The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Food / Drink ... Photo ...

Here’s a little look inside of a craft distillery at night. The location is the Silk City Distillery in Clifton, NJ. They make and sell small batches of bourbon, rum, rye whiskey and vodka. On weekends they often invite the public onto the premises, where there is a small lounge and bar selling cocktails made with their liquors.

This is the view on a Friday night; the production facilities are closed for the day, but the bar is open (over the right, out of sight of the camera), and is serving libations. Some of the customers have reported in on Yelp, and they generally like this place! So, if you live in or near Clifton, this might be a nice spot to spend an hour if you are old enough to drink, and can hold your liquor — they only have hard alcohol, remember. And also remember not to drink and drive — Uber and Lyft can get you into and out of here with minimal fuss.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:07 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Spirituality ... Zen ...

My Zen sangha meets every Sunday morning for Zazen, and we usually chant the Heart Sutra at the end of our sitting. One famous line from the Sutra goes as follows:

No Old Age and Death,
And No End to Old Age and Death

Whatever that means. Still, I am now in my “old age”, and death has taken on a personal meaning in my life, for obvious reasons — i.e., if I’m lucky, I have left maybe 1/3 of time that has already passed since I graduated from college. It goes quick! You can tell that I’ve led a fairly sheltered life, that I was never in the military, am not a medical professional, and am not a homicide detective, all of whom become very familiar with death at a much earlier age.

However, I did work for a law enforcement agency that has a homicide unit, and I always respected the people that work in it. There is a recent article in the local newspaper about a former homicide detective and supervisor from our agency who recently retired, who now looks back on the estimated 1,000 dead bodies that he came across in his years on the streets. Worth a read — this is a guy who had no time for stuff like Zen and the Heart Sutra, but could now perhaps use a bit of it. (I actually knew this fellow a little, he was very well respected; like most people in law enforcement, he’s a lot more real than most of the “snowflakey” types in my sangha, myself included!)

But OK, back to to the navel-gazing into my own approaching mortality. At this age, a person needs to come to grips with death — no more ignoring it (although I suppose that you can, if you’re really healthy and have a lot going in your life — both of which categories I don’t fit into anymore). So how to feel about it? I suppose that depends to a large degree on how you feel about life, about being alive, and about being alive with other people. If you like being alive, if you’ve enjoyed the experience of living a conscious, sentient life, if you’ve generally enjoyed relating to other people (despite the occasional negative human interactions and experiences that are unavoidable in any social context), then perhaps  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:15 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Current Affairs ... Economics/Business ... Technology ...

We hear that many in the Democratic Party today are warming up to the idea of socialism; and that many young adults now favor socialism over capitalism.

One of the strongest criticisms of socialism, in academic terms anyway, came from the 20th Century philosopher and economist Fredrich Hayek. In a nutshell, Hayek said that the problem with socialism, relative to free market capitalism, regards information. According to Hayek, free markets make good and efficient use of economic information, automatically – no one oversees the information flow, but it works out in a very good way. Whereby, in a socialistic economy controlled by a centralized government, human intervention gets in the way of information flow, and makes the overall economy very inefficient.

A New York Times article put it this way —

[Hayek] argued that most of the knowledge in a modern economy was local in nature, and hence unavailable to central planners. The brilliance of a market economy was that it allocated resources through the decentralized decisions of a myriad of buyers and sellers who interacted on the basis of their own particular knowledge. The market was a form of “spontaneous order,” which was far superior to planned societies based on the hubris of Cartesian rationalism.

A web site dedicated to this “knowledge problem” includes this summary of Hayek:  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:11 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Monday, September 17, 2018
Current Affairs ... Society ... Sports ...

It appears to me that Nike has taken over the role once played by the Catholic Church, in that it can decide who is to be honored within the temple of progressivism with secular sainthood. Obviously, the latest one to be canonized is Colin Kaepernick. In the Nike liturgy of the saints, Kaepernick will be remembered for sacrificing his unfolding career as a highly talented NFL quarterback by publicly protesting police violence against African Americans and other forms of racism in our nation, thorough his practice of “taking a knee” during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a game.

This practice was started by Kaepernick, but soon spread to players in almost every team in the league. In general, it was not received well by the NFL’s white game viewers. One source indicates that about 70% of NFL players are black, whereas about 70% of NFL game viewers are white (by comparison, the US population is 61% white; as to blacks, they make up 16% of NFL viewership but 12% of the population; Hispanic and Asian-Americans together make up 24% of the population, but only 13% of NFL viewership).

