Bobbing Around

Volume Eight, Number One
August, 2008

Bob Rich's (chocolate flavoured) rave

bobswriting.com/  anxietyanddepression-help.com/  mudsmith.net/  other issues

 

*About Bobbing Around
  subscribe/unsubscribe
  guidelines for contributions
*Responses to the last issue
  Mari Bushman, on Al Gore's support for Barack Obama
  Sally Odgers on how to reduce car use
  Dr James Choron on reincarnation
*Politics
    Get rid of nuclear weapons: a petition
  Start of a new era in Australian politics?
  Don't let the Olympics legitimise suffering
*Environment
  From my MP on car emissions
  Cutting down fuel use in your car
  Imagining the Real: Life on Greenhouse Earth: a conference report from John James
  Waterless washing machine
  Hope YOU weren't taken in
*Deeper issues
  But what's it all for?
*Psychology
  He is sweet on the wrong girl
  Letter to a bitter wife
  Grief for a dog
  Isolation
  New family violence web site
*For writers
  How to query a magazine
  Writing for healing, by Marg Muir
*What my friends want you to know
  Guests wanted for radio show
  Geoff Nelder has been chatted up
  Register for 3rd Muse Online Writers' Conference
  Howard-Johnson to Cohost New Borders Best Selling Author TV Series
  Bainstorming -- two for one again
  New song for film, from Mike DiCerto
*Health
  New resource for leukemia sufferers
  Autism epidemic
*Fun
  A message from Swami Beyndananda
  The Day the Cars Died, by Ben Hamley
*Reviews
  The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif, by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman
  Life Before Life, by Dr Jim Tucker
  Coming to Our Senses, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
*September Shopping Spectacular


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.

   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. .

I'm standing for election

   My professional body, the Australian Psychological Society, called for nominations for an election to its Board of Directors. I ignored this, having no intention of seeking power, or taking on extra duties. However, quite a number of people, including the National Executive of the College of Counselling Psychologists, twisted my arm to stand. So, here I am, a reluctant candidate. Once I take on a job, though, I do it 110%. In my statement as a candidate, I had to address three issues. Here it is:

History of activities for the Society, education and professional background

   I obtained a Ph.D. in Psychology from Monash in 1972, after B.Sc. Hons I and M.Sc. at Sydney University. I was in teaching positions at Monash for 5 years and RMIT for 3, then was a Research Scientist with the CSIRO for 4 years. For 2 years, I was a private consultant in energy conservation research, designing and running surveys, training and supervising interviewers. I have been in private practice as a counselling psychologist since 1991.

   In the past, I have worked as a Family Therapist for Anglicare, a counsellor at an Aboriginal Health Centre, and as a telephone counsellor. Currently, I see clients face to face individually, as couples and families. I also do therapy by telephone and email. A number of other psychologists and counsellors refer difficult, complicated cases to me. Three of the books I have written are psychology self-help.

   My education also includes several degrees from the University of Hard Knocks, leading to expertise in a wide variety of fields such as conservation, sustainable living, solar electricity, owner-building, writing (13 published books, 4 of them award-winners) and editing.

   A Member of the APS since 1991, I have contributed by being the Secretary of the Victorian section of the College of Counselling Psychologists since 2003, and of its National Executive since 2006. I also edit this College's newsletter.

   In addition, I am a professional grandfather. While only two young people are genetically related to me, I have dozens of grandchildren.

Personal statement on preferred policy direction and goals, reasons for nominating for this Director position

   Plato said that a desire for power should disqualify a person from holding it. I am nominating because too many people have twisted my arm to do so. I don't want to run things or tell people what to do, but to contribute to an organisation that has contributed to my welfare.

   I am disturbed by the current atmosphere within the APS: divisiveness, conflict, perceptions by many members of manipulation and secrecy. I have been contacted by several people, including Clinical Psychologists, who are reacting against a perceived elitism that favours one speciality over others of equal standing.

   Many of these criticisms may be unfair, but a high proportion of the membership believes them. I know of people who have left the APS, or are considering doing so. Rather then joining them, I want to represent their interests so that we can all work together for the benefit of all members.

   The APS has done a great deal of good for the community at large, for psychology, and therefore for the clients we work with, the students we teach, the people whose lives will be improved through our research. But, despite its apparent vigour and effectiveness, this organisation is seriously ill. As a therapist, I want to do with the APS what I do with my clients: gently lead it to a path of harmony, strength and wellbeing.

   This means that all decisions made should be done in a manner that the membership can understand and contribute to, at all levels. We have no need for hidden agendas, favouritism, or attitudes based on lack of information. If elected, my role will be to be a catalyst for change toward a Society that truly and visibly serves its members.

Personal statement on the knowledge, experience and qualities that I would bring to the Board of Directors

Whatever I do, I seem to end up on the committee, and have served dozens of organisations, typically as Secretary, Treasurer, Director or Membership coordinator.

   While I was a champion debater in my youth, I dislike conflict. It is almost always possible to create a win-win situation so that decisions are acceptable to everyone affected. I do this with my clients in conflict situations, in my private life, and when serving an organisation.

   To me, a Director is not a master but a servant. If elected, I will strive for transparency, openness and accountability at all levels of the APS.

   While, clearly, I am seeking election as a representative of "The Opposition," I don't want to oppose anyone, fight anyone or engage in power struggles. An organisation is well when its employees and members are happy. Facilitating this is my aim.

Bob Rich
Counselling Psychologist.

Responses to the last issue

Mari Bushman, on Al Gore's support for Barack Obama
Sally Odgers on how to reduce car use
Dr James Choron on reincarnation

Bob,

   As an American, I have one and only one response to Al Gore's request for support and donations to Barack Obama's campaign:

   Show me the legislation.

   I find it difficult to consider, let alone believe, in any promises of change when, in point of fact, Obama currently has a job that he, along with the 49 other senators (including the Republican nominee for President), is not doing. They certainly collect their overblown salaries and perks while gallivanting about the country, but the fact remains that none of them are doing any work on behalf of the people they mean to rule.

   If Obama wants a promotion in November he needs to show me how well he can move the rest of those senators and representatives hoping for five second soundbites on the nightly news. He needs to show me at least one piece of legislation that would change my life for the better. Until then, I can guarantee you that no politician of any party is getting a dime from me, let alone my precious vote.

   I'd sooner vote for a revolution, and a return to the Constitution, even if I have to cast that vote in blood. I am no better, but exceedingly no worse, than my forefathers, who founded this country and created that Constitution.

   Barack Obama, Al Gore, and the rest of their co-horts of both political parties bedding down in Washington would do well to remember one simple thing, proven time and time again throughout history: revolutions, i.e. changes, are not brought about by the rich or the greedy, the power-hungry or those yearning to be quoted, but by those common people who are made poor, hungry, and desperate, and having lost all, now have nothing to lose as a result of the indifference of those who mean to rule. Mari Bushman
Mari is a multi-published author with resources for writers at her web site.


Sally Odgers on how to reduce car use

Hi, Bob

   In response to this comment of yours in Bobbing Around Vol 7 No 8...

