Bobbing Around

Volume Twelve, Number Ten
June, 2013

Bob Rich's (sunny) rave  other issues

*About Bobbing Around
  guidelines for contributions
*Responses to past issues
  From Greg Austin
  Aussie elections coming
  From the leader of the Greens
  How to Jump-Start Behavior Change Around Energy Conservation, by Lee Ann Head
  The Importance of Planning 2, by Allen Currie
  Move our money out of fossil fuels to secure a safe climate future!
  Earth likely to warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius this century, by Jeremy Hance
  Northern hemisphere losing last dry snow region, from CIRES
  Protecting environment key to ending poverty, from WWF
  Sea Shepherd: Operation Relentless
*Good news
  Monsanto Surrenders: Ends All GMO Lobbying In Europe, by Beth Buczynski
  Kidnapping Survivor Creates App to Keep Other Women Safe, by Julie M. Rodriguez
  Seattle leads again, by Kirsten Gibson
  A bit of the Great Barrier Reef protected
  Life saving service gets funding
*Deeper issues
  The currency of outrage, by Dr Joe Zammit-Lucia
  My decision -- our disaster
  The secret of brief therapy
  I crave love so much
  The Only Real Way to End GMOs, by Maria Rodale
*For writers
  Empathy: the novelist's most powerful tool
*What my friends want you to know
  Teaching and Supporting Students with Special Needs
  Buddhist Geeks conference
  New short story contest
  5th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium
*Book reviews
  Ten Yen True, by Amanda Armstrong and Christina St Clair
  Listen to the Mockingbird, by Penny Rudolph
  Cry Purple, by Christine McDonald
  A Dream of Drowned Hollow, by Lee Barwood
  The Boy Who Loved Ants: Edward O. Wilson, by Sara van Dyck
  Ascending Spiral, reviewed by Penny Rudolph
  The Legend of Koolura by Michael Thal, reviewed by Nancy Curteman
  Being young, by Tim Knight

PS: radio interview

   I've just been notified: an interview Lori Soard conducted with me is going live on Monday 1st July. The link is

Striking Back from Down Under

   After 10 years with Twilight Times Books, my first short story collection has reverted to me. I've taken the opportunity for a thorough revision, the addition of 4 entirely new stories, and a new cover cooked up with my friend Alfredo. Please inspect it.


A free book, from me to you

   In order to bring traffic to Ascending Spiral, I have placed a link there to a free e-book. It is a collection of my recent essays, titled You Too Can Live in Contentment.

Hip chop news

   For those who may be interested, today I am 22 days post-op. Visited the surgeon yesterday. He told me I am doing better than expectation -- but of course I am doing slower than I want!

   Oh well, that's what acceptance is for.

   I am back at work, and this means that my wife Jolanda needs to do the chauffeur bit. So, I am immensely motivated to return to being able to drive myself. I am very conscientious about exercising -- a little while ago, I sat in the car, and moved my foot on and off the brake pedal for 3 lots of 20 repetitions.

   Murphy's law is that as soon as I go driving, I'll round a corner and encounter a dead elephant sprawled across the road. I'll need to be able to stop as quickly as the next guy. And this would still be a challenge right now.

   Wish me luck!

   REVISE THIS: Today is 23 days post-op, and I safely went for a drive. :)

   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 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.

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world -- that is the myth of the atomic age -- as in being able to remake ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi

Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

Albert Einstein

Responses to past issues

From Greg Austin

Hi Bob,

   I hope Ascending Spiral is getting out there -- it was a terrific (Kindle) read. I'm going to send a mate of mine, Steve Denham a Kindle gift copy. He wrote 'A Plate of Eggs,' a book I think you would highly enjoy. You can check it out on Kindle if you wish.

   A bit of news perhaps for your next volume: I've had a couple of short stories, 'Separation' and 'Ritual' picked up by The Speculative Edge and now have the rights back, so they are with Amazon. (You edited earlier versions of them).

   My main body of work is currently being edited at Zumaya. Some great suggestions and guidance so far. The post apocalyptic story is called 'Haven's End.'

All the best

Greg, you do know that if you've bought Ascending Spiral, you've qualified for a second book, free? Check the available titles at my web site. And I'd love a review if you liked it.


Aussie elections coming
From the leader of the Greens

Aussie elections coming

   With an Australian federal election coming up, the media have been highly biased, favouring the conservative side of politics. My friend Dave Sag has put up a web site with 109 factual descriptions of the achievements of this government.

From the leader of the Greens

Dear Bob,

   Tonight in lounge rooms across the country many people will have watched with sadness as the Labor factions tore down Australia’s first female Prime Minister.

   While the threat of Abbott taking total control of Parliament continues to loom, Labor has continued fighting among themselves.

   The Greens will not do anything to facilitate an Abbott government.

   But it’s clear that Labor are more interested in in-fighting than governing.

   The Greens are the consistent alternative to the old parties.

   It’s more important than ever to have a strong stable, party you can trust to stand up for a caring Australia and to protect the environment.

   That party is the Greens. The time is now, and the threat of Tony Abbott is imminent.

   As a female political leader I am very sad to see the first female Australian Prime Minister dispatched in this way.

   We will not do anything to bring about an Abbott Government but we want to hear more about Kevin Rudd’s plans. Kevin Rudd turned his back on action on climate change and the mining tax.

   Tomorrow the Greens will keep doing what we always do -- work with you to build a more caring Australia and to protect the environment.

Please join with us.
Christine Milne
Leader of the Greens


How to Jump-Start Behavior Change Around Energy Conservation by Lee Ann Head
The Importance of Planning 2 by Allen Currie
Move our money out of fossil fuels to secure a safe climate future!
Earth likely to warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius this century by Jeremy Hance
Northern hemisphere losing last dry snow region from CIRES
Protecting environment key to ending poverty from WWF
Sea Shepherd: Operation Relentless

How to Jump-Start Behavior Change Around Energy Conservation
by Lee Ann Head

   For many years of Pulse studies, when asked who they most blame for rising energy costs, respondents have said they most blame either 1) oil companies or 2) the U.S. government -- with utilities much farther down the list.

   This year, in light of declining natural gas prices, we edited the question, asking who (or what) respondents thought most affects energy costs. With this change, "blame" shifted dramatically to utilities, followed closely by oil companies and the U.S. government.

   Most pertinent, however, is who Americans don't blame -- themselves. Only 12 percent blamed energy costs on their own demand, because 80 percent of consumers think they use the same or less energy in their homes than they did five years ago. Yet we know this simply isn't true -- American residential energy consumption hit record highs last year.

   This incredibly strong "it's not my fault" mentality creates a huge challenge for energy-conservation behavior change. According to social scientist J.B. Rotter, perceived locus of control strongly influences whether behaviors are thought to be "instrumental for goal attainment." So if the locus of control for home energy bills is perceived to be external, or under the control of "powerful others" (utilities), then individual action is thought to be largely irrelevant.

   Compounding the problem is the fact that almost 40 percent of Americans who've completed energy-efficient home improvements such as adding insulation, buying an ENERGY STAR fridge or dishwasher, or a new HVAC unit said they haven't seen a decline in their utility bills.

   Put simply, many Americans do not believe that energy conservation behaviors will lower their energy bills. And if lowering bills (saving money) is the primary driver for most, then there's no perceived need or reward for behavior change.

   An applicable psychological concept for this situation is called learned helplessness, which develops when people take actions to address a problem that ultimately fail, thereby solidifying the conclusion that they have no control.

   Learned helplessness often translates into a serious motivation problem. Those who have failed at previous tasks are more apt to conclude that they can't succeed in the future. According to pioneering researchers Steven Maier and Martin Seligman, "Exposure to uncontrollable events interferes with our ability to perceive contingent relationships between our behavior and outcomes."

   Likewise, the more we succeed, the more we attribute success to our own actions (internality) and the more likely we are to "direct actions toward attainment of desired goals."

   In other words, the more we try without seeing a change in our bills, the more likely we are to blame the utility, give up and do nothing more. But if we see bill reductions when we change our behaviors and make improvements, the more we believe we can act to reduce our bills, and the more likely we are to do more.

   We understand these mysteries better when we hear that a) the utility actually increased rates, b) the family with the new fridge is using the old one to keep beer cold in the garage, c) the folks with a new dishwasher are celebrating their energy savings by running it more often -- partially loaded, d) the homeowners who purchased a high efficiency AC rewarded themselves by going into full comfort mode for the rest of the season.

   In order to combat learned helplessness and shift the perceived locus of control for energy, we at Shelton believe that a systemic disruption is needed. To make that happen, utilities must:

  • Accelerate the rollout of smart meters (and the energy-monitoring tools they enable) to increase consumer engagement and education about home-energy consumption.
  • Offer energy-efficiency behavior training. Consumers tell us they want this information, and our research shows us that they need it.
  • Partner with retailers and manufacturers to rework energy-efficiency rebates and incentives to reward multiple behaviors and improvements -- rather than one-off activities -- and help homeowners reach the number of actions required to see a real change in their bills.
  • Work with states to more aggressively incentivize residential solar generation, decouple rates and make time-of-use billing the norm so that customers are more likely to see immediate, significant rewards for their efforts.

       In order to see real, lasting behavior change, we've got to shift the perceived locus of control by creating bill reduction "wins" for consumers.

    For more insights on American attitudes about sustainability and how to change consumer behaviors, visit

       Lee Ann S. Head is the vice president of research for Shelton Group and has overseen all of Shelton's custom client and proprietary research since 2001. She spent eleven years in the banking industry, beginning in customer analysis and segmentation and ending as senior vice president of marketing for a regional bank.

    The Importance of Planning 2
    by Allen Currie

    It is apparent to any thinking person that crisis is unavoidable now. I prefer to look at where this might naturally lead. This is number 2 in a series. Number 1 is here.

       The world, particularly the US, Europe, and Japan, is sitting on a tipping point, a powder keg with 50 lit fuses, induced through decades of active mismanagement, neglect, greed, and divorce from reality. A little voice says 'it can't happen here' but history proves it likely will.

       Mankind's mindset has become EXTREMELY skewed. Negative consequences are ignored. "Because I can." (I have a gun and 'can' kill him, ignoring the fact that he might shoot back and get luckier. I have an urge, I can practice indiscriminate sex and reproduction, I can and will ignore the negatives of disease and world overpopulation. Because it doesn't kill me 'right away' I can pollute my body by smoking, or pollute my surroundings by injecting pollutants). We expect all our problems to be solved by authority using simple 10 second sound bites, even when it is shown they do not work. Insanity is doing the same thing over, and expecting different results.

       The number of man-induced catastrophes available to comment on is endless, so I'll limit myself to the unavoidable failure of the financial system. The world financial system went bankrupt 17 August 2008.

       Remember the mortgage derivatives? August 17 was the day global governments put aside their huge differences to first, change the rules that decide how derivatives were handled on bank balance sheets and, in the easy cases pumped more free money into the banks than if they had bought all their shares on the stock markets. In some of the worst cases, they simply "nationalized" or "absorbed" the banks into government. Even today, if the banking system was forced to account for derivatives, even in the same airy fairy way they were doing before August 17, probably most banks would be belly up, even with all that "free" government money on board. Mortgage based derivatives are only a very small percentage of the total derivatives market.

       The total derivatives market has been estimated to be one and one half Quadrillion dollars. Nobody knows for sure. To put that in context, world GDP is estimated in the range of $60-70 trillion dollars. Divide 1,500,000,000,000,000 by 70,000,000,000,000 and you get about 11+ years of paying 100% of EVERY transaction made by everyone in the world to pay off those derivatives. (Which are ALL an obligation to pay, or loans with a fancy name.) Can you go 11+ years without money for food and other small things in life? Never mind the LOANS admitted to by governments, commercials, or individuals. The US government is admitting to $16,5 trillion in loans ON the books, and another $50-80 trillion in obligations OFF the books. (Not that they have the disease worse than most, but they are so huge and are the basis for the world monetary system, so nothing else really matters.) The hoo haw about the last raising of the debt ceiling or the US would default, proves conclusively that IF the US would default on the money then owed, how will they not default on a larger amount?

       There are nine or ten ways the US dollar may go to zero, but all are based on one thing, confidence. You take that piece of green toilet tissue for your assets or time because you have CONFIDENCE you can take it down to the grocers and exchange it for food. The moment you don't believe (true or not) the grocer will exchange it for food, you will demand to be paid in something else, food or whatever. OR you will take your ball and go home.

       What will happen if confidence fails, as it surely must? It is already happening. My own estimate is that China has dumped about $1 trillion US dollars in two years. Cyprus is but a small, frightening example.

       First of all, you'd better have a garden. You'll need food because nobody is going to have much food in our high rise, just in time, urban atmosphere. Currently the US imports 2/3 of its hydrocarbon needs. If the US dollar becomes worthless, how will the US supply its transportation needs, never mind the farmers to grow the food? That's today, not some distant, airy fairy estimate of hydrocarbon self sufficiency. People, like those in cities of 500,000 plus, are going to run out of groceries in hours. How long till the social structure breaks down and rioting starts? It will be worse in larger cities.

       Being a long way from the fan sounds like a good place to be. I am. It is over 100 km to the nearest population centre of over 100,000 and over 50 km to the nearest collection of 40 or so houses. My nearest year round neighbour is over 10 km away. True, I have no electricity, cell phone coverage, land line, internet, or TV coverage. But I can get along without these things. I do now.

       True, I have a fairly significant store of things like salt, which will become difficult to get, but by and large I am self sufficient. I plan to grab what is now costly (like two inch poly water pipe) but will become very unimportant at the time of Armageddon. I've been buying all sorts of fruit and nut trees, several hundred dollars of vegetable seeds. Etc.

       To research, I went to Antarctica supplies to see what was required to support life. It's in the tons. I also researched what pioneers found most valuable because they could not haul huge weights with them on their journey into the wilderness. (Sharp edges like saws and axes were golden. Surprisingly, many forgot seeds, just as many preppers/survivalists are forgetting can openers, needles and toilet tissue.)

       Now I had an idea what was valuable, I could plan accordingly. My novel, "Operation Phoenix," available in download, free sample read, and hard copy at expands on conditions that I foresee happening at Armageddon.

    Move our money out of fossil fuels to secure a safe climate future!

       If we want a liveable planet, we can’t burn most of the world’s remaining carbon.

       Securing a safe climate means that 80% of current fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground -- yet most of our super funds, banks, religious institutions, universities, workplaces, and local councils are invested in these reserves. We believe it’s time to change this.

       It’s time to move our money out of fossil fuels and into the clean energy economy. Australia is one of the most carbon-intense economies in the world, yet we are rich in renewable energy resources. As members, beneficiaries, and customers of super funds, banks, educational and religious institutions, and governments, each of us can play a powerful role in divesting Australia’s economy from fossil fuels.

       If it’s wrong to wreck the climate, then surely it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. Join the Fossil Free Australia community today to bring on the clean energy revolution!

