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Keep on Trekkin

As I did at the end of 2013 & 2014, so I do again here at the end of 2015 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year (travel blogs I finished or made additions to) include:

feature-Erice2014-lgFeature-Indian_Wedding

Feature - Washington DC-1

Feature-China_2014

Feature-Spocklogics_TravBuddy_Meetups

 

That’s the summary for 2015. Some are carry overs from 2014, but I finished the blogs in 2015, after my last post on travels (see: Travels of Spocklogic II) in December 2014 or earlier if I made additions. As I alluded to in recent entries, I will take a break from this Cogito Ergo blog for a while in 2016. I’ve had 20 years of internet exposure and been blogging for 10 years (see: 20 Years of Internet and Mapping the Internet). I hope to return again with a fresh perspective down the line. There’s plenty to explore in the Cogito Ergo blog archives until then (see the link to: Browse Blog Posts). Best wishes for the New Year 2016! See you in the future…

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As I did at the end of 2013, so I do again here at the end of 2014 to recount some travel experiences, which I don’t normally write about here. I need not give the whole setup again for the premise of such entries and see my blog from the end of 2013: Travels of Spocklogic. The notables this year are a couple of blogs I finished and some reviews that may be of interest:

spocklogic_Lyon-France_travel_blog.
spocklogic_Wroclaw-Poland_travel_blog.

spocklogic_Kirin-Hot-Pot_review.spocklogic_Long-Chao-Shou_review.
spocklogic_Ram-Pam-Pam-Pam_review.spocklogic_Raclawice-Panorama_review

That summarizes some travel selections for 2014. I did travel to Italy also in July 2014, and have some links to share for photo collections I put together for a special year in Erice to celebrate a 40th anniversary of the International School of Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy (ISAMS):

Rino: 40 Year Erice Celebrations (2014) – Erice, Italy
2014 Erice Workshop: 30 July – August 5 – Erice, Italy
People (2014) – Erice, Italy
Places (2014)
– Erice, Italy

In addition, I traveled to China again this year in November 2014, but am still working on my travel blog for that, so it will have to wait until my 2015 account of my travels. I will make this type of entry something traditional at years end to cover where I have been and what I have done in travel ways. It’s all rather like the City on the Edge of Forever perhaps…

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I don’t often write about my travels in this WordPress blog (Cogito Ergo) as I have another site for that (TravBuddy). In this year of 2013, I completed a number of travel blogs on that site that are worth noting and I give the links to them here. Mind you, I don’t know that any of my travel blogs are ever really completed. Each one is like a child I nurture and raise up, but always needs attention in future ways. Anyway, I suppose I list them here for my own reference and also to offer it to others who may be interested in my travels. There is some connection of the blogs, one to another in embedded personal ways, but are also self-contained. Here they are:

Spocklogic_DC_Travel_Blog

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Spocklogic_Italy_Travel_Blog.

Spocklogic_Switzerland_Travel Blog.

Spocklogic_Germany_Travel Blog.

Spocklogic_Travel_Topics.

Spocklogic_China_Blog.

Some of these blogs have been posted for some years, and I either added to them, made them more complete, and/or formed connections between them. Some of them are entirely new in 2013. They do tell a story in total I suppose and maybe that’s why I decided to make a sort of review of the Travels of Spocklogic here. They were also all the blogs featured on TravBuddy for me this year. My Italy blog (L’Avventura Dell Italia) seems never-ending and I have some more work to do on it, but the majority of important events are there for the most part. The last one in this list, the blog on China, is something I am still working on too, but intend (or hope) to complete it before the end of 2013. I suppose this collection of blogs forms a personal journey of sorts that I tried to form this year regarding my life and relation to travel. When I finish the China blog, maybe I will know what I have been endeavoring to understand and ultimately discover in my life. It’s not a teaser, or cliffhanger, but maybe more a matter of what I will embrace. Sounds enigmatic I suppose, but not really. It’s my personal perspective, the choices I make and what is ultimately best for me in a world of possibilities…

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Perfect name for pensioner’s and I like the subtitles too.

