Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The 10 Happiest Cities in America

Erik Gordon, the owner of Carabiner Coffee, serves climbers from a vintage Volkswagen van at Castle Rock, just a 20-minute drive from Boulder. Happiness for many of the city’s residents arises from its small-town character and its close proximity to nearby mountains. PHOTOGRAPH BY MATTHIEU PALEY for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

According to new research by Dan Buettner and National Geographic, the 10 happiest cities in America are:
  1. Boulder, Colorado
  2. Santa Cruz, California
  3. Charlottesville, Virginia
  4. Fort Collins, Colorado
  5. San Luis Obispo, California
  6. San Jose, California 
  7. Provo, Utah
  8. Bridgeport, Connecticut
  9. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
  10. Anchorage, Alaska
(You can find the list at NationalGeographic.com and in the cover story of the November issue of National Geographic magazine.)

I find "Happiness Research" fascinating. This blog is full of evidence of my interest in this topic. One thing I like about Buettner's approach is the distinction he draws between Positive Psychology (think mindfulness and gratitude journals), and more of a metrics-based approach.

Buettner, whose previous research has focused on longevity, admits that happiness is hard to define, let alone measure. One can, however, measure three things:
  • life satisfaction, or how you evaluate your life as a whole; 
  • positive affect, or your day-to-day, moment-to-moment happiness; and 
  • purpose, or whether you feel you have meaning in your life.

Buettner calls these metrics Pride, Pleasure, and Purpose, and he says enduring happiness occurs when these three strands are braided together.

Read more about the happiest cities in America, according to new research, HERE 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"Oh, Santa--You Shouldn't Have!" A Closer Look at the 2018 CVO Road Glide

The Motor Company celebrates its 115th year in 2018 with what Harley-Davidson claims is its largest-ever product development project, introducing 8 new cruisers and 5 new touring models, including my personal favorite, the CVO Road Glide.  



"In addition to six motorcycle “family” groups with 32 distinct models, the Milwaukee company launched 10 distinctively styled 115th Anniversary editions. When you add four Softail models that available with one of two different engines, the 2018 model count jumps to 46." --Digital Trends

That is a lot of models, but my singular focus is the 2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide. For those who do not know, "CVO" stands for Custom Vehicle Operations. This bike has factory installed upgrades such as the 117 cu on Screaming Eagle engine and the Orange Lava and Dark Alloy paint scheme.

I still love my 2008 Road King! But my next bike will have a shark nose fairing and CVO parts!



The Motor Company has produced four versions of the Road Glide for 2018. In order of increasing cost and desirability, they are: the standard Road Glide (FLTR), the Road Glide Special (FLTRX), the Road Glide Ultra (FLTRU), and the CVO Road Glide (FLTRXSE). 

Most Harley riders customize their bike(s) with functional and decorative add-ons. Harley's  designers select one or two models each year for some factory-installed custom features, allowing a small number of riders to buy their new bike already tricked out. The CVO versions of selected bikes include upgraded "Screaming Eagle" racing parts. In fact, the "SE" in the CVO Road Glide model designation (FLTRXSE) stands for Screaming Eagle. 



This bike has a lot of upgrades! 
"The CVO Road Glide is the sole new model in Harley’s 2018 lineup. With its $41,400 starting price, this fully-loaded Road Glide has a custom 21-inch front wheel and fender, a unique exhaust system, and a suspension specially set up for the larger front wheel." --Digital Trends



Have a closer look! Enjoy this walk-around video.


Here is the timeline for getting this beauty from the factory in York, PA to a special place under my Christmas tree:
  • Release of 2018 models announced, 22 Aug
  • Dealerships begin receiving the 2018 model year bikes, 23 Aug
  • Test ride bikes available for Harley Owner Group (HOG) members, 31 Aug
  • Test rides available for the general public, 2 Sep
  • Plenty of models in stock, just in time for Christmas shopping, 18 Nov (thus the timing for this post!)



Santa knows me well....
2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide. The suspension has been retuned for maximum performance with the 21-inch front wheel, and the front fender is also now unique to the CVO Road Glide. Also, the exhaust has a new finish that is only found on the CVO Road Glide. Colors: Black Earth/Vivid Black; Orange Lava/Dark Alloy; Gunship Gray.


