Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Web Secret 447: Sony Glass Sound Speaker

Warning: this is one of those posts where I go apeshit over an advance in technology.

If you are not in the mood, skip until next week.

This is a complete list of the clothing and furnishings in my freshman dorm room at Yale University in the 70s:

1 twin bed
1 Max Escher poster stuck on wall with gummy adhesive
7 pairs of corduroy pants in assorted colors
7 polyester shirts with floral motifs
1 Brother electric typewriter weighing half a ton
6 cartons of records (that's vinyl to the younger folks) weighing half a ton
1 stereo system consisting of turntable, receiver, tuner, amplifier and 2 gigantic speakers weighing half a ton.

And that, my friends, was it.

We weren't materialistic in those days.

But we did spend large sums on HiFi equipment and records. Bulky, heavy equipment and records that we repeatedly lugged from room to room, and apartment to apartment, for several decades until....

....scientific advances shrunk it all into my iPhone.

Back then, having great speakers was the most important component of our systems.

And that's still true today.

Except now my speakers look like the light bulb of the future.

This is how I discovered the Sony Glass Sound Speaker:

I was wandering around an Italian furniture showroom in New York City, lingering because the music was fantastic. I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from until a salesperson pointed to a slender, glowing, 20 inch cylinder. It looked like an "objet d'art."

I was stunned.

LSPX-S1, as my friends at Sony affectionately named it, is a wireless 360 degree sound system that pairs with a Bluetooth device to... to... to...

...well, to just blow you away.

As I write this, the Glass Sound Speakers can only be purchased from the MOMA, (Museum of Modern Art,) gift shop in Manhattan.

And now one of them sits in my living room.

Freaking me out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Web Secret 446: is a platform that enables clients to interact with a therapist through a highly secure video counseling interface.

Here is how they explain themselves to prospective users:

Of course clinicians can also apply to become providers. Skytherapist aims to source clinicians not only in the USA, but in the entire world.

Which brings me to my next point. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the next big thing in the EAP field is video counseling. Canada, our neighbors to the north, figured this out a number of years ago, and because they don't have to deal with our obsolete, state bound, licensing system - ran with it.

I see many EAPs avoiding the whole thing, as if averting one's gaze from the inevitable is a solution. They are intimidated by tech or paralyzed by the fact that you can't practice psychotherapy across state lines.

So in the interest of progress, let me make a couple of introductions.

Skytherapy, meet the EAP field, EAPs, meet Skytherapy.

EAPs - Skytherapist offers you an encrypted platform for video counseling. Skytherapist, EAPs offer you an opportunity to greatly expand your business.

Go forth and multiply.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Web Secret 445: Boss Whispering Institute

Part of my day job is to oversee the publication of the EAP Newsbrief, a weekly electronic newsletter published by the international Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

The Newsbrief focuses on topics of interest to individuals working in areas related to corporate and employee mental health.

Nary a week goes by without an article about workplace bullying - a scourge impacting workplaces around the world.

In most cases, the bully is a manager, and the bullying impacts the company's bottom line because of worker turnover or problems with absenteeism and presenteeism as subordinates do anything to avoid the bully. Abrasive bosses represent a huge challenge for companies and executive coaches. In many cases, the end result is the termination of that abrasive manager.

Is there a better way?

There's an app for that.

Just kidding, there is the "Boss Whispering Institute," the brain child of Dr. Laura Crawshaw, a psychotherapist, executive coach, researcher, and author, who focuses her research and practice on the reduction of workplace suffering caused by abrasive leaders.

The Boss Whispering Institute offers a multiplicity of resources for companies and professionals:

1. You can hire Dr. Crawshaw.
2. or any of the other professionals who have completed her program and become accredited Boss Whisperers.
3. You can read her books and articles.
4. You can hire her to speak.


It's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Web Secret 444:

This was supposed to be a simple blog post.

Telling you about, an online evidenced base social anxiety reduction program based on cognitive behavioral therapy CBT. You can try it for free for 7 days and then it costs $25/week. Participants are provided with a coach and online exercises.

I thought it could be used as an adjunct to therapy or EAP services.

Or as a stand alone product.

But now I can't do that.

Instead, I am upset and concerned.

I became upset and concerned when I decided to look up the credentials of the joyable "clinical" staff. Here are a few examples:

BA in Public Policy Studies and Economics
BA in English and Communications
MS in Integrated Marketing Communications
BA in Anthropology
BA in Race and Ethnicity Studies
BA in East Asian Studies and certificates in Linguistics and Translation

etc., etc.

Staff bios consist of cutesy descriptions like "Outside of work, she loves re-watching Christopher Nolan films, eating Swedish meatballs at Ikea, and planning her next overseas trip."

You get the picture - 99% of joyable's "coaching" staff have no graduate clinical degrees or licenses. Only their 3 "Scientific advisors" have serious clinical cred.

And that wouldn't bother me, if they described themselves as a coaching program.

Instead they describe themselves as providing "evidence-based, affordable mental health services."

So I will not be recommending to anybody.

But I have written before about dubious online mental health programs. Remember Talkspace? They promised that for $25 a week, a client can text an assigned therapist whenever they want. Unlimited. And If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

But this is what REALLY worries me.

These companies are obviously and entirely marketed to Millenials.

Who are demanding easy access, quick fixes and affordable solutions to their mental health woes.

And the real mental health professionals, clinics, and EAPs are not responding.

I love my fellow mental health professionals but many are Luddites and technopeasants.

In fairness to them, they are subject to anitquated licensing laws that prevent the delivery of counseling services across state lines unless the clinician is licensed in both areas.

