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When Shakespeare committed word crimes

Eupraxsophy:

It is astounding how many phrases, metaphors, and common words can be attributed to Shakespeare.

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

Shakespeare coined new words when he needed — or merely wanted — them. Can you guess which words were invented by the Bard?

English heading into the sixteenth century was a makeshift, cobbled-together thing. No fewer than eight conquering peoples had added to our vocabulary and shaped our syntax. But the Brits were doing more than just borrowing, swiping and outright stealing words from other languages. Versifiers like Chaucer let newfangled words from the street amble onto the literary stage – newfangled and amble being two of them.

By the time Elizabethan dramatists sought expression for ever-more sophisticated sentiments, crowds cheered their linguistic daring.

A short list of verbs invented by the Bard:

arouse
besmirch
bet
drug
dwindle
hoodwink
hurry
puke
rant
swagger

Shakespeare also minted new metaphors, many now clichés, but fresh in his time:

it’s Greek to me
played fast and loose
slept not one wink
seen better days

View original 522 more words

Lessons From The World’s Blue Zones

One of the major motivations to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and engage in healthy lifestyles is to enjoy a long and quality life. Most people want to enjoy as many fruitful and productive years as possible, and thankfully advances in medicine and nutrition are making it easier than ever.

But the key to longevity and productive old age may be a lot simpler and more accessible, if the world’s “Blue Zones” are any indication. These are regions in the world – Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica – that are known for having the highest number of centenarians (those living at or past 100) in the world.

In fact, not only do these Blue Zoners live long lives, but perhaps more importantly, they enjoy fairly robust mental and physical faculties: despite their advanced age, they are active, alert, happy, and lacking the diseases and disabilities that usually afflict people decades younger, let alone at or near 100.

So what do people in these communities – which span different cultures, climates, and environments – do to stay so healthy for so long?

Well, they each have their differences: for example, Sardinians consume a lot of fava beans and red wine, residents of Loma Linda, California are known for eating copious amounts of nuts and legumes, and Okinawans heavily utilize the spice turmeric in their diet.

This suggests that there are different paths to having a long and healthy life. But the similarities are what are especially informative. Here is a breakdown from NPR:

Ikaria, Greece

You may remember this Blue Zone from Buettner’s wonderful 2012 New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Island Where People Forget To Die.”

As we’ve reported, health researchers have long praised the Mediterranean diet for promoting brain and physical health and keeping chronic diseases at bay. So what makes the diet of the people on Ikaria, a small island in the Aegean Sea, so special?

“Their tradition of preparing the right foods, in the right way, I believe, has a lot to do with the island’s longevity,” writes Buettner.

And “what set it apart from other places in the region was its emphasis on potatoes, goat’s milk, honey, legumes (especially garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils), wild greens, some fruit and relatively small amounts of fish.”

Ikaria has a few more “top longevity foods:” feta cheese, lemons and herbs like sage and marjoram that Ikarians use in their daily tea. What’s missing that we usually associate with Greece? Lamb. The Ikarians do eat some goat meat, but not often.

Okinawa, Japan

Buettner calls the islands of Okinawa a kind of “Japanese Hawaii” for their laid-back vibe, beaches and fabulous weather. Okinawa also happens to have one of the highest centenarian ratios in the world: About 6.5 in 10,000 people live to 100 (compare that with 1.73 in 10,000 in the U.S.)

Centenarians on Okinawa have lived through a lot of upheaval, so their dietary stories are more complicated than some of the other Blue Zones. As Buettner writes, many healthful Okinawan “food traditions foundered mid-century” as Western influence brought about changes in food habits. After 1949, Okinawans began eating fewer healthful staples like seaweed, turmeric and sweet potato and more rice, milk and meat.

Still, Okinawans have nurtured the practice of eating something from the land and the sea every day. Among their “top longevity foods” are bitter melons, tofu, garlic, brown rice, green tea and shitake mushrooms.

Sardinia, Italy

On this beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean, the ratio of centenarian men to women is one to one. That’s quite unusual, because in the rest of the world, it’s five women to every one man who live that long.

The sharp pecorino cheese made from the milk of grass-fed sheep in Sardinia, has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Buettner writes that the Sardinians explain their exceptional longevity with their assets such as “clean air,” “locally produced wine,” or because they “make love every Sunday.” But when Buettner brought along a researcher to dig deeper, they found that pastoralism, or shepherding livestock from the mountains to the plains, was most highly correlated with reaching 100.

