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May 2017

More on Technology

Peter and I spent Wednesday at MIT, two unlikely attendees at a symposium for CIO’s (Chief Information Officers). I am not sure why we qualified for an invite, but in our endless attempt to stay relevant in an ever-changing technological world, we couldn’t resist.

Here are some take-aways:

  1. Everyone needs to know how to code. (That leaves me out for sure.) This may change because soon machines will be able to program themselves.
  2. But machines will not be able to do the creative stuff. That means we need to give children more time to learn to be creative, both in and out of school.  Finland is a good example of a country that does that.
  3. Because people are going to live longer, they will have to stay employed longer to save enough for their retirement years. Should we work fewer hours so that there are jobs for a growing workforce? Maybe the Europeans have the right idea with their generous vacation policies.
  4. Jobs of the future will be different. How should we prepare?
  5. Machines can do much of the research and analysis that lawyers and other professionals have traditionally done. Think twice before you encourage your grandchildren to go to law school.
  6. Somewhere between 80 and100% of our workforce will have to “up their games”. That means they will need to be able to assume different roles in their organization. They should try to learn something new or volunteer to work with different teams to stay relevant and flexible.

My take-away is that we sure had it easy.


Our son Seth attended his twentieth Harvard Kennedy School reunion last weekend. Since his mother worked there for a third of a century, she was particularly pleased that he decided to go.

On Friday afternoon, I dropped him off for the first reunion event. The next morning he reported a good turnout of his class of ’97. Because I had helped many of them plan their futures, I was eager for updates. What I didn’t expect was that some of them would “demand” that I make an appearance at the reunion the next day.

So I did.

Although it’s been almost four years since I retired, returning to school still feels like going home to me. When I walked into the classroom in which his graduating class had gathered for lunch, his classmates treated me like a rock star. It was thrilling to hear about the accomplishments of these now middle-aged “kids” who twenty years earlier had committed to careers in public service.

I didn’t stay long because they were there to see each other, not me. But I did drop by another group that had graduated thirty years ago and that I had been especially close to. When I joined them, they were going around the room taking turns talking to their classmates about what they had done since they graduated. Before she talked about what she had done to introduce herself, the next person noted that Judy Kugel had just walked into the room. Everyone turned around and I saw a sea of smiles.

I didn’t stay long there either. As I made my way out, I was overcome with emotion because so many of “my” students who graduated committed to make the world a better place had done so. I am so proud to have played a small role in their success.

Technology Report

I wasn’t just trying to resolve the conflict in Syria in my learning-in- retirement program this term. Just as interesting, and a little scary, was my class on the future of technology. Led by two tech pioneers who worked together forty years ago, we grappled with where we are and where we are going with technology.

The most obvious observation is that we ain’t seen nothing yet. My smart phone has the power of the room-sized computers of my mid-career years, and my guess is I won’t have to charge it every night for much longer. We don’t have much privacy now, and we’ll have to fight to keep what we have. A member of our group showed us that, if you have a G-mail account and go to, a map will show you where you have been, not just today, but since the time you got the account, unless you’ve disabled it (or don’t have a smart phone to follow your whereabouts).

If you wonder why the sneakers you looked at, but didn’t buy, on Zappos, appear in your Facebook feed, it’s because Zappos paid $1.00 to have it put there. One dollar isn’t a lot, but if they do it for everyone that visited their site and clicked on a product, that’s a lot of advertising revenue for Facebook or for the middle man who placed it there.

We no longer have to type odd numbers and letters to prove “we are not a robot”. Technology has us doing that with one click.

“Stitching” is a technology that allows you to combine photos of a mass event like the Woman’s March in January, taken by several cameras, into one picture so that a viewer can focus in on a single person in an audience of 100,000 or more to see who was there.

All of these things are now, but what about the future? What about our grandchildren? Will they be disease-free because we can check their genes before they are conceived? Will their success depend on knowing technology or will they be able to succeed with a humanities degree? Will robots replace healthcare workers? Can you love a robot?

I was glad to be able to use my Find Friends app to locate Peter when he was late for dinner the other night. Because it showed him just a block or two away, I didn’t have to worry. On the other hand…

Dinner Parties

Remember dinner parties in the 70’s? Or should I say remember how we dressed for dinner parties in the olden days? I remember a red plaid, floor-length, sleeveless dress that I loved to wear to dinner parties. It was very form-fitting. (Not to mention that I actually made it myself.)

