The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Monday, January 30, 2012
Politics ...

The GOP Presidential nomination circus is still going strong. Newt Gingrich’s campaign should be dead and Romney should be the defacto nominee by now. But as I said in a previous blog, Gingrich flourished back in the Bill Clinton days of the 1990s, and something of that old Clinton instinct rubbed off on him. (Perhaps it’s really an “anti-Clinton” force, given Newt’s crafty negativity and scowls as compared with the Old Dog’s crafty optimism and smiles). So Gingrich somehow convinced enough anti-Washington / pro-family conservatives that he shared their anger and would serve them best, despite the fact that Gingrich built his life around Washington and open marriages. For now, anyway. Newt has a way of blowing up his own bandwagon, once it gets rolling. And Mitt is finally learning to take his mitts off and swing a few knuckles back at Mr. Gingrich.

But it still looks like a close race right now (although Romney seems to have gained advantage in tomorrow’s Florida primary). The two remaining also-rans, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, could swing the final outcome. Dr. Paul will probably take all his delegates to the GOP convention floor, just for the glory of the cause.

But Rick Santorum looks like a more pragmatic sort, a more typical politician as opposed  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:55 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Photo ...

I made a food run up to my favorite fresh produce market in South Paterson, NJ about three weeks ago. Whenever I go, I stock up on all sorts of veggies and fruits. The prices there are still very good, about 2/3 of what the cheapest supermarket here in the ‘burbs charges. It’s like going back in time about 10 years, pricewise.

I bought some winter Chilean blueberries, and I’m still munching on them with breakfast most every day. This is definitely a welcome little mid-winter treat. The blueberry container is a short lesson in multi-lingualism, with English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Arabic words on it. I think that the French word for blueberries best captures what they are about: “bleuets”.

Ah yes. BLUE – ETTES, to crudely Americanize the word. Little blue things. Yep, a great way to describe blueberries.

But Spanish best captures the origin of these particular blueberries: Producto de Chile. I have no idea how the Chinese and Arabic script break down. But it’s an interesting little part of an otherwise drab winter morning here in New Jersey.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:11 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, January 27, 2012
Personal Reflections ...

About 36 years ago, I had graduated from NJIT with a bachelors degree in industrial engineering (where did all that time go?) and was anxious to get out into the world and start doing some real engineering work. But like today, the economy was bad and job prospects for college grads was not very good. I didn’t have a job lined up by graduation day in late May, and the Spring turned to Summer and then Autumn as I continued on a fruitless search for professional employment. I had a friend who also graduated that year, with a liberal arts degree. He had quickly lined up a job selling insurance in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Better than nothing!

One day the guy in question told me that he knew someone from a company that was hiring engineers, so he took my resume and passed it on to them. A few weeks later, in late August, we both took Saturday road trips out to the Harrisburg area and met up at the Rockville train bridge, where we took various photos of freight trains going over the Susquehanna River (just a hobby thing at the time). We didn’t spend much time together that day, and for whatever reason we both weren’t giving each other much attention (maybe because he had another friend with him and I had two other fellows with me). But he did give me a card with a name on it, and told me to “call this guy” about the job, and tell him that you were referred by “Harry”. The card was from “Salvucci Engineers” in Pittsburgh, but my friend didn’t tell me who they were or what they did. Nor who Harry was. And I didn’t ask.

I never did call the guy from Salvucci Engineers, as I just didn’t have a good feeling  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:34 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Aspergers ... Psychology ...

I’ve had my problems with the rest of the human race. I generally like people, but as I get older I have more and more trouble relating to them. Maybe it’s just a part of the process of turning into an old fogie. But for a while there, I thought it was all because of Aspergers Syndrome.

I first read about Aspergers maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and a lot of the characteristics of Aspie-people seemed to hit home with me. Supposedly, kids who like science and who get rabidly interested in something like trains and railroads often have Aspergers, especially if they maintain such obsessive interests into adulthood. I still like science but I can’t say that I’m currently obsessed with trains. Nonetheless, I did have a Lionel layout as a kid, and I was a fairly rabid railran photographer while in high school and college and even a decade or so beyond that (ah, innocent days, fun days they were).