Description & Comments

The 2018 CVO Road Glide is built to deliver optimal performance, handling, and ride quality. Get in the saddle, you won't be stopping anytime soon.
Features may include:


  • Milwaukee-Eight® Twin-Cooled 117 Engine
The most powerful V-Twin engine ever offered from the factory, and only available in CVO. Features color-accented Rocker Box Lowers with deep orange finish.
  • Custom Touring Style
Features the first Harley-Davidson factory-installed 21-inch front wheel, a unique exhaust finish, and a luxurious, super-premium paint scheme.
  • High-Performance Front and Rear Suspension
Dual bending valve front suspension and emulsion rear suspension with hand-adjustable pre-load put you in control of a plush ride.
  • Frame-Mounted Shark Nose Fairing
A distinctive, menacing, mile-hungry design that cuts through the wind like no other fairing in the world.
  • Premium BOOM! Box 6.5 Infotainment System
A stylish 6.5-inch full-color touchscreen display with voice activation for hands-free mobile phone, media, and navigation. Delivers powerful, pure sound and dynamic full-range audio.
  • Wireless Headsets with Wireless Headset Interface Module
Call hands-free on your Bluetooth® mobile phone, listen to stereo music or voice instructions of GPS navigations, and have intercom conversations with your passenger or fellow riders.
  • Reflex Linked Brembo® Brakes with Standard ABS
The front and rear brakes are electronically linked to provide exactly the right amount of brake to each tire no matter the road condition. No matter how good you are, this will make you a better rider.
  • Integrated Security System with a Power Locking Fob
A next-generation security system featuring a hands-free fob that locks and unlocks your machine, your luggage plus automatically arms and disarms its electronic security functions as you approach and walk away from the bike.


Be still my heart!
I've been good, Santa. Real good!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Word of the Day: IKIGAI

Ikigai, pronounced "ee-key-guy," is a Japanese word literally meaning the realization of what one hopes for and expects from life. This is akin to the Western concept of raison d'etre or one's useful purpose or reason for being. 



Figure 1. Conceptual model of ikigai



The illustration shows four overlapping components to ikigai. To fulfill one's purpose and find happiness, one must find an activity at the intersection of:
  • What one loves
  • What one is good at
  • What the world needs
  • What the world will pay for 
There are two internal or personal factors (what you love and what you are good at) and two external or corporate factors (what the world needs and what others will pay you for).

A natural progression from the most personal to the most corporate might look like this: Do what you love and you will get good at doing it. If the world needs and values the thing you are good at, you can earn a decent living doing it. If all is working well, you will love your activity even more and the virtuous cycle repeats and expands.

Figure 2. Although the four components work concurrently, not linearly, it may be helpful to imagine a progressive path, beginning with the most personal (what you love) and advancing through to the most external (what you can be paid for).


The four factors are weighted equally, hence the same-sized circles. Their relationship to one another is captured in a Venn diagram, implying that simultaneous outcomes are achieved through cyclic, iterative, interconnected, and mutually reinforcing factors. The factors are shown in a balanced state. All the circles and overlaps are uniform in size. However, the implication is that the relationship can become distorted if a factor grows or shrinks relative to the others. The "Love" circle can get bigger or smaller over time, and any change within that factor will distort the overall image.

The combination of what you love to do and what you are good at generates passion for your actions. If you can apply that passion to meet a need in the market, you are performing a mission. If customers are willing to pay you for the goods or services you bring to the market, your actions are consistent with your calling or vocation. And finally, if the thing you are getting paid for is also the thing you are good at relative to others, then you have found your profession. 

The maximum reward is gained at the overlap of all four circles. The rewards you earn for meeting a need by doing well something that you love include the summation of: 
  • Delight and fulfillment (12 o'clock), 
  • Excitement and usefulness (3 o'clock), 
  • Wealth and comfort (6 o'clock), and 
  • Satisfaction and certainty (9 o'clock). 

