Yom Kippur, When The Masks Come Off

Mask

This mask does not mean that Jews have horns–that is a crappy and evil stereotype, so cut it out. 


Masks are dress-up and pretend, like the way most people behave day-in and day-out. 


People imagine and feign to be what they would like to be or what they want others to believe they are. 


Like when someone is gearing up for a fight, they extend their arms, raise their voices, bob up and down to make themselves appear bigger and more formidable than they really are. 


It’s a fake out–but perception is (often) reality. 


Similarly, people may wear clothes, drive cars, or live in big fancy homes that make them look well-to-do, but really it’s a great act and all bought on extensive credit (ever hear of 0% down!). 


Others may dream of being seen as smart and the go-to guy for answers, the subject matter expert, or the generally wise person for advice and guidance, but are they really smarter than everyone else or do the degrees plastering the wall like wallpaper or titles like doctor, lawyer, accountant, entrepreneur, professor, and Rabbi simply often invoke credentials and an air rather than the smarts that should accompany them.


Even parents may pose for loving pictures with their children, seem to dote on them, and act the helicopter parents, but still when it comes to their own busy schedules, they have no real time or attention left for the little ones–because the parents put themselves first. 


It happens all the time, every which way, the authority figure who really abuses their authority rather than lives up to it. 


People are human, weak, fallible–and the show is often a lot better than the characters behind it. 


But that doesn’t mean we stop trying to be inside what we know we really should be–more loving, caring, giving, and good people. 


This is the essence of Yom Kippur to me, the Day of Atonement–the day when we shed all our phony masks–and instead we bear out our sins, bend our heads with shame, are sorry for what we have done wrong, and commit to doing better in the future.


Yom Kippur is the day when all the masks are off–we cannot hide from G-d Almighty, the all seeing and all knowing.  


On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgement we are inscribed, and on Yom Kippur the book is sealed. 


In Judgement, we may enter the court of heaven with heads still held up high, with the same act that we try to show every day, but on Yom Kippur we leave the court with our heads down and our hands humbly clasped, the sentence meted out for who we really are–based not on pretense, but on our underlying behavior.


A mask covers what is, when the mask is off we are left with who we are–naked before our maker, where all is revealed, and we must account for our actions–good, bad, or even just plain indifferent. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Respect NOT Rape

Joy Division
BBC reports that already by age 20, 1 in 10 girls have been raped or secually assaulted. 



That equates to 120 MILLION girls globally. 



Many are then brutally murdered and shamed as we have been reading about, now with all too much frequency, in India for example, with young women being raped, killed, and then hung from trees etc. 



What is wrong with this world???



Women are our mothers, wives, and daughters–they are often amongst the most compassionate and caring of us.



This is how we treat them?



Unfortunately, rape and abuse is also a crime against many young boys. 



It is time to take a serious ethical pause and stop the violence against our children and against other adults. 



The screams and scars of those abused hang in the air as an indictment against those committing the crime as well as those that do nothing to speak out. 



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Nasty Flu Shot

Nasty Flu Shot

I took my daughter for a flu shot last evening.

We went through the typical drawn-out paperwork and long wait to get something so routine.

When the medical practitioner finally arrived with the flu shot, there was a little baggy with all the acoutrements including alcohol wipe, band-aid, cotton, etc.

As the lady starts taking out the items to get ready for giving the shot, she drops the cotton on the floor.

She picks it up quickly, and pretending we didn’t see, she quickly throws it back on the medical tray.

Now I am watching…

She open the band-aid and places it at the ready on the side.

Then she get the syringe AND the cotton that had just fallen on the floor, ready in hand.

As she is about to give the shot, I say, “You’re not going to use the cotton on my daughter that just fell on the floor, are you?”

Her eyes look askance and she throws the cotton back down on the tray, and says, “Oh, of course not.”