So then, after discovering Aspergers, it seemed as though I finally had my finger on what it is that sometimes  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, January 16, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

While driving to work the other day, I heard a newscast discussing the recent video of US Marines urinating on the bodies of fallen Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The announcer noted that the video had “gone viral” in the past day. In other words, people found it so interesting that word about it spread rapidly, like a virus. So, we have another new expression in our language courtesy of modern technology: viral videos.

Personally, I don’t spend much time watching videos on the internet. I’d rather read an article or view a still picture. I have more control over the narrative with those versus watching “dynamic imagery”. I guess that’s why I don’t watch a lot of TV nor go to the movies very often. There is a difference in the balance of power between “still media” and “dynamic media”, with videos, movies and TV shows having more control over what you take away from them.

But many people get bored very quickly, and dynamic imagery usually stimulates the brain much  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:09 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Science ... Society ...

I recently learned that there are some biological symmetries between almost all living creatures, in terms of size versus metabolism rate. Tiny creatures like mice and the shrew have very fast metabolisms; their hearts beat quickly, they breath rapidly, and they eat more than their own weight each day. But they burn out fast; their lives are relatively short, just a few years. Elephants are bigger than us, they have slower metabolisms. They live about as long as modern humans do today (70-80 years), but that’s a bit of an unfair comparison given that humans have the benefit of their brains and civilization; go back 2,000 years, and our average life span was more like 35 years. Admittedly, elephants in captivity don’t live as long as in the wild, but then again, how long would we live if we were held in captivity by elephants and they provided for our needs?

The bottom line of all this is that we get about 300 to 500 million breathes in our lifetime; shrews, mice, cats, dogs, humans, horses, and elephants get a bit less, more like 200 million (but again, until about 2,000 years ago, less than 10% of the overall history of the homo sapiens species, we would only get around 250 million breaths in our average 35 year lifespan). So, civilization has given us maybe an extra 150 million breaths. The question is, are we using those breaths wisely? Are we happier than shrews, dogs, cats, horses and elephants in the wild?

That’s a tough question to answer. But the process of civilization did make humans more wealthy on average, and it made certain individual very wealthy relative to everyone else. So we are able to ask this question:  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:22 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Science ... Society ...

One or two random thoughts, for this evening:

There are many books and articles on the similarity between ancient eastern metaphysics and modern quantum physics (similar on the surface, anyway). This little cottage industry was started by Fritjof Capra’s “Tao of Physics” and Gary Zukav’s “Dancing Wu Li Masters”. There’s also “The Quantum and the Lotus”, “The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist’s Guide To Enlightenment”, and “The Universe In A Single Atom” by the Dalai Lama.

Much as I respect the great Lama, this stuff is pretty touchy-feely and New Age-y. It’s mostly written by western or westernized authors and represents neither real science nor real Buddhism, Taoism nor Hinduism. It’s all a Ken Wilbur-esque blur (of course, Wilbur also has a quantum-ish book, “Quantum Questions”).

I haven’t seen any attempts by such authors to find similar parallels between Judeo-Christian thought  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Photo ...

I took this photo not long ago in Harriman State Park in New York State, while on a hike. Not exactly a very scenic location. It looks very messy, like something caused by human activity. Almost like a junkyard. You want to blame someone for despoiling nature once again.

But no, no humans have been fooling around up on this mountain top. This is a 100% natural mess. Nature is not all glorious sunrises and majestic flowing streams. Humans didn’t invent messy clutter. Like everything else, we just learned it from Mother Nature.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:24 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Music ... Science ...

Just a quick thought tonight on chaos theory and fractals . . . and music. Chaos theory, in the strict mathematical sense, is based on the notion that many natural processes and social networks operate in a fashion in which their future state, e.g. how things will be tomorrow or next year, is largely determined by their present state.

However, this does not mean that things stay the same. Systems such as the weather or the stock market become chaotic because the relationship between present and future states is “non-linear”, i.e. based on mathematical functions that in-and-of themselves twist around. There is no straight-line proportionality. Things jump around a lot; but in the long run, there are patterns that can be found within that jumping around. That’s the crux of chaos theory. Chaos theory does not deny that future states are also heavily influenced by “exogenous shocks”, i.e. “black swans”, things that aren’t part of the pattern nor within the “state space” region where the system usually noodles around.

Fractals are in some ways much like chaos and in other ways different. Fractals focus on repeating patterns that may not be obvious at first when beholding  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:42 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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