Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The 1-2-3-4 method of planning healthy meals

Food and the 1-2-3-4 Method of healthy selection



Is your daily diet an adequate and healthy one? Here is a simple method called the 1-2-3- 4 (pronounced one two three four) method that may ensure that. If your daily diet includes the following divided over three or four meal or snack times it is  very likely a  healthy one:

1 Serving of Fruit (or Salad if fruit is not available)
2 Servings of protein rich food such as eggs, milk products, lentils or fish
3 Serving of vegetables with one of them uncooked as salad
4 Servings of carbohydrates rich food grain preparations from wheat, rice, corn etc.

These make ten items of food that may then be divided in four meal times with one or two being substantial meals and the rest lighter meals or snack. This would make breakfast, lunch and dinner with one snack time that would vary with persons, daily routines and customs. Those who have early breakfasts prefer a mid-morning snack. Those who have late evening dinners may prefer a snack with tea, and those that have early evening suppers may choose a late night snack. Please do not have more than one snack time besides the three meals if you wish to have the best chances of good health. In arranging meal plans, refer to your childhood, albeit with any improvements you can add from your own experience of life, because your body developed on that and it is likely to be most compatible with your personal and unique biology.

After choosing your meal times divide these ten items of food over the three meal times and a snack and bingo you have a healthy meal plan for yourself and your family.

In case you are overweight or obese then cut down on the carbohydrate rich foods but not the others. In case your meals includes a root crop such as potatoes or yam, it is a bridge food that counts as both a vegetable and a carbohydrate food and you may then cut down a bit from both the vegetable and food grain servings.

As regards the first item on our list, fruit, there is much wisdom in the old adage - an apple a day keeps the doctor away. For warmer parts of the planet a banana a day works just as well. However, from time to time replace this with other fruits and berries for variety whenever available as local produce. Some people do not like fruit but they will do just as well by replacing this portion with salad then, Some raw food is needed to get our supply of live enzymes and healthy gut flora.

Nuts are very healthy and are a bridge food that include both protein and carbohydrates, therefore if you have a good serving of nuts such as coconut, almonds, peanuts then you may cut down a bit from servings of both the protein and carbohydrate portions of the other ten items. Those living in colder portions of the planet shall find many nuts from trees in their area, those in warm coastal regions coconut and the rest peanuts. Mother earth has something lovely for all her children in nuts as a treat that can be stored for up to a year until the next harvest arrives in tight containers placed in a shaded dry cupboard.

To make food healthier, avoid processed foods, have variety to ensure your body find all the various nutrients, micro nutrients and an whole array of plant chemicals, some medicinal that help to to keep a human healthy. Do try and make your meals starting from basic ingredients and do use a healthy cooking oil. With vegetables, fruits and salads, prefer those from local areas, mostly seasonal. Do include leafy green vegetables such as spinach as often as possible, at least three or four times a week. Local and in season vegetables are healthiest because a climate that is compatible for growth of a certain food makes that food most conducive for other life that lives in those conditions.

If you add a weekly day of partial fasting to this when all carbohydrates and salt is skipped or restricted to just one meal, it will add to the health of most persons. If you are a religious person you may make this a day as a special thanks to your favorite vision of Father Universe, Mother Earth, God, a saint, angel, god or goddess. Another weekly day chosen when you bring some fruits, nuts or dry food rations, to some poor or deprived persons in your area as a service to humanity shall surely bring many blessings your way. Feeding birds or wild animals with stuff suitable for them is a way to share a bit in the chores that Mother Earth is busy with constantly and she shall surely appreciate it.

Some light beverages such as tea, coffee, cold drinks or a hot cup of milk at the most two to three times a day should make for a day full of good foods and drinks full of blessings of Mother Earth that provides all our food, water and even the air we breathe, while Father Universe brings sunshine and gravity etc. that makes life possible.

While mother Earth prepares more than adequate amounts of food for all her children, all life on the planet it gave birth to, she has left it in the hands of humans as to how to distribute it. Unfortunately humans are not doing it very well so that there are some suffering from hunger and malnutrition because of insufficient food; others are suffering from obesity and disease because of excess intake. Any human that helps to improve this distribution, for example by helping those who are hungry, helps towards restoring balance and becomes a worthy person in the eyes of Mother Earth and Father Universe that they are surely proud of.

