Are You ‘Misliving’?

William Irvine’s The Guide To The Good Life is an attempt to reinvent Stoicism for the 21st Century. Irvine argues that everyone should have a philosophy of life that includes specific strategies for achieving their primary objective(s) in life. Absent an intentional plan, at the end of life, people will regret that they have “mislived”.

Put differently, one should live intentionally, not spontaneously. He acknowledges few people do so mostly because of the “endless stream of distractions” that keeps them from clarifying what’s most important. And he made that point before social media and streaming television both exploded.

If pressed though, I’m guessing Irvine would acknowledge rewarding times in his life when he acted spontaneously, when he said yes to an unexpected invitation or adventure.

I wonder if the answer to the dilemma of just how intentional to be in planning one’s life lies in the tides, meaning there should be some sort of natural ebb and flow between intentionality and spontaneity.

The older other people and I get, the more set we become in our daily routines. Losing some of our youthful spontaneity, we should carefully consider the improvisors’ dictum of always saying YES. Okay, “always” is unrealistic, but what about “more often”?

A LOT of my acquaintances and friends have died lately, almost all of them from cancer, a scourge we may be sleeping on amidst the endemic. Being my age, their deaths have got me thinking about my own.

Despite not having an explicit philosophy of life, if I die sometime soon, and have time to reflect on my six decades*, I wouldn’t at all think I had mislived. Quite the opposite. I would be grateful for all the meaningful friendships; all the socially redeeming work; and all the fond memories of things including athletics, traveling, and especially family.

Lately, I’ve felt a deep and profound sense of contentment for most everything including my new and improved health, our home, and the natural environment in which it sits.

That very spiritual sense of contentment doesn’t have to conspire against saying YES to new invitations and adventures does it? To continual growth?

Presently, I’m most interested in personal growth. Professionally there’s nothing I feel a need to accomplish. My plan is to spend my remaining days learning to listen more patiently and empathetically to others—whether the Good Wife, my daughters, you, my students, everyone. That could easily take several more decades. Guess I should keep exercising and eating healthily.

*meaning not on my bike :) 

How The Center For Disease Control And Prevention Failed Us

From Alex Taborrok’s review of Scott Gottlieb’s new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why Covid-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.

“If there’s one overarching theme of “Uncontrolled Spread,” it’s that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed utterly. It’s now well known that the CDC didn’t follow standard operating procedures in its own labs, resulting in contamination and a complete botch of its original SARS-CoV-2 test. The agency’s failure put us weeks behind and took the South Korea option of suppressing the virus off the table. But the blunder was much deeper and more systematic than a botched test. The CDC never had a plan for widespread testing, which in any scenario could only be achieved by bringing in the big, private labs.

Instead of working with the commercial labs, the CDC went out of its way to impede them from developing and deploying their own tests. The CDC wouldn’t share its virus samples with commercial labs, slowing down test development. ‘The agency didn’t view it as a part of its mission to assist these labs.’ Dr. Gottlieb writes. As a result, ‘It would be weeks before commercial manufacturers could get access to the samples they needed, and they’d mostly have to go around the CDC. One large commercial lab would obtain samples from a subsidiary in South Korea.’

In the early months of the pandemic the CDC impeded private firms from developing their own tests and demanded that all testing be run through its labs even as its own test failed miserably and its own labs had no hope of scaling up to deal with the levels of testing needed. Moreover, the author notes, because its own labs couldn’t scale, the CDC played down the necessity of widespread testing and took ‘deliberate steps to enforce guidelines that would make sure it didn’t receive more samples than its single lab could handle.'”

The solution has to be a more decentralized public health apparatus, doesn’t it?

A Billionaire Here, A Billionaire There

A blogger I read is asking his readers for questions for an interview he’s going to do for his podcast with David Mark Rubenstein. Here’s the first sentence of Rubenstein’s wikipedia entry.

“David Mark Rubenstein (born August 11, 1949) is an American billionaire businessman.”

Anyone with 1,000 or more million dollars is routinely introduced as a billionaire.

Given that bizarre phenomenon, I’m going to stop increasing my wealth when I get to around $950m. I would hate to be reduced down to a “billionaire educator”.

Until then, don’t forget to upgrade your iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches.

Kharma’s A Bitch (E)

In case you don’t listen to hip-hop, (E) signifies “explicit” so if profanity offends you, move on to your next favorite blog. You’ve been warned.

Wednesday night broke perfect for a shortish ride before the ever earlier sunset. No sunscreen required, a tinge of fall in the air, I decided to weave my way around North Olympia with its blessed absence of stop lights. Twenty five miles, zero stoplights, put that in your pipe and smoke it you sad sack urbanities.

To the guy on East Bay Drive with the big ass battery pack who passed me like I was standing still, fuck you and your cheater bike. I’m sure it felt good to whizz pass my sad sack human powered self, just like it feels good to cheat on your tax return. Electric bikes are fine for the elderly, the impaired, anyone with swollen balls, but you looked like a perfectly able middle aged dude, so fuck you.

Fast forward five miles. Starting to pick up speed on Lemon Rd thanks to what’s now a tailwind, when lo and behold, I notice someone on my wheel. I nod hello and Eric pulls aside me in his vintage 1992 Lemond “steel is real” steed. And like two testosterone addled MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra) we hit Lemon street HARD. Eric no doubt thinking about my carbon fiber frame and electronic shifting exactly like I thought about Mr. Battery’s bike. “Fuck you Mr. Modern Technology,” he seemed to say with each pedal stroke.