Horror vacui.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

And into this gaping, giant vacuum, these very para/para/professional services are proliferating and will continue to proliferate.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Web Secret 443: iMemories

By the time you read this post, many of you celebrated Thanksgiving with loved ones and friends.

And you memorialized the occasion by taking selfies and other pictures with your smartphones.

These 21st century digital images live in our smart phones or have been uploaded to the cloud.

But let's remember the iPhone didn't exist before 2007, so if you're like me, you have crates of photos, VHS tapes, CDs, etc. that are quietly yellowing or degrading. And I'm panicking about preserving this legacy.

So I turn to, because what they do... best explained by them:

So now you know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Web Secret 442: Digital native

Several months ago, I read a rather horrific New York Times article by Ashton Applewhite about age discrimination. Which for women starts at age 32. And though illegal, two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it.

That was enough to piss me off, but then Applewhite wrote, "Recruiters say people with more than three years of work experience need not apply. Ads call for 'digital natives,' as if playing video games as a kid is proof of competence."

And I went wild with fury.

But let me digress. The term "digital native" was first coined in 2001 by Marc Prensky, in a rather brilliant essay "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" Pensky wrote, "What should we call these “new” students of today? ...the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

Now as the parent of 3 digital natives, I will tell you that, unquestionably, they use technology differently than I do. I remember sharing an excellent bottle of wine with the kids at a restaurant. I started to laboriously type out the label in the notes app on my iPhone, while my oldest took a snapshot of the wine label in an instant. Whoa! Lesson learned.

Then there's checking the weather. I usually visit the weather app to find this out. My oldest temporarily moved in with us a month ago, and I heard him say, "Siri, what's the weather today." Second lesson learned.

Now back to my fury. Being a digital native doesn't automatically translate into workplace tech competence. Just like being a native English speaker does not automatically confer an ability to write well, or understand Shakespeare.

So here are things my progeny do not know how to do, despite being "digital natives."

1. Anything related to hardware. Eg printer jams - no clue how to fix them.
2. HTML. Fireworks.
3. Effectively searching for information on the Internet. Nyet. (Turns out that growing up with libraries and card catalogues confers special powers - an understanding about how research works.)

How about some other non digital qualities valued in the workplace:

1. punctuality
2. work ethic
3. "paying your dues"
4. preparedness

My digital journey started with IBM punch cards in the 8th grade. Careened through a Commodore 64. Learned MS Word and Excel from a VHS tape. Owned one of the first IBM Thinkpads. Navigated the dot com bubble. Palm Pilot anyone?

I may not be a digital native, but I have perspective. And deep knowledge.

Something you can't buy online at Amazon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Web Secret 441: Workaway

I have reached the age where some of my older friends are considering retiring.

They are preparing for that milestone in a number of different ways.

For example, one couple I know is using Airbnb to explore cities around the US.

The thing is, if you retire at 65, you may have to fill in about 30 years of life with interesting and fulfilling activity.

I'm not sure playing 18 holes of golf then repeat is going to do it for most folks.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. is the 21st century version of the Peace Corps.

It's a quick and easy way to set up a volunteer/cultural exchange experience in over 150 countries around the world. The opportunities are incredibly varied and last as little or as long as you want them to.

Weirdly, Workaway is only marketing itself to Millenials - or so it seems in their promo video:

But all ages and even families are welcome into the program.

Here are examples of some of the incredible opportunities offered on the site:

Teach and get involved with community life in Cambodia

Volunteer in Finnish Lapland with huskies

Volunteers to help with landscaping and DIY-eco-construction in the wilderness near Montreal, Canada

Tanzania Volunteers Opportunity - help an NGO improve Masai communities

Help out in a hostel - high up in the Andes, in Ecuador

Hosts are rated Yelp style so you know what your getting yourself into.

Those huskies are calling my name.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Web Secret 440: Ethics for artificial intelligence

I am a hard core science fiction fan.

So I was fascinated when I first read about scientist/fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics which he introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround."

The Three Laws, quoted as being from the "Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.", are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

This was easily 45 years ago. 2058 seemed like the very distant future. And I wondered when technology would become advanced enough for mankind to grapple with the ethics of artificial intelligence.

Well folks, we didn't have to wait for 2058 - it's happening in 2016.

A New York Times article, "How Tech Giants Are Devising Real Ethics for Artificial Intelligence," by John Markoffsept, reported that five of the world’s largest tech companies are trying to create a standard of ethics around the creation of artificial intelligence.

The article explained that in recent years, the A.I. field has made rapid advances in a range of areas, from self-driving cars and machines that understand speech, to a new generation of weapons systems that threaten to automate combat.

These developments prompted the necessity to ensure that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them.

The importance of the industry effort is underscored in a report issued by a Stanford University group called the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence. It lays out a plan to produce a detailed report on the impact of A.I. on society every five years for the next century.

Separately, Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn, is in discussions with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab to fund a project exploring the social and economic effects of artificial intelligence.

There is a long-running debate about designing computer and robotic systems that still require interaction with humans. For example, the Pentagon has recently begun articulating a military strategy that calls for using A.I. in which humans continue to control killing decisions, rather than delegating that responsibility to machines. See Robotics Law number 1.

Of note, the Stanford report does not consider the possibility of a "singularity" that might lead to machines that are more intelligent than us and possibly threaten mankind.

Not there yet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Web Secret 439: 6 Websites to learn by

Feel like learning something new - for free?

Here are 6 web sites that let you do just that.

1. Library of Congress

Most of our national library’s texts are now available online.

2. Boundless

Boundless is shaking up the textbook industry by offering textbooks online, for free.

3. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Look around - many universities have a department called the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute - unlimited courses with no homework, no exams, no required college degree, no age threshold.

