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Archive for February, 2009

The Fly by Hanjin Song: change your thoughts, and you change your world

In this excellent 3D animated short entitled The Fly by Hanjin Song, and inspired by Asian philosophy, a Samurai seeks inner peace through meditation. But as he tries to rid himself of distractions, he discovers that they seem to be coming at him harder and faster.

The morale here is not to resist the problems, but let them flow naturally. As Lao Tzu says, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

This short animation was his 2006 thesis in Computer Animation received from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. You can find more information about Hanjin Song on his blog here.

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Pay what you want at Montreal’s restaurant Taverne Crescent

Hit by the downturn of the economy and a deep slide in American tourists, Montreal’s restaurant Taverne Crescent, located on Crescent street in the downtown area, is trying a new strategy to bring back customers: pay what you want.

So yesterday, lunch-hour customers were given the choice of an appetizer, plus either tagliatelle bolognese, salmon or braised beef, and coffee or tea, for whatever they wanted to pay. For a dollar even. Or nothing. George Pappas, the owner of the restaurant, says there is no catch for the ‘pay what you want’ deal. The restaurant is just trying to bring the ‘joie de vive’ back to the city. The deal is from Monday to Friday between 11 am and 3 pm.

This move follows a similar one this month by the London restaurant The Little Bay, and two years ago by the American restaurants One World Café in Salt Lake City and SAME (So All Might Eat) Café in Denver.

More about this in the interview below by CTV with George Pappas, the owner of Taverne Crescent. You can also visit the restaurant’s website at :

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Calcium may reduce the risks of digestive cancers

We know that an adequate intake of calcium benefits bone health, but according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, it appears that it may also lower the risks of digestive cancers, and particularly colorectal cancer (colon cancer).

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute analyzed data from half a million men and women over a long period of time who participated in a diet and health study. Those records were then linked to cancer registries. The men who consumed the most calcium had a 16% lower risk of those types of cancer, while women who consumed the most calcium reduced their risk by 23%.

More about this study in the interview below by CTV with Dr. Marla Shapiro:

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iPhone makes life easier for polyphasic sleepers

Last week I was experimenting with Polyphasic Sleep, and specifically the Uberman sleep pattern (read more on Polyphasic Sleep in my other post here) which consists of a 20 minute nap every four hours. One thing I noted during my trial is how my iPhone made this experiment easy for me.

For the Uberman sleep, you need six reminders for each nap during a day, along with six timer alarms to make you wake up from the naps. Setting up those reminders/timer alarms would be so annoying if your alarm only handles one setup a time. Luckily my iPhone made it very simple for me. I could setup in parallel six timer alarms which were always on, and post six reminders for my naps repeated every day, with two alerts five and 15 minutes before each nap.

I absolutely didn’t need to get worried about my naps neither about waking up from them. Though you might hate the iPhone, it will be your best friend if you get to be a polyphasic sleeper, unless you need an ear-popping alarm to make you wake up from those comatose naps!

iPhone alarm

iPhone alarm

Ferenc Cakó: the sand animation artist

Since I was first exposed to sand animation in 2004, I have admired Ferenc Cakó the most between all artists in this field. This post serves as an introduction to him, and shows a fascinating video of one of his performances.

Ferenc Cakó (born 1950) is a Hungarian artist, animator, painter, and film maker whose specialty is performing sand animation. He was awarded the Merited Artist and Outstanding Artist awards of the Hungarian People`s Republic in both 1989 and 1999 respectively. During his 30 years of film making, he has won all the main prizes of film festivals all over the world, from Cannes to San Francisco, and from Annecy to the Oscar nomination.

Apart from his film making skills, he is the avant-guarde of live sand animation. His individual and special sand animation show is very popular all over the world. It is usually performed in theaters, TV shows and at exclusive events. Sand animation is done on stage, where people can see Cakó actually doing the performance. He performs in total darkness, while the picture is projected into a high resolution video projector.