Image from:


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Live in the Moment – A false philosophy of our times



From time to time saints and mystics have appeared who have focused more on internal and spiritual development as compared to the external world. Major religions have developed around teachings of some of these saints. However, the preachers and teachers that have followed later have not interpreted the original messages correctly in all cases and thus compromised the teachings. The most stupid is the assertion in many religious schools that a human may attain progress only through their system. It is stupid if not outright criminal because it is a lie in most cases. It has to be, because if one of them is true all others have to be liars or fools.

Few humans have the time or inclination to go directly to original messages of saints. They depend on preachers that follow. Discouraged by false teachings, many modern humans have discarded religion all together. Along with that many have also discarded the central focus of religion – God. That is unfortunate because one could have always developed an independent relationship with the Universe or God. The spirit of Nature ever throbs in every part of nature and is ready to embrace anyone who approaches with love.

While many humans have discarded religion and manage with that as long as life chugs along merrily, the moment distress strikes they look for spiritual or emotional solace once again. Having discarded religious avenues they look for modern teachers and philosophers but as repeatedly warned by saints, many teachers shall follow them but many of them will be fierce wolves in sheep’s clothing that will devour them instead. This warning is not only for teachers outside of religions that followed a particular saint but also for teachers of religions developed out of their own teachings, because for saints, different religions did not exist, the one and only God did.

Thus being left with modern teachers, many modern humans have fallen pray to false teachings that might provide some temporary quick delight like a glass of whiskey does, but leaves them far worse off in the long run. Let us focus on a very popular yet false teaching of our times. It is called live in the moment and goes something like this – Live in the moment, the past is no more, and the future is unknown.  Let us see how harmful and false this teaching is.

Each human personality is unique and is made up of experiences of past. If a human attempts to ignore the past consciously, it does not go away but recedes to the subconscious and from there it continues to empower or trouble. Looking back into the past, a human would find it is made up of many pleasant and unpleasant experiences, good and bad done, wise and foolish things, obsessions for both good and bad that may have occurred from time to time. We end up doing well when motivated by values of love, truth and simplicity and do evil when moved by lust, greed, anger, pride, jealousy etc. Reserving time for reflecting on the past gives us an opportunity to repent, to resolve anger with forgiveness or acceptance and thus lighten the burden that weighs down our souls. However most important is the education and learning we acquire from our past. That after all is the purpose of experience and a way to evolve. This learning not only helps us to evolve and make our life better but also goes on with us into future lives for those who believe in future lives as this author firmly does. There are humans who go through much good and bad and others who have little of either. The latter also have less learning and therefore evolve less slowly.

Aside from past, one must reserve time to plan for future too. Every morning we can set a time to plan the day’s activity. Once a week the weekly program, and once a month monthly issues so that one’s daily life becomes easier and more productive. One will not find then that one has run out of toilet paper just after a poop because one was too busy living in the moment rather than thinking of tomorrow after yesterdays poop when the toilet paper ran out, or find after a meal is cooked that one has run out of salt.

Besides short term future plans, once in a while during a year, one has to set time aside time for long term plans too. Younger persons have to develop long term career plans and those past forty must plan for retirement and old age else they may face a hard time when that time comes. It may be mentioned that evening hours are the worst for developing future plans or even those for tomorrow because one is prone to most errors at this time compared to mornings whereas evening hours remain good time to reflect on the past, just relax, or chat with family/friends about what transpired during the day. If one begins to talk of what should be done tomorrow, remind  that evening is not a good time to plan for tomorrow.

Having stated that, it must be noted that there is much truth in the old adage – Man proposes, God disposes. What happens to us in future depends not only on our plans and actions but much more on the Universe around us. One might work on building a lovely home in a California forest but when it comes time to move in, one may find that drought has dried up the place. On the other hand, there have been cases of humans who did nothing to plan for retirement yet when the time came; they won a lottery or an inheritance. This does not mean that we should not plan for future because that would increase chances of a hard time ahead, what it means is that we must not let worries and concerns of future influence or compromise our present. As we go about tackling the tasks for the day, there is enough to carry for today, why add to it the load of tomorrow as well?

Those who trust in God have the confidence that He and the Universe shall do right by them in future. The chances of that are more if we do the right things in our life. We make choices from moment to moment to do the right thing or be led into wrong by baser instincts.

Thus after having reserved time for reflecting on past, resolving and learning from it; reserving time for future both for short term and long term plans, one must focus on the present, the moment and get on with our lives attempting at all times to do the right thing. What is required is to be fair to each, past, future and present but not mix issues of past and future when we are engaged in the moment so that we may do justice to each fully. When one has resolved emotional dilemmas of the past, it more or less ceases to occupy thought and when some time, only a little, is reserved for future planning as indicated in this note, one may immerse oneself fully in the moment and make the most of it.