The rewards will be diminished if you are missing one or more of the four components. For example:
  • If you are doing what you love but are not getting paid, you may experience delight and fullness but no wealth (12 o'clock)
  • If you are doing what the world needs but you are not particularly good at it, you may experience excitement and complacency, but also a sense of uncertainty (3 o'clock)
  • If you are getting paid but you don't love what you are doing, you may be comfortable but experience a feeling of emptiness (6 o'clock)
  • If you are doing what you are good at but the world doesn't need it, you may feel satisfaction but also a sense of uselessness (9 o'clock)
Similarly, an imbalance in the four components can diminish the rewards of ikigai. For example, imagine a passion project that you love but no one is paying for. The abundance of love may allow you to continue with the project but the imbalance causes an increase in the passion and mission areas at the expense of critical profession and vocation areas. Notice also that the area of the overlap between the components--that area that represents ikigai--is smaller.

Figure 3. Imbalance stresses the factors and reduces ikigai

The secret to happiness according to the concept of ikigai is to do what you love, especially if: you are relatively good at it; there is a need for it; and you can earn a decent living doing it. The amount of happiness you achieve is a function of (and perhaps a measure of) your ability to translate your love into quality goods and services, then meet market needs with the quality product, then collect payment from satisfied customers.

In theory, if you are not happy and fulfilled, look at all four factors for reasons. Look at the factors separately and together (love + skill = passion). Identify the gaps, and set out to make improvements.
  • Are you doing what you love?
  • Are you good at the thing you are doing?
  • Does your product meet a specific need in the market?
  • Are you getting paid enough to cover your expenses and provide comfort?

If the answer to any one of these questions is not a resounding YES, then perhaps there is some room for improvement--or maybe even a requirement for radical change. If love is lacking, then either figure out how to bring more love into the activity or find a different activity you love even more. This process is personal. Life is too short to entrust your personal happiness--your ikigai--to anyone else.


Life is short: nurture ikigai.


Figure 4. Cover art for García and Miralles (2017)

In their new book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Héctor García, and Francesc Miralles define ikigai as the happiness of always being busy. But happiness is the goal, not merely being busy. We all know someone who is busy and miserable! And many of us have experienced that situation. I prefer the definition I laid out at the beginning of this post:


Ikigai is the realization of what one hopes for and expects from life. This realization is achieved through discovering, revealing, curating, and perfecting one's useful purpose or reason for being. 

I'd like to conclude with an abrupt left turn and a challenge for readers. Is ikigai the best prescription for happiness? How could it be improved? My friend Scott Nestler has this Kelly Corrigan quote hanging on his office wall:


"Make yourself useful, doing something hard, with good people."


This motto picks up a theme that appears missing from ikigai: teamwork. I'd like to ask readers to compare and contrast Corrigan's quote with the concept of ikigai in the comments. Which do you prefer, and why? Is anything else missing from ikigai? Do you have a different model or motto that you prefer? My intent is that the interaction which follows in comments will spark a future post.

As always, thank you for reading PhilosFX. Thoughtful comments are welcome. Stay (intellectually) thirsty, my friends! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Postlogue, Postlude, & Postscript: My 2017 MLB Post-season Prognostications in Review


Here is the update and close out to my Peerless Post-season Prognostication post for World Series 2017 in which I once again (erroneously) predicted that the Nats would win it all...

Yes, I had tried the same thing for WS 2016, calling for a Nats-Orioles championship and apparently, my enthusiasm over-rode my powers of observation once again... As we know, the Nats dropped their decisive game 5 with the Cubbies on Oct 12th.

I went on to predict the Dodgers and the Astros would advance to the World Series and picked the Astros to win. So, I ended up with 50% accuracy, if you buy my logic. That is a big improvement from the 33% rate I achieved last year.

Maybe next year, I can hit 100%! Go, NATS! #OnePursuit!




I wanted the National League to win the World Series, but more specifically, I wanted the Nats to go all the way. After the Cubs beat the Nats, my consolation objective was for the Cubbies to repeat as World Champion. Then the Dodgers crushed that dream. So, I decided to back the Astros.



As mentioned, I had some sentimental reasons for becoming an erstwhile Astros fan: Hurricane Harvey hit Houston hard, Houston had never won it all before, Houston was the underdog, and the name "Astros" reminded me of my first Total Solar Eclipse experience (August 2017). 

