Category Archives: Qualitative Research

Posts on ethnographic, naturalistic, anthropological, field, or participant observer research where detailed data is gathered through open ended questions that provide direct quotations.

Aloe Vera Benefits: Amazing Cure to Chapped Lips

Do you have chapped lips? Have you tried different medications to no avail? This may be the solution to your problem. Read on and experience the curative benefits of Aloe vera.

At last, I discovered the best cure to my persistent chapped lips problem. It’s a simple fleshy plant called Aloe vera.

I once learned the curative properties of this plant a few years ago, and it just occurred to me to try it. That’s because I have already tried many remedies to my cracked, injured lips which usually happens when the ambient air is dry.

I tried applying to my lips different sorts of remedy. These include lip balm, petroleum jelly, glossy lipstick, olive oil, and even alum (locally called tawas) that made it even worse (of course).

I was so desperate that I thought I had a serious internal condition. But I didn’t have any bodily symptoms except my painful lips. And boy I’m glad I tried Aloe vera.

What is Aloe vera?

Aloe vera is a succulent plant species. Succulent means a tender, juicy, or fleshy plant. This means that if you hold the leaf of the plant, it is plump.

Once you remove the epidermis or outer leaf material of the plant, a gel in between the covering is revealed. I show a picture of the Aloe vera leaf with about an inch of the epidermis removed below.

How I Used Aloe Vera to Treat My Lips

The procedure I used in using Aloe vera to cure my lips is simple. I removed a leaf from the plant, sliced a little of the upper part of the leaf along its width then made another slice lengthwise, about an inch, to show the jelly-like substance inside it (see picture).

aloe vera benefits
How I cut the aloe vera leaf to access the gel.

I placed the gelatinous substance (open, dorsal side of the leaf) onto my lips and spread it all over my upper and lower lips. Subconsciously, I ate a little of the gel and tasted it just for curiosity and thinking it is edible.

It took me only about one to two days to see the results. My lips were healed in just a matter of three days, applying the gel only in the morning before going to work and at night before sleeping. It’s some miraculous cure.

The gel works best if the leaf is first cooled in the refrigerator. You will experience the cool, soothing relief of the gel after cutting through the leaf and applying the substance to your lips.

Healing Properties of Aloe vera

Before writing this article, I read a few lines about Aloe vera and discovered its many uses. Traditionally, people use Aloe vera as herbal medicine in many countries. It is a multi-purpose skin treatment. It is an effective moisturizer.

Even in the ancient times, the plant’s healing properties have been recognized. It even earned the name “a plant of immortality.”

Despite the health benefits of Aloe vera, however, there are apprehensions about its medicinal uses. It can be harmful if ingested in large doses. Topical applications seem to be okay.

There is, therefore, a need to study this plant further to confirm whatever possible complications that may arise from its use. There is a clear research gap along this area. For me, however, Aloe vera has shown its curative effects.

The underlying rule to apply if you worry about the harmful effects of medicinal plants is to use them in moderation. Once you have availed of its benefits, stop using it.

That’s just what I did. My lips got cured fast so there’s no need to use Aloe vera anymore. One thing I need to do to make sure I avoid having chapped lips is to drink more water. That will keep me internally hydrated and prevent drying up my lips again.

© 2014 October 18 P. A. Regoniel

A Case Analysis on Nell’s Language Acquisition

This article is a case analysis on how a language can be acquired and what language theories can explain it.

Nell’s case is quite peculiar as the movie depicted it. She had developed her own impenetrable language. Some of the words listed and interpreted by Paula Olson, a hot-shot city psychologist are the following:

spee – speakga-inja – guardian angel
af or afa – afterfelises – happy
kay – crybin – been
fearly – afraidafi – don’t
reckontata – (if she was scared)
chikabeetee in a wind – tree in a wind

From Nell’s utterances that Ms. Olson gathered and interpreted, she concluded that she spoke English.

Since this article aims to zero in on language acquisition, let me discuss some contradicting theories and experiments in order to explain language acquisition. I will explain how Nell spoke such language, and later speak English as the way native speakers do.

The Language Acquisition Theories

Yule (1996) described two experiments to find out how language originates. Here is the first experiment conducted in Egypt.

An Egyptian pharaoh named Psammetichus conducted an experiment with two newborn infants around 600BC. The infants had a mute shepherd as their only human companion for two years. The goats’ bleat or wavering cry was the only thing they heard. After a while, the children were reported to have spontaneously uttered some words, not an Egyptian, but something Phrygian (Indo-European language). It’s the word “bekos” meaning bread. But if one will drop the ‘kos’- ending, it could approximate the sound of the goats’ “beeeh”.

Meanwhile, James IV of Scotland conducted the same experiment in AD1500. The children were reported to have started speaking Hebrew; but when they lived without access to human speech in their early years, they grew up with no language at all.

Interpretation of the Language Experiments

Using the lessons derived from the first experiment, I could explain why Nell had such kind of language. She imitated the words uttered by her mother who was then suffering from stroke. When the mother died, she became alone, wild and unsocialized. Nevertheless, what really amazed me is – why Nell learned to speak English at the end of the movie. Although I heard only the sentence “remember that,” I already assumed that she learned it well.

According to the article, “How Did You Learn to Speak Your Native Language?” I got from the net, there is a critical period (2-7 years) wherein children can master a language. If this is true, any child not hearing language during this period not only will not learn to speak but also will not be able to learn to speak. Two evidences intensify this claim.

The first bit of evidence comes from Victor, the so-called Wild Boy of Aveyron. Victor is the name given to a boy found roaming the woods of Aveyron in southern France toward the end of September 1799. He behaved like a wild animal and gave all indications that wild animals had raised him: eating off the floor, making canine noises, disliking baths and clothes. He also could not speak. Doctor Jean Marc Itard, who had developed a reputation for teaching the deaf to speak, took him in. After years of work, however, Itard failed to teach Victor to more than a few lexemes or words that have meaning.

A similar event unfolded in Los Angeles in 1961 when a 13-year-old girl was discovered who had been isolated in a baby crib most of her life and never spoken to. She was physically immature, had difficulty walking and could not speak. Psychologists at UCLA spent years trying to teach ‘Genie’, as they called her to protect her identity, to speak. While Genie did get to the point that she could communicate, her speech never advanced beyond the point where the language explosion in normal children begins. In other words, she could use words to the same extent as chimpanzees but could not manipulate grammar, as indicated in the prefixes, suffixes and ‘function’ words she used. At middle age, she stopped talking altogether and was soon committed to a mental institution.

(continued on page 2)

Intangible Things as Institutions Towards Attaining Environmental Sustainability

How can people’s beliefs help keep the environment from destruction? Is there a relationship between intangible things and environmental sustainability? This article shows how indigenous people’s thoughts, beliefs or cultures contribute to environmental sustainability.

The environment is defined as the totality of tangible and intangible things that surround us. Those things that can normally perceive by our five senses are considered as tangible things while things like norms, values, beliefs, culture and traditions are some of the intangible things that greatly influence one’s behavior.

The Pala’wan, an indigenous group of people once living in the hinterlands of Palawan Island in the Philippines, are usually known for these things. They have lots of beliefs and practices that they kept for thousands of years as part of their culture. These beliefs and practices are linked with the environment. Thus, they managed the natural resources effectively.  Their ways are  compatible with the environment as they adopt simple living (Docto, 2008).

The Pala’wan‘s cultural identities, social and spiritual relationships are deeply originated in their area and they believe that the environment is governed by gods and goddesses. In this way, they contribute to the conservation and protection of the environment for they respect their sacred resources (Tauli-Corpuz et al., 2010).

Fear of Owls and Night Herons

The Pala’wans are afraid of birds such as owls and night herons, locally known as “gukgok” and “tikwara,” respectively.

What really are the beliefs of the Pala’wans about these species? What causes them to cringe with terror as they hear the sound of these birds?

Let us take a deeper look on these unfounded fear among the indigenous peoples (IPs).

Do not Touch, Catch nor Even Mimic the Calls! You Better Hide Instead!

Through an interview with my dad, I’ve found that the Pala’wans who generally live in the remote areas of southern Palawan, particularly in Quezon and Rizal, harbor the fear of the Rufous Night-heron and the Palawan Scops-owl.

They should not touch, catch or even mimic the calls of these birds, particularly the owl, for they will suffer once they do. They should hide whenever they hear these creatures.

Although my dad is a Pala’wan, and of course I’m a Pala’wan too, we do not subscribe to this belief. However, the IPs in Quezon and Rizal still adhere to this belief; and I know that these beliefs helped conserve the natural resources of the place.

What is the Belief about the Rufous Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)?
Night Heron
Night heron. Picture modified from Frank Schulenberg@Flickr.com (cc)

The rufous night-heron, locally known as “tikwara,” is believed to be owned or is a pet of an unseen person. Anyone who dares touch, catch or even imitate the sound that this bird makes will get sick, and even die as a result.

A curse befalls a person if he violates this rule. To be relieved of this curse, he needs to consult an albularyo (a local medicine man) to humbly ask for forgiveness. He goes through a series of rituals; and this is the only remedy to stop the evil consequences.

Research Focus: Police Involvement in Kidnapping and Extortion

Can you imagine that police officers themselves were the ones kidnapping or committing extortion to the very citizens they are meant to protect? This article examines the issue and poses questions for research purposes. You might want to help shape enforcement policy by doing research along the questions identified.

A kidnapping and extortion incident broke in the headlines a few days ago in the Philippines. Allegedly, a businessman was held at gunpoint by an organized team of gun-toting individuals.

Someone passing through the scene thought of taking a picture and uploaded the picture in the internet—with success, because it took the attention of the netizens, and most importantly, honest police officers who swore to uphold the law.

Why use the term “honest?” That’s because those gun-toting individuals trapping a vehicle using three privately-owned cars in the picture were police officers themselves! The system of CCTV cameras somehow made out the plate numbers.

What ever happened to the police officers who should be the ones protecting the citizens? And to think that the police officers get their support from the citizens through taxes.

A large part of my salary goes to tax. Indirectly, I am paying these police officers for their services. For what?

It is a sad fact  that police officers were involved in that embarrassing situation at broad daylight. How could such thing happen? At least that’s how everyone is treating the whole thing—the police officers are the ones at fault.

This kidnapping incident is actually not the first time that happened in the country. There were similar events that happened in the past. The difference is that those were not so celebrated because nobody documented the operation.

Exploratory Research Questions

I have not yet heard substantial responses from those involved. Is it also possible that they were just victims of a frame up? Who took the picture? Should that person be likewise investigated? Is there a possibility that both sides are actually involved in something nasty or illegal?

Several other questions popped in my mind:

  • Why did the police officers behave the way they did?
  • Are they not aware and mindful that the citizens are their primary clientèle as they are paid by the government?
  • Are their superiors aware of their actions and are also involved? Up to what rank is involved in the illegal activity?
  • Did their training in the police academy fail to inculcate the proper values?
  • Did the educational system fail in general?
  • Did the parents inculcate the right values to their children?

In reference to the last question, Freud advanced that the first five years of a person’s life are crucial to the development of the adult personality (McLeod 2008). Whoever mentored or taught these police officers when they were still young children have influenced their minds and behavior. How were they raised?

Suggested Research Questions to Clarify the Issue

For those taking higher degrees in criminology, answers to the following questions may be sought based on the case described above:

  1. What is the level of commitment of police officers to their duties?
  2. How high is the morale of the officers and the rank-and-file?
  3. Is there a relationship between police officers’ officers’ profile and their propensity to commit crime? Which factor is most influential?
  4. Is there a relationship between the management style of superiors and the behavior of their subordinates?
  5. Is the recruitment system for police officers stringent enough to weed off undesirable individuals from the police force?

Answers to these questions will somehow help institute appropriate government policies to prevent, minimize, reduce or eliminate commission of crimes like this in the future. Research is a powerful tool that well-meaning managers of human resources should consider. Palliative, non-working, hit-and-miss policies or approach that serve to “cure” instead of prevent is more costly.

Reference

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Psychosexual Stages. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

© 2014 September 13 P. A. Regoniel

Qualitative Research: Three Ethnographic Research Techniques

What is ethnographic research? How is this research approach conducted?

This article explains the meaning of ethnographic research and discusses three ethnographic research techniques namely mapping the block, private language, and body language. A detailed example is given for each of the techniques. 

What is Ethnographic Research?

Ethnographic research is a qualitative research approach where the researcher captures a particular phenomenon by describing or explaining it without the use of statistics. It involves a systematic collection, description, and analysis of data to explain the subject or develop a theory of a “cultural behavior.”

Further, ethnographic research is an in-depth study of a people’s culture,  or of a nation. It may also refer to studies of culture prevailing in different professional fields like education, business, communication, tourism, and language.

The following are three ethnographic research techniques that are easy to follow. These are mapping the block, private language, and body language.

Three Research Techniques Used in Ethnographic Research

1. Mapping the Block

One of the research tools for ethnographic study is called mapping of the block. This approach uses  a vivid documentation of observations made in a place or a street in which a phenomenon that you want to investigate is located.

For example, if you want to study the culture of an indigenous group of people called the “Molbog” living in the remote island of Balabac in Palawan, you have to get as much detail about their village or houses. Or, if you want to study a group of students in the classroom, you have to tell exactly where the classroom is located and how it looks like. A one-time visit is not enough to map a block so you must make repeat observations. I did it once and it took me two weeks to map a block of my study area.

2. Private Language

Another way of gathering data is by capturing the private language used by a participant. Private language may pertain to a single word, an expression or a sentence. (next page please)

For example, a participant may use a common word or a totally strange word where you can’t find its meaning, even if you consult a dictionary of their language or use context clues to know its meaning. That’s because it’s only the participant who knows about it.  You have to make sure, however, that this “private language” is important to your study.

3. Body Language

A third technique of ethnographic research uses keen observation of a participant’s  body language. Once you see something peculiar as to the way he/she moves or rolls his/her eyes, bear that in mind so that you can put that observation into writing once you get the chance. But then again, you must make sure that his/her body language is relevant to your study.

Here are detailed examples for the three ethnographic research techniques:

Detailed Examples of Ethnographic Research

Example 1: Mapping the Block

The Block of XYZ Language Academy

From my dormitory in Molo, Iloilo City, I often pass by M.H. Del Pilar Street with nothing so interesting. Old buildings and newly erected buildings can be seen everywhere with different structures and architectures uniquely designed according to the services and purposes of the establishments. It’s a long queue of banks, hotels, restaurants and offices.

buildings cartoon

But one day, while searching for a language school to conduct an action research, a newly found friend told me to try XYZ. I was not familiar with that school and I didn’t even know its location. So, armed with a letter of request , I rode a jeepney towards XYZ.

XYZ is renting a space in the John B. Lacson Maritime University, the first maritime university in Asia. It is located beside La Fiesta Hotel, just before the newly constructed flyover.

The façade of the John B. Lacson Maritime University building is painted off peach while the pillars are Gothic, like the one I saw in La Salle, Taft; and in the Supreme Court in Manila. The pillars are circular with distinct columns to support the building. The upper part of each pillar has concave spiral designs in both sides which are exquisitely made.

From the ground floor, after walking about four meters ahead, I saw a stairway at the right side. Each stairway has ten small steps.

While making my first step upstairs, I saw that the wall was originally painted off white, but now became gray or dirty white. Once I reached the 10th step, I arrived at a platform, where I saw another stairway with the same number of steps as the first one. That platform, which has space enough for only a few people to pass by, has a well-decorated wall with yellow plastic flowers. On top of the flowers are the crystal cubes. There are 5 cubes in a column, and 15 cubes in a row; a total of 75 cubes. The same is true in the third floor. The only difference is that the color of the flowers at that level is orange.

Once I reached the third floor, I turned right, and then walked a little further. At my right side, there’s a signage of XYZ, at the corner of an aisle. I passed through the aisle and took a passage towards the Korean managers’ office.

The entrance door of the office is made of glass with no tint at all. I can see a divider from outside. To go inside, I must push the glass door.

Mango Pulp Weevil: A Pest Control Problem in Palawan Island

This article describes the mango pulp weevil (MPW), Sternochetus frigidus, introduced to Palawan province and discovered in 1987.  The weevil still lingers as a pest control problem that prevents local mango farmers from exporting their agricultural produce in other places. Find out how the MPW looks like and where it grows. A video is included to show how this pest behaves when disturbed and how fast it can move.

Research still has to find a long-term remedy to the problem of mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infestation in the province of Palawan in the Philippines where the world-renowned underground river is found.  Pest control approaches by farmers have so far been unable to eradicate the pest at source which finds the edible fleshy part of the mango as its favorite breeding place. Hence, the name mango pulp weevil or MPW.

The weevil damages a part of the mango pulp thus reduce the quality of the fruit. For more than two decades, mango growers were unable to export their agricultural produce because the mango pulp weevil will threaten the mango industry in other places.

A post-harvest pest control approach done so far to control the mango pulp weevil include irradiation as quarantine treatment (Padilla 2012). This approach appears to be more economical compared to other post-harvest pest control treatments such as the application of heat and fumigation. Local farmers also apply hit-and-miss approaches to control the weevil at source.

Morphology of the Mango Pulp Weevil

How do these pests look like? Below are pictures of the mango pulp weevil.

mango pulp weevil
Mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infesting mangoes in Palawan Island.

These are two of the four MPWs I have found yesterday upon slicing several fruits from our homegrown mango trees. I can feel that they have a hard texture as I turn them around for the right angles to take photos. The insect is quite small (6mm x 4mm) but switching my Panasonic Lumix LX5 to macro mode enabled me to take extreme close up shots at a distance of less than one centimeter.

Overall, MPWs have dominant brown color at the underside and an orange dorsal region mottled with dark, charcoal black bands across the pitted wings. Also, the wings have rough tiny keratinous projections that probably aid them in burrowing through the soft pulp upon maturity. The long snout has two antenna with rounded tips.

Behavior of the Mango Pulp Weevil

The two samples in the pictures shown previously were found in just one mango fruit, occupying about two centimeters of the pulp next to the seed. Initially, I thought there was only one but upon closer look, another weevil with neatly folded legs sprang to life after a minute or two.

Below is a video of how fast these pests could walk about. If given the chance, they will fly within a few minutes and enter into a state of suspended animation or diapause. Weevils do not fly great distances but usually stay close to the parent tree until the next fruiting season (Gove et al. 2007).

Consumers in Palawan can still eat at least half of the mangoes because only one side of the fruit is affected. An alternative way of consuming infested fruits is to flesh out the mango pulp and dry it (dried mangoes). The affected area is normally about 3 cm in diameter.

Preventive Measures to Control the Pest

I have not been so keen before on the presence of the mango pulp weevil in the three mango trees we have in our yard. My friend, a City Agriculturist, remarked that I should do something about the mango fruits that fall when ripe as this will infect other healthy mango trees.

Based on her remark and on the readings I made in writing this article, I recommend that the following measures should be made by consumers or mango owners.

  1. Harvest mango fruits as soon as these are mature.
  2. Remove all fallen fruits and destroy pests in infested fruit. Damaged fruits should be buried at least half a meter below the ground to prevent the weevil from completing its life cycle (Catindig and Heong 2005).
  3. Kill the pest right away when found in mango consumed.
  4. Report to authorities illegal shipments of mango from infested sources.
  5. Undertake indigenous ways to control weevil infestation such as natural fumigation or bagging using newspapers or similar material.

For researchers, studying local farmers’ practices in controlling mango pulp weevil infestation can help minimize costs associated with pest control specifically the use of synthetic pesticides. Comparing the efficacy of such practices will help identify low-cost techniques or approaches that will reduce, if not eradicate the mango pulp weevil problem.

Natural pest control measures such as breeding ants that feed on the mango weevil (Renkang and Christian 2007) may also be explored. Are there ants species in Palawan that can qualify as weevil predators? This ecosystem approach, particularly looking at the food web interactions, may be the more viable pest control option.

Is Banning Mango Export the Answer?

While banning the exportation of mango fruits from Palawan will prevent pest outbreak in other places, this caused a great loss to mango farmers in the province. Other efficient ways to control the pest must be considered or its economic impact be examined further.

Moreover, despite the infestation, it seems that only a small percentage of the mango fruits are affected. Without pesticide use, out of 300 mangoes that we have harvested at home, we found only less than 10 fruits with MPW in it. That’s only three percent.

An economic analysis may be done to look at the actual damage caused by this pest. Banning fruit exportation may not really be the answer. Rather, an effective quarantine measure should be applied.

References

Catindig, J. L. A. and K. L. Heong, 2005. Description of mango pulp weevil. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.niaes.affrc.go.jp/techdoc/apasd/Sternochetus%20frigidus%20-B.html

Gove, T.; Joubert; J. P.; and M. S. de Beer; 2007. Literature review on mango seed weevil Sternochetus mangiferae (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). SA Mango Growers’ Association Research Journal 27, 21-28.

Padilla, L. D. E., 2012. Saving the Phl Super Mango export industry from pulp weevil infestation through irradiation. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/365-2012-1st-quarter/2055-janmar2012-phl-super-mango-export-industry

RenKang, P. and K.  Christian, 2007. The effect of the weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on the mango seed weevil, Sternochetus mangiferae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), in mango orchards in the Northern Territory of Australia. International Journal of Pest Management, 53(1):15-24.

© 2014 May 27 P. A. Regoniel

Heart Rate Analysis: Example of t-test Using MS Excel Analysis ToolPak

This article discusses a heart rate t-test analysis using MS Excel Analysis ToolPak add-in. This is based on real data obtained in a personally applied aerobics training program.

Do you know that there is a powerful statistical software residing in the common spreadsheet software that you use everyday or most of the time? If you have installed Microsoft Excel in your computer, chances are, you have not activated a very useful add-in: the Data Analysis ToolPak.

See how MS Excel’s data analysis function was used in analyzing real data on the effect of aerobics on the author’s heart rate.

Statistical Analysis Function of MS Excel

Many students, and even teachers or professors, are not aware that there is a powerful statistical software at their disposal in their everyday interaction with Microsoft Excel. In order to make use of this nifty tool that the not-so-discerning fail to discover, you will need to install it as an Add-in to your existing MS Excel installation. Make sure you have placed your original MS Office DVD in your DVD drive when you do the next steps.

You can activate the Data Analysis ToolPak by following the procedure below (this could vary between versions of MS Excel; this one’s for MS Office 2007):

  1. Open MS Excel,
  2. Click on the Office Button (that round thing at the uppermost left of the spreadsheet),
  3. Look for the Excel Options menu at the bottom right of the box and click it,
  4. Choose Add-ins at the left menu,
  5. Click on the line Analysis ToolPak,
  6. Choose Excel Add-in in the Manage field below left, then hit Go, and
  7. Check the Analysis ToolPak box then click Ok.

You should now see the Data Analysis function at the extreme right of your Data menu in your spreadsheet. You are now ready to use it.

Using the Data Analysis ToolPak to Analyze Heart Rate Data

The aim of this statistical analysis is to test whether there’s really a significant difference in my heart rate eight months ago and last week. This is because in my earlier post titled How to Slow Down Your Heart Rate Through Aerobics, I mentioned that my heart rate is getting slower through time because of aerobics training. But I used the graphical method to plot a trend line. I did not test whether there is a significant difference in my heart rate or not, from the time I started measuring my heart rate compared to the last six weeks’ data.

Now, I would like to answer the question is: “Is there a significant difference in heart rate eight months ago and last six week’s record?”

Student’s t-test will be used to analyze 18 readings taken eight months ago and the last six weeks as data for comparison. I measured my heart rate upon waking up (that ensures I am rested) during each of my three-times a week aerobics sessions.

Why 18? According to Dr. Cooper, the training effect accorded by aerobics could be achieved within six weeks, so I thought my heart rate within six weeks should not change significantly. So that’s six weeks times three equals 18 readings.

Eight months would be a sufficient time to effect a change in my heart rate since I started aerobic running eight months ago. And the trend line in the graph I previously presented shows that my heart rate slows down through time.

These are the assumptions of this t-test analysis and the reason for choosing the sample size.

The Importance of an F-test

Before applying the t-test, the first test you should do to avoid a spurious or false conclusion is to test whether the two groups of data have a different variance. Does one group of data vary more than the other? If they do, then you should not use the t-test. Nonparametric methods such as Mann-Whitney U test should be used instead.

How do you make sure that this may not be the case, that is, that one group of data varies more than the other? The common test to use is an F-test. If no significant difference is detected, then you can go ahead with the t-test.

Here’s an output of the F-test using the Analysis ToolPak of MS Excel:

F test
Fig. 1. F-test analysis using the Analysis ToolPak.

Notice that the p-value for the test is 0.36 [from P(F<=f) one-tail]. This means that one group of data does not vary more than the other.

How do you know that the difference in variance in the two groups of data using the F-test analysis is not significant? Just look at the p-value of the data analysis output and see whether it is equal to or below 0.05. If it is 0.06 or higher, then the difference in variance is not significant and t-test could now be used.

This result signals me to go on with the t-test analysis. Notice that the mean heart rate during the last six weeks (i.e., 50.28) is lower than that obtained six months ago (i.e. 53.78). Is this really significant?

Result of the t-test

I had run a consistent 30-points per week last August and September 2013 but now I accumulate at least a 50-point week for the last six weeks. This means that I almost doubled my capacity to run. And I should have a significantly lower heart rate than before. In fact, I felt that I can run more than my usual 4 miles and I did run more than 6 miles once a week for the last six weeks.

Below is the output of the t-test analysis using the Analysis ToolPak of MS Excel:

t test
Fig. 2. t-test analysis using Analysis ToolPak.

The data shows that there is a significant difference between my heart rate eight months ago and the last three weeks. Why? That’s because the p-value is lower than 0.05 [i.e., P(T<=t) two-tail = 0.0073]. There’s a remote possibility that there is no difference in heart rate 8 months ago and the last six weeks.

I ignored the other p-value because it is one-tail. I just tested whether there is a significant difference or not. But because the p-value in one-tail is also significant, I can confidently say that indeed I have obtained sufficient evidence that aerobics training had slowed down my heart rate, from 54 to 50. Four beats in eight months? That’s amazing. I wonder what will be the lowest heart rate I could achieve with constant training.

This analysis is only true for my case as I used my set of data; but it is possible that the same results could be obtained for a greater number of people.

© 2014 April 28 P. A. Regoniel

How to Slow Down Your Heart Rate Through Aerobics

Do you have a fast heart rate, i.e., more than 80 beats per minute? Chances are, you are either stressed or not getting enough exercise. Find out how aerobics can slow down your heart rate.

I have this nagging question in mind since I decided to undertake an aerobics program using Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book on aerobics. This is about one’s heart rate getting slower when regularly exercising. Did my heart rate actually slow down because aerobics exercise has become an integral part of my weekly routine?

On page 101 of Dr. Cooper’s book aptly titled “aerobics,” he mentioned that the heart is such a magnificent engine that, when given less work, will work faster and less efficiently. When you make more demands on it through aerobics, it will become more efficient. That means that for a deconditioned man who does not exercise at all, his resting rate is about 80 or more while a conditioned man who exercises regularly, will have a resting heart rate of about 60 beats per minute or less. In 24 hours at rest, a deconditioned man’s heart will have to beat more than a conditioned man. He went on to explain things about the heart and how it becomes stronger and more efficient with training.

While browsing information along this topic, I found out that top athletes have heart rates of less than 30. Miguel Indurain, a top cyclist has a heart rate of 28.

Does Aerobics Slow Down Heart Rate?

I love to do a simple research to test this information although I am aware that there were already studies done to answer this question. I would like to answer the question using myself as the subject of the study and to see my progress. This is my case.

I will deliberately skip the review of literature and go directly to the objective of this experiment. My research question is:

Does aerobics slow down the heart rate through time?

My Method

I decided that I will use the graphical approach to find out if my heart rate indeed is slowing down through time. This is what researchers call a time series analysis. Will the heart rate trend be going down?

I recorded my heart rate each time I check my blood pressure upon waking up in the morning using an OMRON REM-1 wrist blood pressure monitor. So, I have added information that I will include in this article – my blood pressure.

I started recording the BP information and heart rate last August 8, 2013 up to this time. I do this routine before my 6 o’clock am run so it’s basically my resting heart rate after 6-8 hours of sleep. There were no significant changes in my lifestyle (i.e., no changes in diet, medication, workload, among other things) since I embarked on the aerobics program.

I plotted data gathered for eight months although I have done aerobics since January 2013. But then I failed to record heart rate or BP data until August 2013.

Results

I found out interesting information after plotting the data in Excel. This is easily done by plotting the date and corresponding BP values and heart rate in one row. I clicked on the Insert menu then hit the Line graph and selected the cells for date, diastolic, systolic, and heart rate values.

Indeed, my heart rate decreased through time as indicated by the heart rate trend line. However, I noticed that the trend for blood pressure goes towards the opposite direction. Both the systolic and diastolic pressure follow an upward trend (Figure 1).

graph of the heart rate and blood pressure
Fig. 1. Graph of my blood pressure and heart rate from August 19, 2013 to April 19, 2014.

What does this result suggest? This may mean that as the heart grows stronger (low heart beat), the pressure it exerts on the blood vessels also increases. On the other hand, this suggests that my blood vessels become less elastic through time.

This finding requires further reading – a review of literature focused on the relationship between the heart rate of a healthy person and his blood pressure. Is this trend the same for all people who engaged in aerobics and experienced the training effect?

Training effect is the body’s adaptation to a training program manifested by improvement in functional capacity and strength. In my case, this simply means that I am able to run a 6 kilometer stretch of road without stopping to rest. When I started the aerobics program last January 2013, I can barely finish a mile and my legs ached.

Well, whatever the increasing blood pressure means, what is important is that I found out that aerobics does decrease the heart rate through time. On March 4, 2014, I recorded my lowest heart rate ever: 44.  And I confirmed this by manually counting my pulse in one minute. And I also discovered that I can lower it at will by breathing deeply.

Where does this training bring me? An athlete friend invited me to join a 10K run last February 23, 2014. He noticed that I jog regularly and assured me that I will be able to finish the distance. I explained that I have been jogging just to address a health issue and is not that confident to test my performance. On second thought, I said why not?

I realized I can make the distance and gained confidence that I could be a marathoner. In fact, I’ve already joined and finished two 10-kilometer runs clocking 1:05 and 1:00, respectively. And I aim to finish the upcoming 10K run next month in less than an hour. This was made possible through serious self-training and with determination.

Do you have high blood pressure? Or easily feel tired after a few exertions? Try aerobics and take control of your health.

Just a note of caution: before engaging in strenuous exercise, have a medical check up to rule out any heart problem.

© 2014 April 19 P. A. Regoniel

How Slow Can a Heartbeat Get?

Is it possible to have such a slow heart beat than what is usually accepted as the norm? A literature search combined with personal observation can be empowering tools to educate oneself. Indeed, heart rate deviants, called outliers in statistics, exist.

It really pays to educate yourself to keep yourself abreast with what has been discovered so far and help you make decisions. Knowledge is something that we need not only learn in school but by self-study and passionate interest in discovering more than what is made available to you.

I mention these things as I recall the conversations I have had with my doctor when I consulted him the other day. I noticed I had a very low blood pressure and a slow heartbeat at that. As of the latest monitoring using an electronic wrist blood pressure monitor by Omron, my BP went down to just 116/60 at night before retiring to sleep. It seems normal, but my heartbeat was only 47!

I’m a bit disturbed because my doctor noted the other day that normal heartbeats should be 60 or higher; but, according to him, these are the heartbeats of the Marines. Is it possible that I could have such a very slow heartbeat? Should this be a cause for worry?

The doctor’s comments became a concern at the outset. But then, I remembered that Dr. Cooper, a medical doctor who pioneered the aerobics point system, wrote in his book that athletes could have slower than normal heart beats. I flipped to page 103 of his aerobics book, and read that he did note that conditioned athletes can have a resting rate of 32 beats per minute. Further, he checked a marathoner who is in his 60s and recorded a heart rate of 36.[1]  I browsed the internet and learned that Michael Indurain, a five-time winner of Tour de France, had a resting rate of 28 beats per minute. Furthermore, Guinness World Record holder Michael Brady had a heart rate of 27 (!).heart

I am no athlete of these caliber, but knowing these facts and having my record to consult allayed fears of possible abnormality in my condition. It may be a welcome development as I regularly exercise every other day to keep in shape; running a 4 mile distance in 44 minutes or less. If I would translate that to Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s point system, that’s equal to 11 points. And I need to meet at least 30 points per week. I run three times a week, so that’s a total of 33 points per week.

Doing this exercise routine consistently for 36 weeks, my achievement is at par with my earlier running performance way back in the early 1990s. My previous notes, written 20 years ago, indicated that I did have a very low heartbeat on record. My heartbeat on October 20, 1993 was 48 beats per minute. And I did not use an electronic means but counted it using a regular watch and feeling my pulse. So there’s nothing queer about my heart rate at all.

So this is the conclusion of this account on heart rate: that equipping yourself with information from both literature and observation can help you adopt a better view of things. Don’t rely on just a single source of information. Knowledge through a little research and own self-observation recorded on paper can be empowering.

Ones heartbeat can be slower than the expected standard. And…, I have a personal experience to back it up; because I appeared to be one of the deviants, a seeming outlier. Am I a super athlete undiscovered? 🙂

1. Cooper, K. H. (1968). Aerobics. New York: Bantam Books, Inc.

© 2013 October 4 P. A. Regoniel

Politics of Resource Allocation: The Case of the Pork Barrel Funds

What is resource allocation? How is it practiced? What are suggested solutions to ensure fair distribution of wealth? Here’s an analysis of a recent case.

Resource allocation has always been a contentious issue in many countries. That is primarily because the allocation of a country’s wealth depends heavily on politicking, lobbying, or manipulating funds to serve self-interests among those involved.[1,2] This is a controversial process termed as the politics of resource allocation.

The intention of an efficient allocation of resources should have been needs-based, i.e., putting funds where they are greatly needed such as to help uplift chronically poor citizens or address emergencies caused by both anthropogenic or man-made disasters or natural calamities.

The recent issue on a celebrated, well-crafted scam that funneled public funds to questionable non-government organizations in the Philippines highlights inefficiency and inequitability in resource allocation by those involved. For years, the resource allocation framework has allowed bribery to take place, partly because there are loopholes or flaws in its implementation. For this reason, the problem should be addressed as a systemic case, not personality-based, as the issue is being pursued at this time. One person cannot do all those illegal maneuvers without cohorts to make it happen. As the common idiomatic expression says, “It takes two to tango.”

Neeraj Negi, an evaluation officer of the World Bank, explains that funds are allocated based on a resource allocation framework, the creation of which depends on the composition and influence of the members. A lot of lobbying occurs during the process of building the framework, but in the end, the fund provider takes the upper hand. The resulting resource allocation framework may or may not truly respond to the intended purpose.[3]

Existing Resource Allocation Framework

A system governs allocation of scarce resources to constituents. This is referred to as the resource allocation framework. It guides the distribution of a country’s wealth in view of uplifting the living conditions especially of the poor sectors of society who lack opportunities to improve their lot.

Since there are problems arising from the current allocation framework in the Philippines, it should be faulty. Why is the resource allocation framework faulty?

To make clear this issue and to view things systematically, let me represent the current resource allocation framework in the country using the following diagram created using XMind.

allocation of pork barrel funds
Representation of the pork barrel fund allocation.

This representation of the resource allocation scheme for non-government organizations alone, though simple, reflects the reality as reports, observations, and public knowledge show. The left side represents the informal arrangements made by dishonest politicians while the right side of the framework represent those who stay true to their sworn duties as public officials.

If the funds were used for infrastructure, contractors and suppliers usually give 40 to 50% ‘discounts’ for their services or products either as traditionally practiced or as a result of coercion. The evidences of these undesirable practices are easily seen:

  • roads that get narrower than planned or get potholes in less than a year,
  • bridges that easily collapse upon the slightest gush of flood waters,
  • low quality educational materials,
  • inadequate health services,
  • politicians or government administrators who become instant multi-millionaires despite a humble background,
  • no improvement in the lives of marginalized communities despite funds ‘allocated for their benefit’,
  • and many more.

What are suggested solutions to the resource allocation problem?

It took whistleblowers to expose such inappropriate management of funds as their predecessors did in the past. Why do events like these recur? That’s because the allocation system stays the same. The popular solution from well-meaning sectors of society is to scrap the pork barrel funds. But is this the real solution?

It is likely possible that resource allocation will remain laden with corruption even if these funds change hands; such as giving concerned government agencies a hand on fund management once allocated for lawmakers’ discretionary use. The solution appears to be the exercise of transparency in all dealings and an agreed upon resource allocation framework that truly addresses the needs of the people.

As for the corrupt politicians, the citizens must be discerning enough to vote those who are capable of giving rein to their carnal desires and selfish interests. Thanks to a democratic society; there is always hope in sight. Despite its failings, there is always room for improvement.

References

1. Shoham, J. (2001). Taking the politics out of resource allocation: the Kenya experience. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://fex.ennonline.net/14/taking

2. Palawaniswamy, N. and N. Krishnan (2008). Local politics, political institutions, and public resource allocation. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from  http://www.ifpri.org/publication/local-politics-political-institutions-and-public-resource-allocation

3. Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. (2008). Neeraj Negi: The Politics of Resource Allocation: Lessons from the GEF Experience. Retrieved from http://www.cornell.edu/video/neeraj-negi-the-politics-of-resource-allocation

© 2013 September 27 P. A. Regoniel