The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Personal Reflections ...

At times I wonder, what might be a person’s biggest disappointment with their life, looking back from old age? (Which I’m rapidly entering.) Perhaps for some, it is that they weren’t more “saintly”. I.e., that they didn’t act upon something deep within their sub-conscious, that called them to less concern with self and more concern for others. Perhaps that they did not or would not have been the hero, the person who tried to tackle a crazed gunman in a school, theater or temple, or someone who would jump onto the subway tracks as a train approached to rescue a dazed person who stumbled out onto the path of the train. That they would have listened to the voice of reason in their heads and not taken a severe and yet passionate chance with their own life.

I don’t know if we all have such regrets (or if you are one of the few who actually did do such a thing — and lived to ponder it in your old age). But I sometimes do. Sometimes it seems comforting to take an eastern viewpoint and attribute my failing nature to “karma”. In some past life, or in some sub-conscious conveyance of “vibes” over the course of my life from others about me, I just didn’t accumulate enough good karma to appreciate the preciousness of being. I didn’t get over the existential numbness that many people complain of (while paying $100 per hour to a professional therapist to listen to such complaining). If there is such a karmic process, then it wasn’t all my fault. We are all part of a network with wide-ranging ties between the multitudes, spanning the past and present.

It would be nice to think that at least some little things can be done. It’s too late to jump down onto those subway tracks. Or even if such a chance did occur, I know that I still wouldn’t do it. But I could at least ponder why  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, March 29, 2013
Photo ... Religion ...

Every Easter, the full moon shines bright in the early Spring skies. The Church designed it that way. In some ways the “Paschal Moon” custom for setting the date of Easter relates to the lunar cycles that determined the Passover celebration for early Judaism; in some ways it helped ancient pilgrims going to holy sites for Holy Week by making their journeys a bit safer; and in some ways there is spiritual significance, e.g. Christ’s resurrection reflecting the turning of winter into spring and the light of God shining in the darkness.

That all may well be. For now, though, I’ll just take the Zen view and simply enjoy the bright moon shining through the clouds on a cool but no longer freezing night.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:44 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Photo ... Society ...

An article in the NY Times sports section on the 1965 NY Yankees brought back some memories for me. That was the year that the Yankees fell from grace; their streak of winning seasons and frequent World Series appearances from the 1920’s came to an end after 1964 and the Yanks wouldn’t be back again until 1976. They ended 1965 at 77-85 and started a decade of seasons where they finished under .500 or barely got over, usually by less than 5 games (save for a somewhat hopeful 93-69 season in 1970 and and a second place finish 2 games out in 1974). Various sports commentators wonder if this year will be a 1965 repeat for the Yanks, given how several of their biggest stars (Jeter, ARod, Rivera, Pettite, Suzuki, etc.) are finally feeling their age.

To be honest, I’m not much of a Yankee fan anymore, so I can’t really comment. But I can say a few things about the Yankees of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. They lost a lot of games, but I still had fun as a teenager making frequent Saturday or Sunday afternoon trips to the Bronx with my cousin to watch the Yanks play. Sure there was a lot of heartbreak, but because the team was so inept, things around Yankee Stadium got a good bit more informal than today. Thus, one could get away with stuff that modern Yankee fans could never imagine.

My cousin and I would buy the cheapest seats we could get inside the stadium (and you never had a problem buying day-of-game tickets at the park even if the game was starting in 10 minutes). Then in the later innings we would  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:09 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Psychology ... Technology ...

I learned the rudiments of computer programming while in college, back in the mid-1970s. That was back in the dark ages of computers, when we keyed our programs on punch cards and brought them to a desk to be run. The output would come back in the form of a stack of thin 11 x 18 inch pages, listing all the stupid errors you made, along with all sorts of other computer system gibberish. So you’d re-punch some of your cards and try again; maybe in an hour or two you’d get your next set of results, hoping for a column or two of output numbers that made sense. That was my introduction to Fortran.

I didn’t make a career out of computer work, but knowing basic computer logic did help me in my various jobs over the next three decades. Still, I really only knew one half of the world of computer usage, as I never took a class on databases (COBOL, back then). To me, databases were like the dark side of the moon. I figured that they really weren’t all that important, and even if they were, how hard could it be? You just put numbers in indexed boxes, according to rows and columns. How complicated would it be to retrieve the number in row 1035, column 215 — say, sales of washing machines on July 23, 1974 at the Wichita store?

Only later in life did I come to know just how important the world of databases is. In 2000 I took a mid-life career hiatus and went through some classes at the now-defunct Chubb Top Gun program, which gave me  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:18 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Current Affairs ... Religion ... Society ...

So we have a Pope. How did my predictions from this past Tuesday do? The bottom line is, terrible. In the end of my note I concluded that the stodgy old Cardinals would give in to politics and go with a Scola, Oullet or Scherer. They actually had a bit of a surprise in store for most of us. Cardinal Bergoglio had been mentioned in passing by some Vatican analysts, but his odds on the European betting sites never got much better than 25 to 1.

