July 2010

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsicord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsicordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.


I am in Chicago staying at my Aunt Ruth’s on the way to the 2010 National Kidney Foundation Transplant Games in Madison Wisconsin that start this weekend.

I was really busy tying up loose ends before I left and doing conditioning work ergo no posting.

One of my events will be a 20k (12 mile) bike race. I have done several 10 mile practice runs so I feel confident I will be able to do the 12 miles though a collapse may follow it. The first time I managed 10 miles the next day I spent the whole day languishing on a couch unable to perform even clerical tasks, but earlier this week I did 10 miles on back to back days and still was able to do some packing on the second day so I have improved quite a bit.

I am counting on race day adrenalin to push me the extra 2 miles and am allowing for a large chunk of time for recovery.

This is a long ways from when I bicycled 2000 miles (3300 k) from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Daytona Beach, Florida. Then I would  cover 15 miles in an hour, take a short break , then do it again many times a day, then get up and do it all over again the next day, day after day. 

Just see the effects of old age and disease. :-)

I also signed up for a 5k which is Saturday, the 20k bike race is Sunday, then Monday an 800 meter run (1/2 mile) and softball throw.

Yesterday Tulasi and I went to a nearby park, him on a borrowed bike, with two of my aunt’s gandsons, ages 11 and 12. We did an estimated 9 miles but broken up into two chunks with a rest in between.

During the rest, I got a tutorial on how to throw a softball. Even though I  played baseball as a youth and could make a reasonable attempt at throwing, I got some good pointers from these currently active ball players and added 15 meters to my throw by the end of the session.

Today we are going to watch the boys play a water polo game then hit the road to Madison so I can get registered. My aunt  is also going to come to Madison and do the 5K. My sister Laura is coming down from North Dakota and doing the 5K as well and they are both staying on for a couple of days so we will get a chance for a nice visit.

Tulasi brought his laptop so hopefully I will get some internet access in Madison and be able to do some posting from there.

We were a couple of days late starting peach harvest so some of them have soft spots.  I was freezing some yesterday and whenever there was one with a soft spot I was sorting them out for fresh eating or giveaway (anyone stopping by in the next few days will leave with organic peaches. (consider this an invitation)).

Some were mostly good with a small area of softness. These are fine for fresh eating but the recommendation is to not use them for freezing so as I came upon a soft spot slice, I would eat it.  This is not an austerity because although small these peaches are so sweet and flavorful it is almost like eating candy.

As I had already eaten my evening meal, I soon got to a point where I had eaten so many I was starting to feel a little sick. Remember when you were a little kid and got into the candy stash and no adult around? Remember overeating to the point of  of stomach uneasiness? Well, that is what happened.

After that I was putting them in a bowl for Tulasi to eat, a chore he had no resistance to performing.

Recipe for freezing peaches.

Peaches need to be covered in a sugar solution for freezing according to all the recipes I found. I didn’t want to make a sugar syrup but one alternative was to use white grape juice so I did that. It was recommended to add one tablespoon of citric acid or lemon juice per quart of solution to help keep them from browning.

I sliced the peaches right into the solution so they weren’t exposed to air, then ladled them into one quart freezer bags using a mason jar funnel to make it easier.  The idea is to make sure there is enough solution to cover all the slices and to leave an inch of head space for expansion. I don’t have a vacuum packer so I slid the tab on the top of the freezer bag until it is almost closed then I push out as much air as I can before closing it completely.

Then it was off to the freezer.

I know they won’t be as good once they are frozen but they will still be better next winter than the insipid and flavorless peaches that sell in the supermarkets.

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

‘House’ for instance, is feminine: ‘la Casa.’
‘Pencil,’ however, is masculine: ‘el lapiz.’

A student asked, ‘What gender is ‘computer’?’

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether ‘computer’ should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men’s group decided that ‘computer’ should definitely be of the feminine gender (‘la computadora’), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2.The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your pay check on accessories for it.

The women’s group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine (‘el computador’), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can’t think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model…

By HH Sivarama Swami

Krsi goraksya vanijya. Krsi means ploughing or agriculture and goraksya, cow protection. These are the staples of society, this is what people live on. All living entities subsist on grains. So the ksatriyas may direct and instruct people, the brahmanas may perform their yajnas, but if they don’t eat then giving shelter or instruction is not going to work.

That eating is therefore the most essential aspect of life and this is why the vaisyas and their assistants, the sudras, are so integral that the other castes think that they are the most important people, because it is actually they who are feeding. Of course the vaisyas think that the brahmanas are the most important because they are taking the result of their work and offering it back to the Lord.

Srila Prabhupada said that this very common type of exchange was there but the responsibility of this goraksya, is it the duty of just some people? Some very very exclusive people? Is it the responsibility of all vaisyas, or is it for all grhastas or all devotees?

My proposition is that it is everyone’s responsibility. Just like everyone’s responsibility is chanting Hare Krishna, watering Tulasi devi, reading Bhagavatam. Similarly part of our common dharma is to protect cows. This is something that you see ingrained in communities like Bhaktivedanta Manor, where they have to limit the amount of cows they receive as gifts, and be very careful about the type of food that is offered to the cows, because to a greater or lesser degree all the devotees see the protection of cows as their dharma.

It is everyone’s dharma: the cow is our mother, she gives us milk while all over the rest of the world cows are being butchered, slaughtered, abused, and taken advantage of. Vaisnavas must take it as their responsibility to protect cows. Now, how do you protect cows? Does that mean that you have a cow on your balcony in downtown Singapore? No, that type of cow protection is actually cow abuse. You cannot just keep your own cow.

Cows only give milk if they have calves, which means you have to constantly have calves, which means you have to have a herd, and that is a full time business. So how is it that individuals should protect cows? They should in some way or another be connected to ISKCON’s herds. Srila Prabhupada established cow protection for instance in New Vrindavan, Gita Nagari, or as we have done here in Hungary at New Vraja-dhama. These herds are not the sole responsibility or duty of the local devotees in those places, they are the responsibility of the devotees and congregation of the local country. It is their responsibility to contribute to the cow protection, to donate towards the maintenance of the cow, to come and do some cow seva, and when they come to the temple they should bring some bhoga for the cows, to find out what items are needed by the cowherds. And the cow herds.

Cow protection is everyone’s business, it is everyone’s responsibility. This is being written down as varnasrama dharma. If one does not contribute or participate directly in cow protection then he should know that he is neglecting his dharma, he is neglecting his dharma. In other words he is adharmic.

This is in my view the greater picture of what varnasrama means. Varnasrama doesn’t mean that we simply philosophise about a way of life, but what are the duties of varnas and asramas, what are the duties that are common for all Vaisnavas, for all humans. And one of them is the protection of cows, just like chanting Hare Krsna is a common responsibility as mentioned earlier.

So, similairly, cow protection is a common responsibility for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily always occur to us, and even when it does, it’s difficult to get devotees interested. More difficult than getting devotees to do sankirtan, more difficult than getting someone to cook in the kitchen or be temple president, is to get devotees to be cowherds. To make devotees work with the cows, bulls, and oxen and to make that their life, it is very difficult for devotees to do this. “I am an educated person, I have this diploma and you want me to take care of cows? You want me to do that thing that God does? You want me to do that activity that is going on in the spiritual world?”

And that is what is going on the spiritual world. That is what is going on where we are going–at least where I want to go is where there is only gopas and gopis. The whole social identity is based on go, on cows. There are milkmaids and there are cowherd men. And if we are not willing to be milkmaids and cowherd men here in the material world, if this service is beyond us and we cannot forsee how we are going to dedicate our lives to working with the cows, then were are we going? Then you had better look for somewhere other than Braja. Then you had better go to Dwaraka or Vaikuntha, where that is not a compulsory, integral part of life.

Because in the spiritual world, in Goloka Vrindavan, Krishna goes out every day to tend cows. And yet it is so difficult to get devotees to be cowherders, to see that this is a respectable future, and to stick with that service. Because once again, cow protection is something that we talk about as being against the principles of slaughtering the animals. We don’t believe in slaughtering the cow, we don’t believe in eating the meat of the cow, cows should be properly protected. But, when it comes to properly protecting the cows, are we willing to do it? Are we actually willing to dedicate our lives to taking care of cows? Or are we willing to participate and support the protection of cows?

Therefore, we should ask: “What am I doing for protecting my mother? What am I doing to sustain cow protection in my zone? It is my responsibility, my duty as a Vaisnava. Am I performing my dharmic duty?”

“Sometimes the liberated souls recruit disciples who then go out and preach, following the example of their spiritual master. Great souls sometimes begin movements or societies in which devotees can live and practice bhakti. And sometimes they construct temples where the public can come to see the Deity form of Lord Krsna and taste His prasadam, the remnants of food offered to Him.

“Thus both by personal example and by precept, and even after their disappearance from the mortal world, the great souls help the conditioned souls who have forgotten their love for Krsna. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura so eloquently put it:

“He reasons ill who says that Vaisnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around.”

Narada-Bhakti-Sutra 50

This thought that the Vaisnava lives on in sound was well established before any recording devices were available or even conceived of. It is about the chanting of God’s Names being eternal sound vibration, and that having ever been part of it, one is always part of it.

Recently there has been the tragic accidental death of a devotee in Vrindaban, India. He has been the moving force behind the 24 hour kirtan in Vrindaban that has been going on nonstop for decades and heard by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. Even the 24 kirtan held twice a year in New Vrindaban is an echo of his energy an example of his spreading the holy name around.

Over that period of time, there have been probably thousands of hours of his kirtan recorded. I won’t even attempt to put in a link, just Google Aindra and you will find so many.

So in his case not only all the previous logic to living in sound applies but even recordings of his literal transcendental sound vibrations can be heard, adding even another layer to “When thou art living still in sound!”

Read more here.

The Gulf oil spill is the latest in a series of warnings that we must reduce our dependency on petroleum with an eye toward moving away from oil entirely. While “getting off oil” remains a distant goal, we can choose to halt oil expansion today. Technologies exist to improve the efficacy of biofuels and to stretch the availability of existing petroleum supplies through increased efficiency. Rather than choosing more offshore drilling, we can choose demand-side innovation to meet our current energy needs without the risks associated with further oil expansion.

Biofuel, and biodiesel in particular, can help mitigate the need for additional oil supply.  According to Emerging Markets Online, total worldwide biodiesel production alone took off from 2.2 million tons in 2002 to an estimated 11.1 million tons in 2008.  However, first generation biofuels will likely be limited to 10-20 percent of global liquid fuel consumption, largely due to constraints in feedstock and infrastructure.  Therefore, we must make the most of every gallon of biofuel.

Successfully doing so requires addressing a number of problems.  Biodiesel, for instance, presents several significant deficiencies when compared to diesel fuel.  Most significantly, biodiesel contains less energy value than petrodiesel, leading to increased fuel consumption and reduced engine power output.  Other problems include limited oxidation and storage stability, a tendency to form deposits, corrosion issues, cold flow problems and questionable stability from diverse feedstocks.  These limitations are greatly exacerbated with the increasing content of biodiesel in fuel blends, from B5 to B30 and higher.

These negative characteristics reduce biodiesel’s overall green profile for efficiency and emissions.  Yet as a green product, biodiesel can be made significantly “greener,” by improving the fuel so that it performs more like regular diesel. One way to help achieve this is through the use of already available fuel enhancing technologies.

International Fuel Technology, Inc., (IFT) for example, has developed a fuel efficiency enhancing additive that helps biodiesel blends to function similarly to diesel. It allows less biodiesel to be consumed compared to non-additized biodiesel for the same energy output.  This technology not only improves the biofuel’s environmental footprint, but reduces the amount of biodiesel needed for a given power output, expanding biofuel capacity and further offsetting oil use. Another line of IFT additives provides oxidation stability to biodiesel and its blends. This is crucial to smooth operation of biodiesel blends and for long term storage stability.

As biofuels continue to expand and become more efficient, we must also take advantage of technologies that permit us to use less oil in the first place.  The rail industry, for instance, is increasingly seeking to reduce costs and improve its environmental footprint with better fuel efficiency.  Rail offers an excellent opportunity for employing such demand-side technology, as the industry is highly centralized among regional operators and is among the more predictable forms of transportation, allowing for reliable demonstration and fuel efficiency analysis.

Rail can help us reduce the need for expanded oil supply by increasing the fuel economy of petrodiesel, which is heavily used by trains around the globe.  International Fuel Technology has developed an additive that “atomizes” the fuel injected into a train’s diesel engine combustion chamber, burning the fuel more completely and emitting less waste.  The technology achieves 3-6 percent greater fuel economy and reduces atmospheric emissions.

If a 4.5 percent diesel fuel efficiency gain were extended beyond rail to all U.S. diesel fuel consumption, we would eliminate the need for over 2.2 billion gallons of diesel every year.  When combined with other demand-side savings opportunities, the potential to reduce oil consumption is significant.

By making the most of biofuels and the petroleum we already have access to, we can reduce our need for continued oil expansion.  Technologies for demand management, improved efficiency and conservation are available and expanding.  The optimal choice for our fuel future is not to require any extra oil.  We simply have to choose.

Dr. Sergio Trindade, International Fuel Technology’s Director of Science & Technology, is a globally recognized consultant and expert in sustainable energy and alcohol fuels.  His experience within the international energy field is abundant, especially concerning alternative energies. Dr. Trindade is a Co-laureate of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  He also served as the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) for Science and Technology for five years and continues to provide consulting to the UN system, including the World Bank, and many other organizations regarding energy and environmental issues. He holds a PhD. in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A devotee from New Vrindaban who delivers newspapers to supplement supporting his family called me a couple of nights ago. One of his subscribers was in a dilemma and asking for help.

Her circumstances had changed and she was having to move out of the area. She was leaving the next day and still had not been able to make arrangements for her koi, a colorful fish. She had a small fish pond in her back yard where she had 12 of them that she was very fond of.  She was distressed because in her own words she was an animal lover who didn’t want to abandon them.

I called the number the devotee had given me and she further stated that she had been unable to catch them because they were too fast which complicated the situation.  As I had about done all I was going to get done for the day, on a whim I decided to go.  I took two fish nets that Vidya has that she uses to get small gourds out of our gourd cleaner.

Sure enough, after repeated tries, I too came to the conclusion that they were too fast reacting to catch simply with a net.  It occurred to me that by lowering the level of the water in the pond their options would become more limited so we spent ten minutes bailing out the water until about a third of the sloped rock covered bottom  became visible. After that it still took some effort but but we did manage to get them all.

The lady was very grateful and I had told her as I was a vegetarian I also was a bit of an animal lover and that I was going to put them in the lotus pond behind the Palace.  I didn’t want to put them into the big lake by the temple as there are bass and bluegills there and they do eat small fish. The pond behind the Palace only has gold fish in it.

It was dark by the time I got to the Palace but by the headlights of my van I was able to get down to the water’s edge  and release the fish into the pond.  So New Vrindaban has 12 new residents.

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