The Elections

April 28th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Onward to the general election The fall election is getting closer and closer, but for many of us, this pain cannot end soon enough. In fact, it would be more comfortable walking barefoot on hot ingots than listening to one more broadcaster pontificate about the flaws of each candidate. I’m concerned that the recently reported increase in suicides may not actually be suicides but instead may be the result of people’s heads exploding from all of the campaign ads about Lying Ted, Donald Drumpf Trump, Hillary – emails, Bernie’s Socialism, Kasich’s Zzzzzzzzz, and locally “The man who should separate his romantic life from his political life.” (Like that’s ever happened in American history.)

This election cycle has been even more mind numbing than usual on several levels. The most disconcerting part of all of this is, after having had more than 20 people from whom to choose in both parties, we’ve ended up with five candidates that are unacceptable to droves of us in different camps for myriad reasons. That fact is a little more worrisome than usual. So far, not one of the candidates has ripped off his or her glasses and shirt and to reveal an S on their chest. No super human has emerged to save the free world. There are plenty of flaws to go around, and on most days, those flaws seem to outweigh the total combined talent of this flock of politicos.

To me, the trust factor is the funniest measurement in this election. When you hear the talking heads proclaim that the front runners are battling each other for the lowest trust ratings ever recorded in human history, you have to wonder what kind of ratification of their candidacy that discloses. It has been interesting to see the split between the states on the Cruz-Trump journey and how much further from center Hillary has had to slide in order to appeal to the droves of Bernie supporters.

In some ways it was refreshing to hear a few of the candidates speak the honest to goodness truth about the dysfunctionality of our system, but in other ways, it makes us wonder if things may truly be hopeless. Taking apart the big banks, changing the campaign funding rules, altering the disparities that exist between the wealthy and everyone else, and stopping Putin, ISIS, and North Korea from screwing up the world all seem like pretty big challenges. Add to that the challenge of who gets to go through the day inacloud of doobie smoke and where you can pee if you’re Kaitlyn Jenner, and you’ve got an even higher stack of trials.

As things got more and more complicated over the years, some of the truly cerebral folks who may have had super powers decided to stay at home, crack a beer, and say, “Who needs this?” When folks like Elizabeth Warren, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Joe Biden, decided not to run, it just seemed like, the more realistic they were, the more they realized it wasn’t worth the exacerbation, aggravation, or pain.

Don’t take this wrong. I’m a patriot, and I do believe that these people are potentially doing a disservice to our country by not sacrificing their lives to run, but, having had the modest by comparison job of being a hospital CEO, I can tell you that my hair turned gray and fell out, and my heart clogged up like George W.’s and Bill Clinton’s, and I was just dealing with the day to day pressures of a little gig in comparison. Can you imagine going through everything that it takes to become president to change the world and then finding out that you really don’t have much power.

The cynical part of me believes that the money people are the puppeteers and the presidential candidates know they’ll end up wealthier when they’re done than they were when they started. Hope you voted.

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It Will Be His Spring

April 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

The air is definitely smelling like spring, and spring has always and forever been my favorite time of the year. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a special relationship with this season. It may be because I was a spring baby, or maybe it was because my grandfather was a professional gardener.

Every spring he carefully and meticulously transferred his tiny flowers that had often times been grown from seeds over the winter from greenhouse to soil. He tenderly covered his employer’s world with the beauty, the smells and the love that only these magnificent works of nature could manifest.

He created amazing sculpted formal gardens like the ones that in London and Paris. They were formal, carefully groomed, and patterned, featuring dozens of floral combinations, manicured hedges, and plants. His work was natural art that, in hindsight, could never be fully embraced by the mind of a kid.

Maybe I love spring because, like the maple trees that lined Maple Street where I played as a young boy, I’m just a little sappy. I was actually a substitute Maple King back in the 1980’s in Meyersdale, PA, when the chosen king, Congressman Jack Murtha, had to cancel at the last minute. Nothing says spring like the Meyersdale Maple Festival.