And yet . . . at the beginning of my post, I imagined the Cardinals making some room for an eventual new wind to blow in the Church. I forecast that the new Pope would be old and Italian, and prove to be a transitional figure who would pave the way for a Southern Hemisphere man to follow, a younger and energetic pope who would define a new sense of Catholic mission in the 21st Century.

Too bad that I then cast doubt on my forecast. What actually happened was not terribly far from that scenario. Cardinal Bergoglio’s election certainly does set precedent  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:23 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Current Affairs ... Religion ...

Looks like the new Pope contest begins today, Tuesday! Anything could happen, but my prediction, for what little it’s worth, is that an old Italian will get it, someone around 78. Perhaps Cardinal Bertone, despite some rumors of his incompetence as Vatican Secretary of State, and his tie-ins with all the bad stuff going on in that little fiefdom. Or 79-year old Cardinal Re (not mentioned as a front-runner, admittedly, but who was taken seriously in the 2005 papal conclave).

In my opinion, the cardinals should want to play for time. They know that a “southern hemisphere” pope is inevitable, but may want to give the leading candidates a few more years to mature. So they will — or should, anyway — elect an interim, so as to buy maybe 5 or 6 years. The new/old Pope could profitably spend that time mopping up the Curial mess that is being left behind by Benedict, then imitate his predecessor by quitting while he’s ahead (if he hasn’t conveniently died by then).

When that day comes, I’d say that the top 3 in the race would be Turkson from Ghana, Tagle from the Phillipines and the German fellow from Brazil, Cardinal Scherer. I’d venture that Tagle is the true “Holy Spirit” candidate, but it depends  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:15 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Current Affairs ... Science ...

The Paul Frampton “drug mule / honey trap” story is a real head-scratcher. The NY Times just ran a good article about the case. In a nutshell, Frampton is a 68-year old theoretical physicist who works on cutting-edge research in the fields of particle physics and cosmology. He is a professor at the University of North Carolina, although for the past two years he has been in South America, either under arrest, awaiting trial, in prison, or most recently, under “house arrest” on the premises of a fellow physicist who lives in Argentina. Frampton hasn’t done too well with women most of his life; he was married at 50 but soon divorced, and recently tried to get “back in the game” using an internet dating site. He had earlier gotten something going with a woman in China, and traveled all the way there to see her (given that they were discussing marriage). But the whole thing blew up quite quickly once they were face-to-face.

Undaunted, the big professor took up with someone claiming to be a 35-year old swimsuit model from Europe. As with many things in “virtual reality”, it all seemed too good to be true. And of course it was. Unfortunately, it did NOT seem too good to be true to this great thinker. He and “she” made plans to meet in Bolivia, but once he got to LaPaz, his sweetheart claimed to be in Europe, called to an important last-minute photo shoot. So he was to fly to Brussels to catch up with her, but she asked him for a small favor. I.e., pick up a piece of luggage that she had allegedly left behind in LaPaz and bring it to Brussels for her.

Professor Frampton was warned about this “in real time”. He was in touch with a friend during the trip, and was told point-blank that this was a set-up, that the suitcase would have drugs  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:15 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Photo ...

A Nor’easter just rolled up the Atlantic coast and clashed with some cold air aloft, giving northern Jersey another brief taste of winter snow. But it’s early March and nature is making its preparations for a change in season. Daffodils, those shock troops of spring, have already poked thru the soil and are not going to let a few inches of snow stop them. The grays and whites of January and February will soon give way to the greens and yellows of April and May. It’s time to watch and enjoy nature in motion, once again.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:24 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Current Affairs ... Psychology ...

I am lucky in that I had parents who cared and managed to do a pretty good job of bringing me up. They certainly had their problems; being their child was not always a sunny-day picnic. But they were the kind of parents whose ultimate loyalty could be taken for granted, all the way thru to adulthood. Only later on in life did I find out what a luxury that was.

I was also lucky in that I never experienced a really bad trauma, like being sexually abused by a priest as a child, or being on a battlefield or witnessing a murder. (And I hope that trend continues into the final decades of my life). As such, I never felt the need to see a professional therapist. I’ve been able to deal with most of my emotional problems by talking with others and thinking things through on my own. (I enjoy questioning myself sometimes, questioning my reasons and motives and behaviors as though I were someone else.). I feel as though my own behavior is under my own control (most of the time, anyway). Thus, I couldn’t imagine investing my time and money into a series of therapeutic discussions with a trained counselor. I can always find better things to do with my limited bank account.

Nonetheless, psychological therapy is still a popular practice amongst college-educated suburban Americans like myself. So I wondered what it was like (although I have read stories about therapy, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:30 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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