Sunday, December 31, 2023

Three and Twenty Five

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

My Sunday Blog happens to fall on New Year's Eve, 2024.

OK, so "TIME" is my topic for today...

I saw a post the other day that really hit me hard. Maybe it's because I'm a new 'first-time' Grandpa, in my first 30 days of Grandpadom. New Year, with its resolutions, and 365 days of well, life... reflections, wins, losses, and then all the hopes and promises of the NEW YEAR. A clean slate, a "do over" like kids on the playground. 

I'm going to make today's blog my gift to you - a gift of time. More of it. 

Yeah, there are 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year - for all of us. No matter how much money you have in the bank, no matter where you live in the world, we all have 24 hours and 365 days to spend our "time" as wisely and as productively as possible. Do not waste time - it's the true coin of the realm. 

I present to you "The Pomodoro Technique". Feel free to Google it yourself.

Here is my style, my way of working. Your mileage may vary.

Two egg timers. One 3 minute timer, one that goes up to 60 minutes. Both can be purchased at the Dollar Store for, well, for $1. 

If you can do something in 3 minutes or less, do it now. Right now. Get it out of the way. Done. Check that box. Completed

If it will take you more than 3 minutes, use the Pomodoro Technique. Focused blocks of time, 25 minutes. Work for 25 minutes, deeply. Then stand up, and walk 10 steps away from your desk. Seriously, stand and walk away from your desk - no cheating! Change your posture. Standing changes your circulation. Walk to the window, look outside. Get a glass of water. Do ANYTHING that forces you to step away from your desk for (at least) 5 minutes. Stand, walk and get your blood flowing again. 

OK, back to work - for another focused 25 minutes. 1 Pomodoro = 25 minutes of deep, focused work. Repeat, repeat, repeat. In an 8 hour day, there is the possibility for 16 Pomodoros, if you work like a robot. And, there is a 99.99% chance that you are not a robot, if you are reading this blog. *in 2024, that percentage may drop.... 

The Pomodoro Technique. And the Getting Things Done system. Work in bursts of deep, focused work. Touch things once. Do it, delegate it, or delete it. 

None of us can create more time - but all of us can maximize the time that we have. 8 - 8 - 8 is eight hours of sleep, eight hours of work, and eight hours of WHATEVER YOU PLEASE. Hopefully, 8 hours of time with family, friends, dog parks - 8 hours of whatever makes life worth living. 

When you sleep - SLEEP! When you work - WORK! And when you are with your friends and family - do it like your life depends on it - because it does. 

When you get right down to it, life is nothing more than lots and lots of Pomodoros....all linked together. Use them wisely. 

And there you have it.... my Sunday Blog in less than a Pomodoro. 

Ok, so now I am standing and walking... looks like my dog Konta needs to go out, so this should be more than 5 minutes.... cool. 

Sunday, December 24, 2023

I got all dolled up and watched Barbie

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

OK, so I watched Barbie. 

"Barbie" took the box office by storm this year, earning more than $1.44 billion worldwide to become the highest grossing film in Warner Bros.' 100-year history; the highest grossing film ever from a female filmmaker at the domestic box office; and is the largest worldwide film release of 2023. 

It is now on Max, so I watched it with my wife. 

Barbie’s box office success has been characterized by several record breaking milestones. The movie had this year’s highest-grossing opening weekend with $162 million in gross sales in its first three days in theaters. Barbie’s performance also made Greta Gerwig the highest-grossing female director of all time in the U.S. The movie would have likely reached its milestones faster had it not been banned in a handful of countries including Algeria, Kuwait and Vietnam, the former of which pulled Barbie from theaters over objections to the movie’s gender and sexuality themes.

There is a great article here, that explains why Barbie made $1 Billion in just 3 weeks. So I won't try to write about that...

OK, here we go.... I did not love it. I did not even like it. I did not HATE it, I just did not... could not... figure out what I was watching. And now I am going to watch it again. And, I'll probably watch it more than twice between now and the New Year.

Wait, what?

The movie is loaded with so many themes and topics, Barbie is a movie that one needs to rewatch. This is not only thanks to its story, performances, and sense of humor, but to all the details throughout the movie, both in terms of visual design and narrative. There’s a lot to unpack in the Barbie movie. It has themes like gender inequality, the patriarchy, the matriarchy, the struggles of growing up and being an adult, capitalism. Barbie needs to be consumed. Viewers will find something new and interesting in every rewatch. Barbie also has a bunch of Easter eggs that require multiple views to catch them all. And now that it is on Max, you can do all the rewatching you can ask for.

The world of animated movies has always been a platform for sending messages and holding hidden values. The new Barbie movie is no exception to this concept. While it may seem like a funny, entertaining children’s film, a closer look at the movie uncovers a ton of subtle messages and themes that resound with both early and grown audiences.

One of the main themes in the Barbie movie is self-discovery. Throughout the film, it's all about Barbie’s journey of learning about who she is and her personal growth. At the beginning of the film, Barbie is insecure of herself and who she is in the world. As the story continues, she begins to embrace her individuality and abilities. This sends an influential message to all audiences watching, encouraging them to be themselves, no matter what. Barbie says, “Being different is what makes you special.” This line is one of the film’s messages about self-acceptance and embracing individuality. It teaches children and adults that they should be proud of who they are and that their uniqueness is their strength.

And with that.....

I did not know what I did not know. At first, I thought the Barbie movie was a simple children’s film, for kids. And now, I see that was NOT for kids, but for the parents. 

It holds deeper meanings and themes that resonate with both young and adult audiences. From empowerment and self-discovery to challenging gender stereotypes, promoting environmental consciousness, and celebrating friendship and collaboration, the film offers valuable life lessons and messages that can inspire and educate viewers of all ages. By analyzing the evidence from the movie, we can appreciate the thoughtfulness and intention behind its storytelling. The hidden meanings in the new Barbie movie serve as a reminder that animation can be a powerful medium for conveying important messages and inspiring positive change in our world.

Ah yes. Storytelling. From playing with dolls (G.I. Joe included) we have been doing storytelling all of our lives. 

Hey, did you know.... 

....that “GI Joe” is a household name. Originally, GI stood for “Galvanized Iron”, the primary material used to make military items, i.e., buckets. However, as the military grew and evolved over time, GI took on multiple meanings, including “Government Issue”, “General Issue”, and even “Ground Infantry”.

Also this: Barbie kicked G.I. Joe's A$$. Like, really bad. 

Weird Barbie... my favorite.

Update: I just learned that my wife only played with Skipper - who was created, along with Midge, to counteract criticism that claimed Barbie was a sex symbol. Midge's facial appearance was gentler than Barbie's, whereas Skipper was a response to requests for Barbie to have children; however, instead of having a married, pregnant Barbie, which would make her too domestic, Barbie would babysit Skipper.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

5 pennies for your thoughts

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

Ideas people! I need new ideas for Q1 2024.... GO!

Here are 5 but they will cost ya....

What does a penny for your thoughts mean?

“What's on your mind?” or “Tell me what you are thinking,” especially when someone looks pensive, or they haven't said very much and have been quiet for a while about a specific topic. First used by English statesman Sir Thomas More in his 1522 book Four Last Things, the idiom “A penny for your thoughts” has retained the same meaning for nearly 500 years. In the 16th century, a penny was a lot of money. The phrase means that someone is very curious to know what another person is thinking about. Today we often say it when a person seems to be far away in thought. 

Tringali Iron Works is going out of business. I know this because I got a postcard in the mail from Bud. You know, Bernard "Bud" Knudsen, the son of Barney Knudsen and Jean Tringali. 

Well, here's my 2 cents on that news...

In the mid-1920’s Liborio Tringali (Bud Knudsen’s grandfather) emigrated from Italy. He was an experienced blacksmith with a family background in the iron works business. He leased and operated an iron works shop in lower Manhattan in an area called “Tribeca” (Triangle below Canal). In those days this was the center of the wholesale grocery trade with its numerous warehouses, delivery trucks, horse and wagons, and overhead elevated trains.

Blacksmithing was commonly associated with horse shoeing. With the location of an iron works shop central to the warehouse district, a large part of work shifted to installation of protective steel plates over wooden warehouse floors in order to facilitate storage and movement of merchandise in the warehouse.

Throughout the 1930’s the scope of the work continued to expand, and included fabrication and installation of custom ornamental iron works, steel stairways, light structural, specialty tools, equipment repair, and mechanical contracting.  During this period, the leased building at 401 Greenwich Street was acquired and Tringali Iron Works finally had its own home. When the war broke out in 1941, the business was called upon as a subcontractor to provide specialty steel items for government contracts. To meet production schedules, Jean Tringali (Bud Knudsen’s Mother), a top-notch secretary, pitched in after hours and on weekends as a punch press operator.  She recalled her experiences as her contribution to the war effort and the thousands of steel holes she punched in steel plates and parts. 

In the 1950’s the wholesale grocers gradually located to College Point and as premises were vacated, the lofts were bought and renovated into posh and trendy residences.  Since the warehouses are subject to control by the Landmark Commission, very little exterior alteration has been allowed to this day.

In recent years, Tribecca has been considered to be one of the most desirable areas in New York City and has become the home of many notables.  After nearly 75 years, the building from which Tringali Iron Works had operated as a family business through three generations was sold. 

In April 2000 the business was relocated to historic Boonton Township, New Jersey and continues the family tradition with a greater emphasis on specialty and custom iron works designs under the sole direction of Bernard “Bud” Knudsen as part of that third generation. Gee, I wonder how many metal signs they made, over the last 100 years...     

And now, Bud has announced his retirement. 

Yesterday, I met Patty the dog. While walking Konta in the woods, Patty came bounding out of nowhere... and Boom! Instant play date for Konta. And that is how I met Bud's dog... Patty.

Oh yeah, the postcard. We are on the TIW mailing list. Bud did work for us at the house many (many) years ago... Oh right. Wow, how many times did I walk by their little shop but I never went inside... I always meant to go inside... but I never did. 