4. Google World Wonders

This subset of the Google Arts and Culture Project lets you explore the ancient and modern worlds in an incredible online resource powered by Google’s Street View and mapping technology.

5. Internet Sacred Text Archive

It’s the largest archive of free books on religion and spirituality on the Internet. Read up on mythology, religion, folklore, alchemy, parapsychology, and more.

6. University of the People

Billing itself as the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited, online American university, UoPEOPLE offers degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Studies.

Over and out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Web Secret 438: Dark Sky

A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend the 2016 US Open tennis tournament.

Except for the main stadium, the Open is an outdoor affair. So nothing chills an attendee's heart more than a forecast of "scattered showers."

What does that mean?

Fortunately, one of my fellow guests had the Dark Sky app.

Dark Sky is the weather app of your dreams - it alerts you up-to-the-minute with what nonsense Mother Nature has in store, its severity, and how long it will last - right over your head.

The app also provides unique radar imagery, unbeatable accuracy, and hyper-localized results.

This does not come cheap - about $4.00 in Apple's app store.

But there, at the Open, it made all the sense in the world. We knew that at a specific time, we could safely leave Arthur Ashe Stadium and watch matches in the open air Grandstand court.


Black Sky.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Web Secret 437: “I could not have acted otherwise….”

I know whom I have to thank, for being alive.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, a Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux, France in 1940.

Sousa Mendes didn't just save my mother's life, he saved 30,000 people, over the period of a few days. This heroic feat has been described as "the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust."

At that time, Portugal was pro-Hitler and under the dictatorial rule of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Salazar issued a directive – the infamous “Circular 14″ – to all its diplomats to deny safe haven to refugees, including explicitly Jews, Russians, and stateless persons who could not freely return to their countries of origin.

Sousa Mendes’s act of heroism consisted in choosing to defy these inhumane orders and following his conscience instead. "I would rather stand with God against Man than with Man against God," he declared. And he and the subordinates under his command issued 30,000 visas allowing 30,000 refugees to leave soon to be Nazi occupied France.

And so, instead of perishing in a concentration camp, my mother, grand-mother and great-uncle were able to leave France just as the Nazis entered Paris. They escaped via Portugal to the United States, and here I am.

For his act of defiance, Sousa Mendes was severely punished by Salazar, stripped of his diplomatic position and forbidden from earning a living. His children were themselves blacklisted and prevented from attending university or finding meaningful work. The family’s ancestral home was repossessed by the bank.

Sousa Mendes died in 1954 in poverty and disgrace. Even until this bitter end, he stood by his decision to save refugee lives, stating, "I could not have acted otherwise, and I therefore accept all that has befallen me with love."

The foundation that bears his name is dedicated to sharing this history and broadcasting it far and wide, because it stands as a moral example to act against intolerance, racism and genocide today.

Furthermore, with widespread recognition, the living survivors and descendants of those saved by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, many thousands of them unaware of the name of the person who helped them reach safety, may learn the true story behind their survival.

We just learned.

Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, "Righteous Among the Nations," I will remember you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Web Secret 436: E4 Health and other website stories

Sometimes you can find great web design where you least expect it, and terrible web design where you would expect greatness.

Take the Professional Association for Design.

This is not a small potatoes organization - they have 25,000 members.

And they have a tragically terrible website:

It's dated - could have been created in the 90s.

It's busy. You tell me how to sort through that home page to find what you're looking for.

It's ugly. The greatest sin of all, for an organization that should be promoting great design.

On the other hand, I accidentally came across an employee assistance program called E4 Health.

This is state of the art greatness.

Scroll down their homepage, click anywhere...

it's interactive,

it's fun,

it's compelling.

It's a corporate mental health company.

And it's fun.

Study. It.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Web Secret 435: go fund me

This is the third post in a row with the word "go" in the title - completely unintentional.

Anyway, is a personal fundraising website.

What does that mean?

Watch the video:

It takes minutes to set up a campaign. GoFundMe will deduct a 7.9% fee from each donation received.

AS an example, Shana Garcia, has been tending feral cat colonies in Yonkers, NY, trapping cats for neutering/vet care and rescuing those she knows will make good pets. She does this in neighborhoods most of us would avoid She has made a deal with the local human society where they will charge her only $10 for vaccinations, $30 for spaying and bulk price for food.

A close friend and colleague of mine as volunteered with Shana for many years and so I can donate knowing that the funds will be spent wisely. Shana set a modest goal of $1,000 and you can view her gofundme site here. Even if she doe not reach that goal, she can keep 92% of every donation received.

Gofundme makes it easy to donate funds and easy to share campaigns on social media.

It's a win/win.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Web Secret 434: Karma Go

Have you ever needed WiFi and couldn't get it?

Of course you have.

You have two choices. Wait until you get back home or can tap into a free network. Or use cellular data - expensive.

Now there's another affordable alternative.

Karma Go.

Here's the deal: you buy a small, light Karma Go device (it weighs 2.3 ounces) for $149.

Karma Go turns the Sprint 4G LTE connection into a personal WiFi signal.

Your laptop, tablet, and phone wirelessly connect to Karma Go within about 100 feet.

Karma Go works in over 460 cities in the US.

Their intro plan is very inexpensive.

For 1GB, you pay $15. You only pay for the data you want. Your data never expires. You earn 100MB when a guest connects to your Karma Go.

That's it.

Problem solved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Web Secret 433: Pokemon GO

Unless you have been living off the grid, you have at least heard of Pokemon GO.

This is what you need to understand about this worldwide phenomenon.

