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The Birth of the Internet Plaque at Stanford University

BirthInternetLIn the “you learn something every day” department: Discovered today that there’s a plaque at Stanford honoring the birth of the Internet. The plaque was dedicated on July 28, 2005, and is in the Gates Computer Science Building.

You can read all about the plaque, and see it more clearly, on J. Noel Chiappa’s website. His name is on the plaque.

Here’s what the plaque says. Must check it out during my next trip to Palo Alto.


BIRTH OF THE INTERNET

THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE INTERNET AND THE DESIGN OF THE CORE NETWORKING PROTOCOL TCP (WHICH LATER BECAME TCP/IP) WERE CONCEIVED BY VINTON G. CERF AND ROBERT E. KAHN DURING 1973 WHILE CERF WAS AT STANFORD’S DIGITAL SYSTEMS LABORATORY AND KAHN WAS AT ARPA (LATER DARPA). IN THE SUMMER OF 1976, CERF LEFT STANFORD TO MANAGE THE PROGRAM WITH KAHN AT ARPA.

THEIR WORK BECAME KNOWN IN SEPTEMBER 1973 AT A NETWORKING CONFERENCE IN ENGLAND. CERF AND KAHN’S SEMINAL PAPER WAS PUBLISHED IN MAY 1974.

CERF, YOGEN K. DALAL, AND CARL SUNSHINE WROTE THE FIRST FULL TCP SPECIFICATION IN DECEMBER 1974. WITH THE SUPPORT OF DARPA, EARLY IMPLEMENTATIONS OF TCP (AND IP LATER) WERE TESTED BY BOLT BERANEK AND NEWMAN (BBN), STANFORD, AND UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON DURING 1975.

BBN BUILT THE FIRST INTERNET GATEWAY, NOW KNOWN AS A ROUTER, TO LINK NETWORKS TOGETHER. IN SUBSEQUENT YEARS, RESEARCHERS AT MIT AND USC-ISI, AMONG MANY OTHERS, PLAYED KEY ROLES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SET OF INTERNET PROTOCOLS.

KEY STANFORD RESEARCH ASSOCIATES AND FOREIGN VISITORS

  • VINTON CERF
  • DAG BELSNES
  • RONALD CRANE
  • BOB METCALFE
  • YOGEN DALAL
  • JUDITH ESTRIN
  • RICHARD KARP
  • GERARD LE LANN
  • JAMES MATHIS
  • DARRYL RUBIN
  • JOHN SHOCH
  • CARL SUNSHINE
  • KUNINOBU TANNO

DARPA

  • ROBERT KAHN

COLLABORATING GROUPS

BOLT BERANEK AND NEWMAN

  • WILLIAM PLUMMER
  • GINNY STRAZISAR
  • RAY TOMLINSON

MIT

  • NOEL CHIAPPA
  • DAVID CLARK
  • STEPHEN KENT
  • DAVID P. REED

NDRE

  • YNGVAR LUNDH
  • PAAL SPILLING

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

  • FRANK DEIGNAN
  • MARTINE GALLAND
  • PETER HIGGINSON
  • ANDREW HINCHLEY
  • PETER KIRSTEIN
  • ADRIAN STOKES

USC-ISI

  • ROBERT BRADEN
  • DANNY COHEN
  • DANIEL LYNCH
  • JON POSTEL

ULTIMATELY, THOUSANDS IF NOT TENS TO HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS HAVE CONTRIBUTED THEIR EXPERTISE TO THE EVOLUTION OF THE INTERNET.

DEDICATED JULY 28, 2005

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Internet over Carrier Pigeon? There’s a standard for that

pidgeonThere are standards for everything, it seems. And those of us who work on Internet things are often amused (or bemused) by what comes out of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). An oldie but a goodie is a document from 1999, RFC-2549, “IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service.”

An RFC, or Request for Comment, is what the IETF calls a standards document. (And yes, I’m browsing my favorite IETF pages during a break from doing “real” work. It’s that kind of day.)

RFC-2549 updates RFC-1149, “A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers.” That older standard did not address Quality of Service. I’ll leave it for you to enjoy both those documents, but let me share this part of RFC-2549:

Overview and Rational

The following quality of service levels are available: Concorde, First, Business, and Coach. Concorde class offers expedited data delivery. One major benefit to using Avian Carriers is that this is the only networking technology that earns frequent flyer miles, plus the Concorde and First classes of service earn 50% bonus miles per packet. Ostriches are an alternate carrier that have much greater bulk transfer capability but provide slower delivery, and require the use of bridges between domains.

The service level is indicated on a per-carrier basis by bar-code markings on the wing. One implementation strategy is for a bar-code reader to scan each carrier as it enters the router and then enqueue it in the proper queue, gated to prevent exit until the proper time. The carriers may sleep while enqueued.

Most years, the IETF publishes so-called April Fool’s RFCs. The best list of them I’ve seen is on Wikipedia. If you’re looking to take a work break, give ’em a read. Many of them are quite clever! However, I still like RFC-2549 the best.

A prized part of my library is “The Complete April Fools’ Day RFCs” compiled by by Thomas Limoncelli and Peter Salus. Sadly this collection stops at 2007. Still, it’s a great coffee table book to leave lying around for when people like Bob MetcalfeTim Berners-Lee or Al Gore come by to visit.

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It’s a fake award for SD Times – thank you, scammers!

faux-awardScammers give local businesses a faux award and then try to make money by selling certificates, trophies, and so-on.

Going through my spam filter today, I received FIVE of this exact same message praising SD Times for winning the “2016 Best of Huntington” award. The emails came from five different email addresses and domains, but the links all went to the same domain. (SD Times is published by BZ Media; I’m the “Z” of BZ Media.)

The messages read:

Sd Times has been selected for the 2016 Best of Huntington Awards for Media & Entertainment.

For details and more information please view our website: [link redacted]

If you click the link (which is not included above), you are given the choice to buy lots of things, including a plaque for $149.99 or a crystal award for $199.99. Such a deal: You can buy both for $229.99, a $349.98 value!! This is probably a lucrative scam, since the cost of sending emails is approximately $0; even a very low response rate could yield a lot of profits.

The site’s FAQ says,

Do I have to pay for an award to be a winner?

No, you do not have to pay for an award to be a winner. Award winners are not chosen based on purchases, however it is your option, to have us send you one of the 2016 Awards that have been designed for display at your place of business.

Shouldn’t my award be free?

No, most business organizations charge their members annual dues and with that money sponsor an annual award program. The Best of Huntington Award Program does not charge membership dues and as an award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards.

There is also a link to a free press release. Aren’t you excited on our behalf?

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Sd Times Receives 2016 Best of Huntington Award

Huntington Award Program Honors the Achievement

HUNTINGTON July 2, 2016 — Sd Times has been selected for the 2016 Best of Huntington Award in the Media & Entertainment category by the Huntington Award Program.

Each year, the Huntington Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Huntington area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2016 Huntington Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Huntington Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Huntington Award Program

The Huntington Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Huntington area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Huntington Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Huntington Award Program

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Coding in the Fast Lane: The Multi-Threaded Multi-Core World of AMD64

ThrivingandSurvivinginaMulti-CoreWorld-1I wrote five contributions for an ebook from AMD Developer Central — and forgot entirely about it! The book, called “Surviving and Thriving in a Multi-Core World: Taking Advantage of Threads and Cores on AMD64,” popped up in this morning’s Google Alerts report. I have no idea why!

Here are the pieces that I wrote for the book, published in 2006. Darn, they still read well! Other contributors include my friends Anderson Bailey, Alexa Weber Morales and Larry O’Brien.

  • Driving in the Fast Lane: Multi-Core Computing for Programmers, Part 1 (page 5)
  • Driving in the Fast Lane: Multi-Core Computing for Programmers, Part 2 (page 8)
  • Coarse-Grained Vs. Fine-Grained Threading for Native Applications, Part 1 (p. 37)
  • Coarse-Grained Vs. Fine-Grained Threading for Native Applications, Part 2 (p. 40)
  • Device Driver & BIOS Development for AMD Systems (p. 87)

I am still obsessed with questionable automotive analogies. The first article begins with:

The main road near my house, called Skyline Drive, drives me nuts. For several miles, it’s a quasi-limited access highway. But for some inexplicable reason, it keeps alternating between one and two lanes in each direction. In the two-lane part, traffic moves along swiftly, even during rush hour. In the one-lane part, the traffic merges back together, and everything crawls to a standstill. When the next two-lane part appears, things speed up again.

Two lanes are better than one — and not just because they can accommodate twice as many cars. What makes the two-lane section better is that people can overtake. In the one-lane portion (which has a double-yellow line, so there’s no passing), traffic is limited to the slowest truck’s speed, or to little-old-man-peering-over-the-steering-wheel-of-his-Dodge-Dart speed. Wake me when we get there. But in the two-lane section, the traffic can sort itself out. Trucks move to the right, cars pass on the left. Police and other priority traffic weave in and out, using both lanes depending on which has more capacity at any particular moment. Delivery services with a convoy of trucks will exploit both lanes to improve throughput. The entire system becomes more efficient, and net flow of cars through those two-lane sections is considerably higher.

