Your microbiome (part 1)

You might have heard about the human microbiome. The microbiome consists of the micro-organisms that are in or on a human body. Things like bacteria, viruses, amoeba, etc.
Everybody is talking about this now, and new research shows that many conditions can be a result of issues with the microbiome.
Theoretically, the number of micro-organisms outnumber human cells by 10:1 (actually it’s more like 7:1, but most places say 10:1).
This leads to a philosophical qs – are you you OR are you your bacteria?

That is why many items in a market will have a probiotic or prebiotic branding, but that may be a marketing gimmick. Most bacteria need anaerobic environments (i.e. env without oxygen).

Many years ago, I had blogged about this –/2012/06/26/describing-you-as-your-bacteria/

I also paid to get my microbiome tested from a company in San Francisco. this was many years ago, and since then these kind of services have sprung up all over.The idea of the testing is to generate a microbiome profile (as in what their species are)., so then it could be compared with other people – the idea being to highlight differences. This was all 5 years ago, so the field would have grown by now.
Anyway, the company is called uBiome at www.ubiome.com.
The co-founder is Zachary Apte a PhD from UCSF.

So, what are the practical uses of all this?
– Researchers think that instead of hospitals being sterile places, they could be sprayed with good bacteria, in order to overwhelm the bad bacteria.
– Many liquid soaps and hand-washes contain a chemical called Triclosan, which kills all bacteria. Just today, I read that the FDA in the US (which regulates food and drugs, etc.) ordered removing a few chemicals from soap.
– The microbiome also can affect allergies (that is another post).
– The microbiome could show that antibiotics can be bad for you, because they kill all bacteria (both good and bad).
– Knowing about the microbiome can greatly affect dental health, which helped me a lot. Many years ago, I greatly reduced my sugar intake, and ever since, I have not had cavities or any scales/tartar/deposits on my teeth.

That is why the field of microbiology is so important right now.

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Wild sparrows in urban India

sparrow6

These are some observations about house sparrows (chimnya in Marathi) in Pune, India, and I am sure that it applies to many urban areas too…

I think there are 5 factors affecting small birds and reducing their numbers.

Crows
——
These might be eating sparrow chicks and eggs. I am trying to find this out, but this information is not easy to come by.

Crows are very smart and can outwit other birds easily, and they are very social and operate in packs.

Also, I think they are quite territorial.

 

Pigeons
——–
Pigeons also could affect small birds, and there could be two factors there.

There are a lot of pigeons in urban areas and buildings (so much so, that they are a menace) and they might not leave any place for sparrows, etc. to perch.

Also, they would eat any food lying around, so sparrows won’t get any food.

 

Cuckoos
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I don’t know if you know this, but cuckoos are egg parasites. They lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and even though a sparrow egg might be much smaller than a cuckoo egg, birds do not see the size. They will nurture whatever comes out of the egg.

Also, a strange behavior is that a cuckoo egg hatches earlier and the first thing the cuckoo chick does is put out the other eggs out of the nest.
So, it destroys the other eggs.

Traditionally, cuckoos are revered by people. They have a sweet voice and so people like them.

All these factors have led to exploding numbers of cuckoos.

And they are very noisy.
They have become a nuisance.
That is why I might dislike cuckoos so much.

 

Habitat loss
—————-
This is a cause for the loss of wildlife, in general.

At first, I used to think that humans scare sparrows away.

But then, my grandmother and many old people, in earlier times, would feed sparrows by throwing grains for them.
The sparrows were afraid of humans (of course), but did not avoid them totally.

No natural predators
——————
Also, due to habitat loss and human activity, many of the natural predators like owls and hawks and kites , etc. of the above pests have disappeared, and so the pest birds have nothing to fear.

Phone signals and other factors
—————————
A common myth that I have heard in Pune, India is that cellphone signals affect birds.

While, I do not rule that out completely, science has yet to prove this, and for now, lets assume that there is no such effect.
Science is researching this, but so far, it has not found anything that we affect sparrows with signals.

 

In summary
————

With so much urban development, we have created a habitat loss for the sparrows and now they have no real places to build their nests and to breed.

A lot of the birds now are perching birds and are bigger in size, so they then fly up tall buildings and perch on terraces and parapets, etc..
So, they never need to come in human space.

Also, people are not aware that crows and cuckoos (and even pigeons) are pests and people ignore them; they even feed them and so then, their numbers increase.

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Procrastination

It is human (and natural) to procrastinate, and we all need a dose of that from time to time.
Strangely, it seems easier to procrastinate in the US than in India, although instinctively one might think it would be much easier to procrastinate in a developing country like India than the US.

I will touch on some points here.

Bills
========

In the US, a bill can be paid a month later or there is a lot of grace period, while in India a bill needs to be paid in 2 weeks or your utility or whatever item the bill is for is cut off. Reinstating is a big red-tape hassle, so you are always better off paying the bill.
This means that you cannot put off paying the bill in India.

 

Shopping
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Things online (for shopping) in India can be available in one moment and be out of stock and unavailable in the next moment, whereas I never experienced this in the US. That also means than item needs to be bought online in India whenever it is available because it may be unavailable the next time you shop. This is also true for brick and mortar or physical stores.

 

Chores
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In India, there is no home-automation really, so one has to rely on a maid and other domestic help, which means that you have to work according to their timings and it is not easy to put things off for later.

