A few weeks ago, my steadily increasing workload and my evermore daunting To Read stack of books and reports made me realize that I should find a way to be more productive. This realization coincided with my discovery of Daniel Odio’s blog, which I first found through his quest to learn to take insanely great pictures, and his very cool post about the equipment he uses to record events. Daniel’s contagious zeal for personal productivity made me think about how I spend my time. (Daniel is also commendably evangelistic about using the internet to share what we know and how we do things, and he practices what he preaches.)
Daniel’s post explaining how he plays his computer like an instrument and his lifehacker tips for hyper efficiency made me aware that I could get more done each day if I use tools that boost my productivity.
Sebastian Marshall’s many posts and videos about time tracking showed me how he tracks his time each day, but I found Sebastian’s system too detailed. I just wanted something to help me prioritize my tasks, concentrate on the priorities, and spend time more productively. In a comment on one of Sebastian’s posts, a reader recommended Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. Fortunately, Francesco Cirillo’s book explaining the technique is a free download.
After reading The Pomodoro Technique, I encountered a small problem: I couldn’t find a pomodoro—a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. I solved this problem by buying an egg-shaped timer, which, despite being non-vegetarian, works just as well.
In the Pomodoro Technique, one works in 25-minute “pomodoros,” although I call them “eggs.” To understand the entire technique, I recommend reading the free book.
I’ve been using this technique for just over a week and have found it very helpful for planning each day, planning days to come, prioritizing work, budgeting my time, concentrating while working, and accounting for my time. The technique is particularly useful for knowing how much time I’ve spent on assignments for which I bill clients by the hour.
The only hazard of this technique is that pomodoros are not supposed to be interrupted. This can cause marital discord, particularly when my wife comes home from work and expects some face time, and I tell her that I can’t speak because I’m in the middle of an egg.
While on the subject of time management and productivity, I recommend Tony Schwartz’s recent article in the NY Times, counterintuitively entitled, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.” Schwartz’s assertion that a person who works fewer hours per day can be more productive and creative than a person who works more hours rings true for me. I’ve certainly not been impressed by the output of frantic, exhausted, impatient people who fail to recognize the damage almost invariably caused by haste.
On January 20, 2011, I shot the following photo of a street corner in Puducherry’s heavily touristed historic district–a neighborhood that one would expect Puducherry’s administrators to keep spotless because of its extremely high visibility.
In January 2011, Puducherry’s government contracted municipal solid waste management for 19 years to a company named Kivar Environ through a public-private joint venture, Puducherry Municipal Services Pvt. Ltd. (PMSPL). In this blog, I’ve documented the failure of PMSPL to bring waste management in Puducherry into compliance with the Indian government’s Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, which were gazetted in 2000. The rules mandate daily, door-to-door collection of segregated recyclable and compostable municipal solid waste.
In April 2012, Kivar Environ quit their 19-year contract with the government of Puducherry on the grounds of financial irregularities. Puducherry’s government then reverted to the previous arrangement of contracting waste collection to local small contractors. The results of this arrangement on the same street corner are visible in the following photos, taken on 21 January 2013:
Leaving aside the disgraceful sight and smell of this rotting garbage and the nuisance and hazard caused by large packs of stray dogs that feed on and scatter the trash, such mismanagement of garbage seriously jeopardizes public health. Such unhygienic conditions, which create ideal breeding grounds for disease vectors (rats, mosquitoes, flies), are believed to have led to the pneumonic plague epidemic in Surat in 1994 and are the reason that the government of India drafted clear regulations for scientific management of municipal solid waste in 2000.
Privatized waste management is clearly failing to protect public health in Puducherry and in other localities throughout India, but local authorities appear to remain entirely unconcerned.
At the insistence of the World Bank and other like-minded providers of development aid, India’s government is privatizing municipal solid waste management in cities and towns nationwide. The outcome of this privatization drive is not publicly reported in a timely or comprehensive manner, so the public has no way of overseeing its result.
It is important for the public to monitor this initiative because the privatization of waste management directly and significantly influences the quality of life of millions of people.
If solid waste management has been privatized in your locality in India, I encourage you to tell me about the results.
So far, efforts to privatize waste management in Puducherry, Bangalore, Amritsar, and Chennai have failed to bring waste management in those localities into compliance with the government’s regulations, which are designed to protect the environment and safeguard public health.
The promoters of public service privatization– the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, USAID, and GIZ (formerly GTZ)–won’t divulge the findings of evaluations of privatization efforts. Therefore, I’m requesting all who read this blog to tell me about efforts to privatize municipal solid waste management in Indian cities and towns.
So far, we know the following:
Kivar Environ, which began collecting, hauling, and dumping waste from Pondicherry in January 2011, quit in April 2012, in the second year of a 19-year contract.
In August 2012, Antony Waste Management, which was contracted in 2009 to collect, haul, and dump waste from Amritsar, quit their 7-year contract.
Ramky’s landfill in Mavallipura, which receives waste from Bangalore, has been a debacle. Supposedly designed to last for 20 years, the landfill was overflowing after just three years and has turned its surrounding area into an ecological sacrifice zone.
Efforts to privatize waste management in Chennai have repeatedly flopped.
If waste management in your locality has been privatized, I’d like to hear from you about it. Please contact me through this blog’s comments feature.
In May 2011, I reported the illegal, large-scale dumping and burning of biomedical waste at Pondicherry’s truck terminal. In September 2011, Health Care Without Harm published Medical Waste and Human Rights, a report prepared for the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, which mentioned illegal biomedical waste disposal in Pondicherry and included my photos of waste dumped at the truck terminal. That same month, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General released a report that criticized Pondicherry’s Pollution Control Committee, which is supposed to function as Pondicherry’s environmental protection agency, for failing to bring biomedical waste management into compliance with the government’s guidelines.
The illegal dumping of biomedical waste at Pondicherry’s truck terminal continues. The following photos, taken on 22 December 2012, show waste that evidently comes from the Puducherry Government’s Mahatma Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Dental Sciences (MGPGI).
In late August I bought a Nokia 808. After using it for three months and printing some photos taken with it, I now feel ready to share my assessment of this groundbreaking camera phone. Rather than writing a comprehensive review, I just want to share a few things that have surprised me about the phone, and, as someone who takes and processes photos almost every day, comment on the performance of the phone’s most distinctive feature, its 41-megapixel, 1/1.2-inch-sensor camera. I’ll also show a few photos taken with the phone.
My objective is to share my impression of the phone with people who are considering buying one. Overall, my impression is very favorable.
The 808’s specifications and a detailed description of its features can be found in DPreview.com’s review. DPreview gave the 808 a Gold Award.
The photos that I printed this week were impressive: comparable in quality to photos taken with my Lumix LX3. For my work I now use a Lumix G1. I would say that the 808′s photos are not as good as those taken with the G1, particularly in terms of clipping highlights and in terms of precision focusing. The 808 lacks the G1′s ability to reduce the focus frame.
My only disappointment with the phone is that internet signal reception is poorer than that of my previous phone, a Nokia E6, so checking my e-mail is often a frustrating experience.
Perhaps my biggest surprise is the phone’s remarkable battery life. I hesitated to upgrade from the Nokia E6 because, with judicious power management, the E6 went for up to four days without needing to be charged. I dreaded the prospect of having a phone that must be charged daily. I’m delighted that the 808 goes for three days between charges.
Another delight has been shooting HD video with the phone and then playing the clips on my TV by connecting the phone to the TV with an HDMI cable. Full HD video shot with the phone looks great.
The phone’s camera lets users adjust many settings, and the lossless zoom (silent in videos!) works very well.
The phone’s major advantage over other camera phones is its ability to capture quite decent images in low light, partly because of its large sensor but also because of its powerful Xenon flash.
Here is a photo that I shot of three friends last night.
Here’s a photo of cows at the farm on which I live.
This is a photo of plastic bottle labels dumped beside a truck terminal in Pondicherry, one of my favorite (photo) shooting grounds. I imagine they’ve been discarded by a plastic bottle recycler.
And here’s a 100% crop of the area denoted by the red rectangle in the above image.
Here’s a macro of the labels.
Finally, here are images of cows foraging in the rubbish dumped beside the truck terminal. Almost all Indian livestock that graze on such mixed municipal solid waste have some plastic in their digestive tracts, and cows have been found to accumulate up to 50 kilograms of plastic in their rumens, sometimes killing the animals.
Several others have posted their assessments of Nokia’s 808 in WordPress blogs. Like many of them, I conclude that the 808 is a very capable camera and, by the way, a decent phone.
Delhi Waste Wars: A Street-Eye View Charting Wastepickers’ Struggle for Rights and Recognition is a very well-done documentary about the contest over municipal solid waste in New Delhi.
The film reports the struggle between Delhi’s informal waste collectors and recyclers against corporations that are building incinerators to burn waste to create energy. Delhi Waste Wars can be viewed here.
The Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group has produced Citizens at Risk, a video documentary about e-waste recycling in New Delhi. You can view it here on YouTube