The postcard. The dog Patty. Coincidence? A sign? I had to hurry to get back home, as the kids were in town for the weekend. They should be at the house by now...  "Hey Tommy, TIW is having a retirement sale, right now. You might like want to check it out... might have some tools and whatnot..." Nah. Are you sure? Nah... ah, maybe tomorrow. Ah...hum... OK, let's go. And just like that, off we go to 4 North Main Street BOONTON USA. 

Oh man. This place is a time capsule. Do you remember Two Guys? Oh man. I had that Marx Presidents display from the 1960's. Oh man, I had that....oh man, I remember this... oh geeze...

And then I saw the sign. Wow. It used to cost a nickel to use the bathroom. I remember pay toilets! I also remember how my parents would argue about how men could use the free urinals, while women were forced to pay to use stalls. Therefore those businesses who installed pay toilets were partaking in sexist business practices that were illegal. Yeah, Mom was a rebel...

The first pay toilet in the United States was installed in 1910 in Terre Haute, Indiana. These first pay toilets cost a nickel. That would be roughly $3.25 in 2023. As can be expected after these machines were placed nationwide a lot of people started complaining, protesting and even boycotting. Prior to protests, many businesses were making loads of money playing these locks on stalls within bathrooms, or even on the bathroom door. However, once the backlash began these places of business started to lose money as now, nobody went to that location, because of their use of a pay toilet. I remember my Mom making her opinion known like it was yesterday: "We don't go there - they make women pay to pee!" 

Tommy bought a few things yesterday. I showed him the "Pay Toilet Five Cents" sign. "Ha, I don't think Danielle would find the humor it...." Buy it for me, and I'll pay you back. 

So now I have the little sign, reminding me about growing up in the 60s in the USA. And going to Two Guys with my mom. And collecting the Marx Presidents, all of them, right up to Kennedy. And then, Lyndon Baines Johnson, often referred to by his initials LBJ. 

And then, I saw it. 

The Turquoise 1959 General Electric Model T129 AM Radio. The one that Mom had in the kitchen when we lived in Cedar Grove NJ. I remember coming into the kitchen, and seeing my mother crying. Crying so deeply, it was my first true memory. I can still "see it" crystal clear in my mind, even today. When the news came across that GE Radio, that On November 22, 1963, when he was hardly past his first thousand days in office, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed by an assassin's bullets as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; he was the youngest to die. My mother, crying. I'll never forget that image. I wanted to buy that Turquoise 1959 General Electric Model T129 AM Radio yesterday. But it was already marked "sold". 

My last thought is this: Mom told Patty the dog to fetch me yesterday to come to Tringali Iron Works retirement sale. And that I should bring her grandson Tommy along, too. The grandson she never met. Yeah, Patty the dog spoke sign language to me yesterday. 

Happy Retirement, Bernard "Bud" Knudsen. 

And thanks Liborio - and Barney and Jean for all the memories. 

I'm signing off now...

Liborio Tringali, Founder
Tringali Iron Works

4 North Main Street BOONTON USA

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Read the room

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

How fast can a human read?

The speed at which a person can read varies widely and depends on factors such as reading proficiency, comprehension goals, and the complexity of the material. On average, an adult reading silently can process around 200 to 300 words per minute (wpm). However, highly skilled readers, such as speed readers, can read much faster, often exceeding 1000 wpm or more. It's important to note that increasing reading speed may come at the expense of comprehension, so individuals often need to find a balance that suits their specific reading goals. Additionally, factors like text difficulty, font size, and familiarity with the content can also influence reading speed.

Ok, how fast can a human listen?

The speed at which a person can hear and process spoken language is generally referred to as the "speech perception rate." On average, the typical rate of speech for English speakers is around 150 to 160 words per minute (wpm). However, people can understand and process speech at different rates, and individual preferences or comprehension abilities may vary. It's worth noting that while speech perception rate is one aspect, the overall understanding of spoken language involves not just the speed but also factors like clarity, accent, vocabulary, and the listener's familiarity with the language or topic being discussed. Additionally, some individuals may have specific skills or training that allow them to process spoken information more quickly.

In contrast to reading, where individuals can control the pace, the speed of speech is typically set by the speaker, and listeners need to adapt to that pace.

Where are you going with this, Tom?

I have a friend who has a company that makes PowerPoints. If you don't know, Microsoft PowerPoint is a presentation program developed by Microsoft as part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is a widely used software for creating and delivering presentations. PowerPoint allows users to create slideshows that can include text, images, charts, graphs, audio, video, and other multimedia elements. PowerPoint is widely used in business, education, and other settings where presentations are a common way to convey information. It has become a standard tool for creating and delivering slideshows in a professional and visually appealing manner.

