Category Archives: Education

This section of the Coupland Times is all about learning new things that are relevant to Coupland residents. Sub-categories will be added as needed.

Why Do We Love Stories So Much?

_storyteller_Anker_Grossvater_1884I have been interviewing people to learn more about Coupland’s history from a variety of perspectives. I love hearing the stories and I will be sharing them with you on a regular basis.

A few years ago, I wrote an academic paper on storytelling but it was done from the perspective of my personal experiences with storytelling. If you have ever wondered about why people like stories so much or  what role storytelling plays in human cultures, I think you will enjoy this paper.

Here is a short summary:

This paper describes a journey to uncover whether or not Indigenous Learning techniques can be applied to modern adult education venues. It begins with an exploration of the value and role of storytelling. It explains the psychological foundations of storytelling and the effects thereof. It continues with a description of a variety of stories both from the personal life of the researcher and from adult education literature. It examines a multi-tribal American Indian project at certain Tribal Colleges and Universities to reclaim the stories of a number of tribes and to apply the cultural values of those peoples to American Indian-sponsored higher education programs. The journey provides the backdrop and inspiration for future adult education programs targeting low-income families which will attempt to draw upon the power of storytelling and the educational methods of American Indians.

Click here to read the entire paper: The Roles of Storytelling in Adult Education

Stewart Dale Spencer

The Coupland Times Has a New Look!


Anything new takes time to get right. I have redesigned the appearance of The Coupland Times and as you will see, there are still a few kinks to be worked out. Nevertheless, all the essential elements are present. When you click on the article headlines, you will see the full story along with any images.

I appreciate your patience as I work on the technical details. Nevertheless, I think you will like the new layout, which includes some new features. Go the HOME page to see the total picture.

The section called “How May I Serve You?” has been expanded to include information about my work as an adult educator and presenter, in addition to website setup and assistance. I specialize in financial literacy and you can get more information on the different presentations by clicking here.

With regard to websites . . . well, I never said I was an expert and that should be obvious. However, most folks don’t need — and don’t want to pay for — advanced help, which can cost $75 and up per hour. I have experts available when proficiency in programming code is necessary. I specialize in helping people learn computer basics and how to take advantage of what the Digital Age has to offer. I have experience with Macintosh, Windows, and Linux-based systems. I don’t know it all. However, I know what works for me and I can share that with you. I can even do basic computer repair and replacement of parts like CD/DVD drives. Click here for more information.

I have also added links to another website which supports my role as a marketer of nutritional supplements, especially those related to providing the 90 essential nutrients that human beings require for optimal health and proper immune system functioning. I use the products myself, as does my family, and we have noticed the difference they have made in our lives. I don’t really push it because being a salesman is not my forte. However, at the very least, you should watch the videos explaining the “90-for-life” concept and how it was developed. I think you will be surprised by what you learn. If you want to try some of the products, just fill out the short online form and I will contact you. Take a look by clicking here.

I welcome your feedback on the new format. Let the tweaking commence!

Stewart Dale Spencer



Watch the Space Station Go Over Tonight!

The ISS over the Pacific Ocean

The ISS over the Pacific Ocean

The International Space Station (ISS) will travel over Central Texas tonight and you can see it if the clouds cooperate. It will be visible for 6 minutes (it moves pretty fast). Look to the southwest at 9:16 PM. It will travel from southwest to northeast, reaching a maximum elevation of 79 degrees. Just FYI, 90 degrees would be straight overhead.

The ISS is the third brightest object in the sky, after the sun and the moon . . . even brighter than Venus, which you can see low in the west at dusk.

You can sign up for a free text alert from NASA to let you know when the ISS will be visible in your area. It is always either in the early evening or the pre-dawn hours. The sun is below the horizon for you and me but the ISS is not yet in the shadow of the earth. In other words, the sun has not set or risen for the crew of the ISS.

Here is the link: Spot the Station

Here is what the text messages look like: (SpotTheStation) Time: Wed Jun 05 9:16 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 79 degrees, Appears: SW, Disappears: NE

As you can see, I translated it for you at the beginning of this article but it’s pretty simple once you know the code. By the way, you can tell it’s not an airplane because there are no flashing lights and it is completely silent. If you have never seen it, you’ll be amazed!

Stewart Dale Spencer

Are You Sick of Hearing About Monsanto?

Are you sick of hearing about Monsanto? Or is Monsanto making you sick? Driving around the area, you see lots of corn fields. I can’t help but wonder how much of it is genetically modified. Last week, while driving down FM 973, I saw a crop duster flying back and forth over the highway. It didn’t seem to be spraying anything but I closed my vents just the same as I passed under it. It made me wonder about what kinds of stuff is being used on the fields around Coupland. Being a fledgling organic gardener, I don’t relish the idea that pesticides are blowing around this beautiful countryside, especially considering our frequent strong winds. There are a lot of pros and cons to the issues of genetic modification and the use of herbicides and pesticides but regardless of where you stand on these issues, make sure you’re standing on a solid foundation of knowledge. This compilation of Monsanto’s history is revealing, to say the least. — Stewart Dale Spencer

Here is the direct link: Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen

Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen

Posted on 

When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market. See if you can spot the pattern…



#1 – Saccharin

Did you know Monsanto got started because of an artificial sweetener? John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri with the goal ofproducing saccharin for Coca-Cola. In stark contrast to its sweet beginnings, studies performed during the early 1970s,* including a study by the National Cancer Institute in 1980, showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats and mice.

After mounting pressure from consumers, the Calorie Control Council, and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, along with additional studies (several conducted by the sugar and sweetener industry) that reported flaws in the 1970s studies, saccharin was delisted from the NIH’s Carcinogen List. A variety of letters from scientists advised against delisting; the official document includes the following wording to this day: “although it is impossible to absolutely conclude that it poses no threat to human health, sodium saccharin is not reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under conditions of general usage as an artificial sweetener.” (*Read the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s History of Saccharin here.)


#2 – PCBs

During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Fifty years later, toxicity tests began reporting serious health effects from PCBs in laboratory rats exposed to the chemical.

After another decade of studies, the truth could no longer be contained: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. Additional peer-reviewed health studies showed a causal link between exposure to PCBs and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a frequently fatal form of cancer.

In 1979, the United States Congress recognized PCBs as a significant environmental toxin and persistent organic pollutant, and banned its production in the U.S.  By then Monsanto already had manufacturing plants abroad, so they weren’t entirely stopped until the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.

And that’s when Monsanto’s duplicity was uncovered: internal company memos from 1956 surfaced, proving that Monsanto had known about dangers of PCBs from early on.

In 2003, Monsanto paid out over $600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, who experienced severe health problems including liver disease, neurological disorders and cancer after being exposed to PCBs — more than double the payoff that was awarded in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

And yet the damage persists: nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the U.S., they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women, as reported in a 2011 study by the University of California San Francisco.


#3 – Polystyrene

In 1941, Monsanto began focusing on plastics and synthetic polystyrene, which is still widely used in food packaging and ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicalswhose production generates the most total hazardous waste.

#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons

Shortly after acquiring Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto turned this division into their Central Research Department. Between 1943 to 1945, this department coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project—including plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project’s Dayton Project, techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons (an era of U.S. history that sadly included the deadliest industrial accident).

DDT is good for me old ad

#5 – DDT

In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT’s toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the U.S.


This chart illustrates how much dioxin an average American consumes per day

#6 – Dioxin

In 1945, Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture with the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T (one of the precursors to Agent Orange), containing dioxin. Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that since become known as one of the “Dirty Dozen” — persistent environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. In the decades since it was first developed, Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.

Anh Trang Nhan Hoi Anh Orphanage#7 – Agent Orange

During the early 1960s, Monsanto was one of the two primary manufacturers of Agent Orange, an herbicide / defoliant used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Except Monsanto’s formula had dioxin levels many times higher than the Agent Orange produced by Dow Chemicals, the other manufacturer (which is why Monsanto was the key defendant in the lawsuit brought by Vietnam War veterans in the United States).

(Pictured at left, Anh and Trang Nhan, with their father, when they first arrived at the Hoi An Orphanage; below are the same brothers shortly before Trang’s death. Source: Kianh Foundation Newsletter, Dec. 2011)

Agent orange boys orphanageAs a result of the use of Agent Orange, Vietnam estimates that over 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 children were born with birth defects, and up to 1 million people were disabled or suffered from health problems—not to mention the far-reaching impact it had on the health of over 3 million American troops and their offspring.

agent-orange-children-at-tudu-hospital-in-ho-chi-minh-cityInternal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam. Despite the widespread health impact, Monsanto and Dow were allowed to appeal for and receive financial protection from the U.S. government against veterans seeking compensation for their exposure to Agent Orange.

In 2012, a long 50 years after Agent Orange was deployed, the clean-up effort has finally begun. Yet the legacy of Agent Orange, and successive generations of body deformitieswill remain in orphanages throughout VietNam for decades to come.

(Think that can’t happen here? Two crops were recently genetically engineered to withstand a weedkiller made with one of the major components of Agent Orange, 2,4-D, in order to combat “super weeds” that evolved due to the excessive use of RoundUp.)

8 – Petroleum-Based Fertilizer

In 1955, Monsanto began manufacturing petroleum-based fertilizer after purchasing a major oil refinery. Petroleum-based fertilizers can kill beneficial soil micro-organisms, sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements. Not the best addiction to have, considering the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil…


#9 – RoundUp

During the early 1970s, Monsanto founded their Agricultural Chemicals division with a focus on herbicides, and one herbicide in particular: RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, RoundUp was quickly adopted by farmers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling farmers to saturate the entire field with weedkiller without killing the crops.

While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. RoundUp has been found in samples of groundwater, as well as soil, and even in streams and air throughout the Midwest U.S., and increasingly in food. It has been linked to butterfly mortality, and the proliferation of superweeds. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death. Reference the above “GMO Risks” page which includes countless references to support these statements.

#10 – Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal)

An accidental discovery during research on gastrointestinal hormones resulted in a uniquely sweet chemical: aspartame. During the clinical trials conducted on 7 infant monkeys as part of aspartame’s application for FDA approval, 1 monkey died and 5 other monkeys had grand mal seizures—yet somehow aspartame was still approved by the FDA in 1974. In 1985, Monsanto acquired the company responsible for aspartame’s manufacture (G.D. Searle) and began marketing the product as NutraSweet. Twenty years later, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues caused by aspartame. (Watch a quick video here.)

rbgh cows

#11 – Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

This genetically modified hormone was developed by Monsanto to be injected into dairy cows to produce more milk. Cows subjected to rBGH suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and mastitis, and the pus from the resulting infection enters the milk supplyrequiring the use of additional antibiotics. rBGH milk has been linked to breast cancer,colon cancer, and prostate cancer in humans.

#12 – Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs

In the early 1990s, Monsanto began gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a foreign source to achieve one of two traits: an internally-generated pesticide, or an internal resistance to Monsanto’s weedkiller RoundUp. Despite decades of promises that genetically engineered crops would feed the world with more nutrients, drought resistance, or yield, the majority of Monsanto’s profits are from seeds that are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s RoundUp—an ever-rising, dual income stream as weeds continue to evolve resistance to RoundUp.

Most sobering however, is that the world is once again buying into Monsanto’s “safe” claims.

Just like the early days of PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Monsanto has successfully fooled the general public and regulatory agencies into believing that RoundUp, and the genetically modified crops that help sell RoundUp, are “safe.”

Except Monsanto has learned a thing or two in the past 100+ years of defending its dirty products: these days, when a new study proving the negative health or environmental impacts of GMOs emerges, Monsanto attacks the study and its scientist(s) by flooding the media with counter claims from “independent” organizations, scientists, industry associations, blogs, sponsored social media, and articles by “private” public relations firms—frequently founded, funded and maintained by Monsanto.

Unfortunately, few of us take the time to trace the members, founders, and relationships of these seemingly valid sources back to their little Monsanto secret. (Read more on this page.)

Fooling the FDA required a slightly different approach: click on the below chart compiled by Millions Against Monsanto to see how many former Monsanto VPs and legal counsel are now holding positions with the FDA. And don’t forget Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney who is now a Supreme Court Justice, ruling in favor of Monsanto in every case brought before him.

Monsanto FDA

A Baker’s Dozen: #13 – Terminator Seeds

In the late 1990s, Monsanto developed the technology to produce sterile grains unable to germinate. These “Terminator Seeds” would force farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year, rather than save and reuse the seeds from their harvest as they’ve been doing throughout centuries. Fortunately this technology never came to market. Instead, Monsanto chose to require farmers to sign a contract agreeing that they will not save or sell seeds from year to year, which forces them to buy new seeds and preempts the need for a “terminator gene.” Lucky for us… since the terminator seeds were capable of cross-pollination and could have contaminated local non-sterile crops.

What’s the Result of our Monsanto Legacy?

Between 75% to 80% of the processed food you consume every day has GMOs inside, and residues of Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide outside. But it’s not just processed food—fresh fruit and vegetables are next: genetically engineered sweet corn is already being sold at your local grocer, with apples and a host of other “natural” produce currently in field trials.

How is it that Monsanto is allowed to manipulate our food after such a dark product history? How is it they are allowed to cause such detrimental impact to our environment and our health?

According to the Organic Consumers Association, “There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the U.S. spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases.

Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, U.S. factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer—backed by farm subsidies—while organic farmers receive no such subsidies.

Monsanto’s history reflects a consistent pattern of toxic chemicals, lawsuits, and manipulated science. Is this the kind of company we want controlling our world’s food supply?

P.S. Monsanto’s not alone. Other companies in the “Big Six” include Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a subsidiary of DuPont), Syngenta AGDow Agrosciences (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, BASF (which is primarily a chemical company that is rapidly expanding their biotechnology division), and Bayer Cropscience (a subsidiary of Bayer). View a complete list of companies doing genetic engineering on this website.

Follow GMO Awareness on Facebook.

Sources for the above embedded links:;jsessionid=548799C31BFC89F058CEE9744E9790C4?sequence=1**



“The May-June 2013 Planet Dance” – Don’t Miss This!

WEBvic13_May26evThis is from Tony Flanders at “A remarkable series of events takes place low in the west-northwest shortly after sunset from late May to late June. It features the tightest three-planet grouping visible without binoculars until 2026 and an excellent apparition of Mercury.”

What does that have to do with Coupland you say? Well, it just so happens that Coupland is a great place to stargaze . . . or in this case, planetgaze, which, by the way, is my primary moniker on the Internet: planetgazer. Watching the planets is a wonderful pastime  because you can do it without any special equipment and it’s a lot of fun to point them out to people. Most people pay little to no attention to the constantly changing skies, especially the night sky. I have made it a point my whole life to share my passion for sky watching with my family, my friends, and anyone else who will listen.

A great place to watch this particular night sky show is in front of the aptly-named Hilltop Storage on Powell Street. The skies may not be clear, or they could be hazy, and the lights from Austin, Pflugerville, and Round Rock don’t help. You might be interested to hear about the work of the International Dark Sky Association. Excessive light pollution can be avoided and even reversed!

Regardless, the skies are fairly dark above Coupland, especially toward the east. Perhaps there are a few folks in Coupland who have nice telescopes and wouldn’t mind sharing them a few times a year for some star parties. The Universe is truly an awesome place and Coupland is a great place to experience it!

Click here for the whole story. As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Stewart Dale Spencer

A City on a Hill – Colonists

From “A City on a Hill: A Story of a Community, a Church, a People” by Jewel R. Johnson, Second Edition, 1979, Merchants Press of Taylor, Texas

Individual pages appear below in the TIFF format. Your browser may not display them automatically, depending upon your security settings. If they don’t open for you, even after you click on them, you can download a PDF copy by clicking on this link: Colonists

Colonists 1Colonists 2