March 2009


Parachute silk comes spooling out of the mouths
of a silkworm factory; rumbustious breath
of the big tree’s rebel stillness rocks the house.
Invisible rip-cords jerk, sing, take the strain,
and new light mushrooms skyward, a ceremony
of change that no hands work; eyelids fatten,
creep, from spirit, its actual meat, shape strange
cosmologies that hold. Lords of the second breath
and transformation, we too shake loose;
our meaty souls grow light, grow luminous,
break free of their sticky net of fingerprints,
dull household chores, events. Is it enough,
we ask, this faith, this breath? Can we ascend
for ever? The grain of doubt finds its counterweight
of earth and earth falls upward, takes us, heart
and heel. The mulberry-tree, its filaments
all sheer flame, seethes and billows. Tough limbs deal
with the play of its buckled shadow on a wall.

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There is flooding along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota. I have been getting email updates from relatives who are living there in the flood areas. Here is one from my sister who lives in Fargo, where so far the dikes are holding, that I want to share:

Hi, all – Southpointe clinic will be closed til Thursday. I will be cooking soup for the Hope Lutheran staff for tomorrow’s lunch. I will spend all day tomorrow volunteering for the Salvation Army. I sent the following to my Living Proof Live Prayer Partners today:

I have no idea what is happening in your life right now, whether flood fighting, grieving losses, or having joyful times, but know God is thinking of you with love and will meet your needs. Many continue to need our prayers and support during this Flood of 2009 and later the recovery.

I was thinking of how earlier I wanted to get into the Fargodome to pray for the Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event, but only can when there is an event. Well, as I was shoveling sand into bags on Friday I realized “I am in the Fargodome” so can be praying for LPL also. God answers prayers in different ways than we would ever imagine. :)

A guy with tattoos up his neck started shoveling next to me. I kept thinking of how I couldn’t stand to have people sticking needles in my neck, so asked him about them. He said he used to be a tattoo artist. I shared the Bible verse about how our names are engraved in the palm of God’s hand and how paraphrased versions say tattooed.

Well, he is a Christian with ND Teen Challenge out of Mandan. I meet several others that came with him. Would have liked to have heard testimonies, but needed to keep working, plus more volunteers came so got farther apart. I get so encouraged hearing about every changed life in Jesus!! Beth Moore’s Esther study talks about reversals – With God, all things are possible!!

Diane Nelson shared this verse with me…

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. Exodus 14:13-14

“Why they have accepted this sort of civilization? Because they are led by blind leaders. Now, suppose we are conducting this Krsna consciousness movement. Nobody is interested. Very few interested. But if we give some false hope that “If you follow this path, then within six months you will become God and you will be all-powerful, and then…,” oh, so many people will come. You see?

“Andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. One blind leader giving, leading to other blind men. Suppose one blind man says that “All right. Come. Follow me. I shall help you crossing this street, Mulberry Street. All right.” So he is blind, and the followers are also blind. The result will be that he is dashed by some motorcar or truck and they all die. Andha yathandhair upaniyamanas te ‘pisa-tantryam uru-damni baddhah [SB 7.5.31].”  *

Srimad-Bhagavatam lecture 7.5.30 — London, September 9, 1971

The Mulberry Street Srila Prabhupada used to cross in New York City probably no longer has any mulberries growing on it, they have all been cut down to make way for  buildings.

While they may only remain as a namesake in New  York,  in New Vrindaban we have a place that could be called Mulberry Street.  Soma last year was picking mulberries along the edge of the old festival parking lot between Varshana’s and Sankirtan’s.

They have grown up as volunteers, seemingly in  a row, though we speculate that birds, the known sowers of mulberry trees, would sit in the trees by the edge facing the morning sun after ingesting their breakfast and then deposit the undigested seeds of the berries in a nice fertilized package.

They were competing with all sorts of weed trees and honeysuckle bushes  so Soma asked me if I could help him clear them out and we spent a couple of mornings with the chainsaw doing just that.  Anything that was blocking the sun or growing in the root zones of the mulberries we cut down so they should really flourish this year.  There will be plenty of berries for anyone who can break the chains of socialization that bind them to supermarket food and want to go out into nature and pick there own.

So there are 9 mulberry trees, all still relatively young, that will give berries for people and birds for a long time to come.   I am unofficially naming it Mulberry Street.

