Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Odd: Arecoline to the Influence of Population Pyramids on Revolution

An Odd line of thought, Betel Nut (puwak) to Population Pyramids and Revolution

From the wiki on Arecoline which is found in areca nut (Puwak/Betel Nut)
Arecoline is an alkaloid natural product found in the areca nut, the fruit of the areca palm (Areca catechu). Owing to its muscarinic and nicotinic agonist properties, arecoline has shown improvement in the learning ability of healthy volunteers. Since one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is a cognitive decline, arecoline was suggested as a treatment to slow down this process and arecoline administered intravenously did indeed show modest verbal and spatial memory improvement in Alzheimer's patients.
Hmm, I did not see that coming. Puwak/Betel Nut and by extension chewing Betel improves learning ability for the healthy and shows modest improvements in verbal and spatial abilities of Alzheimer's patients.

Now the big question is how should the Betel be chewed. Here is a comparison between the Burmese and Papua New Guinea (PNG) ways to chew betel from an gloves off article on Papua New Guinea (PNG)
If you have some time to waste during the day, though, you might try chewing betel. PNG [Papua New Guinea] is the second country I’ve visited where people do that; Burma was the first. Only, Papuans chew it differently. The Burmese dry out the nut, slice it into discs and wrap the discs in a leaf with a slurry of calcium hydroxide (that is, slaked lime that’s been slaked again) and various aromatic seeds and herbs. The lime reacts with the nut and turns it bright red, sort of like the dirt in my old town — seeing betel-cud splattered on a sidewalk always reminds me of Roebourne on a rare, wet, muddy December day — while releasing arecoline, the actual drug behind the betel high.
Papuans can’t be fucked with all that delicate drying and slicing. They get their betel (“buai“) fresh — the fruits look like little green coconuts — and crack open the husk with their side-teeth. (You can see dried husks by the thousands lying across town, like mini grass skirts for a mountain of Hula Barbies.) If the nut inside is white, that means it’s good for chewing; the whiter the better. Red-brown, oxidized-looking nuts are thrown away, replaced by the vendor for no extra charge, since they supposedly smell bad. You pay a kina ($0.50) for a nut, crack it open, chew it, spit out the latexy sap, grab a little loofah-shaped seed pod (the “daka“), bite the tip off, moisten it, dip it in a bag of lime (“kambang“) and try to chew on the nut-pod-lime mixture for as long as possible.
For those who think that that habits like chewing Betel are only in the East/Third World, tobacco chewing is equally disgusting and prevalent in rural America, specially among white Gun toting rednecks.
So now for Population Pyramids and the possibility of revolution in Burma (the thread/link connection was Burmese Betel Chewing habits)
But there’s a snag: popular uprisings really only succeed in countries with large populations of angry young men. Poland in the early 80s. Romania in ’89, Czechoslovakia in ’89, Indonesia in ’98, Egypt in ’11 – look at the population pyramids for those countries, and you’ll see they had an awful lot of 15-25 year olds, right when the shit hit the entrenched-ruling-elite fan.
Same goes for the pro-Western “color revolutions” in the Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan: demographic spikes in the 15-19 and 20-25 groups followed by rapid regime change. With revolutions, it’s age that matters. More than geography. Maybe more than ethnicity. Definitely more than fucking Twitter.

In Burma people hit twenty during the last decade, and, sure enough, massive protests suddenly broke out in 2007 after 19 years of relative tranquility. Media sources never failed to mention that the protests were “monk-led,” but no one seems to have caught the significance of that. By Southeast Asian standards, monks are basically college students (especially in Myanmar, where the government was smart enough to close most universities after the ’88 riots).
So, given Sri Lanka's Population Pyramid, where the biggest segment of the population is over 30 its unlikely we will have a LTTE or JVP like uprising which we saw in the last few decades. Can this be said of our neighboring countries, where the majority of the population is still very young and male dominated because of birth selection. Could invasion be a possibility in the next few decades from our immediate neighbors.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hindu Tea

Hindu Tea, the Caption says it all.
Available in Grocery stores around Flushing, NY

FYI: Cheap (Reasonable) Calls from US and UK (I Think) to Sri Lanka from mobile/cell phone

Got sticker shock when I saw the rates to Sri Lanka from the AT&T package in the US.
If you use a Skype like package it USD 0.16/min (and that does not include internet data usage).
If you use the World Connect package its USD 1.23/min (yes USD 1.23 min or SLR 150/min).
The other standard option is to use phone cards available from most grocery stores/bodega's out here in NY.
That means scratching the card, getting a pin number. Then call a local access number, punch in pin and then the phone number you wish to call. Its a real pain in the neck. One of the many downsides is you need to remember the phone numbers or have them written down.

Anyway was trying to figure out a way to call cheap from the mobile/cell phone and also be able to use the contact list in the phone. The other criteria was it had to be a phone-to-phone solution and not a Voice over IP (VoIP) solution. Skype etc are VoIP solutions and that means you get billed for data usage on the cell phone.

Settled on the following solution. Application on phone called LowCaller and subscription to phone-to-phone carrier. I used lowratevoip.com. but there few others and apparently might be the same organization (see here under the rate calculate pull down menu).

Here are the steps I used to get this working.
a) First check if your phone supports the LowCaller app (IPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Samsung and Symbian). I have a basic starter Android.
b) Get yourself an account at LowRateVoIP or similar (see here).
c) Make sure the phone (s) you are calling from are set up properly. You will get a text message and/or phone call with a verification number to your phone which you enter on the website.
d) Download the LowCaller app on to your phone. I used the browser on the phone and typed in the URL get.lowcaller.com.
e) Install the app (you will be prompted).
f) You can make all International calls to default thru the app. Make sure the phone number in the contacts/address book is in the form +94-7755522 for contacts in Sri Lanka.
g) Voila. You call a contact/name in the address book that has the phone number in an international format (i.e. +CountryCode-PhoneNumber) and it goes thru the app. Your phone number will also show up on the caller ID on the receiving parties phone.

Cost of the first few calls I made to Sri Lanka
Minutes    EUR     EUR/min   USD/Min   LKR/Min
00:11:39   0.720   0.06      0.08       8.8
00:00:14   0.070   0.30      0.39      42.9
00:06:31   0.420   0.06      0.08       9.2

So about the EUR 0.08/min advertised on website except for the very short call

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sri Lanka is the Eighth most charitable country in the world

It appears that Sri Lanka is the Eighth most charitable country in the world. The ninth and tenth are Thailand and Laos, both Buddhist countries. So, despite their relative poverty compared to Western countries, these three Buddhist countries are comparably charitable.More details here.

Sourced from a Brown Pundits post