The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Monday, May 26, 2014
Photo ...

This photo shoot turned out to become an accidental tribute to Memorial Day, to remembering those who served and died in the wars that our nation has been involved in. There is a little park with a monument on a mini-hilltop in Passaic NJ that I have passed innumerable times since I was a baby, but never stopped to appreciate. So I decided to use the holiday to make a photo run to this little park. Well, it turned out that the monument is a veterans monument, and a parade and celebration event were underway. So I mingled around a bit and am sharing a few of the shots I took.

The monument appears to be focused on World War 2, but the designers allowed room around the top band for the inscription of future wars. Ironically, it came to good use; Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf (they haven’t yet updated it for Afghanistan). Let’s pray that it won’t need to be updated after that.

MORE PHOTOS:    »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Outer Space ... Society ...

One of my interests as a kid was space exploration and rocket launches. I grew up during the exciting days of the “space race” in the 1960’s, when the Soviets and the USA were competing to outdo each other in putting men into space and making machines sail to Mars or Venus (or even to the outer planets, such as the Pioneer 10 mission in 1972). Teachers would bring TV’s into classrooms on days when a manned Mercury or Gemini mission was to be launched, and we would interrupt our boring history or english classes to “join the countdown” at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Thus I became something of a space geek, reading up as much as I could about the US and Soviet space programs. Since my father worked for a defense contractor (Bendix Aerospace) that made stuff for certain NASA rockets and satellites, he would occasionally chat a bit with me about the latest space shots. (He didn’t really like to do it too much, though, as it sort-of put him on my level, or vice versa. My father had an old-school “I’m the boss and you’re the kid” parenting mentality. But not to complain, as he was relatively gentle about it, he wasn’t a tyrant. Nonetheless, he was definitely not like today’s parents, who want to be “friends” with their kids – and we’re now seeing just how well THAT turned out.)

So I was recently looking at some YouTube videos of rocket launches, reveling in the clipped, precise communications going on between the ground controllers and technicians, and the hushed sense of anticipation and danger that eventually gave way to the goose-bumping final countdown and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:55 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Brain / Mind ... Current Affairs ... Psychology ...

It’s been over 8 weeks now since the mysterious disappearance of Flight 370, the Boeing 777 that turned west from its normal south-to-north flight path from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing, and diverted west then presumable south without any communications from the crew or passengers (via cell phone) as to what went wrong. Recall all the assertions that “we have probably found it”, which were soon thereafter retracted. Two days after the incident, oil slicks were spotted in the South China Sea that seemed to mark the spot. But no, military radar reviews showed that the plane headed the other way, to the Bay of Bengal.

There soon followed other various spottings of floating metal and plastic objects, debris fields and such that just must have been the result of a crash into the ocean. Then came the satellite pings and the analysis thereof, and most everyone was then sure that Flight 370 must have went down off the western coast of Australia. Underwater devices in that region soon heard signals that seemed likely to be from the homing device on the plane’s black box. Once again, the mystery was just about solved (at least as to where the plane wound up). But once again, this hot lead went cold, and many experts now doubt that those signals were from the black box.

In the first few weeks, press coverage of the Flight 370 search effort and incident analysis were almost non-stop; every new detail made the front pages. But after a month went by,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:55 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 17, 2014
History ... Photo ...

I have been driving past this old building in North Newark on my way to and from work for over 20 years. And yet, only in the past few weeks did I notice that it might be something a bit more special than just another junky old building being used as a supply warehouse for some two-bit local business. From the ground level (first photo), it doesn’t look like much; just another place with graffiti and metal security doors. But if you happen to look at the top, you see the year 1876 proudly displayed. And you see signs of a building design and architecture that certainly are over 125 years old, remnants of another era, of a different way of living and doing things.

Wow, 1876; the USA’s Centennial. A decade after the Civil War was concluded. It’s interesting that whoever built that building took the time and expense to have its year of construction prominently advertised. Today we usually hide a building’s date of construction in an obscure cornerstone, or don’t show it at all.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any Internet information on this building, other than that it is located at 577 North 3rd Street and is home to the Ascot Tag and Label company. Newark has plenty of architecturally and historically significant buildings that are being preserved, and that is good. Still, it’s too bad that a plebeian, day-to-day industrial building like this isn’t getting any attention. In a way, places like this tell you even more about what daily life must have once been like, than any old church or mansion. Please take a moment and sample a bit of late 19th Century urban America, via my camera and my blog.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:34 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Religion ...

I was a bit taken aback to read that Father Bob Cormier, a 57 year old Roman Catholic priest, died this past week in a tragic mountain climbing accident at Mt. Hood in Oregon. I had met Fr. Bob and had talked to him in passing back in the mid-1990s, when I was working at New Community Corporation in Newark and Fr. Bob was an assistant at St. Rose of Lima, the parish of NCC founder (and defacto boss-man) Msgr. William Linder. I left NCC in 2001 and lost track of Fr. Bob; but Not that many years ago, my brother got to know him a bit, given that he was re-assigned to a parish in Jersey City but would sometimes come out to my brother’s parish in Lyndhurst to do fill-in mass assignments. Unlike almost all other priests, Fr. Bob would never take any money for doing this.

