Fry's Supermarket provides two wood-slat benches outside the building for the convenience of customers and store employees who wish to smoke during their rest and lunch breaks. A huge pot filled with sand sits chained between the two benches, and it fills rather quickly with cigarette stubs of varying lengths. Since this area is located roughly half the distance of my daily two-mile walk, I take advantage of the benches to sit and rest for a few minutes before heading back down the return leg of my walk.
While seated there yesterday, I watched as an old lady approached and sat down close to the gigantic ashtray, upon which she latched her attention, carefully examining each discarded butt and putting in her apron pocket all of the bent and broken stubs of a size seemingly satisfactory for later re-lighting.
Not being particularly reticent in my old age, I struck up a lengthy conversation and told her that I had once been a cigarette smoker but had quit the habit in 1985. She said she knew she should quit but she was 47 years old and didn't have the will power to stop. Now, that surprised me greatly, as I had thought, because of her heavily lined and wrinkled face and her overall elderly appearance, that she was at least 70.
She told me that she had started smoking at age 12 but cigarettes have now become so expensive that she could not afford to buy them very often on her SSI (welfare) check (that was almost a hundred dollars more than my Social Security benefit.) I told her that back when I'd stopped smoking 26 years ago they had cost $1.00 a pack. She said that now the cheapest ones were more than $7 a pack, and that's why she came over to the store several times a day to salvage the butts.
One can learn a lot simply by observing and listening to people.
Don't know how much value to put on some of that information, though.
Neuroscience Challenges Old Ideas about Free Will is the title of an intriguing article in Scientific American wherein celebrated neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga explains the new science behind an ancient philosophical question.
At one point in the interview is the statement: ". . . neuroscientific experiments indicate that human decisions for action are made before the individual is consciously aware of them."
That was a difficult idea for me to understand and prompted me to read the entire piece, and I am glad that I did.
Again, here is the link.
Another interesting bit I recently read:
No matter what the Occupy Wall Street seems to have now become, the New Yorker has an article about how it all began. Arts & Letters Daily introduces the article thusly: "How a Canadian in a bathtub, together with transgender radicals, and a 'mystical anarchist' organized a revolution on Wall Street..."
Read about it here.
The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that you can fool all of the people all of the time.
--Franklin P. Adams, columnist (1881-1960)