September 2008

I was away for the weekend at the Ohio Gourd Show in Greenville, Ohio. Vidya went up on Thursday to set up for the show which started Friday. I don’t have the energy to be gone for a long time so Soma drove me there, arriving Saturday. He then hauled back a bunch of gourds we bought that wouldn’t fit into our van, which we also stuffed to the gills.

On the way we were talking about how gas lease money should be used if it does become a reality. We talked about solar panels and windmills. Windmills are best sited on hilltops so we were talking about where and the end of the broad sidewalk behind the Palace came up.

There was supposed to a something grand at the end of the walkway, something that the walkway led the eye to. One of the first ideas was a conservatory with plants mentioned in the Bhagvatam. One idea led to another and eventually the large statue of Srila Prabhupada was put there.

Unfortunately, Kirtanananda put a crown on him, which seemed like a good idea at the time but was almost universally not liked, one main reason was the idea that a guru is not supposed to be the king, although that was Kirtanananda’s mistaken conception.

Still, the statue had taken like two years to build and a lot of devotees did a lot of pro bono work on it. While the crown could have been removed and a Prabhupada hat put on it, a small group of devotees took a secret meeting without consulting the sculptor or the community of devotees and tore it down, practically under the cover of night. A huge waste.

What is left is a void, a conspicuous emptiness at the end of the grand allee. A void that should be filled.

I mentioned that maybe we could put a windmill there, which would both generate electricity and be sort of a flag of our ideal of living off the land. Soma’s inner artist went off on the idea and suggested we could build a statue there with the windmill on top. He had multiple ideas, too numerous to mention, including one of Vishnu holding a chakra, the chakra being a windmill.

We discussed how a statute could create wind turbulence that might lead to inefficiency in electrical production and how to design one that would minimize that. Any aerodynamic engineers in the house who would have an opinion on how to do this or want to be involved in designing it?

One alternative was maybe a regular tower but with a hologram to give it depth, though neither of us understand how holograms work and if it would be possible to do one outside during the day. Another idea would be to do a light sculpture at night, using the electric generated during the day to power it.

By the way, here I am at the gourd show with a new friend.


From Australia:

RSPCA radicals push for vegan world
By David Nankervis
September 28, 2008 02:30am

A RADICAL push has been staged within the RSPCA to endorse vegan diets as the best way to prevent cruelty to farmed animals.

One of the supporters of the push has been elected to the board of the RSPCA SA branch and will stand for the presidency.

A motion to the taxpayer-assisted body’s annual general meeting on Wednesday called for it to adopt a range of controversial policies, including:

RECOGNISING egg, milk and chicken, pig and rabbit meat production “inflicts high levels of physical and psychological suffering on tens of millions of animals each year”.

ACKNOWLEDGING a vegetarian or vegan diet was “the most effective way to significantly reduce cruelty to animals farmed for meat, eggs and milk”.

ASKING RSPCA members to consider changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vegan diets exclude any animal product, including dairy food.

The motion was put by a “reformer” – one of a group within the RSCPA that aims to make the organisation more proactive on animal rights.

However, critics within the RSPCA have slammed the policy push as “pie in the sky” and out of touch with community values. While the motion was defeated, one of the reformers, Rosalie McDonald, was voted on to the RSPCA board and will stand for president in the ballot next week.

Ms McDonald said the motion was defeated only because it was presented at the end of a long meeting and “about half the members had left by then”.

“I voted for it because there is nothing wrong with it,” Ms McDonald, 67, said.

“They say a high fibre diet is much better for you.”

Ms McDonald, a semi-retired businesswoman who said she was not personally a vegetarian, described herself as a “reformer”.

“I feel the RSPCA management or president may represent us as . . . lunatics but with my particular background I hope they all realise I’m not a nutter,”the former teacher and local government councillor said.

The “reformer” who proposed the motion, former Animal Liberation president Peter Adamson, admitted he was branded a “food Nazi” at the meeting. But he defended the push and said the general public should consider vegetarian diets to reduce animal cruelty.

“It would be very educational for the RSPCA to encourage its members to be vegetarians and this is something I would like the general public to consider,” the former teacher, 62, said.

Ms McDonald said she wanted to become president to “reform the RSPCA to do what it is supposed to do”.

“It’s supposed to get out to the public arena and advocate the abolition of cruel practices . . . factory farming, battery hens and pork production.”

Ms McDonald also wants to increase RSPCA membership and funding.

But RSPCA member and veterinarian Andrew Carter said resolutions like the one supported by Ms McDonald “would put off middle-of-the-road people and have a negative impact on membership”.

