Thursday, April 27, 2006

FFVs and Lessons from Brazil

Politics: I ran across an interesting article titled Alternative Fuels - Lessons from Brazilia by Bill Siuru. In it, Siuru writes:

When oil prices dropped in the mid-1980s, coupled with the discovery of new offshore oil fields, gasoline became cheaper. This was further compounded by a drought and a poor sugar harvest disrupting the supply of alcohol. Then by 1989, sugar prices started to rise dramatically and producers exported sugar rather than turn it into fuel. By 1997, alcohol capable cars represented less than 1-percent of new vehicles sold in Brazil.

Brazil learned a lesson from these ups and downs. The result were flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) that could run on any fuel from pure gasoline to pure alcohol. All Brazilian gasoline is blended with at least 20- to 25-percent ethanol. Some 29,000 out of 31,000 fueling stations in Brazil also offer 100 percent ethanol for the older alcohol-only vehicles. Brazil currently has between 3-million and 4-million ethanol fueled vehicles.

Something that has negatively biased my view of ethanol in the US, was the claim that it was just a huge government subsidy with no real benefit - the prime argument as I recall, was that the energy to produce ethanol, was so great, that it just wasn't worth it in the end. Siuru sites some interesting numbers, that back this up:

Fermentation of Brazilian sugar cane produces much more ethanol as compared to corn. For each unit of energy expended to turn cane into ethanol, 8.3 times as much energy is created (1 to 8.3.) Compare that to corn which gets a maximum of 1.3 times the engery from a single unit (1 to 1.3.) Research is underway in Brazil to increase this to 1 to 10. Also, no fossil fuel is used in the process of converting sugar cane to ethanol. The residue from the stalks is used to generate the necessary electricity, and to fertilize the sugar cane fields.

So it sounds like corn is the culprit, not ethanol in general. This is an interesting read. I'm surprised Brazil isn't being sited more on models to follow, or atleast study more, given their relatively minimal use of gasoline.

Mullahs and Gas

Politics: Thomas Friedman was on NPR the other day; he made a statement to the effect that he's happy either way with what happens in Iran. If the mullahs bow to the west and drop their nuke quest, grand. If they continue to push the US, then Bush et. al. will have no choice but to push for strong sanctions and the Euros are more apt to listen. This will have the innevitable impact of shaking the oil markets further, pushing gas prices even higher.

In Friedman's view, and I tend to agree, the higher the price of gas, and the longer it stays high, the quicker this nation, and others, can get off oil. This outcome is beneficial, not only because of the benefits of reduced green house emissions, but also due to reduced dependence of the US on volatile oil supplies and price fluctuations. Reducing green house emmissions makes me and the penguins happy. Reducing US oil dependence makes conservatives happy because they believe this cash goes to fund terrorists, and it makes liberals happy because it reduces the hegemonistic instincts of US foreign policy.

In any event, one could easily plot the correlation of gas price spikes and the frequency in the news with which alternatives to oil are discussed. I, unlike the punditocracy, do not believe this situation is that difficult to resolve. I believe you need to do the following:

1. Develop efficient alternative fuel based solutions (i.e. bio-diesel, alchohol, etc.) One would think conservatives and liberals could agree on this - farm belts thrive with a massive new market. Liberals get reduced emissions, working open spaces (and hence less sprawl) and a happier planet.

2. Develop FFVs (Flexible Fuel Vehicles that run on gas or an alternative fuel). Again, this should be a political no brainer - gas is not eliminated over night, so if consumers can select gas or alchohol, they're happy to have the option to chase lower prices, or align their fuel and ethics.

3. Develop pluggable hybrids (hybrid FFVs that can be plugged into a socket at night). More supply diversification due to the variety of electricity options. A hybrid gets 60+MPG. With local only traffic, you could be getting 400+ MPG if you're fairly close to home and plugging in at night.

