October 2008


“The Bhagavad-gita informs us that in this body there is a proprietor — the spirit soul. I am the proprietor of my body, and other souls are the proprietors of their bodies. I say “my hand,” but not “I hand.” Since it is “my hand,” I am different from the hand, being its owner. Similarly, we speak of “my eye,” “my leg,” “my” this, “my” that. In the midst of all these objects which belong to me, where am I?

“The search for the answer to this question is the process of meditation. In real meditation, we ask, “Where am I? What am I?” We cannot find the answers to these questions by any material effort, and because of this all the universities are setting these questions aside. They say, “It is too difficult a subject.” Or they brush it aside: ‘It is irrelevant.’ ”

Journey of Self Discovery 2.3: The Unseen Controller

“Are monks and hippies and poets relevant? No, we are deliberately irrelevant. We live with an ingrained irrelevance which is proper to every human being. The marginal [person] accepts the basic irrelevance of the human condition, an irrelevance which is manifested above all by the fact of death. The marginal person, the monk, the displaced person, the prisoner, all these people live in the presence of death, and the office of the monk or the marginal person, the meditative person or the poet is to go beyond death even in this life, to go beyond the dichotomy of life and death and to be, therefore, a witness to life. ”

Thomas Merton. The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. Naomi Burton, Brother Patrick Hart and James Laughlin, editors. New York: New Directions Press, 1969: 306.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Solar power plants and other renewable energy sources are real, competitive threats that neither the coal industry nor the state’s political and academic leaders should dismiss, a consultant warned Wednesday at the second West Virginia Coal Forum.

While the carbon in coal has many potential applications, its future as a fossil fuel to be burned for electricity is limited, said Allan Tweddle, a member of the West Virginia Public Energy Authority.

In a discussion focused mainly on ways to ensure that West Virginia coal remains a prominent part of the nation’s energy plan, Tweddle was a splash of cold water to the face.

Germany has abandoned the coal-to-liquid fuel technology it pioneered, he said, opting instead to focus on solar power plants. South Africa, which has had the world’s largest continuously operating coal-to-liquids plant, is now planning to shut it down.

Simultaneously, the worldwide solar cell industry is growing 35 percent a year, with China spending $3 billion a year, Tweddle said. And California is looking into on-demand solar plants that he said could produce electricity that is price-competitive with coal-fired power plants.

All that growth is lowering the cost of silicone, a key ingredient that had made solar power more expensive, Tweddle said.

“The state has got to pay attention to these serious trends,” he warned. “I hear too much dismissal of these technologies.”…

The recommendations are built on the premise that while clean, renewable energy may be coming, it’s not here yet and coal must continue to fill the gap.

Even if Germany, for example, does manage to produce 30 percent of its power from solar sources by 2030, “we want to supply the other 70 percent,” said William P. “Pat” Getty, a member of Imagine West Virginia’s board of directors…

That’s why the DEP is interested in exploring former mine sites for new uses like solar, wind or even fuel-producing grass farms.

“If you’re selling a product and that product becomes obsolete, then you’re out of business,” he said. “Energy will not be obsolete. Coal may become obsolete, but energy won’t.”

Yesterday I went and did the early voting thing down at the courthouse. Early voting is used in West Virginia and a few other states so no one has the excuse that on Election Day they were too tied up to vote.

There were several other candidates on the ballot for president besides Tweedle dee and Tweedle dum, Obama and McCain, so even for the disaffected there are options.  Nader is there of course, and many others but if you do want to make a statement by voting but not for the two party system (which is not mandated by the Constitution, FYI) consider the Mountain Party.

There are a group of environmentalists whose primary platform is opposition to coal mining by the mountaintop removal method (a more drastic form of strip mining). The election gives them a platform for getting their message out.

In order to be on the ballot they have to run a national or statewide candidate, so they have one for President and Governor.

Even if you are jacked up and believe it will make a difference who gets elected President and want to vote for Obama or the other guy (who is going to bring  Pa l in with him), at least consider voting for the Mountain Party candidate for Governor. In West Virginia, Manchin is going to win by a landslide in any case so no worry about making a difference, which might be there if you are an Obama supporter.

You might be worried about finding your name in the headline of this story. :-)

The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,

which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

Excerpted from the New Yorker, check out the whole article here.

Is the world’s food system collapsing?
by Bee Wilson

“The World Bank recently announced that thirty-three countries are confronting food crises, as the prices of various staples have soared. From January to April of this year, the cost of rice on the international market went up a hundred and forty-one per cent…

“Paul Roberts is the second author in the past couple of years to publish a book entitled “The End of Food”—the first, by Thomas F. Pawlick, appeared in 2006. Pawlick, an investigative journalist from Ontario, was concerned with such predicaments as the end of the tasty tomato and its replacement by “red tennis balls” lacking in both flavor and nutrients…

“All of these authors agree that the entire system of Western food production is in need of radical change, right down to the spinach… .

