We Can End War. Here’s How

We Can End War. Here’s How

On September 21, 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan addressed the United Nations General Assembly with a message about world peace. I was seventeen years old and we were on the brink of nuclear war. That threat came to an end when the United States and Russia found common ground. We all love our children. We’ve lived through two world wars, where each atrocity was only matched by the next, and nuclear annihilation was a reality. And this simple principle kept strangers from killing one another. Here is my favorite excerpt of his speech:

“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union respectively, were able to hash out in three days in December of 1987 what some civilizations could not solve in centuries of conflict. It has brought me to tears to think of what was accomplished by these two men. And it should you too.

Peace Begins At Home

I have family members who don’t speak to one another as a result of grudges that have been passed on from my parents’ generation to mine, then onto the next. Petty sibling rivalries that began in the 1980’s by a bunch of thirty-somethings have extended two more generations. No kidding. My siblings and cousins continue to hold grudges fueled by misguided loyalties rooted in comically ridiculous squabbles.

You’ve heard that ‘Seinfeld’ is a show about nothing? My family’s feud is about less than nothing. Grandma died without a penny to her name, and people were fighting over her junk. One sibling said the wrong thing at the wrong time at a family gathering. Somebody else worked for family and the boss/employee relationship soured things. These are all things that don’t matter in the big picture. Each member has a different account of any one of a dozen incidents that have transpired over a period of thirty years, but none of them warrant the hate and indifference that have developed and festered.

I’m not here to indict my family, whom I love dearly, but quite the opposite. My family is every family. Not one single difference that transpires between family members (barring rare cases of molestation, murder, or grand theft) should form a rift between you and a family member. If you love your children, I recommend you raise them in a world where people don’t hate one another. Not over grandma’s junk. Not over political ideology. Not over nuthin’.

Dr. Seuss For the Win

One of my favorite stories from childhood was ‘The Sneetches’ by Dr.Seuss. While everyone else gushed over the wisdom of ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ (as great as it was), it was just a story about trying food. “The Sneetches”, however, was about living peacefully with your fellow man. This appealed to me then and it still appeals to me now. In case you’re not familiar, “The Sneetches” is the story of a society comprised of fictional beings called ‘Sneetches’. Some sneetches had stars on their bellies and some did not. The star-bellied sneetches experienced luxuries that the ones without stars did not. Besides the star, there was no significant difference between sneetches. However, that did not stop generations of sneetches from excluding one another from prosperity, peace and harmony. Until a traveling salesman came into town named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and he possessed a star-making machine that could add or remove from any sneetch that wishes. The story ends with so many sneetches running themselves through the machine that, after a while, no sneetch could remember what their differences actually were. At the end of the story, McBean packed up his machine and left town. When I was younger, I saw him as the villain because he rfited the their discourse. But now, it has become clear that he was the, in fact, hero of the fable. Yes, he profited from these fools. But he used good old capitalism to level the playing field and teach a valuable life lesson: we are all the same.

Real Life Application

After the Cold War, in the 1990’s, the former Yugoslavia split up into several territories, all claiming their independence. One leader called for a period of ‘ethnic cleansing’ where believers of a minority religion would be slaughtered. Others merely shunned citizens of fellow citizens. territories, although they were once brothers and sisters. On a personal note, my father-in -law escaped communist Yugoslavia in 1960 and settled in Canada. The friends he had when we arrived, to him, were all ‘Yugoslavs’. Even during the turmoil in their homeland, they were all still countrymen. Even fifty years later, their personal relationships were not affected. No matter what the politics back home looked like. In 1998 NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) translated “The Sneetches” into Serbo-Croatian and distributed a half a million copies to children in that region.  Wow! Now, that is a start.

The lesson is… no matter what happened with grandma’s junk… no matter who owes Uncle Reggie $500 bucks… and no matter what dipshit in Washington you voted for… “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.

