Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Apple: Meet Tree


I had a lot of fun growing my beard recently, and Herman Melville liked it, too... Those curly locks were sacrificed for MOvember, and they are fondly missed. However, duty calls! 

And to soothe my hurting heart and freshly scraped face, I would like to pay homage to the only reason I am able to grow a decent beard: 

I am my father's son. 

When it comes to beards, Dad knows a thing or two. His beard-growing prowess is legend-hairy! 

When I was a young lad, living with my Mom and Dad and little brother in Lincoln, Nebraska, Dad saw an advertisement for a beard growing contest. This contest was sponsored by a local bank to celebrate Nebraska's Centennial of Statehood. 

Not only did Dad enter the contest, but he won the top prize for the best overall beard. Some details are in the article below. Let's assume the date was a typo! 

Dad was 28 years old in this picture. The contest was announced just 6 months before the judging, so his beard was less than six months in the making. 

Here is a picture of Dad's prize-winning
beard for the Nebraska Centennial in 1967

All of the grooming was done at home. Dad had some help from Mom, and the results were spectacular!  

Contestants dressed in period costume. Dad dressed as a banker might have been in 1867. He had arm-bands that bankers used to keep their sleeves pulled back tightly and some round spectacles that I borrowed and accidentally broke while enacting Ebenezer Scrooge in a middle school production of A Christmas Carol. Mom dressed the part too, with a beautiful yarn-dyed taffeta gown she made herself. I was six at the time and I remember Dad grooming his beard on Sunday mornings before church and listening to the men bantering about it after service. 

After winning the local contest in Lincoln, he went on to earn 2nd place and a big trophy in the Lancaster County contest. 

Nebraska revived the popular pioneer days beard contest for its Sesquicentennial in 2017 but I think Dad's beard and outfit will never be topped.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Live a Great Story


This blog called PhilosFX. The motivating idea behind the combination of Philosophy and Special Effects is Plato's Maxim, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Early on, I expressed this motivating idea as, 

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

The implication of PhilosFX's motto is that life is a performance. Our time on the stage of life is brief and uncertain. The best way to live is to fully express each fleeting moment. As an Extrovert in the MBTI sense of the word, this motto makes perfect sense to me. Living your best life means living out loud.

There has always been one aspect of the motto that troubles me and some of my more introverted friends. The quality of one's lived experience is best judged by the individual's internal scale, not some external measure like audience approval. 

Today, I think I have found an inspirational phrase I like even better. 

"Live a Great Story." 

Seriously! Why didn't I think of that!? 

I am not affiliated with the creators of that inspirational phrase, now available on stickers, but I like it enough to send them some business. Please have a look at their website and consider ordering some Inspiration Sticker Packs. Spread the word. 

However you say it, remember the timeless truth in Plato's Maxim, and lean into life! 

"An unexamined life is not worth living."

This blog's name and phrase will remain unchanged but I do acknowledge the lesson. I believe that remaining open-minded, expressing some vulnerability, and showing a willingness to explore the unknown unknowns is consistent with living a fuller life. 

Thank you for dropping by PhilosFX today. Peace. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Finisher! Army 10-Miler 2020

 My 10th Army Ten-Miler is in the bag! 

The first annual Army Ten-Miler (ATM) occurred in 1984, the same year I received my commission as a Second Lieutenant of Engineers and long before I ever dreamed of running more than the required 2 miles. Time goes by, does it not? Life happens.... A few 5ks, a few 10ks, and soon running becomes a joy and the joy of running becomes habitual. 

Upon returning to CONUS in 2000, I ran my first ATM in what is still my best time. I have run the Fall Classic a total of 10 times (9 officially--I'll explain later). Now I'm 20 years older and hopefully somewhat wiser. With knees of papier mache and ankles that crackle like dry spaghetti, I am content to finish! 

Race day! DC hat, outlaw/motorcycle kerchief/mask, racing bib, and "Never Quit!" training shirt

My string of ATMs includes these years: 2000, 2001 (unofficial), 2002, 2010, 2011, 2013 (the week before my first (and possibly only) Marine Corps Marathon), 2014, 2015, 2016 (not my best effort--okay, my worst, by far), and 2020--the comeback kid! 

