Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Mosquito Versus the Television-Which Is More Deadly?

We all know that living a sedentary life leads to an earlier death, decreased quality of life, and increased in co-morbidities ranging from heart disease and diabetes to depression and some cancers. But mosquitoes carry everything from malaria and West-Nile Virus to Zika and Dengue Fever. The real question is which of these serial killers is worse?

The Sedentary(and Silent)Killer
As I have touched upon many times(see Sitting is the NewSmoking, Quarrelsome Litigant and New Year’s Resolutions), living a sedentary life has huge negative impacts on your longevity and quality of life. There is something called DALYs which stands for Disability Adjusted Life Years. DALYs are important because it helps capture just how much impact a sedentary lifestyle has on your life. DALYs accounts for how many years one lives without being hindered by disability. So while someone who is inactive may live a shorter time, their quality of life years is even shorter. In the US, 1.6 million deaths per year are due to being sedentary. It is estimated that in Europe over 650,000 yearly deaths were attributed to being sedentary(versus only 337,000 from being obese). That's right. It's actually worse for you to be inactive than obese. Obviously worse still is to be inactive AND obese.  Chronic pain, depression, cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes are all independently linked to sedentary lifestyles.

The small but annoying killer
Mosquito (or vector) borne illnesses like malaria, and the zika virus wreck havoc on population health, disproportionately in under-developed and developing countries. It is estimated that over a million people die from mosquito borne infections. While this number is less than half of that of a sedentary lifestyle, it is still very high. And as I have mentioned before(see NCD vs infectious disease), mosquito borne diseases can be prevented or minimally reduced with certain protective strategies. Despite this there are still billions people affected in some way on a yearly basis.

The Stats

Mosquito-Borne Illness
Sedentary Lifestyle
Most often seen in:
The Tropics
 Developed nations, but becoming more prevalent everywhere. Disproportionately, hitting lower income areas where environmental factors(safety, pollution, etc) make exercise more difficult
Estimated population affected
 2.5 billion people in over 100 countries are at risk of contracting dengue alone and those numbers are growing!

Everyone is at risk!
Impact on health
 Some vector-borne illnesses don't kill you but just make you sick and prevent you from working, living a normal productive life.
Catastrophic. In addition to death, living a sedentary life increases your risk of developing numerous other ailments. Plus, more importantly, a sedentary life is BORING! You're missing out on life sitting here reading my blog. Go out and enjoy this beautiful blessed day! 
Deaths per year
 Estimated at ~1 million(600,000 from Malaria)
 The WHO estimates over 2 million, but looking at estimates from US and Europe alone, that number seems low.


More deadly?

I put mosquito-borne infections as the more deadly because its presence can actually lead to an increased sedentary life due to avoidance of going outside during peak mosquito times etc. And did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to people who exercise? It's the truth. Body odor, moisture, heat, and increased CO2 and lactic acid levels all are products of exercise and all attract mosquitoes. However, as noted above sedentary lifestyles are linked with more premature death and disability and these numbers are only expected to grow as more and more people move into urban environment and trade their laborious jobs for those more sedentary.

How to keep these killers at bay

The good news is that you don’t need to be training for a marathon to thwart off these negative effects. Simply getting in 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise can do it for you. And studies suggest that you can break that time up in small chunks of 10-15 minute bouts and still get positive effects.

To ward off mosquito-borne illness, two things should be done. 1) Follow best practice guidelines for protecting yourself in infectious areas(treated bug nets, spraying etc) and 2) Do your part in preventing further climate change. Climate change? How does that have anything to do with mosquitoes? Well, as the world gets hotter, the area in which mosquitoes can live and thrive will expand. So while now most of these infections occur in the tropics(hence neglected tropical diseases), they will start creeping into your trips to Disney or visit to Mardi Gras. By then it will be too late. So recycle, reuse and reduce. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, what’s the harm in living a conservative and less-wasteful life?

Now it's time to throw on some bug spray and go for a run:) 

Until next time, 


Saturday, April 23, 2016


April has been a blessed month. Earlier in it, Kenny came out to visit me and we explored Georgetown and did things there that I wouldn't(or couldn't afford to) do on my own. It really was a fun time and so nice to see her.

And earlier today my parents arrived to met me in Barbados for a short visit. The place we are staying is certainly off the beaten path but no matter what we do, it's just nice to see them and talk without losing half the conversation due to internet connectivity.
The parents on arrival:)

 It was also nice to be able to tell them in person about my apartment break-in back in December.

Now break-ins usually aren't seen as a blessing but mine truly was. I was drugged which was nice because it prevented me from waking up partway through the break-in and getting myself hurt trying to be heroic. Plus it provided just another opportunity for random acts of kindness. My laptop and bag, phone, camera and wallet were all stolen. My landlord gave me the laptop I'm currently using to type to use for the rest of my stay. Peace Corps was great about getting me some funds to cover some of my losses, Kenny bought me a new camera, another Peace Corps volunteer gave me a bag and my cousin Joey just sent down a new smart phone for me. So all told, I didn't really lose out on anything. Plus it was the impetus for my move to Georgetown which has been such a great experience. The work I'm going here is so much more rewarding and I think will be sustainable far after I leave.

It just goes to show that everything that happens, while in the moment, may seem bad, can turn out good if you give it time. Like grapes. Give it time and you get wine. Don't like wine. Just wait longer and you get vinegar:)

And while on the subject of blessed, let me tell you about my bus ride to the place we're staying in. So we rented through airbnb and the directions said get off at the last stop in Long Bay and the house will be 100yards up on your left. Well, I get off the bus, and mind you this is in the dark as all stories like this should be, and right before the door shuts I ask the driver: "So this is Long Bay Road?" To which he replied: "No, and which one are you looking for?"

Oh boy, wrong way Ferreira is at it again. "Errr, I don't know. The one in St. Philip?"

So, as to cut the dialogue short, come to find out there are multiple Long Bays and multiple Long Bay Roads and none were that close to where we were and to make matters worse I didn't have a street address number just the road. Great. I hand the written instructions I had(luckily) printed out to the driver to see if by reading them he could make out which road I should be on. He couldn't. BUT, he did recognize the name of the person from whom I was renting. So what does he do? He pulls out his phone and calls him! He figures out where he needs to drop me off and then takes the bus off-route to drop me off! Talk about blessed.

There are certainly many really really bad things that people do to each often for really pointless reasons. But there are just as many, nay more, good things that people do.

There are a lot of kind people in this world. If you can't find one, be one. 

I'll leave you there.

Until next time,


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Top 5 Drummers Who can Sing

In Guyana, there is no Pandora. So to listen to music, I resort to pulling up Youtube videos of the music I want to hear(to drown out the Soca and/or Chutney blaring everywhere). And I have been craving the Band like crazy lately and typically just find the lyrics video since it streams better. BUT I just saw a music video(maybe from the Last Waltz?) and saw the Levon Helm was playing the drums. Which I didn't realize was his instrument. Both my father and my cousin, Ryan, were(are?) really good drummers but(as far as I know) neither can sing(well). So it got me thinking how many good singers were also the bands'(no, not that band) drummer.
I came up with these guys:

1. Levon Helm(The Band)- I have loved the Band since I was a kid and my parents got me a mixed tape and one of the songs was Up On Cripple Creek. Well I have no musical talent of my own, I do have an appreciation for music and for that I can thank my parents for exposing me to some awesome music growing up. I  had no idea who they were but every song of theirs I liked/like:

2. Don Henley(The Eagles)- The Eagles are/were/are great and I also like Don Henley's solo stuff but I think he played guitar then.

3. Phil Collins(Genesis)- So the song here is actually when he's one his own because I like it alright! But he was singer/drummer for Genesis and also was drummer for Peter Gabriel's solo album I believe.

4. Dave Grohl(Drummer with Nirvana/singer with Foo Fighters)- So he's a little bit of a cheat but I wanted to put someone in Ringo. Dave's a great drummer but does his singing with a guitar as part of Foo Fighters.

5. Ringo Starr(The Beatles)- Well there had to be five right?
Then you've got a bunch of really talented musicians who can play the drums in addition to other instruments(have you seen Danger Mouse? He goes from instrument to instrument during concerts. Also I hear Prince who just passed away also would record each instrument in his songs himself during studio recordings). And what about Trent Reznor? Technically he's every band member of NIN right? Okay, anyway, there you have my list of the top five drummers who also could sing:)


Until Next Time,


Sunday, April 17, 2016

An Introduction to New Hampshire

As I mentioned recently, I have the ability to see from where around the world people are reading this blog. And as there has been a fair number of readers from Guyana, I figured it would be a good idea to achieve one of Peace Corps goals: foster a better understanding of the US-or at least of where I am from in the US.

So for those of you who don't know, I'm from New Hampshire. Yes that's in the US. But no it's not in Queens, nor in NYC at all. Amazingly the United States is not comprised of only two boroughs. In fact, there are actually other baseball teams besides the Yankees too.
Image result for anti yankees

But to confuse matters more, people from the southern parts of the US, may consider all Northerners Yankees.
And while I may seem a little flippant. I have had many Guyanese people ask me where in New York City I was from after hearing I was from the States. They are shocked to hear that I live further from New York City than they are from Brazil, Venezuela or Suriname-none of which they most likely have ever been.

Side Note: I know it was JFK's hope that Peace Corps volunteers "live like the locals" and that's why we aren't paid and get a food stipend equivalent to their minimum wage. But our pseudo-poverty is disingenuous. Any one of us at any point can pack it in and head home, usually to fairly comfortable careers. We are not stuck here, so to speak. That totally changes the mentality of our time here and doesn't have the same gravitas as if we were really living in abject poverty where there was no way out. Nor are we really living at the same level as many our in-country counterparts. For example, while I may get a food allowance equivalent to locals, my housing is covered, as is US-quality health care and a safety net in the form of Peace Corps staff. While I gave away or sold most of my stuff before I came down here, I had savings that allows me to do all the traveling that I have-something locals often will never do solely because of the expense of it.

So while I may sound flippant about the lack of geographic knowledge, there is good reason for that. But just because you may never go somewhere doesn't mean you shouldn't learn about it. None of us(that I know of) will ever visit the past and yet the depth of knowledge and wisdom you can gain by learning about it is immense.

So here's a little about New Hampshire

And there's NH. pretty close to NYC but you have to drive through MA and CT to get there.

I love New Hampshire. It has a little of everything. It has mountains that are an easy bus ride away. Oh that's right we have buses that have reclining seats, air conditioning, distinct seats, and toilets on board! And a bus from New York City to Boston is about 5x cheaper than one from Georgetown to Lethem.

Ohhhhh did you know that NYC is actually only a very small part of the State of New York which reaches all the way up to Canada? It even has a big waterfall of its own: Niagara. Not nearly as high as Kaieteur, it is quite a bit more powerful.

So back to New Hampshire. It has mountains that you can hike in the summer and ski in the winter. Skiing involves something you've also never seen: snow. It's like rain but colder and accumulates on the ground-kinda like Georgetown's puddles before they cleaned out the gutters. But just because there's snow on the ground doesn't mean you cannot have fun and certainly doesn't mean it's frigid outside. 
See! Shorts and snow! 
And you can hike the mountains year round and they are all easy enough to get to so you can do them in a day and still have time for a beer. The trails of New Hampshire will probably always make my top five hikes of the year. And the running scene is good here. There are four marathons, a half Ironman and literally hundreds of shorter races both on road and trail. And the quality of runners puts Guyana to shame(at least at the longer distances). That probably has something to do with the awful humidity in Guyana making it fairly undesirable to be running for several hours at a time. 
One of my favorite hike-no matter what time of year
Oh did I mention beer? Well that's probably because we have the New Hampshire Beer trail which is a series of microbreweries throughout the state. I haven't found one that I haven't liked. 
On the Brew Trail

We have a very small slice of ocean and it's almost as dark as yours but a dark blue because of particles in the water absorbing light not because of the silt from the Essiquibo River. 

Like in Guyana you can camp, but unlike Guyana where you sleep in a hammock to keep the bugs and water away and to get a nice breeze, most of the year if you camp it'll be in a tent with a sleeping bag. 
A big reason why New Hampshire is so important though is because most of my family lives nearby. Seriously how could you not love an area with kids like this: 

With those cuties within an easy drive, there's no reason to be anywhere else. But if you need more reasons, how about one of the US's most historical cities?

Within an hour of where I live is Boston a fairly small city by US standards but offers anything that you may want(minus rum shops). There is even a museum similar to the Castellani House in Georgetown called the Isabella Stewart Gardner house. It has a professional baseball(Red Sox), basketball(Celtics), hockey(Bruins) teams all right in the city and an American football team(Patriots) that is within 40 minutes. 

The town I live in only has about 30,000 people in it, but there are more police officers, and stop lights than all of Guyana. This makes running feel a lot safer not having to worry about whether a mini-bus will hit me to avoid slowing for oncoming traffic. 

The state of New Hampshire actually has almost the exact amount of people as the country of Guyana and may actually be more diverse which is amazing because New Hampshire is one of the more homogeneous states in the country. But that's the thing about the United States, it's really hard to generalize about the US "people" because we all come from different backgrounds, immigrated from different nations(not just West Africa or India) and may live farther apart from each other than you from Peruvians. 

So those are just some of the reasons why I love New Hampshire. But this year has also got me loving Guyana too and I think that might be the most important thing. If you can't be where you love, love where you are. 

Until next time,