* “As blind men guided by another blind man miss the right path and fall into a ditch, materially attached men led by another materially attached man are bound by the ropes of fruitive labor, which are made of very strong cords, and they continue again and again in materialistic life, suffering the threefold miseries.”

Srimad Bhagavatam 7.5.31

correlation

http://xkcd.com/552/

We have been still able to keep doing some gardening. I have more energy than in several years and it is enjoyable for me to be able to do some real physical work.

I got some peas planted. I would have planted them when I did the other veggies but the place I bought the peas at didn’t have any inoculant.  Legumes benefit from being inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria that lives symbiotically with the legumes and fix atmospheric nitrogen into nodules on the roots that the legumes can use to grow.

The bacteria may exist naturally  in the soil but a treatment assures maximum benefit earliest. I had to look several places before I found some at Southern States Co-0p in Moundsville.

We had 10 cubic yards of compost delivered. A local farmer makes it with 70% cow dung and 30% sawdust. It comes in perfect condition, almost but not quite finished composting, so it goes into the soil with maximum biotic life, the fire of digestion still burning. As the saying goes, decaying organic matter is the engine that drives soil fertility. That is worth repeating, decaying organic matter is the engine that drives soil fertility. That should be the mantra of anyone doing any work with the soil and growing plants.

We spread it where we are going to plant the berries. We had some unseasonably dry weather so were able to get it  incorporated into the soil by  rototiller. It has to be dry because the clayey soils we have here lose structure and get compacted if worked when wet.  That is how bricks are made — take clay, add water  and work it wet.  The structure of the soil collapses if worked wet and it takes years for freeze thaw cycles to get it back in shape.

I had spread wood ashes over the whole garden including the berry areas.  We heat with wood and save the ashes to fertilize the garden.  This provides a lot of trace minerals brought up by the roots of the trees.

Additionally I spread some rock phosphate  with the compost except where the acid loving plants will go.  The soils here are low in natural phosphate which is essential for good bud initiation. It is the P of the NPK of chemical fertilizers.  We get the N 9notrogen) from compost and nitrogen fixers, and K (potash0 from the cow manure and wood ashes.

Phosphate binds to soil and doesn’t migrate down into the feeder roots so top dressing isn’t effective, it has to be incorporated, thus it was a great opportunity to get to work it into where the berries will be planted.

I didn’t put it where the acid lovers will go because it has a neutralizing effect. I spread aluminum sulfate there instead to lower the pH. Blueberries, lingonberries and cranberries like it acid and I have limed the garden in the past.  I really should have gotten a soil test but feel quite certain that my educated guesss that it needed acidifying is correct.

After everyting was worked in, I threw the dirt from the paths up onto the wide berry beds. The garden has a bit of a slope so when finished it is actually terraced.  I made a ridge along the downhill side so even after the soil settles it will still have a lip to catch rainwater.

Now we are just waiting for the plants to arrive which should be the first week in April.

Sounds like “Food, Inc.” is going to be a real consciousness raising movie about how industrial food, supermarket food, is produced.

From Hare Krishna dd:

What are factory farmers supposed to say when a popular movie implicates them in hellish practices of cow slaughter?

Dairy Herd Alert gives them tips in the article below.

This link to their article, includes a video clip from Eric Schlosser’s
“Death on a Factory Farm – Food Inc.”

http://www.dairyherd.com/news_editorial.asp?ts=nl1&pgid=675&ed_id=8335

*******************

Cinematic hot potato

By a Dairy Herd news source  |  Monday, March 23, 2009

“Food, Inc.” is a major motion picture currently in reviews and slated
for wider release in June. It is billed as a documentary that reveals
the so-called truth about “corporate agriculture” and contemporary
production practices.

The film is from Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” and Robert
Kenner.

Video is one of the most powerful tools used by animal-rights groups and
other activist organizations, according to the Professional Dairy
Producers of Wisconsin. Disturbing images, whether legitimate, staged or
misleading, evoke strong emotions and are effective in using rare
instances of abuse to defame an entire industry.

PDPW leadership says it encourages producers to watch this movie so you
can provide an educated response to this highly charged issue.