Okay, you’ve figured out that this is all about dual-core and multi-core computing, where cars are analogous to application threads, and the lanes are analogous to processor cores.

I’ll have to admit that my analogy is somewhat simplistic, and purists will say that it’s flawed, because an operating system has more flexibility to schedule tasks in a single-core environment under a preemptive multiprocessing environment. But that flexibility comes at a cost. Yes, if I were really modeling a microprocessor using Skyline Drive, cars would be able to pass each other in the single-lane section, but only if the car in front were to pull over and stop.

Okay, enough about cars. Let’s talk about dual-core and multi-core systems, why businesses are interested in buying them, and what implications all that should have for software developers like us.

Download and enjoy the book – it’s not gated and entirely free.

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Ten-and-a-half years of my Steelcase Think office chair and I still love it

chairAfter more than a decade of near daily use, I still love my Steelcase Think chair.

Today is cleaning day at CAHQ (Camden Associates Headquarters). That means dusting/cleaning the furniture, as well as moving piles of papers from one part of the office to another. As part of the gyrations, we flipped my trusty Steelcase Think upside down, and saw that its date of manufacture was Feb. 15, 2005. Wow. The chair is in excellent condition. The only wear is that one of the rubber armrest pads cracked and was starting to peel apart. We superglued it back together; it’s super ugly but should last for another decade.

Looking at the Steelcase site, the Think chair has changed only a little bit since mine was purchased. My chair has a black mesh back (they call it “3D knit”), black cushion seat, black frame, and black wheel base. You can still buy that combination. However, there are now new options, like different types of wheels for carpet or hard floors, a tall bar-stool-height base and even an integrated coat hanger. There are also lots more colors and materials. Oh, and the price has gone up: My particular chair configuration would cost $829 now.

What I particularly like is that there are very few settings or switches. It’s so simple, and I don’t need to keep fiddling with it.

I blogged about my chair in 2007. I recommended it then, and I still recommend it today without hesitation. Here’s what I wrote back nine years ago:

I am consistently amazed at how comfortable my Steelcase Think office chair is.

For years, my back had been sore and stiff if I sat in front of my computer for more than an hour or so. In early 2005, I mentioned that to a friend, and he said, duh, buy a better chair. I guess it was time to replace the task chair picked up second-hand 15 years earlier.

My search was exhaustive: I was willing to spend serious money to get something good. After visiting several “real” office furniture stores – places like Office Depot, Staples and Office Max have a lousy selection, imho – I fell in love with the Think.

What I like is that it’s essentially a self-adjusting chair. The Think has extremely few adjustments, and the back is made of springy steel rods. Plus the mesh fabric means that my back doesn’t get all hot and sweaty on a warm day. (You can read about the ergonomics at the Steelcase site.)

Some even pricier chairs I tested, like the Steelcase Leap and the Herman Miller Aeron, were much more complicated, and much less comfortable. With an Aeron, I literally can’t find settings that work. With the Think, it only took a minute to find the right settings, and I haven’t changed them in the past 2 ½ years.

While I can’t claim that the Think is the best premium office chair, I believe that this is the best investment that I’ve ever made in my work environment. I paid about $700 for it in 2005 at an office furniture store in San Francisco.

There are a few different versions available. Mine is the original model with mesh back, cloth seat and adjustable arms. Today, Steelcase also offers leather or vinyl coverings, fixed arms or armless, and optional headrests and lumbar supports. That makes it complicated again! When I got mine, the only option was fabric color. I chose black.

So, if you sit at your desk/computer for hours at a time, and if you’re using a cheap task chair, consider an upgrade. Try the Think — maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t. (My wife tried mine out, but didn’t care for it.) The important thing is that you get a good chair that fits you well, and is comfortable. If you’re sore and stiff, duh, buy a better chair.

Real food vs yucky food – don’t eat what you don’t understand

red-snapperEat real food. Avoid food laden with additives, or which are overly processed. My family has a few rules which we follow pretty closely when shopping:

  • Always look at the ingredients.
  • The fewer ingredients, the better. (Food expert Michael Pollan recommends no more than five ingredients.)
  • If one of the ingredients is High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), we avoid.
  • If we don’t know what some of the ingredients are, we avoid.
  • A Kosher symbol is better than no Kosher symbol — but is no guarantee that the food is “real” or healthy or grown/sold in a sustainable way.

While we try to eat healthy, we don’t make a point of looking for so-called “organic” food. In our experience, organic produce is no healthier than regular fruits and veggies, is more expensive, and spoils much faster – we end up throwing a lot away.

In restaurants or when visiting friends, we prefer to eat food where we can visibly identify every ingredient. We don’t like surprises that would either violate religious prohibitions or trigger our few food allergies. For example, baked beans often contain pork, and sauces served with meat can contain cream or other dairy products – both of which are no-nos. So, we aren’t big on stews or casseroles, unless we make them ourselves.

This recent article, “5 Foods You Can Trust—And 5 To Avoid,” from the Diane Rehm show (we heard the original broadcast) is an eye-opener. We haven’t read Larry Olmsted’s book, “Real Food/Fake Food,” but plan to do so.

In the story, there are certainly some recommendations we won’t follow personally, such as to buy whole lobster — we don’t eat any shellfish. However, Olmsted’s point is well taken. Substitution of fish is rampant by suppliers, grocery stores and restaurants; if you order a whole fish, at least you can be reasonably sure that the lobster is really lobster. And that the red snapper is really red snapper, and not tilapia. (Read about this in “One In Three Fish Sold At Restaurants And Grocery Stores Is Mislabeled” from NPR.)

Red Snapper? Yes, as Olmsted’s story says,

Red snapper is a delicious and prized eating fish. It is also commercially rare. A major investigation found that more than 94 percent of the red snapper that appears on menus and at retail stores isn’t real. It’s the poster child for “fake food.” As one scientist well-versed in the subject put it, “just never order red snapper.”

Listen to the interview with Larry Olmsted. Follow Michael Pollan’s seven simple food rules. Look at this list of 20 ingredients to avoid. And eat and live healthier!

A scammer owned by the “Christian Church”? I don’t think so.

vatican-bankIsn’t it reassuring to know that this scammer’s loan agency is “owned by the Christian Church”? Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled by these sorts of emails. The scammer’s next step would be to request sensitive personal information (like bank account numbers), or ask you to wire over a “fee” for processing the not-to-appear loan. Or both.

Your best bet: Never respond, always hit delete. Even if “Mr. Johnson” is offering loans of up to $500 million.

Good day,

You are welcome barclaysonlineloan limited. This loan agency is owned by the Christian Church and is set to help the needy to poverty and suffering can be definitively eradicated from the world. We are registered and regulated by the Authority of borrowing money and all our financial transactions are overseen by the government.

Contact us via email: >redacted<

We offer both personal and business loans capital base between the amounts of $ 2,000.00 to $ 500,000,000.00 US dollars, European Euro or GB pounds for individuals, businesses and cooperate bodies irrespective of their marital status, sex, religion and the location, but you have a legal means to repay the loan in the stipulated time, and must be trustworthy with interest rates as low as 3%.

If this meets your expectations, then we can move on, I’d like you to tell the exact amount you are applying for such loan and the urgency of this transaction for additional procedures that you need to fill and submit the required information below:

DETAILS OF APPLICANT:

Name of applicant:
* Address of applicant:
* City:
* State:
* Country:
* Gender:
* Marital status:
* Age:
* Rate Monthly income:
* Occupation:
* Tel: / Mobile:
* Mobile:
* Amount Requested:
* Length of Loan:
* Purpose of loan:
* Do you speak English:
* Email:

Contact us via email: >redacted<

We await your response.
Yours sincerely,
mr. johnson
Secretary

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Photo and artwork guidelines for people, products, logos and screen shots

old-cameraIf you are asked to submit a photograph, screen shot or a logo to a publication or website, there’s the right way and the less-right way. Here are some suggestions that I wrote several years ago for BZ Media for use in lots of situations — in SD Times, for conferences, and so-on.

While they were written for the days of print publications, these are still good guidelines for websites, blog and other digital publishing media.

General Suggestions

  • Photos need to be high resolution. Bitmaps that would look great on a Web page will look dreadful in print. The recommended minimum size for a bitmap file should be two inches across by three inches high, at a resolution of 300 dpi — that is, 600×900 pixels, at the least. A smaller photograph may be usable, but frankly, it will probably not be.
  • Photos need to be in a high-color format. The best formats are high-resolution JPEG files (.jpg) and TIFF (.tif) files. Or camera RAW if you can. Avoid GIF files (.gif) because they are only 256 colors. However, in case of doubt, send the file in and hope for the best.
  • Photos should be in color. A color photograph will look better than a black-and-white photograph — but if all you have is B&W, send it in. As far as electronic files go, a 256-color image doesn’t reproduce well in print, so please use 24-bit or higher color depth. If the website wants B&W, they can convert a color image easily.
  • Don’t edit or alter the photograph. Please don’t crop it, modify it using Photoshop or anything, unless otherwise requested to do so. Just send the original image, and let the art director or photo editor handle the cropping and other post-processing.
  • Do not paste the image into a Word or PowerPoint document. Send the image as a separate file.

