Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Focus a Wandering Mind

The title, "How to Focus a Wandering Mind" says it all and I *really* enjoyed this article by Wendy Hasenkamp posted July 17, 2013

New research reveals what happens in a wandering mind—and sheds light on the cognitive and emotional benefits of increased focus.

Have a gander and report back.
  • Does your mind wander? 
  • If so, are you OK with that? 
  • How much wandering is OK?
  • At what point does wandering become detrimental? 
  • What do you do to refocus your mind? 
  • What could you do differently?

In addition to gratitude for a great and timely article, I'd also like to praise Greater Good for a really cool tag line, to wit: "The Science of a Meaningful Life."

Nailed it! 

H/T: Nth BarFields

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Steve McQueen Day

Steve McQueen, "The King of Cool," would have been 84 years old today. He died at only 50 years old, a victim of mesothelioma. Though he left us too soon, his influence survives in our appreciation for counter-culture anti-heroes.

“If I hadn’t made it as an actor, I might have wound up a hood.” --Steve McQueen 

  • Wikipedia says: 

  • Terence Steven "Steve" McQueen was an American actor. Called "The King of Cool", his "anti-hero" persona, developed at the height of the Vietnam War-era counterculture, made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. 
    BornMarch 24, 1930, Beech Grove, IN 
    DiedNovember 7, 1980, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

  • Personal remembrances

    • Watching The Great Escape (1963). I first encountered Steve McQueen on TV about 10 years after The Great Escape came out in theaters. I was about 13 at the time, and seriously into bicycling and escapes, and adventure-filled escapes on bicycles.

    • Reading Papillon (Published 1969, English 1970, movie version starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman 1973). I read the novel in the early '70s because I was too young to get in to an R-rated movie at the time. But I was aware of the movie version starring the guy from the Escape movie. 

  • Add the Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and now we all have a great reason to re-watch three classic movies!

      Unfortunately, I first heard of the Thomas Crown Affair when it was remade (1999) with Pierce Brosnan in the leading role. The original and best (1968) starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway

  • Web references
  • Thursday, March 20, 2014

    Important (or at least famous) People with Sun in Capricorn

    Why do I care about Astrology?
    I don't put too much stock in this stuff. I am a "Capricorn" because I was born in late December? Like the fact that the Sun came over the horizon in the middle of one cluster of stars instead of a different cluster is going to have any influence over how I live my life? Puh-leeze!  Wait... Did I just describe the Capricorn personality type? 

    "Capricorn, the tenth sign of the zodiac, is all about hard work. Those born under this sign are more than happy to put in a full day at the office, realizing that it will likely take a lot of those days to get to the top. That's no problem, since Capricorns are both ambitious and determined: they will get there. Life is one big project for these folks, and they adapt to this by adopting a businesslike approach to most everything they do. Capricorns are practical as well, taking things one step at a time and being as realistic and pragmatic as possible. The Capricorn-born are extremely dedicated to their goals, almost to the point of stubbornness. Those victories sure smell sweet, though, and that thought alone will keep Capricorns going."

    Some Famous People with Sun in Capricorn (so we are totally Star Twins). Some uber Caps also packed a bunch of planets in there, too: 

    • Dido Armstrong (Sun in Capricorn), 
    • David Bowie (Sun, Mercury, and Mars in Capricorn), 
    • Nicolas Cage (Sun, Mercury, and Mars in Capricorn), 
    • Jim Carrey (Sun, Venus, and Mars in Capricorn), 
    • Kevin Costner, 
    • Marlene Dietrich (Sun, Mercury, and Mars in Capricorn), 
    • Mel Gibson (Sun and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • James Earl Jones (Sun, Moon, and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • Annie Lennox (Sun, Moon, and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • Moliere (Sun and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • Michelle Obama (Sun and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • Jimmy Page (Sun and Mercury in Capricorn), 
    • Howard Stern (Sun, Mercury, and Venus in Capricorn), 
    • Tiger Woods (Sun and Mercury in Capricorn)

    On addition to the Sun Sign (Cappy for me), astrologers take note of a person's Rising Sign. The Rising Sign is the sign on the 1st house cusp of your personal horoscope. This is the face you wear in public, how others see you, and your Astrological Mask.

