The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Photo ... Zen ...

We just got through a week of real winter weather here in New Jersey, temps in the teens and low 20s and a bit of snow. It may not last; temps may hit 50 next week. We’re probably not through yet with snow and sub-freezing winds, but I get the feeling that we won’t have another full week of Arctic conditions here (well, “Arctic-ish”; I realize that in many places, the low 20’s are like a heat wave in January; it’s all relative).

While eating my steel-cut oatmeal this morning, I looked out the window and saw a scene in the front yard that said “WINTER”, loud and clear. So, here is a stone rabbit with snow between its ears, sitting in silent meditation like a frozen Buddha. Above him looms a remnant from the spring and summer before, some stalks of brown meadowgrass, framing his contemplative resolve. The shadows are long in the low winter sun, while the Buddha Rabbit transcends the autumn before and the spring and summer yet to come with the power of his simple being.

Simply existing, here and now — a power that we all share, as we are all Buddha!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:29 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Personal Reflections ... Society ...

If you go on Bing or Ask.com or . . . you know, that web site that starts with the “G” . . . and search on “the cause of desire”, you can find some interesting perspectives from various points of view, including consumerism and, of course, love and sex. But what about “the desire for a cause”? I couldn’t find anything about that.

And yet, many and perhaps most humans hold a desire to be part of a cause of one sort or another. Being part of a “cause” usually creates association and community, an affiliation with others of like mind. However, for a “cause” to happen, that “like mind” first has to happen. Causes are usually about ideas and beliefs. They mix communal experience with some ideology, an ideology that in some fashion challenges something about the world as it is today. The desire and cause for change might be something as momentous as the downfall of western civilization, or as benign as a fundraising effort to buy more books for school children in impoverished areas.

Actually, though, sometimes maintaining or defending the status quo is enough of a cause. Conservative causes are still  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Nature ... Science ...

Wintertime is never fun, at least not for me. If you are really into winter skiing or live way down south or don’t need to drive back and forth most every day (with a place to live big enough to prevent cabin fever), then you might enjoy a long season of arctic cold. Let it snow, let it snow! But when you have to wait outside early every morning for a bus or train, or push your car over miles of dangerous roadways every day, the winter season gets old real fast. Given that I am a fan of short, mild winters (like we got here in NJ last year), I constantly scan the radio and TV stations for forecasts and the papers and web-sites for articles on what to expect in January, February and March.

There are two times of year when the weather gets a lot of attention from me: during the mid and late-summer months, when thunderstorms and sometimes even hurricanes (as in 2011 and 2012) become atmospheric events here in Jersey. And in winter, when cold blasts and monster snowstorms threatens my own comfort and safety. Between the two, I still favor summer’s humid discomfort over winter’s dirty snow and bitter winds. At least there is a lot more daylight in summer, and if something unexpected were to happen where you had to stay outdoors for a long time, most summer weather wouldn’t kill you. Whereas a 10 degree night truly does put your life on the line, if you can’t successfully find a way to insulate yourself sufficiently from the cold. Most homeless people and street people learn ways to survive, but once in a while one of them doesn’t and the body is removed from the street in the morning.

So it’s become a point of interest for me to understand a bit more about winter weather and what are the signs of its longer-term trends. Yes, I’ve heard of the folk wisdom about the tails of squirrels and bird migration patterns. In fact,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Philosophy ... Politics ...

I’m not a big fan these days of modern conservative pundits. I can respect the classic Burkeian conservatives with their emphasis on encouraging human self-reliance, initiative and achievement. Conservatism as a philosophy makes some sense. But it gets quite yucky when it becomes a political orthodoxy.

So when I come across an article by a conservative writer, I generally stop reading after a few sentences. But I recently came across a rather interesting article by Thomas Sowell, one of the few black conservatives out there. I usually avoid his writings too, but he made a good point recently about San Francisco and places like it. San Fran is quite a “liberal progressive” place, and its citizens and politicians continue to express much concern over the historical and continuing unfairness that has been experienced by people of color in America. However, Mr. Sowell makes the point that over the past 40 years, blacks have been moving out of San Francisco; the black population there has been cut in half. Mr. Sowell goes on to say that a lot of liberal ideas intended to help the oppressed and protect the public have backfired and have instead made things worse.

Yes, well. That does happen given human imperfection. But come on, there have also been government policy successes, which Mr. Sowell  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:44 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Photo ...

I haven’t quite yet taken the plunge into buying green coffee beans to roast at home. But I have experimented a bit by pouring regular brown coffee beans bought at the local supermarket onto a pan and popping them into a 400 degree oven. I felt that the results were rather good. After grounding up some of the darkened beans and brewing up a cup, the end-product was generally quite satisfying. Once or twice I had over-darkened the beans such that the liquid end-product tasted mostly like tar. But there is a middle zone where the brew becomes more chary and robust but is still full of coffee flavor. Any sour notes are drowned out.

As a rough guildline, it would be good to get the beans that are being re-roasted out of the oven once you can hear them popping. Yes, you literally hear them popping. Pretty neat.

I haven’t had any great, deep or worldly thoughts to discuss (or attempt to discuss) lately; roasting coffee beans is about the best I can do right now. Perhaps I’m in an early-winter / post-holiday funk. Perhaps I need a good pick-me-up. Like a good cup of double-roasted coffee!!

(But wait — the more roasting, the less caffeine in coffee. So, my brain certainly won’t be kicked back into high gear by these wintertime coffee roasting experiments!)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:20 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Politics ...

There’s a lot of disgust with our government leaders and our political system here in the USA these days. All the wrangling over the fiscal cliff and the borrowing cap is making a lot of people wonder if our country is becoming dysfunctional. Our leaders can’t seem to face up to big issues and make decisions on solutions; they have become experts in short-term stopgaps, “kicking the can down the road”.

We have all sorts of collective problems coming over the hill: immigration, global warming, economic competitiveness, education, the broadening gap between poor and rich (and the shrinking middle class), health care . . . With regard to the latter, it’s a miracle that the President was able to start a major federal initiative to make health care more broadly available and help control skyrocketing costs. But the political hurdles were so great that an extremely disjointed and bureaucratic system was cobbled together and brought into law by divisive “one time only” parliamentary tactics. As such, many doubts remain as to the long-term effectiveness and viability of Obamacare.

Increasingly, America seems like a deer frozen in the road at night as a tractor trailer approaches at 70 mph. Our decision-making system just isn’t making decisions.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:18 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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