More information about him can be found on his website. The video below shows Cakó performing live at the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival (SICAF) 2003 in Seoul, South Korea:

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Açaí: the magical fruit

I have recently been introduced by a friend of mine to a new fruit named Açaí. It has only been exposed to the West a couple of years ago. Since not too many people have heard of it, I decided to introduce it here, with an emphasis on its extraordinary antioxidant effect and its benefits to our health.

Açaí is a fruit that grows on the Açaí Palm Trees in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. The Açaí berry is small in size (smaller than a grape) and is dark purple in color. Açaí is mostly seed, covered in a small amount of pulp. In fact, about 80% of the Açaí berry is seed, which is not eaten.

While Açaí may be small in size, it packs a nutritional punch unlike any other food in the world. Açaí is one of the highest antioxidant fruits in the world. Açaí has 10 times the antioxidant level of grapes and twice that of blueberries. Açaí has 10 to 30 times the Anthocyanins of red wine. The Açaí berry is very rich in healthy Omega fats. Nearly 50% of the Açaí berry is fat - with 74% of the fat coming from healthy unsaturated fats such as Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. Açaí is also a good source of proteins. 7.59% of the weight of the Açaí pulp is from amino acids. 19 different amino acids have been identified in Açaí . Since amino acids are the building blocks of protein, it is no surprise that you have over 8 grams of protein in a 100 gram serving of Açaí . Moreover, it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E are all present in Açaí . In addition, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc are all found in Açaí . As for fiber, there are about 14 grams of fiber in every 100 grams of freeze dried Açaí powder.

Due to their high content of fat, Açaí berries will go rancid very quickly, usually in a day or two. Therefore, if you don’t live in the Amazon rain forest, getting fresh Açaí berries can be close to impossible. But to get it to the West, Açaí can come in two forms and at a very expensive price: frozen pulp or freeze dried powder.

For more information, you can find a detailed report on Açaí at the website.
Some scientific studies made on Açaí can be found at the website.

Açaí berries

Açaí berries

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

What are Free Radicals?
We are all made up of atoms. Atoms that have a full outer shell of electrons tend to be stable. Atoms that do not have a full outer shell of electrons want to get another electron very badly so they can be stable and inert. These unstable atoms are called Free Radicals.

Free radicals tend to move quickly to try to steal an electron from whatever molecule happens to be around them. Of course, whoever they steal an electron from becomes a new free radical and the process is like a domino effect. Our body performs many functions and there will always be some free radicals created. However, if the level of free radicals gets too high in the body, you can run into major problems. Numerous diseases and health issues have been linked to high levels of free radicals.

One of the more common types of free radicals are oxygen free radicals. These are oxygen atoms missing an electron. You know that rust you see on the side of your car - well the same thing basically happens inside our body. Oxidative stress is what it’s called when oxygen free radicals start to cause damage in your body.

What causes Free Radicals?
Breathing, eating, moving - basically living! Yes, basically any stress we put on our body can cause free radicals. While obvious things like polluted air, smoking, stressful events and unhealthy foods can cause free radicals - many “healthy” activities can also create free radicals. Almost any type of exercise will put stress on our body, and all this stress on our muscles creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue
So, how do you turn a free radical into a harmless cell? You give the free radical the extra electron it so desperately wants. What substance can supply this extra electron? You guessed it - antioxidants. Antioxidants are any substances that prevent or slow the oxidation process. Remember, free radicals cause oxidation - and antioxidants prevent oxidation. Antioxidants work by donating an electron to a free radical so it becomes a stable oxygen molecule.


Free Radicals and Antioxidants -

Free Radicals and Antioxidants -

History of Religion

How has the geography of religion evolved over the centuries, and where has it sparked wars? The map below from gives a brief history of the world’s most well-known religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism. Selected periods of inter-religious bloodshed are also highlighted.

Want to see 5,000 years of religion in 90 seconds? Click on the ‘Play’ button below:

Note: other religions have not been shown here due to the short length of the video.

