Bobbing Around

Volume Seven, Number Six
March, 2008

Bob Rich's rave  other issues


*About Bobbing Around
  guidelines for contributions
*Response to the last issue
  Ben Hamley on vertical farming
  Ten sorry excuses for not saying sorry, by Chris Graham
  Letter to a science fiction contest.
  Replace oil with the desert sun
  GM crops increase pesticide use, by Cam Walker
  Stop the forest liars, by Glen Barry
  Global food prices soar
*Deeper issues
  Vatican announces new deadly sins
  Have you heard about dark matter?
  How do I protect this 4-year-old?
  Coming to terms to having been adopted
  Those Pesky Words: Observation of a psychological phenomenon, by Dr Elizabeth Tindle
  SSRI antidepressants exposed, again
*For writers
*What my friends want you to know
  Survey to help set up a museum of human rights
  Read an e-book week
  Mark Watson's Earth Summit
  Canberra conference: Life on Greenhouse Earth
  Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Book Fairs to Publicists
  BAINSTORMING: Darrell Bain's March Newsletter
  Amazon Shorts releases third story by Kathe Gogolewski
  Swami Beyondananda's 2008 State of the Universe Address
  Personally Speaking: comments from a reader
*Free contests, good prizes

   Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the entire magazine to anyone else.

A bit of a disaster

   On the 18th of February, I suffered a hard disk crash. Naughty, naughty, my last backup had been on the 1st of January.

   A software recovery was not possible. And I found out that a hardware recovery involves weeks of waiting, and a LOT of money -- if it works.

   Eventually, mine didn't. I have lost my current work on three books, and lots of other essential information as well. I lost quite a few submissions sent to me for this issue of Bobbing Around, the email addresses of new subscribers, important emails...

   This has been a lesson to me. Let it be a lesson to you too.

   The actual bit of junk is covered by warranty. The lost information is not.

   And you know what? The hard disk was made in China. This proves what I wrote a couple of issues ago.

From a recent editing client

   A bit over a week ago, I edited a remarkable book by an Iraqi, now living in Sydney. He had left Iraq 12 years ago because Saddam's regime had identified him as a dissident. (He was, too.) One of his nephews had been killed in a bomb attack, so he returned to console his brother. The book is an honest, no-frills account of his experiences there. If you want to find out about Iraq as it is, without spin or hyperbole, read this book when it comes out.

   Jameel's English is not the best, which is one reason he needed my services, but before his escape he was a playwright and theatrical director. This is what he wrote soon after receiving his book back from me:

Dear Dr.Bob
   How are you, I am pleased to tell that my book about Iraq, you already edited last week ago, has been accepted by Loving Healing Press. I found this publisher when I was browsing your website. Once I told them that you edited my book they immediately replied asking me to read the manuscript, and in the second day they accept it. Victor Volkman send me the contract and I signed it and sent it back to him. You can see that you name is glistening like gold! Victor send you his greetings.
Issam Jameel

I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them the courtesy of a forum.

Response to the last issue

Ben Hamley on vertical farming

Ben Hamley on vertical farming

See Vertical Farming.

Hey Bob,
How are you?

   Isn't it just classic that this proposal is for a NEW building! As usual, what could have been the major advantage of such an idea has been lost in the rush for bucks. Where significant savings in energy and materials consumption would result from reclaiming existing urban vertical space with no other productive use (such as multi-storey car parks!) for food production, this proposal will add yet another monstrosity to the world's high-rise fleet! How much extra concrete and steel will this cost? How much energy will it use to run? Where, in the Nevada Desert, will it get its water from?

   Just as importantly: what kind of production paradigm will be in place within these skyfarms? I would dearly love to believe that having slapped up another skyscraper, the proprietors could then sustainably produce healthy, ethical, low-toxicity food using (for example) some variety of organic aquaponics managed by permaculture or agro-ecological experts. Unfortunately this seems a little unlikely.

   Just imagine what the mega-construction mentality would do with an idea like Forestieri's! (house, garden and orchards hand-dug underground in the California desert).

Thanks as always for a thought-provoking read.

Artist, activist, oecologist and hausfrau: Ben Hamley is still looking for a good reason not to blow shit up. He was born and raised in the rich “first” world but feels a strong sense of kinship with indigenous and dispossessed peoples the world over. Current Projects include a permaculture retreat in South Moreton Bay, an album of original songs to be released in “Oh-Nine” and two kids under the age of ten in training as enviro-social activists. You can read more of his rantings at


Ten sorry excuses for not saying sorry by Chris Graham

Ten sorry excuses for not saying sorry
by Chris Graham

One of new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's first actions was to offer an official apology to Aboriginals for the Stolen Generations. However, ex-PM John Howard has been quoted as standing by his view that the Australian government of today should not offer an apology.

   There's nothing like a little 'sorry' debate to get white Australia all red and puffy. Here's a punter's guide to exploding 10 of the more virulent myths surrounding a national apology to members of the Stolen Generations:

   It was done by a previous generation. Not correct. Of all the Stolen Generations myths, this is the biggest. If it were "previous generations," then surely there'd be no-one left to apologize to? The facts are that the removal of Aboriginal children continued well into the 1960s and early 1970s. It's worth noting it was absolutely raging during the late 1950s, when a small, lispy man named John Howard was serving as president of the NSW Young Liberals.

   Saying sorry won't deliver better results in health, housing or education. Here's a surprising revelation for you -- saying sorry is not supposed to deliver health, housing and education. Equally, saying sorry won't prevent governments from delivering health, housing and education. This particular objection is perhaps the dumbest of them all and is run by conservatives like Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson and The Australian. Its fundamental flaw is that it relies on the premise that Australia is so backward as a nation we can't deliver practical outcomes while simultaneously delivering symbolic gestures. In other words, we can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

   I will not be made to feel guilt and shame for something I didn't do. In the case of younger Australians who were not alive during the removal practices, the word 'Sorry' does not have to be an expression of shame or guilt. It can be an expression of empathy, as in 'I'm sorry to hear your mum died' or 'I'm sorry you got hurt in that car accident'. Personally, I was born in 1972 when government started to abandon the removal policies. I don't feel shame at my personal actions, but I do feel shame at the actions of my country. As for older Australians, many claim 'I had nothing to do with it'. Well, that's part of the problem -- bad things happen when good people stay silent. The point is not that older Australians participated in the removal process, but that they did nothing to stop it. Saying 'But I didn't know it was happening' is certainly more than sufficient to keep you out of a court of law, but it's not enough to excuse you from a collective national apology. If you're still confused on this front, you might recall that several years ago, John Howard apologized to Vietnam Veterans for their treatment when they returned from the war. Again, having been born in 1972, I didn't mistreat Vietnam Veterans. But I had absolutely no problem with the PM saying sorry to them on my behalf, because I am sorry (and I ashamed for my nation) that they were treated so poorly.

   Some Aboriginal leaders have said an apology is not important. Sure, but almost every one of them (hi Warren, hi Noel!) are not members of the Stolen Generations. Their views on whether or not an apology is warranted are no more or less relevant than your or my view... because none of us are victims.

   Aboriginal people can't even agree on an apology. Wow, Aboriginal people have this amazing thing called 'independent thought'. The facts are that some members of the Stolen Generations don't want an apology. That's their right. But the overwhelming majority do. That's also their right.

   It would cost too much in compensation. Contrary to popular opinion, a national apology will have no legal effect on the capacity of members of the Stolen Generations to seek compensation. As a nation, an apology costs us nothing. Period.

   I didn't do it! No, you didn't. But you certainly benefited from it. Just as all Australians today, even some black Australians (hi Noel, hi Warren!) have directly benefited from the theft of Aboriginal land, all Australians have benefited from the removal of Aboriginal children. Why? Because almost all children who were removed to government institutions were then forced to work for the government or private citizens for little or no pay. In America, they called that process slavery. In Australia, we called it 'apprenticeships'. In December 2006, the federal parliament released a report supported by the ALP and the Liberals acknowledging the stolen wages scandal.

   The people who performed the removals were good people who did a bad thing. Big f-cking deal. Good people do bad things all the time, but that doesn't mean they're excused from apologising.

   It won't affect white Australia, so why worry? The removals practice AND the use of this issue by John Howard as a race wedge is a stain on white Australia's recent past. Just as Aboriginal people need an apology to move on, white Australia needs to apologise to move on.

   Saying sorry won't change the past. Sadly, it won't. But it will have a massive impact on the future. That's the whole point. A real apology will mean an enormous amount to Aboriginal people. I still can't fathom what sort of a nation would deny them one.

Chris is the editor of The National Indigenous Times, Australia's newspaper for Aboriginal people.


Letter to a science fiction contest
Replace oil with the desert sun
GM crops increase pesticide use by Cam Walker
Stop the forest liars by Glen Barry
Global food prices soar

Letter to a science fiction contest

I am entering a story in a contest run in association with the major science fiction publisher Baen Books. The submission specs were so unrealistic that I felt forced to pen the following:

   Science fiction needs to be based on science. (Duh!) When Jules Verne wrote of adventures in huge interconnected caverns under the continents, this was science fiction, because, given the knowledge of the day, it could have been possible. If someone today put a story in the same place it would be fantasy, because modern geophysics has showed that no such caverns exist on this planet. Of course, putting the caverns on a planet elsewhere in the universe would qualify.

   Your submission specs ask for stories set up to 50 to 60 years into the future, with a theme of positive experiences of manned space travel.

   This is fantasy, not science fiction, because it ignores today's scientific knowledge. With a very high probability, 50 to 60 years from now will see a world where space travel is as possible as it was 200 years ago. If there is still a civilization on Earth, it will no longer have the capability to make a motor car, never mind a space ship.

   The most likely world of that time will be post-cataclysm. Environmental catastrophe is overwhelmingly likely. I could state the evidence for this, but I am sure you don't want to read a treatise on the subject.

   However, even if we go with a whimper rather than a bang, by then climate change will have killed some billions of people, drowned all the coastal cities (think of New York, Boston, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, etc. etc.), and significantly reduced the life carrying capacity of the planet. Fossil fuels, many metals, topsoil, fresh water and several other resources will have been seriously depleted. Pollution will have even further increased the galloping epidemics of cancer, asthma and other diseases.

   In these circumstances, the only chance for humans to fly off-planet is along the lines of my story. I suggest that any submissions that ignore currently available scientific evidence about climate change, resource depletion and pollution be disqualified on the basis that they are fantasy.


   I am not stupid enough to SEND the letter--but I wanted to share it with you.

Replace oil with the desert sun

   An article in The Guardian by Ashley Seager reports on a serious proposal by European scientists to use the desert areas of North Africa to supply a large proportion of Europe's energy needs. Shaded areas for horticulture, irrigated with water desalinated by the system, would be a bonus for locals, and nearby areas could even be provided with air conditioning.

   The technology is simple: use large mirrors to concentrate solar energy on boilers containing a suitable fluid. There is a 15 year old installation of this kind in the Mojave desert in California. And if Australia were to invest in a system like this, we could get rid of our nasty coal-burners.

   The cost of producing electricity in this way is already less than fossil fuel alternatives, which of course will only get dearer.

   And if electricity becomes cheap enough and green enough, it can replace oil as a fuel for cars. The latest issue of Earth Garden magazine features my friend Alan Gray's brand new electric car, which right now he can run at a fraction of the cost of its petrol-guzzling equivalent. The cost of conversion is high, but mass-produced electric cars should be cheaper than those with an internal combusion engine.

GM crops increase pesticide use
by Cam Walker

Cam is an old friend, and comrade in many battles. He has been a leader at Friends of the Earth Fitzroy (Victoria, Australia) for about forever. He is a powerful researcher and activist.

   The Friends of the Earth International report "The Rise in Pesticide Use" concludes that GM crops on the market today have on the whole caused an increase rather than a decrease in toxic pesticides use, and have failed to tackle hunger and poverty.

   After more than a decade of GM crop cultivation, more than 70% of the area cultivated with biotech crops is still concentrated in only two countries: the US and Argentina. To date, GM crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty in Africa or elsewhere.

   "The biotech industry is telling Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But how can we believe such statements when the majority of GM crops are used to feed the animals of rich countries, produce industrial products like agrofuels, and overall don't yield more than conventional crops?" said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria/ERA.

   "GM crops still fail to deliver the long-promised benefits. They are not good for the environment, as they are increasing pesticide use. In addition, they do not benefit small farmers or consumers in terms of quality or price," added Bassey.

   The new report launch coincides with the annual release of the "Global Status of Commercialized Biotech" report of the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) which promotes GM crops as beneficial for the environment and a key solution to hunger and poverty.

   The GM crops industry continues to misleadingly claim that GM crops reduce pesticide use and play a role in tackling poverty and hunger. The main conclusions of the 2008 report "The Rise in Pesticide Use" include :

1) GM crops are not 'green'. The adoption of Roundup Ready (RR) crops, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in pesticide use:

  • In the United States, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that RR crops drove a more than 15-fold increase in the use of glyphosate on major field crops from 1994 to 2005. In 2006, the last year for which data is available, glyphosate use on soybeans jumped 28%. The intensity of glyphosate use has also risen dramatically. From 1994 to 2006, the amount of glyphosate applied per acre of soya rose by more than 150%. The increase in glyphosate herbicide is no longer displacing other herbicides in the US. From 2002 to 2006 the use of 2,4-D on soybeans more than doubled, and the use of atrazine (an herbicide banned in Europe due to links to health problems) on corn increased by 12 per cent from 2002 to 2005.
  • In major RR soybean producer countries, like Brazil and Argentina, glyphosate use and weed resistance have risen. A 2007 study by a Brazilian governmental agency shows that the use of glyphosate increased 80% between 2000 to 2005, much faster than the expansion in area planted with RR soya. In 2007 a glyphosate-resistant weed called Johnson Grass infested over 120,000 ha in Argentina. An estimated 25 million litres of herbicides other than glyphosate will be needed, resulting in increasing production costs of between $160 to 950 million per year. In India, a 2007 study from Andhra University concluded that Bt cotton uses the same amount of pesticides as conventional cotton.

    2) GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialized so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues. GM crops are not providing help to small farmers in developing countries. In South Africa, since the adoption of Bt cotton, the number of small cotton farmers have plummeted from 3229 in 2001/02 to 853 in 2006/07.

    3) Overall, current GM crops do not yield more than other existing crop varieties:

  • RR Soybeans, the most widely planted GM crop in the world, does not have a higher yield performance than conventional soya. On the contrary, many studies show that RR soya has on average 5-10% lower yield than equivalent conventional varieties.
  • Bt cotton does not have higher yields than conventional cotton. In most countries where Bt cotton was adopted, such as the U.S., Argentina, Colombia, and Australia, overall cotton yields remained constant. In other countries, like India and China, the yield increase is mainly due to weather conditions and other production factors not related to GM technology. For example Xinjiang, the Chinese province with the highest cotton production and the highest average yield in China, grows mostly conventional cotton, not Bt varieties.

       The report is available at

    Stop the forest liars
    by Glen Barry

    Glen Barry runs the environmental web site and newsletter Ecological Internet.


       Outrageous support by big environmental groups for first-time industrial logging of primary and old-growth rainforest wildernesses based upon vague claims that FSC certification makes it sustainable, well-managed and now even "carbon positive" is a big lie and must end.

       Many of the world's largest environmental groups continue to support Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) "certified" industrial logging of the world's last primary and old-growth forests. They have fallen for, and now espouse, the big lie that first time logging of ancient forests containing centuries old trees can be done in an ecologically well-managed and sustainable manner. These otherwise well-regarded organizations should know better, yet there is no chance ancient forest logging will ever end when they continue their misguided greenwashing of "certified" ancient forest destruction.

       This is not a minor policy difference: whether and when old-growth logging ends will critically determine the likelihood of the Earth's climate, species, ecosystems and human livelihoods being maintained. Please join us in calling upon Greenpeace, WWF, Rainforest Action Network, NRDC, Forest Ethics, Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Alliance to immediately end their support for first time logging of primary and old-growth forests. These groups must withdraw from FSC, commit to working to end ancient forest logging as a keystone response to the biodiversity and climate change crises, and support local sustainable community development based upon standing and intact forests.

    Take Action:

    Discuss Alert:

    Global food prices soar

       Mark Thirlwell of The Financial Times is one of several writers who have noted the steep rise in food prices globally. Naturally, this phenomenon will further increase the difficulties of the poor, particularly of the urban poor in the third world.

       Commentators have identified two major causes.

       One is the booming biofuel industry. As the President of the EEC has publicly admitted, the switch to bio-diesel has led to an environmental catastrophe, with rainforest, ecologically vulnerable land and farmland being converted to supplying the hungry vehicles of the overdeveloped world. 20% of American-grown maize is now converted into fuel, but people still like to eat, thank you.

       The second cause is the booming economy of certain countries, particularly China. With so many western companies outsourcing work to China, India and other countries, there is a rapidly growing middle class that watches TV, and would like to live like what they see on it. And who can blame them? But thirty years ago, the material consumption of the USA (and to a lesser extent, Europe and their extensions such as Australia) already were on the way to bankrupting the planet. Now, a higher level of consumption is demanded by a very much larger population with access to a reasonable income.

       Believe it or not, a finite cake can only be cut into so many pieces. Topsoil, fresh water and other resources are limited. The agricultural revolution has proved to be revoltingly ineffective.

       Maybe we should all go on a strict diet?

    Deeper Issues

    Vatican announces new deadly sins
    Have you heard about dark matter?

    Vatican announces new deadly sins

       It's not often that I agree with the Vatican. However, a report by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano states that the seven deadly sins of Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed and Sloth have had seven new ones added to them. I agree that several of these are the worst things people can do.

       The new deadly sins are Polluting, Genetic engineering, Being obscenely rich, Drug dealing, Abortion, Pedophilia and Causing social injustice.

       Let's just think about this rather odd list.


       Yes, generating pollution is bad. It is self-destructive, like fouling one's own nest. It causes ill health, ugliness and hardship. But if it's a deadly sin, immediately we know that there is no hope for any of us. Since the beginning of time, all humans, all animals and even many plants have been causing pollution. The problems are the scale of pollution we now generate, and the fact that many substances we release are foreign to nature, so there is a problem with having them decompose.

       Every time I do almost anything, I add to pollution in some way, because I live within an industrial society. So, with the best of good will, I am damned.

       So, while I agree with the intent of making people conscious of the need to minimise pollution, I do think this is a rather silly thing to declare as a deadly sin. It's like making sexual relations sinful. Some sexual activities can be so declared, but a universal ban on sex is not that workable.

    Genetic engineering

       Genetic engineering terrifies me, despite the many promises of the miracles to come. As with polluting, I agree that everything possible must be done to rein in the potential monster being created, even though many of the researchers probably have the highest ideals and motives.

       In an ideal world, there would be incredibly strict controls (which definitely do not exist right now), and no-one would be using it for private gain of money or power. However, the companies that finance genetic engineering are the same as have caused incalculable harm through agricultural chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs. The latest exposure concerns antidepressants. In these hands, genetic engineering is an undoubted evil.

       But is it a sin of such magnitude that it deserves mandatory detention in hell forever? If the genetic code is God's work, then yes, this is straight blasphemy. So, if you are a believing Catholic, then this is fair enough.

    Being obscenely rich

       If you have read the essay on my web site, you will know that I also condemn the preoccupation with material consumption, wealth and power. Unlimited greed is the major force that is wrecking our world. However, Greed is already on the list, so this is a duplication. Besides, such a statement needs a criterion: when is being rich obscenely rich? From the standpoint of an African villager, every person in the overdeveloped world is obscenely rich. We should all live simply, so others may simply live.

    Drug dealing

       They have my full and unqualified agreement here. Only, all harmful drugs should then be included, particularly alcohol, tobacco, and many prescription medications.


       I disagree. Abortion may be a terrible act in certain circumstances, a responsible act of mercy in others. The Vatican needs to acknowledge that we live in a grossly overpopulated world. Also, there are many situations where a child should not be allowed. I think a worse sin is to introduce a child into a situation where abuse and neglect are pretty well guaranteed.


       I am cheering for this one. I even hate the name. It means 'the loving of children.' I love children, but do not treat them in a sexual manner. The older word of pederasty was better.

       However, I would extend it. Sexual abuse of a child is probably among the worst form of abuse, but there are others I'd include. I would like to see all people who knowingly abuse or severely neglect children to roast in hell forever.

    Causing social injustice

       This has the same oddity about it as pollution and being obscenely rich. People in overdeveloped countries cause social injustice simply by existing. If my country exploits another, for example via international aid that is hidden exploitation, then I am causing social injustice by paying my taxes. Every time I buy a consumer item, I may contribute to social injustice. Even if the label claims 'Made in Australia' or 'Made in the USA,' chances are some of the manufacture was in exploitative sweat shops in China or a third world country.

       So, as with those other two items, while I approve of the intent behind the item, I think it's stupid, and not thought through.


       Comments welcome.

    Have you heard about dark matter?

       Dr Nick Lomb is a three-generation friend. His grandmother and mine went to school together. His mother and mine were best friends. His uncle sponsored the migration of my uncle to Australia, and so is responsible for my presence here. When we were kids, I always thought that Nick and his sister Esther were my cousins, although this was not so.

       Nick trained as an astronomer, and has worked for years as the Curator of Astronomy at Sydney Observatory. He has a long list of publications, most of them concerned with easy-to read instruction about astronomy to ordinary mortals like me.

       He and his wife came visiting recently, and I found this very educational. I learned that the Universe I have been aware of is only about one-tenth of the whole. 90% is so fundamentally different that we have no idea what it is.

       The stars, including ones so big that they are black holes, planets, people -- everything we can see -- is what's called baryonic matter. This consists of atoms, which have a nucleus of protons and neutrons, and electrons held to them by electromagnetic forces. But, as I said, that's only 10% of the universe. The rest has gravity, and can be detected through its effect on anything that responds to gravity, such as light rays from distant galaxies. However, it does not interact with light, magnetism, heat or anything else. Apparently, a lump of this 'dark matter' could pass right through you, and you wouldn't know.

       This concept has so intrigued me that I exchanged several emails with Nick. He has posted this conversation to his blog, at A few other people have contributed too.

       If you are interested in the nature of the Universe of which we are a part, you might want to read this. You can even add to the blog, and/or respond to me.


    How do I protect this 4-year-old?
    Coming to terms to having been adopted
    Those Pesky Words: Observation of a psychological phenomenon by Dr Elizabeth Tindle
    SSRI antidepressants exposed, again

    How do I protect this 4-year-old?

       Unfortunately, my hard disk crash destroyed my records of questions and answers I'd saved for here. However, I am not the only Worker for the Light. There are many of us, and my friend Alfredo Zotti perhaps outdoes all the others. He answers hundreds of emails, without any expectation of return. He is not a trained therapist, and doesn't pretend to be one, but his wisdom and caring shine through this exchange:


       I would like to know if you can advise me. I am the guardian of a 4 year old girl whose mother has bipolar. Her mother has been in and out of jail for a few years and is presently in for another year and a half. The 4 year old little girl sometimes appears to be bipolar herself or sometimes acts out the same type of actions as her mother. I'm not sure if she remembers things that happened when she was with her mother and is copying her or if these are her own expressions of bipolar. Please advise me what to do because it is affecting her behaviour at preschool. She will be 5 next month and is ready for kindergarten in Sept, however, I would like to know what to do.


       First of all it is of some importance to know a little about bipolar. People who have bipolar do not necessarily have a criminal mind or violent tendencies. This is a frequent misperception. Bipolar and crime or violence are not strongly related. There are many great artists and great historical figures who have suffered from bipolar. This is because there are the great achievers who have bipolar, and those who cannot cope with their condition. The latter are usually more prone to get themselves into trouble.

       As far as the little girl, I think that all children try to imitate their parents in one way or another but she is quite young and it is most probably the case that she is suffering what I call "negative attachment".

       She has gone through a traumatic time because of being separated from her mother or because of other traumas she may have endured while with her mum, given that she sounds like a bipolar who could not cope with her condition.

       I would not pay too much attention to "bipolar" itself as a possible disability that the young girl could have acquired through genetic forces.

       As a guardian, if you love the little girl, show her how to be strong and help her understand life so that she can grow with a positive outlook, then I guarantee that she will grow into a beautiful young woman, bipolar or no. Remember that some of the most beautiful and most talented people in this world have bipolar. It can be a gift or it can be a curse. It is all up to us how we perceive the situation and how this influences the person whom we are trying to help.

        The moral of the story is that love will overcome any problems and that if you provide love and a strong environment of security and stability, all will turn out fine.

       I would try, also, to have a serious talk to her mother, should the young girl have to live with her again in the future. If the mother is not up to raising her child, then it is up to you to represent the interest of the little girl and fight for her. Never leave a child with a parent who is on drugs, who takes alcohol and most importantly, who does not want to help her/himself. A child belongs to our future and she is no one's possession. If society was aware that children need stability when they grow, we would have fewer social problems in our world. But this is a complex issue and I do not know all of the details.


    Coming to terms to having been adopted

    Hi Bob,

       I just read your response to a sad and angry adoptee and it really helped me too!

       You wrote:

       "The past is a prison only if we don't realize that we hold the key. I have no doubt that your mother did the best she could at the time. She suffered from problems, no doubt imposed on her by the adults in her childhood or other important influences on her development. Just as you are responsible for your reactions but not to be blamed, she is responsible for not exercising the choice of breaking away from her childhood conditioning -- but not to be blamed."

       My situation was very similar to hers and I really appreciated your perspective.


    Those Pesky Words: Observation of a psychological phenomenon
    by Dr Elizabeth Tindle

       I multitask like many other people and as I age I seem to expect more from myself in this sphere. One of my common habits is to write copious notes at a frenetic speed as I listen intently to an interesting discussion or lecture on Radio National. When I read my notes at a later date, I pick out a few mistakes. They are mistakes of spelling of an unusual kind. The letters of the words written are correct but the word itself isn't. However, the words written sound similar to the words that I intended to write. For example I wrote the word "fork" instead of "folk': I wrote "valley" instead of "value": "fees" instead of "fears": birth-rate" instead of "birth-weight".

       From these examples it seems as if I am starting off writing the word and leaving my brain and my fine motor skills of writing, to complete it while I continue concentrating on listening and processing the message of the speaker. I don't want to miss an important point.

       This phenomenon does not occur when I am focussing on writing down my own thoughts, not having to listen and process from another source. I have, in the past had students who have claimed that they are unable to take notes and listen to the lecturer at the same time. It definitely is a skill that improves with practice but a skill that consumes a lot of brain work, focus and concentration. Students have less of this note taking to do at university now because they can record their lectures or see and hear them again on their computers with On Line Teaching (OLT ) facility.

       What is happening in the brain when there is a substitution such as what I've described? Obviously the brain can not process two thoughts at the same time, so the word bank of my memory does its best and gives me a word starting with the sound I want and then finishes with another English word stored in the bank but not the one originally intended eg "valley" instead of "value", "birth-rate" instead of "birth-weight.

       Another mystery to me is the reversing of letters. It is almost as if my pen is too slow for my brain and I am writing the second letter in the word because I have already moved on to this before I have actually written the first. For example, I may start with "f" when I want to write "of" and have to correct myself.

       Does all of this signify the start of a decline in my mental capacity? Or am I overloading my brain with multiple processing demands that it can't carry out without error? My defensive explanation of course is that it isn't a decline; rather a self awareness and a minor contribution to the Greek recommendation to "know thyself". Yes, I think I do tax my brain and expect it to process multiple sensory inputs all at once. It does a pretty good job most of the time. Or am I in denial and am really detecting the first signs of losing my marbles? Scary thought!!

       If this same phenomenon had happened when I was a university student, would I have even noticed it? I doubt it. At that time in my life I would have probably focussed on one thing at a time and swung from listening to writing and back to listening.

       Has anyone else observed this phenomenon or similar, in themselves?

    I don't usually replace a word with its homophone, but when writing or typing, I do finger stumbles all the time. 'Fo' for 'of' is one of my frequent ones too. If this has to do with aging, then I have been old for an awful long time. Some people choose to label themselves or others dyslexic for this, but I think it's the brain being quicker than the finger, as Elizabeth has suggested.

       I feel highly privileged fro (sorry, for) knowing Elizabeth. We are both on the National Executive of the College of Counselling Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society. Elizabeth is a marvellous artist, poet, writer, speaker, teacher and therapist.

    SSRI antidepressants exposed, again

       For the past 8 years, I have reproduced a very important paper with permission: Exposing the Mythmakers by Barry Duncan, Scott Miller and Jacqueline Sparks. This was a reasoned examination of the effectiveness or otherwise of antidepressant drugs, and as its title implies, it found them seriously wanting.

       For some reason, this paper, published in a large-circulation peer-reviewed journal, did not do much to counter the drug companies' propaganda about depression being "nothing but a chemical imbalance" to be corrected with their product. Just today, a client told me that this is her psychiatrist's view.

       I am delighted that essentially the same information has been presented in a way that has made world news. This is a major review by Professor Irving Kirsch from the department of psychology at Hull University and colleagues in the US and Canada. They used Freedom of Information Acts to eventually gain access to information suppressed by the drug companies for years.

       As a result, Scott Miller and colleagues have been vindicated, except that Kirsch's conclusions go further. The new review has concluded that only the most severely depressed people have any chance of benefiting from medications such as Prozac. Therapy should be tried before a drug is administered.

       SSRI antidepressants often have distressing side effects. Withdrawal effects are worse. Perhaps the nastiest aspect of being on these drugs is that while they stop you from plummeting to the depths, they also stop you from experiencing joy. People on them have described life to me as being in a fog.

       If you are on one of these drugs, go to your prescribing doctor now, and request a controlled weaning off it. Instead, deal with the issues at the heart of why you feel low. This is easiest to do through therapy -- but I and many thousands of others have done it unaided.

    For writers


       A substantial subculture of the writing community suffers from an obviously painful phobia to the terminal syllable -ly. They would point out to me that the word 'obviously' adds nothing to this sentence: it would mean the same, and have the same force, if the word was deleted.

       What's more, they are correct. This is an instance where the adverb is not needed.

       In other situations, instead of qualifying a generic verb with an adverb, you can create stronger writing by using a more specific verb that encompasses the meaning of the adverb. 'She quickly walked along the footpath' is weaker than 'She hurried along the footpath.'

       A third case when an adverb is unsuitable is if it replaces vivid description. This can be one aspect of 'telling not showing.' 'Angrily she walked out of the room' uses the adverb as a shorthand for the behaviour that indicates her mood to an observer. 'She spun around, stormed through the door and slammed it behind her, hard enough to shake the building' is far more vivid.

       But just because an adverb is sometimes inappropriate doesn't mean it is invariably wrong. Why is it a grammatical form if it should never be used? It exists because it is useful.

       Certainly, the adverb in my opening sentence is not needed, and deleting it would not leave a hole. However, the adverb starting this paragraph is useful. It adds emphasis. The sentence would be weaker if it were removed. Words have uses other than merely conveying information. In this instance, although 'certainly' adds no meaning, it indicates depth of belief.

       While 'hurried' is stronger and therefore better than 'quickly walked', try finding a similar word to replace 'quickly set the table.' I can't -- so if I wanted to indicate hurry in this situation, the -ly word would have to do.

       In the third example, I used a vivid description instead of the summary adverb. This replaced a 7-word phrase with 18 words. Often, we need to write to word limits, and simply cannot afford the words to do this in every situation. If you want your book to be published on paper, you need to consider the cost of production. The paper is printed on is over two-thirds of the cost. So, pages saved mean a cheaper sale price. This is why few publishers will risk a long book from an unknown writer.

       In any case, were you to use a vivid sensory description for every little action, you would end up with a baroque word filigree that would overwhelm the reader. It's best to concentrate attention on key events with concrete description, bringing these situations to life. The rest of the story, the connecting bits that form the background, should be more summary. And what makes this possible? Clearly, I don't have to spell it out.

    What my friends want you to know

    Survey to help set up a museum of human rights
    Read an e-book week
    Mark Watson's Earth Summit
    Canberra conference: Life on Greenhouse Earth
    Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Book Fairs to Publicists
      BAINSTORMING: Darrell Bain's March Newsletter
    Amazon Shorts releases third story by Kathe Gogolewski

    Survey to help set up a museum of human rights

       My friend Rita Toews has sent me a request to encourage people to fill out an online survey. It is to help Canada set up a museum of human rights. I did the task, and found it quite painless.

       Her attention was drawn to it by a lady who is on a committee of the Mennonite faith. They have made a submission, which I have found very moving, even inspiring. I knew little or nothing about Mennonites, but having read this document, I feel honoured to share this planet with them. The entire paper can be read at

    Read an e-book week

       Read An E-Book Week, March 9-15, 2008. Hey, that's THIS week! Sorry, blame my hard disk crash.

       "Carbon Footprint", "Environmentally Friendly" and "Green". Have you considered these words when it comes to your reading material?

       We're encouraged to buy, use and dispose with the environment in mind. While it's easy to recognize the negative impact of excess packaging and chemical content in many of the products we purchase, it's not so easy when it comes to books, magazines and newspapers.

       We do have alternatives other than paper for our reading material. Many books, newspapers and magazines are created electronically. No trees are cut to produce them. No ink is used to put the words on the page. No fossil fuel is used to run presses or trucks to move the books around the country. Heated storage facilities are not required to warehouse e-books as they remain within your computer.

       March 9-15th, 2008 is Read An E-Book Week. The week is set aside to educate consumers about reading electronic books and other reading material. E-books are delivered to the end user electronically. They are read on devices such as the new Sony portable reader or Amazon's Kindle. They are destroyed with the push of a delete button, without ever taking up room in a landfill.

       It takes 24 trees to produce a ton of printing paper, the type normally used for books, 12 trees are harvested for a ton of newsprint. Up to 35% of books printed for consumers (down from nearly 60% several years ago) are never read. They are used for window dressing in book stores, and eventually returned to the publisher for disposal in landfills. Given that a mature tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year, a serious alternative to paper books, magazines and newspapers needs to be considered. That alternative is e-books.

       Before purchasing your next paper book, magazine or newspaper, consider your carbon footprint commitment. Read electronically.


    Mark Watson's Earth Summit

       He's completely unhinged but he could just save the planet. Award-winning UK comedian and novelist Mark Watson presents the world's first comedy version of An Inconvenient Truth.

       Saturday March 29: 4:00pm Melbourne Town Hall, Main Hall

       Having set up Crap at the Environment, an organisation for people who are not very green but keen to do slightly better, Mark Watson was the only comedian among 150 volunteers to attend a three-day training course in September 2007 with Al Gore.

       Embracing his newly minted eco-warrior cred, Mark Watson is bussing across Australia with his 24-hour green comedy show. His aim? To halve his carbon footprint in a year. And so far? "The whole thing got rather out of hand!" he says.

       In Melbourne, in this special one-off appearance somewhere between education and entertainment, Mark will convey his version of the Nobel Prize winner Al Gore's legendary An Inconvenient Truth - but with jokes. Seriously.

       He hasn't done it before and isn't sure what will happen, but with any luck, it might be a turning point for the planet.

