Later On

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A thought on first looking the Witter Bynner version of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

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Read the opening of the work with memes (human culture and its memetic evolution) in mind:

Existence is beyond the power of words
To define:
Terms may be used
But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder
Existence opens.

Memes v. physical reality, once more.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2019 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes

Olives and olive oil

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I’ve used extra-virgin olive oil with a free hand for a long time, but now I’ve cut seriously back. I “sauté” things in vegetable broth most often, and I eat nuts or tahini dressing with my greens. (Tahini is a whole food since it is simply crushed sesame seeds, without the oil being filtered out.)

Michael Greger writes in Part 2 of How Not to Die:

Olives and extra-virgin olive oil are yellow-light foods. Olive consumption should be minimized because they’re soaked in brine—a dozen large olives could take up nearly half your recommended sodium limit for an entire day. Olive oil is sodium-free, but most of its nutrition has been removed. You can think of extra-virgin olive oil a little like fruit juice: It has nutrients, but the calories you get are relatively empty compared to those from the whole fruit. (Olives are, after all, fruits.)

Freshly squeezed olive juice already has less nutrition than the whole fruit, but then olive-oil producers also throw away the olive wastewater, which contains the water-soluble nutrients. As a result, you end up getting just a small fraction of the nutrition of the whole fruit by the time extra-virgin olive oil is bottled. Refined olive oil (nonvirgin) is even worse. I would classify it, along with other vegetable oils, as red-light foods, as they offer such scant nutrition for their heavy caloric loads. One tablespoon of oil can contain more than one hundred calories without filling you up. (Compare that single tablespoon to the one-hundred-calorie serving sizes of other foods here.)

I think of oil as the table sugar of the fat kingdom. Similar to the way manufacturers take healthy foods like beets and throw out all their nutrition to make sugar, they take wholesome corn and scorch-earth it down to corn oil. Like sugar, corn oil calories may be worse than just empty. In chapter 1, I touched on the impairment of artery function that can occur within hours of eating red-light fare like fast food and cheesecake. The same detrimental effect happens after the consumption of olive oil8 and other oils9 (but not after eating green-light sources of fat like nuts).10 Even extra-virgin olive oil may impair your arteries’ ability to relax and dilate normally.11 So, like any yellow-light food, its use should be curtailed.

Cooking without oil is surprisingly easy. To keep foods from sticking, you can sauté in wine, sherry, broth, vinegar, or just plain water. For baking, I’ve successfully used green-light ingredients such as mashed bananas or avocado, soaked prunes, and even canned pumpkin to substitute for oil to provide a similar moistness.

The reduction of yellow-light foods is all about frequency and quantity. If you are going to trek outside the green zone, my advice is simple: Make it count. Don’t waste precious indulgences on crappy food. I don’t want to sound like a food snob, but if you’re going to eat something less than maximally healthy, I say pamper yourself and truly relish it. When I eat olives, there’s no way I’m going to eat those waxy black abominations in a can. I’m going to slice up some purple kalamatas that actually have some flavor. If you’re going to spoil yourself once in a while, I say do it right!

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 3:44 pm

Green smoothies

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Again from How Not to Die:

There’s a phenomenon called flavor-flavor conditioning in which you can change your palate by linking a less pleasant flavor (for instance, sour or bitter) with a more pleasant one (say, sweet). For example, when researchers tried adding sugar to sour grapefruit juice, people liked it better. No surprise. But within a few days, the study subjects began to like even unsweetened grapefruit juice more than they did before the experiment started. In fact, this reconditioning of the palate lasted for at least weeks after the sugar was removed.20

The same happens when researchers dip or spritz broccoli with sugar water or aspartame.21 I know that sounds gross, but they’re not actually making the broccoli taste sweet. The added sweetness merely masks the bitterness by fooling your taste buds.22 This is why the so-called secret ingredient in many collard greens recipes is a spoonful of sugar. Certainly, if there were ever a food to justify the use of a yellow- or red-light condiment to boost consumption, it would be the single healthiest of all foods: greens. I use a balsamic glaze even though it has some added sugar in it. It would be healthier, though, to add green-light sweetness in the form of something like figs or grated apples.

The sweetness trick is why green smoothies can be so delicious (if not a little odd looking). Smoothies can be a great way to introduce greens into children’s diets. The basic triad is a liquid, ripe fruit, and fresh greens. I’d start with a two-to-one ratio of fruits to greens to start with before tipping heavier toward greens on the scale. So, for example, one cup of water, a frozen banana, a cup of frozen berries, and a cup of packed baby spinach would be a classic green smoothie 101.