Pokemon - stands for "Pocket Monsters" - was originally a Game Boy video game, a card game, and a TV series. If you grew up during the 90s or raised a child during the 90s, you know all about this early phase.

Players of the games, AKA Pokémon Trainers, had two general goals. They had to complete the Pokédex by collecting all of the available Pokémon species found in the fictional region where that game takes place; and to train a team of powerful Pokémon from those they have caught to compete against teams owned by other Trainers, and eventually win the fictional Pokémon League. The whole thing was G rated and geared towards elementary school children.

Fast forward 20+ years and those 90s children are now 20 something Millenials. They are very nostalgic about the 90s. And their parents, Gen Xers and Boomers, also know about Pokemon because - well you had no choice - the TV series was on all the time, the cards were all over the house and you were pressured to buy the latest Pokemon game cartridge by your addicted progeny.

On July 6, 2016, (a date that will live in infamy,) Pokemon GO was released. It is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game - aka an app. To say that this game became a monster of a global phenomenon doesn't even begin to do it justice.

Within 1 week of the release, it seemed like everyone had downloaded the interface and was completely obsessed. A very, very small minority of Millenials resisted the lure. The Gen Xers and Boomers were sucked in too.

Here is a very brief synopsis of the game:

After logging into the app for the first time, the player creates their avatar.

After the avatar is created, it is displayed at the player's current location along with a map of the player's immediate surroundings. Features on the map include a number of PokéStops and Pokémon gyms. These are typically located at public art installations, historical markers, historic buildings, cenotaphs and other memorials, public parks and fountains, places of worship, and other points of cultural significance.

As players travel the real world, the avatar moves along the game's map. Different Pokémon species reside in different areas of the world.

When a player encounters a Pokémon, they use their smart phone camera to view it and capture it.

The ultimate goal of the game is to complete the entries in the Pokédex, a comprehensive Pokémon encyclopedia, by capturing and evolving to obtain the original 151 Pokémon.

Now you are ready to watch the trailer for the game:

If you live in a big city, you will come across groups of (usually young) adults, standing on the street, with an arm extended, holding a smartphone, as they try to capture the Pokemon in that location. Everywhere.

The bad news first: it's an addiction. People have gotten into accidents because they are hunting Pokemon while driving, walking, biking, etc. At least one person reportedly quit their job to hunt full time. One of my sons reported seeing a group of police officers hunting together instead of protecting the city.

The good news: geeks are emerging from their homes to participate, previously sedentary humans are walking miles to capture the monsters, and there is a camaraderie developing between hunters.

One of the early proponents of the mental health benefits of the game is Dr. John Grohol, the founder of Psych Central, and an expert in technology's impact on human behavior and mental health.

And Grohol has never seen anything like Pokemon Go.

"In terms of the phenomena of people expressing the benefits of playing the game to their real-world mental health status, I think that's very unique ..." he says.

Twitter is flooded with stories about Pokemon Go's impact on players' anxiety and depression, with thousands of people lauding the game for getting them out of the house and making it easier to interact with friends and strangers alike. These simple acts are crucial milestones for anyone struggling with depression, Grohol says.

Watch with me as Pokemon Go evolves from game to business application to mental health tool. 

And revolutionizes the gaming industry.

And maybe more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Web Secret 432: Moment of Nature part 2

This is the second of two blog posts each featuring one of the two letters I think are the most beautiful I have ever read.

If you want to understand my rationale for doing this read Web Secret 431.

Sullivan Ballou was a 32 year old major in the Union Army when he wrote a final message to his young wife a week before he fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, in 1861.

I first learned about this letter when I heard the song it inspired. John Kander (composer of the musical Cabaret) wrote a dramatic monologue featuring its text for famous opera soprano Renée Fleming. Here she is performing "A Letter from Sullivan Ballou":

I was so moved that I searched until I found the letter on the Internet. Then I heard it again when film maker Ken Burns used its text in his wonderful documentary "The Civil War".

Here it is:

"July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah: The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more …

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing — perfectly willing — to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt …

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me — perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness …

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights … always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again …

Sullivan (Ballou)"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Web Secret 431: Moment of nature

Since 1979, every CBS Sunday Morning show ends with a "Moment in Nature."

"Sunday Morning" is a news magazine à la "60 minutes." The "Moment In Nature" segment is unique in broadcast television and is beloved by viewers.

Because it has absolutely nothing to do with the broadcast that precedes it.

It consists of a few minutes of footage of some incredibly beautiful place in the U.S. accompanied by purely ambient audio and natural sounds. So if the "Moment" consists of a bunch of flamingos in Florida, you will probably only hear some wings flapping and the sound of surf.

It's as if the producer decided, f*ck it - no matter what is going on in this crazy world - I am going to show you something utterly beautiful and completely non commercial.

Just because.

So in that spirit, these next two blog posts are going to consist of the two letters I think are the most beautiful I have ever read.

The first is by Millicent Rogers.

Millicent was a socialite, fashion icon, and art collector. She was the granddaughter of Standard Oil tycoon Henry Huttleston Rogers, and an heiress to his wealth. She came to Taos, New Mexico after a failed love affair with Clark Gable and was an early champion of Native American jewelry and pottery, as well as a collector of 16th century Spanish colonial artifacts. These collections can be viewed in the beautiful museum which bears her name.

In 1953, shortly before her death, Millicent wrote the following letter to her son Paul Peralta Ramos. In it she eloquently explains her love for Taos and her personal credo:

"Dear Paulie,

Did i ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? Suddenly passing Taos Mountain I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the Sun on my Surface and the rain. I felt the Stars and the growth of the Moon, under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hands they would be Earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely that one was everything, and Death was as easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural-that to be enfolded in Earth was not an end but part of oneself, part of every day and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all the fear went out of me- with a great, good stillness and strength.

