The Beauty of Mashups

Thomas Friedman (New York Times columnist and author of The World Is Flat), in what I consider one of the best 45 minute speeches I have ever watched, stated his belief that the ability to mash things together is a key skill today, and is at the heart of innovation and creativity.

If that is the case, then Kenny Holland and his sisters are among the most innovative and creative people I have come across on YouTube. I’ll write a bit more about Kenny below, but let me get right to one of his videos:

Certainly one of the best videos you’re going to come across on YouTube.

Here’s a little bit of background on Kenny, from his official bio:

Holland is a singer-songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona. After beginning his musical journey with piano lessons at age 8, he would find his origin as a performer playing for tips at local frozen yogurt shops by age 14. At age 16 he released his first single entitled “So What” which was later released on his debut album “Heart & Keys” as he built a local following.

Later in his career he began gaining the attention of industry professionals & creating a loyal fanbase through the phenomenon of social media and today Kenny’s supporters number in the millions.

Kenny has performed in front of sold out audiences nationwide, sharing the stage with Demi Lovato, Aaron Carter, Rae Sremmurd, The Summer Set, and The Rocket Summer, among others.

He also made his acting debut in 2016 in the feature film “Saturday’s Warrior.”

So while Kenny is an accomplished solo artist, what I find fascinating and magical are the many videos he has posted to YouTube of him and his sisters performing a variety of mashups.

Here are a few for your listening pleasure:

And while this next one isn’t a mashup, it is one of the most beautiful versions of one of my favorite songs. A perfect way to get you in the holiday spirit:

All of that talent in one family; all I can say is that I am grateful that they are sharing their gifts with the world.

I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Holland family.

Dreams, Blogging, and Regrets

My youngest son sent me the image above, part of a running joke about my obsession with my blog.

Most of the jokes relate to me having no time to do anything else because I’m always working on my blog.

So to prove him wrong, I’ll keep this one short.

And by the way, just in case you are at that stage in life where you have given up on your dreams, then by all means, follow my blog (just type your email in the box to the left and hit subscribe).

I just hope following my blog doesn’t cause you any more regrets…

This Is Why I Never Grew a Mustache as a Young Teacher

I recently heard a story about a Pakistani man who was fired from his teaching job because his mustache gave “liberal ideas” to students.

The teacher, Haseeb Ali Chishti, elaborated on the story with

“So I was hired right before the school term started. I taught for a week before finding out from another colleague that the school directors are looking for my replacement. When I confronted them and asked the reason why I was being replaced they replied that after seeing me in school with my liberal appearance (I questioned what they even meant) they were afraid the female students might become inspired by me. I thought being inspiring is part of a teachers job but evidently here they meant they don’t want their young girls to be inspired to do something indecent. I reminded them of my two years of teaching experience before but they insisted that I was too young and good looking enough to distract their students.

Here’s an excerpt from Chishti’s post on Facebook about the incident (the post has since been taken down):

Being told ‘your moustache gives liberal ideas to students’ and ‘you’re a young, handsome man… it will distract our girls and faculty’ is probably the funniest reason for being let go from a job but it is also a damning indictment of the mindset prevelant in the education sector in Pakistan. 

Haseeb seems to have survived the incident, and is currently part of a non-profit group called ‘Theatre Wallay’, where he has been involved in producing plays from world literature, creating original works for the stage, and working on an agenda for social change.

Unlike Haseeb, I realized early on that I likely had no marketable skills other than being an accounting teacher, so I made sure I did everything to keep my job.

Since student evaluations play a critical in the tenure process, I couldn’t afford to have reviews such as:

“I think he’s a good teacher, but to be honest I had trouble paying attention to what he was saying because I was so mesmerized by his mustache.”

“In our accounting study group all we could talk about was Borden’s mustache and how lucky his wife is. We never seemed to get anything else done.”

“I think I would have rather had the chance to twirl Prof. Borden’s mustache than get an A in this course.”

“I couldn’t stand Borden’s class. My girlfriend kept asking me why I couldn’t grow a mustache like his.”

So I made a conscious decision to not grow a mustache so that I could further my career.

It must have worked.

I got tenure.

And I’ve never been asked to be the face of the University…

if only…

The Benefits of Giving Gratitude

The Wall Street Journal had a story in today’s paper about an 83-year old woman who has spent much of the past two decades finding out as much as she could about the families who risked their lives to save her Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Greece. She wanted to chronicle their good deeds and give thanks—and do so before it was too late.

