You Killed My Father, Prepare to Die

One of the best realizations I’ve had over the past two weeks was that Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride is Saul Berensen from Homeland. In retrospect, it’s quite obvious:

Mandy Patinkin, what a versatile actor. Here are a few of his great moments.

Inigo sword fighting:

Saul fighting terrorism:


More on Azadpur Mandi

Note: This blog post was originally published on the MIT Public Service Center website. It’s the second post in a blog series sharing findings from a research project I’m working on throughout the month of January.

January 10, 2012

Paul Artiuch and Sam Kornstein are graduate students at the Sloan School of Management. Throughout the month of January they are researching market-oriented approaches to reducing agricultural food waste in India. They will be sharing their project scope and some of their findings in this blog series.

Soon after arriving in Delhi, we took a walk over to a local market and spoke with a man who runs the community produce stand. We asked him where he buys his fruits and vegetables. “I take my truck to Azadpur Mandi every day at five in the morning,” he said. “Is that where all of Delhi’s markets get their produce?” we responded. “Just about, except for the government-run shops.” We probed a bit more about seasonality, food waste, and prices, but found that his operation is fairly simple, and nearly nothing gets wasted at the retail level. Even if food becomes damaged someone in the community finds a use for it.

Azadpur Mandi turns out to be the largest wholesale produce market in all of Asia. Covering 80 acres in North Delhi, it not only supplies the city and its surrounding communities with fresh produce but also serves as a hub for the rest of India. We took a ride over to Azadpur at the break of dawn the following day, and walked around for a few hours talking to traders, truck drivers and storage managers. There were colorful trucks being unloaded everywhere, stacks of vegetables in bags being stored under tin roofs, and thousands of traders, commission agents, storage vendors and buyers haggling over quality and prices. It was chaotic, and messy, but it all seemed to work even though Azadpur Mandi is significantly over capacity.

We asked people where their produce had come from and found peppers that had traveled 24 hours from Gujarat, chilies that had been hauled for 17 hours from U.P., and onions that were grown only a few hours away. In short, Azadpur Mandi is an aggregation point for produce grown in virtually every corner of India.

Despite its dilapidated appearance, and with thousands of tons of produce moving through it each day, the market was remarkably efficient with minimal edible food waste. The highest quality goods get sold to high end markets, restaurants, or are exported. Medium grade items make their way to markets in less affluent areas. Finally damaged or irregular produce, even if discarded by larger traders, is picked through and sold in push carts on the street. The whole system works quickly enough that it’s rare for food to spoil once it arrives at Azadpur.

There was however quite a bit of inedible food waste generated by the estimated 12,000 tons of produce that moves through the market every day. Once produce shipments are received, leaves, husks, and clippings are typically removed before the items are sold. The approximately 2 000 tons of waste need to be moved from the market daily to make room for new produce to come in. The market operator, a government agency, loads it onto carts and dump the waste into sectioned off enclosures, where cows and dogs pick at it until dump trucks come twice daily to haul the waste off to the city dump.

Here we saw an opportunity. Organic waste can be converted into compost and bio-gas, useful commodities, using a process known as bio-digestion. This is often done on a small scale in villages, and has been successfully completed on a commercial scale in many places around the world, including by the Massachusetts based company Harvest Power. To do this commercially, you need a large, reliable, and constant supply of organic feedstock – exactly what we saw in Azadpur Mandi.

While we found untapped value in the form of an agricultural waste stream, value that could be recognized by communities surrounding wholesale markets, we still haven’t observed the massive quantities of edible food waste that is known to be present along the supply chain. In a few days we’ll be traveling outside the city to some rural parts of Punjab. We’ll be speaking with farmers, traders and logistics companies to see what happens between the field and the arrival of produce at wholesale markets such as Azadpur Mandi.

(See photographs in previous post on Azadpur).

Guns for TV

From Bloomberg, via Kid Dynamite:

A Montana store is offering a free gun to customers who sign up for satellite-TV service, drawing criticism from an advocacy group and the dealer’s parent RadioShack Corp. (RSH), which is trying to stop the promotion.

