May 2009

Kavya Shivashankar became the 11th Indian-American to win the National Spelling Bee on Thursday night.

by Lauren Smith

“Spelling has been such a big part of my life,” says the Scripps Spelling Bee 2009 winner Kavya Shivashankar to the Associated Press.

The new champion dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon, but, at the same time, feels that nothing can truly replace spelling.  Shivashankar will most likely go on to compete in the International Brain Bee.

The 13-year-old Kansas girl who smiled after spelling every word took home over $40,000 in cash and prizes, as well as the desired spelling champion’s trophy Thursday night in Washington.  Shivashankar made four tries to win over the 10 remaining finalists.

According to Associated Press, her father, Mirle Shivashankar bragged that while his daughter may not put her competitive mindset on display “she still has that smile,” a trait that he calls it her “quality.”

Kavya Shivashankar is now the seventh Indian-American to win the championship in 11 years, including two back-to-back youngsters who also aspired to be brain surgeons.

The 1999 winner featured in a spelling documentary Spellbound Nupur Lala,was Shivashankar’s role model.  Lala is currently working as a research assistant in a neuro science lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology…

Complete article here


Kirtanananda: They know that if people take up the chanting, gradually they will give up this technology.
Prabhupada: That is, of course.
Kirtanananda: You are actually putting the seeds of their destruction.
Prabhupada: Yes. No, what is destruction? It is, rather, construction. (laughter) He’ll live. He’ll live forever. This is destruction….So everyone is getting milk? How much?
Kirtanananda: As much as they want.
Prabhupada: As much as they want, then jaundice. (laughter) Too much is not good. They may take minimum half pound per head.
Kirtanananda: Minimum.
Prabhupada: Minimum. And maximum one pound. Not more than that. But “Because there is enough, let us eat,” no. That is not good. But children must get at least one pound, milk. If they drink more milk they become stout and strong.

New Vrindaban, June 24, 1976, room conversation

Pint is a pound, so half a pound is one cup (.24 liter).  That is one thin  slice of cheese or one sweet ball, milk being 13% solids.

Anymore than that a day and Prabhupada is saying it is not good.

So the question is if SP is only authorizing one cup a day, does the concept of ajnata-sukrti, unknowing devotional service, still apply to amounts greater than that (NOT stipulating that it does even for the first cup)? That the cow benefits if her milk is offered even if she isn’t protected?

Is it a genuine offering to Krishna, or is it an offering made only for the purposes of being able to enjoy the milk product?

Why take the chance, donate to cow protection programs now and at least a real cow in real time will be protected via the milk offset concept.

We just watched the movie “Across the Universe” which many saw in the theaters in 2007 but I am more of a DVD rental kind of guy (the price is better than theater tickets) so seeing movies out of step with mass culture is the norm.

The plot had no redeeming spiritual values and had a basic generic theme, the same as “Slumdog Millionaire”: boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again.

The soundtrack was something else though — it was a musical that was all Beatles’ music covers some with much different phrasing than the originals.

It was set in the Sixties and, as my fellow baby boomer Ed said, it really caught the mood of the Sixties while most movies about the era miss the mark. So for those boomers wanting to go on a nostalgia trip, it is worth the time spent.

No Sixties movie would be complete without the Hare Krishnas and this one was no exception.

The words Hare Krishna themselves were heard in the lyrics of  “I am a Walrus

“Semolina Pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower.
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.”

When the song “Across the Universe” was playing, the protagonist was on a subway train and in a confused state.  The phrase “Jai guru deva” is repeated several times in the lyrics.

As he looks out the window of the subway, he sees another train passing in  the other direction and there is a relatively long sequence where Hare Krishna devotees are seen dancing down the aisle of that train.  He seems bewildered but interested.

If you don’t watch DVDs this may not be worth making an exception for but if you are going to watch one anyway this one is better than most of the stuff in the mainstream media.

A young man who was also an avid golfer found himself with a few hours to spare one afternoon. He figured if he hurried and played very fast, he could get in nine holes before he had to head home. Just as he was about to tee off an old gentleman shuffled onto the tee and asked if he could accompany the young man as he was golfing alone. Not being able to say no, he allowed the old gent to join him.

To his surprise the old man played fairly quickly. He didn’t hit the ball far, but plodded along consistently and didn’t waste much time. Finally, they reached the 9th fairway and the young man found himself with a tough shot. There was a large pine tree right in front of his ball – and directly between his ball and the green.

After several minutes of debating how to hit the shot the old man finally said, “You know, when I was your age I’d hit the ball right over that tree.”

With that challenge placed before him, the youngster swung hard, hit the ball up, right smack into the top of the tree trunk and it thudded back on the ground not a foot from where it had originally lay.

The old man offered one more comment, “Of course, when I was your age that pine tree was only three feet tall.”

“The idea is how to think of Krsna. That’s all. That is the yoga. Even in taking prasadam, you are thinking of Krsna, “Oh, it is very nice. Krsna has tasted. It is very nice.” That is Krsna consciousness. That is yoga. Is there any yoga system in the world that you can become a yogi simply by eating? Is there any yoga system? Just try to understand.

“Is there any yoga system simply by digging earth for gardening one can become a yogi? Is there any yoga system? Here the boys, when they dig earth for planting rose flower for Krsna, he is thinking, “Oh, the flower will be nice. It will be offered to Krsna.” There is immediately yoga. Just try to understand how nice it is. Whatever you do, if it is done for Krsna, then you are in the highest perfectional stage of yoga. And anyone can do it.”

Bhagavad-gita 7.1 Lecture — Los Angeles, March 12, 1970

We had rain 11 of the first 15 days in May but now it has dried up enough to till so I am trying to hit it hard.  Thunderstorms in the forecast for the next several days so there is a sense of urgency as beans remain unplanted, tomatoes and peppers untransplanted. Other stuff could go in too.

When I was still healthy, time was the limiting factor. Now I have that, the limiter is energy. I work until I can’t anymore, then rest and go again when I can. The rest periods are equal to or greater than the work periods.  I used to be able to go all day in situations like this with soil dry enough to be worked and rain in the forecast but now I am a prisoner of my own weakness.

Still, I have sufficient beds rototilled, poked with the broadfork (penetrates deeper than a tiller). thrown up into raised beds (more like terraces in my case as the garden slopes some) and raked ready to go. Even if it rains the planting will be doable if if some rain catches me before completion.

Now I am trying to do the rest of the garden for planting butternut and spaghetti squashes, and gourds. This would all be extra, more than I planned to do, but it woould be nice to have enough squash to eat all winter and the gourds are like money as we buy a lot of them. When I was healthy I used to gorw surplus and sell above what Vidya used.

Still eating asparagus so it doesn’t all seem too focused on the future, there is soem for the here and now.

Glory be to God for dappled things –
... For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
……. For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
....Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
……..And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
....Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
….,…With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
………………………..…….Praise him.

In this article, we highlight a four-part audio podcast series about what smart grid theories, technologies and applications mean for renewable energy.

by Stephen Lacey, Podcast Editor and Staff Writer
New Hampshire []

If demand on today’s electrical grid looks like a rough landscape of high peaks and low valleys, demand on tomorrow’s “smart grid” will look more like a series of rolling hills.

The electricity systems of developed countries are astoundingly capable of delivering massive amounts of electrons in a reliable way. But these complex ecosystems were designed to encourage consumption and to meet peak demand, making them bloated and inefficient.

Because grid systems were historically built around the mantra of “more,” there is a lot of excess capacity that sits unused until consumers push demand way up at certain times of the day or year.

Without the ability for utilities to actively communicate with customers during times of peak usage, it becomes difficult to manage demand and understand what’s actually happening on the grid. Most of the time, the only option is to bring as much expensive reserve capacity online as possible and generate more power.

The smart grid can change that. The next-generation grid will be based on dealing with electrons on the informational level, not just on the atomic level.

With a better communications infrastructure, grid-operators, utilities and consumers could better manage demand in real time, thus smoothing out the peaks, reducing the strain on the system and creating a platform for distributed renewables to thrive.

But what will that communications infrastructure look like? What is the role of renewable energy? And how will we manage the myriad security and ethical issues that come such a radical increase in “energy data?”

Throughout the month of April on our Inside Renewable Energy podcast, we addressed those questions and took a detailed look at what the smart grid means for power producers and consumers along the electricity transmission, distribution and delivery system.

This month’s four-part series offers two hours of in-depth interviews and commentary from the most cutting-edge, influential players in the smart grid space. If you’ve never had a chance to listen to the podcast, this is the perfect opportunity to tune in and get access to the most comprehensive audio news program on renewable energy.

The smart grid is getting a lot of attention from policymakers, businesses and reporters. But its overall role in the energy picture is often misunderstood. Listen to this series to get a realistic view of what the intelligent grid can offer society.

Part 1, “The Smart Grid Explained,” examines what what kind of objectives an intelligent electricity infrastructure should achieve. It’s not just about technology — it’s about finding the right applications for those technologies to flatten demand and make the system cleaner, more efficient and reliable.

Part 2, “How Will We Manage Demand on the Smart Grid?” digs deeper into how advanced meters will make the utility-customer relationship more dynamic while empowering consumers to make informed decisions about the use of electricity.

Part 3, “Storing Renewable Energy on the Smart Grid,” outlines a couple of mechanical and tertiary storage techniques that could enable renewables to play a much larger role in the energy mix.

Part 4, “Supply-Side Management and Security on the Smart Grid,” examines how utilities and grid operators may need to change business practices in order to accommodate storage technologies and higher penetrations of renewable energy. With the right technologies, business models and incentives, these players can become more comfortable with more renewables on the grid.

Most grids have operated the same way for nearly a century. Transforming these grids from centralized, analog-based machines into nimble, decentralized digital systems will have a wide-reaching impact on society and industry. The Inside Renewable Energy podcast offers a realistic vision of how and when that transformation will take place.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the smart grid can be found on the Inside Renewable Energy podcast. Tune in to find out why over 60,000 people listen to the show each month.

The program is easy to listen to — you don’t need any MP3 player or special software. Simply follow the link to each program and play the file on your computer from our website.

From a recent email discussion group exchange:

“I understand, you think that the GBC should be more concerned about devotees NOT DRINKING MILK from cows that will be slaughtered because without putting cow protection first all else will go to hell as per the many references you have kindly posted in the past and reminded us all.

“I agree. Why don’t you formulate a proposal to the GBC that all ISKCON members should drink only milk from cows not ear-marked for slaughter? I’m all for it. I get my supply from a local farm.

“The likely resistance would be that Srila Prabhupada himself would drink such milk in the absence of any other choice. But you would state it is now time to upgrade, put cow-protection to the top of all issues because from successful implementation all other things will flourish.”

My reply:

Executive summary:

Milk offsets mean devotees who have to buy industrial milk offset the slaughter of the cow by contributing to cow protection programs. These donations would be the cash flow (capital) needed to establish varnaashram. No GBC approval is necessary as the decision rests with individuals and cow protection programs already exist.

Full reply:

That is the key point, given no other choice, but we also understand that he was quite keen to establish devotee farms.  He wasn’t content to coast on the concept of ajnata-sukrti, unknowing devotional service. That the cow whose milk is benefited when it is offered to Krishna therefore it is okay to drink industrial milk. That is a concept that falls flat when preaching to intelligent people in the West.  It comes across as cult thinking.

Yes, Prabhupada drank such milk as a field expedient measure. Just as when we have a flat tire, we use the little donut spare tire from the trunk to get us to the repair shop but if we continue to run with it eventually the differential burns out and the whole car becomes dysfunctional. That is the principle expressed in:

“Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled.”

Srimad Bhagavatam 8.24.5

As for drinking milk only from cows that will not be slaughtered, yes, that is the ideal, and we should strive for this. I was speaking to Devamrta Swami during the Festival of Inspiration and he said that when he goes to New Zealand he is a vegan because the devotees there are conditional vegans — they will not drink milk until it comes from protected cows. He accepts this because the quality devotees who are organizer types mostly come out of the animal rights movement and they are valuable to his preaching program.

That of course is a more principled and austere stand than we can reasonably expect from most devotees. As for formulating a proposal for the GBC, yes, that would be part of a broad campaign and when we do get more devotees on board with following Prabhupada’s instructions for the future direction in this matter that could be something someone in an urban environment with a desire to serve cows could pursue. My hands are full.

The NZ example is also instructive in that proposals aren’t the only way to influence the behavior of the GBC.

FYI,  Dev Swa shared with me that a man came and monitored their programs for a while and after observing silently for a week or two asked to see who was in charge. When DS came a week or so later, he told him he was impressed with the character of the devotees and asked DS what was his dream.

DS said that when Prabhupada first sent a devotee to NZ, he told him not to open a temple but to start a farm. DS told the man that he felt he was failing SP by not having a farm  in NZ. The guy dropped a half million dollars on him and bought ISKCON a 22 acre valuable property with both ocean and mountain views. Mostly it is a nature sanctuary, but with 3 tillable acres, and they are moving to having their own cows.

Not that we could expect this in every case, but sometimes when we take up the order of the spiritual master, the ocean can become as the water in the footprint of a calf.

I clearly have lacked that sort of potency in my own endeavors to promote cow protection, but hopefully as others get involved, their shakti will prove more fruitful.

While I am fully aware of what the pure goal should be, I am also crushingly aware of the pressures of the macro economy, the oil based world economy, and the difficulties in manifesting that goal. While we have bright spots like the Hungarian farm community, for most devotees it is currently an impossibility to find milk from protected cows.

My bridge proposal is to emulate the concept that has currency in the environmental movement, that of carbon offsets. Anyone in the environmental movement can explain this concept to you. It is basically that even though one is the end user of products that generate greenhouses gases one supports greenhouse gas reducing activities so one’s carbon footprint is reduced.

A common example is to pay a premium on one’s electric bill that the utility company uses to purchase higher priced energy from renewable sources, like wind mills.

My point is that we can use the concept and apply it to milk consumption. That one would continue to purchase industrial milk for the time being but offset it by contributing to projects that do protect cows. (I would call it blood milk, due to its low cost being subsidized by the blood of the cow and her calf when they are slaughtered, but I have been advised that is too inflammatory.)

Then, even though the literal cow one gets milk from would still be slaughtered, a different cow would be saved, ergo an offset.

There are already so many existing programs. The cow program in Vrindaban is up and running and as recent horror stories of gunmen rustling cows demonstrates, there is a clear need.

I can speak to New Vrindaban’s situation where we have excess barn space, pastures, sufficient labor and competent management to protect at least 50 more cows than we currently have, the lack being funding.

The idea is if devotees can’t perform the austerity of fasting from milk until getting it from protected cows, they would buy industrial milk and contribute to cow protection programs.

That money would be used to strengthen and increase cow protection programs and in the long term a supply of protected cows’ milk could be produced.

This requires no approval from the GBC or anyone. It is a decision that individual devotees can make on their own, no using the GBC as a scapegoat for personal inaction.  No cow programs need to be set up, no barrier there. While new programs could definitely be in the long term plan, everything to put this program into effect already exists.

The only lack is to wean the devotees off the teat of ajnata-sukrti and have them mature into taking greater responsibility for their actions. Where the GBC could be useful would be serving as examples and helping in an education program promoting milk offsets.

If the cows are protected then they will produce dung, a more valuable product than milk in Vedic, village based times. The dung is used to fertilize the fields and from that agricultural base can spring varna ashram.

Do it now. Here is one place to contribute immediately:

Set up your own site to benefit any cow protection program you are drawn to.

Hare Krishna
Madhava Gosh

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