The story then pointed out the many benefits of being grateful. Studies have shown that it strengthens our immune systems, helps us sleep better, reduces stress and depression and opens the doors to more relationships. But to reap those rewards, we need to do more than feel grateful, says Dr. Emmons, a psychologist and author at the University of California, Davis.

“The word ‘thanksgiving’ means giving of thanks,” says Dr. Emmons. “It is an action word. Gratitude requires action.” It might mean composing a letter, or posting a photo and caption on Instagram.

One of the problems though is that most people aren’t very good at giving thanks. Only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis; those who are religious or spiritual tend to be more grateful, as are married couples. Younger people—18-to-24-year-olds—express gratitude less often than any other age group.

Family and freedom top the list of things that those surveyed are most grateful for. Jobs rank last, except among those who earn $150,000 or more.

Keeping a journal may be a good way to reflect on what one is grateful for.

Reading the article made me think about my very first post, nearly three years ago. The title of the post was “Thank you.” I used that post as an opportunity to thank the many people who have been a key part of my life. I closed the post with this:

I am grateful for all the help, support, and love I have received over the years, and that the best way to thank everyone is to offer my help, support, and love to others who need it.

Those words from three years ago still hold true today, and all I can say is,

Thank you.


Another Special Weekend at Villanova

This is my third annual post about Villanova’s Annual Fall Festival – the largest student run Special Olympics festival in the world.

It is my favorite weekend at Villanova, and each year I leave impressed both with the athletes as well as with the Villanova students.

Held during the first or second weekend in November, the campus hosts over 1,000 athletes, 400 coaches, 4,000 volunteers, and the many corporate sponsors and media outlets that will provide coverage for the event. A committee of 90 students meets year round to organize every aspect of the Festival, from staging ceremonies, to managing the budget, to coordinating the thousands of volunteers. The athletes who participate in the Fall Festival will compete in six Olympic-type sports: bocce, long distance running, power-lifting, roller skating, soccer, and volleyball. All housing and meals for the weekend are provided by Special Olympics Pennsylvania and Villanova University.

While it didn’t rain at all during the weekend, it was a bit colder than usual, and the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night were brutally cold, with wind chills in the teens. The cold weather didn’t seem to have too much effect on the athletes, they seemed quite excited to be there.

The opening ceremonies were highlighted by the lighting of the torch to signify the opening of the games, followed by the athletes running through a gauntlet of students past the torch and out of the stadium. It was worth waiting through the chilly temps to witness the spectacle.

Here’s a couple of short videos (apologies for the poor quality) showing the torch procession and the student gauntlet:

Saturday I spent the morning at the bocce competition, since the business school “adopted” this event. We had dozens of staff, faculty, and their families serving as volunteers in a variety of roles, from officials to evaluators to “fans in the stands”. A special shout-out to the Shipley School for their willingness to host the bocce competition because of construction at Villanova’s campus. It was a great facility and I heard that many Shipley students were able to get involved as volunteers. A win-win for everyone.

It was at the bocce competition that I had a chance to meet one of the more impressive athletes I’ve met in my three years of volunteering. This young woman told me that her best sport was bowling, and that she has been to Shanghai, China twice to compete in the World Special Olympics, and won a gold medal. She told me that her highest score is an impressive 211! She will also be competing in the U.S. National Special Olympics next year in Seattle. Not only was she quite the athlete, she just had a great sense of fun about her and seemed to enjoy everything about the event.

After the bocce competition, my wife, son, and I headed up to campus for two of my favorite parts of the Festival, the Olympic Town and the Healthy Athletes program.

Olympic Town provides entertainment and recreational fun for all athletes attending the Festival. There are many booths that are sponsored by Villanova clubs and outside organizations. This year’s Olympic Town has many great sponsors, so please come relax between the competitions and enjoy a variety of exciting performances.

Some of the highlights include a DJ with lots of dancing, performances by acapella groups, the Villanova Dance Team and Cheerleaders, lots of prizes and crafts, a photo booth, Hose hockey, Star Shooters, and the fan favorite Karaoke machine. It’s great to see the wide variety of student groups that have booths lined up and down the quad offering a variety of games and activities.

Hopefully this video will give you a little sense of the energy of O-Town:

Healthy Athletes offers health examinations in seven main areas: Fit Feet (podiatry), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), Opening Eyes (vision) and Special Smiles (dentistry).In addition to the health examinations that will be conducted at Fall Fest at Villanova, Healthy Athletes sponsors a Healthy Habits fair which provides information on sun safety, hydration, nutrition, bone health, and physical activity. Exercise classes such as Zumba, Yoga, and general stretching will be held throughout the weekend thanks to our Active Athletes program.

It’s an amazing weekend, and I’m convinced that the Villanova students get as much out of it as the athletes.

So congrats to all the athletes for your hard work and your spirit; you lived the motto of the Special Olympics:

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

And thank you to all the Villanova students who played such a key role in making this year’s Festival another resounding success.

I can’t wait for next year’s Festival.

By the way, here are my posts from the past two years:

Taking Seth’s Advice

I thoroughly enjoyed one of Seth’s posts from a couple of days ago, with the title “Cancelled“:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

Well as fate would have it, a situation quite similar to this happened to me just yesterday.

I had just walked all the way across campus for my 10:30 math class and was walking up the steps when one of the other students in the class was coming down the steps and told me that class was cancelled.

So I turned around and headed back to my office, and got there about 10:40. I was scheduled to teach my next class at 11:30, and I thought, ‘I have 45 free minutes to do whatever I want. My first thought was to get a cup of coffee and perhaps just sit back and get caught up on some of the latest news.

But then Seth’s post came rushing into my mind, and I thought that I could find a more productive way to spend those 45 minutes, and I did. I spent the time grading student assignments, and made significant progress. It was a great feeling to have utilized that bonus time to do something productive.

I’m not suggesting that going to my math class would not have been productive, since it always is, but once the class was cancelled I had a choice of essentially enjoying that new found freedom and doing nothing, or making smart use of that time.

My guess is that if I had not read Seth’s blog, I probably would have done nothing.

So thank you once again Seth for your inspiration, I’m sure my students are grateful  as well.


Giving Back and the Circle of Life

Each year our business school hosts a series of Global Business Panels that brings together alumni with significant international experience and our freshmen Intro to Business students. Those panels took place today; there were five panels throughout the day, with each panel consisting of four alumni, and about 100 students.

It was a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn more about global business trends, international business opportunities, and to simply hear first hand what it is like and/or work outside the U.S.

Each panelist shared a memorable international experience, and one of the messages common to virtually every story was the importance of being open to new cultures and a willingness to listen.

I personally found the stories fascinating, and I hope our students recognized the value in having such a panel session. It’s one of the advantages of going to a top business school that has a strong alumni network of individuals who want to give back to their alma mater.

As I sat there listening and thinking I wish I had some of the experiences they were talking about, I realized that the panelists seemed to enjoy the sessions as much as the students.

They seem to love making connections with the younger generation. After each session I saw a couple of our more outgoing students introducing themselves to the speakers, and in many cases ending up with the speaker’s business card, and an invitation to send the person an email.

There seemed to be a sense of joy among the speakers, and to me it was proof once again that it is better to give than to receive.

It was also proof of the great circle of life. Each speaker would note that they remember sitting on the other side of table, as a student, and now 40 years later, they are back at their alma mater talking about their successful careers and serving as a role model for the next generation.

I viewed their words as a challenge to the students; someday they would have the opportunity to be on such a panel, passing on their words of wisdom. Would they be willing to do so?

I also learned a couple of new things at the panels.

First, by 2100, the population of Africa will be close to 40% of the world, and Asia will have 45%.

Second, the panelists seemed to agree unanimously that there have been some recent setbacks in the move towards globalization because of the rise of nationalism/isolationism. However, they also seemed to believe (also unanimously), that such a movement will likely be short lived.

Globalization is a reality, it is here to stay.

And globalization creates wonderful opportunities for those who want to pursue such careers, and for those who want to share those experiences.

Thank you to all of our global business panel presenters for your will willingness to speak with our students and I wish you continued success.

A drink. At home. In your underwear. And there is a word for it.

This past year, Finland’s Tourism Board put together a dictionary (complete with accompanying emojis you can download) of “hard-to-describe Finnish emotions, words, and customs.” Included in the list of 56 phrases is kalsarikännit (pronounced cal-sar-y-cuhn-eet). It describes the “feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear — with no intention of going out. 

So yes, there is a word for drinking at home in your underwear, and apparently the English translation of the word is pantsdrunk.

Here’s the announcement:

Helsinki Literary is handling rights for the book Pantsdrunk, which celebrates the Finnish cultural phenomenon known as pantsdrunk. The activity entails drinking alone at home, wearing only underwear, in order to relax and unwind. World English rights have sold to HarperCollins in the U.S. (at auction) and German rights sold (also at auction) to Goldmann. Deals for the book have been made in several other countries. Pantsdrunk will be released early next year in Finland by Schildts & Söderströms. The author, a Finnish journalist, has published a number of works of nonfiction.

So I wonder if kalsarikännit is part of the secret to what makes the Finnish people so happy (Finland is currently ranked the fifth happiest country in the world). Maybe it’s how they get through those long, cold, dark winters.

Here’s a couple other words from the dictionary:

PERKELE: The mother of all Finnish swearwords. Literally means the devil but at the same time it means so much more. You can make the curse longer and more effective by rolling the ‘r’.

SUOMI MAINITTU!: The feeling when someone mentions Finland abroad.
Finns are always excited when someone – anyone – mentions Finland abroad. When you come to Finland, be prepared to tell what you think about Finland and Finns.

SISU: The feeling of perseverance. In Finland, as the saying goes, we ‘go through even a grey rock.’ Arctic nature has given us guts – or ‘sisu’ as we call it. It’s about not giving in – even when it might be wiser to do so.

MOOMINMAMMA: Unconditional love. Moominmamma is a calm and collected mother who never lets little things get on her nerves. She ensures that the Moominhouse is always a safe and loving place – both for her family and for visitors. No-one is ever unhappy in Moominmamma’s company: she’s always ready to help and console.

PESÄPALLO: The feeling of love and hate. You either love or hate it, the Finnish baseball.

LAVATANSSIT: The feeling of finding someone. Somewhere, maybe in the middle of nowhere, in a village or beside a lake, people find each other and dance tango and other even more mysterious dances. They get dressed up, go out, and dance the summer evenings away, moving counterclockwise around a dance pavilion as the band plays old favourites and new.

I hope those engaged in kalsarikännit will consider trying lavatanssit at some point. They may decide still prefer getting drunk in their underwear, but they might find out they like dancing the tango, counterclockwise of course.

It’s a Small Finger; It’s a Coin Slot; It’s Mount Kilimanjaro; No, It’s a…

Geico has always had some of the best commercials on TV, and the latest one I watched was no exception.

The title of this one is “Game Night with a Sloth”, and for me, it was an instant classic.

I can see the sloth being used in a lot of future ads, it seems like it’s got all the ingredients needed to go viral – humor, a memorable character, and lot’s of money behind it.

While this was the first time I’ve seen a sloth in a Geico commerical, it looks it has been used before, a few months ago. Here is that ad:

So I think Geico has another winner on its hand; I just hope the sloth doesn’t slow down the production schedule too much.

I May Have to Reconsider My Thoughts about Leaf Raking

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how I do not rake the leaves in my yard, but instead opt to mulch them with my mower.

While the mulching may not result in a yard that looks “clean”, I offered support for my decision by referencing the article “The Science of Fall Leaves: Better to Rake or Leave?“, which appeared on the Discovery web site. The following paragraph summarizes the gist of the article quite nicely:

Our basic position is that a tremendous amount of energy is used to rake and remove leaves from the landscape,” said Joe Rimelspach, program specialist in turf grass pathology at Ohio State University. “The best thing is to use a mulching lawnmower. You recycle the nutrients. You aren’t having a loss of nutrients from the trees. Also you are recycling the organic matter and aren’t removing it from the ecosystem of the landscape.

I’ve been mulching/not raking for a few years now, but given what happened this past week, I may need to reconsider my position.

Senator Rand Paul was attacked by one of his neighbors this week, leaving Paul with five broken ribs and bruises to his lungs. While there are still questions about what led to the attack, the New York Times is reporting that the altercation began over a landscaping dispute between the senator and his longtime next-door neighbor, according to neighbors and three Kentucky Republicans familiar with what transpired. Competing explanations of the origins of the drama cited stray yard clippings, newly planted saplings, and unraked leaves.

Who knew that someone could get so upset, and so violent, about unraked leaves in a neighbor’s yard. Perhaps some of the leaves blew into the neighbor’s yard, and that was the straw, or the leaf, that broke the camel’s back.

The neighbor who attacked Paul was a retired anesthesiologist; perhaps it had been a while since he had put someone to sleep, and he was looking for any excuse to relive his glory days of knocking people out.

Maybe in the future Paul could hire some of the guys that have been fired by President Trump to come and rake his leaves.

And when they are finished with Paul’s yard, they can fly out to my house and take care of mine. Just don’t use Air Force One…