Posted by: Mike Austin | July 15, 2014

Save Lives and Make a Super Bowl Champ Cry

How many times in person have any of us seen a 300 lb., 6’4″ Super Bowl Champion cry? Last week I saw it my first time.

Roland Williams is my personal friend, but our friendship began as I consulted with him about how to actualize his many brilliant plans on how to inspire and motivate people. The very first time we talked for a half-hour meeting, it turned into two hours and surprised us both. He’s also an author. What footballer writes? And many times he has been a featured sports analyst on TV networks which include CBS Sports Network, ESPN, MTV, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Nickelodeon, NFL Network, CNBC, Fox, Fox Sports Net, CBS and ABC.

You’d expect someone of his stature and accomplishments to be successful and tough. He is both of those things. And he’s also unusually articulate and smart. The man does amazing financial spreadsheets, for example. And, how many times have you heard a tough footballer quote anthropologist Margaret Mead to focus his audience? He has. Yet, besides the occasional clean tackler who caught him before he scored touchdowns, there’s one thing I now know which will bring him to his figurative knees.

Seeing young boys and young men suffer, from exactly where he grew up and went to school, made him cry. Rochester, New York the lowest rate of high school graduates in the nation, an abysmal, depressing, astonishing 9%. Roland has three young boys of his own. When he cried over the destroyed human potential in Rochester, he saw the dimly let roads he avoided when he was young. It was painfully easy to imagine his own boys struggling. So, he got busy in a huge way, stretching his own resources past their limits to create successful change.

Roland Williams' Champion Academy

Roland Williams’ Champion Academy

Now, I don’t have to spell out for you what the cascading effect of a 9% high school graduation rate means. You already know and it’s anything but pretty. But what I could tell you is that we’re all less than six degrees of separation from anyone in the country. It’s vital that people show these young people who someone cares enough about them to support their success. Their lives depend upon it.

For the past eight months Roland put his shoulders and heart into solving the problem. He created an amazing, highly creative solution called the Champion Academy. He launched it in Rochester, and it’s happening right now. I ask that you right now navigate to its crowdfunding site, dig deep, and help his young charges achieve their dreams. Volunteer, donate, and dig deep to give. Then you might make him instead cry tears of joy, and you will have directly touched the first several hundred young boys and young men who deserve a break and a better chance than that through which they’re suffering. And depending upon your own level of commitment and involvement, it’s likely I’d bring him to your company to provide a rocket boost to your teams.

Roland has received many awards for his charitable efforts including the prestigious NFL Unsung Hero Award, he has twice been the Oakland Raiders Man of the Year, also the Press Radio Club Pro Athlete of the Year, and multi-year finalist for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. His Champion Academy isn’t about the media limelight or athletic successes. It’s about saving lives.

Can you imagine the kind of amazing triumphal stories this man can tell? They’re big. But he doesn’t yet have one exactly like this, and it’s not about him. It’s about heart and compassion. Let’s make this about the young men he’ll gratefully save. They need us. They need you.

Posted by: Mike Austin | March 15, 2014

Some Work from Cartoonist Horst Haitzinger

Mike Austin:

This is my first time recognizing Horst Haitzinger’s wonderful work by his name. In the form of sericels I’d seen and sold some of Hans Bacher’s work, the artist who owns the site at which I found these Haitzinger examples. I spent 16 years on a large, Los Angeles animation fine art gallery.

Originally posted on One1more2time3's Weblog:

HORST HAITZINGER , born 1939 in austria, is one of the best known political caricature artists in germany. already as a student he published his first drawings in the satirical magazine SIMPLIZISSIMUS, from the mid-sixties on he works for numerous publications. for daily newspapers he creates one or more drawings a day, about 15.000 so far. his unique robust brushstroke-style as well as his sarcastic irony are very well known in the german speaking parts of europe. his beautiful watercolors, oil-paintings and black/white drawings are in exhibitions and published regularly. following is a small selection of my favorite watercolors.





the illustrations are from the book HAITZINGER HIGHLIGHTS, 1998 bruckmann verlag, ISBN 3-7654-3355-1
© haitzinger / bruckmann verlag

View original

Posted by: Mike Austin | March 2, 2014

Bruce Lipton on Consciousness and Gaia

Bruce Lipton on consciousness and Gaia. If you want to find out where we’re going, here’s one of our sages. If you want just the bits on planetary consciousness, start watching at 44 minutes. Remember the word homunculus as you watch this and how it applies to your cells and the planet.

But the first 43 minutes are fascinating, as he sets the stage to talk at that point about the reflections of our bodies into the planet. Thank you Bruce Lipton and Iain McNay of Conscious.tv.

Posted by: Mike Austin | March 2, 2014

Is the Species Which Attacked You in the Courtroom Now?

Is the species which attacked you in the courtroom now, and can you identify it?

Is the species which attacked you in the courtroom now, and can you identify it?

Thank you, Dan Piraro :-) Surfers can visit Bizarro.com for more.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 23, 2014

Crowd Sourced Conservation™ at TEDxBerkeley

In this vid are Hardshell Labs’ Internet-controlled rover, the Raven Repel conservation game demonstration on the audiences’ iOS and Android smartphones, and new ideas about how to save and grow Earth’s life-support systems using games.

The rover’s video is from Roy Haggard’s iPhone. As he pilots the rover through the UC Berkeley Air Bears WiFi net, he’s sitting downstairs in a dressing room with a hand-held controller. Christopher Smith is standing in the shadows of stage left with Haines, AK high school engineering student Eli White.

The Raven Repel game demo is still available for Android and iOS at this time at http://www.ravenrepelapp.com/install. The current team scores are shown at http://savethetortoises.parseapp.com/score. The standing ovation the audience gave Tim’s talk doesn’t show in this cut.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 23, 2014

Live Manta Ray Worth $1M. Dead Manta Ray Worth $500.

Conservation International’s Dr. Mark Erdmann about the new Indonesian marine sanctuary to protect rays and sharks, in his article, “Indonesia Gives Mantas A New ‘Ray of Hope’.”

Assigning monetary units to Manta rays.