Stain on blog from Rob's coffee cup

Yes and…. How Improv Teaches Loyalty

Yes and…. How Improv Teaches Loyalty

In our 20’s, my wife took improv classes at a really cool studio on Fairfax in Los Angeles right next to the famous Canter’s deli. Her comedy troupe “Mama Likes it” headlined there Friday nights for almost a year and I was always in the front row and stood proud watching Wifey be funny, along with her talented colleagues. I learned from her training is that rule #1 in improv is to never, ever resist your partner’s suggestion. In other words, no matter what is said, your response needs to reflect the sentiment of “Yes, and…” To summarize, improv training teaches individuals to trust one another and to follow along, no matter where it may take you. And, yes, no matter the cost. Trust your partner. I took this as advice for life and have never deviated. Continue reading

How a Change in Routine Can Bring you Peace

How a Change in Routine Can Bring you Peace

It’s Monday night. New Year’s Eve. Work was good. But I’m in this funk that I can’t seem to shake. I really hope I can get myself out of this emotional rabbit hole in 2019. I’m at home lounging in my sweat shorts and tee shirt with Chauncey by my side. Chauncey is a White West Highland Terrier, a little larger than the norm. According to the American Kennel Club’s snooty standards, he should be between fifteen to twenty pounds. He’s a solid thirty but not chubby at all, just a big ol’ farm boy bred in Arkansas. I’m watching the latest popular true crime docuseries streaming on television. Continue reading

How I Learned a Great Business Lesson From Wesley Snipes

How I Learned a Great Business Lesson From Wesley Snipes

When I was freshly-landed in Hollywood and enamored by a number of my screen legend heroes, one of them was Wesley Snipes. At that time, he had been on a hot streak with hits like Major League, Mo’ Better Blues, Demolition Man, and Passenger 57. When his next film, Drop Zone, came out, I was living two blocks away from the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. On opening night, back in 1994, I made sure I was there. The plot of Drop Zone was simple and fun. Wesley Snipes and company needed to parachute into a fortress that could not be infiltrated by land or any other means. Continue reading

The Real Truth About Suicide

The Real Truth About Suicide

Suicide can happen to anyone. Especially on the worst day of a person’s life. Experts, pundits, and all others who want to pretend that it is something that only happens to ‘other people’ say that there is a sickness or syndrome that causes a person to clock out. The truth… the real truth… is that the same person who made this claim is probably one step from the act themselves (now or in the past), but decided to mask it out of shame or superiority. I’m here to tell you that you need not feel shame about contemplating suicide, nor sympathizing for friends or family members who have decided to commit this ultimate act. Of course it is not a choice to aspire to make, or to be happy of the outcome. However, understanding the choice and sympathizing for those who consider or commit this act is most important to our humanity. Continue reading

Bad Funny vs. Funny: What’s the Difference?

Bad Funny vs. Funny: What’s the Difference?

In the early nineties I drove from New Jersey to Los Angeles by myself in order to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and screenwriting. I performed my stand-up routine about a hundred times, wrote two screenplays, and produced a well-received short film called “Spytown”. During that time, I also pursued a career in the family business: private investigations. Turns out, I found myself making a lot more money catching bad guys than making people laugh. So now, fast forward more than two decades, I’m the CEO of a successful private investigation firm and still have the bug for being an entertainer. In addition to developing a few writing projects while running my company, I’m also in the Los Angeles comedy scene performing the occasional stand-up spot. Continue reading

Reputation Management Lessons From Roseanne

Reputation Management Lessons From Roseanne

There are very few things more important to a company than reputation management and Roseanne Barr has inadvertently helped rewrite the handbook. I was in my early adulthood when Roseanne’s ground-breaking television show was in its prime. In its original nine year run, “Roseanne” led the charge in advocating homosexuality. Not only was “Roseanne” the first show to feature prominent homosexual characters, but she backed it up by stating that her two real-life siblings are gay. As ground-breaking and inclusive as the show was, I never cared for it. Continue reading

Why Reggie Jackson Matters Now More Than Ever

Why Reggie Jackson Matters Now More Than Ever

Growing up as a kid in Southern New Jersey in the late-1970’s and early 1980’s, I was exposed to some of the coolest athletes of all time through the local television stations in Philadelphia and New York.  I remember being in the grocery line while food shopping with my mother and, as any child, I was looking at the candy section by the cash register when I spotted the greatest candy bar of all time. Chocolate covered caramel and peanuts in an orange wrapper bearing the name and likeness of five-time World Series Champ and two-time World Series MVP Reggie Jackson. Still to this day, the Reggie Bar is the best candy bar I’ve ever had. Not just because those ingredients are the perfect combination of snackdom, but because Reggie Jackson was the first, and (in my opinion) only, personality in that era that transcended sports. One Sunday afternoon a pre-adolescent me was watching the kid’s television show The Baseball Bunch featuring the San Diego chicken. Continue reading

Farewell, My Friend

Farewell, My Friend

In 2004, I was thirty-three years old and just lost my father to suicide. That next year, I went through a period where I was trying to find myself and, in doing so, made a pilgrimage to visit my grandparents and other family who moved to Florida in recent years. I reconnected with my mom’s mom and stepfather (whom I know as “Grandmom and Grandpop Peterson”), my uncle Dave Smith and his family there in Panama City, in the Florida panhandle. As my Uncle Dave put it, “This is L.A. Lower Alabama.” This trip was exactly what I needed and I was able to recharge my batteries and become centered again. I learned a lot about myself during that time. Not only did I refresh my interest in being a better man, but I also came home wanting to become a Freemason like Grandpop and Uncle Dave. During the trip, I learned that Dave was Master of his Lodge and Grandpop said becoming a Mason was the best thing he ever did. That pretty much sealed it for me. I’m going to be a Mason.  Continue reading

Warner Bros Cast Jim Carrey as Mark Zuckerberg and Didn’t Even Know It

Warner Bros Cast Jim Carrey as Mark Zuckerberg and Didn’t Even Know It

With all of the news stories being published in recent days about social media data and privacy, I cannot help but be reminded of a not-so-great, yet brilliantly prophetic, film of the 1990’s. Let me first set the table. I was twenty-four years old and had just moved to Los Angeles to become a stand-up comedian. Months earlier, when I was a busboy at a Jersey Shore bar, I was constantly barraged by drunks shouting “Fire Marshall Bill!” This was due to my uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey, referencing his recurring character in the critically-acclaimed sketch comedy show of the time “In Living Color“. My resemblance to him was not the only connection. Ever since I saw Carrey impersonate the entire cast of “My Three Sons” on Johnny Carson in 1983, I was hooked. I wanted to be him. Continue reading

Running Out of Gas

Running Out of Gas

I run out of gas often. Not figuratively, as you might expect from a post like this. Literally.  No kidding.  There is almost no thrill greater to me than seeing the fuel gauge blink for days. I believe, in life, that risk is the reward. Yes, risk is the reward, and I will stand by that. For many years I drove an SUV and had only a few days mileage on a twenty gallon tank. What a thrill! I’d run out of gas at least once a year and I’d love it.  Thanks to AAA, rescue was only thirty minutes away.  In 2007, I decided that my impact on the environment was bugging me.  I had just seen the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” and decided to stick it to big oil. Continue reading

The Problem With Hyde

The Problem With Hyde

One of the greatest reads in my entire life was Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th century novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde“.  In this, Stevenson tells the story of an attorney who is investigating the evil acts of a man who calls himself Edward Hyde.  The investigation leads him to find that Hyde is actually an alternate personality of his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll.  Since the publishing of this story, the Jekyll/Hyde concept is one of the most celebrated and imitated in all of literature.  This is because it is, in my opinion, the most relevant piece of fiction in all of sociology, psychology and criminology.  Ever. Without exception. Continue reading

Steve McQueen’s Advice About Online Threats and Leaks

Steve McQueen’s Advice About Online Threats and Leaks

I saw the classic Hollywood disaster film The Towering Inferno in my twenties, two decades after it was released.  I watched it after I read Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel by author Marshall Terrill.  In fact, after reading TerriIl’s book, I watched just about every Steve McQueen film that I had not yet seen.  One tidbit from the book that I found interesting was that McQueen and Paul Newman were such fierce competitors that it led to McQueen counting the lines in the script and demanding to one-up his rival in order to flex his new-found star power by having one more line than Newman.  Continue reading

