Thursday, December 26, 2013

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 7: Predictions for 2014

The theme for this 7th edition of L.I.N.K.S. is


Something about the Winter Solstice inspires certain thought patterns in the minds of men. We reflect on the past, and project the future. We put our experience into the context of hopes and fears. 
  • What developments in the past year shocked you the most?
  • When you look out into the future, what trends alarm you? Which delight you? 
  • How will you hedge against the pitfalls? How will you leverage your advantages? 

Let's have a look at a collection of predictions for 2014. I'll provide just the links at this time, and then in another post. I'll filter these predictions through my personal prism, add some additional thoughts and commentary. What is more, I promise to grade my own predictions this time next year. 

1. Forbes Financial Outlook

2. Biggest Overlooked Trends

3. Amazon

4. Social Media Today

5. World Future Society

Happy prognosticating!  Or, if history is more your bag, search this site for all 6 previous posts in the L.I.N.K.S. series. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed! What are your predictions for 2014? What topics would you like to see covered in the next edition of L.I.N.K.S.?

Rob Kapilow, conductor, composer, commentator

Dynamic Musicologist, Rob Kapilow

I first heard of Rob Kapilow on an interview re-broadcast on Christmas day, 2013. I feel fortunate to have heard this program on my local NPR affiliate and somewhat disappointed that I had not discovered Rob Kapilow sooner. His music appreciation program, What Makes It Great? is in its fifth season. Rob's enthusiasm for music and musical composition is infectious.

What really hooked me was Rob's explanations of Bing Crosby's White Christmas. I will never listen to that classic Christmas song the same way again!

New to Rob Kapilow? Do yourself a favor and check him out right now.

Here is a video of the WAMU 88.5 Kojo Nnamdi interview where I first heard Rob speak: Rob Kapilow On What Makes Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" So Great - YouTube

And here is Rob's website with links to his books, CDs, and lectures: Rob Kapilow, conductor, composer, commentator

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Rich Perspective of Age + Experience

A portrait of Colonel Collins the week before he retired from the U.S. Army

Today is Christmas, and I received a wonderful gift in the form of a Thank You letter. With the author's kind permission, I'd like to share his words which so beautifully capture the spirit of living on purpose and giving back.

By way of the briefest introduction: I am a member of a group called the Warlord Loop ( John Collins is the 92+ year old founder and leader of the group. Though John is very active, he recently handed the reigns of Warlord to a successor. We now reverently refer to Colonel (Ret) Collins as Warlord Emeritus. Today this dear old gentleman took the time to express his gratitude to the 500 members of the Loop he created and has nurtured for 15 years. 

Please take a moment to read John's words. We have so much to learn from our older brothers and sisters, and we can only hope to have as much to offer others, should we reach such a venerable age. 


Your Grandest Gift to Warlord Emeritus

Thank God every day when you get up that you have something 
to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not.
Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you           
temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness
and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know. 

--Basil Carpenter

Gainful employment in my case ceased on January 6, 1996. Beginning sometime in 1998, for the last 15 consecutive years to be exact, members of the Warlord Loop have blessed this nonagenarian with the grandest gift possible by giving me intellectual stimulation every day in ways that almost literally are keeping me alive. Basil Carpenter, who checked out of the net in 1979, would applaud their assistance from his afterlife perch. 

Most email nets devoted to national security consist of predictable input from particular segments of the opinion spectrum, whereas daily debates by this broad-based group open up endless windows on the real world. Back channel correspondence bolsters me whenever I wonder whether the time we expend every day of every month is worthwhile. One message from Captain (now Vice Admiral) Mike Rogers gave me particularly great aid and comfort when he was Special Assistant to JCS Chairman Peter Pace and Director of his Chairman's Action Group: "I am one of those silent members who normally chooses not to engage directly....but I can assure you that your thoughts and the thoughts of so many other members of this strong dialogue are a part of the input I provide my boss (and by extension which he provides to his bosses) on the national security challenges facing us today - and tomorrow." 