If anything should happen to me now, ever, just remember all this. I want to be buried in Taos with the wide sky-Life has been marvelous, all the experiences good and bad I have enjoyed, even pain and illness because out of it so many things were discovered. One has so little time to be still, to lie still and look at the Earth and the changing colours and the Forest - and the voices of people and clouds and light on water, smells and sound and music and the taste of wood smoke in the air.

Life is absolutely beautiful if one will disassociate oneself from noise and talk and live according to one's inner light. Don't fool yourself more than you can help. Do what you want-do what you want knowingly. Anger is a curtain that people pull down over life so that they can only see through it dimly-missing all the savor, the instincts-the delight-they feel safe only when they can down someone. And if one does that they end by being to many, more than one person, and life is dimmed-blotted and blurred!- I've had a most lovely life to myself- I've enjoyed it as thoroughly as it could be enjoyed. And when my time comes, no one is to feel that I have lost anything of it-or be too sorry-I've been in all of you- and will go on Being. So remember it peacefully - take all the good things that your life put there in your eyes- and they, your family, children, will see through your eyes. My love to all of you."

Just because.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Web Secret 430: you read it here first

Any Matrix fans in the audience?

There is a scene at the beginning of the movie where agents hold Neo down and forcefully insert an insectlike device into his stomach.

Later the bloody wriggling insect is removed from Neo. Is it a machine? Is it an organism? Something in between?


That movie was made 17 years ago.

That creature immediately came to mind when I read "Stingray Robot Powered by Light, and Living Rat Cells," an article by Steph Yin published in a July 2016 issue of the New York Times:

"If a robot is made of living cells, can respond to external stimuli and has the ability to compute and coordinate movement, is it alive?

This question can be posed of a new, tiny stingray-inspired robot that is able to follow pulses of light to swim through an obstacle course.

'It’s not an organism per se, but it’s certainly alive,' said Kevin Kit Parker, a professor of bioengineering at Harvard University and one of the authors of a paper detailing the robot, published in Science on Thursday.

To create the robot, which measures 16 millimeters in length, Dr. Parker’s team layered heart cells from rats onto a gold and silicone scaffold that they designed to resemble a stingray. They then injected a gene into the cells that caused them to contract when exposed to blue light...

The new artificial stingray advances the nascent field of 'biohybrid' robotics, which integrates mechanical engineering with genetic and tissue engineering..."

I encourage you to go to the url, and look at the photos that accompany the article. This man made stingray looks so lifelike that it blows my mind.

What will this technology do for us in the future?

Something amazing.

You read it here first.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Web Secret 429: Janusian thinking

Albert Rothenberg MD is an American psychiatrist who has carried out long term research on the creative process in literature, art, science and psychotherapy.

Albert was especially interested in cognitive processes that disrupt the past and the usual and lead to creation.

He identified a process he termed “Janusian thinking,” named after Janus, a Roman God who has two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. Janusian thinking is the ability to imagine two opposites or contradictory ideas, concepts, or images, existing simultaneously. It is a thought experiment.

And we care about this because....

...More and more experts in diverse fields believe that the 21st century requires non linear problem solving.

For example, in a 2002 article in Military Review, two military strategists wrote "that the current U.S. approach to military operations ... is too linear for today’s contemporary operating environment. They argue that future war fighters must move beyond linear thought and action to a realm of thinking and acting that recognizes and accepts paired yet opposite ideas and actions: 'Look before you leap' and at the same time understand that 'he who hesitates is lost.'"

Think about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Web Secret 428: the Bechdel Test for computer technology

The Bechdel test is a well-known measurement of gender bias in movies that originated in 1985 in the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For."

To pass the test, a movie must have three things:
  1. Two female characters (preferably named),
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man.
Almost half of 2015’s top movies failed the Bechdel test.

Think that's disturbing?

Now think about computer technology, anything having to do with computer technology, such as social media, the algorithms underlying all the electronic devices we use on a daily basis, and AI.


Before you do that, let me tell you about the first social media conference I attended in 2008. Facebook was 4 years old. There were hundreds of attendees at the Javitz Center - Manhattan's cavernous convention hall.

I counted exactly 5 women attendees.


It's gotten a bit better since then.

But overwhelmingly - computer tech is a male dominated field.

And as I waded through the crowd of 25 year old men, I thought to myself, "Wow - I have a feeling this is going to be a problem - what is the world missing out on because the female perspective is absent?"

That question is being answered every day since then:

1. no women, no color. Overwhelmingly, computers, smartphones and gizmos of every kind are grey, grey, grey. As a basis of comparison, Urban Decay's Vice Lipstick collection comes in 100 different shades.

2. Okay, that was a little sarcastic. How about most gaming consoles feature first person shooters hunting monsters and overly voluptuous women in scanty outfits?

3. Still sarcastic. Let's get serious. How about a June 2016 New York Times editorial "Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem" ? I quote:

"...the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems [is that] sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many 'intelligent' systems that shape [who we are.]"

The article continues:

"We need to be vigilant about how we design and train these machine-learning systems, or we will see ingrained forms of bias built into the artificial intelligence of the future.

Like all technologies before it, artificial intelligence will reflect the values of its creators. So inclusivity matters... Otherwise, we risk constructing machine intelligence that mirrors a narrow and privileged vision of society, with its old, familiar biases and stereotypes."

How to get more women, more minorities, older people and other constituencies involved in computer tech? It's not going to be easy.

But it has to happen.

And soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Web Secret 427: Utomic smartphone case

My twin children destroy cell phones.

