Forging Ahead

New Look, New Design

As I told you in my previous post, I had in mind to change the look of my blog. Are the same theme and the same design still appealing after some time? This question has been haunting me since a while. If for some reason or other we tend to resist change, I have a whole different view of this pertinent issue. On-going change, I believe, favours fresh enthusiasm and commitment at the service of the customer. We shouldn’t keep out of mind that what we are is what our customers want us to be. We have to live up to their expectations if we want to survive.

What are our readers looking for? They need to know not only what’s new but also how it’s new. The content is vital; the wrapping is even more. Have you ever halted a while in the shopping mall? Have you noticed people carefully choosing the wrapping material for their gifts? Why are they so selective on something that’s only going to serve as a cover or blanket only for the moment it’s handed over to the recipient? Once the gift is in hand they forget about the wrapper. Isn’t it? This is what I’d call the appeal factor. The stuff that wraps gifts is as important, if not more, as the gift itself. I hope advertising agents won’t contradict me on this matter.

New Hosting Service

It all happened when my webmaster told me he was in the process of making a new design for his blog. He was at the same time looking for a more reliable web hosting service for Wakish Wonderz. We had enough of the erratic service we were having.We’ve been discussing about this during the past months. He was determined for a change. He also proposed to give my blog a new look too. I agreed to that, and so I decided that I won’t resume blogging until all this would have been cleared.

Side Bar De-cluttered a bit

It took quite some time. That’s the “other reason for my long absence” I mentioned in my previous post. And we came up with this new design for Alfa King Memories. You’ll notice the new logo and avatar; a slight de-cluttering of the side bar; and the posts appearing only partly to allow more space per page. The archive has been moved to a separate page. Some items that I consider don’t make any difference have been removed. There’s still some more de-cluttering to do and we’ll tackle this as we go along. What do you think about it?

Forward with Determination

From the bold “first step which was the hardest” some 18 months ago, Alfa King is “forging ahead” with renewed vigour thanks to your support and encouragement. There’s a substantial growth in my visitors’ list; and I hope to have a still bigger number with posts that need to reconcile both readers’ interests and areas of expertise I feel better at ease.

So there you are folks. Keep visiting Alfa King Memories. There’s lot more to dig out and learn together. Feel free, as usual, to air any suggestions or thoughts through my comment box.

Still There to Serve You

Heya! Here am I. A relatively long absence indeed. Well, I know it’s been longer than intended. All my plans to connect with you last week were in vain. How many of you have had their telephone line interrupted for at least a week? It was my case since Tuesday 16 September. It seems a lorry hit against one of the poles in the roadside where I live and the main cable was torn apart.

And you know the time it takes to get the whole thing fixed again, especially when you have a non-stop rain for nearly three days, from Tuesday evening to Friday morning. Just to give you an idea, the 24-hour rainfall on Wednesday reached a record-breaking amount of 250 mm in the central part of the country; and 270 mm at some places, which largely exceeded the long-term average for September.

The line was restored at last today, not without multiple complaints. Can you figure out having to do without internet for a whole week? Our lives have become so technology-dependant that even a slight breakdown amplifies our distress. I don’t dare look at my list of waiting tasks.

Anyway, when I came back from Rodrigues I went straight to my office the next working day. Usually after a tour of service we go on leave immediately on a priority basis, if we so desire. Instead I chose to have some vacation leave as from the second week of this month. I’ll resume my full time job in the second week of October. Plenty of time to recuperate and get settled. Right?

Ok. Now, what have I been doing? To be frank I was idle. So why didn’t I keep you posted? I have no straightforward answer. But I had to check back all my routine matters, banking, car insurance and road tax, utilities and the rest of other personal matters so that there’s nothing outstanding.

I also wanted to have a deeper look over this whole issue of blogging again. The break allowed me some time to go through my pages and readership statistics. It was a fruitful exercise and I came up with some quite interesting clues as to what they’ve been looking for. But there’s yet another reason for my absence: I was contemplating a change in the look and design of my blog. We’ll talk more about this in my next post.

Watch out.

Time to Pack up

Cocos

Uuuhh… It’s the end of my tour. Do you still recall my first post from Rodrigues a week after my arrival here? Well, it’s already time to pack up. As from this evening I’ll be on hot ashes with the arrival of my relief, packing up of my personal effects and handing over procedures. My wife came some 10 days ago. After some quick visits to some sites she is busy doing some shopping so that we can bring little gifts for the close relatives. The specialities of the island are straw hats, bags, chillies, honey, lemons and pickles.

Six months have elapsed. I should say I had a cool moment, far from the rush and stress in homeland. I enjoyed the countryside, the seaside, the fishing parties and, most of all, my visit to Ile aux Cocos. The nice time I had with my son and a very intimate and special companion will ever remain as an unforgettable moment in my life. I have been here on several occasions. This one was indeed special. For the first time I visited the whole island and interested myself in the people’s way of life. And you know what? I had so many visitors, which made my stay really enjoyable.

This morning I conveyed the bulk of my personal effects for shipment. I’ll have to leave my car under the care of my relief to ship it back next week. The boat is expected on 10 August. Back home I’ll have to do without my car until around the 13th on the return of the boat to Port Louis.

I am sorry for having been irregular during the past month. I hope to catch up as soon as I’m settled at home. Until then take care. See you.

More on Grammar and Use of Words

Better be a fool for a while than to be a fool for ever. If in doubt check it out. Again, this is not another grammar lesson. It’s just sharing of another lesson learnt. What else is writing, if not about sharing your knowledge, your thoughts, and your feelings?

It can never be overemphasized. Every word counts in writing. It is the words you put on paper that are the building blocks of what you want to present to the reader. Correct use of words and grammar are the lifeblood of your writing. Together they constitute the vehicle of communication between you and your reader. If any of them is misplaced or inappropriately structured you can guess where your well researched piece might end up.

It is not uncommon that you will come across two words with similar connotations that may be easily mixed up; and mess up everything. Will you be able at the first go to make the difference between them? That’s where I want to come up with this post. Hats off if you’re an expert. Everybody isn’t. Be careful. It’s always good to check whether the vehicle is actually conveying what you wanted to.

In my last post I hinted at some words in common use that can spoil your writing if you don’t pay heed. Those are not the only ones. There’s a lot more; we can’t spot them all at a time. As we go along, others surface up; they’re important enough to stop and ponder upon.

Catching up with my reading of some familiar blogs, especially those that focus on writing and tips about writing, I picked up another set of such words – Dissatisfied, Unsatisfied from Daily Writing Tips. Can you see the difference? Not alien words, are they? Take a peek and see for yourself. I still remember in one of the courses I followed about the theories of motivation I was at a loss whenever I encountered these words. Each time I had to stop for a while to make sure I had the right message. Funny, isn’t it?

The use of verb moods is another area that deserves we stopped by. The mood you use will indicate how you are expressing your thoughts. You’ll find useful tips and explanations about the four moods – indicative, imperative, subjunctive and infinitive – at English Grammar 101: Verb Mood. It’s a simple, practical and straightforward guide for beginners and perhaps a refresher for those who are still experiencing difficulty at some stage or other.

So the next time you write remember that no words or verb moods can be taken for granted. If you have other examples of grammar and word use, do share it here.

Beware of the Spikes

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Pretty much often people get confused with simple words and end up with grammatical shortcomings in an otherwise good writing. Words that seem to convey the same meaning but not mean the same thing can spike all our writing. Have you come across such words? One word of caution though. Don’t take it personally. Any of us can get on the spikes if we are not careful about them.

Is it not common to use one word for another invariably without spotting the difference until somebody else pulls our ears? Let’s face it. This kind of mistake does often find its way in no less classy publications. Only the witty eyes will spot it.

I’m not a grammar specialist. I’m not a mentor. I won’t pretend to teach anybody. That’s not the aim of this post. I just want to share what I read from one of Nick Daws’ posts “Bad Grammar in a Holiday Brochure”. I thought his appreciation and advice about the use of words like “among”, “amongst”, “amid”, “amidst”, “between” are legitimate.

Nick has also been publishing quite a few books about writing and his latest gem is Essential English for Authors.

To your writing.

