Saturday, June 28, 2008

Learn how to make an improved stove

Even in this 21st century over a third of the population is dependent on wood and dung to keep the fires burning in their kitchen. This use of biomass is often associated with excessive smoke production which is harmful to health. I remember my summers spent in Malkapur where we had a traditional wood burning stove in the kitchen. My mothers eyes would often turn red from smoke exposure. Its amazing that while the problem of smoke exposure has been in front of India for centuries, no one has done any thing to improve the design of the stove in such a way that it reduces the exposure to carbon monoxide and smoke, while improving the cooking efficiency.

Today while browsing Boing Boing, I learned about this research organization called Aprovecho Research Center that has been conducting research to improve the traditional stove. My kudos to the research scientists at Aprovecho for their new stove design which I am sure will help many a housewives in India. The video below demonstrates how to make a clean burning stove relatively cheaply.

I also learned from the same site that Shell has partnered with some NGOs to make these clean burning stoves available to the general public in India on a commercial scale. I'll look for one when I am in India next.

There is a lively discussion on Boing Boing for those interested, and there is a beautiful story about "Justa" stove if you want to learn more.

Most importantly, this now gives me a way to make a wood fired oven I have been desirous of building in the back yard.
In case you are wondering what Modern Mumbai looks like, check out the photo essay in NY Times by Ruth Fremson.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Indian impasse over civilian nuclear deal

We all know that blaming the "Foreign Hand" for internal ills is a crutch commonly used in India. But Indians can not blame everything wrong in the society on "Foreign Hand" - there are plenty in India to stand in the way of progress. Take the example of the status of the nuclear treaty with US. For energy starved India currently on an incredible growth spurt, this nuclear treaty, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has signed with Bush Administration, is God send, not only because it helps India overcome its energy needs, but also because it allows India to enter into a strategic partnership with the US as a counter-weight to the Chinese ambitions in South Asia.
The nuclear agreement, which would give India access to US nuclear fuel and technology even though it has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, is at the heart of a new strategic partnership between India and the US.
The treaty has plenty of enemies on the US side, mostly senators and congressmen sympathetic to Pakistan (which is naturally upset that Pakistan has not been offered a similar deal) and ideological right wingers who have always viewed India suspiciously for its past associations with the non-aligned movement and USSR. But never did I imagine that this treaty which is incredibly beneficial to India would have opposition from Indians! Yes, there is a group of Indians who opposes this treaty!
It is opposed by the Communists who object to close ties with the US on ideological grounds and who argue that it will weaken India's foreign policy and independence.
Foreign policy independence? The Communists, which are a part of the coalition ruling the country, are delusional if they think that in these days of global economy and multinational trade, India exercise its will in isolation of the global opinion or the opinion of its partners. Even the Chinese, who are supposedly very independent in their foreign policy, have to consider what the rest of the world might think - eg. the press coverage of the earthquake in China.

But of course its not about whether something is good for the country or not. Its about ideology! The Communists are using this issue of national security to hold the ruling party hostage and in the process damaging India's future. In the rough and tumble politics of India this is to be expected. But just looking at the benefits this treaty would accrue to India, even the most cynical of us had thought that this treaty would be easily ratified.

India's neighbors must be laughing hard at this spectacle, especially the ones who oppose this treaty as a threat to their own national security.

Read more here...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Creative Logos

Logos are such an important part of brand identity that I am always looking for new ones that stand out. Unfortunately, most logos are rather insipid and lifeless yet they play such a central role that one wonders how the brand survives despite a bad logo. So its nice to see a selection of really outstanding logos. Adelle Charles on "Fuel Your Creativity" has identified 50 kick ass logos, and in my opinion most of them do appear inspirational. Check it out here

My own favorite is...

Reasons: Besides being very attractive, the logo clearly communicates the HIGH END nature of this establishment. The wine glass design, the color (red wine) and the attractive font type all communicate class and exclusivity. In the restaurant business, I am sure this logo helped this Bistro to stand out. I just wish I could see the other elements of the brand identity.

Addendum: A search on the web indicates that the Bistro in question is now Closed!! Goes to show that no amount of good branding can help a business if the business model is fundamentally flawed. Doesn't take away from the creativity of the logo. The logo is still my favorite.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

India, China lead in number of millionares

If growing wealth is a metric of success, then India, China and Brazil are making their mark.
The number of millionaires jumped 22.7 percent in India last year, 20.3 percent in China and 19.1 percent in Brazil. By region, the greatest increase came in the Middle East, 15.6 percent, Eastern Europe, 14.3 percent, and Latin America, 12.2 percent.

As if there was any doubt about this, Merrill Lynch has published a report that indicates that emerging markets will continue to be growth drivers despite the current world wide economic instability.

...But is it worth living there?

Not according to the Mercer Quality of Life survey. According to this survey, no city in Brazil, China or India comes even close to the top 50 most livable cities in the world. In the most livable category, the continent that takes the cake is Europe. Switzerland alone boasts three of the top ten best cities to live in terms of quality of life with Zurich topping the list followed by Geneva in third spot and Bern in the ninth spot. All three tied for second spot in terms of Personal safety.

Where is Sao Paolo? Sao Paolo ranks 119th, behind Rio de Jeniero which stands at 114th. Mexico City moved up one spot to 124, and while Bogota improved its ranking to 138th, Caracas fell to 152nd. The best places to live in Latin America is Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Panama City and Monterrey in Mexico.

In Asia Pacific, Australia boasts some of the most liveable cities with Auckland at 5 boasting the highest quality of living, followed by Sydney at 10 and Wellington at 12. Beijing stood at 116, Bangalore at 140 and Mumbai at 142.

This, to some extent, explains the allure among Americans and other Westerners, of going to a market like Australia. On the other hand, while there is significant growth opportunity in India, Brazil, and China, these countries don't yet offer the best living conditions to attract top talent. However, if you do move to one of the cities in these countries with a large multinational company, a generous hardship allowance should make things a bit easier for you. This clearly gives some hope to an old sop like me!!

And the cities to avoid at any cost? Bagdad, Karachi, Kinshasa and Lagos. No amount of hardship allowance can make these cities livable.

Check out the detailed survey here...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Tamarind of My Memory

JoyThe joys of summer
Playing outside
Still with me,
In my memory
Of the tamarind tree
In Dombivali.

No Tamarinds in New Jersey,
but Maples abound
A swing on the Maple
Serves for now.

This Maple,
Barely big enough to carry
A little person
Swings wildly
With every push

Cries my girl
Giggling, laughing
Like me
On the Tamarind of my memory
Swinging wildly

I guess its not important
The tree of the swing
The memory of careless abandon
Is what matters.