    My Rising Sign: Leo

    "Your psychological nature is powerful and full of self-confidence. You are a leader whose strength and nobleness command your entourage’s respect and adherence, with unchallenged legitimacy. Your ability to order, the prestige and charisma that emanate continuously from your person inevitably put you, under the spotlight, wherever you go.
    "With this Ascendant, you come across as proud, determined, wilful, loyal, solemn, generous, ambitious, courageous, heroic, full of vitality, creative, confident, seductive, happy, daring, majestic, honest, magnanimous, charismatic, responsible, noble, brilliant, radiant, dramatic, affectionate, full of humour, demonstrative, swaggering and self-confident. You can also be domineering, conceited, touchy, authoritarian, stubborn, intolerant, self-centered, irascible, violent, and nonchalant."

    Not sure I believe it but it sounds good!

    A Dozen December 30 Birthdays in Order of Birth

    Rudyard Kipling, Poet, b. 1865, d. 1936 at age 71

    Bert Parks, TV Actor, b. 1914, d. 1992 at age 78

    Jack Lord, TV Actor, b. 1920, d. 1998 at age 78

    Bo Diddley, Singer, b. 1928, d. 2008 at age 80

    Del Shannon, Singer, b. 1934, d. 1990 at age 56

    Joseph Hilbe, Statistician and Philosopher, b. 1944, age 69

    Davy Jones, Singer, b. 1945, d. 2012 at age 67

    Patti Smith, Singer, b. 1946, age 67

    Matt Lauer, TV Show Host, b. 1957, age 56

    Sean Hannity, Talk Show Host, b. 1961, age 52

    Tiger Woods, Golfer, b. 1975, age 38

    Kevin Systrom, Entrepreneur, b. 1983, age 30

    LeBron James, Basketball Player, b. 1984, age 29 

    Here is special mention to some cool people who have a great birthday but whose names are not yet quite as well-known as the above: Kathy K, John Fino, Jeff F. Being young is habit-forming! 

    "And thus did human civilization and well-being advance."

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Important (or at least famous) People with the Destiny Code 4

    Living a life of passion and desire is the most important and fulfilling thing you can do for yourself in life.

    "Take in great pains to communicate to the multitudes about living a passionate life." 
    Author and success coach Anthony Robins 

    “…Write the vision, and make it plain…”
    Habakkuk 2:2

    According to practitioners of Numerology, my Destiny Code is 4.

    Number 4: Form and Pacing; order; regulation, management, supervision, good timing, Cosmic Order, cooperative leadership; protective codes, dream programs, clan karma, march tempo

    Some famous people with the 4 Chief, [Emperor, King, Sovereign] Destiny Path include
    Joan Allen, 
    Anjelica Huston, 
    Connie Nielsen, 
    Mimi Rogers,
    Talia Shire, 
     Kenny Baker, 
    Led Zeppelin Drummer John Bonham
    LeVar Burton [hidden 22], 
    Willem Dafoe, 
    Douglas Fairbanks Jr.[hidden 22], 
    Elliott Gould, 
    Val Kilmer, 
    Tim Russ [hidden 22], 
    Will Smith, 

    Important (or at least famous) People with the MBTI Profile ENTP

    A listing of (11 * 4 = 44) famous people and historical figures with the ENTP personality type follows below.

    I happen to be a card-carrying ENTP. The mere fact that I am compelled to share that information with anyone who happens by my blog is evidence of the accuracy of Jungian psychology.

    ENTPs are the least likely of all other personality types to suffer from heart disease or hypertension, or to report stress that is associated with family and health. Their traits score the highest in their ability to cope with stress and harness it for creative and inventive purposes. Although they typically acquire higher income jobs, ENTPs are among the types that are most dissatisfied with their work.

    The list includes interesting pairs: Stewart and Colbert; Carlin and Crystal; Hume and Mill; Feynman and Heisenberg; and Edison and Tesla.

    • John Adams
    • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
    • Alexander the Great
    • Rowan Atkinson
    • Edmund Burke
    • George Carlin
    • Catherine the Great
    • Julia Child
    • Stephen Colbert
    • Billy Crystal
    • Celine Dion
    • Walt Disney
    • Robert Downey Jr.
    • Thomas Edison
    • Federico Fellini
    • Richard Feynman
    • Benjamin Franklin
    • Newt Gingrich
    • Hugh Grant
    • Salma Hayek
    • Tom Hanks
    • Neil Patrick Harris
    • Bill Hicks
    • Werner Heisenberg
    • Alfred Hitchcock
    • David Hume
    • Henry Kissinger
    • Bill Maher
    • Rose McGowan
    • Sarah McLachlan
    • John Stuart Mill
    • John von Neumann
    • Barack Obama
    • Blaise Pascal
    • David Hyde Pierce
    • Sir Walter Raleigh
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • Adam Savage
    • Socrates
    • David Spade
    • Jon Stewart
    • Nikola Tesla
    • Leonardo da Vinci
    • Voltaire
    • Mao Zedong

    In addition to the "cool" pairs I mentioned above, there is at least one unsettling pair: Ahmadinejad and Zedong.  I'm not sure what I have in common with either Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Mao Zedong, or whether historians would describe either of them as inventors before despots, but I suppose one must take the good with the bad. Would flattery be as sweet without a little derision mixed in? Are any of us all good or all bad all of the time?


    Sunday, March 16, 2014

    Carnival 2014: Postlude and Links


    This is the conclusion of my eight-part narrative on Carnival (please avail yourself of the links to previous portions placed conveniently for you at the bottom of this post). At the end of this brief series, I am content to have shared a bit of my perspective on Carnival with interested readers. By now all the fellas should know better than to wear their favorite ties to work on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, for fear that some frisky gals will snip the ties in half, steal a few kisses, and hang the tie remnants in their trophy cases.

    You're welcome!

    But I am also humbled by how much I do not know about this wonderful world of ours, and the many interesting traditions such as Carnival observed around the world. For example, only after I set out to write this little memoir did I learn of the Carnival of Binche. Have you heard of it? Did you know that in 2003, Belgium's Carnaval de Binche was designated a UNESCO masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage? Even if you are not a Christian of European descent, the Carnaval de Binche is "kind of a big deal."

    Some of the 1000 Gilles of Binche wearing their unique and historical Shrove Tuesday costumes

    What is a Gille, you ask? (Go ahead, ask, I'll wait.) The Gilles are the principle costumed participants in the 700-year old Carnival of Binche in Belgium. They go out on Shrove Tuesday from 4 a.m. until late hours and dance to traditional songs. 

    Here's what Wiki has to say about the Gilles of the Carnival of Binche:
    "There are around 1000 Gilles, all male, some as young as 3 years old. All wear the traditional costume of the Gille on Shrove Tuesday. The outfit features a linen suit with red, yellow and black heraldic designs (the colours of the Belgian flag), trimmed with large white lace cuffs and collars. The suit is stuffed with straw, giving the Gille a hunched back. They also wear wooden clogs and have bells attached to their belts. In the morning they wear a mask of a particular design. After reaching the town hall, they remove these masks — they are not worn in the afternoon. During the afternoon parade, they throw blood oranges to (and sometimes at) the crowd and some of the Gilles wear large, white, feathered hats. They carry ramons, tied bunches of twigs, and baskets in which to carry the oranges. Their sticks are said to ward off evil spirits." --Wikipedia

    The gap between what I have seen and all that is left to experience fills me with wonder and a lust for adventure. (Wanderlust?) I hope readers find some inspiration in the memories and plans I have shared.

    Before offering you some wonderfully amusing links, I'll conclude with these simple observations:

    • What makes Mardi Gras, Carnival of Binche, Fasching, Carnaval, Fastan, Fastelavn, Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, etc., different depends on where you are from or where you happen to live. Whether and how you celebrate Carnival is largely an accident of birth! 
    • So, what is it about Carnival that compels people around the world to celebrate it? What is the common link connecting the various versions? Perhaps our shared humanity is what unites us once a year, as words such as these are heard 'round the world....

    New Orleans: "Let the good times roll!"
    or Laissez les bons temps rouler!
    (sounds like, Lay say lay bohn tohn roo lay!)

    Venice: "A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale!"
    Anything goes at Carnival!
    a scherzo (SKAIR-zoh) is a practical joke

    Mainz: "Helau! Helau!"
    (sounds like, Hello! Hello!)
    originated from a burlesque ("Fastnachtsspiel") played in Düsseldorf in 1833

    Alexandria: "Pass the donuts! Or doughnuts? Or Kinklings, Pączki, or Fasnachts!?"

    Rio de Janeiro: "Todo bem!"

    Daytona Beach: "Gentlemen (and ladies!), start your engines!"

    Here are some selected LINKS to fuel your own PRE-LENTEN ADVENTURES next year!

    10 Vocabulary Words to Learn

    1. Carnival: Carne (meat or flesh) Vale (farewell)
    2. Shrove: Shriving is the act of confessing sins
    3. Mardi, Martedi, and Dienstag all mean Tuesday
    4. Gras and Grasso mean Fat
    5. Rosenmontag is not about roses but raves
    6. Krewe, as in, Krewe of Bacchus
    7. Gilles: costumed participants in the 700-year old Carnival of Binche in Belgium
    8. UNESCO: the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 
    9. Wanderlust: a passion for travel
    10. Samba: a Brazilian dance of African origin.

