Thursday 22 April 2021

Choke Point

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Sanity Break #1

Subscriber Vishal Jain sent along this wonderful by Kate Bowler, a survivor of Stage IV cancer. And we found it deeply comforting at a time when our Twitter timelines and WhatsApp messages mark a moment of great darkness and suffering—leaving us feeling helpless and filled with despair. Warning: we got a little teary-eyed along with Bowler. 

Sanity Break #1

Headlines that matter

YOUR BHASKAR DEADLINE IS HERE! If you haven’t voted for your favourite movie, director, actor etc., do it soon! Our deadline is tomorrow at 12 am. At the stroke of midnight, the winners will be sealed in stone! The . So vote now to make your faves the winner of a gorgeous Bhaskar:) We are actually going to send one to each winner. Imagine Viola Davis or Aaron Sorkin getting this beauty lol!   FLY, INGENUITY, FLY! Once again, we turn to the mighty drone to cheer us up with its antics. The drone helicopter Ingenuity took its first flight over the surface of Mars on Monday. We now have NASA footage of that historic moment. It looks :    THE GREAT PANDEMIC: A QUICK UPDATE First, the numbers: We recorded and 2,091 deaths yesterday. This is the highest ever single day case-count recorded for any country ever. The previous high: the U.S. reported 300,310 new infections in January. The leading states remain the same: Maharashtra, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Among the new cases: .    A analysis shows that we are doing significantly worse than any other country at its peak—be it the speed of the rise or the lack of hospital beds. This has a great set of charts, which includes :   As for those , this is how “incredible” they are:    Point to note: Epidemiological models predict the second wave to —when the number of daily cases will exceed 3.5 lakh. Also this:   > “The IIT scientists have also predicted that the case fatality rate which has been low in India, will rise as the infection > reaches rural areas of Bihar, UP and West Bengal; that have inadequate health infrastructure.”   About those vaccines: Serum Institute announced its price per dose for Covishield. Union government: Rs 150. State government: Rs 400. Private hospital: Rs 600. The higher price for state governments sparked immediate furore—with state officials telling : “We are astonished… the Government of India and the state government being treated as separate for purposes of a vaccine in times of pandemic. Are we less deserving entities?” Serum scrambled that it will charge the Centre Rs 400 once it fulfills the current contracts that have a baked-in Rs 150 price.    Better news about vaccines: Interim data for Covaxin’s phase 3 trials are out. : 78%—which is slightly lower than the 81% reported in March. It offers 100% protection against severe disease. Also good news: a very of those vaccinated with either Covishield or Covaxin were reinfected. has more details:   A new Indian variant: Scientists have identified a new variant in 15% of the samples in Bengal. , has a major mutation called E484K—which it shares with the double mutant variant B.1.617. We don’t know if this variant is of concern yet. Meanwhile Israel reports that the Pfizer vaccine offers against the double mutant variant—but it’s still effective.   NETFLIX’S NOT DOING THAT GOOD The streaming platform’s pandemic boom appears to have ended. It added only this first quarter of the fiscal year—compared to 16 million during the same period last year. And that number was 2 million short of its own projection. But hey, the company plans to spend an astonishing $17 billion on content this year—which is way higher than its 2020 spend of $11.8 billion. So spending more for fewer eyeballs… well, that’s one way to go. ()   A RANSOMWARE ATTACK ON APPLE A Russian hacking group has stolen the blueprints for Apple’s core products—and it wants $50 million to give it back. What was stolen: schematics for Apple’s just-revealed iMac redesign; manufacturing diagrams for Apple’s 2020 M1 MacBook Air; and plans for an as-yet-unreleased laptop. They stole the information from a Taiwanese manufacturer—that has refused to pay up. Now, the hackers are trying to negotiate directly with Apple. ()   In other Apple news: The company as usual rolled out a bunch of cool products at its Spring Loaded event. has a full list, but people are about the :   Also: the ultra-thin candy-coloured iMacs with the company’s M1 chip—which you can check out . We’re also intrigued that will let you find all the stuff you always misplace: keys, wallets etc. Here’s a fun video that shows you how it works:   has all the India prices for these ridiculously expensive products.   