John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The News

jyb_musingsIf you listen carefully to the news every morning you can’t help but notice it sounds about the same every day.

Some sports scores, somebody goes to jail, a corporate acquisition, some political races, an overcast outlook with temperatures going up and then down, an odd fact and a human interest story about someone we don’t know getting a nice break. 

I don’t even need to listen. 

If we can put a man on the moon, you would think the people making our daily news could mix it up a little with what they do each day that is newsworthy.

Julie Rath: What to Wear on a Spring Date

The frost has finally lifted here in New York City, and it is officially time to start thinking about Spring dates. Whether you’re strolling through a farmer’s market, going to your local botanical garden, or picnicking on a lawn, it’s key to dress appropriately. Below is a perfect outdoor Spring date outfit.

Men's Style Help: What to Wear on a Spring Date
Blazer via East Dane, shirt via Gant Rugger, pants and belt via Bonobos, shoes via Nordstrom.

What’s your favorite thing to wear on an outdoor date?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Two guys talking about marriage…

jyb_musingsFriend: “My wife and I have been married for over 40 years now. The bottom line is there are certain small things about my wife that I will never be able to change. And I stopped worrying about them. And there are things I do that irritate her that she will never change –and she has stopped worrying about them. And we have a really good life together.”

Me: “Rebecca and I have been together 27 years. I know you are right about accepting certain things about each other that have been that way since we met. 

But part of me hates to give up so easily after just 27 years.”

Josh Bowen: 12 Steps to Eating on the Go

Life is busy. We live in a world that goes a hundred miles per hour, everyday. Eating healthy can sometimes get put to the back of the line. From day to day travel to business trips to flying on airplanes, learning the best ways to eat better when we are busy can be challenging, but they can be done.  From the appendix of my book 12 Steps to Fitness Freedom here are 12 steps to eating on the go:


prepared 1. You either prepare to succeed or fail. Preparing your lunch ahead of time would ensure you didn’t stop for fast food on your way back to the office.

2. Knowing what restaurants are on the way on a three hour business trip that serve healthy options would allow you to stay within your healthy eating strategy and not go for convenience. If we prepare, we can succeed.

Know Your Food

knowfood 3. Anytime I go to a restaurant I know what my choices are going to be. I have either looked at their menu online or I have frequented there before. I know what I am walking into.

4. Use nutrition apps to look at menus and food items before sitting down for dinner. This will help you better understand the food quality.

Bring Healthy Snacks

healthysnacks 5. If you are in an airport your choice of healthy options are slim. Bring almonds, nuts, Quest bars or fruit with to curve your appetite an prevent you from making a decision out of convenience.

6. Know the ingredients and how to read the food label on the back to know what your are eating.

Know How to Order Food

how to order food 7. Different restaurants use different things to cook with. Some use olive oil, some may use butter. Either way, I always ask for my food to be prepared without butter or seasoning.

8. If it is chicken or beef I asked that it be prepared over an open fire and grilled. This cuts down on all the extra calories the cooking process can add. Drink Water

drinkwater 9. On the go we sometimes forget about hydrating ourselves. Water keeps us hydrated but also decreases the hunger signals and keeps us full.

10. Keep big bottles of water on you at all times and refill as necessary.

Say No to Fast Food

no fast food 11. If it has a drive through, say no!

12. If you have to stop for something quick choose grilled chicken over beef and baked potato over French fries.


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: If life could only be like this….

jyb_musingsA Public Service Request: Ok, everybody. A few simple requests. Lately, traffic has been really irritating me.

I am in a silver Avalon with Jefferson Co plates. If you see me out driving and I am trying to switch lanes, please just let me in. I am in a hurry and am going to assume you aren’t. If I am behind you and seem to be tailgating you, it isn’t a coincidence. I really need you to speed it up or get in the slow lane. OK?

Also, some people who don’t absolutely have to be out driving today, I would really appreciate it if you could stay in and not congest traffic around me—at least between now and 9am and again between 530-630pm and, finally, between 1230-130pm in just the Louisville Metro area. If you live outside of this area, I don’t mind you driving today. But need you to be sure to avoid Metro Louisville.

And please no honking or waving gestures or shaking your head at me if I do something driving that you disapprove of. That hurts my feelings. Especially no honking when a light has turned green and I haven’t accelerated for several seconds. This is just my way of getting back into “driving mode” after stopping.

Oh, and if you are tailgating me, be ready to slam on your brakes at a moment’s notice. I know you want me to speed up, but that’s not going to happen –especially now that you are tailgating me. And please know that even though I may not give you the finger, I am still thinking it.

Feel free to wave hello or smile when passing. Or just give me a nice thumbs up. Then I am going to need you to stop distracting me.

Sound reasonable?

Thanks very much in advance! I think this will really help my frame of mind today.

