The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Economics/Business ...

No, my father was not an Assistant Treasury Secretary or a Federal Reserve governor or a partner at Goldman Sachs. So, he didn’t have very much impact on the global economy before dying in 1973 (at a too-young age of 50). But if he were here today, he could pinpoint exactly where all the trouble in today’s economy had come from.

Dad was a very pragmatic kind of guy. He always tried to think ahead, tried to keep trouble from happening. And he knew that there would always be trouble that you could not presently anticipate. So he always left some room for an unexpected turn of events. His early death was devastating for my mother, but he left her with a house fully paid for and no outstanding bills. We got by, thanks to his financial philosophy.

So I’m sure Dad would be rolling in his grave if he could keep up with our current global economic situation. About 12 years after his passing, when inflation rates, interest rates and unemployment rates  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:14 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 24, 2011
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

My high school class just had its 40th anniversary reunion. I didn’t go; I didn’t want to shell out $80 or whatever to spend an evening with a group of strangers. Well, they’re not totally strangers, although I did not stay in touch with anyone from my high school class. I can’t say that I remember talking with anyone from my class in the past 35 years, even though I only live 7 or 8 miles from the old town, and I still go there quite frequently (since my brother still lives there).

There are people from my class that I would have enjoyed speaking with. But for the most part, high school was not the place where I had my best times with others. Senior year wasn’t so bad, but the first three years were pretty rough; bullying back then was still considered a form of performance art. And I participated in a lot of command performances. After I got the “save the date” letter from the reunion committee last year, I honestly thought about going. But the memories were more bitter than sweet. So I took a pass on it.

And hey, why do I need to spend $80 to find out what happened to whom when there’s Facebook? I’m still holding out  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:39 pm       Read Comments (6) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ...

Just a small thought here about something small. I.e., supermarket discount cards. I usually shop at the Bloomfield Shop Rite. I have my regular night and time to be there, stocking up for the week. It’s usually a low-drama experience, as it should be. The only ripple is when the checkout clerk asks for my Shop Rite card, as most of them do. Well, I don’t have one, and I have to tell them that. Some just shut right up and go on scanning my groceries, but some push the issue and say “oh, you forgot it then, what’s your phone number?”. So then I have to repeat that no, I don’t have a card at all. Once in a while, a sympathetic one asks if I want to sign up for a card. Would you like to come in from the cold and be like the rest of us, you outcast?

Well, the answer is still no (although I try to be gentle). I like being a Shop Rite outcast. I can’t understand why most every other customer has one, given the invasion of privacy that such a card entails. I mean, someone is tracking your weekly food and sundry purchases and sharing it across a variety of different corporate databases. Eating is a sacred thing for me, and I don’t want corporate America looking over my shoulder whenever I go to market, assembling a huge databank so as to “make my food shopping experience better”.

I wonder if other people even think of this; I wonder if they would be so quick to whip out the card if they knew just what Big Business Brother was doing  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:35 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 17, 2011
Politics ...

A few days ago (Oct 8, 2011) I wrote about the Republican presidential race; I said that although Rick Perry was down and Herman Cain now seems like the favorite, Perry might yet make a comeback, given that he is the only realistic alternative for the Tea Partiers (who seem to have hi-jacked the Grand Old Party). The fact that Mitt Romney, the logical next-in-line candidate under old-school Republicanism, has been stuck at 25% in the polls for many months speaks volumes on how things have changed.

FYI, there’s a good article today about this by political analyst Charlie Cook in National Journal. Cook says just about what I did. However, unlike me, Cook summed up Cain’s sudden rise at Perry’s expense rather succinctly: “Cain seems to be functioning as a parking place for conservatives who have grown disillusioned or who harbor reservations about the previous flavors of the month . . . it’s a good bet that Cain is little more than a place for conservatives to window shop while they decide what to do.” Regarding Perry’s future prospects: “With the Republican Party wanting to nominate someone of his ilk, the question is whether Perry can effectively grow and develop as a national candidate . . . enough to win outside of the Deep South. If he can, he’s the nominee. If he can’t, he might not be.”

Bravo, well stated! I guess that’s why Cook writes for the National Journal, and I don’t.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:12 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Current Affairs ... Economics/Business ...

Let’s zoom from the far-right GOP of today (see above post) to the far-left; yes, there may actually be a far-left forming around the Occupy Wall Street event. Interestingly, there was a little tift in the press recently about the spreading Occupy movement and whether it is being bankrolled by billionaire George Soros (a man who made his billions on Wall Street and the like — a man in the top 1% of the powerful 1% whom the Occupiers are protesting against).

A few days ago, Reuters ran a story saying that there appears to be certain organizational links by which Soros money is finding its way to whoever is spending funds or earning a salary to keep the Occupy thing alive. The on-going “Occupy” event obviously needs food, blankets, sleeping mats, press outreach, toilets and “handlers expenses” for those who plan and guide the activities that gain press attention, such as marches on corporate HQ buildings. These things don’t just happen, despite the idealistic claims by the young Millennials that their “General Assembly” is the prototype for the horizontal, autonomous, emergent, consensus-based leaderless system of the future. Nonetheless, various sympathetic commentators such as financial journalist Felix Salmon protested that Reuters was acting too much like Rush Limbaugh and his friends in implicating Soros.

So, the latest version of the Reuters article starts out with the title “Soros: not a funder of Wall Street protests”. But the article itself still outlines how Soros money  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:35 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Economics/Business ... Science ...

