Friday, March 31, 2006
Adults: Stressing too much about sleep. (Which, ironically, may be just as bad as actually not getting enough sleep.)
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Perhaps it's because...
- It's pretty much impossible to get the Golden Gate Bridge in a shot of the downtown skyline.
- The weather's hardly ever nice enough there to get a shot that doesn't make the town look gloomy.
- Those Victorian-style homes everyone likes so much technically are probably not part of the skyline.
- From some angles, the skyline can look pretty shabby.
Still, when the fogs and smog are gone and the sun is shining, the S.F. skyline can look pretty good.
I usually use water that's been run through a Brita filter, which goes a long way toward bringing out the tea's true taste.
When we lived in Aso, Japan, the water that came out of the tap was minimally treated spring water. It tasted great. The only drinking water I've ever had that tasted better than that was right-out-of-the-ground spring water that we would sometimes collect right from the source—for free; the town kept the spring open to the public. Anyhow, that water blows the pants of any water that's been sitting in a plastic bottle. No lie.
But since natural spring water right out of the ground is a little hard to get for the average green-tea drinker, even bottled spring water might be worth the treat every now and then. Because using the best water possible will allow you to experience the true taste of Mellow Monk green tea. Because when it comes to taste, I'd put our green tea up against any competitor's green.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The sound of mouse clicking is way down on my list of irritating things, but I can see there being latent demand for a quiet mouse in crowded offices.
That's good news for green-tea drinkers, because EGCG is found only in green tea.
But that doesn't mean we should run right out and buy EGCG extracts.
After all, freshly brewed green tea is known to contain other catechins and many other health-promoting compounds—and who knows what other wondrous compounds remain to be discovered in that cup of green tea.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
You know that annoying way of talking? where you raise the tone of your voice at the end of a phrase or sentence? like it's a question? But it really isn't a question?
That's right—Japanese teens all over Japan today can be heard speaking declarative sentences that rise in pitch at the end like a question. In Japanese, the phenomenon is known as shiriagari intoneshon ("rising-at-the-end intonation") or simply shiriagari.
Just like in the English-speaking world, Japanese uptalk is primarily a phenomenon of the young, but many older people who should know better are guilty of it, too. And just like in the English-speaking world, uptalk has teachers, parents, linguistic purists, and others—essentially the entire adult world (even ones who use uptalk unconsciously)—up in arms.
Japanese professor of phonetics and second-language acquisition Shoko Haruoka has written a paper [link to Japanese PDF] titled Acquisition of English vocal expressions through oral interpretation: methods and techniques [my translation]. In the paper, he touches on the commonalities between Japanese shiriagari and the phenomenon in English [again, the translation is mine]:
Inoue (1997 pg. 163), in The socialness of intonation, finds commonality in changes in intonation taking root in Australia, America, and Japan. Although the degree of acoustic similarity is unclear, he cites examples in describing three objectives shared in common by users of Australia's questioning intonation, America's uptalk, and Japan's shiriagari: (1) indicating that the speaker is not yet finished talking, (2) pre-empting any interruption by the listener, and (3) asking the listener for a sign that he or she is paying attention.
You can argue about the psychological or sociological or other factors behind uptalk, but I think one point often overlooked in the debate is that every generation of young people wants to be different from their parents, and speaking differently is just one way of achieving that goal.
Which means that some day? uptalk won't be cool anymore? because it will be old and stale?
Or because that's how everyone's mom and dad will be talking.
Monday, March 27, 2006
There is a Japanese female trainer employed by an American pro football team in the NFL. Her name is Iso Ariko. It is rare enough to have a female trainer looking after the physical condition of the athletes who compete at America's most popular sport, but being Japanese makes Iso doubly unique. As a member of the staff that supports the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of the 2006 Super Bowl on February 5, Iso received a shiny Super Bowl ring, awarded to players and staff of the champion team.
It sounds silly but is actually a very clever idea. You press in the "additive buttons" (wait for the beverage industry to come up with a much cooler-sounding name, such as FLAVOR BURST!) to release the flavoring into the beverage. By popping different additive buttons with different flavors inside, you can create your own custom flavor.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Another heading on the Whole Foods banner says "Help the Small Farmer." "Buying organic," it states, "supports the small, family farmers that make up a large percentage of organic food producers." This is semantic sleight of hand. As one small family farmer in Connecticut told me recently, "Almost all the organic food in this country comes out of California. And five or six big California farms dominate the whole industry."
Food has long been a major staple of Japanese broadcasting. But with most popular cooking and gourmet shows far cheaper to produce than star-powered dramas, TV producers and researchers say food shows now account for an estimated 35 to 40 percent of all domestic programming.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Older women who say talk shows and soap operas are their favorite TV programs tend to score more poorly on tests of memory, attention and other cognitive skills, researchers reported Monday.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Feeding Minds, to raise awareness about the important of nutrition not just for a healthy body, but for a healthy mind, as well.
As part of the campaign, the Foundation has released two (very lengthy) reports, available in PDF format: Feeding Minds—The Impact of Food on Mental Health (5.55 MB, 72 pages) and Changing Diets, Changing Minds: How Food Affects Mental Well Being and Behaviour (825 KB, 128 pages).
From the executive summary of the former report:
The time is now right for nutrition to become a mainstream, everyday component of mental health care, and a regular factor in mental health promotion.
The four-page Nutrition Table lists common mental-health problems (such as anxiety and poor concentration) to deficiencies of specific nutrients.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
She was unable to attend the actual ceremony with her classmates as she was at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, where she finished second. After returning home, her high school gave her a "one-person graduation cerermony," as she put it.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
To complete the calculation, you'll need to know your blood pressure and cholesterol count.
This may be reassuring for some ... or a wake-up call for others.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Now robotics engineers in Japan have built a swimming robot snake. [Ed.: Shouldn't that be "snake robot," Monk?] This link leads to a movie of the snake robot swimming in a plexiglass pool on a TV show.
Actually, the move isn't as harsh as it sounds. What the government is doing is telling parents that any Chinese characters (known as kanji in Japan) used in a child's name must be on an official list. This move was made in response to parents using super-obscure characters that many folks didn't know how to pronounce and—more importantly—weren't in the government's computer databases.
In Japan, when parents register their child's birth at the local city office, officials there actually have the power to accept or reject the name. A story widely reported by Japan's mass media about 10 years ago concerned a father who wanted to name his son "Akuma," or "demon" (悪魔). The city officials said no way. The father protested, but to no avail.
I say that if the guy likes the name "Akuma" so much, let him change his own name. Don't give the poor kid a screwy name like that!
Monday, March 20, 2006
"One possibility is that optimists are better at coping with adversity, and may, for example, take better care of themselves when they do fall ill."
On the other hand, spicy foods containing capsaicin are normally considered a prostate irritant, so the jury is still out on whether guys worried about their prostate should start quaffing hot sauce right out of the bottle.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
The event was opened by Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, and the keynote address was delivered by Kevin Cleary, executive vice president of energy bar maker Clif Bar.
We had a great time, and everyone there was exceedingly nice to us, even though we showed up late and underdressed, were the only ones there with child in tow, and ate more than our share of those delicious food. (Just don't ask me what the names of any of the dishes were.)
Reach more about the Bay Area Green Business Program here.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
However, with cases of bird flu on the rise, this practice is coming to be seen as risky business. [Ed.: The sound you just heard was that of Tom Cruise falling over a couch.]
The bottom line [Ed.: cheesy expression, Monk] is that the jury is still out [another cheesy expression]. Serious scientific investigation into how the many, many compounds in green tea fight illness has begun only relatively recently.
On the other hand, nearly all the evidence coming out suggests that green tea is just plain good for you. Then tere's plenty of circumstancial evidence, such as low cancer rates in areas of Japan where per capita tea consumption is highest.
A couple of interesting factoids from the article:
- The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, was introduced to the United States in the late 1790s by French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux.
- Ireland has the highest per-capita consumption of tea of any nation in the world.
- 85 percent of tea-drinking Americans drink their tea on ice.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The video clip is in Japanese, with no English subsititles, so what the squeaky-voiced narrator is saying breaks down like this:
- Before boiling the potatoes, use a knife to make a continuous circular slice about 1 millimeter (or about a sixteenth of an inch) deep in each one. The slice should go all the way around the potato, with the end of the slice connecting with the beginning.
- Boil or steam the potatoes as you normally would.
- Immediately after boiling or steaming, place each potato in ice water for 10 seconds.
- Holding a potato at either end, pull in opposite directions. The two halves of the skin should slide off.
The book is also available at Amazon.com.
I haven't read the book, but you can find a brief review here. Whatever that drink is on the book's cover, it sure looks thirst-quenching! If anyone picks up the book, please share your opinion of it with us.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The immune system chemical in question is interleukin-6, or IL-6. Immune cells release IL-6 and other so-called cytokines when the body is battling the flu or an infection, says University of Pittsburgh researcher Anna Marsland. Those cytokines tell the brain to slow down, and that helps the body heal. But as people enter midlife, they start to develop chronic disorders such as heart disease that keep cytokines elevated all the time. Marsland's research suggests that a 24/7 elevation in these cytokines can lead to sluggish performance on thinking and memory tests.
Note that mochi-making is a team effort: one person pounds, and one person kneads. (Sometimes a team of pounders will whack away at the rice in sequence, in which case timing is critical.)
I wonder how many "kneaders" end up with broken fingers each year.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Seen from a distance, Hashima Island might be mistaken for the Japanese counterpart of Alcatraz rising from the ocean like a ragged slab of concrete, or perhaps a gambling resort with deserted hotels. Few casual observers would ever guess that, only 40 years ago, this tiny island was the site of a thriving community with the highest population density on earth.
Read the rest of this article here. There's a map here. Here's one photo gallery. And another gallery.
The theory is that the virus may cause chronic inflammation of the prostate, which ultimately leads to cancer.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
S.F. Taiko Dojo will be playing at the Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival on April 22.
Friday, March 10, 2006
The photo below shows "an unidentified patient playing a brain-training game with a Nintendo DS at the hospital which runs a 'memory loss clinic' for patients suffering dementia in Kyoto, Japan."
Still, this brings to mind all the hype the industry has disseminated about how video games improve kids' hand-eye coordination. Ultimately, video games are usually passive and aren't physically exertive.
But a big exeption to that generalization is Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). The Japanese press is reporting that more and more senior citizens are taking up DDR as a form of exercise.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
It is not an intelligence-boosting formula likely to impress an Oxbridge don: watching Countdown, playing Sudoku, remembering telephone numbers and taking a shower with your eyes closed.
Yet doing 'brain exercises' such as these can make us all up to 40 per cent cleverer within seven days, according to research by a BBC programme this week.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
People with a gene variant that causes slow metabolism of caffeine have a sharply elevated risk of a non-fatal heart attack if they drink large amounts of coffee, according to researchers here.
The reason? Princess Kiko, who already has two daughters, recently announced that she's pregnant again. If her third child is a boy, he would be the next in line after his uncle, Crown Prince Naruhito.
You can read a review of the game here. Note that at the end of a round of questions, the game tells you your mental age (literally "brain age").
Nintendo hasn't announced any plans to localize the game for the American market, but if you want to encourage them to do so, the company can be contacted online here.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
It might be the easiest word to say, and the most overused in our culture.
Help out with the school's bake sale? Yes. Work an extra shift at the hospital? Yes. Bring a main dish to the neighborhood dinner party after your 60-hour workweek? Yes.
"Yes" might be the automatic, simplest or least painful response — even when we truly want to say no. But there is eventually a price: in stress, anger, passive-aggressive behavior, exhaustion and illness.
Upon sending tuna (maguro) from some of the most popular sushi restaurants in Los Angeles to a lab for testing, they found the level of mercury in the tuna to be "so high they should be keeping this food off their lists,” said the head of the study. He added: “Eating sushi has become the new Russian roulette.”
(You might be wondering why a female dog would be named "Mac." She originally belonged to my Japanese brother-in-law, who didn't realize "Mac" was a masculine name. But by the time we got her, when she was about 6 months old, the name had stuck.)
Mac was twelve and a half years old, which is a pretty good run for a golden. At least that one way we've tried to console ourselves. But that didn't make her passing any easier on us.
She had been suffering from cancer. We first noticed the tumor just behind her left shoulder in October. The vet said that she was too old to have a good chance of surviving surgery or radiation treatment. And if he operated less invasively than usual and missed some of the cancer as a result, the tumor might come back with such a vengeance that she would end up dying sooner than if he had never operated. So decided against surgery or radiation.
The tumor grew in size steadily and relentlessly. Mac went from walking with a limp to barely walking at all and finally becoming completely immobile.
The day before she died, her condition had deteriorated so badly—we had to hold her head up so she could drink water—that I made the hardest phone call I ever made: I called the vet to see if he could come to the house and do what has to be the toughest part of his job. However, I was informed that the doctor no longer made house calls. Since there was no way I was going to carry our by then completely immobile dog through a strip mall parking lot and into the vet's office just to have her put to sleep, we decided to let nature take her course. Fortunately, that happened the next day.
She had been hospicing in the middle of our living room, and right up until the end, she was her old sweet, attentive self—making eye contact, wagging her tail in anticipation of a coming pat, pet, or rub, and gently smacking her lips in satisfaction when the pet finally came. My wife was a nursemaid to Mac, who actually seemed to thrive on the extra attention that her ailment brought her.
Which is why the end was so painful for us. We're still not over it and deep down probably never will be.
The point of this posting is: Enjoy your loved ones—whether four-legged or two—now while you can, because they won't be around forever. Contemplate each living thing in your life—yes, teenaged humans count, too—and ask yourself, If he or she disappeared from my life today, whether to the other end of the country or to the great hereafter, could I look back and be satisfied with how I treated that person? Did I appreciate that person or pet while he or she was around?
I wish I had done more of that kind of thinking about Mac.
Monday, March 06, 2006
("Gaijin" means "foreigner" in Japanese, and the owner of www.gaijin-eyes.com is, to judge from the Union Jack image on the site, a British citizen residing in Kumamoto.)
In reports to be published in science journals this week, two groups of researchers hope to add evidence to the theory that soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks don't just go hand-in-hand with obesity, but actually cause it. Not that these drinks are the only cause—genetics, exercise and other factors are involved—but that they are one cause, perhaps the leading cause.
"There are many different lines of evidence, just like smoking," said Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard pediatrician who wants a "fat tax" on fast food and drinks.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Why build a fake beach within spitting distance of a real one? Probably because (a) a lot of the real beaches there aren't that good in terms of the quality and quantity of sand, etc.; (b) it's scaldingly hot in the summer; and (c) the highway pinches off the coast, limiting space for snack shacks and other amenities, forcing people to park on the other side of the road, and generally creating inconvenience.
I visited Ocean Dome a while back, when the kids (oops—make that "kid"; Number 2 wasn't born yet) were small, and we had a blast. In fact, the place was filled to capacity with couples with young children, so you may wish to keep that in mind if you ever consider going there (assuming that Ocean Dome still draws the same kind of crowds).
Thursday, March 02, 2006
If the latest figures are to be believed, then last year, Japan (yes, Japan) grew faster, at 2.8%, than any G7 economy except America. And as of the final quarter of the year, it was growing faster than America as well, clocking up a 4.2% growth rate, year-on-year.
But there are still "dark spots in this picture":
One is fairly soft import growth for such a purportedly robust recovery. ... A second, more worrying, blot, is that for all that the labour market has tightened over the past year, employment growth, at an annualised 0.5%, is still too sluggish.
Researchers at Tufts University revealed last year that beverages—coffee, soda or cocktails—have become one of the main sources of calories for most Americans.
Green tea? Zero calories.
But even sugar-free, 100% coffee can work against weight-loss efforts. This is one reason why health guru Nicolas Perricone says that you can loose 10 pounds in 6 weeks just by switching to green tea.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
There is something to be said for country living. Then again, as Marguerite Duras wrote, “One does not find solitude, one creates it.”
I optimistically interpret these results as continued progress in the furtherance of the Mellow Monk mission: to make as many people as possible mellow and healthy through Mellow Monk green tea.