Assigning monetary units to Manta rays.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 22, 2014

Fresh Deaths from Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta. Carry On ;-)

"End stage renal disease deaths... plotted against %GE corn & soy planted... and glyphosate applied to corn & soy

“End stage renal disease deaths… plotted against %GE corn & soy planted… and glyphosate applied to corn & soy”

If you can fog a mirror or have a family, you’d find this noteworthy. This graph comes from a paper that friend Aram Shumavon mentioned. Among other projects, Aram’s with DECA Power. John Knox of Earth Island Institute introduced him when Tim Shields and I asked John who had fresh, vibrant ideas about topics environmental.

This isn’t the only chart and the full paper, “Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance,” is available with plenty of graphs like this.

Now we can go back to eating our GMO plants while we patiently await the surreptitious destruction of our childrens’ bodies by the socially destructive Dow (Roundup/glyphosate) and Monsanto (GMO corn and soy). Each time you assume you can do nothing, a small part of your will to live dies, and you accelerate your slow death by a thousand cuts.

Or, you could also do something.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 11, 2014

Internet Rover and Game Demos Rock TEDxBerkeley

Shields faces the rover, both on all fours.

Shields faces the rover, both on all fours.

This Saturday past, Tim Shields of Hardshell Labs™ premiered his new talk, “Playing for Keeps,” at TEDxBerkeley’s 2014 event, “Rethink. Redfine. Recreate.” Shown are two photos taken by TEDxBerkeley’s volunteer photographers. The vid of Shields’ talk will be released within a few weeks with the presentations of the other 19 TEDxBerkeley speakers.

Central to Shields presentation was his idea that in order to save Earth and its irreplaceable life, conservation must be made into fun. He discussed his experiences of 35 years as a desert field biologist, his first-hand encounters with endangered species including the California desert tortoise, mentioned the formation of his new conservation technology company, Hardshell Labs and its Hardshell Games, and debuted his concepts about Crowd Sourced Conservation™.

A robot rover, controlled remotely over the Internet by the team of Chris Smith, Roy A. Haggard and Eli White was demonstrated on stage as a proof of concept for use in remote field work and conservation video games. Using Haggard’s iPhone as a remote video camera, Haggard and Smith designed a telephone interface they mounted in the rover.

The rover used on stage was a second iteration of a first one, design and construction of which was directed by Mark Fontenot and his students in his Fall 2013 Haines High School class from Alaska. Fontenot’s team included White. The team’s rover is discussed and shown at Trillium Learning’s America Bridge Website, and was christened the Leafcutter Ant.

Shields’ TEDxBerkeley audience also participated in a rousing, two-minute mobile game demonstration of a Crowd Sourced Conservation™ game for iOS and Android, titled, “Raven Repel.” The game demonstration was designed and released by Arshad Tayyeb and Jason LeBrun in under five weeks.

Shields received a standing ovation after his 18-minute presentation. Twitterite Kara DeFrias commanded via her @CaliforniaKara feed, Tim Shields on internet-enabled, #gamification, crowdsourced conservation. Must-see talk from #TEDxBerkeley.” Facebooker and TEDxBerkeley audience member Michele Swanston was effusive about Raven Repel: “I absolutely love the app! Played all day on and off with my 10 year old. The whole time she shared with people saying, “we’re saving baby tortoises.’ Fantastic!”

Thanking the members of his team who helped propel him toward the TEDxBerkeley stage, Shields acknowledged their invaluable contributions in writing: “Even the words from my mouth and my actions onstage were the result of countless suggestions from you… You were talking through me- one voice but many minds. I want all of you to know that I will not forget… your contributions. This is an example, in miniature, of crowd sourcing, of tapping different pools of talent and experience for a common goal.”

TEDxBerkeley has its facebook page here. Links to Shields’ TEDxBerkeley presentation will be posted on Blue Planet Almanac, and its subscribers will receive a notice when its published.

Shields: "I began to see all living things as my family."

Shields: “I began to see all living things as my family.”

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 6, 2014

SRO Debut of Hardshell Labs at TEDxBerkeley This Saturday

One of this coming Saturday's surprises

One of this coming Saturday’s surprises

During biologist and fine artist Tim Shields’ TEDxBerkeley presentation this coming Saturday, 2-8-14, our new conservation technology company, Hardshell Labs will lob its first public appearance. Tim and 18 other brilliant speakers and performers, including Guy Kawasaki, will present to a packed, sold-out house of over 1,500. Two very playful surprise demonstrations are planned by Hardshell Labs, one involving the TEDxBerkeley audience, and one technology demonstration. Intrigued? Good, because it’s going to be not only worthwhile, but also fun.

The theme of this year’s TEDxBerkeley is, “Rethink. Redefine. Recreate.” Although tickets are sold out, you can still watch the event live on Livestream. Tim is slated to speak somewhere between 1 PM and 2:15 PM Pacific time.

Hardshell Labs is developing products producing both profits and environmental conservation. Our three product lines will include games, educational products and sunrise technologies.

My friend of 44 years, Shields is, “…a new entrepreneur and founder of a new conservation technology company. I’m also a public radio host for popular music, an educator in wildlife ecology and fine artist. But many of the most valuable things I’ve learned about Earth and biology have come by walking thousands of desert miles as a biologist – searching for tortoises. I think ‘Outside the Box’ because I have spent so much time outside boxes discovering the astounding complexity and beauty of the wild world.

The desert tortoise is a ‘canary species,’ giving us vital clues and strategies to preserve Earth’s health. Having witnessed the steep decline of the desert tortoise over 35 years as a field biologist, I am working to weave together the four main strands of my professional life – conservation technologies, biological research, art and teaching – to pass on what I have learned to as many people as I can. Knowledge only becomes wisdom when it is shared.

With my new company, Hardshell Labs, I’ve begun exciting work with inventors, educators, technologists, entrepreneurs and funders of cutting edge conservation innovations, distilling what I have learned in a lifetime in the field into forms that will engage a wide audience in exploring and preserving their home planet. To know Earth is to love it, my job is to help people know it.

