The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Outer Space ... Spirituality ...

I don’t keep up with movies, but when something really interesting comes along (interesting to me, anyway), I eventually read enough about it to inspire me to see it. So, when the movie Interstellar came out in 2014, I didn’t rush to the theaters, although I did read a few articles about it. On the surface, Interstellar is a sci-fi tale about a near-future earth where climate change has pushed our modern industrial-scientific civilization to the verge of collapse, where the whole human race could go extinct. Why? Because the planet can no longer produce enough food and maintain the kind of atmosphere that we need. The clock is ticking to figure out how to find a new home for humankind, somewhere out there amidst the stars — out there in the “interstellar void”.

But how would we even get off the earth anymore? In the movie, our technology infrastructure is slowly collapsing; however, there is still just enough left to secretly re-create what NASA and the Soviet space program were doing during the last few decades of the 20th century. Also, there is some research going on about harnessing and manipulating gravity as a whole new way of moving millions or even billions of people out of our solar system – i.e., of opening up the interstellar realm for the future of humankind!

OK, so far so good, it’s an adequate backdrop for an interesting story; but there is a problem, in that the space technology of the late 20th century can get you into orbit, maybe even out to the moon and beyond to the planets; but it clearly cannot cross the huge void between our planet and even the closest neighboring star system. And as to manipulating gravity as a force, we’re not even close yet to understanding how Einsteinian relativity, our best description of gravity and time-space, resolves itself with quantum physics. For that, a “deus ex machina” is needed, something extraordinary  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:15 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Personal Reflections ... Science ... Zen ...

I’ve been trying to grok the “Bell’s Spaceship Paradox” lately. Unless you REALLY know your special and general relativity, that one can really get your head spinning !! It’s a mental experiment meant to show that your intuition can be confounded by space-time relativity in more ways than you thought.


Bell’s Spaceship Paradox starts off with two spaceships that have equivalent weight and configuration. They will blast off and accelerate away from you, the observer, in your “frame at rest”. You have a ruler, which you use to measure the lengths of the ships and the distance between them just before they leave. Each ship has the same kind of rocket firing, and feels exactly the same force for the same length of time.

Oh, and the rockets are moving longitudinally away from you along the same line, one in front of the other. They are not side-by-side, they are moving in line. This is an important detail that isn’t always made clear in the layman’s explanations of this problem that you find on the web. Anyway, you have to imagine that the thrust from the lead rocket somehow does not affect the rocket behind it. Well, we can imagine some futuristic arrangement where that might be possible.

These rockets can go really, really fast, approaching the speed of light. And you know that weird things happen at that point. Basically, the two ships start out  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:46 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Music ...

My brother plays drums in a rock cover band, and sometimes he tells me about what his band goes thru when they try to learn a new song and get it ready for a show. To me, it seems a lot more complicated than I would have thought. To the casual observer, you have the song in your mind and you just pick up guitars and sticks and imitate it. Since I’ve gone to some of my brother’s shows, I guess that I qualify as a casual observer.

Like my brother, I’m still a rock fan, so I still listen on the radio to the local FM rock stations (what few of them are left). The most serious station that I can pick up is WDHA-FM. (I realize that the internet can bring you any station in the world, but to an old guy like me that seems to be cheating; and then there’s Sirius, but buying your FM radio just doesn’t seem right to me — hey, the commercials seem like part of the experience).

So I’ve been listening to WDHA for over 20 years now. Since WNEW-FM died in 1999, DHA has been the standard for defining what rock is and isn’t. However, in recent years, I’ve come to disagree with some of their trends. In a nutshell, the style of music that they play has been inching towards rap and hip-hop, a white version thereof. At first they slipped in some hybridized tunes with rap-scat elements, by bands such as Linkin Park and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. But after a while, the standards of “hard rock” started changing,  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:59 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

OK, it’s still pretty early to talk about the 2020 Presidential candidate selection process and the general election. However, it’s no longer “too early”. Most of the Democratic candidates have declared their intent, and all that remains is for Joe Biden to make it official. On the Republican side — of course, Trump owns the show, the Muller report obviously isn’t going to stop him. It will be interesting to see if anyone dares to challenge him, maybe John Kasich will take up the quixotic mantle, dream the impossible dream? It would at least make the GOP primary process somewhat interesting. And then there’s already Bill Weld, so at least someone is going to go down fighting the Trump Goliath. And the 3rd party field is off to a good start with Howard Schultz (early polls indicate that Schultz might bleed more votes from the Democratic challenger than from Trump).

On the Democratic side, there is a plethora of potential candidates at this point; I believe that the latest count is up to 16, and Joe will make 17, However, it all really sums up to a digital choice: Bernie (or younger reasonable facsimile) or Joe (or younger reasonable facsimile).

The argument for Joe and the pragmatists — Here are some thoughts from a recent Wall St Journal article from Ted Van Dyk, a Democratic party activist since the 1980s. According to Van Dyk, many say that the Democrats need to offer “just the opposite” of Trump . . . not only in terms of policy, but in terms of governing style.

The first is continuing public disenchantment with political, media, financial and cultural establishments. It is this disenchantment that brought Mr. Trump to the White House in the first place and, additionally, almost brought Sen. Bernie Sanders, not even a Democrat, the Democratic presidential nomination.

In Mr. Trump’s case, voters knew he was boorish, narcissistic, a business and financial freewheeler, a womanizer, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:05 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Photo ...