I gave myself credit for picking an American League team to win, reversing my previous preference for the National League contender for a simple reason. The Astros were, until recently, a National League team! 

In fact, not only were the Dodgers and the Astros league-mates for 50 years, from 1962 to 2012, they also played in the same division, the NL West, from 1969 to 1993. The Astros joined the AL in 2013 to balance the leagues with three divisions of five teams each.


This Houston-LA matchup was not what many TV executives would have wanted. I think many ad agencies were dreaming of a coast-to-coast NY-LA World Series. However, and even though it took all 7 games, Justin Verlander and the David-like Astros toppled the gigantic Dodgers in dramatic fashion. 

And I loved it! 

But next year, 
give me the Curly W!



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

MLB 2017: Peerless Postseason Prognostications

It's simple. I want to see the Nats win a World Series. Is that too much to ask?

I think not! 

As the NL East Division Champs, the Washington Nationals have a legitimate shot at going all the way this year. Here is what the playoff bracket looks like on Day One:



Below is my fearless prediction, posted on the first night of post-season play.



I'll come back and grade my guesses after each milestone. May the best team win!

Play ball! 

Go, Nats!

One Pursuit!



Update after both Wild Card games: on track for a Nats World Series Championship! #OnePursuit!



Update after the Division Championships--and the total collapse of my bracket. The Nats will have to watch the World Series again this year. Go, GO, 'STROS!








UPDATE after the Stros win to force GAME 7 in the ALCS.






Even though my Nats are out and the callous owners somehow saw fit to let Dusty Baker go (WHAT!?), I still have a shot at 50% on my bracket. I predict the Astros will defeat the Yankees tonight (Oct 21, 2017) and then go on to topple the Dodgers in the World Series.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Souvenirs from the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge

Mission accomplished!

In an earlier post, I mentioned our planned exploration of Chesapeake Bay lighthouses during the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge. I'm writing to say, 

"We made it! We have seen the lights!"


We visited 12 lights in 36 hours. We rode 540 miles to visit lighthouses from the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay in Havre de Grace to the southernmost tip of Maryland at Point Lookout, and from Baltimore's Inner Harbor across the Bay Bridge to Cambridge. 

In addition to crossing the Bay, we traversed tributaries including the Potomac, Patapsco, Severn, Choptank, and South Rivers. That is a lot of bridges, but bridges are the subject of a different post!



A map showing the twelve lights we visited around the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries

By participating in the challenge, we earned a special prize at each stop we made during the two-day tour. The prize was a colorful coaster imprinted with a photo of the subject lighthouse.



We received a coaster as a souvenir at each stop. The top coaster commemorates the 2017 Challenge.
The second row contains coasters from the first three stops

Coasters from stops 4 through 9

Coasters from stops 10 through 12 plus the "Finishers" coaster at the bottom.

Do you like lighthouses? Have you ever just gone on a two-wheel tour of lighthouses around the Bay? We signed up for the challenge and I am glad we did! I highly recommend it!

The challenge is a fundraiser for the US Lighthouse Society to help pay for upkeep of the lighthouses. For more information, please visit the USLHS website here: http://uslhs.org/

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Lights of the 2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge



My proposed route for the Maryland Lighthouse Challenge



“I’ve seen the lights!”


The U.S. Lighthouse Society's Chesapeake Chapter presents:

2017 Maryland Lighthouse Challenge


The highly anticipated 11th Maryland Lighthouse Challenge will be held on Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17, 2017. An early bird date of Friday, September 15 offers additional, "unofficial" lighthouse appreciation activities on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Complimentary souvenirs will be given at each Challenge location. You are welcome to visit any number of lighthouses along the Challenge route, but you will have to visit all mandatory stops to be able to proclaim “I’ve seen the lights!” and collect a specially designed souvenir to mark your accomplishment.