Periodically I’ve been interviewed by news media as an expert in biology or wildlife ecology. I’ve been interviewed by CNN and the Los Angeles Times, among other media outlets. When not walking the Mojave I’ve also worked to develop my skills as a fine artist. For years I have shared my passion for biology and art by teaching others.”

Posted by: Mike Austin | January 25, 2014

AT&T Overcharging You & America. God Bless America!

ATT Overcharge 1-25-14

ATT Overcharge 1-25-14

Here’s the bottom line for all of you who have little time or a short attention span: AT&T and other big data companies make it a point to regularly overcharge you. And I could show you how they did it on my iPad. And I can show you how to successfully argue about it with them, so they’ll stop their cow manure.

I’ve had an iPad 2 for around three years. Originally I got it because it made more sense for me to have a versatile tablet than just a hardware Kindle for the electronic books I wanted. Although I didn’t know it would at the time, the iPad became a fabulous boon for a news and culture watcher like me. Pulse news reader was followed by Flipboard and news Web browsing. Thus I’ve got lots of experience with this computer.

Yeah, yeah, I know enough about conflict minerals, rare earth elements and politics to know that my use of mobile technologies can easily be heard as completely dissonant with good treatment of Gaia. But there are some trade-offs I make to be technologically- and culturally-savvy in the Anthropocene.

Add that I’d also built and run a network. From scratch. From top-to-bottom. For 14 years. I know my way around networks, and when I need a tool I can find it and know how to use it. Around 15 months ago when my first iPad 2 was replaced (free) under warranty, I noticed a curious new behavior of my new iPad 2. It wouldn’t keep its WiFi connection to my home studio network, and kept defaulting to 3G cellular for data. Whether it was the new release of iOS software before I got the new iPad (6?) or a sloppy software bug or intentional mismanufacture I didn’t care. The new iPad 2 kept blowing past my modest 250 MB/month limit and I’m very good at managing data volumes.

So, like anyone else who’s thought about such a problem, I instantly suspected that either Apple had changed their policy for everyone  –  which directly affected me  –  or AT&T had, or both. I didn’t care who did it, but I won’t accept it when most other countries in the world – other than America – have much faster broadband at much lower costs. Why should you accept it? AT&T has the most to gain from overcharges. US$ 15 overage charges for each of 70M AT&T customers could equal US$ 1B. Per month. Even if a third of their customers paid an extra $15 monthly that would be $350,000,000. 10% of their customers going over would be $105M. Per month. That’s why they do it.

When I telephoned Apple to diagnose the problem with me, they claimed there was no issue. Although that’s completely inconclusive without some good testing and equipment and a trustworthy company, which I didn’t have at my disposal in that moment, I next rang up AT&T. It’s their SIM card in my iPad 2 which would be the next likely culprit. My studio router is managed by me so I knew it was kosher.

IMG_0227And when I called AT&T a very curious thing happened. When they were presented with my sensible question about how they should help me track the origin of my alleged data, they simply reversed the fishy overcharge. I asked them for the list of IP addresses from which the data came. If, for example, I was sitting in a restaurant, grazing my Pulse news, the data had to come from AT&T’s cellular tower, which in turn had to come from Pulse’s Internet servers. There’s always a trail. It’s not unheard of to have 30 or 40 hops across different IP addresses before your data get to you.

The AT&T rep I talked with in Fall 2012 declined to field my reasonable question – please provide me with the IP addresses which account for the extra xx MB of data for which you want to charge me. She just immediately credited the charge I was disputing.

And now at this writing, by these simple screenshots of my iPad 2′s current, alleged data use, AT&T is back to their old tricks. Fuck ‘em. I regularly pay them around US$ 118 monthly for data and voice on my iPhone and iPad. They can’t have the extra $15 monthly because they have sloppy and surreptitious data policies designed to confuse their customers.

You could call ‘em and ask them some simple questions. Ask them to show you the trail of their charges. If the NSA and corrupt governments can track us and our children anywhere and everywhere – then AT&T damn sure has the records showing how much you really used on your data plan.

Update, 1-28-14: After calling AT&T to again ask them to solve the problem of mysterious data overages, they said they won’t do it. Gee, and am I surprised, or what? ;-)

After I asked them to, they credited the new data overage charge. But also said they won’t provide any IP addresses to me to track the data. When I told them what was going on, they said for me to look at my account on-line, which shows when the data are transferred. They said the times of day would show there what was happening on my iPad. Except the times are they show are frequently inaccurate. Of course, the only way to stop the problem is temporarily turn off cellular data usage on the iPad.

Posted by: Mike Austin | August 30, 2013

FoE Petition to Japanese Government

Fukushima's ocean, literally boiling in August 2013

Fukushima’s ocean, literally boiling in August 2013

Aside from the Japanese themselves, if you live on the West coast of the United States, you and generations of your children will suffer from the Fukushima disaster. Japan’s government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and plant operator Tepco all appear complicit in withholding progress in the disaster’s aftermath. Will you sit with inaction, or will you speak up? You can help meliorate this by telling the Japanese government what you’d like to see done about it.

Friends of the Earth in Japan have a petition to demand that the Japanese government take faster action on the out-of-control problem at Fukushima. If you sign it here, it certainly won’t hurt. I sent this:

“It’s absolutely clear that the Japanese government, Tepco and the IAEA are complicit in withholding important vital information about solutions for the Fukushima disaster. This problem is grave, and also affects everyone else in the world with those agencies’ compounded mistakes. The Japanese government is acting as if the Fukushima disaster has been managed and is under control, when it’s clear it has not been under control from the day it first began.

It’s imperative that the Japanese government immediately get any and all help it needs from outside its own nation to stop further damage to the Earth’s ecosystems from Fukushima. Any other course of action will cause further catastrophic damages to human life and limb, and constitutes serious crimes against everyone and everything else on the planet. The health of many generations of your countrymen’s children depend upon your positive actions, as well as the health of many generations of other countries’ children and adults.”

You can draw courage, step up and do the same. Cs-137, one of the principal components of the especially destructive radiation which is right now escaping from the aftermath of Fukushima, is said to have a half-life of decades. But in Chernobyl, that same substance is instead expected to last for centuries. No one knows exactly why this is so. Do we want to wait around for the Japanese government to find out and act?