Living by Accident: The Philosophy

Living by Accident: The Philosophy

Have you ever wondered where your next meal was coming from? Or where you’ll be sleeping next month? If you haven’t, you may not be a member of the contingent who can understand this blog. If you can’t relate, please do us both a favor and tune out now.  If you are still here, and can think as deeply as required, let me fill you in on why I believe what I do.

I was born in South Jersey in 1970 and my mother committed suicide right after my eleventh birthday. I spent more than two decades trying to make sense of it until my father does the same. I guess to follow her down. I don’t know. But all I know is that, back in 2004, I was a man in his early thirties with major issues.  Again, no pity.  Just journey. Continue reading

The Crack House Principle in Online Investigations

The Crack House Principle in Online Investigations

It should go without saying that, in every situation where a crime is taking place, it is most desirable to catch the perpetrator. Doing anything else, including merely disrupting their operation, is simply a consolation. With this in mind, I find that best practices are not always laid out properly so that professionals going into this situation know how to meet the desired end. Even though I specialize in online investigations, I come from the old school and believe that those skills are sometimes a lost art in the new world of online investigations. We will always be investigating people, not their tools. If I hear another firm tell me they are “investigating a website” I’ll pull my hair out. Continue reading

Hogwarts Should Conduct Background Checks

Hogwarts Should Conduct Background Checks

Background Checks – Who are the Slytherin anyway?  And why is Hogwarts teaching them the ancient and forbidden magic arts?  My wife is going through the process of re-watching all of the Harry Potter films.  She’s read all of the books ahead of the films, watched the films in the theater and now she has decided to see them all again.  Perhaps this is in preparation of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Besides the first one that had Gary Oldman in it, I always encouraged Wifey to take a niece or nephew to see these movies.  Mission accomplished.  Somehow, though, I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to weasel out of attending the theme park.  To quote a great song of the 1970s “The Things We Do for Love”.  10cc had it right.   Continue reading

The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence

The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence

The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence – Anyone who knows me or follows me online knows that I’m a pretty open person. I share almost everything I’m up to.  Anyone I know (or any stranger for that matter) can experience with me my lunch, thoughts on a number of odd topics, and even what I’m doing with my dog, Chauncey. In fact, right now you can click any link on the right of this page and learn a plethora of details about my exploits, both past and present.  You may say that this is bad for someone in the investigative profession. You are not alone. Overwhelmingly, security professionals of a certain level preach this concept as gospel. I’m here to tell you that, in the 21st century, “security by obscurity” is the most ludicrous method of keeping secrets. Continue reading

The Dark Web Ain’t As Dark As You Think

The Dark Web Ain’t As Dark As You Think

I have recently been asked several times by clients and colleagues about the dark web.  When I began writing this article I was still debating whether I should use capitals when addressing the dark web.  After a few thoughts, I decided that it does not warrant its own title.  The dark web is as much a proper place as a dark alley.  Before I discuss my reasoning here, I should give you all a quick synopsis of what the dark web actually is, and it isn’t what you may think.  The Internet, as we know it, is a network of millions of servers that connect to one another and, as a result, catalog one anothers’ contents.  This enables search engines like Google and Bing to index the information for free and resell it to their consumers for a profit, financed by advertisers. Continue reading

Fakes in Film: American Gangster

Fakes in Film: American Gangster

Welcome to ‘Fakes in Film’, the first in a new series of articles featuring counterfeit goods and trademark infringement featured in movies and television.  More and more, this topic is being included in pop culture and we want to be there to show it to you.  Some references will be old/retro and some will be completely new.  So here goes…

One of my favorite crime films of the last decade is Ridley Scott’s epic “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film chronicles the rise and fall of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Washington) who is pursued by the flawed hero Richie Roberts (Crowe). Continue reading