God bless you all for enriching the twilight of my life. I wish you and yours the happiest holiday season imaginable, good fortune throughout the coming year, and hope that your most treasured dreams come true.

JOHN COLLINS (aka Warlord Emeritus)
Age 92.5 Years and Counting


Beautifully written, Sir.

I thank you for expressing such profound gratitude on Christmas Day. Your words offer proof that the gifts one gives really do come back magnified. The group you created and have nurtured has flourished and now gives you back something even more valuable to you than what you offered in the beginning. Your verse is like a homily for Christmas and good living.



Aged 52.9 years and counting

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Important Thing

My friend RS asked, via Facebook, 

"Help me out here. What is the most important thing?"

A predictable array of answers trickled in: friends, family, faith, health, etc. No one said corner office, or big pile of toys. No one said warm coat, either, but then one's priorities have a way of shifting over time, don't they? 

One way to develop an answer to this quandary is to push the variable of time to the limit: imagine yourself on your deathbed. By default, at that point, health would seem to be pretty darn important, right? Yes, but we all know that there is only one way out of this game called life. Preparing for Life's Final Task involves facing death (a) unafraid and (b) without regret. Therefore, in life's last moments, having lived a good life is more important than having good health for just a few minutes more.

So how will we know we have lived a good life if we are so fortunate as to have a final moment of reflection? What constitutes a good life? What will have been the most important thing to us when we examine our lives with the benefit of hindsight? What would we do more of today, right now, if we wanted to be (a) unafraid and (b) without regret in our final moments?
In my work Value Focused Thinking / Lean Six Sigma work I often use a process of discovery known as The 5th Why. Each time we ask Why, the answer gets us closer to a fundamental truth. Follow this illustration (your answers may vary):

1. Why do you get out of bed in the morning, day after day? To make a living.
2. Why do you make a living? To provide food, clothing, and shelter for myself and my family.
3. Why do you provide for yourself and your family? To survive, of course, and hopefully to become successful.
4. Why do you want to be successful? To contribute, to add value, to live well, to make a difference.
5. Why do you want to be significant? Significance is like self-actualization. It is how I operate in the world after I have fully become my true self. It is me radiating love, truth, and light--shining forth as a beacon for others.

As I said, your answers may vary! But the point I am making is that The 5 Why technique helps us get to the real purpose behind any endeavor. Yes, it can take more than five whys until you get to the fundamental objective. Try it. You'll get the hang of it.

Is self-actualization the most important thing, as Maslow said and as our Five Whys exercise implies? Here I want to double back on myself a bit. Self-actualization, as Maslow defined it, sounds like an end-state. But, how will we know when we have achieved our full potential? Isn't this a moving target? Can't we set the bar ever higher as we achieve more of our potential over time? Can we simultaneously imagine ourselves as more significant in some future state, and yet grateful and accepting of the degree of significance we have achieved in the present? On further reflection, we want to imagine a process of continuous improvement that is constantly oriented on increasing the level of significance we can achieve even as our experiences mold and shape us. Therefore I would say that the development of character is the most important thing.

The development of one's character is the answer to the 5th Why, i.e. it is the Fundamental Objective of life, not friends, family, faith, health, wealth, freedom, or power. The abundance or the absence of any of the above will neither prevent nor guarantee the development of one's character. Friends and wealth are the fruits of a developed character, not goals in and of themselves. Health, freedom, and power can be stripped away as they were for Nelson Mandela, whose character continued to develop while he was in prison for 27 years. Faith is not the most important thing unless one defines God as character perfected and one's faith is a means of obtaining communion with the Divine.

May we all live long lives in good health and comfort, helping each other as we are able. May we all embrace the challenges of living each day to the fullest extent. May we allow ourselves to love, and to be loved in return. May we shine forth as a beacon for others, and may we thus face the future (a) unafraid and (b) without regret.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fail Better

If failure is not only inevitable but also essential, as Costica Bradatan said, then perhaps the secret to happiness in this life is to bounce back from defeat, quickly assess the lessons to be learned, move again into the fray, and fail ever better.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Praise of Failure?

