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vendredi 31 octobre 2014


I was dropping off my sister at the Miami International Airport. The lovely Cuban woman behind the counter at the Versailles Coffee shop at the Departure area made me a cup of coffee, Cortadito estilo de la Habana, was so sweet that I could forget my longings for Havana for a minute. Thus fortified, I was returning home, suddenly I thought of Le Petit Prince The Little Prince.
I was thinking of the Birthday of someone special in our lives and I thought about the Fox and the Little Prince.

Often many sentences from the book that I read for the first time as I was entering adolescence bubble up the consciousness. The favourite being, it is with the eye that one sees, what is beautiful Is invisible to the eye.

American Indians refer to the Great Spirit at times as Great Mystery, something we cannot understand. Life is a great mystery as well, it would cease to be so, and if we cease to be self-obsessed and give of ourselves to others, to whom we are responsible.
As the Little Prince Said
It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important
We are related, human relations, that is, where the joy of life is. As the Jewish mother said to her daughter, marry a rich man, you may not be happy but at least you can suffer in comfort.
Life has become a Suffering in Comfort rather than a Joy of Living.
The Fox requests the Little Prince to tame him, because one becomes responsible for that which he tames.

The three philosophies that evoke thoughts in me, seem to be very pure, aimed at the person/persons/groups achieve, or help them achieve a better standard of behaviour for themselves.
Under a starlit sky in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, a city that I loved so much and where I can honestly say that foundations of my self were laid, my dear friend LS said:
You bring your friends closer to their dreams.
LS thus laid down the path I was to follow, to bring others closer to their dreams.
American Indian Philosophy, Yogic Philosophy of Patanjali and the Buddhist philosophy, helped me think in terms of the other first.
But tonight as I am thinking of the Birthday Girl, I wondered whether I had failed in achieving that?
If so, why? Thus able to correct myself, to bring back to that starry night in Melbourne, Australia.
If you look at the structural defects that confront us, the strongest one is EGO. Each and every time when there is a conflict in my life, personal or professional, I can take it back to the EGO failing me.
On my last visit to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, my EGO gave me such a destructive blow that I had decided never again to visit that city, that country or be in touch with any one connected to that country. Lately mulling over the experience, in more humble moments, the frailty of the mind, the power of the EGO. It was not the Hotel or the City or the Country or the wonderful vista while sipping a Chilean White wine. But the problem was I. I ask forgiveness of all those I have offended directly or indirectly.
My sister, who is very open and blunt with me, tells me when my ego escapes from the place where my humility keeps it. So it was only natural that I was thinking of all these things, after dropping off my sister at the Miami International Airport.
I am grateful to her, so I am to MM for taming me in 1995. In Kuala Lumpur, I am grateful to YMC and NM.
In Cuba, I think of AA, LL, CP, YC, and MJ
As Pablo Neruda would say:

“I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”
As MEN, we tend to forget such beautiful thoughts, especially when our EGO knits that ravelled sleeve of ignorance.
In the great Universal Philosopher, Krishnamurthy, one finds the rare combination of fusing philosophies away from any centrality of dogma but concentrating on the frailty of human beings, thus offering a way to improve oneself.
It cannot be a mere coincidence these words of Krishnamurthy arrived in my mailbox today.

The Major Cause of Violence
The major cause of violence, I think, is that each one of us is inwardly, psychologically, seeking security. In each one of us the urge for psychological security that inward sense of being safe -projects the demand, the outward demand, for security. Inwardly each one of us wants to be secure, sure, certain. That is why we have all these marriage laws; in order that we may possess a woman, or a man, and so be secure in our relationship. If that relationship is attacked we become violent, which is the psychological demand, the inward demand, to be certain of our relationship to everything. But there is no such thing as certainty, security, in any relationship. Inwardly, psychologically, we should like to be secure, but there is no such thing as permanent security.
So all these are the contributory causes of the violence that is prevalent, rampaging, throughout the world. I think anybody who has observed, even if only a little, what is going on in the world, and especially in this unfortunate country, can also, without a great deal of intellectual study, observe and find out in himself those things which, projected outwardly, are the causes of this extraordinary brutality, callousness, indifference, violence.
So I want to say to the person of this auspicious day, 31 October, that Ego causes the violence among those who we love
I ask forgiveness.

We should celebrate the love between people, as Pablo Neruda would say, that great bakery in the sky!

Pure love is sublime.  It is divine.  It fears nothing.  It knows no limit. It is everywhere.