The shop, located in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana about 50 miles off the highway, has tripled the number of signups for Dish Network Corp. (DISH)’s service since starting the offer in October, store manager Fabian Levy said. When customers sign a Dish contract, they get a gift certificate for a gun that can be redeemed at Frontier Guns & Ammo, about 10 miles from the store.

Assuming customers pass an FBI background check at the gun store, the coupons can be exchanged for a Hi-Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun that retail between $130 and $140. No license is needed in Montana to buy a gun.

All I got for subscribing to Comcast was a lousy stress ball and a free month of cable.

B + TV(x)

Sam has previously stated that “this blog is supposed to be loosely about beer.”  So for twenty minutes, I stared idly at my computer screen, sipping my Yuengling and wondering how I was going to relate this post to the topic of beer.  So here goes nothing.

I like beer.  I also like television.  In fact, I like to drink beer while watching television.  Although I have not taken a math course since 2001, I was able to arrive at a simple yet accurate equation: B + TV(x) = Happy James.  (A problem arises when B is greater than or equal to six beers [read: the six beers I’ll admit to my doctor].  At that point, Happy James is on the verge of becoming Drunk Spector, but that’s another tale).

B clearly represents beer, and TV is obviously television. So, then, what is the x factor (please note: this is not a reference to Simon Cowell’s upcoming talent show on Fox)?  This x factor is usually a road leading to cancellation.   It’s a variation of smart writing, clever producing and on-point acting.   But don’t just take my word for it.  What follows is a spot-on guide by Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of Arrested Development, on how to effectively ensure your sitcom will be canceled:

Have a confusing title

Come up with an unwieldy title that perhaps comes from the realm of psychology, so that the title of your show is almost instantly forgettable. For example, if you were to call the show “Welcome Matt”, an audience could immediately understand the concept: this must be a character named Matt and he must either be a welcoming person or stepped on. If you call a show “Arrested Development” it’s confusing and sufficiently disorientating to guarantee that a wide audience never discovers the fruits of your labour.

Audiences love fast cars and exciting vehicles

So see if you can put in some heavy machinery like a stair-car, that isn’t easily associated with speed or sex appeal.

Try to do too much for a 20-minute programme

If in your particular medium an audience is used to a simple plotline or maybe one or two stories, see if you can get eight in there, and find a way that they somehow intertwine. Also, it’s important that you have a lot of anxiety when they don’t intertwine, sufficient to deprive yourself of sleep so that you are miserable during the production of the show – but then upon completion of the show, you’re guaranteed to be miserable, because nobody will watch it.

Add a sprinkle of incest

They’ll never admit it, but viewers love sex. In fact, they love any sort of titillation, with the exception of incest. So focus on that.

First impressions are everything

So if you can screw that up, you’re made. With Arrested Development, we tried showing the deep disdain that connects a family. We wanted to hold up a mirror to American society. And, just as predicted, America looked away.

Don’t be afraid to give characters the same names

Audiences tend to run from confusion. So a show, for instance, where one character is named George Michael, one character is named Michael, one character is named George and one character is named George Oscar (and perhaps another character is named Oscar), will be the kind of show you can almost guarantee people won’t develop a fondness for.

Make easy jokes about minority groups

Whether they be Mexicans, Jews or homosexuals, any group can be dismissed with a few stereotypical cracks. At least, that’s what we tried to do. And given their “lack of coming to the party”, it seems we succeeded!

Squander iconic guest stars

As an example, Liza Minnelli has famously appealed to the homosexual audience. Note: it’s very important to alienate the homosexual audience first, or they might “come to the party”.

Don’t bother with a laughter track

Audiences don’t always know “when to laugh”. By omitting a laugh track you can almost guarantee they’ll never find out.

Audiences like nicely dressed characters. They also enjoy nudity

Split the difference by putting your character in a pair of cut-offs and call him a Never-Nude. Advanced: feel free to dip him in a vat of blue paint. That’s a real turn-off.

Make a show for British sensibilities

And then show it in America.

At least when TV(x) is removed from the equation through cancellation, I’m still left with plenty of B. Full circle.