    For more information, contact info[at]

    Earth likely to warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius this century
    by Jeremy Hance

       A new study by Australian scientists projects that the world will likely warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels by 2100. The study published in Nature Climate Change finds that exceeding the 2-degree threshold is very likely under business-as-usual emissions scenarios even as scientists have long warned that passing the 2-degree mark would lead to catastrophic climate change.

       "This study ultimately shows why waiting for certainty will fail as a strategy," lead author Roger Bodman from Victoria University said. "Some uncertainty will always remain, meaning that we need to manage the risks of warming with the knowledge we have."

       According to the research the wide temperature range (2-6 degrees Celsius) is due to three factors: climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas emissions, the unpredictability of the carbon cycle, and aerosols, which cool the planet. These three factors "remain highly uncertain," the researchers write, "but historical observations of temperature and carbon dioxide imply a trade–off between them so that temperature projections are more certain than they would be considering each factor in isolation."

       Using historical data on carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature changes, the researchers employed a simplified climate model to predict how much more the Earth is likely to warm over the next 87 years. Already the Earth has warmed around 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last hundred years. This warming has led to shrinking glaciers, vanishing Arctic sea ice, increased risk of floods and drought, more extreme storms, and rising sea levels.

       According to the study it's unlikely that temperatures will rise more than six degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) this century. But the World Bank has recently noted that a rise in 4 degrees Celsius would lead to a world wholly different than the one we inhabit today, including agricultural collapse, economic turmoil, and mass extinction on land and sea.

       "Our results reconfirm the need for urgent and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avoid exceeding the global warming target of 2 degrees needed to minimize dangerous climate change," co-author David Karoly from the University of Melbourne said.

    Northern hemisphere losing last dry snow region
    from CIRES

       Last July, something unprecedented happened in the 34-year satellite record: 98 percent of the Greenland Ice Sheet's surface melted, compared to roughly 50 percent during an average summer. Snow that usually stays frozen and dry turned wet with melt water. Research led by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences now shows last summer's extreme melt could soon be the new normal.

       "Greenland is warming rapidly, and such ice-sheet-wide, surface-melt events will occur more frequently over the next couple of decades," said Dan McGrath, a University of Colorado Boulder doctoral student who works at CIRES. McGrath is lead author of a paper published online May 20 in Geophysical Research Letters and which reports a significant warming trend on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

       McGrath and his coauthors calculate that by 2025 ice-sheet-wide melt events will have a 50 percent chance of occurring each year. That would signal the loss of the last major dry-snow zone -- regions where the snow stays almost perpetually frozen -- in the Northern Hemisphere, McGrath said.

       In the study, the researchers used air and snow temperature data from meteorological stations and boreholes to generate a 60-year record of air temperatures at the Summit research station, the highest and coldest station on the ice sheet.

       From 1982 to 2011, near-surface temperatures increased by an average of 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit every year. "This is six times faster than the global average," McGrath said.

       The warming at Summit is also accelerating. From 1950 to 2011, the average rate of warming was 0.04 degrees F per year. But from 1992 to 2011, that number jumped to 0.22 degrees F per year.

       The warming has had a dramatic effect on the ice sheet's structure, the scientists report. The ice sheet's ablation zone -- the lower parts that lose more snow and ice each year than they accumulate -- is expanding up the ice sheet by about 145 feet per year.

       "This increases the area over which the ice sheet sheds mass while shrinking the zone that gains mass," McGrath said. "That will have an obvious impact on the ice sheet's mass balance."

       Additionally, the dry-snow line -- above which the snow doesn't melt -- is migrating up the ice sheet by about 115 feet per year. "These zones are indicators of the health of the ice sheet," McGrath said. "And the changes we are observing are an early but important sign that the ice sheet is in transition."

       The changes could increase the amount of solar radiation the ice sheet absorbs -- since wet snow reflects less sunlight than dry snow -- increasing the melt rate as well. It also could potentially speed up the ice sheet's flow, though more work needs to be done to untangle these impacts.

       These findings are supported by results from other researchers who have found that the ice sheet is losing more than 275 billion tons of ice per year -- equivalent to the weight of 750,000 Empire State Buildings. "This imbalance is making a significant contribution to sea-level rise," McGrath said.

       The summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet has experienced surface melt in the past, McGrath says. But the melt events in the past were rare, happening once every century or two -- in fact, only eight times in the last 1,500 years -- the exception rather than the norm. Now the norm is shifting toward a new, slushy set point.

       "Progressive increases in surface melt have occurred throughout the satellite record, but the last decade has been exceptional," McGrath said. "If each of these events keeps being so far above the average, the average will change to reflect that."

       The scientists' findings come at a time when Arctic sea ice extent is also at record lows. "Ice-sheet-wide melting coupled with the loss of Arctic sea ice points to profound changes occurring to the Arctic climate system," McGrath said. "These are not small, insignificant events we're witnessing."

    CIRES is a joint institute of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CU-Boulder.

    Protecting environment key to ending poverty
    from WWF

       "Without environmental sustainability we cannot end poverty," said the UN's High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

       The report of the 26-member panel, which included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Queen Rania of Jordan and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, has the potential to influence over USD 25 trillion of development spending and marks a clear break from the practice of treating development and sustainability as separate topics.

       "The Millennium Development Goals were a first global attempt to address poverty and other development challenges but protection of the environment was barely acknowledged and hardly addressed," said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

       "Nearly fifteen years on, there is finally recognition that poverty cannot be eradicated and the well-being of people across the globe cannot be secured without addressing the grave pressures on the environment and the natural systems that support human life on this planet," Leape added.

       The report calls for hard-hitting measures to be taken in both developed and developing countries to reduce the impacts of consumption, production, trade, waste and pollution.

       The Panel's findings have the potential to influence over USD 25 trillion of international resource flows to developing countries to redraft government and corporate behaviours.

       "We came to the conclusion that the moment is right to merge the poverty and environmental tracks guiding international development" states the Panel report.

       The Panel underlined the inadequacies of GDP measures of progress and recommended mandatory social and environmental reporting by all companies with a market capitalisation above USD 100 million.

       Proposed goals to secure food, water and energy for a growing world population should include key targets to safeguard sustainable agriculture, fisheries, freshwater systems and energy supplies, the report said.

       The High Level Panel also affirmed that the new development agenda is a global one.

       "The world has changed since the MDGs were agreed," said Jim Leape.

       "The global financial and economic crises have shown that poverty and growing inequality are problems for all countries. Production and consumption choices in one place have environmental impacts across the globe."

       "We now look to all countries to build on the High Level Panel's report and agree an ambitious set of goals and targets that will spur urgent action," said Leape.

    Further Information:

       Gemma Parkes, WWF International,, +41 79 253 6386

       WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.


    Sea Shepherd: Operation Relentless

       We are proud to officially launch and introduce you to Operation Relentless, our 10th Antarctic whale defence campaign, managed and led by Sea Shepherd Australia.

       During the past nine seasons, our direct-action interventions have saved the lives of more than 4,500 whales and exposed illegal Japanese whaling to the world. With the help of you and many people around the world, Operation Relentless has the potential to be a monumental success.

       Japan stated that the attempt to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was abandoned due to 'relentless interference' by Sea Shepherd. We like that kind of accusation, we like being relentless in the pursuit of finally bringing peace to the whales.

       Our past victories show we have one thing that the whalers do not, and that's the passion and courage of our volunteers and supporters. No matter what the odds, no matter what the risks, no matter how well equipped, funded and Government backed your opponents are, you must never give in, you must never surrender, you must fight for what is right, because the one thing that is worth fighting for on our beautiful planet is life.