So what are those ancient Sardinian shepherds eating? You guessed it: goat’s milk and sheep’s cheese — some 15 pounds of cheese per year, on average. Also, a moderate amount of carbs to go with it, like flat bread, sourdough bread and barley. And to balance those two food groups out, Sardinian centenarians also eat plenty of fennel, fava beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, almonds, milk thistle tea and wine from Grenache grapes.

Loma Linda, Calif.

There’s a Blue Zone community in the U.S.? We were as shocked to learn this as you may be. Its members are Seventh-day Adventists who shun smoking, drinking and dancing and avoid TV, movies and other media distractions.

Tofu links sold in Loma Linda, Calif. The Blue Zones research shows that adherents of the Adventist diet, which is mostly plant-based, have lowest rates of heart disease and diabetes in the U.S. and very low rates of obesity.
David Mclain/Courtesy of Blue Zones

They also follow a “biblical” diet focused on grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, and drink only water. (Some of them eat small amounts of meat and fish.) Sugar is taboo, too. As one Loma Linda centenarian tells Buettner: “I’m very much against sugar except natural sources like fruit, dates or figs. I never eat refined sugar or drink sodas.”

Gary Fraser, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at Loma Linda University and an Adventist himself, has found in studies that Adventists who follow the religion’s teachings lived about 10 years longer than people who didn’t. Another key insight? Pesco-vegetarians in the community, who ate a plant-based diet with up to one serving of fish a day, lived longer than vegan Adventists.

Their top foods include avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and soy milk.

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

We’d love to be invited for dinner by a centenarian here, where they #putaneggonit all the time. One delicious-sounding meal Buettner was served by a 99-year-old woman (who’s now 107) consisted of rice and beans, garnished with cheese and cilantro, on corn tortillas, with an egg on top.

As Buettner writes, “The big secret of the Nicoyan diet was the ‘three sisters’ of Mesoamerican agriculture: beans, corn and squash.” Those three staples, plus papayas, yams, bananas and peach palms (a small Central American oval fruit high in vitamins A and C), are what fuel the region’s elders over the century.

Here is a visual of the data from three of the earliest discovered Blue Zones (absent Nicoya and Ikaria, though they too meet at the middle):

Source: Wikimedia

So to recap: people in Blue Zones tend to enjoy varied diets made up of fresh and whole foods, particularly greens, nuts, herbs, and seafood; they consume portions that are often smaller than average, with an emphasis on eating only enough to be satiated (rather than stuffed); and they tend to eat little meat proportionally, aside from lean cuts and seafood.

Beyond diet, Blue Zone residents engage in regular moderate exercise – usually walking, gardening, or yard work – and also maintain active social and community lives, especially with their families. They maintain an easy-going and slow pace of life, often setting aside time to relax and de-stress. Smoking is also virtually nonexistent.

In short, the people living in Blue Zones work on all dimensions of a healthy life: not just a healthy diet, but a modest and light one; strong social ties with an even stronger, life-affirming dedication to family and the community; and an appreciation of the finer things in life, like a nice walk or time to unwind, which does wonders for mental health.

Though there is still a lot of research to be done, the evidence seems clear: a long and healthy life doesn’t require anything fancy or technological, but the sort of diet and values that are accessible to most of us — at least up to a point.

It is telling that among the handful of similarities common to all the Blue Zones was strong family and social ties and healthy community life. I think it says as much about the importance of building a good and generous society, and what such a relatively prosperous society may look like, then its does about the importance diet (which is just one dimension of overall health and wellness).

Just as physical and mental health are intricately intertwined, so too are individual and community health. It is much easier and more feasible to live a long and healthy life when your society provides the sort of stability, socioeconomic support, and environment to facilitate it all.

When your economic system requires you to work long, punishing hours at too fast of a pace to relax; when your food distribution system makes fresh produce expensive or inaccessible, and conversely makes less healthy processed food plentiful in its place; and when your society lacks mutually beneficial values of generosity and altruism, it is a lot harder for most people to maximize the potential of their minds and bodies.

Here is hoping that Blue Zones become less of an anomaly and more of a model to emulate and expand elsewhere. We see clear examples of the sorts of behaviors and

Video: How Cinnamon is Harvested

Like so many other staple foodstuffs, cinnamon (also known as cassia) is taken for granted. Most people have no idea that two-thirds of the world supply comes from Indonesia, specifically the Kerinci Valley on the island of Sumatra.

