COLUMNS Sonja Grace: Predictions

Healing with Tolerance

My travels take me all over the world and my experiences with people, their stories and the miracles that ensue need to be shared.

As I got started I laughed at my surroundings.  It was over one hundred degrees out and I was standing in a small house with no air conditioning, people were coming in and out of the tiny living room as a toddler stood by occasionally hanging onto my leg for support.  My arrival was announced somewhere in the wind with a long line of a sore throats, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, an infant’s sleepless nights, brain tumor, stoke, rotator cuff, knee, leg, hip and back pain, loss of a loved ones, lack of trust and a son who served his country only to be imprisoned due to post traumatic stress syndrome taking over his life.  As I worked on each person my experience as a healer guided my hands like a surgeon as I removed negative energies out of their bodies and in their auric fields. One person commented I think a family member did this to me and another remarked they are mad at my family please check everyone out.

Many people are not aware of the corruption that different cultures around the world experience within their spiritual realm.  We see corruption in western religion and can identify where a person has committed such crimes but in the world of voodoo and witching there is much that goes unnoticed.

My ability to see all levels of the astral plane helps me to identify what has happened and where it came from and remove it. One person who blamed the ill will from her sister for her fall, dragged her leg in barely able to walk. I moved about taking things out of her leg and addressed the hairline fracture in her ankle that had still not healed.  I scolded her for not wearing the boot her doctor prescribed and proceeded to talk to her about tolerance.  Forgive your sister I said as I took more things out of her back and hips.  After working on her I showed her a physical therapy exercise that she could do as homework and we embraced.  She was crying as she walked out the door without a limp bearing full weight on her leg she had dragged in.

Tolerance of each other, families, communities, religions and cultural differences remains the goal in the twenty first century.  Love creates pathways that intercept all belief systems and if followed allows us to arrive in peace.

Bodies In Balance COLUMNS

Movement, Muscles, Minerals, and More…

Now that summer is here our motivation to get out and move our bodies is dramatically increased. The concert of movement includes muscles, tendons, joints, bones, and nerves. It is the health and coordination of these players which allow us to hike, bike, swim, kayak, and so on and so forth. So let’s check out this system of movement and explore ways to keep it healthy.

When we exercise, our goal is to achieve leaner muscle mass and increased endurance…in fact a complete exercise program should include strength, endurance and flexibility. In the initial stages of a new exercise routine there is a normal process of muscle fiber damage and repair; and this process often creates soreness, cramps, or stiffness. As we continue to use and overuse this system more complex problems including worn or degenerative joints may arise. Keeping the musculoskeletal system in balance is not easy, but movement is essential so don’t take it’s health for granted.

Our muscles are an intricate organization of cells specifically designed for energy use in order to create movement of joints and bones. The energy necessary for muscular contraction and relaxation ideally comes from a nutritious diet of adequate and balanced fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The muscles prefer a fuel source of complex carbohydrates (whole grains and vegetables), although proteins are essential for muscle fiber building and repair. Vitamins and minerals also aid in cellular energy production. If you think of muscle cells as mini-factories, which take in carbohydrates to produce movement, vitamins and minerals are the factory workers making sure the process runs smoothly.

Two minerals essential for the contraction and relaxation of muscles are Calcium and Magnesium. When Calcium flows into muscle cells they begin to contract; with muscle relaxation (another key element to movement), Calcium flows out and is replaced with Magnesium. If you are experiencing muscle fatigue or cramping during or after exercise you may benefit from these minerals. Calcium can be found in leafy greens, grains, shellfish (especially clams and oysters), salmon and dairy products. Magnesium is rich in nuts and seeds, soybeans, grains, fish, blackstrap molasses and dairy products. If you use supplements you should be getting a 1:1 ratio of Calcium to Magnesium. Calcium is a widely promoted and often overused and unbalanced mineral; its suggested use for bone health is fairly one-sided overlooking the rich matrix of other minerals. Looking for a nutrient to help increase muscle energy? CoQ10 would be a good choice. This nutrient is an essential source of ATP production within all cells throughout the body, and although the body can produce it, deficiencies are possible. I recommend 100mg of CoQ10 in the morning with food.

Another essential to avoid muscle aches and pains is making time to stretch (flexibility). The most ideal time to stretch is when your muscles are already warm. Some gentle stretching can be done prior to a strength or endurance program. Once complete, however, those muscles are primed for a good round of stretching, so don’t forget to budget time at the end of your workout for this important aspect of movement. Never force or bounce a stretch, instead move into a position where you begin to feel tension or tugging and then use breathing and time to go further, not force. If you are unsure about the best stretches for you, there are many great classes, books, and professionals available to guide you.

A commonly recommended soothing treatments for ailing muscles that is both easy and safe is an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are rich in Magnesium and by pouring two to four cups into a hot bath and soaking for 20 minutes you can relax both body and mind. If you have access to a sauna or steam room they are also an excellent deep acting treatment for muscle pains. If you are not at risk for stroke or have significant heart troubles, try alternating from the hot sauna to a cold shower to really get the blood moving. For an acute muscle injury or ache try rubbing some Arnica cream on the affected area and/or take a supplement called Bromelain. Bromelain is a pineapple enzyme which when taken away from food can break down inflammatory proteins, like those found in sore muscles. And as always drink plenty of water.

Let’s not overlook the joints; this is a point where two bones meet. There a variety of joints throughout the body. Some are simple like the attachment of the ribs to the breast bone, which experience relatively little movement. Some are complex like shoulders and hips which have a wide range of movement and responsibility. Joints are cushioned with fluid filled sacs, discs and cartilage depending on the joint. The ease and fluidity of movement of a joint is also assisted by good food choices, adequate water intake and proper movement. A top choice nutrient for joint health is omega 3 fatty acids, they help lubricate and reduce inflammation, a win-win. Adding 1000mg of a good quality fish oil can be an excellent therapy for joint problems.

When starting any new exercise routine set realistic goals and recognize your limits. If you do experience an injury, which does not resolve within three to five days, don’t suffer through it; go see someone who can help you heal. When you spend too long compensating for an injury it only compounds the problem. Exercise is a rewarding fountain of youth so get out and experience the benefits of movement today! Because as I like to say…DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body EVERYDAY!!

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

That First Cup of Coffee – I’m Still Here

There are days I open my eyes and honestly, I do not want to get out of bed. The day looms like a dark cloud. The things I need to tackle are dreary, taxing,  or just tough to achieve.

Unfortunately –  or fortunately – I do not have the luxury of pulling the covers over my head and cancelling the day. I can procrastinate some, but there comes that moment when I have to face the day.

Most mornings I have to tell myself,  “Get up and get your coffee, things will look different.”  Thank God for that first cup of coffee. My pug and doxie snuggle with me, lick my face, and I watch the news:  Austerity measures, big company downfalls, fighting in Syria. Stuff like that.

In my little world with my cup of coffee and loving dogs, roof over my head and time to watch TV news,  suddenly all is right. The phone call that I was dreading to make, for example, is now just a phone call, just something to do. There’s something to be said for just plodding along. Sometimes life is mundane or troublesome. The thing to remember is that is life. Part fun, part surprise, part…. mundane and troublesome.

That first cup of coffee…. is not my endorsement or ad for drinking coffee. Its my way of showing that sometimes our perceptions and worries can be  transient. From my experience, I found that my view of the world changes once I get up out of bed and start the day with my routine cup of coffee. Maybe your mornings start with a shower or breakfast or a cigarette. Whatever it is that gets you out of bed and into the world, works.  Use that knowledge to get you going when all you really want is to bury yourself in another round of sleep.

I heard an interview with one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs. He said something that really resonated with me. He talked about how he waited after his relationship breakup for that time when he felt “healed” or better, and he realized seven years had passed! This Is It, he decided. If you get broken or hurt or somehow emotionally injured, you don’t want to just be waiting around for that day when you are miraculously healed.  It doesn’t happen. Life goes on. The new you – slightly scarred, slightly damaged – gets to continue living.

Many times during my business hours, I have to answer that question from Overboard customers, “How’s business been?” My response varies little. Usually its some variation of  “I’m still here.”

I’m still here. That’s my  mantra. I’m still here.

Counselor advice:  Be okay with just being alive. Let mundane and quiet times be. I like to think that those are the times when thoughts and psychic gears are working overtime, having a life of their own, creating something surprising. And remember – Just surviving at times is a skill, not to be taken lightly.

COLUMNS Stephen Berk

Return of the Neocons

Over his years as politician, Mitt Romney has tacked from a pragmatic center-right as governor of Massachusetts, when he signed a health care bill identical to Obama care, to a hard right position that has become necessary to get the Republican presidential nomination today. One standard credential of the American right has always been the willingness to wage war. Ever since Vietnam and the disastrous McGovern peace campaign of 1972, Republicans have successfully tarred Democrats as soft on foreign policy, and Democrats have become increasingly hawkish to prove they are just as tough. If being tough gains points in conservative circles, then why shouldn’t Romney embrace the toughest, the neoconservatives?

