Thursday, March 30, 2006

Green tea drinking in Vietnam

A posting on Chen Nung talks about Vietnam's green-tea culture, including the history of green-tea cultivation there and the Vietnamese people's preference for super-strong tea.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea as a skin toner

Another blogger describes a do-it-yourself facial treatment that contains green tea leaves. (Look about two-thirds toward the bottom of the page.)


—Mellow Monk


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Blogger switches from coffee to green tea

Here is an entry made by a blogger who is switching to green tea as part of an overall "get fit" program.


—Mellow Monk


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Sleep and darkness

Another article about sleep—this time, about the effect of artificial light on our natural sleep rhythms.


—Mellow Monk


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San Francisco not in top 15 skylines?

Come to think of it, how could San Francisco not be in that list of the world's top 15 skylines?


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.





—Mellow Monk


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Water really is the lifeblood of tea

Last night I got lazy and brewed a pot of Monk's Choice using water straight out of the tap. What a mistake that was. The taste was essentially ruined by the chlorine and who knows what else is in the water.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A computer mouse that's quiet as ... well, a mouse

If you're a computer user who is irritated by the clicking sound that your (or someone else's) mouse makes, a Japanese company named Thanko has just the ticket: a silent mouse.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea improves oxygen flow to tissues

A study recently published in the journal Life Sciences finds that the green-tea catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) "improves oxygen flow to tissues deprived of adequate supply." Oxygen deprivation in cells—known has hypoxia—can slow healing, and is also thought to play an important role in cancer formation. Fight hypoxia, and you could be fighting cancer formation.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Mellow pics: the world's top 15 skylines

I really like the pictures on this page: the top 15 skylines in the world.


Tokyo (in the picture below) ranks at Number 5.





—Mellow Monk


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Japanese teens? are, like, uptalking, too?

Uptalk is going global.


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?


Well, not only is the uptalk phenomenon found in Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. It's also found in the Japanese language.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 27, 2006

The Japanese woman with a Superbowl ring

From this article at Web Japan:

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.



—Mellow Monk


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Programmable soda bottle

From the "what'll they think of next" department: a programmable soda bottle.


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.


Like I said, a clever idea. Too bad those additive buttons will contain high-fructose corn syrup, chemical colorings, and who knows what else.





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, March 26, 2006

An alternate take on "organic"

Here is an alternate take on the whole organic-food movement. For instance:

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."




—Mellow Monk


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On Japanese TV, food is still king

Here is an interesting, insightful article about the continued popularity of all manner of cooking shows in Japan, the nation that gave us Iron Chef.

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.




—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Traditional Japanese dolls

Akanezumiya is an Asian antique gallery in Montana "specializing in Japanese figural art of the Edo period." In addition to a spiffy-looking website, Akanezumiya (the name means "Red Rat Store") has an impressive collection of such things as ningyo (traditional dolls) and paintings.




—Mellow Monk


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Daytime soaps induce dementia?

Not good news for those of you who hope to enjoy your favorite soaps into old age:

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.

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 24, 2006

Sushi samurai

Distraction time!


Here's an online video game called Sushi Samurai. It's sort of like Pac-Man, but with ladders instead of a maze and evil tofu instead of ghosts.


—Mellow Monk


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Nutrition and mental health

Britain's Mental Health Foundation has launched a campaign, called
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.


—Mellow Monk


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Spider webs after the rain

Here are a few cool photos of spider webs after the rain.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mao Asada graduates

Japanese figure skater Mao Asada finally graduated from high school. That's her holding her diploma in the picture below.


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.




—Mellow Monk


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Japanese robots to care for the elderly

Japan is bracing for a huge, long-term increase in the elderly as a portion of the nation's population due to a declining birth rate and a population that is among the world's longest living. One way the Japanese are preparating for this demographic change is by developing robots.





—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Japan wins World Baseball Classic

Japan beats Cuba 10 to 6 to win the World Baseball Classic.


The next WBC is slated for 2009.





—Mellow Monk


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Life expectancy calculator

Here's a life expectancy calculator of the sort actually used by life insurance companies.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Robot water snake from Japan

First, there was the robot carp.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Chinese government cracks down on baby names

The Chinese government is cracking down on parents trying to give their kids unusual names.


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!


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 20, 2006

Optimism is healthy

A study done by a Dutch institution finds that optimistic men were only half as likely to die from cardiovascular disease as men not classified as optimists. The lead researcher in the study said the connection was not necessarily because of lower rates of depression among the optimistic:

"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."

—Mellow Monk


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Red pepper induces cancer-cell suicide

Capsaicin, which gives red peppers their kick (and makes tear gas burn), has been observed causing prostate cancer cells to commit suicide. The actual term is apoptosis, or programmed cell death.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mellow Monk at the green biz recognition

Last night, Mellow Monk's representatives (all two of us) attented Alameda County's green business recognition ceremony (there was an article about it in the Oakland Tribune).