Art Image accompanying this post: Landschaft mit einem Wasserfall by Ludwig Philipp Strack

Note: This blog has many posts on spiritual matters arising from a similar independent philosophy aside from many other issues important to modern life and living. Readers are welcome to browse. If you raise any queries or contentions in comments it will be a pleasure because it helps other readers too and several hundred visit the various posts daily. I shall know of it through email notifications and respond to it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Design for a Cottage –II

A Photo from the author's garden


In the last post plans for some cottages were described. This post is an addendum to it and includes one more plan. It has been made invoking the older design concept of using a hallway or passage that leads to room. Such a passage although requiring some additional construction space makes the management and arrangement of furniture in rooms much easier because much communication than takes place through the passage rather than rooms. The present plan also includes a staircase. Design and construction of staircases is one of the most complicated parts of home designs. It is because of this that many homes that are not carefully designed end up with either uncomfortable staircases or ones that waste much space. In the present design construction and design is both simplified by placing the staircase in a separate extension towards the back of the building. The same staircase can be set on the side of the building too using the central exit from living room depending upon the lay of the land. In this latter case it would be best to set a hanging beam across the living room so that a smaller room may be created on the first floor.

It may be noted that this design is a highly traditional one except for the change that bathroom is moved to front that becomes possible with modern equipment like piped water, flush toilets and exhaust fans. Keeping it in front makes associated piping easy if it has to be connected towards the front of the property as is often the case. A side enclosure has been created to house the associated chambers and piping. Some of the traditional designs are the most comfortable ones having been discovered through long human experience. Modern architects in trying to be innovative, often end up with expensive and uncomfortable configurations that satisfy not much more than fees collected and egos of the designers.

Design for a cottage

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cottage for a Hermit in the Wilderness





In the past spiritual hermits, or a group of hermits with disciples and students lived in isolated dwellings in forests or mountains in Himalayas or the plains below. The dwelling for students and disciples were shared rooms while for the principal hermit it was just a single large room that combined bed, living, study and store along with a veranda in front that was used for sitting, study, meditation or receiving guests in partially open space. The kitchen and bathrooms of such units were in separate structures. However with modern equipment used in kitchen and bathrooms, all can be combined in a single cottage that would lead to a plan as shown in the figure. The arrangement leads to a smaller additional room that may be used as a study or bed for an attendant or guest. The small room can have a window on the side too if there is a good open view on that side.

Plan for a cottage with primarily one large room
It must be noted that while a single large room leads to easier management for someone wishing to live a very simple life, the larger roof spans make construction more expensive or less durable. This can be avoided by dividing living space in two rooms, a bed and a living room. Several such designs have been published in earlier posts of this blog and may be discovered by searching/browsing. One of them is repeated below with some modifications that create space for a kitchen table beside a window. The plan shows room widths as 11 feet but they may be reduced up to 10 feet or expanded to 12 feet (with some other minor adjustments in plan) depending upon lay of land.


Design for a two room cottage

Top image was developed from clip art at:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Regenerating forests in cooperation with nature



A Custard Apple Tree

While many forests on the planet have been removed over the last century for various human needs, many now realize that it was a mistake. Forests are an essential cover of Mother Earth, support life, help to stabilize climate extremes and absorb excess carbon year after year. Their fallen leaves help to improve fertility of soils. Aside from all this, forests are beautiful and while food feeds the body, forests feed the soul. The need is being felt acutely now to restore as much forest cover on the planet as possible and such efforts are underway in many parts of the world that have governments and citizens who are environmentally conscious and socially responsible.

It may be pointed out that nature on its own replants forests on barren land that have some moisture over time if they are not disrupted by humans or much grazing. However because the natural process is a slow one and climate change needs more urgent, human effort is needed.

While replanting forests, if cooperation of nature is invoked then the task becomes much easier. No where did this become more apparent to me than in my small urban garden. I had purchased the urban lot 33 years ago on barren outskirts of the city bereft of trees. Soon after, even before building a home I planted a few trees and watered them from time to time. Over the years, a home was built in three or four incremental steps. What I noticed was that many trees came up on their own with seeds perhaps brought in by birds that came to nest or rest in the original trees. Realizing that these trees are local and useful ones, I have left several in and let them flourish although many had to be removed too from time to time. In the initial years, the trees were largely Mulberry and Neem trees but in recent years several Custard apple (sita phal) trees keep popping up. Being small trees, they are ideal for an urban lot and some have now become large enough to produce fruit. One is shown in the photo snapped this morning.