I recently saw a 2012 British comedy-drama film called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based on the 2004 novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. The story is about a group of British retirees who go to India seeking a more affordable way of life at the Marigold Hotel, a place set up for this very purpose by a young Indian entrepreneur named Sonny Kapoor.  The main cast of British characters, around which the plot is constructed, present a splendid ensemble of seasoned actors including Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that interesting, but I’ve watched it twice now and enjoyed it as much, if not more, the second time through. I never pay too much attention to reviews for entertainment purposes, and it’s a subjective thing whether one person or another enjoys a film, but sometimes the analytics do matter – plot, scripting, casting, cinematography, shooting locale, etc. This blog is not a review about the film for entertainment, not an analytical assessment of its construction, but what it may be about is my personal reflection on what I found thought provoking, engaging and/or touching.

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Film cast (L to R): Maggie Smith (Muriel Donnelly), Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins), Bill Nighy (Douglas Ainslie), Penelope Wilton (Jean Ainslie), Celie Imrie (Madge Hardcastle), Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade), and Tom Wilkinson (Graham Dashwood)

I found the character study interesting in exploring the past history and personalities of the people engaged me. Their life circumstances and what brought them to the Marigold was not far-fetched at all and their interaction was true to life I thought. Each had their own story and coming together in India provided a  venue for some self expression. Maybe a plot contrivance for this, but a good one. It’s a geriatric collection of people, but I found myself relating to them in interesting ways and enjoying their expressions in thought and feelings, but without the stereotypes of older folks usually portrayed I think. I found it sort of a coming to terms with old-age story, but not in an end of life way, but in a new beginnings way – which just goes to show you how age is a relative thing. I am and have been a traveler in my life too, so the thematic situation in location appealed to me also as I have visited India myself. I won’t belabor the point here and you can see the film for yourself, but one aspect of the film I found very thoughtful and moving were the voice over monologues by the character of Evelyn (played by Judi Dench) in the form of letters to her son, or perhaps a blog. I’d like to share them here because I couldn’t really find them collected anywhere and thought they should be. They give the film some cohesion in life affirming statements dispersed at appropriate moments, and delivered by Judi Dench in perfect pitch portraying life as the character of Evelyn Greenslade.

Evelyn writes from the Marigold Hotel, Jaipur (done as a monologue voice over):

Day 9:
Old habits die easier than we think, and new ones form. No longer do I reach out in the morning for Radio 4. My news comes instead from the Jaipur Herald. Soon, I might even grow accustomed to the storm of car horns and vendors. Can there be anywhere else in the world that is such an assault on the senses? Those who know the country of old just go about their business. But nothing prepares the uninitiated  for this riot of noise and color; for the heat, the motion, the perpetual teeming crowds. Sonny is conducting his own personal assault on our senses with a flow of exotic dishes he demands daily from the kitchen. Mooli moong dal, bagara baingan, banjara gosht, paneer methi chaman, mutton vindaloo. Initially, you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side. This is a new and different world. The challenge is to cope with it, and not just cope, but thrive.

Day 22:
Like Darwin’s finches, we are slowly adapting to our environment. And when one does adapt, my god, the riches that are available. There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.

Day 45:
Of course, it was inevitable. Put enough old people in the same place, and it won’t be too long before one of them goes. Graham died of a heart condition which he’d had for many years, so he knew before he left that he would not be coming back. He wanted to die in India, he just didn’t want any of us to know. He kept his promise to take me to Udaipur. Manoj wanted him to have a Hindu burial there by the lake at the place they had visited together. Not a holy place, although for them perhaps it was. It takes a long time for a body to be consumed. Many hours for the mourners to remember their dead. The fire must be lit at dawn and by sunset there must be nothing left but ash. Is it our friend we are grieving for whose life we knew so little, or is it our own loss that we are mourning? Have we traveled far enough that we can allow our tears to fall?

Day 51:
The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment, as we always must. We came here and we tried, all of us in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling that we are too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all over again. We get up in the morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters. But it’s also true that the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes, because as someone once said. “Everything will be alright at the end, and if it’s not alright, then trust me,  it’s not yet the end”.

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Judi Dench (Evelyn Greenslade) writing and making Marigold Monologues.