Over the course of the ten or so years they have owned such devices, their phones have been:
  • immersed in a swimming pool
  • swept away at sea
  • left outside in a downpour
  • dropped on concrete
and more.

When one of them cracked her phone for the 5th time, I knew it was time for something different. I read about a new, very minimal case system that combines 4 rubber bumpers and state of the art tempered glass cover that offers unparalleled drop protection. It's called Utomic.

OK, so the system doesn't make the phone waterproof. But the phone no longer breaks when dropped.

And for now, that will have to do.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Web Secret 426: Google Arts and Culture

I recently came back from visiting Florence and Venice.

I went to numerous museums and looked at incredible paintings, sculptures and architectural masterpieces until my head exploded.

I am an art junkie who enjoys experiencing the world's cultural buffet.

But what if I told you that anyone with an Internet connection could see these treasures - passport and plane ticket not required?

That would be the Google Arts and Culture Project.

I have no idea why Google decided to approach hundreds of museums and cultural institutions, scan thousands of works using state of the art high resolution technology, and then organize the scans in dozens of different funky ways. Was it out of the goodness of their heart? For a tax break? To monetize it in some murky fashion?

I don't care.

I care that I can see:
How about curated collections about the wonders of Indonesia, street art, 360 degree performing arts shows?

It feels limitless.

Take a trip.

On me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Web Secret 425: Spotify

If you're a Baby Boomer, you have changed music formats at least four times.

Personally, I have moved from:

vinyl to
cassette tapes to
CDs to

What do all of these formats have in common? Concretely, I have my music. My iTunes songs are downloaded onto my mac and my phone.

For some time now my kids have been trying me to move to a fifth format: Spotify.

I have resisted.

It's incredibly annoying to learn a new interface.

Nothing pisses me off more reliably than getting an email that trumpets "announcing our new app design."

But then I started getting multiple notices that my "iPhone storage is full."

So grumbling all the way, I caved. I downloaded Spotify onto my desktop and my iPhone.

I was nervous. You see Spotify is a streaming service. That only works in wifi.

I don't have my music - it's in the ether.

It's unnatural.

It's unamerican. (Spotify is a Swedish company.)

The songs don't take up space on my iPhone.


Did I mention that I caved?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Web Secret 424: the inner search engine

Did you know that the expression "is that even a thing?" is just a couple of years old?

The plasticity of the English language is one of the reasons for its dominance across the world. Invent a new object, experience or concept and a new Anglicism seems to appear overnight.

So the term "inner search engine" has recently taken flight.

It's a thing.

It's a thing of beauty.

Most of the mental health professionals I come across are quick to express dismay at the rapidity with which technology is matching human performance. Certainly, that is a cause for concern.

But it is also cause for wonder. Can you believe the human brain can do that? Whatever "that" is?

Recently, I began to focus in on my inner search engine - which functions pretty well.

If I was a Marvel superhero, my power would be: "able to read a single page of text at a glance, memorize it, and extract the information in about a second - years later."

Nowhere is this more obvious than when I do the Monday New York Times crossword puzzle.

The Monday puzzle is the easiest of the week, rewarding knowledge of facts and information rather then aptitude for wordplay or puns.

I usually complete it in a stupor - (I'm the furthest thing from a morning person) - using a fountain pen - in about 5 minutes or less.

With the help of my inner search engine.

Clue: "Wildcat with tufted ears" Answer: "Lynx." That just popped into my head.

Clue "Emile of the Dreyfus Affair" Answer: "Zola." I know why I know this. I have been fanatically interested in the Dreyfus Affair since the age of 12. It was an espionage scandal in late 19th century France which resulted in the unjust conviction of a French Jewish officer. The great writer Emile Zola, came to the defense of Dreyfus when his open letter to the President of France was published in the newspaper L'Aurore" with the headline "J'Accuse."

Clue: "Indian state known for its tea and silk" Answer: Assam. No clue why I know this.

Clue: "Dresden denials" Answer: "Neins." Questions like this are a gift to me because I know three languages fluently and have studied another four.

Clue: "One side of a Faustian bargain" Answer: Satan. I read Goethe's Faust when I was 13. He makes a pact with the devil exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Spoiler: bad idea.

And so it goes until I complete the crossword grid.

What is your super power?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Web Secret 423: Going nowhere

Regular readers of this blog know that I look to Ted Talks for inspiration when I run out of ideas.

Of late, this has become challenging because, well, I watch Ted Talks every day. It's what I listen to when I go to the gym 3-5 days a week.

In addition to listening to a lot of Talks, my standards for what constitutes a great Talk have gone sky high.

So when I come across a great one, I need to share.

Such is "The Art of Stillness" by Pico Iyer

In essence, the presentation is about the importance of doing nothing and going nowhere, something increasingly challenging in our wired, accelerated world.

But of course, the art is in the telling.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Web Secret 422: virtual reality will take addiction to the next level

Did you know that in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5, Internet Gaming Disorder is not recognized as an official diagnosis?

It was introduced in 2013 for further study.

I think we can all save some research dollars by putting that question to rest.

Forget the kids who play World of Warcraft for days on end - I have watched adults play Angry Birds until they developed repetitive stress injuries. In China, there's even a boot camp to rehabilitate "web junkies" who prefer the gaming world to the real world.

A recent Tech Insider article stated that the typical adult under the age of 45 relies upon four digital devices, and the average individual spends 90% more time consuming digital media on a smartphone today versus 2013.

And the signs of crisis are everywhere. Nearly 60% of computer users check email in the bathroom; 15% have read their email in church; and 85% say they would take a laptop on vacation. Drilling down on the numbers, it’s even worse. We check 40 web sites a day; open 85% of work emails within two minutes; and switch between programs nearly 37 times an hour.