The Imperial History of the Middle East

Who has controlled the Middle East over the course of history? Pretty much everyone. Egyptians, Turks, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Persians, Europeans etc… the list goes on. Who will control the Middle East today? That is a much bigger question.

Click on the ‘Play’ button in the video below from :

Note: the events shown in the video are only till 2006.

Vibrosphere: a good workout in half the time

The Swedish company ProMedVi is introducing a new gadget called Vibrosphere for those eager to lose weight in half the time. The gadget combines two recognized methods of training: balance and vibration training.

According to the company, the tactile stimulation under the feet in combination with the element of balance can lead to a rapid improvement in proprioception and consequently balance. The vibrations also increase activity in the neuromuscular system through involuntary muscle contractions which contribute to an improved musculature performance and interplay between the muscles and the nerves.

Check out the video below from CTV for more information:

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Mediterranean diet can help protect your brain

Past research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can help protect from heart diseases and diabetes, but now there is a new evidence that it could protect your brain as well. The study, performed by doctors from Columbia University, followed 1800 seniors over a five year period. One of the things it found is that people with no memory problem, who followed a Mediterranean diet, reduced their risks of developing cognitive impairment by 28%. Those with some memory problems reduced the risk of developing a full blown Alzheimer’s by half.

Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV explains it more in the following video:

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Frequent Marijuana use could cause testicular cancer

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have just found that frequent or long-term marijuana use can significantly increase a man’s risk of developing the most aggressive type of testicular cancer.

The team interviewed 369 men with testicular cancer, in the Seattle area - mostly in their 20s and 30s - about their history of marijuana use. Even after other “lifestyle” factors such as smoking and drinking as well as risks such as a family history of the disease, cannabis use emerged as a significant possible cause, the study published in the journal Cancer concluded. But they emphasized that their results were not definitive and called for further studies.

Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV explains it more in the video below:

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Staying active throughout the day can help people with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It affects three times more men than women. The individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Snoring and daily fatigue are the common symptoms of this disorder.

Toronto researchers suggest that people who sit for long periods of time, like working on a computer, accumulate fluids in their legs during the day. And that fluid moves from the legs to the neck when you lie down to sleep, making breathing very difficult. But staying active during the day, such as stretching, exercising, or even a short walk can help with the problem. It is unclear yet how much movement is needed and needs further studies.

More about this in the video below by Monica Matys from CTV Lifetime:

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Huge price discrepancy of healthy food between and within Canadian cities

In its annual report on Canadian Health, the Heart and Stroke foundation found that there is a huge difference of prices for healthy food between cities, and within cities as well. The report looked at 66 communities across Canada between Oct. 15 and Oct. 25, 2008. An example of such difference is the following: one kilogram of lean ground beef was $13.21 in Ottawa, but only $4.14 in Barrie, Ont. In contrast, there was little variation in the cost of snack foods such as cookies, potato chips and pop that should be consumed in moderation.

In addition to that, healthier foods were found to be more expensive. For instance, margarine with trans fats cost on average $2.79 compared with $3.29 for trans-fat-free margarine. A survey accompanying the report suggested that 47% of Canadians reported occasionally going without fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain products, meat or fish because of high cost. Healthy eating is a key factor in preventing heart disease.

Watch the following interview by CBC with Stephen Samis, director of health policy for the Heart and Stroke Foundation:

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Bian Lian: the mask changing art of China’s Sichuan Opera

Since many people used to ask me about the colored masks hung up in my apartment, I decided to give a quick explanation of their meaning. Bian Lian, in simplified Chinese 变脸, literally means Face Changing. It is an ancient Chinese art specific to the Sichuan Opera, in which performers wear bright colored costumes and masks, and quickly change their masks in a fraction of a second. It is incredibly fast to the extent that viewers cannot see how they do it. Some performers rapidly change their costumes as well. Surprisingly enough it’s not a one time act, but performers do it again and again and again.

According to Wikipedia, Bian Lian began 300 years ago, during the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). The masks colors reflect a character’s mood such as red representing anger and black extreme fury. Bian Lian was first used in a story about a hero who stole from the rich to help the poor. When he was caught by feudal officials, he changed his face to puzzle them and escaped as a result. Only a select number of masters know how to perform this art, and the secret is only passed down through families and from master to apprentice. Since its inception, the art was forbidden to women, but recently women had been allowed to learn the technique and perform them publicly.

The video below shows a performer frequently changing his mask:

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Polyphasic Sleep: more free time with less sleep

We are all aware that we spend a third of our life sleeping, which is the average of eight hours of sleep per day. But what if we can decrease the number of sleeping hours and thus increase the waking hours, and still operate with the same and even more mental alertness and energy level. We can then use the extra time to study, finish our work, learn a new musical instrument, and accomplish endless opportunities that we used to dream of doing only if we had more time. Is is possible to do that?

The answer is yes. It’s called Polyphasic Sleep. I thought of introducing this concept since not too many people have heard of it. The term was first introduced in the early 20th century by the psychologist J.S. Szymanski. It refers to the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period totaling an average of 3 hours of sleep per day. Most people are monophasic (having one block of sleep), while a big - yet decreasing - number of people are biphasic (having one block of sleep with an added nap). Hence, polyphasic sleeping occurs when people use multiple (more than two) ultra-short naps during the day. Polyphasic sleepers gain the most of their sleep time, while coming out from their naps in a highly alert state.

There are many patterns of polyphasic sleep such as Everyman, Uberman, and Dymaxion. They basically differ in the amount and duration of the naps. Everyman consists of a core nap of no more than 3 hours, with three short naps of 20 minutes. Uberman sleep consists of 20 minute naps every four hours, round the clock. Dymaxion pattern, which was advocated by the famous architect and inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller in the 1940s, consists of 30 minute naps every six hours, round the clock.

There are claims that Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and many others used to be polyphasic sleepers, but they lack documentation. With the recent introduction of Blogs into the internet, many people have started to log their experiments with polyphasic sleep. From those logs, a lot of people quit the first couple of days because they found it hard to adapt. But those who bypassed the adaptation period, which is usually from a week to a month, said that they became highly energetic and alert, and enjoyed it to the extent that they did’t want to go back to monophasic sleep. The only reason that made most of them quit was because the world uses the monophasic pattern, and it was hard for them to cooperate and work with other people.

More information about this topic can be found on Wikipedia.
An extensive log of a polyphasic sleeper can be found on Steve Pavlina’s blog.
The archive article about Fuller’s Dymaxion Sleep, dating back from October 11th 1943, can be found on the Time Magazine website.
An up-to-date list of current polyphasic sleepers can be found on Jorel’s blog.

Comparison of sleep patterns - Jorel on Wikipedia

Comparison of sleep patterns - Jorel on Wikipedia

The significance of blood type in the Japanese culture

In Japan, the question “What is your blood type?” is a very informational question of utmost importance that people use it to know about the person’s characteristics and traits. According to Japanese beliefs, blood type is like Astrology to the West. It says a lot about the person’s personality, behavior, temperament, and compatibility with others. It is widely believed that more than 90 percent of Japanese know their blood type, and are often surprised when a non-Japanese does not know his/her.

The characteristics of blood types are as follows. Type As are sensitive perfectionists but overanxious; Type Bs are cheerful but eccentric and selfish; Os are curious, generous but stubborn; and ABs are arty but mysterious and unpredictable.

The blood type culture can be found in just everything in Japan. In 2008, four of Japan’s top 10 best-seller books were about how blood type determines personality, according to Japan’s largest book distributor, Tohan Co. The Prime Minister Taro Aso seem to consider it important enough to reveal his blood type in his official profile on the Web. Video games such as Street Fighter and Resident Evil series list character blood types in both the manual and in-game bios. Matchmaking agencies provide blood-type compatibility tests, and some companies use blood type information in interview to screen out candidates. Children at some kindergartens are divided up by blood type, and the women’s softball team that won gold at the Beijing Olympics used the theory to customize each player’s training.

