Today, we went to Mansour Mall in the evening. We thought of having Kunafeh (sweet cheese pastry) and so we walked into MADO Cafe. MADO is a Turkish ice cream brand and has over 250 branches working as cafes and restaurants all over the world. The brand gets its name from two words : “Maraş”, the former name of the city where the firm is originated; and “Dondurma”, the Turkish name used for ice-cream.
Kunafeh is a pastry that is common to countries in the Middle East. It is a dessert popular in Levant region and Turkey, Greece, Iraq, etc. It is made with the shredded phyllo like pastry and it is usually filled with a neutral, non-salty, stringy cheese and it is baked until the pastry gets nice and golden brown and crispy and it is then smothered in a simple syrup. It is served with crushed pistachios spread over it.
According to Wikipedia, Kunafeh is first mentioned in 10th century. It is generally believed to have originated in Palestinian city Nablus in West Bank. However, some believe that the origin of the savoury sweet Kunafeh may date back to the time of the Abbasid Caliphate in 9th century Baghdad. Gil Marks, author of “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” writing about the “early adoption and production of this pastry by the Jewish community,” relates how the Caliphs’ cooks made a “crepe-like” pastry called qata’if wrapped around almond cream and drizzled with honey. By the 13th century, Middle Eastern cooks began to bake “thinly sliced … qata’if and tossed the shreds with honey,” but the preparation was later modified whereby the qata’if batter was poured “into thin lines onto the metal sheet.” This new method of cooking the dough became known as Kadayif or Kunafeh, a variation of the word qata’if.
Kunafeh is really very tasty sweet dish. I love it although it’s quite a high calorie dessert. MADO Cafe also served with a small piece of vanilla ice cream topped with crushed pistachios. Just awesome!
This story is not in Ramcharitmanas or in Valmiki Ramayana, but it was probably added in some later versions of Ramayana. This story is, however, very famous.
After airing fatal arrow on the battlefield of Lanka, Lord Rama told his brother Lakshmana: “Go to Ravana quickly before he dies and request him to share whatever knowledge he can. A brute he may be, but he is also a great scholar!”
The obedient Lakshmana rushed across the battlefield to Ravana’s side and whispered in his ears, “Demon-king, do not let your knowledge die with you. Share it with us and wash away your sins.” Ravana responded by simply turning away. An angry Lakshmana went back to Rama, “He is as arrogant as he always was, too proud to share anything.” Rama comforted his brother and asked him softly, “Where did you stand while asking Ravana for knowledge?” Lakshmana replied: “Next to his head so that I hear what he had to say clearly.”
Rama smiled, placed his bow on the ground and walked to the deathbed of Ravana. Lakshmana watched in astonishment as his divine brother knelt at Ravana’s feet. With palms joined, with extreme humility, Rama said, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.”
To Lakshmana’s surprise, Ravana opened his eyes and raised his arms to salute Rama and said:
If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, unlike your rude younger brother, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things that are actually good for you, fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination. This is the wisdom of my life, Rama, my last words, I give it to you.
Ravana then taught Lakshmana that a king who is eager to win glory must suppress greed as soon as it lifts its head, and welcome the smallest chance to do good to others, without the slightest procrastination. Greed arises from attachment to the senses and catering to them. Put them in their proper place; they are windows for knowledge, not channels of contamination. Then he tells him about Politics and Ethics which mainly said:
do not be enemy of your charioteer, your gatekeeper, your cook and your brother, they can harm you anytime,
do not think you are always a winner, even if you are winning always,
always trust the minister, who criticizes you,
never think your enemy is small or powerless, like I thought for Hanuman,
never disclose your secrets, like I allowed Vibhisana to join Rama with all our secrets,
never think you can outsmart the stars, they will bring you what you are destined to,
either love or hate God but both should be immense and strong.
With these words, Ravana died.
Ravana belonged to an august lineage, having been born as the grandson of Brahma, the creator of the universe, and the son of the sage Vishrava and younger brother of Kubera, the deity of wealth. Ravana was a scholar and connoisseur of arts. Ravana possessed a thorough knowledge of Ayurveda and political science. His ten heads represent that his knowledge of the six Shastras and the four Vedas.