There’s Something in the Line

If you read my last post you might be asking yourself what the hell I have been doing. Of course work was my priority and I had to find time after office to bring my visitors around. Fortunately here we break off earlier as we start one hour earlier than in homeland. Although the sun sets 24 minutes earlier we have ample time to go around.

This island has a different panorama with its wide valleys and hilly features. I won’t go into the details as I wrote about it in a previous post. If you want to enjoy the sun and the sea the best place would be Cotton Bay or St François in the east. We didn’t as much as we would have wished. We couldn’t swim; it was too cold. With a series of anticyclones in the region the sensation of cold was intense. But that didn’t prevent us from trying our hand at fishing.

The youngsters bought fishing lines, hooks and baits (we used shrimps). We set off on three successive evenings at Point L’Herbe, a shore in between Port Mathurin (the capital) and Baie aux Huitres (Oyster Bay). Any guess who was the hero on the first occasion? I’m sure you made the good one – me of course (no boasting). I got the first and only catch with a small “vielle” as soon I threw the line. Everybody was excited. We baited one after the other. “Ni ene” (not even one more) until sunset.

vielle

A small “vielle”

On the second day the luck was with my niece. “Uncle,” she yelled couple of minutes after she threw her line. “Look, there’s something… Quick, I can’t hold it anymore.” I left my line and grabbed hers. “Yeah, it’s a big one… a carangue… probably 3 lbs.” Summa couldn’t believe her eyes. She took out her mobile and had some snapshots before messaging her mom and sister at home.

carangue

Carangue 

The excitement was so great; we tried again yesterday. But we didn’t have any more luck. We came back empty-handed, although we hooked three small eels which we released afterwards. My son’s face was dull; he’s yet to prove himself. Well, that’s part of the game.

We are not giving up yet. I just called a local friend for a fishing party on boat. The weather is OK and Carlo has agreed to take us on board tomorrow morning. We checked the tides and fixed the meeting at 7.00 am at a place called Caverne Provert further away from the English Bay on the eastern side of Port Mathurin.

Carlo is reliable, although somewhat lazy at times. He’s an experienced fisherman. He owns a boat propelled with oars. In May when the sea was smooth he took me off-lagoon one Saturday morning. He was there at 6.00am sharp. The weather was fine in the morning. Later around 10.00 am dark clouds built up and covered the whole sky. We could see the rain coming from the south and in no time we were soaked. The tides were low and we couldn’t make it to the shore in time. We had a good catch though; each of us, we were three, got about 5 kg of different variety.

Busy Month

 new sunset

May was lonesome; it reminded me of the Rodriguan Solitaire. No longer now. My stay is becoming more comfortable as I move towards the end. I can sense the tension relaxed despite the heavy work schedule. No more restless moments.

June has been exceptionally busy for me with work deadlines and visitors around. A colleague and his daughter visited me in the second week; my younger son also came with them. A couple of days later a technical team was here for a week for the maintenance of equipment. My mom and my niece arrived last week; they are staying until 5 July. I just arranged for an extension of their stay; they were initially scheduled to leave on Sunday 29.

But that’s not all. Other relatives will be here from the 7th until mid-July. My son is staying with me until my departure back to Mauritius in the first week of August pending the arrival of my wife around the end of July.

So I have every reason to rejoice and enjoy the last bit of my stay here. Bear with me if I’m somewhat irregular.

An Overall View of the PRB Report

You might by now be thinking this guy’s pocket’s full, now that the PRB report 2008 has been released and its recommendations are about to be implemented as from July. Alfa King has surely quit blogging. He’s busy counting the extra rupees and cents he’ll earn as from next month. Why should he bother writing on the net when he’s got a better package? Well, if that’s what’s in your mind, think again.

The couple of thousands of rupees more will not make the average public sector employee any richer. Blogging is a passionate hobby for me. It’s not always easy to keep to a fixed schedule, especially when you have a full time job. If I’ve been absent for a while it’s because I had a lot to do with official commitments and hosting visitors. I’ll talk a little more about these in my next post.

The PRB report 2008 has only granted a graduated increase in salary to all civil servants and employees of the para-tatal bodies. Except for chief executives and very senior government officials, who are a selected few and whose salary packages have been literally doubled in a gesture to prevent drain as they say, middle and lower income groups have had an increase based mostly on loss of purchasing power since the last report in 2003. With an average increase of 25 to 30% and taking into account this year’s CPI increase of no less than 8%, the increase in real terms is in dilute amount.

