The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
◊  All of Me
Philosophy ... Science ...

To have a healthy adult brain and mind is an incredible experience; something we shouldn’t just take for granted. In addition to our thinking and reasoning abilities and our vast memory of procedures and facts (e.g., how to place a subordinate clause in a sentence, or what your mother’s birthday is), we have a wide assortment of sensory and story-based memories of past experiences, going all the way back to childhood. (There is a physical limit on how far back we can remember, roughly around age 3, due to the early-childhood development of the hippocampus component of our brain, i.e. the “memory maker”). Our life, and the way that our present experiences fit in with our memories, seem like an incredibly rich story, one that hopefully makes sense to us. We think that we know who we were and what we were like back when we were children, back when we were teenagers then young adults, all the way through to our present age, be it 30, 45, 70, etc.

I certainly did think this for many years and decades. But the older I get (having just completed my 6th decade), the more I realize that I’ve probably forgotten much more about me and my life than I presently remember. Sometimes it’s the experience of coming across a picture or a letter I may have taken or written many years ago, that now seems unfamiliar; or talking with someone who was with me many years ago and remembers an incident that I totally forgot about. Often the memories do come back given a clue; but sometimes they don’t. And even when they do, they are often inaccurate or mixed up with other memory incidents. Studies on the reliability of courtroom testimony from witnesses who try with all honesty to describe a past incident are not very encouraging regarding the power of our “steel-trap memories”.

So, a whole lot from our past, a big portion of our lives, are very blurry or are now completely inaccessible. In some ways this is good;  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:08 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Politics ... Religion ...

I recently read something about the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, including the story of the judge and prophetess Deborah. The feisty Deborah (wife of Lappidoth, meaning “wife of fire”) partnered up with a fellow from Kedesh named Barak, so as to defeat the forces of Canaan that were holding the Israelites in submission (Judges ch. 4-5). Barak became the military tactical commander, and Deborah was more or less his boss, the lady who mapped out the overall strategy. They had a good run together and managed to defeat the forces of Sisera, the Canaanite commander; but not without the help of a Kenite woman named Jael, who finally did Sisera in by giving him shelter after his army was routed and then forcing a peg into his brain while he was sleeping. Ah yes, the Old Testament — a real action film!

Barak, whose name meant “lightening”, seemed to be a fairly competent battle commander (so long as the Lord was there to throw Sisera’s iron chariot squadron into a panic, Judges 4:15). But he was denied the ultimate glory of dispatching Sisera, and he also came across as a bit wimpy up front, as he told Deborah that he would only go into battle if she tagged along (Judges 4:8). Hard to say if Barak would have shown any lightening on the battlefield without Deborah, Jael and the Lord on his side.

So, is Barack Obama’s first name related to the Biblical general from Kedesh? Given the way that Obama came on the national scene in 2007  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:02 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Photo ...

I was out on a hike in Harriman State Park not long ago, trying out a new camera (a GE X500), looking for scenic overviews and majestic shots along lakes and mountain tops. It was a sunny spring day, and I found enough grand vistas to keep the shutter busy (well . . . as grand as it gets in lower New York State). However, I also decided to grab a shot of this little rock-side patch of moss, grass, leafy plants and a few tiny flowers amidst the decaying leaves from last autumn. In the middle of a verdant forest, scenes like this don’t immediately grab one’s attention. But they are interesting little “cities” in and of themselves, cities of the local ecology, places where certain conditions and random events come together such that an interdependent knot of different life-forms find a spot to flourish together. Not all that unlike our own human cities, such as Boston, Brussels, Buenos Aires or Bangkok. Each of these human cities has its own distinct flavor, just as this little city of flora in the forest does.

So, keep that in mind the next time you are in the great outdoors. You may be walking past a wonderful and interesting little city with its own life and history and reason for being. Another good reason in life to stop and smell the flora.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:00 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Friday, May 17, 2013
Society ...

