Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to eliminate silverfish

No, not this kind of silverfish:

This kind!

This creepy little insect is a silverfish. I hate these disgusting little creatures. They don't bite and don't carry diseases, but they move in a fast slither that is just plain creepy; and if you're fast enough to smack one, they smear into a grey smudge.

In Panama (especially in rural areas), silverfish will be found in any place that has books, paper, cardboard, boxes, etc. I never saw them in Panama City, but I saw plenty in El Valle de Anton. This may be because of El Valle's elevation and relative coolness. Silverfish don't like temperatures above 80 Fahrenheit.

Silverfish especially eat foods and products that are high in protein, sugar, or starch. This includes vegetable foods, such as flour and cereal; fabrics, including cotton, linen, silk, and rayon; sizing in paper; starch in clothing; and paste or glue. They also eat wallpaper, book bindings, and paper when trying to feed on the glue or paste underneath them. Their damage is usually recognized from their irregular feeding marks and the presence of feces. Silverfish and firebrats can go for months without feeding.

They lay eggs in cracks, crevices, and other narrow, confined spaces. Silverfish prefer cool, moist, dark places with temperatures between 70o - 80° F and a relative humidity between 75% - 95%. They are often associated with basements, closets, bookcases, and storage areas.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish

Silverfish and firebrats are associated with damp conditions. You can reduce their numbers by correcting moisture problems:

  1. Dry out damp areas with a fan or dehumidifier.
  2. Repair leaky pipes.
  3. Ventilate closed rooms.
  4. Repair leaking roofs.
  5. Seal concrete walls and floors.
  6. If the problem occurs in a bathroom, make sure the ventilation fan is used during baths and showers.
  7. If you can not move materials, provide air spaces between boxes and other objects to promote air circulation.
  8. Keep in mind that as air cools the humidity in that air increases, so using a dehumidifier or gently heating the surrounding air can have a big impact on the infestation!

You can also reduce silverfish and firebrats by removing sources of food, especially in damp areas. You can reduce potential hiding places by removing old papers, books, boxes and other clutter. Seal cracks and crevices, including those found in baseboards, cupboards, and walls to limit harborages.

Kill Silverfish with Boric Acid

Last but not least, poison them! This can be done with boric acid, a type of inorganic dust. Common trade names include Roach Powder® and Roach Prufe®. Diatomaceous earth, also known as silicon dioxide, is also available. A representative trade name is Concern®. Follow the label and place the dust in cracks and crevices where silverfish have been sighted. Do not apply dust where children and pets can reach it.

You can also make residual spot treatments along baseboards, cracks and crevices, and other areas where silverfish or firebrats are found. Insecticides, such as permethrin, deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, and cypermethrin are effective insecticides against these insects.

In Panama you can purchase boric acid (acida borica in Spanish) at most hardware stores or Chinos (Chinese-owned corner stores). Buy it in bulk, by the pound if possible, rather than the small packets sold in the Chinos.

Borax Soap for Ants

Doug on Panama Forum points out that you can also use a 50-50 mixture of borax soap and icing sugar to get rid of sugar ants. The ants take this toxic mixture to their nest and share with the colony, and they all die.

On that cheery note, take care and be silverfish-free!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Find a way further in

Stained and White Ivory Muslim Style Chess Set Cambodia 18th to 20th century

I'm watching a movie called The International. A high-ranking executive of a powerful but corrupt bank is teaching his son to play chess. His colleagues call him on a conference call to discuss a messy situation that is threatening the entire bank.

The executive turns to his son and asks, "What do you when you are stuck in a situation from which there is no way out?"

He's asking in terms of chess theory. His son understands this. His son replies, "If there's no way out... you find a way further in."

Whoa. He's exactly right. This is what the chess grandmasters do. They marshal their resources and launch an attack, and press it. They know that once they commit, it's do or die. They sacrifice and drop pieces to the left and right like shattered swords. And if they are clever, creative and persistent enough, they break through and topple the enemy's king. They play in a way that seems brilliant and reckless, but is actually brilliant, calculated and single minded. Bobby Fisher was famous for this.

I've often felt that chess is a metaphor for life. Imagine living your life that way. That would take much courage. But if you look at anyone who has truly made it big in life, you will see the same pattern, the same go-for-broke mentality.

I remember developing the website that is now my primary earner. It was back in 1998 or so. I hired a company in India to build what I needed for $5,000. I had no money and didn't know how I would pay them. Somehow I came up with enough money each month to pay installments until the website was complete.

Now I would not sell that website for less than $300,000.

Do you have a story of committing yourself fully to something, with no backing out? How did it turn out?

P.S. The photo depicts an antique Islamic chess set from Cambodia.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk) for a baby's first tooth

The little daughter of my lawyer and friend Berliza recently cut her first tooth. The baby's name is Maria Fernanda, or Marifè for short.

I mentioned to Berliza that some cultures celebrate this event, and she told me that indeed in Panama there is a custom for this:

"In our culture the tradition is that the first person who sees the tooth has to cook rice and milk (a dessert). We put them in little containers, usually nicely decorated for the occasion and we give them away to friends and family. We are working on that right now."

This rice and milk dessert is called in Spanish arroz con leche. In the photo you see the actual dessert that Berliza made.

And here is lovely little Marifè getting her first taste: