Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bird watching is easy

You do not necessarily have to visit the wilderness to watch birds. You can do this in your home garden, school premises or at your workplace. So, what are some of the birds you can try to spot from your home? Well, according to The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, you can observe at least 15-20 birds, such as:

1. Red-vented Bulbul (konda kurulla)
2. Babblers (demalichcha)
3. Oriental Magpie-robin (polkichcha)
4. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Rena girawa)
5. Tailor Bird (battichcha)
6. Common Myna (myna)
7. Asian Koel (koha)
8. Sunbirsd (Peni Kurulla)
9. White-breasted Kingfisher(pilihuduwa)
10. Spotted Dove (alu Kobeiya)
11. Red-backed Woodpecker(kerala)
12. White-bellied Drongo (kawda)
13. Barbets (kottoruwa)
14. Small Flowerpecker (pilalichcha)
15. Black-hooded Oriole (kaha kurulla)

And, yes, you can sometimes see migrants in your home garden too, if you have one. These include beautiful birds like Indian Pitta, and Forest Wagtail (kele halapenda), Asian Paradise Flycatcher (sudu redi hora), Blue-tailed Bee-eater (nil peda binguharaya), Brown Flycatcher (dumburu masimara), and Barn Swallow (atu wehilihiniya).

Any ideal time of the day to observe birds..? Yes, birds are most active in the morning, between 07.30 and 09.30.am.

December is Bird Month

I receive several emails from time to time pertaining to various events in Sri Lanka. Some of them are interesting, such as the one I received today about the need to appreciate the birds around us. It is something that can apply to any one of us, irrespective of which country we belong to, and I thought it worthwhile to reproduce some of it. Here goes:
Birds are a common sight in Sri Lanka but many of us fail to appreciate them. To increase the awareness of the public about our feathered friends, the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) has launched its annual nationwide program to assess and study the distribution and presence of birds in Sri Lanka.
December has been declared Bird Counting Month as migrant birds that arrive from other countries too peak in this month. Participation is simple and one need not be an expert birder to get involved. Those who would like to participate has only to watch birds in as many places as possible - own home gardens, school premises, workplace, lakesides, paddy fields –any place that is frequented by birds. They can make a list of birds that they can identify in a given location and either email it to fogsl@slt.lk or post it in to FOGSL, Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. The list should include the date, location, weather at the time, the habitat that the bird was observed in, and the name and contact details of the observer. Participants can also enter data directly to http://www.worldbirds.org/srilanka which is part of the international network of databases used to analyze status of birds.
The numbers of birds in various areas are also dwindling due to causes such as deforestation, wetland reclamation and changes in habitat. Even the birds that are common today can be diminished without our knowledge. An example is the House Sparrow decline. A decade ago, most of the houses had nest boxes inviting this cute bird. But they are not to be seen in many areas, where they were previously common. So no species can be labeled as safe no matter what its number is today. It is only when the public become aware of the value of these beautiful creatures, can more be achieved towards protecting them. Creating this awareness is another aim of Bird Month.
The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka is the national affiliate of Birdlife International (www.birdlife.org). Since its establishment in 1976, FOGSL has worked towards two goals-firstly, to study birds in the wild and determine which ones need protection and in what manner, secondly to increase the understanding of the public so that the threat towards birds would lessen. FOGSL based at University of Colombo and conducts a monthly lecture on birds on last Saturday of every month. Log on to www.fogsl.lk get more information.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Truths about cancer

Following is a cancer update from John Hopkins, which I happened to read recently:

1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person's lifetime.

3. When the person's immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9 When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

Cancer cells feed on:

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal,Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color. Better alternative is Bragg's aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. Cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soya starve milk cancer cells.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts)and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzy mes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic; avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body's killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system to enable the body's own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body's normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, unforgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ever thought about the rural consumer?

A couple of weeks ago, I crisscrossed parts of rural South India. While passing by on the roadside various shops – big and small, old and new, ordinary and quaint – I realised that the huge demographic variations of rural India are a challenge for any marketer. Experts in rural marketing and marketing heads of companies, who have succeeded in wooing the rural consumer, I’m sure will agree. At a rural marketing summit held in Kolkata a few months ago, Peeyush Gupta, chief-marketing & sales (flat products), Tata Steel Limited, said that we need to realise that the rural consumer is not na├»ve or illiterate but knows exactly what he wants and that copy-paste marketing will never work given the huge demographic variations of rural India. The rural consumer is not price sensitive, but budget sensitive, he added. Well, how many of us pause a moment to think of people in our villages and the lives they lead? How many of us know of self-help groups, mostly made up of women, that have been able to gain access to micro-finance as well as chlorine tablets and water purifiers? Dipayan Dey, social worker, speaking at the summit, said that the sentimental quotient of rural India has to be given importance and strategies need to be different as well. It needs to be a model based on partnership, reciprocity, equity and sustainability. Presently, rural India is a Rs 200,000-crore market. By 2017, rural demand is estimated to be three times bigger. And consumer goods are going to initiate the change.

So, why aren’t youngsters looking at rural India for jobs and career opportunities? Why do youngsters in India’s villages leave a special romance behind to move to towns and cities for jobs? R. Parthasarathy, who runs Kripa Outdoor Publicity from Valsarawakkam, a rural marketing enterprise with probably the best reach across the four southern states and Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa and West Bengal, tells me that
rural marketing growth is phenomenal and the time is apt for youngsters to be a part of it. Opportunities are plenty, he says, and points out that the past few years have witnessed remarkable corporate participation and investment in terms of training and development. There are many management institutes offering elective courses in rural marketing. The Rural Marketing Association of India, for instance, a three-year-old association, is creating a lot of opportunities for youngsters through its industry-focused seminars, offering courses in rural marketing, conducting contests for summer project in rural marketing for students of top management institutes, rural market case studies etc.

Kripa Outdoor provides skill-based training rural youth and employs most of its field staff from rural areas only. And Parthasarathy has found such youngsters capable of taking up challenges. He started his career in advertising, with F D Stewart, one of the leading ad agencies in India in those days. When the company folded up, he decided to establish his own enterprise. He foresaw the huge potential in the rural market while being associated with rural van operations. Narrating some memorable moments about his experiences in India’s rural market, he talked about the days before television ventured into India’s villages, when he and his team used to carry 16mm projectors with a big portable screen in the van and show popular feature films in regional languages, especially old films of MGR, Shivaji and NTR, interspersed with commercial advertisements, usually between 7 pm and 10pm. Rural customers are different from their urban counterparts. It is very important to communicate the right message in a language that the rural customer understands, he says.

Ugly sights - shouldn't we do something about it?

There was a time when Calcutta was equated with garbage, as the dirtiest city etc. During my several visits to the city in the 1990s and 2000 onwards, I have never seen garbage pile up on Calcutta streets like they now do on Chennai's. Surat learned a lesson after the plague. Wonder when Chennai will! With the name change, the city seems to have lost its sense of cleanliness.

I was looking at some pictures sent to me by a friend who has been continuously following up with Neel Metal Fanalca, the agency that is supposed to keep parts of Chennai clean. Not only are these pictures ugly, you can see garbage in front of Padma Seshadri, KK Nagar, on pavements, an over-turned garbage bin, well...

So, is there a remedy? Those who want to do something about it, can call the Neel Metal call centre no. 18004255533 or the Corporation no. 1913. These pictures are of streets in K.K.Nagar, so if you wish to follow up and help my friend out, please call 9940636312.