Urban Leopards and Wild Dogs

Having a leopard in the neighborhood may seem a terrifying prospect, but the reality is that large predator may save your life.

A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment suggests that leopards in Mumbai, the world’s sixth most-populated city, may save human lives by feeding on feral dogs. Feral dogs are a major health issue in India, where they are the leading cause of rabies deaths.

The study was led by researchers from the University of Queensland School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, with a population of 35 leopards, has the densest population of these big cats in the world. The park is also in the middle of the burgeoning city of Mumbai, with more than 20 million people. Approximately 350,000 people, many of them in poverty, live all along the periphery of the small national park. Leopards can be seen strolling the city streets, and hunting in parking garages.

“While leopards are often in conflict with people over livestock like cattle and sheep and are frequently persecuted throughout their range, we show that these unique predators can also be beneficial to human society,” says Christopher O’Bryan, one of the joint lead authors on the study, and a PhD student at the University of Queensland.

That’s because 40 percent of the average leopard’s diet consists of feral or stray dogs, the researchers found. The density of feral dogs in and around the national park is an average of 17 dogs per square kilometer compared to other parts of Mumbai away from the park boundary that can have upwards of 680 dogs per square kilometer.

Urban Leopards Can Save Lives By Eating Feral Dogs“, by Matthew L. Miller

“And in other news:

Dame Ann Homewood of Watanabe/Toza/Fornast has confirmed the arrival of the Chorpet Flotilla in Toza subsector. The trading fleet is expected to arrive over Nulinad within two months.

Launched from the Solomani Sphere, this fleet has spent five years trading in Solomani goods and information during its journey across the Imperium. Naturally, the fleet has shrunk during her journey, as most of her merchantmen has concluded their business and turned around for home.

But for us here in Nulinad, the remaining six Chorpet liners has one additional delivery to make: the arrival of 600 Aslan families, a gift of the Duke to the planetary government to better help maintain order in Jajapur, the official fief, city and seat of the Sector Duke. The Chorpet Aslan males have been well-drilled in preferred anti-Vargr hand-to-hand and small unit tactics, most of which were developed by Imperial Aslans in the Spinward Marches. They are also pleased to have their Imperial citizenship recognized, and plan to contribute greatly to their new home.”

If – and if so, how – these Aslans were modified by Solomani engineers, I leave to the Referee to decide. My suggestion: spots. And a lighter, faster build, to better handle the Vargr troublemakers.

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The Free Trader and the Corporate Line II

ONE: Dangerous Enemies

Most free traders don’t need to worry about a dedicated hunter, someone who hates them to the extent of setting up an elaborate trap – and willing to take temporary losses – for the chance to make the sudden killing blow.

But if you make enough powerful enemies, someone will be willing to put in the extra effort needed to crush your head in.

“Forewarned is forearmed.”

TWO: Cunning and Greed

Smart traders, operators, and adventurers learn more than a few tricks: the first set to stay alive, and the second to keep ahead of the pack, while staying alive.

But if you get too greedy, all your cunning won’t save you.

THREE: Bravery and Caution

There is a time for a small trader to be brave and daring, and a time to make yourself disappear… before someone makes you disappear.

Knowing which road is the right road, at the right time, separates the quick from the dead.

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The Free Trader and the Corporate Line

I was recently reminded on how corporations like to load up burdens on small, agile competitors “for the health, safety, and benefit of the public”.

It’s generally cheaper for the small operator to fight than flee, failing this, then the next tactic is to cut a side deal for himself. Only if this is impossible — legally or otherwise — will he consider the costly approach of a direct fight, by the Imperial Courts or by the actual shedding of blood.

If the PCs are going to fight the big boys, he’s going to have to use public relations – almost certainly including deception, black propaganda, and dirty tricks – and he’s going to need (or make!) friends, either many small ones by appeals to tribe or caste or other shared bond, or a few big friends… who will want a big payoff.

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Ancylus Lake, and Neptune

Ancylus Lake is a place that does not exist… but used to.

I wonder how many other changes in the land a Traveller should expect.

The rate of change can be fast, or slow; connected by ancient ruling families, or by ‘deliberate’ jumps into the past or the far future.

One of the interesting scenarios Issac Arthur touches on is the complete destruction of Neptune’s lesser moons for raw material. In Canon Traveller, only the Ancients were capable of such feats, at least on the interstellar scale.

Another thing Arthur notes is the vast supply of volatiles on Neptune making the small gas giant very useful as a source of raw materials, when spreading life to other star systems and artificial habitats.

Food for thought!

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Variations in Aristocracy

The Hedgehog Review, in a recent article, noted the basic failing of our own ruling class:

Here we have the meritocratic delusion most in need of smashing: the notion that the people who make up our elite are especially smart. They are not—and I do not mean that in the feel-good democratic sense that we are all smart in our own ways, the homely-wise farmer no less than the scholar. I mean that the majority of meritocrats are, on their own chosen scale of intelligence, pretty dumb. Grade inflation first hit the Ivies in the late 1960s for a reason. Yale professor David Gelernter has noticed it in his students: “My students today are…so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are.… [I]t’s very hard to grasp that the person you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, advisable, interested, and doesn’t know who Beethoven is. Had no view looking back at the history of the twentieth century—just sees a fog. A blank.”42 Camille Paglia once assigned the spiritual “Go Down, Moses” to an English seminar, only to discover to her horror that “of a class of twenty-five students, only two seemed to recognize the name ‘Moses’.… They did not know who he was.”43

The New Ruling Class, by Helen Andrews

In contrast, I make the assumption that the Imperial Nobility is quite conversant in the critical stories, beliefs, assumptions, and worldview of the sophonts they rule.

(This is the Third Imperium I am speaking of. The Nobles of the First Imperium need only spend time to understand their own culture: a.k.a. the one everyone else had to conform to. Or else.)

The meritocracy is hardening into an aristocracy—so let it. Every society in history has had an elite, and what is an aristocracy but an elite that has put some care into making itself presentable? Allow the social forces that created this aristocracy to continue their work, and embrace the label. By all means this caste should admit as many worthy newcomers as is compatible with their sense of continuity. New brains, like new money, have been necessary to every ruling class, meritocratic or not. If ethnic balance is important to meritocrats, they should engineer it into the system. If geographic diversity strikes them as important, they should ensure that it exists, ideally while keeping an eye on the danger of hoovering up all of the native talent from regional America. But they must give up any illusion that such tinkering will make them representative of the country over which they preside. They are separate, parochial in their values, unique in their responsibilities. That is what makes them aristocratic.

The New Ruling Class, by Helen Andrews

Of course, I would add the traditional folk wisdom that an aristocrat should have the same gods as the people he rules, and as a rule should have local blood ties, and even look much the same as well. Otherwise, problems develop, as no one likes to be ruled by aliens and outsiders.

“But that’s just me.”

A tough sell, I realize. Not since the Society of the Cincinnati has a ruling elite so vehemently disclaimed any resemblance to an aristocracy. The structure of the economy abets the elite in its delusion, since even the very rich are now more likely to earn their money from employment than from capital, and thus find it easier to think of themselves basically as working stiffs.38 As cultural consumers they are careful to look down their noses at nothing except country music.

The New Ruling Class, by Helen Andrews

In this democratic era, every Ruling Elite swears, up and down, that they are not a Ruling Elite.

Thankfully for good storytelling, the (fictional) masters of the Imperium  don’t insult my intelligence so blatantly. Except for this Dulinor guy…

Unlike meritocracies, aristocracies can put actual content into their curricula—not just academically, but morally. Every aristocracy has an ethos, and a good ethos will balance out the moral faults to which that aristocracy is prone. The upper-class WASPs who constituted “the Establishment” in twentieth-century America were very rich; so they instilled in their children a Puritan asceticism. The Whig grandees of eighteenth-century Britain, who were the opposite of ascetic, cultivated a spirit of usefulness to check their tendency toward idleness. The besetting sin of the current elite seems to be arrogance, both moral and intellectual, with humorlessness a close second. To address the first, their acculturating institutions might try putting greater emphasis on humility—and they may find that learning how to laugh at themselves is one way this virtue can be acquired.

The New Ruling Class, by Helen Andrews

Our own Ruling Class are basically arrogant controlling bores wrapped up in their own vacuum-sealed bubble of secularized righteousness, so naturally I ignore them in my stories. In contrast, the earlier WASP American Establishment and the wild boys of Eighteenth-century England are far more interesting.

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Overnight Shipping

Quite interesting, especially for aspiring star shippers.

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Dimension X!

Science Fiction radio in the 50s: a world we youngun’s can’t really know, but we can glimpse, thanks to YouTube. Everyone knows The Veldt, but The Lost Race has a nice Traveller feel to it, and could be worth 30 minutes of your time.

(Incidentally, a $30,000 USD house in 1951 would be $290,937.69 in 2018)

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