“The message from that resolution is the RSPCA is trying to tell people what to do . . . but I don’t think becoming a vegetarian will solve problems of animal cruelty,” Dr Carter, who joined the RSPCA a year ago to represent mainstream values, said.

The motion was also attacked by former RSPCA national president Hugh Wirth who said the issue of animal food production and animal cruelty “won’t be resolved by a few people changing their dietary habits” and to think so was “pie-in-the-sky” thinking.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
dona eis requiem.
grant them rest.

Man that is born of a woman
.,.hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower;
he fleeth as it were a shadow.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
dona eis requiem.
grant them rest.

In the midst of life, we are in death:
of whom may we seek for succour?

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,
dona eis requiem.
grant them rest.

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead,
.,.yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me
.,.shall never die.

(Lyrics excerpted from his Requiem, an orchestral work. Hear a clip here. I confess I acquired a taste for requiem masses when I had end stage liver disease.)

Escher-themed nurseries? Even four-month-olds can recognize impossible objects

“Impossible objects” like the etchings of M.C. Escher have fascinated adults for centuries. You can’t help but stare and wonder at a drawing like this, which seems to defy the laws of nature:


ResearchBlogging.orgThe drawing seems strange to us because our visual system tells us that when an object or part of an object occludes another, it’s in front. Since the parts of the cube are all connected, it’s clear that the vertical bar in the “back” of the cube shouldn’t be in front of any other bars.

Some research has suggested that young babies don’t have the same ability as adults to determine how close objects are to them. Babies younger than 6 months, for example, aren’t able to reach the right distance for objects after seeing a three-dimensional display. But babies do recognize real objects after seeing pictures, and they recognize possible and impossible events involving solid objects. Can they recognize impossible objects?

A team led by Sarah Shuwairi showed an image like the one above to 10 four-month-olds, but with one crucial difference: the portion of the image determining whether the object was possible or impossible was obscured with a red oval:


This image was shown to them repeatedly, at least five times, until they were obviously quite bored with it (they were “habituated”). Then they were shown the entire, unobscured object. The “possible” cube was alternated with the “impossible” cube six times, so each cube was viewed a total of three times. An experimenter watching on video pressed a button when the baby looked at the cubes, so that the total looking time for each type of object could be computed. Here are the results:


The babies looked significantly longer at the impossible cube, suggesting that this was a surprising or novel object to them.

The study was repeated on a new set of infants, but instead of using a realistic image, they were just shown a line-drawing. This offers much less detail, and only one method of determining whether the object is possible or impossible. This time some infants were habituated as before, while others were just shown the possible and impossible objects without habituation. Here are those results:


In both cases, once again, the babies looked at the impossible objects longer than the than the possible objects — suggesting that these objects were novel or surprising to them.

The researchers say this demonstrates that infants are able to use the relative placement of objects (occlusion) to make judgments about how far away the objects are. Even at this early age, their visual system is able to make some of the same types of depth judgments as adults are.

Perhaps more importantly, this suggests that very young infants might already be able to appreciate the work of M.C. Escher!

Electric dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States!
(Learn more…)

Hanging Your Clothes

10) Save money (more than $100/year off electric bill for most households). FN1

9) Conserve energy and the environment. FN2

8) Clothes and sheets smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment. FN3

7) Clothes last longer. Where do you think lint comes from? FN4

6) It is physical activity which you can do in or outside. FN5

5) Sunlight bleaches and disinfects. FN6

(Among all things that purify I am the wind, fire, the sun, water and speech.  SB 11.16.23)

4) Indoor racks can humidify in dry winter weather. FN7

3) Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually. The yearly national fire loss for clothes dryer fires in structures is estimated at $99 million. FN8

2) An outdoor experience that is meditative. FN9

1) Demonstrates that small steps can make a difference. You don’t have to wait for the government to take action. FN10

“My #1 reason for hanging clothes: time management. When I dry clothes in the dryer (which I must do in Illinois in the winter) I need to be there when the dryer stops or everything comes out wrinkled, so I can’t walk away except for short periods. When I line dry, I can walk away – go shopping, have fun, garden, whatever – and the clothes will be fine no matter how long they hang on the line after they’re dry.”

– Marti Jernberg, Elgin, IL

For those concerned about the environment, or anyone else for that fact, voting for environmentally aware candidates can make a difference.

To vote, you need to register if you aren’t already.

