Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HCFC-22, CFCs and everything "nice"

It looks like HCFC-22 made it to the headlines once again. Also known as Chlorodifluoromethane, halocarbon R22 or Freon 22, HCFC-22 was used as an alternative to the not-so-ozone-friendly CFC's in air-conditioners and roof top conditioning. Although it is only 5% as harmful as the CFC's, the increasing use of air conditioners around the globe, especially in India and southern China, has put scientists into really speculating the extent of ozone depletion.
Having lived in India for a while, I know the number of air conditioners one house can install for a mere family. Even when there's no one present in the house, the conditioning goes on, almost 24/7 (I say almost, because if people had their way, they would have it on all day, but power outtages don't seem to be on their side). My father made it a point never to have an A/C. We used the ol' cooler or evaporative coolers, which functioned on the basic principle of water evaporation. You can read about such coolers here. We had the money to get our entire house centrally air-conditoned, but we never did (Oh, the memories we have of standing in front of the coolers and doing kareoke...). It saved electricity, and it was a lot more environment-friendly. One big one placed strategically, and you have the entire house cooled within seconds (and it stays cool long after you've turned it off).

I'm not going to play the blame game and say I'm the most eco-friendly person you'll ever come across and everyone else is to blame for using air-conditioners. But its time we all stand up together and realize the consequences. My question is this: Why not use evaporative coolers? Instead of scientists looking for another gas that is maybe 2% as harmful as CFC's, why don't we do our part and utilize much more environment friendly air conditioning methods? I don't really care about the advantages an A/C has over a cooler. They aren't many and not very substantial either (especially when it comes to doing your part in not depleting the ozone layer).

People might well, argue like always do and whine about why they're the ones to blame, when the rest of the world uses the same technology, and might continue to do so if they did change. The answer, as it always is is BE THE CHANGE TO SEE CHANGE. Why China and India? Because these two countries have the most populous as of now (and by a huge margin from the third most populous country). They are also in the warmer regions, so they require air conditioning of some sort. The label of Its only 5% as harmful as the CFCs doesn't work in the countries's favor either because of the enormous amounts of HCFC-22 let out by the billions of air-conditioners used.

The problem is that a lot of the developing countries enjoy the backseat when it comes to global warming and environmental issues. Many companies help these countries to come up with newer chemicals, but fails to manufacture newer and environ-friendly chemicals. Everything that is environ-friendly is expensive and obviously, no one buys something expensive when you can get the same job done at a much lower price. This low-cost job doesn't consider environmental aspects, but it gets the job done. CFCs are still in the market in India (as I got to know when I was there over winter break). They are cheaper, and people using older cars prefer their air-conditioners to be fixed the old way. No one really seemed to give a rat's ass about the environment or how much CFC is being let out by just one car.

Then they say its legal because people are still selling it and a majority of the people are using it. Yes, its still sold. So are drugs to minors. In Gore's documentary, An Inconvinient Truth, the developed nations are targetted to a large extent. It's the western hemisphere that takes 80% of the blame for whatever holes we have in the ozone layer and the marine life at risk due to oil spills, etc etc. But it IS the world we're talking about, right? And whether the country's developed or under-developed... is it not part of the globe? Does the label of "developing" give the country the right to pollute at everyone's expense? I don't think so. When it comes to the environment, everyone is to blame or be patted on the back. The environment has no boundries. And so shouldn't the people in it create any on such issues that concern humanity as a whole.

It's HCFC-22 now. R-410A next. And something else after a decade. Is that the answer then? A better than worse answer? For how long can we keep fooling ourselves that some better man-made chemical can solve all our environmental issues? Has ANY man-made chemical benefitted the environment for long? Sadly, no.

Personally, I sort of dislike blogging about global warming/environmetal issues because I know once a reader sees the "global warming" tag, they think "how boring", or even "here we go again, another rant". I blog about something I care, maybe make people think for a bit, but then you hit the "Next Blog" button and you've forgotten everything. Also a lot of such rants make people think "All they do is yap/talk. No one acts on it. If they were taking some action, they wouldn't be blogging about it here now would they?" True. I don't drive an electric car, neither do I avoid air-conditioned malls, but that doesn't mean I don't care. I still recycle. I still avoid yellow bulbs and turn off all lights whenever possible. I still never drive over 70mph (that is the speed at which the fuel has the highest efficiency). I never waste food, water. Maybe it is the way I was brought up because I saw a lot of people not have what I have and it made me thankful for what I was given and all the stories I've read of the consequences of the little things we do. But what I'm trying to say is, if at all this post or any documentary concerning our environment you see... give it the honor of some thought and implement tiny changes in your life that can make a huge difference if it becomes a habit.