    Tickets $10.00
    Bookings Ticketmaster 1300 660 013 or at the door.
    Mark Watson's Earth Summit is a not-for-profit event.

    Canberra conference: Life on Greenhouse Earth

       The theme of the 2-day conference is best stated by the title of the opening address by Barry Jones: Can humans survive the 21st Century? A long list of prominent environmental scientists and other luminaries will speak.

    WHERE? Manning Clark Lecture Theatre No. 3, Union Square Australian National University, Canberra
    WHEN? Wednesday 11 June and Thursday 12 June 2008
    HOW MUCH? A bargain at $200 for 2 days
    For information, email:

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Book Fairs to Publicists

       Carolyn Howard-Johnson, the author of two USA Book News' Best Professional Book awards and founder of Authors' Coalition, will share her secrets for taking a book fair signing out of the realm of hum-drum to make it a sizzling success at the Thursday, April 17 meeting of Book Publicists of Southern California at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City.

       Irwin Zucker, founder of the organization, says, "Carolyn has done so many booths and signings, she's made an art of perfecting it using what she calls value-added promotions." BPSC is a resource for publicists, authors and others associated with the publishing industry. The organizations publishes a member directory and newsletter , sponsors events and gives out the IRWIN awards to help foster industry excellence. Howard-Johnson's The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't is a past winner of the coveted award and both that book and the second in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success are USA Book News Best Book award winners.

       The event includes dinner. Sportsmen's Lodge is at 12825 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. A mixer at 5:30 is the epitome of promotion in action. Dinner at 6:30 is $35 and the program only is $10. Reservations may be made at

       Learn more about Howard-Johnson at

       Learn more about the BPSC at

    BAINSTORMING: Darrell Bain's March Newsletter

       is now live at Subjects this month:

       Betty and the Kitty, Memories, Bain Muses, Drunk Memories, Book Reviews, Bain Blunders, Politeness in Marriage, Progress Report, Excerpt from Alien Infection.

    Thanks for reading.
    Darrell Bain
    Fictionwise 2005 Author of the Year. Double Eppie Award winner 2007. Dream Realm Award, 2007. See for all my books.

    Amazon Shorts releases third story by Kathe Gogolewski

       TRI Studio LLC announces the release of another story by Kathe Gogolewski from Amazon Shorts. The latest, Pony Palace, for children aged 8 to 13, is the third release from Amazon for the author. The other stories, The Gold Coin and Weighing In, are both for adults.

       Started in August, 2005, Amazon Shorts features 800 short stories by new and well-known authors alike for 49 cents each. The website boasts "previously unpublished short story literature for sale exclusively at," and has expanded to include some of today's "freshest literary voices."

       Gogolewski, a retired elementary teacher, says she wrote Pony Palace to "inspire children to work toward something they want, instead of begging for it!" Ray Grant of TRI Studio says, "Children will be able to relate to the main character, a nine-year-old girl named Mikaela, who wants a pony. The humor will capture the attention of both boys and girls as they laugh at her overactive imagination and wonder what she will do next. In the end, their heroine makes all the right choices and creates an ingenious plan to work for what she wants. The ten page story may be printed and given to your favorite young reader."


    Swami Beyondananda's 2008 State of the Universe Address

    I have a new friend, Steve Bhaerman, who is a comrade in arms against the craziness of our world. This essay is so clever with words, gave me so many belly laughs and is so incisive that I have reproduced it in full, despite its length. Enjoy.

    Swami Predicts Heart Times Ahead

       Every year at this time, I am asked to make predictions, and each time I politely refuse because I don't want to jeopardize my nonprophet status. But this year is different. With 2012 just one quantum leap year away, we humans might finally be ready for a quantum leap of our own. The message is coming in loud and clear. Time to shift or get off the pot.

       In order to upshift our karma into surpassing gear, however, we must shift our awareness downward from the static of the head to the ecstatic of the heart. If we are to have an awakening instead of a wake, I predict heart times ahead.

    Disheartenment in the Heartland

       Heartenment, after all, is just the thing to counteract the disheartenment in the heartland. Take the economy -- please! After years of untreated Deficit Inattention Disorder, the U.S. dollar is now worth less than a dollar of Monopoly money. As the most recent Greenspan report tells us, the average American family barely has enough green to span the average month. Meanwhile, trickle down economics has proved true to its name, leaving a growing class of pee-ons at the bottom.

       Then there's electile dysfunction. Instead of transparency around how votes are cast and counted, we have an apparent trance. The secret ballot has been taken to the next level, and now voting machines with secret software count the votes in secret. This is called "faith-based" vote counting. Hey, some of those new "smart" voting machines are so smart, that they don't even need voters! This makes perfect sense because government of, by and for the people has now been efficiently transformed to government of, by and for the very, very few people. Talk about minority representation. We are now governed by a smaller minority than ever in our history!

       Even when we do manage to get an election, the body politic still suffers from impotence. As we learned after the 2006 election, just because we vote for someone doesn't mean they are going to vote for us. Instead of canceling the Iraqi Horror Picture Show, the Democratic misleadership has gone along with the same basic neocon con, only with a cosmetic makeover - sort of a wolfawitz in sheepawitz's clothing.

       Though the upwising continues, irony deficiency and truth decay still plague the body politic. Instead of forums that shine light on political issues, the media has encouraged againstums where incendiary phrases spark heated arguments. So, while red tribe Republicans and blue tribe Democrats argue whether it's wronger to kill the born or the unborn, the born keep dying while the not-yet-born are stuck with the bill. No wonder our moral compass has gone south.

       As if global warring isn't enough to worry about, now there's global warming. It would be sad indeed to have come this far, only to see the headline: "Human Race Ends In a Dead Heat."

       No wonder so many people are scared shiftless. The good news is, this is the State of the Universe Address and I am happy to report that the state of the Universe is copasetic - ever changing, same as always. This is particularly heartening when we realize that that universal state is also our own.