-- Sri Swami Sivananda

it is 3 am in Miami, on 31 october 2014 and I dedicate this blog to the Birthday Girl..

jeudi 30 octobre 2014


The importance of OTHER is more relevant and urgent than ever before. How else are we going to understand, disparate cultural entities, interacting at a global scale?
France/Belgium and Radical Muslim Militia in Iraq and Syria
EBOLA and Humanitarian aid of Cuba, just to give two examples.
What is Medical Anthropology?
Many definitions are offered, all involving Health, Illness, Disease, Healing, Curing, but I like the definition offered by Paul Farmer, MD PhD, one of the better-known Medical Anthropologists from the USA.
A view of Health and Disease, away from the vista of organized, biologically oriented, mechanistic model of medical care and wellness, taking into consideration the society and culture in which the person who is suffering lives.

(My father who was an inspiration to me, worked as a health care provider to the tribal people of Borneo)

Illness and Suffering has become globalized, so has the formulae offered for its relief, mainly pharmaceuticals. The healer and the sufferer, especially in the west, has much less in common than before, nor is it required that the Doctor or the provider be culturally sensitive or for that matter sensitive to the suffering at all. This sensitivity may not be important to a technologically oriented doctor or provider, but it is of great importance to the one who is suffering. 
Medical Anthropology helps us understand the Pathologies of Power in the clinical and social settings.
In this universe, Mitakuye Oyasin, All my relatives, as native American Indians say, the role of rituals in everyday life, with other individuals (comprising the social bodies) and other groups of people (comprising the political bodies) is to bring ourselves or create for ourselves a comfortable identity in relation to others.
A Miami Cuban saying, Soy Cubano, I am a Cuban and I, Visiting Professor of Anthropology at the University of Havana, saying, Soy Cubano, I am a Cuban, has distinct social, cultural, political constructions, and the very same sentence and sentiment sets us apart. Instead of bringing us together, it makes us the Other, strangers to each other.
But a common ritual, could act as a bridge, which has to be “pure”, in this case a sensitive love for all Cuba stands for. Here we can use the “classic” methods of anthropology-structuralism, symbolism, context, and rituals. All can be used as tools for analysis, to lay bare all the constructs of the subjects in question:
Miami Cuban or A Visiting Professor at the University of Havana
Has Anthropology moved away from the study of the “Exotic”?
(which tribe does he belong to?)

The exotic has become commonplace, the doctor who attends to you in Northern Miami, may have graduated from a Medical School in Uzbekistan, he may neither speak Spanish or English well. Cultural Frankensteins created by the rapidity of globalization has become exotic (nowhere can you experience this than in the streets of Havana). Unique aspects of the languages are lost. (English is the most widely, badly spoken language in the world!). We have become Unicorns, Mermaids, and Sails without anchors, and Boats without oars.
(a cultural frankenstein, guess the country!)

That is why we need Anthropology, which is why Anthropology has a bright future.
A deep study of Anthropology gives us a sense of continuity (with the past and with ourselves), identity and presence.

mercredi 29 octobre 2014


If you are a rickshaw puller in Calcutta or a Bici driver (bicycle taxi) driver in Baracoa, you wouldn't be concerned too much about going to the Gym and getting fit. What you normally do would keep you fit and the rickshaw driver has far more existential needs to think about physical fitness.
In the western world, where the most precious commodity is time, how many people do what the health “Gurus” and actual experts say about keeping healthy and fit:
150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Woody Allen might say that sex is a good way to get those 75 minutes, but vigorous  sex, despite being pleasurable, does not make the mark.
Only 20 per cent or less, one in five or less, are keen to don on Gym Shorts or play sport. What about the rest of us, four out of five?
Is there a way, to live your life and have exercise become a part of your life? It has become obvious that there is a way, as recent studies demonstrate.
If you have grown up in Australia or England, it was a common sight, watching older people gardening. It may have seen as being slow in motion but studies have shown otherwise

Gardening and DIY 'can cut the risk of dying by 30%': Active hobbies reduce chance of a heart attack or stroke, a study from Scandinavia shows.

When people ask me about loosing weight, I give them my three rules one of which is:
Sit down to eat, do not stand up and eat, and preferably eat with friends or family.
Where as when it comes to fitness, the advice would be:
Do not sit in one position for too long! As our lifestyle and internet and international and social connections have so dramatically changed in the last few years, thanks to Sergei, Mark, Larry, Marissa and Susan! We spend an awful lot of time, sitting and staring at the screen.

It is recommended that sitting less than an hour at a time is safer than sitting for hours without a break.
It is recommended that you stand up for five minutes every hour or stand up a few seconds every few minutes, to be of benefit to your health.
What are the other beneficial things you can do around the house that can rev up your metabolism?
Watching TV takes up an enormous chunk of ones leisure time, and it is the least energy spending activity you can think of.

