November 2007

I got in trouble with my wife.

She goes into town every day with Kelly and swims a mile and a half (2.4 km). Kelly had injured her leg was on crutches and rehabing in a pool. Initially she couldn’t drive or shop herself so she bought Vidya a 3 month membership at Four Seasons, a heated and enclosed poll in Moundsville, so she would come with her.

For the past month they have done this 5 days a week. On days Vidya doesn’t go to the pool, she walks four miles (6.4 km). Yesterday she came home a little late, as she had swum her laps and then walked a 1/2 mile on the treadmill so she said let’s go to the temple for lunch which we did.

There, after a typical ISKCON lunchtime conversation of bemoaning the current state of temple management and whether there is any circumstance where it would be okay to allow a mayavadi to speak in the temple, I got a chance to talk to Soma about a small ceremonial/hospital/birthing stall barn (talk about a multi use building) the cow department wants to build next to the existing Temple barn.

On the way out, I asked if he wanted to look at the space and see what the idea was. At the site Vidya got out and starting walking towards home, telling me to pick her up when I was done, which I represented as being about 10-15 minutes.

The site has some problems, including the need to expand the oxen facility and the power line coming through that bifurcates the space. This is an issue because you can’t build under a line. More about the barn later, but we got absorbed in the discussion, looking at different ways to resolve the variables.

Soma is a talented knowledgeable guy and we drifted out of left brain city where remembering that your wife had set out walking and was expecting to be picked up would be SOP and slid into right brain creative energy dhama.

When we had roughed out the concept, we went back over to the temple to run it by someone, and the only person around was Kuladri so we laid it out for him, as he has the skill set necessary for sheparding a project into motion and seeing it carried to completion, even if he lacks position in management.

He suggested we get some rough drawing down on paper to make a more organized presentation, so we did. We went to Tapapunja’s office where he has a drawing table and some large paper with one inch grids on it. Soma laid it out and we spent time adjusting it and trying to figure all the angles.

A couple of hours had passed.

We finished that stage, then took a breather. Right brain control slipped away and left brain popped in, immediately reminding me my wife was walking.


Two hours after she set out I remember.

Kamala Sati was having a birthday party so I stayed for that for my dinner and to hang out with Varshana Swami who spoke, but eventually I had to sneak back into the house. Vidya was working in her studio in the basement, so it was late before she came upstairs. Fortunately, she wasn’t carrying a weapon and nothing was thrown.

While the walking 3 miles may not have been the worst part, she had been wearing Crocs and they aren’t designed for long walks so she had taken them off and had to walk in stocking feet. Her feet got cold, and although she stuck her thumb out for everyone who drove by, she didn’t get a ride until Bahulaban, a half mile from home, 2 and 1/2 miles from the temple.

I am keeping a low profile today. :-)


What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir as they go on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse: the end of mankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt!

From producer Morgan Spurlock (SUPER SIZE ME) and director Rob VanAlkemade comes a serious docu-comedy about the commercialization of Christmas. Bill Talen (aka Reverend Billy) was a lost idealist who hitchhiked to New York City only to find that Times Square was becoming a mall.

Spurred on by the loss of his neighborhood and inspired by the sidewalk preachers around him, Bill bought a collar to match his white caterer’s jacket, bleached his hair and became the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping. Since 1999, Reverend Billy has gone from being a lone preacher with a portable pulpit preaching on subways, to the leader of a congregation and a movement whose numbers are well into the thousands.

Through retail interventions, corporate exorcisms, and some good old-fashioned preaching, Reverend Billy reminds us that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. What Would Jesus Buy? is a journey into the heart of America – from exorcising the demons at the Wal-Mart headquarters to taking over the center stage at the Mall of America and then ultimately heading to the Promised Land … Disneyland.

Will we be led like Sheeple to the Christmas slaughter, or will we find a new way to give a gift this Christmas? What Would Jesus Buy? may just be the divine intervention we’ve all been searching for.

The Shopocalypse is upon us … Who will be $aved?

Getting Picked Up By Feed Readers’ Problems

I realize I have a lot of readers through the feed reader Planet ISKCON.

For some reason feeds it takes from (which includes mine and several others) suddenly a couple of weeks ago started not using the post title but either the url of the originating site of the post or the title of a jpg if one was included.