The lineup of "Mandatory Lights" around the clockwise route includes these 10:
1. Concord Point, Havre de Grace
2. Seven Foot Knoll, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Pier 5
3. Lightship Chesapeake, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Pier 3
4. Hooper Strait, St. Michael's
5. Choptank River Replica, Cambridge
6. Cove Point, Lusby
7. Drum Point, Solomons
8. Piney Point Lighthouse, Piney Point
9. Point Lookout, Lexington Park
10. Fort Washington Lighthouse, Fort Washington


Bonus Lights include:
• Millers Island Lighthouse at Sparrow’s Point (between Concord Point and Inner Harbor)
• Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse at Annapolis (in Annapolis near the Bay Bridge)
• Blackistone Lighthouse Replica at Colton’s Point (between Point Lookout and Fort Washington)


Visiting these three bonus lighthouses is not counted toward event completion, but will take Challengers to three more beautiful Bay locations, earning them extra event souvenirs!


I'm excited to combine my passions for boating and two-wheeled travel on an early fall weekend. Toss in an overnight in lovely Annapolis, and this trip has the makings of a memorable treat. My plan is to meet the challenge in two days.

  • Day One: ride from Alexandria to Concord Point, then bypass the optional Millers Island light in the interest of time, hit the two in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, then cross the Bay Bridge to Hooper and Choptank, then head back across the Bay Bridge to end the day in Annapolis. Option: visit Sandy Point Shoal if time allows.
  • Day Two: Head south to complete the challenge in a clockwise manner, Cove, Drum, Piney, Point Lookout, optional stop at Blackistone, then on to Fort Washington before crossing the Wilson Bridge on I-495 back to Alexandria.
Just under 500 miles over 2 days, to see 10 to 12 lights, collect souvenirs, and earn bragging rights.

The Maryland Lighthouse Challenge…
Making Maryland memories–one lighthouse at a time!

Contact: Challenge Coordinator, Karen Rosage, (410) 437-0741, challenge@cheslights.org. Accessed Sep 3, 2017 from http://cheslights.org/maryland-lighthouse-challenge/.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

"My Aim is True" Turns 40


22 July 1977 to 22 July 2017


"It was rather like recording in a telephone booth. Overdubs were barely an option. Everything is heard pretty much as it was played."


--Elvis Costello, via Twitter on July 22nd


L.I.N.K.S. (XVI): MAIT Turns 40

In this edition of L.I.N.K.S. (hyperlinks that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate), we focus on the 40th anniversary of the release of "My Aim Is True," Elvis Costello's debut album.

"Recorded in four six-hour late-night sessions in a London eight-track studio, My Aim Is True was the debut album by the audaciously named soon-to-be 22-year-old singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, née Declan Patrick McManus. Produced by Nick Lowe, former bassist for the pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz and a labelmate on the cheeky upstart indie Stiff Records, it reportedly cost a mere £2,000 to make, and was released in the U.K. on July 22, 1977."




My favorite links:

1. Paste features Elvis saying he’s actually not angry as angrily as humanly possible

2. Billboard does the impossible and ranks the album's tracks

3. Trunkworthy pays homage to a track that didn't make the album

4. Treblezine focuses on the artist's professed motives of revenge and guilt

And finally,

5. Spill takes the story to a personal level, drawing from the recent Costello autobiography


“I’ve always told people that I wrote ‘Alison’ after seeing a beautiful checkout girl at the local supermarket,” writes Costello in Unfaithful Music on perhaps the most well-known song on My Aim is True; after all the album takes its name from a line in the song

“Now she was punching in the prices on cans of beans at a cash register and looking as if all the hopes and dreams of her youth were draining away. All that would be left would soon be squandered to a ruffian who told her convenient lies and trapped her still further.”




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Word of the Day #2: Ultracrepidarian

By © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19101824

1. The Word of the Day is

Ultracrepidarian

[uhl-truh-krep-i-dair-ee-uhn]




2. Ultracrepidarian is defined as:

adjective: Giving opinions beyond one's area of expertise.

noun: One who gives opinions beyond one's area of expertise.

From Latin ultra (beyond) + crepidarius (shoemaker), from crepida (sandal).
The meaning of this word comes from a story in antiquity, in which the famed Greek painter Apelles one day heard a cobbler criticizing the way he, Apelles, had rendered a foot in a painting. Apelles then said that when it comes to feet, the shoemaker "shouldn’t render an opinion beyond the sole," or similar words to that same devastating effect.  Zing!

3. The reason I looked up today's word is:

There are times when we need a word, the perfect word, to describe and disarm a person who gets on our very last nerve.