There are only four of these monologues in the film, which I carefully wrote down on my second watching of the film in order to share them here. If you’ve seen the film already, then they are reproduced here for your enjoyment and further pondering. If you have not seen the film then the ‘Day 45’ may be a bit of a spoiler (fair warning) and some of the passages may not make much sense out of context. Nevertheless, these Marigold Monologues (as I call them) have bits of wisdom that seem universally relevant I believe for people of all ages to think about, with a bit of introspection and emotional connectivity towards the years gone by and the years ahead. I find them to ring true in my experience and inspirational in their own way, but like anything in such ways of thought and emotional extension, it depends on your own perspective and sense of self in such ways. I think anyone can gain a good deal from watching this film. It’s not the end and maybe there is a sequel in the works – Maybe more Marigold Monologues to come…

brain-dunce-cap

From the April 2012 issue of Scientific American magazine

Neuroscientists: We Don’t Really Know What We Are Talking About, Either

NEW YORK—At a surprise April 1 press conference, a panel of neuroscientists confessed that they and most of their colleagues make up half of what they write in research journals and tell reporters. “We’re always qualifying our conclusions by reminding people that the brain is extremely complex and difficult to understand—and it is,” says Philip Tenyer of Harvard University, “but we’ve also been a little lazy. It is just easier to bluff our way through some of it. That’s one perk of being a respected neuroscientist—you can pretty much say whatever you want about the brain because so few people, including other neuroscientists, understand what you’re talking about in the first place. As long as you throw in enough jargon, it sounds science-y and legit and stuff.”

“It’s not just what we write in our studies,” explains Stephanie Sigma of Stanford University. “It’s a lot of the pretty pictures, too. You know those images with captions claiming that certain brain regions ‘light up’ like the fourth of July? I mean, come on. Most of the participants in these studies are college freshmen who only enrolled in Intro Psychology to satisfy a mandatory academic requirement. There is only one thing they know how to ‘light up’—and it’s not their brains. Frankly, we were just hoping that the colorful images would keep people’s attention. People like pretty pictures—that is something we’ve shown in our studies. Although I can’t quite remember if that was one of the findings we made up or not…”

People who read a lot of neuroscience news have probably noticed several consistent contradictions, says Laura Sulcus of Dartmouth College. “Some studies say that different brain regions work in concert to perform a single complex task, whereas other studies argue that a particular cognitive function—such as recognizing faces—is basically the sole domain of one region. The thing is, just because one part of the brain shows more activity than another, it doesn’t mean that it is the only piece involved. But it is just so easy to pick a neglected area, dress it up with some colorful fMRI studies and present it to the world as a distinct, functional region of the brain. How can we resist? For neuroscientists, the brain is like the world during the Age of Exploration. We have the major continents named but there is plenty of room for new countries. Everyone wants to plant their flag.”

Frederick Pompass of Washington University in St. Louis wondered whether sticking to the facts would make much difference. “We recently realized that even when are sincere, the general public often misunderstands our explanations. Like, apparently, most people think that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows neurons firing in real time. Obviously fMRI measures the level of oxygenated blood in brain tissue, which is correlated with the amount of glucose delivered to different neurons, which is in turn correlated with the activity of those neurons. We honestly thought people knew that. It’s pretty basic.”

Nonsense neuroscience extends beyond the research paper and news conference into everyday life, says David Barbiturate of Duke University. “When people find out that I study the brain I instantly become their pro bono psychiatrist and their personal guru for both everyday predicaments and existential crises. Sometimes I say whatever sounds good to get them to shut up. The other night I was at one of Betty’s dinner parties, right, and her friend Jason finds out that I’m in neuroscience and suddenly it’s like, ‘What is déjà vu? Do we really have free will? What about the nature of consciousness?’ And I’m like, ‘Jason, none of that matters. We’ve established that there is no way to tell the difference between the world as it really exists and the world as we imagine it. Didn’t you see Inception? That was based on neuroscience.’ And Jason’s eyes go wide and he stutters, ‘Oh…I, I thought that was made up.’”

Before the conference came to a close, one reporter asked whether neuroscientists would retract studies in which they made up data and conclusions. The panel said that they were assessing the feasibility of retraction with further studies, but that these studies had not yet yielded conclusive results. The neuroscientists in attendance plan to reconvene in one year, on April 1, 2013.

Disclaimer: This is a parody. None of the quotes are real, nor are the scientists. Happy April Fools’ Day from Scientific American!