Preeminent in the first George W. Bush administration, neocons have advocated an unabashed American imperialism. They led the preemptive war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a first step in building a “democratic,” Americanized Middle East. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld argued that “shock and awe” tactics would make victory in Iraq an inexpensive “cakewalk.” But trillion dollar quagmires in both Iraq and Afghanistan led Bush to resume the less blatantly imperialistic policies which had become the common stock of both political parties. That is, a hawkish posture toward those deemed “adversaries,” always leaving war “on the table,” but engagement in other forms of persuasion, such as negotiation or sanctions. During his second administration, Bush replaced Rumsfeld with the more conciliatory Gates. He also sidelined Vice President Cheney, who had been central to policy making in the “Global War on Terror,” relying on the more traditional “realism” of Condoleezza Rice, whose views were similar to those of Clinton secretary of state, Madeline Albright.

But Romney, feeling the need to prove his tough minded conservative credentials, now embraces the neoconservatives. He draws his foreign policy views from the very people who once clustered under the name Project for the New American Century. This was the think tank that authored a pre 9/11 document entitled “Rebuilding our National Defenses,” which argued that the end of the Cold War should not see a peace dividend in the form of new domestic infrastructure and social spending. Instead, they argued, it was the destiny of “the one remaining superpower” to so dominate the world that no country could ever challenge its supremacy. To achieve this end they called for greatly augmented defense spending. But they acknowledged that for post Cold War Americans to accept such imperialism, they would need to experience national trauma on the level of “a new Pearl Harbor.” Their wish came true, and they got their unending war accompanied by relentless decline of civil liberties in a militarized state.

“King Con” John Bolton

Among the most bellicose of the neocons is John Bolton, who wholly embraces continuous preemptive warfare, eschewing all negotiation as weakness. So belligerent has been his position that when Bush attempted to appoint him as UN representative, the Senate refused to confirm him. Bolton has opposed all US nuclear arms reduction treaties, such as the one negotiated between Reagan and Gorbachev. And he vehemently opposes any further negotiation with Iran. Yet, Mitt Romney singles out John Bolton as one “whose wisdom, clarity and courage are qualities that should typify our foreign policy.” He has even spoken of him as a possible secretary of state in a Romney administration.

Even though Iran has the right to enrich uranium under international law and all our intelligence agencies have stated that she has abandoned seeking a nuclear weapon, Bolton agrees with Israeli president Netanyahu that we should cease negotiations and launch an air war against Iran as soon as possible. The vast majority of American military brass and world opinion regard bombing Iran as inviting catastrophe. Iran controls the Straits of Hormuz, where US carriers are sitting ducks. And Iran has sophisticated arms it has acquired from Russia. War with Iran will lead to a major regional war that could easily draw in the Great Powers. The US is joined to Israel at the hip, and Iran is aligned to Russia, with whom she shares a border, and also China. Our vital ally in Central Asia, Pakistan, has stated that if Israel or the US attacks Iran, she will support Iran. This is what we have to look forward to for starters in a Romney presidency.


GODZILLA Invades Oregon!

What a great plot for a B movie! Here comes Godzilla – that irradiated lizard that terrified Japanese crowds in the great movies and TV series starting in the 1950s – floating on a fishing dock headed straight for Agate Beach. Scientists, the military, and concerned citizens battle the great beast, and seem to kill it. But lurking in the water are more Japanese monsters, ready to threaten our way of life, and life itself here in peaceful Oregon. Anyone coming in contact with flotsam with Japanese letters on it should immediately contact the authorities, and get the heck out of there, before they are attacked, and made to carry a terrible disease into the cities of our peaceful land.

Far-fetched, you say. But wait, something like this scenario is actually happening. Here’s the June 11 headline from DOGOnews, a news website for kids: Japan’s Tsunami Debris Drags ‘Alien’ Creatures To Oregon. And here’s part of the article (by Meera Dolasia):

When the powerful tsunami that devastated portions of Japan on March 11th, 2011 receded, it carried with it all kinds of debris – ranging from over 200,000 buildings complete with belongings, to countless cars. Among the biggest were four dock floats – the size of freight train boxcars, that were ripped off intact from the fishing port of Misawa.

One the barges was recovered shortly after off a nearby island. However, the other three were not seen until this week, when one suddenly washed ashore on the white sands of Oregon’s Agate Beach. Not only had the 165-ton concrete and steel dock made an astonishing 5,000-mile journey across the world, but it had also carried with it a diverse community of organisms ranging from algae to mussels, crabs and even starfish.

The problem with the arrival of these unexpected visitors is that they are all native to Japan. If allowed to live, they could threaten the local species and even topple the existing ecosystem irreversibly. In order to prevent the aliens from taking over, the scientists had to scrape the dock clean, sterilize it with torches and even bury the one and half tons of material that was clinging to it, above a high-water line.

While that averted this particular threat, others may not be as easy to get rid of. Wakame, a species of seaweed that was previously found only in Japan, has now been spotted in Southern California, as has a new species of algae. In addition to that, a never-been-seen-before tiny species of crab is making rapid inroads around New York, whilst a new kind of starfish has been spotted all along the US coast. What other surprises will the after-effects of the Japanese tsunami bring? Only time will tell!

See, the italicized sentence above tells kids to kill the invader! Left alive, it could kill everyone! Told you it’s not so far fetched…

Still don’t believe me? Well, here’s the first couple paragraphs from an article published on KOIN6’s website on June 15:

Local, state and federal officials met Friday in Cannon Beach to discuss plans for coordinating cleanup efforts regarding Japan tsunami debris that has washed up on Oregon’s beaches and coastal waters.

“The dock that washed up near Newport is a real wakeup call,” said U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who led the work session. “We expect more and we don’t know what’s coming.”

See? More is coming. Told ya.

Of all sources, The Huffington Post (Jonathan Cooper) reports on June 28:

Find a boxcar-sized dock on the beach, or a soccer ball with Japanese symbols? The state of Oregon wants to hear from you. Just dial 211.

Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the hotline at a news conference Thursday, saying it’s an easy way for residents and visitors to report Japanese tsunami debris. Beginning Friday, the hotline will be staffed during business hours and will take recorded messages at other times.

“I just want to make sure that Oregonians understand that we are on top of this,” Kitzhaber said.

The hotline will allow the public to help keep Oregon’s beaches clean and return any missing Japanese property to its rightful owners, the governor said.

He also said Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon National Guard and interim director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, will be responsible for coordinating the response and cleanup efforts among state agencies.

“It’s important to quickly collect and throw away tsunami debris to keep beaches clean and prevent the introduction of invasive species,” Caldwell said. Officials are asking that people not take home debris to keep as souvenirs, but they say there’s little chance of the debris being harmful to human health.

They always say that when there’s real danger. We’re dust. So, if you spot any sign of Godzilla, get out your cell phone and dial 211, and get the hell out of there, before the invading monster destroys you and everything else in this great country. Don’t worry – our military will protect you.

“Oh no! I think it’s still alive, sir!”

Or not.

Bodies In Balance COLUMNS

Lively Livers

fatty-liver-painSpring is that time of the year when life is rejuvenating, Chinese medicine recognizes this as the season of the liver, and the vibrant greens of Spring remind us of good health…seems like an excellent time to review the strength and well-being of our livers. Ever experienced constipation, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, intolerance to fatty foods, alcohol, or caffeine? These may all be signs of sub-optimal liver function. If you’ve never thought of your liver, well then today’s the day!

The liver is a large organ located on the right side of the abdominal cavity; it resides under the ribcage just below the lungs and diaphragm. It has an enormous assortment of functions. It detoxifies, meaning it clears out unwanted materials in the blood. These materials are either made in the body (hormones, metabolic waste products, dead cells, etc.) or environmental/exogenous chemicals (pharmaceutical drugs, cleaning products, smoke, pesticides, etc.). It helps manage metabolism by creating and storing energy sources, namely glycogen, which can then be converted to blood glucose. The liver makes and manages blood cholesterol which helps the body to repair damage within the vasculature. It assists in digestion by creating bile, which emulsifies fat for its absorption into the blood. And this is only the big picture, this organ is the home of over 200 chemical reactions, which help our bodies survive and thrive in this world.

So what things adversely affect liver function? There are some common diseases which contribute to liver disease namely hepatitis, alcoholism, and kidney disease. There are many chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, and pharmaceutical drugs, which can be toxic to the liver when exposed in large quantities. There are lifestyle choices including the obvious of drug and alcohol abuse as well as poor dietary choices which can overburden the liver making for some types of liver disease. Other assailants to liver function may include sluggish digestion, poor nutrition, food intolerances, and infections. Your health care provider should be useful in ruling out the obvious causes with a thorough history, physical exam and simple blood tests.

