The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Photo ...

Late at night in a local clothing store in Montclair, NJ. Taken on the eve of Hurricane Sandy, no less.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:42 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Current Affairs ... Society ... Technology ...

I’m nearing the end of my fifth decade on this planet and I admittedly don’t know much about bring up kids (other than having watching my parents do it — and realizing many years later that they had done a much better job of it than I had thought at the time). But with that said, I wanted to discuss a recent “high profile homicide” involving a 12 year old girl, and the question of whether her parents had in some way failed by not training her to be wary of the situation that did her in. (Oh, and also some comments on the parents of the leading suspects.) Actually, I am not going to stand in judgment as to whether the parents in question “failed”. Obviously I cannot. In fact, I am sympathetic regarding all the challenges that parents face in the modern world, a world that is arguably more complex and uncertain than the one that my parents brought me up in.

The case in question is the murder of Autumn Pasquale in Clayton, NJ last Saturday. From what I’ve read, 12-year old Autumn was a fairly typical pre-teen Caucasian girl who lived in a single parent middle-class home. Her father is a postal worker; I couldn’t find out very much about her mother (Jennifer Cornwell). It appears that Ms. Cornwell presently lives in Cherry Hill. According to, Ms. Cornwell lived in Clayton until 2005, then was in Moorestown until 2010. If true, then Autumn lived with her father only. It’s uncertain if anyone else lived with them (Mr. Pasquale was pictured at Autumn’s funeral with his girlfriend Cheryl Evans).

During the week before last, Autumn had a brief discussion on Facebook with one of the suspects, 15 year old Justin Robinson of Clayton (an African American). The discussion was about a picture of Robinson’s BMX  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:04 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Religion ... Science ... Spirituality ...

When the physicists at CERN in Europe more-or-less confirmed the discovery of the Higgs particle this past July 4, it made a big splash with the press (well . . . as big as a splash as a scientific discovery can make these day; just under the magnitude of Lady Gaga’s meat dress). The Higgs particle completed the picture of the sub-atomic world that has evolved over many decades into today’s Standard Model of particle physics. It helps to explain how and why some things in the universe have “mass”, i.e. the quality that requires a bit of force to initiate movement (relative movement — don’t forget Einstein here) of something with mass, continuing force to cause acceleration, and an opposing force to slow it down (i.e., the quality of inertia or momentum).

Well that’s nice, the typical educated layperson might say. So now we have photons that give us light and magnetism, electrons that give us electrical charge, gluons to hold the nuclei of atoms together, neutrinos that don’t do much of anything, and now Higgs particles to make certain stuff “massive”. Just peachy. If you’re really into it, you might also know that W and Z bosons help radioactive stuff to keep on glowing. That’s groovy (even if you don’t want to wear a radium watch these days — I actually had one as a kid!). But what is different because of all this? The world is still mostly the world we’ve always known; in a metaphysical sense, the world appears to be composed of a huge (if not infinite) void, with lots of little bullet-like things zipping around in it (photon, electrons, protons, various other fermions and bosons, now including the Higgs particle). Right?

Hmmm. If you stopped and read further in the more detailed articles about the Higgs discovery, you would know that the Higgs particle itself really isn’t all that important. The reason that the boffins are so interested in it is that reflects the existence of a “Higgs field”, a type of energy field that exists everywhere in equal strength (i.e., a “scalar field”, a field that imposes a quality as opposed to a directional force, as with magnetic fields). This field gives mass-containing “massive” particles (like the quarks that make up protons and neutrons, along with electrons, and even the ghostly neutrino) their “massive characteristics”; i.e. the tendency to need force to start moving relative to something else. And once moving, to require an opposing force to stop that relative movement. Somehow, this field constantly interacts with massive stuff (in quantum amounts defined by the Higgs particle — i.e., via “virtual Higgs particles”), and makes it act and respond to forces in appropriate ways.

That’s actually a rather profound notion. What it says  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:38 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Music ... Society ...

Here’s a bit of trivia that an old Baby Boomer like myself could find interesting, maybe even a bit ironic. Remember the great Woodstock Music Festival of 1969? Well, I wasn’t there. But I do know that one of the dudes who helped pull it off was a fellow known as “Wavy Gravy“.

Mr. Gravy is variously touted as THE master of ceremony for Woodstock, and the chief of security . . . sort-of. He and his “Hog Farm” commune friends were designated as the team that would keep the multitudes from doing irresponsible or anti-social things. When you put 400,000 young people on a 600 acre plot (roughly like cramming the city of Atlanta into a square mile — Atlanta itself covers 132 squares), someone is going to act up, despite all the bonhomie about peace, pot, microdot, and making love not war. But Mr. Gravy and his “Please Force” managed to get everyone through it all without much more than an OD or two (actually, closer to 4,000 were treated for injuries or drug reactions, and two people died of heroin use; still not bad for something almost the size of Atlanta).

Mr. Gravy is still around, playing the quintessential hippie-clown role and doing some good  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:14 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 15, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Public Policy ... Society ...

Just a quick follow-up to my last note, regarding Holotropic Breathwork. Plus a few other reality-based ideas rattling right now in my head.

Regarding Holotropic Breathwork — or actually, regarding the facilitator who gave the presentation on HT recently at our zendo — during her talk, she gave an example of the effect that the practice of holotropic breathwork has had on her life. I.e., she was driving home from work in traffic a few days after a ‘very intense’ HTB session. Somewhere along the way, she had a powerful revelation: the world is an illusion! But there were cars driven by fellow commuters all around her, and so she swatted that thought away with another thought: “Najiah, not now!!”

I.e., she was too busy dealing with reality to ponder that reality isn’t really real. Hmmm. You know, I’d feel better about Holotropic Breathwork if it heightened the practitioner’s sensitivity to irony. I suspect that it doesn’t.

Next, another random reality thought: I might yet live to see (might being the key word here) the demise of the public library, the public postal service, and public radio and TV (bye bye Big Bird).  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:00 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Brain / Mind ... Psychology ... Spirituality ...

Last week at the zendo, one of our members gave a talk about holotropic breathwork; the person in question was quite qualified to do this, as she has been practicing it for over 15 years and is now a group facilitator. I wasn’t familiar with that particular form of “bodywork”, so I listened with interest. It sounded quite interesting, especially the claim that holotropic breathers plumb the depths of the psyche and glean great personal and metaphysical insights — without expensive long-term talk therapy or the use of dangerous psychotropic drugs. And without any extraordinary life commitment; the typical breather attends a day-long session every two months, and that’s it. Hey, I’m all for personal and metaphysical insights without a repetitive and burdensome daily practice! So, like many of the other listeners at this talk, I was interested in signing up.

But before I signed on the dotted line, the quasi-scientist in me wanted to know how it worked. The other parts of me said, “oh come on, quasi-scientist, that kind of attitude is exactly what holotropic breathwork puts on hold”. It’s all about the Journey to the Center of the Mind (remember that cheezy song by Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes?).

Nonetheless, the quasi-scientist soon had me in front of a Google page typing in terms like breathwork and hyperventilation. Hyperventilation? It was made clear at the recent zendo talk that breathing fast for a good long time (around an hour) is the key to holotropic breathwork, the gateway to  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:41 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Monday, October 8, 2012
Photo ...

Some early autumn shots from Wawayanda State Park, NJ.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:42 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Politics ...

Over the past 2 weeks, a lot of commentators wrote Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign off, D.O.A. Romney’s 47% comments before a room of super-wealthy partisans from Florida’s Gold Coast seemed fatal; about a week later, the poll averages showed a 2 to 4 point divergence toward Obama from a previously tied race. Here are some article titles from that period:

This Election Is Already Over – Obama Has Won

Today, Mitt Romney Lost the Election

A Mood of Gloom Afflicts the Romney Campaign

But, as Gloria Gaynor once sang, what a difference a day makes. Mitt Romney put in a surprisingly strong performance  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:49 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Politics ...

After watching the first Presidential candidate debate last night, the thing that comes to my mind, along with thousands if not millions of other would-be pundits, is whether Barack Obama still really wants to be the President of the United States. Many commentators did sense a lack of enthusiasm on his part in his performance against Mitt Romney last night. E.g., Ms Franke-Ruta in The Atlantic.

Andrew Sullivan said that Romney started reminding him of Ronald Reagan during the debate. That briefly crossed my mind too last night. What was even more scary was Obama’s dispirited closing remarks about his not being a perfect man or a perfect President. (Back to Mr. Sullivan for a quick second, he also accused Mr. Obama of “political malpractice” in his debate performance.) This all reminded me of the incumbent President that Reagan beat in 1980, Jimmy Carter. I’m specifically thinking of a clip that I saw on American Experience of a very exhausted Mr. Carter making a short speech to a campaign crowd in the early morning hours of Election Day. His closing words to the crowd were “help us”, spoken in a rather dejected, rather pathetic fashion . . . as though he already knew what was coming. In a way, I sensed that the soon-to-be-ex-President was saying “help ME”; and I also sensed that the best way to personally help this man was to lift the great burden of world leadship off his shoulders, let him have a long rest.

Which is how things turned out. And after Jimmy Carter had that long rest,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:54 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Photo ...

So the lady upstairs in my apartment building is very much into planting plants around the building, and . . . . FULL STOP — I need to make a quick comment on how popular it has become to start sentences with the word “SO”. I hear it all the time on every radio station that I listen to. I’d like to know, to use another modern colloquialism, “what’s up with that” . . . ANYWAY, so one of the plants that this woman has on the apartment grounds is a jasmine plant. Her husband recently explained to me that this plant only blooms at night.

Well, actually the flowers open up after sunset, but they stay opened until maybe 11 am or so; they don’t just swoon as soon as the sun rises. They aren’t THAT poetic!! Thus, I could have taken this shot in decent mid-morning light. But there is something about flowers blooming at night that deserves notice. So here’s a late night shot of my neighbor’s night-blooming jasmine plant, in all its nocturnal glory.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:00 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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