4. Keep pushing on the fuel cell front for the longer term horizon. Zero emissions should still be the goal.

and most importantly:

5. Keep the price of gas high

High gas prices keep everyone talking about gas alternatives; it encourages VCs to inject cash into start ups where the real innovation occurs, and vested interests can be toppled with disruptive technologies, or atleast forced to embrace them. High gas prices also encourages people to leave their giant SUVs and F350s.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kids Punjabi and Hindi Info

Sikh, Life: In response to my post Raising Sikh Children in a World of Illusion, I was asked for more detail on books/videos etc. Here is my response:

Re: children's books - there are a number of cartoon like books; one for each of the Gurus - you can find them in Delhi in nearly any book shop in Connaught Place. Occassionally we find something in the Punjabi section on main street in Vancouver. There is a beautiful book on Guru Nanak published recently in India though I can't find it here; all the pages are hand painted by a famous Indian painter whose name I can't recall now. I'll try to look it up tonight.

Re: videos - there is a kids video on Hindi called Chalo Hindi Bolay that Nayan has watched hundreds of times; it's extremely well done. In Jallandar and Chandigarh you can also find select popular movies dubbed in Hindi. We have purchased titles like Stuart Little, The Harry Potter series, etc. I have been trying, though with no success, to find a source for all of the cartoon network cartoons which are dubbed in Hindi (the ones nearly every Indian child is heavily addicted to); I'd be thrilled if anyone could identify a place to purchase these. Sadly, there are no kid related videos in Punjabi, either here, or in India that we could find. In Punjab, most kids are fluent in Hindi, and Punjabi is not treated that seriously (it's considered sufficient if kids speak it -- no need to read and write it too well). Here, most people just don't seem to care enough to expose there children to Punjabi, or if they do, it is dealt with casually and not treated with the rigor, or the all encompassing environmental exposure required for children to be truly bilingual, let alone on a path toward understanding Gurmukhi.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Raising Sikh Children in a World of Illusion

sikh, life: I got carried away commenting on a blog I read (SinghsRus). I was responding to this:

Oh yeah!, one of the thoughts was to post something about Sikh parents as to how challenging the job of Sikh parents is to raise kids in a non-Sikh environment, teach them Sikhi and Punjabi. Sometimes I get amazed as to how are some of the parents are able to instill Sikh values in their children keeping in mind the social pressure of TV, media, non-Sikh cultural environment, peer pressures, their own insecurities etc.

Here's my comment after a bit more editing:

It is hard to raise a Sikh child in a world of mass maya. I think it is doable though. My wife and I, on the birth of our first child, decided this was very important. We eliminated the television from our house (after being scared silly by the synergistic marketing section of Fast Food Nation), and began learning Punjabi in earnest (we were both raised in the west and neither of us was fluent by any means).

Since our children were born, we have only spoken Punjabi with them in the house. To this day it feels very strange for me to speak english with my son. In addition we always translate the kids' books into Punjabi while reading them. This has proven quite a challenge for us given our limited language skills, and the ever increasing complexity of the texts as our eldest ages. In addition, we continue to buy many Sikh children books, and spend a lot of time reading them, discussing them, saying prayers with the kids, etc. We have also made a point of spending atleast 6 weeks every few years in Punjab. This was really important as prior to our trip, my son began refusing to speak in Punjabi -- after 6 weeks playing with his cousins, he realized it was not just his parents who speak this language. Now he complains his Paji's aren't here to tell him any Punjabi jokes. Spending time in Punjab also helped develop his view of Sikhism and bring historical events alive; he was thrilled to go to Anandhpursahib where the Guru of his books had fought and prayed.

I have also thought about making this task for parents like ourselves easier. When we started, most people in our community thought it was funny that two kids raised here could attempt to raise their kids speaking Punjabi when their own skills were so terrible. They often teased us -- saying even if we could manage to teach them, the kids would forget it all before their 5th birthday. While we have yet to reach our fifth birthday, the teasing just made us all the more determined. Now the "Aunties" and "Uncles" all get a kick out of speaking w/ our son and hearing his authentic kid-slang; the elder generation gets glassy eyed while waxing about teaching their grand kids, and some of the younger generation have also chosen to "keep it real."

Having age appropriate books, videos, etc. would help quite a bit. We have had to go to Jallundar and comb the bazaars just to find good books, movies, etc. I often think about a start up company catering to people like us; then I always shelve it since it isn't technically interesting enough (I'm a bit of a techy type).

Friday, April 21, 2006

review of the twentieth wife by indu sundaresan

book review: i just finished the twentieth wife by indu sunderesan, a local writer from bellevue. my sister-in-law met the author at a house party and recommended the book to my wife. what a page turner. i had a really tough time putting it down. one of the reasons i love historic novels is i get an in depth flavor for how life was in a different era - much more so than in a film. in this case, it was particularly interesting getting another view on the moghuls, a band of brutes not depicted so well by most sources, certainly not by the sikh sources of my youth.

sunderesan has a nice descriptive style that's not too simplistic, nor too over the top. my wife read this book for her book club, but due to the cover (i often violate the cardinal rule to not judge a book by its cover) - i dismissed it as chic lit. well it is chic lit, but sometimes i suppose that's ok.

here's a snippet of a high level summary of the book courtesy of

An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire. She came into the world in the year 1577, to the howling accompaniment of a ferocious winter storm. As the daughter of starving refugees fleeing violent persecution in Persia, her fateful birth in a roadside tent sparked a miraculous reversal of family fortune, culminating in her father's introduction to the court of Emperor Akbar. She is called Mehrunnisa, the Sun of Women. This is her story.

on a more literary and critical note, i'd say sunderesan, while capitivating, fails to write with much literary force. she fails to critically assess, and expose, the emporers in their utter brutality. she mentions a few things here and there, but these scenes could have been explored in more depth. my guess is she's walking a fine line - tough to empathize too much w/ this woman that is so in love w/ a guy that romances w/ 300+ wives - not to mention is a wake-n-bake opium snorting son eye-poking loser by any modern sense. also, the ali qul character, mehrunnisa's husband, is displayed as a simplistic brute - would have been nice to get much more background and depth, especially given that he performs significant acts.

anyway, while its no literary masterpiece, it's certainly a step up from the divince code w/ all the grip. also, if all i read were literary masterpieces, i'd probably sleep more than 8 hours a day. i give this book 3 stars overall out of 4.

Friday, April 14, 2006

happy baisakhi

sikh, poetry: just wanted to wish everyone a happy baisakhi. for those unware, you can read a bit about the history HERE courtesy of the BBC.

my cousin just emailed me a lovely quote that i thought i'd share here on CB.

Forgetting the truth there is no where to turn

Upon realization of love I witness the world as a friend

An indescribable singular thought meditates within my mind

Reflecting on love provides me with happiness;
no harm can come to me in such a state

What can I call good and what bad? I see the entire world as one

Love provides me with shelter, with support; it is the hand that protects me

All which realize this state are not attached to suffering

Peace provides the mind with happiness

Repeating the name of truth paints my mind, giving me compassion

As I pray, I realize that this body and soul do not belong to me

Nanak says the greatness of reality belongs to the indescribable;
for do not utter my name, “I” do not exist

Guru Arjan Dev

Guru Granth Sahib pg. 383

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

iran and the nook-you-lar option

politics: i read an interesting review by fred kaplan called are we really going to bomb iran in slate of seymour hersh's article in the new yorker about the whole nuclear bombing of iran plan. kaplan attempts to deconstruct what this is really about.

Is this for real? Is President Bush or anyone else in a position of power truly, seriously thinking about dropping nuclear bombs on a country that poses no direct threat to the United States, possesses no nuclear weapons of its own, and isn't likely to for at least a few years? Pre-emptive war—attacking a country to keep it from attacking us or an ally—is sometimes justifiable. Preventive war—attacking a country to keep it from developing a capability to attack an ally sometime in the future—almost never is. And preventive war waged with nuclear weapons is (not to put too fine a spin on it) crazy.

kaplan comes up with a few theories as to what this might really be about. here's a snippet of the madman theory:

In his first few years as president, Richard Nixon tried to force North Vietnam's leaders to the peace table by persuading them that he was a madman who would do anything to win the war. His first step, in October 1969, was to ratchet up the alert levels of U.S. strategic nuclear forces as a way of jarring the Soviet Union into pressuring the North Vietnamese to back down. A few years later, he stepped up the bombing of the North and put out the word that he might use nukes. In neither case did this ploy have any effect whatsoever.

what bothers me most about all of these theories kaplan rattles off is the expressed assumption that the rhetoric is driven by a logical rationale and coordinated policy. i too was performing a similar sort of analysis of the bush administration's pre-iraq war rhetoric; for a while, i was convinced the often conflicting messages coming out of the white house were really the output of a highly sophisticated psy ops campaign. then i started seeing too many inconsistancies in my ever complex evolving model of the "real plan." eventually i kept modifying my theory with beliefs like "well the left and right hands of government are just not in cahoots." this went on until i realized, and concluded that, perhaps government inneptness was the "real plan." this seems particularly plausable, especially after witnessing the debacle around the administrations hurricane katrina response. in other words, this administration is full of strong willed characters w/ opposing world views, a wishy washy man at the top, and innept characters within promoted for loyalty reasons rather than merit -- the results are often conflicting statements in the news, such as leaks about real consideration of nuclear bombing, and bush saying that's simply "wild speculation."

who knows, though, maybe i'm wrong now, and was right originally, and this is yet another sophisticated model. if i have to pick, i'd place my bets on kaplan's madman theory variation b:

If Iran is immune to such pressures, our European allies might not be. Many of them already regard Bush as a religious zealot and Cheney as a warmonger. If they believe that the White House might really resolve the dispute with Iran by dropping nuclear bombs, they might suddenly start pushing for sanctions—a move they've stopped short of, mainly to protect their own trade relations with Tehran—as a comparatively moderate way of pressuring Iran to stop enriching uranium. Whether or not this is Bush's intent, there's evidence in Hersh's piece that the escalation might have the same effect. The Europeans, Hersh writes, are "rattled" by "their growing perception that Bush and Cheney believe a bombing campaign will be needed." He quotes one European diplomat as saying, "We need to find ways to impose sufficient costs to bring the [Iranian] regime to its senses. … I think if there is unity in opposition and the price imposed"—in sanctions—"is sufficient, [the Iranians] may back down."

Friday, April 07, 2006

bizarre quote of the day

politics: this seems like a really odd thing to say in light of the massive suicide bombing today in iraq:

"Those who did this are trying to bend our people from continuing on their course," Maj. Gen. Muhammad Neima, the head of the operations room at the Interior Ministry, said as he stood in the wreckage. "But the people of this country have grown accustomed for a while now to being slaughtered, and we feel proud that we're sacrificing ourselves and are getting closer to God."

"The suicide bombers have turned themselves into gatekeepers to heaven," he added.

courtesy of THIS article at the NY Times. i'm still scratching my head.

Monday, April 03, 2006

open studio

life, art: we celebrated the opening of our painting studio this past saturday with a grand turnout. it was such a great evening w/ friends and family and music and wine, a cozy fire, and of course, lovely ambience in the new building. it was such a treat to poke my head into the loft and see a group of friends sprawled out and relaxed, chatting without a care in the world. i realized we were successful in creating a truly inspiring building. i often got asked during the party when we started, how long it took, etc. well i started drawing concept sketches in earnest in january of 2003. we broke ground in october of 2004, and while still not done, we were done enough to throw a party april of 2006. what i'm just now getting used to, is the idea of associating the fruits of this labor with something positive. it was such an utter pain and stress filled endeavor to build, that sadly, along the way, i plum forgot it would be a place to relax and enjoy. i recall seeing a documentary many years ago about the amish building a house for a newly wed family. it was so inspiring to see the community come together and helping in such a direct way. i started thinking recently about how many people have been involved in building this. from all the various contractors, architect, his assistant, my old college buddy who did a lot of the detailed deisgn and building, his guys that did the wood work and exteriors, friends of ours we bribed w/ ameen's savory meals, paintings, and anything else we could think of. its amazing how it all came together.
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Liked what you read? Tell your friends

More info about content in my post