A life ordinary by Amit Sarkar - Issue #43

Welcome to another edition of my newsletter.

Since my last newsletter, I have been incredibly active. Below is a screenshot from my Strava.

I have started bouldering at Rhino Boulder. I started going for a walk once a week. I ran 57 kms and started lifting weights twice a week. My Parkrun PB for 2024 so far is 22 min 52 sec. I have aimed to add 5 days of activity per week.

I am also reducing my weight slowly. All the extra weight I put on during my India holiday is taking a lot of time to shed.

We also had to get a new boiler fixed at our rental property. But we got a good deal using BOXT and would highly recommend their service. They provide the boiler, the spare parts and the gas engineer. It’s a one-stop shop. Please let me know if anyone needs a referral discount.

💔 Coronary heart disease (CHD)

CHD is the leading cause of death in the world.

What is CHD?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when your coronary arteries become narrowed by a build-up of fatty material within their walls. These arteries supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. CHD is sometimes called ischaemic heart disease.

Over time, a fatty material called atheroma can build up inside your coronary arteries. This process is called atherosclerosis. Eventually, your arteries may become so narrow that they can't get enough oxygen rich blood to your heart.

If a piece of atheroma breaks off, it can cause a blood clot form. This clot can block your coronary artery and cut off the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart muscle. This is known as a heart attack.

The illustration below shows a blocked artery.

What does a heart do?

The heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It pumps blood around your body and beats approximately 70 times a minute.

After the blood leaves the right side of the heart, it goes to your lungs where it picks up oxygen.

The oxygen-rich blood returns to your heart and is then pumped to the body's organs through a network of arteries.

The blood returns to your heart through veins before being pumped back to your lungs again. This process is called circulation.

The heart gets its own supply of blood from a network of blood vessels on the heart's surface called coronary arteries.

What causes CHD?

Your risk of developing atherosclerosis is significantly increased if you:

→ smoke

→ have high blood pressure (hypertension)

→ have high cholesterol

→ have high levels of lipoprotein (a)

→ do not exercise regularly

→ have diabetes

Other risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include:

→ being obese or overweight

→ having a family history of CHD – the risk is increased if you have a male relative under the age of 55, or a female relative under 65, with CHD

The article below highlights the various treatments available.

But a blocked artery cannot be unblocked and it’s a progressive disease. So please ensure you take significant measures in your life to prevent/delay this disease.

🎞️ Society of the Snow / 🌿 Veganism

What does it mean to be a vegan? Would I be vegan under any circumstances? Why am I vegan? And what does being vegan have to do with a film I watched on Netflix about people who survive by consuming the dead?

Society of the Snow is a powerful film about a real-life incident about the survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, chartered to fly a rugby team to Chile in 1972. The flight crashes on a glacier in the Andes and the few passengers who survive the crash find themselves in one of the world's toughest environments.

The survivors have a very tough time initially figuring out how to survive the cold and eventually, as a group, decide that if they need to survive the cold they would need to start consuming the dead. Till rescue arrives.

That forced me to think. Would I have stayed vegan in that situation if it was a question of my survival? Whether I live or die depends on that question. I thought maybe not. Maybe I am vegan because I can be since it is no longer a question of my survival where I live currently. It is more of a lifestyle choice. I am not driven by the question of my survival.

So under what conditions would I not be vegan? Maybe if I am in an extreme environment. But even then I can carry food with me that is vegan and I would still be alright. So maybe it’s not the location. It could be the situation. Maybe I’m deficient in some nutrients or I am in an extremely remote location that I have run out of all food options.

I thought about these questions and ended up with a final answer. I am vegan because I choose to be vegan. If a question of my survival arises, maybe I would assess my options then. But till then I would choose to be vegan.

But why do I choose to be vegan? When I was a meat eater I used to eat anything that could be cooked. I became vegetarian because I was eating a lot of meat and wanted to control my consumption. I ended up staying vegetarian for almost 5 years. I decided to be vegan after watching The Game Changers. I simply decided to give up all animal products. From eating everything and anything to eating nothing. I thought it was the most logical choice. Why have bias when you are eating something, I thought.

I have always been comfortable with my choice. But friends and families have struggled. They didn’t understand my choice initially and sometimes we had a conflict of interest. But more or less people have now settled with me being vegan.

My arguments for being vegan

  1. It’s a healthy lifestyle with a lot of vegetables and fruits in my diet. I feel much lighter and more energetic. My bowel motions are regular. I don’t feel constipated. I can eat a lot and still recover quickly. I don’t fall sick very often and I don’t get a lot of stomach upsets.

  2. We don’t NEED to eat any animal products for our survival. We don’t NEED to kill/torture/exploit any animal to feed ourselves. If we WANT to we can eat animal products but we don’t NEED to.

  3. Being vegetarian is as bad as being a meat eater. A cow is injected with semen multiple times to make it pregnant so it can produce milk for human consumption. A chicken is exploited to deliver eggs constantly for human consumption. Once they stop giving milk/eggs they are either left to die or slaughtered for human consumption. It isn’t very economical to feed animals to keep them alive, that is not giving any added value to their owners. Source - Maa Ka Doodh

  4. We are selective when it comes to killing certain animals. Essentially, animals are categorized as follows -

    • Wild animals - Lion, Elephant, etc.

    • Farm animals - Cow, Goat, Pig, Chicken, etc.

    • Working animals - Horse, Camel, Donkey, etc.

    • Companion animals - Dogs, Cats, etc.

    • Sea/River animals - Shark, Whale, Dolphin, Salmon, Cod, fishes etc.

    We are trying to protect wild animals from becoming extinct. We have replaced most working animals with machinery. We need companion animals for our entertainment or to give us company. So why do farm animals or sea/river animals get a bad deal? And why are we OK with killing/exploiting only them?

  5. Time and again the data shows that a vegan diet is far more beneficial for the environment. Simply because it produces fewer carbon emissions. Source - Vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters in the UK show discrepant environmental impacts

  6. 77% of agricultural land is used for feeding farm animals which accounts for only 18% of all calorie supply and only 37% of all protein supply. The remainder of our calorie supply (82%) and protein supply (63%) comes from plant sources using only 23% of the agricultural land. So majority of agricultural land is used to feed animals and not humans. Source - Land Use

  7. It is not a new thing or a fad. The oldest vegan organization in the world, The Vegan Society, was started in 1944. It has become more popular in recent times because of the increasing environmental and health impact of other diets. Source - The Vegan Society History

  8. My risk factors for inflammation, obesity, diabetes, cancer, stroke, dementia and even heart disease have reduced after shifting to a vegan diet. It’s not fully eliminated but a reduction is far better than nothing.

  9. Overfishing has deprived our oceans of biodiversity. Source - Fish and Overfishing

The only benefit I have seen so far of eating food from animal sources seen so far is faster muscle growth (provided one does strength training). Being vegan means slow growth of muscles. That’s all. For every other aspect veganism triumphs.

But I could also be influenced by marketing and choosing to live a life that may not be suitable for my overall health and well-being.

The facts are irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if something is better or faster or more efficient. What matters is what the consumer believes.

So I have taken some actions. I eat a fairly balanced diet, or at least try to. I get a blood test done every year. I take Vit. D and B12 supplements. I also take vegan protein powder as I do regular strength training. My majority source of protein comes from tofu, lentils, peas, edamame, nuts, and various seeds.

I have been vegan since Dec-2019 and it has only enhanced my life. Society of Snow simply questioned my choices and I think I have tried to answer them reasonably. It is all about the choices we make based on the information we have. Some choices are based on our needs while others are based on our wants. In the end, there is no right choice. Simply a better or worse choice.

This sounds like vegan propaganda right!!! 🤣🤣🤣

⚡ Monthly energy consumption

In the UK the energy bills are highly standardized and based on usage you are charged a certain amount based on the unit rate and a standing charge for each month. We pay using Direct Debit, which means we pay the same amount every month irrespective of how much energy we consume every month.

This means we are in credit during the summer and by the end of winter we are in debt.

The unit price rate is the rate charged per unit or kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity or gas you use.

The standing charge is a cost set by your supplier for both gas and electricity. Your supplier will charge you this cost each day even if you do not use any energy on that day. The charge covers the cost to maintain the energy supply network, take meter readings, and support some government social and environmental schemes.

Source - Ofgem (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets)

I have shown below our energy consumption in terms of monthly units and monthly cost from Nov-2021 till Jan-2024. We moved into our current house in Aug-2020.

Our gas consumption is lowest from May till October (6-month period) and highest from November till April (6-month period). This can fluctuate depending on how severe the winter is. Gas is used for central heating and cooking. And heating uses the most gas.

In terms of cost, our gas charges are highest during the winter and very low during the summer. Recently due to gas price hikes across the world, our energy bills have gone up significantly. Our gas charges for Jan-2024 have been the highest ever, even though our energy consumption has not been more than what we consumed in either Dec-2022 or Feb-2023.

Our electricity consumption is fairly constant and always around 200 units per month. Our electricity consumption is significantly lower for a similarly sized house with a similarly sized family. I can safely say this because when we had our house assessed for installing solar panels, the salesperson mentioned the same.

The energy price hike impacted the electricity charges the most. We had lower fixed energy rates (unit rate + standing charge) till Sep-2023. From Oct-2023 our energy rates went up significantly which can be seen in the electricity charges from Oct-2023.

I hope this has been useful. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss further on this.

Based on the above analysis (consumption + cost) I concluded that it would take me more than 10 years to recoup any money I invest in the solar panels. So for now I’m OK without using any solar energy. When the solar panels become much more affordable I will look into it.

🚦 Moody’s shell company indicator

To tackle the rising complexity of fraud, sanctions, and criminal money laundering networks, Moody’s Shell Company Indicator analyzes data of registered corporations and individuals to flag seven key behaviours that are commonly associated with shell companies.

Shell companies, corporations without significant business assets or operations, are not necessarily illegal — there are many legitimate reasons to create them. However, these legal instruments can be abused by bad actors to launder money gained through illicit activities, such as trafficking and environmental crime. They can create a mask for sanctioned individuals to disguise their business ownership, and they can hide financial crimes, such as tax evasion, fraud, and bribery.

While criminals often use shell companies to launder money, the relationship between money laundering alerts and shell company flags is complex. For example, the US and India top the list of countries triggering money laundering risk alerts. But the United Kingdom, at almost 5 million, triggered the most shell company flags, followed by China with some 3.4 million flags. The United States was in third place with about 1.8 million flags – not even close to the top two.

Moody’s industry practitioners note it is incredibly fast and cheap to set up a company in the UK, which requires only a £12 registration fee. Virtually anyone can own and manage a UK limited company as long as there is one real person who is at least 16 years of age appointed, and the director’s address is not a PO Box.

What are the seven shell company flags?

Some interesting examples are mentioned below of the various flags.

Moody’s tool has revealed thousands of directors who are as young as zero or older than the world’s longest-living person on record. One listed director — at 943 years old — would have been born in the 11th century. This director is allegedly a minority shareholder and beneficial owner of a Belgium-based business services firm that incorporated in 2018.

Moody’s tool pinpointed a firm that registered more than 10,000 companies within its 9-day registration window that had the same company name, director name and address.

The implausible behavior pops up around the globe. 61,000 companies have been registered to an address located in a strip mall in Pretoria, South Africa since 1998. 8,000 businesses with Chinese names are registered to a single address in Madrid, Spain. Over 22,000 companies are registered to the Giza pyramid complex in Egypt, home to the Great Pyramid.

Moody’s analysis revealed an individual who has 5,751 roles at 2,883 different companies. Some company boards were also found to have an uncharacteristically high number of directors.

One outlier company had 292 directors, nearly 150 times greater than the overall average of 1.5 directors across 472 million firms. Annual data tracking the rise and fall of companies with outlier numbers of directorships show how common this has been – not just among flagged companies but among firms worldwide.

One such finding reveals that a China-based textiles and clothing manufacturer reported more than $2 billion in revenue in 2019 — and only one employee. That’s more than 200,000 times the average income of roughly $9,300 per employee for the global textiles and clothing manufacturing sector.

❤️ Things I enjoyed

This section has been inspired by Ali Abdaal’s wonderful newsletter.

🎬 Video - THE STREIF - Fabio Wibmer is an epic video of downhill mountain biking on a ski slope. Simply incredible with all the drone shots.

📝 Article - Tensor Art: Beginner’s Guide to AI Image Generation is a detailed article on how to create an AI creation using a text prompt.

🎙️ Podcast - Heard Championing Veganism in British Politics on The Plant Based News Podcast with guest Zack Polanski, deputy leader of Green Party. It was a very interesting take on veganism through the eyes of policymakers.

📺 TV show - You Are What You Eat on Netflix was an interesting show comparing a well-balanced omnivore diet with a vegan diet. I think it was quite a sensible show.

🌐 Website - Emoji Kitchen is a wonderful experiment of mixing different emojis and coming up with something very unique. However, the emojis generated can’t be used like regular emojis with normal text.

Thank you so much once again for reading my newsletter this week. Please feel free to Buy me a coffee if you are enjoying what I am sharing.

If you want to follow me around the internet, then please do so here.

Until we meet again next week, read more about veganism, watch a few films on veganism and think for yourself about what diet you want to choose for yourself.

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