BHIMA KOREGAON: THE LATEST UPDATE Back in February, a highly respected US forensics firm issued a report showing that Rona Wilson and sixteen other activists may have been framed in the Bhima Koregaon case (explained in detail ). That first report showed that at least 10 documents were planted on Wilson’s computer using malware. This latest update reveals that an additional 22 documents were also maliciously inserted:    > “The additional 24 files largely contain purported correspondence between members of the banned [naxal group] Communist Party of > India (Maoist), discussions on fund transfers, how to improve women's representation in organisations, difficulties party > members face in communicating with each other, concerns over state crackdown and some photographs of Maoist guerillas.”   has more details.    FARMER PROTEST: THE LATEST UPDATE A number of folks have written in to ask for an update on the farmer’s protests that have fallen off the front page. Here’s what we learned from this latest report in . The farmers’ plan to stay where they are—i.e. on the Delhi border, and the second wave won’t make a difference. Yogendra Yadav says:   > “I don’t understand why there is so much attention being given to the farmers’ protest which is almost a replica of any basti or > colony in any city… About 4-5 people living in a tent is similar to a family living in a jhuggi in a slum area. If a slum is not > being demolished to combat COVID-19, why should a farmers’ protest have to end to control the pandemic?”   Leaders have put out a ‘Phir Dilli Chalo’ call, urging farmers to return to Delhi to rally for the cause—but there are no firm dates for the next big march. Most worrying: While there are ongoing attempts to ensure social distancing, the camps themselves appear to be in a state of Covid denial, with farmers saying: “There have been no cases of COVID-19 at the farmers’ protest. So, most people here believe that COVID is a hoax and are against the concept of wearing a mask.”  In other farmer-related news: The BJP claims that farmers are blocking oxygen tankers from entering Delhi. The farmers in turn have pointed to multiple barriers and concertina wire fences put in place at the Delhi border by the government to barricade the protests—and which are difficult for tankers to navigate. ()   BAD NEWS FOR A SPANISH CATHEDRAL UNESCO is threatening to withdraw the world heritage status from one of Europe’s greatest cathedrals—the Cathedral of St Mary of Burgos in Spain. The reason: church authorities decided to mark its 800th anniversary by commissioning an award-winning artist to create a new set of doors—featuring the faces of God the Father, Jesus as a child and the Virgin Mary. To be fair, the ‘face of God’ “an unnerving resemblance to the disgraced former king Juan Carlos.” ()   Also fighting for UNESCO’s love: Residents of Naples who think their coffee culture should be specifically listed on UNESCO’s list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. Vying for that same honour, Italy, the nation. Neapolitans dramatically claim: “If you imagine Naples as a body, coffee is the blood flowing through it.” But supporters of Italian espresso say: “They want to say that coffee comes from Naples, but such prevarication is unacceptable. It means appropriating something which isn’t only theirs. It is also theirs.” ()   A KEY LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND DEMENTIA A significant new study shows that people who don’t get enough sleep in their 50s and 60s are more likely to develop dementia when they are older. It found that those who consistently reported sleeping six hours or less on average were about 30% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia decades later in life. Point to note:   > “Pre-dementia brain changes like accumulations of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s are known to begin about 15 to 20 years > before people exhibit memory and thinking problems, so sleep patterns within that time frame could be considered an emerging > effect of the disease.”   Also this: Because sleep-deprivation or shortened sleep times are common, even a modest link has a huge impact. And more importantly, it is something we can actually control. ()   A VERY MYSTERIOUS ‘PAK’ The work of an anonymous digital artist who goes by the name ‘Pak’ was sold at a high-profile, three-day online auction of NFTs by Sotheby’s—for a total of $17 million! The Fungible’ Collection included a series of digital cubes which collectors could buy for $500 to $1,500 each, receiving a number of NFTs based on how many cubes they own. Or they could pick up The Pixel—an image of a single pixel which finally after a 90-minute bidding battle. Also, the cubes looked :   Nope, we don’t understand it any more than you do. ()   AN AMAZING DRONE SHOW Forget the big light shows using hundreds of drones. Frodo Álvarez used just five pre-programmed drones to create towering light paintings in the sky: “The drones were each flown into a very specific position before turning on their LED lights and then performing a pre-determined flight pattern.” The final result looked :  

Choke Point

Sanity Break #2

Who’s the pretty, pretty bat? Is it you? Yes, it is! This stunning photo was taken by Daniel Whitby, who won the Mammal Photographer of the Year award for another lovely image of a horseshoe bat. But we fell in love with this one. has that winning photo and others.

Sanity Break #2

Feel Good Place

: Will you be my hero? Answer: Yes!!   : Meta version of above.   : Mean but very funny! Lol!  

Feel good place

Reading Habit

READING HABIT BOOK EDITOR’S NOTE It is a bleak, lonely time, and all of us are finding ways to both engage with and escape everything happening around us. I hope today’s offerings will offer some measure of respite. I know they did for me. As always, I’m here to talk about any and all books if you need someone to chat with. Stay indoors, stay safe, mask up! FICTION : by Jhumpa Lahiri. A new Jhumpa Lahiri is always an enormously exciting publishing event. It’s her first novel in nearly a decade, which she originally wrote in Italian and then translated into English. We follow her protagonist, a woman living her life somewhere between rest and movement, as she navigates her relationship with her mother after her father’s untimely death, her place in the city she has known forever, her friendships and romances. All this over the arc of a year, at the end of which waits change and transformation. This is going to be special.   : by SJ Bennett. I’ve mentioned before that I love it when real people are made fictional and sent off to solve crimes and such. In this delightful mystery, Queen Elizabeth II is donning the figurative deerstalker with some help from her assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi, a British Nigerian and recent officer in the Royal Horse Artillery, to figure out who killed the young Russian pianist soon before her 90th birthday celebrations. This is one form of monarchy I can get behind.   : by Sarah Penner.  The premise of this one was so instantly thrilling (and strangely empowering). In this time-jumping tale, Nella is a gifted healer in 1791, using her talents in a different way: by selling well-disguised poisons to women desperate to get out of the clutches of the men in their lives. In the present day, Caroline is still shocked by her husband’s infidelity when she chances upon a strange, old vial that leads her to the unsolved “apothecary murders” from over two centuries ago. As their lives collide, so do their fates, in a twisted, shocking way.    : by Sarah Joseph, tr. by Sangeetha Sreenivasan. This reimagined history tells the real story of 15-year-old Budhini, who is chosen to welcome Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Dhanbad in 1959 with a garland and a ‘tika’ on his forehead. When these ceremonial gestures were interpreted by her own people as marriage, she was ostracized and outlawed for “marrying outside her community”. Joseph tells her tale with care, bringing out a robust, endearing woman whose story is essential to tell.   : by Haruki Murakami, tr. by Philip Gabriel. A new collection of stories by the Japanese master, narrated by the classic Murakami protagonist, a lonely man, deals with themes of nostalgia, love, loss, childhood, death, tied together with Murakami’s signature twists. Don’t think I need to sell this any further.    NON-FICTION : by Esther David. I need this book to just take my money already. Focusing on the small, unique Jewish communities living in different parts of India, David finds the common thread that binds them: their cuisine and lifestyle. Filled with heart-warming anecdotes, new discoveries, and yummy recipes, this is a respectful, rounded portrait of a little-known community.   : by Sudarshan Ramabadran and Guru Prakash Paswan. An impactful volume bound to make a difference, it features several inspiring individuals from the Dalit community across time who have battled divisive forces to make a mark and change the course of Indian history. Telling the stories of B.R. Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Gurram Jashuva, K.R. Narayanan, Soyarabai and Rani Jhalkaribai, among many others, it serves to change our perception and add significantly to the Dalit discourse.      : by Farah Bashir. A haunting, deeply moving account of the author growing up in Srinagar in the 1990s, amidst ongoing clashes between Indian troops and militants. As fear and violence became the new normal, Bashir, then a schoolgirl, found ordinary activities, like studying for exams and falling asleep, riddled with anxiety. But to balance that out came vitality and resilience in her growing spirit, as she secretly danced to banned pop songs, wrote her first love letter and more. It’s an affecting memoir of how conflicts shape everyday lives.   : by Boria Majumdar and Gautam Bhattacharya. It was the year that changed Indian cricket forever. It was the year when the scrappy young Indian team defeated not only the giant West Indies in a test series on their own turf, but also came out victorious over England, in England. Suddenly, Pataudi and Wadekar, Sardesai and Viswanath were household names around the globe, an upcoming player by the name of Sunil Gavaskar was beginning to take small yet significant steps, and fifty years on, their legacy remains intact in the shape of the greatest cricket team in the world.   : by Jonny Sun. Jonny Sun is our perennial, favourite next-door-neighbour and best friend and confidant and sometime-therapist. In this collection of touching and hilarious personal essays, stories, poems—accompanied by his trademark illustrations made famous by ‘’—he talks about mental health, happiness, and what it means to belong, ultimately giving each of us hope, understanding, and a chance to connect, reminding us that we are not alone in any of this.   QUICK FIXES, AKA A FEW VARIED RECOMMENDATIONS: What I’m reading: I’m currently reading ‘ by and I just want to be a teenager again so that I can solve a boarding school murder while attending said school. I mean, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Stevie Bell is a true crime aficionado who is starting at Ellingham Academy, a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists, where decades ago the school’s founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped, never to be found, presumed murdered. It’s a great, unsolved mystery perfect for Stevie, perfect for me, perfect for anyone looking for good writing, engaging characters, and a really good, rare combination of setup and twist.   A childhood fave: Eoin Colfer is most famous for his incredible series, but I stumbled upon this little gem of a standalone novel by him at my school library and it was SO MUCH FUN. Called ‘’, it stars the deliciously troubled Meg Finn who has a lot to deal with on Earth anyway, and to make matters worse, after an accidental explosion, her spirit is flung into limbo, where she’s stuck while a race begins between the demonic and the divine to win her soul. You’d think from the premise that only hijinks ensue, but at the end of the day it’s a story of second chances and unexpected joys and it gave young me so much hope for my life. Every teenager should read this, really.   Book-adjacent rec of the week: Felicia Davin is a linguist who loves romance novels and runs, a newsletter dedicated to the words she finds in her reading, and does deep dives into their origin and usage over the years. It is fascinating as it is entertaining, and you can trust Felicia to do her research. It has added to my vocabulary considerably since I subscribed.   Underrated author of the week: might be well-known in Australia, but it’s a shame I don’t find more people talking about him here. His books are pure adrenaline, like Lee Child meeting Dan Brown on crack, and they exist to entertain the living hell out of you. I’d recommend you start with the Jack West Jr. series, whose latest instalment, ‘’, came out recently.     Bookish adaptation to watch out for: I’ve been watching episodes of on Prime Video for the past three days now, and I’ve had nightmares every single night. I didn’t think it would be this scary! Season 1 is based on by Dan Simmons, and is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition, on HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, where Franklin and his crew are stalked across the bleak Arctic landscape by something that is neither man nor animal. It is gripping but frightening. TW: gore, violence and horror.   Note: Reading Habit is curated by our books editor Anushree Kaushal. Want to send along recommendations, feedback or just say hi? Email her at . : Will you be my hero? Answer: Yes!!   : Meta version of above.   : Mean but very funny! Lol!  

Reading Habit