Another spring fill-in day was when I was called on at 11:30 a.m. to speak at noon to the Somerset Rotary Club in place of Chuck Noll’s assistant coach, George Perles, who had canceled at the last minute. My speech to 120 men who came to hear the Pittsburgh Steelers assistant football coach was “The Value of the Arts in Our Lives.” Yeah, really?

In spring, there is new life, new hope, new love, and new dreams. All of these things have been consistent for me during this season of hope and rebirth. I’m definitely not alone in my feelings about spring. All one needs to do is sit and watch the extremely amorous birds chasing each other around the trees and bushes. Nature really gets it, too.

Spring is most probably the reason that I have chosen not to move to places like Arizona or Florida. Vive la difference. To me those almost single-season places are a little like cream of wheat on a white plate. Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of good attributes when we’re freezing to death, and at least Florida has plenty of drama, but the absolute beauty of slipping from the heavy winter coat to the polo shirt and tennies is completely unmatched.

Feeling the warm sun embrace you like an old friend and smelling the sweet air of fresh blossoms is like a child opening a long anticipated present on Christmas morning. Seeing the grass come back to life (and knowing that you will not be the one to have to cut it) is completely special, too.

This is my first spring without my brother. It’s been a long nine months since he left us, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that he hasn’t been in my heart and mind. You see, he too loved spring, but unlike me, he loved working in the soil and loved working with his wife to help make plants and flowers and trees and special bushes grow.

He went to our childhood home before it was sold and then to our grandparent’s home, and he captured, nurtured, and raised the very same plants that surrounded us in our youth. He found the flowers and shrubs, and filled his yard with those thriving, living memories. The smells and colors of our childhood are captured in the middle of a backyard in the city.

He was spring on so many levels, and this year, this spring, whenever spring really comes, it will be his spring.

We never really die, we just transition. This year is his year.

 

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Flexible Ethics

March 23rd, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

On Sunday I was driving three of my grandchildren home, and the youngest suggested that we play a game that they had often played on long, boring drives.  The rules of the game seemed simple.  Select a specific paint job for a car, i.e., navy blue, beige, grey, etc., and when you see a car with that particular color, you’re out.  Kind of a last person standing theme.  When my choice was made, they suggested that I change it to a color that would be more obscure so that I could last longer.  They selected, for example, periwinkle, pink, and yellow. So, with that in mind, I selected mint green, and was knocked out within a few minutes.  When my oldest granddaughter was eliminated, she contested the decision because the car that had her color was parked–an arbitrary rule change.

As the game progressed, the rules changed quickly and fervently.  “No, Poppa, that car was lime green, not mint green,” one said.  “That brown was not the brown that I meant,” said another. And on it went as we drove back to their home.  It was during this trip that it dawned on me that this pattern of game changing has played a huge part in my adult life.  Just when I thought I was playing by the rules, they changed dramatically.

For example, after having been insured for about 20 years by the same company, our basement flooded. When we made a claim, they very cautiously explained that we indeed had flood insurance, but we didn’t have drain backup insurance, and the water had rushed into the basement because the drain was backed up. (They had also discovered that if you didn’t pay claims, their stock holders would make more money.)

How about the greencard-holding immigrants who are encouraged to join the military and fight for our country because they can become citizens?  Then, after they get out, they find out that they are indeed not citizens, and the path to get there is just as arduous as before, and then they are deported. This represents the not-so-fine print of life.

I remember that in philosophy class we learned about something called relative ethics. We were taught about a very flexible way of looking at life in which the ethical decisions depend on the particular circumstances.  In other words, it was a very real example of the wiggle, or the weasel, theory. Time after time we hear our politicians carefully select each word as they position themselves to weasel out of whatever they are promising. The Cambridge dictionary says that to weasel out is to ?avoid doing something that you have ?agreed to do, ?especially by being ?dishonest. But then, that’s all relative.

My very favorite examples are those disclaimers that the drug companies are forced by the FDA  to post in their advertisements for their cure-all drugs. They’ll start out by saying, “This drug will help you lose weight, give you a tan, and make you sexy.”  Then the disclaimer:  “This drug may cause your eyebrows to fall out, your skin to turn orange, and your heart to stop forever. Contact your doctor if you fingernails turn black, you hear fire engine sirens in your ears all night long, and your teeth begin to have a fluorescent glow.”

It’s sad that we have become so used to being deceived on so many levels. Used car salesmen sometimes take a bad rap for this behavior, but several movies this year have portrayed the real villains and criminals in our lives:  “The Big Short,” which is about the greed of Wall Street, big government, and too-big-to-fail banks, and “Spotlight,” about the Archdiocese of Boston. These are examples of relative ethics. “It’s just the way things were.”

 

 

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Carpet Bombing and New Cancer Care

February 10th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

In the presidential debates we’ve recently been re-exposed to the phrase “carpet bombing.” This phrase typically means saturation bombing, which indicates large in-flight bombing done in an advanced manner that is intended to inflict maximum damage in every part of a selected area. It’s kind of like covering the floor with a carpet, but with much different results. This type of bombing was done periodically in World War II and the Vietnam conflict, and the results were as you might expect.  Unless humans were tucked away in a bomb shelter or were exceptionally lucky, they were annihilated in these bombing runs.

Now, let’s take a look a cancer treatment. I’ve been listening to and working with individual physicians and researchers who have decided that carpet bombing their patients may not be the best course of treatment anymore. For example, it wasn’t that many years ago that the typical treatment of breast cancer was a complete mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation, a very real form of medical carpet bombing.

The new movement in medicine is heavily tilted toward personalizing each patient’s care plan to their individual make-up. For example, one genetic test, called pharmacogenomics, can indicate the patient’s ability to metabolize certain medicines. That way, if you’re that one in one thousand person who shouldn’t have a specific type of medication, you’ll know in advance, and that knowledge might keep you from not experiencing sickening side effects to something that is critical to saving your life.

Although these tests have been available for quite some time, their use has been limited because of a lack of training for physicians, a lack of techs to run the equipment, and a complete lack of interpretive skills after the test is administered. All of those areas of concern are being aggressively addressed and will result in these tests becoming available  within a very short time.

The really interesting news is that genetic testing of tumors is driving personalized medicine in radiation oncology, too. A recent study that used a genetic test to assess radiation sensitivity of primary tumors and metastases suggests potential for genetic testing to help guide radiation therapy, too.

We know that patients have different clinical responses to radiation, but the way we treat them doesn’t acknowledge that difference. Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, are focusing on integrating genetic measures into radiation oncology so as to begin to understand the mechanisms of how to treat patients more effectively.

So, if we take that example of carpet bombing the disease but apply stereotactic breast biopsy, lumpectomy, and genetic testing to determine what type of drug will not only be tolerated but will also be the best treatment for the patient, and add similar genetic testing to determine radiation efficacy, we will begin to make real personalized progress.

Here’s some even more radical information, however.  Your circadian rhythm can impact the effectiveness of your chemotherapy.  Dr. Kevin Block has found that the actual time of day that the chemo is administered can impact curative rates up to as much as 25 percent more positively.  So, let’s add the following integrative approaches as well:

  • Comprehensive Integrative Assessment for Individualizing Treatment & Care – addressing patient profiles and treatment plans
  • Therapeutic Nutrition Program with Exchange System and Individualizing to Disease, Clinical, Drug and Laboratory Parameters
  • Personalized Physical Care Plan including fitness, manual therapy, acupuncture/acupressure/hyperthermia/cryotherapy
  • Personalized Biobehavioral Care Plan
  • Optimization of Circadian Health

Now we’re talking about personalized cancer care that should be available to everyone, but based on the speed of science compared to the speed of acceptance, we’re still probably years away, and that is my frustration. Science should be translational, and unless or until we can speed up the marriage of science and medicine, many of our loved ones will suffer unnecessarily.

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Starbucks

February 5th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

The other day one of my more cynical friends saw me at a coffee shop, aggressively walked over to my table, and interrupted a very important business meeting. As is typical of our relationship, he threw out as many insults as he possibly could think of in the opening three minute volley of introductions, then he smiled and said, “I read your articles.” To which I replied, “Thanks that means a lot to me.” (I lied.) Then he said, “You know, considering that you typically write about absolutely nothing, you don’t do a bad job.”

In a left-handed complimentary sort of way, that kinda made my day. I felt like Larry David when he described the “Seinfeld” show as, “A show that’s about absolutely nothing.” From nothing sometimes came some great laughs.

Speaking of which, my 8-year-old granddaughter confided in me today. She told me that when I used to say that “I was going to work at Starbucks,” she thought that I was actually a Barista. Then she said, “Poppa, I thought it was really cool that you were getting to work there and drink good coffee.” She admitted that it wasn’t until two years later she figured out I meant I was sitting in Starbucks having meetings and using my computer for work.

It’s amazing to me how places like Starbucks have become home base for so many intinerant workers like me. Not unlike Uber and Airbnb, the new sharing economy allows folks to live a different kind of non-office life. With all of the connectivity available now through the Internet, social media, and cellphones, you can have a desk in your home with no central office anywhere. Hence, when you’re on the road between appointments, places like Starbucks become your office.

The good news is that you don’t have all of the overhead of owning or renting an office building: no expensive signage, and no need to restrict your employees to living in a certain geographic area. The world is literally your oyster. The bad news is that we’re not an overly friendly society, and sometimes you just want to be able to talk to someone at the water cooler.

What it takes to build a non-centralized company is to train yourself to be able to let go of control. You have to hire people that you can trust, self-starters who don’t need constant supervision. Then you set up parameters that are acceptable to you as the head honcho. Once you find that happy zone that allows you to accept the fact that you’re not going to be able to watch everyone at their desk all day, it can work pretty well. And it does, except for the isolation thing for the gregarious ones.

Obviously, the use of these alternative restaurant/coffee shop offices has become so big so fast that some companies have taken steps to limit the overuse of their places. They don’t want you to live there. One place turned the music up so loud that it’s hard to talk on the phone. Another limited access to the Internet during peak times, and others cut back on electric outlets.

So what can be done to help those of us not physically working in an office building? How can we avoid that feeling of isolation? Even a crowded coffee shop, offers little interaction. Here’s my idea: Create a place where people who pay a few extra bucks will get red coffee cups.

Then they have to talk to each other once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t need to happen when you’re in a meeting or tied up in deep thought, but the red cup can be a sign that indicates that you’re social and miss the water cooler. Bam! Talk to me, baby.

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Moon Shot 2020

January 21st, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

What’s going on in Windber, in Washington, D.C., and in the United States that could change the practice of medicine forever? Last week you may have heard about President Obama’s appointment of Vice President Joe Biden to head up Moon Shot 2020, an effort intended to wipe out cancer. Within minutes after the State of the Union address, pundits began to point out all of the other presidents of the United States who had announced exactly the same goal. This time, however, partially because of what’s happening in Somerset County and Windber, there may actually be a chance that this goal could be met.

Medicine is in the midst of a genomic revolution. The approach is often referred to as personalized, individualized, or precision medicine. They all mean the same thing: using technologies to sequence a person’s DNA, analyze the person’s unique characteristics, and then treat the person as a distinctive individual rather than a statistically average person. Too many times, however, we hear about remarkable discoveries in science that come with a disclaimer that they are not yet available to patients. Sometimes it takes decades to reach our physicians and hospitals. The gap between breakthrough scientific discovery and the actual implementation of these findings in practice is a major challenge. New discoveries and innovations, no matter how valuable, mean very little until they can reach a patient’s health care in practice.

There are currently 26,000 genetic tests offered for more than 5,400 conditions, and the number is growing quickly. The Global Genomics Market is expected to reach $22.1 billion by 2020, growing at an estimated 10.3 percent from 2014 to 2020. Other industry analysts estimate at least double-digit growth in gene sequencing through the next several years, and likely exponential growth. This is the secret sauce to the Moon Shot 2020 initiative.