   The only way to reduce car use is to provide viable alternatives. I'd like to add that I wish communities/councils would make an effort to make safe walking paths that GO WHERE WE NEED TO GO. There are plenty of recreational walking tracks, but if one wants to walk to the next town the distance may be possible, but the road is not. I like to walk, so I walk to get my mail (2km) and to the local shops (same distance). However, I can't walk to other places I need to go because of the lack of safe walkways. Cars go past too fast on the highway and the fumes are terrible. There is a less-travelled road, but it is very bendy and cars speed through the bends. I really believe safe walking tracks leading to schools, shops, post offices and alongside roads where there are no footpaths would do more for the nation's health than gyms. Going to the gym is an artificial thing to do, whereas walking to where one would be going anyway is a natural part of life. Now, let's make it safe!

Sallyo

Sally is one of those rare writers who has earned a living from her craft for many years. She has literally hundreds of titles to her credit.


Dr James Choron on reincarnation

Jim is an American living long term in Russia. He is a journalist, an ex-Colonel and the author of a book on paranormal happenings in Russia. He is responding to my rave about vitalism.

   My late wife Sherry and I were raised by our grandparents. Her dad was a career Marine and my dad was a Ford Motor Company exec. They traveled all the time so they gave us over to Papa (my grandfather) and Mama Carrie (her grandmother). Papa was born in 1881, Mama Carrie in 1886. We grew up hearing about the 19th century from people who were there instead of from history books. We thought of it as "our" time and place.

   This is where it gets strange. Papa still had one of his old blue uniforms from the Spanish-American War, and Mama Carrie had a whole bunch of old dresses from that time too. The whole thing started when our High School scheduled a costume party and right up to the last minute, we didn't have any costumes. We wanted to complement each other as usual.

   I found Papa's old uniform and Sherry wore one of Mama Carrie's old dresses. We showed ourselves off to Papa and Mama Carrie to get them to fix anything we hadn't put on right. Papa almost passed out when he saw us. He turned as white as a sheet. With 36 years in the army and a lifetime in medical practice, it took a lot to shock Papa.

   He didn't say anything for a long time. It was almost like he couldn't. We thought it was the old memories coming back. Finally, he muttered, "Well I'll be damned. I'll just be damned." He went and got a box full of old photos, the kind with thick cardboard backs. He found one particular picture. We couldn't believe it: the couple shown looked exactly like us... I mean EXACTLY like us. They were dressed exactly the same way and in exactly the same pose that we'd used to show off for Papa and Mama Carrie. They looked enough like us to BE us. It was like looking in a mirror.

   Later, we drove to Indianola, Texas. There's no town there anymore, just the cemetery. He took us to a big granite monument.

   We both came down with a case of cold chills. Papa kept looking back and forth between us and that big tombstone. He'd known these people before they'd died. They'd been close friends but he hadn't thought of them in years until he saw us that Saturday evening dressed up for the party.

   Here is the inscription.

IN LOVING MEMORY Of OUR PARENTS
Major James Lee "Jimmy" Masterson MD AUS (MC)
Dec. 4th, 1845 - Jan. 11, 1901
Emily Marie "Miss Emmy" Fields Masterson RN
Sept. 11, 1848 - Jan. 11, 1901
Died in field service with the Peking Relief Expedition

There was in their lifetimes,
Not a single minute's span
That the two were not together;
This woman and this man.
From the time that they were children
To the time that they grew old
They stood beside each other
In the wind and rain and cold.
From a far-off land called Texas
To the forests of Vermont
To the shores of distant China
They cast a single lot.
The Major healed their bodies
While Miss Emmy held their hands;
And they raised a loving family
In a dozen different lands.
So pay good heed what love can do;
How long that love can last.
And know that God can give us
Both a future and a past.
Know that God can give us
Loving families and friends
And God on high can give to us
A love that has no end.
For there is no one beneath this stone
No earthly shells lie near.
Their bodies lie across the waves
Their hearts are buried here.

   From All of Us:

Josephine, Emily, Kimberly, James, Timothy, Grace, William, Norris, Doris, John and Samantha Masterson

   The Mastersons had been killed in China during the Boxer Rebellion. Their bodies were never recovered. Something remarkable: Sherry and I have the same birthdays as Major and Mrs. Masterson and there is exactly the same amount of time between us.

   Now it gets stranger still. We really didn't pay any attention to it at the time. Papa and Mama Carrie pointed it out to us later. When we were getting dressed in that old uniform and dress, we knew what we were doing. Sherry didn't even look while using a button hook to fasten the buttons on a pair of high-topped shoes and I never fumbled while buttoning the fly on the uniform's trousers (no zippers back then). The thing is, clothes from the 19th century are a LOT different from what we wear now. We shouldn't have known what we were doing. Sherry buttoned the detachable collar onto my shirt without trouble, and I helped her into all of those petticoats and bloomers just like I'd always done it. We'd seen Papa in his uniform for parades on Veteran's Day but neither of us had ever actually seen him put it on. Neither of us had ever seen Mama Carrie wear any of those clothes. There's just no way that we should have known how to do any of that, let alone get it perfect the first time.

   Yes, I believe in reincarnation. I have for some time.


Politics

Get rid of nuclear weapons: a petition.
Start of a new era in Australian politics?
Don't let the Olympics legitimise suffering

Get rid of nuclear weapons: a petition.

Time to move the Nuclear Free debate forward to a weapons free world, at a proposed activist gathering in Canberra, I suggest in December 2009.

   Anyone willing to help planning this, email me please.
Benny Zable

   Benny drew my attention to the following petition, to be submitted to the next President of the United States:

Never Say Die, Never Say Nuclear

Dear Friends,

Nuclear war is a threat to the survival of humanity.

But we can make a difference if we act now.

Join us in sending a message to the next occupant of the White House.

We want a change of priorities in Washington. We believe it's time for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is gathering the support of one million people to present to the new President on Inauguration Day 2009. Will You Take a Few Seconds and Join Us? Since the '70s, we've been advocating and volunteering our time and music to make the planet a safer, healthier, cleaner place to live.

Right now we face the most immediate catastrophic threat ever known. Nuclear weapons could destroy the Earth for future generations. The time has come to act.

It only takes a few seconds to help make the world a safer place.

   The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) is a registered educational charity that has been working for a world free of nuclear weapons for 25 years. We are now gathering the support of one million people for a national Appeal calling for US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World. We will give the million-strong Appeal to the next US President on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.


Start of a new era in Australian politics?

   Sadly, the Australian Democrats no longer have any representatives in federal parliament. It's a shame, because for many years they have done a lot of good.

   Their replacement is the Greens, and their aims and preferred methods are very different. Their leader, Senator Bob Brown, is intending to introduce legislation from the Senate, and to do far more than react to the actions of the two major parties. Justly, he claims a mandate from the electorate for this.

   Apart from two other Senators, the Greens hold the balance of power in the upper house. That means that if they combine with the Opposition, they can block Government bills. They can seek a conscience vote on issues like reversing the invasion of northern Aboriginal communites by the Howard government.

   Their agenda of changes to fight for sounds exciting. I wish them luck.


Don't let the Olympics legitimise suffering

   Psychologists For Peace has written:

   In an excellent piece of member feedback after last week’s Peace News, Susie and I were reminded of not only the timeliness of Hiroshima Day for our cause, but of the opportunity the Olympic Games brings to work for raising awareness and pressure about Human Rights issues in China, Tibet, Taiwan etc.

   Amnesty International’s Website says: “As the Olympic Games begin, Amnesty International's report shows that the Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics.

   Published to mark the 10-day countdown to the Games, the report evaluates the performance of the Chinese authorities in four areas related to the core Olympic values of ’universal fundamental ethical principles’ and ‘human dignity’: these include persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty.”

   For more info, go to http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/chinese-authorities-broken-promises-threaten-olympic-legacy-20080728
http://www.amnesty.org/en/human-rights-china-beijing-olympics


Environment

From my MP on car emissions
Cutting down fuel use in your car
Imagining the Real: Life on Greenhouse Earth: a conference report from John James
Waterless washing machine
Hope YOU weren't taken in

From my MP on car emissions

Dear Bob,

   Thank you for participating in the fuel price/climate change debate. We face an enormous challenge in reducing emissions, developing alternate fuel vehicles and improving our public transport system to meet the needs of our communities. Governments have a responsibility to address these issues as we as individuals must also be part of the solution.

   In responding to higher fuel costs, it is critical to strike a careful balance between the need to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and the increasing pressure on household budgets. The Labor Party created the expectation in the community that it would reduce petrol prices. In government, they now have a real opportunity to take the lead on this issue and should grab it with both hands.

   We must promote cleaner cars and support the development of new technologies such as hybrid, plug in and hydrogen vehicles. Instead of putting millions of taxpayers’ dollars into what is rapidly becoming superseded technology – petrol/electric hybrid vehicles – the Government should be focussing on developing technology such as diesel/electric hybrid vehicles and alternate fuel technology.

   And of course a clean and efficient public transport system is essential to reducing vehicle carbon emissions and alleviating the fuel crisis. The Victorian State Government is letting us down by failing to maintain, improve and extend our public transport network. They should fund the system properly and expand it to meet the needs of our growing communities and cater for the many people who would opt to leave their cars at home and use it if it provided an adequate service.

   Finally, it is disappointing that the Federal Labor Government, whilst espousing clean green environmental principles, has seen fit to break an election promise by means-testing the solar rebate, thus putting solar technology out of reach of many average families and jeopardising small solar business operators and causing job losses.

   Thank you for informing me of your views. I will continue to raise these issues and pressure the Government at every opportunity.

Kind regards,
Fran
Hon Fran Bailey MP
Federal Member for McEwen


Cutting down fuel use in your car

   Fran Bailey also drew my attention to an excellent resource: the web page of John and Helen Taylor, http://www.fuelacademy.com/. I found 30 tips there, and the Taylors run courses. To my delight, I was already doing all the things they recommend. Join me.

Fran wrote:

Imagine being able to drive from Melbourne to Canberra on just 1/2 a tank of fuel ...

   That’s exactly what Fuel Economy world record holders Helen and John Taylor did and achieved an astounding 3.7 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres by driving at an average of 5 kilometres lower than the speed limit.

   ... and this was just one of the driving tips they have developed to help motorists reduce the cost of fuel on our weekly budgets. The one tip I found that had an immediate effect on fuel consumption was using higher gears and this applied to driving in Canberra traffic.

   Not only will these tips help reduce our fuel bills but it will assist in reducing emissions into the atmosphere ... a “win win” for us and our planet!


Imagining the Real: Life on Greenhouse Earth:
a conference report from John James

   Many of the great men of the Australian scientific community were there to tell us of the latest research. I understand the situation well, having researched it myself for so long. I knew much of what was presented -- and it was still depressing!

   The sad truth is that the dissolution of the atmosphere is moving faster than anticipated. The key indicators are exceeding the computer projections or just at the top of the range. Nowhere have the actions already taken made things better.

   This is because 80% of global warming comes from burning fossil fuels, and none of the wind farms or hybrid cars have made the slightest dent in its use.

   In my “Footprints” Newsletter at the end of 2006 I reported that the US Navy had calculated there would be no summer sea-ice in the Arctic by 2012, where the international IPCC study sponsored by the UN had calculated that this would not happen until the end of the century.

   Last year it was reported that ice-melt was exceeding expectations by 30%. At the conference a number of speakers said they “would not be surprised if all sea-ice will be gone this summer.” This year!

   The arctic has been heating more quickly than any other part of the planet. An area the size of NSW and Victoria disappeared last year, especially on the Siberian side where most of the world’s permafrost is.

   It has been calculated by the National Centre for Atmospheric research that with rapid sea-ice loss, temperatures along the adjoining lands could rise by 2 degrees, and would affect areas 1,500 kilometres away.

   The permafrost contains vast quantities of methane (21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide) and even 5% of what is stored there it would tip us over the edge.

   The great glaciers of Greenland are supporting the sea-ice nearby, but these too are melting. Speaker after speaker produced evidence that Greenland ice was “unstable”, seriously melting around the edges and being undermined by melt water rushing through crevasses and literally putting the skids under the glaciers so they slide faster to the sea.

   One large glacier on the west coast, 3 miles wide and a mile deep, is now slipping into the sea at 2 meters an hour, when they normally flow at 80-100 meters per year.

   Were all the ice on Greenland to melt, sea levels would rise over 7 meters. The question is how long may this take? The IPCC figure of hundreds of years is being contradicted by studies of past glaciations. Andrew Glickson and Bradley Opdyke showed that when ice ages have ended, the glaciers have collapsed suddenly, perhaps within a decade.

   We all saw the speed at which this can happen in 2002 when 2,600 square kilometres on the Larsen B ice shelf in the Antarctic disintegrated and disappeared in less than five weeks.

   This could happen with Greenland.

   We are already feeling the consequences in Australia. The day before the conference, it was reported that the hardest hit would be all low-lying coastal areas like Cairns and Narrabeen. There will be the double impact of coastal erosion and flooding from storm surges.

   We worry about food prices, yet Australia’s movement into a permanent state of drought has been projected by all climate models. In spite of the heavy rains this year, the flow in the Murray Darling has dropped 24% in the past 8 years. Vineyards and orchards are being bulldozed, as there is no water to nourish the trees.

   As one of the few countries in the world with surplus food, how do we continue to feed people as drought threatens to become permanent. What makes this worse is the shift to more extreme weather events, as Barry Brook described in his talk on what the world would be like at different temperatures.

   We now know that two degrees will be inevitable, though it may take us until 2025 to get there.

   See www.planetextinction.com/documents/ethics.pdf

   And following two degrees, coral reefs will die along with most wild fish in an acid sea, at least a quarter of all species will be extinct, the great forests will die, drought in Australia will be permanent with serious impact on our own food supplies, and the seas will rise over 10 metres.

   As the water rises, trade and travel will cease as docks and airports become submerged. Every community on the globe will have to survive on their own.

   But we also know that we are throwing more stuff into the air than ever before. The tonnage of pollution is 30% more than 20 years ago.

   Look at the amount of coal we are exporting, the phenomenal number of power houses being built in China every month, the relentless increase in motor traffic. Consider how hard it is to slow this down and we know that at this rate, within a couple of years we'll reach the point where it will be impossible to avoid three degrees.

   At three degrees there will be little ice left, the Amazon basin will collapse from drought, permafrost will be melting in a serious way, the great rivers that irrigate the agriculture of the world will no longer be supplied with summer water from glacier-melt, over a third of all species will be extinct, and wars for food and water will destabilize communities everywhere.

   One degree more and most agriculture would collapse.

   He went on to say “it is a damning indictment of our collective vacillation, inaction and deliberate stalling that in not facing up to the situation, we now have the stark choice between a bad situation, a catastrophic situation and a civilization-terminating situation.”

   In other words, the time when we could have found ways to keep our high standard of living has now irretrievably passed. We can still save a great deal if we act really fast, and do so now -- this was the story from the Conference reiterated again and again. We were told that “we are taking the earth back to Venus!”

   In Collapse Jared Diamond describes how every culture that has reached a peak of prosperity (as we have) has collapsed because population outgrew food sources and expansion destroyed its forests. We think of Easter Island, the Mayans, the Tang Dynasty in China and the Khmer Empire of Cambodia.

   In every case the population was, within a generation, reduced by war and starvation and, in some cases, resorted to cannibalism trying to survive.

   We cannot afford to be complacent. There have been mass extinctions of species many times in earth’s history, and all have been associated with rapid heating. We are pushing up the earth’s temperature from fossil fuels more quickly than any other time in earth’s history.

   To avoid the looming catastrophe to civilization and the huge loss of life, especially in Asia and Africa, we have to cut fossil fuel use, and the material consumerism that pushes it on. James Hansen and others warn that we have to reduce emissions by 10% a year, every year for the next decade.

   Maybe, if we are lucky, the current economic downturn will do that for us.

   Yet even this government is placing business before survival by promising that living standards will continue to rise, by building more highways and pandering to Big Coal. None of this is meaningful in our Greenhouse World.

   Yet we will be dependent on government to provide leadership. They will not do so unless we push them into it. The voice of the people has to be heard over the din from the fuel lobby. So, this is what you do:

   Personally visit your local members, state and federal, and tell them what you want them to do. It is confronting, even for a politician, to be faced with your strong opinions, your real worries for the future and your determination to have government act in our interests.

   Do it! And do it today, please.

John is restarting his newsletter Footprints. To subscribe, go to www.planetextinction.com/subscribe.html.


Waterless washing machine

   UK based Xeros has unveiled a new technology to revolutionise the laundry industry. According the Leeds University, the Xeros cleans clothes with a single cup of water, reducing water consumption by 98%.

   Dr Rob Rule, Managing Director of Techtran Ltd, IP Group's Leeds business, and a director of Xeros, said: "This is one of the most surprising and remarkable technologies I've encountered in recent years. Xeros has the ability to save billions of litres of water per year and, we believe, the potential to revolutionise the global laundry market."

   Currently, Australians use over 42,000 litres for laundering clothes every year. The Xeros machines could theoretically bring that number to a mere 840 litres for the entire Australian population!

   While not quite as simple as that, the new Xeros is quite innovative in its design. Developed by Leeds University, headed by Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, the Xeros does not rely on water to take away dirt and stains. Instead these machines are equipped with plastic chips that "pound" the clothes in the machine to remove and absorb dirt. The 20 kg of chips for each wash are re-usable for up to six months.

   Plus, as there is very little water being used, there is the added energy benefit of clothes practically being dry when they come out of the wash, eliminating the need for inconvenient line-drying or energy intensive dryer use.

   Xeros Ltd hopes the product will be available in the UK market as early as 2009.


Hope YOU weren't taken in

Sorry, I've lost the source, so I am stealing this brief statement. My apologies to the author.

   The documentary, "The Great Climate Change Swindle", aired in Australia a year ago, has had its credibility battered by Britain's broadcasting regulator.

   After a 15 month investigation, the regulator, Ofcom, found that the doco was factually inaccurate, not impartial and unfair to the scientists it purportedly represented.

   The scientists who initiated the Swindle investigation feel that producer Martin Durkin was let off lightly: had the documentary been charged under another section of the broadcasting code, dealing with misrepresentation of views and facts, they believe the findings against the film would have been more weighty.


Deeper Issues

But what's it all for?

   Last issue, I wrote about the belief system by many scientists that if you can't show a soul by dissecting a person, then it can't exist. I indicated that there is empirical evidence to the contrary. This issue, I have reviewed a book that presents some of that evidence.

   OK, so let's accept that there is something that goes on from life to life; that what we experience from birth to death is not the book, but merely a chapter.

   Well, what's it all for? Is it just a meaningless cycling around from life to life, without progress or direction? Or is there a purpose, and if so, whose purpose is this?

   Don't expect me to answer these questions in 500 words. Nor is it true that my answers are necessarily right for you. We all need to struggle with such issues, and will each come up with what's right for us.

   When I look at nature, I see order at all levels from quarks to galaxies. And I see remarkable similarities in pattern from level to level.

   Everything is energy. In the crucible of the stars, some of this energy becomes matter, which gains in complexity, until, when a star explodes, a range of atoms is spewed into space. Then, following the laws of chemistry, they cycle around from substance to substance in an endless dance.

   In the right circumstances, the more complex chemicals perform their own dance, in much the same way, but qualitatively higher in complexity. An unimaginable time ago, somewhere, this complexity reached that of an entity that fed off its environment, and reproduced its kind. And then, life formed the same kinds of cycles again, at a qualitatively higher level.

   Some life grew to be able to process information. It became sentient. This implies memory. And, in a similar qualitative leap, this sentience is cycling around too.

   A molecule of water always stays the same, because its structure doesn't contain any way of recording change. In contrast, the body of a living, sentient organism does. And the reincarnation studies indicate that some of this information can be maintained when the recording device stops functioning.

   Therefore, I believe that life keeps building on past life, not just continuing it. There is scope for change over many lifetimes, of rising to a higher level still.

   I think of the whole universe as a flower that exists in many dimensions. Like a plant, it has an inherent blueprint, and is evolving to fulfil this plan. This flower is conscious, and self-aware, and its mechanism to achieve this is the symbiosis of its thinking, self-aware components.

   If the brain cells of the universe are butterflies, I think of us humans as caterpillars striving to grow and hatch. Our purpose is to become butterflies, to take our part in the consciousness of the universe.

   Can I prove this? No. But, since I thought of this conceptualisation years ago, I have become more content with life. I now have an explanation for all the craziness and suffering on this planet. It's terrible, but it is part of the necessary growing pains of the universe.


Psychology

He is sweet on the wrong girl
Letter to a bitter wife
Grief for a dog
Isolation
New family violence web site

He is sweet on the wrong girl

Hi Bob

   I have an issue that I need some advice on. I have two friends, 1 male and 1 female. Everybody knows that they fancy each other and that they would make a great couple. Trouble is my male friend is going out with a girl who, quite frankly, is a bit of a loser and has nothing in common with my friend. I have asked him what he looks for in a woman and what he describes is my female friend down to a tee, but nothing like his current girlfriend. How can I get them to admit to what we all know, but they don't want to admit. I want both of my friends to be happy and I would especially love for my male friend to drop his loser girlfriend.