I grew up in the late 60’s, so I remember the hippies. Well, actually I don’t – I mostly saw them on TV. The town I grew up in wasn’t the type of wealthy suburb where parents threw money at their kids and let them do whatever they wished. We were a bit more concerned with basic survival issues. Oh, not that there weren’t some wanna-be hippies, here and there. And in fact, there was one artistic guy who went all the way into his own little counter-cultural world. In fact, he’s still out there, calling himself Francois, surviving as a painter (the artistic type) and a clerk in a costume store. Even in his old age, he’s just as artistic and individualistic as I remember him.

Francois notwithstanding, I never fully understood hippies, nor their close cousins, the campus protesters and building-occupiers (nor the post-college/non-college “radicals” who egged them on). I gather that they all had something to do with individualism, with living life as an experience, with disdain for all the conformity and regulation that the social and economic system demands from most people.

I sympathized with their assumption that life “held something more”, and that we needed to care a lot for our fellow humans. But instead of sex, intoxication, protests and artistic expression,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:02 am       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

A few weeks can be a long time, especially in Presidential politics. Back in late August, just as Hurricane Irene was about to hit the East Coast, Texas Gov. Rick Perry had just announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination, and had soared to the top of the polls. But now, after a few rough weeks of inter-mural jousting with Mitt Romney and an admission that he sometimes governed Texas like a reasonable politician and not a rabid Tea Party animal, Perry has lot his luster.

And then the liberal press opened fire with an accusation that Perry’s family used a patch of hunting ground that had a prominent rock monument with an offensive racial epithet painted on it. Perry said that his dad immediately painted over the bad word as soon as they started using the place, but the Washington Post claims to have spoken with people remembering that he didn’t. It’s mostly a “did so, did not” confrontation, but that still doesn’t do Perry much good with the northern moderate swing voters that he would have to attract in order to beat President Obama in Nov. 2012.

So, to extend the meteorological metaphor, the high energy levels in the conservative currents of the GOP have found their way to another brewing storm, and they seem to be building up to hurricane levels. Yes, I mean Herman Cain,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:43 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Current Affairs ...

There’s a cute little advice-column parody at the end of The Atlantic mag, called “What’s Your Problem” by Jeffrey Goldberg. In the October issue, Goldberg presents himself with a mock question about how to come up with a “things I want to do before I die” list, given all the choices that a young, rich person might have. Goldberg’s mock advice was to come up with a reverse list, i.e. things you definitely do NOT want to do during your lifetime. He then posted 25 items that would appear on his own list. I thought I would comment on some of them.

1.) Climb Mount Everest
2.) See any movie or read any book about self-actualizing rich people who climb Mount Everest
3.) See that movie about the guy who cuts off his arm in a ravine that isn’t even on Mount Everest

COMMENT: So far I’m totally in synch with Goldberg. I have no intention of seeing 127 Hours either. I like hiking, but not that extreme stuff.

10.) Collateralize a debt obligation

COMMENT: Best to avoid debt obligations in the first place

12.) Colon cleanse

COMMENT: It just gets dirty again anyway, and fast. Pretty much like house cleaning.

15.) Create a coat of arms for my family

COMMENT: I agree, coats of arms are over-rated.

18.) Play golf

COMMENT: On a nice day, I’d rather be  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:50 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Photo ...

I had trouble getting to sleep the other night, so I spent a half hour or so perusing Fr. James “Jeff” Behrens’ monastery photo book Portraits of Grace. Jeff’s photos and his gentle written reflections were a nice calming touch, just what I needed. It felt so good and comforting simply being under the covers, resting against propped pillows with the book in hand, that I probably stayed up a bit longer than I had to. It was one of those cozy moments of life that come along too infrequently.

I guess that I’m still a bit of a ‘monastery romantic’, despite having been to real monasteries and talking to real monks (including Jeff). Their life is just as gritty as anyone else’s. But Jeff’s book helps to feed my illusion, nonetheless. He focuses in closely on quotidian stuff like tools and windows and leaves and dishes and shovels, with just the right sunlight and shadow to make it all seem beatific. Yea, I know it’s not real life, but sometimes real-life is not what one needs.

On page 85, Jeff has a shot of a praying mantis standing on a wet morning glory flower. Quite interesting. The next day, I went out back by my car, where my own morning glory vines are still in bloom, and I noticed that they were still wet from an earlier rain shower (not surprising given how wet the past few months have been around here). So I went inside and grabbed my camera, and here’s what I got. No bug, but still not a bad shot, IMHO. Thanks, Jeff, for the idea.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:49 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 1, 2011
History ... Personal Reflections ...

By the time most of us reach our late teenage years, we usually take up some sort of rebellious cause, something to distinguish ourself from the life that our parents and all their friends lived. You want to make it clear that your world is going to be better, that you aren’t going to make the same mistakes and fall into the same traps that they lazily fell into over the course of their lives. I was no different. My cause was pacifism; not exactly a surprise choice for the time, i.e. late 60’s and early 70’s. Me and my generation were going to show the world that you didn’t ever need to kill another human being in order to have a good society where everyone can have a good life.

How did that all turn out for me? I don’t want to talk about it right now. Let’s just say as I proceed through my adult years, I fell into many of the same traps and have made many of the same compromises that my parents and their generation made. Oh well. But I still try to keep the violence and killing to a minimum. In my case, that would be “agentic killing”. I have never directly killed anything larger than a mouse, but I cannot say that I am entirely pure when you ask if anyone has to die in order to maintain the lifestyle that I have become accustomed to. I am a 99% vegetarian (and loving it – just eliminated eggs from my cooking and baking routine). Thus, I don’t take too many animals down to maintain myself, although admittedly I occasionally buy leather shoes or belts (but try to get by as much as possible with faux-leather items from Payless).

However, I do depend upon a car powered by gasoline to get to work, to buy food and clothing, and to maintain my social life. I also  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:11 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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