I refer you now to COSTICA BRADATAN's intriguing blog In Praise of Failure, which just appeared in the NY Times' Opinion Pages. It features a great still of Max von Sydow as Antonius Block, playing Death in a chess game he knows he must lose.

Winning isn’t everything. Antonius Block, right, played by Max von Sydow, challenges
Death to a game of chess in the 1957 film “The Seventh Seal,” directed by Ingmar Bergman.

BRADATAN says "[t]here is a danger in our quest for a more perfect future — that failure will become obsolete."

He goes on to make a case for the importance of failure, saying that failure is significant for several reasons. He discusses three of them:
  • Failure allows us to see our existence in its naked condition.
  • Our capacity to fail is essential to what we are.
  • We are designed to fail.
While certainly thought-provoking, I find I am unwilling to agree with the author's premise. Allow me to propose the alternative I prefer. What is all-important is not failure, but struggle.

Obviously, the nuance is that struggle offers the possibility of success, even when failure is inevitable. Antonius Block knew he would ultimately lose the chess game, yet he chose to play on. I get the idea, but I find myself resisting. Replace fail or failure with struggle in the article, and suddenly, I could not agree more. To wit:
  • Struggle allows us to see our existence in its naked condition.
  • Our capacity to struggle is essential to what we are.
  • We are designed to struggle.
Karl Popper emphasized the need for "falsifyability" in hypothesis testing. We may not be able to "prove" that something is correct, but if we can demonstrate that the opposite idea is impossible, we will have extended the boundary of human knowledge by an amount epsilon. Tiny epsilons have kept thousands in PhD programs around the globe.    

Aristotle argued that the development of character is the highest aim of life. This point of view clearly favors the hard-fought victory over the effortless one. 

There must be the possibility of failure or a victory is meaningless. Does anyone care who made the 2008 Detroit Lions go from 0-15 to 0-16? Personally, I am more interested in the character of the coaches, players, and staff who played the 16th game of that horrible season with all the passion and grit they could muster. 

We are made to struggle against random odds and toward some often ill-defined future. We meet with varying degrees of success. The need for struggle implies that an easy life devoid of struggle would be relatively meaningless. This is my excuse for not becoming one of the idle rich. 

Struggle on! 

Hat Tip to long-time friend and frequent contributor MF/LT

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Star Wars Character? R2-D2, The Inventor

A closer look at the whole poster is available here:

Personally, I am rather partial to the write-up for R2-D2

Search "MBTI" on this blog for similar posts!

Friday, November 29, 2013

My Harry Potter Character? Sirius Black, the Inventor

Here is another creative addition to the MBTI series of posts! I enjoy these immensely.

I stumbled upon this infographic / fandom chart here at Geeks are Sexy:

My MBTI profile of ENTP matches me to Sirus Black. Great character, by which I mean, sexy, and great write-up, by which I mean flattering.

Using the clue posted prominently in lower right-hand corner of the chart Geeks are Sexy, I discovered a reference to the original work here at Tumblr:

Interestingly, the original poster (Emily) has a different alignment of characters to MBTI types. Under this author's estimation, as an ENTP I should be aligned with Fred and George Weasley.

Now I am not as fond of the Weasley twins, as I am not much of a mischievous prankster. I do not quite agree with the write-up in this referenced version, either. Playful, maybe, but I am usually more serious minded and I am a horrible liar.

It appears that Geeks are Sexy kept the concept and the character artwork by Makani, but developed new text which I believe, at least in the case of ENTP, to be superior.

Here is what Emily did with Sirus Black in her original:

Both authors have used the original concept, artwork, and fonts, but notice how the image of Sirus has been flipped in the subsequent Geeks are Sexy edition.

