Finding Joy in the Little Things

Reflecting back on today, I realized it was filled with simple moments for which I want to express my gratitude.

The day started off early, with a 7:30 appointment with a dental hygienist for my six month cleaning. Despite my best efforts to try and take good care of my teeth, the cleaning is always a little more painful than I’m hoping it will be. Today was no exception, but at least there were no cavities, I got a clean bill from the dentist, and I’m good for the next six months. The hygienist and the dentist were not only skilled at what they do, they do their job with a caring and pleasant attitude. So thank you Bryn Mawr Dental Health for making a potentially stressful experience a relatively pleasant one.

Right after the dental visit, it was off to the car dealer to get my car inspected. I always dread this annual event, since it seems like the mechanics always find something that needs to be fixed in order for the car to pass inspection. Well today they found nothing, and this was on a 2006 car with over 175,000 miles on it! So I was actually happy to pay my $72, since in years past it has been 10 to 20 times that amount. So thank you Ardmore Toyota for your honesty.

Later that morning, my youngest son and I continued our Tuesday tradition of going out for a late breakfast/early lunch. Today, since it was such a nice weather day, we decided to go into Philadelphia and have lunch at the South Street Diner.

After looking through the extensive menu carefully, I opted for the grilled veggie quesadilla, since it seemed to meet my vegan diet restrictions. When the meal arrived, the first thing I noticed was that there was cheese inside, which had not been noted on the menu. I told the waitress I did not know that it came with cheese, and that I was not able to eat it as a result. I asked if the kitchen could make me a new one without the cheese, and offered to pay for both, since it was my error. She said that was not necessary, and took my meal back with no questions asked. A few minutes later she brought out what turned out to be an incredibly tasty quesadilla.

When I got home I looked up what quesadilla meant, and here’s what Wikipedia had to say: A quesadilla is a tortilla, usually a corn tortilla but also sometimes made with a wheat tortilla, which is filled with cheese and then grilled. I’m sure the kitchen staff had to wonder what kind of customer returns a meal that is made with cheese because it has cheese. But the waitress never questioned my lack of knowledge, but treated me only with care and kindness. So thank you to the people at the South Street Diner for your friendly and professional service and for not making fun of me (at least not while I was there).

And finally, thank you to my dinner partner tonight, Chase Carey. Chase is a former MBA student of mine from the late 1980s who flew in from Atlanta to be a guest speaker in my classes tomorrow. The topic – meditation. This is the second year in a row Chase has agreed to do this, and based on the positive feedback the students provided last year, I am sure his presentation will be a hit again.

So looking back on the day, there was nothing extraordinary – a teeth cleaning, a car inspection, lunch with my son, and a dinner with a former student. But all of those activities put a smile on my face, and more importantly, afforded me the opportunity to be grateful for the  experience.

I’m sure if I paid closer attention I’d realize that every day creates such opportunities…

 

Affirmative Action, Networking, and Cognitive Dissonance

I’ve been a supporter of affirmative action for as long as I can remember.

To me it’s a question of fairness.

If a class of individuals have been historically discriminated against, then I think it’s only right that such individuals are given preference when it comes to opportunities.

When I think of affirmative action, I am not suggesting that people who are not qualified for an opportunity, such as admission to a college or a job opening, are given preference over someone who is qualified. However, if two people are qualified for a position, I do not see a problem with using the tenets of affirmative action to give preference to one individual over another.

Bill Clinton, a proponent of affirmative action, stated this idea much better than I can:

Let me be clear about what affirmative action must not mean and what I won’t allow it to be. It does not mean – and I don’t favor – the unjustified preference of the unqualified over the qualified of any race or gender. It doesn’t mean – and I don’t favor – numerical quotas. It doesn’t mean – and I don’t favor – rejection or selection of any employee or student solely on the basis of race or gender without regard to merit…

I also want to note that when I refer to affirmative action, it is not just a race-based program, but more broadly speaking one related to economic affirmative action. As the divide between the haves and the have-nots gets broader and broader, there is a growing class of individuals who are being left behind in terms of opportunities. And affirmative action programs can help such individuals.

There are a couple of key benefits associated with affirmative action.

First, there is the issue of fairness.

As President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.”

Such individuals need something that will make the race a bit more equitable, and that is providing those disadvantaged individuals the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. And affirmative action programs are one way of providing such an opportunity.

Second, there is the issue of diversity.