I knew that Fr. Bob was an intelligent fellow who seemed at first to be on the quiet side, but who in fact had quite an activist streak within him. But I never suspected just how quietly but genuinely accomplished he was. Fr. Bob did youth ministry, prison outreach, parish work, drug rehab, radio commentary, was fluent in several languages, did church ministry in Guatemala most every summer, and was a bit of a theologian. He also published several books and maintained a Facebook site and a web site meant to be a “toolkit for faith” in modern times ( There is quite a lot of interesting and down-to-earth material on that site, it clearly is a work of love. And Fr. Bob was also an outdoor adventurer, a pilot, skier, a restaurant aficionado (he enjoyed his glass of wine with dinner), scuba diver, cave explorer, sailor, and . . . what did finally did him in . . . a mountain climber. Wow, I never would have guessed!!

Unfortunately, his recent trip to ascend Mt. Hood in Oregon  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Society ...

A few days ago, I tried to get on a web site for a local utility company, to get a copy of a recent bill. I had entered the usual ID and password, but this time the site also wanted me to answer a security question. Problem was, I had not selected the question that I was being asked to answer. I tried logging in again just to make sure I got my credentials correct, but the same question popped up. I finally pushed the button saying that I had forgotten the answer (really, I never knew it in the first place!). And after some back and forth, I got my credentials reset and I successfully logged on, with a new security question and answer.

One reason that I knew that the unrecognized security question was not mine was that it dealt with vacations. “What is your favorite vacation spot?” I would never have selected that question, because . . . well, I don’t have a favorite vacation spot. Actually, I don’t have any vacation spots at all. I basically don’t take vacations; I use up my vacation time at work by sprinkling days off throughout the year. But as to taking 2 continuous weeks off and getting on a plane or driving all day to get to some wondrous spot . . . no, I just don’t do that. I’m just not a vacation person.

Why not? Well, partly because I’m trying to save up as much as possible to get ready for retirement. A good vacation trip might cost a few grand (or so says my brother, who  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:36 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

I was recently reading one of those modern spirituality articles, which was mostly the usual New-Age-ish, quasi-Eastern Mysticism, imitation Ken Wilber blah-blah-blah. But I did take note of a poem, by some would-be Hindu holyman, that speaks of “the placid sky”. Hmmm, interesting concept — the sky as an inspiration for spiritual centering and calmness. I did a Google search and came up with a couple of “western literature” poems making use of the same idea. They actually were rather nice poems, so I’ll give a few quotes:

The Stars of Yon Blue Placid Sky in vivid thousands burn,
and beaming from their orbs on high, on radiant axles turn.
( Charles Tennyson Turner )

 »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:07 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Current Affairs ... Public Policy ... Society ...

I was driving to work the other day, and morning person that I am, I had the radio tuned to the Bloomberg financial station. By 7 AM, I’m ready for some insightful and stimulating comment on the state of business, the markets and the world economy. (Bloomberg is after all about money, but Bloomberg media does do a pretty good job of covering politics and social trends in addition to its primary focus on the business of making money).

As I rolled down Ridgewood Avenue in Glen Ridge, it was time for Bloomberg View, and this day it was Megan McArdle‘s turn. Ah yes, good old Megan (she’s actually rather young), the rising star of economics-oriented punditry. I remember back when she cut her teeth writing an occasional “rational economic thinking” piece for The Atlantic. I find that Ms. McArdle’s thoughts have generally been worth a read or listen, and I take my hat off for her being one of the few female pundits embracing market theory and financial trends.

During my ride to work, Ms. McArdle was taking on Chris Hayes of MSNBC, specifically a recent article he published in the uber-liberal Nation magazine which compared and in some ways equated global warming with slavery. Mr. Hayes’ bottom line was that slavery was such a crime against humankind that society had to eviscerate billions of dollars worth of economic value (i.e., the investment of the plantation owners in their armies of slaves, and the huge profits that they earned by using them) . . . despite the fact that this radical seizure of economic value would have a tremendously disruptive effect on the regional economies of the South (and secondarily on the industrialized North, too). In the same fashion, society would now have to destroy a tremendous amount of economic value by prematurely ending the use of fossil fuels, because of the great crimes that global warming will soon have (and possibly is already having) on the human race (to say nothing of the many other living species and the overall living ecology of planet earth).

Ms. McArdle found this logic to be a bit “inapposite” – i.e., Mr. Haynes did not hit the nail on the head, after all. Slavery was a horribly  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:27 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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