Coffee ? Hangout!

Have you been to all these Coffee Hangouts? They made it into my cell cam over the last few days. Amazingly, given the name of the blog, this is the first Coffee-Only post!

Thats Panchami Garden on Bannerghata Road near the Jayadeva Flyover

Thats the cute little BMTC Canteen - opp Qwikys, 6th Block, Koramangala!

2/3 Coffee, HSR opp the BDA Complex makes good Filter Coffee at 20/-

The CCD in BTM is on the 1st Floor - the basement holds music classes!

Thats Qwikys in Koramangala that was the usual hangout

The Cafe @ FabIndia in Koramangala is cheap, pretty...

... and the service is great too. Rolls, cake, chai.

Hmmm, no Darshinis in there yet. And they make the best, cheapest coffee. Gotta fix that soon.

Whats It Done ?

I have be cycling for a little over a year now. Whats it achieved and what have I gotten out of this ? A list...

The SUB 40 at CCD, and Shubha's SUB 5 at 2/3 Coffee

  • I'm fitter, and a little leaner. Don't catch a cold as easily, and even feel less cold.
  • I'm more "weather friendly". Don't mind a little sweat, or rain, or chill.
  • My eyes opened up to public transport since I now find the car/motorbike cumbersome in the city!
  • Bangalore has shrunk! I've been to places I've avoided for years.
  • I've spoken to many more cops, and even other regular folks.
  • Our fuel bill has gotten much smaller.
  • Sold one of the motorbikes.
  • Made tons of new friends.
  • Have seen numerous new places, even on roads I've zipped past hundreds of times.
  • Saw the entire Nilgiris at the most relaxed pace ever.
  • Have become a lot more aware about our carbon footprint.
And ever since I lost the speedo - have cycled in a much more relaxed way :)

Update: Damn I almost forgot one of the most important ones:
  • I get to eat all the dessert I want :D

[ Tracking my rides here. ]

The Tour of Nilgiris Edition II

The Tour Of Nilgiris in December last year was the fruit of some huge commitment from the volunteers who conceived and executed it in the space of a few short months from a scratch. For us riders, it was unforgettable memories and joy.

This year, the TFN machine is starting to get oiled, greased to roll out a bigger, better ride for 2009. The route's final, the numbers are being worked out - both the number of participants and volunteers as well as the financials that go into supporting and managing a huge event like this. Potential sponsors are being spoken to, and the TFN Facebook group has grown to double its strength in two short weeks!

There's also anticipation and excitement getting built up amongst bikers around here - 53 people have started logging their training and this time around tweetdom is alive too! Not surprising, since high end cycling has really really taken off in the last year, and for many, the TFN is something they aspire to do.

Here's the story so far for this year.

The Route:

Its a little easier this year, with the 160kms days being avoided based on feedback from last year. Most days are 80-100kms or thereabouts.

Day 0 - Dec 15 - Pre tour breifing - Bangalore
Day 1 - Dec 16 - Bangalore - Mysore
Day 2 - Dec 17 - Mysore - Hassan
Day 3 - Dec 18 - Hassan - Mercara
Day 4 - Dec 19 - Mercara - Irupu
Day 5 - Dec 20 - Irupu - Sultanbathery
Day 6 - Dec 21 - Sultanbathery - Ooty
Day 7 - Dec 22 - Ooty - Mysore (Transport riders + bikes + luggage to Bangalore)

There's more exploration of Coorg, and the ride to Sultan Bathery is a little less torturous since it starts from Irupu and not Madikeri itself. There is no rest day, since there's enough rest everyday! The trip should be as fun as last time, and more.

Accommodation and Support:

Enthusiastic support was what made the Tour doable even for us novices last year, though the guys doing it hardly caught a decent nap over the trip. This time around its being planned to be even better, and more predictable. There's likely to be support stations at pre-set intervals, and a couple of guys "patrolling" the highways to look out for those who may need help.

