Archive for March 2011

Things I Learned Today: Selective Catalytic Reduction and Diesel Exhaust Fluid

I noticed mention of Diesel Exhaust Fluid in a Northern Tool catalog. Apparently, there’s a new emissions reduction technology that is being implemented that reduces diesel emmisions dramatically and improves fuel efficiency by 3%. It’s being deployed (mandated by the EPA?) in the US starting in 2010 light trucks and big rigs. Here’s a webinar description by Cummins about the technology. The webinar, and the couple other sources I found bandies about phrases like “near zero emissions” and “5% better fuel economy” “reducing NOx to near-zero levels”. It’s a bother to fill another fuel-related fluid, but the industry seems to be behind this.

Here’s a nearly worthless industry website about Selective Catalytic Reduction.

22 Rules About Travelling To India

I went to India in February 2010 to present technology and art at Techkriti. If you are American preparing to go to India, this advice will make your trip much more enjoyable.

A friend of mine, first initial “S.” is from Kanpur, the exact city we visited. How crazy is that! Here’s what I gleaned from a conversation with him about the trip. After my trip, I can say that every word turned out to be exactly true.

  1. Never touch anyone’s head, not even children. Your sacredness starts at your (dirty) feet and goes to the top of your (sacred) head. So it’s a pretty sensitive spot.
  2. It’s usually best to greet people by saying “Namaste”, putting your hands together in a prayer stance and bowing slightly. If they offer their hand, shake it, western style.
  3. Women should wear conservative dress, high necklines, long sleeves, long dresses, nothing too flashy. She should always stay between the menfolk when walking the street lest she be propositioned endlessly. Because every white woman they’ve ever seen on the big screen has made like they wanted to have sex with them.
  4. Definitely see the Gangees river AKA Gunga. You might get lucky and see a dead body burning in a boat. If you are really lucky, you might see his (still living) wife burning on the funeral pyre with him. That rarely happens… but it happens. (yow)
  5. The native language of Utter Predesh is Hindi. A local speaker with a strong dialect/accent can barely be understood by a generic Hindi speaker. A lot of signs are in English but certainly not all.
  6. Use your right hand for everything. It’s disrespectful to use the left.
  7. If you find a local toilet, it might not have toilet paper. Or a seat. It’ll just be a hole in the ground. One option is to bring your own TP. To go local: fill the cup with water. While squatting, use your right hand to run water down your backside into your butt crack. Use your left hand to clean your butt. When finished, wash your left hand with more of the water from the cup. Now you know why Indians don’t use their left hand for anything.
  8. Beggar children will approach you on the street with the best begging you’ve ever seen. Some will have missing fingers and other deformities. Don’t give them any money, ever. If you do, you’ll very quickly be surrounded by other beggar children who will make off with everything on your person. Did you see Slumdog Millionaire? It’s like that. The children’s mother probably cut off their fingers so they would get more money begging. This is the caste they are born into. S. has seen these people all his life and never given any of them any money and noone he knows has ever given them any money but they get by somehow.
  9. S. has a cousin who I asked about connecting with since it’s good to have friends there “just in case”. He was willing but family wouldn’t allow it because an unmarried woman shouldn’t talk to an unmarried man, even if it’s just in email and even if it’s an emergency. Their family is a bit traditional but that is how it is there.
  10. If you have a problem, call the US consulate. Locals will back off if they know the consulate might get involved.
  11. In his family’s home, which is a common if slightly upscale one, when you wash dishes, the water is pumped up by hand and onto the dishes. The water falls onto the floor and into a hole in the corner, which drains to the street. The toilet drains to the same place. Yes, the alley smells as bad as you might imagine.
  12. The walls of first floor are made of cow dung, the second floor is concrete, the third floor is steel and concrete. Sounds like a bad idea, right? It pretty much is. But the building is still standing.
  13. There are a lot of bugs. Don’t wear shorts (it’s so “fat american tourist”). Many people in his photos wore short sleeves but we should wear long sleeves. Some of the bugs have rare uncurable diseases. Get your shots!
  14. He showed me a photo of 2 people outside his house. One was warming up an iron on a coal fire he brought with him. The other was hollering up to him saying, “Send out your clothes, I’ll iron them.” This kind of thing is very common but we’d do well to stay away from such situations.
  15. If you want to buy something in a store, ask the shopkeeper how much it costs. Whatever he says, counter with half as much as his offer. He’ll refuse. Scoff and start to walk out. He’ll then relent and try to bargain. Only agree to the 1/2 price. At the end, you’ll get something dirt cheap and he’ll have made more on you than he ever normally does.
  16. Most common items cost nickels. Maybe 20% of what you’d pay in the US. It depends.
  17. He added caviats saying the he was sorry he talked all about the bad parts and not much about the good parts. But I think if we know these parts, the good bits will take care of themself.
  18. If you ask someone to go to the store and buy you shiny blue pants with gold trim, they might get you brown pants because, well they are pants! They’ll do the job. That’s how things are.
  19. Bananas are a good snack. They’ll help decrease travellers diarea and they’re clean if you peel them.
  20. If we’re travelling with a native, it’s good to ask them to buy the item. They’ll get a better deal and watch out for you.
  21. Shopping is a bit of an angry experience. There’s posturing and dislike. People often walk into shops and holler “Hey, why doesn’t someone serve me!” And the shop keeper will be angrily nonchalant about the shopper’s anger.
  22. Hospitality is huge. Our hosts will likely take VERY good care of us.