Affirmative action plans increase diversity, whether it is on a college campus or in the workplace. And much has been written about the value of a diversity in the classroom and in corporate America.

Colleges already offer “special admission” for athletes, since having such individuals helps bring a more diverse group of individuals to campus, as opposed to just having academic types. And athletic programs can help unite the student body, and create a strong sense of affinity with the college. Again, I believe that such athletes should meet the academic requirements for admission, and if they do, then their athletic ability can be used as part of the admission process.

So affirmative action could be viewed as just expanding such opportunities to a larger group of individuals than just athletes.

OK, time to change gears a bit.

I am also a fan of networking, and encourage my students to start building, and using, their network as soon as they can.

But sometime during the past few days I started thinking about affirmative action and networking, and it struck me that conceptually, in many ways, an argument could be made that they are quite similar.

With networking, individuals are attempting to use their connections (who they know) to get a leg up in some competition, whether that is for college admissions, an internship, or a full-time job opportunity.

I do not see a problem with this, as long as the individual is qualified for the opportunity he or she is going after. And if the person is, then go ahead and use your network to give yourself an advantage.

So with networking, a qualified individual is using his network to take (affirmative) action meant to improve his chances.

With affirmative action, an organization is taking affirmative action to improve the opportunities available to those who are qualified but historically have not had such chances.

Yet my sense is that many people who believe in the power of networking, particularly from a business perspective, are likely not fans of affirmative action.

And to me, that’s a clear case of cognitive dissonance. Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values, when performing an action that contradicts those beliefs, ideas, and values; or when confronted with new information that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas, and values.

Affirmative action and networking, broadly speaking, are trying to accomplish the same objective.

In networking, a qualified individual is trying to give himself an advantage because of who he knows, which is often a function of his background; in affirmative action, a qualified individual is hoping for an advantage because of his background as well. In either case, you’re hoping that someone will use something other than just your qualifications to offer you an opportunity.

So if you are in favor of networking, then to me it follows that you need to be in support of affirmative action as well. And when you have differing views on these two topics, it creates cognitive dissonance.

And since cognitive dissonance creates stress, people try to remove that stress by ignoring arguments that go against their world view (i.e., that there are real benefits to diversity, that there are many examples of unequal opportunity, or that affirmative action isn’t just about quotas.)

I’m not sure how well I’ve made my case here comparing affirmative action and networking. To me there’s something here, and maybe as  I give it more thought and have more discussions about it with other people, my thoughts will become clearer, and I can come back to this post and refine it over time.

Any thoughts or comments are appreciated!

Another Great Villanova Tradition – Zilly Jam

Tonight was the fourth annual Zilly Jam, a concert and fundraiser held in memory of Billy Zimmerman.

Billy was a sophomore at Villanova University, and during a spring break trip in Mexico in 2013 he was killed in a car accident that also injured four other Villanova students,

I did not know Billy, but I knew students who did, and they all noted what a special person he was. Billy was apparently well known off campus as well. A local pizza shop that Billy frequented has renamed its french fries to “zilly fries.”

Zilly Jam was created by Billy’s fraternity as a way to honor and keep his memory alive on campus through music. Money raised at the event goes to support a scholarship that was created in Billy’s name.

This year’s event included a cappella groups, a piano playing and singing duo, and two brothers rocking out on electric guitar and electric drums. The evening began with a moving rendition of Amazing Grace by the President of Villanova, Father Peter Donohue.

The night also featured the debut of a brief documentary that was put together by a fellow fraternity brother. Titled, “Live Like Billy”, it offers a beautiful, touching portrait of a young man who loved life, and was loved in return.

And here are some clips from tonight’s performances:

Congratulations to all who participated in this event. It is a wonderful way to keep Billy’s memory alive and to find some good in such a tragic event.

It also highlights why students find Villanova to be such a special place.

Fun Facts about the Tooth Fairy I Bet You Didn’t Know Existed (and a Classic Tooth Fairy Tale)

Since 1998, Delta Dental has annually conducted the Original Tooth Fairy Poll® as a fun way to gauge how generous the tiny fairy had been in the previous year.

Here is the link to the poll if you would like to participate.

According to Delta Dental’s 13th annual Tooth Fairy survey, cash payouts have soared during the past year to an all-time high average of $4.66, good for a 75-cent increase from 2015. That’s a nearly 20% increase in the value of a lost tooth.

One of the interesting comparisons that the Tooth Fairy Poll has made over the years has been tracking the changes in the value of a lost tooth with the S&P 500 stock market index.