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.





—Mellow Monk


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Rice

Photographer Robb Kendrick has an online photoessay about human beings' number one food crop: rice.





—Mellow Monk


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Robot carp

Engineers at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries subsidiary have developed and demonstrated a radio-controlled robot carp. Why they did this, I have no idea.




—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bird flu makes Buddhist rite risky

In Cambodia and other Asian countries, Buddhists are known to buy caged birds for the express purpose of setting them free, an act considered to be redeeming and spiritually cleansing.


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.]





—Mellow Monk


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Teapot cancer tonic?

The author of this article from Toronto's NOW Magazine interviewed and directly quotes a handful of experts about the health benefits of green tea.


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.


So stay tuned ... and keep sipping that green tea!





—Mellow Monk


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Philly sisters read the tea leaves

Here's a story ... not about a man named Brady, but about two twentysomething sisters from the City of Brotherly Love who started their own tea bar.


—Mellow Monk


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Bigelow buys last American tea plantation

Tea maker R.C. Bigelow has bought what is touted as the last American tea farm, located on the island of Wadmalaw, South Carolina.


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.

—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Japanese potato-peeling technique

From a Japanese TV show: how to peel a potato in one step. Actually, "deskin" would be more accurate word than "peel," since this technique eliminates the need for a conventional potato peeler—all you need is an ordinary kitchen knife.


The video clip is in Japanese, with no English subsititles, so what the squeaky-voiced narrator is saying breaks down like this:


  1. 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.
  2. Boil or steam the potatoes as you normally would.
  3. Immediately after boiling or steaming, place each potato in ice water for 10 seconds.
  4. Holding a potato at either end, pull in opposite directions. The two halves of the skin should slide off.

—Mellow Monk


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Green tea cookbook

Mary Lou Heiss has written a book titled Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats. The above link is to the publisher's online press release.


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.




—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guy Schmickle's nature photos

Photographer Guy Schmickle has an extensive portfolio of his nature photos, like as the (clickable) Grand Canyon pic shown below, available for online viewing.


Very mellowing stuff.





—Mellow Monk


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Link between Alzheimer's and chronic illnesses?

A University of Pittsburgh study suggests that chronic disorders such as heart disease contribute to mental slowdown, including conditions like Alzheimer's syndrome. The link between the two has to do with a chemical that the body's immune system releases during illness:

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.

—Mellow Monk


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Video of mochi pounding

Mochi are cakes of pounded sticky rice. They're chewey and gooey and taste great when dipped in soy sauce mixed with brown sugar. Click this link to see a roughly 2-minute video of mochi cakes being made the old-fashioned way, which is usually done for New Year's.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 13, 2006

Japan's "gunboat island"

Located off the coast of Japan's Nagasaki Prefecture is the island of Hashima, nicknamed "Gunboat Island" (Gunkanjima) because of its shape. The island has been uninhabited since 1974, when the coal mine there—the island's economic mainstay—was shut down.

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.




—Mellow Monk


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Virus linked to prostate cancer

From Reuters: "A newly identified virus, tentatively called XMRV, seems to be associated with the development of prostate cancer in genetically susceptible men," researchers report.


The theory is that the virus may cause chronic inflammation of the prostate, which ultimately leads to cancer.


—Mellow Monk


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Making marriage work: a male approach

In his book The Secrets of Happily Married Men, psychiatrist Scott Haltzman says that men can succeed in marriage by treating it like a job.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thunderous Japanese drums

Last night the family and I saw San Francisco Taiko Dojo perform at a local community center. Their performance was truly astounding, with booming rhythms that rocked the rafters and enthralled the 300-plus audience. It was the first time I had ever seen a Japanese taiko group perform up close, and I'm hooked: I'm already counting the days until next year's show. (Each year, the Livermore-Yotsukaido Sister City Organization invites the taiko group as the centerpiece of its biggest fundraising event.) If you ever get the chance to see Taiko Dojo (the name literally means "drum studio") or any other taiko group, I highly recommend availing yourself of the opportunity.


S.F. Taiko Dojo will be playing at the Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival on April 22.


Taiko groups can be found all over the United States—in San Jose, Portland, Seattle, Tucson, Denver, St. Louis, Houston, Greenwich, Greenwich, Norwalk, and Albuquerque, among others.




—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 10, 2006

Making travel less stressful

An interesting and humorous article on how to avoid stress (and prevent embarrassing moments) when traveling.


—Mellow Monk


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Nintendo game a hit with seniors in Japan

Here's another article about the "brain training" game that Nindo made for seniors. See this previous posting for a screen shots and a review in English.

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.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea toothpaste

Green tea is only one of 31 flavors in Breath Palette, advertized as "the world's first flavored toothpaste kit."





—Mellow Monk


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Origami contest winners

Here is a slideshow of the winning entries in an origami contents held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


—Mellow Monk


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Japanese ghosts

Here's an online dictionary of ghosts and other mythical creatures from Japanese folklore.




—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Get smarter in a week

From a review of the British TV special "Get Smarter in a Week":

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.


—Mellow Monk


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Panoramic views of Hanoi, Vietnam

Click on this link, then click on the small panoramic image in the center of the screen that pops up to see a large, scrollable image of downtown Hanoi. There are more panorama thumbnails on the side of the page.


—Mellow Monk


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10 ways to manage stress day by day

Speaking of saying no, that's one of the hints that November issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers in its 10 ways to manage stress day by day.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kumamoto Garden in San Antonio

Japan's Kumamoto City, capital of Kumamoto Prefecture (where Mellow Monk's green tea comes from), has a sister-city agreement with San Antonio, Texas. In fact, part of the San Antonio Botanical Gardens is the Kumamoto Garden, which was built by garden experts flown in from Japan under the sister-city program.




—Mellow Monk


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Genetic variant raises heart attack risk from coffee

This story has really been making the rounds the last couple of days:

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.

—Mellow Monk


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No woman on the throne just yet

After all the fuss and controversy and public debate, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has announced that he has scrapped plans to submit a bill to Parliament that would let women inherit the imperial throne.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Braining-training video game for older folks

In an effort to "broaden its customer base amid falling profits," video game maker Nintendo is targeting Japan's growing gray market with "Brain Training for Adults," a number and puzzles game that Nintendo says stimulates the brain.


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.





—Mellow Monk


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Maternal stress linked to childhood asthma

How a mother's stress affects her children's health: Children whose mothers are under "particular duress" are 1.5 times more likely to develop asthma.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Just say no

From this article:

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.


—Mellow Monk


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Sushi, the new Russian roulette

Skip the sushi, some people are saying—it's not safe to eat. And not because of bacteria or anything like that, but because of high levels of mercury.


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.”


—Mellow Monk


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We're gonna miss that pooch

You may have noticed a blip in the posting frequency a couple of weeks ago. That was because Mac, our golden retriever, died on the morning of February 21.


(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.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, March 06, 2006

Movies of Kumamoto, Japan

The website Gaijin-Eyes.com has still images and movies about Kumamoto Prefecture, which is the source of Mellow Monk's green teas.


("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.)


—Mellow Monk


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A "fat tax" on sodas?

Cries about the health impact of sodas and other sweet beverages are growing louder:

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.

[Snip ...]

"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.

—Mellow Monk


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Japanese woodworking

Here's a website dedicated to Japanese woodworking. There's an online catalog of traditional Japanese woodworking tools, kitchen cutlery, and gardening tools. You can also order a printed catalog.


The site also has product reviews and a resource page with such topics as how to sharpen Japanese woodworking knives.




—Mellow Monk


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More on "retired husband syndrome"

Here's another article on retired husband syndrome, as it's known in Japan: the phenomenon of couples breaking up after the husband retires and is suddenly home with the missus 24-7 after having spent the previous 30 years at the office.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, March 03, 2006

Award-winning undersea photos

J. P. Trenque won the BBC's Photographer of the Year award for the photo shown below. This site has the larger version of this photo and others. Very mellowing indeed.




—Mellow Monk


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Japan's indoor beach

The Sheraton Seagaia Resort, located in Miyazaki City on the island of Kyushu, Japan, has what is billed as the world's only indoor beach. There is even a wave-generating machine, for just-like-the-real-thing surf. The whole thing is enclosed by a retractable dome roof that opens and closes depending on weather conditions outside.


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).




—Mellow Monk


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Tokyo street fashions

Here are photos of street fashions in Tokyo. Look at these pics and feel better about how your own kids dress.



—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Signs of economic life

More good news about the Japanese economy:

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.

—Mellow Monk


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Get a human on the line

I posted previously about bypassing companies' phone trees.


Here's another site.


—Mellow Monk


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Frappuccino fans might as well be eating a Big Mac

From an article about those so-called coffee drinks (which are so laden with sugar that the actual coffee seems like an afterthought):

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.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In praise of the slow life

The "slow-life" movement currently under way in Japan advocates giving up hectic city living for a laid-back existence, usually in the countryside. (The city of Kakegawa, in Shizuoka City, has even declared itself a slow-life city, perhaps in an attempt to attract urban refugees.)


There is something to be said for country living. Then again, as Marguerite Duras wrote, “One does not find solitude, one creates it.”


—Mellow Monk


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MM's PageRank

Today I checked this blog's PageRank at mygooglepagerank.com and got a PageRank of 4—not earth-shattering by any means, but probably pretty good for a small-business blog.


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.


—Mellow Monk


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Japan's bubble-blowing beluga whale

Aliya, a beluga whale at an aquarium in Hamada City, Japan, entertains crowds with such tricks as blowing air bubbles and playing underwater catch with a beluga pal.


—Mellow Monk


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