I suppose the bottom line to all of this is caveat emptor. 

Emily, author of the Blasphemmy [sic] blog on Tumblr, has created many more of these "Who Are You?" MBTI fandom charts. See the collection here:

Search this blog for more MBTI charts using the search phrase, "MBTI."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Final MOnday MOrning MOvember MOustasche MOment of 2013

Day 25 and feeling pretty good about it. Obviously! I look like the Cheshire Cat, only without teeth and with fewer whiskers. LOL. Adding to the embarrassment: I took the picture myself!

Well, this is the Final MO MO MO MO MO of MOvember 2013. As this year's campaign draws to an end, I want to say THANK YOU to all the people who have raise awareness about Men's Health issues--either by raising a moustasche, or by simply starting a conversation with someone who has avoided the doctor's office for too long. Thanks to MO Bros and MO Sistas, my Just Twist It Teammates, and friends and family for helping to make a difference! 

Proud to be part of the Washington DC MOvember Network, which together has raised over $500K to support research, diagnosis, treatment, and counseling. Outstanding!

Thanksgiving is nearly here and hopefully we will all be pleasantly distracted. So, if you have been waiting for the last minute to drop some coin in the MOvember kitty, why not do it right now? It's easy, and you'll feel good about yourself. And maybe I'll feel a little less ridiculous about this wispy 25-day old Foam Filter.


Further information
DC Network Page:
Team "Just Twist It" Page:
My Personal "Foam Fan" Page:

Which Wine Am I? Che Syrah, Shiraz

Does your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator correctly predict the type of wine that suits you best?

Most readers are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a popular interpretation of Jungian psychology that helps explain a person's personality in terms of individual preferences. The figure above illustrates the four elements which define 16 personality types. Most readers probably also know their individual MBTI profile.

The VinoLovers have added another twist on the MBTI. Their beautiful online catalog sorts the world of wine into 16 types. These types are then paired with the most appropriate Myers-Briggs types based on common personality indicators.

I agree with the write-up for my Myers-Briggs type, ENTP, and I do like Shiraz / Syrah. However, if we were to run this experiment the opposite way and choose personality type by preferred wine, I would be a Malbec-loving ISTP!

Why doesn't it work both ways? LOL

"If your life were a movie, would anyone watch?"

Monday, November 18, 2013

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate #6: Life Force

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 6, in which we contemplate


1. We are (recycled) stardust. The atoms in our bodies are composed of elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen which were created in exploding stars. The atoms in your left hand may have come from a different star than the atoms in your right hand.

2. The science around evolution and the origin of species is all but settled. The essential enduring mystery in the science of life's origins centers around questions like these: Where did the first material come from? And what force lit the very first spark? Recent discoveries about RNA offer clues about the (spontaneous?) origins of Life.

3. Our bodies are only 10% human. The human body consists of roughly 100 trillion cells, of which only 10 trillion contain human DNA. The rest are mostly bacteria in the gut and on the skin. The micro-biome of our bodies contains hundreds of bacteria species. The colony that thrives on your tongue seems foreign to the colony that thrives a "continent" away on the roof of your mouth. We are not only recycled stardust carrying the physical and spiritual evidence of life's first spark, but, to literally trillions of single-celled animals, we are the embodiment of a mysterious and symbiotic Universe.

4. We sentient beings know that there is but one way out of this game called life. We struggle to survive for a variety of reasons--your reasons may be different from mine. The animal kingdom is ruled by survival instincts, and all creatures instinctively fight, or flee to fight another day, while hopefully existing long enough to pass genes to the next generation. In nature, there comes a moment when a mighty moose accepts its role--as food for the pack of hungry wolves. Life is not about winners and losers but about balance and acceptance, and finding and fulfilling your purpose as best as you are able.

