Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I was reading an interesting excerpt from Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker PhD about how our sleep patterns are the key to a much longer life. According to him, we are not sleeping the way our distant ancestors  did, the way Nature intended us to.

Walker states that in olden times, in hunter-gatherer societies, people enjoyed a biphasic sleep pattern, seven or eight hours in bed at night resulting in about seven hours of sleep , along with a 30-60 minute nap in the afternoon. Furthermore, the nightly slumbers usually began 2-3 hours after dusk, around 9pm and lasted until dawn. No doubt, this was because those early cultures did not have the benefit of electric light and even firelight represented a drain on scarce resources.

Nowadays, in the post industrial age, we have been forced into a mono-phasic sleep pattern in which we sleep  for less than seven hours a night. Typically, this begins late at night though we still wake up quite early. And ,of course, modern office hours don’t permit the taking of an afternoon nap.

In support of his argument, that this enforced monophasic pattern is harmful to health, Walker points to a study of people who had to switch from a biphasic to a monophasic sleep pattern. Previously, they had office hours that incorporated an afternoon siesta but  were then forced to fall in line with the rest of the world and work regular 9 to 5 shifts. This study showed that over 6 years, these people suffered a 37% increased risk of death due to heart disease. Another statistic: People on the Greek island of Ikaria were four times as likely  to reach the age of ninety as Americans did.

When I began to read this excerpt, I did so with an open mind, but the more I read the more my doubts began to mount. Firstly, even if a biphasic sleep pattern is ” natural”, most of us never enjoyed it once we started our working lives. So how could we feel deprived of something we never had? Just as some factory workers, medical staff and others  get used to working the night shift, is it not likely that a monophasic pattern is becomes the new standard for us? In any case, what choice do we have? There is no way we will be able to shift back to a biphasic pattern. Even nations that enjoyed a siesta are switching to a 9 to 5 schedule.

As for those people in Ikaria who have a four times greater chance of living to the age of ninety, can this be attributed solely to their biphasic sleep pattern? These people are mostly farmers or shepherds; they work hard, live in an unpolluted environment,  eat a healthy Mediterranean diet and have a less stressful lifestyle. Is it not likely that these factors all contribute to their longevity?

I think so.

I also think that , as long as one gets a minimum of seven hours of sleep daily, it doesn’t matter if it occurs all at once or in two or more installments. When the mind and body need rest, the person craves sleep. As long as that need is satisfied, you are fine. I find that, with  most of my friends who are retired, an afternoon nap is an imperative, partly because they tire more easily and partly because they no longer get seven hours uninterrupted sleep at night. One of my friends who is in his eighties wrote me to say that the day’s activities are now accomplished ” between naps”.

So… never mind about terms like monophasic or biphasic.  Just listen to your body and all will be well.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Pie Five Pizza Co. is a franchise operation headquartered in Texas which recently opened a new outlet in Riya Plaza at the junction of Finnegan’s Lane and Route 27 in Franklin Park. It is different from most other pizzerias in that it offers patrons the opportunity to build their own pies. Pie Five is the first in our area to do so and it’s definitely worth a visit. Their pizzas taste fresh, light and homemade, unlike the heavy, greasy pies at many pizza chain outlets.

If you want to stick to the standard options, Pie Five has seven: Five Star, BBQ Chicken, Chicken Carbonara, Athenian, High Five, Buffalo Chicken and Farmers Market. The Five Star features Tuscan Marinara sauce, cheddar, pepperoni, beef, Italian sausage, green peppers, green olives, black olives and red onions. The Farmers Market is similarly loaded with Tuscan marinara, mushrooms, red onions, spinach, tomatoes  and red and green peppers.

If, on the other hand, you want to build your own pizza, you can specify the type of crust, the sauce, the cheese, the meats, the veggies and the finishes. For the crust you can choose between Crispy thin, Traditional Italian, Classic Pan, and (for $2 extra), Gluten Free. For the cheese you have a choice of Whole Milk Mozzarella, Cheddar, Ricotta, Shredded Parmesan and Vegan Cheese ($2 extra). All in all, there are literally thousands of different combinations you can create. An 11” pizza is $7.99 ($5.99 for a plain pie) and a 14”is $ 15.99   ($12.99, plain).

One of the things I love about Pie Five is that you can have unlimited toppings at no additional charge, a nice change from pizzerias that charge $2 for each topping. Pie Five has separate stations and ovens for vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizzas, friendly welcoming staff and a clean environment. Patrons place their orders, take their seats to wait for their orders which are completed in minutes.

In addition to Pizzas, Pie Five also offers Salads (Classic Italian, Chicken Caesar, Greek and Spinach), Bread Stix, and desserts (Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ultimate Brownies and Cinnamon Stix).

