John Y. Brown, III: Shameless Book Promo

Click here to BUY MY BOOK!

Click here to BUY MY BOOK!

Two of my favorite books are The Bible and Musings from the Middle.

You are probably saying to yourself, “John, I know you wrote one of those books, right?”

Well, yes. I sure did. And thanks for remembering. (It was the latter book, of course.)

Now, I am not saying that the two books have anything even remotely in common. They don’t.

Is Musings from the Middle a great book? No. An important book? No. Not at all. A well written book? Not really. A good book? Not if you are sober while reading it. Is it even an insignificant book (as opposed to a book completely devoid of any substance)? Arguably but it is a very weak argument and, frankly, more of a frivolous musing.

But here’s the thing.  The Bible has, I believe, 66 Books. And at times can get a little heavy trodding reading it.  Wouldn’t it have helped to have had an extra book –just one–called “Musings?” If for no other reason just to break things up a little?

Maybe “Musings from Mathusula.” He lived a long time and would have had lots to muse about.

Imagine kids learning the books of the Bible. “Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Musings, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth.” It just flows, doesn’t it? OK, maybe not the first time you read it but conceivably it could grow on you over time.

Granted it is impossible to compete with Genesis and Exodus but most Biblical scholars would surely agree we could all use a mental break and a few laughs after Leviticus and before plowing into Numbers.

The Book of Musings wouldn’t teach anything.  Just serve as a kind of a palette cleanser.

Well, an extra book of the Bible titled Musings is not going to happen. But you can still get the book Musings from the Middle, albeit completely separate from the Bible. And that is unfortunately probably the only way it will ever be sold.

And even though it wasn’t written by Mathusela people tell me I have Mathusula’s sense of humor.

Not really. I just made that up. But it is already a shameless sales pitch, so why not throw that in. Mostly I am just trying to get my sales rank on higher than 2000 times Mathusela’s age and figured since the Bible is selling so well…..

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Things my grandfather (supposedly) said

JYB Sr., JYB Jr. and JYB III circa 1972

JYB Sr., JYB Jr. and JYB III circa 1972

My grandfather Brown was (and still is –posthumously 28 years later) the family patriarch. And for pretty good reason. He was very disciplined, accomplished, learned, pulled himself from poverty as the son of a tenant farmer to achieve renown as a trial lawyer and being in debt like most well-to-do people, and –most of all–was a character with a seeming limitless number of memorable stories about him. Many of them true.

A story my mother liked to tell about him was when she had just married my father she sat in on one of his biggest trials that year. It was a packed courtroom and when a crucial piece of evidence was admitted against his client, my grandfather said, “Judge, that is inadmissible according to KRE 802 (11).” This impressed everyone attending with his encyclopaedic memory of the rules of evidence.

jyb_musingsAfterwards, my mom asked him, “Mr Brown, do you really know what KRE 802 (11) says?” And my grandfather responded, “No, honey. But neither does the judge.”

Love that story. Even if it isn’t true or entirely true. As Mark Twain said,
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Michael Steele: We Have Elected a Bunch of Children to Run Our Government

Look ma, no federal government!

At some point the entire BS that is the government shutdown sinks in and we have to deal with reality: We have elected a bunch of children to run our government.

One reality that must not change about America and the free enterprise economy is that the root of America’s success has always sprung out of the hard labor of its entrepreneurs: the men and women who risk it all on a dream. Government doesn’t do that; government can’t do that. When a job is created by a small business owner they make an investment in people in a way that government can’t match. So when those same business owners have legitimate concerns about government policies that affect them, elected officials must listen in order to  preserve the conditions that allow small businesses to thrive.

446px-Michael_SteeleThe fact that politicians in Washington have lost sight of that tells me we can longer trust them to do this by themselves. Each one of us must be prepared to help set the nation’s priorities for the immediate future. We must decide what price we’re prepared to pay for a strong national defense and better schools; how much are we truly ready to spend for our children’s healthcare and to secure our nation’s borders? Which programs are we prepared to cut in order to get our financial house in order, and by how much? While these are difficult questions, they are not either/or choices, but rather complementary opportunities.

The White House and the Congress need to take a time out from the silliness of politics and the drama of blaming one or the other for shutting down the government—both political parties, the White House and Congress are to blame. Stupid lives at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in this mess.

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Michael Steele: We Have Elected a Bunch of Children to Run Our Government

Nancy Slotnick: People Think I’m Crazy…

  • “The only way you could meet my crazy was by doing something crazy yourself. Thank you. I love you. I knew it the minute I met you. I’m sorry it took so long for me to catch up. I just got stuck. Pat.”