"I dream of a world where we can sort out our differences by calling someone names instead of pulling out a gun and shooting." --Anu Garg

4. For more information:


Shockingly precise insults: https://wordsmith.org/words/ultracrepidarian.html


Keep trying!

A close friend of mine recently shared the following observation.

Just re-watched the movie Ratatouille yesterday with the kiddos and was struck again at how profound this quote at the end is (from the food critic Anton Ego) and wanted to share it:

Anton Ego, voiced by Peter O'Toole in the Pixar movie, Ratatouille

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

Even if one is not familiar with the Oscar-winning movie, the droll and dreary character's comment strikes a certain nerve. In this scene, Anto Ego realizes that his power comes from passing judgement (often harshly) on the creative efforts of others. I believe he has something of an epiphany: 

Not everyone can be great, 
but greatness can come from anyone.   

Keep trying! The world is full of critics, and let's just agree that critics have their place in the world. But who are the critics, really, without the creators? Ask yourself this: do we need more critics, or more creators? 

When you go to a restaurant, a play, a concert, or a movie, you are a consumer. As a consumer, you should feel free to form your own opinion about the performance. There is no accounting for taste, so if you don't like the expensive wine, don't buy it.  

But what really matters in this world is not what you consume, nor what you or others think about the offered goods. What matters is what you produce! What are you good at doing? What can you offer? And here is where I must say, "Don't pay attention to the critics!" Pay attention to what you are here to do: Create. Produce. Add value. 

You will only hear the voices of critics if you are actually doing something. You will only get complaints if you are making a difference. Strive for the adulation of critics and the loyalty of customers, and learn from the reactions, good and bad. At the end of the day, the world needs more producers than consumers.  

Keep trying! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

That Moment When #7: Alarm Clock


That moment when your 5:30 alarm goes off and you get mad at yourself for even setting an alarm on Saturday and you go back to sleep and it's Tuesday.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Choir! Choir! Choir! Rufus Wainwright and 1500 singers sing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah


I love everything about this music video: the song itself, the crowd, the production--everything. Please click HERE and enjoy immensely.




Friday, June 23, 2017

Word of the Day #1: Meretricious



The Word of the Day is:

Meretricious

adjective  mer·e·tri·cious \ˌmer-ə-ˈtri-shəs\

The definition of today's word is:

  1. 1:  of or relating to a prostitute :  having the nature of prostitution meretricious relationships
  2. 2a :  tawdrily and falsely attractivethe paradise they found was a piece of meretricious trash — Carolyn Seeb :  superficially (see superficial 2) significant :  pretentiousscholarly names to provide fig-leaves of respectability for meretricious but stylish books — The Times Literary Supplement (London)


And the reason we looked this word up today is:

The Mom Who Hosted Naked Twister Also Allegedly Took A ‘Multi-Party’ Bubble Bath With Teens



What is this WORLD coming to?





Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Week in the Life of Deve

I'm working on a personal philosophy of life. The book is tentatively titled, The Tao of Deve. This is obviously a riff on the movie titled The Tao of Steve, with the name modified to a nickname I sometimes use.

That being said, this past seven days has been rather, um, "interesting." Pull up a stool, sit a spell, and hear tell about A Week in the Life of Deve. Have you ever had a week like this?