Logos

  • Send logos as vector-based EPS files (such as an Adobe Illustrator file with fonts converted to outlines) if possible. If a vector-based EPS file is not available, send a 300 dpi TIFF, JPEG or Photoshop EPS files (i.e., one that’s at least two inches long). Web-resolution logos are hard to resize, and often aren’t usable.

Screen Shots

  • Screen shots should be the native bitmap file or a lossless format. A native bitmapped screen capture from Windows will be a huge .BMP file. This may be converted to a compressed TIFF file, or compressed to a .ZIP file for emailing. PNG is also a good lossless format and is quite acceptable.
  • Do not convert a screen capture to JPEG or GIF.  JPEGs in particular make terrible screen shots due to the compression algorithms; solid color areas may become splotchy, and text can become fuzzy. Screen captures on other platforms should also be lossless files, typically in TIFF or PNG.

Hints for better-looking portraits

  • Strive for a professional appearance. The biggest element is a clean, uncluttered background. You may also wish to have the subject wear business casual or formal clothing, such as a shirt with a collar instead of a T-shirt. If you don’t have a photo like that, send what you have.
  • Side or front natural light is the best and most flattering. Taking pictures outdoors with overcast skies is best; a picture outdoors on a sunny day is also good, but direct overhead sunlight (near noon) is too harsh. If possible, keep away from indoor lighting, especially ceiling or fluorescent lights. Avoid unpleasant backlighting by making sure the subject isn’t standing between the camera and a window or lamp.
  • If you must use electronic flash… Reduce red-eye by asking the subject to look at the photographer, not at the camera. (Off-camera flash is better than on-camera flash.) Eliminate harsh and unpleasant shadows by ensuring that the subject isn’t standing or sitting within three feet of a wall, bookcase or other background objects. Another problem is white-out: If the camera is too close to the subject, the picture will be too bright and have too much contrast.
  • Maintain at least six feet separation between the camera and the subject, and three feet (or more) from the background. If the subject is closer than six feet to the camera, his/her facial features will be distorted, and the results will be unattractive. For best results, hold the camera more than six feet from the subject. It’s better to be farther away and use the camera’s optical zoom, rather than to shoot a close-up from a few feet away.
  • Focus on his/her eyes. If the eyes are sharp, the photo is probably okay. If the eyes aren’t sharp (but let’s say the nose or ears are), the photo looks terrible. That’s because people look at the eyes first.
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Need propane? Refill your five-gallon tank, don’t do the exchange thing

blue-rhino

What do you do when your 20-pound (5 gallon) propane tank is empty? If you are Alan, you go to a near-by filling station and refill the bottle. There’s a Shell station close by with gas-refilling capability.

The cost is minimal. Filling a propane tank today (June 29, 2016) got us 4.7 gallons (20 pounds) at $2.99 per gallon, for the princely sum of $14.05. The whole process took about ten minutes.

At that same Shell station was one of the exchange tank systems, in this case, Blue Rhino. I have no objection to that company, but know that what Blue Rhino (and others) offer is convenience — not a great price on fuel.

The price to exchange a Blue Rhino bottle at the Shell station: $24.99. (Prices can vary wildly, both for the Blue Rhino exchange and the cost of bulk propane.) That’s a lot more — nearly $11. And for less fuel!

If you dig into the Blue Rhino FAQ, you learn that they don’t give you 4.7 gallons. They don’t put 20 pounds of propane into a 20-pound tank:

How much propane does Blue Rhino put in its tanks?

Inflationary pressures, including the volatile costs of steel, diesel fuel, and propane, have had a significant impact on the cylinder exchange industry. In 2008, to help control these rising costs, Blue Rhino followed the example of other consumer products companies with a product content change. We reduced the amount of propane in our tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds.

To ensure our consumers are properly notified, Blue Rhino clearly marks the amount of propane contained in our tanks, right on the package.

A gallon of propane weighs about 4.2 pounds, so Blue Rhino’s 15 pounds is 3.6 gallons of fuel. That’s a lot less than 4.7 gallons. Doing the math, Blue Rhino’s price per gallon is $6.94. And you have to fill the bottle more often, of course, since there is less fuel in it.

Okay, it costs more and gives you less. What benefits do you get with a bottle exchange? Convenience. It’s quicker to exchange a tank rather than have a gas-station attendant come out and fill your existing bottle.

Also, Blue Rhino says that the tank is leak-tested, cleaned, freshly painted as needed, and checked on a schedule:

Propane isn’t just propane with Blue Rhino, America’s leading brand of propane tank exchange. Every tank is cleaned, leak-tested, inspected, precision-filled, delivered to your favorite store, and more. So you can grill with confidence. So take a Rhino home!

Another major U.S. propane-exchange company is AmeriGas. Their website is more obtuse and doesn’t say how much propane goes into an exchange tank. (Or at least I can’t find it.) However according to Home Depot, which sells AmeriGas, their Propane Tank Exchange specs are:

With safety being our number one priority, the chemical properties of propane restrict us to only fill our tanks to 80% capacity.

I’ve got to give Blue Rhino kudos for honesty. At least they are up front with admitting that under-filling is a cost-saving measure. On the other hand, AmeriGas gives you 80% capacity, compared to Blue Rhino’s 75%.

Bottom line: Don’t exchange! Get your propane bottles filled at a local filling station. However, if a tank starts looking rusty, or if you’re not sure if it’s still good, bring it in for a Blue Rhino/AmeriGas exchange. Then, refill that tank for a while until it looks ratty. Remember, not only are you paying less for fuel, but you are also dealing with an empty tank less often!

Update 6/30: Found an AmeriGas service at a Circle-K convenience store, and the bottle exchange fee was $21.99. Prices can vary tremendously!

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Special Mac option key symbols – your handy reference

I am often looking for these symbols and can’t find them. So here they are for English language Mac keyboards, in a handy blog format. They all use the Option key.

Note: The Option key is not the Command key, which is marked with ⌘ (looped square) symbol. Rather, the Option key is between Control and Command on many (most?) Mac keyboard. These key combinations won’t work a numerical keypad; you have to be using the main part of the keyboard.

The case of the letter/key pressed with the Option key matters. For example, Option+v is the root √ and Option+V (in other words, Option+Shift+v) is the diamond ◊. Another example: Option+7 is the paragraph ¶ and Option+& (that is, Option+Shift+7) is the double dagger ‡. You may simply copy/paste the symbols, if that’s more convenient.

These key combinations should work in most modern Mac applications, and be visible in most typefaces. No guarantees. Your mileage may vary.

SYMBOLS

¡ Option+1 (inverted exclamation)
¿ Option+? (inverted question)
« Option+\ (open double angle quote)
» Option+| (close double angle quote)
© Option+g (copyright)
® Option+r (registered copyright)
™ Option+2 (trademark)
¶ Option+7 (paragraph)
§ Option+6 (section)
• Option+8 (dot)
· Option+( (small dot)
◊ Option+V (diamond)
– Option+- (en-dash)
— Option+_ (em-dash)
† Option+t (dagger)
‡ Option+& (double dagger)
¢ Option+4 (cent)
£ Option+3 (pound)
¥ Option+y (yen)
€ Option+@ (euro)

ACCENTS AND SPECIAL LETTERS

ó Ó Option+e then letter (acute)
ô Ô Option+i then letter (circumflex)
ò Ò Option+` then letter (grave)
õ Õ Option+n then letter (tilde)
ö Ö Option+u then letter (umlaut)
å Å Option+a or Option+A (a-ring)
ø Ø Option+o or Option+O (o-slash)
æ Æ Option+’ or Option+” (ae ligature)
œ Œ Option+q or Option+Q (oe ligature)
fi Option+% (fi ligature)
fl Option+^ (fl ligature)
ç Ç Option+c or Option+C (circumflex)
ß Option+s (double-s)

MATH AND ENGINEERING

÷ Option+/ (division)
± Option++ (plus/minus)
° Option+* (degrees)
¬ Option+l (logical not)
≠ Option+= (not equal)
≥ Option+> (greater or equal)
≤ Option+< (less or equal)
√ Option+v (root)
∞ Option+5 (infinity)
≈ Option+x (tilde)
∆ Option+j (delta)
Σ Option+w (sigma)
Ω Option+z (ohm)
π Option+p (pi)
µ Option+m (micro)
∂ Option+d (derivative)
∫ Option+b (integral)

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Bird meet bug, bug meet bird

IMG_8929

This is one of my all-time favorite photos, taken during a week-long vacation in Redmond, Oregon, summer 2012. We’ve been visiting the Eagle Crest resort every few years since the early 1990s — it’s a magical place.

Canon EOS 5D Mk II, EF 200mm f/2.8 L prime lens, shot at 1/1250 f/4.

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Enterprise risks when an employee can’t find a BYOD phone

find-my-phoneThere are several types of dangers presented by a lost Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) smartphone or tablet. Many IT professionals and security specialists think only about some of them. They are all problematic. Does your company have policies about lost personal devices?

