Monday, June 30, 2008

Gardening Update: lettuce

Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
A couple of lettuce plants died. They can't handle too much of wind or burst of rain. They needed to be supported.

Gardening Update 1: Pumpkin Vines

View from inside apartment

Gardening Update 1: Pie Pumpkin Plant - 1

Pie Pumpkin Plant - 1
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal

Gardening Update 1: Pie Pumpkin Plant - 2

Pie Pumpkin Plant - 2
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal

Gardening Update 1: Plants in Pots

Plants in Pots
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
An array of Walmart plastic green pots

Gardening Update 1: Dill Plant

Dill Plant
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
This Dill plant is from store bought seed. This was later on transplanted to a bigger plastic pot

Gardening Update 1: Sage Plant

Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
That is a Sage plant sprouted from seeds and then transplanted to a plastic pot

Gardening Update 1: Basil Plants

Basil Plants
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
Couple of basil plants

Gardening Update 1: Chilli Pepper Plant

It has blossomed for the first time and we can see a tiny white flower at the center.

Gardening Update 1: Potato Plant 1

Potato Plant 1
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
This potato plant is from one of the potatoes we bought from the grocery store.

Gardenig Update 1: Potato Plant 2

Potato Plant 2
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal
This potato plant is from one of the potatoes we bought from the grocery store

Gardenig Update 1: Blooming Pumpkin Male Flowers

Don't they look great?

Garden Update 1: Pumpkin Vines

View of pumpkin vines from outside apartment

Garden Update 1: Side View of garden

Side View of garden
Originally uploaded by sumantamandal

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Countdown to $200 Crude (9)

Another Friday and another new oil high. It crossed $140/barrel mark. Light, sweet crude for August delivery rose as high as $142.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before pulling back sharply in a spate of late-day profit-taking to settle up 57 cents at a record $140.21 on 06/27/2008.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 in the rural town of Ottery St Mary, Devonshire. He is best known for his long poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner relates the supernatural events experienced by a mariner on a long sea voyage. These quotes are from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Two centuries have passed since this poem was crafted by Samuel Coleridge. They have become so much more meaningful in today's world with global population of over 6.5 Billion.

The freedom to collect rain water a.k.a rain water harvesting is slowly disappearing in US.

Do I Really Need a Permit for My Rain Barrel?

Not for a traditional residential rain barrel but maybe for a larger cistern. The difficulty in defining the permitting requirements for rainwater collection lies in differentiating between the systems that cause little, if any, hydrologic impact (the vast majority of small systems) and those systems that could cause impairment to other water right holders (including streams), notably in closed basins where no new water rights are being issued. Rainwater collection for consumptive use (irrigation) could potentially cause impairment of other water rights by limiting the amount of water that would otherwise flow into freshwater streams with their own water right or streams that supply other water right holders.

In the State of Colorado the installation of rainwater collection barrels is an offense.

Bolivia: Bechtel and the fight for public water

Bechtel in their efforts to privatize ALL water, tried to regulate the collection of rain water in Bolivia. It lead to riots, and the people took over from "The Corporation

Saudi Arabia: Shoura demands explanation for ongoing water crisis

RIYADH: Outraged by the aggravating water crisis in the Kingdom, several Shoura Council members demanded that the concerned minister and the top official of the water desalination corporation should be called to the council.

Water and Electricity Minister Abdullah Al-Hussayen and Governor of the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) Feheid Al-Shareef had appeared before the council in similar circumstances months ago. After that the water crisis eased but the situation deteriorated and even worsened with the coming of the summer season.

The members, who described the water situation as catastrophic, made the demand while discussing a report submitted by the council’s Water and Electricity Committee on the ministry’s performance in its last meeting presided by Assistant Chairman Abdul Rahman Al-Barrak, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported yesterday.

Various cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Taif and Abha, have been suffering water shortages and people have been made to wait for several hours for a truck of water in front of water distribution centers. Some had to get water from the black market after paying as much as SR400 for a tanker, which normally costs SR114. Sometimes, the price goes up as high as SR800.