Regards
Marianne

Dear Marianne,

   I can see you are a good friend who cares about the welfare of others. It is frustrating when, from the outside of a situation, we can see the best course of action, but those caught in it can't. In fact, I often use this for my clients' benefit. Say a person is agonising over leaving a job or staying in it. I'll suggest: "Imagine it's your twin brother in this situation. Everything is exactly the same, except that it's not you caught in the problem but him. What will you advise him to do?" And by stepping out of the problem, people can make a more rational judgment of it.

   Similarly, in games like chess, you can always see better moves while looking over a player's shoulder than if you are the player.

   However, this game is this young man's. He needs to run his life the way he does, and unless he asks for help and advice, there is nothing anyone else can do about it. He may well be making a serious mistake -- but he has a right to making his mistakes. One of my personal cliches is: "There is no such thing as a mistake. There are only learning opportunities." If his current relationship ends up causing him pain, he has a chance to grow as a person, and to acquire wisdom. Of course, he may not take advantage of the learning opportunity, and make similar mistakes in the future. But again, that's his load to carry.

   Another aspect is that unsolicited advice is a form of attack. If I ask you for your opinion, then what you tell me is a resource for me, and I'll be grateful. However, if I haven't asked for help and you offer it, the message I get is that I am in some way inferior, can't run my own affairs, faulty. So, the automatic reaction of almost everyone, almost all the time, is "Yes but..." or outright rejection of the idea.

   So, in my opinion, basically all you can do is to stand by. Continue to be a good friend to all the people involved, including the girl you disapprove of. Even if the 'other female' was you rather than a friend, this would still be your best course of action.

Look after yourself,
Bob


Letter to a bitter wife

Dear Christine,

   Saving a sick marriage is a team effort.

   It is often the case that one partner's actions originally caused all the problems. All the same, those problems will then have caused everyone to act differently, and more important, see things differently. New habits arise on both sides. These are not only habits of action, but of thought, perception, emotion. And these new habits then get in the way of change.

   I don't have your view of the relationship between you and Jake, only his. However, the situation is very similar to what I have seen in many marriages. Also, my work is based on research -- you could fill a house with books written on couples therapy. So, I am pretty sure I understand what's going on, and how you and Jake can fix it. At the least, come and check out what I have to say.

   Briefly, people always believe that they and their partner are driven apart by issues. "If only Jake didn't drink, if only he spent more quality time with me, if only he did this and didn't do that... then we would have a hope." But research shows that those same issues are also there in working marriages in which all people in the family are reasonably content. The difference is in how the issues are handled. There are always disagreements between people. What counts is how people react to each other in dealing with the problems. You, Jake and I need to look at this: the style of relating to each other, resolving conflicts and having an emotional impact on each other.

   Look at it another way. If everything is Jake's fault, then you are powerless. You can only hope that he makes the changes you want. If he doesn't, or can't, then nothing is left but ending the marriage. However, if you both have responsibility for what went wrong, then you both have the power to improve things. Isn't it worth seeing where you may have power for good?

   There are four possible outcomes for you:

1. Reconciling, and building a good life for yourself with Jake.

2. Reconciling, and continuing in ongoing misery.

3. Separating, and then living a good life without him, perhaps finding another guy.

4. Separating, and then living in misery, repeating the patterns of the past.

   Which of these happens is not a matter of what you do, but of how you do it, how you think about the other person. Even if all the problems of the past are his doing, your reactions to him also need to change. Come and let's examine this. It will benefit you even if there is too much pain for the two of you to continue together. And it's the only hope of saving your marriage.

Sincerely,

Bob Rich
Counselling Psychologist.


Grief for a dog

This came from a retired minister of religion:

Dear Dr.Bob:

   I adopted a white toy poodle. They estimated her age around 13; she had lived all her life in a cage.

   This dog followed me everywhere she showed such unconditional love. She came down with kidney failure. We tried everything to save her but this was not to be. She became so sick and the vet said it was time. She passed at his office. I had her only two years.

   This was 3 weeks ago. I cry. I sleep about two to three hours a night. I don’t eat and have lost weight. I miss her dearly. In fact I hate the night time and when it is time to go to bed I just sit in my chair. It is horrible.

   Why do I grieve so hard? I grieved more for this dog then when I lost both of my parents 4 years ago. Why?

   People tell me in time I will feel better but so far I don’t

   And do you believe our dogs or pets go to heaven? I feel our animals have souls and do go to heaven, but many disagree. Please help

Blessings, Rob

Dear Rob,

   You feel like this because you are a loving person. The downside of having a heart is that sometimes it hurts. But would you have it otherwise?

   I suspect your grief for this little dog is in part because you may not have properly processed your earlier losses. Losing her has triggered the same emotions.

   However, the second part may be that she was so completely dependent on you, perhaps in a way that no human has ever been. I think to you she was something like a severely handicapped child is to some parents. I have a friend who had 5 children. The youngest had Down syndrome. When she was born, they were told she'd be lucky to live to be a teenager because of her various physical malformations. When she died at 21, they were devastated for over a year.

   Third, of course I don't know your current living circumstances, but possibly nowadays you have fewer human contacts than you did years ago. Is this correct?

 

   Obviously, you are a Christian, and I am sure you have consoled many people through grief. It is of course much harder to apply the same approach to oneself. But do that. Think of how you helped others through their sorrow, and then treat yourself as if you were one of your parishioners. You have the wisdom, experience and power to take yourself along the necessary path of healing from a very legitimate grief.

 

   Despite the Bible, I am sure that mammals are qualitatively similar to humans. They think, reason, feel emotion, have moods and memories and foibles. The differences are those of degree, not of kind. This little dog was a person in fact, not only in the role she had in your life. Therefore, if a human has a soul, then she does too. In fact, if you open yourself to the experience, then, God willing, she may come to you in some way. I have had one such "visitation" in my life, when an aunt who'd loved me dearly when I was a baby came to "say goodbye." My clients give me a great many such reports. One lady's father had sexually abused both his daughters when they were girls. As adults, they had nothing to do with him. Then he died, and my client reported that suddenly she heard his voice saying, "I am sorry." She phoned her sister, who was just going to call her to report the identical experience, at the same time.

   Rob, grief is like a broken bone. It hurts, and should hurt. But it heals over time. If this dog was a person in your life, then it is reasonable that your grief for her will last as long as for a human. This is about a year for most people.

   Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be of service to you,

Bob


Isolation

Hello,

   Would your book "Anger and Anxiety" be helpful to a 63 year old lady with Asperger's Syndrome?

   Since retirement she has become a virtual recluse and avoids contact with more than one person at a time, and even then only when she really has to have contact.

   Trying to overcome the barrier that prevents her from applying for her aged pension.

With thanks,
Ellen

Dear Ellen,

   No, this book is to address a different set of problems. And I suspect the Asperger is irrelevant.

