About Me

I'm an Explorer, Engineer, Writer, Public Speaker, and Entrepreneur. I write about exploration, travel, and science. 

Any views expressed on this site are my own.  

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Entries in India (13)


The Road to Kanchipuram

This last weekend Megan and I went to a town called Kanchipuram. It's not on the main tourist circuit of South India. It's a town of about 150,000 people (barely a speck on the map in India), an hour outside Chennai. It's called the "City of a Thousand Temples" but we only learned that fact after we got there. We went because an outreach program run by the Divecha Center for Climate Change (where I'm working this summer) has installed a solar panel on the roof of a house owned by a sari weaver in a village disconnected from the main power grid. I wanted to understand what it was like to live there. And I wanted to understand the real value of just one lightbulb to the children of the village.

Before I get into the weekend, I wanted to capture what the road from Bangalore to Kanchipuram was like. We hired a driver to take us the 4 hours to the town. I thought about making this into a more formally written account, real legit-like, but ended up just copying my notes directly as I took them while sweating in the back of this non-AC car. I think it works just as well. So, here:

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After 9 months and more than 350 million miles of travel, the Curiosity rover just landed on Mars. AMAZING, AWESOME, UNBELIEVABLE... don't even begin to describe the feeling of watching the landing. This is a vehicle the size of a small car, the most technologically advanced robotic spacecraft EVER built, and it's on Mars right now. Here are the first photos I captured from the live stream on my desktop.

"Live stream" is an interesting term here...

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Howl at the Moon

The other day I was reading on the terrace, watching light turn to dusk over Bangalore... Pigeons want the awning above the window a floor below but my presence deters them. Good. Back off, pigeon. There's a white one with black spots, bigger than the others. I name him Norm, neighborhood barfly. Hawks circle lazily high above the trees. Three cats watch the street from a nearby ledge. Ants crawl along the corner of the wall and the floor. I try to follow their path along a water pipe but can't find the end. Probably our apartment. A spider fights a faint breeze from a thin web between leaves on a potted plant. Car horns beep repeatedly (as they do here), but more subdued than most days. Why? Sunday.

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In Your FACE! 

The best way I can describe India is to say it is, quite literally, in-your-face. In your eyes, your mouth, your nose, your ears. I've never been anywhere that's made such a blitzkrieg on my senses- one second I'm flinching at a blaring horn that sounds like a firecracker going off in my ear (dude, was that REALLY necessary?!), next second we pass an open sewage stream someone is peeing into and I'm knocked breathless by the stench so I breathe through my mouth- only that's not much better on account of the diesel exhaust blowing black fumes into the air from the oil truck we're following- then we fly into oncoming traffic because the driver feels some inherent desire to put our lives in jeapardy to leapfrog another rickshaw (impatient, are we?), narrowly avoiding sideswiping a Hyundai on one side (which is overtaking us as we are overtaking the other rickshaw) and a courageous (or suicidal) woman pedestrian walking in the middle of the road on our other side carrying a bundle of something half as big as her body on top of her head, then... calm. But only for a few seconds. 


Yes, India has a space program (what I did on my sick-cation besides watching Big Bang Theory).

(Update: I'm feeling much, much better. Space aliens did not burst from my stomach and it turns out Indian hospitals are even more efficient in some ways than American ones-- testing, pharmacy, making appointments, but absolutely NOT in the area of communicating. While sick, I had a lot of time to read and research the Indian space program. The following represents some of the fruits of my digging around on the ol interwebs...)

If you read my title and your first thought was “of all countries on Earth, why does India, a country with half a billion poor people dying of disease, hunger and terrible living conditions, waste money on space?” … you were about to make a horribly ignorant generalization.

So let me stop you right there before you do that. India’s space program was created for the purpose of DEVELOPING THE POOR AREAS OF THE COUNTRY.

Say what?!

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