Normally I am very happy with as you can schedule posts and it has other bells and whistles I like but, despite reporting this in both the user Forums and to Support, it hasn’t been corrected.

So for the meantime, I will include the title in the text for PI readers.

I feel the need for this because I have the illusion that I sometimes have clever titles that are essential for setting up the text portion of the post. Today’s title is not a case in point.

At New Vrindaban Bloggers there was a different problem — the title would show but not the text of the post. There I use the WordPress software with a plugin to collect the feeds, but have now updated the plugin and it works fine.

Better actually. It is now no longer mandatory to use a Chron job to get it to update. That had been a major hurdle when I first set it up and I was blocked for weeks on it until Manesh from Florida passed through New Vrindaban and solved it for me.


As my old friend Charlie Reagen used to say, “If you play with the bull, you get the horn.”


Weather disasters ‘getting worse’

from BBC News

The effects of flooding in Phu Yen, Vietnam, Nov. 5, 2007 (File picture)

Flooding has increased six-fold since the 1980s, the report says

The number of weather-related disasters has quadrupled over the past 20 years and the world should do more to prepare for them, the aid agency Oxfam says. Population increases mean more people are affected when catastrophic weather events take place, it says in a report.

Global warming is to blame for the growing number of weather disasters, Oxfam adds.

An average of 500 such disasters are now taking place each year, compared to 120 in the 1980s, the report says.

The number of floods has increased six-fold over the same period.

Small disasters ignored

The agency expresses particular concern about the increase in small and medium-sized weather events, which it says affect great numbers of people, but do not attract as much international aid as large, well-publicised natural disasters.

The report argues that climate change is responsible for the growing number of weather-related disasters – more intense rain, combined with frequent droughts, make damaging floods much more likely.

You get this spiral downwards of vulnerability and destitution

John McGrath, Oxfam

The increasing number of weather events has been accompanied by large global population increases, and Oxfam says this means more people are being forced to live in areas which are vulnerable to the effects of the weather changes.

“They’re going to forests, to jungles, to mountains… but these are just the very places that have been more affected by intense rain… and that in turn actually increases the displacement… so you get this spiral downwards of vulnerability and destitution,” says Oxfam’s John McGrath.

Unless the global aid community begins preparing for the future growth in weather-events, Oxfam warns, its ability to respond to natural disasters will be overwhelmed.

Thirteen Ways To Say This Poem Sucks

(based on the shape of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens)


Mountain of formula buzz words
Spinning its wheels with
Nothing in mind going nowhere.


It has three big flaws:
A bit worn,
Boring and misses the mark.


The language is flat, evoking no feeling.
Trying a bit too hard to be edgy.


Cliché and triteness
It’s bad.
Cliché and triteness and redundancy
It’s bad.


I do not know which is worse,
Poor breaks and awkward phrasing
Or the tongue twisting word choices,
The oral dissonance
Or lack of tune.


Cliches fill this over long attempt
With cluttered images.
The too abrupt transitions
Jarring, too often;
Falls flat on its face.
Parody of a metaphysical attempt.


Hidden overly poetic
Stuff is not working, why bother?
Trying too hard to show something,
It becomes silly,
Loses focus for the reader.


Too much telling of details
In forced, unnatural rhythms,
Any smart reader can guess at.
Not enough showing how this
Felt and happened.


Mistaken thinking the subject itself
Ennobles the effort;
Attempted by earnest thousands.


Here you are telling the reader
How to feel about this,
Rather than showing them
And letting them decide.


This is over the top.
Your metaphors
And symbolism
Are so out of sync
With your intended message
It’s hard to understand.


Typical teenage drivel.
Unable to get any coherency from it.


The images are imaginative
The language rich
And the rhythms flow.
It hangs together,
Really sucked me in.

(I wrote this 2004 when I was obsessing on poetry and workshopping my attempts online in a well moderated and very serious forum. Practically all the lines in this were from actual critiques on submitted poems ( a number of different poems, not just mine).  I tried to pick representative lines from the typical categories of errors committed when writing poetry)

Laxmi has left her body. See pictures, courtesy of Jaya Murari, here:

Laxsmi Departed Late yesterday

The last time I saw her alive, she was moaning some, making some half hearted gestures to move her legs, and seemed like she wasn’t aware of her surroundings.