What are some of the symptoms to watch for which may indicate liver dysfunction? Digestive troubles including constipation, excessive burping, or nausea may be noticed. The gallbladder which holds the bile can become inflamed or gallstones may form. Gallbladder conditions are often exacerbated by fatty foods causing right sided pain or nausea. For those who have poor tolerance to alcohol or caffeine or chocolate this may be a sign of sluggish detoxification. When the liver is not working up to speed there can be a backup of blood in the venous system causing varicose veins or hemorrhoids. Finally the most concerning signs of a more advanced liver condition would be jaundiced (yellowing) skin, pale stools or brown urine, these folks should seek medical care as soon as possible!

All livers can benefit from improved nutrition. Increasing fresh foods in the diet is an excellent source of nutrients to assist the liver in its many functions. Be inspired by the rejuvenating springtime to try a mini-cleansing diet. This is a diet of only fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, try it for a week and see if you experience any changes. Others may gravitate to the idea of fresh juicing, there are a variety of fruits and vegetables which can make delicious juices giving the liver some much appreciated nutrition and the digestion a little break. Some stimulating liver foods include lemons, beets, beet greens, radishes, leafy greens, grapefruit, artichoke, asparagus, and of course liver itself especially if it is from a reputable clean living animal. Water! This liquid of life is essential to many important enzymatic reactions in the liver. Water can help to dilute chemicals and assist the liver to detoxify. Try consuming half your body weight in ounces daily for a week (math: if you weigh 150 lbs drink 75 oz water daily) and see what a well hydrated liver can do for you.

There are a plethora of supplements that can be useful to the liver. Vitamin C and Antioxidant blends are helpers in the fight against free radicals and promote quality detoxification assistance. Other helpful detoxifiers are Alpha Lipoic Acid and Glutathione. When these nutrients are rich in the body they are doing work that helps take the load off the liver. A fiber supplement will assist with proper elimination. When the body is not eliminating daily the liver is further stressed with recirculated toxins from the bowels. Therefore adequate fiber will assure proper binding of toxins as they are eliminated from the liver and help reduce potential reabsorption. A fiber supplement should always be consumed with a large (greater than 8 oz) glass of water, so as not to create constipation.

Almost all herbs work on the liver in some form or another, since the liver is the organ that metabolizes many of them. There are, however, some shinning stars. Milk Thistle is the first. This herb has been shown to protect the liver from hepatitis and cirrhosis, which inflame and destroy liver tissue. Dandelion and Burdock roots, both common edible herbs, promote proper liver function. They stimulate the production of bile, which is the end product of liver metabolism. Nettles, a common local plant, is a gentle liver stimulant which is quite useful in the area of food intolerances and seasonal allergies. Of course the golden glow of Turmeric cannot be overlooked as both a terrific antioxidant and amazing anti-inflammatory. And finally Green Tea can be added for its powerful antioxidant effect as well. All of these herbs are safe and gentle, but as always if you have questions or concerns seek the guidance of a trained professional.

The liver is an organ to embrace; care for it and it will care for you. So please take some time this spring to enliven your liver!

DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body EVERYDAY!!

COLUMNS Sonja Grace: Predictions

The Transformation of Women

As humanity moves closer to the fifth dimension and gains new insight daily to a higher state of consciousness, women are shifting with strong tides and an inner force that compares to flares seen billowing off Venus.

Women are feeling the energy of transformation in all aspects of their world.  Many women are reminded of the events from centuries past as they encounter similar issues today and it echoes through their cells.   There is the rebirth of the female warrior that takes a stand as she has throughout history, only this time it is for the sake of the world.

Their call to regain the balance between the male and female aspects includes the light and dark, good and bad which brings the duality to the forefront and women in the lead.

They are leading at this time because men are moving into their hearts and working through the integration of power into love.  The vibration of women moves them forward into a place of spiritual understanding that is supported from the heart center and opens up the power center.  Men on the other hand are moving from the power center into the heart and their vibration is that of a spiritual quest.

When reviewing history we are reminded of the abused power in both the matriarch and patriarchal societies.  This is why stepping into leadership women must remember the key is to become warriors of the light.  Their connection to giving birth lends to a vibration the Earth emits that females are receptive to.  As the receivers of this Earth energy it is critical that the evolution of the feminine principle has balance within that takes the aggressive warrior and battle to the environment and all things that give us life here on Earth.

That she upholds her spiritual development and chooses to help men move into their heart realm to create balance within the duality.  By doing so women gain the opportunity to acknowledge their understanding of lessons from the past, stepping into this new vibration with a fully conscious mind.

The duality has had the human species experiencing both sides of the pendulum as it swings full range throughout time and history.  Women have ruled as well as men and we are moving now into a frequency that allows us to be in balance.  Women hold the keys to the future for it is the feminine principle that will lead us to a higher vibration, a deeper understanding of the delicate balance in nature and the preservation of all life here on Earth.

COLUMNS The Bike Madame

Don’t Let the Bright Sky Fool You!


There comes a time in spring when dazzling dry days lure unsuspecting cyclists into ditching the rain gear. Inevitably you get a mile down the road and that innocuous puffy cloud has developed a menacing gray underbelly. A patch of blue sky remains enticingly ahead of you while the cloud bestows its blessings. That’s when you regret your impulse to forego clammy rain pants in favor of what are now waterlogged jeans.

Our coastal weather is rapidly changeable; what starts out as a clear day may transform to a full-blown storm by afternoon. The sight of Tillamook Head collecting clouds, which I glimpse from my office window, warns me to suit up for sideways rain.

As the weather warms, rain gear can become intolerably warm and you end up getting wet from inside the clothing rather than from nature’s gifts on the outside. This mini greenhouse effect can convince you to leave the waterproof stuff behind. I’d advise you to carry rain gear in your basket or bag just so you can slip it on in case the sky opens and sends you for an unexpected swim.

Water-resistant garments each fall somewhere along an imperviousness-breathability scale: maximally breathable garments are the least protective against the R Word and the most armorlike garments can become your own personal sauna. I like testing water-resistant gear on a warm but damp day, when I’m most likely to perspire beneath them and I’m not going to get critically chilly if they’re more breathable than warm. Features like pit zips (zippers that go from the chest to the forearm on jackets, allowing for ventilation in a spot that’s hard for water to reach) can assist you in striking the balance between waterproof and breathable.

Some vapor barriers require periodic re-application. Observe whether water beads on the surface and rolls off or gets absorbed into the garment (that’s time to use a spray-on or wash-in product to restore the vapor barrier). Others are part of the material and wear out over time. Some garments have taped seams. The tape wears out after a while and needs to be replaced. If you see it fraying and separating from the material, then your seams could experience a hull breach from rain, if not Romulans.

Well-made rain gear can be expensive, but I wouldn’t skimp by purchasing those heavy rubber pants or a jacket that’s basically a glorified garbage bag with holes for your head and arms. Cheap rain gear is less durable, its waterproofing degrades quickly or is insufficient, and it’s rarely breathable, leaving you just as damp as you’d be if you didn’t have any weather protection at all. You also have to hear it flap as you ride along.

Besides the obligatory jacket and rain pants, you can also accessorize with booties that zip over your shoes, gloves, and helmet liners. I haven’t yet mustered the courage to spend $50 on those rain booties, but a daily dose of foot-prunes is getting old.

The ultimate in rain protection comes with full fairings: a custom process where the bike is enclosed all around, like a small pedal-powered car. You’ll see this most often in specialized races of human-powered vehicles. It’s out of my price range, but sometimes I dream of stepping, dry and crisp, out of my bike/space capsule, wowing all those poor dripping folks who share the river-like road with me.

COLUMNS Free Will Astology


ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Let’s waltz the rumba,” said jazz musician Fats Waller, suggesting the seemingly impossible mix of two very different types of dancing. That’s an excellent clue for you to follow up on, Aries. I suspect that in the coming weeks you will have an unusual aptitude for hybridization. You could do folk dancing and hip-hop moves simultaneously. It will make sense for you to do the cha-cha as you disco and vice versa. You’ll have a knack for bringing the spirit of belly dance into the tango, and for breakdancing while you do the hokey-pokey.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Have you been feeling a warm fuzzy feeling in your money chakra? I hope so. The cosmos recently authorized you to receive a fresh flow of what we might call financial kundalini. Your insight into money matters should be increasing, as well as your ability to attract the information and influences you need to refine your relationship with prosperity. It may even be the case that higher levels of economic luck are operating in your vicinity. I’m not saying you will strike it rich, but you could definitely strike it richer.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Your core meditation is Oscar Wilde’s belief that disobedience is a primal virtue. Be ingeniously, pragmatically, and cheerfully disobedient, Gemini! Harness your disobedience so that it generates outbreaks of creative transformation that improve your life. For inspiration, read this passage by Robert Anton Wilson: “Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and progress, everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of someone’s refusal to bow to Authority. We would be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent.”

CANCER (June 21-July 22): “Some people tell me I’d invented the sounds they called soul,” said musician Ray Charles, “but I can’t take any credit. Soul is just the way black folk sing when they leave themselves alone.” I urge you to experiment with this idea, Cancerian. In my astrological opinion, you need to whip up a fresh, hot delivery of raw soul. One of the best ways to do that might be to leave yourself alone. In other words, don’t badger yourself. Don’t pick your scabs and second-guess your enthusiasms and argue yourself into a knot. Create a nice big space for your original self to play in.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “Where’s the most convenient place to discover a new species?” asks The Second Book of General Ignorance. What do you think the answer is, Leo? The Amazon Rainforest? The high mountainous forests of New Guinea? Northwest Siberia? None of the above. In fact, your best chance of finding a previously unidentified life form is in your own garden. There are hundreds of thousands of species that science still has no knowledge of, and quite a few of them are near you. A similar principle currently holds true for your life in general. It will be close to home that you are most likely to connect with fascinating exotica, unknown influences, and far-out adventures.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Now and then my readers try to bribe me. “I’ll give you $1,000,” said a recent email from a Virgo woman, “if you will write a sequence of horoscopes that predict I’ll get the dream job I’m aiming for, which will in turn make me so attractive to the guy I’m pursuing that he will beg to worship me.” My first impulse was to reply, “That’s all you’re willing to pay for a prophecy of two events that will supercharge your happiness and change your life?” But in the end, as always, I flatly turned her down. The truth is, I report on the music of the heavenly spheres, but I don’t write the music myself. Still, I sort of admire this woman’s feisty resolve to manipulate the fates, and I urge you to borrow some of her ferocity in the coming weeks.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes in front of the sun and blocks much of its light from reaching our eyes. On a personal level, the metaphorical equivalent is when something obstructs our ability to see what nourishes us. For example, let’s say you’re in the habit of enviously comparing your own situation to that of a person you imagine is better off than you. This may blind you to some of your actual blessings, and diminish your ability to take full advantage of your own talents. I bring this up, Libra, because you’re in an especially favorable time to detect any way you might be under the spell of an eclipse — and then take dramatic steps to get out from under it.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Some secrets will dribble out. Other secrets will spill forth. Still others may shoot out and explode like fireworks. You won’t be bored by the upcoming revelations, Scorpio. People’s camouflage may be exposed, hidden agendas could be revealed, and not-quite-innocent deceits might be uncovered. So that’s the weird news. Here’s the good news: If you maintain a high level of integrity and treat the brouhaha as good entertainment, you’re likely to capitalize on the uproar. And that’s your specialty, right?

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): If you go to a psychotherapist, she may coax you to tell stories about what went wrong in your childhood. Seek a chiropractor’s opinion and he might inform you that most of your problems have to do with your spine. Consult a psychic and chances are she will tell you that you messed up in your past lives and need a karmic cleansing. And if you ask me about what you most need to know, I might slip you some advice about how to access your untapped reserves of beauty and intelligence. Here’s the moral of the story, Sagittarius: Be discerning as you ask for feedback and mirroring. The information you receive will always be skewed.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The state of Kansas has a law that seems more confusing than helpful. It says the following: “When two trains approach each other at a crossing, both shall come to a full stop and neither shall start up again until the other has gone.” From what I can tell, Capricorn, a similar situation has cropped up in your life. Two parties are in a stalemate, each waiting for the other to make the first move. At this rate, nothing will ever happen. May I suggest that you take the initiative?

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Should you get down on your knees and beg for love and recognition? No! Should you give yourself away without seeking much in return? Don’t do that, either. Should you try to please everyone in an attempt to be popular? Definitely not. Should you dilute your truth so as not to cause a ruckus? I hope not. So then what am I suggesting you should do? Ask the following question about every possibility that comes before you: “Will this help me to master myself, deepen my commitment to what I want most, and gain more freedom?”

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Do you know why flamingos have their distinctive orange-pink color? It’s because of the carotene in the shrimp and other food they consume. If they change their diet, their feathers turn dull grey. That’s a dramatic example of the adage, “You are what you eat.” Let’s use it as a prompt to contemplate all the stuff you take into the holy temple of your body, Pisces. Not just the sandwiches and chocolate bars and alcohol, but also the images, sounds, ideas, emotions, and energy you get from other people. Is the cumulative effect of all those things giving you the shape and color and texture you want to have? If not, this would be a good time to adjust your intake.

Homework: I invite you to go to my Facebook page and tell me what you like or don’t like about my horoscopes:


An Inconvenient Species

Urosalpinx cinerea shells collected on San Francisco Bay shores, showing different amounts of wear and bleaching. Photo by Andrew N. Cohen.

If you’re a shellfish grower in Willapa Bay, the Willapa Bay Oyster Reserve Advisory Board needs you! According to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) press release from late May, the advisory board was “established by the state legislature in 2001, and advises the department on issues related to oyster reserve management, growing operations, and research in Willapa Bay.” Be sure to get your applications in by June 15. For more info, call Bruce Kauffman of WDFW at (360) 665-4166.

So what would you be doing on this prodigious board, you might ask. Well, recently the board decided to hire Dr. Steve Sylvester from Washington State University in Vancouver to find a way to eradicate oyster drills – snails that drill their way into the shells of oysters and other shellfish and eat them. Two kinds of oyster drill exist in Willapa Bay: the Atlantic (Urosalpinx cinerea) and Japanese (Ocinebrellus inornatus). Both species were inadvertently introduced along with imported oysters, brought into the state to replace the over-harvested native Olympia oyster. And both are examples of aquatic nuisance species.

According to the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force website, ANS are “non-indigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species, the ecological stability of infested waters, or any commercial, agricultural, aquacultural or recreational activities dependent on such waters. ANS include non-indigenous species that may occur within inland, estuarine or marine waters and that presently or potentially threaten ecological processes and natural resources. In addition to the severe and permanent damage to the habitats they invade, ANS also adversely affect individuals by hindering economic development, preventing recreational and commercial activities, decreasing the aesthetic value of nature, and serving as vectors of human disease.”

Our little snails meet the ANS definition, since they weren’t around here a couple hundred years ago, and they threaten the local oyster aquaculture industry. Sylvester claims that the oyster drill snails are “costing oystermen millions of dollars in Washington State.”

The ANS Task Force is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species, and implementing the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990. NANPCA was set up mainly to combat the spread of the zebra mussel in the Great Lakes region, but also mentions several other ANS in its Congressional findings section that “are likely to spread quickly to most other waters in North America if action is not taken promptly to control their spread”, including mitten crab, green crab, brown mussel, Eurasian watermilfoil, hydrilla, water hyacinth, and water chestnut.

Green no more. Satellite photo courtesy of Google Maps.

NANPCA was amended in 2000, after passage of the National Invasive Species Act (NISA) in 1996. It mandates the preparation of state ANS management plans, and both Oregon and Washington have them. They mainly deal with education campaigns to prevent boaters and shipping operators from bringing ANS to our coastal and inland waters. But along with NISA, NANPCA has brought resources into the Pacific Northwest to continue our battle with other species of life that are very inconvenient to local industry, agriculture, aquaculture and many of the rest of us real working people who depend on the environment to live.

Now, if you want to see the ravages of a real invasion, check out the land behind Les Schwab adjacent to Highway 101 in Warrenton. Employing giant tree-eating machines, the premier invasive species on Earth has managed to wipe out a native ecosystem in a matter of days. From the ashes of an ancient coastal woodland wetland comes…

…a dry, flattened, graveled property, “ready for sale”. And we’re worried about a tiny snail? Don’t forget to get those applications in!

COLUMNS Stephen Berk

Libertarianism, the Dictatorship of Wealth

Today’s libertarian movement, markedly characterized by Tea Party Republicans, stems from an anti-government revolt that exalts private property over any concept of the public good, as pursued by the people’s representatives in government. It is hostile to any government regulation of the use of private property in the public interest, as, for example, in protecting the environment which we all share. English common law, which American colonizers brought with them, posits a commonwealth or public sphere of interest that must be maintained, protected and enhanced by government. Having arisen from traditional ideals of the good of the whole, this is the truly conservative concept. In that important sense, modern libertarians are not conservatives at all, but free market anarchists. All the original colonial governments in British North America held to a concept of the common or public good and legislated to protect it. In Massachusetts, for example, this meant laws regulating the market by protecting the public from profiteering, or gouging customers on a necessary commodity.

But in contemporary radical libertarian parlance, private property, however it is held, and not the public good, is sacrosanct, and any governmental regulation of the use of property to preserve the public well being, is anathematized. For libertarians, government does not consist of duly elected people’s representatives making laws, through negotiation and compromise, to “promote”, as the Constitution puts it, “the general welfare.” For them, it exists to protect private property, which translates into giving it total license, as in the deregulation of banking, which led to unbridled speculation, crash and ensuing depression.

Earlier participants in modern libertarian pseudo-conservatism backed Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for president in 1964. Unlike the mainstream moderates who dominated the Republican Party during the Eisenhower era, Goldwater boldly repudiated New Deal measures to ensure the common good by protection from poverty, as in the Social Security Act. He went on to oppose legislation coming out of the African American Civil Rights Movement, such as the 1964 Civil Rights, or Public Accommodations Act. This law prevented establishments that serve the public, such as hotels and restaurants, from practicing racial discrimination. Goldwater’s fellow Arizonan, “conservative” activist William Rehnquist, who would later gain tremendous power as chief justice of the Supreme Court, campaigned against passage of that act. His and Goldwater’s opposition to such civil rights legislation was based on their belief that property owners have an absolute right to do whatever they want with their property. And if that means excluding blacks or anyone else, for that matter, from one’s place of business, so be it.

In libertarianism, the bedrock rights are individual property rights, and a property owner has the right to dispose of property in any way he or she deems fit, or profitable. No social obligation exists. This was the sentiment that underlay the Jim Crow system that marginalized African Americans and other groups, while in effect making propertied white males America’s overlords. The unfinished succession of rights movements, based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability have sought and gained new federal protections bringing groups historically facing discrimination into the mainstream. These movements have strong parallels with the modern labor movement, wherein impoverished workers gained the right to collectively bargain with their employers for living wages and benefits. They first gained these rights in the National Labor Relations Act, passed during the New Deal.

The equal opportunity New Deal liberalism came to stand for in the thirties was soon challenged by the Liberty League funded by the DuPont’s, America’s wealthiest family. Their espousal of property rights over human rights led to the corporate funded libertarianism of today. Don’t kid yourself. Libertarianism has nothing to do with the traditional American promise of equal opportunity and everything to do with dictatorship of wealth. That is what the Citizens United case means in giving money control of our elections. Americans are awakening to the fact that libertarian “free market” anarchy gives domination to the one per cent and subjugation to the ninety-nine. That is what the Occupy movement is about.


A Curse of Furze

Question: What’s just like Scotch broom but thorny, and is public enemy #1 of conservationists on the Oregon Coast?

Answer: Common gorse, whin, Irish furze, Irish hedge or Ulex europaeus.

Gorse is on the New invaders in the North Coast Cooperative Weed Management Area list which means it’s coming here, and is trying to establish itself along the coast in southern Washington as well. It’s widespread in the southern Oregon coastal counties, up to Lincoln County. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) designates gorse as a class B (“a weed of economic importance which is regionally abundant, but which may have limited distribution in some counties”) and T (“a priority noxious weed designated by the Oregon State Weed Board as a target for which the ODA will develop and implement a statewide management plan”) noxious weed. Part of the statewide plan for gorse involves the development of biocontrol agents similar to those for Scotch broom (see the June 2011 Weed Wars column).

Oregon State Parks runs a blog called Oregon Coast Gorse Control and Eradication (, where the current top post is a video showing a hummingbird nest in gorse! The blog also contains a post about a recent workshop on gorse, which included a field visit to two gorse restoration sites: Bandon Dunes McKee Preserve (a golf course by the beach!) and Bullards Beach State Park. Mark Tilton, a Florence resident who attended the workshop, said that the Bandon Dunes course used to be a gorse thicket. He was surprised that the course builders were able to remove the gorse successfully. Evidently, they used herbicides, burning, bulldozing, and lots of money to accomplish the task.

So what’s so bad about this plant that the state is devoting huge resources to try to control it? I asked that question to Phillip Johnson, executive director of Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and director of their CoastWatch program.

His respone: “I can say with everyone else who has ever encountered it that it completely excludes you from anyplace it grows. It is deeply saddening to see it choking stream valleys on the south coast, blocking hillsides, turning trails into ugly mown strips lest they be lost entirely. I have particularly hated to see how the trail out to Blacklock Point in Curry County, one of the most beautiful spots on the Oregon coast, has turned from a sylvan path through a native forest to a tunnel through gorse. CoastWatch plans to develop a gorse-tracking project to trace its spread and perhaps provide alerts that enable the line to be held before it spreads into new areas.”

He continued, “Once it gets established, trying to remove it is an industrial activity. Removing it requires a scorched-earth approach, bulldozing, burning, then covering the area for a long time to kill off sprouts.” Johnson indicated that herbicides were not particularly effective against gorse, but they are used.

And then he got to the crux of the matter. “From an anthropocentric standpoint, it excludes us from the landscape where it grows, once it really takes hold. It is viciously spiny – worse to try to push your way through than blackberries or roses. And it grows very densely. Once it occupies a place, we lose our ability to roam the landscape. And, oh yes, it is highly flammable. The city of Bandon was burned more or less to the ground in the ‘30s due to gorse-fueled fire. One of these days it is going to go up in flames again.”

So, where is gorse from, and how did it get here? Well, the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon History Project ( has the answer. Its page on the 1936 Bandon fire tells us that George Bennett, founder of Bandon, brought some Irish furze with him as an ornamental shrub, which soon became a common sight in the new town. On September 26, 1936, a forest fire was driven by a sudden shift in the wind towards Bandon. Ignited by the fire, the town’s abundant gorse exploded into an inferno. The town was destroyed, and ten people lost their lives.

There are some references to people trying to use gorse oil to make biodiesel fuel, but it hasn’t been very successful. The major uses of the plant seem to be as living fencing and livestock fodder. Unfortunately, there is no write-up in Scott’s Invasive Plant Medicine on gorse. It’s evidently used as an anti-depressive and anti-stress medicine for humans and horses in various essential oil lotions.

I’ll leave you with this thought: What’s so bad about a plant that excludes humans from the area it grows in? I can think of some places that gorse would be very useful…

Bodies In Balance COLUMNS

Lyme: US #1 Vector Borne Disease

lymeAs summer approaches and we begin to make plans to tromp around in the woods I thought it a good time to put Lyme’s Disease on your radar. AND as I have just attended an informative conference on this topic I wanted to give credit where credit’s due. I have utilized information presented by Dr Stacey Rafferty and Dr Daniel Neuman who have proven they are by far more the experts than I. So read on and be educated about a growing health concern here and throughout the country.

Why should we be thinking about Lyme’s Disease? Well it is THE number one vector borne disease in the US affecting a reported half million people across the country. It is estimated that for every one person reported, however, there are another 6-12 who are not…noteworthy indeed! Although many of you are thinking “that is a disease of the North East” I am here to dispel that myth and inform you that in fact Lyme’s Disease has been reported in all 49 continental states. There is no true endemic area of Lyme carrying ticks.

How does one acquire Lyme’s disease? The tick, specifically the Ixodes genus. These ticks carry a spirochete in their saliva and once bitten that spirochete (Borrelia sp.) is transmitted into your blood. These are interesting bacteria in that they are a corkscrew shape with a flagella (little tail). These features allow them to easily leave the bloodstream and bore into a variety of tissues throughout the body. BUT not only do we get Borrelia; along with the spirochetes come other co-infections with other organisms (Babesia, Bartonella and Ehrlichia) which infect our red blood cells. This variety of potential infectious organisms can make treatment particularly tricky! Interestingly the other spirochetsial disease you may be familiar with is Syphilis, which has a similar disease pattern and a variety of overlapping symptoms with Lyme.

Why now, are there more cases of Lyme? One is a warming climate which has contributed to increasing habitat for the hosts. There is indeed a reported increase in host populations; and the hosts are deer, Western Grey Squirrels, N. Pacific sea birds and Canadian song birds like robins and sparrows. This is coupled with a speculated inferior ability to adequately fight this infection by us the victims. As we eat less nutritious foods are exposed to more toxic pollution and have seemingly more stressful lives we weaken. As the Lyme infection festers it can potentially create further susceptibility to other infectious agents like fungi, yeasts, viruses and bacteria…a complicated picture to sort through. In fact Lyme experts see this disease potentially re-titled as Multiple Chronic Infectious Disease Syndrome due to this long-term immune deficiency to multiple organisms.

So what kind of symptoms should we be watching for? Obviously a tick bite; common symptoms following a bite are a rash at the bite site, fever, fatigue, headaches; generally flu-like. As the disease becomes more chronic there are more and more potential symptoms, up to 40!! But most common are persistent fatigue, roaming musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbances, cognitive dysfunction and any combination of neurological symptoms. This disease has some seasonal cycling being worse in winter and better summer. Also noteworthy that many Lyme sufferers are diagnosed (or mis-diagnosed) with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Lyme Disease, as true with many complex conditions, may take months or years to diagnose. Yes, there are tests for Lyme, namely the Western Blot. But there seems to be 2 camps of diagnostic criteria so depending on your doctor’s training and/or lab standards these test may be falsely negative. Treatment is complex, beyond the scope of this article, but can involve a variety of therapies from herbs, homeopathy and nutritional supplementation to numerous anti-biotics and pharmaceuticals. The more complicated and long-standing the infection the longer and more intensive the therapeutic options. But the aforementioned docs seem to have had many successes regardless of these complexities.