    10 Celebrations to Enjoy

    1. Mardi Gras in New Orleans 
    2. Martedi Grasso at Carnevale (Venice)
    3. Karnival (Northern and Western Germany)
    4. Fasching (Eastern and Southern Germany)
    5. Carnaval (Brazil)
    6. Carnival of Binche (Belgium)
    7. Fastan
    8. Fastelavn (Denmark, Norway, Iceland)
    9. Pancake Tuesday
    10. Shrove Tuesday

    10 Locations to Visit

    1. New Orleans French Quarter
    2. Venice St. Mark's Square
    3. Rhineland-Palatinate 
    4. Mainz. Germany
    5. Old Town Alexandria, the most Romantic Place on Earth
    6. Sao Paolo
    7. Rio de Janeiro
    8. Copacabana Beach
    9. Ipanema Beach 
    10. Daytona Beach

    10 Foods to Eat and Drinks to Imbibe

    1. German Fasnacht_(doughnut) 
    2. Polish Paczki  
    3. French King Cake 
    4. Hurricane Punch  
    5. Frittelle di carnevale, aka zeppole 
    6. Venetian Carnival Fritters aka frappe 
    7. Castagnole 
    8. Beignets
    9. Chickory coffee
    10. Andygator, the Imperial Pilsner from Louisiana's own Abita Brewing

    10 Tangents to Explore

    1. Daytona Bike Week (pre-Lenten debauchery in years where Easter comes really, really late)
    2. Notre Dame Architecture Beaux Arts Ball
    3. Trophy case for displaying ties cut off during carnival 
    4. Get Mardi Gras beads without flashing for them
    5. Fantastic Masquerade Ball costume ideas 
    6. Why do people eat pancakes for Shrove Tuesday
    7. How to eat pancakes, celebrate Fat Tuesday, and help the less fortunate in one fell swoop 
    8. How to order your own, high quality Doubloons 
    9. Why do some women flash for beads
    10. Tab Benoit, American Delta blues artist from Baton Rouge 

    The Gilles of Binche Await You 

    Previous seven links in this 8-part series

    1. Carnival Prelude
    2. Carnival 1981: New Orleans
    3. Carnival 1982: Italy
    4. Carnival 1997: Germany
    5. Carnival 2014: Alexandria and environs
    6. Carnival 2016: Brazil
    7. Carnival 2030: Daytona

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

    Carnival 2030: Daytona

    This is the seventh installment in an 8-part series on Carnival, the biggest party in the world

    Dateline (proposed): DAYTONA, March 5, 2030

    Daytona Beach, Florida is known for many things, such as the Daytona 500 auto race, and wild college students cutting loose on Spring Break. Not the least of the events attracting folks to Florida is the famous Daytona Bike Week celebration. This year (2014) will be the 73rd annual gathering. I have yet to attend either the aforementioned race or the Spring Break activities, and at this point in my life I am unlikely to chase either of these events. I have not yet been to Bike Week either--but if this party is anything like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, I must find a way!

    And what does any of this have to do with Mardi Gras, you ask? (Go ahead, ask. I'll wait....). Good question! Daytona Bike Week (DBW) begins on the first Friday in March and runs for 11 days, encompassing two weekends. This year, DBW (7 - 16 Mar) occurs after Ash Wednesday (5 Mar). I wonder if the fact that DBW occurs during Lent will help curb the debauchery? On the other hand, I also wonder if DBW is more fun in years where we have a late Easter...?

    This got me wondering, when is the next time the first Tuesday in March is also Fat Tuesday? Talk about worlds colliding! So I constructed the table below. As it happens, this confluence is a fairly infrequent occurrence.

    Comparing Daytona Bike Week to Fat Tuesday

    Daytona Bike Week is highlighted in yellow. Ash Wednesday is represented in the grey column. From 2014 to 2040, a span of 27 years, only twice (2030 and 2038) does Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, fall on the first Tuesday in March, i.e., during DBW.


    My girlfriend is tall, has auburn hair, rides a Softail Custom Deluxe similar to the Softail Springer in the painting above. (Incidentally, she looks great in riding leathers, too!) Now we just need to get to Daytona for Bike Week! And when we do, I will take and post a photo just like this one. If we happen to attend DBW during Mardi Gras, Katy, bar the door!

