Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One-stop shop for spine health

Spin-health.com is a "comprehensive, highly informative and useful resource for understanding, preventing, and seeking appropriate treatment for back and neck pain and related conditions." The site was "developed by a multi-specialty group of medical professionals."


For instance, here is a page on heat therapy for lower back pain.





—Mellow Monk


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Video of Japanese volcano erupting

Here's a harrowing clip of a pyroclastic flow (hot volcanic ash) roaring down the side of Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki. At the base of the volcano is a group of first responders trying to beat a hasty getaway.





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 30, 2006

Quakers in Japan

Quakerism in Japan dates back to 1885, when two young Japanese attended a Society of Friends meeting in Philadelphia. The most famous Japanese Quaker is probably Nitobe Inazo, better known as the guy on the 5,000-yen bill.



"Okay, one more picture and then we'll have that oatmeal."


—Mellow Monk


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Do-it-yourself green tea decaffeination

In an article I posted recently, Dr. Andrew Weil raved about the wonders of green tea. In that same article Dr. Weil reveals an easy way to decaffeinate green tea yourself.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dilbert creator gets his voice back

Scott Adams, creator of the "Dilbert" comic strip, lost his voice 18 months ago due to a condition called spasmodic dysphonia. Doctors said he'd probably never speak again. But then one day, after reciting a nursery rhyme, he found that he could talk again.





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Japanese green tea chain takes on Starbucks

Koots Green Tea, a chain of Starbucks-like tea houses, started in Japan but is now coming to America. And guess which city Koots founder Kouta Matsuda picked as the starting point in his U.S. campaign? Right on Starbucks' home turf.


—Mellow Monk


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Go barefoot ... for your knees' sake

Arthritis researchers found that walking barefoot "resulted in significant decreases in dynamic loads at the knees and hips..."


But what the article doesn't go into detail about is the importance of shoes. Some shoes are incredibly bad for you orthopedically, but a good pair of shoes (and insoles) can make all the difference in the world knee-and-hip-wise.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, October 27, 2006

Enviga: Be skeptical. Be very skeptical.

Why we should be skeptical (to say the least) about claims that Enviga, a new "sparkling green tea drink," burns more calories than it contains.


As far as I know, the only beverage that burns more calories than it contains is a glass of cold water. But even then, a 16-ounce glass of ice water burns only about 18 calories.





—Mellow Monk


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Mt. Fuji in the evening sunlight

From Yahoo Japan: a beautiful photo of Mt. Fuji illuminated by the rays of the setting sun.





—Mellow Monk


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The hell of depression: a reporter's story

A reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune—a man who "regarded the concepts of depression and anxiety as pretty much a load of hooey"—describes his battle with depression and how getting help changed (and maybe even saved) his life.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Japan's baby production kicks into overdrive

Births are up in Japan for the 7th month in a row—always good news in a country worried about its dangerous demographic combination of falling birth rates and aging baby boomers (sound familiar?).


—Mellow Monk


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"Take Back Your Time" day

Whoops. I missed it by two days:


Tuesday, October 24 was Take Back Your Time Day, whose organizers describe as "a major U.S./Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment."


—Mellow Monk


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Stress-relieving tip: keep an open mind

Says one expert, the key to relieving stress is to keep an open mind about various stress-relieving strategies: Try new things, and keep searching until you find something that fits your personality and your lifestyle.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Japanese tourists hit with Paris Syndrome

A French newspaper reports that each year, about 12 Japanese tourists undergo psychiatric therapy after visiting Paris. It seems the harsh reality of the City of Light is jarringly at odds with the romantic preconceptions that some first-time visitors bring there.


—Mellow Monk


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Green tea skin rejuvenator

Make your own green tea rejuvenator, called the "Aloha Honey Hawaiian Delight."

