Saturday, March 17, 2018

How to identify the scripts of Chinese, Korean and Japanese(CJK)

Image result for scripts of Chinese, Korean and Japanese

How does the Korean alphabet differ from Chinese? Is Japanese written with Chinese characters? To many Westerners, it’s impossible to distinguish between the three languages on paper. However, after reading this post, you should have no issues telling Chinese, Japanese, and Korean apart.
The Scripts
When it comes to computers, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are usually grouped together under the acronym CJK, and for good reason.
While they’re linguistically unrelated, all three can be written both vertically and horizontally, and all three use Chinese characters - hànzì in Chinese, hànzi in Japanese, and hanja in Korean – which is one of the main reasons for the confusion.
Let’s take a look at the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean and see if we can tell them apart without having to learn any of the languages.


The Chinese language is the only one which entirely relies on this script, and even then, at least two different versions are in active use all over the world; traditional and simplified.
Below is the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on the color orange in hànzì:
橙色,又稱橘色,為二次顏料色,是红色与黄色的混合,得名于橙的 颜色。
Note how most of the Chinese characters are very dense and square. Chinese characters are the oldest continuously-used systems of writing in the world, so don’t be surprised if you come across handwritten texts which at first sight don’t resemble the above example.
Moving to Japanese, this language has the largest number of official scripts in the world.
Kanji – Chinese characters – are used for most words of Chinese and Japanese origins. Hiragana, the curvy, feminine script, was originally used by women, but it’s now the main building block of the Japanese language – employed for both grammar and vocabulary.
Katakana, the manly, more angular script, is used mainly for loan words, onomatopoeia, and transliteration of foreign words. Finally, romaji, the familiar Latin script used in English and other Western languages, can be found everywhere, from product packaging to company names.
Below is the Wikipedia description of the color orange, employing katakana, kanji, and hiragana, all in the same sentence.
オレンジ色は、果物のオレンジの実のような色。また、夕日に染ま る茜雲のような色。
As you can see, due to the use of katakana and hiragana, Japanese is slightly more airy and spacious than Chinese. As a general rule, unlike Chinese and Korean, Japanese also doesn’t use any form of question or exclamation marks, but you might still meet them in some situations.
The Korean language, in the mid-15th century, transitioned to hangul – the only script in the world made by an individual, for which the theory and motives behind its creation have been fully set out and explained.
It’s known as one of the most scientific writing systems in the world, and is neither based on ancient written languages, nor an imitation of another set of characters.
In South Korea, you can still meet hanja – Chinese characters – every once in a while, but the script is quickly becoming obsolete.
주황(Orange)은 색 중 하나이다. 이 색은 빨강과 노랑의 중간색이며.
Take note of the many circular shapes used in hangul – these are almost non-existent in the other two languages, thus making the script easy to recognize.  Furthermore, unlike Chinese and Japanese, Korean has completely adopted European punctuation marks, from commas to question marks, and space-delimits words and sentences.
A great strategy to use when it comes to distinguishing between written forms of South-East Asian languages is:
As you can see, you don’t even need to learn the individual languages to distinguish between them. As is often the case with linguistics, it’s all about pattern recognition, something we humans tend to be really good at!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Possible Causes of Memory Loss

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Do you walk into the kitchen only to realize you have no idea why you’re there, forget the name of someone you just met, or start driving only to realize you forgot how to get to where it is that you’re going? Such lapses are usually attributed to an overload of information, but from time to time, other things hinder your ability to remember. 

Here are 13 of the most common causes of memory lapses.
1. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 aids in the creation of red blood cells, reduces lethargy and the risk of anemia, and improves vital memory processes. A recent study found that Vitamin B12 deficiency may result in erratic memory. The research found that B12 works as a protective layer for myelin – the substance that coats our nerves. When there isn’t enough B12 in your system, the layer is not thick enough and gets damaged. This damage slows down nerve impulses, which can also lead to memory lapses.

B12 deficiency can be caused by old age – the older we get, our stomach secretes less acid, making it harder for our bodies to absorb nutrients from food. Another cause can be unhealthy diet choices, Anemia, and Crohn’s disease. B12 is most common in fish, meat, and dairy, so consult your doctor about the best source of B12 for you.
If you’re tired, gaining weight, feeling depressed and your memory is on the fritz, you may be suffering from hypothyroidism. This often occurs slowly and gradually, lowering the levels of the hormone thyroxine (T4), which has a critical role in our body’s energy production. Low T4 causes a slower metabolism and slower cognitive functions, causing lapses in memory.
Common causes of hypothyroidism can be autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, where the body attacks itself. Alternatively, viral infections and even abuse of antibiotics may also induce hypothyroidism.

If you’re under 45 and tend to be “forgetful”, you may want to test your blood pressure. In a research conducted at the University of Alabama, it was found that people who have higher blood pressure tend to suffer from memetic lapses, as well as a decrease in cognitive skills, when compared to people with normal blood pressure.
 High blood pressure damages the inner walls of the arteries, causing them to tear and form scar tissue, which hardens the arteries. Harder arteries allow less blood to travel through them, reducing the amount needed for the brain to function properly, and may lead to memory problems. The good news is that a healthy diet, physical exercise and weight loss can help reduce the risk of such arterial hardening.

A common theory that makes the connection between forgetfulness and menopause with women was recently corroborated. Research conducted by the University of California confirms that as estrogen levels dwindle, memory lapses tend to occur. Estrogen protects neurotransmitters, and without it, they become less efficient. Such cases can be treated with HRT.
If you suffer from migraines, you may be at risk of suffering from Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) in your fifties. 
Image result for memory loss
TGA is a state where a person cannot recall events from the previous day, cannot remember where they are or how they got there, while still remembering who they are and who other people are. 
It's customary to see this type of amnesia as a result of a genetic flaw, leading to a spread of nerve impulses in the brain. TGA can temporarily paralyze the memory, and, just like migraines, can be triggered by sudden immersion in hot or cold water, extreme emotional distress, or even sexual intercourse. Luckily, TGA is not very common, rarely occurs more than once in a lifetime, and is reversible.
6. Long Flights
Long flights can leave us exhausted and weary. These symptoms are usually caused by inconsistent sleep patterns, as well as jet lag.

Research conducted at the University of California showed that the feeling of drowsiness, memory lapses and the difficulty in processing information can extend for quite some time after the flight, and even after the feelings of jet lag have passed. When we sleep, our hippocampus processes our memories, so not enough sleep can cause memory lapses.
7. Pregnancy
Pregnant women are often stigmatized as having bad memory, and in recent research conducted in Australia, researchers compared the performance of pregnant vs. non-pregnant women. The results were conclusive - pregnant women under-performed in memory-related tasks when compared to their non-pregnant counterparts. Researchers hypothesized that the reasons are the changes in lifestyle and diet.
8. Chemotherapy
Another unpleasant side effect of chemotherapy is memory loss, often referred to as chemo-brain by patients. The chemotherapy can affect the way brain cells function, as shown in a Stanford University study that showed how women who undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer also suffered memory lapses when compared with those who did not engage in chemotherapy.
This is usually a reversible situation, and memory functions return to normal once chemo is concluded, but in some cases the improvement takes years. Taking aspirin, which increases the blood flow to the brain, can be a good way to prevent or treat “chemo brain”, but you should first consult with your oncologist.
9. Anesthesia
When undergoing major operations, anesthesia is often the only way a patient can go through the procedure without suffering major trauma. The downside is possible memory loss and reduced cognitive functions in the days following the operation. The University of Florida found that about 40% of patients who were over 60, suffered from memory loss after an operation, and 12.7% suffered serious cognitive problems in the following 3 months.
10. Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a type of “short circuit” in the brain causing seizures, and affects over 50 million people worldwide. During an episode, electrical impulses in the brain get redirected, leading to problems such as temporary loss of motor skills, loss of cognitive function and memory loss.
11. Arthritis and Asthma Medication
Corticosteroids are steroids the body produces, and can be taken as treatment of asthma and arthritis. Intake of high doses for a duration of six months or more may lead to memory problems. Despite being a rare occurrence, corticosteroids can actually kill brain cells and cause cerebral atrophy in the hippocampus, in particular. Changing the dosage can help, but your physician should be consulted with regards to other possible side effects.
12. Depression
Depression is associated with low levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin or norepinephrine. These chemicals can affect memory-related processes in the brain. Antidepressants and/or psychological treatment can help with memory problems.

13. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
The more alcohol you consume, the less capable your brain is of storing short term memories. Alcohol affects the hippocampus, reducing its functions, including the formation of new memories, which is why we sometimes forget what we did after we drink.
Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to Korsakoff’s syndrome, where the ability to form short-term memories is lost, making it difficult to recall recent information. A slow, controlled rehabilitation can stop the process of memory loss for at least 25% of patients

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dabbawalas of Mumbai

 Dabbawalas in Mumbai

The dabbawalas (also spelled dabbawallas or dabbawallahs, called tiffin wallahs in older sources) constitute a lunchbox delivery and return system that delivers hot lunches from homes and restaurants to people at work in India, especially in MumbaiWhen literally translated, the word "dabbawala" means "one who carries a box" .The lunchboxes are picked up in the late morning, delivered predominantly using bicycles and railway trains, and returned empty in the afternoon. They are also used by meal suppliers in Mumbai, who pay them to ferry lunchboxes with ready-cooked meals from central kitchens to customers and back.

Scurrying across the city from Virar to Nariman Point, from Kalyan to VT, about 5000  dabbawalas today manage about 2,50,000 dabbas between them!

Dabbawalas are the people who work hard , just not for the sake of food , but for others well being. It is rightly said- to quench others hunger is the greatest deed in the world.