The work that has been going on at the Windber Research Institute since 2001 has contributed to the progress of genetic research. By using already existing relationships with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, WRI has been producing significant testing for not only military patients but also for the National Cancer Institute. Now that Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong’s nonprofit foundation, the Chan Soon Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine has taken over WRI and Windber Medical Center, they have become a major participant in Moon Shot 2020.

It won’t be long before individuals interested in knowing their pathway to personalized care will be helped across the world. Vanderbilt University already advertises daily, “Come to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and you will never receive the wrong heart medication.” This is the result of genetic testing. This genetic testing would not only beamajor medical tourism draw for Somerset County, it could also be an amazing gift to those patients who cannot tolerate certain heart, oncologic, or other drugs. Rather than experimenting with drugs,a simple and relatively inexpensive genetic test can be used to reveal the genetic predisposition to absorb whatever drug is prescribed.

The Windber Research Institute as a partner with the Department of Defense, Col. Craig Shriver, MD, and the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has collected more than 60,000 donated tissues with hundreds of fields of information on each patient. Their work continues to provide innovative, clinical gene testing that will contribute to national quality medicine that will lead to wellness and prevention.

Windber Medical Center also began innovative work in integrative medicine back in 1997, and that work has yielded significant positive information internationally by demonstrating that simple things like diet, exercise, and stress management can significantly impact our genetic predisposition to certain diseases.

Windber has been in the business of creating transformational experiences that will positively impact the lives and health of patients for more than 15 years, and is now positioned to be recognized as a national model for healthcare reform

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A Five Year Interlude in Arts Management

January 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

It was January of 1980, and the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Pittsburgh Press all ran this advertisement: Wanted Executive Director forarural arts organization in Somerset. The want ad went on to read something like: This is a particularly incredible opportunity for the right person with the appropriate skills.

Just seven months earlier, I had decided to leave my teaching position in Johnstown to take a job in fund development for schools in the Pittsburgh area. After training in July,Istarted my job in August, and 11 of my 14 schools went on strike. Immediately after that, the Iran oil crisis hit. People in sales were permitted to purchase rationed gasoline in order to continue to do their work, but it meant sitting in hours long lines on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Needless to say this career decision was not one of my best, but the rest of the story includes the fact that the house that we had purchased in Pittsburgh had building jacks hidden in the walls. The repair work, lost income from the strikes, and the cost of the move ended up completely wiping out what little savings a teacher could have amassed.

So, on a Sunday afternoon, I made what I considered to be a Hail Mary decision and sent a resume and application for the position of executive director of Laurel Arts and the Dressler Center for the Arts. Because it was clear to me that my training and background had almost nothing to do with running an arts center, I approached my unexpected interview with a somewhat cynical but light-hearted air, and ended up making wise cracks for most of the session.

To my surprise that worked because three of the five people interviewing me were fun guys in their late 20s or early 30s. Another person was impressed with my references. The last person, a real artist, seemed to tolerate the decision to bring me back for a second interview.

I got the job, and on the very first dayIarrived in my threepiece, brown, polyester, Johnny Carson suit and walked into the office thatIshared with the volunteer administrative assistant. She looked at me and said, “What are you doing?” I explained thatIwas starting to work. She then said, “See that wood burner? It needs to be fired to heat this place, and I’m not doing it.” That was the beginning of a five-year relationship that will forever be lodged in my brain and heart.

Her name was Dorothy Burnworth. Dorothy was a retired elementary school teacher and former member of the Women’s Army Corps. Once, when I asked her why she had never been married, she smiled and said, “I don’t like to dance backwards.” She was intelligent, forthright, an unbelievable worker, and dedicated to the Dressler Center.

Like most of us, however, she did have a few flaws. A former CEO who tangled with her once told me she could be “meaner than a boiled owl.” Most of the, however, time she was fun and extremely competent.

My job there was to be the visionary, the idea man, the face of the organization. In those early days, she was the implementer and the operations director. If, for example, I’d decide to set up 123 classes in Senior Centers all over Somerset County, she’d get the rooms lined up, hire the teachers, enroll the students, collect the money, and announce snow days when needed.

