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Showing posts from February, 2016

A FORK IN THE ROAD

Neoplatonists (followers of the classic school of thought emerging in the 3rd century AD and deriving from the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato who lived 6 centuries before) describe two routes to God, or Self-realization, an Eastern term which means basically the same thing. They call them the via positiva and the via negativa. You don't have to speak Latin to guess what these two terms mean. 

If you follow the positive way, you believe in a God that possesses all the positive attributes in the universe. God is powerful, knowledgeable, present everywhere, just and good, and so on. While those along the other pathway stress God's unknowability. For how can the mind, which is merely a creation representing a fragment of the cosmos, fathom what is ever-present and omnipotent? Can one lift a massive rock while standing upon it? Can the fish ever know what it is like to be divorced from its natural aqueous habitat and live in the open air? Not unless it is prepared …

THE BOYS OF SUMMER HAVE GONE

So I signed up to be a Little League baseball coach. My thinking was as follows. One, I grew up playing baseball. Two, I am a grown man approaching middle age (yikes!), and I don't have kids of my own. Ergo, coaching would be my opportunity to "get involved" and "give back" and "help others." Et cetera. So I volunteered to coach the 11 and 12-year-olds since that was around when I started playing organized baseball myself; and Roxbury Park in Beverly Hills, which happens to be where I hit my first home run as a Cardinal third baseman, off Jason Goldberg, who later became my best friend, would be the site of the games. 

The President of the League quickly got back to me. It turns out that Scott and I played varsity baseball together for a time during my senior (his sophomore) year of high school. We were fellow Beverly Hills Normans. In addition, the introductory clinic would be taught by Boomer Welles, younger brother of Robby Welles, also a teammate o…

IT'S ALL IN A NAME - OR IS IT?

Whatever you call water, the substance is the same. Whether you say water or agua, eau or aqua (that's Latin), or acqua (Italian), or Wasser or any of the many other words for this most precious liquid that exist in the world's 6,500 spoken languages, the substance is the same, as are its characteristics, which include wetness. Everybody knows this, and no one would dare dispute the fact. My water is not better than your agua because it has more letters, just as yours isn't better than mine because it has two a's and I'm partial to a's, since there are also two in my first name. 

But linguistics can make for a lot of confusion, especially in theological discussions, when students use fancy terms which though they appear so different and originate thousands of miles and many centuries apart, are actually quite the same. I say this because I recently learned a new word: panentheism. Not to be confused with pantheism, the belief that God is coextensive with and ide…

DOING IT IN STYLE

I don't understand why anybody would ever want to become President. Talking politics over brunch with my aunts a few months back and the upcoming primaries came up. My Aunt Laura is a pretty staunch Republican, though not as conservative as are many of the Orange County residents among whom she plays golf and has tea. As a Republican she would support any nominee from that party over either Clinton or Sanders, both Democrats. She'd even vote for Trump, though he's such a blowhard. But hey, that's entertainment. We reasoned that the election would come down to the two individuals who were beholden to nobody. It should have been that way. With no special interests groups to appease, Trump and Sanders could at least in theory be free to serve the interests of the American people. Or their own. Likely his own. Because putting a businessman in politics assures only one thing: his goal will be to profit. Not that Trump will win anyway. Right?

Aunt Laura dislikes our current C…

THE FIRST TIME

This Saturday past I went to my brother's Valentine's Day party. He holds one every year, or has for the past half dozen years. He calls them "Cupid's Stupid." Since about 97% of attendees are homosexual, whenever I go to these things (this time was my third time in attendance) I am gay by association. I got to talking with one of my brother's friends. I have seen Rick so many times, at these parties and on other occasions, that I call him my friend too. Rick knows everyone, which gave me the opportunity of meeting many more party goers than I otherwise would, being the wallflower that I sometimes am, but not always. Just when there are no interested/interesting girls to chat up, and there weren't at this year's Cupid's Stupid. But I don't discriminate, and I'm not looking for love, so let the conversation flow. 

Rick got to talking about his first sexual experience, with a boy who was his best friend. It happened when they were 14. And mut…

HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

Be kind to everyone.