   I meet many people who suffer from meaninglessness. This lady may have been a busy mother, with everyone else's welfare depending on her. But now those children have grown, and she probably feels that she is a responsibility for them rather than the other way. You've written that she has retired. That means that she had a job, perhaps a profession, in which, again, she was useful, busy, effective, needing to achieve.

   Now, both these sources of meaning are gone. She may feel like her life was over, or might as well be.

   She is wrong. At 63, which is younger than I am, she still has plenty of potential for building a new life for herself. However, the meaning isn't going to come from out there. It needs to come from within herself.

   In that situation, most people get into a destructive cycle. It is perfectly normal and understandable, but very dangerous. The more down we feel, the more we isolate ourselves. The more we do that, the less opportunity there is for developing new interests, connections, activities -- sources of meaning. And the more we constrict our life in this way, the sadder we get. So, the spiral plummets down, as for her.

   There is only one way out. That is to start a spiral upward.

   Ask her to do a few little experiments:

  • Once a day, go out of her home and have a brief conversation with anyone.
  • Investigate causes she may want to support. The world desperately needs volunteers for so many worthwhile causes! She can consider doing something to benefit other people, keeping in mind her particular strengths and preferences.
  • Take up a new hobby. This could be a craft, playing a musical instrument, art, something to do with nature...

       A rule is: to have a friend, first be a friend. The same is true here. To have meaning, do meaningful things.

       There is a wonderful book that will inspire her: 'Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.

    :)
    Bob


    New family violence web site

       The Victorian government has launched a new web site to address the issue of violence within families. It lists places where you can get help, gives many relevant facts and is generally an excellent resource.

       In my work, I see the terrible effects of physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse within families. Many of my clients are victims of such crimes. Others grew up experiencing and/or witnessing violence at home. I would have lot less work, and be cheering, if this blot on our existence could be removed.

       Please have a look at www.familyviolence.vic.gov.au.


    For writers

    How to query a magazine
    Writing for healing by Marg Muir

    How to query a magazine

       Recently, a young colleague wanted advice on how to establish herself as a freelance writer for magazines. This is my response to her:

       You need to study the target publication, and work out what they want. If they have submission guidelines, follow them exactly.

       Rough out your article, but you don't need to write it before acceptance.

       Your query letter needs to be businesslike, brief and well written (it's a sample of your writing).

       Start with a hook, e.g., "Your past three issues have included interesting articles about various sports. I can give you a different perspective to continue this series, by writing about chess. Yes chess is a sport, and..."

       That is, your proposal needs to be the kind of thing they've done, but with a new twist, or fill a hole in what they are already doing.

       Next, you need to very briefly show why you are the person to write this article: past experience, qualifications, similar publications elsewhere -- whatever is relevant.

       Finally, give a brief outline of the proposed article.

       If you can, get all this onto one page; two at the most.

    :)
    Bob


    Writing for healing
    by Marg Muir

       About a week ago I attended an interesting workshop on Writing for Healing in Launceston.

       It was basically for non-writers but not exclusively so.

       It addressed the need to write away the hurt and pain of grief and loss.

       It was quite remarkable to see how it allowed some of the participants to 'grow' in the short period of a few hours.

       I think most of the folk were very raw from their grief.

       There were a lot of short spontaneous writing exercises and stream of consciousness writing that was really good.

       I wrote about 6 x A4 pages.

       As the only 'writer' amongst the group I was asked to share my views on writing as a means of healing. I certainly believe I have written a lot of my pain indirectly into my books.

       I didn't think I could 'grow' from the workshop, but I did.

       Two days after, I took out Peter's pictures which I had put away for the two and a half years since he'd died in a car accident.

       I have offered to assist in the next workshop.

       I feel there may be a non-fiction book in me somewhere down the track.

    Best to all,
    Marg Muir

    Marg is a talented writer, despite the quotes she has used around the word. She has contributed to bobbing around before, for example here.


    What my friends want you to know

    Guests wanted for radio show
    Geoff Nelder has been chatted up
    Register for 3rd Muse Online Writers' Conference
    Howard-Johnson to Cohost New Borders Best Selling Author TV Series
    Bainstorming -- two for one again
    New song for film from Mike DiCerto


    Need Radio Show Guests

    Name: Sherri Devereau Email: Sherri@IntuitiveEyes.com Title: Radio Show Host & Author Media Outlet/Publication: Achieve Radio - Opening Your Intuitive Eyes Anonymous? No Specific Geographic Region? No Region: Deadline: 12:00 PM CENTRAL - December 31 Query: "I am always looking for interesting guests to appear on my radio show. My website is www.IntuitiveEyes.com and all shows can be found archived there. Radio show is one hour long, guest spot is about 25 minutes long. I am interested in authors, music artists, interesting subject matter and/or people who have something great to share with a world wide audience. Take a look at my website, send me your materials, and phone number and I will get in touch with you. Scheduling now for late summer and fall 2008."


    Geoff Nelder

       I've been interviewed as a writer for the second time. My interviewer was Ambrose Musiyiwa, who runs New Writing International.

       I'd put the link here but it is far too long so I've linked here its mention and link in my blog. http://geoffnelder.wordpress.com/.


    Lea Schizas

       This will be the third year The Muse will be hosting the Muse Online Writers Conference. Each year we've grown in attendance from around the world.

       I'd like to ask everyone to please mention and promote the conference to your writing friends. In the past I've been lenient and accepted late registrations. This year the deadline will be kept and for this reason I am asking you to remind your friends to hop on over to the conference site: http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com and to make sure they register as soon as possible.


    Howard-Johnson to Cohost New Borders Best Selling Author TV Series

    Rey Ybarra, CEO of Best Selling Author Television, has named author and founder of Authors' Coalition Carolyn Howard-Johnson cohost of his new on location series to debut this summer at Borders Books in Century City, CA.

       The program will feature many of today’s best selling authors and will be broadcast live online on Stickam. In addition to the live Internet broadcast, the program will be available on demand on the Best Selling Author Television.com vlog site (http://www.veoh.com/channels/BSATV).

       In addition, the program will be available on many of the social video sites including Veoh, Myspace, Youtube, Google and the Facebook social media sites.

       Ybarra, formerly a well-known Los Angeles radio host says, “I am excited about the program and the association with Borders and with Howard-Johnson. I'm also excited about our programs featuring famous athletes, business/entrepreneurial experts and entertainers.” Ybarra is a master interviewer who has hosted and produced over 1400 interviews plus 350 full length radio.

       Howard-Johnson speaks at writers conferences across the nation and is a UCLA Extension Writers' Program instructor. She is the founder of Authors' Coalition (www.authorscoalitionandredenginepress.com) and author of the multi-award winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers (www.howtodoitfrugally), as well as of fiction and poetry.

       For more information about the show, the line up and dates and times of filming, contact Ybarra at 818-464-3726 or e-mail him at RYbarra106@aol.com.


    Bainstorming -- two for one again

    Two new issues of Bainstorming since the last bobbing around are now live at www.darrellbain.com

       Subjects in July: Autographed Books, Bain Muses, Immune System, Politician Description, End of Multi-tasking (Gary Bain), Book Reviews, Tonto to the Rescue, Women's War Memoirs, Pampered Doggies, Can America Change?, Poor Tonto, Machines Aren't So Smart, Excerpt from Medics Wild.