I posted a previous April Fools’ Day parody from Scientific American  in 2006 – see the link: Blame the Scientists

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.          Don’t Get Fooled

.        On April Fools’ Day!

Dear Readers,

What does a want to be psychologist with little relationship experience have in common with a want to be relationship expert with little insight into psychology? The answer is my last two girlfriends. That’s very funny, but nevertheless sad for me. What does that say? Am I a sucker for troubled women or just plain stupid? Well, I maintain neither. I am, of course “a good guy” in my own mind. How could it be otherwise? If I don’t stroke my own ego, who will? My last two girlfriends didn’t seem interested in sustaining my exalted stature at all.

Just for the record I will admit to not being perfect. Yes, it’s true – I have made mistakes. Now I justify it – doesn’t everybody do that? Here’s where divergence happens, who can forgive and who cannot forgive? This makes a difference and says something on the character of the person. Take Tiger Woods – Can his wife forgive him? A Hollywood example and it seems only men cheat there. Looking at the cable show “Cheaters”, it seems in equal balance in real life – Yes, men and women do it equally – A surprise? Not really. It’s human nature, and why should men and women be different in that way? Who forgives who in such situations, and I guess men and women should do that equally too. But cheating is only one outlying aspect. Relationships enter trouble often for more basic reasons. Cheating is usually an outcome of those reasons and becomes the defining line.

So, here’s a question I wanted to pose – Should a woman be interested in a man’s ego? If she is, how should she go about supporting that? If she is not, is it offensive if a man has his own ego? Realizing I am the atypical male, and a cut above the rest, of course, I am curious about some of the questions I have posed. A man of my qualities is always interested in a female perspective. It’s part of what makes me a sensitive, caring man. If I am to temper my ego a bit and be confident too, I have to balance that with gentle ways. What is really desired – reality vs. fantasy? It’s fair game to turn the questions on me. I am an equal opportunity conversationalist.

Sincerely,

My Male Ego

I look at the Listmainia on Amazon sometimes. It’s interesting to see what other people like for a list of books on a topic or theme. I saw one a while back that I thought was good. It was called “Books that really make you think”. Here is the link:


It’s a bit of an eclectic list of forty books, but has a good mix of things and almost anyone can find something intriguing to read there. I can’t admit to have read them all, but perhaps close to half of them. I picked 10 that I did read off the list which I like:

1.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
4.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
6.  A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
8.  Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
10.  Machiavelli’s The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
16.  Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions  by Edwin A. Abbott
19.  Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan
27.  Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
31.  Introduction to Special Relativity by Robert Resnick
35.  Animal Farm by George Orwell

Overall, they are all interesting books. Most of the ten I listed are not difficult reads, but provide lots of bang for the investment in time.  Nietzche’s book “beyond Good and Evil” is a challenge to be sure. Resnick’s book on Relativity is actually a text book, so it may not be for the mathematically challenged. I might recommend “Einstein’s Universe” by Nigel Calder or “The ABC of Relativity” by Bertrand Russell on this topic instead. These will make you think too, without the math.

This list probably could be extended at bit – perhaps to 50 books. Some I would add include the following:

1.) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
2.) Siddhartha  by Hermann Hesse
3.) The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
4.) The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
5.) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
6.) Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization by Heinrich Zimmer
7.) The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom
8.) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
9.) Sound and Sense – An Introduction to Poetry by Laurence Perrine
10.) Darkness Visible by William Styron

At any rate, I thought this list was worth sharing. My additional suggestions are worth considering also. Some books can be difficult to read, but are rewarding for the effort. Generally non-fiction and philosophy books tend in this direction. Novels are often easier to get through, but still possess a power to invoke a great deal of thought. One of my favorite quotes about reading, which has relevance here is:

“Reading furnishes the mind only with the materials of knowledge; It is thinking that makes what we read ours.” ~ John Locke

A close second (favorite):

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog it’s too dark to read.” ~ Groucho Marx.

As an addendum here, in humorous thought, I recently discovered a book that pokes fun at every country on the planet. It is called “Our Dumb World”. It’s the Onion’s Atlas of the Planet Earth and is perhaps politically incorrect, but very funny. It will not only make you think, but laugh out loud too. Here is a link for sampling:

May you expand in interesting directions…

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