I spoke with my daughter afterwards about this as it was hard to understand how a medical practitioner could on one hand, be administering a helpful medicine to a patient, and at the same time, was about to use a dirty cotton on the wound afterwards.

What happened to people actually caring about people and taking pride in the jobs they do, rather than just being in it for the paycheck only?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Sun Dazed)

Women, Not Things

Women, Not Things

In the context of the brutal raping and murder last year of a 23-year old women on a bus to the disgusting rape of a 5-year girl more recently in India, the Wall Street Journal (17 May 2013) has an article on “To Wed Your Rapist, or Not: Indian Women on Trial.”

It is an eye-opening article about the prejudices and horrible injustices that women face in India and other countries–and it’s not only due to the misogyny of some, and power- and pleasure-seeking of others, but it is based also on justices, lawyers, law enforcement, legislators, and spiritual figures in society that perpetuate the oppression of woman.

Some societies are stacking the deck, so women cannot reasonably win due protection–from legislators who do not write and pass substantive and equitable laws to protect women, to law enforcement that will not commit the resources to pursue the rapists and women beaters, to lawyers and judges that raise ridiculous demands for proving guilt and sentencing, and to spiritual leaders that blame the victim rather than hold the perpetrators to task.

These people who are supposed to bring justice to the victims, instead add insult to injury. Some of these include:

– Ruling against rape victims because they didn’t successfully fight back. For example, a “lower court ruled that she was lying citing among other things the fact that she could have scratched the man’s genitals, but didn’t.”

– Professing that victims are at fault for causing the rape, such as by wearing skirts, having male friends (i.e. “asking for it”), or otherwise dressing or behaving immodestly. At the extreme, one prominent spiritual figure actually held that the victim could’ve avoided trouble if she had “chanted a prayer, taken one of her attackers by the hand, and called him ‘brother'”–as if one can convince an attacker not to attack by holding their hands and gushing brotherhood.

– Teaching that rape is not possible for strong women or those of a labor caste. A 2005 textbook stated, “In normal circumstances, it is not possible for a single man to hold sexual intercourse with a healthy adult female in full possession of her senses against her will.” Oh, really? I doubt these teachers would like to test this hypothesis on their beloved mothers, sisters, wives, or daughters.

In Indian and other societies where women are so degraded, there is a standing notion of a rape victim having to marry their rapist–to make things right. Yet, how can this resolve anything? As if the incident of rape is not enough, the victim must endure a lifetime of rape–and by an individual without character or soul, who could commit such a brutal, violent act to begin with.

Forcing the victim to marry the rapist does not spare a woman the challenge of marrying normally after such an traumatic act, but rather it precludes her from ever having an opportunity to rid herself of the pain and shame, and go on to be with someone who truly loves and respects her as a person, and not an object.

As long as societies marginalize women through their beliefs, teachings, and systems of injustice, women will not be spared the agonizing harm they suffer by men who abuse their status of power. But as the old saying goes, “what goes around, comes around,”–what is incredible is that so many of these people just see it going, but don’t see it coming.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Stampede On Others’ Feelings

Don't Stampede On Others' Feelings

I took this picture of a cow stampede when hiking in the mountains.

The cows first came up to us all friendly and then after staying for a little bit, decided to bolt off across the open field.

Together–it was like a mini stampede.

It reminded me of a situation recently, where I felt bad that I had stampeded (albeit inadvertently) on someone’s feelings.

We received a delivery–actually a new couch (the other one we were replacing was really uncomfortable and it was high time to go).

At one point, I was taken a little aback when the delivery man asked me, admiring it–“How much was it?”

Not wanting to really say specifically, I just said nonchalantly, “Oh, not so much.”

But the man pressed on and said, “No really, how much was it?”

I was a little uncomfortable, but I figured he’s just making conversation, and honestly it wasn’t extravagant so I say in a round figure what it was.

Then I see his face go dark, and I realized what had accidentally happened.