I'd also like to mention the whole idea of the Daylight Savings time being shifted almost a month earlier. The idea behind it is noble and saves a lot of electricity all over the United States. It's a step towards change and a good start to changing our habits. Quote: "Energy savings was the reason given for the addition of four weeks. A California Energy Commission document said studies have generally found that longer daylight hours save money on electricity because people run fewer lights when the sun is shining." (Day Time Will Be Early - Get Set, San Fransisco Chronicle)

So that's my rant for tonight. Let's begin the new month with one change.

Picture courtesy: In the middle of a shave, O Kyoto by Nik Scott

Thursday, February 22, 2007

WMP's new look + 80's + 90's music = perfect

Windows Media Player's come up with a wonderful new look, and to think of it I was putting off the upgrade for over a month now! With the new look returns my interest in the 80s and 90s music. Just listening to Wham! , The Police, Toni Braxton, Seal and the likes brought back childhood memories of dad playing the songs on his favorite "5-star" cassettes, haha. There were a bunch of cassettes that were placed on the top row of the music shelf and were his -- hit songs a friend of his used to record for my father. The songs like It's My Life, You're My Heart You're My Soul, etc were the classic hits on our New Year house parties. After all the new generation music, his music would take the floor by storm and everyone would step in with the ones on the dance floor. It was awesome. I don't think I've had a series of New Year parties THAT good since I was 15 or maybe 16. So this week was about re-visiting old songs and going over ol' memories.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The campaign for real beauty

Isn't it IRONIC that Dove, a cosmetic-based corporation, should start a Campaign for Real Beauty? We've all seen the ads. They've been on air for a while now.

Defining Beauty
Many a time I've found myself asking whoever created these "guidelines" for beauty. Who said that having a 26inch waist was ideal, or the oval-shaped face was most desired by women. When did the perfect profile mean a straight nose, perfect chin, no double-chin, etc etc. Can you define beauty in your own words? Shouldn't beauty, literally, be in the eyes of the beholder? If you argue that that statement still holds true, why do we have women being categorized into "cute", "hot", "gorgeous", "sweet, but not sexy", "ugly", "unattractive"? Or even men being rated as "geeky", "hot", "hunk-ish"? Shouldn't you be deciding who looks a particular way, and not using the rules set down by commercials, products, magazines, music divas and peers to make a conclusion? But why draw a conclusion on someone's outward appearance? If we were all born blind, would it matter? Would we still go to a website and rate women?

On the Picture
Look at the picture. Do half of the women in the world look like this? Let's get real. A trip down to the nudie beach can be quite eye-opening if you think women look like this most of the time. But yes, according to the numerous campaigns, these women are a step-down from the runway models. Most real women wouldn't pose in underwear for a beauty campaign. BEfore I forget, courtesy for this picture goes to Dove's website, who's image caption was img_curvy_girls (which I believe says image of curvy girls). So now curvy is the new "in"? What about a bunch of those who look, well, not curvy?

Beauty and Race
If beauty can be defined, so can race. As I mentioned above, if we were born blind, beauty would hold no importance to us. The same way, if we were born colour-blind, no one would give jack about a person's race (to a large extent). Racism arises from the discrimination against one's race. Discrimination against one's "beauty" or appearance would be called... ? We don't have a word for it, of course. Racism is rebelled against in most places around the world. They say it cannot be tolerated. They say the person experiencing such a behavior becomes upset and is effected mentally and emotionally. Since God knows when, race has been an underlying cause for most of the wars fought and has sadly, taken many lives. But is that statistic as alarming as people dying from anorexia? Does a comment, "Who'd go out with YOU?" take an emotional toll as a similar moderate racist comment? So I say they're similar. One is already being addressed all over the globe by caring individuals who live by example. The other is being done by the forerunners of beauty promotion.