5. Animals with big brains are not the only living things filled with life force. Survival instincts occur in plants, too. When temperatures drop and the ground begins to freeze, the carrot pulls its sugars to center. Some cooks prize these cold-tempered carrots for their delicious sweetness--even deliberately subjecting carrots to freezing temperatures right before harvesting them. Did you realize that when you bite into the resulting sweetness, you are tasting that carrot's attempt to survive?

Collections of Stardust. The Spark of Life. Symbiotic relationships. Balance and acceptance. The will to survive. My motive for tying all of these seemingly disparate LIFE FORCE links together? In a word, cancer. Do you have cancer, or do you know someone close to you who has cancer? Odds are, everyone reading this post knows someone who has some firsthand experience with this horrid disease.

Walk with me:
  • Cancer patients are composed of stardust--just as are their tumors. Cancer is harmful but it is not unnatural. It is part of life.
  • Cancer patients are filled with a mysterious life force--so too are wolves, carrots, and tumors. We do not know where the tumors come from, or how to prevent them taking up residence in people we love. But we do know why tumors persist, and what happens if they are not defeated.
  • Like all of us, cancer patients host many non-human creatures--a soup can's worth of bacteria, mostly in our digestive tract. Unlike the mutually beneficial arrangement we have with most of our parasites, tumors are unwelcome invaders.
  • The life force compels us (and our parasites--beneficial, or otherwise) to accept uncertainty. In a world of predators and prey, of the survival of the fittest, of the ultimate stakes, there are some pitched battles. A pack of cunning wolves can forcibly bring a mighty moose to the moment when that moose stops struggling and accepts its fate. Similarly, the cancer patient, his medical team, his family and friends, and a global network of Prayer Warriors fighting back as a team can force a tumor to succumb.
  • Like sweet, cold-harvested carrots, tumors try to survive by adapting to their environment. Some tumors are especially good at adapting. This is to be expected and even respected. What to do? Find a way to win. If necessary, make a way to win. 
The LIFE FORCE is mysterious. We are made to struggle. We have no choice but to fight. The way we humans look at the world may not be the only way. What makes one particular collection of space debris more important than another? What does God look like to the bacteria in your gut? Go. Fight. Win. What else is there?

Here are links to previous entries in the L.I.N.K.S. series. Enjoy them and feel free to suggest a theme for the next edition, L.I.N.K.S. 7. Comments always welcome!

MOnday MOrning MOvember MOustasche MOment: Day 18

Getting there...

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

Friday, November 15, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Unity in Remembrance"

A Veteran's Day message
by Dr. Thomas Conner,
William P. Harris Professor of Military History,
Hillsdale College

"Soldiers seem to understand with special clarity what this inherited standard of service and performance is.... A century and a half ago, Union soldier Sullivan Ballou, in trying to explain to his wife why he had decided to join the ranks and put at peril what he knew would be a blissful life with her, recalled 'how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution.'" 

Check Hillsdale College and "Imprimis" on the web - I think you'd enjoy.


Monday, November 4, 2013

MOnday MOrning MOvember MOment

Generation MO is springing up everywhere. We are swift, we are silent, and we are HAIRY (or getting there, one unshaven day at a time)!

Raise a moustache (or support someone who is) and let's all raise awareness about men's health issues

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're referring specifically to health "issues" that are of concern to men. In particular (and I hope this isn't too much information for some readers) but in particular, we are talking about issues with a man's plumbing. Some of you are still unclear. OK, don't make me go all biological and start naming parts and stuff!

MOvember is a fun way to raise funds for research, prevention, diagnosis, counseling, treatment, and patient care for men dealing with testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and depression. Please encourage the men in your life to check what they can (testicular self-exam) and get help with the rest (the prostate is, um, harder to get to). 

Early detection by competent doctors well-versed in the latest research and operating in state-of-the-art facilities. That's what I had. Yes, I am lucky. And yes, that is why I am participating in MOvember for the 3rd year in a row. Because no one should have to rely on luck to survive cancer.

My MO Space

Thursday, October 3, 2013

L.I.N.K.S. #5: Is alcohol good for you?