    Good news

    Monsanto Surrenders: Ends All GMO Lobbying In Europe by Beth Buczynski
    Kidnapping Survivor Creates App to Keep Other Women Safe by Julie M. Rodriguez
    Seattle leads again by Kirsten Gibson
    A bit of the Great Barrier Reef protected
    Life saving service gets funding

    Monsanto Surrenders: Ends All GMO Lobbying In Europe
    by Beth Buczynski

       It's almost surreal, but it's true. Monsanto has officially give up its fight to spread genetically modified seeds and plants throughout Europe.

       In a time when the power and political influence of Monsanto Co. seems nearly insurmountable, this is a huge victory for opponents of genetic engineering. For those in the U.S. and other countries where Monsanto's stranglehold is palpable, it serves as a rally cry to keep up the good fight.

       "We've come to the conclusion that this has no broad acceptance at the moment," Monsanto Germany spokeswoman, Ursula Luettmer-Ouazane, told Taz, a Geman newspaper. According to Reuters, European officials for Monsanto also told Taz "that they were no longer doing any lobby work for cultivation in Europe and not seeking any new approvals for genetically modified plants."

       Just as in the United States, millions of European citizens have spoken out against Monsanto's unchecked control of agriculture through the use of patented, genetically-modified seeds and plants.

       A recent poll in Europe found that 60% of respondents considered "Frankencrops" a threat to public health. In 2007, the United States launched a planned retaliation against European countries for refusing to take GMOs into their food chains. In 2009 Monsanto sued Germany because it banned these products, reported in late 2012.

       Unlike U.S. leaders, those in Germany and elsewhere were not impressed by Monsanto's well-known intimidation tactics. By January 2013, eight European nations had publicly banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops. Earlier this month, these and other European countries joined the massive March Against Monsanto, a global event that saw millions take to the streets in protest.

       For Monsanto, this latest action was apparently the last straw.

       "We're going to sell the GM seeds only where they enjoy broad farmer support, broad political support and a functioning regulatory system," corporate spokesman Thomas Helscher told Reuters. "As far as we're convinced this only applies to a few countries in Europe today, primarily Spain and Portugal."

       Despite Europe's strong stand against Monsanto's GE crops, there are plenty of countries still under its financial and political control, namely, the United States. Here's hoping that Europe's victory will be only the first chink in Monsanto's armor -- one that can be exploited by the relentless voices of the millions of Americans who don't enjoy a corporation deciding what they can and cannot eat.


    Kidnapping Survivor Creates App to Keep Other Women Safe
    by Julie M. Rodriguez

       One year ago, in a Malaysian parking garage in broad daylight, Xin-Ci Chin was abducted as she loaded her shopping bags into her boyfriend's car. Two strange men approached her and held Chin at knifepoint, telling her to stay quiet and shoving her into the backseat of the car.

       She didn't struggle or fight at first, giving her captors time to let down their guard as they started the car. As they pulled out onto the street, she leapt into action, kicking open the car door and struggling until they panicked and let her go. She escaped into a nearby shopping center where she was able to get help. (I'm happy to report that one of her abductors was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison.)

       The full story of Chin's escape is incredible, but what is even more amazing is how she is using this experience to empower other women around the world. She's spent the last year collaborating with app developers to create a personal safety solution for anyone (especially women) concerned about working or traveling in a risky area.

       Using the app is simple -- you just log in when you start an activity like jogging, walking to your car or meeting someone for the first time. Then you set the amount of time the activity should take. If you fail to check back in at the end of the activity, Watch Over Me sends a notification to your emergency contacts, activates GPS tracking of your location and starts taking photos of your surroundings so that help can find you. You can also trigger an emergency alert manually with the app's "panic button." The app will even send out an alert if you lose your connection or your phone is turned off by an attacker.

       Chin isn't just giving other women the tools they need to stay safe -- she's also working on changing hearts and minds when it comes to the treatment of crime victims in Malaysia. First, she's co-founded a Facebook movement to spread inspiring stories of random acts of kindness within Malaysia.

       She's also speaking out in major publications like Esquire Malaysia against what she sees as a culture of victim blaming, revealing how police blamed her abduction on her clothing and appearance, asking her if she was wearing jewelry or carrying an expensive handbag. She also speaks about the kindness of strangers who helped her after she escaped her attackers. In the article, Chin urges readers to change the cultural climate with a few powerful words:


    Seattle leads again
    by Kirsten Gibson

       The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a far-reaching Climate Action Plan Monday, with the ultimate goal of reaching zero net emissions by 2050.

       The ambitious plan, crafted by city officials and community members, provides a long-term vision for reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions while building vibrant, prosperous communities.

       Specifically, the plan focuses on three areas where Seattle can benefit the most from improvements: transportation and land use, building energy and solid waste.

       "We can do something meaningful, not just for the planet, but also to create the city we want to live in, one that is safer to walk and bike and has cleaner air and water," said city councilman Mike O'Brien.

       The plan includes improving and expanding the city's bus system, building the infrastructure to make it safer to walk or bike around, and building out the region's light-rail system. These moves would help reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent, according to the Seattle Times.

       To curb building energy costs, the plan details the continuation of projects to weatherize homes and to develop a way to rate home energy performance when a house is listed for sale.

       Ways to conserve electricity and water were identified as areas to improve upon and preparing for the possible impacts of climate change on at-risk populations, such as the poor.

       The plan also includes strategies to prepare for adverse climate effects that the city could be subject to, such as identifying flood prone areas and creating land use plans that would adapt for rising sea levels.

       In addition to the city council's climate plan, Mayor Mike McGinn announced an energy efficiency initiative that will cut emissions and could save homeowners 35 to 50 percent in energy costs.

    Kirsten Gibson is an intern for ThinkProgress.


    A bit of the Great Barrier Reef protected

       Great news -- mining giant Glencore Xstrata announced that it has pulled out of building a coal terminal on Balaclava Island, 40 Km north of Gladstone.

       It’s a big win for everyone who loves our precious Great Barrier Reef, and shows the real difference people like you can make when we stand up together for the Reef.

       While celebrating our success, we mustn’t lose sight of winning the fight!

       Watch the video and share it here.

       New and expanded ports, millions of tonnes of dredging and shipping superhighways are still in the planning pipeline.

       The World Heritage Centre has called for an immediate halt to any new industrial development threatening the Great Barrier Reef coast, and tougher laws for protecting the Reef.

       We need to keep pressure on the Australian and Queensland governments to take urgent action.

       That’s where you come in. A good fight needs a strong army. You can help by spreading the word about the alarming and unprecedented scale of industrialisation going on along the Reef. The more people who hear about the scale of this threat, the more people will join the Fight for the Reef.

       We can’t do this without you.

       Take a few seconds to pass on this email.

       It’s your Reef, but you’re going to have to fight for it."

    Let’s get to it.
    Felicity Wishart, AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director.
    on behalf of the Fight for the Reef Team

    Life saving service gets funding

       In a previous issue, I reported on a fight to keep funding a life-saving service for Aboriginal people in jail. Here is the sequel:

       We won! With just over two weeks to go before the CNS phone line preventing Aboriginal deaths in police custody was due to cease operating, the Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has agreed to funding for a two-year period.

       We want to thank all of YOU -- 33,864 online petitioners who fought hard with us to get the CNS funded.

       Thanks to you, we're now able to continue our vital Custody Notification Service that has prevented Aboriginal deaths in police custody in NSW and ACT since its inception in 2000.