By 2017, it was clear that a lot fewer whites were tuning in on NFL games; TV rating trends were clearly on the decline, and big money was being lost. The first two weeks of the 2018 NFL season are showing mixed viewing results, however.

Therefore, according to the Nike litany, NFL officials and team owners banded together to make sure that Kaepernick is forever barred  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

 »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, August 31, 2018
Current Affairs ... Technology ... Weather ...

Eight years ago, I posted some words here about whether climate change was as serious as it was being made out to be, and whether the evidence that global warming was being caused primarily by man-made CO2 and other greenhouse gasses was as solid as climate advocates had asserted. Today, given the evolving weather trends over the past decade or so, I tend to be more sympathetic to the view that climate change is real, and I generally agree that the trend is towards higher temperatures
(both air temps and sea temps) and more instability in established weather patterns.

Personally, I don’t think that emission reduction or green energy strategies are going to do much to stem the change, at least not in the next few years or even decades. In the longer term, technology will make our industrial and transport infrastructure more efficient and less dependent upon carbon-based fuels. “Renewables” (aka “green energy” sources such as wind and solar generators) along with nuclear power now meet about 21% of global energy demand. This will get close to 25% by 2020.

Renewables and nuclear might hit 50-50 parity with carbon-based fossil fuels by around 2070, according to some optimistic projections; these scenarios assume that carbon-based fuel use starts declining by 2020. However, a 2016 US Energy Information Agency projection (made during the Obama Administration) indicates that carbon fuel usage will continue to grow thru 2040. In the EIA scenario, renewables and nuclear account for  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:42 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Philosophy ... Science ... Society ...


Imagine meeting a person from a different, far away place – and in that different, far away place, people get first names and last names, just like us

BUT – each person from this far away place gets a set of multiple first names, and multiple last names; E.g., the person can be [George, Martin, Louis, Roger] + [Smith, Edwards, Ortiz, Russo]. Also, every second or so, the combination changes, more or less randomly. We can’t know why right now — maybe it’s because their brains evolved differently than ours, maybe it’s because of cultural differences, could be a lot of things. But for now, we just need to accept that there’s something different about  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:23 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Current Affairs ... Politics ... Society ...

I’m not the only person these days who wonders if American society is becoming one big dysfunctional family. Or to what degree is it really “one” anymore. “One Nation Under God, Indivisible”? There sure seem to be a lot of divisions these days. Some pundits even talk about the coming of a “New Civil War” or a “Soft Civil War”.

They don’t anticipate another territorial shooting war led by a modern Robert E. Lee or William Tecumseh Sherman, but they do see increasing social and economic polarization that could cause large-scale disruptions in interstate trade, citizen mobility, cultural interchange, and political cooperation between regions and through other ways of dividing people. Today’s version of Bull Run, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Seven Days and Shiloh may be fought largely on-line, given how important the internet and social media has become to so many areas of daily life. America today has quite a number of ways in which people seem to be dividing into “them versus us” groups. Of course, the big divisor seems to be political beliefs and philosophies (progressives versus conservatives, etc.), but in some ways, it even appears that men and women are preparing for battle!

For instance, we now have a cable TV series that picks up where #MeToo leaves off, i.e. about a female terrorist movement that kills men (i.e. Dietland, which I have been watching this summer). In the original American Civil War, the battles were between the same two governments. In a 21st Century version, the combatants will be different for most every major battle.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:17 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Current Affairs ...

I’m glad to read that the rescue of the boy’s soccer team (the Wild Boars) that became stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand was successful.

This is one of those slow-motion rescue stories that draws public attention now and then. Every so many years here in the USA, there is (or used to be) a mine incident where workers get trapped, and rescuers race against the clock to get them out alive. The drama of these situations is like catnip to the masses, and when it works and the rescue is successful (the more dangerous the better!), everyone feels a bit of a lift. Humankind shows that it can still come together when nature threatens one or a small group of its members, and we all feel better about our tribe. Perhaps a rescue incident helps us to forget for a few minutes about all the rotten things that we do to each other in the normal course of events.

So, the public got what it wanted from the Tham Luang Cave rescue. Except that there was a bit of tragedy, one brave diver died in the effort. I didn’t see too many articles about the man, a Mr. Saman Gunan, in the US press; to read about him, you had to seek out the various tributes published in the British, Australian and New Zealand press.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:07 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Photo ...

It’s after 10, and the local Oriental restaurant has closed its doors. The staff has cleaned up and gone home, but it looks like the proprietor’s family has decided to take a break and review the day with each other, before locking up for the night. I like this scene; there’s something almost Edward Hopper-ish about it (yes, I’m thinking about Nighthawks and Automat, two of Hopper’s more famous works).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:48 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
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