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons green tea
  • 1/2 ripe papaya
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions:


Steep green tea in boiling water. Set aside to cool. Peel papaya wedge and remove seeds. In blender or food processor, blend papaya and pineapple until pureed. Pour into glass bowl and combine honey and green tea. Mix well. Apply to face with fan brush or finger tips. Recline and rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove completely with tepid water and soft facial cloth. Store in covered container in refrigerator for up to one week.


Makes 2 treatments


Beauty Benefits: Exfoliates, hydrates and rejuvenates.

—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cardboard house painting

In and around Tokyo's Shinjuku subway station, a group of guerilla artists are painting cardboard boxes (with the occupants' permission).





—Mellow Monk


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World's oldest company to shut down

The company named by the Economist as the world's oldest, a construction company founded in Japan by a Korean carpenter in 578, is closing its doors.





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 23, 2006

Prune the stress away

A cancer patient takes part in a horticulture therapy program, designed to "relieve pain, reduce stress and improve self-esteem, mood and muscle tone."





—Mellow Monk


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Who's your daddy? Green tea

Beverage company Who's Your Daddy has released a green tea drink in its "King of Energy" line.


As with most energy drinks, the "boost" comes from caffeine. Still, you have to love those names.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Granny goes robocop

All you whipper-snappers out there better respect your elders—otherwise Grandma may just strap on her robot suit and knock you into next week!





—Mellow Monk


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Valley girl in an x-wing

"Pink Five" is the film that answers the question, "What if the Rebels in Star Wars had a Valley girl as an x-wing pilot?"


If you can relate to Star Wars and Valley girl humor, you'll like it. My favorite line [spoken to a beeping R2 unit]: "You know, why don't you just talk. All the other robots talk. It's not like it's that hard."


(Before watching, Atom Films makes you sit through a commercial. They have to earn money somehow, right?)





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Triple feature: "Kasho Taisho" puppeteering

Remember "Matrix Ping Pong"? Here are three clips from the same TV special ("Kasho Taisho"), currently produced twice a year in Japan. The performances are essentially an elaborate, modernized version of traditional bunraku puppet shows. The guys in black aren't ninjas; they're puppeteers.


"The Pole Vaulter"



"The Head That Wouldn't Stay Still"



"The Basketball Player's Shadow"



—Mellow Monk


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Deep Impact fails dope test

Not the movie, but the racehorse: Japan's Deep Impact, widely considered to be the country's all-time best racehorse, tested positive for a banned substance after finishing the third race in Europe's Arc de Triomphe. Many thought Deep Impact had a shot at becoming the first non-European horse to win the Arc.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Make my tea green, says Dr. Weil

Famed health guru Dr. Andrew Weil raves about green tea:

"All causes of mortality are lower in people who drink five cups of green tea per day," said Weil...


Living proof that green tea does not stain beards.


—Mellow Monk


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Japanese horsefly circus

You've heard of a flea circus. Now, from Japan comes a horsefly circus.


The narration (in Japanese) doesn't give anything away about how the young ringmaster pulled this off.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Samurai 2.0

Some liken Japan's new entrepreneurs to modern-day samurai. Although it's a cheesy analogy, this new breed of entrepreneur could shake up the Japanese economy like no one else before. (In other words, this could be the bunch that finally produces Japan's answer to Bill Gates.)





—Mellow Monk


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A weigh-in a day keeps the pounds off

This is the sort of news you know is true but you'd rather stay in denial about.


Nearly everyone in this country has dieted, and nearly all of those people have put pounds back on after the diet was over. The way to avoid this? Step on the scale every day.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why we eat more than we think

Brian Wansink, head of Cornell University's Food and Brand Laboratory, conducts research on how the food portions we eat are influenced by things like package size, plate size, and whether the TV is on.

“To a person, people will swear they aren’t influenced by the size of a package or how much variety there is on a buffet or the fancy name on a can of beans, but they are,” Dr. Wansink said. “Every time.” [...] To his mind, the 65 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese got that way, in part, because they didn’t realize how much they were eating.




