Vandala Shiva @ Symbiosis

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi

Hearing Vandala Shiva talk at Symbiosis was the single most relevant experience I had at this festival. And I only get to hear her by accident. I got so tired one hot afternoon session and I decided to go to the main tent and get some nap. (Festival goers can lie down and sleep while a speaker does her lecture). Being half asleep I get to hear this 60 something woman from India with a western PHD talk and I found myself clapping at some of her statements while lying down with eyes closed. Here are some of her points as I recall them:

  1. Genetically modified plants (GMOs) have contributed to the water shortage because unlike organic or natural plants they require about 10 times more water.
  2. Big chemical companies like Monsanto lobby for the cultivation of GMOs because GMOs feed on the fertilizer that Monsanto sells. They have succeeded in making countries to only grow GMOs such as corn, soy beans and canola at the expense of other crops such as vegetables and fruits and eradicating food diversity.
  3. With the advent of GMOs, the number of children with attention deficiency disorder grew. People suffering from depression increased. A lot more cases of cancer and obesity. Mad cow happened. (I have been puzzled by this ADHD and depression cases in North America. I thought we had no such thing as depression in PH so I believe this explains it. The scary thought of my body evolving due to the North American diet I have been taking).
  4. The chemical companies and pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots with each other. Chemical companies create the cancer and big pharma creates the ‘cure’ and big profits for both. (I still don’t get it that despite all the millions for cancer research, they still have not found the cure. It is an eerie thought that if cancer cases multiply and put stress on health care then this could have a huge negative impact on the North American economy. Why would American companies do this to American citizens?)
  5. Big Oil, Big Chem and Big Pharma are corporations and are motivated by profits and not the well being of humans. They need globalization to increase their profits and they need the UN and the politicians to enforce this at the expense of destroying local economies that lead to mass migrations such as Mexico, Syria etc.
  6. The big companies have been using propaganda via the media to turn their failures into successes.
  7. She expressed hopelessness on the next American election because H is controlled by the pro-globalization .01% who controls the resources and T because he represents the negative effects of  globalization and feed on hate and fear. She criticized the .01% as not really caring for society and tells them to come out in the open and not be shadowy. She singles out Bill Gates.
  8. Her solution is to fight the Big Corporation lobby. Go organic. Go Permaculture. She calls it food shed. Your own garden where you can grow most of your own food. By their estimates, an acre can feed a family of six and still have extra 400,000 rupees. The UN criticized her that her farms require manual labor to which she responded that Westerners pay more than a thousand a year for gyms so why not make money instead for exerting physical effort. She also encouraged the yoga enthusiasts in the audience that instead of doing yoga in the gym, they can do it by working on your garden because every movement in gardening/planting is a yoga movement.

I have read some of the counter-arguments in big name magazines such as Fortune and New York Times by Dr. Shivas detractors who are esteemed scientists from Stanford etc. working in high profile government posts such as the FDA. Dr. Shiva’s arguments are rooted from a combination of science, common sense, practical experience and intuition which in my opinion are more authentic than the numbers and technology of the esteemed scientists.



The Symbiosis Gathering Experience

“The majority of us aren’t born with big bank accounts, but we are born with time. Time is the real currency of life, and the value of our time – what we can acquire for its exchange – is our most important asset.” – Eli Inkrot

So, I did a 10 km hike from Oakdale to the Symbiosis music fest in Woodward reservoir very early in the morning which I thought was both brave and crazy because of the large dogs guarding the ranchmen’s homes along the way. I was only fazed a little by the charging and barking dogs and brave enough to face them a second time on the way back.

I noticed that the ranchmen’s abode are similar in fashion. They have their big McMansions approximately 200 meters from the road and it is surrounded by an orchard of almond trees and across on the other side of the road is their barn and grassy flat land where their cows are grazing.

I thought this festival was sort of an environmentally conscious gathering so I decided on the hike only to realize that I am perhaps 1 of the very few if not the only one out of 15,000 who decided to hike. Scores of festival goers in their gas guzzlers just passed by me and one driver even gave me the dirty finger. Only a couple of cars pulled over to offer a ride, and they were LOCALS! So much for this environmentally conscious American youth.

The festival is a hodge-podge of EDM dance parties and over 100 talk/symposiums of hacktivists, guerilla science, permaculture, yoga, environment, feminism and others. They even have a kids section which they call kidsbiosis which I don’t understand because this is a festival of hedonism, nudity and debauchery (actually just more nudity and about par in debauchery compared to other music festivals). There were no big stars in their musical line-up and it was very hard for me to go to any one of the concerts because of very low motivation. I think music festivals should be a celebration of the exceptional music that have been crafted by the big names.

The festival started with a sort of prayer gathering on an elaborate altar they created for the elementals – fire, water, air and earth. By this time I was already seething as this is definitely a misguided and backward attempt that could influence some of these youths into unproductive endeavors. Then, I saw some that I would call the “yoga princesses” strut their self-indulgent stuff in cozy tents. I attended some of the symposiums where most of them put on a pedestal the practices in Costa Rica, India, The Aborigines, First nations. In my mind, they are moving several steps backwards by elevating Third World practices (just because they are fashionable and new to them?)

Then there is the case of the Permaculture symposiums that made me do a temporary about-face on this movement. I assessed that there can only be some meager money that can be made out of doing permaculture and should be taken cautiously and on a persons free time. Yet they are preaching that this is like salvation because they can make money through hours of lecture and by issuing Permaculture certificates which I thought was just an application of simple project management.

Then this festival is also milking all these debt-laden youths with astronomical prices in their food. Drip Coffee starts at a $4 price tag. Meals (no drinks) starts at $13 and averages at $16.

I also observed that about 98% didn’t come here for any environmental or charitable causes, they were here just to be self-indulgent. The “yoga princesses” came here to undress and accessorize and their “cavemen” were here to be rambunctious and get laid. You will also notice that this festival has attracted the phony and the shallow by what is happening at the campsites. You see people immediately mimic power struggle episodes, discrimination, segregation, in-fighting, misinformation, nasty talk, racism. They came here prepared for this! It was hard to have a peace of mind with all the obnoxious people around you fighting each other. If this was American campus life then I would say it would be hard to stay sane in school. These shitty behaviours also dull the nudity element because although you see that they have gorgeous beautiful bodies but once you know their ugly souls, you just look away.

The positives of this music festival = Nice gorgeous nude bodies. Nice fashionable and creative costumes and attires and accessories. Nice Ghanaian food which although overpriced I consumed four meals. An addition to my vocabulary:”power-tripping”. Then my accidental exposure to Vandala Shiva (which I will write a separate input). Overall, attending the festival was a write-off. And if I only knew that Cyndi Lauper was having a concert a few miles from there, I would have been gone instantly. To quote Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones – “If I ever have an idea like this again, please punch me in the face.”



Exploring San Joaquin (Valley)

“Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health” – Modesto motto as inscribed on the arch entering the city.

“Wealth is the state of well being and not money” – Vandana Shiva

I have already visited Sacramento, the northenmost tip of the San Joaquin valley and Bakersfield, the southernmost. So, I decided to check out the middle cities, Merced, Fresno and Modesto. Merced is like a small outpost town buried in time. Nothing here. I was excited to see Fresno coz its the fifth biggest city in California and they have a big university. It was a big dissapointment. The downtown is a decayed place, no mall, lots of gangsters, horsepoop on roads, no nightlife and generally short of life. Fresno is a big no. (Edit: Also heard from one festival goer that she checked out Fresno to see how university is like for her friend. Her verdict, there is nothing good in Fresno and probably her friend is just studying and nothing else.)

San Joaquin valley is supposed to be the food factory of the USA and of the world. Lots of orchards/groves. Saw a never ending caravan of trucks carrying tomatoes. In contrast to Fresno, Modesto was a pleasant surprise. The roads are clean, city layout is well zoned, not shabby downtown that looks promising, a couple of malls and more good sized strip malls. True to its name, Modesto’s modest suburban-like appeal makes it like a perfect place to raise a family. Too bad I did not see Modesto during the housing crash where it was hit the hardest and houses sold for less than 100K. Now its triple that amount. I love Modesto’s motto but the ‘Water’ element is intriguing. Its obvious they highlighted it being an agri-economy but maybe Water also stand for quenching those who are ‘nau-uhaw’. Lol.

So I proceeded to Oakdale which was a small suburb of Modesto and jumping point to Symbiosis music festival. Its a contrast of high end subdivisions and old town feel. I looked for a place to eat breakfast of omelette and bacon and was surprised that all cafes serve only soup and sandwich. The Oakdale sign says it is the “Cowboy Capital of the World”. I thought, what does that even mean? Does Texas and the Mid-west have a better claim? And why cowboys? Then I noticed several young blond cowboys in their cowboy get-up leisurely strolling in the streets and I thought perhaps this is what they mean about the “Cowboy Capital’ title. (Edit: I googled Oakdale’s basis to be Cowboy Capital and it is rooted on their 24 world titles in Rodeo. No other place comes close. They also have a Cowboy museum that I thought was just the typical museum when I passed by.)

The Midlife Clean-up

“Plan less, explore more” – Anthony Bourdain

It has been about 25 days since I started my weight loss regimen and I lost 10 pounds, going down to 148 lbs from 158 lbs. I think this is the lowest I have been in the last 20 years and beat the 149 lbs I achieved two years ago. I have about 10 more days before I head to a long vacation and I’m planning to lose another 3 lbs.

The process of cleaning up the junk I have accumulated in the last 20 is a more stressful exercise. I sold some of my stuff through online – the poker set, magic bullet, etc. I cant believe I have wasted money buying all this junk.

I developed a strategy that instead of keeping all this junk and even pay for storage, I would just ship them to PH. The cost of shipping is cheaper than paying for storage. Plus, these stuff would be better received over there if I decide to donate it/give it away. So, from one balikbayan box, it is turning out to be five balikbayan boxes.

I have gone through two or three rounds of cleanup of personal stuff and they are still substantial. I noted all the memorabilia and despite the urge to spend more time with them I decided to just pack them all. And I thought, when do I really have time to spend on these memorabilia? I suppose, it is between very limited time to none at all. I will have to go through another round and perhaps just keep the most most most important memorabilia. Also, I have resolved to refrain from keeping unnecessary items and always live the moment.

I just read an article about the average net worth of Canadians and looking at the table I noted that I was just in the upper 60-70%. Bummer. Yeah, I recall that North Americans get an average of 200,000 in inheritance. So, I have decided to reduce my planned downtime and I should not be idle during this period and intensify my diversification project so I can achieve being in the upper 75%-80%. And, I have to change my style as well and not focus on monetary strategy and employ gimmicks and attitude as well.




Summer of 2016

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. – Vivian Green, as seen on a poster in a diner at Chemult, OR

“Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes”. – Jim Carrey, as seen on a WickedCampers van.

In the next two days, the temperature will significantly drop which will mark an end of summer in Calgary (although technically, Summer won’t end till the Autumnal equinox on Sept. 22). After a crazy great hectic Spring, I conclude that the last summer was well spent and I even didn’t have time to write during this period. So, I have learned to kayak and am quite confident with it now after becoming a member of the Calgary Canoe Club. I was at Pemberton Music Festival and there is some truth in its claim of being the “best weekend of your life”. I was able to hike 2 of the 50 Best Hikes in the World –  The Berg Lake Trail (full) and The Sunshine Coast Trail (section).

Song of the Summer – I thought that “Cake By The Ocean” of DNCE would be my song of the summer even though it came out in winter of 2016. But it peaked really early and was out of the airwaves by summer, so the song that brings the memories of 2016 summer would be “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Chainsmokers.

What is next for Fall? I’m currently contemplating the iconic Yosemite hike or the partial PCT hike that has been moved several times. Then perhaps Symbiosis Gathering music festival in Oakdale, California, close to Yosemite.

The trip to Powell River has been enlightening for me. I learned that I am currently thriving in my solo state because in the Calgary urban setting, there are a lot of things to do and several distractions. I was bored at Powell River on Day 1 (but I later enjoyed the forced-to-relax situation). The crowd in the urban setting also sort of hides you while in the less urban setting, you really stand out. So, I will have to scrap my plan of buying land and building a cabin and small farm. Instead, I will go back to my old plan of using a business (hostel + diner) as my entry to my designated places of retirement. Its going to be fun designing my concept of a compact diner+hostel.


Oregon again…May 2016

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – anonymous

Just about finished with my trip to PDX, the second in as many months, and I’m going to miss it. Last night’s 80’s Video Attack Dance Party was a memorable “send off” party. It’s the first time I saw some of those videos and it was nostalgic, especially The Cure, Depeche Mode, INXS and Erasure. One thing I noticed is that despite the decade being thirty years back, it seemed more gay progressive with The likes of Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys, Wham, Erasure, Soft Cell, Dead or Alive. And most of the artists look like they are wearing drag outfits. And they all seemed to enjoy it. No big deal. Nowadays, there is only Sam Smith and there is too much noise from the likes of Macklemore.

Looks like the reward of this trip is that my plans have now firmed up and it’s now time to take concrete measures. First off, I will have to cancel that meet-up thingie as it is a worthless distraction. Then I will have to embark on trifecta of sustainable, self-reliant, guilt-free endeavours – Food, Farming and Eco-hostelling.

The first project is the food cart specializing on Thai or Hawaiian Food. This will be the start-up and training for other future food/cooking projects. It’s convenient because it  will be not a big investment and it is mobile. The next iteration which will happen on year 2 or 3 will be a ramen stall that also features boxed Thai food.