Six of us ate at Pie Five, ordering five 11- inch pizzas in a variety of toppings, sauces and crusts. Since each pizza was cut into six slices, it worked out perfectly… five slices for each of us. Just right. At the time of writing, Pie Five was applying for a permit to allow patrons to BYOB; the manager was hopeful that they would get it in a matter of weeks.

 We ate at Pie Five when it had only just opened. Understandably, the service staff were still feeling their way, and patrons, unfamiliar with the system, were taking their time with their options.I expect the glitches will soon be fixed.

Pie Five Pizza Co. 3010 Route 27, Franklin Park NJ 08824.   Phone ( 732)  305-7937

Read Full Post »

Even though India lost the Test series to South Africa 2-1, and even though their lone victory came after the series was already decided, the Indian team’s performance was commendable and the result as good we could have expected. Even in the first two tests, India were always in the game and had their catching been better and had they fielded the right team, they could have won at least one of the first two matches and taken the series 2-1. This is not to offer excuses or indulge in ” coulda, shoulda, woulda.” South Africa won the series all right but for Indian fans there is much to be happy about. Topmost among them is the lion hearted performance of our bowlers. In all three tests, India were able to bowl out South Africa in both innings, a feat rarely achieved by past touring sides from India. Before the tour started, I’d been very curious about how our pacemen would fare on  the fast sporting South African tracks. They did just fine. True, they did not always bowl the right lengths and were sometimes wayward in their deliveries but overall they acquitted themselves very well. When they were all bowling well, they mounted sustained pressure on the Proteas batsmen.  Bhuvaneshwar was magnificent, Ishant slightly less so. Shami and Bumrah were not always consistent in their lines and lengths but they had their moments. Overall, a very good performance by the unit.

The other thing that is praiseworthy is the fighting spirit displayed by the entire team, particularly the batsmen who stood up to a fiery pace attack in the second innings at Wanderers. On a pitch with unpredictable bounce with balls rearing up sharply, the entire team showed grit as they compiled a match-winning total of 247. This sort of stout hearted resistance has not often been seen in past Indian teams. Full credit to the batsmen and to Kohli for fostering this never-say-die attitude. Kohli also deserves accolades for his batting in the series, never more than in the second test when he gave a batting masterclass in the course of his superb innings of 153.

On the other hand, Kohli also deserves censure for the team selection. No matter what he says, I’m sure his was the decisive voice in selecting the playing XI. He has tried to justify his moves in selecting Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma over K.L.Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane but his reasoning doesn’t hold water. The first two have well deserved reputations for being vulnerable on seaming tracks. Meanwhile,  Rahane was not only India’s best batsman in matches abroad but India’s best slip fielder. To have persisted with this folly in the second test while also leaving out Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, India’s most successful bowler in the first test, was indefensible. I cannot help thinking that Rahane was omitted because Kohli sees him as a possible rival for the captaincy.

One wonders what would have happened if Anil Kumble were still the coach rather than Ravi Shastri who doesn’t seem to do much. Shastri  seems to go along with everything that Kohli wants and he also does not provide anything in the way of strategy or coaching. If Kumble had been in his place, one feels things would have been quite different. There would not have been these selection blunders and Team India would not have been so sloppy in the field. Kumble is just as committed to winning as Kohli is even though his style is different. When Kumble was let go, we were told that unnamed team members thought he was too much of a taskmaster. Well, perhaps a task master is just what was needed for this young team. Perhaps then we would not have seen spectacles like Pandya being run because he failed to ground his bat, Pujara being run out twice in the second test and Pandya and Shami colliding as they fluffed a chance for a simple catch. Kumble’s experience would also have been invaluable to the bowlers. And finally, Kumble would have reined in Kohli’s aggressiveness and his unnecessary abrasiveness. As it is, Kohli is not making any friends for India with his behavior and is a terrible role model for the team.

Still, this has been a good start to the tour and cricket fans will be waiting with bated breath to see what happens in the ODIs and T20Is. Having run South Africa close in the Test series will have immeasurably increased the team’s confidence.

Go India.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

In all of December 2017, Moscow received exactly six minutes of sunlight. Six minutes…. over thirty-one days!! The rest of the time it was cloudy and overcast. Not that last December was much worse than usual. The average amount of sunlight that Muscovites enjoyed in other Decembers was eighteen minutes. Still pitiful.

The lack of sunlight, the early darkness and the longer nights are the things that bother me most about winter. The cold and the snow of a New Jersey winter I can handle particularly since I don’t have to worry about shoveling the driveway ( taken care as part of the maintenance package in our development) or going to work ( I’m retired). What’s also good is that, in New Jersey, there are usually aren’t periods of sustained cold and that, even when it is cold, the sun is out almost every day. We count sunlight hours , not minutes… unlike Moscow. And what a difference it makes. True, the sunlight is weak. It doesn’t matter. Just the fact that the sun is shining is enough; that we can see it provides a lift to the spirit. We had some days last week when the temperature was in the teens ( 14 deg. F = minus 8C) but this week it is in the mid-forties ( about 7 deg. C). It’s a big difference and one almost feels warm today.