There’s no denial. Some conditions have been slightly improved – the increase in the number of cumulative sick leaves and vacation leaves, and the appreciation of certain allowances. But new conditions have been attached as well. The public sector employee will have to contribute for their pension; they’ll have to work up to 65; they’ll have to put up to 38 1/3 years of service in order to qualify for a full pension. However, those already in service as at June 2008 will continue enjoying the conditions hitherto governing their employment.

The grant of annual increase is no longer automatic. The report emphasises the need to relate pay with performance. All increments should be earned. All government departments are required to implement a performance appraisal system to be fully operational in 2010. Emphasis has been laid on staff development and training as an integral part in the performance management system and the report recommends between 40 to 60 hours of training per employee per year. This will enable a better allocation and management of human resources.

This is only a highlight of the major recommendations of the report which aims at “transforming public sector organisations into modern, professional and citizen-friendly entities with competent, committed and performance oriented personnel dedicated to the service of the citizen”. If most public sector employees display a satisfactory mood, there are many who believe that the salary revision exercise was a means to introduce new conditions. It was a give-and-take exercise. Much of the extra earnings will go back to the treasury in the form of taxes. Have you forgotten the NRPT? Well, check whether you fall into it now, if you weren’t previously.

Government has a different stance – it’s a very costly endeavour. The cost of implementation of the report will be twice that of the previous one. Initially scheduled to be implemented in two phases, 75% from July 2008 and the full amount in July 2009, the report will now be implemented in toto this year as “it’s the Prime Minister’s wish” as announced in the national budget speech by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance on 6 June last. As if decisions are taken according to the mood of the Premier. But for the average people Government has the capacity to pay although it’ll have to disburse some Rs 4.5 billions.

Private sector employees are now claiming their share. If the national cake has become bigger they have contributed to it too and they should benefit from a similar increase in their salaries and wages, they say. Many people tend to forget that the Pay Research Bureau deals with review of salary and grading structures in the public sector only. Whereas the National Remuneration Board (NRB) caters for the private sector and reports periodically, as does the PRB, not necessarily within the same time frame.

As you can see the situation has become more competitive. A higher standard of commitment, responsibility and performance is expected of the public sector employee. He’s got to be more proactive and live up to the modern exigencies. Incremental credits have been recommended for top performers.

Let’s hope that the conditions are implemented in a just and equitable manner so that those who deserve to be rewarded are indeed recognised and that blue-eyed political pariahs do not find their way in.

New Conditions for Public Sector Employees in Mauritius

A quick post just to let you know, in case you are interested, that the long-awaited Report of the Pay Research Bureau on the review of pay and grading structures in the public service and parastatal bodies has been released today.

The two-volume report gives a detailed account of the existing structures and conditions and the improvement and innovation proposed to enhance public sector performance.

From a first glance I’ve noted the following innovations:
(i) increase in the number of days of sick leave that may be banked
(ii) a phased increase in the retirement age to bring it to 65
(iii) a contributory pension scheme of 6% of salary
(iv) performance-related pay and increment incentives

I have yet to go into deeper reading to find out more. You may access the report from here.

Solitary as the Solitaire

Time is running. Already three months and three weeks since I landed here in Rodrigues. Can you recall I wrote about this island of volcanic origin as a Hill in the Sea? My hitherto solitary status reminds me of the symbol of this island: The Solitaire or the Pezophaps solitaria.rodriguessolitaire.jpg

For many it might not mean anything. But for the people of Rodrigues it’s a symbol of their identity that’s present in the coat of arms of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.

The Solitaire was described as a slightly plump flightless bird with a small head and strong wings, and weighing about 40 to 50 pounds. It was a descendant of the pigeon of Nicobar, South East Asia. It became extinct with the passage of man and wild cats in the hunt for food. It was dead for ever, as the Dodo of Mauritius.

The name Solitaire was coined by François Leguat, an orthodox protestant who stayed long in a solitary status on this isolated island between 1691 and 1693. In fact it’s through his memoirs that this bird’s existence was revealed when his book “A New Voyage to the East Indies” was published in 1708.