  • Last Thursday, a person I did not know committed suicide in the parking garage under the building in which I work. Crime scene tape went up, and we are all left wondering what happened to this poor soul to cause this irreversible outcome?
  • Friday, while riding home from work on my motorcycle, I came upon a fatal accident involving a fellow motorcyclist and a truck. The collision had occurred moments before I arrived at the intersection between Richmond Highway and the street that goes to my house. The biker was traveling at a high rate of speed and the impact with the turning truck was so violent as to require life-flights for the driver and the two passengers... of the truck. Let's just say out of respect for the dead that life-flight was not required for the biker, who obviously died on impact. More crime scene tape, and hundreds of stunned neighbors. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, at the fateful intersection, family and friends held nightly vigils for the motorcyclist.
  • Wednesday morning, a gunman started shooting at people practicing for the Congressional baseball game. This national news occurred minutes after I rode my motorcycle right by the Alexandria park on my way to the office. The camera crews were still there at noon when I went home for lunch. Five people were injured and the gunman, who shot some 50 rounds from his rifle before Park Police and Special Agents protecting Congress-persons stopped him, is dead. More crime scene tape. More questions.
  • Wednesday, continued. While driving my daughter to pick up her car over our lunch break, we witnessed a driver in the lane to our left swerve to his right, over-correct to the left, lose control of his car, and sideswipe the Jersey barrier separating inner and outer loop of Beltway traffic. His side airbag deployed and we watched him safely slow his vehicle to a stop in the breakdown lane. Thankfully, no other vehicles were involved. What-if questions abound. What if he had completely lost control? What if there had been no Jersey barrier and the driver went head-on into opposing traffic? What if he were injured by the impact with the barrier--would we have be competent to render aid? What if there had been more traffic--and more cars involved in a pile-up? Lastly and most hauntingly--what if he had careened into our car?

I share these four vignettes to express my grateful heart and to encourage others to find things to be grateful for amidst the occasionally terrifying events around us. Yes, sometimes we must look a little harder to find the good, but it is always possible and always worth the effort.

Life is stochastic. I personally believe in something I call God-authored randomness. In other words, the Universe is intentionally and deliberately uncertain--by design. I don't believe that there is no plan. Rather, I believe that the plan is to allow random forces to work. If nothing else, this keeps us on our toes. But it also explains why good things happen to bad people.

The effect on me of being in close proximity to any one of these four recent events? I feel lucky. Nothing more. I do not feel protected by the hand of God, though I appeal to God for protection and believe that such appeals have a positive effect. I am only vaguely aware of how often I've dodged bullets like these. I am grateful to be alive in terrifyingly interesting times.

The effect of all four of these events in a week? I take a step back. I get a bit philosophical. I realize I must pay attention to my surroundings. I vow to never take a single day for granted. We should all consider that fate is fickle. Life is good, even when it seems chaotic, unfair, or tragic.

Speaking of chaotic, I had a friend ask me if my concept of God-authored randomness wasn't just a new name for Chaos Theory. Not really, not in my humble opinion anyway. Chaos theory states that underlying the apparent chaos is an unseen order. The oft-cited example is the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and causing a a tornado in Texas--"causing" being the key word. Chaos theory depends on the inter-connected-ness of all things. Unbroken chains of events only appear to be chaotic but are actually predictable.

Perhaps God is the Master Watch Maker and the Universe is an inconceivably complex watch, as Chaos Theory implies. But it is simpler and saner (IMHO) to imagine God as an all-powerful but somewhat laissez faire Creator who unleashed the life force and who delights in all its many manifestations as it struggles, adapts, and overcomes all obstacles in seeking its Source. The God-authored randomness theory states that life happens according to the biological imperative (which could be seen as a Divine charter) and the circumstances of daily living are completely random--no underlying order can or should be inferred.

Believe it or not: we are where we're meant to be. Some of us are more successful, some less so. Every moment is a gift. The wind is at our backs. The sun is in our faces. Rain falls gently on our fields. Storms do come and go--some wreaking devastation and leaving destruction in their wake. That's part of the deal. None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, but we can all know that, come what may, life is good. Bad things happen to good people, yet we must strive to be good, just, and compassionate. I am happy, and grateful to be alive.

It's been a rather interesting week in the Life of Deve.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why Genius Takes Time: Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen

This post should be entitled, PhilosFX on Open Culture's Article about Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History Podcast on Why Genius Takes Time: A Look at the Making of Elvis Costello’s “Deportee” & Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Because, truth in lending, that is what you are really getting here today.





Things I like: podcasts, Malcolm Gladwell, genius, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah,” and writing about all of that on PhilosFX. If today's post strikes some as a bit derivative, so be it. That is a Venn diagram I can really get into! 

Malcolm Gladwell has an new podcast, called Revisionist History. Gladwell recently aired a podcast about the genius of Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen. Here is a link to a recent episode of unsurpassing interest. The show is 39 minutes in duration, and highly recommended.