Considering sitting down to watch TV as equal to One MET, a measure of energy expenditure:
Ironing and Dusting, has MET scores of 1.3 and 1.5, nothing to brag about, except the cleanliness of your house, house-proud as we used to say in Australia.
Have you ever wondered why women who live in poorer countries are leaner and fitter? Their homes are not filled with energy saving devices. In fact we want energy spending devices, and the humble vacuum for one hour scores a MET of 3, which brings them to the moderate intensity activity. So does mopping!
A person doing mopping and vacuuming spends three times as much energy as the person who is just sitting!
Sexists among you may wish to know about more manly activities? Washing a car? Washing windows? Mowing lawn? Planting flowers?
Planting flowers racks up an impressive 3.4 MET, nearly 3 ½ times more energy than watching TV!
Why planting flowers? It involves upper body and that counts for more energy expenditure. At medical school we were taught that people with heart disease, get very tired when they try to comb their hair, because lifting the arms created a greater demand on the heart!
Mowing the lawn racks up an impressive 4.4 MET 9 I am sure it is the variety that one has to push and not just sit in a motorized vehicle!
(His descendants mostly sit whether in KL or Singapore!)

The Compendium of Physical Activities - first developed by Dr. Bill Haskell of Stanford University - gives MET values to a wide range of activities. Among them:
       Pulling a rickshaw - 6.3
       Playing the accordion - 1.8
       Serving food at Church - 2.5
       Tanning hides - 4.0
Now you see why the Rickshaw puller of Calcutta is healthy enough to avoid Gyms!
I wondered about serving Food at Church, perhaps it is because one is standing up as well as using the upper body.
So the average man or woman, can rack up nearly half of the minutes of rigorous activity, just doing what they are doing now!
How to get another 40 minutes of moderate activity to satisfy the CDC and your doctor!
If you prefer activities that are more intense, there is a range of things that, according to the Compendium of Physical Activities, you can do around the garden.
Vigorous activity means anything that rates over six METs, and to achieve that you would need to be "chopping wood and splitting logs" (6.3), "digging, spading, composting" (7.8), or "shovelling snow, by hand" (6.0).
According to the same source, the only domestic activity that falls into the vigorous range is "scrubbing floors and bathtub" (6.5); though "moving heavy furniture" (5.8) comes close.
If you prefer to fill your activity quotient by doing something more enjoyable than cleaning the loo, then dancing - "disco, folk, Irish, line dancing or country" - clocks up an impressive 7.8 METs.

But the easiest way to get the rest of the METs would be to walk SIX minutes per day, which clocks in at 3-4 MET depending upon how briskly you walk!
Just Six Minutes per day!
This regimen may not make you loose weight but certainly might keep you FIT!

The thought to write this came to me, after watching my sister on a quotidian basis. She is very busy fitting in her duties as a housewife, a mother, helping other people, cooking delicious Middle Eastern dishes. Despite her past medical history of cancer and its successful treatment, I would consider her fit!
I don't have a minute to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, she would complain… and in fact, that is good, she does not have time to sit down, she is not in front of the TV or computer more than just few minutes while attending to emails or business!

(You can learn the above and much more if you listen to BBC, Trust Me, I am a Doctor with Michael Mosley!)
(Believe it or not, these San people of Kalahari are RESTING!)

Wanted to learn more about the benefits and how much benefit one derives from standing up most of the day rather than sitting, once again BBC News reported on the first such study ever conducted in UK:
With assistance from University of Chester. And I quote:

The Chester researchers took measurements on days when the volunteers stood, and when they sat around. When they looked at the data there were some striking differences. As we had hoped, blood glucose levels fell back to normal levels after a meal far more quickly on the days when the volunteers stood than when they sat.
There was also evidence, from the heart rate monitors that they were wearing, that by standing they were burning more calories.
"If we look at the heart rates," John Buckley explains, "we can see they are quite a lot higher actually - on average around 10 beats per minute higher and that makes a difference of about 0.7 of a calorie per minute."

Now that doesn't sound like much, but it adds up to about 50 calories an hour. If you stand for three hours a day for five days that's around 750 calories burnt. Over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 8lb of fat.
"If you want to put that into activity levels," Dr. Buckley says, "then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work."
Dr. Buckley thinks that although going out and doing exercise offers many proven benefits, our bodies also need the constant, almost imperceptible increase in muscle activity that standing provides. Simple movement helps us to keep our all-important blood sugar under control.
We can't all stand up at work but the researchers believe that even small adjustments, like standing while talking on the phone, going over to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email, or simply taking the stairs, will help.
So, don't sit down, except to eat, and if you have to sit down for long, get up often. Remember what they advise you on long distance flights. Get up and walk around.
I will keep that in mind when I fly DFW-HKG next month on my way to SIN and BLR.

Or like the Cubans in the island, keep fit while smiling, DANCE!

Remember, we used to refer to thin people who were thin as, people with high metabolic rate!