There were a couple of holes in the acco (and the blankets!) last year, and those will surely be plugged in 2009. Shorter rides and better acco - hmm - its starting to sound almost like a nice vacation ;) Of course, the Gudalur-Ooty slopes are unlikely to get less steep and there pedal-pedal-pedal days are still very much on.

200+ Enthu Aspirants!

The waitlist of those pre-registered for the TFN is huge! Bikers around here have already been trianing with the TFN firmly in their sights. Weekends towards Nandi Hills are starting to turn into cycle-jams, and the leaderboard on Dailymile starts at a 1000kms+ already!

See you all at the TFN! And I must start doing the longer weekend rides once again ....

BMTC information

I see a lot of queries wrt BMTC bus services in the analytics for this blog. Thought I'd just provide quick links here for the various things available in a single post.

The BIAS service to BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Limited)

Volvo Buses Across Bangalore

The Big 10s (a map-based one here )

Live Tracking of the Big 10s here. (There's tracking of some of the Volvos as well - check out the dropdown)

No Cloud In The Sky

We did a one day trip to Coorg. Its green, pretty, and a refreshing change from our traffic ridden lives, as usual...

But right through the monsoon, its really rained just 5-6 days so far :( Of course, then it poured, and one particularly bad 2 day spell saw 20 inches dumped all over with consequent flooding, damage and at the end, not even enough groundwater since the ground, after all, has a maximum seepage rate and this leads to a lot of runoff.

My friend there told us about a little piece of knowledge the Coorgis have gained through experience - a light rain and windy conditions is what keeps the springs going and the streams flowing! Am still trying to figure that one out, but will trust local knowledge on that.

My prayers for Coorg, a good sane monsoon and for all of us. The rivers we take for granted, and the rains that we assume will feed them year open year - nothing is a certainty in the dramatically changing climatic conditions anymore.

There is a keenness to try and understand the North Pole, the ice sheets and the general impact of warming, changing ocean currents, etc. Perhaps we all need to start having those conversations as well.

The Education Bill and the need for Democratic Debates

[ Had posted this on my other blog by mistake. ]

Parliament just enacted this.

There are some goos intentions and clauses in there to ensure free minimum education levels. But, I have reservations. I do not understand the full implications of this yet, but a quick read did sound like one of those overarching policies that seeks to overhaul and pretend that things have improved because of it, rather than figure out what the problems are. As usual, its not the policy or the "system" but the execution that bears fruit.

The one big issue that I did get a sense of from this document is about bringing under excessive governmental purview the running and operational aspects of private schools. Sure there are problems there that needed fixing, and sure, some of those need legislation - but wouldn't it be the smart thing to first fix the delivery and operational problems at government run or aided schools rather than bring wholesale changes to those which are at least partly working well ? In many instances, I see the more enlightened schools lose a lot of creativity and freedom. It doesn't always have to be brought down to a common denominator, does it ?

Its rarely one size/one price/one set of books/one method. That cannot be healthy. I'm hoping - since I haven't yet understood the full implications of this yet - thats it not so.

The councils that schools currently sign up with (ICSE, CBSE) already dictate too much - even for the lower grades where, ideally, the schools and the teachers are more suited for crafting a course and materials that fit the needs of the immediate social circumstances they're working in. A bunch of guys sitting in Delhi trying to create a one-size-fits-all set of syllabi and courseware is - well - again likely to achieve nothing beyond the common denominator. To add to that, the council now wants schools to first get certification and then open up. A lot many schools founded on alternative education methods have not, and probably cannot afford taken this route on day-zero. Of course, fly-by-night operators use this too - but should one punish those trying to take education forward to curb those unscrupulously trying to make a quick buck ? That sounds dumb. The clause reeks of the slowly ebbing license raj, honestly.

Most critically, while some of the goals are lofty and noble, it'll all depend on execution even more - without which all thats likely is more corruption, shadowy deals and arragements to "meet this condition" or that - and less progressive thinking in education.

Finally, whatever happened to democracy ?

I did not hear of a discussion on this around here, forget participating in one. Exactly what is my elected representative for ? I'm really getting pi**ed with this get-out-and-vote noise - what for ? So someone can claim to speak on my behalf and help enact such legislation without me having the slightest clue to the whats, whys and whens ?

Its signed "ARJUN SINGH" so I'm assuming its some bureaucrats unfinished agenda since the miniter's gone. This urge to "leave a lasting legacy" come what may will cost us a lot, like @rameshsrivats observed wryly.

Who we are

"...billions will inherit the results of the choices we make now"

Nuff said.

Update : Found some more...

Its Staring in Your Face

Mid July, and the monsoon is still not really here. Great weather in Bangalore, sure. But precious little rain. They're saying it'll pick up soon, but its a month and a half late!

And its much much worse elsewhere. Imagine getting 30 minutes of water once every 7 days in a major city! Or killing people who steal it unfairly.

I still hear arguments about there being no conclusive evidence of human impact causing global warming and the associated changes. Does it matter ? What's scary is our state od denial, as a species. We continue to worry about property rates, and iPhone releases, and stock market swings.

It sounds like a doomsday scenario, but these troubles could arrive faster than we can live with. Our decades long focus on overspecialization may be our undoing. Shouldn't we all be learning - at a ferocious pace - how to utilize every last bit of freshwater that comes our way from any source ? Isn't it time to not worry about our inconveniences, discomfort, etc and fight whats rapidly becoming a raging inferno threatening to engulf us all ? Why are we so myopic ? Why are we so focused on the here and now that nothing matters beyond the next couple of quarters.

India's population - that had migrated from Africa - had supposedly been decimated about 75000 years ago. And we wallow in the shallowness of our "long cultural history" and what not. Do we even have a sense of how fragile we are, and how wantonly we could be screwing it up, and at the same time losing the skills that'll help us cope when things change ?

To me, its no longer a question of how much, or tokenism. The severe effects of climate change are here, now, and we better figure out both how to reduce our impact as catalysts (even if it is a natural process, the amount of carbon we're helping release cannot be without impact) and how to use whatever little we have as best as possible. We need to let go of our collective greed, look beyond our noses and egos, and not shy away from making dramatic changes. As individuals, as societies and as countries. The developed vs non-developed standoff on who needs to cut emissions by how much seems utterly puerile - you're hurtling towards a cliff in the same bus and debating about who needs to put the brakes on ? Perhaps we the crazy homo sapiens have it coming deservedly.

Admittedly, I'm not feeling too optimistic this morning. I only hope I'm not right either.

Look What I Got Ourselves Into

Saw this driving contest thingy somewhere and signed up.

After the first couple of steps, realized they need you to spam your contacts over mail, facebook and twitter. That kind of put me off - sounded too much like Roadies or one of those weirdo reality TV shows. And doing that for something you believe in, sure. But for something as frivolous as this, and for personal gain - no way. Amazingly, there's no delete button so there we are - contestants who're unlikely to canvass at all :)

What The Hell Are We Doing ? At All ?

Three things I caught on the great expanse of the WWW recently:

The Home Project has one of the best made videos I've seen on the planet and its issues. Its long, at 1hr 33mins, but totally worth a watch. Am planning to screen it in our apartment clubhouse over the next week.

This talks about the problems of the planet from the point of view of how it got formed, why life flourished in and helped accelerate the changes that happened over 4 billion years and what the impact that the the last ten thousand years' activities are having on reversing those changes that support life. A sense of whats holistic, whats important as a species as opposed to what matters in the day to day of an individual, and why these are sometimes at loggerheads, is strongly communicated.

Along the same lines, a more direct call to action is made by the Story of Stuff. (At 20 minutes, this is a much shorter video though there's a lot of new vocabulary thats). There's a direct linkage established between our consumption patterns (and the reasons those exist) to the unsustainability of the model.