And winter has its compensations. It snowed last week  (about 4 inches) and, because it was below freezing, the snow froze and clung to the tree branches like icicles. I was driving to the supermarket and it was a fairytale setting with the snow covered fields and the ice clad trees. By today, all the snow had melted and one was left with the stark beauty of barren fields and leafless trees. There was also the knowledge that this is a passing phase. February is usually the coldest, snowiest month but then there is the promise of spring . Winter just makes us appreciate it more.

San Diego is said to have the perfect weather.. sunny all year around with the temperature never far from 70degrees F.  I admit that it sometimes sounds attractive but then I think it would soon become boring. ( Another perfect day… Ho hum). Give me New Jersey and the change of seasons any day.

 

Read Full Post »

While watching the smash hit  Netflix series The Crown, I was struck by how the Duke of Windsor has gone from being a hero to a shallow,  selfish dilettante and quite likely a Nazi sympathizer. Initially, he was admired by many of my parents’ generation for giving up the throne of England to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. That view has long since been discarded. Historians now feel that it was lucky for his country that he abdicated, paving the way for his younger brother to become King George VI.  By all accounts, the latter was a man of sterling character who overcame his insecurities and worked well with the wartime prime minister Winston Churchill to guide Britain through her darkest days. The Duke meanwhile was an embarrassment who was appointed Commissioner to the Bahamas to keep him out of the way and spent his later years as little more than a pitiful shell of a man who spent his days travelling and attending endless parties.

An even more striking example of changing perceptions is Herbert Hoover, the most derided American president of his time. His image is forever tarnished by his ineffectiveness during the Great Depression  which began in October 1929, just eight months after his inauguration. Hoover’s insistence on balancing the budget even at the cost of raising taxes sent the economy into a tailspin from which it never recovered until FDR succeeded him. And yet, there was much about Hoover that was laudable. His early years read like a Horatio Alger story. Orphaned at age 9, he was sent to live with an uncle who disregarded the young boy’s brightness.   He was sent to work as an office boy even  before he completed high school. At age 17, he passed an entrance exam that enabled him to attend Stanford University, then a free school. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in geology, he was unable to find an engineering job. He took a job loading ore carts at a gold mine in Nevada City  CA, working 10 hours a day, seven days a week for the miserable pittance of ten cents an hour. After several years of this dead end job, he was chosen as trouble shooter for a British mining company where he rose to become chief engineer. When World War I broke out he helped evacuate Americans stranded in Europe by the war and displayed remarkable efficiency in bringing home 120,000 of them home. His finest moments were after the war when he was chosen to head The Committee for Relief in Belgium. At the time, Belgium was in sad shape , its  farms destroyed, its factories shut and its food stocks depleted. The Belgians were in grave danger of starving but Hoover managed to supply them with 20,000 tons of food, every week for a period of 2-1/2 years – a feat which made him an international hero and earned him the title of the Great Humanitarian. However, a  recent book by Bill Bryson is not so laudatory. Bryson’s book says that Hoover missed no opportunity to publicize his humanitarian work and that others, such as Myron Herrick, the U.S ambassador to France worked just as tirelessly but never sought the spotlight. So how should Hoover be remembered … for his humanitarian feats or for his ineffective Presidency? There is no easy answer.

In bygone days, celebrities were usually protected from the results of their peccadilloes and their character flaws hidden from the public. JFK , for instance, was  a serial womanizer whose affairs were kept under wraps until long after his assassination. Journalists felt an obligation to do so out of respect for the President, the position not the man. In those days, there was too little information about public figures. Nowadays, there is too much. Every action is dissected, audio and video equipment intrudes on every moment, public or private. News is mostly opinion and it is difficult to know what the truth really is.

The British cricket writer , Peter Roebuck, tells in his autobiography of a chance encounter with a soldier.  At the time, Roebuck had been dealt with rather shabbily by the powers that be. The soldier approached, shook his hand, wished him well and said” The closer you get to men of substance, the more they seem like shadows.”

How true.

Read Full Post »

I love Thai food. I love the soups, satays, crunchy spring rolls, green papaya salad,  curries ( red, green, yellow and Masaman), stir fries flavored with basil, noodle dishes      ( Pad thai, flat noodles , glass noodles), the desserts. I have been eating at Thai restaurants for the better part of fifty years and on occasion, even cook it at home. I think I know a little bit about it. I was surprised therefore to read an article in the New York Times magazine complaining that Thai restaurant food in America has become too sweet. This couldn’t be true, I thought. I remember Thai food as being predominantly spicy and sour, not sweet.