To help you correct misleading information, PDPW offers the following
talking points:

* Agriculture is my life’s calling, and I am dedicated to producing
food that is safe, nutritious and affordable. I take great pride in
knowing that consumers can go to their local grocery store or restaurant
and purchase food that is safe and wholesome for their family.

* I understand that contemporary agriculture does not look like it
did in the past. But we’re not unlike many other industries that have
had to become more efficient to survive. The production practices I use
are ethically grounded, scientifically verified and economically viable.
They allow me to maximize efficiency and meet the growing demand for
food.

* Over the past 40 years, the price I received for the food produced
on my farm has steadily declined. That means I have to run a more
efficient operation in order to maintain my family’s livelihood. The
only other option would be for me to go out of business.

* My farm is family oriented and I care deeply about how it is
operated. I manage every aspect of my farm in a socially responsible
manner so I can be proud of the legacy I leave. My operation also
benefits my community by the jobs it offers and the tax revenues it
generates.

Keep in mind that while it is important to respond to issues involving
contemporary animal agriculture, it is just as important to know if and
when you should respond.

Sharing your opinions about a specific event such as the airing of
animal abuse documentaries or the release of a new film about the food
system may seem proactive. However, it could also create controversy
where none existed, giving the issue a platform and a larger audience.

So when should you take action?

Monitor conversations to see if your community is expressing concern.
For example, are friends or neighbors approaching you about the issue?
Is it being talked about at the local coffee shop, PTA meetings or
church functions? Has the issue surfaced in the local newspaper, or on
local television and radio talk shows and newscasts?

Remember, there is no need to draw attention to the topic if no one is
talking about it, even if the subject comes up once or twice in close
circles, it still may not deserve a response.

But, if you feel the conversation is taking root in your community, and
particularly if it gets media attention, then it is time to quickly
develop and implement a communication strategy.

Regardless of the circumstance, engage in civil, educational and
value-based conversations. This will help earn trust and build important
relationships.

Source: Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin

Can an upstart Indian DVD maker beat Google to the punch in solar energy?

by Jason Overdorf, GlobalPost

New Delhi, India [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

Ratul Puri, the 35-year-old executive director of Moser Baer India, looks like Adrian Brody’s kid brother and talks like he swallowed the last four volumes of the Harvard Business Review. But he’s no puffed up heir to the throne of daddy’s business.

Since Puri returned to India from college in the United States in 1994, he’s helped transform Moser Baer from a rinky-dink maker of floppy disks into a $400 million high-tech company that straddles business as diverse as the optical media, home entertainment, consumer electronics and solar energy sectors.

Today, Moser Baer is among the world’s top five makers of blank CDs and DVDs, and virtually owns the Indian market for storage media. In 2007, after the company discovered a method of making pre-recorded DVDs at about half the price of existing technologies, Puri spearheaded a move into home entertainment that has already revolutionized the Indian market — where the company has acquired more than 10,000 titles and slashed the retail price of DVD movies to about $1 from $10-$15 before it entered the sector. And in 2008 it began unveiling a range of DVD players, LCD TVs and other consumer electronics products that independent observers have said offer the same features and quality of leading international brands for a tenth of the cost.

But the company’s most exciting move is its venture into making thin-film solar energy panels, where its expertise in shaving down costs has the potential to spark a revolution in this power-starved country. “India has a massive opportunity in solar. Five, ten, fifteen years down the road it can be amongst the world’s largest markets,” Puri told GlobalPost in a recent interview.

That enthusiasm might seem unrealistic from an Indian company that until a couple of years ago was known exclusively for stamping out blank DVDs, especially now that lower oil prices and financial turmoil have stilled some of the clamor for clean energy. But Puri claims that his enormous CD and DVD volumes actually give him more experience in coating thin-film silicon — the essential technology that Moser Baer’s solar cells will employ — than virtually any other company in the world. “We plan to have 600-odd megawatts of capacity by 2010,” he said, “which will get us to the magic $1 a watt [that it will take to compete with conventional power].”

Moser Baer plans investments of nearly $3.2 billion in research, development and manufacturing of solar power products — the “thin film modules” and other silicon bits and pieces that make solar power work.

The key to success, Puri says, will be the company’s expertise in lowering manufacturing costs. One of the first Indian manufacturers to successfully compete internationally, Moser Baer entered high-tech manufacturing at a time when the general consensus was that Indian manufacturing was a basket case.

In one of the dustiest places on the planet, the company built a massive “clean room” for disk manufacture that required an air conditioning unit that takes up the entire second floor of the factory, and installed their own diesel-fueled power generation facility, since even a brief electricity outage would spoil the melted silicon. And that was at a time when nobody believed blank CDs could be made cheaply enough to replace floppies. “There isn’t one big factor [to cutting costs], it’s a lot of little factors,” Puri said. “Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to believe that you could have a DVD that you could sell for 10 cents a disk and make money, but today it’s real. So similar to that in the solar space.”

Already, touching $1 a watt would put the Indian firm in some pretty elite company. Only a handful of firms claim to have reached that price point so far, including U.S.-based First Solar and Nanosolar, which has received financial backing from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Nanosolar uses — attention science fans — copper indium gallium diselenide to build its solar cells, while First Solar uses cadmium telluride-based cells. For its part, Moser Baer uses amorphous silicon. All three technologies have their proponents.

But making DVDs has convinced Puri that he can lower the costs of producing amorphous silicon cells again and again. “We’re designing new anti-reflective coatings which then impact the light, we’ve driven the thickness of the glass down, we’ve tried to design a better system of components around the basic panel to take costs out, we’ve innovated a lot on the process recipes, which allows much higher throughput for the facilities,” he said. “It’s a lot of little things that contribute to that road map to a sub $1 a watt price point.”

If the company gets there by 2010, that could help India leapfrog to clean energy the way it bypassed terrestrial telephone networks and went straight to cellular, which would be good news for the rest of the world. Despite the much-heralded nuclear deal with the United States, even 20 years down the road, nuclear energy will supply only a tiny fraction of India’s power needs. “What does that mean for India, or more importantly, what does it mean for the rest of the world? Where will India get its energy from? It will get it from coal,” Puri said. And that means as many as 300 coal-fired power plants spewing a giant brown cloud over Asia.

But if solar gets here first, that could be different. “Maybe instead of 300 coal plants, it will only have to build 150. That might be an acceptable path.”

This article was originally published on GlobalPost.com.

So many reasons to not eat cheeseburgers. Here is a contemporary one.

From:  Deliver us from cheeseburgers

Peter Aldhous, San Francisco bureau chief

My climate guilt is complete. Not only did I expand my personal carbon footprint by flying from California to attend the AAAS meeting, but yesterday I ordered a cheeseburger on room service at my hotel here in Chicago.

Regular readers of New Scientist will already know that agriculture makes a bigger contribution to global warming than the entire transportation sector, and that you can help manage the problem by choosing low-carbon foods.

My guilt trip stems from the fact that cheeseburgers are among the most climate-unfriendly foods imaginable, as multiple speakers reminded me this morning at a AAAS session on “life-cycle assessments” of the total greenhouse gases emitted in putting food on our plates.

The good news is that some organisations are making better choices than me. At this morning’s session, Helene York of the Bon Appetit Management Company described her efforts to bring low-carbon menus to its network of some 400 cafes on college campuses and in corporations across 29 US states.

In April 2007, Bon Appetit adopted a two-year target to reduce the use of high-carbon beef and cheese by 25 per cent. For beef, this target has easily been achieved. But York admits that the cheese target will be missed, because chefs have struggled to find acceptable alternatives. “It will take more time to educate the palates of our customers,” she says.

The complexity of calculating total greenhouse gas emissions for foods was revealed by other speakers at the session. Even for the same end product, total emissions can vary widely depending on how the food was farmed or caught, transported and processed.

For instance, if I order salmon at a Chicago restaurant this evening, I’ll do nearly five times more damage to the climate if it was farmed in Chile and flown in fresh, compared to fish frozen at sea by a seine-net vessel from Alaska. I wouldn’t have thought to ask.

The science of calculating the greenhouse emissions associated with food is still too young to provide answers to many of the questions that York and other innovators are asking. Is canned better than frozen? Should chefs in northern US cities choose produce grown in hothouses, or trucked in from Mexico?

For anyone embarking on a career in research, there seem to be some clear opportunities. In the meantime, if you want a meal that induces less guilt than my cheeseburger, try Bon Appetit’s low-carbon diet calculator.

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