       For the last six weeks we’ve run an aggressive campaign to Save the CNS and bring Government attention to this life-saving service. Your signatures, and your heartfelt comments about why the CNS is essential obviously made a huge difference -- with the Federal Government allocating $100,000 immediately to the CNS. They have also agreed to us using another $900,000 of their Federal Budget allocation between 2013 to 2015.

       This means the CNS has secured funding for a further two years. A huge victory. Of course we will continue to seek ongoing funding for this essential life-saving service -- our fight is not really over -- but we're glad for the breathing room.

       We'd love for you to help us keep fighting for sustainable funding and keep up to date with the Aboriginal Legal Service. So join our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and you can visit our website.

       We have been overwhelmed by your support, and hope you can join us into the future to ensure the CNS remains for as long as there are vulnerable Aboriginal people in police custody.

    Thank you.
    Phil Naden
    Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)

    Deeper Issues

    The currency of outrage by Dr Joe Zammit-Lucia
    My decision -- our disaster

    The currency of outrage
    by Dr Joe Zammit-Lucia

       In the 1970s some economists published a report about commercial whaling. Their conclusion was that the most economically advantageous approach would be to hunt whales to extinction and thereafter re-tool the fishing fleets for different purposes. The idea was met with international outrage and never implemented. Since then the International Whaling Commission has been one of the most successful multilateral negotiating bodies and many species of whales are no longer under threat.

       I use this example to introduce a question that is often difficult to answer: why do we bother to invest so much money to stop species from becoming extinct? The real answer is contained in the public reaction to the economists' report on whales -- outrage.

       For the last 500+ years, we have become used to the idea of the Human as 'rational being', making considered decisions based on available evidence. We have also been treated to the construction of Homo economicus -- the human that supposedly makes decisions based on the optimization of his own economic self-interest. While these models of human behavior are useful, they have, today, been taken to extremes thereby becoming not only less useful but misleading and, sometimes, positively dangerous.

       Which gets us back to the question: why save endangered species?

       The standard set of answers today is economic and scientific. Biologists and ecologists tell us about the value of species and 'biodiversity' to ecosystems and their proper functioning. We are told about the 'ecosystem services' delivered. We are inundated with economic analyses, many of limited credibility, that tell us of the billions of dollars that these systems are worth to us. We are told of the value of 'eco-tourism' to local economies. All these analyses are worthwhile and provide useful insights. However, they need to be recognized as being only partial. They miss out the vital ingredient that I have summarized above as 'outrage'.

       It was not economic analysis that saved the whales; it was public outrage. Why?

       The literature in psychology and economics for the past 30 years has increasingly come to accept that, as humans, we are primarily emotional not 'rational' beings. Our behaviors are driven by emotions, values and intuitions -- layers of cultural meaning that have been built over generations and that are constantly changing and evolving. In general, rationalization comes after we have already made our decisions based on intuitions and emotions. One example of changing cultural values is our attitude to animal suffering. The growing unacceptability of the conditions associated with factory farming has nothing to do with economics or scientific rationality. It is based on a growing set of values and moral intuitions that lead to progressive change because we are outraged at our own behaviors.

       The same can be said of extinction. There is a growing sense, and a growing sensibility, that we are uncomfortable being part of a global society that allows whole species to be wiped from the face of the earth. Such behavior seems to hold up a mirror that says something about us as human beings, and many of us don't particularly like what we see. We may not yet be outraged, but we are at least uncomfortable, maybe saddened and, eventually, we will be outraged. This is part of the change in our culture that we are seeing -- and it's a change for the better. It makes us better human beings.

       Conservation and the environment have become trapped in the language of science and, more recently, economics. While essential, we need to recognize that such language strips us of emotion. It becomes an excuse not to talk about more difficult issues such as values, intuitions and feelings. We pretend to live in a world of objective decision making when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

       So, why bother with endangered species? The real answer is because we want to. Because we are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with seeing ourselves as part of a society that is willing to wipe out other creatures for sometimes marginal benefit. Economics and science can provide powerful, if only limited and partial, support to this evolving cultural change, but they should not be allowed to take over. If science and economics become our only language, it may well harm rather than help species preservation efforts.

       The practical difficulties surrounding species survival are considerable. But our societies are creative and wealthy enough to overcome them. What we need is enough outrage to do it because of the human beings we want to see in ourselves and in our societies. We need no other reasons.

    Joe works at the intersection of many disciplines to explore issues relating to growth, sustainability, and the relationship between how we organize human societies and the relationship with the non-human world around us. His aim is to find ways to re-imagine ‘environmentalism,’ which he describes as the politics of our co-existence in the ecosphere on which we all depend.

    My decision -- our disaster

       In 1968, Garrett Hardin published Tragedy of the Commons. The concept is now part of pop culture, but we ignore it.

       If a whole group of us own a lawnmower, and anyone can do the maintenance, it makes (selfish) sense to let someone else do it. So, we need to appoint one maintenance person, perhaps with payment for the service, or make up a roster. Some control is necessary, or soon we won't have a working lawnmower.

       Many places now have parking restrictions, tickets, fines. Why? Because chaotic congestion arises if we can all park a car for as long as we like, where we like.

       We don't apply this logic to the most important issue Hardin discussed; the one that is wrecking our world: having a child.

       I love children. I am passionate about fostering their welfare, protecting them from harm. I love playing with them, doing activities that stimulate their physical, intellectual and emotional growth. I enjoy even naughty kids (an always good child must be unwell).

       I have four wonderful genetically related grandchildren, and now a great-grandbaby because my son's (step)daughter has had a son. Now that they are here, I will do anything to make their lives good, to cherish them, to put a smile on their faces.

       But... currently the net increase in global human population is about 300 million a year. Our planet is already grossly overpopulated. Each year, we use the resources of over 1.5 planets and growing, mining the future. This is the product of per capita consumption by number of people.

       Every time you add another person, you bring death, suffering and misery closer for that little person and all others.

       This is the problem of the commons. I make a private decision to have or not have a child. This decision has implications for everyone. Too many of us have children, and so we have certain disaster looming.

       Is it a favour for a child to be born into a situation of early suffering and death?

       Read my essay But there is no need for despair. You will see that my prediction is that global civilisation is extremely unlikely to survive till 2020. This is not doomsday thinking or pessimism, but a calm appraisal of the available evidence.

       This is why, in my novel Sleeper, Awake, I specified a future in which population is fixed. You can have a child only when someone dies.

       This is why, if I were a young person today, I would choose to be childfree.


    The secret of brief therapy
    I crave love so much

    The secret of brief therapy

    1. A lady was referred to me by her psychiatrist. She has a lifetime history of depression, anxiety, panic attacks. The psychiatrist had started her on the road toward recovery, by weaning her off many years of antidepressant medication. He told her, she needed therapy instead, and that it was up to her whether she would benefit from it.

       Given the long history of suffering, going back to a dismissive, judgmental mother, I expected that the measly 10 sessions Medicare now funds in Australia would be insufficient. To everyone's surprise, she felt able to go it alone after our fifth session.

       She knows her life hasn't been "solved." She has lots of work to do, but the point is she now has the confidence that she can do it, for the rest of her life. Now, she is not just "normal," but better than most because she is in charge of her own destiny.

       The therapy we did was all evidence-based, nothing remarkable. What was remarkable, what led to her achievement, was a simple decision. When the psychiatrist told her it was up to her whether she would benefit, she changed her life by taking his words on board.

       You can do the same with your problems.

    2. A middle-aged man with a lifetime of achievements married a much younger woman, and that was when his troubles started. I won't go into what those troubles were, but they were substantial. He was sticking in there, because the light of his life was their six-year-old little son.

