Sunday, November 29, 2020

Whatcha got for me?

[If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways.]

Where do good ideas come from? 

Chapter One: The Post

One of my favorite people who I never met "in real life" pinged me on LinkedIn yesterday with an idea.  Here is the cut/paste from my LinkedIn feed:

Tom, here is the idea and I have "no idea" how to pull it off:  The Great Feed

You have a feed. I have a feed. Thousands of others have feeds here on LinkedIn and on various social media. What if we all got together to use our feeds to feed the millions who are without food here in the USA right now? Maybe it works like this: we create a post and if you like and share it, every action turns into money. For every 1000 posts, we donate $1000 to FeedMore or such an organization. But we need help, we would need an angel donor (or donors). I don't have the money, but I do have the energy and you have the network as do many others here. We could do it until the holiday ends. Let's discuss and I'd love to hear other ideas. Happy Saturday, Tom. 

Chapter Two: The Bolt of Lightning 

For me, ideas are like bolts of lightning. Sudden illumination. The destruction of ignorance. Jung sees lightning as liberating the soul. 

Within minutes (literally... minutes) of my friend's post in Messenger, I bought So, now it's real. I spent $10 so this is no longer just an idea - it is REAL. The way it went down: read the post, say wow, buy domain name. Never let a good thunderbolt go to waste.

Chapter Three: What would Johann Wolfgang von Goethe do?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (August 28, 1749 - March 22, 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novelist and scientist. He is considered one of the greatest literary figures of his age. In 1765, Goethe left home to study law, as his father wished, but due to his illness (probably tuberculosis) he returned home without a degree. However, while at university, Goethe was much more absorbed with writing, but he burned some of his works as he considered them unworthy. 

Often regarded as Germany's Shakespeare, he was also a "quote factory" of sorts. Here are just a few quotes that will change the way you see yourself and others. If you Google Goethe Quotes your computer will blow up:

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. * Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. * A person hears only what they understand. * Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success. * As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live. * To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking. * Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together. * Everything is hard before it is easy.

And my favorite: "Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it."

Buying the domain name makes it real. Spending $10 makes it real. Putting a post on social media, writing this blog, action makes the idea REAL. 

And so: was born on 11/28/2020. I forced the birth of my friend's idea. I have "no idea" if this shall be final domain name, or how many iterations or versions of THE IDEA will push forward over the next several days. I told my web team this morning to get the "coming soon" page up, ASAP. It is 7:44 AM EST on 11/29/20 and they will all see this blog. Ahem. 

Epilogue: The Highest Cannot Be Spoken; It Can Only Be Acted

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do. Today, right now, there are people who do not have enough food for their family. There are people right here in the USA who are going to go hungry. Today. Right now, there is Hunger in America. Enough. 


I never met my LinkedIn friend "In Real Life" but something tells me we shall indeed meet. And something tells me that I'll meet many people in his network. I think this is a good place for one of MY quotes, to end today's blog:

Show me your friends, and I'll show you who you are. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020


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Jaws was released in the Summer of 1975. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie almost never made it. The mechanical shark would not work, the movie was way over budget. "We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark," said Richard Dreyfuss on the film's troubled production.

When the screenwriter of Alien was pitching the studio for the movie (the soon to be sci-fi classic) he described it as "Jaws in Space."

Jaws was the prototypical summer blockbuster, regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history. It won several awards for its music and editing. It was the highest-grossing film in history, until the release of Star Wars in 1977.

Ah yes, Star Wars also almost died in production. In 1971, George Lucas wanted to film an adaption of the Flash Gordon serial, but could not obtain the rights. NO. That was a big no. If he got a yes, there might have been no Star Wars. After directing American Graffiti in 1973, Lucas wrote a two-page synopsis, which 20th Century Fox decide to invest. By 1974, he had expanded the story into the first draft of a screenplay. Today the Star Wars franchise total value is estimated at $70 billion. 