It was perhaps a bit much for this nice man (although I really don’t know his situation, but just his facial expression).

Anyway, I felt terrible and proceeded to say something light and then we chatted for a little bit.

I think it is important to feel for all people–trying to make the best with what G-d provides and deal with everyday tests and challenges.

We are all people–and at any moment–what befalls one, can befall anyone, so we must be grateful for each and every blessing, for however long G-d grants it. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Decision-Making With Perspective, Please.

Decision-Making With Perspective, Please.

An article in Fast Company (1 April 2013) by Chip and Dan Heath tells us to use the 10/10/10 rule for making tough decisions.

That is to consider how you will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, in 10 months, and in 10 years–in order to “get some distance on our decisions.”

But this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, if you are making a decision, looking at it with 3 future lenses does not provide a lot of additional insight even if they are at various points in the future.

What makes a lot more sense is to examine the decision based on past, present, and future consideration.

Past–At home, I learned from my father that when he makes a big decision, he thinks about what his father would’ve have done in a similar situation. My dad greatly respected his father, and believes that he is a guiding force in his everyday life. It is important to consider what our parents, grandparents, and other people that we respect from our past would do in similar circumstances–this is a social view. For example, would your parents and grandparents be proud of your decision and what it represents for you as a person or would you feel ashamed and guilty, if they found out. This is not to say that you can’t express your individuality, but rather that your past is one important guidepost to consider.

Present–In operational law enforcement and defense environment, I learned that you have to respect the decision-maker at the frontline. The details of what is happening or the ground in the here and now can certainly be a decisive factor in both split second decisions, but also those decisions where we have some luxury of contemplation–this is an operational view. Additionally, in making a big decision, we need to be true to ourselves and base the decision on our values and beliefs (i.e. who we are). In contrast, when we make decisions that violate our core beliefs, we usually regret it pretty quickly.

Future–In Yeshiva, I learned to strongly consider the future in all decision-making. The notion that this world is just a corridor to the future world was a frequent theme. From this religious perspective, what is important in how we live our lives today is not the immediate pleasure we can get, but rather what the future consequences will be on our spirit/soul (i.e. Neshama)–this is a strategic view. One teacher exhorted us to always look at things from the future perspective of our death bed–will you feel you lived your life as a good person and in a fulfilling way or did you just do what felt good or was selfish and fleeting? For example, he said, “No one ever looked back and wish they spent more time working. Instead, they usually regret not spending more time with the family and true friends.”

Decision-making is not trivial–you need to consider carefully what you do, with whom, when and how. To do this, looking at 3 points in the future is minimally helpful. Instead, consider your past, present, and future, and you will make better decisions that will enable you to be true to yourself, your family and community, and your very soul.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Catching More Flies With Honey

Catching More Flies With Honey

There’s an old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

And this is true in cyberspace as well…

Like a honey pot that attracts cyber criminals, organizations are now hiring “ethical hackers” to teach employees a lesson, before the bad guys teach them the hard way.

The Wall Street Journal (27 March 2013) reports that ethical hackers lure employees to click on potentially dangerous email links and websites, get them to provide physical access to data centers and work site computers, or give up passwords or other compromising information through social engineering.

The point of this is not to make people feel stupid when they fall for the hack–although they probably do–but rather to show the dangers out there in cyberspace and to impress on them to be more careful in the future.

One ethical hacker company sends an email with a Turkish Angora cat (code-named Dr. Zaius) promising more feline photos if people just click on the link. After sending this to 2 million unsuspecting recipients, 48% actually fell for the trick and ended up with a stern warning coming up on their screen from the cyber security folks.

Another dupe is to send an faux email seemingly from the CEO or another colleague so that they feel safe, but with a unsafe web link, and see how many fall for it.

While I think it is good to play devil’s advocate and teach employees by letting them make mistakes in a safe way–I do not think that the people should be named or reported as to who feel for it–it should be a private learning experience, not a shameful one!

