The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Personal Reflections ... Psychology ...

It is the evening of the day,
I sit and watch the children play.
Smiling faces I can see, but none for me,
I sit and watch as tears go by.

My riches can’t buy everything,
I want to hear the children sing.
All I hear is the sound
Of rain falling on the ground . . .

My first reflection for tonight — not exactly tearful, but a bit pensive: I just read an article about a study done recently at the University of Geneva by a Dr Camille Ferdenzi, which found a link between how attractive women find a guy and the relative lengths of the guy’s pointer finger and the ring finger. It turns out that the shorter the pointer finger is in relation to the ring finger, the better looking the dude is. Guys with ring fingers about the same size as their pointer (ratio 1:1) didn’t do so well, while the guys with ratios closer to 1/1.1 or 1/1.2 were perceived to be pretty hot.

Dr Ferdenzi said: “This illustrates a female preference for men with a low 2D:4D ratio  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:13 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Religion ...

I did a Google search on Father Marek Bozek recently to follow up on the blog entry that I wrote about him back in August. Looks as though the court will rule any day now as to whether the Archdiocese of St. Louis has the contractual power to boot Bozek from St. Stanislaus, the renegade Catholic parish on the outskirts of the Gateway City. Keep an eye out, we should be seeing more headlines about the situation rather soon.

I also saw some dirt about Bozek on a traditionalist Catholic web site; turns out that he was hedging his bets even before the Archbishop de-frocked him back in 2009. He was already a member of the Moonie-supported “Married Priest Now” group, and also became a recognized priest in the Reformed Catholic Church, a relatively small schism group. Yea, that does make him seem a bit “restless”, and perhaps he is a bit of a loose canon. But as dirt goes these days, that ain’t exactly a Richter scale 7 earthquake.

What is more interesting is that St. Stanislaus is not the only breakaway Catholic parish out there right now. There appear to be at least two others  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:29 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, April 25, 2011
Economics/Business ... Politics ...

I see that President Obama’s public approval ratings have been down in a funk lately. Admittedly, the big spike in gasoline prices over the past few weeks has a lot to do with it. But the underlying poll figures don’t bode well for Obama; moderates have abandoned him, and far-left liberals are also jumping ship (for who, I couldn’t guess).

As usual, my own opinion goes against the tide. I was extremely critical of President Obama’s performance in his first year. He handed over the stimulus funding package to Nancy Pelosi, and got back just what he deserved (an extremely expensive stimulus that stimulated a lot of traditional Democratic interest groups, but didn’t do too much for the overall economy). Then he pushed through a huge health care overhaul in the face of public mistrust about it. I agree with the overall aims of Obamacare, but I thought he should have integrated some of the legal and market-based cost containment measures supported by GOP interests (which also increase consumer choice and responsibility in approaching health care).

But no, the President stuck with his semi-socialist vision for healthcare in America and rammed it through using brute force. Well, he burned up a lot of public trust and political capital in that exercise,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:51 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ...

It’s finally mid-spring here on the East Coast, and despite some cool and dank weather leftover from winter, the stronger and longer sunshine and warm winds are finally making themselves felt. And it definitely feels good. One really nice thing about this time of year is that you don’t need to constantly check the radio or web sites for the latest weather forecast.

This past winter was pretty rough, and you had to stay constantly connected to know when the next big cold wave or snowstorm was hitting. But now, it’s not a big deal; rain one day, clouds or sun the next, but you don’t have to worry about getting caught in a blizzard or an ice storm. Ah, you can feel the relaxed attitude in the voices of the local forecasters at this time of year.

I had one last “winter zing” early last week while at work. I looked out the window while discussing something with our budget analyst, and I saw the sky full of  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:15 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Personal Reflections ... Religion ...

It’s Holy Week for the Christian Faith, time once again for the remembrance of Jesus’ final week of life. Jesus spent that week in Jerusalem with his close followers, making purity preparations for the Passover ritual. So let’s not forget that it was all a Jewish thing, entirely Kosher. I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith, entirely non-Kosher. But in my middle age I joined the legions of Catholic baby boomers who left the church, looking for a Christian (but still non-Kosher) alternative.

After fiddling around with the Episcopalians and Quakers for 20 years or so, I dropped the whole subject after reading a bunch of entirely reputable books about the life that the Jewish Jesus may have actually lived (as opposed to the Christian “God-Man” view). The “historical Jesus” scholars convinced me that Jesus was not God or the Son of God or the Christ. He was Jesus of Nazareth, biological son of Joseph, fellow human being, a man who was born a Jew and died a Jew. Period. No more bodily resurrection for me, no more transubstantiation of the sacred body and blood during the Mass. No more communion wafers that start smoking or burn the rug if dropped on the floor (as we were told in Sunday School).

And yet . . . I don’t have bad feelings about Christianity, and harbor no destructive wishes against the Catholic Church. In fact,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:45 pm       Read Comments (4) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Photo ...