    We all bring our crazy to a relationship.  Silver Linings does a beautiful job of writing a relationship where both participants are crazy but they take turns.  They meet each other where they’re at.  They end sentences with a preposition.  They scream and throw dishes in public.  They hug people whom they have a restraining order against or from.  They end sentences with a preposition again.  Did I mention that people call me crazy?  They think I’m dreaming my life away, just like John Lennon wrote.

    I struggle with how to let people into my life without letting them take over.  How to embrace my crazy without getting caught up in it.  How to recognize someone else’s crazy when they’re telling you it’s you.  And when it’s also you.  So complicated.

    Spoiler alert- I’m going to talk about Silver Linings some more- I just loved it so much.  It is rare for a romantic comedy (nay, romantic comedy/drama) to get it right without being trite.  One of my favorite scenes was at the diner.  Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) opens up about herself and seems to be having a moment with Pat.  She offers to help her out and then he insults her by not wanting to be associated with her in the context of his ex-wife.

    Rather than crying and running out of the restaurant (at first, at least), which I would have done, she balks.  That’s the best word for her face.  She looks at him, condescendingly, and says; “You actually think I’m crazier than you.”  Not in the form of a question, but as a statement of disbelief.  It’s great.  I admire that.  I wish that in the midst of a heating argument I could have the composure to do that.  It was awesome.  And then she smashes all the dishes off the table in one fell swoop and runs out of the restaurant, crying.  I kind of wish I could do that too.

    The beauty of it is that Pat realizes in that moment that he’s crossed a line and then he comes to the rescue on her crazy.  They go back and forth on this as their relationship blooms.  And that gives new meaning to the phrase the “dance of intimacy.”

    Read the rest of…
    Nancy Slotnick: People Think I’m Crazy…

Is There An Important Girl in Your Life?

Check out this important event for parents of daughters, coaches, teachers..anyone who influences growing girls:


Erica & Matt Chua: Behind the Blog Couchsurfing

For every story on LivingIF, there is a backstory.  Here are two unforgettable experiences we had due to Couchsurfing, both of which led to trip highlights.  Let us know in the comments if there are any stories you’ve read here that you wanted to know more about how they happened…


I wonder what our trip would have been without Couchsurfing.  Staying with strangers, all around the world, was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.  The problem with Couchsurfing though is that it is a logistical challenge.  Instead of heading to a central area to find a hotel, you have to head to residential areas, then find a person.  Arriving in a new country, without a phone, trying to find someone inevitably leads to memorable situations. Nothing was quite like getting from Japan to South Korea.

Getting to South Korea meant exiting Japan, leaving Japan meant a last night out on the town that went from bar to bar to karaoke to sunrise.  Taking a quick nap we had some takeout sushi for breakfast and headed to Tokyo’s Narita Airport.  Narita is a city about an hour away from Tokyo, so we gave ourselves plenty of time, and casually switched trains from the metro to the suburban rail lines.  Simple enough, just go to Narita, right?  WRONG, never go to Narita…go to Narita Airport! They are very different destinations.

Arriving in Narita we realized our mistake and had burned our extra time.  We ran out of the train station and asked a taxi driver how much to get to the airport.  Translating on his phone he estimated it would be $120 and take over an hour…he recommended we take the train.  Running back into the station, I saw a person who looked about 18 and asked him, “do you have an iPhone?”  He responded, “hai” and handed it to me.  Think about this for a second, on a train platform he just handed a complete stranger his iPhonethat’s Japan for you.

How did our best meal in South Korea happen?  Trains, planes, buses and running.

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Erica & Matt Chua: Behind the Blog Couchsurfing

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Feeling the Heat

jyb_musingsI have found that, as a general rule of thumb, people usually have to “feel the heat” before “they see the light.”

Nothing seems more conducive to the attainment of wisdom than the receipt (or threat of receipt) of a painfully humiliating lesson.

Which means that, as a general rule of thumb, the wisest among us are also the ones among us who have accumulated the highest number of painfully humiliating lessons in the course of their lives.

So, if you want to be a wise person, ask yourself What painfully humiliating lesson am I pursuing today?

Or perhaps experiencing right now without even knowing it?

Artur Davis: Lesson Learned?

