Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I know a fair number of teachers, or so I think. Some have grown in their profession and some have reached their levels of incompetence. Well it is my article hence I am allowed these vitriol am I not?....and the music that goes with this title.

I have often heard bromides like teachers are human too, and need considerable considerations like other humans? Well the question mark is not a mistake I always had this question on my mind but never had the b…s to give it voice. A little more about my grandiose network of people in education, heh heh I happen to know at least one educator who is actually hardly an educator but runs a prosperous school. I have fond memories of him for not responding to my phone call when I had a PJ ready for him, the loss was mutual he lost a good laugh and me the thought of him having a pretty sick sense of humour. One can’t trust a friend to pick the phone these days if your number is seen on the screen. Transparency can be ruinous in more ways than while dressing I might add.

While it is common to find good teachers, what is even more common is how good teachers become pretty ordinary working with monstrous school management. My little theory on education is if a good teacher cannot become a great teacher he/she will become ordinary very soon and go to seed soon enough. … and by seed I don’t mean seed of the seedling.

The part B, of my theory states that good teachers become great teachers when they work in a management system which is not egoistical to begin with. Hence everyone is open to improve upon their skills and this can happen only and I repeat only, if they work under a loose, central guide line for teaching. This is fertile enough to give birth to peer-motivated creativity the principal driver of teaching excellence … as against peer - motivated bitching, the principal driver of creative sloth.

Why do we need great teachers? Just because we are getting great students these days and dismal parents and that includes me. Are we getting good school management? With the kind of money being invested in school education in the last few years the answer is most certainly NO.

These men must understand that running a school is not like running a huge dry cleaning operation. Heh Heh Heh.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We Are Poisoning Our Planet

How does one think or write about pollution of water and soil without spreading guilt in the heart of people who take their humanity seriously? It’s not easy, though you will notice I have tried. There isn’t a new fact that I bring to you — but just the fact that we have so much inertia of inaction and perhaps more so in thinking.

All of us use the three-pronged plug for electrical appliances. The third, thicker pin is for the earth. So with any amount of electricity we consume, the earth has to be a party to it. This is fine, scientifically, but it reflects our attitude towards the earth, which we symbolically call “Mother Earth” in most societies. What if, someday, our mother stops taking all the third-pin electricity?

Just now this is a hypothesis of nonsense. But a very similar thing has happened. In many instances, the earth has stopped cleansing itself. If the earth had legs, she would have run away from us by now.

Toxins in the Water

As you take a sip of that wonderful hot or cold tea, think about the tea bush in Assam, India or Kenya that is sprayed with pesticides many times during a single crop season. All that pesticide gets washed into rivers and finally into the sea. The sea will take some time to show a red flag.

The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children.

Cotton and Cancer

Welcome to the world’s favorite fabric: cotton. The cotton plant is sprayed with Endosulfan sometimes twice a week all over the world.

In every cotton-growing village on Earth, there is a soil/water pollution problem. I venture to make this sweeping statement to provoke you to tell me about the happy exception, so we can find how to replicate it elsewhere.

In Malwa district of Punjab, a new cancer wing has been opened to benefit patients from the districts of Barnala, Bhatinda, Ferozepur, Muktsa, Mausa, Moga, Faridkot and Sangrun — all cotton-growing districts.

Spoilt for Choice

Have we broken some sacred self-rejuvenating system of Mother Earth?

We have done it before. After World War II, we misused penicillin. In the 1960s, we misused DDT. And now what chemical shall it be?

We are spoilt for choice: Phorates, Monocrotophos, Carbofuran, Dimethoate, Carbaryl, Endosulfan — and some or all of these already have entered our food chain.

Will the next chemical we abuse be Endosulfan? It does have the distinction of being used for a very long time and in huge quantities. India alone produces over 8000 tonnes of it.

The world production of this pesticide must be at least double this quantity. This is shocking, because the first reports of Endosulfan getting into the food chain came in the late 1960s. Endosulfan is a bioaccumulator in kidney, liver, and fat tissues. It is an endocrine disruptor and enhances the effects of estrogen.

Yet, scientists in India and many other countries are still debating if Endosulfan really causes cancer. Can there be a darker black humor?

Endosulfan in the Environment

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Endosulfan breaks down into endosulfan sulfate and endosulfan diol, both of which have “structures similar to the parent compound and are also of toxicological concern… The estimated half-lives for the combined toxic residues (endosulfan plus endosulfan sulfate) [range] from roughly 9 months to 6 years.”*

Endosulfan has relatively high potential to bioaccumulate in fish. It is also toxic to amphibians; low levels have been found to kill tadpoles. When Endosulphan is sprayed, it kills all little living things: insects, birds, and small animals. The area smells awful for weeks as the scavenging animals die, too.

Endosulfan travels long distances in the atmosphere from where it is used. It has been detected in dust from the Sahara Desert that was collected in the Caribbean after being blown across the Atlantic Ocean.