Here is the thing: when a really big company needs a PowerPoint, they hire my friend's company. And they pay, let's just say, big bucks. Because: they need that PowerPoint to be - perfect. We joke, maybe his company should be called PerfectPoint

It made pause and think: what is it (exactly) that makes someone outsource the creation a PowerPoint - and pay significantly for it? And what makes a PowerPoint presentation - perfect? If a big company was making a presentation (to investors, to customers, to vendors, whatever) and they feel that this presentation needs to "go perfectly" they invest in the presentation. They leave no stone unturned, they leave nothing to chance - "we need this meeting to be perfect!" [ can you not "feel" someone saying that out loud in a conference room to their team? ]

OK, land the plane Tom....

Let's do learning

Do you NEED to learn something? Or, do you want to learn something? Or, are you just 'moderately interested' in something? What comes to your mind first - do you Google it, do you buy a book on it, do you find it on YouTube, do you take a course on it on Udemy, do you hire a teacher, trainer, coach? Do you seek a mentor on it? Do you pay tuition, maybe thousands of dollars to learn it - whatever "it" is? 

And here comes...... AI.

Hey ChatGTP 3.5 - how can I make a perfect PowerPoint?

Creating a "perfect" PowerPoint presentation involves a combination of design principles, content organization, and effective delivery. Here are some tips to help you create an impactful PowerPoint presentation:

1. **Understand Your Audience:**

   - Consider the needs and expectations of your audience.

   - Tailor your content to be relevant and engaging for them.

2. **Define Your Purpose:**

   - Clearly define the purpose of your presentation.

   - Know the key message or takeaway you want your audience to remember.

3. **Plan and Outline:**

   - Create a clear and logical structure for your presentation.

   - Develop an outline that includes an introduction, main points, and a conclusion.

4. **Limit Text:**

   - Avoid cluttered slides with too much text.

   - Use concise bullet points and focus on key messages.

   - Use visuals to complement your points.

5. **Engaging Visuals:**

   - Use high-quality images, charts, and graphs to enhance understanding.

   - Ensure visuals are relevant and directly support your content.

6. **Consistent Design:**

   - Use a consistent design theme throughout your presentation.

   - Choose a readable font, and stick to a color scheme that is professional and easy on the eyes.

7. **Simple Transitions and Animations:**

   - Use slide transitions and animations sparingly.

   - Avoid distracting effects that may take away from the content.

8. **Practice Moderation with Bullet Points:**

   - Limit the number of bullet points on each slide.

   - Focus on key messages to keep your audience engaged.

9. **Speak Clearly and Concisely:**

   - Practice your verbal delivery to ensure clarity and confidence.

   - Avoid reading directly from the slides; use them as visual aids.

10. **Include White Space:**

    - Allow for white space on your slides to prevent visual clutter.

    - White space helps maintain a clean and professional look.

11. **Check for Consistency:**

    - Ensure consistency in formatting, font sizes, and image styles.

    - Double-check for typos and grammatical errors.

12. **Use Templates Wisely:**

    - Templates can be helpful, but be cautious not to overuse flashy templates that distract from your content.

    - Customize templates to suit your presentation's needs.

13. **Interactive Elements (if applicable):**

    - Include interactive elements like quizzes, polls, or discussions if they align with your presentation goals.

14. **Know Your Tech:**

    - Familiarize yourself with the presentation venue's technology in advance.

    - Test your presentation on the actual equipment you'll be using.

15. **Seek Feedback:**

    - Before your presentation, seek feedback from colleagues or friends.

    - Adjust your presentation based on their suggestions.

Remember that the "perfect" PowerPoint presentation can vary based on the context and audience. It's essential to be adaptable and responsive to the specific needs of your presentation and the people you are presenting to.

OK, thanks! Ah, hey ChatGTP 3.5 - go make me a perfect PowerPoint!

ChatGPT says: I'm sorry for any confusion, but I can't create files, including PowerPoint presentations, for you. However, I can help guide you on how to create a great PowerPoint presentation. If you have a specific topic or content you'd like assistance with, feel free to provide details, and I can offer guidance on structuring your presentation, designing slides, or any other related aspect.

Ahem. "OK, Google, how do I use AI to make perfect PowerPoint presentations? 

Good Morning, Thomas. There are many solutions to use AI to create perfect PowerPoints. Here are the top ten results: Presentation.AI.  Beautiful.AI.  Kroma.AI. Designs.AI. DeckRobot. Vennage. Pitch.  Slidebean. Slidesgo.  Wepik.   


My friend's company that makes the Perfect PowerPoints already knows all of the above. And, the big companies that pay my friend's company the "big bucks" to make the Perfect PowerPoints also already know all of the above. Ah, will my friend go out of business - or will his 'PerfectPoint' business GROW - because of AI? 

As with all learning, we have choices. We can invest the time and money to learn it ourselves, or we can pay someone to do it for us. We learn things because we NEED to learn them, or simply because we are interested. Maybe we are just curious. But one thing is for certain: AI is not going to take your job, but someone who has MASTERED AI is going to take your job. Or take your clients and customers. Or win over your paying students. If you are a teacher, trainer, coach - you will soon become very aware of this new reality in learning, the new world of knowledge transfer. The new reality of Subject Matter Mastery. (Think Luke Skywalker AND *R2-D2, a team). And, I think this shall be true in 2024, and for at least a few years. Until of course, Quantum Computing becomes commonplace.

