October 2011


What if the U.S. could get 20 percent of its power from solar near transmission lines without covering virgin desert?

It could.  Transmission right-of-way corridors, vast swaths of vegetation-free landscape to protect high-voltage power lines, could provide enough space for over 600,000 megawatts of solar PV.  These arrays could provide enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the country’s electric needs.  (Note: There may not be good interconnection opportunities for solar under these huge towers, so this should be read as a land use discussion rather than technical analysis of interconnection to the grid.)

It starts with the federal Government Accountability Office, which estimates there are 155,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the United States (defined as lines 230 kilovolts and higher).  According to at least two major utilities (Duke Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority), such power lines require a minimum of 150 feet of right-of-way — land generally cleared of all significant vegetation that might come in contact with the power lines.

That’s 4,400 square miles of already developed (or denuded) land for solar power, right under existing grid infrastructure.

Of course, the power lines themselves cause some shading, as may nearby trees (although the New York Public Service Commission, and likely other PSCs, has height limits on nearby trees that would minimize shading on the actual right-of-way).  To be conservative, we’ll assume that half of transmission line right-of-way is unsuitable for solar.

That leaves 2,200 square miles of available land for solar.  With approximately 275 megawatts (MW) able to be installed per square mile, over 600,000 MW of solar could occupy the available right-of-way, providing enough electricity (over 720 billion kilowatt-hours) to supply 20 percent of U.S. power demands (note: we used the average annual solar insolation in Cincinnati as a proxy for the U.S. as a whole).

Making big strides toward a renewable energy future doesn’t require massive, remote solar projects. We can use existing infrastructure or land to generate significant portions of our electricity demand.  Transmission right-of-way, providing 20 percent of U.S. electricity from solar, is just one piece of the puzzle, with another 20 percent possible from using existing rooftops, and a solar potential of nearly 100 percent from solar installed on highway right-of-way.  Solar can help achieve a 100 percent clean — and local — energy future.


In a previous article I mentioned that ISKCON is an anomaly in the West.

It is Sunday morning and I am talking to my son Madhu who is a policeman in Georgia. Every other Sunday he goes to a mega church during the blowout. The church has a capacity of 3,000 people and they all leave at once, 5-600 cars.

His duty is he has a key to the stoplight box so he opens it up and manually operates the lights to maximize the efficiency of the traffic flow so it doesn’t gridlock the road and  the worshipers can get out of the parking lot timely.

I am sure no ISKCON temple in the US has a similar problem.  There are always problems in every circumstance, the nature of them just change. This is a problem of a successful religious organization.  ISKCON’s problems are different, being the anomaly in society that it is.

by: Jonathan Benson

(NaturalNews) A new study has found that teenagers who consume high amounts of sugary soda appear to be more prone towards violence than teenagers who consume less or no sugary soda. The more soda a teenager consumes, in other words, the more likely he or she is to show violent aggression towards classmates, a significant other, and even family members.

David Hemenway, a professor at Harvard University’s School of Public, and his colleagues instructed a group of 1,878 public school students from inner-city Boston to fill out questionnaires about how much soda they had consumed in the previous seven days. The questionnaires also asked the students how often they carried weapons, consumed alcohol, smoked, and had a violent interaction with another person.

The students, who ranged in age between 14 and 18, also answered other background questions about how often they ate meals with their families, and their race. After compiling the data and accounting for other outside factors, the research team discovered that soda intake was directly proportional to violence levels.

“What we found was that there was a strong relationship between how many soft drinks that these inner-city kids consumed and how violent they were, not only in violence against peers but also violence in dating relationships, against siblings,” said Hemenway. “It was shocking to us when we saw how clear the relationship was.”

The results showed that students who drank one or no cans of sugary soda a week were nearly half as likely as students who drank 14 cans a week to carry a gun or knife to school. The one or no soda group was also about half as likely to commit violence against a partner, or show violent aggression against peers, compared to the high-consumption group.

“We don’t know why (there is a strong association),” added Hemenway. “There may be some causal effect but it’s also certainly plausible that this is just a marker for other problems — that kids who are violent for whatever reason, they tend to smoke more, they tend to drink more alcohol and they tend to maybe drink more soft drinks. We just don’t know.”

Last Spring I bought a climbing petunia, an old fashioned heritage type plant.  I put it on the end of a row of pea trellis and when the peas gave out the petunia overtook it.

It never did stop growing and this is a current picture of it. It has taken over two rows of trellis, the sweet peas that were on the trelis in the foreground of the picture are long gone.

It is plenty seedy looking now but still was pretty picturesque right into September and the few brave blooms this late into the autumn are precious in their own way.

During the summer it was pleasantly fragrant, not the throw it all over type but enough so when in the area you knew it was there.

I am not much of a photographer so always take a few pictures in case some don’t turn out. Here is a happy accident that made me think of Monet in a vague sort of way.

The following was part of discussion I have been observing:

“…(prominent ISKCON figure) sometimes said that ISKCON needs brahmins before we can establish varnasrama (Srila Prabhupada said –just a paraphrase– society was headless and he came to give it a head).