A small Lord Jagannath was on the window sill above her head, there were flower garlands hanging on the walls, and a tape of Srila Prabhupada was playing. Not that anything truly mitigates the misery of death, but nice nevertheless.

I have been advocating that an older cow be kept at the temple barn. One reason is to try to disabuse devotees of the illusion that the primary concern of cow protection is milk production, which seems to be the operative conception of a majority these days (If you consume factory farm milk without tangibly supporting cow protection, you are ipso facto one of those of whom I speak).

They think of cows and the image they get is similar to the spin foisted by organizations like the California Milk Advisory Board. No sign of oxen or aged cows, only young, healthy milkers.

As I have heard Balabhadra say frequently, “Cow protection — not just milk”.

I wanted devotees to see that although a cow gives milk for a year or two for each calf, they continue to live, some even reaching 20 years or older. I want them to see that, and to experience a cow dying in the natural order of things, and for the cows to leave under circumstances of love, not lonely and forgotten in some out of the way place.

In this case the death is not an older cow, but the unfortunate death of a young heifer, practically a teenager. That is always harder to process.

This has created some backlash, some of it deserved, some of it simply sentimental, but I remain committed to the idea of having devotees face the reality of what milk drinking connects them to even if cow protection is practiced.

Hopefully this will help them become more committed to assisting cow protection, if not hands on, then at least by supporting cow protection programs financially. Then even if they have to buy milk in the market, it will amount to the same concept as carbon credits that is gaining so much popularity for those industries using irreplaceable fossil fuels.

But I digress.  When the devotee went to buy the 5 heifers Laxmi was one of, when he entered the pen to make his choices, he said he felt like he was in “Schindler’s List”, where he could only save a few and the rest would go into The Machine, ultimately ending at the slaughter house.

So however tragically short Laxmi’s life was, qualitatively is was much better than her fate would have been had she not been brought to New Vrindaban.

By Meredith F. Small, LiveScience’s Human Nature Columnist

“Awww, isn’t she ad-or-a-ble?”

Nothing makes a person sound more idiotic than the presence of a new baby.

Our voices climb quickly into the stratosphere of the human vocal range and our words squeak out in a way that annoys everyone within earshot.

We also start to babble senseless, often embarrassing, phrases.

“Oooooh, sweetums, lumpkin, cutie-cutie.”

Sometimes even the baby shakes its head in disgust.

But something about a baby turns us unto clowns. And it looks like we aren’t the only primates to make such fools of ourselves over small members of our species.

Rhesus monkey females, according to Jessica Whitham of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, also make fools of themselves over babies.

Whitham observed 19 adult females living in a large group of monkeys on Cayo Santigao, an island near Puerto Rico. Although Rhesus monkeys are endemic to India, this colony was established years ago and the animals have been subjects of behavioral research ever since.

Rhesus monkeys are seasonal breeders, which means babies are born in a clump and that seems to drive some females to distraction. When a baby is around, adult females wag their tails and emit two particular vocalizations that are directed at the little ones and their mothers

All macaques make soft grunting noises during social interactions, feeding and group movement. The grunt seems to be a generalized macaque phrase that says, “Hey!” In the baby context, females ramp up their grunts and do them over and over, getting more agitated with every syllable.

Around babies, females also make a call called a girney, a whining sound that apparently goes well with a grunt.

Sounding like wheezing, puffing calliopes, females approach the mother or the baby. Although they look rather scary in their excitement, the noises apparently signal, “I’m no threat. I won’t hurt the baby.”

Sometimes the females move in and touch or grab the baby, or they groom the mother who might be higher ranking and, under different circumstances, less tolerant.

Other times they grunt and girney when babies wander away from their mothers, which means they are directing the calls to babies alone.

In fact, females reserve most of their girneys for babies, as if this nasal wheeze were a sort of baby talk. But interestingly, mothers don’t girney at their own babies, so in the case of macaques it’s grandma, auntie and the neighbors who are doing all the coochie-cooing.

Not every female, macaque or human, likes babies. But for those who do, the attraction is immediate and irresistible. Reassuring noises, and sometimes decent presents, are clearly the best way to get your hands on that baby.

Meredith F. Small is an anthropologist at Cornell University. She is also the author of “Our Babies, Ourselves; How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent” (link) and “The Culture of Our Discontent; Beyond the Medical Model of Mental Illness” (link).


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