The poll shows the Tooth Fairy’s cash payout increase is within a percentage point of the S&P 500’s, continuing the survey’s pattern of following the index’s direction for 12 of the past 13 years.

Last year, the Tooth Fairy paid about $290.6 million in the U.S. for lost teeth, a 13.5% increase from 2015. Cash payouts for a first lost tooth are up about 10% to $5.72. (First-tooth payouts are typically higher than average.)

According to the poll, the Tooth Fairy visits 85% of the nation’s households with children, and in most of those homes 89% of the children receive money. The fairy is also known to occasionally leave gifts that promote dental health, such as toothpaste or toothbrushes. (I’m glad that tooth fairy never visited my house when I was little.)

Here’s some additional fun facts:

  • Tooth Fairy payouts are highest in the West: $5.96 ($6.89 for the first tooth); followed by the Northeast at $5.08 ($6.31); the South at $4.57 ($4.88); and the Midwest at $4.04 ($5.70). I guess the West, home of Hollywood, really is the land of make believe.
  • 48% of children save their money, while 48% spend the money; 3% donate the cash, and 1% loan out their money. (What kind of kid that gets a visit from the Tooth Fairy is also lending out money?)

One of the earliest references to the tooth fairy was in a 1908 “Household Hints” item in the Chicago Daily Tribune:

Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions.

I remember getting very excited about the tooth fairy visiting our house when I was a little kid, and the tradition continued when my wife and I had our own children. I think there was quite a bit of variation in what the tooth fairy paid, and it was not a function of how the stock market was doing, but more of a function of how much loose change the tooth fairy could scrounge up.

One time we remembered about the tooth fairy in the middle of the night, and I grabbed what I thought was a dollar bill and put in under my son’s pillow. The next morning our son came running in to our room telling us that the tooth fairy had left him some money, and he stood there holding a $20 bill. My wife and I vaguely recall somehow switching the twenty for a fiver sometime that day, hoping our son would never know the difference. (Before you judge me, the stock market was not having a good year.)

But the best tooth fairy story belongs to my niece’s daughter.

Charlotte is only three years old, and has not yet lost any of her teeth. However, she was apparently so entranced by the thought of getting some cash for a tooth that she decided to try and trick the tooth fairy. She told her mom that she was going to put a little white pebble under her pillow that looked like a tooth so that the tooth fairy would leave her some money.

Well the tooth fairy never came (I think that was the day the stock market did not do very well, hmmmm….), and Charlotte was a bit disappointed (and so was I, but about the stock market).

I guess she realized that the tooth fairy was a bit smarter than perhaps she realized.

And I guess I realized that the stock market is a lot smarter than I am.

But I do hope that when Charlotte loses her first tooth that her parents pay her a small fortune; doing so could have a significant impact on my 401K for the year.

Well That Certainly Raised My Blood Pressure

Note: this is a highly personal post concerning a recent health issue, but I thought it would be helpful to some readers to offer a laymen’s perspective on the topic.

It started about four weeks ago when I noticed a very small amount of blood in my urine (don’t say I didn’t warn you about this being very personal…).

Of course, in this age of Google-based medical care, the first thing I did was search for what the possible problem might be. One of the first web sites I came to was the Mayo Clinic, which I assumed would be a trustworthy source of information. Here is what I found:

Blood in the urine is medically referred to as hematuria, and according to the Mayo Clinic, there could be several reasons for such an event, including the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney infections
  • A bladder or kidney stone
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Inherited disorders
  • Kidney injury
  • Medications
  • Strenuous exercise

And at the bottom of the list, the Mayo Clinic offered the following advice: Whatever the cause, contact your doctor right away if you see blood in your urine.

So I called my family doctor, and was able to get an appointment for the following week.

I then went back to the list, my eyes immediately drawn to the worst possible item on the list – cancer:

Visible urinary bleeding may be a sign of advanced kidney, bladder or prostate cancer. Unfortunately, you may not have signs or symptoms in the early stages, when these cancers are more treatable.

That’s certainly not something I wanted to read.

I then went a couple of days with no more incidents, so I thought it was just a one-time, freakish occurrence, and thus no reason to be concerned.

But then it happened again, and this time with more blood than the first time.

So now the panic really started to set in, and my doctor’s appointment was still a few days away.

Finally it was time to visit the doctor (no more incidents in the interim), and as usual, they took some vitals, including blood pressure. My blood pressure is usually around 115/75, but that day it was 125/85.

Anyway, the doctor did a quick exam, didn’t notice anything obvious, and suggested that I make an appointment with an urologist, which I did as soon as I got home.

While waiting for that appointment to arrive, I did some more reading on the Internet, and everything I read was just making me more and more anxious, as well as a little bit annoyed.

I kept thinking, ‘what else can I do to be healthy? I’ve been a vegan for 10 years, I eat 10 servings of fruits and veggies each day, I exercise every dayI don’t smoke, I don’t drink (alcohol or caffeine), I get enough sleep, there’s no history of this in my family, and I don’t feel too stressed out (unless I’ve got a calc test).

During my research, I read about a procedure, known as a cytoscopy, that’s often done to diagnose the cause of blood in the urine. That’s what the picture at the top of the post is showing. Basically a thin tube, with a camera on the end of it, is inserted into the urethra and checks to see how things look. The procedure is done with a local anesthetic, and it was usually described as “not painful, but uncomfortable”.

So that’s all I kept thinking about until my appointment with the urologist. When I went for that appointment, I first gave a urine sample, and then they took some vital signs. Once again my blood pressure was higher than normal; this time it was 135 over 90.

The doctor was professional and friendly, a winning combination. He said they checked the urine, and there was no blood (it had been over two weeks since I last saw blood myself). He did a quick exam, including checking my prostate (talk about uncomfortable…).

He did not see anything unusual, although he said my prostate was a bit large, which is quite common in men my age.

He said the next steps were to get a CT scan so that my kidneys could be checked, and to come back to the office for a cystoscopy.

I got the CT scan completed a few days later. This was easiest part of this whole process; I just laid on a table and they moved me back and forth underneath the scanning machine.

Finally the day I had been dreading arrived.

It was time to see the urologist again.

My blood pressure this time was a record setting (for me) 149/95. The nurse said something along the lines “a little nervous about the procedure?”

Uh, yea.

They brought me back to one of the “procedure rooms” where they do the cystoscopy. There was lots of equipment in there, and while waiting for the doctor I kept trying to figure out which one was the thin tube they were going to stick into me – none of them looked that thin to me.

The doctor then came in, and the first thing he told me was that the CT scan results came back, and my kidneys looked fine.

He then inserted some anesthetic gel into my urethra. That was perhaps the worst part of the procedure. It results in a burning sensation at first, as well as a sense of needing to urinate. After a few seconds of waiting for the anesthesia to work, the doctor then inserted the scope into my urethra.

At this point in time I tried to take my mind off what was going on and instead tried to go to a happy place ( a deserted beach for me).

I had thought he had said the actual procedure was only about 20 seconds, so I counted down the time. In reality, it was closer to two minutes, and the descriptions I had read were pretty accurate. It was an uncomfortable feeling for those two minutes, but I wouldn’t call it painful (although I hope I never have to get it done again).

After the procedure was over he told me that everything, looked fine with my bladder, and it seemed to be a case of an enlarged prostate. Since I had no other side effects often associated with an enlarged prostate, he told me there was no need to put me on any medication, and to just take a wait and see approach.

He did tell me to drink lots of water to help clean things out, and said that I would probably see blood in my urine for the next few days, and that there could be a burning sensation. He turned out to be right on all of those accounts.

As I got in my car to drive home, I can’t explain the sense of relief I felt. All of the worries of the past four weeks seemed to have faded away, and I felt like my life could get back to normal.

Later that night my wife, son, and I went to Barnes and Noble for a while. I went there to do some practice problems from the AP Calculus books I knew they  would have on hand. Somehow, I got every problem I tried correct, and it didn’t take too long. It was my second sense of elation that day.

As we were walking to the car to go home, I just felt an incredible sense of energy. I had gotten a clean bill of health earlier that day, and the math was starting to click.

It’s now been three days since the cystoscopy, and everything seems to be back to normal health wise.

As for the math…

Well, my test was yesterday, and I was as prepared as I could be.

I sat down to do the test, and I took a look at the first problem and I thought “I have no idea how to do this.” I went to the next problem, and I think I did ok on that one. But then the third problem was also one I had never seen before. Another problem , where we had to find the volume of a shape, was a shape I had never seen before.

So I am not very optimistic about how well I did on the exam.

But hey, at least I’ve got my health.

P.S. If you’ve read this far, you now know way too much about me…

She’s Back!!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen, and written about, one of my favorite TV personalities – Macey Hensley.

I first wrote about Macey in June, 2015, and then I provided a brief update on her in May 2016.

Not sure who Macey is?

Macey was five-years old when she made her first debut on the Ellen Show, impressing the audience, and the world, with her amazing knowledge of U.S. presidents. She knows all of them, in the right order (she even made up a song to help her with this); she knows the Vice Presidents; she knows fun facts about each one.

Here is the video of her first appearance:

Anyway, Macey was back on the Ellen Show this week on President’s Day.

She is as charming as ever, and shared some interesting facts about President Trump.

Despite her encyclopedic knowledge of the Presidents, Macey is still a little girl who loves to play with her Barbies. I am also impressed with her creative side; she talked about designing furniture for her Barbies out of cardboard, duct tape, and foam. She also seems to have a great sense of humor; I loved it when she talked about how she tries to trick her Garmin vivofit.

Here’s the video from this week’s show:

I think back in 2015 I may have been the first one to use this hashtag, and I’ll use it here again:

#Macey2060

P.S. If you want to see more Macey videos, my two links above have all of the videos from her appearances on the Ellen Show. Warning – the videos are highly addictive…

 

The Bodyguard, The Musical

Tonight we had the chance to see the theatrical version of the classic movie, The Bodyguard.

It was quite an enjoyable play, and the singing, as you might have guessed, was phenomenal.

Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron, and Jasmin Richardson as her sister Nicki, were both outstanding. And the post curtain-call “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, which had the entire ensemble on the stage and the audience clapping along, was a great way to end the evening.

Here’s a trailer for the play:

sidebar: If you want to hear a bit of the classic song “I Will Always Love You”, you can fast forward through the video below to 45 seconds. But I would not recommend doing so. Instead, watch the whole video. It’s highly creative and highly entertaining. Thank you to my sister for sharing this video.

Back to The Bodyguard, The Musical. If watching the video above whet your appetite for the entire song, here you go:

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of The Bodyguard, the Musical for a job well done. And thank you for sharing your talents with the world.

Wow… What a Powerful Commercial

It’s been a while since I shared a TV commercial, but my wife told me about this one, and I was in tears before it was over.

There’s not much I can add, except to say that it’s just about perfect.

And if you like the song that’s playing in the background, I also included a live performance of it by the singer/songwriter, Bryan John Appleby. The song is called Honey Jars.

Well done, Canadian Tires and Bryan John Appleby.

And a tip of the hat to all the kids in the basketball video…

And How Did You Spend the Nicest Day of the Year?

What an amazing weekend it was weather-wise.

Sunday’s high of 70 degrees at Philadelphia International Airport set a new record for the date, surpassing the previous mark of 68, set in 1948.

And from what I’ve heard, people took full advantage of the spring-like temperatures. The streets of Philly were filled with people walking, running, or biking. Cafes were bursting at the seams with people dining al fresco.

My son went for a hike, my wife was outside reading and soaking up the rays, and my in-laws went to the beach for the day.

And what was I doing?

calcprob1

calcprob2

Yep; the nicest day of the year and I was indoors studying for a calculus test.

And not doing too well at it either. Take the problem shown above. I think I finally figured it out after about a half-hour. The problem is that there will be 5-7 problems like this on the test, and the test is only 75 minutes long.

And so that’s why I was in my office, trying to do as many of these problems as I could, hoping that at some point the classic learning-curve phenomenon kicks in and I get more efficient at doing these types of problems.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. I enjoy trying to solve these types of problems – with trying being the key word.

It would just make things easier if the weather would cooperate, and just pour rain on the days I’m studying.

By the way, if you’re curious , the answer to the problem is calcprob3,

no matter which method you use.

 

A Musical Annotation of Bruce Springsteen’s Autobiography – Born to Run, Part 9

This is the ninth (and penultimate!) in a series of blogs in which I go through and “musically annotate” Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run”. This involves going through the book page by page and listing the artists, and when possible, providing a YouTube video of the artists and songs that Bruce mentions as among his favorites.

Here are the previous posts:

Here is the YouTube playlist of all  songs/artists mentioned in Chapters 65-72; you can access any particular song by clicking in the top left corner of the screen and choosing the desired video. I also have a listing of the songs, which can be found after the video. In those cases where Bruce just mentions a musical group, I randomly chose one of that group’s songs to include in the playlist.

The Rising album:

Devils and Dust:

The Seeger Sessions

The Magic album

Greetings from Asbury Park

Wrecking Ball