February 2009

In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians,Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed!”

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”

The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance r holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.”



In the Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals — the neglected step-child of Charles Darwin’s trifecta of treatises — the father of evolution theorised that emotion and compassion were universal and naturally selected features of humans.

While traveling around the world aboard the HMS Beagle, Darwin was struck by the fact that he could understand facial expressions of people from different cultures, but not their languages or gestures. Darwin also believed that our sense of moral compassion came from a natural desire to alleviate the suffering of others. He was an ardent abolitionist.

Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has authored an introduction to Expressions of the Emotions, said today at a AAAS press conference that these views are nearly identical to those of Tibetan Buddhists.

“I am now calling myself a Darwinian,” Ekman recalled the Dalai Lama saying, after Ekman read him some passages of Darwin’s work.

Ekman said he spent two full days in deep conversation with the Dalai Lama, resulting in a treatise of his own. He argues through several lines of evidence that Darwin’s views on emotion and compassion were inspired directly by Tibetan Buddhism.

“There’s always the possibility that two wise people looking at the same species for long enough are going to come to the same conclusion,” he said. Ekman thinks otherwise.

He bristled at requests to elaborate more on his ideas until his talk later today. I’ll try to attend that session and provide an update.

But Ekman did make one thing clear: “I’m not saying that Darwin was a Buddhist.” Rather, he took intellectual inspiration in some aspects of the religion.

(images courtesy Wikimedia Commons and Luca Galuzzi)

It’s pruning time for trees here and I was planning to take a lower limb off my Carpathian Walnut tree so I can drive under it for shade in the heat of  summer. Soma has been studying grafting so he came and cut the branch for me and then took scion wood from it which is the terminal growth of branches.


I used to keep bees and still have some old wax left from cappings so we melted it on the woodstove. Soma would cut a few then bring them in and dip the ends in wax.


He repeated this until he had almost 50 pieces. The wax keeps them from drying out.


Then he put them in a sealed plastic bag and put the bag in the refrigerateur.

When May rolls around and new growth starts on trees, he will graft the scions onto black walnut trees which grow wild around here.  The idea is that the black walnut will be rootstock for the carpathian which are a much easier nut to harvest and shell.

Hopefully this would bring the trees into bearing carpathian walnuts much faster than planting out bought trees like the one I have that took 12 years to come into bearing.

Breathing: you invisible poem! Complete
interchange of our own
essence with world-space. You counterweight
in which I rhythmically happen.

Single wave-motion whose
gradual sea I am:
you, most inclusive of all our possible seas-
space has grown warm.

How many regions in space have already been
inside me. There are winds that seem like
my wandering son.

Do you recognize me, air, full of places I once absorbed?
You who were the smooth bark,
roundness, and leaf of my words.


Op-Ed Columnist


Published: February 14, 2009

New Delhi

So I am attending the Energy and Resources Institute climate conference in
New Delhi, and during the afternoon session two young American women — along
with one of their mothers — proposition me.

“Hey, Mr. Friedman,” they say, “would you like to take a little spin around
New Delhi in our car?”

Oh, I say, I’ve heard that line before. Ah, they say, but you haven’t seen
this car before. It’s a plug-in electric car that is also powered by rooftop
solar panels — and the two young women, recent Yale grads, had just driven
it all over India in a “climate caravan” to highlight the solutions to
global warming being developed by Indian companies, communities, campuses
and innovators, as well as to inspire others to take action.

They ask me if I want to drive, but I have visions of being stopped by the
cops and ending up in a New Delhi jail. Not to worry, they tell me. Indian
cops have been stopping them all across India. First, they ask to see
driver’s licenses, then they inquire about how the green car’s solar roof
manages to provide 10 percent of its mileage — and then they try to buy the

We head off down Panchsheel Marg, one of New Delhi’s main streets. The
ladies want to show me something. The U.S. Embassy and the Chinese Embassy
are both located on Panchsheel, directly across from each other. They asked
me to check out the rooftops of each embassy. What do I notice? Let’s see
… The U.S. Embassy’s roof is loaded with antennae and listening gear. The
Chinese Embassy’s roof is loaded with … new Chinese-made solar hot-water

You couldn’t make this up.

But trying to do something about it was just one of many reasons my hosts,
Caroline Howe, 23, a mechanical engineer on leave from the Yale School of
Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Alexis Ringwald, a Fulbright scholar
in India and now a solar entrepreneur, joined with Kartikeya Singh, who was
starting the Indian Youth Climate Network, or IYCN, to connect young climate
leaders in India, a country coming under increasing global pressure to
manage its carbon footprint.

“India is full of climate innovators, so spread out across this huge country
that many people don’t get to see that these solutions are working right
now,” said Howe. “We wanted to find a way to bring people together around
existing solutions to inspire more action and more innovation. There’s no
time left to just talk about the problem.”

Howe and Ringwald thought the best way to do that might be a climate
solutions road tour, using modified electric cars from India’s Reva Electric
Car Company, whose C.E.O. Ringwald knew. They persuaded him to donate three of his cars and to retrofit them with longer-life batteries that could
travel 90 miles on a single six-hour charge — and to lay on a solar roof
that would extend them farther.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5, they drove the cars on a 2,100-mile trip from
Chennai to New Delhi, stopping in 15 cities and dozens of villages, training
Indian students to start their own climate action programs and filming 20
videos of India’s top home-grown energy innovations. (more…)

Two young Internet addicts watch TV at the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital in 2005 (Greg Baker / AP)

Even though it was only a week before the Spring Festival — the most important family holiday on the Chinese calendar — Wang Hongxia was forcing her son out of the house. She took her 12-year-old from their home in the northwestern city of Xian to a secluded Beijing military compound more than 700 miles away. Like many other parents across China today, Wang felt as though she had no choice. “Things have absolutely gone out of control,” said Wang, 45, almost in tears. “My son just beat and bit me again this morning after I wouldn’t let him touch the computer.”

With the world’s largest netizen population of 300 million, China is struggling with a new plight: Internet obsession among its youth. Since the 2004 establishment of the country’s first Internet Addiction Center, the military-run boot camp in Beijing where Wang took her son, more than 3,000 adolescent and young-adult patients have been treated for Internet addiction. Hundreds of similar treatment centers have mushroomed in recent years in China, joining other centers operating elsewhere in Asia and the U.S. The U.S.-based Center for Internet Addiction Recovery classifies the disorder as compulsive behavior in which “the Internet becomes the organizing principle of addicts’ lives.”

Though the fledgling disorder has been widely identified, defining it in China has not been easy. Tao Ran, director of the Beijing treatment center and a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), helped come up with a strict definition of Internet addiction last fall: consecutive usage of the Web for 6 hr. a day for three straight months is addiction. The new standard, which is still pending official endorsement by the Ministry of Health, has aroused widespread skepticism in Chinese cyberspace, with many arguing that too many people could be wrongly categorized as Internet addicts under this definition.

The murky guidelines have not stopped anxious parents like Wang from dragging their children to Tao’s camp, a grim, four-story building in Beijing’s major military compound. Once checked in, most patients are required to stay for three months, without access to the outside world, cell phones or, of course, computers. But unlike in other similar camps, parents of patients at the Internet Addiction Center have to stay at the camp to receive “treatment” too — because, according to Tao, Internet addiction is often a result of parenting mistakes. For most families, providing this treatment to a child is already a sacrifice. The total cost for a family usually amounts to nearly $3,000 — almost as much as an average Chinese couple earns in three months.

Life in the treatment camp, not surprisingly, is defined by strict, semimilitary disciplines. Patients get up at 6:30 a.m. and go to bed at 9:30 p.m. Their daily schedule includes military drills, therapy sessions, reading and sports. “At first, I felt like [I was] living in hell,” says 22-year-old Yang Xudong, a camp resident for two months. “But over time, it gets more comfortable and peaceful.” Despite the small steps he’s made, like eating a diet that consists of something other than instant noodles, the Beijing native admitted he still got upset too easily and was “afraid of people” — two signature symptoms of Internet addiction, according to Tao. “I think life in this camp has definitely calmed me down to some degree,” says Yang. “But I’m far from ready to get out, since I don’t know what to do with my life yet.”

That lack of motivation is widely shared by the young adults at the camp, even among patients with decorated academic backgrounds. Didi, a 20-year-old college sophomore who did not disclose his full name, picked up online gaming almost as soon as he got into the prestigious Tsinghua University. He says he became so obsessed that he skipped all his classes for an entire semester and eventually received academic warnings from the school. As many as 30 students from Beida and Tsinghua — China’s most storied universities — have been to the camp, says Tao, and it’s becoming an increasing trend among students from other top schools. “Our kids are all very special and intelligent,” says the PLA colonel. “It’s only normal for people to make detours when they’re young. Our mission is to help them get back on track before it’s too late.”

On the same afternoon that Wang Hongxia and her son arrived at the boot camp, an 18-year-old boy was ready to leave after months of strenuous training. As part of the camp’s tradition, he hugged every one of his fellow patients. “It’s certainly an emotional moment for the kids, as they have bound together over the months,” says Tao. “And to me, it’s especially rewarding to see them step out of here with all the confidence that they deserve.”

“We are Krsna’s parts and parcels and have been created to give pleasure to Krsna. The chief pleasure potency is Radharani, and so Radha-Krsna are always together. ”

EK 5: Knowing Krsna’s Energies

Along the road from Bahulaban to the temple there are two trees that are grown together. They have twisted around each other and are joined in two places, once nearer the ground and again higher up. Note how they started on one side of each other and then grew around to the other side, as if dancing.


Here is the detail of how inseparable they have become, literally grown into each other.


I almost envy young people who will be able to watch these trees grow and see how they will look 50 years from now.

They are right next to the road and can be seen from a car if you know where to look, just as Krishna is everywhere if we take the time to slow down and look for Him.

Coming in from Rte 250, you pass Bahulaban in the lowest part of your journey then go up a steep hill and the road turns left at the top. You pass Jeff Bock’s house on the right above the road (where they recently added an addition on the backside of the house). There is then a part where there are trees on both sides of the road before you come out at Madhavananda and Harinama’s below the road on the left.

These trees are between those two houses on the left side (downhillside) of the road  as you go towards the temple. They are right next to the road rightof way, within 10 feet (3 meters) of the asphalt. About in the middleish part between the houses.

I think they are beautiful and worth noticing. The best way to find them is to walk that section of the road. If you are driving don’t look too hard or you might end up having an accident.  :-)

Here is a great lecture by Radhanath Swami about cows.

Love Me Love My Cows

This is such a good lecture I wish I had a transcription of it.  Is there anyone out there that could do that as a favor? I want to use it in my efforts to promote cow protection.

This and lots of other great lectures by a wide range of devotees  can be found at a website run by devotees in Chowpatty, India:

ISKCON Desire Tree

“As your servants, we humbly offer you this portal to assist you progress in the wonderful world of Krishna Consciousness. This website provides multi media content with an aim to help devotees to progress in the path of devotional service. For your pleasure, we have more than 20,000 files available for download. All this is for free! This is by the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The only fees that we ask for is your sincere use of this website content in order to develop your own Krishna consciousness and serve the humanity by sharing the same knowledge.”

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