There have been reports of people waiting more than 10 hours at the center to obtain a delivery truck.

In Jeddah, Saudis are reportedly being given preference at the main distribution center. Marginalized neighborhoods in the port city can go up to 45 days without water in the main lines, while other neighborhoods receive water in the lines once or twice a week. Water lines feed into buildings’ cisterns. When those cisterns dry up, building residents must obtain water by delivery trucks until the next time the lines fill the reservoirs.

“Immediate solutions to the water shortage should be found and implemented without being complacent with time-consuming plans and projects,” the council advised the ministry in a statement. “The minister had made a promise on the floor of the council to bring about radical solutions to the water crisis last summer. But the problem has raised its ugly head again and the ministry has not made any effective move to contain it. On the other hand, the problem has spread to more cities.”

Shoura members stressed that it was quite logical to call the minister and the SWCC chief again to the council for an explanation as the water crisis remained unresolved despite their promises a few months ago.

Expressing his disappointment at the dismal performance of the ministry, a member went to the extent of demanding to take away the task of solving the water crisis from the ministry and entrusting it to an emergency committee.

“The Shoura Council has received complaints from citizens in various cities about the disappointing manner in which water officials have been handling the crisis,” he said.

The committee in its report on the performance of the ministry urged the ministry to speed up formulating transparent regulations regarding privatization, as it did before privatizing the electricity sector. It urged the ministry to give due consideration to social issues while privatizing the water sector.

The committee also recommended that the ministry should take necessary steps to complete the water and sewage water projects on schedule and avoid delays by removing obstacles faced by contractors.

Several steps have been taken to alleviate the water crisis in the Kingdom. The latest is the introduction of two floating water desalination plants near Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of desalinated water and accounts for 29.2 percent of the total world desalination capacity, according to a recent statement by Al-Hussayen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Movie Review: Garbage Warrior

Garbage Warrior is an amazing life story of Architect Mike Reynolds spanning over 35 years. The warrior who fought one battle after another with one goal in mind. The goal is self sufficient, sustainable habitation for humanity using garbage. If "garbage" is a taboo word then we can use "recycled material" :)

It is an awesome movie. Words can not describe this movie. I literally felt the struggle that Mike went through in his 35 year of expedition of self sufficient homes.

He believes that progress evolves through making mistakes.

Nothing comes in or goes out these houses. No water lines, No sewer lines, No electric lines. Sewage is internalized. Family of four can easily survive without going to a store. That's what I call "freedom" :)

Movie time line
4:20 - He says, we are running out of oil. He is peak oil aware :)

4:30 - Population is exploding - That's Malthusian theory :)

12:20 - Cities cannot support themselves. He sees them getting abandoned and people going out there to mine out the goods. I agree with this.

13:20 - Beating dirt into tires and creating thermal mass. Thermal mass stores heat.

54:17 Renni 'Zee' Zifferblatt (Bill Analyst Judiciary Committee) looks gorgeous with long black hair. :) She has a very deep voice. Love her black dress :p

1:00:00 Mike and 7 crew members respond to an urgent call for help for the tsunami hit Andaman Islands in India (We may end up a similar devastation, when post peak oil hits the world)

01:13:00 Mike says: "It was great to see something happen in 14 days in India when in 3 years it could not happen in a developed country (US)."

01:16:10 August 2005: Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast of America

01:19:00 Renni says - "you do not want to scare people so much that they are paralyzed by their fear" This is a very important message for peak oil educators.

01:19:30 Mike mentions oil shortage again

01:20:20 Senator Leonard Lee Rawson says: "you can not prove global warming"

01:23:20 Mike says: "American dream in my opinion is in the toilet. It is history. It is gone. The American dream is now how do we survive in the future. It is not having eight bedroom home or eleven bathrooms. It is not having a career and a lawn and all the amenities.It is simply how does our children and children's children even have a chance at life."

Time Line of events in Mike's Life:

1969: Graduated from the University of Cincinnati

1972: Thumb House (Used beer cans wired together into "bricks," which were mortared together and then plastered over )

1976-1986: Castle Compound, Taos, New Mexico, USA. A decade of evolution.