  • If you have those policies, what are they?
  • Does the employee know about those policies?
  • Does the employee know how to notify the correct people in case his or her device is lost?

Let’s say you have policies. Let’s say the employee calls the security office and says, “My personal phone is gone. I use it to access company resources, and I don’t think it was securely locked.” What happens?

Does the company have all the information necessary to take all the proper actions, including the telephone number, carrier, manufacturer and model, serial number, and other characteristics? Who gets notified? How long do you wait before taking an irreversible action? Can the security desk respond in an effective way? Can the security respond instantly, including nights, weekend and holidays?

If you don’t have those policies — with people and knowledge to make them effective — you’ve got a serious problem.

Read my latest story in NetworkWorld, “Dude, where’s my phone? BYOD means enterprise security exposure.” It discusses the four biggest obvious threats from a lost BYOD device, and what you can do to address those threats.

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KFC’s Watt-a-Box jolts the fast food industry in India

kfc-watt-a-box“Would you like amps with that?” Perhaps that’s the new side-dish question when ordering fast food. Yes, I’ll have three pieces of extra crispy chicken, potato wedges, cole slaw, unsweet iced tea and a cell-phone charging box.

New of out India is  KFC (which many of us grew up calling Kentucky Fried Chicken) has introduced the Watt-a-Box, which says on its side “Charge your phone while experiencing finger lickin’ good food.” (That last part may be debatable.)

According to the Times of India,

NEW DELHI: KFC garnered a lot of accolades for its recently launched 5-in-1 Meal Box. And the fast-food chain has now introduced an all new ‘gadgety’ variant of the same box.

The limited edition box comes with a built-in power bank. Dubbed as ‘Watt a Box,’ it lets you charge your smartphone as you go about enjoying your meal.

KFC has said that a few lucky customers at select KFC stores in Mumbai and Delhi will get a chance to have their 5-in-1 Meal served in ‘Watt a Box’. Along with this, users can also participate in an online contest on KFC India’s Facebook page and win more of these limited edition boxes.

We are lacking a number of details. Is the box’s charger removable and reusable, or is it a one-time-use thing? If so, what a waste of electronics and battery tech. What about disposal / recycling the battery? And — eww — will everything get finger-lickin’ greasy?

The Watt-a-Box. Watt an idea.

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I’m rich from the Apple Kindle eBooks Antitrust Settlement

settlementThis just in — literally, at 8:58am on June 21 — an $8.50 credit from Amazon, paid for by Apple. I am trying to restrain my excitement, but in reality, it’s nice to get a few bucks back.

This payout has been pending for a few months. Well, a few years. This is Apple’s second payout from the antitrust settlement; the first was in 2014. Read “Apple’s $400M E-Book Payout: How Much You’ll Get and When” Jeff John Roberts in Forbes, which explains

The payments will mark the end of a long, strange antitrust story in which Apple and publishers tried to challenge the industry powerhouse, Amazon, with a new pricing system. Ironically, Amazon is still the dominant player in e-books today while Apple barely matters. Now Apple will pay $400 million to consumers—most of which will be spent at Amazon. Go figure.

I agree with that assessment: Apple lost both the battle (the antitrust pricing lawsuit) and the war (to be the big payer in digital books). Sure, $400 million is pocket change to Apple, which is reported to be hoarding more than $200 billion in cash. But still, it’s gotta hurt.

Here’s what Amazon said in its email:

Your Credit from the Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement Is Ready to Use

Dear Alan Zeichick,

You now have a credit of $8.50 in your Amazon account. Apple, Inc. (Apple) funded this credit to settle antitrust lawsuits brought by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of electronic books (eBooks). As a result of this Settlement, qualifying eBook purchases from any retailer are eligible for a credit. You previously received an email informing you that you were eligible for this credit. The Court in charge of these cases has now approved the Apple Settlement. If you did not receive that email or for more information about your credit, please visit www.amazon.com/applebooksettlement.

You don’t have to do anything to claim your credit, we have already added it to your Amazon account. We will automatically apply your available credit to your purchase of qualifying items through Amazon, an Amazon device or an Amazon app. The credit applied to your purchase will appear as a gift card in your order summary and in your account history. In order to spend your credit, please visit the Kindle bookstore or Amazon. If your account does not reflect this credit, please contact Amazon customer service.

Your credit is valid for one year and will expire after June 24, 2017, by order of the Court. If you have not used it, we will remind you of your credit before it expires.

Thank you for being a Kindle customer.

The Amazon Kindle Team

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Howdy, podners: Sheriff Alan rocks the Cowboy Look

cowboy-alanIt’s not the usual fisherman-in-a-yellow-slicker¹ look of a born-and-bred Yankee: Here I am in my Western duds. It’s a surprisingly comfortable style, once the boots were broken in.

What’s the occasion? Why am I wearing a black Stetson, gray pinstripe suit, ivory shirt, turquoise bolo tie, cowboy boots, and a corsage? Delivering the blessings at a wedding near Phoenix. An outdoor wedding. On a day when the mercury hit 120 degrees.

Did I mention that it was an outdoor wedding? And that it was 120 degrees?

From L.L. Bean boots to cowboy boots. Guess I’m getting used to living here in the Sonoran desert. Ayuh.

¹ “Slicker,” pronounced “slikk-AHH,” is the New England term for a long rain coat.

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Happy World WiFi Day!

world-wifi-dayWiFi is the present and future of local area networking. Forget about families getting rid of the home phone. The real cable-cutters are dropping the Cat-5 Ethernet in favor of IEEE 802.11 Wireless Local Area Networks, generally known as WiFi. Let’s celebrate World WiFi Day!

There are no Cat-5 cables connected in my house and home office. Not one. And no Ethernet jacks either. (By contrast, when we moved into our house in the Bay Area in the early 1990s, I wired nearly every room with Ethernet jacks.) There’s a box of Ethernet cables, but I haven’t touched them in years. Instead, it’s all WiFi. (Technically, WiFi refers to industry products that are compatible with the IEEE 802.11 specification, but for our casual purposes here, it’s all the same thing.)

My 21” iMac (circa 2011) has an Ethernet port. I’ve never used it. My MacBook Air (also circa 2011) doesn’t have an Ethernet port at all; I used to carry a USB-to-Ethernet dongle, but it disappeared a long time ago. It’s not missed. My tablets (iOS, Android and Kindle) are WiFi-only for connectivity. Life is good.

The first-ever World WiFi Day is today — June 20, 2016 . It was declared by the Wireless Broadband Alliance to

be a global platform to recognize and celebrate the significant role Wi-Fi is playing in getting cities and communities around the world connected. It will champion exciting and innovative solutions to help bridge the digital divide, with Connected City initiatives and new service launches at its core.

Sadly, the World WiFi Day initiative is not about the wire-free convenience of Alan’s home office and personal life. Rather, it’s about bringing Internet connectivity to third-world, rural, poor, or connectivity-disadvantaged areas. According to the organization, here are eight completed projects:

  • KT – KT Giga Island – connecting islands to the mainland through advanced networks
  • MallorcaWiFi – City of Palma – Wi-Fi on the beach
  • VENIAM – Connected Port @ Leixões Porto, Portugal
  • ISOCEL – Isospot – Building a Wi-Fi hotspot network in Benin
  • VENIAM – Smart City @ Porto, Portugal
  • Benu Neworks – Carrier Wi-Fi Business Case
  • MCI – Free Wi-Fi for Arbaeen
  • Fon – After the wave: Japan and Fon’s disaster support procedure

It’s a worthy cause. Happy World WiFi Day, everyone!

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States of confusion: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah

four-corners

It’s bad enough not knowing which state you are in. Much worse not to know which state!

(Road trip, July 2014)

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The most important plug-in for Customer Experience Management software: Humans

customer_experienceNo smart software would make the angry customer less angry. No customer relationship management platform could understand the problem. No sophisticated HubSpot or Salesforce or Marketo algorithm could be able to comprehend that a piece of artwork, brought to a nationwide framing store location in October, wouldn’t be finished before Christmas – as promised. While an online order tracking system would keep the customer informed, it wouldn’t keep the customer satisfied.

Customer Experience Management (CEM). That’s the hot new buzzword for directly engaging the customer. Contrast that with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which is more about the back-end tracking of customers, leads and orders.

Think about how Amazon.com or FedEx or Netflix keep you constantly informed about what’s happening with your products and services. They have realized that the key to customer success is equally product/service excellence and communications excellence. When I was a kid, you mailed a check and an order form to Sears Roebuck, and a few weeks later a box showed up in the mail. That was great customer service in the 1960s and 1970s. No more. We demand communications. Proactive communications. Effective, empathetic communications.

One of the best ways to make an unhappy customer happy is to empower a human to do whatever it takes to get things right. If possible, that should be the first person the customer talks to, so the problem gets solved as quickly as possible, and without adding “dropped calls” or “too many transfers” to the litany of complaints. A CEM platform should be designed with this is mind.

I’ve written a story about the non-software factors required for effective CEM platforms for Pipeline Magazine. Read the story: “CEM — Now with Humans!

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Too slow, didn’t wait: The five modern causes of slow website loads

Let’s explore the causes of slow website loads. There are obviously some delays that are beyond our control — like the user being on a very slow mobile connection. However, for the most part, our website’s load time is entirely up to us.

For the most part, our website’s load time is entirely up to us as developers and administrators. We need to do everything possible to accelerate the experience, and in fact I would argue that load time may be the single most important aspect of your site. That’s especially true of your home page, but also of other pages, especially if there are deep links to them from search engines, other Internet sites, or your own marketing emails and tweets.

We used to say that the biggest cause of slow websites was large images, especially too-large images that are downloaded to the browser and dynamically resized. Those are real issues, even today, and you should optimize your site to push out small graphics, instead of very large images. Images are no longer the main culprit, however.

Read my recent article in the GoDaddy Garage, “Are slow website load times costing you money and pageviews?” to see the five main causes of slow website loads, and get some advice about what to do about them.

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Wearable IoT technology is getting under my skin, thanks to bodyhacking

HannesSjöblad

CeBIT Preview, Hannover, Germany — It looks like a slick Jedi move, but it’s actually the Internet of Things. When Hannes Sjöblad wants to pay for coffee, he waves his hand in front of the pay station. When he wants to open a door, he waves his hand in front of the digital lock. When he wants to start his car, he waves his hand in front of the ignition.

No, he’s not Obi-Wan Kenobi saving two rebel droids. Sjöblad is a famous Swedish bodyhacker who has implanted electronics, including a passive Near-Field Communications (NFC) transmitter, into his own hand. So, instead of using his smartphone or smartwatch to activate a payment terminal, a wave of the hand gets the job done.

Speaking to a group of international journalists at CeBIT Preview 2016 here in Hannover, Sjöblad explains that he sees bodyhacking as the next step of wearable computing. Yes, you could use a phone, watch, bracelet, or even a ring to host small electronics, he says, but the real future is embedded.

Read more about Sjöblad’s bodyhacking in my story in NetworkWorld, “Subdermal wearables could unlock real possibilities for enterprise IoT.”

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Before I die, I want to know the Face of God

This essay was originally published on the Reform Judaism blog on September 2, 2015.

I was inspired to write this poem after reading Rabbi Eliezer’s teaching in Pirkei Avot that advises us that because it is not possible to repent one day before we die – because we don’t know when that will be – we should repent daily, and live always in a state of repentance.

The poem – together with the accompanying photograph, which I took in Phoenix, AZ, during a partial solar eclipse on October 23, 2014 – will be on display as part of Temple Chai’s Selichot art exhibit, which is modeled after Before I Die…, an interactive communal project that began in New Orleans in 2011 and has been replicated in 70 countries.


Every day, I see the Face of the Sun.
Before I die, I want to know the Face of God.

The Face of God is like the Face of the Sun.
The Face of God is not like the Face of the Sun.

The Sun is 93 million miles away, its light and warmth are everywhere.
God is both far away and nearby at the same time.

The Sun nurtures us, yet does not know we exist.
God nurtures us and God created us.

Astronomers and physicists struggle to understand the Sun.
Rabbis and philosophers struggle to understand God.

To touch the Sun would be to die instantly.
We touch God and God touches us every day.

To stare directly at the Sun without protective lenses is to risk blindness.
Exodus 33:20: God says “You will not be able to see My Face, for man shall not see Me and live.”

The Sun has existed for billions of years and will exist for billions more.
God has always existed and always will exist.

The Sun is so bright it washes away the stars.
God’s light, the Shechinah, illuminates the deepest darkness.

The Sun warms the Earth even at night when we do not see.
God warms our souls even when we do not believe.

The Sun’s light consists of photons, which are simultaneously particles and waves.
God’s light of creation, the ohr ein sof, is limitless spiritual energy.

The Sun appears unchanging yet sunspots and flares show that it does change.
God appears unchanging yet Torah teaches that God does change.

The Sun exists through the tension between gravity and nuclear fusion.
God exists because God exists.

I always know that the Sun exists.
Some days, I am not sure that God exists.

The Sun’s energy comes from hydrogen fusing into helium.
The Sun’s energy comes from God.

Life is impossible without the Sun.
Life is unimaginable without God.

With the right camera and filters, I can photograph the Sun.
With the right teachers, I can study God and be enlightened.

Every day, I can see the Face of the Sun.
Before I die, I want to know the Face of God.

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How to handle difficult feedback without losing your cool

difficult-conversationsYour app’s user interface is terrible. Your business plan is flawed. Your budget is a pipe dream. Your code isn’t efficient. Clients are unhappy with your interpersonal skills. Your meetings are too long. You don’t seem to get along with your developers. You are hard to work with. You are being kicked off the task force because you aren’t adding any value. The tone of your e-mail was too informal. Your department is being given to someone else. No, we won’t need you for this project. No, we don’t need you at all.

We all get feedback. Usually it’s a combination of good and bad. There’s praise and helpful criticism. Sometimes the feedback is about our company, sometimes about our project, sometimes about our team, and sometimes, well, about us. Sometimes we take the feedback in good stride. Other times, we get hurt and angry—and don’t listen. Speaking for myself, I tend to get defensive when given feedback that’s less than glowingly effusive.

Own your feedback. A short paper published by Harvard Business Review, called“Difficult Conversations 2.0: Thanks for the Feedback,” can help.

“In the realm of feedback, the receiver—not the giver—is the key player in the exchange. Here’s how to become a world-class receiver,” write Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, founders of Triad Consulting Group. The pair teach negotiation at Harvard Law School, and have written a couple of great books, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When it is Off Base, Unfair, Poorly-Delivered, and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood) and Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.

I heartily recommend both of Stone & Heen’s books. For now, let me share some of the wisdom in the five-page paper, which is focused somewhat on feedback from managers, but which is broadly applicable to all types of feedback. Stone & Heen write:

By becoming a skillful receiver of feedback, you can achieve three important benefits:

• Take charge of your life-long learning: When we get better at receiving feedback, we take charge of our own learning and can accelerate our growth.

• Improve our relationships: The way we handle feedback has an impact on our relationships.

• Reduce stress and anxiety: For the more sensitive among us, there’s one more important benefit: getting better at receiving feedback reduces stress and anxiety.

The authors say that it’s only natural to evaluate feedback, determine what is accurate and inaccurate, and then focus on what we see as inaccurate:

You can find something wrong with just about any feedback you get. Maybe it doesn’t address the constraints you’re under, it’s outdated, biased, coming from only a few people, or only part of the story. The problem is, when we focus on what’s wrong with the feedback, we lose sight of what might be right about it; and there is also almost always something right about it.

They continue:

Receiving feedback well doesn’t mean that you always have to take the feedback or agree with the assessment. But it does mean engaging in order to first truly understand the feedback, and then deciding what to do about it.

We receive feedback every day. The feedback might be about us from our managers. It might be about products from customer comments left on an open forum, or sent via Twitter. Feedback can be elating—everyone loves a five-star review. It can also be painful and debilitating. As developers, techies, managers and humans, let’s get better at receiving it.

 

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Succession planning is an integral piece of your leadership portfolio

This essay was first published on the Reform Judaism blog on July 6, 2015.

In the Torah portion Pinchas, God instructs Moses,

“Ascend these heights of Abarim and view the land that I have given to the Israelite people. When you have seen it, you too shall be gathered to your kin, just as your brother Aaron was.”

Although Moses had a marvelous opportunity to see where he had led his people, the act of taking the Israelites across the border – and fighting for the milk and honey – was left to the next generation of leaders.

Indeed, part of being a good leader is knowing to ask (and helping to answer) the question, “What will success look like?” In other words, what do milk and honey look like, both literally and metaphorically? Moses faced this question on Mount Abarim; synagogue leaders face it during every board meeting and on all the days in between.

In Moses’ case, success was looking down over the Promised Land after leading the Israelites on the 40-year journey to get them to the border. It wasn’t his job to lead them further. Likewise, being a synagogue leader doesn’t necessarily mean it’s our responsibility to implement the congregation’s vision. We can start the process, but ultimately it’s not our job to own the plan forever. It is natural to expect that others will follow us in leadership roles.

Pirkei Avot teaches, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” – and for temple leaders, there’s no better teaching. Just as Moses did not complete the work of bringing his people into the Promised Land, it’s not always our job to complete the tasks of this board or that committee. Trustees will vote on budgets in 2025 and 2035 and 2045. They will write new strategic plans and make important decisions for years and years into the future.

As congregational leaders, we have to remember that we’re working for the long-term – and although we can see the future, we will not necessarily lead others there. As Moses asks God to “appoint someone over the community who shall go out before them and come in before them, and who shall take them out and bring them in, so that the Eternal’s community may not be like sheep that have no shepherd,” so, too, must we ask, “Who will lead the temple once we’ve moved on from our committees or reached our term-limit on the board?”

Parashat Pinchas reminds us that just as Moses and God drafted Joshua to succeed Moses, part of our leadership responsibility is to envision and ensure a future in which others – with the potential and know-how to be good leaders – follow in our footsteps. Even as we boldly approach today’s projects and challenges, preparing for a leadership transition is an equally essential part of our job.