       Subjects in August: Bain muses, Recurring themes, What I believe, Newspaper delivery kaput?, Banking unearned income, Tonto Clone, Bain predictions, Science Fiction to reality, U.K. interview, Outsourcing service, Bain Blunders, Progress Report, Book Reviews, Betty's Dental Horror continued, MRI funny business, Excerpt from Postwar Dinosaur Blues

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


    New song for film, from Mike DiCerto

       Donna DiCerto (my sister) wrote an original song for my movie TRIPTOSANE. Below is a link to a "music video" with a shorter version of her song along with shots from the film.

       ENJOY! Please excuse YOUTUBE'S crappy video quality.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He6EuUwT5oU


    Health

    New resource for leukemia sufferers
    Autism epidemic

    New resource for leukemia sufferers

       The Leukaemia Foundation has added a new program called ‘Revive’ to its range of services offered to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.

    What is Revive?

       Revive is an education and support program specifically for young people aged between 18 – 35 years and their friends and families . The Revive program kicks off with an online educational and interactive website. This website is a portal for young people to access information and contacts, share stories and network with each other.

    Why was it developed?

       Revive was developed by the Foundation as young adults affected by cancer are an under supported population. Their survivorship issues are yet to be fully addressed by the medical community and the Leukaemia Foundation hopes this comprehensive program will address this gap in support services.

       Diagnosis and treatment during young adulthood often results in a range of unique and ongoing psychosocial issues. These may include, for example, problems with self esteem, issues of fertility and sexuality and coping with the fear of relapse.

    What does it aim to achieve?

  • Establish a knowledge base about young adult cancer-related care
  • Provide a forum to support young cancer patients during and after their cancer experience
  • Empower survivors to confront life positively after facing death
  • Raise general awareness about young adult cancer in order to provide support in the community (e.g. job networking)
  • Work with other organisations with complementary interests such as CanTeen and the Cancer Council Australia to avoid duplication of
  • services or resources to this age-specific group
  • Raise awareness about, and provide access to, clinical trials involving this age group.

    Web site: www.teamrevive.com


    Autism epidemic

    Website: http://www.theautismepidemic.com
    Email: autismepidemic@yahoo.com
    Contact: Lea Schizas

       Authors Litsa Kamateros (author of the upcoming “Welcome to my Autistic World”) and award-winning author and editor Lea Schizas (author of the middle grade chapter book, “Bubba and Giganto”, a novella about friendship and the consequences of bullying) are seeking parents, caregivers, teachers, and autistic adults to submit their stories and/or answer a questionnaire found on: http://www.theautismepidemic.com" target="_blank">http://www.theautismepidemic.com for their newest book, “Autism Epidemic.” There is no monetary compensation other than the opportunity to have readers around the world read your trials and tribulations and to connect with this ever-increasing disorder.

       “Autism is a growing concern, around the world. In 1950, 1 out of every 20,000 children were diagnosed with autism. In 2008, the statistic is frightening: 1 out of 150 children.

       The purpose behind the questionnaire is to help us gather reliable data to study, evaluate, and sort to present a unified voice of parents with autistic children. Think of our book as “Personal Reflections of the Autistic Soul.”

       Please feel free to pass this message along to your friends and groups.

    Thank you
    Lea Schizas


    A bit of fun

    A message from Swami Beyndananda
    The Day the Cars Died by Ben Hamley

    A message from Swami Beyndananda

    Swami Beyndananda is the most accomplished twister of the English language I know. He is utterly brilliant. He uses this skill to make this planet a better world. Here is a short extract from his regular newsletter. He also makes very popular tours, and if you have the opportunity, go along and listen to him in person. Look him up at http://www.wakeuplaughing.com.

       "It's time to celebrate our independence, and recognize our interdependence."

       Remember that movie from a few years ago, Independence Day, that portrayed a horrific disasteroid scenario from the future? Well, it may certainly seem that such a future is in the offing, particularly with all the offing that's being done right now. But that's only if we follow the current script.

       There's a new movie in production called Interdependence Day where we humans write an entirely different story. In this one, when some celestial being asks, "How did the human race turn out?" we can proudly declare, "We won!"

       Independence began with great promise. Eleven score and twelve years ago, America's revolutionary founders cut us loose from the Old World model where the rule of gold overruled the Golden Rule, where mining took precedence ("that's mine, that's mine, that's mine"), and the lowest common dominator was king. But the revolution was barely over before the devolution had begun, and 230 years later those same creeps we declared independence from have crept back into power.

       We have a new King George who has overruled the rule of law, and this abuse is enabled by an unholy alliance of wholly-owned legislators who do the bidding of the highest bidder. The original multinational corporation, The British East India Company, has now spawned hundreds of imitators, many of whom are predators that live off shore and only come on shore to feed.

       These nonliving entities have been granted unlimited life and all the rights of human beings without the burden of human "weaknesses" like conscience and compassion. All too often they use their energy -- what the Chinese call "ch'i" -- to gain unfair advantage. This practice is called "ch'i ting." No wonder the body politic is rife with sociopathogens!

       Meanwhile, fear-gnomes -- little gnomes of gnawing fear -- have been interjected into the mainstream, making us more susceptible to Mad Cowboy Disease, not to mention Truth Decay and Deficit Inattention Disorder. As biologists tell us, when we are put into a state of fear, the blood flows from our forebrain to our hind brain, making us less intelligent and more likely to behave like butt-heads.

       If fear has hijacked the American dream, we the people must higher-jack it. We must overgrow the fear-based state of emergency, and declare a love-based state of Emerge 'n See instead. We must emerge from our fearful state of separation and see we are all in this together.

       Biology is now confirming what our spiritual teachers have been trying to get through our thick skulls for millennia: Life is not about survival of the fittest, but the thrival of the fittingest. Each of us is a remarkable community of 50 trillion cells, all working together in harmony. In the society beneath our skin, there is universal health care and full employment, truly no cell left behind. Unlike most human nations, the "nations" of cells known as organs cooperate for the benefit of the entire organism. You rarely if ever read about the liver invading the pancreas and laying claim to the Islets of Langerhans.

       In this shrinking world that could use a good shrink, we cannot shrink from this profound realization: Human life will not survive without a healthy environment. No matter how fit we might be as individuals, without a planet we are nowhere. If you thought The Man Without a Country was a sad story, that's nothing compared to The Person Without a Planet.


    The Day the Cars Died
    by Ben Hamley

       The day the cars died was nothing special. Of course everyone knew it was going to happen, but there are always those whose livelihoods depend on dressing up history in some drama.

       Of course everyone knew that God Himself could not really have kept the oil flowing even if anyone had managed to sincerely (and unselfishly) ask him to. So when the day came and the media stations unanimously reported that the cars had died, most just laughed and went on their way.

       The unfunny thing was that everywhere there were still traffic jams, accidents, road rage. Car corpses littered the streets and both cycle and pedestrian navigation was fraught with hazards. Still, almost everyone agreed that this was more than made up for by the funny thing.

       The funny thing was the way they died.

