The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Politics ... Society ...

I’m not a philologist or etymologist, but when you read a lot of stuff about politics on the internet like I do, you notice the occasional word trend or catch-phrase evolving. The latest fashion in language appears to be a spelling substitution . . . instead of using the word “huge”, the trendy editors are writing “yuge”. For example, in this CBS News article, Bernie Sanders thanked his supporters after his victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary two weeks ago, saying “Tonight, with what appears to be a record-breaking turnout, because of a ‘yuge’ voter turnout — and I say ‘yuge’ — we won”.

Now, why did the editor of that article believe that Senator Sanders intended the new “Y” variant of the old adjective “huge” to be used? I’ve read that that this new spelling variant is a take-off on Donald Trump, who often uses the word “huge” in his speeches and comments. Because of his New York accent, Trump stresses the “YE” sound at the beginning of the word. Perhaps he also adds this lilt for impact and emphasis. That would be very Donald Trump-like. And actually, Sanders is also a native Brooklynite despite his Vermont credentials, so it’s possible that his pronunciation is similar. In print, “yuge” attempts to capture the accent, along with the political urgency behind the usage.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the “yuge” movement. The English language is famous for the fact that most words are not spelled phonetically. And perhaps that is for the best, given all the accents and variations with which the language is verbalized. For example, in Boston, a “car” would be spelled  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:21 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Brain / Mind ... Religion ...

I recently finished watching a Teaching Company “Great Course” series about neuroscience — specifically, an 18-hour / 36 lecture course entitled “Neuroscience of Everyday Life“, by Princeton University Professor Sam Wang. As the title says, the focus is on everyday life, on relating what neuroscience has learned about the structure and dynamics of the human brain to our everyday lives. A big part of the everyday life of many people is religion and spiritual belief, and thus Professor Wang spends an hour (two lectures) discussing religion, along with theistic belief, spiritual presences, near-death and outer-body experiences, meditation and other varieties of “transcendent awareness”.

The good professor points out that many of the experiences upon which people have based their faith in an omnipotent yet unseeable creator / sustainer / redeemer do not hold up well in the light of modern research. A fairly easy-to-understand circumstance such as inadequate oxygen in the brain or excessive physical stress can adequately explain many seemingly transcendent phenomenon, including ghosts, outer-body experiences, and visions (especially on mountaintops, where the air is thin — recall Moses and the bush, and the transfiguration of Jesus). Obviously, the theological skeptic and atheist will find something of interest here.

Despite this, Professor Wang does not seem set on declaring God to be dead. When getting down to the notion of a conscious yet transcendent master force in the universe, Wang focuses on the brain capacities that facilitated such a notion, and the ultimate social effects of those capabilities. In his guidebook for the course, Wang states that “religion is a highly sophisticated cultural phenomenon . . . brain capacities important for forming and transmitting religious beliefs include the search for  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:30 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, February 15, 2016
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

The political reaction to the recent unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia is quite depressing. Under the Constitution, President Obama should soon (i.e., within in the next few weeks) appoint a replacement, and the US Senate should review that appointment and either approve or nix it. Of course, the Senate has a Republican majority, and a number of those Republican Senators (including Senate President Mitch McConnell) say that they will vote against ANY candidate that the President may send their way. They argue that the appointment should wait given that we will have a new President in a little less than a year. There is no historical precedent for such a rule; Ronald Reagan appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in his final year of office, and the Senate approved it.

Unfortunately, the level of partisan political warfare has greatly intensified since the 1980’s. There are a number of politically important Supreme Court cases to be heard and decided this year, involving hot-button issues such as abortion and labor union rights. The good Senators are afraid that a highly partisan appointment by President Obama will tip these cases in the direction that Democrats would favor. So, in assuming that the President will act in a partisan manner, they justify their own hyper-partisan tactics.

That’s where we are today in national politics; no one even waits to see what the other side will do, they take pre-emptive strike measures right up front. Here’s an example I can across today. There is an article on the Federalist web site by conservative pundit David Harsanyi entitled  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:39 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Politics ...

