Wednesday, February 7, 2007

"You're coming to a sad realization, cancel or allow?" [video]

Use an Ipod in a New York crosswalk? $100 fine

First it was cell phones in cars, then trans fats. Now, a new plan is on the table to ban gadget use while crossing city streets.

We all seem to have one -- an iPod, a BlackBerry, a cell phone -- taking up more and more of our time, but can they make us too distracted to walk safely? Some people think so.

If you use them in the crosswalk, your favorite electronic devices could be in the crosshairs.

Legislation will be introduced in Albany on Wednesday to lay a $100 fine on pedestrians succumbing to what State Sen. Carl Kruger calls iPod oblivion.

"We're talking about people walking sort of tuned in and in the process of being tuned in, tuned out," Kruger said. "Tuned out to the world around them. They're walking into speeding cars. They're walking into buses. They're walking into one another and it's creating a number of fatalities that have been documented right here in the city."

Pedestrians have been hurt and killed in the manner Kruger describes. Not surprisingly, though, iPod users are less than thrilled with the senator's proposal.

"That's not a distraction," said one woman, iPod securely implanted in her ears. "You have your iPod in your ears and you're crossing the street, you are looking with your eyes. You don't have to hear anything, really ... I guess."

Added another New Yorker: "It's a terrible idea. It's outrageous."

Kruger said not so fast.

"If you want to listen to your iPod, sit down and listen to it," Kruger declared. "You want to walk in the park, enjoy it. You want to jog around a jogging path, all the more power to you, but you should not be crossing streets and endangering yourself and the lives of others."

Kruger's bill would only apply to big cities across New York state. We don't know what kind of support it has in Albany, but he hopes that the New York City Council, which has already banned indoor smoking and trans fats in restaurants, will pick up the cue.

Golden Bra Worth 1.9 Million USD

Korea's Golden Zone has launched a $1.89 million gold bra during a fashion show in Seoul. The gold brassiere named "Phoenix" is decorated with diamonds and is made to hug the body just well.

Bet you girls, would like to have one for sure, but I guess its painful to wear it!?

The Best Place To Hide Money: Conversation With A Burglar

I had quite the interesting conversation this weekend with a person who happened to be a former burglar. It was great timing because I was wondering if something like the skid mark underwear for hiding money would really work. I also figured that if you wanted to know the best place to hide your money from a burglar, a former burglar was the person to ask.

I started off simply and was not surprised by the answer to the question “where is the best place to hide your money?”

“At the bank,” he said with a sly grin

When I rephrased and asked where the best place to hide money and valuables in the house would be if you had such items there, I was taken a bit by surprise by his answer:

“It doesn’t matter how clever you think you are or where you hide it in your house, if I have enough time, I would be able to find where you stash your valuables,” he said bluntly. He then explained that what was much more important than the actual place where you hide your valuables is that you understand a burglar’s motivations. Basically, he has two:

1. To steal your money and valuables
2. To get out of the house as quickly as possible with these goods

When you begin to think of it from this perspective, how you should hide your money changes a bit. Obviously, you don’t want to leave all your money in the places where the burglar will first look: dresser drawers, drawers by phones, desks, closets, a safe (if not bolted down), boxes, jewelry boxes, purse, etc.). That being said, you also don’t want to hide all of your money too well for the following reason:

“If I can’t find money and valuables in the normal places I usually find them, I would continue to tear the house apart until I found something. Remember, the first rule is to to steal money and valuables. We’ll keep looking until we find something.”

Your best strategy, then, is to actually leave some money in obvious places for the burglar to quickly find (the same applies if you keep all your money in the bank). This can not only save your other stash of money, but may actually keep the burglar from destroying your place as he looks for where you have hidden your money. If they believe they may have found the cash that you have in the house, they are much less likely to keep looking (remember, they want to get out asap). In the end, if you hide all your money well, you may win a moral victory in not letting the burglar find the money, but you’ll likely have much more damage done to your place that will end up costing you more in the long run.

The next obvious question was “How much money should you leave for the burglar to find?”

“It depends on the area where you live. If you are in a upscale community and only leave $100, I would assume there is more and keep looking. In a different part of town $100 would convince me I found all the money that was there and leave.”

When it comes to hiding valuables, his suggestion is to mark an envelope in an easily accessible drawer or with files by your computer with “Bank Safe Deposit Box” on the outside and a list of items on the inside. This will tip off the burglar that your most valuable items are stored at the bank and will discourage him from tearing up your house looking for them.

So the question of where is the best places to hide money still hadn’t been answered?

His number one recommendation for money was in toys in a young child’s room. As he explained, young children don’t have money, they have an abundance of toys and most parents don’t trust a child around money. Therefore, parents will rarely hide money there. In addition, when money is hidden, it is usually hidden away neatly and securely — a child’s room is rarely a neat place making it an unlikely place for money to be hidden. Plus with all the stuff in a child’s room, it is not someplace that a burglar can search quickly and get out (rule #2).