So let’s go back to something we can all do which is prevention. The nymph stage of tick growth is when ticks are most infectious, ironically when they are also most tricky to detect as they are quite small. But this stage occurs in the months of June/July…a time to be most vigilant of tick bites and infectious symptoms like rashes and flu-like illness following that great camping trip!?! Ticks are most prevalent in wooded areas, tall grasses and shrubby environments. Locally the areas of greatest concern are the Columbia Gorge, Mt Hood, and Southern Oregon. If you are going to be in these areas in June/July consider adding an insect repellent to your supplies! After your outdoor experience check yourself, your kids and your pets for ticks. IF you find a tick remove it with some tweezer type instrument grabbing it as close to the head as possible and pulling directly out. And if, heaven forbid, the head remains in the skin use your best techniques to remove that as well. Finally be brave and ignore your instinct to get it as far away from you as possible, but instead KEEP YOUR TICK! You can put in a dry plastic bag in the freezer for any length of time. Then they can be easily tested for Borrelia and we practitioners can implement treatment if necessary.

I was pleased to learn more about this clearly serious disease and am now excited to be able to do my part to educate my faithful readers and potentially prevent Lyme’s disease in my community. So pass along to the campers, hikers, mountain bikers, fly-fisherman and general outdoor lovers in your life, and of course enjoy the approach of SUMMER!


DO something you love, BE with someone you love, EAT your vegetables, DRINK clean water, BREATHE deeply and MOVE your body everyday!!

COLUMNS Stephen Berk

Whose Entitlements?

In the midst of the senseless rhetoric that constitutes a presidential campaign season these days, one of the right’s favorite whipping boys is what it likes to call “entitlements.” One favorite object of attack is Social Security, enacted during the New Deal to keep dependence and poverty from being the common plight of the elderly. Social Security later added SSI, or insurance against permanent partial or total disability, commonly work related. And unemployment insurance has given one or more years of minimal support to workers cast off in times of economic slump like the present. Another favorite “entitlement” target of politicians on the right, like House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, is Medicare, the government health insurance program enacted in 1965 to give low cost care, including often free hospitalization and surgery to persons over sixty-five. Both Social Security and Medicare never have been programs wherein government largesse is showered on undeserving freeloaders. They are federally run insurance programs that the vast majority of working Americans pay substantial portions of their paychecks into during the scope of their entire working lives. Hence, they are not “entitlements” in the pejorative sense the right likes to use in speaking of programs that benefit ordinary or at-risk Americans. Real entitlements, the true budget busters, are given to corporations, many of which now locate chiefly offshore.

We might start with fossil fuels industries, led by big oil, which is given billions of dollars per year in subsidies. Subsidies for startup industries are not a bad idea. The US gave them to railroads when they established the first nationwide transportation and freight networks. And they began giving them to oil in the early days of exploration, as a new source of energy was being developed. But we are far beyond those days today. Railroads, now in bad disrepair, could actually use public subsidy again, to relieve congestion and pollution and offer economically stressed Americans a thrifty alternative to the automobile. Instead we subsidize the oil driven industries that have made freeway gridlock and suburban sprawl a common fact of life. This condition contributes to climate change, wetlands depletion and species extinction. But the political class, bought by fossil fuels industries, is only too happy to sweep these issues under the rug. Thus tax dollars fund oil company propaganda that alternately denies global warming’s existence, minimizes its effects, or claims it is not human caused. Let big oil pay for its own disinformation, since it’s now richer than most countries, and not in need of subsidy.

War, or “defense,” is the source of our most subsidized industries. The US now spends close to half its federal budget on defense. China, to whom we are deep in public debt, spends six per cent. When the second president Bush began the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz predicted they would run well over three trillions, and thus they have. Much of this blood money has gone to enrich weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, or war service providers such as Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root. Our wars have also greatly enriched people like Erik Prince, CEO of the private army formerly known as Blackwater. Enriching private parties through war contracts would likely have constituted illegal war profiteering in the World Wars, but not in these days of permanent resource wars, waged to ensure Western oil companies’ access to whatever petroleum remains in places like the Middle East and Central Asia.

We could go on and on enumerating the billions in taxpayer dollars given to corporations. For example, Wal Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, regularly receives public subsidies to alter vast acreage and gain the rights of way necessary to build their merchandizing behemoths notorious for low wages, poor benefits and destruction of local businesses. But as five Supreme Court plutocrats have now guaranteed, only the Big Money deserves public largesse. Real flesh and blood citizens, especially the increasing numbers of poor, do not. Whatever meager help they get is disparaged as “entitlements” and slated by the likes of Paul Ryan and his enabler, would-be -President Mitt Romney, for deep budget cuts.

COLUMNS Free Will Astology

Free Will Astrology — May 2012

ARIES (March 21-April 19): On the one hand, you’re facing a sticky dilemma that you may never be able to change no matter how hard you try. On the other hand, you are engaged with an interesting challenge that may very well be possible to resolve. Do you know which is which? Now would be an excellent time to make sure you do. It would be foolish to keep working on untying a hopelessly twisted knot when there is another puzzle that will respond to your love and intelligence. Go where you’re wanted.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): From an astrological perspective, it’s the New Year season; you’re beginning a fresh cycle. How would you like to celebrate? You could make a few resolutions — maybe pledge to wean yourself from a wasteful habit or self-sabotaging vice. You could also invite the universe to show you what you don’t even realize you need to know. What might also be interesting would be to compose a list of the good habits you will promise to cultivate, and the ingenious breakthroughs you will work toward, and the shiny yet gritty dreams you will court and woo.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “My father-in-law was convinced that his sheepdogs picked up his thoughts telepathically,” writes Richard Webster in his article “Psychic Animals. “He needed only to think what he wanted his dogs to do, and they would immediately do it. He had to be careful not to think too far ahead, as his dogs would act on the thought he was thinking at the time.” To this I’d add that there is a wealth of other anecdotal evidence, as well as some scientific research, suggesting that dogs respond to unspoken commands. I happen to believe that the human animal is also capable of picking up thoughts that aren’t said aloud. And I suspect that you’re in a phase when it will be especially important to take that into account. Be discerning about what you imagine, because it could end up in the mind of someone you know!

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your right brain and left brain have rarely been on such close speaking terms as they are right now. Your genitals and your heart seem to be in a good collaborative groove as well. Even your past and your future are mostly in agreement about how you should proceed in the present. To what do we owe the pleasure of this rather dramatic movement toward integration? Here’s one theory: You’re being rewarded for the hard work you have done to take good care of yourself.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): A South African biologist was intrigued to discover an interesting fact about the rodent known as the elephant shrew: It much prefers to slurp the nectar of pagoda lilies than to nibble on peanut butter mixed with apples and rolled oats. The biologist didn’t investigate whether mountain goats would rather eat grasses and rushes than ice cream sundaes or whether lions like fresh-killed antelopes better than Caesar salad, but I’m pretty sure they do. In a related subject, Leo, I hope that in the coming weeks you will seek to feed yourself exclusively with the images, sounds, stories, and food that truly satisfy your primal hunger rather than the stuff that other people like or think you should like.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): There are only a very few people whose ancestors were not immigrants. They live in Africa, where homo sapiens got its start. As for the rest of us, our forbears wandered away from their original home and spread out over the rest of the planet. We all came from somewhere else! This is true on many other levels, as well. In accordance with the astrological omens, I invite you Virgos to get in touch with your inner immigrant this month. It’s an excellent time to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that you are nowhere near where you started from, whether you gauge that psychologically, spiritually, or literally.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): “When I’m good, I’m very good,” said Hollywood’s original siren, Mae West, “but when I’m bad I’m better.” I think that assertion might at times make sense coming out of your lips in the next few weeks. But I’d like to offer a variation that could also serve you well. It’s articulated by my reader Sarah Edelman, who says, “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m batty, I’m better.” Consider trying out both of these attitudes, Libra, as you navigate your way through the mysterious and sometimes unruly fun that’s headed your way.

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): The Weekly World News, my favorite source of fake news, reported on a major development in the art world: An archaeologist found the lost arms of the famous Venus de Milo statue. They were languishing in a cellar in Southern Croatia. Hallelujah! Since her discovery in 1820, the goddess of love and beauty has been incomplete. Will the Louvre Museum in Paris, where she is displayed, allow her to be joined by her original appendages and made whole again? Let’s not concern ourselves now with that question. Instead, please turn your attention to a more immediate concern: the strong possibility that you will soon experience a comparable development, the rediscovery of and reunification with a missing part of you.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Seventeenth-century physicians sometimes advised their patients to consume tobacco as a way to alleviate a number of different maladies, from toothaches to arthritis. A few doctors continued recommending cigarettes as health aids into the 1950s. This bit of history may be useful to keep in mind, Sagittarius. You’re in a phase when you’re likely to have success in hunting down remedies for complaints of both a physical and psychological nature. But you should be cautious about relying on conventional wisdom, just in case some of it resembles the idea that cigarettes are good for you. And always double check to make sure that the cures aren’t worse than what they are supposed to fix.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Outer space isn’t really that far away. As astronomer Fred Hoyle used to say, you’d get there in an hour if you could drive a car straight up. I think there’s a comparable situation in your own life, Capricorn. You’ve got an inflated notion of how distant a certain goal is, and that’s inhibiting you from getting totally serious about achieving it. I’m not saying that the destination would be a breeze to get to. My point is that it’s closer than it seems.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): When most Westerners hear the word “milk,” they surmise it has something to do with cows. But the fact is that humans drink milk collected from sheep, goats, camels, yaks, mares, llamas, and reindeer. And many grocery stores now stock milk made from soybeans, rice, almonds, coconut, hemp, and oats. I’m wondering if maybe it’s a good time for you to initiate a comparable diversification, Aquarius. You shouldn’t necessarily give up the primal sources of nourishment you have been depending on. Just consider the possibility that it might be fun and healthy for you to seek sustenance from some unconventional or unexpected sources.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): You wouldn’t want to play a game of darts with an inflatable dartboard, right? If you were a smoker, you’d have little interest in a fireproof cigarette. And while a mesh umbrella might look stylish, you wouldn’t be foolish enough to expect it to keep the rain out. In the spirit of these truisms, Pisces, I suggest you closely examine any strategy you’re considering to see if it has a built-in contradiction. Certain ideas being presented to you — perhaps even arising from your own subconscious mind — may be inherently impractical to use in the real world.

