November 2012

We recently bought a Kia Soul. Although I loved our 1990 Toyota Corolla and would have drove it forever, it did require some nurturing to keep it going and as we moved into a phase of my life where dependable transportation was a must, Vidya lacked confidence I would be able to keep it running reliably. We were trying to get on the transplant list and if they call you need to be there NOW or lose your spot to the back up they also call.  With dialysis it is dialysize or die so car problems aren’t an option.

We shopped around for a used late model Honda or Toyota, but found the Kia Soul new was the same price as one of them with 30,000 miles on it. We also liked it because it seemed to have the most interior space of any car getting 35 mpg highway.  Hybrids were out of our price range.

Vidya does craft shows so you can get a surprising amount of stuff inside it, both going to shows or picking up supplies.  As a matter of fact today I put an 8′ 2″x4″ (2.4 m) piece of treated lumber inside it and was able to close the hatchback.

I was in town to do pre-op for getting a fistula put in tomorrow and I needed a the piece of lumber for a project.

We have a bunch of greenhouse tables built of treated lumber and hardware cloth. In the greenhouse they were recycled from, they were screwed to a support structure so they had no bracing when we got them. Many of them I did put in the bracing but one we hadn’t. Vidya uses it to cure green gourds on we buy on contract from an Amish guy about an hour from here.

They won’t be cured for using until next spring and they do dry faster if off the ground.  We had a few bags deep on this table and it collapsed, lacking bracing. I have some old pieces laying around to brace it but not enough so I had to buy one.

It was real convenient to be able to fit it in the car and close the hatch. In the Corolla I would have had to have it sticking out an open window (we had the rear seat unhooked and easily removed so an 8’er would go from the trunk through the passenger window).

After we bought the Soul, several people commented to us that we had bought the hamster car. At first we had no idea what they were talking about but then they said, from the commercials, which we did eventually see some and there is a whole series of them.

Recently Vidya saw an advertisement from the local Kia dealer that the hamsters were going to be at the dealership.  That was too much fun so she went and got some pictures taken with them.

(They were some local college kids in costume.)


During the interfaith period of New Vrindaban, there was an American Indian spiritual leader named Charles Chipps who visited. He said two things that have stuck in my mind.

One was that there is spirituality, religion, and culture, and you need to be able to tell the difference.

That second was in response to a question of what is the essence of spirituality.  He said don’t take things for granted.

When I lived in New York, I skated  to burn off energy stifled by being cooped up in an office all day. My office was at 34th and 5th Avenue, across the street from the Empire State Building.

After work I would strap on my skates and skate up Madison Avenue to Central Park where I would skate until dark. See a picture of me there here.

Then I would skate down 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park and go around in circles there for a while longer until I took the L train under the river and then skated home to Green Street in Greenpoint.  Besides the mileage going around in circles in the parks that was an 8 mile route.

Needless to say I love roller skating and this video was irresistible, even though I was less into the trick skating and more into disco.

Could the Amul milk cooperative success serve as a model for solar-based electricity in rural India? The “white” revolution can extend to the “light” revolution for 400 million Indians without electricity and burn kerosene for cooking and illumination. Just as farmers contribute milk daily to the cooperative, they could lease their rooftops or land for solar panels, as well.

Some electricity generated will be for personal use, and the excess may be sold or stored in community micro-grids for use at night or when clouds block sunlight. Just as a cow is a local, standalone source for milk, solar panels are local, standalone sources of electricity.

Verghese Kurien, chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), wrote, “Cooperative dairy development on the Amul Pattern has been instrumental in securing rural livelihoods in many parts of India through income generation, agricultural diversification, risk distribution, female empowerment and assured employment.” Cooperatives could augment these benefits by getting into the solar business.

Spark It Off

India experimented with rural electricity cooperatives in the 1960s. Five pilot cooperatives were established in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh, but the movement did not take off. One reason: absence of autonomy.

Focused on distribution, electricity cooperatives relied on the State Electricity Boards (SEB) for generation and transmission. SEBs are plagued by mis-governance and burdened by “free power for farmers” type political schemes. In 2005, India launched the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY). The programme also has made a limited dent in rural electrification.

In contrast, the U.S. has 1,000 rural electric cooperatives serving 30 million Americans. They own nearly half of all distribution lines and cover three-fourths of the nation’s land. In 1932, 10 percent of America’s farms had electricity compared with 70 percent of urban homes.