    World's Most Famous Beach - Daytona Beach
    Long before the Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, World's Most Famous Beach - Daytona Beachrace car drivers flocked to Daytona Beach to race on the well packed beach. The wide beach and smooth sands created the perfect site for testing and racing high speed automobiles. By the mid 1920s the new Pier Casino attracted many Florida vacationers, including many race car drivers. When their photographs circulated worldwide, Daytona Beach took on the catch phrase the World's Most Famous Beach

    Mention Daytona Beach, and one of the first phrases likely to pop into people's minds is "gentleman, start your engines." This famous catchphrase, often used to mark the start of a race, fits Daytona well, as it is a city with a true passion for racing, the automobile, and chasing that elusive next speed record. Graced with miles of prime beachfront, it is also a wonderful holiday destination, and has some massively popular special events.

    Most famous of all of Daytona's annual events is the Daytona 500. Held every February at the Daytona International Speedway, it draws hundreds of thousands eager to see the best drivers in the world risk life and limb driving the fastest cars. Another spectacle that shouldn't be missed is Bike Week in early March, during which thousands of loud Harleys and their even louder owners take over Daytona and are celebrated for it.

    At some point during all the excitement at Daytona, you may want to take a step back from the crowds and merrymakers. For a great view and the possibility of some excellent photos, climb the 200-stair Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum. Another way to relax is to stop by something you could only find in the USA--the Little Chapel by the Sea, which used to be a drive-in theatre, and has now been reborn as a drive-in church.

    A first word of advice--if you are going to be in town during any of the above mentioned special events, book well in advance. Also, if you are with your family and/or wish to keep the party scene at arm's length, look to stay to the west of Daytona or in New Smyrna Beach. Fine restaurants abound--for something upmarket, try Rosario's Restaurant, and for some delicious seafood (their oysters come from their own beds) a good choice is JB's Fish Camp and Restaurant.

    "Gentlemen (and ladies!), start your engines!"

    AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Daytona 200 

    Tab Benoit at the Birchmere

    Thursday, March 6th, 2014
    Live and in person, for one night only
    Appearing at the legendary Birchmere music hall in historic Alexandria
    with Tommy Malone of "The subdudes" fame
    Tab Benoit!

    Set list scrawled on the Table 417 placard
    This concert made the 3d time I have seen Tab Benoit in person. I am grateful to my friend Louis C. Kittrell, aka Louis CK, aka Blue Lou, aka bluesandbarbq who first introduced me to Tab Benoit. 'Tis a good thing you have done, Mr. Kittrell, sir. A good thing, indeed. Lou encouraged me to see Tab when he appeared at the Hamilton downtown. I then caught him at the Blues Fest in Denver. And this third time was the charm! Why? Well, the tickets were a Val-Day present for my girlfriend, and we attended this Cajun's concert just after Mardis Gras in a great venue.

    The set list above is presented below as written, with my best guess as to each song's title. This link has a good list of Tab's song titles. Perhaps I will eventually learn the repertoire well enough that I do not need to look the titles up. 

     Why people like that?
    One foot in the bayou
    Dirty dishes
    Whisky bayou
    Underneath your wing
    New Orleans ladies
    Hot tamale baby
    3-song solo set:
    1) Bucket got a hole
    2) Honky tonk angel
    3) Hay Stackolina
    Last song: Night train 
    (requested by Chief from Clifton who was attending his 40th Tab concert)
    Encore: Medicine

    My pics are not bad for a camera phone....

    Why people like that?

    One foot in the bayou

    Dirty laundry? This ain't no Don Henley show! Dirty dishes

    Let's go fishin' in Whisky Bayou

    Cory be jammin with a hot tamale

    Solo set: Tab channeling George Jones

    Night Train

    Tab and crew ended the set with Night Train, a song they dedicated to a fan named Chief from Clifton. It was Chief's birthday, and he said this night was his 40th time seeing Tab in concert.

    After the rendition of Night Train, the audience clamored for more. Tab and the band came back for an encore and lots of us were calling for Darkness. Tab's reply? He was done with the part of the show we had paid for, so he could play what he wanted. We were on his time now! So he ripped in to Medicine, and it did not disappoint! 
    Bring me my medicine, babe!

    In case you missed hearing Darkness as much as I did, here's a little clip for us all to enjoy--until the next time Tab comes to a music venue near YOU! 


