Happiness Formula

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has a blog on which he philosophizes and jokes. Recently he posted an interesting theory, some of which I will excerpt here:

I fantasize about writing a book called The Happiness Formula. The idea would be to create a simple formula for troubleshooting your life and improving your happiness. On page one would be this top formula.

Happiness = health + money + social life + meaning

The rest of the book would be nested formulas that further explain each component of happiness. For example…

Health = sleep + diet + exercise

And then down another level…

Sleep = schedule + technique

And down another level until it starts getting practical…

Sleep Technique = consistent bedtime and waking time + no reading or TV in bed + no booze or caffeine…

And so on.

To make the Happiness Formulas extra useful, the highest priorities would appear first (leftmost) in the formula. For example, in the top Happiness Formula (Happiness = health + money + social life + meaning), health is a higher priority than money, which is a higher priority than social life, etc.

This is a fascinating way to consider looking at your life. Of course it would be nice to be able to look at more, wouldn’t it? Later on, he says:

Part of the reason I don’t turn The Happiness Formula into a book is that it would only be about 20 pages long. Its power is in its brevity, and brevity is not rewarded in our economy. If the best book in the world was only 20 pages long, no one would buy it. They’d stand in Borders and read it cover to cover.

So I won’t be writing that book. Maybe it needs to be a wiki project.

And so now it is. Take a look, it’s pretty cool. I haven’t had enough time to consider all the ways to apply it to my own life, so maybe I’ll post a follow up sometime. If you enjoy Scott’s philosophizing, also check out the free PDF of his book God’s Debris.

Another PSA

This week at work has been useful, as it’s given me a new phrase for useless busy work: “smacking mud around with a backhoe”. It was inspired by someone near us doing exactly that, useless because he was trying to move some mud around by smacking it in an area where it floods so completely all the work he did will be gone in the next rain. It’s no “banged your sister”, but it’s good.

Damned Yankees

Last night I went to see Tommy Shaw & Jack Blades. Once again, I did not have a ticket, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem (I took an educated guess). I’d planned to leave work at 6:30, but didn’t end up leaving until 6:45. I skipped my usual route (267->66->110) and took the GW Parkway, which didn’t have any backups and was much nicer. Plus I rolled into the Birchmere right on the dot of 7:30, and got a seat (in my preferred stage right location) right as the lights went down.

My educated guess that it wouldn’t sell out was a combination of the ticket price ($45) and lack of advertising. Tommy Shaw is one of the lead vocalists from Styx, Jack Blades is one of the lead vocalists from Night Ranger, and together they were the singers in Damn Yankees (with Ted Nugent on guitar). A fine history of great rock songs from the ’70’s-’90’s, plus their new covers album has some great songs from the 60’s and and 70’s. But did it say anything but Shaw/Blades in the Birchmere’s advertising? Nope. But a classic rock fan (like myself) would have found plenty to be happy about during the show.

They started off with a brief take on Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, trailing in to Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”. Decent enough, but the first highlight of the night was a version of Styx’s “Too Much Time On My Hands”, followed by “The Night Goes On” from their 1995 Hallucination CD, which sank without notice during the grunge era (Ted Nugent had declined from participating in a third Damn Yankees album). Speaking of them, an edgy “I Am A Rock” was followed by “High Enough” from the first Damn Yankees album. They did a number of covers next, the best of the bunch being Yes’ “Your Move”. Lead singer Jon Anderson of Yes has said “you captured the song so well” and I have to agree it’s an amazing version. “Rock In America” was the first Night Ranger song of the evening, which I appreciated. I’ve seen Styx a couple times, but not Night Ranger or Damn Yankees so those songs were treats for me. Another Simon and Garfunkel classic was followed by a Steely Dan number then “Down That Highway”, another Hallucination song. Another Night Ranger song, “Sister Christian” featured Tommy on lead vocals since Jack didn’t sing the original lead and he couldn’t hit those notes, but the audience loved it anyway. Another great Styx song, “Foolin’ Yourself” bled into “Love The One You’re With”, and they finished with Damn Yankees’ “Coming Of Age” and a great audience assisted cover of “California Dreamin'”. The encore was worth waiting for since it was all Styx: “Crystal Ball” and “Blue Collar Man”.

Front row!

Sometimes it’s pretty cool to have a cube overlooking 28, especially when the new Airbus A-380 does a slow climb from Dulles right in front of you. That thing is ginormous, it “hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t”. I wonder if I’ll ever be on one. Of course tonight I ended up at National Airport, but that’s a story for tomorrow…

More hazy shades of Winter (pills)

Saturday morning I got up and made strawberry pancakes at Jill’s request. It was a drizzly, gloomy day and I wasn’t too motivated to do much. I read some newspapers, walked the dog, and cooked a mustard marinated pork loin for dinner. It was our date night, so we headed down to Clarendon. One of our Falcon Ridge finds, Winterpills, was at Iota opening for local wunderkind Taylor Carson. How popular Taylor was we didn’t realize until we showed up a couple minutes after they’d started and saw a line in front of the club. A line only means one thing at Iota – they’ve sold out, and people in the line are waiting for people in the club to leave – not very promising (and they don’t sell tickets – first one in the club wins). However, the fire exit door next to the stage used to have butcher paper covering it and now didn’t, meaning we could stand outside and watch the band from stage right and hear and see almost everything. There was an annoyingly placed post, but I can’t complain too much – it was nice outside (the rain had stopped). Afterwards, we stayed to buy their new CD (since Flora from the band was selling them and we couldn’t get one until they were done). I had been enjoying listening to the stream of the new songs, but I wanted a version that was a little more portable. We thought about going to catch Brother Shamus (which features the drummer from Eddie From Ohio) nearby, but it was getting late and Jill had a lot to do on Sunday, so we headed home and watched 24 before going to bed.

