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I came across this study this morning, and it boggles the mind.

Chronic radiation is defined as the radiation received slowly or in a low-dose-rate from various sources. It is completely different in nature to the acute gamma or neutron radiation generated from the atomic bomb explosions that occurred in Japan at the end of World War II. Tantalizing insights from people living in higher-than-normal background radiation areas in the world and from nuclear energy workers receiving excess radiation over long years have suggested that chronic radiation might paradoxically be beneficial to humans. However, in the absence of an epidemiological study, it has been impossible to conclude whether chronic radiation is harmless or indeed beneficial to human beings. Fortuitously, an incredible Co-60 contamination incident occurred in Taiwan 21 years ago, which provided the data necessary to demonstrate that chronic radiation is beneficial to human beings.

Chronic Radiation Is Beneficial to Human Beings by Yuan-Chi Luan

luan.chart

I hope I’ve been exposed to similarly beneficial radiation and or contaminants during my time here in Taiwan.

Last week, I encountered a dilemma of the sort that I’m really not qualified to deal with… and yet I had to. A new virus has been all over the news in Taiwan. To me, it doesn’t seem like much more than a particularly nasty flu, but a few children have already died from it. Some of the more excitable newscasters have even compared it with SARS. While I fully understand the need to effectively quarantine outbreaks, I felt that the media and the populace at large panicked to an undue degree during the SARS outbreak a few years ago.

One of my students’ schools closed her classes down for 10 days. She wasn’t sick herself; it was a precautionary measure. I hadn’t even been aware of this fact, until some of my other students’ parents started suggesting that we not let her come to my classes for a week and a half. I thought this was ridiculous. If they felt the risk was that high, they could keep their own kids at home. Barring any occurrence of conclusive symptoms in her, or a fever at the very least, it seemed unfair to bar her from my class.

Without my knowledge, the secretary called her parents and said something to the effect that all the parents would need to meet before the next class and decide what to do with her. Her parents mistook that to mean that we didn’t want her there, and decided to pull her completely. They were wounded at the idea that everyone thought of their daughter as a “disease carrier” or something to that effect. The speed at which these events happened was pretty shocking. Others seemed likely to pull their own kids if she weren’t kept out of the class. Virtually as soon as I knew anything was wrong at all, parents were taking sides and passions were flaring.

What a mess. In the end, a great deal of talking and smoothing of ruffled feathers (along with a drop in media coverage of this flu) smoothed everything out. We really should have a standard set of procedures to deal with this sort of problem.

This is the second part of The Enemies of Reason, in which Professor Dawkins interviewed various practitioners of pseudo-science. In this video, Dawkins focuses on the booming alternative health business:

It’s the hottest alternative health fad. It boasts and impressively vast and well-stocked medical cabinet; it’s endorsed by royalty and the stars, and is doing a booming trade in high street pharmacies. Five hundred million people world-wide claim to use it.

What is it? It’s a system for dosing up on a dilute solution of… water.

Related Posts: The Enemies of Reason: Richard Dawkins on Astrology

Milton Friedman, who passed away less than a year ago, was undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of our time.

Milton Friedman (July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) was an American Nobel Laureate economist and public intellectual. An advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, Friedman made major contributions to the fields of macroeconomics, microeconomics, economic history and statistics. In 1976, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his achievements in the fields of consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and for his demonstration of the complexity of stabilization policy.[1]

According to The Economist, Friedman “was the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it.”[2] Alan Greenspan stated “There are very few people over the generations who have ideas that are sufficiently original to materially alter the direction of civilization. Milton is one of those very few people.”[3] In his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman advocated minimizing the role of government in a free market as a means of creating political and social freedom.

Wikipedia: Milton Friedman

Friedman’s words about the War on Drugs are just as relevant today as they were two decades ago. Currently, America leads the entire world in prison population, both in total number, and on a per-capita basis.

The proper role of the government is to prevent other people from harming an individual. Government never has any right to interfere with an individual for that individual’s own good. The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from over eating.
We all know that over-eating causes more deaths than drugs do.”

-Milton Friedman

The following video is about Milton’s idea about the limited role of government:

Milton’s definitive work on the subject, considered by many to be amongst the 100 most influential post WWII books ever written, is Capitalism and Freedom.