The image at the top of this post is from here.

Posted by: Mike Austin | August 19, 2013

Watch This and Live. Ignore it and Die Faster.

Most of you who are fans of Blue Planet Almanac already know about the toxic dangers of GMO foods and animals. If you don’t you’ll want to watch this. Monsanto brought us PCBs and Agent Orange. There’s a reason why most countries in the world have taken action against Monsanto. Do you think Monsanto cares if they make you, your family or friends sick? No. Think again. Do you think the U.S. government cares about us? No, the actions of many government agencies consistently show the opposite. Think again. Watch this.

Seeds of Death” documentary

Posted by: Mike Austin | August 12, 2013

A Soul’s Crossing Observed by Two Others

A desert biologist friend of mine I’ve known 44 years, said to me this year that our kind have opted not to feel their connection to Earth. I completely agree. But this little missive is one time when I was astonished our usually accurate observations proved incorrect.

These days I live in a curious, urban-to-me locale. A six-lane boulevard with cars powering past our house at 45 to 50 MPH abuts expensive homes or nice apartments. Some of us drive faster. Some of us would call the boulevard a parkway. I wouldn’t. Our tract of single family homes is gated. At least three gated tracts nearby come to mind. Most of the homes here are well north of $750K in value. Most of the people around here are sociable. And most of them wouldn’t care a whit about the thousands of acres of undeveloped, beautiful chaparral wildlands which are also interleaved with our homes and streets, or the non-human residents of those lands.

In song

In song

Around here, it’s always easy to see soccer moms in $75K SUVs or bacon-bearing dads in $80K to $120K German sedans, who never set foot on the wild land around them. Six years ago I joked with my 11 year-old son that most truck and SUV drivers underwent obligatory, reversible brain-reduction surgery to make them intellectually and emotionally deadened enough to try to drive a 6,500 to 7,500 lb. SUV like it’s a golf cart.

His lovely mother had owned both two imported SUVs with leather seats, and a luxurious pickup with leather seats. When I first met her she owned a modest imported pickup. A brilliant 5’5″ Italian-American business spitfire, a former high school softball All-Star who also water-skiis – whose friends likened her appearance to Jodi Foster’s – totally worked for me as my imago of an aspiring mother. One night, in her 40s, she was so Locked-on-Target to a softball she was fielding that she dove to the ground for the catch – twice.

Think of me as ursine and her as deerlike. Overlooking the SF Bay, we eloped at beautiful, tree-covered Coyote Point Park. When I first met her I owned a ’75 Maverick in pristine condition, sold to me with 60K miles on it by a 70 year old widower. My grandmother.

*****

Now, a little fun? So you don’t feel I’m granola-munching preacher here, I have also owned and run fast in higher-performance cars. “Bless me Lord, for I have sinned,” is what I’d say in confession if I were Catholic. But I’m not ;-)

It wasn’t so long ago that I owned a well-modified Mustang Cobra. My son and his mom had watched me fly low, at triple-digit speeds, on Willow Springs Raceway’s Big track when he was about 3 1/2 years old. He was waist high. On video, she commented to our son as I flew past them up the front straightaway, “Daddy’s going really fast.” On my game, even on forgiving, un-grippy street tires, I’d kiss 128 MPH on the half-mile front straight before I’d brake for Turn One.

At Willow, as I idled into the paddock from the first time she saw me run 20 minutes of hot laps, she walked up as I parked. She was standing next to my open driver’s window as I shucked my helmet. I remember exactly the surprised look on her face as she saw the afterglow of my adrenaline bliss. She half-joked to me, “Look at your face! I’ve been replaced!” Serenely I replied, “Well – not exactly, sweetheart.”

Since the car’s exhaust was modified, it was louder than average at full throttle. Driving the Cobra on the street, she was only once cited for an innocuous exhibition of speed. She was blipping its throttle in neutral while rolling up to a stoplight, for our son to enjoy from his child seat. To me that was part of her hot-babe, grrrl charm. Although she would have never lit up the tires with him in the car. The sheriff chanced upon an easy score and explained he was making an example of her driving for our son.

I hope to again do open-tracking. Immune to the rush I’m not. And you’ve heard about that “zone” which athletes experience? It’s a suspension of time and space – nothing else holds your attention except the speed. All your worries dissolve. You become your dancing consciousness as your car sways to and fro, sweeping in and out of corners. It’s truly intoxicating and exhilarating.

I got good with the Cobra on fast, twisty road courses. I dug it because high-powered, fast, rear-wheel drive cars are tricky to drive on road tracks. Cobras don’t have an even, front-to-back weight distribution and it makes them prone to spin under power or braking if you’re not paying attention. But it also makes them especially exciting to throttle them up  — hard — when exiting turns.

Mike and Spike

Mike and Son ©1999 Austin Family Archives. All rights reserved.

*****

Now, pause the car personas. There are also vast, lovely walks around here, and lots of beautiful vistas. Southern California’s chaparral ecosystems have a blend of lovely scents all their own including sage, Mountain lilac, oaks and manzanita. At the beginning of a local fire access road I do usually see a couple of parked cars. The road’s dirt and goes on for miles. Walkers or mountain bikers traverse it. At the right times they have an option to walk or ride sight-unseen for hours by anyone with two legs. But not many of us do that very often, including me.

From the window where I’m writing this can sometimes be seen coyotes cavorting on the broad scrub hillside next to our housing tract. I love it. At 2:41 AM as I awoke just now, I heard coyotes howling and yipping in a wild canyon around a third of a mile from me. I have walked there at dusk with my biologist friend. No animals I can think of vocalize during a hunt because they’d scare away their prey, so I figure the coyotes are doing whatever social, fur-bearing predators do. Someone I know owns an expensive tract home which overlooks that wild canyon. It’s a different canyon than the one with the quiet, dirt fire road, a couple of hills away.

One afternoon as I rounded a first turn, driving down our residential street on which young children frequently play unattended by adults, a road runner darted in front of me. S/he stood on a homeowner’s short planter while as I watched quietly, only a house and narrow street away from hillsides of wild spaces. By now you can understand there are lots of animals right next to where I, and thousands of other bipeds live.

Our kind are also, social, fur-bearing predators, even when we’re not trying. Road-killed squirrels are common on our tree-lined boulevards. If you’re a squirrel, when you don’t have a predator’s stereoscopic vision, it’s difficult to appreciate how quickly a giant metal box atop round things is bearing down on you at 50 MPH. You can’t accurately judge speed and size like humans can. That’s the biggest reason why they often don’t move until you’re nearly on top of them. If you’re a predator, as are humans, it’s difficult to either understand or appreciate this.

Several months ago I found myself very uncomfortable that I kept passing newly dead squirrels laying on some four-lane, foliage-lined boulevards nearby. It felt as if I was dishonoring them and our planet by not doing something. I’m concerned that I might begin to ignore the amazing experience of feelings we all carry as a birthright, and that I’d try and shut them off to not feel them. That would be self-destructive, so I started carrying disposable gloves in the back of my car. Now, I have the option to move the dead squirrels to the foliage at the sides of the roads. They won’t become unrecognizable, furred meat pancakes, and everyone else in the food web can have their role. I’m a roadkill undertaker. My vegetarian son once watched me move a squirrel from a 1 1/2 lane mountain road with little traffic.

I had also recently seen one expired, road-killed raccoon but couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it because I identify with their playful, mischievous nature. Two days later I was relieved to see that someone had done what I wanted to and moved it to the side of the road. Four days after that the raccoon was gone from the roadside.

Yesterday night just past dusk, at around 8:45 PM as I drove home in my Prius, from a solo qigong session in park about three miles away, I was shown there’s at least one person with a soul not unlike mine.

*****

Coyotes can be pretty fast and nimble. They’re also fearless, and I’ve many times seen them sauntering across streets around here at dusk. A few years ago, my son and two entree-sized dogs faced one down at 10 PM at a creekside’s edge. He stood silently, 15′ from us, sizing up his chances for a big, easy meal. It wasn’t until I hollered at him and waved an arm that he turned with near disdain and walked away. You almost never see coyotes laying lifeless on the road because they’re big enough and strong enough to be a fair match for a race against a 6,000 lb. SUV. When they must, they can usually out-sprint any car that can’t turn quickly.

But last evening, in my headlights lay a small coyote, fresh from its battle lost to someone’s car. From its hiding place in a roadside hedge, it had made it 12′ into the road when the driver hit it. With the driver traveling between 45 MPH and 60 MPH, they knew it was likely to be a deadly encounter. But I’d doubt they turned back to see if they could do anything about the animal’s suffering. The switch of their feelings was most likely adjusted to “Off,” and they just kept going.

The first time I approached the coyote I was taken by surprise and had to swerve slightly to avoid doing it any more damage. But I knew it to be dead as I passed. I’m not inclined to think it was Attila the Hun, observing the laws of karma by innumerable incarnations as an animal less canny than a human. I think of every living thing as an Earth spirit.

Four lanes, two on each side of a road are divided by a raised curb and planting strip. I drove to the stop lights, and drove back. I parked against the curb, several feet from where the coyote lay. My headlights illuminated it well. In around 25 seconds while I slipped on my shoes, two cars whizzed past. With me parked right next to the coyote, the second of those two cars ran right across the tip of its nose. The lane next to them was absent any cars whatsoever. I got out and stepped toward the hatch of my car where I had stashed my gloves.

And, as I did, a different, heartwarming and curious thing astonished me. A woman in a BMW X5 had stopped in the fast lane on the opposite side of the parkway, and hailed me with her head out her window. I was at my car’s left rear fender and hadn’t yet made it to the hatch. Urgently and upset she asked me, “Is it dead?” I could feel her Heart and replied calmly and assured her, “Yeah, it’s dead.” My inflection and intonation of the word ‘dead’ conveyed it was a sure thing. It felt she was asking so she might somehow help the animal’s suffering if possible.

Still stopped in the fast lane, she then nervously implored, “Are you going to move it?” It felt like if I didn’t, she would, but she wanted to avoid doing it herself. I replied, “Yes,” and although I was astonished, again moved toward my car’s hatch. I was wearing my city face because I was a freak tree-hugger doing something mildly dangerous around people driving two- or three-ton, fast-moving weapons at dark.

Of course, it would be a woman. Most men wouldn’t feel such a thing so much they’d take the time to stop. Men don’t carry our kind inside our bodies and we’re taught to conceal our emotions and volunteer for wars. But even I’m not immune to nature and nurture.

She drove her car to a parkway entrance, turned around and stopped behind mine with too much of her car in the traffic lane. As she did I noticed its license plate frame proclaimed it was purchased in Beverly Hills. It felt like she stopped her car half into the lane to prevent other drivers from hitting, me, us or the coyote. I’ve seen other drivers do this at other accident scenes. But I asked her to instead pull her car over to the curb because most drivers are pretty bad at anything other than mouse trails. I didn’t want us impacted by the same kind of doofus who had slain the coyote and drove on without stopping.

Yeah, the coyote’s way dead and it happens. I feel sad for it. It’s upsetting to me. But I’m astonished that such a pretty driver of a fairly expensive SUV would have such compassion that she’d actually stop to do something. She’s pretty enough that I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone told me she had never had dirt under her fingernails her entire life. Lovely, she is. By looks alone you wouldn’t be surprised to see her sitting silently behind sunglasses, as seat candy in a stock broker’s 750i as he would drive past.

She volunteered as she dismounted from her SUV that she usually carries “a towel or something” in her car for such purposes. Wow. Other than my son’s lovely mother, I didn’t know anyone like her existed in the big city. Her demeanor and persona were that of someone who has a big Heart. She also said she thought the coyote might have still been alive when she first passed before I did. She explained it seemed to be laying on its side, curled up, but facing traffic when she passed. By the time I had seen it, it was facing away from traffic. I reassured her, explaining it was likely dead right after impact, but a subsequent car would have hit it again, after its death, and rolled it on its other side. This thought was uncomfortable for both of us, but she accepted it gratefully.