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 5

Is alcohol good for you? 

Sure, that beer tastes good, but is it good for you? This seems a reasonable question to ask this time of year. It's autumn, and the wet-hopped harvest ales are everywhere, along with the Oktoberfest Maerzens and the spicy pumpkin ales. Thank goodness for chocolate, coffee, and stout--the key ingredients to one of my fall favorites: imperial chocolate coffee stout!   

Alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference lies mostly in the dose....  

As they say, all things in moderation. There is strong medical evidence that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol reduces risk of heart disease. Have a look at these five L.I.N.K.S., and see your yourself! 

1. Medical evidence links moderate drinking and reduced risk of heart disease (MNT)
2. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system (Harvard)
3. Risks and benefits of alcohol comsumption (NIH)
4. 5 hidden health benefits of alcohol (Livestrong)
5. How alcohol may affect longevity and heart health (HuffPost)

Here are links to previous entries in the L.I.N.K.S. series. Enjoy!
L.I.N.K.S. 1 (Interesting):
L.I.N.K.S. 2 (Random):
L.I.N.K.S. 3 (Mysterious):
L.I.N.K.S. 4 (Building informed and engaged organizations, teams, and individuals):

Happy German Reunification Day!

On this day, October 3rd, 1990, the border separating West and East Germany was formally dissolved and Germany was once again united. One more reason to get out and celebrate Oktoberfest and Germany's many contributions to the world this weekend!

Ein prosit der Gemütlichkeit! A new era under an old flag. Source:

The German reunification (GermanDeutsche Wiedervereinigung) was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic (GDR / East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG / West Germany), and when Berlin reunited into a single city. The end of the unification process is officially referred to as German unity (GermanDeutsche Einheit), celebrated on 3 October (German Unity Day). (Source: Wikipedia)

Map of FRG in blue on the west, GDR in red on the east, and the divided capital of Berlin in gold. In the days of the infamous Berlin Wall, there was a duty train which carried state officials and military officers to Berlin.  (Source:

East Germany existed as a separate country from 1949 to 1990, a period that tracks what we in the West call the Cold War--a massive stand-off between the USA and her allies, and the USSR and her satellite countries. By 1961, so many people were fleeing East Germany that the Soviet-backed government fortified its western borders and established the Berlin Wall. During the following 28-year period, several hundred people attempting to escape were killed by border guards.

...[T]he collapse of the GDR and German reunification 11 months later, on October 3, 1990, would have been practically inconceivable without the changes that had occurred in the Soviet Union from the mid-1980s onwards. The new state and party leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had introduced wide-ranging reforms in the USSR. Gorbachev also forswore the Soviet Union's hegemony over the Eastern Bloc and strove for greater cooperation with the West. Above all, Poland and Hungary seized the new opportunities. In May 1989, the Hungarians began cutting a substantial hole in the Iron Curtain. The complete opening up of the Hungarian frontier to the West then followed on September 11, 1989. (Source: German Embassy)

In 1989, a peaceful revolution in the GDR led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall and emergence of a government committed to liberalization. The following year, free elections were held, and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany. The GDR was dissolved and Germany was reunited on 3 October 1990.

On the evening of November 9, 1989, the Wall fell in Berlin – and with it the frontier that had divided Germany for 28 years. The very same night, thousands of German Democratic Republic (GDR) citizens rushed to the border with West Berlin. Although they had no official order, the border guards opened the crossings. Complete strangers from East and West fell into one another's arms laughing and crying, spontaneously celebrating the opening of the Wall together. Germany experienced a night of jubilation, a night that was to change the world.

Willy Brandt, who had been a popular mayor in the western part of Berlin for many years during the period of division, appeared at the Brandenburg Gate the next morning and announced a little later in front of Schöneberg City Hall:

“Now what belongs together will grow together.” 

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, surrounded by happy German people, is once again under the flag of a unified Germany after the fall of the Berlin  Wall. Source:

"Ein Prosit"

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit 
Der Gemütlichkeit 
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit 
Der Gemütlichkeit. 


English Lyrics to Ein Prosit
"A Toast"

A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.


See more at: 

Friday, September 20, 2013

American Ineffectualism

I invite your attention to the following article which was published in the online edition of the National Review. My reaction follows, and your comments are encouraged.

American Ineffectualism 
Every American ally is cringing with embarrassment at the amateurishness of the last month.

While I was entertained by Mr. Steyn's pugilistic style, I felt his substance was a little skewed. Admittedly, I was embarrassed at how our government appeared to be playing checkers in a chess tournament. Obviously, people like Putin and Steyn saw weakness, and pounced. 

However, I do not fully appreciate Steyn's glorification of Putin's "blueberry" crushing skills. Putin is an opportunistic thug who completely ignored his own past so he could assume a moral high ground and mockingly lecture my President. 

The balls! Or should I say, the blueberries!?! 

At any rate, I admire Senator John McCain for standing up to Putin. His comeback is combative and spot-on. My country, right or wrong? No, I won't go that far. As a Nation, we must be willing to learn from our mistakes. My attitude is more like this: I can talk bad about MY family, but if YOU say one mean thing about ANY of them. I will personally knock your block off!

Wise Up Ghost

Must-see TV: Elvis appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and performing live with Jimmy's band, The Roots! Mark your calendars and set your TiVOs or DVRs!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do we really get wiser with age?

This wry comment from a younger colleague sent me into philosopher mode:

"Although we are getting older, I would like to think we are continually getting wiser which is a fair trade-off ... I think.  So enjoy that old age, old man, but do it wisely."

Ahem. My friend was plainly implying that I was indeed older, yet perhaps not as wise as might be expected for my advanced years.

Do we really get wiser with age? I found this proposition interesting. As I thought about the proposition more, what occurred to me is that aging is neither necessary nor sufficient for obtaining wisdom. Plenty of people get old and never seem wise to others. Likewise, some young people seem to have unusual gifts of integrity, character, and vision. So aging is not a continual, linear trade between decreasing physical ability and increasing mental, spiritual, and emotional ability. Age merely provides us with more opportunities to struggle and learn. Age opens us up, makes us pliable, and makes us more resilient (if not physically stronger).

Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson created an eight-stage theory of the human life cycle. In each stage, a person faces an internal struggle that develops different aspects of personality. For example, an infant's struggle is the battle between trust and mistrust; when infants feel they can trust those around them, they develop a sense of hope. In maturity, this virtue of hope manifests in an appreciation for interdependence and relatedness. Erikson's last stage, old age, people grapple with the balance between their personal sense of integrity, and defeat in the face of death and physical disintegration. If integrity wins out, then the result, according to Erikson, is wisdom.  

Accessed Sep 12, 2013 from

I like Erickson's Stage Theory because it seems to explain things well, and because it can serve as a solid framework for questions around character, maturity, and acquired wisdom. The dialogue between my younger colleague and I proceeded thusly:

We all have our struggles and our stories, and according to Erikson, we develop at different rates depending on how we respond to struggle. I know very little about your story, and you probably don't know a whole lot about mine. Our opinions of each other are based solely on our brief interactions over the last few years. 

Your words imply that you do not think much of my wisdom and that you feel yours is superior. I would like to point our that I have not come to you seeking your advice on the matter. If you want to challenge me or teach me or help me to grow in wisdom and grace, I will listen, because I am far from complete and I am sure you can teach me many things. 

However, before you start something with me, please think about where you are coming from and what you hope to achieve. I know myself very well--the good, the bad, and the ugly. What do you see that motivates you to tell me to "enjoy that old age old man but do it wisely"? 

