Wednesday, October 7

On the front lines of humanity’s high-tech, global war on rats

I don't like rats. Seriously. It might be cultural or it could be historical due to their reputation of spreading disease but I'm not exactly a rat lover. Even though I loved watching ratatouille. And the fact that Ganesh's personal animal is a rat. Go figure. 

Heck I hate pigeons as well and call them flying rats. They are very destructive indeed. They gnawed through many books we had in bhopal. Tragic. And clothes and and and. Never ending battle against these buggers. 

Reminds me of the problem I started to face when I was at the previous bank. We moved into a new building and suddenly started to find, after some time, a spate of network outages. Weird. Networks don't go down that often. So we dug (no pun intended) into it. 

People started to eat too much at their desks and would drop food and crumbs. They would also store food stuff in their cupboards and desks. This would attract rats inside the building who loved this cornucopia. 

So we had to get rat catchers in. Change behaviour. Removed all the dustbins. Ask the cleaners to hoover every night. Not fun. 

Still quite an interesting story about rats. Also talks about Galapagos :) 



On the front lines of humanity’s high-tech, global war on rats
(via Instapaper)

Grate Hero Rats

Enemy at the Grates

On the front lines of humanity’s high-tech, global war on rats

By Josh Dzieza

Last May, a member of Alberta’s rat patrol paid a visit to a farm on the outskirts of Sibbald, a small town near the Saskatchewan border. He found holes bored into the foundation of a grain silo and feces littering the trash pit: telltale signs of a rat infestation, probably 100 strong. He scattered aquamarine pellets of poison, then returned with seven pest control officers, including Phil Merrill, head of the province’s rat patrol. Using a crane, they hoisted the granary off its foundation, watching for anything scurrying out, one officer standing ready with a shotgun. All the rats were dead. The patrol stomped on the burrows, then burned the silo for good measure. It was a bit of a disappointment, Merrill said. A few years earlier, they’d gunned down 157 rats at a single farm.

Merrill was swigging chocolate milk and recounting stories of past infestations as we drove toward the control zone, a sparsely populated buffer between Alberta, the largest inhabited rat-free region on Earth, and the rest of the infested planet. There was the rat in an Air Canada cockpit (chased down the tarmac, killed) and the infestation at the dump (poisoned, monitored with night-vision cameras to be sure). Keeping the province rat-free requires constant vigilance, and every spring and fall, Merrill and his team patrol the zone.

All members of the genus Rattus are banned from the province, but Alberta is especially alert for one species: the brown rat, also known as the wharf rat, sewer rat, and Norway rat. That last one is a bit of a misnomer: the species traces its origins to northern China and reached Europe only in the 18th century, where it scurried aboard ships and made landfall in North America around the time of the American Revolution. Fast, strong, and highly adaptable, it’s now present just about anywhere humans live or visit.

Burning down the farm

A structure in Alberta suspected of rat infestation and subsequently burned down. Image courtesy of Phil Merrill

Alberta had the good luck of being one of the last places rats invaded, and in 1950, the government decided to keep them out rather than try to control them once they gained a foothold. The first and most important step was to teach Albertans — some of whom had never seen rats before — to fear and hate them. Preserved rat corpses were exhibited at schools and fairs, and the government printed World War II-style posters depicting a province besieged by rodent hordes. The message was clear: if the rats were to be kept out, all citizens had to do their part — fortifying their farms, reporting incursions, and if need be, taking up arms.

The campaign has been largely successful, and half a century on, Albertans remain vigilant. Merrill’s rat patrol has a hotline, 310-RATS, where people can report possible sightings. The hotline gets hundreds of calls a year, mostly false alarms — misidentified muskrats or pocket gophers. When Albertans do spot a rat, they often act quickly, beating it to death with bats or shovels before calling it in. They even report their neighbors for keeping pet rats, or fancy rats, as exterminators call them. Rats are rats, and Alberta’s government gives them no quarter. Sometimes the owners have their rats flown out of the province, but generally, Merrill said, “We take care of them.”

Alberta’s landscape makes eradication feasible. It’s sparsely populated, and its sprawling farms and small towns provide few structures where rats can shelter from the harsh winters. The 250,000-square-mile province is protected by the Rocky Mountains in the west, frigid forests to the north, and badlands to the south. Accordingly, the government concentrates its efforts on a 400-mile-long strip on the eastern border with Saskatchewan.

As the nine members of the patrol travel through the control zone, they check every building that might harbor a rat. They examine foundations for signs of gnawing, ask farmers if they’ve seen anything suspicious, and hand out buckets of poison pellets. Merrill, an energetic and affable 64-year-old who’s worked pest control since 1971, says that the key to catching a rat is to think like a rat: you want a granary, preferably an old wooden one; you want bales of barley or something with a bit of protein to snack on; and you want water. Each time Merrill clears a site, he marks it on a GPS map with a skull and crossbones.

We pulled up to a farmhouse, and Merrill knocked on the door. “Rat patrol here, come to see if you’re harboring any rats,” he called out. A gangly, weathered man in his 60s invited Merrill in, pulled out a chair, and the two swapped local rat gossip.

They discussed a dilapidated grain house just over the border in Saskatchewan. As a rule, rats stick close to home, rarely traveling more than a few hundred feet from their nest, but when things get too crowded, some venture out, running through the surrounding fields; most die, but a few find a new building and start to breed. Merrill reckoned there were hundreds of rats in the grain house, and the colony was sending rats out in a 5-mile radius. With the cooperation of the other province’s pest control officer, he wanted to poison it, maybe raze it completely. “We’ve got to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” he told me.

15 Most Amazing Predictions for Kali Yuga from the Bhagavata Purana


I've been reading and blogging about the bhagwat Purana now for some years. Need to pick that up. It's the fattest single book in our library. That's the other claim to fame. Puranas are collection of stories about Hindu deities. Remember when I did the laxmi puja? And we acted out the laxmi story? I got that from the laxmi Purana. There are about 40 of these Puranas. Written from about 1500 down to the 18th century. These aren't single stories. They overlap. They don't have a coherent theme. Will be written by multiple authors. They will be written and overwritten over hundreds of years. Their character changes due to political changes. Changes in language. One scribe could have written one in bhrami which got translated into Tamil and back into Marathi or Sanskrit and and and. A veritable palmiset. 

But they are fascinating documents son. If you ever want to explore hinduism, start with the Puranas. Or even the Upanishads. In my experience, they are the most powerful and evocative philosophical tracts ever written compared to pretty much every other religion or ideology or philosophical school of thought. The ancient upanishad authors were grappling with esoteric concepts such as happiness, love, worship, life, universe much before the aristotles or socrates or platos of this world were even twinkles in their parental eyes. 

Still this article is interesting. The date of the bhagwat Purana given is rubbish. This was written around 1200 years back. And you can also quibble about the Sanskrit translation son. But it's good enough to think about. 

We are missing you :) 

Hope you're having a great time son. And tasting Spanish food and wine. Don't eat rotgut burgers and drink crappy beer. Drink the wine and taste the glorious food there :) search out the smaller hostelieries. Watch where the locals go to eat. Not the tourist traps. That's the key. Ask the waiter or concierge about which restaurant did he take his girlfriend or family to last month :) 



15 Most Amazing Predictions for Kali Yuga from the Bhagavata Purana
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In the last canto of the Bhagavata Purana there is a list of predictions and prophecies about the dark times for the present age of Kali Yuga. The following 15 predictions, written 5,000 years ago by sage Vedavyasa, are amazing because they appear so accurate. Despite the negative tone of these prophecies, there is still one bright spot for all of us, which is mentioned at the end.

Prediction 1:

Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

Do you remember the course kannu about learning to learn? This advice echoes what was said in the course. Take naps. Take breaks. Go for walks. Break out of the normal. Think of weirdass things while you're exercising. At work, I've setup my email so that I get them 10 minutes late. And never pick up the phone. That allows me to dictate my response to external stimuli. Small way to control the waterfall of information but that pays huge dividends son. The knee jerk response which is always suboptimal is avoided and I get to build on instinct and do a bit of thinking before responding. 

And today I'm taking brownies into work. Let's see what they say :) 

And have you confirmed the BBQ for your friends? Date and time? I need to plan son. Let me know. 



Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain
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Matthieu Bourel 

THIS month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Is the Croissant Really French?