This: I watched the most recent episode of The Mandalorian last night, as they roll out a new episode every Friday on Disney+ 

Also this: Baby Yoda is selling at Kohl's this Christmas Season for around $24.95

Disney paid more than $4 billion in 2012 to acquire LucasFilm, the production company responsible for the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" film franchises.  At the time, Lucas was getting ready to retire, and Disney, led by then-CEO Bob Iger, was taking aggressive steps to broaden its appeal to consumers. In 2009 Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion. I guess if you have something to sell to Disney, you should put a price tag of $4 billion on it to speed up the negotiation. 

In 1996 Marvel was mired in bankruptcy, and a decade later banked its nascent film franchise on a second-tier superhero called Iron Man. The film helped to pull Robert Downey Jr. from a scandal-ridden career, and went on to make $585 million worldwide. Stanley Martin Lieber (aka Stan Lee) you shall be missed. 

OK, Tom. Pivot! 

My son Tommy is getting married in two weeks. Two Sundays from today. And the COVID-19 pandemic is raging. It is getting worse, not better. Last night we did a Zoom meeting with the family to talk about the wedding, and how every day is making the events of December 6th, 2020 a "game time" decision. What we do know: On December 6th, I'll have two daughters, not one. And the Capone name shall grow (again) by one. But that's about all we know for sure. There WILL be a Wedding Ceremony. Everything else: ask me on the evening of December 6th and I'll give you a full report. 

On November 13th, I got a Friend Request on Facebook. I'm close to 5,000+ friends, and I really don't accept friends to my personal page very often. In fact, I purged many over the last year. I ignored the friend request, but they persisted. "Hey Tom, we used to be best friends, don't you remember? You drove me around in your Formula Firebird and drove me out to PURDUE one time and taught me how to drive and...and......and...."  

Oh, wow. A kid that I mentored when I was in my 20's. I accepted the friendship, but he wanted to talk on the phone. I'm kinda busy. I told him via chat that we would talk one day soon.

"Well, hopefully one day soon because I was given six months to live about a month ago. I would love to hear from you. The only reason I am active on Facebook is to connect with some old friends and stuff. Unless I get a new heart I don't have much time."

We spoke for an hour. I was blown away, as the last time I saw or heard from this kid (kid?) was at my mother's funeral in the early 80's. It turns out that after we lost touch, he went to PURDUE like me. Suffice it to say that he led an AMAZING Forrest Gump life. For at least an hour, he spoke and I listened. I felt like I was the one listening to someone pitch "Forrest Gump" to a Hollywood studio.

"Tommy, I hate being sick. I hate not knowing if I'm going to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle one day, or see my grandkids. Talking to you makes me feel like I'm 16 again and that I have the best 21 year old friend in the world. You never treated me like a kid - you always respected me."

I was a mentor and I did not even know it. So many times in life, we no have idea how our words, our actions, our behavior will impact others. Today, the Facebook "brand" has some repair work to do. Did Mark Zuckerberg have any (any) idea what the future held for THE FACE BOOK when the social media platform was born in a Harvard dorm room? Could anyone predict that in the year 2020, Baby Yoda would be the must-have toy? Or COVID-19?

Jaws. Alien. Star Wars. The "kid" from Newark, New Jersey who followed me to PURDUE. You never know how things are going to turn out. You cannot control the future, but you most certainly can control the present. YOU CAN control how you treat other people - today. 

I have two amazing sons, Bobby and Tommy. When growing up, Bobby was called "Baba" and Tommy was called "Tommy Baby". TAH-MEE BAY-BEE has been my battle cry since March 2nd, 1990. And now, on December 6th, 2020 no matter HOW MANY (or few) people attend the COVID compliant wedding ceremony, I'll be there. And there shall be a TAH-MEE BAY-BEE shout out. 

Tommy Baby. Baby Yoda. From this day forward I'll never see or hear "Yoda" again, without having an instant mental flash of my two sons, their wedding days, and our amazing growing family. And I'll smile. 

I guess THE FORCE is with me, eh? 