Origin of Dubbawala service and the present position:

In 1890 Bombay, Mahadeo Havaji Bachche started a lunch delivery service with about a hundred men. In 1930, he informally attempted to unionize the dabbawallas. Later, a charitable trust was registered in 1956 under the name of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Trust. The commercial arm of this trust was registered in 1968 as Mumbai Tiffin Box Supplier's Association. The current president of the association is Bhau Saheb Karbande and Subhash Talekar is the spokesperson.

As the city grew, the demand for Dabba delivery grew too. The coding system created by our forefather is still prominent in 21st century. Initially it was simple colour coding but now since Mumbai is widely spread metro with 3 local train routes, our coding has also evolved into alpha numeric characters.

How the system works effectively?

A colour-coding system identifies the destination and recipient. Each dabbawala is required to contribute a minimum capital in kind, in the form of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, white cotton kurta-pyjamas, and the white Gandhi cap (topi). Each month there is a division of the earnings of each unit. Fines are imposed for alcohol, tobacco, being out of uniform, and absenteeism.
A collecting dabbawala, usually on bicycle, collects dabbas either from a worker's home or from the dabba makers. 
dabba, or Indian-style tiffin box
As many of the carriers are of limited literacy (the average literacy of Dabbawallahs is that of 8th grade the dabbas (boxes) have some sort of distinguishing mark on them, such as a colour or group of symbols.
Box coding
The dabbawala then takes them to a sorting place, where he and other collecting dabbawalas sort the lunch boxes into groups. The grouped boxes are put in the coaches of trains, with markings to identify the destination of the box (usually there is a designated car for the boxes). The markings include the railway station to unload the boxes and the destination building delivery address. Some modern infrastructure improvements such as the Navi Mumbai Metro are not used in the supply chain, as cabins do not have the capacity for hundreds of tiffins.
At each station, boxes are handed over to a local dabbawala, who delivers them to the customers in their offices..Once the dabbas have been delivered to their offices, the entire procedure is repeated backwards. Dabbawalas now scamper across the city to collect the empty boxes, and then deliver them back home. It is a nine-hour work cycle of extremely demanding labour, ensuring that the cook and the consumer get their tiffins in time. Perhaps it is this punishing physical labour that holds back women from joining the dabbawalas - it remains a male bastion. The dabbawalas also allow for delivery requests through SMS.
How efficient is this service?
The president of the Mumbai Tiffinmen’s Association claims that dabbawalas only make a mistake once in every six millions deliveries, translating to about one going missing every other month. It works so well that it has been studied by Harvard Business School and is reportedly the envy of FedEx. Several management experts across the globe use Mumbai dabbawalas as a case study, citing their near-perfect managerial operations
What’s the financial cost for this time-saving exercise? 
Around 450 rupees a month – depending on distance. That’s about the average for a sandwich and a packet of crisps in a city, let alone a delivered meal. And on the other end of the deal, each dabbawala is self-employed and paid the same, around 8,000 rupees a month, translating to about . It’s seen as a job for life, where the workers live by the philosophy, “Anna daan is maha daan”, translating to donating food is the best charity.

Prince  Charles was so impressed with their service that he had even invited 2  Dabbawalas to his marriage with Camilla Parker in London.

Roti Bank:

In December 2015, the Mumbai Dabbawala Association (MDA) came up with a plan to feed the destitute, needy and homeless people of the city. 

This initiative gave birth to the 'Roti Bank' - an association collects leftover food from functions and distributes it among the poor. Since its advent, their waste management drive has saved Rs 40 lakh worth of food from getting wasted.

"From the eyes of dabbawalas, Mumbai as a city has two different sides. On one hand are the well-to-do families which generate humongous food waste and on the other hand is the downtrodden society that cannot even afford one meal in a day. Being one of the largest food delivery services in India, we thought it was our duty to bridge the gap between two and thus was born Roti Bank" said Subhash Talekar, the man behind the initiative, reports NDTV

The MDA team has collaborated with many caterers, wedding planners and food joints across Mumbai. They also accept donations from individuals, communities or anyone who wants to help feed people. They then travel to different locations, collect food, check its hygienic standards and then distribute it within the next 3-4 hours. On an average, they serve 300-400 people on a daily basis. 

They go to hospitals, railway stations, slums, religious institutes and  everywhere else that catches their eye. They engage themselves in drives, initiatives, events and encourage people to donate more and  waste less food. 

Clothing Bank:
In the same vein, they have also kickstarted a 'Clothing Bank', collecting discarded clothes for the same purpose. It's quite amazing the kind of ambition the MDA team has taken for the welfare of people.

It is heartwarming to see what we as humans can do for our fellow beings if we have the right intent. Thanks to these guys lesser people sleep on an empty stomach and if join hands, maybe, one day, no one will go hungry. 

We salute the spirit and deeds of the dabbawalas! You guys are awesome.