       As I do with all new clients, I sent him my "starting kit" before the first session. He read it, and he instantly clicked with my page how to solve a problem, any problem. His particular expertise is risk management for large companies, and he recognised my problem-solving tools as part of what he has done for decades. All he needed to do was to apply his professional skills at home.

       He came into the first session telling me that I'd already set his life onto a better track. I also discussed mindfulness and acceptance as a way of coping better. Again, having worked many years in eastern countries, this was nothing new to him -- he merely needed to apply his knowledge to his everyday life.

       So, basically, one session was all he needed.

       You also have lots of skills, wisdom and knowledge relevant to your problems. Like this man, you can apply them.

    3. In contrast, last year a lady was referred with a driving phobia, and other severe anxiety problems. We had 13 sessions, at the end of which her problems had substantially eased, but were still there. She has now contacted me with a new referral, having relapsed back to where she'd been before therapy.

       I think the reason is that, from childhood on, she learned that she was helpless. All her life, she has looked to others to rescue her. While I was a regular presence in her life, she could advance. Six months without me, and she slipped back into the old pattern, and again feels that she needs rescuing.

       She doesn't. She needs to take charge of her own destiny: "face the fear, and do it anyway."

    I crave love so much

    Hi, I'm not sure who's reading this email, but this is for Bob Rich.

       All my life, or a good portion of it I have always wanted to be loved. I had that in my first relationship and felt very satisfied emotionally, but eventually it came to an end.

       As a psychology major myself, I explored many news things about myself, always asking "why?"

       To this day I have accomplished many emotional obstacles and consider myself to be a successful confident alpha male.

       Yet...every time I lie on my bed before falling asleep I feel this void where a beautiful woman would be. And to this day I have not yet figured out why I crave love so much. Maybe I do know, maybe I don't. Possibly having to do with the relationship with my mom, but that void is there and I have tried just about every trick in the book to get rid of it.



    Hi Larry,

       Please go to and in particular read the last bit.

       From the little you have written, my guess is that you can change your life by changing just one habit. You have been seeking love, meaning "I want someone to love me." You have idealized the person who will give you this love, to the point that perhaps no real woman could ever measure up.

       Real women are like real men: they have good and bad characteristics. Any relationship of any kind is guaranteed to have some problems, differences, points of friction. This is not a reason for rejecting such relationships, because the best you can ever achieve is like this. The romantic myth (that there is a perfect person out there for me, I just need to find her) is one of the biggest sources of unhappiness.

       My web page describes how you can make a relationship satisfying and lasting.

       Back to my first observation. If you take out the little word "me" from "I want someone to love me," you will find a huge difference in your interactions with women. A rule of the universe is: The more you give, the more you get.

       If two people form a relationship, and each wants to GET, then conflict and dissatisfaction are guaranteed. If both do their best to GIVE to the other, then differences don't matter, and love overcomes all.

       So, instead of seeking a woman to love you, find a woman you can give love to. Someone you can cherish and support and care for, to give pleasure to in every way possible. But don't commit yourself until you see that she has the same attitude to you.

    All the best,

    Thank you for the words of wisdom. It took me a little bit to understand the rule of the universe; "the more you give, the more you get", but I eventually got it down, I just need to apply it.

    With sincere thank-you's,


    The Only Real Way to End GMOs by Maria Rodale

    The Only Real Way to End GMOs
    by Maria Rodale

       The other day I was feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and defeated about the whole GMO thing. There is SO MUCH evidence that GMOs, and the chemicals that are used in concert with them (like Roundup) are destroying our health and planet. And yet the infiltration and power and pockets of the chemical companies seem to know no bounds.

       The tricks being used to pervert the Farm Bill and sneak the new "technology" into people's lives are far beyond what would be considered ethical. But who has the time, attention span, and money to fight back? Some of us have day jobs. And all the petitions we sign seem to go into a black hole in a big White House. (Obama, have you checked the attic lately?) Hundreds of thousands of people have signed petitions and answered surveys that they want GMOs at least labeled and out of our food system. Why aren't you listening, Mr. President?

       But then it occurred to me. We have the solution! We have the power! YOU have the answer in your HANDS RIGHT NOW! Forget Washington (well, let's not forget it, but isn't Washington always the LAST to change?) Ultimately, there is only one way to ensure that there are no GMOs in your food, and that is to buy, grow, and eat only organic food.

       Buy eat and grow ONLY certified-organic food. It's that simple. Certified-organic foods are the ONLY products you can buy that ensure you are not buying, eating, or supporting the GMO mafia. Eating certified-organic food is the only way you can ensure that you are not poisoning your children, poisoning yourself, and poisoning our environment. Isn't that worth a few extra bucks in the supermarket? SERIOUSLY? Yes, it's worth it. Consider it your own lobbying budget. You are voting with your dollars, and the capitalist free market must respond to that. That's why Wonder Bread and Twinkies bit the dust -- not because of any government regulation, but because people wised up and stopped buying them.

       I know you have questions. Why is organic so much more expensive? (Because the government penalizes organic farmers and artificially subsidizes chemical farmers.) How can you be sure it's really organic? (Because organic food is the only food that is independently inspected every year to keep its certification -- unlike that chemical fertilizer plant that exploded in Texas, which hadn't been inspected since 1985. 1985!). Isn't local food better than organic? (Only if it's organic local food, because why would you want to support food that has contaminated your local community? And everything is local to someone somewhere!)

       What's the opposite of a boycott? A quick google search landed me on the term "carrotmob" (a campaign that supports a business in order to create positive change) -- that's perfect! Let's carrotmob organic food! This is an act of individualized political activism that will do more to change the world (and your personal health) for the better than any march, any vote, any gala dinner event, any charity run, or any other thing will do to solve this issue once and for all.

       Remember, only YOU can stop GMOs dead in their tracks. What are you waiting for?

    Maria Rodale is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc., the world's largest independent publisher of health, wellness, and environmental content and the largest independent book publisher in the United States.



    Empathy: the novelist's most powerful tool

    Empathy: the novelist's most powerful tool

       Fiction writing made it very difficult for me to work as a nurse.

       There was Mike, a Vietnam vet who'd attempted suicide. Someone saved him, but not before severe brain damage. He couldn't speak, had almost no movement below the neck, no swallowing reflex so he got his food through a tube into his stomach, two hourly pressure care, double incontinent... and he was THERE. When two attractive girls changed him, pulling their noses at the stink of his feces, he visibly tensed. When I had a moment, sat on the edge of his bed and talked to him, I could see understanding in his eyes.

       What a story. Anyone for horror?

       Daisy was 87, with a rust-bucket body and a diamond mind. She said, "There is so much to learn!" But she died anyway.

       Thinking in terms of point of view (POV) is not a good idea if you are surrounded by suffering. However, you can't write fiction without it.

       Oh, people do, and as an editor, I often need to teach how to BE the person in the story. If you as author think of that person as a character, then that's what you'll get: a two-dimensional toy for your manipulation. What you need is to create people who are more real than the ones around your reader. You as writer need to trick me as reader to become one of your characters, however different that person may be from me. You can't do this unless you write as that character. First you must BE in that skin, in the story. That's what POV is.

       You can't do it without empathy: the ability to understand someone else's reality, the way I got sucked into Mike's and Daisy's.

       Here is how to do it:

    1. Think of the next bit of the story as a SCENE. That scene will have a WITNESS: the person whose POV is the lens through which you'll show the scene.

    2. The very start should tell the reader who that witness is, and immediately give some private event: the witness's thought, observation of some object or person, bodily sensation, memory, emotion, urge...