Have a great day!

Lauren Mayer: The Music of Science

Music & science may seem to be strange bedfellows – the only songs I could think of were Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” from the ’80s (and if you’re not old enough to remember that era and its fabulous goofy technopop, check out Devo while you’re at it), and “I Sing The Body Electric” from Fame (from the ’70s, which is making me feel really old . . . but I digress)

Generally they would seem to be polar opposites – science is about concrete data and provable facts, where music is emotional and subjective. Sure, you can give a scientific description of sound waves, but that doesn’t explain why some pieces of music affect us so emotionally. (For example, I get goosebumps when I hear the french horn entrance toward the end of the 4th movement of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony; I also start giggling every time I hear the intro to Spike Jones’ version of Hawaiian War Chant . . . ) Besides, trying to analyze the beauty of music reminds me of E. B. White’s comment about why analyzing humor was like dissecting a frog – “Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”

However, there is concrete scientific data on music’s value in aiding retention of information – it connects with the brain on multiple levels, which is why we teach kids the ABC song, or why anyone who ever learned the “50 Nifty” tune has no trouble remembering all 50 states in alphabetical order. (This multi-layer connection also explains “ear worms,” which is a disgustingly appropriate term for a tune that you can’t get out of your head. Often a TV theme or a commercial jingle . . . anyone old enough to remember “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is?”)

Science is getting a bad rap these days from people who deny climate change – an affliction common among right wing politicians and media pundits. Cosmos host Neil DeGrasse Tyson is doing his best to combat this willful ignorance, including his wonderful quote, “The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it.” I don’t have Tyson’s scientific expertise (or a TV show), but I can do my part by using music to help make the same point. (And to tie this all together, I’ve borrowed an ear-worm-ish ’80s TV theme . . . )

John Y’s Musing from the Middle: Inspirational Thought for the Day

jyb_musingsWhen someone says to us, “That was a bad decision you made” it is important to remind ourseleves that they didn’t say, “That was a ‘very’ bad decision you made.”

Erica and Matt Chua: Can We Take Him Home Please…

We have all made the argument before in our lives, pleading “I promise I’ll take care of it, I’ll feed it and walk it and bathe it everyday…it can even sleep with me.”  This time the argument didn’t even need to be made, thinkCHUA wanted to take home a tiger too, only they weren’t for sale.  On our visit to the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand we were able to pet the tigers, play with the cubs and take the tigers on a walk under the watchful eyes of the monks, but we couldn’t take them home.  We were only able to take pictures and memories with us, even though the temptation was great to sneak a cub into our bags and back to our hostel.

thinkCHUA with tiger cubs at the Tiger Temple

The Tiger Temple or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua is located in western Thailand, an easy day trip from Bangkok.  This temple is a sanctuary not only for Buddhist monks but tigers and other wild animals.  The temple was founded in 1994 and received their first tiger cub in 1999.  Villagers brought tigers to the monks at Tiger Temple in cases where their mothers had been killed by poachers or the tigers were injured therefore unable to survive in the wild.  Slowly their tiger population grew until they turned the operation into a conservation project and started breeding tigers.  Tigers are expensive “pets,” which is where tourists come in.

One of the many devoted monks that care for the tigers at the temple.

It costs roughly 100 USD a day to care for a tiger and being that monks don’t earn any money to cover these costs, tourists can visit the temple for 600 baht per person (roughly $20 at 30 baht to the dollar).  This is substantially higher than visiting any other temple but gives you the opportunity, as I mentioned above, to touch fully-grown tigers and to play with cubs. The money brought in by entrance fees covers the costs of feeding and caring for the tigers.  The temple is also reforesting a large amount of land nearby (‘Buddhist Park’) in order to give tigers a chance to be released into the wild in the future.

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Erica and Matt Chua: Can We Take Him Home Please…

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Memorial Day Epiphany

jyb_musingsAs I walked out my front door this morning carrying my laptop bag, I pulled the door behind me with a prolonged tug that caused my index finger to mash between the door and the door pane. 

I clasped my throbbing finger as my voice strained to curse loudly enough to offer relief but not so loud that neighbors could hear. 

I slowly uncovered and peeked at my swollen finger tip and then went back inside for no other reason than to sigh loudly and curse louder than I had outside in hopes someone would wake up and ask me about my injured finger.

But no one did.

So I left. Again. This time with a sore finger tip and hurt feelings.

It was at this moment I realized how grateful I was for the brave men and women and who fought and died in combat so wimpy and whiny guys like me –who would never have made it in combat– can have a good life today.

And even do frivolous things like writing on Facebook this morning about mashing a finger tip.

And also to do easy but more thoughtful things like thanking the many stronger and braver American service men and women who came before me –and many others like me — and had our backs. And gave their lives for people they would never know but who someday, like today, might want to say “Thank you.”