Well to quote Al Jolson, "you ain't heard nothin' yet."

In an article "Digital disconnect: Will VR take addiction to the next level?," author Christina Nava discusses the impact of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive - two virtual reality systems that are now accessible to the public.

They are expensive and not yet perfected. But that will change in a New York minute.

Brittany Ott, a corporate services clinician at the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at Proctor Hospital, believes that "VR provides a quicker way to get into an altered state, so the more accessible it becomes, the more at risk it is of becoming an addiction."

Addiction professionals at reSTART, the nation's first internet and technology addiction recovery center, are already concerned that VR may alter brain chemistry in ways not yet fully understood.

Additionally, the reSTART team has spent seven years gathering research that indicates the excessive use of digital devices, including video game systems, are associated with "an intensity of mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and in many cases, autism spectrum traits and features."

Science fiction, especially landmark shows like the original Star Trek, have been predictive of many advances in technology. In fact, other than the "warp speed" allowing rapid space travel, almost every gadget from the show is already in existencein the 21st century.

Reading about the potential impact of VR reminds me of the aliens in "The Menagerie," arguably the best episode of the show. It features the Talosians, humanoid aliens who are able to mass-project illusions. Their civilization fell after they discovered the ability to cast these illusions.

Their power to conjure these alternate realities is considered so dangerous, that the entire planet of Talos IV is off limits to Starfleet personnel.

When I first saw this episode, in the late 60s, it seemed the stuff of fantasy set in a distant future.

But then I watched Web Junkie, a 2015 documentary about an inpatient treatment facility for internet addiction in China, where it has been declared a national health crisis. The film follows the treatment of three Chinese teenagers, obsessive gamers whose preference is for the virtual world over the real one.

The institute's founder, a psychiatrist, explains that the average person cannot begin to imagine the level of pathology he has seen. He describes young people who voluntarily wear adult diapers so that even the call of nature need not interrupt their game play for even a minute.

250 years before the timeline of the fictional Star Trek series, we are creating illusions and falling victim to their power.

We ain't seen nothing yet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Web Secret 421: creative destruction

 Today's lesson is "creative destruction."

Creative destruction: a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942. Used in a variety of areas including economics, corporate governance, product development, technology and marketing.

Use this concept in a sentence.

The iPhone, introduced in 2007, (that's less than 10 years ago people,) all but killed the market for not only regular cell phones but also PDAs, MP3 players, point-and-shoot cameras, wrist watches, calculators and voice recorders.

This is life in the 21st century.

"Creative destruction is the industrial and societal evolution that has driven human progress forward since a distant ancestor smashed two rocks together and created a spark. In the age of exponentially advancing technology and major social changes, creative destruction is set to be the new normal. We are at the very beginning of the next Cambrian explosion; Fortune 500 companies and the closed minded individuals won't survive it. But if you're reading this, you just might make it ;)." from the Creative Destruction blog.

The recipe for survival is open mindedness and hanging on to experiences that are tech proof.

Walking in the park, playing cards, talking to a friend.

Going somewhere very quiet.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Web Secret 420: Lush and the mini USB

I am sometimes oblivious to the technical marvels that surround me.

But from time to time, I can be blindsided with awe.

It started with my birthday - a rather major one this year which I wanted to celebrate by hiding under the covers.

So I did the next best thing, I booked myself for an 80 minute "Synaesthesia" massage at one of only two "Lush" spas in the US.

Lush is an all natural, ecologically minded UK company that makes bath and cosmetics products. I discovered them during a trip to England in the 90s.

Their newest venture, the Lush Spa, recreates the experience of being in an English cottage in the 19th century - think "The Shire" where the Hobbits live in Lord of the Rings.

I opted for Synaesthesia because it promised to take me away and cleanse my mind via "a journey of personalized massage and sensory delirium." The Lush people actually paid a composer to write music to accompany the experience.

And it was absolutely great.

The music was memorable and I immediately ordered the recording from Lush in England. I was promised a vinyl version and a "companion USB."

Two weeks later I opened the box. At first I couldn't find the USB aka flash drive.

That's because they sent a mini USB card.

The size of a penny, the width of a dime.

And this tiny, tiny, tiny little piece of plastic held the entire Synaesthesia soundtrack and a full length movie of the English countryside set to the music and sounds of the Synaesthesia experience.

And it was good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Web Secret 419: The Grid

I consider myself pretty cutting edge when it comes to understanding social media and surfing the net.

Until I hang out with my 22 year old son. He has an extreme awareness and grasp of imminent technologies.

Stuff that is, (far more rapidly than you would expect,) coming soon to a laptop near you.

He likes to talk to me about these technologies before I have had my morning double espresso - he is a morning person - and I don't always process what he is telling me until months later.

So about 6 months ago he started telling me about "The Grid" - a new technology that will allow artificial intelligence to design a website.

That seemed pretty far fetched to me - it sounded like a sequel to "The Matrix" movie series.

But guess what? My son is one of the first people to build a website using a beta version of "The Grid".

The Grid is real.

And I just wasn't cool enough to see it coming.

In case you need audiovisual aids to grasp it, here is an under 2 minute explanatory video put together by my friends at Sandwich Video.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Web secret 418: websites that are useful

Thank you for a list of very useful websites.

My favorites: - lets you create an email address that will self destruct after 10 minutes. Beat spam with this disposable e-mail service.

Date to Date Calculator - calculates the duration, which is the day count and the number of days, months and years between two dates. Among other things, it can be used to find how many days old you are and the weekday you were born.

Web Capture lets you take full HD screenshot of any webpage and convert that screenshot into JJPEG, PNG and PDF formats.