I like to add fresh mint leaves as well for a boost of flavor (and even more greens). Fresh herbs can be expensive at the store, but mint can grow like a weed in your yard or in a pot on your windowsill. Eating greens for breakfast can be as delicious as mint chocolate oatmeal—cooked oatmeal, chopped mint leaves, cocoa powder, and a healthy sweetener (see here).

When you’re thinking about ways to pair your greens with something you already love to make the greens more palatable, consider mixing them with a green-light source of fat: nuts, seeds, nut or seed butters, or avocados. Many of the nutrients greens are famous for are fat soluble, including beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin K, and zeaxanthin. So pairing your greens with a green-light source of fat may not only make them taste better but will maximize nutrient absorption. This can mean enjoying a creamy tahini-based dressing on your salad, putting walnuts in your pesto, or sprinkling some toasted sesame seeds on your sautéed kale.

The jump in nutrient absorption is no small effect. When researchers tried feeding people a healthy salad of spinach, romaine, carrots, and tomatoes along with a source of fat, there was an impressive spike in carotenoid phytonutrients in their bloodstream over the next eight hours. With a fat-free dressing, carotenoid absorption flatlined down to negligible amounts; it was as if they’d never eaten the salad at all.23 Similarly, adding some avocado to your salsa may triple the amount of fat-soluble nutrients that make it into your bloodstream (in this case, the lycopene in the tomatoes).24 It doesn’t take much. Just three grams of fat in an entire hot meal may be sufficient to boost absorption.25 That’s just a single walnut or a spoonful of avocado or shredded coconut. Snack on a few pistachios after a meal, and you’re all set. The greens and the source of fat just have to end up in your stomach at the same time.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 3:34 pm

Eating better to look better

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From How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD. This is from Part 2, where he discusses food and diet in detail:

We’ve all heard of the proverbial golden glow that’s often equated with health, vitality, and youth. But instead of using a tanning bed to achieve a more golden hue, you can do it with a bed of greens.

There are certain animals who use diet to increase their sexual attractiveness. Great tits, distinctive olive-and-black songbirds ubiquitous throughout Europe and Asia, tend to prefer carotenoid-rich caterpillars, which make their breast plumage brighter yellow, to become more attractive to potential mates.18 Can a similar phenomenon be found in humans?

Researchers took digital photographs of African, Asian, and Caucasian men and women and asked others to manipulate the skin tone of their faces with a dial until they reached what they perceived to be the healthiest-looking color.19 Sure enough, both men and women preferred the yellow “golden glow” that can be achieved through “dietary carotenoid deposition in the skin.”20 In other words, by eating the yellow and red pigments in fruits and vegetables, like beta-carotene in sweet potatoes and lycopene in tomatoes, men and women may be able to naturally acquire more of a golden and rosy glow. Researchers decided to put it to the test.

Based on a six-week study of college students, the complexion achieved by eating my Daily Dozen recommendation of nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day was found to be significantly healthier and more attractive looking than that achieved by eating three daily servings.21 The healthier you eat, the healthier you look. Indeed, studies find that “individuals with the lowest fruit and vegetable intake may enjoy the most improvement in appearance.”22

What about wrinkles? A study out of Japan used the six-point Daniell scale to rate the extent of crow’s-feet wrinkles around the eyes of more than seven hundred women, with a score of one being the least severe and a score of six being the most severe. The researchers found that “a higher intake of green and yellow vegetables was associated with decreased facial wrinkling.” Women who ate less than one daily serving of green and yellow veggies averaged about a three on the Daniell scale, while women who ate more than two servings a day averaged closer to a two. The researchers celebrated “the potential for these studies to promote a healthy diet…”23

I am certainly not above appealing to vanity, especially for my younger patients who have seemed more interested in which dietary changes will clear their acne than which will clear their future risk of chronic disease. So I’m happy to see articles embrace these types of studies with headlines like “Greens to Be Gorgeous.”24 Still, although looking great on the outside is fine, looking great on the inside is even better.

The numbers in the text identify footnotes that specify the studies whose findings support the statements made.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2019 at 2:28 pm

Cruciferous knowledge new to me

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From How Not to Die, by Michael Greger MD, starting on page 343. This is from Part 2 of the book, where he discusses foods, recipes, and preparation considerations. The numbers in the text are footnotes that specify the studies whose finding support his statements.

When I used to teach medical students at Tufts, I gave a lecture about this amazing new therapeutic called “iloccorB.” I’d talk about all the evidence supporting it, the great things it could do, and its excellent safety profile. Just as the students would start scrambling to buy stock in the company and prescribe it to their future patients, I’d do the big reveal. Apologizing for my “dyslexia”, I would admit that I’d gotten it backward. All this time, I had been talking about broccoli.

I’ve mentioned broccoli more than any other food in this book, and for good reason. We’ve seen how cruciferous vegetables like broccoli can potentially prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread in chapter 2, activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants in chapter 5, help to prevent lymphoma in chapter 9, boost your liver detox enzymes and target breast cancer stem cells in chapter 11, and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression in chapter 13. The component responsible for these benefits is thought to be sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables. This is why they get their own spot on the Daily Dozen.

Beyond being a promising anticancer agent,1 sulforaphane may also help protect your brain2 and your eyesight,3 reduce nasal allergy inflammation,4 manage type 2 diabetes,5 and was recently found to successfully help treat autism. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of boys with autism found that about two to three cruciferous vegetable servings’ worth6 of sulforaphane a day improves social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication within a matter of weeks. The researchers, primarily from Harvard University and Johns Hopkins University, suggest that the effect might be due to sulforaphane’s role as a “detoxicant.”7

Strategies to Enhance Sulforaphane Formation

The formation of sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables is like a chemical flare reaction. It requires the mixing of a precursor compound with an enzyme called myrosinase, which is inactivated by cooking8 (though microwaved broccoli appears to retain some cancer-fighting capacity). This may explain why we see dramatic suppression of test-tube cancer-cell growth by raw broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, but hardly any reaction when they’re cooked.9 But who wants to eat raw brussels sprouts? Not me. Thankfully, there are ways to get the benefits of raw vegetables in cooked form.

Biting into broccoli is like snapping that chemical flare. When raw broccoli (or any other cruciferous vegetable) is chopped or chewed, the sulforaphane precursor mixes with the myrosinase enzyme and sulforaphane is created as the vegetable sits on the cutting board or lies in your upper stomach waiting to be digested.10 Though the enzyme is destroyed by cooking, both the precursor and the final product are resistant to heat. So here’s the trick: Use what I call the “Hack and Hold” technique (maybe I should call it Whack and Wait?).

If you chop the broccoli (or brussels sprouts, kale, collards, cauliflower, or any other cruciferous vegetable) and then wait forty minutes, you can cook it as much as you want. At that point, the sulforaphane has already been made, so the enzyme is no longer needed to achieve maximum benefit. It’s already done its job. (You can also buy bags of fresh greens and other crucifers that are prechopped or shredded, which can presumably be cooked immediately.)

Given this understanding, can you see how most people prepare broccoli soup incorrectly? Typically, they first cook the broccoli and then blend it. But, when you blend it, you’re merely mixing the precursor with an enzyme that’s been inactivated by cooking. Do it in the opposite order: First blend your veggies and then wait forty minutes before cooking them. This way, you can maximize sulforaphane production.

What about frozen broccoli and other crucifers? Commercially produced frozen broccoli lacks the ability to form sulforaphane because the vegetables are blanched (flash-cooked) before they’re frozen for the very purpose of deactivating enzymes.11 This process prolongs shelf life, but when you take the veggies out of your freezer, the enzyme is inert. At that point, it doesn’t matter how much you chop or how long you wait—no sulforaphane is going to be made. This may be why fresh kale has been shown to suppress cancer cell growth in vitro up to ten times better than frozen kale.12

The frozen crucifer is still packed with the precursor, though—remember, it’s heat resistant. You could make lots of sulforaphane from it by adding back some enzyme.13 But where can you get myrosinase? Scientists buy theirs from chemical companies, but you can just walk into any grocery store.

Mustard greens are also cruciferous vegetables. They grow from mustard seeds, which you can buy ground up in the spice aisle as mustard powder. If you sprinkled some mustard powder on frozen broccoli that’s been cooked, would it start churning out sulforaphane? Yes!

Boiling broccoli prevents the formation of any significant levels of sulforaphane due to inactivation of the enzyme. However, the addition of powdered mustard seeds to cooked broccoli significantly increases sulforaphane formation.14 Then it’s almost as good as eating it raw! So, if you don’t have forty minutes to spare between chopping and cooking, or if you’re using frozen greens, just sprinkle the crucifers with some mustard powder before you eat them, and you’ll be all set. Daikon radishes, regular radishes, horseradish, and wasabi are all cruciferous vegetables and may have the same effect. All it appears to take is a pinch to revitalize sulforaphane production.15 You can also add a small amount of fresh greens to your cooked greens. So when I add shreds of purple cabbage to my finished dishes, it not only adds a beautiful garnish with a delightful crunch, it’s filled with the sulforaphane-producing enzyme.

One of my first tasks every morning used to be chopping greens for the day, using my Hack and Hold technique. But now, with the Mustard Powder Plan, I have one less to-do on my list.


The serving sizes I offer here correspond roughly to the daily intake required to achieve cancer-preventive levels according to the innovative breast-surgery study I detailed in chapter 11. As you can see, horseradish has the smallest serving size, which means it’s the most concentrated of the cruciferous vegetables. One tablespoon and your Daily Dozen is down to an Everyday Eleven. Horseradish can be made into a sauce, relish, or dressing to score an extra check mark with a kick. It’s great in mashed potatoes or, for a healthier option still, mashed cauliflower. Just boil cauliflower for about ten minutes until tender and then mash with a fork or potato masher or purée in a food processor with some of the reserved cooking liquid until smooth. I season it with pepper, roasted garlic, and a dollop of horseradish and then pour mushroom gravy on it. Delicious!

Written by LeisureGuy

1 July 2019 at 8:21 pm

How John Hersey Bore Witness

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Roy Scranton writes in the New Republic:

Some writers are known for their oeuvre. Some are known for their personality. John Hersey, as the subtitle of Jeremy Treglown’s biography attests, is known as the “author of Hiroshima.” Taking up most of the August 31, 1946, issue of The New Yorker, Hersey’s article was a media sensation, selling out that issue of the magazine, and a spectacular success when reprinted as a book a few months later. Nothing he did after—not his speculative novel imagining China conquering the United States and forcing its white citizens into slavery, White Lotus; not his nonfiction account of a grisly police murder in the 1967 Detroit riot, The Algiers Motel Incident (later fictionalized by Kathryn Bigelow in the film Detroit); not his social novel of bourgeois malaise, The Marmot Drive; not his commentary accompanying Ansel Adams’s photographs of Japanese-Americans interred in a concentration camp during World War II, Manzanar; not even his best-selling meditation on fishing, Blues—would reach the level of renown achieved by his slim book about the American atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Indeed, little of Hersey’s other work is read or remembered today. Most of it is out of print.

Sadly, I’m not here to tell you that Hersey is a forgotten genius awaiting rediscovery. Some of his work is plodding and mediocre. His formative years at Time and Life left a deadening, middlebrow mark on his style, blunting the edges of an otherwise singular perspective. Hersey is at his best in extremity, as in his war writing and in Hiroshima, where his restrained, sober voice is able to describe violence and horror that in the hands of a more lively writer might seem lurid. He can write about the panicked tension of a bombing run, a sniper attack, and people’s skin melting off their bodies without letting his prose turn purple, without trying to make his sentences perform the reaction the reader must feel. Hersey is often regarded as a progenitor of the New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, but he couldn’t be further from the antic gyrations of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, or Michael Herr, or even the brilliantly rococo self-dramatizations of Joan Didion. The title Treglown takes for his biography is apt: Not only morally but also stylistically, Hersey is “Mr. Straight Arrow.”

Yet Hersey’s writing is stranger and more obsessive than its conventional form would suggest. His lifelong fixation on East Asia and his insistent interest in the extremes of the human condition were no doubt related to a sense of alienation he seemed to have felt his entire life. His stories and books always seek out the victims of violence, the survivors, the men and women who are trampled by power yet find a way to keep going. Many of his stories might today raise ethical questions about co-opting others’ voices—victims of the atomic bomb, concentration camp survivors, black Americans brutalized by police violence—yet in his time he was one of the few to bring these stories into the mainstream of American culture.

He also happened to live during a time of epochal change, the dawn of what his employer of many years, Henry Luce, called “the American Century,” a period today shrouded in myth. People talk about “World War II–style mobilization,” the Marshall Plan, and the “Good War” without any real sense of what actually happened in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, or any apprehension of what those grim decades were like for the people who lived through them. We tend to forget that most Americans favored staying out of the war until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or that, after that attack, most Americans saw the war primarily as a mission of vengeance against the Japanese, who many thought deserved complete extermination. The racial hatred that swept America in the war years is well documented by historian John Dower in his book War Without Mercy, and exemplified by an iconic photo that ran in the May 22, 1944, issue of Henry Luce’s Life, showing a demure young woman gazingthoughtfully at the Japanese skull her Navy boyfriend had sent her.

Likewise, we might remember Hiroshima, in part thanks to Hersey, but we tend to forget that dropping the atomic bomb was seen by analysts at the time as militarily unnecessary, since Japan was already near collapse and suing for peace, and that the decision to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians was made largely as a show of force against Soviet Russia, to keep the Russian army from encroaching on America’s gains in East Asia, and because of technocratic inertia: So much money and effort had been sunk into the Manhattan Project that the “gadget” simply had to be used. We also tend to forget about the American napalm raids on Japan before Hiroshima, such as the firebombing of Tokyo, which killed more than 100,000 civilians and displaced more than a million people.

Recalling these atrocities puts Hersey’s groundbreaking work in its appropriate context. Hiroshima may have turned out a massive success, but it was written against the grain. Treglown’s careful study of Hersey’s life and work helps shed light on a time as distant and mythic to us today as the Wild West was to Hersey. Mr. Straight Arrow stands out in Treglown’s biography as a writer of empathy and curiosity, a writer whose plain style conveyed the desperate struggle for survival and dignity in the face of oppression, violence, and political chaos.

A classic insider-outsider, never quite at home in the elite world in which he moved, Hersey spent his career shuttling between the margins and the center, struggling to connect. Born in June 1914, just before the start of World War I, in the Chinese port city of Tientsin (now Tianjin), Hersey was the son of Protestant missionaries, which fact helped him get a scholarship spot at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut; he then entered Yale on another scholarship. His brother’s old Hotchkiss roommate, Sheldon Luce, helped get him a job offer from Henry Luce at Time-Life. He turned it down and spent a year studying English literature at Cambridge on a Mellon scholarship instead, then worked for a few months as a private secretary for Sinclair Lewis.

He took another shot at Time. Within two years, he was given a desk in the Foreign News section and sent to cover the war in China. He visited Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Chungking (Chongqing), saw Chiang Kai-shek, and returned to his birthplace, Tientsin, then occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army, just as a crisis broke out that nearly led to war between Japan and Great Britain. In autumn 1939, as Poland fell to German and Russian tanks, he courted Frances Ann Cannon, whose other beau, a roguish young man named Jack Kennedy, was seen by her parents as something of a problem.

Germany conquered France. Henry Luce published his now-famous editorial in Life declaring that in “The American Century,” the United States “must undertake now to be the Good Samaritan of the entire world.” Franklin Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease bill, enabling economic and military support for the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Free France, and China. In December 1941, the Japanese navy and army launched simultaneous surprise attacks on U.S. and British colonial military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, and Sarawak.

Within hours of the attack on the Philippines, an editor at Knopf asked Hersey to write about it. This invitation led to his first book, Men on Bataan, a hasty synthesis of interviews, correspondents’ cables, and biographical sketches, one part biography of General Douglas MacArthur, one part apologetic summary of MacArthur’s disastrous failed defense of the Philippines, and one part oral history of the soldiers who fought there. Hersey then convinced Luce to send him to . . .

Continue reading.



Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2019 at 4:46 pm

Miso is also okay wrt hypertension

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From page 318 of Greger’s How Not to Die:

Cancer isn’t the primary reason people are told to avoid salt, though. What about miso soup and high blood pressure? There may be a similar relationship. The salt in miso may push up your blood pressure while the soy protein in miso may lower it back down.31 For example, if you compare the effects of soy milk to skim milk (to make a fairer comparison by removing the saturated butterfat factor), soy milk lowers blood pressure about nine times more effectively than skim dairy milk.32 Would the benefits of soy be enough to counter the effects of the salt in miso, though? Japanese researchers decided to find out.

Over a four-year period, they tracked men and women in their sixties who started out with normal blood pressures to see who was more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure: those who had two or more bowls of miso soup a day or those who had one or less. Two bowls a day would be like adding half a teaspoon of salt to your daily diet, yet those who consumed at least that much miso were found to have five times lower risk of becoming hypertensive. The researchers concluded: “Our results on miso-soup have shown that [the] anti-hypertensive effect of miso is possibly above [the] hypertensive effect of salt.”33 So miso soup may actually be protective overall.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2019 at 3:36 pm

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