Friday, October 22, 2010

Consumer, cow, milkman, roses, tulsi: one ecosystem

When I was little, we got our milk delivered straight from the buffalo sheds a few miles away (this was still Bombay, not somewhere in the countryside). The milkman had a bunch of buffaloes (or tended someone else's), and brought milk in large aluminum buckets, like the one on the left, and measured out as much as my mom wanted, into a large saucepan from the kitchen.

There was no packaging at all, no waste, and the milk had to be 100% fresh or else you'd know at once (it's warm here so fresh milk doesn't keep long unless you pasteurize by boiling). Sometimes the milkman would bring me a rose from the bush that grew by the shed. And when we wanted fertilizer for our house plants, he'd bring a dung cake (dry, not stinky). We'd pound it into a very coarse powder and scatter it in the tulsi pots. One cowpat is quite a lot of fertilizer!

It was such a wonderful, simple and environment-friendly system, and the producers (buffalo and milkman) were a more direct part of the lives of us consumers, not separate. The milk man died, the sheds got moved out, and we now get our milk and fertilizer in plastic packets, and the roses come from commercial farms with a massive carbon footprint (refrigerated trucks or planes). We have no idea who feeds the buffaloes or tends the flowers, what their names are (our milkman was Udit Narayan), whether they look healthy and are paid well, and how fresh or pure the milk truly is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Glad someone uploaded this song :)

Never got to hear much of Emmylou Harris growing up in India. Heard a bit in the US, and this is one of my favorite songs:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

First truly habitable planet discovered

Illustration of Gliese 581g from National Geographic, courtesy Lynette Cook.
From National Geographic
Astronomers studying a nearby star say they've found the first potentially habitable planet—likely a rocky place with an atmosphere, temperate regions, and crucially, liquid water, considered vital for life as we know it.

Other extrasolar planets have been called Earthlike, but, astronomer Paul Butler assured, "this is really the first Goldilocks planet"—not too hot, not too cold...
...The Gliese 581g discovery is based on 11 years of observations, largely via the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The data allowed scientists to detect the wobble in a star's orbit caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet—a technique called radial velocity.
Given the relative ease of finding this planet, 10 to 20 percent of all stars may have potentially habitable planets, Vogt said in a press release. (See an interactive guide to the hundreds of known planets.)
"There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy."
Nice to know, but I don't think of it as a useful discovery. I'm sure they don't want any illegal aliens there, and certainly not ones stupid enough to break their own planet. If we went there, we'd be like fugitive criminals. Stupid fugitive criminals. Maybe they're worrying there that we'd go over and make their planet squalid, too, with all our shouting and overcrowding and dirty habits.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sanam Marvi and the contemporary sufi music of Pakistan

I'm no fan of Coca-Cola, but I am really grateful for Coke Studio's fabulous contribution to Pakistani culture. So much brilliant tradition and modernity out there! Makes me proud to be South Asian (I happen to be Indian, but only incidentally: my grandmother's village is 10 kilometres from that horrible, artificial border).

It's unfortunate that too much of the world (including India) knows little about Pakistan besides terrorism, intolerance, and political instability. The song I linked above is contemporary Sufi. Sufism is the opposite of violence, intolerance and instability - it's loving, embracing, and enduring.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bhopal verdict - justice delayed AND denied

Skulls discarded after research at Hamidia Hospital. Medical experts believe the methyl isocyanate gas inhaled by people in Bhopal may have affected the brain. Photo: Raghu Rai.

Referring to the compensation to Bhopal gas victims, Dow Chemical's public affairs specialist Kathy Hunt said in public in 2002 that “$500 is plenty good for an Indian." The explanation for this may be that Hunt and Dow are racist. But what is wrong with us?

From The Times of India, June 8, 2010:

Appearing for CBI, then additional solicitor general Altaf Ahmed had argued before the SC that the accused knew about the potential danger of the lethal gas escaping and hence should be tried under the stringent provision.

"There was ample material produced by the prosecution in support of the chargesheet which indicated that all the accused shared common criminal knowledge about potential danger of escape of the lethal gas — MIC — both on account of the defective plant which was operated under their control and supervision at Bhopal and also on account of the operational shortcomings detected by the Varadarajan expert committee," Ahmed had said in court.

However, a bench comprising then Chief Justice A M Ahmedi and Justice S B Majmudar disagreed. "On our finding that the material pressed in service by the prosecution does not indicate even prima facie that the accused were guilty of an offence of culpable homicide and, therefore, Section 304-II was out of the picture, Section 304-A on this very finding can straightaway get attracted at least prima facie," the bench said. It then quashed the charge framed against the accused under Section 304-II.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Caetano Veloso sings "Cajuína"

I love Caetano Veloso. And now I hear him sing every time my cell phone rings :) I have the studio version from Putumayo's Acoustic Brazil collection. Sorry that the subtitles in the video below are quite nonsensical, but it's a great live version of the song!

I don't know Portuguese but I understand that cajuína is a beverage distilled from cashew, and that the best cajuína comes from northeastern Brazil. This song refers to Teresina, which may be a place there.

I would welcome a good translation and some information about whether this is a traditional song in Brazil - leave a comment! Also, if it's traditional, is it known in other former Portuguese colonies like Cabo Verde or Angola?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stephen Colbert on the hypocrisy of CSR

When you consume harmful products to help a cause, does your help outweigh the harm you're causing? Stephen lampoons corporate social responsibility, KFC, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Ford, and Marlboro.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag - Scientists & KFC
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey Bobby Marley, sing something good to me!

LOL, whoever created this video must have smoked some crazy shit.

PS - Feel obliged to say that I don't endorse drugs, just psychedelic videos.

PPS - I heart Manu Chao