This short two-minute video shows how this sustainable crop is harvested, in traditional means unchanged for centuries.

There is a lot of artistry involved in the whole process, not to mention a tremendous amount of time and hard work. In addition to making me crave cinnamon (which may have several positive health benefits to boot), the video made me appreciate how much human labor goes into all the food, spices, and other commodities we see as plentiful and widely accessible.

Hat tip to Gizmodo for sharing the video.

Iran’s Ancient Ice Houses

A yakhchal (“ice pit”) is an ancient type of cooler invented in Iran around 400 B.C.E. to store ice for the summer. The ice would either be brought in from nearby mountains during the winter, or more commonly would be channeled through a qanat (aqueduct) that would run along a wall built close to the yakhchal.

Credit: John Moore / Getty / Business Insider

During the cool winter season, the shadow of the wall would freeze the water more quickly, and the ice would be taken to the yakhchal, which had thick walls composed of a special mortar call sarooj (composed of specific proportions of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash). This substance was resistant to heat transfer and almost impenetrable to water. Some yakhchal had windcatchers built at the top to bring down the temperature inside on hot days.

The stored ice would be used to chill treats make a special dessert called faloodeh, one of the world’s earliest kinds of ice cream (made of thin corn starch noodles mixed in a semi-frozen syrup made from sugar and rose water, sometimes with lime or ground pistachios added).

As a testament to their superb engineering, many yakhchal built hundreds of years ago are still around today, like the one pictured above from the town of Abarqu, or the following from Meybod.

Credit: Wikimedia

The World’s Best Passports

Well, by best, I mean in terms of providing visa-free access (although you can see a discussion regarding stylistic and aesthetic appeal here).

As seasoned travellers know better than anyone, certain countries require you to obtain a visa in order to enter; this document is separate from a passport, which is issued by governments to certify the identity and nationality of an individual for international travel.

Thus, the most convenient and desirable passports are those that do not necessitate a visa for permission to enter another country; in essence, the nation that the passport represents has special privileges to come and go without needing to obtain any additional documents (the difficulty or ease of which varies from government to government)

Arton Capital, a financial advisory firm, has created a colorful and interactive “Passport Index” that ranks passports by how many countries they give you access to without a visa.

Here is a brief breakdown of the results by the Washington Post (Note that there are a total of 193 recognized countries (not including a dozen or so entities whose sovereignty or recognized independence is disputed):

The ranking puts the U.S. and U.K. passports first, giving access to 147 countries without an advanced visa. France, South Korea and Germany are second, with access to 145 countries, followed by Italy and Sweden in third; Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Japan, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in fourth; and Switzerland in fifth.

Advanced economies dominate the top of the list. Hong Kong comes in at 11, while Argentina and Israel are ranked 16th. Brazil ranks 17th, Mexico 22nd, the Russian Federation 35th, and China 45th.

The least desirable passports according to this ranking are from the Solomon Islands, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe and the Palestinian Territories. They rank in 80th place, giving access to just 20 countries each without an advance visa.

Perhaps it is not surprising that countries with the most economic and diplomatic heft on the world stage have managed to provide their citizens with the easiest means to travel.

Indeed, as the Post observes, whether or not a country’s citizens need visas to travel says a lot about the state’s influence or international likeability.

Countries that are allies often offer each others’ citizens a quick visa on arrival. For countries that are not so friendly, a visitor may have to provide entry and exit information, a letter of invitation, and even list all of the clubs they belonged to in high school — as well as paying a hefty fee.

Indeed, it is not unusual for nationals of one country to seek the citizenship of another country, if only because it may help open door to other countries that might not otherwise be as accessible.

Aside from being a nifty guide, the Passport Index also has a nice aesthetic quality to it, as you can view what each passport looks like in terms of color and design. There is also something neat about organizing the world’s passports by color (red, green, blue, and black).

Two Photo Tours That Present An Unseen Afghanistan

Business Insider has two different collection of photos that each show sides of Afghanistan few outsiders know exists.

The first set is by New York-based photographer Frédéric Lagrange during his travels through Afghanistan’s rugged, mountainous east in 2012. Compared to other parts of the country, this region has been largely untouched by conflict, and for that matter remains largely secluded from the world in general.

The Wakhan Corridor is a narrow strip of land in the far northeast of Afghanistan, bordering Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Western China. The harsh, beautiful landscape, bounded by the Hindu Kush mountains on the south, was once used as a major trading route for those traveling the Silk Road to China.

