Greater Cormorants: Fishing Experts

During these winter months, a number of migratory birds visits India from the countries where winter is very severe and also food availability is low. These annual visitors add colour to the season.

Many of the migratory birds are water waders and land in the lakes , big pools and other water bodies. Amongst these are greater Cormorants. They are huge birds and expert fishers. They hunt in groups and there is great jostling and fighting for the catch snatching.

In older days the trained Cormorants were used for river fishing in Japan and China. A snare was tied at the end of the neck which in addition to keeping the cormorant under leash also prevented the Cormorants from eating the fish except for smaller ones. As soon as the bird caught a fish, it was taken out from water and made to spit out the fish.

Nowadays, it is only a tourist attraction.

These days a number of these big birds have descended on Sulkhna Lake in Chandigarh. I took some pictures.

 

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A group fishing
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Sun soaking on a tree
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CHINA RULES THE WORLD IN SUPERCOMPUTERS

The Sunway TaihuLight is the fastest supercomputer as of November 2017 ranked number one in the Top500 list. It has a speed of 93 petaflops on LINPACK benchmark rating (1 petaflop=10 raised by 15) . FLOP stands for “floating point per second”.
It is in China and was designed by National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering And Technology. It is located at the National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi in Jiangsu province of China.
China beat the US in global rankings done by website Top500 which tracks the supercomputers. Benchmark tests are done by experts from Germany and US.
Some 202 supercomputers are in China as compared to 143 in US. China leads not only in numbers but aggregate computing power.

List of top 5 is as under

  1. Sunway TaihuLight……. China
  2. Tianhe-2 (Milky way-2)….. China
  3. Piz Daint… Switzerland
  4. Gyoukou…… Japan
  5. Titan…….USA

The fastest supercomputer is being used in climate modelling and science research.

Rare Foods Series :Yubari Melon 

Yubari melons are the costliest melons around. It is a hybrid melon developed from Earl’s “favorite” and Burpee’s “Spicy” variety. It is raised in the greenhouses in Yūbari.

These melons are worth their weight in gold.

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What makes them so special?
These are Prized for its juicy sweetness, perfect spherical shape, extra smooth rind and T-shaped stalks.

A couple of melons went for $27000 (17 lakh rupees) last year.

Code of Controversy

Lui Liu is a painter of Chinese origin and lives in Canada. He mostly paints nudes. His paintings seems to like dreams. Some critics call his paintings magic realism. But he says that magic realism is a genre of writing invented by South American writer most notably Gabriel García Márquez whose novel “Hundred years of solitude” is written in this genre. Lui Liu says that magic realism in strict terms is a way of telling surreal stories in which even dead people converse with living but these do not contain any political message.
Lui Liu seems to be a person often in a daze, for he cannot recite his home address and is likely to give a wrong phone number. However, when he talks about things like psychology and ongoing world issues, he is totally another person, with abundant ideas and clear analysis.

It’s hard to believe this man knows about the outside world so well when he spends almost every day at home painting and has few social activities. He doesn’t even have a mobile phone.

He said casual chats with a few close friends and surfing on Sina Weibo provide him with enough information to keep up with the latest happenings around the world. Amazing thought-provoking painting “Beijing 2008” by Chinese-Canadian artist Liu Yi.

He made the following painting called Beijing 2008. Although it first seems that painting has something to do with games but it is entirely a painting with political meaning. Although every spectator of the art interprets the painting according to his or her beliefmahjong

No two interpretations can be the same.
Many interpretations have been given like the one given below:
There are 4 women playing the Chines Mahjong. The woman with the tattoos on her back is China. On the left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. The one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying provocatively on the floor is Russia. And the little girl standing to the side is Taiwan.

China’s visible set of tiles “East Wind” has a dual meaning. First, it signifies China’s revival as a world power. Second, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. On one hand, China appears to be in a good position, but we cannot see the rest of her hand. Additionally, she is also handling some hidden tiles below the table.