I have learned that criticism is always about the critic. For anyone to see a flaw in me, (a) I must be doing something; (b) they must be able to recognize the flaw first in themselves; and (c) they must have a motive for bringing this flaw to my attention. The playground rejoinder applies: "It takes one to know one." I wanted to know more about the issue that motivated my colleague's unsolicited advice. I suggested a we let Erikson's model serve as a common framework for advancing the discussion.

This willingness to listen without becoming defensive is not easy for most people, myself included. The idea of a common framework like Erikson's helps to keep the discussion objective. Another thing that helps is setting a common purpose, like helping each other grow. In this light, difficult conversations can be offered and accepted in the form of constructive criticism.

So I offered the framework and the purpose as a baseline from which to build, and continued:
If this baseline works for you, I am willing to learn why you felt the need to jack me up. I will listen without arguing or attempting to defend myself until you have made your point.

I wish I could say that the ensuing conversation was productive and mutually satisfying. Unfortunately I think my somewhat indignant tone belied my willingness to listen. I am still wondering, still aware that my character is not fully perfected, and still waiting.


1. How do you handle criticism, especially unsolicited criticism?
2. When do you decide to offer criticism?
3. What if anything would you have done differently from me in the scenario I described?
4. Are you aware of a human life cycle theory that is better than Erikson's?

For readers who are curious about the relationship between age and wisdom, here is a link to some additional resources:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Introducing the new 2014 Harley-Davidson Motorcycles!

H-D Street 750, new for 2014

For the first time in 13 years, the Motor Company is rolling out a new frame family. Introducing Street, the new model made for young urban freedom seekers. 

In addition, PROJECT RUSHMORE produced dramatic updates to bikes in the Sportster, Dyna, and Touring families. PROJECT RUSHMORE was a top-secret, sweeping remodeling effort undertaken in response to customer feedback and market pressure from Indian and Victory.

All totaled, Harley is rolling out 2 brand new Street models, 6 updated or new Sportsters, 6 Dynas (3 new and 1 updated), 6 Softails, only 5 Touring models, 2 V-Rods, a Trike, and 4 CVO models. This list includes two bikes scheduled to be added in the middle of the model year (2014.5) and ZERO, count them ZERO Road Glides.

For the record, a relatively high number (5) of models made in 2013 were discontinued. Most notable to me was the hopefully temporary loss of both "shark nose" Road Glide models. Rumor has it that re-tooling the lines for the PROJECT RUSHMORE upgrades forced the Motor Company to delay (vs. cancel) Road Glide production. Meanwhile. the Road King Classic and Electra Glide Classic models had simply run their course.  

The links will take you to Total Motorcycle's awesome website for information and beautiful, wall-paper worthy photos of all the new bikes.


Tri Glide (Motorcycle Trike)
2014 Harley-Davidson FLHTCUTG Tri Glide Ultra Classic - New for 2014

Links of note 

This year's list
The 2013 list, as reported last year in PhilosFX
Our wildly popular post on the history of the Road King

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A short guide to the Middle East

The Middle East Explained In One Excellent Letter To The Editor

This letter to the editor from Mr. K. N. Al-Sabah ran in the Aug 24th edition of Financial Times.  It was then picked up by BuzzFeed.

This Quixotic quote inspired me to attempt a drawing of the social network described in Mr. Al-Sabah's letter.

Assuming we do want to get involved in the Middle East, do we know enough to actually make the situation better?
Look in the comments under the article as it appears in BuzzFeed and you will find a visualization by Derpina which takes the form of a Flow Chart.
The first problem I have with Derpina's visualization is that the Turks are Sunni, not Shia. The second problem is that the flow chart makes the situation look deterministic, which is misleading. 
I believe my spaghetti chart above captures the chaos more accurately, in my never humble but always biased opinion.
That said, I believe this version by the Elder of Zion is even better. His is an improvement on one created by another blogger, the big Pharaoh. As the Elder of Zion states, any attempt to understand this situation will change daily.
I wonder if this idea of graphing the complex social networks in the Middle East would make a fun parlor game? I wonder what I will think of this post when I look back on it in 10 years?