Go Google Quantum Computing. Go ahead, you know you want to.... you are....curious, right?

Class dismissed. Or is it? 

In fact, shall class ever be dismissed, ever again? 

*R2-D2 stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series-2, 
according to a Star Wars encyclopedia published after the release of the film Star Wars. 
I Googled it. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Charlie Says...

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

Starting in the mid-19th century United States, newspaper street vendors would shout "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" when selling newspapers. This became a catchphrase often used to introduce events into a narrative in films.

When I was growing up, "Reading Is Fundamental" was a very popular catchphrase. Instilling a love of reading early gives a child a head start on expanding their vocabulary and building independence and self-confidence. It helps children learn to make sense not only of the world around them but also people, building social-emotional skills and of course, imagination. 

Why is reading good for you? Reading is good for you because it improves your focus, memory, empathy, and communication skills. It can reduce stress, improve your mental health, and help you live longer. Reading also allows you to learn new things to help you succeed in your work and relationships. 

Reading is important because it develops your mind and gives you excessive knowledge and lessons of life. It helps you understand the world around you better. It keeps your mind active and enhances your creative ability. Also, reading improves your vocabulary and develops your communication skills.

My Sunday Blog today is in memory of one of my heroes, Charlie Munger, who passed away this week.

"I think a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time."

"You should never, when faced with one unbelievable tragedy, let one tragedy increase into two or three because of a failure of will."

"Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Systematically you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. Nevertheless, you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day – if you live long enough – most people get what they deserve."

"It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent." 

"Take a simple idea, and take it seriously." 

"I see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help." 

"I didn't get to where I am by going after mediocre opportunities." 

"I want to think about things where I have an advantage over others. I don't want to play a game where people have an advantage over me. I don't play in a game where other people are wise and I am stupid. I look for a game where I am wise, and they are stupid. And believe me, it works better. God bless our stupid competitors. They make us rich." 

And finally:

"I am not smart enough to make decisions with no time to think. I make actual decisions very rapidly, but that's because I have spent so much time preparing ourselves by quietly reading."

— Charlie Munger

Ah yes, reading

In his 50s, after a failed eye cataract surgery that rendered his left eye blind, Munger had his left eye removed due to severe pain. When doctors told him that he had developed a condition that may cause his remaining eye to fill up with blood and become blind too, Munger started taking braille lessons. The eye condition eventually receded and he kept eyesight in his right eye for the rest of his life. To one of the most wealthy men in the world - his most precious thing in his life - much more than money - was reading

For years, I ran which was bought by the Distance Learning Association in 2010. Since 2012 we have been advocates of Distance Learning becoming DIGITAL Learning, and now, we feel it is all just DIGITAL LIVING. It only hit me last week, that reading is the key to education - reading is the key to lifelong learning. 

Reading is the key to quality of life. 

This month, we launched our partnership with Perlego making their online library of books, academic texts and tools (trusted by students worldwide) a value-added member benefit of the DLA. The idea for Perlego was born when the founders were struggling with the cost of textbooks as students. From that first search for a more affordable alternative, Perlego has grown into a business that is breaking down the barriers to education for students globally.

Ah yes. Unlimited access to millions of textbooks. Read from anywhere, on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Helping another human being to know more, to do more, to be more. 

I think that good ol' Charlie Munger would approve. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Slightly Blackened Sunday

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

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869. Two notoriously ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, hoping to drive the price sky-high and sell it for astonishing profits. On that Friday in September, the conspiracy finally unraveled, sending the stock market into free-fall and bankrupting everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers.

The most commonly repeated story behind the Thanksgiving shopping-related Black Friday tradition links it to retailers. As the story goes, after an entire year of operating at a loss (“in the red”) stores would supposedly earn a profit (“went into the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving, because holiday shoppers blew so much money on discounted merchandise. Though it’s true that retail companies used to record losses in red and profits in black when doing their accounting, this version of Black Friday’s origin is the officially sanctioned—but inaccurate—story behind the tradition.

The real history behind Black Friday, however, is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Not only were Philly cops not able to take the day off, but they had to work extra-long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic. Shoplifters also took advantage of the bedlam in stores and made off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache.

By 1961, “Black Friday” had caught on in Philadelphia, to the extent that the city’s merchants and boosters tried unsuccessfully to change it to “Big Friday” in order to remove the negative connotations. The term didn’t spread to the rest of the country until much later, however, and as recently as 1985 it wasn’t in common use nationwide. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the “red to black” concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America’s stores finally turned a profit. 

The Black Friday story stuck, and pretty soon the term’s darker roots in Philadelphia were largely forgotten. Since then, the one-day sales bonanza has morphed into a four-day event, and spawned other “retail holidays” such as Small Business Saturday/Sunday and Cyber Monday. Stores started opening earlier and earlier on that Friday, and now the most dedicated shoppers can head out right after their Thanksgiving meal.