    Cover of Lift, by Kelly Corrigan

    While corresponding with a friend and colleague this week, and in the midst of updates about various trials and tribulations, my friend KB offered this helpful and insightful comment:
    "I read something in a book last week called “Lift”. The author is a mom who faced cancer etc. She talks about a discussion with a friend who is a hang glider as he talks about trying to catch thermal winds and the risks and dangers of turbulence. When she asks him why you wouldn't just avoid the turbulence he responds saying “Turbulence is the only way to get altitude, to get lift. Without turbulence, the sky is just a big blue hole. Without turbulence, you sink.” I thought it was a great analogy for life. The turbulence seems to elevate the soul and bring out qualities in people that they may never have discovered without it. I know that we will not escape a little turbulence in our lives…I just pray we find and face it with the grace and dignity." --KB 

    Some people say that my hobby of long distance motorcycling is too risky. They say, "Why not just drive, or fly? These options are much safer than riding!" 

    Perhaps driving or flying is safer, but to my mind, the calculated risk of riding is worth the heightened experience that come with it. When riding, I am not just moving my body from A to B. I am stirring my soul.  

    You must set your own thresholds for risk, based on your tolerance. I know what works for me and I am not claiming that I have this question answered for everyone. As for me, I'll ride!

    What stirs your soul?

    Are you interested in more information about Kelly Corrigan or her book, Lift?

    "No matter when and why this comes to your hands, I want to put down on paper how things started with us."
    Written as a letter to her children, Kelly Corrigan's Lift is a tender, intimate, and robust portrait of risk and love; a touchstone for anyone who wants to live more fully. In Lift, Corrigan weaves together three true and unforgettable stories of adults willing to experience emotional hazards in exchange for the gratifications of raising children.
    Lift takes its name from hang gliding, a pursuit that requires flying directly into rough air, because turbulence saves a glider from "sinking out." For Corrigan, this wisdom--that to fly requires chaotic, sometimes even violent passages--becomes a metaphor for all of life's most meaningful endeavors, particularly the great flight that is parenting.
    Corrigan serves it up straight--how mundanely and fiercely her children have been loved, how close most lives occasionally come to disaster, and how often we fall short as mothers and fathers. Lift is for everyone who has been caught off guard by the pace and vulnerability of raising children, to remind us that our work is important and our time limited.
    ... Lift is a meditation on the complexities of a woman's life, ... [Lift is] boisterous and generous, a book readers can't wait to share.
    "Although we've never met, I love Kelly Corrigan like a friend. Her work gives me a rich sense of intimacy with someone who is full of life and hard-fought wisdom. She's hilarious, tender-hearted, tough, loyal, wild, and screwed-up--like all the coolest women I know." --Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Pi Day 2014

    It's Fri-day Pi Day. Let's Par-Tay!

    Great pic! Stolen from Angelique,
    who stole it from Suzi Q,
    who just found it, honest! 

    I like to celebrate Pi Day (3/14) with

    • a little tribute to Albert Einstein, born 135 years ago today (March 14, 1879)
    • a few entertaining Pi(e) jokes, puzzles, riddles, or amusements, and
    • the annual review of PhilosFX blog stats

    First: Albert. I've always appreciated Einstein's curiosity, his quirky sense of humor, his faith, and his quest for simplicity amid complexity. Here is his endearingly straightforward explanation of his Theory of Relativity:

    Poster: Found on Google+

    And now for some Pi...e diversions:

    • This is amusing: (Thanks, MG's Mom)
    • On the other hand, this is just baffling: (Thanks(?) DelBai, but what are we supposed to do with this information? ha!) 
    • A puzzle for you, adapted from one heard recently on NPR's Car Talk. 
    Thirteen matches are arranged as shown in the attached illustration. The Roman numerals form an incorrect equation, namely, 23 divided by 7 equals 2. Move one match and one match only to create a correct equation. Using one match to change the equals sign into an unequal sign is rational, but there is a more elegant solution. Can you solve the puzzle?

    Finally, this year's PhilosFX update. It's been a great year for PhilosFX! We just crossed over 111,111 unique visitors. I honestly do not know if that number is big or small, but it sure is interesting!

    I do not know if my musings are helping or hindering anyone else, but I do know this: blogging does not change the world; blogging changes me, and then I change the world.

    Keep on bloggin' on!

    Previous posts on this Pi Day Party theme:
    Until next year, thanks for reading, sharing, and engaging! Now, let's go get some

    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    Carnival 2016: Brazil

    This is the sixth installment in an 8-part series on Carnival, the biggest party in the world

    Dateline (proposed): Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 9, 2016

    While I have not yet been to Brazil, I do look forward to my first visit! There are many compelling reasons for visiting this vast country:

    • For one thing, I'd love to explore the Amazon river. Jaguars and piranha and Amazonite gems, oh my! This trip would take some special preparation.  I would be sure to bring along my Amazon Warrior Princess girlfriend.
    • Of course I could attend the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2014. After all, I have developed a love of soccer from watching my daughter play at a high level. And if I brought her along, well, we'd both have a blast!  
    • Another opportunity would be the Summer Olympics, which are coming to Brazil in the summer of 2016. I attended the 1988 Games in Seoul, and truly enjoyed them. Global sporting events are fantastic for bringing the International community together. 
    • And then, there is Carnival. Attracting millions of visitors, Carnival is another huge draw. Vibrant and vivacious, sexy and sultry, flashy and fleshy, the Brazilians really put the carnal in Carnival.

    To my way of thinking, there is no reason not to make several trips to Brazil, but if I had to choose only one, I would pick Carnival. In fact, Carnival in 2016 would be a great time to head south of the equator--not only to catch a preview of Olympic venues, and not only to avoid the Presidential election campaigning which will drown out all other discourse in the USA, but also to observe and participate in Carnaval (Portuguese spelling) on the beaches between Rio and Sao Paulo during what will be summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The famous Copacabana Beach is one of many beautiful
    beaches between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Carnival in Brazil sets the flesh-flash standard for all Carnival pre-Lenten celebrations worldwide. Originally, Carnival was a pagan custom celebrating the arrival of spring (Northern Hemisphere). However, early Christian culture was loath to relinquish the popular festival and instead incorporated it into their religious traditions. As French, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers colonized the New World, they also implanted their religious traditions. In Brazil, where Carnival occurs at the end of summer, the ties to pagan rites of Spring are rendered meaningless. At the same time, the aspects of Carnival as pre-Lenten fling seem amplified.

    Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, Christians prepare for Easter Sunday by fasting or foregoing favorite foods and activities (the requirements vary for different Christian denominations). Brazil Carnival begins four days before Ash Wednesday. Brazil Carnival--Saturday through Tuesday--is a great way to cut loose and enjoy life before the restrictions of Lent are imposed.

    Carnival in Brazil is sultry and seductive

    Every Brazilian city chooses its own celebratory traditions such as masquerades, parades, feasts, social gatherings, and dancing. Brazil Carnival is famous for the sexy, rhythmic samba and rumba music and dance forms, and the Rio Carnival pictures and Sao Paulo carnival photos show plenty of scantily clad carnival girls. A more family-friendly carnival occurs in Olinda, which takes place in the daytime and at venues all over the city, as opposed to night time in roped-off party zones more common in Rio and Sao Paulo.

    Carnival Girls dance in the streets

    Brazil Carnival has many parades, but the most elaborate are specifically designed to showcase plot-driven, themed samba school performances. To fully appreciate the complexity and artistry of the performances, it is helpful to understand the origins of the dance and even partake in samba lessons. You can get a pretty good idea for the samba in this 4 minute video by Tania Amthor.

    Brazil Carnival performance participants delve into their roles with the help of colorful and elaborate costumes. Ateliers work up to eight months in advance, making the costumes by hand. Bright parrot colors, feathers, beads, satins and sequins are typical materials used in Brazil Carnival costumes.

    Carnival Costumes are Colorful and Ornate. 

    Rio Carnival parades occur throughout the city, from Copacabana Beach to city streets. It's the Carnival Brazil floats and the glittering costumes of the samba dancers that are the most photogenic.

    Tudo Bem? Is everything OK?

    With the samba music pounding and everyone dancing around you, it might be quite difficult to pick up some of the phrases that are said during Carnaval. The Brazilian people tend to be incredibly proud of both their country and their Carnaval. If you are asked what you think of place then you could simply say “legal” which means "fine" but what if you really want to get across how much you have fallen in love with such a beautiful and fun loving country? Just say, "O Brasil é lindo maravilhoso!" This is a phrase which lets them know that you think that the country is wonderfully marvelous, and after just a short stay there, you are bound to mean it when you say it.

    "Tudo bem" is a catch-all phrase you can use if you bump into someone while you are dancing, get introduced to a stranger, or simply want to be friendly to anyone. In English it means “Is everything ok?,” but it can also mean “How are you?” in a general sense. If you don’t learn a lot of Portuguese then you are going to say this a lot while you are in Brazil.

    As I write this post on Fat Tuesday +4, it's fair to point out that the sanitation workers in Rio are still on strike, refusing to clear the post-party refuse. Carnaval began with parades and parties in the roped off zones of Rio on Friday, February 28th. By Wednesday morning, the city was more than slightly smelly. More on that story is here:

    I feel I MUST attend Caraval at least once in my life!