It’s 5 o’clock and the workday is over, time to go home. Essex County Courthouse, Newark, New Jersey.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:24 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Web Site/Blog ...

I’ve been away for a while. Away from my blog, that is. I got a little behind on things in mid-January and kept putting off a new post, even though I’ve had a variety of ideas to share. By early February, the blog turned into the equivalent of a friend that you were supposed to keep up with but got behind on, and then you get even more behind because you felt bad about getting so far behind. It sort of feeds on itself. But finally, you crank up your resolve and decide to fix the situation.

This behavior is fairly typical of introverts, and I almost define the term! Here is a quote about it:

And when someone who an introvert has categorized as a “true friend” seems to be in danger of falling into “acquaintance” territory, the introvert can begin to have gnawing feelings of guilt, even shame, at the idea of “abandoning” the friend . . . guilt is accompanied by anxiety, the fear that the person in question has taken the extended silence of the introvert as evidence of how lightly their friendship was regarded . . . in an effort to avoid the awkwardness that a long-delayed communication can create, the introvert may choose to let the friendship die the long, slow death of silence, instead.

Yea, that is kind-of what has happened to me and my old friend, this blog. But maybe  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:45 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Art & Entertainment ... Music ...

Not too long ago I posted some thoughts about the “Civil War song”, the theme song from Ken Burns’ monumental 1990 documentary on the Civil War. The name of that song is “Ashokan Farewell”, a violin “fiddle” tune which sounds as though it belonged to rural America in the 1800s. It turns out however, that “Farewell” was written in 1982 by folk musician Jay Ungar, intended as a theme for his music festivals in update New York.

Well, I just came across another war movie theme song that likewise fits the historical setting, even though it was put together only a few years ago. And like “Ashokan Farewell”, it has a rich, deeply evocative feel to it, a song that rubs emotional balm into your soul after glimpsing the raw and horrible realities of modern warfare, of watching people’s bodies and lives being wantonly destroyed.

I next need to tell you three things — 1.) the song in question 2.) the movie in question, and 3.) the war in question. OK — the song: I’m Dreaming of Home (Hymne des Fraternises); the movie — Joyeux Noel (2005); and the war — World War 1, 1914 in France. Joyeux Noel is  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:31 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

Here’s a quote from the diary of Dag Hammarskjold (“Markings”), one that may apply when deeply pondering Donald Trump — i.e., just who is this man? —

1951 — “Assenting to his possibility — why? Does he sacrifice himself for others, yet for his own sake – in megalomania? Or does he realize himself for the sake of others? The difference is that between a monster and a man. ‘A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another.'”

FINAL CONUNDRUM — if there is a “Monster”, what to do? The fastest way to dispose of a monster is to create a new monster. You may well vanquish the old monster. But then what to do with the new monster? How do you answer to that “new commandment” when dealing with a Donald J. Trump?

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:45 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, December 14, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Politics ...

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an “Observation” post on the Scientific American web site entitled “Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth“. In sum, intelligent people are becoming more and more partisan, mostly on the “liberal-progressive” side although intelligent conservatives are still quite common (and just as biased). The article gives a good explanation of the driving forces behind this trend, and provides some empirical evidence from various studies to support this claim. Here’s the theory in a nutshell:

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it is perfectly rational to use one’s reason this way in a science communication environment polluted by tribalism . . . What an ordinary member of the public thinks about climate change, for example, has no impact on the climate. Nor does anything that she does as a consumer or a voter; her individual impact is too small to make a difference. Accordingly, when she is acting in one of these capacities, any mistake she makes about the best available scientific evidence will have zero impact on her or anyone she cares about . . . But given what positions on climate change have now come to signify about one’s group allegiances, adopting the “wrong” position in interactions with her peers could rupture bonds on which she depends heavily for emotional and material well-being. Under these pathological conditions, she will predictably use her reasoning not to discern the truth but to form and persist in beliefs characteristic of her group, a tendency known as “identity-protective cognition.”

Yea, it’s sad, isn’t it. For 99.9% of us, our views on things don’t make any difference  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 11:51 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Food / Drink ... Personal Reflections ...

I am a bit of a “foodie”, albeit a vegetarian foodie. I’m also a health food nut. I don’t like all the salt and sugar and oils found in most processed food or restaurant take-out stuff (although once in a while, I do partake of a not-so-healthy meal while dining out, as a treat; the bad stuff definitely makes food very tasty!). In order to have a regular supply of healthy and enjoyable veggie food (not quite as delicious as the high-fat/sugar/salt stuff, but still pretty good), I do most of my own cooking. But that’s OK because I find cooking to be an opportunity for experimentation and creativity. So in addition to being a “foodie”, I’m also a “cook”.

Any cook who has done anything more than boil water knows that onions are essential to cooking. Onions show up in the cuisine of humans from around the planet. You can cook without onions, but it takes more work to come up with something tasty. Sure, some people just don’t like onions, and other people have medical conditions that require abstinence. Nonetheless, onions, along with garlic, are described as the “bedrock” and the “foundation” of cooking.

To be honest, I grew up in a mostly onion-less household. My father would get stomach problems from them, and so I was mostly unfamiliar with what onions do for soups, sauces, stews, salads, etc. When I did come across onions while in my childhood, I would avoid them, as they tasted too exotic. If I got a hamburger at a drive-in that had onions, I would open the bun and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:58 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
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