OK, the above AI generated History Lesson of Black Friday is now over. Did you buy anything on Black Friday? Did you watch the Amazon Prime NFL Black Friday game, full of QR codes? How many Black Friday Deals have now been EXTENDED, making the sense of urgency to spend $$$ on THAT DAY and at THAT TIME moot?

What is the opposite of Black Friday?

In North America, the United Kingdom, Finland and Sweden, Buy Nothing Day is held the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, concurrent with Black Friday; elsewhere, it is held the following day, which is the last Saturday in November. How about the Buy Nothing Coat Exchange: Four states, including Utah, hold winter coat exchange programs as an alternative to Black Friday shopping.

I write this Sunday Blog sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Cyber Monday is a marketing term for e-commerce transactions on the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States. It was created by retailers to encourage people to shop online. The term was coined by Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation and Scott Silverman, and made its debut on November 28, 2005, in a press release entitled "'Cyber Monday' Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year". Cyber Monday takes place the Monday after Thanksgiving; the date falls between November 26 and December 2, depending on the year.

Cyber Monday has become the online equivalent to Black Friday and offers a way for smaller retail websites to compete with larger chains. Since its inception, it has become an international marketing term used by online retailers around the world.

It was not too many years ago, that my two sons would go to Best Buy on Black Friday at the crack of dawn (with my credit card) and I would say "Bring back something good!" And then, it became "We're off to Best Buy..." ON THANKSGIVING DAY, right after the Pumpkin Pie was served. 

Well, whatever "Holiday" you celebrate (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, EXTENDED BLACK FRIDAY...) my only tip to you is this: never buy the extended warranty. That's for chumps. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Would you like fries with that 5G?

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

McDonald's sold its 100 millionth burger in 1958 and surpassed 400 million two years later. It hit 700 million burgers by 1962, and the billionth burger was served in 1963 on the Art Linkletter TV show.

When did McDonald's change from millions to billions?

“Over 99 Billion Sold.” That's been McDonald's line since April 1994, when it stopped updating the number. History Of The Number: Ray Kroc Began posting the number of total hamburgers sold on their signs in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought his first McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines Illinois. At that time the number on the sign was Over 1 Million Served.

McDonald's Sign Milestones

1955 - 1 million (Ray Kroc's first McDonald's opens in Illinois)

1956 - 5 million

1960 - 400 million

1963 - 1 Billion (served by Ray Kroc himself on National TV)

1969 - 5 Billion

1976 - 20 Billion

1984 - 50 Billion

1987 - 65 Billion

1990 - 80 Billion

April 15, 1994 - 100 Billion! McDonald's executives announced at the annual owner operator convention that they stopped counting hamburgers served because the count has surpassed the 99 Billion Hamburger mark so all the operators should change their signs to say "BILLIONS AND BILLIONS SERVED" and the signs have remained that way since.

Where you going with this Tom?

Today, it's estimated that McDonald's has served billions and billions of burgers, with the Wall Street Journal estimating the chain sold its 300 billionth burger around 2013. USA Today reported that the company sold roughly 75 burgers every second in 2013, or 4,500 burgers every minute. It is now believed to be triple that number, over 200 burgers every second. 

The "billions served" number became so big, that it lost its power. It went from being newsworthy, it went from making it entertaining enough to be announced on National TV, to just not even mentioning it at all. Yeah, 300 billionth in 2013, whatever. The number got so big, so fast, that it is not even worth using in marketing or in advertising. 

OK, Google: how many people are born a day?

385,000 babies.

The UN estimates that around 385,000 babies are born each day around the world (140 million a year). This number will remain relatively stable in the 50 years from 2020 to 2070. From 2070 to 2100, the number will decline to around 356,000 (130 million a year). Death is an inevitable part of life, and it occurs all around the world every day. The global number of deaths per day is around 150,000 deaths. 

Of the people who die each day across the globe, about two thirds (100,000 per day) die of age-related causes. In industrialized nations, the proportion is much higher, reaching 90%.

So, I am no math major, but it seems pretty obvious that there are way more births than deaths around the world, every day. And people are living longer. And people are reading less. Did you know that 1 in 8 adults are illiterate?

According to shocking figures from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), around 774 million people worldwide are illiterate. To many of us, these statistics may be surprising. But more than one in eight adults across the globe are unable to read and write!

Do we take literacy for granted?

What would your life be like if you couldn’t read or write? Would you have been able to get your current job? Or even any job? Living in a country where school attendance is mandatory and adult illiteracy is rare, we’ve probably never considered what our lives would be like if we couldn’t read or write.

For someone who is illiterate and living in poverty, it is extremely difficult to get a job that pays well enough to escape these living conditions. However, learning to read and write can open up job opportunities and help to get people away from poverty.

Without literacy, many people are stuck in dead end jobs which barely support them financially. These jobs offer no area for progression and only add to the levels of poverty in any given country. But, learning to read and write and thriving on the opportunities it can provide can help individuals get better jobs and earn enough money to improve their lives.