Thank you. And thank you again. Every day, of course- –but especially on Memorial Day.



Those who fought and died so that those who came after could live freely and in peace.

Michael Steele: U.S. sanctions on Russia look a lot different from space

446px-Michael_SteeleThe untreatable international agita over Russia’s meddling in Eastern Ukraine is taking on otherworldly overtones here in the United States, where the Putin regime’s hegemonic bullying of its next-door neighbor is reaping unforeseen cosmic repercussions in the heavens, in the halls of diplomatic and military power, and in the courts.

Leave aside, for moment, the general concept of punishing sanctions, which haven’t hit hard enough to convince the willful Russians not mess with Ukraine. Forget, too, the internationally accepted and expected notion that sovereign nations should be left to set their own destinies. Insistence by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine on moving forward with an intentionally provocative “self determination” referendum, and subsequent declarations of “independence” by the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, seem to all but assure that a deeper and perhaps bloodier conflict will soon engulf part or all of Ukraine.

In just days, roughly one third of Ukraine’s territory could effectively become a Soviet-style satellite. The current, minimalistic sanctions regime the Western powers have put in place has done nothing to stop the Russian power grab that is controlling the separatist movement from the Kremlin.

But aside from the immediate geopolitical price to be paid for indecisive Western reaction, there are other consequences to leading from behind. Here in the United States, satellites of quite another variety are becoming a new, central focus of the Ukraine crisis — our spy satellites.

Arguments abound in political, industrial, military and legal circles about the folly of the US defense sector’s reliance on Russian industry and technology to heft the Intelligence Community’s eyes on the world into low Earth orbit. You read that correctly — US surveillance satellites cannot attain their perches in the heavens without the aid and acquiescence of the Russians.

At particular issue here is the astonishing US reliance on Russian rocket engines for a longstanding heavy space launch program overseen by the US Air Force. Launches conducted by that program, known commonly as EELV, short for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, have been sole-sourced to industrial behemoths Boeing and Lockheed Martin since the program’s inception in the mid-1990s.

In the years since the program’s founding, however, the relationship between those two rival firms and the US Government has grown quite cozy. Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed the consortium firm United Launch Alliance (ULA) in 2006, and since then, ULA has entrenched itself as the Air Force’s single source for heavy launches, most of which involve depositing “national security payloads,” or spy satellites, over troubled areas.

Other quite capable American firms have tried to enter this arena in recent years but have been rebuffed by any variety of unfair means.

ULA’s workhorse rocket is the Atlas V. The Atlas V is itself a fascinating historical artifact, designed by Lockheed Martin prior to the founding of ULA but after the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union was thought to be vanquished, and Russian-American industrial and economic cooperation hit new, previously unimaginable heights.

At its core, the Atlas V was once looked upon as a symbol of US-Russian goodwill and technical collaboration. Those were different times, indeed.

The first Atlas V lifted off in 2002, soaring into the skies under the power of the Russian-designed-and-built RD-180 rocket engine, which still powers this mainstay even today. No Atlas V leaves a launch pad without at least one RD-180 attached to it. The rocket simply isn’t designed to accommodate anything else.

This means exactly what you have just deduced – the US intelligence agencies that need ULA’s services, not to mention the other government entities that launch their own machinery into space, are at the mercy of the Russian Federation. By its own admission, ULA has only two years’ worth of RD-180s in its stockpiles. That’s it. Either ULA will have to buy a whole bunch of rocket engines from the Russians before sanctions for Russia’s Ukraine misadventure are expanded, (at outrageously inflated prices, one would think), or the EELV program grinds to a halt in short order.

While some US firms like Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) have challenged ULA’s monopolistic hold on the EELV program, others are looking more specifically at the reliance on the RD-180 and don’t like what they see. One of these is Sen. John McCain, who has taken up the laboring oar to assure that competition in the launch market frees the United States from this bizarre and inexplicable dependency.

Current US sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea and for further agitation throughout Ukraine’s East single out select individuals close to the Kremlin’s power structure. One of these figures is the man that oversees the Russian aeronautics firm that manufactures the RD-180. A federal contracts court based in Washington just this last week found itself grappling with the notion that engine purchases from this company could violate the economic restrictions placed on that individual, Twitter-hound and gadfly, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Rogozin bit back on Tuesday, announcing that Russia would ban RD-180 use by the United States for its military launches. The situation thus morphed from the ridiculous to the absurd.

Meanwhile, the United States could, in theory, still be sending millions, perhaps billions of dollars into Russian defense sector coffers to keep its rockets in flight, even with a coming deeper freeze in bilateral relations. For reasons of national and economic security, not to mention the future of US space exploration, this cannot stand.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from

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