She also became the Sergeant Major to the half-dozen people that we hired and the 300 volunteers who helped start Somerfest. Dorothy made Laurel Arts work, while she trained her successor, Lori. I’ll never forget our time together.

She had traveled the world but decided to spend five years of her retirement with me.I can hear her now, “Saint Peter, get those people in line or suffer the consequences!”

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I Led Two Lives

January 1st, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

As a kid I thought I remembered watching a television series called “I Led Two Lives.” It was a series about a person who was a double agent: a spy and an advertising executive. When I Googled it today, though, it turned out that the show was called “I Led Three Lives,” which really screwed up this introduction because as a kid I only led two lives: Italian and English.

During the week we lived with my mother’s parents — a British/Scots-Irish couple, immigrants to the United States back in the 1600s. They were sons and daughters of the American Revolution, and the entire family was made up of Presbyterians who had converted from being Quakers. One of my grandfather’s way-back grandfathers, Jacob Beeson, founded Uniontown, Pennsylvania. My mom’s father was an engineer on the railroad, a high-paying and prestigious job. Two of my Anglo-Saxon uncles were also railroad engineers, and one was a stockbroker/business executive.

The other side of my family tree was filled with olives because my dad’s folks had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s from Alvito, Italy, when jobs for immigrants were plentiful. At age 13, my Italian grandfather began work in a toy factory. He was a logger in the Midwest and helped to build the Highland Park Zoo and Mellon Square Park in Pittsburgh before ending up in Dawson working for a millionaire coal baroness.

During the week I lived on one side of the tracks, and on the weekends, I got to hang out on the other side with my Italian grandparents. Needless to say, the vast majority of my fun took place on the weekends. They had chickens, ducks and geese, a creek that ran through their yard, and 500 acres of woods to play in on Sundays.

During the week I studied, practiced my trumpet, delivered newspapers, kept my nose to the grindstone and also kept the noise down so that my elderly grandmother was not overwhelmed with my playfulness. On the weekends, however, everything was fair game as we played in the woods, chased the chickens and laughed. One house was alcohol free and the other house had plenty of homemade wine. One house was proper, and the other house was replete with ornery fun and mischief. One house was Presbyterian and we sang “That Old Rugged Cross” while the other was Catholic and we sang Gregorian chant in church and still said our church prayers in Latin.

It was the best of both worlds because my dad had adapted his life to the proper English way becoming a respectable businessman and community leader, but he also made sure that we experienced the fun, food and warmth of Italy on Sundays. My Italian grandparents were very poor, but except for the fact that they didn’t have a car, there was no way of measuring their poverty. They had a television set, plenty of food and more love to distribute than any four families. Their home was warm and comfortable, and happy and kid cuddling was mandatory.

Although my home had plastic covers over the lamps and furniture because my grandparents had raised eight children there, my English grandfather’s money was spent wherever it could do the most good. They were kind, caring, good people. It was just a more refined, calmer form of love: less hugging, kissing and open expression, but still filled with deep commitment.

It wasn’t until decades later that I realized what a gift my multiethnic upbringing had been. It opened my mind and my heart at some basic level to those who came to America to find a better life and to embrace the freedom of this amazing nation. As we enter this season of giving, let’s remember the immigrants because, except for the Native Americans, we all came here from somewhere.

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Three Weeks Before Christmas

December 9th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Three weeks to go

‘Tis three weeks before Christmas, and panic sets in

Must buy gifts for the holidays; where to begin?

The oldest wants skis, some new goggles, and mittens

The youngest girl just longs for Barbies and kittens

The second-grade girl wants what gifts most of all?

A puff vest, a head set, another big doll

And speaking of that, one girl asked for the best

A toilet and bath tub to go with the rest

Of the 18-inch doll things I’ve bought for two years

Which included a shower to clean her doll’s ears

They have couches and tables, some lamps, and a bed

A washer, no dryer, and a big double bed

There are lights and end tables, a fridge, and a sink

Heck, this doll’s house is better than mine; yeah, you think?