As you can see, I last competed four years ago and that was my poorest outing to date. The sordid tale is detailed HERE. Then in 2018, though determined to improve my trend, I was forced to sell my bib due to some lower back issues. Last year I did not even sign up, as 2019 was all about sailing (in lieu of running).

This year's edition was particularly sweet for personal reasons. You see, in the fall of 2019, I experienced a bizarre medical emergency. Blood clots from DVTs I did not even know I had dislodged from veins deep in my legs and clogged my lungs. The blockage in both lungs was bad enough to land me in the hospital. Obviously and thankfully, I pulled through, but I remember the day I came home. I thought, "Wouldn't it be awesome to run my 10th ATM less than a year after a serious medical emergency? From struggling to move around the pulmonary ward with supplemental oxygen, a walker, and those infamous yellow "fall risk" slipper-socks to gliding over the 10-mile racecourse in my Brooks Beasts in under a year? 

Game on!   

And so wheels were put in motion! Walking. Walking faster. Walking further. Jogging. Walking and jogging, i.e., wogging. One foot in front of the other! Keep moving forward. That's the way you do it! 

Shirt, bib, coin / medal, and Brooks Beast 20

And the results? 


This year was a virtual race, which gave me the freedom to choose my own course. I trained in my neighborhood, but for race day, I went to the familiar bike trail alongside the Potomac. 

The map shows the start and finish line of my 10-mile loop. 

The best part of the course was the bridges--I ran twice over 14 in all, plus I enjoyed a great view of the mighty Woodrow Wilson bridge. I ran from the start north to cross the stone bridge over Hunting Creek, and then south over wooden bridges 24, 23, 22, etc. down to 12 near Fort Hunt where I turned around. About half-way from the start to the southern turnaround, the bike trail crossed over the G. W. Parkway on a magnificent stone arch bridge. 

One of my favorite bridges on the bike path beside the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Bridge No. 12 is near Fort Hunt. At this point, I had just reversed course and was heading back north to the finish. 

I wore my race bib and saw one other racer who was also drawn to the beautiful, winding, riverside course. I made friends with bikers and other pedestrians who saw that I was racing and cheered me on. This crowd support was perhaps not the same as throngs of supporters lining the streets of DC in a typical ATM, but it was nice all the same.  

Along the way, I made a new, well-camouflaged friend (foggy glasses not for turtle vision but for scale)

This was my second virtual Army 10-Miler. The first was years ago and not officially sanctioned. After 9/11, organizers canceled the race for obvious security concerns. Back in those days, we still had snipers on the roof of the Pentagon and anti-aircraft weapon systems on the 5 corners. But a group of us ran anyway, wearing Family Support Group shirts of our own design. Unlike the "shadow" races that have been sanctioned for forward-deployed Soldiers, our 2001 race was not recognized officially. However, in my book, it was the best. 

Detail of this year's shirt confirms that ATM 2020 was a virtual race

I think it was a clever idea to provide a ribbon and clip to convert the coin into a medal if the runner so desired. This was the first year MDW offered this option, in response to runner feedback. Great idea! 

The coin comes on a ribbon to wear like a medal

Personally, I never wear the official race t-shirt until after I've earned it. I've seen a lot of runners wearing them during past races, and that is fine, just not for me. 

The back of this year's shirt looks like a billboard or something out of  NASCAR 

The Army Ten-Miler is conducted by The U.S. Army Military District of Washington and is the third-largest 10-mile road race in the world. The ATM traditionally starts and finishes at the Pentagon with a course that travels through Washington, D.C.

“The Army Ten Miler is a demonstration of the Army’s commitment to readiness, fitness, and our communities. This annual race is a symbol of these commitments and of our dedication to the health and safety of the entire Army family.” --Maj. Gen. Omar J. Jones, commander of The U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The 36th Army Ten-miler virtual edition entry fee was $59 and all race proceeds benefit U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs. 

"Having fun doing good!" 

You can view my updated Army Ten-Miler Shirt collection HERE.

Friday, October 16, 2020

MOvember MOtto: vultus capillos est sapientia

vultus capillos est sapientia

"In facial hair there is wisdom."

This shall be my motto (MOtto?) for MOvember 2020

MOvember is coming...

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

From Elvis: 50 Songs for the 50 Days Prior to Election Day (Part 3)

 Here on PhilosFX, we will bring you an ongoing recapitulation of Elvis Costello's project, "50 Songs for 50 Days."