The real existence of the Solitaire was subject to controversy for quite some time. But the bones of this unique bird discovered in the south west of Rodrigues, namely in the limestone caves at Grande Caverne in 1866, speak for themselves. And it is from this discovery that a famous naturalist from Cambridge, Alfred Newton and his brother Edward presented a paper to the Royal Society, “On the Osteology of the Solitaire or Didine Birds of the Island of Rodrigues, Pezophaps solitarius”, giving a scientific description of the Solitaire.

rodriguessolitairebones.jpgBones of the Solitaire can be seen exposed at Grande Montagne Reserve Interpretation Centre and François Leguat Museum at the Giant Tortoise & Cave Reserve at Anse Quitor not far from the Sir Gaetan Duval Airport.

It is said that the name Solitaire could have been inspired by the solitary nesting behaviour of the bird and the long solitary stay of François Leguat on the island.

As for me the solitude won’t be too long. My son will be joining me around mid-June and my wife around the end of July. It’ll then be time to pack up as I’ll have to be back to my homeland during the first week of August. But that’s some other two and half months away.

That’s life.

When the Clouds Crack – 13 Ways You Can Protect Yourself

This week started with an unstable weather here and in the region. We had a thunderstorm on Monday night which continued until the early hours of Tuesday. On Wednesday Mauritiuswitnessed a thundery weather; offices and schools were dismissed earlier. The electricity went off for some time.

 

On Thursday the weather was cloudy but no thunderstorm as forecast over Rodrigues. Still there was some panic. The school authorities were concerned about the safety pf school children.

 

The tragic consequences of the torrential rain episode of 26 March in Mauritius are still vivid in their minds.  And they know that regions like Riviere Cocos, Port Sud Est, Batatran in the east are particularly prone to flooding during heavy rainfall.

 

Precautions are even more important during thundery weather. Why? What special precautions are required? In order to answer these questions we need to understand the nature of a thunderstorm.

 

So let’s see what a thunderstorm is, how it is formed, how it strikes and how you can protect yourself.

 

Thunder clouds 

A thunderstorm is a storm with lightning and thunder, heavy rain, gusty winds and sometimes hail. It occurs when the atmosphere is unstable. The air is warm and humid. Coupled with active cold fronts and sea breezes it rises to form cumulonimbus clouds with high vertical extent. These clouds, which may reach up to 12 km high, become highly electrically charged and are sometimes referred to as thunder clouds.

 

Electric discharges 

The rising air causes the charges to separate; the positive charges concentrate at the top and the negative charges at the base of the clouds. When these charges come into contact, as they certainly will with instability, they produce electrical discharges and huge sparks or thunderbolts. Lightning is visible and seconds after you can hear a rumbling sound, thunder. You see the lightning first because light travels faster than sound. The air temperature at the discharge point may reach about 27 000 oC.

 

Lightning and Thunder 

Lightning is an electric current, a bright flash of electricity produced by a thunderstorm. It is very dangerous and is known to kill more people than tornadoes.

 

Thunder is caused by lightning which expands the air while finding a path to the ground. When the light is gone the air collapses back creating a sound wave we hear as thunder.

 

Thunder occurs in our region usually during the period December through April, about three times in a month and 17 days per year. On rare occasions, like this week, thunderstorm occurs in May also. The winter season doesn’t favour the formation of thunder clouds.

 

Can you assess the distance of a thunderstorm? 

Sometimes there’s only lightning, no thunder. Why? Well, the answer is simple. The thunderstorm is far from the point where you are, too far to be heard by the human ear. Usually beyond 10 km you cannot hear thunder.

 

But if you hear thunder and you want to calculate its approximate distance (in km) just divide by three the time (in sec) elapsed between the moment you see lightning and the moment you hear thunder. (To find distance in miles, divide time by 5).

 

And if you hear a deafening cracking sound almost momentarily after a lightning then it is most likely that the storm is overhead or very close to where you are. You need to be very vigilant.

 

Lightning targets 

Lightning takes the shortest path to the ground. Thus an object that is closer to the cumulonimbus cloud will be the prime target. Trees, mountain tops, high buildings, TV antennas, electric poles, masts, boats in the open sea and the highest point in a plain are all lightning targets. So the basic thing you can do is: stay away from these targets during a thunderstorm.

 

Protecting yourself 

A lightning strike actually kills and may cause damage to buildings and structures and may even trigger a fire. You’ll protect yourself if you follow simple rules as outlined hereunder:

 

  1. Be on the lookout for darkening skies, lightning and increasing winds. These are precursors of a thunderstorm. Pay heed to the weather forecasts. Don’t wait for the rain to begin.
  2. If you hear thunder, go to a safe place immediately
  3. If you are at sea, rush to the shore and find a shelter immediately
  4. If you are in an open area, crouch down; but don’t lay flat, minimize contact with the ground
  5. If you cannot find a shelter stay away from any tree, at least twice as far away from it as it is tall
  6.  If you are in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under small trees
  7. If you are on a mountain, climb down immediately
  8. If you are in a vehicle, stay inside. Don’t touch any metallic parts
  9. Do not take shower, wash hands, dishes or do laundry. Stay out of water as it is a good conductor of electricity.
  10. Disconnect all electrical appliances at home or in the office
  11. Don’t use the corded telephone. Mobile phone is safer.
  12. Stay off porches and away from doors and windows
  13. Protect your house or building by installing a lightning conductor or rod. It is a device that provides an easier path for current to flow to the earth than through your house or building. It is made of a vertical metal strip or rod, usually of copper or similar conductive material placed on the roof top and connected to the ground. This system was invented by Benjamin Franklin.

You can assume that the thunderstorm has ceased or moved away if you don’t observe lightning or thunder for at least 30 minutes. You can now resume your routine.

 

Five Rituals for a Healthier You

We always hear about keeping fit, healthy and adopting a healthy lifestyle. What does that mean? You’ll often come across people saying: “Oh, I eat well, work well, sleep well, and I have no disease; I’m a healthy person.

 

Well, the fact is despite these assertions a person may still be leading an unhealthy life. Have you heard of this: “I just met Mr. X; we had a good time together; he was OK; I can’t believe he’s passed away? Aren’t you joking?

 

Yes, this is a common feature today. Many people suffer from health problems like high blood pressure, stress, cardiovascular disease and diabetes without knowing, until they find themselves in the doctor’s consultation room for an emergency.

 

Yet there are visible risk factors associated with these. Physical inactivity, bad eating, smoking and alcohol consumption habits, obesity, age, and family history are all factors that contribute to worsen your health, slowly but surely.

 

Oh, I mentioned “habits”; the topic of the post is about “rituals”. So let’s get things clear before going any further.

 

A habit is a passive, automatic and often unconscious behaviour, done in repetition although the outcomes may not be positive.

 

Whereas a ritual is something you do deliberately and consciously with a clear purpose in mind. It is more powerful than habit.

 

A habit may be good or bad. What you need to do is to adopt those habits that are good and turn them into rituals with a clear and specific objective in mind.

 

OK? Right, over now to the rituals to help you maintain a healthier lifestyle.

 

1. Eat healthy

  • Know what you eat, how and how much. Don’t eat with your eyes; they may mislead you over a sensible portion. Don’t eat in between meals. Be reasonable. Be moderate.
  • Eat more fruits, salads and veggies
  • Take low fat or fat free dairy foods
  • If you are non-vegetarian, go for lean meat, poultry and fish
  • Check your sodium intake: less of it, more of herbs and spices
  • Grains, nuts, seeds and dry beans are all right
  • Check your sugar consumption
  • Check if you have enough daily fluid intake. Six to eight glasses (about 1.2 litres) of fluid a day are recommended by the UK Food Standard Agency, based on fluid lost by the body; although a recent study by scientists at University of Pennsylvania rules out the actual beneficial toxin-flushing-ability of water. “There’s no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water,” they say. Anyhow, remember that you need to take adequate fluid to avoid dehydration.

2. Be physically active

  • Unfortunately, modern technology has rendered life more sedentary. People confine themselves to their car, office and home with little if at all any significant physical activity. You need not do vigorous physical activity, nor run or jog. Just simple activities can help maintain a good posture, lower blood pressure, burn the calories and the body fat and improve the circulatory and heart problems. So what in essence can you do?
  • Walk. The Executive Health Organisation says walking is a very efficient exercise and is the only one that you can follow all the years of your life. Studies have yielded definite improvement in health and proved beneficial to the heart and weight-loss of thousands of people.
  • Do some household chores, like gardening, sweeping, washing (car, floor, etc), cleaning the yard. These may not be vigorous exercises, yet will keep you on the move usefully.
  • Leave your car or motorcycle when you proceed to the nearby grocery, bakery or market. Walk. The idea is to break your sedentariness.
  • If you can, do some exercise, like swimming, cycling, dancing, skiing, etc. This will help reduce stress, improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, maintain bone mass, prevent osteoporosis and fractures and improve memory in the elderly.

Remember however that there are conflicting views about how much exercise you should do. Some believe 20 minutes per day is sufficient; others recommend one hour per day. Scientific research and studies indicate that a roughly-20-minute-a-day exercise, although will not melt off your kilos, can significantly prevent your cardiac risks.

3. Keep your weight under control

  • Heavy weight is considered a major cardiac risk factor. So all you need to do is maintain a healthy weight. Now what is a healthy weight? Put simply it is one that respects your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is obtained from dividing your body weight (in kg) by the square of your height (in centimetres). 

Consider yourself:

  • Underweight if your BMI is equal to or below 18.5
  • Normal weight, between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight, between 25.0 and 29.9
  • Obese, if your BMI is 30 and above.

4. Quit or avoid smoking and drinking

  • It’s no news: smoking tobacco has negative effects on nearly every organ of the body. It impairs overall health. From lung cancer to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases smoking remains the leading cause of death that can be prevented.
  • Like smoking, alcohol affects every organ in the body. Beer, wine, and liquor contain an intoxicating ingredient in the form of ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Alcohol is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. It acts on the central nervous system with depressive outcomes. How intense is the effect of alcohol on the body depends on the amount consumed, not the type of alcoholic drink.
  • The choice is clear. If you smoke or consume alcohol quit, or simply avoid.

5. Keep a medical watch

A medical surveillance will go a long way in keeping any health inconsistencies in check. Make it a ritual to:

  • Visit your health institution. Talk to your doctor. Keep a health diary and follow-up regularly.
  • Take any prescribed drugs as may be directed.
  • Don’t grab any dietary medication or “health pills” from the street corner shop; seek appropriate specialized medical advice if you intend to go for a dietary programme. Pseudo-medical advisors and self-medication can do more harm than good. Your health control needs to be adapted to your metabolic set up.

If you follow these rituals there’s no reason why you should not enjoy a better health. You can start at any age. A small step can make all the difference. If you eat healthy, stop smoking and do more exercise you could have an extra 12 years’ life. In fact, a study from the University of Cambridge reveals that: 

  • You can live up to five years longer if you eat five fruits and vegetables
  • You could have another four to five years if you stop smoking
  • You can have up to three years extra life if you do more exercise.

The choice is yours now.

 

If you have any other suggestions for an improved lifestyle I’d be pleased to read about them.

 

To your health.

 

Writing as Freelance: Some Useful Links

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I’ve been quite busy these days. Yeah, really hectic. The days are going by quicker than I’d imagine. My blog’s been static for a while. So in order to keep you posted and also to wrap up for this month I thought of recommending you some articles in case you haven’t come across them yet. Here they are:

  1. If you are contemplating to write a book review and you are not sure how to make your way, no need to look further. Here’s a clear and concise article about How to Write a Book Review. It tells you what a book review is and how to go about writing one; the important points you need to consider from the title, the preface, the table of contents to reading the whole text, the genre, style, point of view, preparing an outline and writing the draft. There’s everything you need to know.
  2. If writing a query letter is what’s keeping you from sending an article proposal I’d recommend Moira Allen’s How to Write a Successful Query. This article deals lengthily on the issue of query; the value of a query, the query letter essentials and how to format a query letter. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t come up with a powerful query letter if you follow the guidelines.
  3. Jenna Glatzer’s The Beginner’s Guide To Freelance Writing gives a detailed account of how you can break into writing for magazines, newspapers and e-zines. From getting the “big idea” to researching the markets to writing the killer query, Jenna tells us all about writing “on spec or not on spec”, rights issues, interviews, and recycling your “big idea”, among other useful considerations. If you’ve considered freelancing as an option that’s where you’ll find all you need to master.
  4. Last but not least, if you are still confused about the correct format of your manuscript before you send it off Moira Allen will guide you through her A Quick Guide to Manuscript Format. She gives a standard formatting and submission procedure when you’ve finished your draft. From the basics to the final submission this article leads you the way.