Followup: every bit of this guide was EXACTLY true.

The Fifty Percent Rule
I’m sorry, you’ll just have to ask me in person about this most amazing phenomenon.

Cell phone service

Though AT&T told me there was barely any cell phone service in the cities I was visiting, there was fantastic cell phone service all across India. There was always at least 4 providers to choose from in any spot. Of course, it cost $2.50/min for roaming. I generally used texting ($0.40) and skype/wifi/iPhone ($0.05/min) for my calls.


  • You do not want to drive in India unless you have been there for a long while. It’s insane. Hire a driver.
  • Gas was $4-6/gallon when it was $2.50-3.00 in the US.
  • For instance, when approaching a blind intersection neither driver stops as a mater of course; instead each driver listens for the other driver’s horn and acts accordingly. Therefore, people are CONSTANTLY using their horns and barreling through intersections.
  • In traffic vehicles get about 1 ft away from one another.
  • Cars share the road on a pretty much 1:1 status with motorcycles having 1-3 riders, bikes with 1-3 riders, pedestrians, pony & ox carts, human powered and motorized vehicles with wildly oversized loads, and pedestrians. Oh and roaming cattle have the right of way.
  • Few cars have side view mirrors and I didn’t ONCE see our driver or any other look over their shoulder.
  • Bumping other vehicles is frowned on but happens (we bumped a car and bicyclist in our 20 hours of driving).
  • And cars drive on the left side of the road.
  • Cars have signs on their bumpers saying “PLEASE HONK”, indicating they don’t have rear view mirrors and want you to honk if you’re passing them. The din of horns is unworldly, really.

On Marriage

Last night on our way back from the taj mahal and red fort ( wow the red fort buuilt in 1600 has better fortifications than almost any European castle I’ve seen AND is more opulent inside AND is much larger inside, wow) and we were talking about marriage. Our 3 indian hosts were honestly surprised that all marriages in the US were “love marriages” and not arranged. They watch US tv all the time; they they like watching shows like Friends. In Bollywood movies most of those are love marriages… But that’s the movies.

Related posts I wrote that you should read about India


I have Typhoid, Hep A, Tetanus and Whooping Cough

SWARM at Techkriti, Kanpur India!

“I Won $312 Million Dollars!”

is what some lucky person said tonight. I can’t believe it wasn’t me. I played 10 tickets, I should have won!

How To Be Alone

I don’t know if this made me feel better or worse. But feeling is a very good start.

How To Be Alone by Tanya Davis

local version:

How To Be Alone

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.

There’s also the gym. If you’re shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in (guitar stroke).

And there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.

And there’s prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you’re hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously (electric guitar plucking) based on your avoid being alone principals.

The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they — like you — will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You’re no less intriguing a person when you’re eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.
And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching…because, they’re probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.
Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there’re always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might’ve never happened had you not been there by yourself

Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. but lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther for the endless quest for company. But no one’s in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept.

Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school’s groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cuz if you’re happy in your head than solitude is blessed and alone is okay.

It’s okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you, for this be releived, keeps things interesting lifes magic things in reach.

And it doesn’t mean you’re not connected, that communitie’s not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. take silence and respect it. if you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. if your family doesn’t get you, or religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.

you could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it
If your heart is bleeding make the best of it
There is heat in freezing, be a testament.

As Seen in the Jack Rabbit Speaks

I just noticed this in the latest Burning Man “Jack Rabbit Speaks”
[BManUpdate] V15:#10:03.24.11
Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 15, Issue #10
March 24, 2011


Our friend Steve Young sends us this about a course at The Crucible in Oakland that miiiight just be of interest to Burners. Call us crazy.


In this hands-on flame effects and electronics class you will learn how flame effects work, how to design and build them safely and how to use a Arduino microcontroller to create complex fire sequences and interactive behavior, while building your own ‘poofer’ fire sculpture.

Topics that we will cover include solenoid valves, sensors and programming interactivity. You will also learn how these same techniques can be used with other fluids such as compressed air and hydraulic fluid, often used in robotics and kinetic sculptures. This class is a perfect ‘next level’ for any artist who wants to control their art in exciting and interactive ways.

There are no prerequisites for this class, though exposure to basic electronics and programming is helpful. A laptop computer is highly recommended but not required. Personal projects are welcomed. You will take home your final project and are welcome to add to it. This is a complementary course to ‘Flame Effects for Art’.

Sign up for the Flame Effects for Art class at the same time as this class and receive $40 off Flame Effects for Art.

*Young Adults age 16+ must request approval and register to take this class by phone at 510-444-0919 ext0

Cost: $425.00 (Tuition: $210.00, Studio Fee: $215.00), Members: $404.00”

That’s my class!
I’m terribly excited and terribly nervous. And it’ll be awesome.

Movie Night

I made it a triple-feature in Daly City tonight. Limitless, The Adjustment Bureau, and Hall Pass. 3 fine Hollywood films.