America looks confident, but is glancing at Taiwan, trying to read something off of Taiwan’s expression, and at the same time seems to be hinting something at Taiwan.
Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but this is far from the truth. One foot hooks coyly at America, while her hand passes a hidden tile to China, both countries can be said to be exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is all seriousness while staring at her own set of tiles, and is oblivious to the actions of the others in her self-focused state.

Taiwan wears a traditional red slip, symbolizing that she is the true heir of Chinese culture and civilization. In one hand she has a bowl of fruit, and in the other, a paring knife. Her expression as she stares at China is full of anger, sadness, and hatred, but to no avail; unless she enters the game, no matter who ends up as the victor, she is doomed to a fate of serving fruit.

Outside the riverbank is darkened by storm clouds, suggesting the high tension between the two nations is dangerously explosive. The painting hanging on the wall is also very meaningful; Mao’s face, but with Chiang Kai Shek’s bald head, and Sun Yat-Sen’s mustache.

The four women’s state of undress represent the situation in each country. China is naked on top, clothed with a skirt and underwear on the bottom. America wears a bra and a light jacket, but is naked on the bottom. Russia has only her underwear left. Japan has nothing left.
At first glance, America appears to be most composed and seems to be the best position, as all the others are in various states of nakedness. However, while America may look radiant, her vulnerability has already been exposed. China and Russia may look naked, yet their key private parts remain hidden.

If the stakes of this game is that the loser strips off a piece of clothing, then if China loses, she will be in the same state as Russia (similar to when the USSR dissolved). If America loses, she also ends up in the same state as Russia. If Russia loses, she loses all. Japan has already lost everything.

Russia seems to be a mere “filler” player, but in fact is exchanging tiles with China. The real “filler” player is Japan, for Japan has nothing more to lose, and if she loses just once more she is immediately out of the game.

America may look like she is in the best position, but in fact is in a lot of danger, if she loses this round, she will give up her position as a world power. Russia is the most sinister, playing along with both sides, much like when China was de-occupied, she leaned towards the USSR and then towards America; as she did not have the ability to survive on her own, she had to weave between both sides in order to survive and develop.
There are too many of China’s tiles that we cannot see. Perhaps suggesting that China has several hidden aces? Additionally China is also exchanging tiles with Russia, while America can only guess from Taiwan’s expression of what actions have transpired between Russia and China. Japan on the other hand is completely oblivious, still focused solely on her own set of tiles.

Taiwan stares coldly at the game from aside. She sees everything that the players at the table are doing, she understands everything that is going on. But she doesn’t have the means or permission to join the game, she isn’t even given the right to speak. Even if she has a dearth of complaints, she cannot voice it to anyone, all she can do is to be a good page girl, and bring fresh fruit to the victor.

The final victor lies between China and America, this much is apparent. But look closely; while America is capable, they are playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. Playing by the rules of China, how much chance at victory does America really have?

Wasabi: The Real Stuff is in short supply

There is a Wasabi restaurant in Taj Hotel in Bombay. We can never afford to go to such hotels but heard the name in context of the terrorist attack on the hotel. Actually Wasabi is root stem like ginger and its name is Wasabia Japonica. All this indicates that the whole thing is about Japanese food especially Sushi. Wasabi is used as one of the ingredients in the form of paste of pistachio-green color. It adds the zing to the food.

The real thing is in the short supply even in Japan its home itself.  So at most places what is served as wasabi paste is most likely just a mix of European horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

As a member of the Cruciferae family, it is related to such plants as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard. Its distant cousin European horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) often substitutes for it.

Wasabi grows naturally in mountain streambeds, and the Japanese have cultivated it for more than a millennium. Wasabi grown in semiaquatic conditions is known as sawa, whereas wasabi grown in fields is called oka. The stream-grown wasabi produces larger rhizomes and is generally considered to be of higher quality.

The heat of real Wasabi lasts at the most for 15 minutes after grating. But its imitations like horseradish stays for long periods. The components of both wasabi and horseradish can be stabilized by acids, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

The key chemicals that give wasabi its characteristic heat and flavor aren’t present until the wasabi is macerated. When the cell wall is disrupted, it releases the enzyme myrosinase, which hydrolyzes glucosinolates, a group of sulfur-containing glucose derivatives, to produce isothiocyanates that provide wasabi’s spicy zing. The most abundant of these is allyl isothiocyanate. Horseradish has a different profile of isothiocyanates. One of the by-products of the myrosinase reaction is glucose.