And finally, the Onion did a satirical take on most people's stated concern about the environment, and congestion. Of course we all want better air, cleaner rivers, less crowded roads. But there are so many others who could do that for us! Of course we know that air-conditioning ends up causing more heat which justifies more air-conditioning .... but right now its a little warm and I'd rather feel cool.

The choices - often for that extra bit of "convenience" - we make today have costs. And the costs may be mounting rather more rapidly than we as a species can afford to.

Delhi loses 10000+ people to air-pollution related causes every year, and 4% of deaths in the US are linked to the same. If those numbers came off air/train disasters, we'd be gunning for so many heads it would shake up governments. But hey, this is not really immediate, is it ? Its just that a huge percentage of our kids will lead sucky, unhealthy lives.

If now is not the time to take dramatic, drastic steps, I don't know where we're headed as a species. Sure, you can argue that "global warming" might have happened irrespective, but the amount of carbon we helped free up (mostly in the last 50 year - just 50!) from its trapped pockets into the atmosphere is something thats not happened "despite us". And its something thats likely to have a huge impact on life as we know it.

But then, no species survives indefinitely. Its just that some of the pointers (listed below) hint that we're playing catalyst towards our own end.
  • By the turn of the century, there'll be nothing left to mine!
  • The population has trebled since 1950 - I'm actually wondering if lower mortality having been achieved before education/sustainability will really kill us all, and achieve quite the opposite.
  • We continue to be carbon-derived energy dependent despite having realized its ills a long time ago
  • Individually - we cannot seem to take "a little more sweat" or a little extra inconvenience of any form to reduce our impact. This is seen in choices people always make as affluence sets in.
  • 2% people hold 50% of our wealth.
  • Most poor live in resource rich countries!
  • There may be no ice-caps left in the summers as early as 2015 (thats merely 6 years away!) or in the best case, by 2030 (our kids will be younf adults)
  • Freshwater reserves, rainforests which recharge them, wetlands which clean it are shrinking dramatically, and we haven't shown signs of stopping-it-right-now!
By some estimates, in another 10 years it will be too late to reverse what we've done. One does get a sense that natural forces are beginning to deliver us the natural equivalent of "one tight slap". Its proving to be so tough to shake off our inertia and move towards common goals of saving our skins. Right now, we're busy adding neon signs and gloss for individual selves in whatever time we have left.

We - are - so - screwed. And we do not even acknowledge it! I might sound like a prophet-of-doom-on-a-pessimistic day, but I think its critical that - starting now - we err on the side of caution. This is one issue where a 100% proof of causes and effects may be available too late.

Update: What really matters to Bangaloreans ... ?

Help Park-A-Cycle

The RideACycle Foundation is a non-profit cycling advocacy group which aims to promote cycling for both commuting as well as leisure amongst Bangaloreans.

As part of this, we're rolling out a park-and-ride concept where people may use their cycles from their homes (off the trunk routes) to get closer to bus stops, park them safely there and take a bus. For this, we are requesting apartments, stores and other establishments which are closer to bus stops, shopping centers, etc, to donate 3-5 slots inside their campus for parking bikes and help promote this cause. We will maintain a list of such locations for all cyclists to access.

If required, RAC-F will put up a (movable) cycle rack to enable this.

We will be giving out id-cards for ensuring access control so no unauthorized people enter the premises, and users of this facility will be allowed only with these cards, and only if free slots are available. RAC-F will maintain updated contact details of all id-card holders.

The parking providers will have no formal liability towards the safety of the bikes inside their premises, and users will need to ensure they lock the bikes properly. [Of course, it would be great if we can request the security folks to keep an eye out, especially if these slots are located such that they are near a security post.]

It would be great if you could bring this up with your association, and let me know if we can get this rolled out at your apartment, or a store nearby.