Guess what - it is with you as well.

Baba and Tommy Baby

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Finishing Finishing School

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A finishing school is (was?) a school for young women that focused on teaching social graces and upper-class cultural rites as a preparation for entry into society. It would focus primarily on deportment and etiquette, with academic subjects secondary. In the USA, it is sometimes called a charm school. 

Yeah, this was actually a thing. 

Through much of their history, United States finishing schools emphasized social graces and de-emphasized scholarship. Society encouraged a polished young lady to hide her intellectual prowess for fear of frightening away male suitors. The mission: get a husband. 

I was born in 1960, and grew up during the Space Race. I started watching the miniseries The Right Stuff on Disney+ this month. Astronauts and their families become instant celebrities in a competition that will either kill them or make them immortal in the quest to be a part of Project Mercury. The show brings up the concept of female astronauts - women in space. And they basically laugh at the thought. Women Astronauts??? Please. 

My wife and I also watched the Netflix miniseries The Queen's Gambit. Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world. It seems like everyone on the planet is watching The Queen's Gambit, so I won't waste my time suggesting that you watch it.  But you should. 

This is what hit me. Today, you have an INFINITE number of streaming options. It is hard to find a show that everyone seems to be watching - a show that everyone seems to love. But The Queen's Gambit has stayed on top the platform's Top 10 list since its release in October. If you did not already watch it, I'll bet someone (like me) told you that you should be. 

There is something highly soothing about watching people play chess - an analog game in today's world of digital everything. And in the miniseries, there is luxury air travel, fancy restaurants and posh hotel rooms, and all the things that we are currently missing during the days of COVID and quarantine lockdowns and social distancing. 

Both of these miniseries are fictional, although The Right Stuff is somewhat based on history. Space and Chess were for men, not women. Today, we indeed have female astronauts. Not sure about female chess grandmasters, but I'll bet there were and are many. Even though The Queen's Gambit is totally fiction, it has many life lessons. Chess is a game of intellect. Brain power. In chess, nobody cheats. There is an honor code. And even though it was a "Man's Game" and women did not play - even the Chess Grandmasters of Russia gave female American Beth Harmon her due. 

I think the entire world is due for a new type of Finishing School. One that prepares ALL people for living in the new world of global communication, global collaboration, and better cultural norms. Today's world is digital, not analog. We are ALL connected, we ALL share one planet in real-time. This blog (could) reach millions, in the blink of an eye. Tools like Zoom have made the world one big connected community. In the time that it took to read this blog, a million people could have started watching The Right Stuff, or The Queen's Gambit or just about anything that they wish. YouTube, TED Talks, the list of options is growing exponentially. How many audio/video podcasts are there now? You won't live long enough to listen to or watch 1% of them. And don't get me started on Audible books. I'm addicted to books in the clouds. 

I think we are due for a Finishing School for ALL Humans. We are all now living in a global society. All are welcome, from every time zone. Yes, this is long overdue - with a heavy emphasis on the word "all" and maybe replacing the the word Finishing with Lifelong

The Lifelong School of Human Development. 

All are welcome to THRIVE in the new global society. Tuition is free, as long as you agree to pay it forward. Yeah, we should do that. After all, we humans are smarter today than we were in the 1960's right? We are smarter now, right? Please tell me we are (all) smarter now in 2020 than in the 1960's. 

Cool picture below, eh? The Right Stuff, only better. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hot for Teacher

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Hot for Teacher is a song by the American rock band Van Halen, taken from their sixth studio album, 1984. Born in 1960, this song is deep in my brain. 

Today is Sunday, the day after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris made their historic victory speeches. So, it is going to be hard to write a blog that is not on the topic of the 2020 election. 

But, I do run the Distance Learning Association. And all things teaching, training, coaching, education and "Teachers" is a big part of my entire professional existence. 