For three weeks, Lagrange and a team of locals made their way up the Hindu Kush mountains to the shores of Lake Chaqmaqtin. Along the way, Lagrange photographed the local peoples, who survive on the edge of civilization by raising and herding cattle.

The photos show the sheer scale of the country’s environment, as well as the hardscrabble perseverance of its people, made up mostly of persecuted minorities that have nowhere else to go.

More of Lagrange’s photos can be seen at his official website here.

The other set of images are by Marieke Van der Velden, who visited Kabul in 2013 with the explicit aim of showing the everyday lives and experiences of average urban Afghans.

“It’s important to talk to and show normal people on a normal day, not just right after a bomb attack,” Van der Velden told Business Insider. “The people I photographed are in the middle of a 30-year-old war, but they have no part of it.”

For all the people Van der Velden met, she decided to ask them a simple question: “What is your favorite place in the city?” Finally given a voice to talk about something other than war, her subjects lit up and showed her a side of Kabul few Westerners ever see.

A family picnic at Bagh-e Babur Gardens, a historic park built in 1528.

Many schools and gyms are encouraging women to participate.

The beautiful Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city north of Kabul, is a favorite spot.

Thirty Fun Facts About Russia

Business Insider has compiled a list of some interesting facts about Russia that are sure to delight fellow russophiles.

Some of my personal favorites:

  • Russian doesn’t need a subject and a verb to complete a sentence. Therefore “Dog.” or “Was walking.” are both complete sentences
  • Russians use the same word to say “get healthier” and “get fatter.”
  • One super-popular Russian meal — called “holodets” — contains meat suspended in salted gelatin.
  • Russians don’t put eyes on smileys when typing. They are ) or ))))) but never : ) The more parentheses you add, the more you like something.
  • Legend has it that Russians chose Christianity over Islam back in 988 AD in part because they didn’t want to give up alcohol.
  • There are no Russian words for “fun” or “privacy”.
  • Under the Soviet Union, the distribution of Beatles albums was forbidden by the government, so some medical students would burn Beatles songs onto old X-rays.

The Langar of Sikhism

Among world religions, Sikhism is among the most fascinating to me. During my period of religious uncertainty, when my exploration other faiths was at its height (though by no means diminished since), the Sikhs were of particular interest, their history, culture, attire, symbols, and doctrines were all quite engaging (though I admit that in those young years, the exoctiism of it all probably played a bigger role than anything).

One aspect of Sikhism that I deeply respect and admire, especially as a Secular Humanist, is the langara public kitchen and canteen that freely feeds any visitors regardless of faith or background.

Even in communities wherein Sikhs are minorities, the langar tradition is maintained, as the BBC reported:

For the volunteers handing out food here, this is more than just good charitable work. For them this is a religious duty enshrined by the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak, over 500 years ago. At a time of deep division by caste and religious infighting between Hindus and Muslims in India, Guru Nanak called for equality for all and set forward the concept of Langar — a kitchen where donated produce, prepared into wholesome vegetarian curry by volunteers, is freely served to the community on a daily basis.

Today, thousands of free Langar meals are served every day in Sikh temples throughout the UK. The Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, thought to be the biggest Sikh temple outside of India, says it alone serves 5,000 meals on weekdays and 10,000 meals on weekends. Every Sikh has the duty to carry out Seva, or selfless service, says Surinder Singh Purewal, a senior member of the temple management team. “It means we’re never short of donations or volunteers to help prepare the Langar.”

It is good to highlight the charity and good deeds of other religious or cultural groups, especially those that are often marginalized, misunderstood, or simply unknown.

While I obviously put no stock in religion, I do make a point to acknowledge and support those doctrines that, while grounded in faith, on a deeper level stem reflect a humanistic values. Compassion and generosity are to be encouraged in whatever form they take, so long as the motivation is sincere and altruistic (e.g. not about divine favor or command).

Here are some photos of langar courtesy of Wikipedia.

Five Little-Known Facts About Life in Iran

Cracked has a great piece that shows a side of Iranian culture and society few people in the West appreciate: namely that Iranians — who number around 72 million and span different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds — are not slavish Islamic radicals with a fetish for hating American.

Yes, there are elements of Iranian society, particularly in the upper echelons of power, who are fanatical, corrupt, oppressive, and otherwise in keeping with the negative stereotypes — but this is a tautology, as every nation and community has its good and its bad. To boil down such a large and diverse country with so rich a history to this two-dimensional caricature of inhuman fanatic is as factually wrong as it is unethical.