Teaser: 

How does genius emerge? An exploration of different types of innovation—through the lens of Elvis Costello’s extraordinary song “Deportee,” once utterly forgettable and then, through time and iteration, a work of beauty and genius. 
Check it out! To learn more about the topics covered in this episode, visit www.RevisionistHistory.com and search for Episode 7, Hallelujah.
When I searched for this podcast, I first landed on this Open Culture story about the podcast (derivative, right?).

One quibble: Gladwell selects John Cale's cover of Hallelujah as his favorite. While there can be no accounting on matters of taste, I respectfully disagree with Malcolm on this point. For reference, I have opined upon this question in a previous post.


Sharing is caring. Here is a bit more info about Open Culture

Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in-between.

And now in conclusion, a bit more about Revisionist History

If you're looking to go deeper into the subjects on Revisionist History, visit Malcolm's collection on iBooks at http://www.apple.co/MalcolmGladwell -- iBooks will update the page every week with new recommendations. 

I love sharing things I love. Today, here on PhilosFX, we are all about Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, song-writing genius, creativity over time, and revisionist history through the mind of Malcom Gladwell. Enjoy!



Thursday, May 4, 2017

"Seven Day Weekend"

I rode CERUS[1] to Annapolis to take in the spring sailboat show, along with other things[2]. For reasons which are about to be revealed, I am grateful that I happened to wear a certain concert t-shirt for the day.


Sporting an Elvis Costello Concert T 

I found a convenient parking spot for my Harley and stripped off the outer layer of riding gear to reveal an inner layer: sandals, shorts, and a glorious Elvis Costello concert t-shirt--perfect attire for hanging out on the dock and checking out the sailboats! I was pleasantly surprised at the number of conversations sparked by that t-shirt. It seems I am not the only Elvis Costello fan who also loves sailing!  


This sleek catamaran is owned by a fellow Elvis Costello fan. 

In fact, I was strolling along the dock, about to leave, actually, when a sweet British lass spotted my shirt, commended me for my obvious good taste (ahem!), and, with the promise of a special surprise, lured me aboard a 38' Seawind catamaran. Like a sailor from Homer's Odyssey, I followed

Turns out my siren was a member of the Seawind staff [3]. Coincidentally, she and Elvis Costello are related--in that they both attended the same secondary school: Archbishop Myers Roman Catholic School, which is now St Mark's Catholic Secondary School. Will wonders never cease?

(I suppose most PhilosFX readers can name the most famous person who graduated from their high school. Remind me some day to remind you that I attended the same high school as did the one and only King of Late Night, Johnny Carson.)

Turns out, this was just the beginning of the coincidences in store for me on this day... Following closely behind my siren-guide, I paused at the hostess station and removed my sandals as the hostess beckoned me to sign the guest book prior to boarding the vessel. Lo and behold, the hostess also commented on my shirt, and I began to get excited.

Again under the spell of my siren-guide, I was escorted to the salon and the first of many surprises. Imagine a living room with a wrap-around sectional couch. Now picture the couch lined with comfy pillows. Now flip the pillows around and notice that they spell out a familiar sounding lyric:

"I can't wait until I maybe 
Get off work and see my baby
One, two, three, four, five, 
six, seven day weekend!"

Soon I met a gentleman named Bob, the owner of "Seven Day Weekend." We talked about our common interests, including sleek, super-fast catamarans and prolific, living-legend musical geniuses. We hit it off from jump.




Soon, Bob told me the story of how he came up with the name for his boat. He was playing some Elvis Costello, as he often does--Blood and Chocolate, as it happens--when suddenly a catchy tune caught his attention. The words jumped out at him: seven day weekend. Perfect! And I couldn't agree more.

Enjoy listening to "Seven Day Weekend," the 30-year old Elvis Costello song that inspired the christening of this sleek catamaran.



"Seven Day Weekend"
Written and performed by Elvis Costello and Jimmy Cliff
Available on Blood and Chocolate, 1986


Notes:
[1] CERUS is the name of a mythical warhorse, and my 2008 Harley-Davidson Road King
[2] I also met some friends at Chick & Ruth's Delly for a delicious brunch featuring--what else?--crab omelettes! When in Annapolis...
[3] Here is a link with more information about the Seawind catamaran "Seven Day Weekend"

H/T to MGBW for the ticket to the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show