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Friday, 11 July 2008
Travel Experiences - Hong kong and Hyderabad, India
Topic: Travel

I have not been able to write for a few days. The reason is that I have been traveling and I have a lot to share. Actually, I could spend pages and pages writing about the good travel experiences but this blog is rightfully so, a green blog. So, I will preserve sanctity of it. I am starting a series on some of my travel experiences from the recent travel.

I work with an offshore team and so, travel to these destinations is very much a part of the job. This time it was a travel to Hyderabad. The flying time is close to 24 hours, so, I decided to take a break in Hong kong for a couple days. The richness of the city was marvelous.  The city is very well developed in general but has sharp contrasts. We (me and my wife) decided to visit a part of original Hongkong, the Aberdeen village. As our tour guide narrated, it is the only surviving fishing village in Hongkong and people live on boats there. It was amazing to see such a natural setting, however, Victoria harbour happens to be one of the world's busiest shipping channels and the pollution was striking. The color of water has changed and I dont think any fish would ever survive in that water. No wonder, Aberdeen fishing village has been shrinking. The worst part was a visit to the village, a heritage site, where ocean was lined up with plastic bags and bottles. Sad!

Fast forward a week, I am in Hyderabad, India. It is a great city with a lot of historical heritage. I would like to write about the heritage of the city in a different article but would like to focus on the subject of this blog. Hyderabad is situated in a very rocky area and one of its heritage sites include Golconda fort, a fort made of rocks standing proudly on a hill. The fort dates back 500 years and when compared to any American heritage site, it is much older. From my perspective, it is a national treasure for India and a site with amazing past. This fort has seen several kingdoms come and go, it has been home to the famous Kohinoor diamond. Everything about it is great. A striking thing about this was the amount of plastic trash that lined up the fort. Nothing had been spared, the water bottles had been hidden in the most protected secrets of the fort.  Ten years back, when I used to live in India, water bottles were a luxury and were barely available. Today, they rule the roads and any heritage sites. They are entrenched in every single restaurant, home and elsewhere. The municipal water quality is very bad and not palatable, so, from people's perspective, only viable solution for safe drinking water is bottles. While US has been fostering its new found dislike for the water bottles, this part of the world is fast catching this fever. A trash crisis is impending! The Arabian sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian ocean are bearing the consequences.

Ok, enough about trash! There were good experiences, Hongkong and San Francisco share character. After all they are both located on the perimeter of Pacific ocean. Hongkong has the similar heights and outlying islands as San Francisco's Alcatraz, treasure island and other smaller islands. It boasts of a big mall made at the top of a mountain popularly known as Victoria Peak. Watching the city from the heights of Victoria peak brought me some good memories of my last trip to Honolulu, Hawaii. The waikiki beach area looks very similar and Hong Kong by all means outclasses it when the urban beauty is compared.

Then there was Hyderabad, I liked the city primarily because of a great visit last year and went on this year primarily expecting that things will be even better this year. I dont know if things were better but I came to know of many more dimensions of this city. A drive to the Hitec city in Hyderabad was an eye opener. Having grown up seeing Delhi as an example of a big city, I really discounted Hyderabad. But to my surprise, the Hitec city was a new generation of Hyderabad - spanking new buildings, grand offices that would put silicon valley headquarters of many companies to shame, A great work culture and an active nightlife. The city is full of jobs. People say something very real about this city - a person born here either lives his entire life here or goes to live abroad.  I would love to live here.

Excesses!

I stayed at a hotel with a brand that I had fancied always. I had worked in the early stages of my career with this group. And my expectations were really high when I went there. The services and staff were very polite and helpful true to the image of the hotel which by the way, was more expensive to stay than a hotel in Manhattan. I later came to know that rooms in these hotels are a rare commodity and are marked up heavily. To my surprise, every single meal was more expensive than I would have in Boston or in San Francisco, both known for their culinary heritage. It was hard to believe that it is same country where I have lived a larger part of my life. The cost of a dinner in a good restaurant seems to have increased 8-10 times in a span of 6 years. The inflation rate is touching 12%.


People

Its the people of a city that define the character of a city. I was pleasantly surprised with the kind of reception I received. It really made my trip to the city worthwhile. A colleague of mine brought the speciality mangoes for me. It was a delight to enjoy not just the mangoes but the special feeling of feeling cozy in an unknown city. The hotel's gymn was really special, I tried to converse in English with the fitness advisor earlier and later found comfort in talking to him in Hindi, my very own native language. And then there was cricket, a great cricket match does a spell on masses there, life just pauses until the match is won. One interesting dimension of work ethic in sharp contrast with the west is that for every single job in the west, I found many more people there. The work is not too much more, so, I noticed that they spent a good time socializing and talking to each other.

Will write more experiences in my upcoming articles.


Posted by praneymittal at 8:24 PM PDT
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Sunday, 1 June 2008
Reusable Paper: Is paperless office next?
Topic: Green Business

As I printed a 5-page document that would live for next 1 hour,  I started feeling guilt for the fallen tree. This set me to think if we could develop a piece of paper that could be printed over and over again, it would not only save the environmental impact of using the paper, it would also save the impact of producing the paper.

I started looking out for available technologies and found this link from the Gartner Symposium. A Xerox VP is demonstrating a technology that his team recently developed and I am extremely pleased. The idea that I have been thinking about is a reality much sooner that I thought. The price points for this paper would still remain high since it uses expensive photo chromatic technology, but with the economies of scale, it may become affordable in next 3-4 years.

So, think about that pile of forgotten paper near your office printer, those maps, coupons, manuals - that paper can live to see another day again. I congratulate Xerox on this achievement.

Disclaimer: I do not work for Xerox directly or indirectly.


Posted by praneymittal at 11:14 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 1 June 2008 11:48 AM PDT
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Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Excited about Hybrids
Topic: Green Business

I have been a long term critic of the hybrids but today is a good day, I learnt about few hybrid car coming our way - Volvo is designing ReCharge - a  plugin hybrid and it seems to be a fun car. Of course, valley is breeding the Tesla which I often see going up and down on Highway 101, then there is the fleet of Priuses which are increasingly clogging the carpool lanes. The most interesting development that I am looking forward to is Honda's commitment to make Hybrids affordable. I recently read a news article where Honda's Top US executive relayed his commitment to control the Hybrid costs to $1900 above the normal cars. I believe it will be very helpful in improving people's will to buy the cars. The government is already doing the job by letting the gasolene price rise, so, economics of the roads is changing. I really see the gas prices touching $6-7 in two years based on the prices in rest of the world that we trail by 3-4 years. So, for the first time, the cost equation is turning in favor of hybrids. I will definitely buy one when I am on the lookout for my next vehicle.


Posted by praneymittal at 9:27 PM PDT
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Saturday, 19 April 2008
Wanted: A green disruptive innovation and a Thomas Edison for Environment
Topic: Green Business

I have always wondered what made America successful vis-a-vis countries where government controls everything. The great formula for the success here is that thinking independently is promoted. An independent brain is a playground for innovation.

We need innovations for environment protection that will change the face of the world. We need innovations that will buck the normal trend of incremental innovations and give us an edge over controlling carbon emissions and using fossil fuels, that innovation will bring us into 21st century (okay okay I know we are already there).

The other important thing that makes companies in this country so great is the fact that they are run by smart people without much interruption. There is enough room for experimenting with strategies without getting too nervous. These CEOs have led the innovation by companies since Thomas Edison's discovery of electric lamp laid the foundation of GE. I believe that the 21st Century company of the magnitude of GE will come from a new Thomas Edison who would comeup with a life changing disruptive innovation in the environment area.

Then, we also need the Envrionment control across the planet to be run like a company too. The topline is defined by production of energy and bottomline being defined by the usage of energy. The CEO of company will focus on increasing the topline by increasing the production of clean energy and decreasing the bottomline by bringing up the efficiency of transportation and utilities. And yes, this person has to be a great visionary. We do not need the senators and congressman defining the policies while they do not have a complete understanding of the environment. Most of them are political people and are better focussed only on politics.

May be I am just day dreaming ....


Posted by praneymittal at 10:07 AM PDT
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Saturday, 12 April 2008
A really green day
Topic: Green News of the day

Today is a great day, a nice sunny California morning, quiet and beautiful. Temperature may cross 80 degrees and a nice spring bloom of flowers provides a nice scenic setting. Here in the bay area, the hills turn green during this time of the year due to Jan - Mar rain and it is a pretty sight. This is not exactly a day to spend in front of the laptop, hence, I am going to take off soon. It is a perfect biking day, there is a trail very close to my house that goes by the Alameda creek and connects to the trail that goes up the Dumbarton bridge. If you do not live in this area, the bay area has a system of trails around the bay called bay trails.It is over 200 miles of paved trails and you can be as close to nature, both water and hills as much as you want. These trails provide you an opportunity to bike almost endlessly.  The trail over Dumbarton bridge is the protected trail runs on the side of Highway 84 and there is a point from where you can see the three downtowns - San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. And above all, you can literally see the curvature of the earth. You can not reach this point any other way then a bike, it is just too far to walk and it is on a bridge, so, you are not allowed to stop if you are driving.

It is a perfect opportunity to break the daily system of life and just not use any thing that will be harmful to environment. It is a really green day and I am going the green way ...


Posted by praneymittal at 10:10 AM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 April 2008 10:34 AM PDT
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Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Not a Green Activist, just a common person
Topic: Ecolories

I have been watching Digg for a past few days and now I can understand. There is a wealth of content on it. I specifically go to it for environment related content that no other news site provides quicker updates on. In many news articles, I run into wacky experiments. Some John Doe went through a list of tasks and finally, managed to get the job done a different way without causing much harm to environment.

These experiments have a high degree of showcase value. Most of them are not viable for mass production or to fight our dependence on oil. If there was one, the inventor will become an overnight billionaire. That is bad news but it is not a waste. Someday, an entrepreneur will pick one of these ideas and create a viable mass production solution which will solve many problems related to fuel dependency and emissions.

But as a common man, I am largely out of this process. I will likely not be able to invent a fuel alternative but am willing to chip in when it comes to saving our green and blue planet. Here are a few things I am planning to do as a common man who cares:

1. Carpool / take public transport a day of work in a week.

2. Not take "To go" food unless I really need it - it reduces the amount of plastic.

3. Pick a thinner stack of napkins in the fast food restaurant. Leave them on the table if unused.

4. Not print a document to just proof read it. Honestly, I dont print anything unless I really really need it. It helps my company save money as well.

5. Use electricity in a frugal way, this helped my electricity bill and saved a lot of emissions. Energy efficient bulbs were just a beginning. Solar garden lights and switching off unnecessary lights alone led to huge savings. My wife's aversion to the heating system also helped a little bit.

Overall, this week I feel happy about the ecolories I saved.


Posted by praneymittal at 4:55 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 April 2008 5:44 PM PDT
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Sunday, 6 April 2008
Interesting followup article to recession thinking...
Topic: Conservation etc ...

This article details change in spending habit patterns:

Lenders retreat as housing market plummets

 


Posted by praneymittal at 10:49 AM PDT
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Friday, 4 April 2008
Does recession make us greener ?
Topic: Conservation etc ...

The recession is official today. This is evidenced by the job numbers report. Does the thought of losing our job due to "contracting economy" scare us? Yes, A little bit. But it really scares us working in the financial and mortgage industries. I have been always curious if a thought of rainy day will make us run for cover and I think it does. Our spending habits change when the news from media starts brewing in our minds. Suddenly, the drive to LA for a weekend getaway becomes a little bit less interesting and so, does an evening latte in Starbucks. Many of us begin to adapt to the changing market by "conserving" and that is a good thing. Conserving not only helps us save for a rainy day, it helps the environment as well. There are ample ways to have fun without using gas for long painful drives.

 Going slightly off topic, conservation will also help the economy. If the masses have good amount of savings, it will help build a solid foundation for the country. This helps the economy and well-being of the population. The Big Oil and Big Marts would not be as big though.

And finally a big thanks to the Minimalist for providing helpful editing inputs!


Posted by praneymittal at 11:30 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 5 April 2008 6:45 PM PDT
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Thursday, 3 April 2008
Introducing ecolories, the measure of being green!
Topic: Ecolories

Ecolories does not result in any searches on google and that's why I picked this world. I dont consider myself qualified enough to coin new words but this word seems to convey the message best. Being environment friendly is a way of life. Conservation is more so a move forward. I compare this very much to a person on diet. The person watches calories and carbs and has a natural tendency of turning food bottles and cans and reading the food value. A conservation freak is a person playing the same tune, only difference being that wherever this person sees wastage and excess, he/she measures it is ecolories. The lesser the number of ecolories, the lesser the wastage. For example, a person commuting to work in a Chevy Tahoe is gaining ecolories much faster than the person who is say, driving a hybrid or even better, not driving in the worst traffic hours.

So, how many ecolories did you gain today? Can you count? Yes, that to-go lunch pack came with a lot of plastic, you gained a few ecolories there. Oh, and that can of coke that went into the regular bin instead of recycle bin got you some. The water bottles also pile them fast. ... Think ... and post more examples.


Posted by praneymittal at 5:58 PM PDT
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Wednesday, 2 April 2008
Food Vs. Ethanol
Topic: Food Crunch and Ethanol
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2008/04/02/cstillwell.DTL

Posted by praneymittal at 8:19 PM PDT
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