Which, of course, I wholeheartedly deserved. At least I pay all of my taxes.

What Are You Most Afraid Of?

That was the The Good Wife’s question on our Saturday night date to the Westside taco truck.

Because I’m male I replied, “Your questions.”

I gave a wee bit more thoughtful answer after the beans and rice kicked in which maybe I’ll summarize sometime soon. 

In the meantime, here’s how Germans recently answered the same question.   

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There’s zilch overlap between the Germans and me.

The Person, Not The Passport

Like me, I know you’re psyched for the Ryder Cup two weeks from now, that every other year team competition between the best golfers in the U.S. and Europa.

The U.S. team is set and although Patrick Reed was passed over, Bryson DeChambeau was an automatic pick. Which makes it a lot harder to root for the home team at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. I wholeheartedly concur with this Alex Kirshner dissection of DeChambeau:

“. . . his positive COVID test in late July knocked him out of the Olympics. Fortunately, DeChambeau healed up, though he said he lost some swing speed. Reporters asked DeChambeau if he regretted not getting the vaccine. He said he did not, and that he’d “tried to take all the necessary precautions” not to catch the virus (except, you know, for the most important one). But DeChambeau—who, it bears repeating, very much likes to fashion himself as a science guy and a deep thinker—had more to say. In one of the most embarrassing bits of vaccine misdirection anyone in sports had attempted all year, he tried to cast his decision as a move to keep vulnerable people safe. He explained that the vaccine needed to be preserved for those in worse health than himself. (By that time, the government had a surplus of doses.) ‘I don’t need it,’ he said. ‘I’m a healthy, young individual that will continue to work on my health. I don’t think taking the vaccine away from someone who needs it is a good thing.’

That bit should’ve ended anyone’s idea that DeChambeau is especially committed to science. But it mostly revealed his lack of interest in thinking seriously about anything. The audacity of framing not getting vaccinated as a way to help vulnerable people, rather than something that could literally kill them, makes him something between a fraud and the absolute thickest person in sports. Not getting vaccinated is a worse thing to subject other people to than anything anyone has ever hollered at him from along a fairway. There are people who command honest conversations about whether they deserve the grief they get. This isn’t one.”

Besides the inclusion of the American Knucklehead, the Euros are easy to root for because they WANT IT so much more and their fans and them celebrate their upset victories with incredible élan.

And so this golf fan says to hell with the political boundaries and passports, may the team with the fewest knuckleheads and the most dogs win.

Postscript: Last night after eighteen year old British tennis phenom Emma Raducanu won her semifinal match at the US Open, she attempted to give her wrist bands to some grade school girls standing nearby in the first row of Arthur Ashe stadium. But she couldn’t because some despicable twenty-something men intercepted the tossed sweat bands. Which I hereby offer as the most embarrassing moment for young males in Western History. As a non-young male I was ashamed of my gender. After pocketing the sweat bands from the younger Raducanu, they set their sights on her towel and other souvenirs she was about to dispense with. Instead of dealing with the six foot tall LOSERS, she huddled with a security guard who made sure the young girls ended up with her towel. Tar and feathers might be too good for those hapless dudes.

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I Predict There Will Be More Wild Ass Predictions

‘New York City is done!’

‘Office work is done!’

‘Higher education as we know it is done!’

‘Long distance travel is done!’

Why are so many highly educated people making such dumb, over-the-top predictions? Besides the fact that education and wisdom have never been closely correlated, it’s because the prognosticators are desperate to be heard above the din of the social media cacophony. PLEASE listen to my podcast. PLEASE read my twitter feed, ‘insta’, blog, book.

Scott Galloway is Exhibit A of this modern tendency towards hyperbole. Subtly, nuance, and ambiguity—the stuff of complexity—is passe, and we have the scramble to be relevant on social media to thank for that.

Lo and behold, New York City real estate values are on the rise again. Executives are desperate to have employees return to offices, college life looks and feels very familiar, and have you been in an airport lately? A bit more hybrid learning, telemedicine, and remote work aside; most ‘rona-inspired changes in behavior are proving relatively superficial despite the pandemic’s legs.

I would like you to prove me wrong on this, but neither do I expect many of the heartfelt proclamations of personal transformation to stick. Maybe a vicious virus can inspire a personal ‘reset’ of sorts in the short-term. Maybe people will simplify their lives; strike a healthier work-life balance; and commit more deeply to their family, friends, and neighbors. But as soon as the virus begins to fade, watch for long established habits to return. Human nature endures.

Ultimately though, when it comes to brash, facile predictions, maybe resistance is futile, in which case I predict the UCLA Bruin football team will win the Pac-12*.

*The last time that happened, Blockbuster Video was killin’ it.

Understanding Professional Tennis Burnout

And it ain’t just Osaka.

Are you old enough to remember this?

“Bjorn Borg of Sweden, a superstar of the 1970s and winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, lost his fourth U.S. Open final in 1981. He walked off the court, drove away in his car, and never played another Grand Slam tournament again. He was 25.” 

A sports psychologists concludes that:

“. . . players can survive careers — inevitably filled with losses and disappointment — only by working every day to build self-worth and self-confidence that is not measured by wins and rankings points but rather relationships.”

For me, the article begs the question, why doesn’t tennis allow a coach to sit courtside for encouraging chats during changeovers?