—Mellow Monk


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Green tea and tobacco-related cancer

From ScienceDaily.com:

Green tea's ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists suspected, say researchers who have discovered that chemicals in green tea shut down one of the key molecules that tobacco relies upon to cause cancer.

—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Frost on the tea Down Under

This article, about Australia's green tea crops being affected by unseasonable frost, explains where Japanese beverage giant Ito-en gets low-cost green tea for its bottled green tea drinks.


This also shows how such companies are changing the meaning of the term "Japanese green tea."


(Our green tea, by the way, is from family-owned and -operated tea farms in Aso, Japan.)


—Mellow Monk


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How much of your stress is self-inflicted?

Most of the time, we can't change or get away from the things that cause stress in our lives, so the best strategy is to change how we react to those stressors.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 16, 2006

Friends don't let friends cycle drunk

Not only does Japan have tough laws against drunk driving. Even the laws against drunk cycling are tough. In fact, a recent crackdown on drunk cycling has translated into booming business for taxis with bike racks.





—Mellow Monk


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Coke and Nestle to release green tea drink Enviga

In a joint venture, Coca-Cola and Nestle are getting ready to introduce a green tea drink called Enviga. When two food giants like that get in on the act, you know that green tea has gone mainstream.





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rice is our specialty

Some restaurants specialize in steak, others in reuben sandwiches. Kokoromai, a small restaurant in Tokyo, specializes in high-end gourmet rice.





—Mellow Monk


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Highlanders in Japan

Scottish Highland games in Japan? Why not? After all, people everywhere seem to like events where they get to walk around outside drinking beer.


[Warning: Bagpipe music plays when the site loads.]





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Rent a shebot

A subsidiary of Sanrio now rents out "actroids"—a highly realistic-looking female robot. Well, it—I mean "she"—is not really a robot but more like Disneyland animatronics.





—Mellow Monk


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Sushi locator

At the Worldwide Sushi Restaurant Reference site, you can find a sushi restaurant in your area and even brush up on sushi etiquette.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, October 13, 2006

Huge crowd of tea-drinkers break world record

Under the watchful eye of a Guinness Book official, a crowd of over 14,000 people in Aichi, Japan set a new world record for people drinking tea at one time.


What isn't there a record for in the Guiness Book?



"On your marks, get set ... drink!"


—Mellow Monk


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Shogi the money

On Wednesday, devotees of the Japanese board game shogi competed for $300,000 in prize money.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Glass tea serving pot

Helen in San Antonio found this at Amazon.com: a glass tea serving pot.


As you can see in the picture below, the filter is built into the top. The loose tea leaves go right into the glass pot part, and when it's time to pour, the filter keeps the leaves inside.





—Mellow Monk


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Country Gold in Aso, Japan

This weekend, if you're going to be near Aso, Japan (where Mellow Monk tea comes from) this weekend, you could stop in at Country Gold, the annual country music festival. This year Charlie "Devil Went Down to Georgia" Daniels will be headlining.


American country music isn't widely popular in Japan, but it does have a small but highly dedicated fan base.



"You call it sushi, I call it bait, let's call the whole thing off."


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Japan faces a wave of immigration

Driven by factors such as low birth rates and an aging population, immigration to Japan is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing. This is prompting a public debate on what it means to be Japanese.


The most interesting character in this MSNBC article was Marutei Tsurunen, "a former Finn turned Japanese citizen and the only naturalized member of the national Parliament, or Diet."





—Mellow Monk


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Sleep on it--really

The old expression "sleep on it" seems to be true.

No one knows why we dream. But along with helping us make important life decisions, one theory holds that dreaming is a way of sorting through our emotions and integrating the events of our lives into our memories -- something we sometimes can't do when we're awake.

—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Japan's super-tough drunk-driving laws

Japan has strict laws for punishing drunk drivers and those who aid and abet. Recently, a bar owner was arrested "after allowing a customer to drink alcohol despite knowing that he would drive later."