    Tudo Bem!

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Carnival 2014: Alexandria and Environs

    This is the fifth installment of an 8-part series on Carnival, the Fifth Season--and the biggest party on the planet!

    Dateline: ALEXANDRIA, March 4, 2014

    I make my home in the northern Virginia city of Alexandria, and I know better than to wear my favorite tie to work on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. And so do you, if you have been reading along. Welcome to the latest in a series of posts on Mardi Gras, past, present, and future--from Nebraska to New Orleans to Rome to Mainz and now here at home.

    On the morning of Fat Tuesday, the Pat O'Brien's
    hurricane glass is empty, the Cafe du Monde
    coffee cup is full, and there's nary a bead in sight.

    Last year, I found the baby in the King Cake at the Alexandria Brew Crew's Mardi Gras party, so that means I must provide this year's treats.

    New Orleans-style King Cake

    Speaking of Fat Tuesday treats, my Harley-riding girlfriend is Pennsylvania Dutch, and she recently educated me about Fasnachts and Fasnacht Day. A Fasnacht is a fried doughnut served traditionally in the days of Carnival / Fastnacht or on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts. Fasnachts are made as a way to empty the pantry of lardsugarfat, and butter, which are traditionally fasted from during Lent.

    The Pennsylvania Dutch in the area surrounding Lancaster, Pennsylvania, celebrate Fastnacht (the holiday) with fasnachts (the donuts). The central Pennsylvania church featured in this PennLive article makes tens of thousands donuts each Fasnacht Day. Most chain supermarkets in eastern Pennsylvania offer fasnachts, although a few offer Polish Pączki  (Pooch-key) instead. Commonly, pączki are round, rather than having straight sides, and they are filled with jelly, or sometimes creme filling. In parts of Maryland, the treats are called Kinklings, and are only sold in bakeries on Shrove Tuesday. The German version is made from a yeast dough, deep fried, and coated or dusted in sugar or cinnamon sugar; they may be plain or filled with fruit jam. In contrast, Pennsylvania Dutch fasnachts can often be potato doughnuts, and may be uncoated, dusted with table sugar, or powdered with confectioner's sugar.

    Doughnut? Or Donut? Kinkling, Pączki, or Fasnacht? It seems there are as many ways to get fat as there are fat pills. Fasnacht (the donut) is sometimes spelled Fastnacht (the German holiday), Faschnacht (similar to Fasching), Fosnot, Fosnaught, Fausnaught, Fasnacht, Fassenacht, Fasnet, etc. You get the picture: fun comes in many forms.

    Naturally our Donut Day party included a variety of locally made treats based on Old World traditions. We started late, after 8, because eating, drinking, and merry making is especially sinful late at night. And we went after it pretty hard, because passion fuels greatness.

    By nightfall, the hurricane glasses were full, the coffee
    was gone, beads were plentiful, and the infant King appeared

    Our Fasnacht Day / Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday menu:

    • Del Ray Pizzeria Butcher Block pizza (5 meats), 
    • hot Krispy Kreme donuts, 
    • Pączki (one with a hidden baby Jesus and guess what? I was the lucky finder again this year!), 
    • ice cream sandwiches with homemade chocolate chip cookies and homemade chocolate ice cream,
    • hurricane punch, and 
    • beads. Lots and lots of purple, green, and gold beads. 

    Music? Think, "Big Easy": jazz, brass, zydeco, Cajun, Creole, and a bit of blues
    • Roy "Professor Longhair" Byrd 
    • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    • Tom Waits
    • Jelly Roll Morton
    • The inimitable Dr. John
    • Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five
    • Fats Domino
    • The White Stripes
    • Tab Benoit
    • Sidney Bechet
    • Wynton Marsalis and
    • The Animals, singing House of the Rising Sun

    Participating in the biggest party on the planet

    Now that we have gotten all of that partying out of our systems and cleaned our pantries of such guilty pleasures as sugar, butter, and lard, we can turn our solemn attention to our mortality, to the dust from which we came and to which we shall return, and to the hope we have in our risen Savior.

    The baby King symbolically rising
    from a miniature Hurricane glass

    On to EASTER!

    PS--The Carnival season is called Fastnacht in southern Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria. The word Fastnacht originates from the German words "fast", which is the shortened version of the verb "fasten", which means "to fast", and "Nacht", meaning night, indicating the eve of the traditional Lenten fasting period observed by many Christian denominations.

    PSS--there are three more installments planned in this series on Carnival. Watch this space for posts about Carnivals of the Future!