I was perusing some news articles on the web the other day, when I saw a link for a health article entitled “Four Things You’ll Feel Right Before A Heart Attack”. OK, I’m now 60, so I have to take stuff like this seriously, especially since my father died of heart disease (I’ve outlived him by 10 years so far, knock on wood). Thus, I clicked on the link.

This takes you to a short article on the Newsmax site that talks a bit about the dangers of heart disease, and then sings the praises of a cardiologist named Dr. Chauncey Crandall. But nothing about those 4 things. You have to click a video link box to learn about that. The box has a time slider indicating this to be a 3 minute and 15 second film. OK, sounds reasonable – 3 minutes to learn about 4 signs of a heart attack. But once you click the link, there’s a bit of a switch – the first of many. The page changes to a different video, this one 34 minutes in length.

The longer video starts to play, with a worded narration by Dr. Crandall himself. Five minutes pass, then 8 and 10, and the four things remain a mystery. You learn that having heart disease is  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:51 pm       Read Comments (69) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Outer Space ... Science ...

When I was a kid back in the late 50s and 1960s, I recall there being a lot of cheezy Sunday-afternoon science fiction entertainment available at the local movie house and on the black-and-white TV stations. One of the most popular cinema genres back then was for our planet to be invaded by aliens from space, who arrived on big saucer-like ships and had no use for the human race and all its cities, roads, factories and other accoutrement of civilization. These invaders had superior military technology including death-rays, and put it all to use in order to push the homo sapiens species aside and adopt our planet for their own uses.

There were sometimes variations on these themes; some invaders couldn’t just blow us away all at once, so they used various tricks to enfeeble, enslave or infect us. Sometimes they played power games with our leadership, more interested in domination than extinction. But always, they were up to no good; they were never stopping by just to take a few pictures, buy some souvenirs and maybe swap recipes, like any good human tourists would.

Some of the classics from the 50’s and early 60’s included War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Another World, Earth Versus the Flying Saucers, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Killers From Space,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Monday, May 6, 2013
Personal Reflections ...

Most days of my life involve ‘just muddling through’. I suspect that it’s like that for almost everyone. But every now and then, especially in one’s young adult years, there comes a day when a decision has to be made that really has a lot of impact on one’s future. New areas of opportunity (or misfortune) are opened, and other areas perhaps are foreclosed. I was pondering this recently when I was going through some old letters I had saved in a dusty file, involving past job searches. They were mostly rejection letters from firms that I had sent resumes to. I’ve gone through three or four major job searches in my life, and they were never easy or pleasant.

Luckily for me, something always fell into place sooner or later in most instances (usually more later than sooner). Not the perfect job, not what I may have expected, but somehow things eventually worked out. However, in the summer following my first year of law school in 1979, I was searching for a summer legal internship as to build some credentials for the future. But my search went for naught. I wound up taking a law class and some undergrad economics classes that arguably helped me later on, when I followed my law degree with a masters degree in economics.

But as to gaining work credentials (and paychecks as to help my savings account credentials), it just wasn’t gonna happen  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:14 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, May 3, 2013
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

It’s rather unfortunate what the politics of democracy can do in modern America, with its non-stop, instantly-connected, big-money news media. We have a news industry that uses modern technology (web sites, blogs, cable and satellite TV, etc.) to turn important news about our nation and its leadership into entertainment, and thus into a big-money maker. To be entertaining, there has to be lots of non-stop action and lots of conflict. Kind of like a Roman circus with its on-going gladiator battles and sacrifices of prisoners to wild animals.

Instead of real gladiators and man-eating lions, our media capitalists and political bosses take issues of national importance, things that really could use some thinking and calm discussion, and instead formulate extreme positions of blame and counter-blame between the Democrats and Republicans. This is in hopes of increasing “the power and glory of the party”, and the return on investment of big media firms. Al Gore is not far off the mark when he says that democracy has been “hacked”.

The investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing has definitely been co-opted by this media/political circus. The Boston bombing was a much smaller event than the 2001 al Qaeda attack  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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