How did your predecessors prepare for the transition to a new generation of congregational leaders? How are you preparing for the next generation of leadership in your congregation?

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Finding authentic Reform Judaism

This essay was first published on the Reform Judaism blog, and was adapted from an article I wrote in December 2013 for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.

Some Jewish families light Shabbat candles every Friday night. That is authentic Reform Judaism. Some families rarely or never light Shabbat candles. That, too, is authentic Reform Judaism.

Reform Judaism is both a living religion and a vibrant culture. As Reform Jews, we are charged with using the Torah as a guide to living meaningful lives and making the world a better place. We carry out rituals and maintain traditions that add meaning to our lives. It’s up to us to make informed, educated decisions about which rituals and traditions we will follow, both in our homes and in our synagogues.

As a result, some in our congregations keep strictly kosher houses, never eating non-kosher food outside the home. That’s authentic Reform Judaism. Others cook and enjoy bacon cheeseburgers and other non-kosher fare. That’s authentic Reform Judaism too.

Some say that “ethnic food” means corned beef and matzo ball soup; others prefer a little shrimp or stir-fried pork on their Passover rice. Both are authentic Reform Judaism.

What about holidays? Congregants build sukkot every year, host Passover sederim, light candles each night of Hanukkah, and fast on Yom Kippur. Well, some do. Other congregants never do any of these things, ever.

Some families observe one day of Rosh Hashanah and seven days of Passover; others follow two days of Rosh Hashanah and eight days of Passover.the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.Each of these practices represents authentic Reform Judaism.

Do you come to Friday evening or Saturday morning services to observe a yahrzeit? Do you put on tefillin? Do you attend Torah study? If so, you are an authentic Reform Jew. If you don’t know what tefillin are, you are still an authentic Reform Jew. Do you believe women should wear tallitot and read from the Torah? Some Reform Jews ascribe to this belief, others do not.

Do you trace your Jewish lineage in an unbroken line from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to you? You are an authentic Reform Jew. Does your Jewish heritage come from your father only? Are you a Jew-by-choice? Each of you is an authentic Reform Jew.

Such diversity is our strength, and demonstrates just why Reform Judaism is the largest, fastest-growing Jewish denomination in North America.

In early December 2013, 5,000 Reform Jews attended the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)’s Biennial Convention, gathering together to study, to pray, to teach, to learn, to share ideas, to get in touch with our spirituality, to celebrate, to hear from leaders of our Movement and our world, to sing, to dance, to worship, to inspire and to be inspired. The amazing Biennial — as it always does — celebrated the diversity of authentic Reform Judaism — both here in North America and throughout the world.

Over time, we have seen rituals come and go, traditions reinvented and reinterpreted. Constant change — the foundation of Reform Judaism — is here to stay. With it, we are free to re-evaluate of what works, what is meaningful, and what speaks to our collective minds, souls and spirits.

As a URJ board member, I’m privileged to attend worship services at Reform synagogues all over North America — from Berkeley to Boston, from Dallas to Denver, from Seattle to St. Petersburg, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, from Portland to Phoenix, from Burlingame to Brooklyn.

We can see the diversity of Reform Judaism in our Movement’s nearly 900 congregations, where, it seems, every possible practice can be found. Every shul is unique, yet we are all the same.

Some synagogues use Mishkan T’filah, some use Gates of Prayer, others use homemade siddurim. Every rabbi, every cantor, the music and the readings, the customs and the rituals — they’re all unique, they’re all the same. Most of all, each and every one is authentic Reform Judaism.

The onegs, the motzi, where the candles are lit, what’s in the kiddush cup on the bima, the ways that members, leaders, young people and guests are engaged — it’s all the same, it’s all unique, and each demonstrates authentic Reform Judaism.

I am proud — and I hope you are, too — to be part of the most vibrant Jewish movement in North America. I am proud to be part of a movement that is authentic, organic, energetic, growing, engaging, advancing, evolving, and moving. Indeed, authentic Reform Judaism never stands still; it is, in fact, why we are a movement.

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Attack of the six-rotor quadracopter photo drones

quadracopter-droneDrones are everywhere. Literally. My friend Steve, a wedding photographer, always includes drone shots. Drones are used by the military, of course, as well as spy agencies. They are used by public service agencies, like fire departments. By real estate photographers who want something better than Google Earth. By farmers checking on their fences. By security companies to augment foot patrols. And by Hollywood filmmakers, who recently won permission from the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to operate drones on a movie sets.

Drones can also be used for mischief, as reported by Nick Wingfield in the New York Times. His story, “Now, Anyone Can Buy a Drone. Heaven Help Us” described how pranksters fly drones onto sports fields to disrupt games and infuriate fans, as well as animal-welfare activists using drones to harass hunters and scare away their prey.

Drones are everywhere. My son and I were shopping at Fry’s Electronics, a popular Silicon Valley gadget superstore. Seemingly every aisle featured drones ranging in price from under US$100 to thousands of dollars.

A popular nickname for consumer-quality drones is a “quadcopter,” because many of the models feature four separate rotors. We got a laugh from one line of inexpensive drones, which was promoting quadcopters with three, four and six rotors, such as this “Microgear 2.4 GHz. Radio Controlled RC QX-839 4 Chan 6 Axis Gyro Quadcopter Drones EC10424.” I guess they never thought about labeling it a hexcopter—or would it be a sextcopter?

As drones scale up from toys to business tools, they need to be smart and connected. Higher-end drones have cameras and embedded microprocessors. Platforms like Android (think Arduino or Raspberry Pi) get the job done without much weight and without consuming too much battery power. And in fact there are products and kits available that use those platforms for drone control.

Connectivity. Today, some drones are autonomous and disconnected, but that’s not practical for many applications. Drones flying indoors could use WiFi, but in the great outdoors, real-time connectivity needs a longer reach. Small military and spy drones use dedicated radios, and in some cases, satellite links. Business drones might go that path, but could also rely upon cellular data. Strap a smartphone to a drone, and you have sensors, connectivity, microprocessor, memory and local storage, all in one handy package. And indeed, that’s being done today too. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Samsung Galaxy S4!

Programming drones is going to be an exciting challenge, leveraging the skills needed for building conventional mobile apps to building real mobile apps. When a typical iPhone or Android app crashes, no big deal. When a drone app crashes, the best-case scenario is a broken fan blade. Worst case? Imagine the lawsuits if the drone hits somebody, causes an automobile accident, or even damages an aircraft.

Drones are evolving quickly. While they may seem like trivial toys, hobbyist gadgets or military hardware, they are likely to impact many aspects of our society and, perhaps, your business. Intrigued? Let me share two resources:

InterDrone News: A just-launched newsletter from BZ Media, publisher of SD Times. It provides a unique and timely perspective for builders, buyers and fliers of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles. Sign up for free.

InterDrone Conference & Expo: Mark your calendar for the International Drone Conference and Exposition, Oct. 13-15, 2015, in Las Vegas. If you use drones or see them in your future, that’s where you’ll want to be.

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I struggled with jQuery

hemingwaySEYTON
The tests, my lord, have failed.

MACBETH
I should have used a promise;
There would have been an object ready made.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Loops o’er this petty code in endless mire,
To the last iteration of recorded time;
And all our tests have long since found
Their way to dusty death. Shout, shout, brief handle!
Thine’s but a ghoulish shadow, an empty layer
That waits in vain to play upon this stage;
And then is lost, ignored. Yours is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of orphaned logic
Signifying nothing.

Those are a few words from a delightful new book, “If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript,” by Angus Croll. For example, the nugget above is “Macbeth’s Last Callback, after a soliloquy from Macbeth from William Shakespeare.”

Literary gems and nifty algorithms abide in this code-dripping 200-page tome from No Starch Press. Croll, a member of the UI framework team at Twitter, has been writing about famous authors writing JavaScript since 2012, and now has collected and expanded the entries into a book that will be amusing to read or gift this holiday season. (He also has a serious technical blog about JavaScript, but where’s the fun in that?)

Read and wonder as you see how Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” would code a Fibonacci sequence generator. How Jack Kerouac would calculate factorials. How J.D. Salinger and Tupac Shakur would determine if numbers are happy or inconsolable. How Dylan Thomas would muse on refactoring. How Douglas Adams of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” fame would generate prime numbers. How Walt Whitman would perform acceptance tests. How J.K. Rowling would program a routine called mumbleMore. How Edgar Allen Poe would describe a commonplace programming task:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I struggled with JQuery,
Sighing softly, weak and weary, troubled by my daunting chore,
While I grappled with weak mapping, suddenly a function wrapping
Formed a closure, gently trapping objects that had gone before.

Twenty-five famous authors, lots of JavaScript, lots of prose and poetry. What’s not to like? Put “If Hemingway Wrote JavaScript” on your shopping list.

Let’s move from JavaScript to C, or specifically the 7th Underhanded C Contest. If you are a brilliantly bad C programmer, you might win a US$200 gift certificate to popular online store ThinkGeek. The organizer, Prof. Scott Craver of Binghamton University in New York, explains:

The goal of the contest is to write code that is as readable, clear, innocent and straightforward as possible, and yet it must fail to perform at its apparent function. To be more specific, it should do something subtly evil. Every year, we will propose a challenge to coders to solve a simple data processing problem, but with covert malicious behavior. Examples include miscounting votes, shaving money from financial transactions, or leaking information to an eavesdropper. The main goal, however, is to write source code that easily passes visual inspection by other programmers.

The specific challenge for 2014 is to write a surveillance subroutine that looks proper but leaks data. The deadline is Jan. 1, 2015, more or less. See the Underhanded C website; be sure to read the FAQ!

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For your customers, support low- and intermittent-bandwidth mobility

four-cornersWe drove slightly more than 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers), my wife and I, during a weeklong holiday. We explored different states in the western United States: Arizona (where we live), Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. The Rocky Mountains are incredible. Most of our vacation was at altitudes above 6,000 feet (1,800 meters). Many of the mountain peaks were above 14,000 feet (4,200 meters), and one road went above 11,000 feet (3,300 meters). Exciting!

The adventure involved bringing only smartphones, one running Android, one running iOS. We used mobile apps for navigation, for communication, for photography, for reading, for social media, for finding hotels and restaurants, just about everything.

We learned that apps only seem to run well when there is copious bandwidth, either WiFi at a hotel or a fast cellular data link. If a smartphone registered 4G or LTE, all was good. If the phone indicated that the connection was EDGE, GPRS or 3G, all bets were off. It’s not that data loaded slowly. That would be expected. It’s that the apps would crash, or time out, or posting data would fail, or nothing would happen at all. Many modern apps expect or demand lots and lots of bandwidth.

I’m not talking here about apps running completely offline. That’s an entirely different conversation. I’m talking about apps not gracefully handling situations where the bandwidth is narrower than a drinking straw.

Many developers test out their mobile apps using simulators. That, or on devices that have very high bandwidth connections, such an office WiFi network or the type of high-speed network that you’ll find in Silicon Valley, New York City, or other major tech hubs around the world. Having lots of mobile bandwidth is undoubtedly a blessing for developers, but for many consumers, that’s simply not the case.

Lots of customers live in areas with poor bandwidth, or find themselves traveling in places where connectivity is slow or intermittent. Given the use cases for mobile devices—that is, they are frequently used when not at home or in an office—optimizing apps for bad bandwidth should be mandatory. Hey, this isn’t about streaming 1080p movies. This is about being able to use a search engine, or call up a map, or be able to find a hotel room.

Will people use your apps in poor-bandwidth or intermittent-bandwidth situations? If so, here are some steps you can do to improve the user experience:

  1. Make sure that part of your testing involves low-bandwidth and intermittent-bandwidth scenarios. Find beta testers who live with poor bandwidth or who travel to such locations.
  2. Have your app test for throughput, and not only at application launch. Merely detecting whether the connection is WiFi or cellular is insufficient. If throughput is low, consider degrading the experience, such as by using lower-end graphics, in order to keep data moving.
  3. Cache, cache, cache.
  4. Don’t insist on reloading data each and every time the user either launches the app or switches to it. Alan’s pet peeves include news and other websites that freeze the UI while loading the latest headlines or content each time the app is brought to the foreground.
  5. If you detect that the device is in a low-bandwidth environment, pause background data syncing, or at least ask the user if he/she would like to do so.
  6. If you are sending audio or video, compress the heck out of it. That may involve choosing different algorithms for different bandwidth situations, with low-bandwidth scenarios using narrower and lossier codecs.
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Liminal moments

This is one of a series of articles I wrote for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,  
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
— Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)

My favorite part of the b’nai mitzvah ceremony at PTS is the l’dor vador presentation of the sacred Torah. From grandparent to grandparent, from grandparent to parent, from parent to parent, from parent to child, we pass down our most treasured symbol, and with it, we pass along our hopes, our dreams and our roles. The l’dor vador is beautiful to watch. It’s even more beautiful, and even more touching, when you receive the Torah from your parents, and then hand it off to your own child, as Carole and I did in December 2006.

Michael’s becoming a bar mitzvah, a son of the commandment, was truly a liminal moment. A time of significant change. An inflection point. Our lives would never be the same after that.

We are at another inflection point, probably one that means more to me than to you. My term as President of the Board of Trustees ends on June 30. Wow. So much has changed and evolved in this kehila kedosha, this blessed community. As the torch of lay leadership moves on, we are experiencing many liminal moments at Peninsula Temple Sholom. Let me share some of them with you.

Changes to our clergy team. As you know, Rabbi Rebekah Stern heads across the Bay on July 1. The hard-working Rabbinic Search Committee, co-chaired by past president Keith Tandowsky and by board vice-president Lauren Schlezinger, remains hard at work. As of this column due date (early May), the search is still ongoing. Like you, I am a little antsy, but am confident that the process will result in an excellent clergy plan for our PTS community.

A new title for Allison Steckley. Allison’s first year at PTS as a preschool teacher was the same year that Michael started preschool. Allison followed Cindy Common and Bobbie Goldstein as Preschool Director – and the board recently upgraded Allison’s title to Director of Early Childhood Education. Under Allison’s leadership, and thanks to her vision, the Preschool goes from strength to strength.

Transitioning of Brotherhood. It’s a sad reality, but congregational participation in Brotherhood has declined significantly over the past few years. In April, the Brotherhood board voted to suspend activities as a Temple auxiliary as of June 30. Let me thank everyone who participated in Brotherhood for their myriad contributions to PTS, and especially acknowledge president Alex Wilkas, treasurer Michael Battat and immediate past president Habib Lichaa for their incredible hard work, commitment and leadership.

Creation of a new Caring Community program. We heard many messages in our Kolot conversations, and one is that many congregants need more personal support from the PTS than the leadership has realized. I am thrilled that board member Linda Korth is heading a task force to reimagine the Caring Community at PTS as part of our Sukkat Shalom. Linda is working closely with Rabbi Dan Feder, executive director Sandy Silverstein, and many others. Look for exciting news to come out about Caring Community over the past year, along with ways for you to participate.

Spiritual Center and Chapel renovation. The new Jack & Candee Klein Spiritual Center, will be a complete reinvention of three rooms, currently known as the chapel, the corner room and the computer lab. (The corner room will be remodeled and become the new Lent Chapel.) This miracle is due to the incredible generosity of the Jack and Elisa Klein Foundation – thank you! The construction will happen this summer and the new space will completed before Preschool and Religious School open in the fall. Let me thank past president Diane Goldman, who is chairing the project, and everyone involved, for their amazing work.

Continuing evolution of Kolot. The Kolot Steering Committee, co-chaired by board member Heidi Schell and by Neal Tandowsky, has already launched Phase II of the Kolot (“Voices”) project. Working together with Sister Judy Donovan and Joaquin Sanchez from the Industrial Areas Foundation, we are becoming closer as a community — and discovering what our common values are. (See the comments above about the Caring Community as one of the first fruits of Kolot.) We are going places, and we will make a difference.

Fresh lay leadership for PTS. The 2014-2015 Board of Trustees takes office on July 1 under incoming president April Glatt. This temple has an incredibly wonderful and dedicated board, and April is a blessing. It been an honor to contribute to the PTS board, which I joined 2007, under presidents Karen Wisialowski, Keith Tandowsky and Brian Hafter. All three have been my mentors and my role models. Thank you, Karen, Keith and Brian, for your leadership, and for providing me with this opportunity to serve.

Transitions for the Zeichick family. In July, Carole and I will move to Phoenix. This brings us much closer to our son Michael (who is stationed at Twentynine Palms, Calif.) and to our many cousins who live in the area. After 25 years in the Bay Area, we are ready for new adventures and for high-temperature fog-free living. We aren’t disappearing entirely: Carole and I will visit PTS whenever we come back for business and pleasure. We also hope to see you when you go to Scottsdale for Giants spring training or otherwise visit the Valley of the Sun.

Thank you, thank you, dear friends

This is where I say thank you to all the past presidents, who have shown us so much kindness; to everyone I have served with on the board; to Rabbi Dan Feder, Rabbi Rebekah Stern and Cantor Barry Reich; to Sandy Silverstein, Allison Steckley and Eran Vaisben; to all the hard-working Temple staff; to all committee chairs and members; to every volunteer and donor; and to everyone Carole and I have prayed with, studied with, worked with, shared a meal with, mourned with and laughed with. You are all b’tzelem elohim, created in the image of God.

Dear friends, Peninsula Temple Sholom has been our spiritual home for many years. You have provided us with a shelter of peace, and given Michael a wonderful Jewish education and solid moral center. For that we shall always be grateful. Our love for this sacred community will endure forever.

Yevarechecha adonai veyishmerecha. Ya’er adonai panav elecha veyichunecha. Yisa adonai panav elecha veyasem lecha shalom.

May God bless you and keep you. May the light of God shine on you and be gracious to you. May the presence of God be lifted over you and may God bless you with peace.

 

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Celebrating the joy of community

This is one of a series of articles I wrote for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.

Mah tovu ohaleha, Yaakov, mishk’notecha Yisrael! Vaani b’rov chasd’cha, avo veitecha, eshtachaveh el heichal kodsh’cha b’yiratecha.

How fair are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel! I, through Your abundant love, enter Your house. I bow down in awe at Your holy temple.

Peninsula Temple Sholom is beautiful. You see it when you enter the parking lot – the beds of roses, the trees, all the landscaping. Two lovely buildings, one with our Sanctuary, Social Hall, and administrative offices; the other with our Preschool and Religious School. High ceilings, inspired architecture, lots of light. PTS is more than a synagogue. It’s a work of art.

That is not why PTS is beautiful, however. The beauty is in you. In your friends and family. In babies, children, teens, young adults, empty nesters, seniors. In our community.

Our temple is a tent, as in the words of Balaam in Parshat Bamidbar, where the Mah Tovu blessing comes from. Yes, it’s a permanent tent, not a moveable one. Our tent has a dome and a bimah, a sacred ark holding our Torah scrolls, classrooms and playgrounds, gift shop and kitchens and bathrooms. Space for dancing and singing, for learning and teaching, for praying and laughing, and for hugging and crying.

Look around PTS the next time you are there for a worship service, or for a class, or to pick up your kids, or even for a committee meeting. In the buildings and spaces, you will see the work of generous donors and gifted architects, maintained by our hard-working staff and custodians. In the face of your fellow congregants, you see something even better. Friends, family, fellow congregants, we are all created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of God.

Coming together as a family

Peninsula Temple Sholom is where we, b’tzelem elohim, come together as Jews. Sometimes we come together in groups, to worship on a Friday night or Saturday morning, celebrate a bar/bat mitzvah, take a class, eat a festive meal. Sometimes we are here to meet with the rabbi, to prepare for a baby naming, or cry before a funeral.

When times are good, many of us take PTS for granted. We focus on our jobs, our families, the Giants, mowing the lawn, filling out college applications, worrying about aging parents, schlepping kids to soccer practice. A million and one things.

What does the Temple mean most of the time? If we have school-age kids, taking them to Religious School. If we have kids getting ready for b’nai mitzvah, taking them to lessons with the Cantor. If we are at the anniversary of the passing of a loved one, going to say Kaddish. If it’s around the High Holy Days, it means making sure we have our tickets for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. And going to Friday night services only if our kids are on the bimah or if we have nothing else going on. Yes, all too often, that’s the sum total of our Temple experience.

When times aren’t so good, things change. The Temple is where we turn, whether it’s to the clergy, the staff, or our fellow congregants. That’s when we need PTS the most. And our Temple community is always, always there for you.

On duty 365 days each year

Being president of the PTS Board of Trustees, I’ve learned that while many congregants only interact with the Temple occasionally, the clergy and staff are on duty 365 days a year.

Services happen every week, whether you attend this week or not. Religious school is convened each year, whether you have a child there or not. Adult education classes are taught each week, whether you sign up or not. The rabbis make pastoral visits to homes, to hospitals, and to hospice, even if nobody in your family is ill. Weddings happen, whether or not you are invited. Funerals happen, whether or not your loved ones have passed on.

This costs money. PTS is a big organization, with a lot of expenses. Salaries, health care, utilities, equipment, supplies. We have nearly $3.3 million dollars in expenses projected for 2014-2015.

Fortunately, the Temple is in a healthy financial state. Through dues, donations and school fees, we are able to balance our budget each year, including the forthcoming fiscal year that starts July 1.

Thanking you in advance

To be direct: It’s not easy balancing the budget. Many expenses go up every year, from payroll to health care to supplies to utilities. We are still paying off the mortgage taken out for the Sanctuary and Social Hall renovations and construction of the Raiskin Torah Center. Maintaining and upgrading our aging infrastructure is not cheap.

Compounding the challenge: Even in this improving economic climate, many families are unable to contribute meaningfully to the Temple. They pledge far less than their fair share of the costs of operating our synagogue. Because it’s our Jewish value to never turn anyone away, that means we ask everyone else to contribute more.

That’s where you come in. This is the season when the Temple asks congregants to commit to their giving for the 2014-2015 year. You will receive a letter in the mail soon asking for an increase in your annual pledge to PTS. We hope you will answer this call.

Peninsula Temple Sholom is a tent, a shelter, and a blessing. Whether in good health and strength, or in weakness and need, we are all created b’tzelem eholim, and you are the real beauty of PTS. Thank you for your generosity, and I look forward to seeing you at the Annual Meeting & Conversation on Wednesday evening, May 21.

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Holocaust scrolls and congregational listening

This is one of a series of articles I wrote for the monthly Bulletin of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, Calif.

Did you know that we are safeguarding a Holocaust Torah at Peninsula Temple Sholom? You can see the scroll in the Raiskin Torah Center building. It’s in the display case with the yellow Torah cover dedicated in loving memory of Cantor Israel Reich z”l and Helen Raiskin z”l.

The Holocaust scroll is not a “kosher” scroll, fit to be used for a Torah service or reading. That’s because the scroll’s parchment was heavily damaged during the Holocaust era. Rabbi Gerald Raiskin z”l agreed to take the scroll in as a memorial, as a silent witness to that horrific era. (The Hebrew description for a non-kosher Torah scroll is pasul, which roughly means invalid or unfit.)

I was reminded of the Holocaust scroll in January when PTS Executive Director Sandy Silverstein shared with me a letter from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, an organization in London. The letter was dated December 8, 2003 (13 Kislev 5764) and was addressed to Rabbi Raiskin, Rabbi David Wirtschafter, then the associate rabbi, and Gary Pollard, who was synagogue president at the time. Much of the letter was focused on fundraising for the Memorial Scrolls Trust, but it also said:

Since 1973 your congregation has been guardian of Scroll Number 890 from Rakovnik. This is one of the 1564 Czech Torah Scrolls collected by the Nazis from Bohemia and Moravia, which were eventually rescued by Westminster Synagogue and brought from Prague to London in 1964. Each Scroll is a symbol of a people and its indestructible faith, which must surely have been a continuing source of inspiration to your community.

The Czech Torah Scroll arrived at PTS in 1973 — and 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the rescue and distribution of the scrolls. As the Trust explains on its website:

On a wet and windy day in February 1964, the first of two consignments of scrolls arrived at Kent House in London, the home of Westminster Synagogue. They were met by Rabbi Reinhart and a group of his congregants. They were unloaded from the trucks which had crossed Europe from Prague and laid out in the marble entrance hall of the Synagogue, like so many lifeless bodies in the polythene shrouds that had protected them in the Michle Synagogue.

On the second floor of the old Victorian building (the original house had been the home of Queen Victoria’s father), wooden shelves had been erected to receive the scrolls. They were carefully laid out, side by side, with their labels showing. As the labels did not always tally with the original lists, one of the helpers’ first tasks was to re-label them with a new series of numbers which could be entered on to index cards, with any information that could be gleaned about the scroll, its condition, place of origin and any other information available.

The task of examining every one of the 1,564 scrolls could then begin, for each one had to be carefully unrolled, scrutinised and recorded. Some were in appalling condition, burnt, damaged by water or otherwise torn and soiled. Many were too bad to be used again, but many were good enough to merit careful cleaning and restoration. The new life of the Scrolls was about to begin.

The 50th Anniversary was commemorated at a special worship service on February 9 in London. You can watch a seven-minute video from that service at: http://youtu.be/QeXX3Bubr6o

Next Generation of Leadership

April Glatt — a member of the Board of Trustees since 2008 — has been elected as the next president of the congregation. The election took place in the February Board meeting, and her term will begin on July 1, 2014.

Our Board elects incoming presidents each February for a one-year term, and it is usual and customary for a president to serve two back-to-back terms. (There is a two-term limit for the president, and an eight-year term limit for trustees.) Thus, while technically April’s elected term lasts through June 2015, we should expect her to serve as the Board president through June 2016.

April’s work on the Board has been exemplary as chair of a wonderful congregational fundraiser, as membership chair, and for the past two years, as chair of the Board’s Personnel Committee. April is a close advisor, as well as a dear friend. I am incredibly excited about April’s vision for the congregation. Under her leadership, Peninsula Temple Sholom will go from strength to strength. As we say five times each year when we conclude reading one book of the Torah and transition to the next, chazak, chazak v’nitchazek!

Hearing You at the Annual Meeting

Each May, Peninsula Temple Sholom hosts an Annual Meeting, which is your opportunity to hear reports from the Board President and the clergy, as well as see the budget and elect new Trustees to the Board. If you have attended a recent Annual Meeting, you’ll know them to be fairly dry. Lots of reports, lots more reports, and then, well, more reports. PowerPoint! At the Annual Meeting, congregants hear from the leadership, but the leadership does not necessarily hear from the congregation.

This year, we are transforming the Annual Meeting into an Annual Meeting & Conversation. The program will still have reports — but the reports will be fewer and shorter. In the spirit of Kolot, we will add opportunities for everyone to get to know one another better, and to provide meaningful input to the clergy, staff, and lay leadership of the congregation.

The Annual Meeting & Conversation will take place on Wednesday evening, May 21. Please mark your calendar — and please add your voice to the conversation.