       At first it was just the occasional pull-over funeral – a blank look on the face of both driver and vehicle alike. Then there were the furtive dumpings, the midstream traffic conk-outs, fuel siphoning scams at stop signals and more than a few spectacular conflagrations caused by a dodgy conversion or poor quality bio-fuel batch.

       Roadside auctions gave way to a fertile cottage industry of black-market blacksmiths recycling the scrap. They were tolerated despite the near-constant nocturnal shrieking of hacksaws, because they were recognised for their vital role in the new ecology: as sarcophages clearing the streets of irony for the morning HPV rush hour.

       Everywhere cars died strange, boring, silent, crashing, tragicomic deaths. They died profound and undignified deaths…

       And when the most celebrated and expensive corpse (a Bugatti) was reported to have been laid to rest in a ludicrous ceremony attended by elderly motoring journalists and Saudi notables, the world shrugged its shoulders, laughed, and went on its way.

       People still pushed in without indicating, flipped the bird and squeezed their horn-bulbs furiously at each other. Rickshaw-wallahs still yelled abuse at pedestrians and peacekeepers alike – who dutifully returned fire with insults and infringement notices according to inclination and local convention.

       The photochemical fug of the cities cleared somewhat, and stars even came out to shine on them some nights. The almost tangible odour of manure slowly replaced the petroleum fumes as pack animals became more and more common on the potholed streets. Camels and oxen towed dead hotrods, or utilities loaded with their own dung – all of them bound (sooner or later) for the fermentation depot and/or the kitchen cooktop.

       Lovers still pedalled their HPVs to nearby parks to indulge in picnics and oral sex. And salesmen still peddled their wares in and on the streets. The whole sweaty mass of humanity still heaved and pulsed with its ten billion rhythms.

       The day the cars died wasn’t special. And it slowly took its place among the dusty snapshots of history, while the race rolled on…


    Reviews

    The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman
    Life Before Life by Dr Jim Tucker
    Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn

    The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif
    by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

    Insight Publications
    ISBN 978-1-921088-55-1

       This book will make you laugh, time and again -- and yet it is about the horrors of war, living in Australia’s concentration camp for asylum seekers at Woomera, the dangerous trip in a leaky tub from Indonesia. It gives a vivid account of the incredible culture differences migrants, and particularly refugees, experience, and gives an inside view of life in what is an exotic culture to us.

       As I read the book, Najaf became my friend. He came through as a humble, thoroughly decent person. Reading his story will provide a cure for anyone who holds a prejudice against Muslims. As he says, put 2 Muslims into a room together, and you have 10 views on anything.

       Robert Hillman has done a magnificent job, by being invisible. Najaf is obviously intelligent and capable, but only had a few years of schooling, in his native language. Despite English classes in Australia, I am sure his own writing would be less than readable. And yet, the book feels like he was talking to me. This is the best possible outcome for a scribe.

       In its own way, this story is as uplifting and inspiring as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, or Anne Frank’s diary. It shows the human spirit at its best, without ever preaching. It recounts torture from the Taliban, terrible grief from the loss of loved relatives to war, the degradation the Australian asylum-seeker system imposes on people, and yet it is never depressing, and as I said at the start, is full of gentle humour.

       I think it is destined to be one of those classics that will stay in print for many years. You’ve got to read it.


    Life Before Life
    by Dr Jim Tucker

       If I wanted to assess this book in one statement, it would be "careful scientific rigour, expressed in a pleasant, easy-to-understand form."

       Dr Tucker is a long term member of the team of researchers at the University of Virginia that was headed by Dr Ian Stevenson until his death. For over 40 years, they have investigated claims that may support reincarnation. Dr Tucker summarises research based on the words and actions of over 2500 little children from many countries, and gives a large number of case examples.

       The scientific method is based on the concept that you don't prove that a claim is true. Instead, you do your best to prove that it is false, and if you are unable to do so, then you tentatively accept it. This has been Jim's consistent approach. He carefully examines a range of possible explanations for the reported observations, including deliberate falsification, wishful thinking and even supposed paranormal processes such as telepathy. Reading these analyses, even a sceptical reader must agree that the only reasonable explanation for this collection of observations is that these children have lived previous lives.

       What's more, as I said in my opening, the writing is such that the book is worth reading for sheer enjoyment.

       In summing up, Jim is careful not to go beyond the evidence he has presented. He concludes that some people live again, but this does not allow him to state that everybody does. The overwhelming majority of these cases had died a traumatic death in their previous lives, and the time span before being born again is quite short. All of them were reborn in relatively close geographical proximity to the place of death. Interestingly, this has included Japanese soldiers who had died in a South East Asian country, and a German prisoner of war in Britain, who were born in the country of their death.

       The "laws of karma" would suggest that a person who killed someone in a violent way might be reborn bearing the marks of the crime. Instead, these researchers have found many victims of such crimes who were born with indications of the fatal wound.

       I have no scientifically respectable evidence to call on, but my suspicion is that these 2500 cases are a systematically biased sample. Perhaps children who spontaneously remember their immediate past life are likely to do so because its end was sudden, traumatic, and not part of the intention for that life. I am aware of evidence from hypnotic age regression studies that place the recalled life at much longer distances in both time and place. And some of these studies are as rigorous.

       If you are interested in the deep questions about what life is about, you need to read this book.


    Coming to Our Senses
    Jon Kabat-Zinn

       I have been practising meditation for years, and have read many books on mindfulness. This makes me an infant compared to Jon Kabat-Zinn.

       The first thing to note about this book is that although it is huge, the cost is on the low side of affordable. It is printed on cheap, I think recycled paper, and the production quality is obviously designed to keep the cost down.

       And although the book is long, as soon as I finished it, I started reading it from the beginning again.

       I found the first three chapters difficult, because the writing is so passionate, so full of images and metaphor that it's more poetry than prose. I'd read a sentence, then need to think about it. But the effort is well worth it.

       After these introductory chapters, things get easier because chapters become very short, and each one has a unitary message. So, over the period of several months, I'd read a chapter or two a day, stop after each chapter and carry it around with me for hours.

       This book is not something to read, but an instruction manual on what to do. I'll revise that: it's an instruction manual on how to live.

       Imagine a chapter, only two pages long, on how to be in tune with the smellscape: the world of scent around you at a particular moment. Multiply this by all the senses, including the ones within the body, and then combining them into the entire nowscape, and you've got a vague idea of a part of the technique (Jon uses the term "practice").

       Why bother to do mindfulness meditation? Because when you learn how to do it, when it becomes a moment-to-moment habit, you will have converted existence into living. You will emerge from a shadow-world of preoccupations into a sharp, vivid appreciation of every instant of life.

       In the 1970s, Jon founded a Stress Management Clinic at Massachusetts Hospital. People with terminal cancer, severe chronic pain and other distressing problems come to him in despair, and leave feeling good. Yes, the pain is still there, just as strong as before, but the person is no longer suffering.

       Read this book, and you can achieve the same for the problems in your life.


    September Shopping Spectacular

       Bookswelove is starting a new contest is starting on the 2nd of September. You can win books for free, win coupons entitling you to getting two books for the price of one, and I don't know what else. Check on their web site.


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