This was a fascinating story kids. About how the croissant was born and then moved to its adopted country France. I always thought that it was invented as a response to the win over the ottomans but no. The French really make delicious croissants. I loved their food. The only quibble is that the portions are too small. 

Today is the final of the great British bake off. It's so popular. No wonder. I think desserts and pastries are the toughest to make. You have to be precise. Desserts are unforgiving. Unlike main dishes and starters and soups, a good dessert is a mark of a great chef. Takes time. Takes precision. Takes dedication. Takes huge amounts of practise. And practise. And practise. Quite a tough one. And all that I am not. All you are so health conscious that I cannot even practise. So my idea of going on a dessert course is now shelved. Grumbles. 

Anyway. Have fun reading this. 



Is the Croissant Really French?
(via Instapaper)

History of the Croissant

One bite of a croissant just pulled from the oven at Michel Lyczak’s bakery in the southern Parisian suburb of Malakoff is bliss: a satisfying crunch and scattering of crumbs, the indulgent mouthfeel of butter wrapped in the overwhelming sensation of lightness. Few foods are as culturally iconic as this flaky breakfast food, so quintessentially French that many English speakers defer to its native pronunciation (krwa-sohn).

Yet as recently as the 19th century, the French viewed the croissant as a foreign novelty, sold only in special Viennese bakeries in the pricier parts of Paris. And how it came to France in the first place remains obscured by layer upon layer of legend.

Experts do agree that the croissant was inspired by the Austrian kipfel, a crescent-shaped baked good featuring a generous amount of butter or lard and sometimes sugar and almonds. According to popular lore, the kipfel originated in 1683 as a comestible celebration of Austrian victory over the Ottomans at the siege of Vienna. The story follows that a baker, up early to make bread, saved the city when he heard the Turks tunneling underneath the city and sounded an alarm. The kipfel’s curved shape, said to mimic the crescent moon of the Ottoman flag, then would seem to pay poetic tribute to the indomitable spirit of a city that resisted a powerful invading force. (Conveniently, another legend holds that the cappuccino was invented almost simultaneously, inspired by the strong 

Tuesday, October 6

Prague astronomical clock

So here's a little overview of a world famous clock in Prague. We went to see this when Andrew uncle got married long time back. I don't think you kids were born at that time. It's a lovely lovely clock. At that time, it was difficult to appreciate it from way down where I stood, gaping at the clock. But I trace my interest in horology from that time onwards. And since then I obsess over watches and clocks and time pieces and the question of time itself. It's such a slippery character, very difficult to pin down. The only dimension in our existence which doesn't have a physical existence. And we spend time on time. To conquer it. By making time saving devices. By improving productivity. Time gets involved in so many things. In that recent science fiction film, intemperance, I loved the intricacies and complexities and incongruities and illogicality of time. I've also spoke about the bhagwat Puranas which talks about time. In the economist of few weeks back, they talk about different universes. Maybe having their own definition of time. What an extraordinary concept. And I have a book on procrastination (why it's good, not how to fix it!) in the toilet and guess what? Ironically I haven't been able to read it yet. 

Funny eh? 

Give Diya a hug. She's following in your footsteps and going to your old school son. She looks up to you and misses you horribly when you're not here. I did squish her and bless her and wish her the best of luck today morning. But I couldn't do that to you as you had your friends over :) 




Prague astronomical clock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(via Instapaper)

Prague Orloj

The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague orloj (CzechPražský orloj [praʃskiː orloj]), is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.

Monday, October 5

On "world's oldest papyrus"

This is a long but very interesting story kids. I'll let you read this in peace when you get a chance. Yesterday Diya and I went for a great time at the Wallace collection. Diya loved the landscapes and the food paintings. She shared the photos. We had a nice time wandering around the museum. It's one of my favourite small museums. Had some very cute stuff as well as some really lovely paintings. 

Anyway, what's so interesting about this article son is how it Sheds light on how an entire country was mobilised to build the pyramids. You have to go there once. It's an extraordinary place. The sheer scale is monumental. Completely blows your mind. It's just the years and years of work with millions of people working their hearts out. Stupendous. And then they found papyrus?!!!  

I'm going to explore archeology next time after finishing this study course. Maybe underwater archeology. That way I can kill two birds with one stone on diving and archeology. Anyway. I'm now day dreaming. 

Have a lovely week. Kannu best of luck with your new term. Missing you already :) 



Begin forwarded message:

Date: 4 October 2015 at 22:56:45 BST
To: "The Agade mailing list." <>
Subject: [agade] FEATURES: On "world's oldest papyrus"
Reply-To: "Sasson, Jack M" <jack.m.sasson@Vanderbilt.Edu>


The World's Oldest Papyrus and What It Can Tell Us About the Great Pyramids
Ancient Egyptians leveraged a massive shipping, mining and farming economy to propel their civilization forward
Alexander Stille

Following notes written by an English traveler in the early 19th century and two French pilots in the 1950s, Pierre Tallet made a stunning discovery: a set of 30 caves honeycombed into limestone hills but sealed up and hidden from view in a remote part of the Egyptian desert, a few miles inland from the Red Sea, far from any city, ancient or modern. During his first digging season, in 2011, he established that the caves had served as a kind of boat storage depot during the fourth dynasty of the Old Kingdom, about 4,600 years ago. Then, in 2013, during his third digging season, he came upon something quite unexpected: entire rolls of papyrus, some a few feet long and still relatively intact, written in hieroglyphics as well as hieratic, the cursive script the ancient Egyptians used for everyday communication. Tallet realized that he was dealing with the oldest known papyri in the world.

Religious Propaganda and Holy War in the 12th Century: The Friday Sermon following Saladin's Conquest of Jerusalem in 1187

The more I delve deeper into the medieval ages kids, the more I'm understanding how life was so interconnected in the first 500 years of the second millennium. It's one of the time periods that was dark but also was showing signs of change that would form the world of today. The winning back of Jerusalem by Saladin from the crusaders is one of those spectacular events. Remember geopolitics. The reason Muslims celebrated the recapture so hugely is because Jerusalem was sacred to them. And the Christian hordes were barbarians truly. The crusades were simply a series of massacres. Truly tragic set of affairs. But Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin and big celebrations. Some parts of the Muslim world don't like losing their territory. Witness the fulminations against Spain! Or India or Israel and Jerusalem. There's a constant whine of moans. But read the khutbah. It tells you what drove them and what they want. These sentiments are echoed down to today son. When Isis takes over secular Syrian places, they place their arguments on exactly these kinds of arguments. 
History is indeed a vast early warning system. Stuff that was done centuries back echo now. 

Religious Propoaganda and Holy War in the 12th Century: The Friday Sermon following Saladin's Conquest of Jerusalem in 1187
(via Instapaper)

The khutba or Friday sermon, delivered in the al-Aqsa mosque immediately following the conquest of Jerusalem by Salah al-Din Yusuf b. Ayyub (d. 1174-1193) in 1187, is preserved by Ibn Khallikan in his biography of Muḥyiddīn ibn al-Zakī. Ibn Khallikan (1211-1282) served as chief qāḍī of the Shāfi‛īs in Damascus. His greatest achievement is his biographical dictionary of some 800 famous Muslims entitled Wafayāt al-a‛yān wa-anbā’ abnā’ al-zamān (Obituaries of the Notables and News of the Sons of the Age), fully translated here:

Abū al-Ma‛ālī Muḥammad ibn Abī al-Ḥasan ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn Yaḥya ibn ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd al-‛Azīz ibn Ḥusayn ibn Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Qāsim ibn al Walīd ibn al-Qāsim ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān ibn ‘Abban ibn ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān [the third caliph], a member of the tribe of Quraysh and surnamed Muhyiddīn but generally known by the appellation of Ibn al-Zakī, or son of Zakī al-Dīn, was a native of Damascus and a jurist of the Shāfi‛ī school. He displayed acquirements of the most varied kinds, being versed in the law, general literature, and other sciences, and having composed some fine poetry, khutbas (sermons), and epistles. On Wednesday, the 20th of Rabī‛ al-Awwal 588 (5 April 1192) he was appointed Chief Judge of Damascus; so, at least, I have found it written in the handwriting of al-Qādī al-Fāḍil, and the same place had been previously filled by his father and grandfather, as it was subsequently by two of his own sons.