The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Politics ...

I had some impromptu rapport the other day with one of the trial attorneys at my office — actually, a trial supervisor. “Big Mike” wanted to follow up on a political discussion that he had with another fellow from my section, where I became tangentially involved in as an innocent bystander. Mr. RK, my brother-in-arms from the Administration Section, is a Democratic liberal for whom politics is an ongoing hobby. Mr. RK never ran for office, but he gets heavily involved in various local campaigns and rubs elbows with mayors, board members, assemblymen, campaign managers, etc. (but quietly, as not to violate any regulations against mixing government employment with political activism). Big Mike, by contrast, is more like me in that his political interests stem from philosophy and intellectual reflection, as opposed to actual involvement in turning out the vote.

The difference between myself and Big Mike is that he is quite sympathetic to the Republicans; and also that his philosophy is very conservative. So, you wouldn’t think that Mike and I would have had a very pleasant conversation, given my liberal sympathies. And yet, Mike is one of those Ayn Rand / Edmund Burke kinds of conservatives, the kind who has thought things through and has come to believe that law and order, minimum government redistribution, and maximum market freedom will lead to the best world possible, given the very imperfect world that we have to work with.

Mike is one of the classical conservatives, versus the political conservatives who adopt a variety of arguments and positions that are mostly knee-jerk  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:28 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Outer Space ... Science ...

It’s April, and spring is in the air here in New Jersey. But during the winter months just past, the air of metaphysical mystery created by a particle physics experiment that seemingly clocked neutrino particles moving faster than light has been blown to the four winds. In the early months of this year, a review of that experiment along with the initial results of further experiments have put the mainline physicists back in control. The speed of light remains the absolute limit to all transactions and interactions in the universe. (Well, any interaction that conveys information, anyway; quantum entanglement experiments indicate that there are faster than light effects, but they can’t pass relevant information through spacetime any faster than a ray of light could; the hyper-luminal effects can only be known retroactively). 

So much for all the excitement that was created in the press by the notion that Einstein and all the other smarty-pants physicists out there haven’t really mastered the eternal mysteries after all. Ah, but just when all the New Age and Old Age mystagogues (the ‘Old Age’ ones being Baby Boom spiritual seekers — like me!!) had lost hope of besting the boffins regarding the ultimate secrets of creation, spring comes along and new scientific mysteries are in the air; this time regarding dark matter.

In a nutshell, astrophysicists observed some time ago that some wacky stuff was happening with many of the galaxies out there  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:23 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, April 20, 2012
History ...

Many people have pondered the question of whether their lives are shaped by their names. Obviously, movie stars and popular performers believe this, given all the name changes they go through in search of fame. Here’s a list of some real names of famous people. Yea, I probably wouldn’t think the same way about Tom Cruise had he kept his birth name, Tom Mapother IV. And John Denver as John Deutschendorf Jr.? Would anyone care if a Mr. Deutschendorf sang of his Rocky Mountain High?

But one of the most ironic name changes probably occurred in Germany around the turn of the century (the turn of the 20th Century, that is). The father of the man we knew as Adoph Hitler was an illegitimate child; his father did not know his own father’s last name, so he used his mothers’, i.e. “Schicklgruber”. Before the future Nazi tyrant was born, his father’s mother married a man named Heidler. His father did not at first want to adopt that name, but after his mother died he went to live with her brother, who convinced Hitler’s father to take on the family name. But in the process of registering his name change with the officials, an accumulation of bureaucratic errors transmuted Heidler into Hitler. Sometime after that, Hitler’s father married several times; the fourth child of his third wife was Adolph.

Had Hitler’s father decided not to change his name,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:55 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Health / Nutrition ...

To follow up on my blog from a few days ago about cancer and MD hubris, I suggested that the American medical establishment needs to supplement its great scientific and technological prowess with some greater understanding of “the way of things”. I say this in a broad sense; on the technological level, the medical establishment needs to learn more about how the body works, especially its immune system and the many other mechanisms that carry out self-repair and maintenance.

On the metaphysical level, doctors need to work on improving their personal interactions with patients, which can have just as powerful an effect on health as any knife, laser or potent drug. Overall, doctors need to adapt a “martial arts” philosophy in fighting disease, the same philosophy having its roots in ancient Eastern thought. I.e., that you understand your enemy’s intentions and movements, and use them to your own advantage. You don’t always fight your enemies head-on; try to lever their momentum as to protect yourself (in this instance, your patient).

OK, this is much easier said than done. But when you look underneath the hood on how modern medicine  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:16 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Health / Nutrition ... Society ...

I recently read an interesting little article on The Scientist web site about cancer and stem cells. One of the big areas of cancer research right now is on the role of stem cells in triggering a cancerous state within the body.

Stem cells are special in that they can trigger the growth of new tissue and organs when needed, through an accelerated process and coordinated pattern of cell division. Normal cells mostly stay in a dormant phase, splitting every now and then as to make a replacement for themselves when they get old and creaky.

Stem cells do more than replace, they start the building of a whole new operating component in the body. It’s like the difference between  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:13 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Photo ...

Remember “Nighthawks“, that great Edward Hopper painting of some people hanging out in a coffee shop, seen through a window late at night? Here’s something of a 2012 version. I.e., some people hanging out in a computer game store in northern New Jersey, seen through a window late at night.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:40 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, April 6, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Religion ... Spirituality ...

To repeat for the 856th time or so on this blog, I don’t consider myself to be a Christian, even less a Roman Catholic Christian . . . even though that is the religious tradition that I grew up in. On the other side of the coin, I don’t consider myself to be an anti-Christian or anti-Catholic, either. I have taken a spiritual path in my life that needs more leeway than the Catholics (and every other Christian community, for that matter) can provide.

And yet, I still respect the Christian / Catholic tradition. I acknowledge that it has imposed much suffering on certain people and groups over its history — it is a fallible human institution, despite what it believes about itself. And yet, for all its faults, I believe that it still preserves and presents some essential truths about humankind, plus the universe, and then ultimately God. I don’t fully agree with its theology of a Holy Trinity; but if the ultimate point of all its doctrine is to speak to the reality and existence of a loving and caring (and yet mysterious and ultimately unknowable) God, then Christianity and I still have some common ground.

So, I decided to tag along with my still very-Catholic brother this past Sunday to see a passion play put on by a high school group at a local parish. They call themselves “The Franciscan Mystery Players of Notre Dame Church” and are  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Society ...

I guess that I’m getting old; my life is really “old school” now. I no longer stay up with techno-trends; I don’t have a smart phone, don’t have a kindle or i-pad, and I don’t anticipate getting one anytime soon.

I have two computers at home; one is 10 years old, the other 11. I just did a disk clean up and back up, and remembered that if I ever have to replace a bad hard drive, I’d need a 3.5 inch floppy boot disk with a Ghost program on it. I had a floppy sitting around – but of course, when I tried it, it was corrupt. Five years old, gone corrupt. Maybe I’m going the same route.

My Ghost 2003 software lets me burn new recovery disks – floppies, not CD’s. I found some other floppies, but they were all  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:07 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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