    Universe Knows Best

       When it comes to universal wisdom, you can't beat the Universe. First of all, the Universe is everywhere all at once. Talk about being on top of things. Even as it keeps expanding, the Universe has it together -- which means, as part of the universe, a part of us has it all together too. We are inextricably connected to the Universe. It is inescapable. Without the Universe, we'd be nowhere.

       Here is more amazing news. We are all descended from the same Big Bang! When the Big Bang went boom, all of the Universe's parts departed from one particle. And that includes us. So, we might as well proclaim it proudly. "The Big Bang is my pop. Well, I'll be a son of a gun!"

       The Big Bang is everybody's pop, which means we are all related. If we are indeed a fractal chip off the old block, Universe-wise ... then somewhere we must be as wise as the Universe. For millennia, spiritual teachers have told us to look inside for this universal wisdom. It turns out, they were right. The real spiritual pilgrimage is actually a journey of about twenty-four inches, roughly the distance from the head to the heart.

    The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Heart

       Yes, everyone is equipped to attune to universal wisdom because everyone has been given a heart. And yet, the heart seems to be the last gift we open. The most underdeveloped resource on the planet is the treasure inside our own treasured chest! Given all the craziness in the world, maybe if we invested in expanding our hearts, we'd have less need to shrink our heads.

       And less of a need to be so all-consumed by consumerism. We have learned to spend so much energy pursuing happiness that we never stop to think what would happen if we actually caught it -- or rather, if it caught us. With all this hot pursuit, we have left real happiness in the dust. It is sad indeed that we end up jealous that someone else's happiness might be bigger than our own. Freud called this "happiness envy."

       As the saying goes, money can't buy happiness, although it can buy anti-depressants. But if you are seeking more out of life than not being depressed, the key to happiness is to grow your own. Every one of us should be asking, "What good am I?" What good can I add to the greater goodness? Maybe if we had greater goodness, we'd need fewer goods. As human beings, our biggest asset is love, so now is the time to get up off our big fat assets, and practice supply-side spirituality. Because we aren't here to earn God's love, we are here to spend it. We are here to re-grow the Garden from the grassroots up, and have a heaven of a time doing it!

    Heartland Security

       Now while the solution is simple, no one said it was going to be easy. Just as the human potential movement has made great gains over the past 25 years, the inhuman potential movement has more than kept up. Everywhere I go, the little David's I meet all ask the same question: How can we get Goliath to go lieth down? I have good news and I have other news, and they are both the same: It's up to us. We must lead ourselves out of the bewilderness. Yes, we've been politically abused, so the first step is to disabuse ourselves. We must start overseeing instead of overlooking.

       By overlooking what we should have been overseeing, we have become enablers for the lowest common dominator. Whether it's called globalization or gobble-ization, it's the same old mining operation -- that's mine, that's mine, that's mine. Because we've allowed ourselves to imagine that someday that "mine" will be ours, we have agreed to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with our government. We promise not to ask them what they are doing, and they promise not to tell us. That way, we can pretend to believe we are invading a country to keep the peace, when we are really there to keep the pieces.

       Meanwhile, back at home, they've given last rites to the Bill of Rights, and newspeak has become the new spoken language of the mainstream media. Now before we just shrug and say, "Orwell, what can we do about it?" we need to see the only way to overgrow Big Brother is with bigger brotherhood -- and even bigger sisterhood. Time to heal our spiritual dyslexia, and realize our natural state is sacred, not scared. The scared masculine and the scared feminine have given us the dysfunctional dance of abusers and enablers. Now we must empower the sacred masculine and sacred feminine to come together and conceive what has been inconceivable - the truly evolved human.

       We need to amplify the love and light to counterbalance the darkness and fear, and that is why we need a nongovernmental Department of Heartland Security to secure the heartland and let the powers in power know in no uncertain terms, "Bigger brotherhood is watching you."

       To do that, we must migrate en masse --regardless of political or spiritual affiliation -- to the land of the heart. Instead of squabbling over the differences that separate us, we must cohere around the heart-core values we share in common. That is the only way we can trade our insecurity for inner security. No matter where we stand on climate change, one thing is clear. Global heartwarming is bound to change the political climate for the better.

       Whatever the problems, we have the wherewithal to address them. Now all we need is the aware-with-all. Whether you call yourself a creationist or an evolutionist, or take the simplest approach of all to the Great Unknown -- not knowing -- one thing is undeniable: We are all one with the same One. The story of separation, survival of the fittest, and lowest common dominator --that is the old story.

       Only we have the power to close the book on the old story once and for all, by declaring: And they all lived happily ever after.

       And happily ever after begins now.

    Author and humorist Steve Bhaerman has spent the past 20 years disguised as Swami Beyondananda, the “Cosmic Comic.” Swami’s comedy has been called “irreverently uplifting” and “comedy disguised as wisdom” as well as “wisdom disguised as comedy.” To find out more about Swami’s books, CDs and appearances go to


    Personally Speaking: comments from a reader

    Personally Speaking
    comments from a reader

    Hi Bob.

       Thank you for writing the book titled 'Personally Speaking'.

       To date I have most certainly appreciated, enjoyed and been impressed with your professional approach, interventional strategies, and people skills knowledge.

       Further, my level of understanding the importance of effective communication was highlighted, as you took me on a journey with you. A healing journey where you gently, but with purpose firmly stepped clients through their many, varying and complex presenting problems.

       For that experience I personally would like to thank you.

       Further I thank you for your offer of an extra book. I would like to read the e-book version of Anger and Anxiety.

    Best regards - A.

    This book is available at


       At the moment, my page at gets lots of hits from people all excited about St Patrick's Day (whenever that may be). They do this because of a contest that costs nothing to enter, and with good prizes, including some of my books. There is almost always a free contest at Bookswelove.

    About Bobbing Around

       If you received a copy of Bobbing Around and don't want a repeat, it's simple. Drop me a line and I'll drop you from my list.

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       If you are not a subscriber but want to be, email me. Subject should be 'subscribe Bobbing Around' (it will be if you click the link in this paragraph). In the body, please state your name, email address (get it right!), your country and something about yourself. I also want to know how you found your way to my newsletter. I hope we can become friends.

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