On Sept 15, 2020, Sir Declan Patrick MacManus, OBE announced he'd be launching a song daily for the next 50 days. These songs will comprise a curated playlist for this time of cultural, political, and environmental upheaval. The announcement was made on his official website and came to my attention via his Facebook page

"I hope these songs will amuse, console or even infuriate, because passive indifference is hardly the way forward."--Elvis Costello

It's probably no surprise that the next 50 days takes us up to early November and an important election in the United States of America. 

If you are a fan of Elvis Costello, you will likely already: 

  • be connected to his website
  • be able to see each new song as it gets added to the playlist 
  • have a streaming service lined up to play these tunes (Playlist added to Spotify on 9/17) 
  • have access to the lyrics via a comprehensive Wiki.

But what you will not have, and what we at PhilosFX, therefore, pledge to provide, is a recapitulation of all 50 songs, complete with links to lyrics enabling you to read (or sing?) along as each song plays. 

I want this resource for myself and I am more than happy to build it day by day and share it with others as it develops and afterward, for posterity.  Patronize the creator for the original content, and let me know whether this recap adds value by leaving a comment. 

Part 1 (Songs 1-14, Sep 15-28) is available HERE

Part 2 (Songs 15-28, Sep 29-Oct 12) is available HERE

Now we commence with Part 3 as the countdown to the election continues:

No. 29 - "In The Darkest Place" from Painted From Memory (1998).

In the darkest place
I`m lost
I have abandoned every hope

No. 30 - "Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy" from Kojak Variety (1995).

A bad enough situation
Is sure enough getting worse
Everybody's crying justice
Just as long as there's business first

No. 31 - "Hora Decubitus" (Bedtime) from My Flame Burns Blue (2006).
Life is a beautiful thing
No. 32 - "Newspaper Pane" released for download / streaming on this day (Oct 16) from the forthcoming album Hey Clockface (due Oct 30, 2020). You may also enjoy this video with lyrics. 

I don’t spend my time perfecting the past
I live for the future
Because I know it won’t last
A bent note on a horn I can’t play
Ghosts in the window
That I can’t wish away

No. 33 - "Clowntime Is Over" from Get Happy!! (1980).

Tears on your blackmail
Written to ransom
A point of the fingernail
Says that he`s handsome

No. 34 - "American Gangster Time" from Momofuku (2008).
Next week there'll be some fashionable new sin
For each harlot and each Puritan
Pull off their wings stick them on a pin
And just watch the money roll in

No. 35 - "Weird Nightmare" from Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus (1992).
Weird nightmare
Why must you torment me?
Weird nightmare
Pain and misery
In a heart that’s loved and lost
Take away the grief you’ve caused

No. 36 - "Poor Napoleon" from Blood & Chocolate (1986).
One day they'll probably make a movie out of all of this
There won't even have to be a murder just a slow dissolving kiss

No. 37 - "TRIPWIRE" from Wise Up Ghost (2013).

Torn from the pages of history
Repeated again and again and again
You're either for or against us
And that is how the hatred begins

No. 38 - "It's Time" from All This Useless Beauty (1996) 
The party's over
Time we broke up
It always seemed like a bad dream
One where I finally woke up
This magic moment concluding our mutual fate
But if you do have to leave me
Who will I have left to hate?
Who will I have left to hate?
No. 39 - "New Lace Sleeves" from Trust (1981)
Even presidents have newspaper lovers
Ministers go crawling under covers
She's no angel
He's no saint
They're all covered up with whitewash and grease paint
And you say…
The teacher never told you anything but white lies
But you never see the lies
And you believe

No. 40 - "Stick Out Your TONGUE" from Wise Up Ghost (2013)*

The sugar-coated pill is getting bitterer still
You think your country needs you but you know it never will
So pack up your troubles in a stolen handbag
Don't dilly dally boys rally 'round the flag
Give us our daily bread, give us our daily bread, in individual slices, in individual slices
And something in the daily rag to cancel any crisis

*Most (80%) of the lyrics are borrowed from “Pills & Soap” which was released on 1983's Punch the Clock. Most of the rest of the lyrics (10%) are borrowed from the title song from National Ransom (2010). For the graph, I discounted the small sample from "National Ransom" and split the Album and Year evenly between PTC (1983) and WUG (2013).