They have play clothes, and dress clothes, and even a bra

Some pajamas and undies, and one gown I saw

Now what’s our eccentric one want? That’s a challenge

She’s smart and creative, a thinker with talent

She’d probably like some tough book or a game

Or a new 3D puzzle to drive us insane

Then there’s finally, the baby, that 1-year-old guy

He’d like a toy hammer or things that can fly

Like bubbles, or airplanes, a drone or a kite

Or anything else he can hit, throw, or bite

I also buy stuff for some nephews and then

I give cash to some others and then give again

To Toys for Tots, churches, and homeless kids, yes

I give money to missions, and you know the rest

Of course I must buy things for all of our brood

And don’t forget neighbors and guys nicknamed Dude

When I hear my friends mention Jolly St. Nick

I can fit that description: I’m old, fat, and quick

To reach for my wallet and give it away

Yep, the only thing this Nick won’t buy is a sleigh

Cause I’m much more like Goldilocks than that old elf

I don’t like it too cold or too hot myself

But I’ve also found out after decades of living

That it’s better to imitate the Zuckerbergs’ giving

Cause you can’t take it with you; no matter, my friend

So you might as well share it and share it again.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanuka

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Warped Universe?

November 30th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Dr. Lisa Randall, a Harvard PhD and theoretical physicist, should have been my teacher. If Lisa had been my teacher, I’m sure that I would have become a theoretical physicist. Of course, she’s from the wrong generation to have been my teacher; I’ve never met her, and have no idea what she’s like, but what if ?

There are probably several other glitches in my thinking. For example, I’m sure that Harvard was not high on the list of schools knocking down my door for undergraduate admission. Plus, having enough money to go to Harvard in the 60’s would have been unthinkable. But at least theoretically, I would have loved having her as my teacher, and hypothetically, her class would never have been on my cut list.

After having heard her being interviewed today, I was completely engaged. Learning about particle physics, supersymmetry, and cosmology from Lisa would have rocked. Even guys like Charlie Rose agree that her theories on the existence of extra dimensions have made her one of the most famous scientists in the world. She’s alsoabest-selling author of several books including: “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe” and “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions,” which was cited by the New York Times as mind-bending reading, a play on words, right? That book’s title was the grabber for me.

Why this sudden obsession with Lisa Randall? Besides the fact that she’s brilliant, articulate, talented, attractive, and a creative thinker, she’s introduced a theory that I just love. By means of complex math, Dr. Randall theorized that space and time could be warped. That’s right, warped. She’s saying that the universe could be warped, and my goodness, that would explain so much. She argues that our universe exists inathree-dimensional “brane” within a higher-dimensional universe. One theory is that our universe was created by two branes smashing into each other.

OK, to be clear, that’s brane, like membrane, and if you’re a Big Bang or String Theory kind of person, the mere fact that an additional brane could exist makes this all so much more interesting. I’ve always thought that there are other dimensions about which we have no knowledge, and the fact that she thinks the universe may be warped is nothing new to me.

I’m absolutely sure that my interpretation of this warped theory is in no way related to her theory, but you’ve got to admit that having suchabrilliant person determine at least in some theoretical model that the universe is warped makes all of this so much more understandable and believable. How else could we explain the fact that my 2-year-old grandson told us that he was talking to my mom who had died three years before he was born. or that Long Island Medium talking to dead uncle Adam who’s telling his wife to make sure she gets her oil changed.

There has to be something smarter than us in this universe because we’re almost completely cerebrally challenged. Heck, we’re still running around shooting each other over whose God is the better God, and they are the same God. Do you see where I’m coming from when a fourth dimensional warped brane is added to our three dimensional warped brains?

The fact that we could discover through the work of the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator that Klauza-Klein particles might be able to traverse the universe through extra dimensions is awesome. This seems out there, but wouldn’t it be great if, this Thanksgiving week, we could find a nicer, kinder, gentler and smarter dimension just next door? No matter which dimension you happen to inhabit over the next few days, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you can, please,“Beam me up, Scotty!”

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