Homework: Do you allow your imagination to indulge in fantasies that are wasteful, damaging, or dumb? I dare you to stop it. Testify at

COLUMNS The Bike Madame

Riding Etiquette with Guillaume de Tour Landry

WHEN I was a teenager, I rolled my eyes at my elders’ paeans to the well-mannered youths of yesteryear, who never draped toilet paper in trees or used their underarms to produce bathroom noises. Now that I can legitimately begin a sentence with “Young people today…”, I still roll my eyes when I hear us ill-mannered children of the ‘70s described as paragons of etiquette. However, I have grown to appreciate good manners, especially on the road.

One night, after accidentally consuming caffeinated black tea instead of my usual herbal tea, and under the influence of a glitter ball and a bad SF novel, I discovered I’d summoned the spirit of Guillaume, Le Chevalier de Tour Landry. The medieval French knight wrote an etiquette book for his daughters, so I took advantage of his spectral presence in front of my cat-hair-covered papasan chair to ask him to share his advice on cycling etiquette. After I showed him what a bicycle was, he rose to the challenge. After that, he rose into the ether, never to be seen again, except in a mysterious pattern of tea leaves at the bottom of my ill-fated cup.

For your pleasure and edification, I have translated his remarks from medieval French.

“How wondrous are the ways of Fortune! Verily, I was tilting my lance at a target when I was unhorsed and struck my head—I had recklessly doffed my helm, which one should not do—and now I am transported in a vision to the future, where people travel about on metal-framed wheeled monstrosities! Yet even as the ways of the future are passing strange and wondrous, still we remain human and the duties of courteous life are incumbent upon us.

“In my rightful time and place, carts, horses, and pedestrians often collideth upon the roads because we travel in whichever direction we so desire. To stayeth safe upon the roads, prithee travel in the same direction as the horseless carriages do go and followeth diligently the same regulations, such as coming to a halt when the magic red light doth manifest. This renders your movements predictable to pedestrians and those who pilot the horseless carriages. It may seemeth expedient to weave between parked carriages, the syde-walk, and the road, but beware lest the 18-wheeled conveyance shalt flatten you.

“While we speaketh of that, many a high-spirited rider leapeth the curb and zippeth along the syde-walk where pedestrians do take refuge from the slings and arrows of the street. Rememberest that thou hast a vehicle and belongeth in the street. If you needs must go upon the syde-walk, I pray, dismount from your metal horse and walketh it beside the foot traffic. The exception is young children, who wobbleth too much to travel safely in the lane.

“When encountering others upon the road, whether afoot, in a carriage, or on cycles, it is well to alert them to thy presence with a bell and with devices that revealeth you to the eye, such as yonder magical lamps and bright, reflective clothing. You do not wish to surprise others.

“Betimes you come upon another cyclist who rideth slower than you do. Pray alert the other to your presence in a genteel manner and passeth safely upon the left. Some goeth around in a startling, loud manner or ridest amongst pedestrians to get around the leisurely obstacle.”

My knightly visitor then started to discourse upon the uncouthness of wearing skin-tight Lycra garments, so I was compelled to bring our interview to a close.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Becoming… Myself

THE OLDER I get, the more I seem to be “more” of my younger self. I’m not always convinced that’s such a good thing.

In my twenties, I was alone, financially stressed and pretty much in survival mode. Guess what? I’m currently alone, stressed and somewhat in survival mode.

I tend to shut down a little when stressed, which translates into watching a lot of bad T.V. All the wonderful advice I hand out to clients such as exercise, calling a friend, writing down a few easily achieved goals, fall by the wayside. Yes, sad to say, I sometimes do not follow my own advice.

Spring is here though and while I may be a dormant couch potato, I’m not dead. I respond to sunshine, flowering fruit trees and a gentle breeze. I recently bought herb seeds:. Basil and thyme and oregano get started in plastic greenhouse and are then transplanted to the outdoors or given to friends. Even though my heart wasn’t into it when I picked out my seed packets, I did it out of tradition. I  know that in a few weeks I’ll get lots of satisfaction when those little green plants burst through the potting soil. My heart also wasn’t into clearing out the knickknacks from the corner curio shelf. The process elicited many painful memories. The figurine my mother-in-law gave me on my first Mother’s Day. A framed picture that causes nothing but heartache. Cleaing them out had to be done, but it was painful.

Ever since I broke my ankle last September,  my thoughts and emotions took a shift. I thought then that I had hit a new low in loneliness, but instead I learned a different lesson. People, friends and neighbors were there for me. I resolved then that when I was back to walking, Things Would Change. I’d weed out those parts of my life – stuff, relationships, and emotions – that had evolved into deadweight.

In some sense, what I was doing – and still am doing- is planting seeds for a better future. Loss and change is always stressful, which is why so many of us stick with the status quo. My seeds – my simplifying, clarifying and acknowledging – will eventually let me be “me” at my best. Meanwhile, I’m moving a bit slowly through this process.and it feels uncomfortable.

How about you? Are you up for a personal spring cleaning? Can you shed those things that take up all sorts of physical and psychological space? Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to believe in yourself?

Something to think about…..

COLUMNS Sonja Grace: Predictions

The Evolution of Man

The evolution of man has been unfolding for centuries under patriarchal rule.  The effects this has had on our planet Earth in development of land, natural resources, economics, and power are perceived as both good and bad.  A study of the history of humanity here on Earth shows us clearly that there was a time in which the planet was ruled by a matriarchy.  For centuries people worshipped a matriarchal Goddess, and the Earth herself was honored.    As planet Earth cycles and changes, so does the energy that prevails amongst those who inhabit her surface.  This era came to an end in a way that informs what we see today with regard the imminent demise of patriarchal society.

It is important to understand the differences in a patriarchal versus matriarchal society. The main key to understanding this male energy is; it is a part of what I refer to as ‘the duality.’  This duality is not complicated: it represents both sides of our experience, good and bad; light and dark; hot and cold; happy and sad.  Simply put, male and female aspects exist within each person. Feminine principles of sensitivity, intuition and gathering information are in each of us.  Similarly, male principles, like solution oriented processes, and action process—the part of us that disseminates information out into the world to do something with it.   We, together with and as part of the entire Universe, live within a state of duality.  We are in constant motion, trying to find balance in everything we do internally and externally.

Men are currently going through a tremendous upheaval within themselves.  This is getting expressed in all aspects of life.  Some experience a discomfort within their jobs; others in marriage; all experience tremendous lifestyle changes. The one aspect that is most challenging for men today, comes from a remnant of their neuro-biology—that of fulfilling their role as the warrior.

The big shift we all feel today, associated with the planet as she moves through space amid solar storm and earthquake, is also being felt within the patriarchic world.  Men’s hearts tend to be activated like dormant volcanoes, suddenly awakened with steam and plumes of smoke.  Like molten lava spewing into the air, men feel most vulnerable and anxious with current energy.

Old behaviors, greed and power no longer satisfy rumbling in the heart.  Men are being called to step up to a greater state of balance. Women are the ones who hold the weave of the world together and are called at this time to help mankind.

We have been here before — within each man and woman is a cellular and spiritual memory of past lives.  Women connect to these memories as we shift; and men literally experience the shift.  Men are being pushed energetically to give up the power stance they held in the fourth world. They are asked to stand in balance with feminine energy to enter the fifth dimension. There is no one side that will lead. Rather we enter this new world with balance and a state of peace within our own inner duality.

COLUMNS Stephen Berk

The United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal, one of our few remaining public intellectuals, dubbed us the United States of Amnesia because it is as if we have lost our collective memory. Our leaders keep telling us, for example, that we fight our endless foreign wars, presently in oil related regions, to bring democracy to some benighted country, and we keep on believing them. The fact that we prop up some of the most antidemocratic regimes, e.g. Saudi Arabia, makes no difference. We are always for democracy, as we were when we fought Hitler.