    3. Then, stay with that witness for the entire scene. It is possible to transition to another witness as the scene progresses, but the danger is that you may lose the reader. If I ever have to stop and ask, "Now, who thought that?" then the illusion is broken and you've lost me. This is why head hopping is a no-no.

       Here are a couple of examples:

       It's only later you find out that Mirla is about 3 feet tall, has green skin, no head, 3 arms and 3 legs. It doesn't matter. By then she is a person, one of the major characters in Liberator, the lead story in my anthology Bizarre Bipeds.

       The second example is the start of the second chapter of my latest novel, Ascending Spiral:

       This is in first person, and as with the other, the person starts coming to life immediately. When I wrote this, I WAS that 4-year-old Irish boy.

       As you proceed with the scene, it is important to keep reporting inner experiences of the witness -- but never for anyone else. They are described from the outside, as the witness perceives them.

       When you can do this, you can write fiction.

    What my friends want you to know

    Teaching and Supporting Students with Special Needs
    Buddhist Geeks conference
    New short story contest
    5th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium

    Teaching and Supporting Students with Special Needs

    3rd National Conference

    August 15-16th, 2013 Melbourne, Australia

       Focus of conference:

    1. Showcase the attributes of Special Needs Children through key-note presentations/ Workshop presentations.

    2. Understand more fully the nuances of students with Special Needs in order to develop new units/programs that can better support and progress these students through their schooling experience.

    3. Embrace through the two day immersion experiences, the new ideas/strategies that can be implemented into the classroom to better support students with Special Needs.

    4. Allow the opportunity for participants to network through the workshops/Morning teas/ Lunches

    Complete information here.

    Buddhist Geeks conference

    August 16th - 18th

       The Buddhist Geeks Conference is an annual in-person gathering exploring emergent trends relevant to practitioners in the 21st century, as well as for those interested in what Buddhism offers their particular fields of knowledge.

       Here’s your guide to the Buddhist Geeks Conference. Check out who’s going to be there, what they’re talking about, and how we can best serve the convergence of Buddhism, technology, and emerging culture...Together.

    New short story contest

       Three writers will receive $50 and will be featured and published on "Writing from the Couch" once-a-week for three weeks. With over 12,000 followers, your work is sure to be seen. Additionally, as this contest becomes more popular, we will award more and pay more to the judges in proportion with the entry fees collected. The intent of this contest is to feature great fiction in the form of the short story.

       Accepted Genres: literary, mainstream, women's fiction, coming of age stories, mystery. If you aren't sure what genre your story fits under, email me and we can discuss it further. (We don't like explicit sex, too much adult language, nor do we like extreme violence–please no rape scenes, no cruelty including abuse to animals–if you don't understand what these restrictions mean, then you probably shouldn't enter).

       Judging: Work will be judged on the following character development and how story relates to the character's problem, the way plot flows from the character's dilemma is ultimately more interesting to our judges than an action-packed, page-turner with little substance. We like to remember how the character deals with his/her problems and not so much the car crash or the gun going off. If you're not sure what we want you might like to read: Carol Edgarian's "Three Stages of Amazement," Yan Martell's "Life of Pi," or Karen Bender's "A Town of Empty Rooms." There will be two judges.

       Deadline: October 31, 2013, midnight

       Writers will be notified & an announcement posted on the blog: November 30, 2013, via email

       Publication of Stories on Blog: during January 2014

       Cost: Nominal reading fee of $12 for first entry, and $8 for second and third entries. (Through PayPal)

       Word count: 2,500 to 3,500 (strict min/max)

       Manuscript format: Word, double spaced, 1-inch margins, Times New Roman, first paragraph line indent. Please edit and spell-check your work before submitting, remove the author's name from the manuscript—this is a blind competition.

       How to submit your work: Electronic only via email. Paper submissions will not be seen. I rarely visit my business mailbox. Once I receive your submission, I will send you an invoice via PayPal. When payment is tendered, your story will go into the "To Be Read" queue and forwarded to our judges.

       For more information on how to enter, email Susan. Make sure you type "Short Story Contest" in the subject line.

    Susan Wingate
    Winner of 5 Literary Awards, #1 Amazon Best Selling Author

    5th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium

    Call For Papers will close soon!

       All accepted abstracts, including posters, will be published in the conference book of proceedings with an International Standard Book Number. Peer review is available for selected papers, you can submit an abstract for an oral, poster or workshop presentation.

       The 5th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium will explore the challenges and effectiveness of alliances between government, NGOs, and communities through presentations and evaluations of partnership initiatives. It will also examine "diagnosable mild to moderate mental illness" in regional, rural and remote Australia.

    Keynotes include

    Prof Pat Dudgeon is Australia's first Indigenous Psychologist. From the Bardi people of the Kimberley, Pat is known for her passionate work in psychology and Indigenous issues and her leadership in Indigenous higher education.

    Prof Hal Swerissen, Faculty of Health Sciences, Latrobe University.

    Prof James A Dunbar MD, Director of Greater Green Triangle University Department of Rural Health, Flinders University and Deakin University.

    Methuen Morgan BPsych. Methuen was awarded the 2010 UNE Australian Psychology Prize for his thesis "Future Time, Environmental Attitudes and behaviours within the Australian Rural Sector". The thesis contributes and progresses the current understanding of the psycho-social issues impacting farmers well-being. He lives on a farm in Armidale NSW.

    Alison Fairleigh, Rural Mental Health Activist, is the 2013 Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation(RIRDC) Qld Rural Woman of the Year.

       Additional keynotes will be announced soon.

       You can download a copy of the Book of Proceedings and Program from the 2012 conference on the website.

    Cindy Axisa, Symposium Secretariat
    5th Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium 14th to 16th October 2013.
    Mercure Hotel, Geelong VIC
    Ph: (61 7) 5502 2068 Fax: (61 7) 5527 3298

    Book Reviews

    Ten Yen True by Amanda Armstrong and Christina St Clair
    Listen to the Mockingbird by Penny Rudolph
    Cry Purple, by Christine McDonald
    A Dream of Drowned Hollow by Lee Barwood
    The Boy Who Loved Ants: Edward O. Wilson, by Sara van Dyck
    Ascending Spiral reviewed by Penny Rudolph
    The Legend of Koolura by Michael Thal reviewed by Nancy Curteman

    Ten Yen True, by Amanda Armstrong and Christina St Clair

    Rouge Phoenix Press

       This very unusual novel had me spellbound. A Mahayana Buddhist monk in Japan is struggling with the effects of the tsunami on his emotions, and somehow creates magic that affects the lives of four people he now starts to monitor, but has no interest in because they are westerners, nothing to do with the suffering of his people.

       Very quickly these four -- five-year-old Tommy dying of cancer, ambitious, callous Caitlyn, likable, decent black American nurse JJ, and spoiled brat wannabe politician Paul -- very quickly become real people. The authors play the reader's likes and dislikes like a violin, as the four lives connect up, their pasts are revealed so we get to understand them, and we can watch them grow... well, maybe except for Paul who manages to stay an asshole to the very end.

       A subtle, enjoyable aspect of the book is the exploration of culture: the Japanese monk's world of prayer and service, JJ's struggle with his father's Baptist fundamentalism, Paul's rich American's arrogance, Caitlyn's very different British arrogance, the much softer British culture of Tommy and his mother Holly.

       A final pleasure for me has been the authors' invention of an afterlife that is not Christian, not Buddhist, but perhaps the creation of the sweet child, Tommy.

    Amanda Armstrong has been writing short stories and poetry since she could hold a pen.