No. 41 - "We Are All Cowards Now" from Hey Clockface (2020)
They're draping stones with colours
And a roll of stolen names
Except those we never cared about
And those we need to blame
We'll extinguish that flame, just the same
We are all cowards now

No. 42 - "How Much I Lied" written by Gram Parsons from Almost Blue (1981)
A thief can only steal from you
He cannot break your heart
He can never touch the precious things inside
Someone like you should surely be
Miles and miles away from me
Then you'd never care how much I lied

No. 43 - "All The Rage" from Brutal Youth (1994)

The twitching impulses to speak your mind
I'll lend you my microscope and maybe you will find it
Is it in that ugly place that's just behind your face?

No. 44 - "National Ransom" from National Ransom (2010)
Did you find how to lie? 
Did you find out how to cheat?
The elite bleat, their obsolete
So what are your prospects?

No. 45 - "American Tune" written by Paul Simon and released as a single by The Imposter (2017)
We’ve lived so well, so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong

No. 46 - "This Sad Burlesque" from The Juliet Letters (1993)
P.S. Well by now you know the worst of it
And we’ve heard all the alibis that they’ve rehearsed
The smug predictions
If it’s not a contradiction
Please have faith in human nature
And have mercy on the creatures in this sad burlesque

No. 47 - "Crawling To The U.S.A." from Crawling to the U.S.A. (Spanish Edition) (2020)*
Me dijo “no te creas tan especial no vas a impresionarme”
Ponle precio a mi lealtad y puedes desnudarme
De sur al norte de rodillas
Sólo el este los esquiva
*Released in 1979, re-released as a bonus track on the 1993 Rykodisc version of This Year's Model, and covered by Gian Marco and Nicole Zignago on this Spanish version of the single. 

No. 48 - "I’ve Been Wrong Before" from Kojak Variety (1995)

The night we met
The night that I won't forget
You seemed what I'd been waiting for
But baby, I've been wrong before

No. 49 - "Man Out Of Time" from Imperial Bedroom (1982)
There's a tuppenny-ha’penny millionaire
Looking for a fourpenny one
With a tight grip on the short hairs
Of the public imagination

No. 50 - "(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?" from Armed Forces (1979)

As I walk through this wicked world
Searching for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself, "Is all hope lost?"
Is there only pain and hatred and misery?

Wait, what!?
Like the best gifts, this bonus song was truly "unexpected." I will include this 51st song and any subsequent songs in the forthcoming recap post with summary stats.

No. 51 - "Couldn’t Call It Unexpected" from Mighty Like A Rose (1991)
So toll the bell or rock the cradle
Please don't let me fear anything I cannot explain
I can't believe, I'll never believe in anything again

Thank you for stopping by PhilosFX. Comments are always welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Mid-Point-ish Review of Elvis Costello's "50 Songs for 50 Days"

Four weeks have flown by since Elvis launched "50 Songs for 50 Days." Now, with just 22 days remaining in Costello's musical countdown to the U.S. election, some interesting insights have emerged from his curated collection. First, scan the tables to refresh yourself on the selected songs, and then have a look at the charts. See what you think.

Do you have comments? Questions? Predictions about which songs you expect to join this politically charged mix?  Drop a note in the comments section.

Table 1. Review of Part 1

*Note: "Withered and Died" was released in 1984, but it did not make the cut for Goodbye Cruel World issued in that same year. However, this song was included in the 1995 re-issue of the album, and so both years are included here. For the graph of unique years, I awarded half credit to 1984 and a half to 1995.

Table 2. Review of Part 2

The first point that jumps out to me is that the selected songs are drawn from across the breadth of Elvis Costello's 44-year career (1977 to 2020, and still going strong). There are no more than three songs from any given year. The 28 songs to date fall in one of 17 different years over the range. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Count of songs by year released.

A second and related observation is that these first 28 songs are drawn from 20 different albums with no more than three songs pulled from any one album. This tells me that songs with political tones are scattered across several albums as opposed to being clustered in a few political collections. (See Figure 2.) 

Figure 2: Count of songs by album

I'll update these tables and charts after the 50th day. Meanwhile, do you have any questions? Comments? Do you have any predictions?  

