Off to India

Update: March 19 – Updated my travel blog. I will probably have to split that up into two essays when I have time, and I will add some pictures.

Some Local Color

Update: March 18 – I have been without Internet for 2 days, and just got to a hotel in Bombay. (I have been on the road for 20 hours in the past 4 days). It’s 10 p.m., and I have 52 e-mails to answer. I will try to update this tonight, as I have been working on it offline.

Today I spent my entire morning in a sugarcane ethanol plant. I really went over those bagasse boilers. In fact, I am still covered with bagasse as the entire factory had bagasse dust in the air. I have also been in search of jatropha. I am finding that it is like Bigfoot: Everyone has heard about it, nobody has seen it. More later.

Update 3-16: Just a quick update as I briefly have Internet access. I am experiencing sensory overload. The sights and sounds here are amazing. I saw seven people riding a motorcycle today. Seven people at the same time! I have seen some of the worst poverty I could have imagined, and yet people are still incredibly friendly and helpful. I am learning to speak a little Indian. For instance, the word “bland” means “less spicy.” There apparently is no Indian word for what the West would call bland food. I suspect something that they consider spicy might be fatal if I tried it.

I was attacked by one of those famous sacred Hindu cows today, after she figured out I wasn’t packing food. She tore my Blackberry lose with her horn, and then hit me in the arm. I started to take her down like a steer-wrestler, but didn’t want to cause trouble. But my colleague did snap a couple of pictures that I will have to post.

And since I left my hotel in Bombay, I must have seen a million faces. Not a single one of them from the West. People look at me like they have seen Bigfoot. I am told that in the rural areas we have been in, they may have never seen a Westerner before.


I am off to India early in the morning until next Thursday. My Internet access is likely to be spotty until then. However, provided I avoid malaria – and I am told that I probably will since this isn’t the rainy season – I will update on my travel blog as time allows.

12 thoughts on “Off to India”

  1. Robert you should be fine. Besides malaria takes 6-14 days for symptoms to develop so you’ll have time to work on the blog when you get back! Just kidding. Too late now but proponol, a beta-blocker used to treat high blood pressure is showing effectiveness at preventing malaria. I tried the other drugs but it made me a bit loopy. Avoid going out around dawn or dusk. That is when the mosquitos are at peak feeding.

    I’ve travelled all over the world and the only case of food poisoning I’ve ever had is at a BBQ place in Sweeny, TX. Anon is right about deli belly. I took daily shots of pepto bismol and was fine in India.

    Good luck and stay safe.

  2. Robert,

    Do you know of any good sources for getting acquainted with wood acetylation that go beyond what is on the TitanWood site?

  3. OT: Even Nuclear energy has bottlenecks, here’s one. Japan Steel Works Ltd is the only company in the world that can forge single piece containment vessels from 600 ton steel ingots. It can produce just four a year, though in two years it should double it’s capacity.

    “Orders for nuclear generators are multiplying as electricity use surges worldwide and governments pressure companies to cut carbon emissions to fight global warming. As many as 237 reactors may be built globally by 2030, an average of more than 10 a year, according to the World Nuclear Association in London. That compares with 78, or fewer than four a year, started since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine.

    Given Japan Steel’s limited capacity, the math just doesn’t work, said Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear industry consultant near Paris. Japan Steel caters to all nuclear reactor makers except in Russia, which makes its own heavy forgings.

    … It would take any competitor more than five years to catch up with Japan Steel’s technology, said the company’s chief executive officer, Masahisa Nagata.

    Rivals are working to break the Japan Steel stranglehold, including South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co. and Japan Casting & Forging Corp., a joint venture of Nippon Steel Corp. and Mitsubishi Steel Manufacturing Co.

    … Areva, the world’s biggest reactor builder, is considering modifying its newest design to be able to make the central reactor-vessel part from a 350-ton ingot instead of more than 500 tons as required today, said Pascal Van Dorsselaer, manager of an Areva plant in France’s Burgundy wine region.

  4. Hi All,

    On the ground in Bombay; what a trip! I will write up something on my travel blog tomorrow. I will say that there are mosquitoes everywhere. I think malaria every time one flies around me. The smog is also unbelievable.

    Do you know of any good sources for getting acquainted with wood acetylation that go beyond what is on the TitanWood site?

    Roger Rowell, a University of Wisconsin professor who works with us on the process, is the foremost expert in the world on the topic (and has been my roommate for the past 2 weeks). Google his name and you will find a lot of papers and presentations available that talk about the technical details and scientific studies.

    Cheers, RR

  5. Please fill us in on your steer-wrestling technique. I want a blow by blow description! One never know when basic cowboy skills will come in handy.

  6. Robert, love your blog. Your comment on feeling like an alien is normal behavior for me.

    The way the Indians looked at you is how I feel when I vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, camp in the mountains of West Virginia, kayak the Florida Keys. It’s almost like they’ve never seen a non-white enjoying the outdoors too. It’s quite unnerving this feeling of alienation, but I’m used to it.

  7. I assume that you are going to look at land for Jatropha plantations, if you are going for the reason I think you are going. Please let us know what the soil quality looks like.

  8. India, land of the car of tomorrow (the $2,500 car), soon to be the land of the fuel of tomorrow (to keep those $2,500 cars going).

    Sounds about right.

  9. US oil consumption now down 2.7 percent to 4 percent from year-earlier figs, depdnding on who you believe….Peak Demand, we have seen it….

  10. Not everyone in India suffers from malaria in the rainy season…

    I hope you are having a good time here… And while you are here, you might want to check out the stuff that India is known for– its spirituality… And you will understand why people are so helpful despite being poverty-struck.

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