What about COMPUTER literacy? What about the world we all live in - now - with Audible books, and social media, and YouTube videos, and AI that now does the reading and the research FOR US? How long will it be before AI replaces (or partners with) our LIVE human teachers in High School, College, even in our Medical Schools? Or Engineering Schools?  

The big buzz in the world today is all about AI and how AI is going to change everything. From anywhere in the world. North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe. High Speed Wireless Internet will (one day) connect the world, truly, from anywhere - to anywhere. We are already saying how "AI is not going to take your job, but someone who has MASTERED AI will take your job." Again, from ANYWHERE in the world. 

OK, land the plane, Tom...

Just how McDonald's used to BRAG on the millions and millions (and then) billions and billions served - the number became so big, so fast, that it lost its marketing power. The number became so big, so fast, it went from being impressive to ordinary. The number became so big, it became "normal". 

Because I have super fast wireless Internet at my home, I can see on that net population growth today is 50,529. Make that 50,553. No make that 50,595.... Well, you get the point. 

I run the Distance Learning Association. Born in New York City 100 years ago (pre-Internet) we are now active with thriving chapters in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. All in less than 100 years. 

And as we watched Distance Learning morphing into DIGITAL Learning, today it's all just DIGITAL LIVING. Just like McDonald's we are quickly getting to the point where the BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of global Internet Users "served" is now so obvious, that we don't even say the actual number out loud.  

Ah yes, the number of global Internet Users is growing so big so fast, it went from being impressive to ordinary

Normal, even.

^^^ check it out ^^^
[ Snapshot at 6:54 AM EST 11/12/2023 ]

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Word of the Day

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

I love the Word of the Day. No matter what I am doing, no matter where I am in the world, this little "boop" into my inbox makes me pause, and stop and read. What It Means... did you ever stop to think how clean and crisp and clear such a short sentence could be?

What it means... did you already know? Was this a word that you were already familiar with - or did you just - LEARN something new?

I write this Sunday Blog in November, 2023. I've been in business since 1983, but always in and around telecom or technology. Before there was the Internet, before there was smartphones, before there was anything like Ecommerce or "the cloud" or anything remote, there was wireless. The closest thing to "remote" back then was someone carrying a beeper - there were no cellular phones until NYNEX went LIVE in the New York CGSA. Chicago was "the first" in 1983, with AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) but the New York Metro region was the first release of commercial cellular service. And I was there, selling Car Phones in 1983.

Yes, in 1978 and 1979, AT&T tested the first major public cellular network coined AMPS. But Martin Cooper of Motorola made the first call. 

The first handheld cellular phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper from Sixth Avenue in New York while walking between 53rd and 54th streets. Cooper hoisted the 2 1/2-pound prototype to his ear and called a rival, Joel Engel of Bell Laboratories at AT&T, to declare that his Motorola team had devised a functional portable phone. “There was silence at the other end of the line,” Cooper recalled. “To this day, Joel doesn’t remember that call, and I’m not sure I blame him.”


In 1983 I found myself walking the streets of New York City, SELLING cellular phones and service. And now in 2023 I find myself walking the streets of New York City, selling Distance Learning. Well actually selling DIGITAL Learning. Ah, let's make that DIGITAL LIVING

In the 80s that clunky “shoe” phone (almost as big as a shoebox) allowed a user to talk for 35 minutes and required 10 hours to recharge. Motorola spent 10 years overcoming technical and regulatory hurdles, and began commercial service in 1983 using a slimmer 16-ounce model that cost between $3,500 and $4,000. Yes, the early phones were too big and expensive to suit most consumers, but they set a precedent for today’s sleek and lightweight models that have become standard equipment for just about everybody.

The ability to deliver Broadband - High Speed WIRELESS Internet to anywhere in the world has changed the world. FROM ANY TIME ZONE, from any latitude and longitude you can learn, work, play, teach, train, coach, mentor as if you are LIVING in New York City. Technically, Distance Learning has been around since the phonograph. But now, today, 5G (high speed wireless Internet) has changed the world. 

Many (many) years ago, the New York Metro Distance Learning Association ( serviced the 5 boroughs of New York City. It expanded to cover the 55M+ people living in the "New York Megalopolis" (Maine to Virginia) as Broadband Internet in the Northeast region of the USA became affordable. During COVID, it once again expanded to cover all of North America, the home of 579M+ people.  Ah, but now 5G is available anywhere in the world


There are 1.4B+ people living in Africa, and around 4.5B+ people are living in Asia. And only 742M+ living in Europe (according to Google).  Ha, only 742M+ 

Distance Learning indeed became DIGITAL Learning, but it is truly now just DIGITAL LIVING. Home, work (and school) is now "where the Wi-Fi is". And thanks to 5G (and I'm sure 6G is coming soon...) anyone from anywhere can "be" in The Big Apple - just like Martin Cooper. Check out - from Africa. 

Ah yes, High Speed Wireless Internet is indeed a requisite for all of us - and I mean ALL OF US on planet earth. 

Oh, and don't even get me started on AI... 