In a box somewhere in our attic is a picture of Peter and me, he in a, dress shirt, tie, blazer and slacks; me in the above-mentioned dress in front of our fireplace in the early 70’s. 1970’s that is.

This week, good friends came for dinner. Andy wore shorts and a collared t-shirt. His wife Ruth was dressed in a similarly casual way. I put on a fresh t-shirt, and Peter was in the same casual clothes he had worn to a meeting earlier in the day. They brought their dog.

As in the 70’s, we used our good china and crystal, and I fussed a bit more than I would have if there had just been the two of us.

We sat around the table talking until the candles burned down. No hurry. No baby sitter to get home for.

Body Update

It’s been a while since I updated my body deterioration report. I was pretty happy with how things were going until I decided last fall that I needed a new photo to identify myself on various media. So at Thanksgiving, I asked Seth to take some “portrait” pictures. I wasn’t thrilled with them, but on Facebook and G-mail, the photos are so small it doesn’t really matter.

But recently I needed a bigger photo, and Peter agreed to snap a few shots. He made a good effort, but was unable to produce a wrinkle-free image for me. In fact, I had to run upstairs and look in my 5x mirror to confirm what I saw in his photos. As my kids would point out, I am no spring chicken. But why do so many extra lines appear when I smile?

As for my posture, I’m trying harder—at least while I’m thinking about it. Why is it so hard to stand up straight? Why do I have to concentrate on it? Why isn’t it just natural?

And then there’s sleeping. I am not an insomniac, but I sure don’t sleep like I used to. I haven’t slept past 9:00 a.m. in years and now, sleeping until 7:30 is an accomplishment. Making it to 7:30 without being up during the night is even better. Both are rare.

Sometimes I think that my all-natural left knee is so envious of its partner’s youth that it starts aching, but it usually perks back up. I really don’t want to replace that one. And then there’s that recent pulled muscle in my shoulder. (Is that all it is?)

On the upside my blood work shows that my Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia is stable.

So that’s my body today. Not as good as yesterday, but probably better than tomorrow. Aren’t you glad you asked?

Family Get-Together

Earlier this month, our elder son Seth joined us in Maryland for a weekend visit with our younger son Jeremy, his wife Katrina and their boys. Our grandsons, Leo, age 13, and Grady, age 10, are taller than they were when we saw them in February. There is no conversation that they don’t “get,” and they now can be left by themselves when their parents go out.

They have more household responsibilities than our kids did. (Where did we go wrong?). Their schedule of sports practices, and lessons and parties is a bit mind-boggling. The amount of food they consume makes me think that I should start stocking up for Thanksgiving now.

We went to their soccer games, probably my favorite activity. Late Saturday afternoon, Jeremy and Leo carried a sofa they no longer needed about three blocks to its new home with an elderly neighbor.   Katrina and I followed in the car with its pillows. The grateful neighbor told me that our kids and grandkids are lovely.

She's right.

School's Out

On Tuesday my last spring semester class on “Resolving the Crisis in Syria” came to an end. For twelve weeks, I and fourteen classmates in our lifelong learning program had sought a way to end the complicated war in Syria.

In the first six weeks, we studied the issues—Jihadism, Oil, Sunni-Shia Sectarianism, U.S.-Russian Relations and Kurdistan and Turkey. In the second six weeks, we each took on a role in the drama—Erdogan, Putin, Khameni, Assad, Trump, Baghdadi, etc. With my German last name, I was a natural for the role of Angela Merkel.

We each gave reports on our country’s relations with the others and its stake in the conflict. In the last two classes, we tried to work out a solution.

We had some good ideas about a path to peace and believe there is a good chance that the fighting will end in the next few months. But I can’t say for sure.

What I can say is that I have never been so engaged in a class. I subscribed to “Google Alerts” and read every article in which “Merkel” and “Syria” appeared together. Although I never learned the real names of my classmates, when I see them in the hall, they are Putin or Trump or Erdogan.

Und ich bin Angela.


This week I’ve been wondering…

Where did our favorite kitchen knife go? Its 8-inch blade was perfect for almost everything. It’s been in the same slot of our kitchen knife holder for more than twenty years. Last week it was gone. Today it’s still gone.

Why did the Brooks Brothers’ coupon for $25 off on a $100 purchase arrive in the mail the day after Peter bought a $100 pair of khakis at Brooks Brothers?

Why did our Uber driver’s GPS think we were on the other side of the thoroughfare when we were running late for an appointment?

I’ve also been wondering why I am wondering…


P.S. Here’s a link to Part II of our interview with Amigo Gringo just in case you’d like to see it: