The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Spirituality ... Zen ...

Although I consider myself a fairly serious Zen practitioner (I sit zazen for 2 hours every week at the local zendo, and I occasionally attend a mini-sesshin), I’ve been remiss in attending “daisan” or “doksaun”, i.e. the regular face-to-face meeting with the teacher. Given how important these meetings are within the Zen tradition, perhaps the truth is that I’m just not such a serious Zen practicioner; perhaps I am ultimately doing my own thing, making my own kind of Zen. Which the great Zen traditionalists would say is no Zen at all (Zen tradition – a bit of an oxymoron?).

Well, my own Zen is certainly a Zen somewhat detached from the koans. I have much respect for all those enigmatic little stories, and have made effort to study and learn from them. But as to being on a traditional multi-year course of formal koan interpretation under the tutilidge of a certified teacher . . . no, that’s not where I am right now.

Regardless, I do feel the occasional inspiration to sign up with the sensei and make the walk over to the interview room during the 3rd or 4th sitting for a short talk. Just this past Sunday (our main zazen happens on Sunday mornings) I had something I wanted the sensei to comment on.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:33 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, November 23, 2012
Photo ...

We all have our various Thanksgiving traditions. One of my traditions is to get together with my brother later in the morning on Thanksgiving as to visit some local taverns and have a few beers. It’s not good to do that on an empty stomach, so I make sure to get a good, hearty breakfast on Thanksgiving. (Since I’m a vegetarian and a semi-hermit, I do not partake of the usual big Thanksgiving day dinner; but at least my breakfast is special.)

Thus, I have a second Thanksgiving tradition: making pancakes for myself in the morning. While making my pancakes yesterday, I started thinking about the various stories of people seeing the face of Jesus on a tortilla they were baking, e.g. a recent sighting in New Mexico, and another down there back in 1977. So I took a look at the pancake in my frying pan and wondered what I might see.

It was not Jesus. But I DID see something  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:00 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Science ... Society ...

it turns out that string theory and super-symmetry and dark matter are now on ‘life support’ from Large Hadron Collider results that far (or lack thereof).

Supersymmetry and string theory start from the philosophy that in order to further understand the mysteries of the cosmos and the crazy things happening in the sub-quantum world, and to reconcile them with the theories of relativity and gravitational dynamics developed by Albert Einstein, we need to further extend and develop the body of physics dedicated to sub-atomic particles (currently known as the Standard Particle Model). I.e., our starting place must be the particle and the physics describing the particle.

But if supersymmetry and string theory get ruled out by dogs that don’t bark at the Large Hadron Collider . . . then  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:00 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, November 18, 2012
◊  Tilt
History ... Nature ... Photo ...

It looks like Jesus himself has taken a shot to the ribs by Mother Nature.

This is the Iglesia Pentecostal Church, the former Dutch Reformed Church in Belleville NJ, which took some damage from Hurricane Sandy in late October. Interestingly, the original church on this site was built in 1697 and its tower was used as an observation post in the American Revolutionary War. The church is located very near the west bank of the Passaic River; the Brits were holding the east side, so the patriot forces used the tower to keep an eye on them. Also, the church is not a stranger to bad weather. In 1804 a tornado almost destroyed the original church, and in 1854 the present church, which we see here, was constructed. Only to get hit by more raging winds 158 years later!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:00 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Science ...

Here is a simple and probably dumb thought about quantum physics.

According to Heisenberg uncertainty and the Copenhagen interpretation, at the quantum level, there is an inherent random nature to the behavior of sub-atomic particles. Particles have position, momentum, spin, charge and other measurements that vary for no reason at all (unless there are hidden variables involved, a theory which most physicists reject).

We also now know about quantum entanglement – i.e., a trans-light speed influence between particles that somehow interacted not too long ago. Perhaps this influence is even instantaneous. This “entanglement” between 2 particles cannot convey information, which is limited to the speed of light. But if you look close enough, you will see that in a system of two entangled particles that are moving apart, when one has an interaction that defines one of its characteristics, and you similarly measure the characteristic of the second particle (with a time gap between particle 1 event and particle 2 measurement so small that light cannot travel between the points where the event and measurement take place during that time gap), there will be some sort of detectable correlation between the event and measurement. The problem with this “detectable correlation” is that it takes time to confirm, such that a beam of light could complete the journey between the event and measurement point by the time you could confirm the correlation. So there’s no getting around the light speed barrier to passing on information, even if something in fact did change at higher or infinite speed.

Well then – if entanglement is real, then every quantum particle is entangled in a “web” with  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Photo ...

An autumn sunset at the County Complex in Newark, NJ.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, November 9, 2012
Politics ... Society ...

I remain cautiously optimistic — with the emphasis on ‘cautious’ — that President Obama will have a better second term than his first turned out. Despite being an idealistic orator, Obama showed himself not to be the ablest and most noble politician of all time. But he is a quick study, and I think he will do much better in getting things done next time, despite being lost in a town full of backstabbers; despite the huge bulls-eye target on his back.

The election results gave Obama a decisive win, but didn’t do a thing to reverse a disturbing trend in American politics. That is the growing tribalism between those who identify themselves as Republicans and Democrats. Tom Jacobs, a political scientist, just published a good article about that. He points out that most Americans have fairly centrist policy views. Their differences over what should be done to fix things doesn’t vary that much, despite political affiliation. And yet, they increasingly hate the other party and all involved with it; they take it more and more personally. This obviously promotes gridlock and makes compromise unattainable. Not a good sign.

I believe that my “go ugly early” analysis was vindicated, even if Obama’s win was somewhat more graceful than I had predicted. Sean Trende wrote an insightful analysis spelling out how Obama’s “early ugliness” (negative campaign tactics)  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:29 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

If President Obama manages to get re-elected tonight, it will be because he “went ugly early”. According to respected political analyst Charlie Cook, the Obama campaign made the right choice in starting their mudslinging campaign last July against Mitt Romney in the key swing states. According to Mr. Cook, polls indicate that independents and undecided voters had a much better impression of Mitt Romney in the non-swing states, the “red” and “blue” states that almost assuredly will go Republican (e.g. Alabama, Idaho) or Democrat (including Rhode Island and Oregon), versus in swing states such as Ohio and Iowa. The Romney campaign answered these negative ads in kind, flooding the airwaves with the usual dramatic voices and creepy music promising a broken dystopic future for America should you even think about a second Obama term.

Unfortunately, Romney didn’t have nearly as much to gain by going negative as Obama did. As a sitting President, Obama is well known; perhaps 95% of voters made their mind up about Obama one way or another over a year ago. By comparison, Romney is more of an unknown, a bit of a strange duck on first glance (a Mormon from a wealthy Michigan family who ran a venture capital firm and then became a GOP Governor who mandated universal health-care in Democratic Massachusetts — what American stereotypes does that fit in with?). Negative ads appearing when voters first started noticing who Mitt Romney was had a good “adhesion” factor; whereas mud that was slinged at Obama either re-enforced what the disappointed viewer already thought, or bounced off the Teflon of those who still believed in “hope and change”.

Thus, it’s no coincidence that Romney got his biggest bump in the polls (and made this race so tight) during the  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:07 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Current Affairs ... Personal Reflections ...

When I was a kid growing up in suburban New Jersey back in the late 1950s and 1960s, I had a thing about disasters. Big snowstorms, floods, riots, nuclear war – I saw it on TV, and it looked like fun! Day to day life in Jersey just seemed so plain, so predictable, so dull. Why not rattle the china a bit, see what happens? Sure, some people get hurt, but others become heros. Why shouldn’t I get in on that?

Sidenote on the nuclear war part – although I was only 9 years old and in 4th grade during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I knew just what was going on and followed it with great interest. I was a natural hole-digger as a kid, always loved to get out a shovel and create a pit of some sort. I had a big excavation project going when Kennedy decided to call Khrushchev out for putting nukes on our southern shores, and a day or two later my mother asked me when I was going to fill it in. I told her that I was going to keep it until the missiles are gone from Cuba – a ready place to hide if I was out in the backyard and those sneaky Reds unexpectedly shot one at near-by Manhattan! (Like a 4 foot hole would protect me from a megaton H-bomb going off 10 miles away.) My mother was taken aback by my response, and I got to keep the hole unfilled for a few more days.

Ah, the naivete of youth. We didn’t suspect that societies are frail and can collapse, no idea that it was even possible. Even thought I knew a little better than most kids about  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:52 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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