Cars and SUVs continued to whiz by every few seconds in mini-herds. I stepped into the roadway and gently picked-up the still flexible coyote by both its front and back legs. It had no breath. Its eyes were lifeless, its head hung low. Its warmth and weight were unsettling. “There was just a spirit in this wild creature,” I thought silently. I felt its spirit wafting, above, behind and around me. It was confused that some random biped was peeling ‘one of its kin’ off the pavement. It was watching and present, still trying to catch up with what had just happened.

Its common knowledge in Buddhist cultures that a phowa needs to be performed when a person crosses over, especially in cases of surprise death. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” or Bardo Thodol is about how to ease a soul’s transition into its next state. As far as I’ve heard that’s just for people. But I’d surmise myriad Buddhists are totally fine doing such a thing for critters. I did what I knew how to from the many times I’ve witnessed for animals as they crossed, and the couple of times I’ve been on the scene after a person crossed. Yeah, I know that’s strange for a white man. But, you could accept it.

My new acquaintance walked to the hedge under which I had just lain the coyote, just behind a fence, as I watched. Standing, she half-turned toward me and said, “You’re getting angel wings for this.” I figured I’ll never see her again. Still wanting in vain to look as little as possible like a freak to passing motorists, I replied, “I’m not sure about that,” although I’d certainly be glad to accept a modicum of good karma and was deeply touched that she offered it. “I’m just going to say a little prayer for it and then I’ll go,” she said. Crouching, she faced the coyote and silently spoke her benediction. I thought a surprising compliment in her direction, “This girl’s fearless.” I had already been silently reciting my own prayer on the fly, sending the coyote on to its fur-dog heaven.

The woman and I thanked each other. I was so slack-jawed to have met someone like her I proffered my business card before we drove off. She accepted it as I spoke, “Look me up some time if you feel like it.”

I’d doubt she’ll look me up. But, writing about this now actually makes tears well up in my eyes. Had she not done what she did, it’s likely no other human would have ever heard about this. I would have been upset for a few days. I’m 6′, 225 lbs., and known for an intense but humorous disposition. These days I’m about business. My university-bound, highest honors son has described me as capable of being both “intellectually intense” and “light-hearted.” When I’m in a blazer and tie I look and act like many other ursine, money-grubbing capitalists.

But, the astonishing fact that another suburban human wanted to honor and observe the passing of a simple coyote touches me deeply. I’m glad she paused. She’ll do it again. And any children who learn from her will have the same choices. Thank you, Rose.

Patrick O’Hearn’s song, A Lovely Place to Be is the last song on Pandora as I put my computer and I to sleep 2 1/2 hours after I started this.

Posted by: Mike Austin | May 13, 2013

Once is Too Many

Stranded dolphin

Stranded, Long-beaked Common dolphin

Many times I’ve been silently joyed to see dolphins cruising the surf on southern California beaches. They find me and I find them. I’ve seen them happily surfing the pressure wave off the bows of medium, fast ocean craft on which I’ve been a passenger. To me these are mystical, brilliant creatures with which I strongly identify. Their welcome presence is noted in thousands of years of our kind’s cultures, around our tiny blue planet. I sometimes see them in meditations. I sometimes dream them.

When they’re alive and healthy, they’re my miner’s canaries that Earth is well. Only once in my half-century of life have I personally seen any cetacean stranded on any beach. This was that time. I’ve seen hundreds of beaches, thousands of times, in 11 countries.

You may have heard of recent, mysterious cetacean strandings which are happening on both coasts of North America. This is one. Before I left the lovely sunset scene on a beautiful beach at which millions would envy the experience, I thank whatever, whoever made me turn one last time toward the Sun and notice this one, lifeless.

I know people, and I know the Earth. That I found this seemingly unhurt dolphin dead this evening, on Sycamore Canyon Beach at Pt. Mugu State Park, California, is an indication to me of a planet in deep trouble. You and I have choices, and now is the time to make them. Not later. Now.

The reason I’d want to know why this dolphin died would be to ascertain what could be done for it not to happen to others. Gershon Cohen, my founder friend at the Great Whale Conservancy, and his co-founder Michael Fishbach, wrote to me that this is a Long-beaked Common dolphin.

Its colors were quite beautiful and subtle, both thalassic and Earthy. Its greys were slate or ocean grey. Its tans were like a foothill flower common here after it dries, Everlast, or the color of desert soil. Its white was like chalk.

Stranded dolphin from left

Stranded, Long-beaked Common dolphin from left

David Koch, of Koch Industries.*

David Koch*

Never has the aphorism, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” been more apropos than when it was confirmed that über-rich, right-wingers like the Kochs and the DeVos have been systematically repressing science about anthropogenic Earth changes. Of course, now they’ve been found out, and the tips of their disappearing icebergs are showing. Dark puns noted. Since you’re reading this, *you* already know that corporate media have been kneeling at the altar of corporate advertising dollars for decades, and you won’t see them standing about this anytime soon.

It’s not an over-statement that the actions right-wingers or theocratic rightists have taken are systematically linked to drought, starvation, human deaths and social unrest. You do the thinking and follow the big money. Let the facts which underlay George Monbiot’s article in the UK’s Guardian, “The educational charities that do PR for the rightwing ultra-rich,” start the talking for you:

“Conspiracies against the public don’t get much uglier than this. As the Guardian revealed last week, two secretive organisations working for US billionaires have spent $118m to ensure that no action is taken to prevent manmade climate change. While inflicting untold suffering on the world’s people, their funders have used these opaque structures to ensure that their identities are never exposed.

The two organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – were set up as political funding channels for people handing over $1m or more. They have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss climate science or downplay the need to take action. The large number of recipients creates the impression of many independent voices challenging climate science. These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen. Now they’re seeking to prevent the US president from trying again.

This covers only part of the funding. In total, between 2002 and 2010 the two identity-laundering groups paid $311m to 480 organisations, most of which take positions of interest to the ultra-rich and the corporations they run: less tax, less regulation, a smaller public sector. Around a quarter of the money received by the rightwing opinion swarm comes from the two foundations. If this funding were not effective, it wouldn’t exist: the ultra-rich didn’t get that way by throwing their money around randomly. The organisations they support are those that advance their interests.

