The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Politics ...

Quick political note here — on why Obama may be in for an uphill battle in his bid to get re-elected. I was listening tonight to the Voice of Russia in America radio station during my drive home from work, and a young fellow named Sam Arrero was talking. Mr. Arrero is a VofRA “capitol correspondent” based in Washington DC, and was discussing with another VofRA announcer the kick-off of Obama’s election campaign. Mr. Arrero noted that he had been a very active volunteer for the Obama campaign in 2008, and said that he “might volunteer again” in 2012.

Might. A hint of ambivalence about Obama on the part of America’s educated youth. Not a good sign for the President, who depended so heavily on youth enthusiasm in 2008.

Also, there’s an interesting cover story in New York Mag about the Occupy movement [originally ‘Occupy Wall Street’, now morphing into ‘Occupy The World’] and what it could mean for Obama  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:03 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, November 28, 2011
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

I went up to Ringwood State Park on Saturday for my annual autumn hike. The weather was nice and I had a pretty good day, although my “trail sense” is not what it used to be. I had trouble following one trail (it wasn’t really marked all that well in certain spots) and wound up reversing direction and unintentionally backtracking, more than once. In each instance, I eventually recognized something I had passed previously and knew enough to turn around.

(I also brought a deer tick home, but managed to spot the little sucker before he could dig his way into my hide and transmit a nasty dose of Lyme Disease. Hope that none of his friends tagged along too.)

Being a student of Zen, I would like to turn my hikes into highly spiritual experiences. But they almost never wind up that way. Instead,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:46 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Current Affairs ... Foreign Relations/World Affairs ...

The recent failure of the Congressional “Super Committee” to fulfill its mission of mapping out a future fiscal budgeting course for the USA so as to avoid the kind of sovereign debt crisis that is now bringing Europe to its knees is rather discouraging. At the same time, our seemingly productive economy is sputtering; but even when running well it increasingly fails to distribute its benefits fairly between rich and poor. This all hints, to me anyway, that the American Constitutional model of representative democracy along with our tradition of economic freedom is breaking down; it just isn’t working anymore despite its great success over the past two centuries.

Representational democracy and free markets were never a pretty things to watch, but when the chips were down and America was threatened, the major political parties and corporate leaders always put their immediate partisan interests aside to find solutions to a big threat. Well, there was one major exception – regarding the issue of slavery. Economic and social divisions were pushed to the point of rupture by that one; a block of states seceded, and it took a long and terribly bloody war followed by years of political strife to settle the question. But during the two major world wars and the long cold war that followed them in the 20th Century, the Democrats and Republicans became fairly skilled at finding just enough ground for consensus to protect the nation.

But today, amidst growing premonitions of future economic mayhem, the Democrats and Republicans have decided to stick by their guns  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Photo ...

You may not find much natural beauty in these shots taken out in the Hackensack River meadowlands in Bergen County, NJ. But unless you charge your laptop battery solely on solar or with a bicycle-powered dynamo, this stuff is necessary for you to see pics like this . . . and all the rest of the curious and sundry items existing for your inspection on the big World Wide Web.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Politics ...

A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts about the rise of Rick Perry as a Republican Presidential candidate. I called him “Hurricane Perry”, given the force and bluster by which he came on. I said that Perry seems to have a real chance to do to Romney and the GOP this year what Barack Obama did back in 2007-2008 to Hilary Clinton and the Demorcrats.

It turns out that I was prophetic about Perry, but only in the ultimately prophetic sense. At bottom I was wrong; Rick Perry was not the man to upset the Republican apple cart. But consider the metaphor that I used — Perry like a hurricane. It seemed right at the time. And looking back, it seems even righter.

A hurricane is a temperature and moisture disturbance in the atmosphere that starts out in the Atlantic over equatorial waters, gains its own life as a cyclone of wind and precipitation,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:29 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Politics ...

I’m old enough to vaguely remember the 1960 Presidential election; even as a second-grader, I knew that Kennedy was the good guy and Nixon was the cowboy with the black hat. When early November rolled around, the local newspapers heralded the dawn of JFK and Camelot. I felt reassured. The world was just as it was supposed to be.