“… would you agree with the idea of a sequence (brahmanas are needed first)?”

My reply:

I strongly disagree. In the late 1990s I squandered a couple of years in the PAMHO Varna ashram conference arguing this very point.

The problem is this:

“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

If the premise is that first we have to have the brahmanas before we have the other varnas, but brahmans can’t exist without cow protection, then brahminical culture will never be established as it is trying to create itself while lacking an essential element. It will be like a dog chasing its own tail.

I observe that the “brahmans first ” mentality has dominated since the 90s and the rural communities have been neglected and guess what? The movement is languishing in the US, completely bearing out the point of the verse that brahminical life cannot be maintained without cow protection. Most temples have become Hindu social centers, an artificial show bottle of brahminical lifestyle, more like performance art than a society. (BTW all glories to the Hindus for preserving what is left of the movement, this is not meant as a knock on them.)

Yes, there needs to be brahmans, but without developing a vaisya class, and the most salient feature of that vaisya class being cow protection, an attempt at establishing brahminical culture will never thrive or be vibrant.

Also from that discussion and my reply:

“Look out the window (Gosh’s note: a reference to the larger society we exist in) and what you see is what Srila Prabhupada called asuric varnashrama. To say that Krsna is missing is to say quite a lot…”

And what was Krishna’s primary occupation? Cow protection. We want to be brahamans and have Krishna but we don’t want to bothered by protecting cows? Good grief!

“What you do NOT see is:
genuine ksatriyas
any idea of spiritual life
no social contract based on dharma
no ashramas certainly
actual spiritual understanding among the populace…”

Most prominently what you don’t see is cow protection.

As long as devotees feel that access to abundant milk is their entitlement, see it as a commodity and not as an opulence, and are accepting of cheap milk subsidized by the blood of the cow and her calf without offsetting it by donations to cow protection programs, brahminical culture will always be some pipe dream, the province of ivory tower intellectuals satisfied with abstract dissertations instead of  concrete manifestations. An anomaly in the macro society, swept along by its currents, rather than having a beneficial effect or any influence at all on the macro society.

And I have little patience with the whole flimsy rationalization of “ajnata-sukrti” that the poor slaughtered cow will be benefited by having her milk offered to Krishna. That is a great reason for offering her milk but gives no support to devotees consuming it.

To build a house, first you build a foundation (that would be the stomach in the body analogy). You don’t start with the roof and hope everything else will manifest. Once cow protection is established, the brahminical class will follow.

Forgiving the living is hard
enough, shrugging away all the wounds
delivered with kisses and curses,
the thousand and one petty slights
that bled me to an albino shade,
that shadow me even in dreams.
But the dead are altogether
another matter, not easily to be
enlightened and quite beyond regretting
anything (as far as we can tell)
and most likely indifferent to
our common currency of tears.
And so it is that pissing on your grave
doesn’t please me as much as it ought to.
Now that you have passed beyond
all blaming and shaming, what can I do
but rise and proclaim sincere admiration
when my turn comes around to speak?

by Suzanne Edminster at Saltworkstudio

Abstract Art, Myth, and Painting


Here’s your myth for the day, dear readers. Did you know that in Norse mythology Auoumbla, the primaeval cow, actually created mankind? She licked away the icy salt blocks of the first creation, sculpting them with her warm tongue until first a man’s hair appeared, then a head and a whole man. I love making cows with abstract shapes rolling around in them like their complex factory stomachs. On my last visit to the Central Vally I photographed cows right outside our house, their shining, massive flanks moving like hot mountains.

In last Sunday’s studio class, we painted fluorescent pink and cadmium orange underpaintings, then spattered them with Golden Acrylic liquids. This is just pure play to loosen up. I like hot, bright underpaintings because I sometimes think they make the painting breathe and heave a little, generating imaginative form. Then you carve with opaque paints like the cow’s tongue on the ice and things pop out. Primitive creation is fun, letting us regress to being mucky little kids with cosmic questions.

Weird creation myths and wrong, kitchy color give a wild spin to the day. Abstraction and mythology read the world through metaphor. Auoumbla says, take a lick at eternity.

An 85 year old couple, having been married almost 60 years, died in a car crash. They had been in good health the last ten years mainly due to her interest in health food, and exercise.

When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and master bath suite and Jacuzzi. As they “oohed and aahed” the old man asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. “It’s free,” St. Peter replied, “this is Heaven.”

Next they went out back to survey the championship golf course that the home backed up to. They would have golfing privileges everyday and each week the course changed to a new one representing the great golf courses on earth. The old man asked, “what are the green fees?”.
St. Peter said, “This is heaven, you play for free.”

Next they went to the club house and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the cuisines of the world laid out.

“How much is it to eat?” asked the old man.

“Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven, it is free!” St. Peter replied with some exasperation.

“Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol tables?” the old man asked timidly.

St. Peter lectured, “That’s the best part…you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never get fat and you never get sick. This is Heaven.”

After hearing that the old man went into a fit of anger, throwing down his hat and stomping on it, and shrieking wildly. St. Peter and the wife both tried to calm him down, asking what was wrong.

The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault. If it weren’t for your bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”

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