       Her debut novel, Rose, was published in 2011. Her second novel, Ten Yen True, was co-authored with her aunt after a mysterious coin appeared. You can read about this strange occurrence on Amanda's website

       Amanda lives in Kent, UK with her husband and daughter and is currently working on the sequel to Ten Yen True.

        Both of Amanda's novels are available at


       Christina St. Clair, award winning author, former shop-girl, chemist, and pastor, is currently a spiritual director, Reiki Master (don't read too much into the title master!), wife, animal lover, and writer. Ten Yen True, a novel co-authored with Amanda Armstrong, fulfilled the promise of mysticism, fun, healing, and hope.

    Listen to the Mockingbird, by Penny Rudolph

       I started reading this book in order to review it. Then I kept reading because I couldn’t stop. This is despite the fact that, some years ago, I edited it. Listen to the Mockingbird is a crime thriller that keeps you on your toes, with several subplots each adding its source of tension, and yet ultimately all coalescing into one logical pattern.

       The story is set within the American Civil War, and while I am no expert on the period, it rang very true.

       The story has all the elements essential to crime fiction: mysterious happenings that gradually unfold with increasing danger to the detective (in this case a woman at a time when women were possessions), villains to make your skin creep, the gradual passage toward the solution with the clues presented if you can pick them up. It is also a psychological study of domestic abuse. When reading these portions, I was THERE, the helpless, powerless battered wife. It was all too realistic, as I know from my work as a psychologist.

    Penny Rudolph has worked as a bartender, truck driver, chile picker, science writer, and medical writer. She has also taught high school and college English, creative writing and journalism. Rudolph won the 2003 EPPIE Award for Listen to the Mockingbird, and has also earned awards from the National Writers Association, Southwest Writers, Florida First Coast Writers, and Panhandle Professional Writers. She lives in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband Ralph and a small menagerie of stray animals.

    Cry Purple, by Christine McDonald

    Published in Kindle.

       There are geniuses at survival. I know of two books by people who intuitively, just from their nature, survived serial hell and came out unscathed at the other end. These are Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and Najaf Mazari's The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif.

       In a way, Christine McDonald has done even better. She started being vulnerable, and hurting, and needing to run away from that pain using self-destructive behaviors, particularly drug addiction. All the same, she managed to end up in the same place as Viktor and Najaf. Her circumstances are still highly challenging today, and yet she is far more high functioning than most people with objectively easy lives.

       This is post-traumatic growth at its best. Using an analogy I often offer to my clients, she truly has been turned into a diamond by the terrible pressures of her past. Not only is she coping, also she is actively advocating for others, doing her considerable best to make this planet a better place for the disadvantaged.

       One of my cliches is: "Only two things matter in this life: what you take with you when you die, and what you leave behind in the hearts of others. Everything else is Monopoly money." Christine is on the right path, not despite her many mistakes and sufferings, but because of them; because eventually she made Choices that advanced her in spiritual development.

       Here are three quotes from the book that are worth printing, and sticking onto your mirror: "You can't go back to fix the past. However, you can let go of the guilt and shame and move on from this day forward." "Somewhere along the path of struggling to live blind, I found that my blindness had become my blessing." "I grow through my challenges."

       Whatever your circumstances, if you feel sorry for yourself, feel resentment and are tortured by the monster "Not Fair Why Me?" then read this book, and use this lady as your shining example.

    A Dream of Drowned Hollow, by Lee Barwood

       Reading this book, I know that the author is a kindred spirit: a sister of my soul. Her aim in writing is the same as mine: to change the world, and in the same direction: away from greed, selfishness and cruelty, toward caring, decency and cooperation.

       She has created a fascinating reality as background, and successfully brought it to life, which is a major challenge for all speculative fiction. Her characters are very believable. Even the villain is someone whose motivations we understand.

       All prose is poetry, and Lee Barwood's prose is an example of this. It subtly changes with the mood, and is always apt.

       Once the action gets going, the story is immensely gripping, and I just had to read on. However, the start is slow, with little tension. It is rescued by wonderful description and excellent characterization, but I did wish for a faster initial pace.

       That aside, this book is well worth reading. You will enjoy the experience.

    The Boy Who Loved Ants: Edward O. Wilson, by Sara van Dyck

    Published at Smashwords.

       This is a brilliant little book. It will inspire any thoughtful elementary school child into caring for the small creatures of nature. Using simple, clear language appropriate to the age group, and interesting pictures, it carries several important ecological lessons, teaching without preaching.

       Another message is resilience. Professor Wilson lost most of the sight of one eye as a boy. Even before that, he was smaller than others, shy and withdrawn. And yet, he became one of the leading biologists of the planet, honored by governments, and although it’s not stated in this book, befriended by other famous environmentalists like David Suzuki.

       It is not necessary for all children to collect black widow spiders and snakes. It is necessary for as many as possible to look on nature as something that makes life possible for all of us, as a thing of beauty that deserves protection from the ravages of humankind in its own right. A particular species, a particular place may or may not be "useful." That is irrelevant. It is fascinating, and beautiful in its own way, and what is useful is the complex totality.

       This is the gentle message of this book. Buy it for your child.

    Ascending Spiral
    reviewed by Penny Rudolph

        An irresistible tale, vividly told.

       Bob Rich's latest novel Ascending Spiral offers a sort of crystal ball for the reader to thread his way up through the murky present toward a could-be, should-be future.

        Rarely have I been so captivated by a fantasy. Only Avatar comes to mind.

        Written in segments led by various protagonists, Rich's narrative style is so natural it leaves the written word behind, and talks to the reader like an old friend.

       Sometimes the imagery is so raw the reader must look away, other times it is soothing and gentle.

        Ringing with authenticity, from ninth century Viking incursions into Ireland, to Irish suffering at the hands of the English ten centuries later, to life in Australia's outback, the story hums with human determination--albeit stumbling--to overcome pain and sorrow.

        Rich is above all a philosopher. When a new protagonist, this one a woman, takes the stage, the message takes on shades of grey--decency and understanding may require trudging a few miles in the shoes of the downtrodden. And there's even a hint of a Tolstoy theme: "The elite succeed only by standing on the shoulders of the lesser classes."

        Ascending spiral is a truly excellent read.

    The Legend of Koolura by Michael Thal
    reviewed by Nancy Curteman

       Solstice Publishing

       In the The Legend of Koolura, Michael Thal takes young readers on an adventure that couples magic superpowers with the everyday life of intermediate grade students. Through his main character, Koolura Akopyan, a sixth grade girl, Thal explores the complexities of school friendships, the adjustments needed to manage in today's multicultural classrooms and the importance of good values.

       Koolura is a normal student at Bethune Elementary School. She experiences the same kinds of problems as the other students. She suffers through poor treatment by snooty girls, comforts a friend whose mother is going through cancer tests, and supports another whose parents are divorcing. She tutors students who can't read or do math. She worries about grades, tests and homework. Every young reader can identify with Koolura and her friends.

       Koolura is also different from other students at Bethune because she has the "Cool." It gives her superpowers. Sadly, it has also forced her to lead the life of a nomad. A treacherous stalker seeks to destroy her and steal the "Cool" for himself. Koolura's fearful father has moved her from place to place in an effort to keep her safe.

       Koolura's use of her "Cool" to help her fellow students through their difficulties and her effort to keep one step ahead of Neb, her stalker, is what makes Thal's book an exciting experience for young readers.

       Special note: I taught sixth grade and when I read Thal's vivid descriptions of school life, I thought I was back in the classroom again.


    Being young
    by Tim Knight

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