Sunday I had my usual routine. I was going to spell it out again before I finally realized it’s as boring to type it out as it probably is to read it – if I do it in the future I’ll try to at least say something different. The day was gorgeous, so I took Illa on a long walk, and we even jogged for part of it. I took some newspapers out on the deck as I sunned and had a cocktail, then Jill and I had a snack. Later I started another eBay auction, this time comics of a superhero who’s been in the news a little bit, before I made a salad and pizza for dinner. I spent some time figuring out why Jill couldn’t print a PowerPoint presentation – turned out to be a particular slide just wouldn’t print. Now it’s much later than I planned, and I never even got through Sunday’s paper. Maybe I’ll catch up on stuff on Tuesday – another concert tomorrow.

Snowed In

Last night I caught Snow Patrol at American University’s Bender Arena. It was a bit weird going there, as I’d been there 3 times before: twice in 1994 for Soundgarden (with Tad and Eleven opening – Eleven was later the band Chris Cornell used on his first solo CD) and Dave Matthews Band (with From Good Homes opening – frontman Todd Sheaffer went on to find more success with Railroad Earth) and once in 1998 for the Barenaked Ladies (with Cowboy Mouth opening). I figured the food selection inside hadn’t changed much over the years, so I stopped at the MickeyD’s across the street for a quick cheeseburger and chicken wrap before heading in (I was right about the selection).

First band Silversun Pickups had started by the time I got in, and they were pretty good. I hadn’t realized until I checked out their myspace page that I’d seen the video for “Lazy Eye” a couple times already. They were pretty good live, reminded me of early Smashing Pumpkins, especially going out a blaze of feedback.

OK Go was next. I’d seen them in 2002 at the 9:30 Club opening for The Vines, and they were ok (pun intended). At the time they had a minor hit with “Get Over It”, but I didn’t pay attention to them until they popped with some great videos. They really have become a better live band, too, probably on the back of their relentless touring. They weren’t the headliner and didn’t have a wall of lights, so they got creative and had the next best thing: a video screen with a video of a wall of lights on the first song. Effective, and they used videos well during their show. They never played their actual videos (though they did use one from the “Do What You Want” set during “Television, Television”) sticking to a mixture of new animation (including dancing treadmills during “Here It Goes Again”) and tiny video cameras of webcam quality on the four band members (to the best effect when frontman Damian (whose camera was attached to his mic) went stage diving. Funniest part was Damian talking about the surreal experience of hearing 8 year olds sing “Here It Goes Again” (from Kidz Bop) which he thought was a little strange, because he wasn’t sure 8 year olds could understand the feeling of regret after a drunken one night stand – or could they?

They were pretty well received, but the sold out crowd was there for Snow Patrol. They had a good sized set, a rack of lights above, the usual stage mounted swivel lights and a nice set of webbed LED lights surrounding them that formed intricate patterns. The crowd was into them from the start, and they soaked it up. Gary told an amusing story about being interviewed in the girl’s swim team locker room and seeing “AU swim team loves Snow Patrol” written on a white board and then feeling weird because all their swimsuits were hanging on their lockers. They also brought up a fan on stage to sing Martha Wainwright’s part in the duet “Set the Fire to the Third Bar”, mostly because she held up a sign asking for the privilege, but she was pretty good. I enjoyed hearing the big hits – “Chasing Cars” of course, but I think my favorite song was “Chocolate” from Final Straw.

Police raid on Baltimore

Whether or not Live Earth happens in DC or New York, we do finally have a Police date. They will be headlining the Virgin Festival at Pimlico Racetrack on Saturday, August 4th. Last year’s headliner was the Who. This year the festival’s going to be two days (like the ones in Canada) with the also reunited Smashing Pumpkins headlining on Sunday and the Beastie Boys also scheduled for Saturday.

In other juicy new tour news, Keane is coming to the 9:30 club May 29th, and Rush returns to Nissan Pavilion June 23rd. If the rumors are true and HFStival happens June 23rd, I guess I’ll skip it again this year – not a big deal if I go to both days of V Fest, and wouldn’t bother me at all if I got to see Live Earth as well.


For a long time, I’ve thought of myself as having a “cast iron” stomach. I could eat anything I wanted without suffering any great consequences. Sadly, I think that’s coming to an end. Tuesday I went out to lunch at Buon Appetito with some coworkers and had two slices of pizza: pepperoni and sausage, and pepperoni and bacon. I felt a little bit of heartburn an hour or so later, which happens sometimes, but I was fine after that. Then around 6, I started feeling it bad.

I went home at 7 and had some antacid tablets. I wasn’t feeling too much better, so instead of the pasta I’d planned for dinner, made strawberry smoothies and had veggies with hummus and some cheese and crackers with them. I still wasn’t feeling great, so I canceled my plans to go out and see Todd Wright (from the Getaway Car). Instead, I read the paper, watched some TV, and spent way too much time trying to diagnose why Jill’s computer stopped printing (still defeating me tonight). In the future, I think at a minimum I need to have a supply of antacid tablets with me.