Re-defining Beauty
Is it not time to embrace people for who they are, for the ideals they stand by and move on from this superficial world we've created? After all, they are like us. They grumble to go to work so early in the morning, they go to schools, they come back home, eat dinner and watch TV like the rest of us. But the only difference between them and the others is that they were born in such a way and which, is beyond their control. They were not born with the "B gene", the beauty gene. So they resorted to the options offered by society, and tried to fit in with the people they saw on a flat-screen. They still weren't satisfied. So once again, they fell at the merciful hands of cosmetics, surgery, etc. A couple people out of a million were satisfied by the end of it all. They WERE the perfect homosapiens, with el natural looking looks that fooled others. But what they didn't realize that in the process of fooling the world, they were fooling themselves. The world loved them for who they were not. The world wanted a Marilyn Monroe, a Jackie Kennedy, a Paris Hilton, a Salma Hayek, a Beyonce. The not-so-perfect people conformed to become like one of those women, in the process losing any originality that would have come with age. Were they happy? That is a matter of personal consciousness. Were the majority happy? No. Was the world happy to learn about the truth at some point in time? Definitely not. The world called them liars. Not Monroe or Hilton. The world put on a halo and everyone became angels, prophesizing real beauty. They campaigned for real beauty in the day. But they were back to their true, shallow selves by night. It took too much energy to change the world. It was no point starting with themselves, when the world would not follow. After all, what can a small group of people believing in re-defining beauty do to bring change? The world would see it as a passing phase.

Read Isabella Mori's Carnival of Eating Disorders. It's truely enlightening with references to many more people's thoughts.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bloggerama Updates

I'm back! And alive 'n kicking. First off, a very happy new year to everyone. I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year celebration and stuck to their new year resolutions through January ;) I didn't keep any last year and the year before that out of fear of not keeping up with any the previous years, but this year I did. And so far, I've stuck with it! I need to put a reminder on here to make a post about Resolutions 101 another day. Secondly, CHECK OUT THE NEW BLOGGER FEATURES!! (I'm floored)

As I wished (and God willed), I've started working this quarter. As our university follows the co-op program, we alternate 4 quarters working and studying. I love my current job. Its in the Marketing/Engineering department, and being not much of a technical person (I made it quite clear in my multiple interviews with my company), I think it suits me perfectly. It basically involves talking to our customers (who range from the US government to GM) who use our products, listen to the issues they're having with the products, think of a possible solution, solve and work with the Engineering department (the techie guys down in the labs) and bring the best possible service to the customers' doorstep. One of the main reasons I chose this job over the engineering one (which in fact, should have been my first choice as I'm an engineering major), is the people interaction the job entails. The Marketing job gives you the taste of the real world, real people, real customers and has you interacting with more people, as opposed to the Engineering job, which has one sitting infront of the computer, performing tests and basically using all the technical expertise to perform projects (and the MArketing people are involved in that too). I won't say I'm a hardcore people-person, but I somehow measure my success and personal satisfaction to the number of people I've helped in a day, or when it comes to my job, how many people I've been of avail to. 30 minutes of not talking to a person really has me fidgeting! And 'til now, I interact with people from all departments and its been a good time.

Anyway, moving on, Valentine's Day is coming up! Okay, maybe I shouldn't have sounded as excited, but hell... all these Hallmark greetings and tiny "gifts" on Facebook people keep sending makes you excited and feelin' good about the whole thing. On Saturday, we visited a friend who had had a pretty nasty accident and broken 3-4 ribs, and possibly injured a couple more (hope for the best for him). Over the regular banter, we started to talk about V-day and how it came into existence. I faintly recalled reading somewhere years ago it was because some St. Valentine was killed. It never made me think of the meaning behind the day. And now when I think of it, the more I'm convinced that we have skewed the meaning behind the day to something completely different. There are stories of a Valentine who was imprisoned and who performed a miracle on the jailor's daughter and the night before he was beheaded, signed a note with, "From your Valentine". But the story about the Bishop in Italy who secretrly maried off couples contrary to the Roman laws prevailing then. It is said he was burnt at the stake for it.

So am I the only one who thinks that the logic of celebrating someone's death is somewhat twisted? I've personally not heard of people "celebrating" former President's assassinations. Or Martin Luther King or Gandhi's deaths. We always have a moment of silence for them. Then why in the case of this Valentine (whoever he might be and for whatever reason he was killed), do we do the opposite and celebrate love? Does anyone know when he was born? Woudln't THAT be the appropriate day to celebrate Valentines Day? Its just one of those things you think about and wonder how in the world did it ever come to the way it is today. Recently, after I was intrigued by such thoughts and seeked familiarity, I came across a number of schools around the world that honor the 14th of February as a mourning day for the death of a certain Valentine. For instance, a City Montessori School in Lucknow (the largest school in the world, as of 2001) is one of them. You can read about it here. Its something to think about, yeah?

(that would mean I won't be doing anything out of the ordinary this V-day)

And that would be my chit-chat for today. Everyone have a good Monday! (although I'm not sure of Monday and "good" go hand in hand, especially with the worst snowstorm headed once again our way... but do drive safe this evening, there's always someone waiting for you at home). I'll be back with more hot topics to talk about later on this week. Until then.