The first handheld cellular phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper from Sixth Avenue in New York while walking between 53rd and 54th streets. 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Try the veal

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

Did your friends laugh at your joke? You could close with, “thank you, folks, try the veal.” The expression “try the veal” is similar to “that’s all, folks!” It’s a way of closing a joke or a comedy set. It’s similar to the saying “been there, done that.”

The phrase has nothing to do with eating veal. It’s a way of telling a crowd of people that you’re finished telling a joke, and they should take their attention away from you to other things in the room or venue.

You can use the phrase “try the veal” as a concluding statement after saying something funny. Comics will use the saying as a closing statement after they finish their act. The phrase suits social use. For instance, if you crack a joke that makes people laugh, you could say, “thanks, folks, you’re too kind. I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”

Around 10 years ago, I was invited (gifted) a dinner at Rao's in NYC. I heard of it, but at the time, I did not KNOW the deal - with the veal - at Rao's. 

So, my favorite show, Billions has now officially ended. In case you didn't see it, I don't want to ruin it, but there is a major scene where Axe pulls out all the stops with a private dinner at Rao's. 

Rao's is famous for not being able to get a table. Like, ever. 

Going from memory (I think it was 2013) I noticed how bright the place was. It may be the brightest fine-dining establishment I've ever been to. The second thing I noticed was Christmas decorations (I was told they stay up year-round). Every chair at every table was full. The bar was crowded. An older man called me over, and motioned to suggest we sit at the two stools open next to him. My oldest son was with me that day. 

"What's your name, and whose table are you at?" he asked. (The tables, as I knew, are all "owned" by regulars who come themselves, invite friends, or donate the table to charity auctions where just the reservation regularly sells for thousands). 

"Capone, I said. Tom Sr. and Jr." 

CAPONE!!! Our special guest! And with that, everyone looked our way... 

The man asked if this was our first time at Rao's. "Yes, but I've been eating Rao's tomato sauce since I was a kid." I knew that would make him smile. 

"The sauce has done well for us," he said. It became clear that this was Frank Pellegrino, one of the owners (aka "Frankie No" because he declines 99% of the requests for reservations). He said he's there every weeknight (Rao's is closed on Saturday and Sunday) except when he's on the West Coast visiting Rao's locations in Las Vegas and Hollywood, which his son manages.

I asked about the reservation policy. Frank said he started assigning tables to steady customers after a three-star review from the New York Times made it nearly impossible to deal with demand.

"The tables are 'owned' by regulars and no one gives them up. Every few months I see all of my clients. And now I am serving their children and grandchildren." Turns out that every table has been booked every night for the past 38 years. 

So how does someone get a table?

"That first table there, they gave their table to this group at the bar. These guys are all executives from (a very BIG Co., can't name them here). If you have a table, you can give it to your friends, your business associates, or to a charity auction (like mine). I never know who's coming in. That's what makes it wonderful. It's serendipity. There's no grand design or plan. The only caveat is if you're not going to use your table and no one else is going to use that table, that's when you call me."

I think that Frank was chatty that day, because I was with my son. And, the name "Capone" helped break the ice. My son and I had the Veal Marsala, but I made sure to not really explain to my son where Veal actually comes from. 

And so, in Season 7, Episode 11 of the TV show Billions Bobby Axelrod takes an influential politician to Rao's for dinner. And watching that show, I was transported back in time to (2013?) with my son, and having the best veal in the city. 

2023: Two months ago, Campbell Soup Company, the iconic canned soup maker, announced it was acquiring Sovos Brands, the company that makes Rao’s sauces, for $2.7 billion. 

Rao's (pronounced ray-ohs) is an Italian-American restaurant founded in 1896. It is located at 455 East 114th Street, on the corner of Pleasant Avenue in East Harlem, New York City. The restaurant was started in 1896 by Joshua Anthony Rao, who moved with his parents from Italy to the United States. He bought a small shop in Italian Harlem, once a very large Italian-American community, and ran the restaurant until his death in 1909. Louis Rao took over the business. 

As I write this Sunday's blog, it hit me that from nothing - Rao's became a billion dollar brand. Frank Pellegrino Sr., a sometime actor and the unflappable gatekeeper of Rao’s, died in 2017. He was 72. I'll never forget how he treated me and my son that day. I admit that at the time, I did not realize where we were, or what we were experiencing. I have never been back to Rao's, and I did not even think about Rao's until Season 7, Episode 11 of Billions. Now I cannot stop thinking about - Rao's the brand. 

A brand so strong, that it was bought for $2.7 billion. A brand so strong that it made it to be highlighted on TV's Billions, where billionaire Bobby Axelrod "buys out" the joint for the night, just to impress someone. Where does a man worth billions take someone to impress them?

Well, you take them to Joshua Anthony Rao's in East Harlem, of course. 

Try the veal.

Rao's sauces, which originated at the exclusive East Harlem Italian restaurant, had sales of $580 million in 2022, largely through Costco and Walmart, and sales have already climbed more than 33% this year so far.