Returning to our original topic of planting forests, the same principle can be invoked. Plant some trees well spaced apart initially, say fifty feet apart in all directions. Do use at least four or five different types of trees for bio-diversity. Most of the chosen trees may be native ones while a few others not native to the area may also be planted as an experiment. A few years later many other trees natural to the area as well as other growth will begin to come up on its own in the area to create a natural forest.

Protect the area by fence or moat in the initial years if needed, while also providing supplementary moisture in the first two or three years if the area does not have frequent rains. Once trees become large this watering is not needed because the roots then go in deep and the larger tree provides shade. Moats are cheaper over large areas then fences because they can be dug out easily with modern equipment. The soil dug out may be used to fill in ditches if any in the area or make some artificial hills covered with top soil from digging. Such moats may collect rain water and improve moisture availability of area while forming natural barriers to excess grazing. Do connect the moat to a small lake at the lowest point in the area to be forested. Creating a lake in a forest is essential for a healthy forest because they bring up ground water table of the region badly needed by trees. The moat together with the lake would collect rain water and store it for dry months to keep the forest thriving. Moreover they would slow or stop a forest fire from spreading, if ever there was one. Do keep some trails in the forest leading up to the lake for those come for a picnic or fishing on a holiday.

It is best that initial trees are fruit trees or other rapidly growing trees suitable for the area. Over a period of 25 years or so many more trees, shrubs, and wild flowers, medicinal herbs, fruits, berries and grasses natural to the area would spring up on their own, to fill up the forest, into a completely natural one. Growing more forests on the planet is a sure way to mitigate adverse climate changes and improve the planet in many other ways.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Rank Countries by Happiness



 
Ha Ha Valley, Bhutan  ( Ha Ha Valley is author's usage for Ha Valley)

Ancient saints have repeatedly stressed that peace and happiness for humans does not lie merely in increasing material prosperity but much else that has nothing to do with wealth. Things like love, kindness for each other, green valleys and sunshine, inner development contribute far more. It is obvious that one would not be able to enjoy a drive on a wonderful scenic road through a green mountain valley if the very car one is driving is bumpy and rickety. It is necessary to improve our own apparatus, our inner selves in order to find peace and happiness in the world. It is because of this that some are greatly happy with even a little and while others who go through life depressed even with a lot of wealth, just as some children are happy without toys making do with sticks and stones whereas some others are unhappy even with a roomful of toys.

While such thoughts had a strong impact on some ancient Kingdoms for even up to a thousand years after Buddha, they receded with time as lure of material greed reasserted. The message of Buddha in modern times has for the main survived in isolated pockets of Himalayas and around places like Tibet and Bhutan. Therefore while the world was busy comparing Gross Domestic Products, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan charted a different course; Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, His majesty, Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the phrase Gross National Happiness (GNH) in 1972. It represents a commitment to building an economy that would serve spiritual values instead of material development alone that is gauged by gross domestic product (GDP).

But while all this sounds good how does one measure the general level of happiness in a country? It is not as easy to define as certain concrete economic parameters; rather it contains much that is abstract and immeasurable. Yet indirect symptomatic indicators can be discovered that can help assess level of happiness of a nation rather quickly. Applying his mind to the concept, this author came up with a simple methodology to do so that requires just four pieces of simply ascertained data. These are described next

Infant Mortality rate

Infant mortality rate of any country is a cumulative effect of many things that indicate the quality of life in a country for there is no task more important for a human than giving birth to and raising a child. Malnutrition, hunger, lack of medical care, unsanitary conditions, impure water, governance deficit, ignorance, wars and natural disasters are some of the things that go to increase infant mortality rates. The happiest countries in the world have low infant mortality rates well under five per thousand births whereas some of the most disturbed countries of sub-Saharan Africa have rates exceeding 100 deaths per thousand births. Such data is easily available in public domain and can be used to rank countries quickly on this basis. Let us call this R1. The lower this rank the less the infant mortality rate. The infant mortality rates of various countries can be found in various places, for example at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate

Prison Population

The most repressive regimes in the world usually have high prison populations. This ratio changes with time as the character of ruling power changes. If one may rank countries based on prisoner density defined as number of persons in prisons per thousand persons we can rank countries on this basis to get our second rank. Let us call it R2. Lower the rank, less the prisoners. Such data can be found from various sources, for example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate

Intentional Homicide rate

The intentional killing of humans by humans is a measure of the level of stress, crime, insecurity and violence that prevails in a country. Such statistics are collected by different agencies of the world from time to time, for example see:

While some crimes such as rapes or robberies go unreported to different degrees, this is one crime that is reported fairly well in all countries. The statistics are usually tabulated as intentional homicide per 100,000 inhabitants and countries ranked on this basis may be given a rank termed R3

Green Density

Several studies have indicated that humans are healthier, less stressed and happier in green surroundings. The number of trees (fully grown trees that are more than ten feet high) not only measure how harsh or conducive the climate is for life in a country but it also measures how the citizens of that country have cared for the environment and how much open area or crowding exists in a country.  However since it is tedious to estimate the total number of trees in a country, a simple measure is to count the percentage of country under forest cover. Unbuilt open grass lands and farm lands also constitute green areas. Bodies of fresh water add beauty and value to the land as also mountains. A composite measure of green density of a country can then be as follows

Percentage Green Area = Percentage of land under forest cover + percentage under fresh water bodies like lakes and rivers +  percentage of area covered by barren, snow covered or green mountains  + (percentage of land under grass cover and farm lands)/3

However, since this would be a tedious calculation a simpler quicker approximation is to rank countries merely on the basis of percentage forest cover. After avearging with other parameters it would lead to only slight approximation. This data is more easily available as for examplea at:
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.LND.FRST.ZS 

Unbuilt area does not mean that there cannot be even a single building in the area but it must be less than one percent of the area under focus. As a first attempt a weight of one third is given to farm and grass lands as compared to forests. Based on this adjusted percentage green area thus deduced countries may be ranked to yield the fourth type of rank R4.

Composite Measure of Happiness

While the four ranks as defined so far can give some ideas of levels of happiness that prevail in a country, a single composite measure combining the four is easier to deal with. This is how they can be combined very simply,

Happiness Rank, HR = (2R1 + R2 + R3 +R4) /5

Thus if a country ranked first on all four counts, it would end up with the top rank of 1 but that would be rare and the cumulative rank in general shall not begin with 1 ( unlike R1 to R4) for any of the countries of the world but with some higher number. In general the result would be in decimals rather than whole numbers. This result can then be arranged in ascending order to give a country rank. If two countries have identical data they would be given the same rank but the rank of the next country below would be skipped by one. It may be noted that a weight twice as high as other parameters has been given to infant mortality rate. This is because it is far more indicative than other parameters in the selection. Similarly education, electricity supply etc. have not been included. People who can live a peaceful, healthy life even without formal education are happier than others who are well educated yet busy in crime, corruption and exploitation. Education can both be a tool for happiness or misery depending on how it is combined with ethical values.  Moreover, what is worthy in both formal and informal education is measured indirectly by parameters selected here.

Such operations can be done in minutes on an excel spread sheet. The actual numbers indicate how close or far away countries are form each other e.g. if two countries had HR values 2 and 2.1, they are close to each other. It may be noted that life expectancy is used by others for rating countries but it has not been used here for two reasons. First the essential aspects of it that influence human well being such as homicide and infant mortality are considered here. Secondly, modern medicine has the means to prolong life often in a compromised state and this does not go to increase human happiness. It is not important how long a human lives but how well he lives while still around that is important for assessing human happiness.

Percentage Happiness

A Percentage Happiness of a country based on the present methodology may be defined as

Percentage Happiness =  (200– HR)/2

The number 200 is chosen as a number slightly smaller than number of countries so as to lead to results in the main between 0 and 100% for most countries and a negative value, a country beyond any remaining hope in its present form, perhaps for some rare one. The round number of 200 is selected here to retain simplicity although number of countries are larger than 200. On averaging may become lager that 200 in a rare case only even though on one or more counts a country attains a rank greater that 200.

Thus only if a country can rank tops on all four scores and get HR =1, it can it achieve near 100% happiness i.e. the best possible on the planet at any given time of human history.

It may be mentioned that some of the data as required for this assessment may be a few years old since it takes time to collect it. Nevertheless it may be used in the assessment as an approximation for most countries with the exception of countries where some major event has taken place for change such as revolution, war, disaster etc. A star may be added in front of the names of those countries for caution.

For ease of reference this Happiness rank may be termed as FC happiness rank and FC happiness percentage, FC standing for Four Criterion. The author has presently refrained form ascertaining and listing countries on this basis. He invites others to do so. Please do give a reference to this note. Just as a guess, perhaps a country like Austria may rank the highest. A country like Bhutan too would certainly rank much higher than other countries much richer to it but ascertaining an exact rank requires further work, hopefully by others.

It may be mentioned that this ranking concerns overall rank of countries. As regards individuals within a country, conditions can vary greatly from one person to another. While an individual can not do a great deal to change overall conditions in his country, he can do everything to change his own personal condition through simple things like planting more trees around his dwelling, working to improve purity of water and food available, ensuring cleanliness and working towards his own personal development in life. We usually get out of life what we put into it and it has been observed that persons who are peaceful and non-violent often escape violence even in violent surroundings.

Illustration

Table: Rank and Percentage happiness of a country by FC Method


As a first step, a sample calculation with just seven counties was carried out to find percentage happiness for purpose of illustration. The results are shown in table. The results are in agreement with assessment of most other world observers on a qualitative basis and prove the viability of the present method. The present method helps to put a number on qualitative observations, while eliminating any bias that can enter a qualitative assessment. While one may debate and refine the methodology used, one cannot dispute figures.
 Decimal numbers were rounded before presentation. This percentage happiness in this table represents the percentage of the maximum possible happiness levels that are possible on the planet. While Austria achieved 80% of happiness, Bhutan had only 50%. It has to work more on parameters such as infant mortality and incarceration. However it has a much higher score than a much richer country USA that has only 47% happiness.  India too has to work hard on the same parameters as Bhutan  as also to increase forest cover in the country. USA would need radical reforms of its prison system since it fares the worst on this count in the world in order to improve happiness of the people.  Rwanda that has only 5% has a long way to go to reach levels of human civilized existence as prevail on the planet, as also perhaps many other African countries.Even Afghanistan despite it decades of conflict reaches a level of about 20% by the present system, just slightly lower than Nigeria at 21%.

Mexico achieves a level of 35%, a level it can improve overnight by legalizing drugs and thereby also the associated crime and deaths. However, the best possible country in the present selection is Sweden that has achieved an amazing 92% happiness level.

The present calculation is a quick approximate one in the sense the most recent data in different categories may not have been used but rather one that could be most readily accessed. It is hoped that others can refine the results as well as widen it to include more countries.The ranking for R1 to R4 in any case has to be done amongst all the countries of the world and that was done here too. The error caused by the present approximations is expected to fall within a band of five percent i.e. + or minus, 2.5%

A similar calculation was done for UK too and led to a result of 63%, somewhere between Austria and the US, not surprising since UK does keep one leg in the US and another in Europe.Canada at 69% is better than UK but nowhere near the best in Europe.

Rating happiness levels of countries by FC method
 

Conclusion

While the procedure suggested here would lead to a  reasonable ranking of countries in accordance with the levels of happiness that prevail in a country, it is only a first attempt. Further work by others could improve the method. However, ease of application and simplicity would hopefully be retained in any such future modifications, while also giving credit to the present note for initiating this new approach to assessing happiness of nations. Simple as the present criterion is, it also measures something very simple, happy nations are simply those where most citizens may live secure, clean and healthy lives in green surroundings free of fear of crime from each other or repression from their governments. The present method attempts to rapidly quantify how close various nations come to this goal. 

Final Note for Bhutan: Since this note was inspired by an idea from Bhutan, it is appropriate to end with a suggestion for it. Setting up mother and child centers around the country in collaboration with International NGOs that provide care/nutrition/advice to mother and child for two years, from the moment of conception to until child is 15 months old would bring down infant mortality rates sharply and increase happiness rating greatly.
NOTE: Essential aspects of this note are also available as an online document that researchers doing further work on the topic may quote as reference;
https://www.scribd.com/doc/282233081/The-Four-Criterion-FC-Method-for-Ranking-Happiness-Level-of-Different-Countries


Image Source
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

War on Drugs and a War for Drugs

Cannabis


Our planet produces some drugs of plant and synthetic chemical origin that have simultaneous medicinal and recreational use. For brevity we shall just call these drugs in this note as in common parlance but as different from other substances that have exclusive medicinal use only such as antibiotics that are not included in this note.

Because of their recreational use, there is possibility of misuse of drugs. Some are highly addictive and some that can kill in excess dose as indeed even alcohol can but much sooner. It is because of such dangers that laws have been instituted around the world to control production, consumption and distribution of drugs. But demand for these drugs continues. As a result, a world wide illegal trade has developed around drug sales involving crime syndicates, drug mafia, corruption of state actors and gang wars leading to huge numbers of deaths and crime. So fearful has been the ensuing violence in some countries that thousands of minors have been compelled to flee their homes in Central America and seek refuge in other countries they can find their way to.

Ephedra
At times and places in the world when alcohol was made illegal, it too sponsored crime and most countries now permit production, sale and consumption of alcohol with some controls. A time has come for the world to consider legalizing many drugs too and replace existing criminal laws that surround them with other forms of controls so as to end crime, corruption and violence that surrounds existing laws on drugs.

The most worrisome aspect of making drugs illegal is that it then becomes a highly profitable albeit illegal business. As in any business that is profitable, use of these drugs is then promoted by business, again through illegal means, such as agents providing free samples to potential victims until they become addicts

While a huge lobby of common folk, scientists and intellectuals has emerged in the world that is calling out for legalization of drugs, there is also another powerful one that wishes to continue with existing practices, some because they profit from it. According to UN, more than half of illegal drug trade is in cannabis and if it was made legal as it used to be in prior centuries, the illegal business and crime surrounding it would collapse. Then there is the legal drug industry that provides some medicinal compounds at obscene profits which would have no use once cannabis becomes legally and freely available. It is a weed that cannot be patented for profit. These profitable industries feed law makers and government agencies that make laws and even persist with lies in official documents despite much scientific evidence such as cannabis has no medicinal value.

However, lies have a limited life and as truth begins to asserts once again, the world can hope to see a legalization of many drugs now considered illegal. Such moves have already begun in countries such as Uruguay, Portugal and in parts of US and Europe to different degrees and in time will spread to the rest of the world.


Opium

 A Useful Classification

While the world considers legalizing drugs, it is worth debating what kind of new controls would be necessary. For this purpose it is highly useful to divide all drugs in three categories A, B and C as follow

  1. Drugs of plant origin with minimal processing such as cleaning, drying etc.
  2. Refined extracts from plant origin that may be isolated compounds or a highly concentrated group of compounds
  3. Drugs of purely chemical origin discovered in a lab

As regards drugs of category A, the permitted ones could be sold through existing alcohol stores in branded small packages with similar controls and taxation as alcoholic drinks. However, drugs like cannabis that are not addictive could be sold elsewhere too as indeed it was for centuries without causing any serious problem.

Drugs of Category B, because they are far more potent, may be sold on prescription through chemists and pharmacies with similar controls as with other medicine

Drugs of Category C needs to be completely banned as ones with great potential harm, hopefully when drugs from other two categories are available there would be little use for these.

Cocaine Plant


Financial Benefit

Countries that legalize drugs would derive two kind of financial benefits. First they would save money of unnecessary law enforcement; secondly they would collect tax revenues as they do with alcohol and tobacco at present. Some of these revenues may then be used for education programs about potential harm and some for addiction treatment centers. The profits that now go to crime syndicates and corrupt state actors would then be go towards public good. The greatest benefit for mankind would however be in getting rid of crimes and availability of medicines for conditions that cannot be treated with existing medicines such as epilepsy in children and a host of  other conditions for adults that cannot be dealt with in this brief note presently but are widely known,

FIRST STEP:    While various countries debate the legalization of drugs, a first step is essential, the decriminalization of possession and consumption of drugs, at the most fines may be considered as civil offenses similar to traffic offenses. Similarly the production of natural herbal drugs too must be decriminalized and treated at the most with fines. In any case cannabis comes up as wild weed and everyone grows poppy for the flower garden. Criminal offenses must however be retained for production of drugs of synthetic chemical origin.

UPDATE October 20, 2015:
Good News is that Justin Trudeau has just become the new PM of Canada and he has thoughts similar to those expressed in this note. The world should now see legalization of cannabis in Canada and with that example in many more countries of the world soon.

UPDATE: Nov 7, 2015

While efforts to legalize Marijuana/Cannabis are being debated in many different parts of the world presently, the following new note adds useful information for that debate is a simple and comprehensive manner:

http://steamcenter.blogspot.in/2015/11/on-legalization-of-marijuana-cannabis.html



Image sources in order of appearance
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Field_of_opium.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Colcoca03.jpg

Friday, September 11, 2015

Peace, War and Refugees



How to make peace, how to make war


While many horrific wars continue in many parts of the world and humans are forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives, the countries that contributed to creating wars often withdraw from helping out distressed refugees. Just as the character of a human is revealed in times of stress and difficulty, so is the character of nations.

Anyone with his own children knows how stressful it is to walk even a mile with a babe in arms or a toddler holding a finger but the world now witnesses thousands fleeing hundreds of mile in this very situation. While they are welcomed in some countries, they witness harsh cruel behavior in others, not sympathy and help. It is even more difficult for an old or handicapped person to walk across to the corner store as every old person knows and here we see some forced to walk hundreds of mile. How upset all of us get when a prized personal possession in our homes gets damaged or lost and here we see millions of humans forced to flee leaving everything behind, all they cherished, because of a war they did not create.