There has been a river of words, sentences, paragraphs and articles flowing on-line and off about Bernie Sanders’ 22 point victory over Hillary Clinton in last Tuesday’s New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary. I’ve sampled quite a bit of this river of words, opinions, facts, conjectures, observations, predictions and such; it all flows in a number of different directions, not surprisingly. Some people look at the Sanders rout as a little bump along the road to Clinton’s inevitable nomination and victory in November. Others see the long awaited downfall of the House of Clinton, the beginning of the end for both Hill and Bill. Oh yea, and a handful of writers also think that Bernie Sanders might actually have a shot at the nomination, and perhaps even the White House.

Another faction takes the position that I basically take — that barring an Obama Administration decision to seek charges against Hillary Clinton for her potential violations of national security laws viz a via her use of a home e-mail server for high-level government communications while Secretary of State, Hillary’s nomination cannot be stopped. But, the growing popularity of Sanders amidst young voters and Hillary’s own weaknesses as a candidate put her ultimate victory in November more and more in doubt — she has taken additional scars as a result of the New Hampshire outcome.

As to Sanders, the key reason why he is still written off by most pundits despite his good showings in Iowa and New Hampshire is his relative lack of support amidst minority Democrats. Hillary has strong established ties with black and Hispanic politicians and political groups, and is reaping a bumper crop of endorsements from them. Sanders is now scrambling  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:56 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, February 8, 2016
Personal Reflections ...

I’m (hopefully) in the last few years of my full-time “professional” career, and at this point, I’m not putting as much effort into maintaining a “power wardrobe” as I used to. Oh, I still like nice suits and sports jackets and dress slacks, and I appreciate a good mix of plain and patterned shirts of different colors, and an assortment of interesting but tasteful ties. But in my heyday, I strove mightily to keep all of that battle armor in top condition. That meant regular visits to the local cleaners. But in recent years, those visits have become fewer and farther apart; unless a garment has an obvious stain or really starts smelling unpleasant, I’ve learned to tolerate a more rumpled and dusty look. To put my whole working wardrobe thru the cleaners now costs close to $200, and I can think of lots of other good things to do with that money.

Nonetheless, I recently pulled out a jacket that really was looking rather sad. So I gathered a few other of my workhorse jackets and two pairs of slacks, and headed over to the local cleaners (I’m lucky enough to have a decent one just up the street from me in easy walking distance). This past Saturday, I went back to pick up my newly dry-cleaned duds. It was mid-afternoon, and one or two other customers were in the shop, likewise dropping off or picking up something. The overall atmosphere was calm and relatively pleasant. The young woman at the register gave me a nice hello, took my ticket and went to the moving rack to dredge my stuff up from the basement. (As a kid, I was always fascinated by those moving clothes racks in cleaners).

While waiting for this, I did some people watching. This cleaners shop was a rather busy place behind the counter. Obviously it was doing a bit more than simple cleaning; a woman was busy at a sewing machine, and at an adjacent table, a gentleman wearing a sports coat and a tie was busy with a needle and thread,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:19 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Current Affairs ... Society ...

If you want to be a respected and respectable liberal today and your racial heritage is Euro-Caucasian, it’s pretty clear that you need to support Ta-Nehisi Coates (even if he wasn’t looking for your support; I suppose that fact makes it seem all the more real). Earlier in my life, I definitely wanted to be a respected and respectable liberal. But at the same time I was never a guy who likes to follow a crowd; and at some point in my life, it occurred to me that liberals like to follow trends as much as conservatives do. And they often made up complicated but questionable reasons to act like lemmings, post hoc. Just like any other tribe, little or big.

So, as you might guess, I’m not necessarily in awe of the writings and views of Ta-Nehisi Coates regarding modern American racial matters. I’ve been reading The Atlantic Magazine for about 20 years now, and thus I’ve been familiar with Mr. Coates’ writings for quite some time. He originally wrote small pieces reflecting on the American Civil War and its implications for black history — and how those implications weren’t always as sunny and positive for blacks as many non-black Americans might think. Eventually he was allowed to publish longer pieces addressing more modern racial issues, and his tone at first seemed to balance challenge with reserve. However, within the past two years or so, he’s come into his own, offering wholesale indictments of white America (see his recent blockbuster book, “Between the World And Me“), along with sentencing recommendations (i.e., his call for reparations).

There was a recent dust-up when Democratic-Socialist presidential nomination candidate Bernie Sanders rejected Coate’s reparations idea, and Coates immediately attacked Sanders (in an intellectual fashion, of course). It’s interesting to see that  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:21 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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