Rob’s Jobs Series: “The Seaver Method”

The Seaver MethodTom Seaver was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with a 98.8% vote on the first ballot. Even 21 years afterward, this is the highest consensus of all time. I know you’re asking, “Why does Rob Holmes, a private eye, care about a pitcher from the 70s in regard to being a private eye?” He was voted by his critics to be more qualified than anyone that came before, or after him, to be in the Hall of Fame.  Back in the 1970s, when he was at his peak performance, a reporter asked him when he decided to change pitches. His response was, “I throw the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.”  This is the best business advice I have ever received.  Still, after many years in business:

1. I develop an arsenal of weapons.
2. I decide which one is the best, then prioritize.
3. I strike the first bastard out.
4. I keep throwing the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.
5. I throw another great pitch until it doesn’t work no more either.
6. Repeat until the opponent is defeated.

In investigations, or even business, this is always the case. I’ve read books written by great businessmen like Trump, Welch, Collins and the like.  But the only thing that resonates with me is the “Seaver Method” that says sticking with what works is always the best thing to do.  No matter what the theory is… what works is all you know.  Keep at it until it don’t work no more.  Then move on to the next idea.  And so forth.

Here endeth the lesson.

Replica Handbags and Black Hat SEO

Google Gives Update on How It’s Combating PiracyAs I do in a normal day, I was patrolling the mean streets of the web looking for websites selling fakes.  On this particular day, one site came to my attention.  How does a church website with no e-commerce component show up as a top search engine result for replica handbags?  When I examined the website’s source code, I observed that there was a javascript injection placing links into their website unbeknownst to them.

Below is an example of what I observed:

     
     elementId = Math.floor(Math.random() * 10001);
     document.writeln('
‘); document.getElementById(‘block’ + elementId) .style.display=’none’; <a href=”http://xxxxxx.com/db-gestion/pmd/styles/default/images/ icons/brandname/brand-name-products.php”>brand name products</a>

Search engines rank websites based on inbound links from legitimate websites.  A javascript injection like this created invisible links to the bad guys’ website the search engines can see but the viewer cannot.  The way this is done is by finding an open doorway into a legitimate website that does not have the latest security updates.  This is an example of a black hat technique that helps increase search engine results for their illegal site.  The lesson to be learned (besides keeping your software updated) is that there are many hidden efforts behind marketing contraband products and, in turn, many clues left behind if you know where to find them.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Branch Offices for Counterfeit Luxury Goods

During one of my strolls through the dark alleys of the web I came across another interesting black hat search engine optimization technique: branch offices for counterfeit luxury goods installed within legitimate sites.  At first observation, the website I saw selling counterfeits looked like any other.  But, after a closer look, the URL appeared to be much longer than the typical domain-based URL like fakestuffseller.com.  Instead it looked like this: http://legitimatesite.com/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/ brand/boots/brand-boots.php.  I noticed an extra directory ‘/includes/‘ that looked out of place and perhaps would not be in the normal structure of this particular legitimate website.  My next step was to test my theory and delete the extra crap (/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/brand/boots/brand-boots.php) from the URL, leaving it to be simply legitimatesite.com.  As I has suspected this led me to a perfectly legitimate university website.

The two questions you are asking right now are “how?” and “why?”.  Allow me to enlighten you.  The “how” is similar to what I explained in another recent article I wrote regarding black hat search engine optimization techniques where hackers find weaknesses (like unlocked doors) in websites whose security software is not up to date.  Once that vulnerability is detected, the hacker can install thousands of his own websites within your website without your knowledge and, perhaps, for years before you even notice anything is strange.  The reason they do it is so that they can create tens of thousands of websites selling counterfeits.  Since this is done on a mass scale, the criminal is only minimally affected when your lawyer takes down poor old legitimatesite.com.  He has an unlimited supply.  Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Sincerely, neruaelle

A Guilt-Free Lifestyle

Hi-Tech P.I.

Helping people see the forest for the trees, online.

Holmes, P. I.™

Can you dig it?