If you have a safe, it should be professionally bolted down so it can’t easily be removed. If you leave some token money for the burglar to find in the places they normally look for money, then anyplace you wouldn’t normally consider a place to hide valuables will usually keep those valuables safe. The underside of trash cans, inside laundry detergent, inside false packaging (but only if the packaging appears real and is in the appropriate place - “When you find a Campbell’s soup can in the bedroom, you have a pretty good idea there is money inside”) were some examples he gave.

And my question of whether the skid mark underwear would be a good place to hide money?

He laughed. “I haven’t heard of that, but I doubt I would have touched something like that had I seen it.”

You also need to be smart about where you hide the money. He related one time a person had left wads of money inside the empty battery areas of electronics around the house. The problem was that although he had not found the hidden money at first, the electronics themselves were worth money and he took those to sell. Only when he got home and was checking that everything worked did he find the hidden cash. The person hid the money well, but not in a good place.

One last tip from a personal finance angle - if you do hide money someplace around the house, make sure that your significant other (or someone close) knows where your hiding place is. If something unfortunate happens to you and nobody knows where your hidden stash is, it’s unlikely that they will be able to find it if a burglar isn’t able to find it. Worse, it could very easily be accidentally thrown away depending on where it is hidden.

Don't ask employees to be passionate about the company!

People ask me, "How can I get our employees to be passionate about the company?" Wrong question. Passion for our employer, manager, current job? Irrelevant. Passion for our profession and the kind of work we do? Crucial. If I own company FOO, I don't need employees with a passion for FOO. I want those with a passion for the work they're doing. The company should behave just like a good user interface -- support people in doing what they're trying to do, and stay the hell out of their way. Applying the employer-as-UI model, the best company is one in which the employees are so engaged in their work that the company fades into the background.

Given a choice, I would work ONLY on projects that followed a Hollywood Model, where people come together with their respective skills and talents, and DO something. Make a web app. Create a book. Build a game. Develop and deliver learning experiences. The happiest moments of my work life were on projects where we pulled all-nighters because we wanted to, not because the corporate culture said we weren't a true team-player/trooper if we didn't.

Employees shouldn't be sleeping in cubes to prove they're "passionate employees." I want to work with people who have a particular set of skills (and interests) who view themselves and one another as either professionals/craftspeople (programmers, designers, engineers, animators, editors, scientists, authors, educators, architects, entertainers, etc.) or as producers and assistant producers (the people who pull it all together, support the craftspeople, and make it happen).

I realize these aren't mutually exclusive--one can be passionate about their employer and the work they do, but it's a matter of which one employers value. And all too often, it's the wrong one.

The simple 4-quesetion test to see if someone has a passion for their work:

* When was the last time you read a trade/professional journal or book related to your work? (can substitute "attended an industry conference or took a course")

* Name at least two of the key people in your field.

* If you had to, would you spend your own money to buy tools or other materials that would improve the quality of your work?

* If you did not do this for work, would you still do it (or something related to it) as a hobby?

It's Official: Jewish Progressive Criticism of Israel Is Now a Movement

The New York Times' stunning piece last week about the American Jewish Committee's effort to smear leftwing Jewish critics of Israel as antisemites did what 1000 blogs, 100 human rights reports, even 10 pieces by Tony Judt, could never do: It embarrassed the Jewish leadership, by exposing the retrograde methods it has resorted to to try and stop debate. More than that, the Times report took a scattered opposition and solidified it, by telling us what we didn't understand: We're having an impact.

Let's declare what's afoot right now: it's a movement. Progressive Jews all over are denouncing the mainstream leadership's staunch support of the hateful occupation, and some of them are linking it to the U.S.'s bloody occupation of Iraq. In England, Independent Jewish Voices, a group of anti-occupation Jews (including Harold Pinter and Eric Hobsbawm) is breaking away from the mainstream organizations to show how bankrupt their lobbying position is. In Australia, Antony Loewenstein sees "dissent growing." His book My Israel Question, which I gather is even more off-the-hook than stuff I write, is to be published in the States this spring. And speaking of the States, Jewish Voice for Peace, an Oakland-based group with chapters nationwide, has lately launched a fabulous website, Muzzlewatch, dedicated to fighting the smears and threats that the lobby has always used against Jews who want to treat Palestinian Arabs with dignity. Meantime, the Union of Progressive Zionists, which brought Breaking the Silence to the U.S. last fall to describe real conditions in the West Bank to young Jews, is fighting to keep its membership on the Israel on Campus Coalition, and winning—a battle with the ZOA whose onset I reported on this blog two months back. Some Hillel groups have welcomed Breaking the Silence.

The one comment I'd add is that I give credit to progressive gentiles for helping to break open this discussion. Yes, Meretz-USA has been tireless. Norman Finkelstein has given hundreds of speeches. But Mearsheimer, Walt, and Jimmy Carter released this movement last year by embarrassing Jews with statements about the immorality of the treatment of Palestinians that were mainstreamed. They gave license to the media to write about this stuff, and have spurred progressive Jews to play their part and recover progressive voices going back to Hannah Arendt and Elmer Berger. 60 years before Walt and Mearsheimer, Rabbi Berger warned in The Jewish Dilemma about the Zionist "machine" and the ways it would transform Jewish identity and politics in the name of nationalism.

Hark! I hear the sound of the tumbrils, rumbling through the streets of northwest Washington, collecting neoconservatives.