The flavor is affected by how finely the wasabi is grated. The traditional way to grate wasabi is with a sharkskin grater, called an oroshi, which resembles fine sandpaper. Because the flavor and heat dissipate so rapidly, it’s best to grate it as you need it.

Scientific studies carried out by Savage and his coworkers show comparison of seven isothiocyanates in wasabi and horseradish. The horseradish contained 1.9 g total isothiocyanate/kg, whereas wasabi contained nearly 10% more (2.1 g/kg). Allyl isothiocyanate was the major component in both. The second most abundant isothiocyanate was 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanate, but it was found only in the horseradish. It, therefore, probably plays a major role in the flavor differences between the two plants. Every other isothiocyanate was present at higher concentrations in wasabi than in horseradish.

All is Energy

Hinduism is very difficult to define. It cannot be confined into strict rules and regulations. It can be amended to suit certain needs. So it is a dynamic system. It is continually evolving. One of the beautiful feature of the system is that both animate and inanimate things are given equal status  and thought to be the extension of the supreme one. The tenet that energy is the supreme cosmic entity has been proved to be true in the scientific experiments. Einstein‘s famous equation states it in beautiful short equation which tells us the energy and matter are inter convertible. Thus the material things which we see is the energy condensed into a small space. Atoms with higher atomic weight have large amounts of energy locked inside them. The sum of weights of their individual parts exceed the actual mass, a property called mass defect. Where is that mass gone? It is there in the atom itself in the form of binding energy. This tremendous amount of the energy had been used as nuclear weapons which cause the devastation on a scale unimaginable.

Fugu: A Fish Delicacy to Die For

Man is always for delicacies in every sphere of life. It is a passion of mankind to search delicacies and for this adventure, it is ready to take risks that can cost the life. After all, it must have been a matter of hit and trial as to decide what is edible or what is not. Every species in nature tries to create mechanisms by which to propagate its creed while not letting others decimate it altogether. Every species is dependent on other species to progress ahead by marshaling the support or by destroying it . Plants invented flowers and seeds and coated them with the prize of nectar and sugar to bait the bees and animals for carrying out the  pollination and broadcasting of seeds away from the tree itself.

When the dinosaurs and other mammoth animals created the situation of extinction for the plants by overgrazing, the plants filled their leaves with silica which will create injuries in the stomach and intestines of grazers and deter them from eating every kind of plants.

The taste of eating is uppermost in humans and this has led to myriad varieties of culinary arts and methods.

fugu

In this category is a fish called  “Fugu“, which is delicacy is Japan. It is very costly and dangerous delicacy. Certain parts like intestines, ovaries and liver contain tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide and among the most powerful poisons found in nature. This compound, block the sodium channels which are carriers of information by binding the positive sodium to their negative oxygen atoms.

tetrodotoxin

In the past, it is said that if a person in Japan was frustrated with life and did not want to live, he committed Harakiri by eating this fish.

The Japanese poet Yosa Buson expressed some of this feeling in a famous as follows,

I cannot see her tonight,

I have to give her,

So I will eat Fugu.

Only trained Chefs have license to prepare the fish. This show that taste can even beat the danger of life in humans.

There is interesting story in Japanese about the Fugu. Three persons prepared Fugu but were apprehensive about eating it for the fear of being poisoned, though they removed the poisonous parts during dressing. So they offered a dish to a beggar and waited to see the fate of beggar. They found that even after many hours they had given the dish to beggar, nothing happened to him. So, assured, they partook to delicacy.

In reality, the beggar was very intelligent and he hid the dish somewhere but pretended to had it eaten. He was waiting for the reaction of dish on the three fellows who had given him the dish. When the beggar saw them hail and hearty after two three days, he ate the dish. This way he had fooled the fellows who wanted to test the dish on him.