I'll venture a prediction. 

Odds are even that "Tramp the Dirt Down" will make an appearance on or before November 3rd. I guess the only real question is whether any other song in the huge, 600-song EC catalog has a better chance of winning the spot on Day 50, election day in the US of A. 

Leave a note in the comments section with your predictions, questions, or comments, and thanks! 

(Note: the original version of this post has been edited to fix a dataset error. Explanation in comments.)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

MOvember 2020: How can you help?

MOvember is coming! In honor of the awesome power of the moustache, the month formerly known as November is now called MOvember! Otherwise sane men around the world will be raising a moustache in MOvember while raising awareness about men's health issues. We're making progress, but there is plenty more to do, and I am looking for some help. 

I joined the MO team in 2010 as an active cancer patient. During my battle, I noticed that too many men are dying before their time. I became interested in joining the fight to improve men’s health. 

2020 will be my 10th year as a MO Bro, part of a global organization that is committed to helping men live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

These statistics show just how much the men’s health crisis needs our attention:

  • In the U.S, men die on average six years earlier than women, and for largely preventable reasons 
  • Undiagnosed or untreated male-specific cancers claim too many men
    • 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime
    • Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men 
  • Stress and mental health issues cause early, avoidable death
    • 3 out of 4 suicides are men
      • Men commit suicide at a rate of 60 per hour around the globe. 
      • The suicide count includes 22 US military veterans per day
    • Many men have difficulty coping with stress 
  • Inactivity leads to obesity which increases disease and cuts years off of life.

Since inception in 2003, the Movember Foundation and an army of MO Bros and MO Sistas has raised and invested millions of dollars for projects in prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health and suicide prevention, but our work is only just getting started as we change the face of men’s health.

We must continue this game-changing work so that men live happier, healthier, and longer lives. This is only possible with the support of the amazing MO Community each year, raising funds and awareness – and having fun along the way.

Once again I will be participating as a MO Bro! I am almost 60 and my fundraising goal is 10X 60 or $600. Here are my planned activities, and YOU can help

  • Participate in the Distinguished Gentleperson's Ride, or support a rider < On 9/27 I rode 60 miles in a suit and you can see pics and donate HERE
  • Serve as Captain of Team Just Twist It < You can join my team as a MO Bro or MO Sista! No MOustache required! Just help raise awareness and funds. Easy and fund and I will coach you! Click the LINK.
  • Sacrifice my Walt Whitman-esque beard and long hair < Currently looking for a skilled barber to delicately trim my treasured tresses
  • Participate in the Great American Shave-Off < This will be a membership drive and Fundraiser on 10/31
  • Raise a MOustache, not my best look, but I will endure the humiliation for a great cause and share progress on My MO Space < You can offer encouragement and stifle your inclination to mock
  • Create a Facebook Fundraising page and manage the MO8: MOnumental MOnday MOrning MOtivated MOustache MOney and MOvement MOment! < You can Like, Share, and Donate from my Facebook page
  • Host at least one fund-raising event, likely a happy hour at The Breezeway Cafe < You can drop a comment and I'll invite you to the events. Participate live or via Zoom.
  • Walk at least 2 miles a day to MOve for MOvember < You can pledge any amount. The suggestion is $0.60 per mile, for the 60 male suicides globally each hour. That will be $36 when I complete 60 miles.

My fundraising goal for this year is $600 from all sources. Maybe half of that will come from Facebook, a third from Walking, a fourth from the Ride and other events, and the rest from passing the hat. Yes, pocket change is accepted! No gift is too small. There are so many ways you can help! It would be great to have your support this year – our mission to stop men from dying too young truly depends on you.

Thanks and Let's MO!


There are FIVE (5) MOndays in MOvember 2020, so that is FIVE MO8s!

  • 2 Nov: Let's MO! 0% of Movement and Moola goals
  • 9 Nov: Doing great! 25%  of Movement and Moola goals
  • 16 Nov: Half-way!  50% of Movement and Moola goals
  • 23 Nov: Nearly there! 75% of Movement and Moola goals
  • 30 Nov: Wrap it up! 100% of Movement and Moola goals

Get ready for MOnumental MOnday MOrning MOtivated MOustache MOney and MOvement MOment! 

Doing good and having fun!