The late communications theorist, Neil Postman, pointed out in his landmark Amusing Ourselves to Death, that generations raised since the advent of television in the late 1940s do not receive a coherent view of events or the world as a whole. Generations who grew up staring at the idiot box became used to an absurd juxtaposition of images in a world of: “Now this.” Television news, which became the template for most other formats, consists of unrelated events ripped out of context: a bombing here, a hurricane there, a coup somewhere else, and a celebrity wedding in Hollywood. As is not true in history, nothing, or at least nothing complex, actually causes anything else. Events are all decontextualized. For example, if residents of Gaza are lobbing rockets into Israel, it is simply because they are “terrorists.” The history of Gaza and the Palestinian people’s displacement since 1948 and conditions that make Gaza the world’s largest open air prison camp are thoroughly ignored. In television land, Gaza is simply run by Hamas, and Hamas equals terrorists. This is the kind of oversimplification that constitutes television’s world view.

In television land the picture typically changes every three seconds, “stories” last a minute or two, and a big story may last five to seven, while all the time unrelated juxtaposed stories are continuously interrupted by the overheated chatter of corporate advertizing. This format distorts the way we see the world by destroying all continuity. It makes a jumble of events, bombards us with a welter of images usually attached to “sound bites,” or short catch phrases or epithets. Most people “learn what is happening in the world” from television, that is to say they don’t learn at all. They receive propaganda, an image, a word, a phrase calculated to elicit an emotional response, not a painstaking analysis which would endeavor to dig beneath the surface and look into the causes of a given event. Think of the continuous bombardment of the public’s senses on September 11th and its aftermath with the images of planes hitting the Twin Towers and the sound bites about Osama Bin Laden and “Islamic worldwide terrorism.” They were designed to emblazon a simplistic association on a collective public mind and elicit an emotional response, and with most people, lacking any framework for careful analysis, that is exactly what they achieved.

This brings us to similar media propaganda calculated to confuse the public during a presidential election year. In television induced amnesia, we forget that just four years ago, in the previous presidential election year, gas prices suddenly shot up on their way to five dollars a gallon, just as they are doing now, and that was the last time they did so. But those of us who remember and look deeper see that the fossil fuels industry, which benefits from deregulation and non-competition with alternative clean energies, is trying to lay the blame for a new round of soaring fuel costs on a Democratic president, whose patrons do not smell quite as oily as do those of the Republicans. The narrative they want you to believe is that Obama’s sensitivity to environmental criticism of, for example, the XL Pipeline, is making us more dependent on an unstable Middle East. Never mind that large commodities traders can spark increased speculation in oil, which drives the price up at the pump. But John Q. Public thinks, “Damned Obama and his environmentalist Democrats. If they’d stop holding up the pipeline and let them drill, drill, drill, we’d be fine.” Television never tells him that fossil fuels cause Chicago to be eighty degrees in March and kill the oceans by loading them with carbonic acid.

COLUMNS Free Will Astology


ARIES (March 21-April 19): Please study this testimony: “Born in a rancid, bat-infested cave at the base of the smoldering Sangay Volcano, I was raised by the half-bear demon princess Arcastia. At the age of four my training as a ninja shaman began when I was left naked and alone next to a stream of burning lava with only two safety pins, a package of dental floss, and a plastic bag full of Cheerios. My mission: to find my way to my spiritual home.” Now, Aries, I’d like you to compose your own version of this declaration: a playful, over-the-top myth about your origins that gives you a greater appreciation for the heroic journey you’ve been on all these years.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Our ancestors owned slaves and denied education to girls. What were they thinking? Time magazine asked renowned historian David McCullough if there was anything we do today that our descendants will regard as equally insane and inexcusable. His reply: “How we could have spent so much time watching TV.” I’ll ask you, Taurus, to apply this same exercise on a personal level. Think of some things you did when you were younger that now seem incomprehensible or ignorant. Then explore the possibility that you will look back with incredulity at some weird habit or tweaked form of self-indulgence you’re pursuing today. (P.S. It’s an excellent time to phase out that habit or self-indulgence.)

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): “I can’t tell if I’m dealing well with life these days or if I just don’t give a sh– any more.” I stumbled upon that comment at, and I decided to pass it along for your consideration. You may be pondering the same riddle: feeling suspicious about why you seem more relaxed and tolerant than usual in the face of plain old everyday chaos. I’m here to tell you my opinion, which is that your recent equanimity is not rooted in jaded numbness. Rather, it’s the result of some hard work you did on yourself during the last six months. Congrats and enjoy!

ANCER (June 21-July 22): What excites you, Cancerian? What mobilizes your self-discipline and inspires you to see the big picture? I encourage you to identify those sources of high-octane fuel, and then take extraordinary measures to make them a strong presence in your life. There has rarely been a better time than now for you to do this. It could create effects that will last for years. (P.S. Here’s a further nudge from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Every great and commanding movement in the annals of the world is the triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it.”)

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): While browsing in a bookstore, I came across a book and deck of cards that were collectively called Tarot Secrets. The subtitle of the kit was “A Fast and Easy Way to Learn a Powerful Ancient Art.” I snorted derisively to read that claim, since I myself have studied Tarot intensively for years and am nowhere near mastery. Later, though, when I was back home meditating on your horoscope, I softened my attitude a bit. The astrological omens do indeed suggest that in the upcoming weeks and months, you just might be able to learn a rather substantial skill in a relatively short time.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Writing in The New Yorker, Joanna Ravenna paraphrased German philosopher Nietzsche: “The best way to enrage people is to force them to change their mind about you.” I’d like to see you mutate this theory in the coming weeks, Virgo. If possible, see if you can amuse and entertain people, not enrage them, by compelling them to change their minds about you. I realize that’s a tricky proposition, but given the current astrological omens, I have faith that you can pull it off.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): In 1892, when Wrigley was just starting out as a company, its main product was baking powder. Free chewing gum was included in each package as a promotional gimmick. But soon the freebie became so popular that Wrigley rearranged its entire business. Now it’s a multi-billion-dollar company that sells gum in 140 different countries — and no baking powder. Maybe there’s something like that on the verge of happening in your own life, Libra: What seemed like the main event could turn out to be secondary, or what seemed incidental might become a centerpiece. Is there something you are overvaluing at the cost of something you are undervaluing?

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): People in intimate relationships are hypersensitive to negative comments from their partners. Psychologists say it takes five compliments to outweigh the effects of a single dash of derogatory criticism. I’m sure the ratio is similar even for relationships that aren’t as close as lovers and spouses. With this in mind, I urge you to be extra careful not to dispense barbs. They would be especially damaging during this phase of your astrological cycle — both to you and to those at whom you direct them. Instead, Scorpio, why not dole out an abundance of compliments? They will build up a reservoir of goodwill you’ll be able to draw on for a long time.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Researchers report that the typical man falls in love 5.4 times over the course of his life, while the average woman basks in the glow of this great mystery on 4.6 occasions. I suspect you may be close to having a .4 or .6 type of experience, Sagittarius: sort of like infatuation, but without the crazed mania. That could actually be a good thing. The challenging spiritual project that relationship offers may be most viable when the two people involved are not electrifyingly interwoven with every last one of their karmic threads. Maybe we have more slack in our quest for intimacy if we love but are not obsessed.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): “I couldn’t wait for success,” said rich and famous comedian Jonathan Winters, “so I went ahead without it.” I love that approach, and I suggest you try it out. Is there any area of your life that is held captive by an image of perfection? Consider the possibility that shiny concepts of victory and progress might be distracting you from doing the work that will bring you meaning and fulfillment. If you’re too busy dreaming of someday attaining the ideal mate, weight, job, pleasure, and community, you may miss out on the imperfect but amazing opportunities that are available right now.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): On, Kaushalp88 asked the question, “What is the most badass thing that you have ever done, but that other people weren’t impressed by?” Here’s his own story: “I was at an ice-cream shop. At the exit, there was a small raised step I didn’t see. I tripped over it with my ice cream cone in my right hand. The ice cream ball sprung out of the cone. I instinctively lurched my left hand forward and grabbed it, but at the same time I was already falling toward the pavement. I tucked my head into my chest and made a perfect somersault, rising to my feet and plopping the ice cream back in the cone.” I suspect you will soon have comparable experiences, Aquarius — unusual triumphs and unexpected accomplishments. But you may have to be content with provoking awe in no one else beside yourself.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” So says a Swedish proverb. Can we talk about this, please, Pisces? Of course there are real hazards and difficulties in life, and they deserve your ingenious problem-solving. But why devote any of your precious energy to becoming embroiled in merely hyped-up hazards and hypothetical difficulties? Based on my analysis of the astrological omens, now is a propitious time to cut shadows down to their proper size. It’s also a perfect moment to liberate yourself from needless anxiety. I think you’ll be amazed at how much more accurate your perceptions will be as a result.

Homework: Do a homemade ritual in which you vow to attract more blessings into your life. Report results at