It doesn’t stop here. An industry has grown around this ideology, so that you can now buy blood type chewing gum, soft drinks, calendars and even blood type condoms! The condoms are all the same, but contain different instructions for each blood group on how to approach the sexual encounter!

The idea is not backed up by Science. It all started in 1931 in Japan when Furukawa Takeji (1891–1940) proposed that there was a link between blood type and personality after working in the administration department of a high school and observing the temperamental differences between applicants. He published a paper entitled “The Study of Temperament Through Blood Type” about his observations in the scholarly journal Psychological Research. The idea was scrapped years later and the craze faded as its unscientific basis became evident. It resurfaced in the 1970s, however, as Masahiko Nomi, an advocate with no medical background, gave the theory mass appeal. His son, Toshitaka, now promotes it through a private group, the Human Science ABO Center.

You can find more information about Blood Type Humanics at the Human Science ABO Center website.

A collection of blood type-related books

A collection of blood type-related books

The Chopsticks Diet: lose weight by eating with chopsticks

The London-based Japanese writer Kimiko Barber has just introduced a new book entitled The Chopsticks Diet, in which she explains that eating with chopsticks will help you lose weight. According to Barber, “Eating with chopsticks slows you down, and so you eat less.”

Eating fast will make the person overeat because it takes 20 minutes for the brain to register what the stomach contains. It’s harder for Westerners to eat with chopsticks; Therefore, when eating with chopsticks, it means taking smaller mouthfuls, which tend to get chewed better, slowing down the meal, and making it easier to digest.

This brings up to my mind a brilliant money making idea! I should introduce to the Japanese a new book entitled “The Knife and Fork Diet”, claiming that eating with a knife and fork will help people lose weight.

The Chopsticks Diet by Kimiko Barber

The Chopsticks Diet by Kimiko Barber

UltraShape: lose the extra fat without surgery

When I first heard of this a couple of months ago, I did not pay much attention to it since it was brand new and not much testing has been done on it. But now, it is hitting the markets, and a lot of people are willing to pay a few thousand bucks for it.

The Israeli company UltraShape has just introduced a new fat-busting technology that uses ultrasound to target fat cells and literally make them explode. The procedure does not involve surgery, and costs around a thousand dollars a session. Each session takes nearly an inch of fat.

It is mostly intended for the extra fat (that people cannot remove with regular exercise), and not to remove large quantities of fat. It does not work on cellulite, but the company said they are working on it. It is now available in Canada, but is waiting for the FDA approval in the States.

More information in the video below from CNBC:

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Bad breath

Bad breath happens when food breaks down in your mouth or on dentures and isn’t brushed away. You can clean it off by brushing your teeth and your tongue, but if the problem persists, it could be part of a much bigger dental or medical problem.

The video below from CTV Lifetime explains it more:

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Yoga injuries

Nowadays Yoga is becoming more and more popular. A growing number of people is learning it day after day. While there is much more to Yoga than just the physical fitness, it can still induce injuries if it’s not done right. So it’s important to take precautions to avoid getting hurt.

Dr. Rhonda Low from CTV explains, in the video below, precaution steps to keep in mind when going for Yoga:

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A taste of the Montreal rave scene: Igloofest

When it comes to electronic music, every city has its own unique style, resident DJs, or clubs, but Montreal offers a different experience that transcends all this. Last weekend, I have assisted to Igloofest, a rave held in open air during the very peak of the Canadian Winter! With the temperature outside as low as -20 degrees Celsius, it cannot but be a lifetime experience.

Co-produced by Quais du Vieux-Port and Piknic Électronik (the organizers of the weekly Summer rave at Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal), comes the special event Igloofest. It spans over three weekends, where DJs from Canada and around the world such as James Holden come heat up the crowd during the coldest period of the year. The style of music ranges from Funk, Deep House, to Minimal.

Check out the exciting video below from the 2009 Igloofest:

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