Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Recently I read an article in the Time magazine which said that about 5.7 million  to 6.7 million bats are estimated to have died since 2006 from white nose fungus, and this could spell disaster, not just for the animals, but for humans as well.

What is worrisome is the potential loss of a critical part of the ecosystem. A female bat of reproductive age can consume her weight in insects each night and that amounts to millions of pounds of insects each year.  If the bats are wiped out, insect populations could explode, including pests that can decimate food and agriculture yields and infest forests too.
The tree next to our house is a great abode for the bats. Its peculiar in the sense that they start appearing when its dusk and there is a flurry of activity. I always wonder where they disappear during the day time as they are not seen “sleeping” on the same tree.

I tried to click some pictures, but as I had to rely on my flash it was a trial and error method . The pictures that you see here is the result of sifting through about 50 odd pictures. Most of them were either blurred or the bat was out of frame.

 I think these are the Fruit Bats as I see them eating something from these trees. I think these are Megabats.

Microbats and Megabats  are different in many ways. Megabats have large eyes and often dog-like faces; microbats have small eyes and often have elaborate facial structures. 

Microbats use echolocation to detect their prey while megabats rely on smell and vision to find food. Megabats feed almost exclusively on fruit and flowers, while microbats have more varied tastes, eating insects, fruit, pollen, nectar, fish, frogs, other bats and blood.

That brings us to the topic of the “Vampire Bats”
The famous Dracula novel by Bram Stoker has given bats a poor press - here are some facts about vampire bats to give the full picture.
·        Vampire bats don’t live in Transylvania; out of the 1,100 species there are only three species of the “vampire bats” and they all live in Central and South America.
·        Vampire bats rarely feed on human blood; they much prefer the blood of cattle, horses, pigs and birds.
·        A vampire bat doesn’t actually ‘suck’ blood, it makes a graze on its host’s skin to encourage a flow of blood and then laps this up with its tongue. 
·        Vampire bats are small. The commonest is only 7cm to 9cm long and takes approximately a tablespoon of blood each night.
·        They are caring towards members of their colony; apart from behaviour such as mutual grooming, they will even take care of others who are unable to feed by regurgitating the blood they have collected! 
·        Stroke victims may soon benefit from studies of a clot-dissolving substance in the vampires’ saliva.  

There are more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide, making up around one-fifth of all mammals. New bat species are still being discovered but relatively little is known about many of these incredible animals. Few people realise what an essential part they play in the natural world.
Bats can be as large as a small dog or as small as a bee. The largest bats are the flying foxes with wingspans of up to 2 metres and a body weight of 1.5 kilograms. At the other end of the scale is the bumblebee bat, weighing only 2 grams – the world’s smallest mammal.
While clicking these pictures I observed some of their habits. They squabble and fight and when they do that they produce some sort of a shrieking sound. But what they actually mean must be “don’t come here, this is my territory”
The younger ones flit around faster (making it difficult to photograph them)
Notice the way their claws are designed making it very easy for them to hang on a branch.

One more thing that I noticed (accidentally)
I kept taking these pictures on a daily basis, and was waiting for a good shot of one of them with their limbs fully stretched coming in for the landing. After a gap of three days I was ready with my camera, but surprisingly not a single one appeared at dusk.  It cannot be that they decided to boycott the paparazzi. It could be that the flowers on this tree has stopped emitting the fragrance and they must have moved over to better pastures.
Funny that we never notice such minor things though it happens right under our nose.
Every time I write a new post  I find myself enlightened a little bit about nature.
And talking about flowers blooming, and emitting fragrance, our Vanilla creeper is flowering again, which means I will have to again do the artificial pollination like I did last year.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fixing it back

We came across this wooden swiveling chair and thought it would go well with our computer table.
It did not have castor wheels (like the modern computer chairs) but the swiveling facility was there. In fact it was one of those antic chairs which was reconditioned and restored. So we bought it and asked the shopkeeper to deliver it home.
It was packed well and shipped to our residence.
While unpacking we found that the base of the chair was not fixed properly and was almost falling off.

Getting it back to the shopkeeper was one option but the shop was 800 kms away. When I spoke to the shopkeeper he said “see if you can get a local carpenter to fix it and I will foot the bill”

After having a closer look at the design of the assembly of the chair I realized that they were joined together with three taper screws (suitable for wood)

I always gave credit to our forefathers and their design ability, but this was one design that perplexed me. How did they assume that these three screws would hold the base to the chair. (the base is of solid wood and it weighs about 8 kgs) And it is obvious that if one has to move the chair from place to place, it would have to be picked up by the hand rests and not from the base.   
I did notice that there was a bigger hole too (20mm diameter) on both the halves. Was this used for locking while swiveling? Or was this used for fastening both the top and the bottom?  In all probability it was for the latter, which means the actual locking fastener was missing and was not put in place by the reconditioning/restoring agency.
I did not want to get any carpenter and get it done as he will try to open the base where the roller bearings existed for the swiveling arrangement. Disturbing that was not something that I wanted as it was assembled with the old type of metal and wood wedge arrangement.

I took it upon myself to set this straight.

I decided to reassemble it using a stud with nuts at both the ends for positive locking. So fixing it back using the same screws was ruled out.
Problem number 1
The existing holes were suitable for M4 studs and M4 studs come in short length.
So I got some M4 screws of the required length and cut off the head to convert them to studs.

Problem number 2
The big hole of  20 diameter could accommodate a screw of M16 but how do I insert the head of the screw which has a dimension of 26 mm across corners of the hexagonal head? I also had to insert some sort of washer to hold the bottom (base) while tightening. After a lot of brain wracking, I came up with the idea of  using a smaller size screw, something like M8. 

 For inserting a washer, I took a big plain washer and modified it to have an across flat of 19 mm.

To keep the screw centrally located, I got a nylon bush made with a hole of 9 mm dia.

(two views of the bush assembly)

Sequence of assembly:
For the three M4 Studs:
1)   Place the M4 nuts exactly under the three small holes.
2)   Insert the studs through the holes and slowly screw in the studs so that the nuts get engaged from below. This had to be done just by the feel of the hand as there is no spanner to hold the nut below. 
For the bigger screw of M8:
1)   Assemble the washer in the screw and slowly slide it in through the 20 dia. hole so that the head of the screw and the washer are inside.
2)   Slide in the nylon bush. (care had to be taken that length of the bush was lesser than the total  thickness of base plus upper part)
This is how it looked before assembling the top half of the chair to the base. (the screw and the studs are looking white as I added some tuflon tape for snug fitting of the nuts)

Place the chair on the base (taking care that all the four holes match) and tighten the nuts from the top.
 I realized that, even though everything was clear in my head it is always advisable to put it down on paper. Even a rough sketch will do, and while making the sketch its better to draw it to scale.

Here is a cross sectional view of the assembly.

Mission accomplished  -  now I hope that the top and the bottom will never get separated.
And yes, I did take a suitable payment from the shopkeeper, which he was ready to pay the “carpenter”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Flowers or vegetables ?

There is a flower show cum sale going on in town and wifey was very keen that we should visit and buy some flowering plants for our terrace garden.
Me: “But what about all the flowers that you already have on the terrace?”
Wifey: “Oh they all look so dull now, look at our Anthurium it’s a very pale pink, I want one in blood red colour”

Me: “Look at the corner of our terrace, you can see some red flowers”

Wifey : “They are some plain poinsettias and they are seasonal, so after some months those leaves loose their colour”
Me : “What about those tiny red  buds next to the pointsettia?”

Wifey: “Its poinsettias not pointsettia. And those are not buds, they are red chilies. Keep away from them, they may look small, but they are real hot and pungent”
Me : “And what are these green leaves?”

Wifey: “These are palak (spinach) one of the healthiest vegetables. 100 gms of farm fresh leaves contain 47% of the daily requirement of vitamin C, apart from minerals like potassium manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc”
Me: “All these in this green leaf?”
Wifey: “Remember Popeye the sailor and his appetite for Spinach. It is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids”
Me: “So much for Spinach. What is that wrinkled fruit hanging there?”

Wifey: ”That is Karela (bitter gourd) and it is a vegetable not a fruit"
Me: “Oh yes I know bitter gourd juice, once my mother tried to make me drink it and I just vanished from the scene only to return at sunset”
Wifey: “Best home remedy for Diabetics, Liver problem and Arthritis”
Me: ”Hey I know this one . . . .  its Pudina right? We use it for garnishing pork roast”

Wifey: “You only think of pork roast and pork chops. Do you know Pudina (Mint) is part of Greek mythology and according to legend - "Menthe" originally a nymph, and Pluto's lover angered Pluto's wife, Persephone, who in a fit of rage turned Minthe into a lowly plant, to be trod upon. Pluto, unable to undo the spell, was able to soften it by giving Minthe a sweet scent, which would perfume the air when her leaves were stepped on - thus aromatic herb Mint”

Me: “My my all these leaves and so many stories”
Wifey: “Yes and here is another good one for health – Celery

The organic alkaline minerals in celery juice has a calming effect on the nervous system, making it a wonderful drink for insomniacs. It is also said that the diuretic effect of celery juice also aids the breaking and elimination of urinary and gall bladder stones”
By now I was sure that she would forget all about flowers and the flower show when she blurted out “ but look at these flowers, they don’t look appealing any more. I think we should replace them with the fresh new flowers that we are going to buy”

Me: "This is a lovely flower, isn't this supposed to be in paradise, I mean the bird that comes to paradise?"

Wifey: "This is not the birds of paradise that you are thinking of.  Remember we saw it outside the hotel we stayed in Cochin last year. I got a  sapling from there and it flowered almost after an year" 
Me : “Quickly, tell me, what is this?”

Wifey: “Oh this is  Geranium”
Me : and this ?

Wifey: "Capsicum"
Me: "and this ?"

Wifey: "that's Asther"
Me : "And look at these tomatoes, today they are green but soon they will turn bright red and you will have more red in the garden"

Me: “I like that bhopla (pumpkin) creeper going up. So you see we have got such a nice and healthy kitchen garden. Why do you want to replace them with some funny looking flowers and…….”

Wifey: “We will not replace them, we will buy more pots and then we will have more greenery. Don’t you like to look at the birds and the bees?”
Me: “But we already have the birds visiting us in the mornings”

Me : “and as for the bees I did get a good close up of one while he was busy working on a flower”

Wifey: “See I told you. So now you are convinced that more flowers bring in more birds and bees. That brings us to the topic of the flower show. Shall we go this evening?”