The second project will be farming. This will start as gardening in year 1, the expand as urban farming in year 2 and then move on to a farming scale in year 3. Other related concepts will be greenhouse solutions, communal farming and hydroponics.

The third project will be an Eco-hostel in Oregon that will feature a small farm ala Bahay Kubo, “and halaman doon ay sari-sari”. But this won’t start until at least year 3.

And I can still work as accountant and play stocks on the side. My motivation for staying in the accounting profession is to “box out” the undeserving, scheming and nasty politicians masquerading as accountants.

Portland Points-of-View

I thought Denver had the best motto that accentuates its claim as weed capital – “The mile HIGH city”. But Portland beats this. Because just take away the R from the name and it becomes Potland! LOL.

Out of curiosity, I went into Bagdad movie theatre in the Hawthorne district and surprised with the interior that looks like you have entered the Sultan’s chamber. The movie comes with a convenient table and the screen was huge and modern as I watched “The Jungle Book”. I paid only $7.50 which is way below the $12 I pay in commercial theatre chains. This theatre could easily be attraction but I’m wondering why no ads for this.

Portland has a bit of an aversion for the commercial chains as there are only a few of them and more of the small business types. I try to patronize these small shops as they are eclectic, bold and have little chance with the general populace. Rimsky-Korsacoffee?

One other downside for Portland is that it has a lot of activists. I cannot imagine three people trying to get signatures for different kinds of causes in one street corner. Thank goodness I’m not an Oregon voter.

I bought a complete set of hiking gear from Next Adventure. They have the best selection of affordable camping gear. I bought a 50 liter backpack, a sleeping bag, a solo tent, a reflector sleeping pad, a camping pot, freeze dried foods and water purifying tablets.

Everyone is talking about the weather. About the record breaking 30 degree weather in this time of the year. I’m just enjoying it. It’s glorious.

Epic fail in the costume department yet again. Next time I need to really look the part. Grow a moustache, goatee, wear a T-shirt wrist bands, necklaces and most of all, get rid of my corporate bulges, they are so revealing. LOL.

Portland’s Pitch

I made last minute decision and hopped on a train to Portland instead of driving to Denver where they have blizzard like conditions, with tornadoes. The train came half an hour in advance instead of the usual two hour delay. I recall that the delays in the past were caused by trains carrying crude is crowding out the passenger train. So I suppose this is the sign of the times. Still, the Amtrak is still a very good deal at about half the price of Greyhound bus. I’ve read that the government is subsidizing the train.

So, here is Portland’s very convincing pitch:

  1. Powell Books – The grand-daddy of all bookstores. The size of ten bookstores into one. Therefore, the depth of their offerings is ten times that of an average bookstore. The layout reminds me of the British Museum. About a dozen big rooms, color coded as Red room, Gold room etc. After seeing this, I thought I would like to live as long as I can and consume these books and won’t go for the terminal assistance. And that is a very compelling reason.
  2. The Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, the World Forestry Center and Arborateum. – why grow and keep a garden when one can just go to these beautiful, relaxing and inspiring gardens.
  3. Best strip clubs – nuff said

And of course Portland is a liberal center and comes with its downside of lots of homeless, crazy and freeloading people. Liberal initiatives are all over the place which is good because it also inspires creativity which makes Portland a foodies paradise and an artist’s haven. And most stuff have a reasonable price tag and much affordable compared to San Francisco, Seattle or Denver.

Moab to Las Vegas

“Each to his own gifts” – Spock, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

“Smart people want fewer friends…because they have more important things to do”. – according to a study as overheard from the radio.

There are long drives in this trip but no regrets as I have covered a lot of area. But next time hopefully this won’t be this rush.

Moab is very energetic town from the roar of the motorbikes and off-road vehicles. This town looks like a setting for a Mad Max type of adventure. I looked for a campsite and was amazed at the picturesque rock scenery tucked away in the back roads. Went to the farthest campsite and was lucky to get one of two spots left. Will be coming back but I should remember to book in advance.

I had the windiest drive from Moab to the Grand Canyon. I have to go to a crawl in order not to get blown off the road. Was not impressed with Monuments Valley as I am not really a fan of Western-movie type setting anyways.

The Grand Canyon was about 3 or 5 times bigger than I expected. Lots of tourists and the parking lots are overflowing. A young guy was scrutinizing my car plate and shouts Alberta! like my car was a rare find. I liked the diversity of the landscape surrounding the canyon – tall pines, short pines, shrubs, desert. Verdict: Not likely to return.