That's 323 pages less than the best-seller by that name. You're welcome. Now get 'er done.

MY STINKY LITTLE SECRET

So Saturday night I fell off the wagon. It happened like this. I got hungry before bedtime and craved something different. Usually I go for fresh fruit but I wanted something salty, and not vegetables. Something unusual. Off the beaten path, at least for me. There was an old bag of whole grain wasabe chips lying around in the cupboard, but the last thing a vegan needs from a treat is more fiber, and the bag boasted 4 grams per serving. I consume at least 100 g fiber each day without any help from highly processed grains, thank you very much. 

I had run 10 miles that day, and as my rumbling stomach attested, I needed some extra calories. This is a challenge familiar to any endurance runner. How to replenish all that spent energy? Virtually any plant source will come packed with fiber, excepting oils and I didn't want a shot of olive oil, thank you very much. Often I go to concentrated calories in the form of fats. Which is to say avocados. Though high in fiber (9 g per fruit), an av…

HAPPY EATING AND DREAMING

A lot of books have been written explaining the many benefits of a plant-based diet. Plant foods are healthy, environmentally-friendly, and easy to prepare, not to mention delicious. But few authors have taken the time to explain the effects of transitioning from animal protein to plant foods, I mean at the individual level. These effects are many and can come as quite a surprise if they are not anticipated.

1. You can expect to poop more. The transition time of plant foods is much shorter than it is with meat, eggs, and dairy, so consuming more fruits, vegetables, beans and seeds will double and in some cases triple your bowel output, both in terms of quantity and frequency. If you are used to going every three days, expect to go on a daily basis. Meat eaters who commonly move their bowels daily can look forward to going twice or thrice per diem. As a result you will feel much lighter, and your tummy much flatter.

2. You can expect to pee a lot more. Because plant food is so high in wa…

I RUN FOR FUN

I recently touched base with my childhood friend Pete who asked if I'd be running this year's LA Marathon. The race is set to take place on Valentine's Day. As usual, it starts at 7 AM from Dodger Stadium and makes its way through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West LA and Brentwood before finishing off at Santa Monica beach, on Ocean Ave above Pico. My reply was simply, "No, no marathon."

I chose not to explain my reason for not signing up. Having run the race 3 of the last 5 years isn't necessarily an indication that I'll ever run it again, and I very well will not. Don't get me wrong, endurance races can be loads of fun, and LA takes you through our entire glorious city. When else can you run in the middle of the Sunset Strip and not worry about getting slammed by a car? 

But there are many deterrents. At $200 (the late registration fee) the race is pricey. That's 100 store-bought coffees and I prefer to make my own. Participants must visit the Staple…

A TOAST TO FAUST

Based on a German legend, Faust is a play written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The German polymath wrote the piece in two parts over the course of 60 years. And there is much in the story to be appreciated, and not just for the disenchanted scholar. The plot is simple enough. Faust is a hoary man of letters of indeterminate age who has for decades buried himself amidst his books in a relentless quest for truth. At the story's start he has grown tired of his life of the mind, the study first of philosophy then of law and medicine and theology yielding nothing in the way of truth. Faust wishes to know the unknowable, the concept of which is merely a shadow compared with the real thing. Though his students love and respect him and the townspeople admire his great learning, even his own pupils despair when they visit his study, which is in the words of one, "awfully cramped, and one can't see a bit of green, a single tree," within which "I can no longer hear or se…

SMART PILL

If you could take a pill that would help you study and get better grades, would you? Off-label use of “smart drugs” – pharmaceuticals meant to treat disorders like ADHD, narcolepsy, and Alzheimer’s – are becoming increasingly popular among college students hoping to get ahead, by helping them to stay focused and alert for longer periods of time. But is this cheating? Should their use as cognitive enhancers be approved by the FDA, the medical community, and society at large? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?  In short, should college students be allowed to take smart drugs?  This was the prompt for a debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared, which took place in November.  Prior to the debate 30% of those polled were in favor of the motion - that is, they felt students should be allowed to pop a smart pill to study longer and harder - and afterwards 60% supported the motion. So those arguing in favor made a strong case for smart pills. You can view the debate here.  Last night I dined wi…