 

I’ve been totally geeked out over the past week. I took on an assignment, volunteering to set up a new web site for my zen group. Well, I’m not exactly a cutting-edge web designer, but I can still do OK with your basic Web 1.0 stuff from 1998 (html tables and a little bit of CSS, not even any Javascript). They didn’t need anything too fancy, but I still had to come up with a visual design and an organization scheme for the content. I also had to write up most of that content! Zen according to Jim.

Earlier this week I was toying around with it, not terribly seriously; but then it all started coming together, almost by magic. It seemed to gain a life of its own. I got sucked into its wake; it was bossing me around, not the other way. Thus, I spent every spare minute both at home and at work, even started robbing myself of precious sleep (hardly get enough as is).

Today I’m feeling the consequences, zoned out near the crash zone. But the new site is almost done, although  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:54 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Current Affairs ... History ...

I just started watching another DVD “Great Course” from The Teaching Company, “Chaos” by Prof. Steven Strogatz. Pretty good so far, although I’m only half way into lecture 3 (of 24). However, Prof. Strogatz said something in lecture 2 that kind-of worries me. He was speaking about Sir Isaac Newton and how Newton’s laws once implied an entirely rational, predictable, understandable world. I.e., an orderly “block universe” where the past, present and future are all just aspects of an already-determined “block”; i.e. where everything has always been pre-determined. Of course, Newton’s ideas eventually developed into and were superseded by scientific concepts allowing for, even requiring randomness, contingency and unpredictability; i.e., “chaos”.

However, back when Newton was very popular amidst the educated class, the United States of America declared their independence, and a few years later wrote a Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was one of the key authors of those documents. And as it turns out, Jefferson was a big fan of Newton. So big that he used some Newtonian concepts in the Declaration of Independence. Strogatz gives a few examples of wording reflecting the notion of an orderly, rationally acting world; e.g. “truths” that are “self-evident” (akin to Euclidian geometric proofs), and “causes” that “impel” separation from previous governments.

OK, the Constitution is a bit more “nuts and bolts”. Still, the D of I states the philosophy behind it. The Constitution is a blueprint  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:02 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Health / Nutrition ... Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

For the past few weeks, it seems as though Western civilization has been coming unglued at the seams. There’s uncontrollable civil war along our borders (Libya, Yemen, Ivory Coast). Our political system seems deadlocked and bankrupt (inability to fix health care and Social Security, inability to find a place to dispose of nuclear waste). Our financial situation is verging on the edge of bankruptcy (after a housing and mortgage collapse and the US and European sovereign debt crises). Unemployment is up and energy and food prices are way up (that’s quite evident).

Technology, scientific management and capitalism, once the holy trinity of our prosperity, now seem a threat to our well-being (global warming, the Macando oil well disaster, the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown). Their promises for a better tomorrow (bio-genetic engineering, alternative energy, nanotechnology, cyber networking) aren’t delivering what we had hoped for. Our physical infrastructure isn’t what it used to be (too many bridges and roads are in bad and even dangerous shape). Other places in the world now produce most of the stuff that we use in daily life, better, faster and cheaper than we can (China, India, Brazil, etc.); and can even do the smarter stuff (write computer programs, analyze x-rays). No longer is the future so bright for our kids that they gotta wear shades.

I wish I knew how to change all of this. But I don’t. Instead, random thoughts  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:44 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Outer Space ... Spirituality ...

Being a born geek and having grown up in the days of the “space race” in the 1960s, I just had to watch the local PBS station’s recent replay of “The NASA Story: America in Space”, a 2009 BBC production. During the second episode, which was about the moon landings, Apollo flight director Gene Kranz spoke of what it was like at Mission Control during one of the “moon missions”. He recalls telling his people, all those intense geeky fellows with the horn-rimmed glasses, short-sleeved white shirts and black ties, that this is what they were born for; these are the peak moments of their lives. (He also told them in a father-like way that he would support all of their decisions.) When you walked thru the door into the control room and saw all of them at their control panels, hunched over flickering screens and pouring over binders holding charts and instructions, Kranz said that you could feel the atmosphere “crackling with energy”.

This is how Kranz helped pull off NASA’s and America’s greatest techno-miracles. It’s sad how the “Zen of Kranz” was lost somehow during the Space Shuttle days (Challenger, Columbia . . . and now, the end of American manned space flight).

As a Zen practitioner, I think that Mr. Kranz pretty aptly described what we seek in Zen. If you were to walk into a zendo during a meditation session, it would seem pretty still, almost like a morgue. But if the practitioners are truly doing what Zen is about, there should be a “crackling” of energy in their midst. At Mission Control, Kranz and his troop of techies were entirely focused; no day-dreaming, no angst, no idle chit-chat. Everyone was at the top of their game, playing it to the hilt. Another example might be a musician playing in the New York Philharmonic. She or he melts into the concert, she becomes the music; it takes her over, sweeps her normal day-to-day worries or amusements off the table. Another example? How about a figure skating team at the Olympics? Again, they become the skating; they are totally alive in it, and it in them.

In Zen – in theory, anyway – we seek to uncover, deep within ourselves, the truest  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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