Dietary exposure to Endosulfan is 0.015 mg/kg for adults and 0.0015 mg/kg for children. For chronic dietary expsoure, the U.S. EPA reference doses are 0.006 mg/(kg·day) and 0.0006 mg/(kg·day) for adults and children, respectively. This is scary for a very popular pesticide.*

With Endosulfan exposure, humans die at a dose of 35 mg/kg body weight. At higher doses, we will die within an hour, says a WHO report of 1984. Is that an unreachable dose for a chemical with 800 days’ half life?*

As early as 1995, Endosulfan runoff from cotton fields killed tonnes of fish in Alabama rivers in the U.S.^ And it was only last year that the U.S. EPA announced that all uses of Endosulfan will soon be banned. Yet, in India, we are still debating. Why do decision-makers take 15 years to understand what others already know?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Catch 22, of being overweight..

Overweight people may have a lot of vitamin D, locked with the fat tissue. Lack of free vitamin D, prevents the release of Leptin a hormone which signals to the brain that you have eaten enough. So…

a) Overweight people have an inbuilt system that can make them eat even more.
b) When there is less of vitamin D, calcium absorption will surely be hampered, which increases their risk of osteoporosis.
c) These people often take sugarless sweeteners which have fewer calories than sugar.
These products are also known to suppress Leptin, which again makes them eat more.
d) Overweight people are likely to have sedentary habits, which again makes them more prone to osteoporosis.
It is important that you don’t get in to this trap.

Will getting more Vit D, help?

Ask an expert.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Spirit of Spiritualism.

“From one viewpoint, religion can be seen as sort of a luxury. If you have religion, that’s good, but even without it you can manage and survive - but we can't survive without human affection. While anger and hatred, like compassion and love, are part of our mind, I still believe the dominant forces are compassion and affection. Therefore, usually I refer to these human qualities as spirituality.”….His holiness Dalai Lama on facebook (Sunday July 18th 2010.)
I think I understand faith, why does a string tied on your wrist protect you against all evils? It does because you think so. No that is an understatement “you firmly believe so”. The effectiveness of the string is proportional to the faith. I have a string tied to my car steering too, and believe that my car is protected. I was told this faith story by Mr. Ramni, a long time back, it goes like this:
After two years of drought, the villagers (in a village) decided to have the great rain god, ritual - worship. It was said that just as the rites of the worship ends it shall rain heavily. A huge crowd had gathered as it always happens on important occasions. However on this particular day it did not rain after the rites were over. Why?
The wise man said “It did not rain because none of the villagers in the crowd save a little child carried any umbrella.” Only a child’s faith isn’t good enough to end this drought he added..
A long time back, when I was a medical representative (yea that I was) my job was to discuss “common products” as innovative products to doctors. I often showed doctors results of double blind clinical trials (none done in India though) where the composition was found to be more effective than other drugs and placebo. In most of these trials Placebo had an efficacy of 30% some times 40%. I found this amazing. How do sugar pills or other such material used as placebo work. I am sure if you took sugar pills to cure your headache it will not be cured 40% of the time or even 40 %.
A word about double blind trials: These are conducted on volunteer patients in very well equipped hospitals. The drugs are coded and kept a secret till the end or revealed only in case condition of a patient deteriorates. The key is that patents have faith that they are in good hands and all shall become well. So if faith can make a non-drug, give drug-like result, isn’t faith the all important thought process for mankind.
How does one have faith? By falling in love of course, with god, with a person, a craft just about anything.. Meerabai thought the poison was prasadam from Lord Krishna and so it became. To me faith is the most important step towards spiritualism. The spirit of spiritualism is faith.
Devotion is a relationship of faith and love to a very personal god. Is faith a sort of hypnotic state? It sure is. When Dronacharya asked Arjun what he saw of the bird (that was kept for arrow shooting practice) Arjun had to be hypnotized to be able to see “just the black of the eye” .and in the process miss the smell of sweets being cooked nearby. Bhim did not miss the whiff of sweets; he missed the bird’s eye though.
All of us, (I certainly do), have a problem of integration to belong to a purpose. Our life is what our soul decides. The soul is huge because it can think while the body is only so much. The computer could be a great analogy the soft ware being its soul. The soul can make or unmake a person, it give us wisdom to decide the means to the ends of this life. We humans need regular reminders that we are essentially a creation of god a hence a part of the concept of god.
It is said that when wisdom comes ignorance goes. When ignorance goes faith dawns…. and what of Science? Is science wisdom or just knowledge? Where does faith fit in it?
Science and the arts, (humanities is a better expression as it already tells you that it’s humanly) are the means and the ends. Humanities being the end. The means are often exciting, attractive and make us overlook the ends of life. The ideas of Right and Wrong do not belong to Science or the means of life – it must belong to Humanities around which our happiness ultimately depends.
The odd thing about faith is One cannot “not have faith” just like one cannot have vacuum in the open. Something goes and occupies that space. So if you must have faith in something good and substantial. Otherwise your faith would be in things that could be detrimental to you and the society. Here in comes the role of Parenting.