So let an otherwise comedic source give you a down-to-Earth perspective on one of the world’s most complex and long-lasting civilizations, like with this observation:

While I had stumbled across one of the largest celebrations of the Islamic Revolution ever, the reality is that the “Death to America” stuff is actually going out of style. Everyone from politicians to newspaper editors has basically said, “Guys, you’re kinda making us look like dicks,” and popular opinion is with them. If you arranged every Iranian presidential candidate since the ’90s on a “Lotsa Death” to “Cool It With the Death” continuum, candidates on the latter end have been vastly more successful than those who have adopted a more expressly pro-death-of-America stance.

For example, former president Mohammad Khatami is best known for pursuing a “dialogue among civilizations” with the U.N. and won his election and re-election through multiple consecutive landslides. Current president Hassan Rouhani ran on a “less death, more talking” platform as well and went home with a respectable 50 percent of the vote, while the more pro-death candidates were stuck scraping the bottom of the voting barrel.

The ultimate lesson here is that there is more to a society or culture than its (often unrepresentative) political system and / or the small and selective glance offered by media or special interest groups.

Vienna’s Enchanting Coffeehouses

I would love to spend my entire day reading, debating, and musing in a classical Viennese coffeehouse (or kaffehaus), especially after seeing this delightful three minute video by Jungles in Paris, a collective of independent filmmakers and photographers who document cultural and environmental treasures across the world.

The video includes a detailed summary about the history of coffeehouses in Vienna and how indelible they are to the city’s and Austria’s culture.

If the signature social event of Vienna is the waltz, then the signature social space is the Kaffeehaus. Worn, charming, permeated with a mild air of sophistication and self-possession, Vienna’s handful of remaining old-world coffeehouses are equally accommodating of the spontaneous visitor and the clockwork regular—they are, in short, an encapsulation of the Austrian capital itself, and the city would not be what it is without them.

This very Viennese establishment is, in fact, international in its origins. The patron saint of theKaffeehaus was Polish by birth, an enterprising war hero named Kolschitzky. Grateful city officials awarded him the sacks of coffee left behind by the Turkish army in 1683 following the latter’s unsuccessful Siege of Vienna. Kolschitzky proceeded to open Blue Bottle, the city’s first coffeehouse, and Vienna was soon abuzz with the two-tiered porcelain contraptions known as Bohemian (or Carlsbad) coffee pots, not to mention the trend’s caffeinated early adopters.

But the coffeehouses proved to be no passing fad. By the 19th century, they had fully insinuated themselves into the city’s rhythm. A Wiener of some means could begin his day at the coffeehouse, or swing by after lunch for a kleiner schwarzer (single mocha, no cream) and a smoke. He could visit following a late-day stroll along boulevards, or an evening at the opera.

The heyday of the coffeehouse was fin-de-siècle Vienna, a moment of remarkable prosperity and change. Iconoclasts like Sigmund Freud, Egon Schiele, and Robert Musil spent many hours at their favorite tables, arguing and writing and reading the newspapers. As Friedrich Torberg writes inTante Jolesch; or, The Decline of the West in Anecdotes, his lyrical chronicle of lost Vienna, the coffeehouse was the “spiritual home” of the city, and of its vibrant Jewish culture in particular.

Much change has arrived since then, from the efficiencies of condensed milk and saccharine in the twenties to the upheavals of the two World Wars. Today, however, looking and acting like classics is what keeps the old coffeehouses in business. The owners seem fine with that.  Gunther Hawelka, who inherited Café Hawelka from his parents several decades ago and has since passed it down to his sons, takes to the kitchen every morning to bake apfelstrudel while listening to Strauss waltzes. Manfred Staub couldn’t afford to modernize Café Sperl when he bought it in 1968, and he admits now that this was a good thing.

And so the flavor of the past persists, and not just in the tobacco stains. Rather than piped-in music, one hears the murmur of conversations in these coffeehouses, the jangling of coins in a waiter’s pouch, the clinking of spoons on ceramic. The Sperls and Hawelkas keep a selection of daily newspapers on hand, at significant expense. But gone are the days when writers received mail at their preferred coffeehouse, and the zeitungs-doctors (‘newspaper doctors’) held court. As Torberg concluded more than a half a century ago, what has changed is not so much the coffeehouse as the clientele. “They have no time, and time is the most important, an indispensable requirement for any kind of coffeehouse culture.”

I am definitely adding a tour of coffeehouses to my bucket list.