Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ideas for Mr. Prime Minister

It's great that the current central government is giving so much impetus to Internet accessibility for all. Today, all our information comes from the Internet. Access to Internet can easily divide the population to haves and have-nots, because one side is so dependent on it and uses it just as much as other essential resources, while the other side barely has any idea how to use it.

There's a lot that can be done for the development of this country. I'm no economics graduate. My ideas are obviously flawed. Nevertheless, I'd like to share some of my ideas for the progress of India, and hope PM Modi takes note. (Yeah, right!)

1. Solar Power for all Urban Households

India under-utilizes the solar power available to it. That's not an observation; it's a fact. According to Wikipedia:

With about 300 clear, sunny days in a year, India's theoretically calculated solar energy incidence on its land area alone, is about 5,000 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (or 5 EWh/yr).[1][2][3] The solar energy available in a year exceeds the possible energy output of all fossil fuel energy reserves in India. The daily average solar power generation capacity over India is 1.0 kWh/m2, which is equivalent to about 1,500–2,000 peak (rated) capacity operating hours in a year with the available commercially-proven technologies.

How many fo us actually use solar power? Do we have it in our homes? It takes money to install, but many of us can afford it. And once it's installed, we get electricity for the rest of our lives without paying lofty bills. It all sounds good, but the fact is that the use of solar energy hasn't been promoted as it should be. Newspapers and blogs are questioning whether it will reach rural areas soon, but my point is that given the hundreds of thousands of housing societies and houses in major cities, and the out-of-proportion large quantities of power they use, wouldn't it make sense to make it mandatory for all of them to use solar power. The cost of the solar panels plus installation can go up to 3 lakhs, but how much is that when you consider that flats in Delhi and Mumbai these days can cost more that 1 crore these days? So maybe, if we start with upper-middle to high-class residential areas, major office complexes and commercial centres, we can reduce our dependence of fossil fuels to a great extent. I mean, one of the major reasons why solar power isn't widely used is the initial cost it entails, so why not start with people and places that can afford it. Whatever money is saved by doing so can be used to give away solar energy to the next economic strata at a lower price, and this tier-based approach to make solar power available to all can continue till we reach the lowermost economic strata. It might sound discriminatory, but it might just work.

An interesting fact: Gujarat (the state which has Narendra Modi as it's former CM), is the leader in Indian solar power generation and usage. Gandhinagar may soon become a solar power city. Gujarat is also home to Asia's largest solar park at Charanka.

2. Make compost toilets cool. 
Most of my non-architect friends can't believe that an average Indian uses approx. 110 L of water in 1 day. In case you're wondering, yes, that's a lot. However, it is the minimum. One of the major culprits for this high demand of water is flush. Flushing once can cause a loss of about 5L of water, which is basically more than we need to drink throughout the day (think about a thirsty kid in a desert somewhere before you flush next time.)

A compost toilet doesn't need you to flush. It separates solids and liquids and decomposes them separately without the use of water. Check this out:

It might seem a bit gross at first, but it's not. In fact, it's very hygienic if you think about the fact that no blackwater is produced here. However, it doesn't go with Indian habits. We are more comfortable with flushing and we don't use toilet paper that often (most people aren't comfortable with it). So how about fund all the IIT's to design a compost toilet that flushes and allows for our tendency to wash and not wipe? It all sounds funny, but each person can save upto 30L of water per day. Think about it.

Once an appropriate compost toilet is designed, maybe it can be marketed and popularized, and we all know Mr. Modi's great with that.

3. Biogas isn't just meant for rural areas.

We talk about biogas like they belong to the villages, but there's no reason for why urban areas cannot use them. We can use biogas at least to cook food, but the simple DIY types of biogas generators are messy and hard to maintain. We need proper plants at key locations that can supply biogas to a number of homes. Might take some time, might not even replace LPG completely, but it's a start.

For information on biogas generated electricity, check this out.

4. Double-use schools.
Instead of building new structures every time we need to a vocational training centre or community hall, just use school buildings in the evenings. School's out by 4, and after that, the building just stands in it's place. It would be much more useful if we could have adult education classes there, and the building should be designed in order to be used for various purposes. Even tutoring services can be provided. If a school is a temple of learning, let's make sure it's open to all 24/7. And this goes for private schools too. If nothing else, the school courtyards and corridors can serve as sleeping areas for the homeless at night.

5. Solar power the buses.
When I was young, Delhi decided to embrace CNG buses and autorickshaws and, yes, it did make a difference. It's been almost two decades since then, and we're still running on CNG. It's about time we started using solar transportation. And don't talk about money. We pay taxes when we earn and more taxes when we spend. Use it wisely, and very soon each and eveyr bus will be solar-powered.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why Sequels Are Worse Than The First Movie

I really like Pitch Perfect. It's a fun slapstick comedy, and most of the characters are girls, and I sort of wish I was one of them. For those of you who have no idea what it's about, here's the deal- It's about a all-female acapella goup, which is sort of like a band which uses no instrument and produces music using voices and body beats. It's pretty cool, actually, except for the part where there are very few original songs.

Last week, I saw Pitch Perfect 2. And I didn't even have any expectations of it being as good as the first one. Sequeals are hardly ever as good as the first movie and today I'm going to tell you why taking Pitch Perfect 2 as an example.

1. The sequels where everybody goes glam all of a sudden.
In the first movie, everybody's dressed simpler and you almost believe that they're just normal people like you and me. If the first film's a hit, the style squad goes crazy. that's when the highlights, fake eyelashes, hair extensions and (obviously) designer clothes come out. It all look better...or does it? The cast definitely stops being as relatable.

The cast's look in the first movie

The cast's look in the second movie. Not your average collegiates anymore.

2. The second installment's where the desperation sets in
Pitch Perfect didn't need racist jokes to be funny, but the sequel was too desperate to please. So, they threw in jokes about every ethnic community out there and it's all supposed to be in good jest, but you can tell that the writers were just desperate to churn out another hit and they'd do anything to achieve that.

3. Sequels are over-produced.
Sequels are full of over-produced soundtracks, cameos, gimmicks and all that stuff that's really not required to make a good movie. Think about it. If those things could garner a hit, how did the first one do well in theatres?

4. It's not inspired anymore.
Nobody makes a second movie just because. They make it to make more money, to bank on the success of a previous film. And how can that ever be inspired? It's not like you had a eureka moment late one night and said, "hey, I  have to make this movie, man!"

But when all's said and done, when you fall in love with a movie, you hope the characters keep coming back, and that's why even though I'm writing this post, I'm definitely looking forward to Pitch Perfect 3.