Deadlines for registering:

West Virginia — October 14

Ohio — October 6

Pennsylvania — October 6

You can register with the County Clerk at the County Courthouse, but often other places can assist you also like DMV and Military Recruitment centers — calling your local County Clerk would be useful.

Getting your busy and/or apathetic friends to register would be a good outlet for all that pent up environmental activist energy.

Bear in mind that drilling for oil is way more destructive than drilling for natural gas. Drilling for oil in fragile ecosystems like ANWAR and offshore is especially destructive.

An over view of McCain/Obama on drilling in currently protected areas can be found here.

A taste:

“While the psychological effect of opening up new areas to drilling may reduce prices slightly, they could just as easily be increased based on fears of another hurricane smashing into Louisiana and Texas, of Hugo Chavez cutting off oil supplies to the US, or an RPG attack on a tanker in the Persian Gulf.

“The prime beneficiaries of any offshore oil drilling will ultimately be the companies doing the drilling, not the citizens of the United States.”

McCain supports offshore drilling while Obama is mostly opposed.  Palin is adamantly for drilling in ANWAR and her husband works for BP, an oil company.  Obama is opposed.

More here:

““Drill Baby Drill” Screams Punctuate McCain’s Energy Policy in Acceptance Speech”

The latest topic stirring up discussion in New Vrindaban is the idea of leasing the gas rights.

See here for a taste of the NV community discussion and here for some idea of the discussion in the broader community.

This is a very emotional topic. Personally, since finding out about the current opportunity, I have had numerous sleepless nights and examined the issue from as many sides as I can find.

From all this I realize I am a demand side environmentalist,  that consumption drives drilling. My question to many dissenters is, is  the opposition to drilling overall or is drilling okay as long as it isn’t where we can see it?

I suppose being the one who has proactively brought a lot of info into the community, I am being demonized by those who want to shoot the messenger. So be it.

This is the third time this gas lease thing has come up in NV, and the previous two times management was considering leasing the rights for a fraction of the current offer. Both times I was active in having the leasing rejected, the latest time was in June. This time around the financial dynamic has changed considerably and it is creating an opportunity for a paradigm shift in New Vrindaban. I was the one who brought the topic out into public.

The key thing for me is how would the money be used. If simply for more of the same that is going on now, then I would oppose it. If, however, it is used to shift the NV paradigm from being financially one dimensional — dependent on Hindu donations —  to being more dependent on the land, then I think it is worth the negatives.

Pivotal to my support is the idea that $1,000,000 would go into a trust fund to guarantee the protection of 100 cows in perpetuity. Now we have excess capacity for cows that is not being utilized due to lack of funding.  There are cows who are being killed that could be saved and while many seem to be able to live with this, it bothers me. This funding would make that happen.

The temple is dependent on ugrakarma already, from propane to heat the apartments to the oil that fuels the cars that bring the pilgrims to the dhama. If the money from gas leasing is used for infrastructure for decreasing that dependency then, from a global perspective, less fossil fuels would be consumed and there would be a net gain for the planet.

Currently NV has no community root cellar, no grain storage, and no alternative sources of energy. Covering the roof of the temple with solar panels would be a minimum to get my support for the temple to sign the lease.

While Tapahpunjah and his posse are doing a great job of raising awareness and real world activism, that is a minority energy in the overall picture of what we could and should be doing. All ventures are dependent on capital and here is an opportunity to expand Tapah’s program into areas he is too strapped to get into now.

Micro loans for cottage industries and farming projects, subsidizing an oxen working program, renovating the temple to make it more energy efficient, restoring the Palace are other projects that come to mind.

For me personally, I am signing in my acres. I want to rebuild the barn and fences on my property and there is practically zero hope for that happening as long as we remain committed to living by means of a cottage industry.

Additionally, my closest neighbor is already signed up for a gas lease, and when her property is drilled, my gas will be drained in any case, so despite my many misgivings (and I understand how devotees have them, believe me) and sleepless nights, I am going to sign.

Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, surely I can’t look that old. Well, you’ll love this one….

My name is Alice Smith and I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist. I noticed his DDS diploma, which bore his full name. Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with that name who had been in the same high school class with me some 30-odd years ago. Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?

Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought.  This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face and pot belly was way too old to have been my classmate.

After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High School.  “Yes. Yes, I did. I’m a Mustang,” He gleamed with pride.

“When did you graduate?” I asked.

He answered, “In 1967. Why do you ask?”

“You were in my class!”  I exclaimed.

He looked at me closely. Then, that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled, fat ass, gray-haired, decrepit son-of-a-xxxxx asked me…

“What did you teach?”

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