The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Food / Drink ... Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

My brother and I were talking about restaurants the other day, after having a nice dinner at a local restaurant. We agreed that there are basically six kinds of restaurants, arrayed according to a 2 x 3 matrix (to put it mathematically; the matrix arrangement is mine, not my brothers). Along one of the two matrix axises, we have three choices: the new start-up restaurants, where the staff and management (often the owner and his or her family) are very anxious to please and go the extra mile to listen and respond to every customer’s desires and suggestions. The second choice is the restaurant that has been around for a while and is more-or-less doing OK; the owner no longer jumps thru hoops to make each customer happy, but will respond to any complaints as he or she is satisfied that the place is doing OK and wants to continue the whole enterprise.

Then there is the sunset restaurant, where the owner has decided that the place is not going to make it, and keeps the place going as long as possible just to wring out a few extra dollars in revenue as to defray all of the debt obligations that are not going to be fully paid off. The staff probably knows that the place is on the decline, and mostly just go thru the motions. Hopefully the cook will not take too many shortcuts so as to threaten food poisoning, nor let sanitation decline such that insects start showing up on the plate. But you know that some of the food being served is not quite as fresh as it might be in a better place. And you start hearing “oh, we’re out of that today” more often from the waiters.

So that’s one set of choices on the matrix grid. The other dimension holds two basic categories. The first is for restaurants that are more-or-less generic restaurants. The owner has gone around looking at other local restaurants, getting ideas on  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:17 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Photo ...

Newark, NJ has improved quite a bit since the late 60s and early 70s. There is a lot of new housing, new office buildings, new schools, even some new jobs here and there. But there are still more than a few “pocket neighborhoods” where things remain a bit run-down. Here are a few shots from a little “pocket” on North 6th Street between Interstate 280 and West Market Street.

Above, the aftermath of a housefire, awaiting demolition . . . which doesn’t happen very quickly in these parts. Notice the ferocious attack cat guarding the premises.

More Photos:  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:35 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Food / Drink ... Zen ...

Way back in November, 2002, I started this blog. My first blog post was a quick introduction to the world, but my second post was a review of some craft beers that I liked. Since then, I haven’t posted a lot of beer reviews; I guess I’ve had “bigger fish to fry” over the years (pardon the carnivorous food allegory, since I’m still a committed vegetarian). I still like beer though, especially craft-brewed beers. Since 2002, I’ve tasted a whole lot of different ones. Most have been pretty good, a few were pretty great, and some were OK . . . almost none were terrible. If one good thing has happened to America over the past 25 years, it has been the comeback of good beer choices (although the basic mass-produced stuff like Bud, Coors, Corona and Heineken still rules the sales charts).

There are a whole lot of beer varieties available these days (you can find beers made from a range of different grains, including wheat, barley, rice, sorgum and rye, combined with most any flavoring you can think of in addition to the usual hop flowers, including apples, milk, watermelon, coffee, Italian spices, strawberries — most anything besides broccoli or turnips, and who knows that someone won’t figure out a way to even make that taste good!). Still, very rarely does a beer make a memorable impression on me. But I just had one that really was worth remembering. So, I’m going to go back to the original intent of this blog, and talk a bit about a beer.

The beer in question is called “Sweet Baby Jesus“, from DuClaw Brewing in Baltimore. This is a porter style beer, meant to be a bit dark and substantial (but not quite as substantial as a stout). The gimmick to this one is that it is flavored with chocolate and peanut butter. Well, as I already said, there are lots of flavored beers out there, but  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:23 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Public Policy ... Society ...

Since it’s a weeknight and I’m still working full time for a living, I’m gonna try to make this quick. I’m just going to cite an interesting article that I read over the weekend, and add a quick though or two, not a complete essay.