1988: First earthship for himself and his future wife in New Mexico. There is no heating or cooling.

1990: Greater World Community, Taos, New Mexico

Late 1990: He surrendered his state architect's license to avoid prosecution for malpractice. His national license was revoked a year later.

2004: Mike drafts a new law to allow for easier testing of sustainable building
47th Legislative Session, Santa Fe, New Mexico. The bill dies due to filibustering. This will make you wonder if the representatives are really doing their job.

2005 April: Mike and 7 crew members respond to an urgent call for help for the tsunami hit Andaman Islands in India

2005 August: Hurricane Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast of America. Mike is back in US

2006 January: New Mexico State Legislature Mike re-presents his bill

2006 February: Mike's second attempt to introduce new legislation failed.

2006 October: U.S. Board of Architects learns of Mike's work in the Andaman Islands, India, they invite him to reapply for architect's license. A poetic justice :)

The section of the movie which covers earthship building in India has so many stories to tell and leaves us with so many open questions

(1) Sometime it takes a tragedy for humans to wake up
(2) It is remarkable that a community can rebuild itself in such a short time even after massive destruction.

Time is running out as we pass peak oil. Humanity can still survive and there is hope.

At a personal level, it brings back my memories of growing up in India. I used to be that boy who used to shower with a mug and a bucket of water, 20 years ago. I got spoiled with hot showers and 24/7 running water in US for almost a decade. If post peak oil situation demands me to shower with a bucket of water and a mug, I will do it again :)

You can buy this DVD from
I bought it from It is few bucks cheaper at

Monday, June 9, 2008

Garden: Vine Support Structure using PVC pipes

Yesterday, I was thinking about ways to support the pumpkin vines.
I came up with a design today. I went to local Lowes store and bought

(1)3/4" X 5' PVC Pipe Plain X 6
(2)3/4" SCH40 Tee
(3)3/4" SCH40 Cross

I used my hacksaw and miter box to cut these pipes to 18" and 9" sections

I came across a good DIY on working with plastic piping

At the end of the evening, it was a satisfying experience.
This structure can be expanded in both horizontal and vertical directions.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Garden Prototype Progress (1)

After over a month's work, it is nice to see some veggies growing.
(1) There have been germination issues with some of the seeds.
(a)Only 2 out of 6 carving pumpkin seeds sprouted.
(b)Only 2 out of 6 onion seeds sprouted
(c)No success with spinach, pie pumpkin & parsley
(2) There were couple of stray animal attacks in the first few
weeks and that ruined the first set of transplanted carrot and chili
pepper. A cage type was structure was built to reduce animal attacks.
Ever since the caging, there has been no animal attacks.

This just the beginning. This is a prototype garden. There is long
way to go in order to achieve food self sufficient.

Yes, thats lettuce at the center!

The pumpkins are growing fast and I need to build a structure to support their vines.

Planting Potatoes

I got three regular potatoes from grocery store almost a month ago
just for growing purposes. I let them sit in kitchen for a month
for the buds to sprout. Two out of three looked ready for planting
and one looked rotten. I got rid of the rotten potato.

I bought:
(1)55 lbs of Moisture Control Potting Mix from Costco for $10.50
(2)Two green plastic pots for $15 each for gardening section of a store.

Potting Mix

Potatoes with buds


Pot with a layer of gravel

Friday, June 6, 2008

Countdown to $200 Crude (8)

My last entry in series was over two weeks ago.
Oil futures surged $10.75, or 8 percent, to $138.54 a barrel on the NYMEX.

Here is what New York Times has to say:

Oil Prices Skyrocket, Taking Biggest Jump Ever

Oil prices had their biggest gains ever on Friday, jumping nearly $11 to a new record above $138 a barrel, after a senior Israeli politician raised the specter of an attack on Iran and the dollar fell sharply against the euro.

The unprecedented gains on Friday capped a second day of strong gains on energy markets, and fueled suspicions that commodities might be caught in a speculative bubble.

DOW JONES industrial index tumbled today by almost 400 points