—Mellow Monk


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The appetite molecule

From MSNBC.com:

Scientists in Japan have identified a molecule responsible for making mammals feel full, a discovery that could lead to new ways to treat obesity in humans.

—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 09, 2006

Robot rides bike

Continuing today's theme of robots, here's a photo of "Murata Boy," a small robot built by Murata Manufacturing, showing off its bike-riding capabilities at a robotics event called the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC), held on October 3 in Chiba, Japan.





—Mellow Monk


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Japan, robot nation

A fascinating, in-depth article looks at how advanced Japan's robot technology is becoming.


Could a real-life C-3PO happen in our lifetime? Inquiring geeks want to know.





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stick tea

"Stick tea" is essentially a cross between a tea bag and a tea ball: It's disposable like a tea bag, but instead of being made of paper or cloth (or whatever tea bags are made of nowadays) it's made of foil. Like a tea ball or other infuser, a tea stick has tiny holes through which hot water passes in and tea infusion passes out.


The whole package is pressed into a rectangular stick that stiff enough to stir.


It's a clever idea—a tea bag that you stir instead of dip—and I'd be surprised if stick tea doesn't eventually catch on. (I can really see teenagers going for it.) If stick tea becomes a gateway to tea for folks who otherwise wouldn't give it a chance, then it's a positive thing.





—Mellow Monk


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Less noise means less stress

This tip definitely falls under the category of easier said than done, but it still bears repeating: Eliminating ambient noise is an effective way to reduce stress.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blue-skying a shaded bridge

The modern-day Nihonbashi (literally "Japan Bridge") is a stone bridge built in 1911 to replace the original wooden bridge, which was built in 1603 and prominently featured in the ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Today, the poor bridge is covered by an eight-lane freeway overpass, but plans are in the works to possibly replace the overpass with underground roads and restore blue sky to Nihonbashi.



This used to look like...



...this.


—Mellow Monk


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Pen-twirling video

In the world of certain—how shall I put this—"studious" types in Japan, the ability to twirl a pen or mechanical pencil in one's hand is practically a requirement for membership. The video below showcases the skills of those who have taken this parlor trick to a whole new level. [Warning: This video is accompanied by a loud heavy metal soundtrack.]





—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sleep soundly without resorting to meds

Two recent journal articles "reveal that, while medication may help some people get to sleep, other methods appear to be even more effective than the ubiquitous sleeping pill."


—Mellow Monk


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Tokyo's trendiest neighborhood to get sliced

Shimokitazawa is called "Tokyo’s answer to Greenwich Village, an epicenter of youth culture in one of Asia’s trendiest metropolises."


But the vibe in Shimokitazawa will change big-time when authorities build a planned 81-foot-wide thoroughfare that will slice the neighborhood in two.



Ah, to be young ... and to have time, money, and a hangover-proof body.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Permanent tea filters: an easy way to brew loose tea

My own favorite way to brew loose green tea is cup-by-cup with a permanent tea filter, also known as the over-the-cup tea filter. These little babies take all of the hassle out of bulk tea.


As you can see in the pictures below, it fits right on top of your mug, with the long filter portion that holds the tea in the hot water.


Cleanup is incredibly easy (unlike when using a more elaborate device). You just turn the filter upside-down over a waste receptacle and give it a few taps to dislodge the wet tea leaves.








—Mellow Monk


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Fighting stress: rethinking your strategy

If what you're currently doing to reduce your stress isn't working, don't try harder—try something different.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Geiko of Kyoto: a photo gallery

"Geiko of Kyoto" is an online photo gallery of real-life modern-day maiko and geiko (apprentices and full-fledged geisha, respectively).


These are the terms used by actual geisha, who by the way never refer to themselves as geisha.


—Mellow Monk


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One unlucky guy

Thomas Cook's life story is the kind that makes you think, "Okay, maybe I don't have it that bad."


—Mellow Monk


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