If you are interesting in poverty and social justice in America, Nicholas Kristof has a very thought provoking (and hopefully an ACTION provoking) article in the NY Times, entitled “The Way to Beat Poverty“. That’s quite an ambitious title, given that America has been trying to beat poverty since the days of Lyndon Johnson. To put it optimistically, our national efforts have had “mixed success” over the past half century. Kristof and co-author Cheryl WuDunn contend that the ongoing generational poverty experienced by many low-income communities is caused, to a great extent, by poor pre-natal and early life care for infants.

We’ve always known that sub-standard conditions in early life were an effect of poverty, but Kristof is saying that it is in fact a CAUSE. He doesn’t use the politically incorrect expressions “cycle of poverty” and “poverty culture” (this is the New York Times,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:48 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Religion ...

I have a penpal who is a Trappist monk. He’s an interesting fellow who was a Catholic parish priest up here in NJ for most of his adult life. (He’s quite accomplished, being the author of several books and numerous articles on spiritual topics.) Sometime in his 40’s (remember the idea of “mid-life crisis”?) he decided to “go contemplative” and left the suburban parish life to join the Order of Cistercians Strict Observance. He has been living as a professed monk in a Cistercian community down South since then.

As to the question of just how “strict” the Cistercians (aka Trappists) are these days, I recently received a letter from my monk-friend in which he discussed his latest inspiration. He has been reading travel adventure books written by people who have traveled around the world sailing on working freight ships, i.e. those huge container ships that keep us flush with Chinese-made consumer stuff. My friend has already initiated discussions with his abbot for a leave-of-absence (“sabbatical”) to pursue such a trip. The cost would be around $12,000, and somehow he could swing it (not sure if he has a bank account or if his monastic community would pick up the tab; in the old days, monks were not allowed to have any significant private possessions, everything was supposed to be shared in community).

I’m quite happy to hear that my friend may soon embark on a late-life adventure, one that will no doubt become a major memory for him. I look forward to the book that will inevitable follow (he is currently aware of six books on container ship travel; he will no doubt  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:47 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Technology ...

I heard a story on Bloomberg radio the other day about how Boeing is updating the design of its old 737 airplane. In addition, some airline just bought a bunch of them, sight unseen. (The airline is the Irish low-cost carrier RyanAir, and the new plane design is called the 737 MAX 200, a plane that won’t be ready to fly until 2017. RyanAir committed to 100 of them, with an option for 100 more.)

Hmmm, I find that interesting, given that the 737 has been around for quite a while now. Other planes that flew along side the 737 are now gone. So, being a person who admires survivors, I did a bit of research on the 737. Turns out that the plane first flew in 1967, and started carrying passengers regularly in 1968. By now it’s the best selling commercial airplane; a little over 8,000 of them were built (with more to come, obviously).

Boeing was actually late to the party with the 737; it was intended to fill the niche for a smaller, intermediate-range jet flying from shorter runways in smaller cities, a market that had already been opened up by the Douglas DC-9 and British Aircraft BAC-111. Both of those planes  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:48 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, September 5, 2014
Religion ... Spirituality ...

One of the most frequent argument I read or hear from the “New Atheism Movement” is that the universe does not need a supernatural cause of origin, because science now understands how something can come from nothing; and thus how something so unlikely as our universe, with its fine tuning and hotspots where complex life evolves and manifests itself in even more complex conscious and self-conscious forms, could happen. They are referring to modern theories regarding the inflaton field, chaotic inflation, multiverses, the near endless variants of superstring theory, etc. 

But as impressive as all of that is, it does not truly amount to “something from nothing”.  The anti-theological boffins ultimately assume the existence of some level of energy and information, even if that form of energy is very different from the things and events that we encounter in our human lives.  The BIG question – i.e. why is there something and not nothing – does not go away quite as easily as the atheist cosmologists would like when they refer to “vacuum effects”.  By “nothing”, the theologians mean no superstrings, no fields, no quantum mechanics — just plain and total nothing. 
 
The only way to honestly dodge that question (aside from trying to dismiss it as irrelevant, in that no one has  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:32 am       Read Comments (7) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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