MSG must be one of the most maligned and misunderstood food components of the modern world. Superstition and fears about it are ubiquitous in the west, and yet, as Jeffery Steingarten, the great American food critic once put it,

“If MSG is bad for you, then why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache?”

Or perhaps a better question would be, “How is it that the inventors of it, the Japanese, outlive everyone else on the planet?”
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(For those of you who can’t wait for the answer, it’s wulong tea.)
Today, I stumbled across a page called Tea From Taiwan, via Angelica’s blog. At first glance it seemed to be suffering from a serious case of over optimizing for search engines. Search engines from 1997, that is. On the home page, I saw the word “oolong” fifteen times, “wulong” 17 times, including the title, and a couple of “wu longs” and an “wulung”. If only search engines still rewarded web masters for this sort of thing!

oolong vs wulongFortunately, there’s a page to clear up any confusion that comes from being alternately bombarded with “oolong” and “wulong”. Unfortunately, the page is about as misinformative as is possible in such a small space.
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While living in Guatemala, before I came to Taiwan, I developed something of a cast-iron guy. Sure, I was sick, really sick, for the first month or so. But after that, it seemed like I could eat just about whatever I wanted to there and I didn’t get sick anymore. I tried not to drink the tap water, though I’m sure most of the ice I had there came from the tap, but I basically just ate the same stuff everyone else did. By the time I left, there was no way that wussy Taiwanese bacteria in the foods at the markets would get to me. Great, right? Well… not really.

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This week was “Walk to School Week. The 國語日報 had an article on it:

為了宣導小朋友走路上學的好處,臺北縣市,高雄市選定本週作為”走路上學週”,昨天一大早,台北市教育局長吳清基就站在文昌國小校門口,一一為小朋友的”走路上學週護照”貼上認證貼紙; 台北縣長周錫瑋也到江翠國小擔任一日導護志工.

許多原先騎車,開車帶著小朋友上學的家長,遠遠的就讓小孩下車,讓小朋友經由”安全走廊”自己進入校園.

This is great! The government has decided to declare “Walk to School Week” to draw attention to the benefits of walking to school. Top officials are even standing at the gates of schools to give the kids who walk stickers to put in their “Walk to School Passports”. So what’s the response? Numerous parents who normally drive their kids to school are dropping them off a ways away from school and letting them walk the rest of the way. While I doubt this program will have much success, I’m all for seeing exercise and environmentalism promoted.

I’ll add pinyin popups and translations soon.

I haven’t started my diet yet, but I have been taking advantage of my gym membership now that I live in a city that actually has gyms. I have two basic sorts of weightlifting workouts. My “pushing” workout consists of bench presses, dumbbell shoulder raises, dips, and a tricep isolation exercise. My “pulling” workout consists of lat pulls, rows, and bicep curls. I also have two basic running workouts. My “short” runs are 10 minutes long and I try to keep my heart rate around 180 beats per minute. My “normal” runs are 40 minutes long and I try to run at 80% of the speed of my most recent short runs. Here’s my basic workout plan:
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Tomorrow, I turn 28. That means that one more year of my life is gone, and that I can’t have it back, ever. All my decisions, conscious and unconscious, have taken what was once an infinite tree of years that could have been, and ruthlessly pruned them down to a single year that was. Some things were good- I made some great friends that I will likely know for many more years to come, I managed to save about a thousand $US a month, and I found a great way to express myself and organize my thoughts in blogging. Other things weren’t so good- I’ve gotten even more out of shape, I haven’t learned too much Chinese, and I haven’t made so much progress in terms of career development. As such, I need to choose goals for my next year, now.

Before I turn 29, I’ll…

  • Improve my Chinese: I’ll learn how to read and write 500 more Chinese characters, and I’ll also read at least five kid’s books in Chinese.
  • Lose 50 pounds: I know I don’t look it, but I’m 225 pounds. I know I’ll be losing a fair bit of muscle as I drop down to 175; I’m aware of the trade-offs, and I accept them.
  • Be a good friend to at least two more people than I am now.
  • Give more: instead of just giving a tenth of my income to charity, I’ll also give some of my time to help those less fortunate than I am. It’s a small start, but I’ll do at least 20 hours of volunteer work.
  • Enjoy the good things: I’ll think less about what I’m unhappy with, and more about what I have to be grateful for.