Archive for February, 2009

Sanskrit Pop Music

February 28, 2009

These sisters are really good.

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Australians who live on slumdog millionaires’ row – and love it

February 27, 2009

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MARK and Cathy Delaney don’t need to see the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire. The Brisbane couple experience slum life in India every day.

For 13 years they have lived in the shanty towns of the Indian capital, New Delhi, raising their children and sharing their lives with the locals. Their two sons, Tom, 12, and Oscar, 7, were born in India and have lived most of their lives in slums.

The family home, in a neighbourhood called Janta Mazdoor Colony, is about the size of a typical Australian bedroom. They have no running water, no TV, no fridge and no washing machine. Two mattresses, used to sleep on at night, double as a “lounge” during the day. Meals are eaten sitting on the floor and they share with neighbours a squat toilet in a small bathroom.

But the Delaneys are not complaining. For them, living in a slum has been deeply enriching.

“It baffles us that more people in Australia who say they are sick of their lives don’t do something like we have,” says Cathy Delaney, who holds a masters’ degree in pure mathematics.

“The longer we have stayed here the more we can see the positive effect it has had on us as people. I feel much freer of money and possessions – these things don’t define my life.”

Mark Delaney, a 42-year old lawyer, says more than a decade in Delhi’s squatter settlements has been a “radical detox” from consumer society.

“For the first couple of years I thought, ‘We’ll do this for a while and then we’ll go back to Australia, get a deposit and build a house’, and so on, but I’ve let go of all that now,” he said.

Mark works part-time for a Delhi-based medical organisation but the family’s main focus is on their slum. They are strongly motivated by their Christian faith, believing that life is more about caring for others than comfort and success.

“Our main purpose is simply to experience what life is like here, to live with and learn from the poor and contribute something positive to people’s lives,” says Mark.

The Delaneys moved into their current neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Delhi in 2003. About 60,000 people are packed into the illegal settlement which is less than half a square kilometre. It is one of an estimated 1500 squatter settlements scattered across Delhi that house at least 3 million people.

The settlement started 30 years ago as a cluster of makeshift humpies in an open field but as time went by, people gradually upgraded. Flimsy walls were replaced with bricks, slab roofs were added in place of black plastic. Even so, open drains still run along the slum’s maze of narrow alley ways and empty into a putrid canal not far from the Delaneys’ front door.

Properties are bought and sold in the slum and there are even informal titles exchanged to prove ownership. Although these documents would not hold up in court they give those purchasing a slum hut a sense of security. A three-level slum house in the area recently changed hands for 190,000 rupees (about $6000).

The Delaneys pay 1800 rupees ($56) a month in rent, although many small rooms in the slum are half that. Each day the family witnesses some of the vulnerability and powerlessness of the characters portrayed in the film.

Witnessing this has nurtured a strong sense of social justice in the boys.

“I have realised that the most important thing is to help other people,” says Tom.

“But I have also realised that I have limits.”

There is hot debate in the household about how simply they should live.

“Cathy is a bit harder line than me,” says Mark

“Sometimes she says ‘let’s move down a bit’ but I’m usually a bit resistant. Most people think we are pretty stupid already.”

Once Tom asked how much income his neighbours had to live on and insisted their family do the same.

So for the experience, they cut their monthly budget from 10,000 rupees ($310) to 5000 rupees.

“First we ran out of cornflakes and then we ran out of jam. Our diet got much simpler,” says Cathy. “It was a hard experience but a really good one. It gave us so much more respect for the people who live here.”

Mark has been pleasantly surprised by how much their boys have benefited from the experience of living in a poor neighbourhood. Oscar is in year 2 at a local school and Tom has recently switched to home schooling.

When the boys were asked if they wanted to move back to Australia later this year or stay in the slum, they chose to stay.

“I used to think that, with the kids, we would just endure living here for a while and then go,” said Mark.

“But now I’m thinking this is a good thing for them and I want to stay not for my sake, but for the sake of my kids.”

Things that most families take for granted bring the Delaneys great satisfaction.

Such as electricity. The power goes off in the neighbourhood several hours each day.

To help the family cope, Cathy got a small solar panel worth about $100 for her 40th birthday that powers a lamp during the blackouts.

A striking feature of the Delaneys’ lifestyle is their small environmental footprint. They use very little electricity, create only a small amount of waste and rely exclusively on public transport.

Gran Turino with Clint Eastwood

February 21, 2009

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HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Walt Kowalski is a widower who holds onto his prejudices despite the changes in his Michigan neighborhood and the world around him. Kowalski is a grumpy, tough-minded, unhappy an old man, who can’t get along with either his kids or his neighbors, a Korean War veteran whose prize possession is a 1972 Gran Torino he keeps in mint condition. When his neighbor Thao, a young Hmong teenager under pressure from his gang member cousin, tries to steal his Gran Torino, Kowalski sets out to reform the youth.

“It’s Not The End” by Haggis Hague

February 17, 2009

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My brother Stephen wrote this on his blog:

I heard about this book on the Kim Hill show. The book is split into two sections. The first section covers his personal story about his marriage and becoming a father. The second section offers some down to earth advice for men. The book is available as a free ebook from his website here. I found it to be a short, honest, interesting read.

I liked the ebook too. There’s a lot to be said for men getting advice from men. I’ve found that women have entirely different values and don’t always understand the male perspective.

If you read the ebook, make a donation.