Since then I have maintained my interest in Presidential politics. One rule of thumb became clear by the time I got out of college – there was a lot of drama in the candidate selection process on the Democratic side, but not for the GOP. The Dems aired their disagreements in public, while the Republicans seemed to find their candidate quickly and efficiently. In 1968, there were all those sparks between Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy following Lyndon Johnson’s surprising withdrawal and Robert Kennedy’s tragic death.

Then, 1972 saw the star-crossed insurgency by George McGovern fill the vacuum created by Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick disgrace and Ed Muskie’s tearful implosion in New Hampshire. And 1976 was also interesting, with the fresh-faced Jimmy Carter  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Outer Space ... Science ...

A lot of people, both inside and outside the scientific community, got riled up back in September by the results of a recent study on neutrino particles purporting to show them moving just a bit faster than light speed. Of course, that would violate a key tenant of Einstein’s relativity physics, i.e. the ban against anything with mass achieving light speed, and against anything with or without mass going faster (and able to covey any sort of real information — as neutrinos could). A lot of intelligent non-science folk got interested, hoping that something with deep mystical or philosophical implications was in the works here.

However, from what I’ve seen from a variety of sources, the science folk have the situation under control. There’s plenty of past evidence showing that neutrinos can’t and don’t violate light speed, and also plenty of reasons why the study in question was deceiving. It will take some months to straighten it out, but the boffins seem confident that the whole thing will blow over soon. Sorry, nothing to see here, metaphysically speaking.

But something else is going on in the world of sub-atomic particles and forces that could be just as troubling, even though it hasn’t gained much attention from the public. The reason for that is because it involves the “fine structure constant” of atoms.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:46 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Religion ... Spirituality ...

Just wanted to share some Zen talk today from Clear Mountain Zendo in Montclair. (Yea, Zen does involve talk, despite all the Zen talk about not talking). Our “study practice circle” today discussed the following koan:

One day, Yanguan called to his assistant, ‘Bring me the rhinoceros fan.’
The assistant said, ‘It is broken.’
Yanguan said, ‘In that case, bring me the rhinoceros.’

So, what’s this all about? OK, first off, Yanguan is some Zen teacher from a time long, long ago in a place far, far away. He has an assistant; that’s not so hard. But what’s with the “rhinoceros fan”? Is it a brand name for something, like “Gorilla Glue”? (It couldn’t be the modern political interpretation, i.e. a supporter of a “Republican In Name Only” — like a Huntsman backer.)

No, actually this is supposed to be some sort of folding hand fan, one of those little things that you wave around to create a slight breeze. I.e., like the ones that women of old  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:49 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, November 11, 2011
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

(With all due apologies to those of you who enjoyed the 1960’s ballad “McArthur’s Park”.) Actually, with the cooler autumn weather coming in, the refrain should become “freezing in the dark”.

But seriously, I finally got down to the Manhattan financial district to have a look at Occupy Wall Street. Which of course is actually located three blocks north of Wall Street in Zuccotti Park, near the fallen and now re-rising World Trade Center complex.

I have a few comments about what I saw, but I know that you first want to see the pix! So here they are:

More follow! Click at right to open them.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:19 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Politics ... Public Policy ...

There’s a great debate going on in American politics today, but it’s all very cryptic. Neither the liberal Democrats nor the conservative Republicans (including the T-Partiers) want to say what they really mean, so the argument goes on in code. This argument is all about where and how we should live. But no one will just come out and say that.

The Dems hint that they favor the new-urbanist vision of the “green, efficient and sustainable city”. These are the kind of places that progressive and educated people seem to favor (at least in theory – where they actually live can be another matter). Not surprisingly, people who support the urban vision usually vote Democratic. For better or worse, however, the Dem liberals can’t just come out and say that city living is better (in theory, at least).

Why not? Because most Americans live in the suburbs. Most of the votes come from the ‘burbs. The Dems don’t want to  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:59 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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