While weapons may be made for self defense or righteous use, when it becomes a profitable industry, it is in the interest of profits to create and encourage wars rather than try and avoid them; and to turn a blind eye when these weapons are used for crimes against humanity. The world would be so much nicer if major weapon making countries profited from development technology rather than destruction technology, love not war, laughter of children, not frightful screams of horror and pain

"I understand Europe well, because I am the great-grand-mother of all of the ruling families of Europe. When they will not separate families with children from a group of refugees as described here,  for kinder treatment, the idea is to trouble all, even already much troubled sweet children" from a figment of psychic reflection

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Soul of an Angel – A Rose for Billi





While a human may live from anywhere from zero to hundred some years after being born and animals for assorted periods as has been allocated to them by nature, it is heartbreaking when a human or animal passes away young without even growing up fully.

It is in little children when we see the consciousness of God most clearly charged with innocence, love, truth, humility and simplicity and it is only as they grow up other things such as pride, greed etc. take a foothold casting a shadow on their inner divine consciousness, except saints and angels who may manage to free it again even when they are old. Therefore, the soul of a small infant child is most like that of an angel even though, physically they remain young and not fully competent.

When a young soul that one loves passes away, one is saddened much, I have tried to reconcile this with my beliefs in an afterlife and rebirth and it would seem that young souls passing away in the most goodness of life are the ones most likely to have a heavenly and good after life and one must console oneself with the thought, even while praying for peace for the departed soul.

There are street cats in my neighborhood and few of them come in from time to time to ask me for a little food when they cannot find any elsewhere. A brown cat used to come quite frequently for that in the backyard and a couple of months ago she gave birth to two new brown kittens in a partially sheltered corner of the backyard. She guarded them fiercely and would not let them come near me until they were a few weeks old. After a month however she just disappeared. Perhaps she met with an accident somewhere or she would have surely come back. The young kittens howled for a day and then I started feeding them, twice a day and they resumed their life in the backyard. There are quite a few sheltered spaces for them to live there. I gave them names Billi and Tilli. Billi means Cat in Hindi and therefore these same names in English would be Cat and Tat. Billi was the friendlier and more loving of the two while Tilli tends to be a bit of a Rascal at times. Billi would come and sit by me every morning as I read the newspaper and had tea in the backyard while Till would watch from a distance.

A few days ago I shared their pictures on the net and on social media that I visit. Then three days back Billi suddenly became very sick. She had been losing weight some days prior to that too but was quite active then. I had resolved to feed her more nutritious things to fix that. Her sister (Or brother?) Tilli was however putting on weight. When Billi became sick, Tilli stayed by her side most times trying to pet her and nurse her and I too visited often, but she became weaker and weaker and in the last three days was not eating anything, whatever was offered to her until this morning she passed away. However, she was neither vomiting nor having a runny tummy, therefore what she had caught might be a feline viral infection of some sort. Today morning she passed away.

Before her demise she had moved back to the spot she was born in. perhaps she has gone back to her mother. Someone had mentioned that an evil eye may harm young lives when their pictures are shared. Perhaps it was so, but the time of death is in the same hands of the Lord that give birth and even if it was an evil eye it was an instrument of the Universe to bring about an end at the destined time, to go on and follow its own journey and karma thereafter.

Tilli pulled her out and I wrapped her in newspaper with some roses and scented flowers from the garden. I did not use cloth because that would take longer to dissolve when buried. She was later buried with full honors at a spot sheltered from any inadvertent footsteps over her unmarked grave. May her soul rest in peace and visit lovely places in the universe even as I read her last prayer. She certainly became famous with her picture in far away places around the world during her brief and sweet life. 
In my inner eye I imagine that she would be born as a human in her next life, animals that live with humans as pets often do, somewhere in a mountain village in the Himalayas. She would grow up to be a pretty girl, tall and slim with long, straight black hair, very catty, but with a good heart. I wish it will be like that. It would be the beginning of her journey in human lives.
 

Billi about a week ago
UPDATE:

A dear friend Vinod who retired a few years ago as the equivalent of the senior most IRS officer of India contributed this lovely poem for Billi

Soul of Billi

No regrets whatsoever
I'm at peace
an angel by my side here
there an angel tended me.
Life may be short but sweet
and so it has been to me
a royal burial to a cat
the world has never seen.
A soul only I'm now here
happy and so free
and this I pray day and night
my angel there may rule the earth

This my prayer to the Lord
The Earth be heaven under Thee!


with love&regards
Vinod