“Malthus could not have imagined that demand might increase catastrophically even where populations were static or falling. The problem is not just the number of mouths to feed; it’s the quantity of food that each mouth consumes when there are no natural constraints. As the world becomes richer, people eat too much, and too much of the wrong things—above all, meat…

“Michael Pollan writes that the food business once lamented what it called the problem of the “fixed stomach”—it appeared that demand for food, unlike other products, was inelastic, the amount fixed by the dimensions of the stomach itself, the variety constrained by tradition and habit. In the past few decades, however, American and European stomachs have become as elastic as balloons, and, with the newly prosperous Chinese and Indians switching to Western diets, much of the rest of the world is following suit. “Today, Mexicans drink more Coca-Cola than milk,” Patel reports. Roberts tells us that in India “obesity is now growing faster than either the government or traditional culture can respond,” and the demand for gastric bypasses is soaring.

“We are all too busy being screwed over by the giant corporations to take the time to appreciate “the deeper and subtler pleasures of food.” For Patel, it is a short step from Western consumers “engorged and intoxicated” with cheap processed food to Mexican and Indian farmers committing suicide because they can’t make a living. The “food industry’s pabulum” makes us all cogs in an evil machine…

“Roberts depicts the global food market as a lumbering beast, organized on such a monolithic scale that it cannot adapt to the consequences of its own distortions. In a flexible, responsive market, producers ought to be able to react to a surplus of one thing by switching to making another thing. Industrial agriculture doesn’t work like this. Too many years—and, in the West, too many subsidies—are invested in the setup of big single-crop farms to let producers abandon them when the going gets tough…

“Yet much of what is now eaten in the West is not food so much as, in Michael Pollan’s terms, stuff that’s merely “foodish.” …

“There are in fact hundreds of foodish products in the supermarket that your ancestors simply wouldn’t recognize as food: breakfast cereal bars transected by bright white veins representing, but in reality having nothing to do with, milk; “protein waters” and “nondairy creamer”; cheeselike foodstuffs equally innocent of any bovine contribution; cakelike cylinders (with creamlike fillings) called Twinkies that never grow stale.

“Pollan shows that much of the apparent abundance of choice available to the affluent Western consumer is an illusion. You may spend hours in the supermarket, keenly scrutinizing the labels, but, when it comes down to it, most of what you eat is derived from the high-yield, low-maintenance crops that the food industry prefers to grow, and sells to you in myriad foodish forms.

“You may not think you eat a lot of corn and soybeans,” Pollan writes, “but you do: 75 percent of the vegetable oils in your diet come from soy (representing 20 percent of your daily calories) and more than half of the sweeteners you consume come from corn (representing around 10 percent of daily calories).” You may never consciously allow soy to pass your lips. You shun soy milk and despise tofu. Yet soy will get you in the end, whether as soy-oil mayo and soy-oil fries; ice cream and chocolate emulsified with soy; or chicken fed on soy (“soy with feathers,” as one activist described it to Patel).

“Our insatiable appetites are not simply our own; they have, in no small part, been created for us. This explains, to a certain degree, how the world can be “stuffed and starved” at the same time, as Patel has it. The food economy has created a system in which some have no food options at all and some have too many options, albeit of a somewhat spurious kind…

“It would be futile, therefore, to look to the food system for radical change. The global manufacturers and wholesalers have an interest in continuing to manipulate our desires, feeding our illusions of choice, stoking our colossal hunger. On the other hand, if desires can be manipulated in one direction, why shouldn’t they be manipulated in another, more benign direction? Pollan offers a model of how individual consumers might adjust their appetites: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” As a solution, this is charmingly modest, but it is unlikely to be enough to meet the urgency of the situation. …”

I have been working on getting a critter resistant fence up around about a 1/4 of an acre (1000 square meters) of garden. I have taken down the electric fence that previously surrounded it and have only some rugs and chicken wire skirting (a fruitless attempt to keep groundhogs from going under the electric fence) to pull out from the entangling weeds and grasses to be done with that.

This is going to have the 8′ deer fencing with a rabbit wire skirting around the bottom two feet, buried wire going out perpendicular on the outside (to discourage groundhogs from digging under it) and an electric wire to prevent raccoons from climbing it.

This is overkill and probably not cost effective for larger areas but I am so tired of growing stuff and losing it to the critters. They have plenty to eat in the forest and meadows and eating veggies is just them being greedy.

Kencove is a fencing supplier about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh that has the deer fence. Most local fencing suppliers don’t stock it. I think they actually make it. They ship deer fencing and all sorts of other fencing supplies all over the country.

I have been needing to go there but waited until the trip to the doctors at UPMC because that was over half way there.  It was slow going because from Monroeville to Blairsville it was road construction about 80% of the way. It is all being converted from 2 way to 4 lane road and multiple locations were being worked on.  That will open up a corridor and would be a good place to buy property if I had any investment capital, which I don’t.

The trip back was simpler because I was able to cut down to 1-70 and avoid the Pittsburgh area.

The wire comes in 20 rod rolls (330′ (100 m)) one of which isn’t quite enough to surround what I want to but I have some chain link fence I have picked up here and there to finish it out. I actually got two rolls because Gopish is also doing a fenced in space for garden so we are purchasing stuff together.

The last piece of the puzzle is getting all the posts. I need about 26 11′ posts and have only acumulated 16 of them over the years.  Whenever I get firewood, if I see a post in a locust tree I cut it out and save it, but I haven’t been so active in the last few years and not every tree has an 11 footer in it hence I am short of cured posts.

I won’t put a green locust post in the ground. Raghu has done experiments and we know that a green lcoust post will only last about 20 years. If you can peel the bark off locust with your fingers it is well cured and will last 30-40 years.  You would be surprised how fast those decades roll around and having to replace posts within a lifetime is inconvenient.

I don’t mind using green locust for bracing but I don’t like putting it in the ground.

I do have some dead locust reconnoitered that I will get some more cured posts out of but will still be short.  Local fencing suppliers don’t stock the long posts but Gopesh special ordered a bundle of 45 treated posts from the Marshall County Co-op which is about what he will need for posts and bracing. He said  I can get a few from him to make up my shortfall and replace them with either green locust for bracing or if he goes the H brace method,  shorter posts can substitute.

Yesterday I was off to Pittsburgh, then Blairsville, Pennsylvania for a doctor’s appointment and to pick up some 8′ (2.44 m) high deer fencing, respectively. More about the fencing tomorrow.

The liver examine was routine. The doctor did schedule me for a routine liver biopsy and ultrasound for January, 2009.  A liver biopsy is currently the best way to see the progression of fibrosis, which is basically scarring of the liver, which leads to cirrhosis and eventual liver failure.

I made two requests to him. The first was for a  vitamin B 12 test.  I still have issues with fatigue which, although not nearly as bad as it was in the past, limits me to about half a day of being a normal person. I often nap in the afternoon and rally in the evening, but there is so much to do in so many sectors of my life, it would be nice to have full energy.

The chronic active Hepatitis C (HCV) with viral load recently tested at 7.34 log (about 22 million virons per milliliter of blood) could be the reason and most likely is, but as my hemocrit, red blood cells and hemoglobin are consistently just under normal lows and I have been a vegetarian for 37 years it isn’t impossible it is B 12 deficiency.

I doubt it is as I regularly consume live yogurt and cheese which should  provide sufficient B 12 so it is more a curiosity on my part  to see if it is adequate, but I would hate to be missing out on energies I could have just in case it was as simple to fix as a B 12 shot.

The second request was for him to consider allowing me to supplement with SST, a herbal combination widely used in Japan and China for treatment of HCV and  hepatitis B (HBV). It doesn’t cure or stop them, but it has been demonstrated to  inhibit hepatic stellate cells from expressing themselves.  Hepatic stellate cells are what lay down the fibrosis.

While this is good news for anyone with HCV or HBV who are trying to slow the progression of the disease (especially for HCVers who have been nonresponders to interferon based treatments), I have to take an extra hard look at it.

In order to stop my body from rejecting my transplanted live, I take immune suppressing drugs to suppress  T cells, especially CD 8+.  A lot of herbs I used to take I can’t take anymore because there is peer reviewed evidence based knowledge that they increase  T cell activity. They are good if you  haven’t had a transplant but not so good if you have.

What has me juiced about SST is that there is scientific evidence that suggests it  suppresses CD 8+s. This would mean I could take it.

Naturally the good doctor was reluctant because they work within what they are comfortable with to avoid malpractice suits. SST is not in the protocols he is protected by.

While there may be some unknown risk, what is known is that in someone with HCV a return to cirrhosis in 5-7 years is not uncommon post transplant. As the immune system is suppressed, the HCV has a clear field to function in. That would leave 3-5 years in my case.

Since he had already recommended the liver biopsy, he said we should wait until after that to see the actual state of my liver, whether fibrosis is forming or not. He did agree to review the peer reviewed evidence on SST, though did say he wondered how well reviewed it was.

So I am mailing him copies of the pages linked to herein.

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