Use Google without country restriction - When you enter , Google redirect you to country domain like or If you want to use Google without any country restrictions, open Useufl when you want to get more than the US centric perspective

Virustotal - is a free online virus scanner. that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Web Secret 417: websites that make you smarter

Thank you interesting for your list of websites that make you smarter.

Here are some of my favorites:

Unplug The TV - and open this link instead – every time the site will generate a new video for you to watch and improve your mind.

High Brow - sends 5-minute long courses direct to your inbox every day. Take a break and learn something new!

Lingvist promises you will learn language in 200 hours.

Creative Live - take creative lessons in photo and video, art and design, music and audio, crafts and even life from the greatest creative minds in the world.

Investopedia - provides financial news digests that are fairly easy to understand even for those of us who don’t know the first thing about money.

Drawspace - always wanted to learn to draw but never got a chance? Drawspace provides lots of lessons whether you are a rank beginner or a skilled amateur.

I think I'll unplug the computer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Web Secret 416: Intermezzo

By the time you will be reading this post, I will be in Italy.

So it seems especially à propos to offer an intermezzo.

In the culinary world, an intermezzo is a small dish of sorbet offered as a palate cleanser between courses during a fancy meal.

This is my attempt at a blog equivalent.

Most everyone in the US has seen "The Wizard of Oz," the great 1939 film based on a book by L. Frank Baum - most of us more than once.

But the true Baum aficionado has also read his other Oz books, the most remarkable of which is "The Marvelous Land of Oz."

The basic plot of the novel is as follows:

A little boy, Tip, escapes from his evil guardian, the witch Mombi, with the help of a walking wooden figure with a jack-o'-lantern head named Jack Pumpkinhead (brought to life with the magic Powder of Life Tip stole from Mombi), as well as a living Sawhorse (created from the same powder). Tip ends up on an adventure with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman to help Scarecrow recapture his throne from General Jinjur's army of girls.

As an elementary school aged child, I devoured the book - until the end, when I was astonished to learn that Tip was actually a girl - the Princess Ozma and the true ruler of Oz. Tip was transformed into a boy to prevent him (her?) from exercising his power.

At first, Tip (and the reader) is utterly shocked to learn this, but his friends help him accept his destiny, and a spell is performed which restores him to her true self and to her rightful position as the child Queen of Oz.

As a 10 year old, I spent hours trying to wrap my mind around this stunning turn of events.

But as a 21st century adult, I think this is the first children's book ever written about a transgender person - and a metaphor for transformation.

Who knows the true intent of the author, but Baum was an ardent support of women's suffrage, and a friend of Susan B. Anthony.

A girl (Dorothy) was the hero of his first novel. And the Land of Oz features a female General - Jinjur - who leads the women of Oz in a revolt, armed with knitting needles. They succeed and make the men do the household chores. Jinjur proves to be an incompetent ruler, but Ozma, a female advocating gender equality, is ultimately placed on the throne.

Shouldn't "The Land of Oz" be made into a movie, and tout de suite?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Web Secret 415: Social Media Facts version 2016

Pretty much every year, I post the latest social media stats.

These posts have a sameness to them: "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!"

It gets boring after a while, so it was refreshing to see a more thoughtful approach. Thank you Joel Lee, for 12 Social Media Facts and Statistics You Should Know in 2016

You know the drill - here is my condensed version of that article.

1. Over 75% of all Internet users use social media. These kinds of sites are now the bread and butter of modern Web activity.

2. For younger users, Instagram is more important than Facebook and Twitter. The younger generation considers Facebook and Twitter "old school".

3. LinkedIn is the most important social network for professionals. Period.

4. Most social networks are evenly split between males and females… except Pinterest.

5. For the 18-49 age group, YouTube has greater reach than any cable network. Read that again. Process.

6. YouTube is massive, but Facebook is still bigger. "Look, billions of people are using Facebook!" Can't escape Facebook.

7. The largest online dating site is actually a social network: Badoo. And I have never heard of it. Then again, I'm not in the dating business.

8. Reddit is the best social network for large-scale communities. Reddit looks like a website from the 1990s. I don't get Reddit.

9. Social media encourages the development of more extreme viewpoints. It’s called the echo chamber effect and it arises when social media users are allowed to “follow” things that they already believe and “block” anything that might dissent from those beliefs.

10. Teens need to be made more aware of privacy and security issues. Only 9% of teenaged social media users even have concerns about the privacy of their data.

11. One wrong social media post can ruin your life for good. Read that again. Process.

12. Revenge porn and accidental leaks are growing threats. See number 11.

PS: Do not use Facebook for professional purposes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Web Secret 414: old technology never dies

You weren't there, a couple of months ago, when I read a New York Times article "Disruptions: The Lure of Technologies Past".

But I was smirking.

In that article, reporter Nick Bilton wrote about a Venice, CA store called Vnyl:

"The store sells vinyl records, and the kids who gather there are often in awe."

I’d say half of the teens who hang out in my store have never seen a record player before,”

“They will walk up to the turntable, and they have no concept where to put the needle.” But once they figure out that the needle goes into the outermost groove, ...[they]... are hooked."

"Whenever a new technology comes out, we often believe it will make an older technology obsolete."

Surprise, people still take photographs using film. And they still use newspapers and books. Records. USB thumb drives. Flip phones. And pagers.

The reason I was smirking is that I had posted about this as far back as 2011, "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

And in May 2014, I wrote "...the Internet has made possible a heightened connection to the past, and much that is retro, vintage or even obsolete. A chance Google search led me to the wonderful, a blog that will help you remember, and sometimes find, objects from the past."

So you read it here first.