Rama once addressed Ravana as a “Maha Brahman”. An insatiable, all-consuming ego turned out to be Ravana’s Achilles’ heel that negated all his otherwise divine qualities. Rama was very impressed with Ravana’s knowledge and wisdom which is why after defeating him; he praised Ravana and deputed his brother Lakshmana to seek knowledge from the dying Ravana.
As we burn his effigies today on the occasion of Dussehra, we must try to kill our ego and let Ravana’s golden teachings guide us in our life.
Back in the pre-internet days, if someone asked you a tricky question, you had a couple of options. You could see if anyone you knew had the answer. You could pull out an encyclopaedia. Or you could head down to the library to carry out research. Whichever one you opted for, it was almost certainly more complicated and time-consuming than what you’d do today: Google it.
Thanks to technology – and the internet in particular – we no longer need to depend on our sometimes unreliable memories for random facts and pieces of information. Think about it: when was the last time you bothered to memorise someone’s phone number? And what’s the point in learning the spelling of that long, complicated word when autocorrect will pick it up for you?
But with all the knowledge we could ever need at our fingertips, are we outsourcing our memory to the internet?
We are indeed, according to recent research. The latest study, from academics at the universities of California and Illinois, found that our increasing reliance on the internet is transforming the way we think and remember.
In the study, two groups of people were asked to answer a set of trivia questions. Those in the first group were told to use only their memories, while the others had to look up the answers online. Both groups were then asked a set of easier questions and given the option of using the internet. Those who had used the internet the first time round were much more likely to do so again.
Not only were they more likely to refer to the internet, they were quicker to do so, making very little attempt to figure out the answer themselves, even when the questions were relatively simple.
All of this is evidence of a trend the researchers refer to as “cognitive offloading”. It has become so easy to just look something up online, we’re giving up even trying to remember certain things.
The more important question, then, is whether or not this is a good thing. The opinion seems divided as to whether this is a positive or negative development.
Some argue that by removing the need for rote learning – a system under which we were forced to memorise dates, names and facts – the internet has helped free up cognitive resources for other, more important things.
By relying on the internet as an external hard drive for our memory, we are losing the ability to transfer the facts we hear and read on a daily basis from our working memory to our long-term one, which is essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.
While much more research into the consequences of this remains to be done, perhaps the change isn’t as significant as we might think. After all, as technology we’ve actually been outsourcing our memory for a long time.
Humanity has always relied on coping devices to handle the details for us. We’ve long stored knowledge in books and on paper and post-it notes. It’s just that today, we turn to more sophisticated tools for that helping hand. I think the internet (and technology, more generally) is going to greatly expand the capabilities of the human mind.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra (PBK) — Non-Resident Indian Centre — in New Delhi today on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, as an institution to help engage with India’s vast diaspora and commemorate their trials, tribulations and achievements. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj was also present at the event. Indian embassy organised live webcast of inauguration of PBK and invited us to attend the show.
PBK is a tribute to the overseas Indian community and commemorates their migration to various parts of the world, the challenges they faced abroad, their achievements and contributions. One of the important components of the PBK is a Diaspora Museum, to highlight the experience of overseas Indians in diverse parts of the globe. The museum will depict the history of migration of the overseas Indian community; their experience and contributions. It would be curated by a professional curator, and contain artefacts, documents and photographs, etc. relevant to the diaspora.
Over time, the Kendra is expected to develop into a hub of activities for sustainable, symbolic and mutually rewarding economic, social and cultural engagement between India and its diaspora. Activities, seminars, events, workshops pertaining to the Indian diaspora are expected to be organised in PBK.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated in India on January 9 each year to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa in Bombay on January 9, 1915.
While most people probably make their important life decisions based on, oh I don’t know, common sense and things like that, there are a whole lot of people around the world who do take their star signs and horoscopes seriously, and with more than 25 percent of respondents in a recent survey calling astrology “very scientific”, there’s a big problem here.
NASA did some new calculations and determined there are actually 13 zodiac signs instead of 12, meaning that 86 percent of all people were actually born under a different sign! The 13th zodiac sign is Ophiuchus. It’s pronounced “oh-FEW-kuss.” Ophiuchus has been used in sidereal and Vedic astrology, but is not commonly practiced in the western astrology.
NASA clarifies on their blog that they study astronomy, not astrology. They didn’t change any zodiac signs, they just did the math. Astronomy is the scientific study of everything in outer space. Astronomers and other scientists know that stars many light years away have no effect on the ordinary activities of humans on Earth.
The Babylonians lived over 3,000 years ago. They divided the zodiac into 12 equal parts – like cutting a pizza into 12 equal slices. They picked 12 constellations in the zodiac, one for each of the 12 “slices.” So, as Earth orbits the sun, the sun would appear to pass through each of the 12 parts of the zodiac. Since the Babylonians already had a 12-month calendar (based on the phases of the moon), each month got a slice of the zodiac all to itself.
But even according to the Babylonians’ own ancient stories, there were 13 constellations in the zodiac. So they picked one, Ophiuchus, to leave out. Even then, some of the chosen 12 didn’t fit neatly into their assigned slice of the pie and crossed over into the next one.
When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and August 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo. Now, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth’s axis (North Pole) doesn’t point in quite the same direction.
The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the sun spends different lengths of time lined up with each one. The line from Earth through the sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only 7 days. To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12. Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time.
While this explanation should clear up any remaining confusion, NASA stresses one major point: Astrology is something else. It’s not science.
Zodiacal signs are of equal length whereas the zodiacal constellations are not equal in length. Whether or not you believe horoscopes are worthwhile, it seems Ophiuchus won’t be disrupting our astrological zodiac any time soon.🙂
Now making waves in public finance circles are Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). It’s an innovative approach to finance social service programs that combines outcome-based payments and market discipline. They are designed to raise private capital for intensive support and preventative programs which address areas of pressing social need. It is a financial mechanism in which investors pay for a set of interventions to improve a social outcome that is of social and/or financial interest to a government. These are not bonds in the traditional sense. Investors are repaid, based on the level of success that the organization receiving the funding is able to achieve.
The funding concept is a type of “Pay For Success” (PFS) model where private investors invest capital and manage public projects, usually aimed at improving social outcomes for at-risk individuals, with the goal of reducing government spending in the long-term. Because payment is based on results rather than process, there is more room for innovation and greater freedom to demonstrate solutions that work.
The catch is that private investors front all the costs and will be paid back a financial return by the government if and only if social outcomes are improved based on some standard measurement. The profit-motivating component comes from the fact that some of the savings from reduced costs for the government can be used to pay back the investor contingent upon their success. If the social outcome improves, the government repays the investors for their initial investment plus a return for the financial risks they took. If the social outcomes are not achieved, the investors stand to lose their investment.
According to a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco paper, although PFS contracts have received widespread attention, there is nothing fundamentally new about governments paying for outcomes. What makes recent PFS initiatives distinctive is that they are focused not simply on creating additional financial incentives for contractors to produce better outcomes, but more broadly on overcoming the wide set of barriers that are hindering the pace of social innovation. For sure, these barriers include a lack of performance focus and outcome measurement, but they also include political constraints that prevent government from investing in prevention, the inability of nonprofits to access the capital needed to expand operations, and insufficient capacity to develop rapid and rigorous evidence about what works.
Under the most common SIB model, the government contracts with a private-sector intermediary to obtain social services. The government pays the intermediary entirely or almost entirely based upon achievement of performance targets. Performance is rigorously measured by comparing the outcomes of individuals referred to the service provider relative to the outcomes of a comparison or control group. If the intermediary fails to achieve the minimum performance target, the government does not pay. Payments typically rise for performance that exceeds the minimum target, up to an agreed-upon maximum payment level. Payments are funded at least partially by the cost savings to government achieved through the improvement in outcomes.
The intermediary obtains operating funds by raising capital from independent commercial or philanthropic investors who provide up-front capital in exchange for a share of the government payments that become available if the performance targets are met. The intermediary uses these operating funds to contract with service providers to deliver the interventions necessary to meet the performance targets.
In 2010, Social Finance UK launched the first Social Impact Bond in the United Kingdom — targeting reducing reoffending. By linking a social target to financial success, the Peterborough pilot generated worldwide interest in whether innovative finance can make an impact on the world’s most difficult challenges.
Following the announcement of the world’s first SIB in the United Kingdom in 2010, countries as varied as the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Columbia, India, Ireland, and Israel have started exploring SIBs. Proposed projects target social problems ranging from recidivism to homelessness, unemployment, youth outcomes, and early childhood education. 60 SIBs have launched in 15 countries, raising more than $200m in investment to address social challenges, as of June 2016. 4 projects have fully repaid investor capital.
Why do Social Impact Bonds resonate so widely? Social Finance thinks that it is the values of partnership and collaboration, flexibility and responsiveness, and a focus on data, outcomes, and measurement which all stand at the heart of the model. Investors, whose interests are aligned with other partners to achieve outcomes, play a key role. It is exciting to see an idea move from conception, to exploration, to implementation so quickly and so broadly. Most importantly, it’s making positive impacts.
The full moon known as this year’s Harvest Moon — a moon that appears bigger and brighter than usual due to its close proximity to earth — rises tonight coincided with a minor, penumbral lunar eclipse for many people in Asia and Africa. That won’t happen again until 2024.
Moonrise for several days around the time of the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox occurs nearly at sunset. Before artificial lighting, this gave farmers extra time to cut and move ripened crops. Hence, the full moon closest to autumnal equinox is called Harvest Moon. According to NASA, this can make it seem as if there is a full moon for several nights in a row. Because all this extra light it provided in the early evenings was helpful for harvest crews working long days, it became known as the harvest moon.
The Harvest Moon this year falls in September, although occasionally this title can be bestowed upon the October full moon. That will happen 12 times from 1970 to 2020, occurring next in 2017. The 2016 version of the Harvest Moon comes six days prior to the autumnal equinox, although it can occur as early as September 8 (as it did in 2014) or as late as October 7 (as happened in 1987).
What sets the Harvest Moon apart from other full moons is that it occurs at the climax of the harvest season, so farmers can work late into the night by the moon’s light. This moon rises at about the time the sun sets, and — more importantly — at this time of year, instead of rising its normal average of 50 minutes later each day, the moon seems to rise at somewhat the same time each night. In other words, most nights the moon rises an average of 50 minutes later than it did the day before, but around this time of year that difference is only 30 minutes.
Is the Harvest Moon bigger, or brighter or more colorful? Not necessarily. It’s different every year. But the 2016 Harvest moon does count as a bigger-than-average full moon. That’s because this full moon is near perigee, the closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit. This full moon comes today (September 16) at 19:05 UTC.
The Harvest Moon is undergoing an eclipse of sorts tonight, although this event is not affording viewers much of a spectacle. It’s a “penumbral” eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes through the outer fringe of the Earth’s shadow. Unlike when the moon interacts with the dark umbral shadow of Earth, resulting in a noticeable “bite” out of the lunar disk, a penumbral eclipse at best causes a tarnishing or “smudginess” on the moon at maximum effect.
Because the sun is a large disk rather than a single point of light, our planet’s shadow also has a lighter outer cone, or penumbra, that can also envelop the moon. When this penumbral eclipse happens, it creates a subtle shading of the lunar disk. It needs a telescope to clearly see the effect of penumbra on the moon.
Eclipse began today (September 16) at 16:54:42 (UTC) and will continue until 20:53:59 (UTC). Lunar eclipses look approximately the same all over the world and happen at the same time.
The notion that plants can “talk” to one another was, until relatively recently, dismissed as fantasy, but the reality of inter-plant communication is now becoming an accepted part of mainstream science. A new study shows that trees of different species can exchange large amounts of carbon via the fungal internet that connects their roots. Hidden under your feet is an information superhighway that allows plants to communicate and help each other out. It’s made of fungi.
No tree is an island, and no place is this truer than the forest. Hidden beneath the soil of the forest understory is a labyrinth of fungal connections between tree roots that scientists call the mycorrhizal network. Coined by the journal Nature, the term Wood Wide Web has come to describe the complex mass of interactions between trees and their microbial counterparts underneath the soil. The Wood Wide Web, have allowed scientists to understand the social networks formed by trees underground.
The relationship between these mycorrhizal fungi and the plants they connect is now known to be ancient (around four hundred and fifty million years old) and largely one of mutualism — a subset of symbiosis in which both organisms benefit from their association. In the case of the mycorrhizae, the fungi siphon off food from the trees, taking some of the carbon-rich sugar that they produce during photosynthesis. The plants, in turn, obtain nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen that the fungi have acquired from the soil, by means of enzymes that the trees do not possess.
The implications of the Wood Wide Web far exceed this basic exchange of goods between plant and fungi, however. The fungal network also allows plants to distribute resources — sugar, nitrogen, and phosphorus — between one another. A dying tree might divest itself of its resources to the benefit of the community, for example, or a young seedling in a heavily shaded understory might be supported with extra resources by its stronger neighbours. Trimming the small plants has also revealed that the trimmed, stressed plants can send food to healthy neighbours. Even more remarkably, the network also allows plants to send one another warnings. A plant under attack from aphids can indicate to a nearby plant that it should raise its defensive response before the aphids reach it.
Not everything that is transmitted between plants is beneficial to an individual plant, since toxins may also be transported via mycelial networks. The influence of one plant to influence (usually restrict) the growth of another is termed allelopathy, and functions via chemical messengers, e.g. the production of juglone by walnut trees, which was found to reduce the weight of tomato seedlings by about one-third. The whole system is integrated, holistic and complex, and a new area of research has emerged which aims to understand inter-plant communication at the molecular level. It appears that plants may use a form of “language”, in which different molecules act as “words”, although the precise nature of the dialogue has yet to be deciphered.
The implications of inter-plant communication via fungal networks are potentially far-reaching. For example, forest management (harvesting) practices should involve preserving the Mother Trees to nurture new growth. In agriculture, too, practices that leave the mycorrhizal (mycelial) network intact, are thought to aid the absorption of water and nutrients from the soil, and to improve the ability of plants to resist pathogens. Hence the practices of heavy and deep ploughing, which breaks-up the mycelial networks, have been called into question.
The revelation of the Wood Wide Web’s existence, and the increased understanding of its functions, raises big questions — about where species begin and end; about whether a forest might be better imagined as a single superorganism, rather than a grouping of independent individualistic ones; and about what trading, sharing, or even friendship might mean among plants.
I am reminded of James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar. On the forest moon where the movie takes place, all the organisms are connected. They can communicate and collectively manage resources, thanks to “some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of trees”. Back in the real world, it seems there is some truth to this.
The Paralympic 1,500m final witnessed a stunning outcome in Rio last night as the top four finishers achieved quicker times than the Olympic Games gold medallist.
Algeria’s paralympian Abdellatif Baka, along with three other para-athletes, recorded times in the in the 1500m – T13 event, which would have been enough to win a gold medal in the main 1500m event during the Rio Olympics. But the Algerian was not the only one to better that of the Olympic field in a T13 class, which caters for visually impaired competitors. There are two other classes for visually impaired athletes in the form of T11 and T12, with the lower numbers indicating a more severe impairment.
Baka won the gold in three minutes and 48.29 seconds, while Ethiopia’s Tamiru Demisse who took silver with 3:48.49 and Kenyan Henry Kirwa (3:49.59), walked away bronze. Fouad Baka, the brother of the gold medallist, finished outside the medals but clocked 3:49.84 – again ahead of the Olympic Games gold time.
The feat was made all the more stunning given the fact that the second, third and fourth-placed finishers all recorded times faster than Centrowicz Jr. of the U.S., meaning that four Paralympic athletes had run times fast enough to win gold had they competed in the Olympic Games. Centrowitz Jr. had finished the final in 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Amazing! Hats off to these paralympians!
Our Indian para-athletes have done extremely well in almost all international events. Perhaps even better than our Olympians. They have won a gold medal too in Rio. I salute them for being dedicated and disciplined to achieve the unachievable.
There are many stories of messages in bottles travelling thousands of miles before being picked up and read, and letters arriving decades after they were posted. But here is a different twist. Today, I read an interesting story published by BBC. This astonishing delivery took place in March and was then not reported until May, when it came to attention of local Icelandic news website, Skessuhorn which noted “anything is possible in Iceland”. The story has now, belatedly, gone viral on social media after a photo of the envelope was posted on Reddit.
Rebecca Cathrine Kaadu Ostenfeld was reportedly surprised when a letter was delivered to the horse farm where she lives with her husband and three children near Búðardalur in the west of Iceland.
Instead of a postal address or a recipient’s name, the sender had drawn a map of where they believed the farm to be, together with the following, in English:
“Country: Iceland. City: Búðardalur. Name: A horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep!”
The sender had also added a further clue to the intended recipient: “the Danish woman works in a supermarket in Búðardalur.”
The letter had been written and sent from the Icelandic capital Reykjavík by a tourist who had stayed at the farm but who obviously did not know the address.
And, extraordinarily, it arrived at the right place. Amazing, anything is possible in the world!