The best part of the article was the ending from a cyber security expert at BT Group who said that rather than “waste” money on awareness training, we should be building systems that don’t let users choose weak passwords and doesn’t care what links they click–they are protected!

I think this is a really interesting notion–not that we can ever assume that any system is ever 100% secure or that situational awareness and being careful should ever be taken for granted, but rather that we need to build a safer cyberspace–where every misstep or mistake doesn’t cost you dearly in terms of compromised systems and privacy. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

A Seeing Eye

This video from NOVA is an amazing display of the surveillance capabilities we have at our disposal.

ARGUS-IS Stands for Automated Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System.

Like a “Persistent Stare,” ARGUS provides continuous monitoring and tracking over a entire city, but also it has the ability to simply click on an area (or multilple areas–up to 65 at a time) to zoom in and see cars, people, and even in detail what individuals are wearing or see them even waving their arms!

Created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARGUS uses 368 imaging chips and provides a streaming video of 1.8 gigapixels (that is 1.8 billion pixels) of resolution and attaches to the belly of a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone.

ARGUS captures 1 million terabytes of a data a day, which is 5,000 hours of high-definition footage that can be stored and returned to as needed for searching events or people.

The Atlantic (1 February 2013) points out how using this over an American city could on one hand, be an amazing law enforcement tool for catching criminals, but on the other hand raise serious privacy concerns like when used by government to collect data on individuals or by corporations to market and sell to consumers.

What is amazing to me is not just the bird’s eye view that this technology provides from the skies above, but that like little ants, we are all part of the mosaic of life on Earth. We all play a part in the theater of the loving, the funny, the witty, and sometimes the insane.

My Oma used to say in German that G-d see everything, but now people are seeing virtually everything…our actions for good or for shame are visible, archived, and searchable. 😉

Just Hanging Out

Lion_in_window

I understand when someone says they are just going to hang out, but this is ridiculous–a lion hanging out of the window, overlooking a main thoroughfare in the Capital!

With all the intrigue about the emails and affairs the last few days–I think this feline, might just be feeling a little curious.

The father of one of the ladies involved said there is a lot more to the story…Mr. Lion here is watching and waiting with the rest of us to hear what’s up.

Certainly, not our finest national moment–and as Ricky Ricardo would say, “Lucy, You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Behind The Toothbrush, A Human Being

Cleaning_lady

In the morning, I like to stop at the food court for some coffee (iced, not hot).

This week, while heading down the stairs to the coffee stand, I ran into this lady cleaning the stairs.

As I excused myself to her and got the nod to run past, I realized she was cleaning each stair not with a machine, or a mop, but with with a hand utensil that was basically like a toothbrush.

And as you can see, she was cleaning more just a couple of steps, but rather a whole staircase like this.

I had to take a second-take at this whole notion–I could not believe she was cleaning each step–one at a time–step by step–from one side to the other–bent over like this with this little tool-like toothbrush.

I wanted to stop and ask her about it–why she had to do it this way? But I was too embarrassed and more important didn’t want to embarrass her.

I took this photo discretely not to shame anyone, but to point out the plight of workers in our society.

No one–NO ONE–should have to bend over a staircase or floor or anything like this and clean inch by inch–with a toothbrush!

When I think about it–it is shameful–no, it is enraging–that anyone would treat other human beings like this.

Let’s face it–this is not done to get the stairs clean–there are machines and more appropriate hand tools–scrubbers, steamers, scrappers that can do that. Heck, I’d bet that we can modify a iRobot Roomba to eventually do it.

So this is not just about getting the job done, but perhaps about power, degradation, servitude, and even an element of abuse.

I felt terrible for this lady–I almost wanted to tell her to stop, but I assume, she has a family to feed too and has to do what she has to do.

But whoever is employing her and making her do this back-breaking work this way, as my grandmother used to say–G-d sees everything!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)