notes from her studies of adolescents that when given the opportunity from this pause, “93% of the time, [they] decide not to post an offensive message on social media.”


I remember one colleague at work used to recommend, “write what you want [with all your emotions], but then delete it, and write what will be constructive to the situation [with your logic].”


Getting back to the election, a lot of what the candidates are saying now and from decades ago is stupid or shameful–“locker room banter”–maybe we need to have a filter on our mouths even when we think other people aren’t listening. 


Realistically, we can’t and shouldn’t have to go around filtering every word we say and holding back on every deed we do–there is something to be said for simply following your moral compass in the moment and reacting naturally, talking and doing from the heart and based on instinct, inner belief, and passion. 


But if you are getting angry, then it is best to hit the pause button and filter yourself before someone else has to count to ten and pop you one in your big dumb coconut face. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

The Evil Stink Eye

Stink Eye

So there is an important Jewish (and non-Jewish) concept of the evil eye (in hebrew, it’s called an “Ayin Hara”).


This is the idea that people who are jealous of you or simply don’t like you, can wish bad (or evil to befall) on you. 


And the more people or the more merits these people have in life that cast this evil wish (in mystical terms, some may call it a spell), perhaps the stronger the potency of it on you. 


Superstition or real? This is a matter of what you believe in and maybe experiences you’ve had in life have taught you to beware of when others don’t wish you well. 


This is why many righteous people try to avoid the limelight–they don’t want others to focus on them and harbor bad feelings toward them. 


Better in a sense to remain more private and discrete than suffer the evil eye of others. 


If we understand that there are not only physical powers in the universe, but also spiritual and metaphysical ones, then we may choose to protect ourselves by shielding ourselves from the public eyes of jealousy and hate.


Others may choose to do extra charity, prayer, and good deeds in an effort to protect themselves from competitors and antagonists in life. 


It’s funny, but when my wife sees someone she perceives giving another the evil eye, she calls it, “The stink eye!”


And truly, it does stink that people can be so mean and hateful to others, but unfortunately, not everyone in life is nice and good.


It takes all types, and that is why it’s critical to avoid those evil glances, feelings, and thoughts of others.


Hurt can take many forms–words and deeds are the two that we recognize most often. 


However, we shouldn’t discount the harm that thoughts and feelings can cause as well. 


The mind and spirit of humans can reach out and up to the Heavens, and so we must live our lives good to G-d as well to people, and Bli Ayin Hara (without the evil eye) for blessings and not for curses. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Modesty And Privacy Of Body and Information

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So modesty and privacy is very important in terms of propriety and security.


Both are intimately connected. 


Already as children, we learn not to show or talk about our “privates” to others. 


And as adults, we understand that there are certain things about ourselves that we don’t just talk about or divulge to others indiscriminately. 


Not being discrete with these and showing either your private parts or your personal information can get you in a load of trouble by giving others the opportunity to take undue advantage of you. 


Both open you up to be ridiculed or even raped of your person or information identity. 


That which is yours to use with others in propriety is instead disclosed for taking out from your control and for use against you. 


Security demands modesty of body and of information, and if not taken seriously, then no amount of lame covering will keep that which is private from public consumption. 😉

The Federal Island Of Insanity

SOS

So a colleague at work was supposed to get something done. 


Well it didn’t happen, and someone else got left holding the bag–not really very fair.  


Too make matters worse, the guy sort of unapologetically and clouded pops in my door and says to me, “What are we doing here?”


Taken aback and not sure what this guy is talking about, I say “Excuse me?”


He looks up into space for a moment, and turns back toward me and repeats emphatically, “I mean, like what are we e-v-e-n doing here?”


Getting more than a little frustrated at this point, I ask quizzically and with some sarcasm, “You mean on planet Earth?”


Again, turning and looking oddly away and then back my way, he says, “In this building!”


I must’ve been looking at him at this point like is he on drugs, and I say, “We’ll there are important laws that we’re fulfilling here (implicitly referring to FOIA, Records Act, Privacy Act, E.O. 13526, etc.).”


Unbelievably, he continues, now shaking his head, “Well that’s what I mean…why we need that?”


Having too much work to play out whatever this toxic game was any longer, I’m like, “[if you don’t believe in transparency and safeguarding/security of information,] Maybe you should write your Congressman,” [smile!] and with that went back to the million and one serious work things I still had waiting for attention.


In retrospect, I can’t help but think that incredibly, there are people coming to work here in D. C. that either don’t know why they are there in the first place (but should know!) or don’t believe in the mission or meaning of what they are doing.  


In the private sector, I certainly don’t think this conversation would’ve even gone on as long as it did…the consequences there seeming more pronounced, abrupt, and in a definite way connected with reality. 


With more than 16 years into the Federal sector, I still can’t believe a lot of what goes on–both good and hopeful, and bad and more than a little disappointing. 😉


(Source Photo: Danielle Blumenthal)

Attack On Human Rights

Gun Rights

So we’re sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 


He’s reading three things:


– The Holy Bible


– Second Amendment Primer


– The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual’s right to bear arms for self defense in “federal enclaves”). 


So somebody says jokingly, “You think he’s a Republican?”


It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 


Even if we don’t necessary do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgement upon us. 


Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.


Speak you mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 


My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  


I’ve heard people say things like you’re eligible for X, Y, or Z, but your not entitled to it.


They confuse rights as eligibility, rather than entitlement. 


So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way–thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!


Yes, of course we all need to behave responsibility and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn’t mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people’s mood’s, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

When Technology Is Our Superhero

Linux

I liked this Linux Cat Superhero sticker that someone put on the back of the street sign in Washington, D.C. 


There is something great about the promise of technology (with G-d’s help of course) to make our lives better. 


When we get excited about technology, envision it, invest in it, and bring it to market–we are superheros making the world a better place. 


While many technologies may be “pie the sky” invoking more hype than higher purpose, if we can discern the doers from the duds then we can achieve the progress for ourselves and our children that we desperately want. 


Technology should be a superhero and not a villian–when its about the mission and doing what we do better, faster, and cheaper.


While Washington DC is a long way from entreprenurial and innovative Silicon Valley, the nexus between IT and public service has never been greater or more important. 


For example, when it comes to ideological clashes between (the iPhone’s) security/surveillance and privacy or between the proliferation of robots vs. jobs for real human beings, balancing the competing interests is the soul of technology and public policy. 


Every truly useful technology should have it’s superhero to represent and advocate for it, while us mere mortals sort out the implications and make sense of it all for the real world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)