Saturday, December 31, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 6

On the 6th Day of Christmas
(Which is also New Year's Eve)
My BeerPal gave to me





The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle


Friday, December 30, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 5

On the fifth day of Christmas
(which also happens to be the anniversary of my birth)
My BeerPal gave to me





CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Christmas
My BeerPal gave to me





A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

L.I.N.K.S. (XV): Toward an Age of Oneness

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

Toward an Age of Oneness

Over the course of time I have published some thoughts on how to make the world a better place by moving toward a future age of Oneness. The idea is that evolutionary changes in the social fabric and individual DNA will be deemed successful in hindsight when they are confirmed to have contributed positively to increasing harmony, unity, singularity, or oneness.

A recapitulation of past posts:

For better or for worse, the arc of web development is moving humanity toward Singularity, which of course is another term for Oneness or Unity. In the case of technological Singularity, the harmony is achieved via a melding of flesh and blood humans and the computing power indistinguishable from the human mind.

  • Web 1.0: Networked
  • Web 2.0: Collaborative
  • Web 3.0: Semantic
  • Web 4.0: Integrated
  • Web 5.0: Singularity

A reasonable approximation of progress toward the Age of Oneness can be constructed by estimating the proportions of the global population that are in each of the five stages of web development. People who do not have access to the web run the risk of being left behind. I am sure some folks would consider that a blessing in disguise!


Conduct an Internet search using the search term, "moving toward oneness," and you will likely find links to books and articles such as these 10 gems:


Here is a list by galonsor with about 69 movies that deal with the Singularity theme. How many of these Singularity movies have you seen? Any favorites?

Are there any missing from galonsor's list? I find it odd that there is no mention of Blade Runner (1982) or any of the Alan Turing movies, such as Breaking the Code (1996) or The Imitation Game (2014). Others?

Please add your thoughts in the comments section, and thanks for reading PhilosFX!




Have you enjoyed this collection of links? Are you looking to be Lured, Intrigued, Nurtured, Kindled, or Stimulated some more? Leave me some topic suggestions in the comments. Meanwhile, here are links to previous entries in the L.I.N.K.S. series. Enjoy!

L.I.N.K.S. 1: Interesting: The first in an intended series of interesting links (2010/12)
L.I.N.K.S. 2: Random: The second in a series of interesting links (2011/01)
L.I.N.K.S. 3: Mysterious: Five Fascinating Links (2011/03)
L.I.N.K.S. 4: Building informed and engaged organizations, teams, and individuals (2011/05)

Trunkworthy's Third 20: Elvis Costello's Best, Least Remembered Songs


Here is an update to the songs selected by Trunkworthy in their ongoing effort to bring attention to Elvis Costello's best, least remembered songs. Trunkworthy began this project as a 60th birthday gift to my favorite songwriter and performer. The plan was to highlight a song a week. But to my delight, the crew at Trunkworthy did not stop at 52.

Will they stop at 60? Is this Third 20 the end of the line? That's for them to know and us to learn!

Meanwhile, enjoy my compilation below, as well as the Elvis Costello Songs of the Week playlist on Spotify.








Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 3

On the third day of Christmas, 
My BeerPal gave to me





A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 2

On the second day of Christmas,
My BeerPal gave to me





Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Monday, December 26, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 1

On the first Day of Christmas
(December 26th, as we all know),
my BeerPal gave to me: 





An auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Twelve Beers of Christmas: An Introduction

"On the first day of Christmas, my BeerPal gave to me..."


I was overjoyed with the gift of beer I received for Christmas. Not just because I like beer, which I do (I really do), but also because of the clever manner in which the giver prepared the gift. So grateful am I, that I have decided to share the beers--and promote the idea of the "Twelve Beers of Christmas"--with readers of PhilosFX. This is a perfect gift for the beer lover on your list!

First, I feel the need to set the record straight. Many people apparently believe that the Twelve Days of Christmas either culminate or begin on Christmas Day, Not so! Neither is true. There may be no wrong way to give someone beer, but to do this "Beers of Christmas" correctly, one must first understand the difference between Advent, Christmas Day, and the Christmas Season. Only then can we properly appreciate the Twelve Beers of  Christmas.

A brief liturgical review:
  • Advent is a period of solemn preparation approximately 3 to 4 weeks before the Nativity itself on Christmas Day. Advent begins on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and ends at midnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas. 
    • The number of days in Advent ranges from 22 days up to 28 days. 
    • Adult Advent Calendars featuring a case of beer is another fun idea, but there are only exactly 24 days in Advent every 7th year. 
    • Anyway, this post is about the Twelve Beers of Christmas, which is completely different from Advent.
  • Christmas Day begins at midnight on December 25th and ends and midnight on December 26th. Christmas is a separate day, distinct from both preceding season of Advent and the 2 to 3 week period following the Nativity. 
  • The so-called Christmas Season begins the day after Christmas and concludes on the first Sunday after Epiphany. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the first 12 days of the Christmas Season, Dec 26 through Jan 6.
  • Included in the Christmas Season are a couple of other important days which offer possible tie-ins for creative gift selection:  
    • Boxing Day (Dec 26) began in England in the 1830s as a day when people would give Christmas gift boxes to their tradesmen. This usually happened on the day after Christmas. These days, Boxing Day is celebrated as a bank holiday in countries around the world once part of the British realm.
    • St. Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic church, stoned to death for his faith. His feast day (Dec 26) traditionally features people dressed in straw trying to capture a wren. Tradition holds that a wren gave away Stephen's hiding place under a pile of straw. 
    • Apparently, December 30 is a great day to have been born. Consider LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and yours truly.
    • New Years Eve (Dec 31) is a party looking for a bottle.
    • New Years Day (Jan 1) is a hangover looking for a little hair of the dog.
    • There are usually some football games.
    • Of course, the tradition of Epiphany (Jan 6) dates back a bit further in time than Boxing Day or even St. Stephen's Day. Epiphany means the manifestation of the supernatural, and January 6th is the day Christians have long celebrated the arrival of the Three Kings to the manger in Bethlehem where newborn baby Jesus lay.
  • In conclusion, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the first 12 days of the Christmas Season, beginning on December 26th, aka the first day after Christmas. Count forward and you'll confirm for yourself that the twelfth and final "day" of Christmas is January 6th, aka Epiphany. 

To give the Twelve Beers of Christmas properly, start with the first beer on Dec 26!


The point of this little lesson in liturgical history is simple: if you want to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, start on Dec 26th. Whether you celebrate with gifts of frankincense, myrrh, partridges, pear trees, or--my personal favorite--beer--remember:
  • Do not start on December 1st. If you are going for a modified Advent calendar by using a case ending on Dec 24, that is perfectly cool but don't confuse that Advent action with The 12 Days of Christmas.  
  • Do not start on Dec 6th. Sure, that's the feast day of good ol' St. Nicholas, and yes, that is the perfect day to put up your Christmas tree and decorations. However, if you start the 12 Beers of Christmas, then your 12th day is a full week before Christmas Eve. 
  • Do not start on the 14th. I get why a lot of people do, because then the 12th day lands on Christmas, but then you just look like no one ever took the time to lovingly explain the whole liturgical history to you.  
  • Don't start on the blessed day of the Nativity, either. Keep that sacred. The wise men started the day after Jesus' birth and so can you.
  • Start on December 26th! Open your first beer of Christmas on the first day of Christmas Yes, and run the party right up to Epiphany like the beer-loving Royalty you were born to be!  

Has all of this studying made you thirsty? Me, too! Check back tomorrow night and find out about the very first of the beer I opened. Check back daily to see all the beers of Christmas I enjoyed over twelve glorious and delightful days!

"On the first day of Christmas, my BeerPal gave to me..."

I can hardly wait to find out!





Post Script: Advent varies in duration from 22 to 28 days. The Christmas Season varies in duration from 14 to 20 days. When Advent is longer, the Christmas Season is shorter. Advent, Christmas, and the Christmas Season all together encompass 43 days.

Post Post Script: Lent is also 43 days long, but you already knew that, right?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nostalgia

'"I used to be really into nostalgia." --Demetri Martin'

"I used to be really into nostalgia."--Demitri Martin

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election 2016

It is the last weekend before this contentious and bizarre Presidential election season culminates with voting day on the second Tuesday in November. Most people I know have spent more time following polls, watching debates, and trying to ignore political ads over the past two years than in all previous elections combined. And most people admit to being a little tired of the rhetoric and partisan bickering.

However, it's probably incorrect to hope that November 8th will be the end of this. Those who say, "I just want this over" are in for some more disappointment. The election is very close. The popular vote on November 8th determines who the Electors vote for when the Electoral College convenes in December.

  • Should Clinton win, the allegations of corruption will follow her into office and undermine her credibility further. A fractured Republican party could actually reunite in its effort to stymie the Clinton administration while rebuilding for the 2020 election. 
  • Should Trump win, he will have the advantage of Republican-party majorities in at least the House and perhaps the Senate. However, the party is hardly unanimous in its support for their nominee. 
  • One unintended consequence of a Trump victory is the probable demise of the Republican party. I believe some moderate Republicans and all of the Not Trump Republicans will join voices with the moderate Democrats to stall Trump's agenda. Trump himself is so unpopular that some elected representatives will be compelled to break from party loyalty. The Republican party cannot withstand a split on Trump / Not Trump lines. Independents and Libertarians stand to benefit if they can find a leader more presidential than Gary Johnson, and get some support in state and federal offices in the 2018 election. 

Regardless of who wins office, this rancorous political environment will not blow over anytime soon.

Most polls predict that Clinton will win the popular vote. The Real Clear Politics average of major national polls shows a narrow Clinton victory. Only one major poll gives Trump an advantage. Notice that the largest sample with the smallest margin of error is inconclusive.



This particular race has always been a close two-way race with Trump playing the spoiler and Johnson never really breaking through. Trump is rising in the polls and has closed the gap to less than 3% as of this writing.

Bear in mind that the popular vote does not determine the winner. On the morning of November 9th, polling will most likely show a Clinton victory. However, the popular vote is conducted to choose electors in the Electoral College, and the Electoral College actually will actually determine the winner, if and only if one of the top three candidates manages to get a simple majority of the EC votes. That number is (538 / 2) + 1 = 270.



Above is a snapshot of projected EC votes based on current polls. Below is a trend of EC vote predictions over time.


Text

Text



PredictWise by David Rothchild is a site that looks at polling data but also the data from predictive markets. The data from PW indicates that RCP may have a slight Republican skew, meaning that if RCP gives a small edge to Clinton, the actual advantage may be much larger.

Accessed November 5, 2016 from: http://predictwise.com/blog/2016/11/possible-polling-error/


The consensus indicates a victory for the Democrats on Tuesday. But I think that the confidence is misplaced. This race could be much closer than polls indicate. Here is how Donald J. Trump might become the 45th President of the United States. I am not going to say whether this is good or bad. I'm not going to get into the why of this outcome, but I will describe how, and a little bit of when, this will happen.

First, a disclaimer: Here on PhilosFX, I don't discuss politics, per se. Rather, I focus on decision analysis, hoping to enable informed decisions. You probably won't see me advocating for a candidate, but you may see me delving into data collection and analysis.

I am personally non-partisan and to my recollection, I have never voted a straight ticket. I'm an issues-based voter. I am such a label-avoiding pragmatist, I have not registered with any party, not even the Independent Party. I vote. I take a stand when I vote. Before I vote, I consider the issues important to me, and how I would enact policy on those issues if I were in a position to decide. Then I select the candidate that comes closest to what I would do on the slate of issues that matter most to me.

That disclaimer out of the way, I get the impression that the Electoral College will decide this election. The popular vote will likely go to Clinton, but the EC is far from a lock for the Dems. I once thought that if Johnson won just enough EC votes to prevent either Clinton or Trump from getting to 270, then Congress would decide the election. According to the Constitution, if the EC cannot determine the winner of the election, the House selects the President from the top 3 finishers, and the Senate chooses the VP from the top two finishers.

Given the Republican majority in the House, Johnson could block a Clinton victory in one of two ways: First, and most likely, the Representatives would vote along party lines and elect Trump. Second, and only if the Trump campaign experienced a serious malfunction of some kind, the Representatives could reject Trump and vote for the other non-Clinton: Johnson. But I have come to realize that it is extremely unlikely that Johnson will capture even his home state of New Mexico. Even if he finishes third, it is unlikely that he will capture enough support to give Republicans pause. For better or worse, Johnson has become a non-factor.

That leaves the race in the hands of the EC. I think the polls are disproportionately representing the urban vote. Even if Clinton does end up winning the urban vote and the minority vote, she is not doing well in the great unwashed Midwest. Polls are under representing the older white voters who don't participate in polls for the simple fact that they don't have cell phones. They live in areas that may not have decent cell coverage. But they vote. They are angry, they have either been left out of the tech boom or they have opted out of it, and they vote. And so the election will come down to whether Trump can turn the grey states in the above map red. Watch Florida (29 votes), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Georgia (16), and North Carolina (15).

Just so we're clear: Regardless of the popular vote, if Hillary Clinton does not get 270 or more Electoral College votes, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy, Rebooted!


The famous red shoes are passed to a new pair of Costellophiles determined to shine a light on the Elvis songs you need to hear. Meet Kevin Davis and Jorge Farah--new hosts of Trunkworthy's weekly feature:

The Elvis Costello Song of the Week®, Rebooted! 

Who is Elvis Costello?
"Declan Patrick MacManus began having the time of his life on Wednesday, the 25th of August, 1954. Declan was born at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington in London, England. He was the son and only child of trumpeter, vocalist and erstwhile bandleader Ronald (“Ross”) MacManus (born in Birkenhead, October 20, 1927) and record store manager Lillian MacManus." --ElvisCostello.info, the pre-Wiki fan page

Why should Elvis Costello matter to you?
"Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broad. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a "pop encyclopaedia," able to "reinvent the past in his own image." He has won multiple awards in his career, including a Grammy Award, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Singer. In 2003, Costello and the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." --Wikipedia/Elvis_Costello

Why does Elvis Costello matter to me?
As a high-schooler in the late 1970s, I steeped myself in Kansas, Styx, Boston, and Aerosmith. My hometown friend and artistic muse, Jhymn, used to make mix tapes for me to expose me to alternative music like REM, U2, and Elvis Costello. From the moment I heard "Pump it Up!" I was hooked. I bought "Get Happy!!" as a college freshman and, smitten, became a life-long collector and fan.   

Why am I excited about the reboot of Trunkworthy's The Elvis Costello Song of the Week?
Fandom is limitless. 
Just as I did with the original series, I'll be adding a tiny bit of value by collecting and compiling links to every weekly episode, and posting them all in one place--right here--for your convenience. I'm also maintaining a spreadsheet version of the selected tracks because I am geeky like that. I'll be adding to my compilation post. 
Bookmark Trunkworthy and sign up for their email alerts. Support the work of the artist and the original work of the authors. But check it out--no one puts it all together for you like I do!

References

Enjoy this continued and ongoing recapitulation of Elvis Costello Songs of the Week by Trunkworthy! 
November 2016

54. "It's Time"... to reboot the Elvis Costello Song of the Week. And I, for one, couldn't be happier!

55. "Fallen" is a torch song for hearts on the mend.

56. The quiet, contemplative, “Favourite Hour” almost got lost on an album that was anything but! Here are three shades of brutal beauty:
  • “Favourite Hour” Church Studios demo version (1992)
  • “Favourite Hour” Brutal Youth (1994)
  • “Favourite Hour” My Flame Burns Blue live version (2004)
57. A collaborative cry for unity from Costello and Toussaint: "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?"

58. "Lipstick Vogue" is an explosive introduction to the Attractions.


December

59. For fathers, sons, and everyone else: "My Three Sons."

60. “Battered Old Bird” is a sort-of story-song pulled from a dark corner of Costello’s childhood.

61. "St. Stephen's Day Murders" is a merry, macabre post-Christmas carol. The Feast of St. Stephen (Dec 26) commemorates the stoning death of Christianity's first martyr. The story holds that a wren gave away St. Stephen's hiding place under a pile of straw. To this day, some people dress in straw clothing and parade around with captured wrens who are eventually executed as a proxy for the one that led to the martyr's death. This song, performed with the Chieftans, describes part of the modern day celebration of St. Stephen's murder--killing off the leftovers from excessive Christmas feasts.


January 2017

62, From a tempestuous tryst to its woozy morning-light regret in less time than it takes to find the aspirin: Wednesday Week.

63. A Voice in the Dark is a song so effortlessly meticulous, it’s as much a career culmination as a career highlight.



February 

64. Don’t believe the (negative) hype: The Beatles-meet-Peggy Lee pop-noir of “Inch By Inch” is one more reason to give Goodbye Cruel World a closer listen.

65. "Hand in Hand": Bitterly brilliant from the first line.


March

66. Tramp the Dirt Down: political grave-spitting of the most personal kind.

67. Elvis looked in to the heart of Fiona Apple’s “I Know” and found a soul song; while Fiona communicates a quiet patience and calm resilience, Elvis sounds like a man at the end of his rope.

Compare the two versions:




April

68. Here's a rare track from the Juliet Letters era: pulling a heartbreaking "Skeleton"out of the closet.

69. Nobody at Starbucks expected to hear this! “She Handed Me A Mirror” is more complex and heartbreaking than anything folks expected to pick up with their venti Americanos.


May

70. “In The Darkest Place” is a masterpiece of anguish of adult heartbreak rendered with subtlety and sophistication.

71. A case for the best Elvis Costello song of them all: "New Lace Sleeves."

June

72. "Still to Soon to Know": A stark, stunning slice of adult balladry buried in the middle of Costello’s supposed “return to rock.”

July

73. The one that got (given) away:“Do You Know What I’m Saying?" Among Elvis Costello’s rarest songs are the “Gwendolyn Letters.” That's the name he gave to the collection of songs he penned for former Transvision Vamp singer Wendy James, all of which she subsequently recorded on her 1993 album Now Ain’t the Time For Your Tears.

August

74. Trunkworthy celebrates the 40th anniversary of Elvis Costello's debut album by highlighting a song that got left off of it: "Stranger in the House."

75. “Radio Silence,” the sad, jittery sequel to “Radio Radio,” is an eerie, overlooked, and too-rare bit of electronic experimentation from Costello.

September

76. “The Other End Of The Telescope” is a grand statement about things that turned out to be small.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Eclipse, Carhenge, Chimney Rock, and the Cowboy Trail: A Plan Takes Shape



Above is an interactive map showing my proposed 3200-mile route from Alexandria, Springfield, St Joseph, Lincoln, Grand Island, Ansley, and Broken Bow to Alliance, and then from Alliance to Chadron, Norfolk, Omaha, and South Bend to Alexandria.

In and around Alliance will include day-trips to:


    • Carhenge, County Road 59, Alliance, NE for the eclipse (we'll dress like Druids and act like we're at Burning Man or Lollapalooza)
    • Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Chimney Rock Trail, Bayard, NE 69334 
    • Chadron State Park and campgrounds, 9 miles south of the town of Chadron on Hwy 385
    Optional day-trips:
    • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
    • Fort Robinson
    • Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed
    • Toadstool Geo Park


    Links to maps and travel guides:

    • The Pioneers were moving west, and the name of the Bridges to Buttes Byway describes that westerly progress. But I'll be heading east, from the buttes to the bridges. Here is the story of another travelor who took the trail "backwards." 
    • The Bridges to Buttes Byway is rich with history and travelers can visit the sites of famous archaeological discoveries, pioneer and early trade museums, military outposts, and other treasures of the Old West
    • There is so much to see and experience in this stretch of US Route 20. Here are two short videos that highlight some of the beauty of the Nebraska’s Bridges to Buttes Byway.
    • This article stub on Less Beaten Paths appears to be waiting for someone to fill in the story...



    Additional reference:

    MLB 2016: Peerless Postseason Prognostications



    Near the end of the MLB regular season, after the Nats had locked up the NL East, I boldly predicted an I-495 "Beltway" World Series between the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. One of my W.I.S.H.* List items is to see my home team play in a World Series. So my prediction was mostly wishful thinking. But I did chart out a path by which the two teams playing for the MLB crown were close enough that I could drive (or even take a train) to every game.

    That prognostication is shown below--updated now that the Cubbies have won the National League pennant.



    There is still a chance that my once totally biased and unscientific prediction could still earn a 33% accuracy rating. If the Cubs win, it won't be the Nats but it'll at least be the NL Champ, so with follow-on credit (50%), I could see a third of my predictions borne out. I'll get a minimum score of 28% but let me just put this out there for the Universe and everyone:

    Go, Cubs!
    Go, Theo!
    Go, Joe!

    Bring the hardware to Chi-town!

    Positive Social Change and Diversity



    Creativity and innovation depend upon diversity of thought. Diversity of thought follows from diversity of experience. If one is never forced to look at a familiar situation from a radically different perspective, it's much harder to appreciate the valid aspects of opposing points of view.

    When there is no diversity, there is no change. no progress, no improvement. If you want to make the world a better place, you'd better embrace diversity. Whether you are looking to adapt through evolutionary change, or pursue a more radical, revolutionary change agenda, begin with your values, and then make your plans, and finally put your plans into action.


    “The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values


    I value diversity and am committed to challenging my own deeply held beliefs on a frequent basis. This political season is giving me plenty of opportunities to test just how open-minded I truly am.

    Are you open-minded? Do you rigorously examine your own beliefs? I offer the following test. Visit the Facebook pages of each of the four presidential candidates. I have copied the links below. On each page, note how many of your friends have decided to follow each of them. My hypothesis is that the most open-minded people would have diversity in this measure, whereas the more closed-minded among us would tend to associate only with like-minded folks.