Says a cooperative’s website: “While his urban brethren basked in electricity’s glow, the American farmer lingered in the past, toiling by kerosene lamp … The farmer’s desire for electricity was passionate but the means elusive. The vast distances between farms made stringing lines and setting poles costly.”

A fresh look at electricity cooperatives is warranted, no matter what reservations one may harbour about cooperatives as an organisational form. This is because solar-based distributed generation is poised to liberate any new power company from dependence on state-controlled grids. Power generated on rooftops may be delivered to rooms from standalone systems cost competitively with fossil fuel power. As a result, cooperatives gain control over their own destinies.

Cusp of a Revolution

Most users do not care whether electricity comes from distant wires or panels on rooftops. We only need illumination, cooling, heating, and motion at the flick of a switch. Only rarely in industrial history has a substitute so radically challenged the existing network topology, and therefore the industry structure and economics of utilities, as distributed solar is poised to do.

China has made massive investments in solar panel production and has driven out costs; we acknowledge their contribution to affordable electricity. Significant problems remain, like high battery storage costs. Yet for community micro-grids, complementary technologies — wind, biofuels, and diesel — can compensate in the absence of sunlight.

The fundamental problem for rural electrification (and telephony) has been that network economics fail in the hinterlands with sparse populations. To cover infrastructure costs, populations need to be large and concentrated. With telephones, the wireless revolution made it economical to reach rural customers because costly digging wasn’t necessary to lay cables. India had an explosion in telecom services.

Can the wireless telecom analogy extend to electricity? Not in any traditional way of thinking. Electricity is pre-dominantly a wired, network service. But now, photovoltaic solar can be deployed as a network-independent service, and a parallel may be drawn between wireless telephony and electricity. When electricity becomes less of a networking business, there are no transmission losses, no copper wires or electricity to steal — total costs come down.

Leadership Issue

Whereas technological advancements, a low cost network topology, and hard economics favour distributed generation, it is insufficient. Business acumen and managerial skills are essential too, which Amul and its sister cooperatives have.

The three-tier Amul Model of dairy development comprising the cooperative societies at the village level, federated under a milk union at the district, and member unions at the State level translates well with the solar value chain comprising of generation and distribution.

Enlisting the participation of societies; setting up operations involving over 12 million farmers, more than a lakh villages, and over 200 diary plants; establishing new work methods; managing the brand; maintaining public-spiritedness — these are accomplishments hard to find in the private sector, let alone the government. The cooperatives are, therefore, positioned to leverage their expertise to launch self-sustaining microgrids in many communities.

To do this, as Verghese Kurien said, “Cooperatives must be headed only by professionals armed with tenures long enough to achieve meaningful changes and to put in place comprehensive systems. An officer deputed with ad hoc powers and subject to sudden transfers … can hardly be expected to measure up to the task. As a corollary, no political consideration must colour the policies, objectives, strategies and functioning of a cooperative.”

Leadership, vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment are essential to drive electricity cooperatives — difficult, but doable.

Government Role

The state has an important, limited role in catalysing the process — policy framework, seed capital, soft loans. Almost no regulation is needed. The market and cooperatives can determine prices. The microgrids may remain self-sufficient and off-grid.

The milk cooperatives may participate in this dynamic field by forming motivated teams, establishing prototypes, and exploring business models to gain a “feel” for what works.

We know diversification efforts in unrelated sectors often fail, less because the concept is wrong, and more due to the absence of leaders around whom to build the business. Caution is in order alongside experimentation. With luck, cooperatives can empower rural India.

This article was originally published on The Hindu Business Line on November 2.

The Christmas seasoning is approaching. If you are going to buy from Amazon,please  do me a favor.

Go to my blog itself and scroll down the right sidebar until you see a picture of the Bhagavad Gita.  Click on that and it will take you to

Then search for/go to the thing(s) you were going to buy and proceed as any normal purchase. Once you enter via  the portal on my blog, anything you purchase after that for the next 24 hours I get a small percent of. It doesn’t affect your price, it comes out of their advertising budget.

Thanks in advance.


A working ox named Lou, who in recent weeks became arguably his species’ most prominent representative, died on Sunday in pastoral Vermont, euthanized after his impending slaughter stirred a face-off between sustainable farmers in the state and animal rights advocates from around the world.

For Green Mountain College, where Lou tilled the fields with his teammate, a second ox named Bill, this was never the plan. After about 10 years at the college, Lou sustained an injury to his right rear hock over the summer. The college decided to slaughter both animals and serve them in the dining hall, viewing the action as an execution of the college’s sustainable-farming mission.

But criticism from animal rights advocates left the college with a problem: it could not find a slaughterhouse that would take Bill and Lou.

“The slaughterhouses were barraged by threats from the animal rights activists and refused the animals, so we were unable to carry through with our plan,” said William Throop, the college provost who also specializes in environmental ethics.

That gave the oxen a temporary reprieve. But Lou’s quality of life continued to diminish, and, with slaughter now out of the question, the college elected euthanization.

“The arrival of cold temperatures and icy conditions are certain to increase his suffering, and we have concurred with our veterinarians’ judgment that it was not humane for him to suffer further,” read a statement released by the college on Sunday.

Many on the campus in Poultney, Vt., viewed Lou’s demise as a wasteful and unnecessary end to a frustrating public relations battle.

“It’s really sad to me, wasting 2,000 pounds of meat and putting it into the ground to decompose,” said Baylee Drown, an assistant farm manager at Green Mountain College. “And still having the end result being having the oxen being dead.”

Pattrice Jones, of the VINE animal sanctuary, which had offered to take the oxen to avert their slaughter, expressed cautious relief over the modified fate of the animals. “If this really was euthanasia — mandated and performed by a veterinarian for humane reasons and by humane methods — and they really have decided not to kill Bill, then that would represent a compassionate decision in line with what tens of thousands of people have been imploring Green Mountain College to do,” Ms. Jones said.

The fervor of protesters — who expressed their opposition by putting thousands of signatures on online petitions, posting angry comments on the college’s Facebook page, and mounting a small protest — frustrated administrators and students, who said they, too, cared about the welfare of the animals.

“Our critics,” Dr. Throop said, “are people who do not believe in animal agriculture because they do not believe it’s acceptable to eat meat. They’re basically trying to use us as a pawn in their war to eliminate animal agriculture.”

Bill will remain at Green Mountain College, which said in its statement that he will “receive care consistent with appropriate livestock practices.”

“That leaves it open,” Ms. Drown said of his fate. “We’ve been talking about a lot of the possibilities. He does work as a single animal, but it’s not really as efficient to work a single animal than to work a team.”

The pair were twins as well as colleagues, and Ms. Drown said Bill was initially distressed when, on Sunday, he found himself on his own.

“Sunday morning, when the students got there, Bill was a little distraught,” she said. “When they put him outside he just waited by the gate for a while — normally he’d just go into his pasture and start eating.”

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

On PBS there is a show called Market Warriors. The premise is that 4 antique dealers go into an upscale flea market and have a budget to spend and parameters to follow, like say get something cast iron, or early 20th century painting or other limiting factor.   They buy whatever and  what they bought is sold at auction. The differential between what they spent and what it sells for is their score.  Negative scores aren’t uncommon.

I have a hobby of yard saleing and going to flea markets.  It is not that we need so much anymore with all the kids grown up and gone, but it is the thrill of the hunt.

Some things I do look for like next spring we are going to do a workshop on how to build earth sheltered housing using tires for the retaining walls so we are going to have a large number of hands on participants. For each pair of participants we will need a sledge hammer to ram the earth into the tires so I have been buying any sledge hammer I find for $5 or less. A 10 pound sledge at Sears ranges from $30 to $65.

We go through silverware for some reason and replenish it at $.10 @ at flea markets when needed.  So when I saw this at $5. I first thought it was a mistake.

That is just what it looks like, gold plated silverware.  A couple of pieces missing but 50 in all matched and another 6 teaspoons, still new in the cellophane, that almost match.  Plus 4 matching gold plated napkin rings.

I showed it to Marty who besides being a published author of children’s books, buys and sells household stuff to supplement his living and he said he had recently bought a similar set for $35 and sold it for $70.

Gosh Market Warrior score




BTW, if anyone wants a gold spoon for their Deities, I will send you one, just let me know.

This probably made my top 10 list of best deals at a flea market, a Balarama mrdanga for $7  also being on that list.

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