I hope you find them useful. Keep on the good work. Write as often as you can if writing is what you have chosen as a career, as a side income earner or simply as a hobby. Good luck and happy May Day to the entire world’s labour force.

Tractor Crash at my Premises

 img_01.JPG It was exactly noon, earlier today. I had just taken my lunch. I was installing myself before the TV for the mid-day news. BOOM…PHSSHHHH. I was taken aback. I drew the curtains to see what happened. A white smoke in the air, a blurred view of a vehicle in my yard, and I heard the roaring of an engine that stopped seconds after.

At this moment I could hardly gauge what it was really. I just put on my clothing and rushed outside. A tractor has crashed against the wall fencing my yard along the roadside.

It was such an impact, like a bomb exploding beside me. The smoke, which was actually a cloud of white dust from the broken wall, gave the idea there was a fire. My whole body remained shaking for a while.

In the yard I saw a man, probably the driver, staggering. “What happened, Sir?” I asked. “The brakes failed,” he answered. And when I asked him whether he or anybody was injured he didn’t reply. He appeared confused and stayed dumb as he rushed to the road. A four wheeler was stopping to see the scene. He jumped into it and headed to the hospital.

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There seemed to be another guy with him. It was the tractor attendant whom nobody saw how he got down and where he went. He disappeared in the twinkling of an eye.

Everybody was stunned. There was no serious injury, at least from what we saw for ourselves. Everyone thought it was fatal. Fortunately not. The tractor was heading downhill to Port Mathurin with a tank full of water for distribution somewhere. Were there no wall the tractor could have ended with my house some 10 metres away.

Here’s a view of the wall after clearing. img_0746a.JPG

Recent flooding: How relevant were my arguments?

In the last post in my series relating to the recent flood that hit Mauritius I referred to the event as a wake-up call. I highlighted a number of things which I considered as shortcomings and I came up with some suggestions about what needed to be done to mitigate the impacts of such catastrophe in future. “One fatality is too much,” had said the Prime Minister in the aftermath of the unprecedented flood, which took the lives of four of our citizens.

One of my concerns related to the responsibility of the authorities, namely the local authorities, regarding the drainage system with the ongoing property development in the country and the state of the canals, rivers and other prone areas.

I also raised the issue of enforcement during warnings to deter people from wandering without plausible reason when a warning is in force, as is the case in some countries.

These two issues were also prominently dealt with in the second post of the series.

And I proposed that the authorities need to take action to review the existing state of our drainage systems and exercise controls over property development such that they take adequate care of water evacuation. Then I suggested that some sort of policing needed to be done to track warning defaulters.

Well, I have to say it loud that my concerns were justified. Reports by Gibb consultants between 2001 and 2003, extracts of which were published in the weekly newspaper Le Defi Plus of last week (18 April), simply confirm what I mentioned in my “flood series of posts”. Absolutely convergent with the arguments presented in the posts. They show to what extent our system of water evacuation was deficient and the lack of adequate measures by the authorities to remedy the situation, especially in relation to property development and the state of drains and prone areas.

But what comforts me more is the decision of the Government last week to come up with a legislation to track and convict those who ignore warnings. I was a bit hesitant to come up with this proposal because I considered it as a very sensitive issue. But, as the PM mentioned, such enforcement measures exist in other countries. Reunion island is one example in the region.

I don’t want to boast myself in any way. But it’s indeed reinvigorating when your ideas meet with positive findings and outcomes of reports and political decisions. It gives another boost to probe yet further into issues, however sensitive and burning they may be. Provided you do in-depth research and come up with constructive ideas.