A small number of the funders have been exposed by researchers trawling through tax records. They include the billionaire Koch brothers (paying into the two groups through their Knowledge and Progress Fund) and the DeVos family (the billionaire owners of Amway). More significantly, we now know a little more about the recipients. Many describe themselves as free-market or conservative thinktanks.

Among them are the American Enterprise Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Mont Pelerin Society and Discovery Institute. All pose as learned societies, earnestly trying to determine the best interests of the public. The exposure of this funding reinforces the claim by David Frum, formerly a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, that such groups ‘increasingly function as public relations agencies’.” Read the rest here.

*: “… of Koch Industries, pictured here in his role as chairman of Americans for Prosperity at the Defending the American Dream Summit in November 2011. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images”

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 18, 2013

Nuclear Power as a Discarded, Deadly Plaything

Nuclear "storage" at Hanford, WA. Photo Planetsave.com.

Nuclear “storage” at Hanford, WA. Photo Planetsave.com.

From the Christian Science Monitor on 2-16-13:

Hanford nuclear tank in Washington State is leaking liquids:

OLYMPIA, Wash.

The long-delayed cleanup of the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking.

The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at south-central Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to resolve construction problems with the plant being built to alleviate environmental and safety risks from the waste.

The tanks, which are already long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons…” Read the rest here.

From Stephan A. Schwartz’ SchwartzReport is this note about this Christian Science Monitor article:

These tanks of nuclear waste are dotted across America. They are, as the report explains, often long past their planned lifespan because the governmental agencies delegated to oversee the nuclear industry failed in their duties and were captured by the industry. The potential for disaster grows day-by-day. And when one remembers that this stuff has to be maintained in impeccable continuity for 25,000 years, the absurdity of nuclear power becomes obvious.”

This again puts what we *think* has happened – and is still happening - at Fukushima in the proper perspective. Or Chernobyl, or Three Mile Island, or Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley at the Santa Susana Field Lab. At Santa Susana, the Los Angeles Times reported that a single nuclear accident released 240 times more radioactivity than did 1979′s Three Mile Island. Now ask yourself if you believe the most toxic and long-lived substance known, nuclear materials, will be safe or sane to handle for tens of thousands of years.

Bear in mind that medicines prescribed by medical doctors work in your body at a concentration of as little as 0.035 parts per billion (ppb), as does NuvaRing. One part per billion is equivalent to, “…one pancake in stack of pancakes, 4,000 miles high.”

One dose of albuterol delivered at 2.1 ppb stops an asthma attack. Paxil and Cialis are active at 30 ppb. This is reported in Environmental Working Group’s video, “Ten Americans.” The video is also funny in addition to sobering. Low exposures to now common, toxic chemicals matter. The less common nuclear chemicals are even more toxic and the dangerous levels of exposure are even lower, and they are measured in different units. The diseases caused by nuclear accidents often take generations to appear, and they affect every living thing on Earth. The environmental destruction caused by nuclear accidents is incalculable.

If you’d like more background on the toxic doses needed to cause disease or birth defects from nuclear materials, I’d recommend looking at physician Helen Caldicott’s site, Nuclear Free Planet. Look up the word, “dose,” and see what results are returned for you.

The next time a government or utility or company tells you nuclear is safe, you’ll know better.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 15, 2013

Exxon Hates Your Children

If you’d care to see what Exxon seemingly had scrubbed from broadcast, here ’tis. This spot was brought to you by the Other 98, Oil Change International and Environmental Action.

Posted by: Mike Austin | February 14, 2013

GMO Crops Fail to Perform

From Farmers Weekly

From Farmers Weekly

This news report, “US farmers may stop planting GMs after poor global yields,” comes from Farmers Weekly:

“Some US farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures meant GM crops saw smaller yields globally than their non-GM counterparts.

Farmers in the USA pay about an extra $100 per acre for GM seed, and many are questioning whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMs.” Read the rest here.

Posted by: Mike Austin | January 20, 2013

Killing Us Softly With GMOs

For those of you who’d enjoy an accessible digest about the dangerous lack of safe science behind the U.S. advent of GMOs, I’d recommend that you read Stephan A. Schwartz‘ excellent article, The Great Experiment: Genetically Modified Organisms, Scientific Integrity, and National Wellness,” in “Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing” (Volume 9, Issue 1 , Pages 12-16, January 2013).

Tumorous rats fed GMO corn

Tumorous rats fed GMO corn

“In September 2012, pictures of seriously tumorous rats (Figure 1) went viral across the Internet, setting off passionate and acrimonious exchanges between proponents and opponents of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Charges and countercharges flew like verbal grapeshot across the various levels of the digital world and scientific media as each side tried to spin what these photos meant.

‘GMOs may be creating an entire generation of cancer victims who have a frighteningly heightened risk of growing massive mammary gland tumors caused by the consumption of GM foods. We are witnessing what may turn out to be the worst and most costly blunder in the history of western science: the mass poisoning of billions of people with a toxic food crop that was never properly tested in the first place, wrote…” read the rest here.

Are you most inclined to trust the pseudo-science of a gigantic corporation which stands to make billions from selling you and your family toxic foodstuffs? Or are you most inclined to trust the aggregate reputations of mere thousands of independent scientists, whose primary headrush is good science, who might individually be earning just a family sized income? Consider this: in one of his books about anthropogenic change, James Lovelock mentions it’s nearly impossible to get scientists sitting in one room to agree upon anything. But here you have thousands of scientists from different countries agreeing that science behind testing of GMOs was completely flawed.

The stakes here are astronomically high. They’ve seldom been higher. The Earth is changing beneath our feet, caused by us. And if we don’t speak up for what we believe, our children will have Hell to pay. The U.S. government and the massive corporations which have corrupted scientific review of the data assessing whether or not GMOs are safe, are killing us softly while we accept their toxic, destructive conclusions.

*****

Now, if you need examples from real life about how I could make these shocking declarations, I’d offer you the anecdotes below. You don’t always need a scientist to tell you what you’re experiencing is real. Scientists are not priests, nor are priests scientists.

Consider carefully the sources of your data. Most of us, including me, don’t know everything about everything. I might next week. I’ll let you know. So you must come to depend on people and sources you trust who can interpret things for you. This has been a fundament of life on Earth for the last 15,000 years. Paraphrasing Arthur C. Clarke, the truth will always be stranger than science fiction.

The very same Stephan A. Schwartz who penned the article above once said to me, “…my life is about the arc of the data.” In context, he meant that he’s an honest seeker of truth through scientific study. He steers around sloppy science because the truth is far more fascinating and inspiring. He works diligently to do good science. Stephan is author and director of some of the most remarkable research projects and books I’ve ever seen chronicled. Every so often, I’ve met and talked with some of the respondents in his studies and books, people who are at the top of their own field.

A few years I noticed that Stephan was presenting at astronaut emeritus’ Edgar Mitchell’s Institute of Noetic Sciences, and I wrote that he’s a “courageous empiricist.” I’m sparing with that designation because I don’t find many of his mind. I wouldn’t currently include the brilliant thinker, Daniel Dennett, PhD in that group. Stephan once debated Dennett with Ed May in front of a group of ABC News executives, managers and staff; Dennett was rendered red-faced and speechless by an honest, simple question of Stephan’s. Dennett excused himself early from the debate, and I’ve read that guffaws from the ABC audience about his behavior encouraged his exit.*

It’s also my honor to know a rocket scientist friend – one who worked on the engines for the International Space Station. Two mutual friends introduced us. He’s humble, and has the kind of profession where he can’t really tell you exactly what he does for a living. When I first met him, he explained to me he does, “computational fluid dynamics.” Years later as I recalled for him that he told me that, he was mildly surprised and perhaps a little nervous that I’d remember such a casual conversation. He politely said he had never done that kind of work.

This rocket scientist is quite a good person – one who many of us would aspire to be like. He’s a good father and has a better memory than mine -  I didn’t attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We both appreciate beer. It’s a curious twist of life that we both share a passion for music from the band, Rush. We became concert buddies and shared enthusiasms about Neal Peart’s lyrics and the Rush brand of special speed metal. He has also introduced me to the guitar-driven music of the band Dada.

Once, I was excited about the possibility to discuss a book with my rocket scientist friend,God is Not Dead,” from Amit Goswami, PhD. Goswami’s book is meta-physical, about accessible comparisons between upward causation (atheism) and downward causation (god or monism). Now, bear in mind that any rocket scientist will know lots about physics.

In beautiful southern California on a warm evening, my friend and I stood in the early evening Sun, in the parking lot of a popular concert venue before we entered. I had encouraged his honest opinion, although I could sense he wanted to hold back because he knew I was newly acquainted with Goswami. Once he understood I’d be open about his opinion, my friend dismissed Goswami as, “a quack.”  Point taken. But I don’t think he ever finished Goswami’s book because he found Goswami’s reasoning to be faulty.

On that occasion, my friend handed me two of Daniel Dennett’s books. At that point in time I didn’t know Stephan had debated Dennett, and I hadn’t an inkling my friend would offer Dennett’s thought. I think one of the two books was, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” and in this moment I don’t recall the other one. In earnest, I took them home and started to read them. About 20 minutes into the first one, I had to put it down because I felt that Dennett was going nowhere I believed to be reasonable, based upon my own experiences and intuitions. I was surprised. I actually got an upset stomach from trying to read it. I’ve come to trust my gut instincts, as I’ve found them highly accurate. Eventually I returned the books to my friend, explaining that I couldn’t make it through them.

So, why did I ask you to read through all this? It felt like I needed to explain that its important you not only check facts yourself, but also it’s very important that you find the right experts, those who depend on real science instead of massive hush money. You know what to do. Trust your intuitions, instincts and experiences. Speak up.

*****

*: From Russ Targ’s book, “The Reality of ESP,” is this section of the forward by Stephan A. Schwartz on page XV:

“Along with Ed May, I once debated with Daniel Dennett, a prominent critic of ESP research, at an event produced by ABC News for station news staffs and station managers. We debated along for about thirty minutes, with Dennett making dismissive and disparaging remarks to anything Ed or I said, but always in generalities. Finally I said to him: ‘Let’s pick an experiment we both know, and you tell me what it wrong with it, and I will respond.’ Without a moment’s hesitation he shot back in the most deliberately condescending act I have ever witnessed, saying, ‘You don’t actually think I read this stuff, do you?’ There was a moment’s silence, the laughter began, first as giggles, then as chuckles, and finally, as guffaws. It suddenly dawned on Dennett what he had said. He blushed and sat down, and left as soon as he could.”

Posted by: Mike Austin | January 15, 2013

Liver-storming. Try It. You’ll Like It.

Brainstorming? That’s new-school. Making fire, Fire in the Belly? That’s old-school and yeah – it’s your liver talkin’.

My excellent acquaintance, social business strategist, Aleks Blumentals from Siriti, gave this fascinating address about organizational change at TEDx Vilnius. The video is below. A transcript of Aleks’ TEDx talk, “About Being Bright,” is here.

There’s a subtle subtext to be inferred from this talk that not many of us will have heard about – that specific organs in the human body seem to have an “intelligence” on their own. Yeah, I know that’ll twist your Occidental melon. That’s one reason why Aleks would have mentioned Prometheus’ liver. This is not a new thought to humanity but it’s new because most of us have forgotten about it. Ancient Oriental traditions held it long before the new guys from Western allopathic medicine came around.

This talk was held in Lithuania‘s capital city. Aleks described himself to me as a “professional foreigner,” although he will stay for some time there. He grew up in Venezuela, has lived and worked in many countries and speaks several languages. As you listen to him, it seems that he’s among the few individuals who have original, creative thought all his own. He’s humble, so he might politely disagree and defer to the inspiration of his Muses.

Also, very worthwhile: Aleks and I talked at length via Skype about his very unusual first-of-breed, open-source dreams database, dreamer’s journal and community site, Dreamver.se. Aleks and his partner, Veronica started Dreamver.se as an inspired avocation from her special, personal dreams.

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