 

Work
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In India and also some places in the US, timings are more important than the work done.
So, that means that you cannot work at weird hours, when you might be productive, but rather have to be present during work-hours.

 

Conformism
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Many places conform to the norms and work is usually 9-5 and you need to go to bed at xyz and your favorite TV programs are at 9pm or whatever time. That has changed now because of DVRs and the Internet

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Devices and Distractions

With the proliferation of devices nowadays, social, personal, business, etc. behavior has changed.

Mobile Devices blog

It used to be rude to interrupt a conversation by doing something else; nowadays it is perfectly normal to make a phone-call and talk or text in the middle of a conversation.
This problem is bigger in India, where voicemail is not available, and people feel the urge to accept a phone-call because the caller pays for it as opposed to going through your phone-calls later and calling those folks; that would be on the caller’s dime.

People nowadays think they can use their phone and do another task viz. all this is multitasking and neuroscience proves the brain cannot multitask; it can only do one task at a time, so that is what it does. In software there is a term for it called time-slicing, which is rapidly switching from 1 task to another to stimulate multi-tasking. So, it involves context-switching for one to get back to the task they were doing originally. This switching burns up glycogen (burns up energy in the brain), and so it is not recommended to multitask but to focus and to complete the task at hand.
Some neuroscientists say that it takes 20 minutes to get back (properly) to the task that you were doing.

Another factor is that people are distracted by social media, and are constantly using their device. Care needs to be taken to define what “using” means. Playing music or a podcast is not “using” as such, but texting or playing a game is.

Devices are a tool to help us to do what we are doing, but nowadays humans have become tools and social media kind of controls them.

People constantly need external input and stimulation, and they need to be comfortable with being alone and by themselves.
Spiritual reasons aside, this will happen to you in your old age, so it is better to practice this now.

A good exercise is to keep your phone or whatever device away from you for some time. People tend to get restless when this happens.

My recommendation to you is to decide what you want to do and use tools like social media to make it more efficient. Maybe, you need to promote your idea and social media is good for that.

It is but natural to want to know what friends and family are doing, so it is impossible to stay off of social media, but do not get carried away by it where you get more interested in other’s lives when your own life just passes you by.

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Controlled vs.natural environments

This is a kind of comparison between a US house and an Indian house.

A natural environment is healthy, but then it is also a slave to the elements.
I see more and more people in the world living in air-conditioned rooms. I mean affluent people.
With climate change, I think that in the future, we will need more and more controlled environments,

US homes are insulated and mostly are a controlled environment because it is too cold otherwise (in the northern areas). So, mostly, you have central heating and you can have central cooling as well.

Controlled environments are of two types viz. 1 room that is air-conditioned (common in India) and a centrally heated or cooled home (common in the US).

In India, a house is quite open, so rooms are pretty open too, with no air-conditioning mostly, and so you are a kind of slave to the elements.
The pros of this is that you can have sunshine and a natural breeze; the cons are that you are confronted with weather conditions that can be extreme and there Is not much that you can do about it.

As climate-change and global warming get worse, things will get worse in open environments. 
One will be unable to live in an environment, unless it is controlled

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Picking noses and picking fights (in India)

 

I observed that never once did I think about mucus or my nose in the US, but in India, I am more conscious of it.
It could be due to a number of factors as below.

I find that the flow of mucus is much more in India.
It could be due to the heat. It could be due to more viruses and bacteria because of the close-to-tropical temperatures.
Also, there is a lot more dust, so that could also contribute to more mucus.

Lots of dust and dirt contribute more to boogers, and one has the habit of keeping one’s nose clean and that leads to more nose-picking.

 

Male aggression worldwide leads to more skirmishes.

Add to this, the social norms in India, and it is easy to send a wrong message to the other person. There seem to be more fights, also because people have more time.

All those factors lead to more violence among people.

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Sound Pollution

As we all know, sound pollution leads to stress.

In India, soundscapes change depending upon what time it is, but many of the sound items in the lists also apply (mainly) to developing countries.

I have observed that stress may not be the only effects of sound pollution.

Apart from causing stress, people tend to keep their windows shut and live in their air-conditioning (which is unhealthy) and also I feel that the sound makes one a conformist (which is not good, if one wants new ideas).
What I mean by that is that the din starts early morning, so unless you shut your windows and live in your a.c., which I do not do, is that you are forced to follow these noise-times, which means that if one is not a morning person, the sound will affect your sleep,and that affects creativity and productivity.

sound-pollution-mod

Anyway, let me list the disturbing sounds here:.

Daytime:
Vehicles honking
Vehicle (annoying) reverse horns
Birds (crows, cuckoos and pigeons)
Vendors shouting
Elevator sounds (door banging, etc.)
Vehicle (theft alert) alarms
People talking loudly (especially on cell-phones)
Banging and drilling (repair sounds)
Construction shouting (especially during concrete work)
Dogs barking (pets)
Vehicle security arming locks (high-pitched beeps)
Jet airplanes

Nighttime:
Stray dogs barking and cats meowing
Airline planes
Royal Enfield motorcycles (noisy four-stroke engine)
Cats in housing society
Vehicle reverse horns
Firecrackers and loud weddings
Sound installations (private large sound is fine, but why the public nuisance?)

 

In general, if you see, many of these sounds are from inconsideration to others and can be highly reduced.

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