Back in the day, Tipper Gore, wife of then Sen. Al Gore, was shocked by the Van Halen "Hot for Teacher" video. "The images frightened my children," she said. "They frightened me!" By May 1985, Gore would form the Parents Music Resource Center, which lobbied the recording industry to create a ratings system apprising buyers of explicit content. I wonder what Tipper Gore would have to say about President Trump's twitter account of the past many years. 

Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden is an American Educator who was the second lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. 

Dr. Jill Biden's Wikipedia page has been updated in the last 24 hours.  It now says that Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden is the First Lady of the United States designate. Most importantly, it says that she was born in Hammonton, New Jersey. Priorities, right? 

In January 2007, at the age of 55, Jill Biden received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, Student Retention at the Community College: Meeting Students Needs has been downloaded over a million times - in the past 72 hours. 

On the second night of the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, Jill Biden spoke from the classroom at Brandywine High School where she had once taught English. She drew parallels between family suffering and the plight of the country saying, "How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding and with small acts of kindness, with bravery, with unwavering faith."

In my humble opinion, EVERYTHING we have as a nation, is due to our veterans and due to our teachers. All the things we take for granted, all the things that we enjoy from the worlds of science and technology, were born from the minds and the dedicated voices of our teachers. From K-12 to College and University, our lives are formed and molded by our teachers. Our teachers spend more time with our children than parents, in many cases. The only thing better is when a returning veteran becomes a teacher. That is when they go from serving our country - to serving our country, without missing a beat. 

In July 2020 Dr. Jill Biden spoke out about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on education, appearing in a video with her husband to emphasize that she understood the frustrations that children, parents, and teachers were having with virtual education substitutes but saying that "Schools and parents alike want a clear, science-based strategy, not mixed messages and ultimatums." 

I know that my wife Dianne will see this blog. Heck, she will be the first one to proofread it for me. So, with a clear conscience, I can honestly say in the most innocent and wholesome way:

I am once again, Hot for Teacher. 

Dr. Jill Biden, America's Teacher.

Van Halen 1984 <<< Hot for Teacher Video 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A Heckler in the Room

I try to pay attention. When someone says that I should "check something out" I usually do. But when senior leadership of many vendors and sponsors of NYDLA say "check this out" I make it a point to listen AND act. I'm having a flashback to the old E.F. Hutton commercials: When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen. 

Hutton was a Wall Street heavyweight 40 years ago and still best known for its advertising slogan. I guess that was before insider trading was a bad thing. 

And so, throughout the recent Zoomtopia Users Conference (Virtual this year) I heard the name "Heckler" and then Dean Heckler and finally the folks at Logitech telling everyone to check out Heckler Design. OK! OK! I'm going!  

I found Dean Heckler on LinkedIn. I pinged him, short and sweet, first touch on October 25th. Five days after the first "hello" we recorded a video podcast. Two Zoom meetings later, we shall be offering the products and services of Heckler Design to the NYDLA / NADLA global community.


Here is my E.F. Hutton moment on this Sunday (for everyone). Zoomtopia was VIRTUAL this year, because of COVID. So many events that our community would have normally attended LIVE (COLLISION, Web Summit, NRF, etc.) were (and will now be) VIRTUAL. COLLISION had 32,000+ attend from home. At Web Summit next month, we expect 100,000+ to attend from home. Normally we would have 50,000+ attend NRF at Javits Center in NYC (live) and this year, it is virtual. I'll be attending, and also presenting - from my home - 25 miles west of Times Square. 

Last year, I presented at the Intrado Digital Media Summit, in NYC. This year, it shall be a virtual event with people sharing valuable insights, winning strategies, and new ideas in digital media. And food will be via Uber Eats, delivered to my home. 

The technology of today has changed the world forever. COVID just made 10 years worth of change happen in 10 months. And we are just getting started. 

If you Google "Heckler" you find a person who harasses and tries to disconcert others with questions, challenges, or gibes. Hecklers are often known to shout disparaging comments at a performance or event, or to interrupt speeches, with the intent of disturbing performers and/or participants. 

If you search for the antonyms of Heckler, you find Dean Heckler and Heckler Design. 

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