Learning to See

February 16, 2009

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Many years ago I read a book by Krishnamurti about seeing. Essentially, he said that most of our perception is very limited because it is overshadowed by the intellect which is fueled by ideas from the past.

It is like a reunion with a high school friend – your memory of him subconsciously colours your perception and expectation of him now. To perceive your friend properly, as he is now, you first have to be quiet and let go of the past. This requires quietening the babbling monkey-mind with its baggage of memories and judgements. Then be open to what is happening.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of innocent perception is extremely uncommon in our over-excited society. Most of us are too caught up in our own thoughts, judgements, expectations and memories to really be present with what is happening in front of us.

If we were to be quiet for a moment then we would gain more information from our senses – richer colours, deeper sounds, expanded taste and many, many layers. We may also discover a sense of joy, unboundedness, beauty and aliveness that is always all around us.

A peaceful mind reveals a whole new world – one which we have never seen before. This inner freedom, accompanied by its companion, refined perception, gives rise to spontaneous feelings of joyful appreciation, unconditional gratitude and a well-wishing for all life.

The real voyage of discovery is not to see new landscapes, but to see with new eyes.

Tip: instead of straining to look and listen, allow light to fall upon the eyes and sound to innocently enter the ears.

Carver: A New Kind of Car

February 14, 2009

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The Carver is a tilting three wheeled vehicle using an automatic balancing technology to balance the passenger compartment under all conditions (turns cool). Its first commercial product, the Carver One, seats two people, and is manufactured and distributed by Carver Europe in the Netherlands.

It looks to be halfway between a motorcycle and a car, and, like many microcars, the Carver has three wheels and the controls of a normal car. The three wheel Carver One is said to have the comfort, controls and stability of a normal car while showing the dynamic cornering behaviour of a motorcycle. The Carver can be driven by anyone with a normal car driver’s license in the European Union, though other countries outside of the EU may not allow this. In most countries the taxation follows the motorcycle guidelines.

250px-carver_one_06011701The Carver was reviewed by BBC’s Top Gear programme in 2003. Jeremy Clarkson said: “I have to say, absolutely hand on heart, that I’ve never had so much fun in a car, really and truthfully, and I don’t think I’d ever tire of it.”

The Carver One can tilt up to 45 degrees while turning. This is not based on how far the wheel is rotated, but on how much cornering force is applied to it.

The Carver has a 660 cc 4-cylinder 16-valve engine with a turbo intercooler giving a power output of 65 bhp (48 kW) at 7,500 rpm and a maximum torque of 100 N·m (74 lb·ft) at 4,000 rpm. An option is available to upgrade the ECU to give 85 bhp (63 kW) output. The transmission is a 5-speed manual with reverse, and all wheels are equipped with ventilated disk brakes. The front wheel is slightly larger than the rear wheels (at 17″ to 15″).

The Carver One, as standard, has a top speed of 185 km/h (115 mph). The acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 8.2 seconds (0-60 mph in 8 seconds), is slow compared to most motorcycles and average for a passenger car (a Toyota Camry has a similar acceleration).

The unique property of the Carver One is its automatic balancing “Dynamic Vehicle Control” system, which is said to allow full stability under almost all circumstances. Thanks to this DVC technology its cornering behaviour is said to feel natural and pleasant.

How to Build Stonehenge

February 13, 2009

Hat tip to Helmut for this article:

Stonehenge mystery solved? For hundreds, maybe thousands of years, people have been trying to figure out how primitive people could build huge structures such as Stonehenge and the pyramids out of stone blocks weighing thousands of pounds. Scientists have been stumped. Then along comes a normal guy – a retired construction worker – and he says well, I would do it like this. And he does. This guy uses the simplest tools known to man and shows how simple and easy it would have been to create Stonehenge.

This is a really great video clip. Amazing how this guy could figure out something that has confounded scholars for centuries. And not only figures it out, but demonstrates it! This guy could build a replica of Stonehenge single-handedly, while a committee of 20 or 30 Civil Engineering professors from leading universities would be debating how it might be done. You have got to see this….

Acceptance Versus Resignation

February 5, 2009

ph_1tall_taiji2It is amazing how the idea of acceptance is so thoroughly misunderstood. It seems that many of us confuse acceptance with resignation, which is completely different.

Acceptance means to be at peace with a situation. Resignation is being defeated – it is disempowerment and submission. Very often we say we have accepted a situation, yet have no peace. We have resigned to the situation, continue to resist it silently and repress our true feelings which fester under the surface, often with no awareness of what we are doing.

We say we have surrendered our burdens to God, yet we have not. We continue to carry our burdens ourselves and continue to suffer for it.

We say we have forgiven those who trespass against us, yet we still feel a pinch when they come to mind.

A person who accepts life has no inner conflicts. Instead he enjoys the effortless peace of pure consciousness which never goes away, even if involved in intense conflict such as a battlefield.

Unfortunately, many of us do not know this peace and thus make all kinds of fraudulent claims. Without knowing it, we say that inner conflict is peace, attachment is love, egotism is strength, violence is power, sickness is health, deceit is integrity, appearance is reality and resignation is acceptance.

The reality, as declared by those who enjoy supreme peace, is that consciousness is peace, consciousness is love, consciousness is strength, consciousness is power, consciousness is health and consciousness is acceptance. Consciousness is your already-existing true nature waiting to be recognised.