Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Anyway, Deadwood, like most HBO series, has a very long "previously seen on" segment. When I was a kid, I always found the previous episode summary annoying. I was anxious for the show to start. "Who needs the summary, anyway?" I thought.
Well now, a few decades later, I can answer my own rhetorical question: I need the summary. Particularly with a show with plot twists and conspiracies as complex as Deadwood, I found the summary not just convenient but almost essential—especially if I wanted to avoid missing key lines of dialog while attempting to remember and rehash previous developments with the wife.
So, what once was an annoyance is now a necessity. Compared to when I was younger, my attitude toward green tea has undergone a similarly dramatic change. But then, with age comes wisdom, no?
I'm sure Al Swearengen would agree.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
(Back in March, the English-language edition of the Asahi newspaper ran a story about the same town.)
Saturday, August 26, 2006
The Nagata's tea farm doesn't look quite like this. Not only is it more modern, but the owners, the Nagatas, actually do all the work themselves. In addition, the tea farm is their principal means of making a living.
In just two or three minutes of preheating, your pan will give off fumes that can make you sick. Each time you use medium to high heat on an empty pan, the surface on Teflon-coated and other nonstick cookware breaks apart and emits a toxic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.
If you have a pet bird, you should be especially careful about these frying pans. As suggested by the article's title ("Canaries in the Kitchen"), your feathered friend is much more susceptible to the toxic effects than us humans are.
Friday, August 25, 2006
This tradition dates back to the days of un-air-conditioned movie theaters, where it was too hot in the summer to sit through a film. (In contrast, last summer I was in a new movie theater in Kumamoto City, and it was just like a modern American theater with stadium seating. And the seating was assigned!)
The local newspaper reports more than a few moviegoers enjoying a beer bought at one of the outdoor stalls selling food and liquid refreshments. Ah, the good life.
The perfect venue for watching an old samurai movie.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Many Japanese may be breathing a sign of relief at Enomoto's grounding, as he had been planning to dress as his favorie anime character while aboard the ISS. It's not known what his likely replacement, Iranian-born businesswoman Anousheh Ansari, plans to dress as.
English tea and milk is as common as coffee and cream, but if you want to flavor your green tea, try a piece of orange peel, a drop of vanilla extract, honey, lemon juice ... the sky's the limit!
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
"Wait a second. Don't take the picture until I'm finished brushing my ... Hey!"
Collisions between whales and ships have become a fact of life in areas around Japan's main southwest island of Kyushu as well as the sea that separates South Korea and Kyushu, with about a dozen incidents reported in the past two and a half years.
"You look like nice people, so I'll let you off with just a warning this time. But next time, I might not be in such a good mood."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The Shimouke Dam today.
His struggle—an act of defiance that would have been unthinkable to previous generations—began in 1958 and attracted national attention. He became positively famous in 1959 when he constructed "Beehive Castle" (Hachinosu-Jo), as someone dubbed the home-made observation post he built to protest and watch over the government's pre-construction prep work. The post was occupied 27/7 by Mr. Murohara and his followers.
"Beehive Castle," built in Oguni Town to protest the construction of the Shimouke Dam.
In 1965, however, his legal challenge against the government was thrown out and construction of the Shimouke Dam began, although Mr. Murohara, feisty guy that he was, kept fighting right up until the day he died.
(If you drive through the small towns near the dam, located on border betwee Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures, you can still see the occasional "Oppose the Dam" sign.)
This past Sunday, in Oguni Town (about half an hour from where Mellow Monk tea is grown in Aso City), relatives of Mr. Murohara, including his brother (83) and eldest son (65), unveiled a memorial to the local hero. The site is near the now-flooded valley Mr. Murohara struggled to preserve.
The Murohara memorial being unveiled on Sunday near the dam.
In attendance was the former dam project manager, Ken Soejima, who said he showed up partly to "atone for his sins."
Monday, August 21, 2006
- Attend open house: It's an excellent time for kids to meet their teachers, see their classroom, try out their lockers and practice walking the hallways to their classes.
- Brain teasers: These games are a great way to get the brain started and put kids in a learning mode.
- Calendars: Make a family calendar before a month begins. Indicate where and when each person needs to be and who is responsible for transportation. Resolve conflicts ahead of time.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
It's so bad that DuPont plans to phase out any PFOA-emitting products by 2015.
And if you've got a pet bird, you'd better be extra careful:
Avian veterinarians have know for decades that Teflon offgases are a leading cause of death among birds, and estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of birds are killed each year.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Professionally trained singer Karin Hochapfel runs stress-busting classes for City highfliers that use a mixture of yoga, Alexander Technique and breathing exercises to relieve tension -- all used by singers to warm up before they perform.
Singing—it's not just for the shower any more.
This may look like a scene from Casablanca, but it's actually the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad in Scranton, PA, 1964.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
that frazzled window of time after work and before dinner when the kids are cranky, the adults are exhausted, and everyone's bite-your-head-off ravenous.
The first step, upon getting home in the evening, is to
change into comfy clothes, kick off my shoes (or wear wool clogs if it's cold), drink a glass of water, and put on soothing music.
That sounds like good advice to follow every evening, whether you're going to be cooking or not. In other words, try to make it a habit to change into relaxing clothes as soon as you get home. Make relaxation priority number one.
You wouldn't it? Well, I wouldn't, either. What's next, the hot fudge sundae diet?
Besides, you'd be better off drinking green tea to lose weight.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Essentially, the researchers say, stress can addle your mind and make you older. But there's good news too: Exercise can make a huge difference. And, in the case of the brain at least, time might heal the wounds caused by stress.
Exercise is great, of course, but there's another way to beat stress: Take a tea break. Sounds good, doesn't it.
[The method] involves resetting your body clock with small doses of the hormone melatonin for three days before flight time — combined with going to bed an hour earlier each day — and then taking in bright light, natural or artificial, after arriving [at your destination].
However, an "alertness consultant" (yes, that's an actual job title) has a low-tech solution: napping.
“When I was at NASA, we did a study involving 26-minute naps and we found they boosted performance by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent. Naps of less than a half-hour work."
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Statistics indicate that 60 per cent of workers suffer from “high anxiety” and that 65 per cent of companies report soaring levels of mental illness.
That's life in the big city, eh?
Also notice that the article's content does not live up to the sensationalistic headline.
The article also fails to point out that consumption of loose-leaf green tea in Japan is trending downward as more and more of those young, busy people opt for bottled, ready-to-drink green tea. A tea break used to mean a few quiet minutes spent preparing and enjoying a hot cup of relaxing, soothing tea. Now it means chugging a bottle of ready-to-drink tea on a crowded subway train while listening to an MP3 player and playing with a handheld video game. No wonder people are stressed.
Monday, August 14, 2006
For years, scientists have suspected that a chemical in many household deodorizing products may cause short-term lung problems — and possibly worse. Now it appears that those concerns are probably valid. In a study published this month, scientists at the National Institutes of Health say they found that people with relatively high blood concentrations of the substance — 1,4-dichlorobenzene, an organic chemical — show signs of slightly reduced lung function. The chemical is also in mothballs, tobacco smoke and toilet deodorizers.
You can read the full study here.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
There are many other foreign customs I don't buy in to. I can't believe that, upon being offered the choice between the kings of American sports—baseball and football—many more foreign nations picked baseball over football. If their cultures weren't strange in some crucial way, they would have picked football, correct?
But to get back to the topic at hand, there is one Japanese custom you might like to test drive for a couple of months: bathing at night, instead of in the morning.
I personlly converted to showering and bathing at night, although I'm not one hundred percent faithful. Bathing at night helps me relax and wind down at the end of a hectic day, but sometimes I'm just too lazy in the evening to even consider dragging myself out of my chair. Or it's because showering at night would throw off my DVD-viewing plans for the evening.
But I think you'll find that bathing in the evening helps relax tense muscles, which will put you in better spirits and help you fall asleep quickly at bedtime. Doesn't it sound relaxing just reading about it? So give it a try—what are you waiting for (besides the sun to go down)?
Friday, August 11, 2006
A scene from the classic samurai-era ghost story "The Ghost with Foul-Smelling Breath." Just kidding. It's actually from "Bancho Sarayashiki" (a.k.a. House of Plates, which is not to be confused with the House of Pilates).
A Japanese quadriplegic on Monday partly realized his dream of ascending one of Switzerland’s highest mountains, thanks to a friend who carried him up with the help of a high-tech robot suit.
You have to love the name of this robot: the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or "HAL."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
But it was not to be: It turns out that what the Chinese government is cracking down on are songs with politically objectionable lyrics.
After all, the karaoke industry is founded on bad singing.
An Australian academic says the key to bliss on the earth is to work only 4 to 6 hours each day.
Note to staff: Don't even think about it.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The photo below shows tomato-basil shrimp with onions (top) and a small avocado half stuffed with hummus and grape tomato (bottom). I would gladly devour either one, or both, if asked.
Let the purists complain. Bentos like these will always be welcome at my table.
[T]here is growing evidence that almost all so-called sinus headaches are really migraines. ... Though long believed to be primary vascular headaches, the result of constriction then expansion of blood vessels in the head, migraines are now recognized to stem from neural changes in the brain and the release of neuroinflammatory peptides that in turn constrict blood vessels. The headache often begins before these vessels dilate. The inflammatory peptides sensitize nerve fibers that then respond to innocuous stimuli, like blood vessel pulses, causing the pain of migraine.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Compared to the dead calm of the American tea industry of yore, this is unheard-of, blisteringly red-hot growth.
Message to staff: Put on another big pot of tea, people, because it's going to get crazy-busy here real soon!
(Staff to Monk: Yeah, right.)
I still think the first craft to land on the moon should have been called the U.S.S. Ralph Kramden.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
A Psychology Today editor takes American parents to the woodshed, claiming that with their rubber-cushioned play surfaces, sanitizing gels, and invented disabilities, they are raising a nation of wimps.
Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."
This is a very long article but written in an engaging, easy-to-follow style.
But opinions diverge on how much public money should be spent on the new stadium—an issue Americans can relate to. But the debate over where to built it is even more highly charged. The mayor is eying a site on the other side of town, while many Hiroshima residents say the stadium should be rebuilt on its current site next to the Peace Park and the atomic bomb memorial.
Sure, it's quiet now, but you should have seen the crowd on Free Sake Night.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Well, the tea companies in question must have, ahem, smoothed things over with the government, because Kenya's leading tea grower and processor, James Finlay Company, recently announced its about to unveil Africa's "most modern integrated tea-processing complex"—which includes the tea-picking machines—in the Kericho region, which is the heart of Kenya's tea industry.
James Finlay says it is introducing the machines to keep up with growing demand for instant green tea in the U.S. and other countries.
The next time I drink a cup of authentic Japanese loose-leaf green tea, grown in the rich soil of the foothills of Mt. Aso by an honest-to-goodness farm family, I will reflect on how fortunate I am not to have to resort to instant green tea.
Animal research from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) indicates that apple juice consumption may actually increase the production in the brain of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine, resulting in improved memory. ... "We anticipate that the day may come when foods like apples, apple juice and other apple products are recommended along with the most popular Alzheimer's medications," says Thomas Shea, Ph.D., director of the UML Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research.
Friday, August 04, 2006
People of [Civil War veteran] Valentin Keller’s era, like those before and after them, expected to develop chronic diseases by their 40’s or 50’s. Keller’s descendants had lung problems, they had heart problems, they had liver problems. They died in their 50’s or 60’s.
Looking at this strapping family today, you'd never guess that many of their great-great-grandparents lived lives cut short by painful illness and disease. As our elders are fond of reminding us, life back then was no picnic.
In response, old-school sushi restaurants are getting creative. One restaurateur came up with an impressive gimmick: a sushi shop where customers catch their own fish, which is then taken to the kitchen, prepared, and brought to the table. Talk about fresh.
In the movie on the top right of the linked-to page, you can see that the dining area of the restaurant is shaped like a giant boat. Clever, no?
Sushi so fresh that when you eat it, the fish is still thinking "Hey! What the heck's going on here?!"
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Too bad J. Howard Marshall II didn't take such a test before he rewrote his will.
For an average of six months, the patients [in the study] received three daily oral doses of 20 milligrams of quercetin (an antioxidant found in onions) and 480 milligrams of curcumin (found in tumeric, one of the main ingredients of curry).
The average number of polyps in the patients declined by 60.4 percent, and the average size of the polyps decreased by 50.9 percent, the study said.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
"I know it looks like a slot machine and pays off like one, but this isn't gambling. It's ... it's entertainment!"
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The ceremony, which celebrates the end of rice planting and offers prayers for rain and a good harvest, dates back to the 1870s. It was discontinued after the war but revived in 1988—the 100th anniversary of the building of the drum used in the ceremony.
Here are more photos of the festival. As you can see, the stairway is fairly long, and it's a tight moving the drum through the arch.
If this endeavor doesn't justify the drinking of large quantities of sake at an afterparty, then I don't know what does.