In the past two months, I’ve been to three Thai restaurants, two in New Jersey and one in Henderson, Nevada and guess what… the food, especially the noodle dishes, was too sweet. At one of those places, the pad thai was so sweet it could have passed for dessert. When did this happen? Was my memory playing tricks or had Thai food always been sweet?

A little internet research showed me that complaints about Thai food are not new. Ten years ago, one commenter sagely declared ” When you ease up on the heat, the balance goes wrong”. Another groused ” I hate this creeping sweetness thing. ” Yet another implored ” Don’t cater to the American sweet tooth this way.” As far as that last comment is concerned, I am glad to inform you that we are not solely to be blamed. Similar criticisms were voiced by restaurant goers in countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Apparently, Thai food was not always sweet. But when did it become so?

To answer this question, I looked up several Thai cookbooks and found that while many recipes did call for sugar or palm sugar, the quantities varied widely. In cookbooks published in Thailand and in blogs based in Asia, the quantities of sugar specified were appreciably smaller. I next looked up pad thai recipes in several blogs and cookbooks. I found that for the same quantity of noodles, the amount of sugar called for varied from a low of 1 teaspoon to a high of 1-1/2 Tablespoons  (more than four times as much). One recipe in the N.Y. Times  even specified 1/3 cup of honey.

It looks as if Thai food was made sweeter over the years to suit the Western palate. Many Westerners can’t handle spicy food and rather than drive them away, restaurateurs added sugar, lots of it, to their dishes while also cutting back on the heat. I confirmed this by speaking to my daughter who has spent a month in Thailand. She agreed that while Thai recipes, particularly the noodle dishes, did often include sugar the food was not overly sweet.

One final thought: In all the neighboring countries of Asia ( Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia) the food is always spicy and often sour. Does it make sense that only in Thailand it is sweet? No way.  The New York Times article was right. The food in many Thai restaurants in America is too sweet and  it is inauthentic.

 

Read Full Post »

Tipping or service charges are so much a part of eating out in America that it is strange to be in an environment where tipping is not the norm. Five years ago, on a trip to Tokyo, we were taken aback to find that tips were not expected, where they were politely returned to us. We learned quickly and did not repeat our mistake. It was a practice that I wish existed elsewhere.

Though I always add tips when paying restaurant tabs, it is something that leaves me feeling either foolish or parsimonious. Did I tip too little or too much? Sometimes, I am not sure. Years ago, 15% was the standard tip, then it became 18%. Now , we are told it should be 20%, even 25% for exceptional service. Why? Why do these standards keep changing, always going up? Also, initially, the percentage was supposed to be calculated on the food and beverage cost; then it switched to a percentage of the entire bill, including tax. Finally, with the hefty markup on wines and drinks, the expected tip increases out of all proportion to the service being provided.

Tips were supposed to be optional, not mandatory. Now, they are expected as a right. They are even suggested and encouraged where they should not be. At the coffee shop where I pick up a bagel and coffee, there is a tip jar on the counter. What exactly is the tip for in this instance? For ringing up my order and handing it to me? I don’t buy it.

Service charges are not the answer. They merely mean a mandatory tip, whether the service is good or not and just take the guesswork out of figuring out what is appropriate. Besides, one has way of knowing how much of the service charge actually goes to the wait-staff and how much is skimmed off by the management, something I suspect happens a lot.

By not including the service in the basic cost of the meal, restaurants are doing what the airlines do. Keeping the stated price low and then socking customers with extras. Airlines do it to hide the true cost of a flight; restaurant owners do it to pass on the cost to diners and to avoid paying employees a living wage.

I’m glad therefore glad to read that some restaurants ( many of them owned by Danny Meyer) in New York City have abolished the practice of tipping. The prices listed on the menu ( plus tax) are the total cost of the meal. No hidden charges. This way, I can look at the prices on the online menu and decide whether a particular restaurant is worthwhile or whether it is too rich for my blood.

P.S The above might make me seem a curmudgeon but I don’t think I am. I am careful to tip ( and quite generously too) at ordinary restaurants. At low end restaurants, I tip more because I know the servers don’t make much. What gets my goat is the outsize charge for service at the upper end restaurants that I occasionally eat at.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

Two Harvard students relive the magic and music of old Bollywood cinema

Golden Ripples

About Food, Travel, Sports , Books and other fun things

47 Japanese Farms: Japan Through The Eyes of Its Rural Communities -- 47日本の農園

A journey through 47 prefectures to capture the stories of Japan's farmers and rural communities

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

%d bloggers like this: