Posts Tagged ‘paper’

Origami in everyday life…

June 25, 2013

One tends to think of origami as a purely art form, for children to learn….and forget the fact that it’s very useful in daily life, too. You can take a piece of cardboard, shaped thus:

DSC00121

Fold it so:

DSC00122

Fold it further, so:

DSC00123

Add two handles, and hey presto, you can carry food in it!

DSC00124

I love Bengali “tonga”s, all folding food boxes, and some beautifully folded paper cups, too! Useful origami…

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Immense wastage of brown paper

June 5, 2013

It’s the beginning of a new year in schools across the south of India, and once again, I see a massive wastage occurring…that of brown paper.

Every year, children go to a new class or form, and they have to buy a set of new text books and note books. We do not have any concept of using the text books that the students used the previous year.

Each printer and publisher of a school text book obviously goes to great lengths to design the cover of the book. So, too, do the printers of note-books. The text books and note books, therefore, come in a variety of sizes, and many have attractive covers.

However, some time in the ancient past, the practice of protecting the books came into being, and for the sake of uniformity, it was decided to use brown paper to cover them. Today, brown paper itself comes in a variety of colours and textures. The brown paper comes in sheets.

Busy parents have the job of helping their children in the job of covering all the text books and note books before the start of the academic year.

Given the fact that the brown paper covers regularly tear and are sometimes replaced, and sometimes not, what is the mandate that schools place on this process of covering? And if the books are to be covered, why not in newspaper, which would recycle paper, and not waste virgin paper?

Covering all the books and notebooks with brown paper actually has the disadvantage that when the child is packing his or her books in a hurry in the morning, they all look alike, and the child has to open the books or notebooks to make sure that the right book is being packed. Of course, the wrapping never can last through the entire academic year.

Why can we not eliminate this extremely wasteful procedure, and become a little more green? Just calculating the amount of paper that must be used in our country, across so many schools in so many towns and cities, is a mind-boggling task…all I can say is that the amount must be astronomical.

Yet another example of “that’s how it’s always been done” becoming the guiding rule, instead of a common-sense approach. If only we could move forward into today’s world, where paper is a resource to be husbanded. We teach green practices to our children in our schools..but do not practice what we preach.

How to recycle envelopes

October 11, 2012

I’ve been doing this for years, and been reviled as “cheap”…but now recycling has become “cool” and here’s my how-to….

Requirements:

Envelopes. This obviously works better with the long envelopes that arrive in the post. “Windowed” envelopes won’t work (those with a cellophane window to display the name and address inside.) I use this method on invitation cards and thick envelopes, too, but be prepared for the occasional tearing and wastage.

A sharp paper-knife, of the sort I have photographed. The blade needs to be thin, long and sharp.

How:

Slit open the glued folds of the envelope, on the width (after having opened it carefully to preserve the closing flap).

recycle envelope 111012

Slit open the glued side along the length on the middle of the back of the envelope. Please do this carefully.

2 recycle envelope 111012

Fold the envelope inside out (the flaps on the length should also be reversed, so that the “gummed” side doesn’t show.)

3 recycle envelope 111012

Glue the flaps carefully, and let dry. Voila, a nice recycled envelope is ready.

4 recycle envelope 111012

I mark them with my “recycled” trade-mark, a tiny one at the corner of the back of the envelope:

5 recycled env 111012

There! It takes about…3 minutes to do, that’s all. Particularly with the thick brown-paper envelopes, it works really great…but if you have a sharp paper-knife, you can recycle all sorts of envelopes.

The Innovation Trap

March 29, 2012

Harish Bhat, who is a friend on Facebook, and posts a lot of interesting stuff, posted about

the flexible e-paper display launch .

Though I am impressed by the innovation in terms of material use and invention, I still feel that products like this fall into what I call the classic Innovation Trap.

The Innovation Trap is the phenomenon of designers being blinkered and hobbled by designs and forms that they are familiar with. In the case of the product above, it seems to be the goal to get as close in appearance as possible to laminated paper..to resemble some form of actual paper. But one wonders why that resemblance is needed at all.

The classic example of the Innovation Trap was when automobiles started being designed. Being familiar only with horse-drawn carriages, early cars looked boxy and square, exactly like the old carriages. It took a while to realize that though it was irrelevant for horse-drawn carriages, for cars, aerodynamics would improve the efficiency, and that the shape of the automobile must be very different from that of a carriage.

This problem was once again demonstrated when, in the era of tailfins and long lines, with the cars looking like ships, the VW Beetle was introduced. It was pronounced an ugly car…when it was actually very functional in design, and hence very beautiful.

In similar fashion, there is no need for outer-space-only spacecraft to have the sleek, aerodynamic, cigar-shaped look of the rockets that lift off from the Earth’s atmosphere. Since they operate in a vacuum, and there is no resistance from the atmosphere, outer-space-only craft (I am sure there is a technical name, very scientific) for such vehicles), they can look as clunky as they want to be, with antennae, and solar panels, and such, sticking out in all directions. Maybe design has to take into account the possibility of an aerial snapping when hit by a passing meteor, but in general, it does not need the shape that a craft that needs to enter the Earth’s atmosphere should have, to reduce the friction and heat of re-entry.

Another example of this is the “qwerty” keyboard, that is still widely in use. I know that many computer techies (like ) use

the Dvorak keyboard

and many mobile phones and keyboards have an “abcd” keyboard; but the majority of all keyboards still use the “qwerty”, which does have many problems. But…it’s as if we, when used to something, are often unwilling to conceive of

something different .

This applies also when someone has made a true innovation. When Sony built the Walkman, for years, we saw me-too’s flooding the market. Now the iPad and the iPhone are cool things to imitate…even when their drawbacks are quite apparent.

I suppose one may also call it “design fashion”. One particular design becomes the “norm” and other designs, even if better, fall by the wayside sometimes, and are not commercial successes. The cathedral of “That’s the way things are always done” seems to loom large on the skyline of design, and sometimes real creativity is sacrificed at its altar.

How long it took for the no. of camera exposures to be counted downwards, or the fuel guage on cars to show how many miles the fuel available was good for (varying with the speed of the car) rather than just showing how much petrol was in the tank! With the innovation, one could get the actual information one really wants…how many exposures are left, and how many miles one can drive the car for. (Most cars in India still have only the old-fashioned petrol guages.)

But in spite of the Innovation Trap, true innovation and creativity continues to happen, and that’s the great thing about the human mind….!

Krishna Panyam: Origami, at Jaaga, 300112

January 31, 2012

I have had, as usual, a lot of interesting things to do…and one of them was the Origam workshop I attended at

Jaaga

I found that the teacher, Krishna Panyam, was someone I had met earlier, on the bus tour of the lakes of Bangalore

Here’s one of the pieces that Krishna made:

More photos can be seen on my FB album, if you

click here

(you need a Facebook account).

Here is Krishna, starting the workshop:

krishna starts orgmi 300112

Here are some samples of his work:

some smpls orgmi 300112

some more smpls orgmi 300112

rose orgmi 300112

Here’s a sample of (very difficult) curved origami:

Curved origami Krishna 300112

For more pictures, visit

Krishna Panyam’s Facebook album, click here

Wonderful….I enjoyed myself very much, as did all of us.

Staples….

October 25, 2011

Staples. A “staple” is something that is supposed to be very good…it forms the main part of what we eat, for example. But another kind of staple…those ubiquitous little twice-folded pieces of metal that hold two surfaces together…seems to be taking over the world. They are so popular that a famous chain of stationery is named after them!

I’ve learnt to utterly detest staples. Every document of an official nature that arrives at my doorstep seems to be festooned with them. A cheque or an important document is attached to the covering letter with one, the envelopes are often closed with two or three more, and several other staples seem to be added on in some random way, for what reason, I cannot fathom.

What is even worse is that so many packets of foodstuff are stapled shut. Every so often, these staples make their way into the packets themselves, and are a deadly danger to the unwary consumer. I remember, long ago, finding a staple in a dish of pulao that I’d ordered (it was the Peacock restaurant that used to be on Residency Road) and I promptly quipped that “rice is our staple diet, and the restaurant cooks know that!”

I googled around and can’t see much on the impact that staples have on the environment…but surely millions of small pieces of sharp metal can’t be a Good Thing!

So I was quite happy when a forward from Padma Kanani of Kalanjali gave the following news:

“Environmental company creates a staple-free stapler to avoid staple pollution.

“Staples are supposed to be so bad to the environment that a company decided to create a staple-free stapler. This product promises to make collation eco-friendly. Instead of using those thin metal planet-killers, the staple-free stapler “cuts out tiny strips of paper and uses the strips to stitch up to five pieces of paper together.” You can even order them customized with your corporate logo so you can, you know, brag about what your company is doing to stop the staple epidemic.”

paper stplr 251011

I would like to use one, but first I have to first find out how it works! Goodbye to the “staple” diet hereafter! Let me google and find out where I can get one…or, alternatively, I resolve to use only paper clips…and reuse them, too. Can anyone tell me who makes this eco-friendly stapler?

This post is for Venkat Mangudi, whose post on Facebook, and Gabin’s comment on it, that got me back to the subject of staples!

Toilet Culture

October 25, 2005

I recently received pictures of a new public toilet abroad, the walls of which are totally transparent from inside (for the user) but which looks as if it has mirror walls from the outside. The thought-provoking question was, “Would you use it?” My American architect friend responded, “I would hate to use it at night when it would have to be lighted up.” This had not occurred to me…but what I noticed in the picture was a drinking fountain set just above the toilet bowl…and that got me thinking about cultural differences. In the East, we always associate toilet with uncleanliness, and we would never dream of drinking out of a water fountain set above a water closet. When our toilets are usually dirty, and indeed, are often open fields, the association with lack of cleanliness and hygiene is too deeply ingrained. Even my own friends, who know rationally that the same water comes out of the taps in their kitchen as well as their bathroom, would hesitate to drink the water in the latter location.

Water v. paper is another major cultural difference between the East and West. “How on earth can anyone clean themselves with these pieces of paper?” yelled a relative who went to live with her daughter in Toronto. I personally cannot do without water,either…I usually make do with one of the plastic yogurt tubs! Wet wipes seem to be a compromise that may still leave many unsatisfied (and perhaps unwiped!)

One habit which I would like my compatriots to learn from the West is the practice of washing hands after using the toilet…I am sure there will be much less disease if this were adopted. But this, alas, also requires a lot of water, which we have very little of…I dream of the day when my country will have clean public toilets…. and when we will stop having open toilets on trains, too….!

But as long as I live, I am destined never to get used to ONLY toilet paper, and will always be…”Little Lota”!