Here is a rundown on a bunch of stuff I am following as we enter 2013. It is all rather random, but it gives you a snapshot of my various interests; a diverse grouping to be sure.
The United States population will surpass 315.1 million people in January 2013. I like maps of all kinds. Here is one with a dot for every person in the US, showing the dense pockets of people throughout the fruited plain.
A woman died recently from being brutally gang-raped in India. Apparently, one of the rapists was the woman's would-be husband. How twisted is that? This is a national tragedy for that country. There are many cultural reasons why women are so abused in India. I recall frequent stories of wife burning and other horrific acts against Indian women almost daily when I lived in India in the mid-1980's.
Stock markets in the US are heavily leveraged and in a fragile condition. The situation is similar to that which existed in 2008 before the Great Recession. A recent Gallup Poll indicates that half of democrats and a quarter of republicans are, in fact, "socialist." Government welfare programs might be one reason that many Americans have lost their drive to earn a wage.
Want to see what $315 billion of gold looks like? My portfolio continues to be heavily weighted toward gold. I actually added more silver than gold this year. Gold had an off-year by rising "only" 5.7% in 2012 - that makes a dozen consecutive years of positive growth for gold. Meanwhile, the US stock markets have yet to regain their 2007 peaks. About three-quarters of Americans nearing retirement age currently have less that $30,000 in their retirement accounts. That ain't gonna cut it and actually makes the case for some degree of socialism almost inevitable.
The top ten searches on Wikipedia for 2012 included three movies and Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic BDSM novel which was voted "book of the year" by the reading public. This made me think of a new shoe design I just saw online. I've never really been a "heels" man when it comes to women. 2012 produced the weirdest heel design I've ever seen. Seems almost tortuous to walk in them. Equally strange but far less sadistic is a new fabric that literally makes the wearer invisible.
The Voyager One space probe is nearing the very edge of our solar system. It is at present some 18 billion kilometers from Earth. Sometime in the next few weeks or years (no one really knows how long) it will become the first human-made object to pass into interstellar space. Meanwhile, NASA has put out this really cool free app featuring some pretty artsy looking satellite images taken over the last couple of decades.
In the past 200 years human longevity has increased 150%, a remarkable evolutionary accomplishment over a very short period of time. Here is a simple test you can perform based on recent research to gauge your likelihood of a long life. Here are one physician's six signs that you will live to be 100. Living in the present moment apparently contributes to longevity. My personal approach remains a combination of nutrition, supplementation, exercise, yoga, and sex.
Here is an inspiring article dealing with how humanism seeks to be meaningful even in the worst of times - instead of, like most people, finding comfort in religion. As I have mentioned before, this blog reflects a spiritual journey although I am anything but religious.
At the other end of the journalistic spectrum there is this piece on why Obama should be executed by firing squad because the US sent F-16's to Egypt. As ridiculous as this sounds to me, it is not a joke. No wonder the "conservative press" is having such a tough time. These wackos make the liberals look totally mainstream. Meanwhile, this conservative (I think) piece wants us to know 25 facts the "mainstream media" apparently does not want us to know.
In last year's loose ends I mentioned that the Syrian Civil War had caused 5,000 deaths in that country. This year the death toll is over 40,000. Estimates are that as many as 100,000 more Syrians will die in this horrible war in 2013. The Christian Syrian minority is affected by the brutality. There is a story today of a Christian being beheaded by Syrian rebels and his body fed to dogs; indicative of the nature of the violence - an almost unbelievable saturation of killing with no end in sight, as the world watches with its hands largely in its pockets. Meanwhile, the same holds true for the continuing war in Congo. The violence in that African nation (currently the bloodiest war on the planet) is facilitated by militia gangs from neighboring countries.
Long-time readers know of my love for nature and my devotion to my pastoral surroundings. Recent research has determined that communing with nature can recharge your creativity - as if I needed a study to tell me that. My experience is that living in nature is great for your quality of life on numerous levels. It is for this reason, among others, that I am so concerned with the fact that the world's largest trees are dying at an accelerating rate.
My Nietzsche blog remains paused as I focus on other things while researching Nietzsche's later life and philosophy. In the meantime, Nietzsche remains lively and relevant on the internet. Nietzsche quotes are perfect for the character limitations of Twitter and I follow some of his feeds. A scholarly book was just published on the central themes of Nietzsche's thought which looks interesting to me. One blogger wrote this informed post on Nietzsche's relationship to the Greek skeptical tradition. For me, studying Nietzsche remains as timeless and as relevant as listening to Beethoven.
Other current books - to which I am devoting most of my reading time - include: Monsieur Proust's Library, As They See 'Em, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and a re-reading of Milan Kundera's brilliant classic The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
I don't always make New Year resolutions. A few years back I pledged to "drink more champagne." So far, I have held up to that resolution. I find it impossible to be sad or melancholy or angry while enjoying a good brut champagne. Give it a try. For 2013 my resolve is to eat more raw vegetables. Nothing earth-shattering there. Just a basic, healthy fine-tuning of things. Cheers.
Twilight of the Idols: Part Two
1 week ago