Count me as skeptical that for all of the damage Republicans have incurred from the failed shutdown, the lesson has genuinely been learned. Not when there is an emerging narrative that the House GOP simply picked the wrong fight (allegedly, either draconian cuts to income support programs , or perhaps, a balanced budget amendment would have been more costly for Barack Obama to reject); not when a majority of the House GOP caucus still voted to perpetuate the shut-down; not when critics inside the party are framing the scope of the party’s dilemma almost entirely in terms of one specific faction, and therefore limiting their solutions to well funded primary interventions against the Tea Partiers.

Some of the “what if” shadow dancing mimics the misreading of public opinion that has haunted the right since the successes of the 2010 midterms: conservatives have consistently confused swing voter angst over Obamacare with a broad based rejection of a government “power grab” over healthcare as opposed to a notably specific distaste for aspects of the law: from scaled back coverage dictated by the “Cadillac tax” on high value policies; to diminished consumer autonomy to enroll spouses in employer plans; to the pressure on small businesses to pare their full-time workforce to avoid mandates. And the shift from declaring the Affordable Care Act so toxic that it would validate the shutdown strategy to suggestions that a softer political target like low income groups or a “support that is a mile wide and an inch deep” variation like the balanced budget amendment would have paid Republicans more dividends? The haziness of wishful thinking, overshadowed by a deeper failure to appreciate that shutdown itself validates the obstructionist label, the impression of being too inflexible to govern, that so threatens the party nationally and is even starting to creep into red states like Georgia and Louisiana.

davis_artur-11There is a different kind of miscalculation driving the…take your pick..more responsible, more establishment, more centrist…wing of the party (which, as the one silver lining of this fortnight, seems finally emboldened). It is the assumption that mobilizing to downsize the Tea Party is an endgame by itself. The 144 Republican no notes that emerged in the House may be minimized as “throwaways” who were trying to forestall primary contests and could do so with the knowledge that their votes were not essential: but that misses the reality that such a sizable portion of the party’s elected representatives, well more than the 40 to 50 members of the Tea Party Caucus, felt so constrained politically, and evidence that the sensibilities behind the shutdown have much greater currency in the party than Republicans are comfortable acknowledging.

Read the rest of…
Artur Davis: Lesson Learned?

Saul Kaplan: Phone-a-Friend

I was amused to learn that the show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ is doing away with the phone-a-friend lifeline.   There was Meredith Vieira with her big smile and syrupy voice explaining that the time had come to take away the lifeline that has been a staple since the beginning of the show because too many friends were using the internet (doing Google searches) to help the contestants.  No kidding.  Did the show’s producers just figure that out?  It was plain to see the progression from the early years of the show when contestants would call wicked smart people to today when they just call people that are really fast at doing on-line searches. What’s next, “ask the audience” to check their iPhones at the door of the studio?  Let’s face it lifelines are enabled by the web.  Should we just get used to it or is there something more important than a game show going on here reflecting on the state of human interaction.

This comes as no surprise to anyone with a teenage daughter.  When is the last time you shouted to your teenager, Get off of that phone you have been talking for an hour?  It is far more likely that you have said, get off of that computer and do your homework or no text messages during dinner.  It is obvious that phone-a-friend has been replaced with text messaging and Facebook walls.  Phone conversations have been replaced with an always-on lifeline connecting friends in real time.  Answers, information, advice, entertainment, and connections are all available 24/7.  Conversations are now just fragments, short poorly spelled text messages, or 140 character epithets.

Saul KaplanIs the loss of phone-a-friend necessarily a bad thing?  Maybe new web-enabled lifelines are expanding our universe of possible friends and opening up new opportunities for deep engagement.  I think that may be true but there are serious questions that need to be asked about real human engagement.  I worry that the web and social media platforms have become the driver more than the enabler.  Are we “friending” people because they are web-savy, spending a lot of time on social media sites, and quick to return our text messages?  Or are we “friending” smart, interesting, caring people that leverage the web to enable connections and who will be there when you need them the most?  Will these connections stand up to the crises that we all will face when personal engagement and support is critical?  Is “friending” even the same thing as being a friend?  I wonder if we have become so focused on our follower or friend counts on-line that we are forgetting what true friendship is really about.

Seems to me that lifelines are more about the people at the other end of the line than about a connection to the web. Technology is a great enabler that can help us to be better friends but it is not a replacement for the hard work of being a good friend.  There will be times in all of our lives when we will need to say, I would like to use a lifeline. If it is all right with you I would like to hold on to my phone-a-friend.

Vacation Workout Routine

Courtesy of global champion personal trainer, and RP fitness guru, Josh Bowen:


The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show