    Here are the pages in alphabetical order by last name

    • https://www.facebook.com/hillaryclinton/ 
    • https://www.facebook.com/govgaryjohnson/
    • https://www.facebook.com/drjillstein/
    • https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrump/


    In my case, only 13.7% of my Facebook friends had made such a declaration for a particular candidate. However, the distribution of those choices reflects something interesting about the diversity of my friends.

    Here are the results, in descending order:

    • Clinton 47%
    • Trump 31%
    • Johnson 19%
    • Stein 3%


    This post  has nothing to do with who I'll vote for, or who I think you should vote for. I believe you can search your heart and do your job on election day with no help from me. In fact, I am counting on it! Likewise, I am not in need of unsolicited partisan propaganda from others. I'll make up my own mind, thank you.

    Rather, this post is about the relationship between positive social change and diversity. Do you value diversity? How do you demonstrate this value in the world?


    “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”Jim Rohn

    2016 Great American Beer Festival



    The annual Great American Beer Festival has concluded and here at PhilosFX, we celebrate 14 medalists from the DMV (that's the District, Maryland, and Virginia). 

    Here's the tally:

    Gold:      4
    Silver:     6
    Bronze:  4
    And here are the details:


    Great job, brewers! We offer a special shout out to Alexandria's own Port City Brewing Co., for their phenomenal COLOSSAL FIVE.

    Sunday, October 16, 2016

    Biking the Cowboy Trail across Nebraska

    flickr/Ken Ratcliff

    The above photo hit my Facebook newsfeed and I was entranced. Memories of summers on the farm in central Nebraska flooded back into my awareness. I followed the supplied link to a story about a wonderful rails-to-trails project, which converted an abandoned rail line into a biking and hiking trail. As of this writing, the so-called Cowboy Trail is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the country, covering 321 miles between Chadron and Norfolk.

    My initial Facebook reaction:

    "This would be a great 5 or 6 day ride, culminating in my hometown of Norfolk, NE. I think I'll check out the tent and hostel accommodations along the route, and see if an end-to-end ride feasible."

    As it happens, I already have plans to be near Chadron State Park in August, 2017, to observe the great solar eclipse. So naturally, I am thinking about taking a slightly longer route home, eastbound via the Cowboy Trail, with a stop in my hometown of Norfolk.

    First thing I did was search for detailed maps of the trail. I found this helpful website called Bike Cowboy Trail which covers the paved portion of the trail between Valentine and Norfolk. The section between Chadron and Valentine is gravel and has fewer services and amenities at this point. The western half of the trail is suitable for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but not for touring bikes.




    The next thing I did was put the Cowboy Trail into context. The 321-mile trail cuts through the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, generally tracking Highway 20 between Chadron and Inman. Just south of Inman, Highway 20 splits off to Sioux City. At that juncture, the Cowboy Trail then follows along Highway 275 to Norfolk.
    Map showing the locations of Chadron and Norfolk in context of Nebraska and surrounding states


    Next I discovered an interesting tidbit about Highway 20--in particular, the portion from just east of Valentine and west past Chadron all the way to the Wyoming border. That stretch of road is known as the Buttes to Bridges Byway

    Extending from east of Valentine (junction of Highways 83 & 20) to the Wyoming border, the Bridges to Buttes Byway journeys through diverse topography and distinctive landscapes. From rolling Sandhills through the Pine Ridge and the Nebraska National Forest onto plateaus from which you can see the Black Hills and into neighboring states, you will experience the sites, solitude and vastness that early travelers and settlers felt as they first saw this region.
    That description and the photos accompanying it are compelling! So now I am looking forward to some more detailed planning, focusing on the logistics of this proposed adventure. And as I always do when I start a new project, I opened MS Excel. I copied table data from BikeCowboyTrail.com into Excel. I added rows for the towns west of Valentine. Then I used Google Maps to plot the distances between those towns. I noticed that if I selected the bicycle mode of travel in Google Maps, the elevation was provided--so I recorded elevations at all 31 towns on the trail between and including Chadron and Norfolk. The results are in the table below.

    Table of Mileage and Elevation for Eastbound


    There is still much more to do! I'd like to get locations and descriptions of the 221 bridges along the Cowboy Trail. I'd also like to catalog the other points of interest along the way. For example, I know that there are archaeological sites, Army outposts, pioneer homesteads, Native American sites, and of course old towns that dotted the prairie in the railroad's heyday.

    This will be a grand adventure! More to follow!