Sesame Seeds and Joy

Sesame Seeds and Joy

If you saw this box on a grocery shelf, would you know what it was?

If you’ve never experienced functional illiteracy, then this is how it feels. You go into the grocery store, and there are shelves upon shelves of beautifully packaged processed foods, each of them carefully labeled for content. However, you are limited to the pictures on the packages in order to determine what they must contain. My first experience of this was when I moved to Taiwan at the ripe old age of thirty-eight.

I was looking for a breakfast cereal and the Quaker label jumped out at me from a package on the shelf. I didn’t know what it was, but I figured it must be something like oatmeal. Except for the word “Quaker”, everything else on the package was in Chinese. However, there were some pictorial directions on the side. There was a picture of a boiling teapot and water being poured into a bowl that contained something gray. I’m not much of a cook, but this seemed doable. Boil water. Pour into bowl. Definitely something I could do.

So I bought the package and took it home. Inside, there were foil pouches, about the size of an instant oatmeal packet. Only it wasn’t oatmeal! It was a blackish-gray powder that smelled somehow familiar. Not knowing exactly what it was, my senses told me it was an old friend. It was safe. I could try it.

The Foil Pouch
The Foil Pouch
Porridge in the bowl
Porridge in the bowl

Once I poured the boiling water into the powder and mixed it in, I was already feeling excited. A taste confirmed it. This was good! It was a delicacy. It was not just something I could bear to eat. I would want more and more of it. This made me happy. It was pure joy! It was like going back in time to when I was a little girl. Only, oddly enough, I’d never had this black porridge before. Never! So why was it so familiar? And why was the joy mixed with nostalgia.

After about a week of this, with my enthusiam for the new food growing, I began to get a little concerned. I had started to formulate a hypothesis about what it might consist of. Something I’d had in my childhood. Something I liked that made me very, very happy. Could it be… poppy seeds?

Poppy seeds are everywhere in baked goods in Israel. Poppy seed cake is my favorite. But if these were poppy seeds, and they were ground down, and I was experiencing such euphoria everytime I had breakfast, then could it be there was some opium in there, too?

I began to get worried. Nobody should like a breakfast food this much! What if I was becoming addicted? What if in Taiwan including opium in ordinary foods was perfectly legal. It could contain anything, for all I knew. The ingredients were all carefully listed on the side of the box. Forty something, Four of something else — wait, that’s four pouches, probably, Then 177 big something, like maybe calories — or just the total of the other things listed below? Four of something in public units of measurement. Probably four grams of something. Then five grams of something else. Then 29 grams of another thing. At the bottom, once again, four pouches, (same character for a purse) — one person portion. something, something something 160 — probably grams. Okay, so four times forty would be 160. I could read the numbers, but everything else was conjecture.

I decided I would have to ask somebody at the university. I brought in one of the pouches. “I’ve been eating this for breakfast….”

“You like that? It’s so sweet,” my local colleague replied. “My grandfather likes it. But it’s too sweet for me.”

“Hmm. But what is it?”

“Black sesame seed powder…”

Aha! Not poppy seeds. But a close second. Something else from my childhood.

“So, there’s no opium in it, huh?”

My Taiwanese colleague laughed. “No, just a lot of sugar.”

 While the connection between sugar consumption and euphoria is well known (see the link to my hub on Serotonin and Carbohydrates), it wasn’t the sugar in the porridge that I was craving. It was the fat. Sesame seed oil promotes a joy all its own.

I am subject to extreme preferences. Most American cereals taste like cardboard sprinkled liberally with sugar. The added sugar in the average cereal doesn’t attract me. But the blackened sesame seed porridge smelled and tasted like home,

It was like the sesame treats of my youth, the halvah and tehina of my Israeli childhood. It confirmed to me that all Asians do share some things in common, and it was my Asiatic upbringing that made Taiwan seem so familiar, even though in most ways it was completely foreign.

Although it is said that sesame seeds were first cultivated in India, the word “sesame”, which is used in most languages for this seed, is in fact of Semitic origin. It comes from Assyrian shaman shammī and means “plant oil”.

Sesame seeds can be light or dark, and they are used in a number of delicacies across Asia, The darker seeds are used further east, while the lighter seeds are prized in the west. Sesame seeds contain important minerals and vitamins, including manganese, copper and calcium, thiamine and Vitamin E. They have antioxidant properties, which can be enjoyed directly from sesame seed oil. These nutrients are easier for us to absorb if the seeds are ground or pulverized.

If you are looking for something different — but good! — you might consider a dish made with sesame seeds. For a person with a high metabolism or one who has trouble putting on weight, halvah or black sesame seed porridge might be a good place to start, as these products offer both carbs and fat. If, however, you have a slow metabolism, are trying to lose weight, or are on a low carb diet, then I highly recommend tehina (also known as tahini) or even just pure sesame seed oil. I’ve used the oil on salads and vegetables, and it has a wonderful flavor all its own.

Make no mistake: the secret of sesame seed goodness is in the oil. Hence the name: shaman shammī.

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Make a Halloween Card Featuring A Cat

So how can you make a Halloween card? I prefer sweet Halloween themes, so a black cat with glowing eyes is right up my alley.

Make A Halloween Photo Card:

A photograph and text that I used to make my Halloween cat card.

A photograph and text that I used to make my Halloween cat card.

Step 1

Select a photograph you would like to use for your Halloween cat. The black cat sitting on the wall one late August evening in 2010 caught

Step 2

Use a photo editing program to write some text on the card, such as: “Happy Halloween”.

Step 3

Print out the card to share with family and friends.

Make A Halloween Art Card:

I used colored pencils to draw a picture of the Halloween cat sitting on the wall. Here is how I did it.

halloween cat

Step 1:

Use the reference photograph of a cat to draw the photograph for the Halloween cat pop-up card.

Step 2:

Color in the cat illustration with colored pencils.

Step 3:

Give the Halloween cat card to a person who adore felines.

Honestly, I love to draw and I used to make a lot of cards, so I am just sharing this crafting idea for Halloween.

 

 

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The Uses of Copper

When people mention copper, the first thing most will think of is pennies. They will talk about something not being worth a copper penny. But if by penny, you mean the cent that is the 1/100th part of an American dollar, then that is no longer the case. They stopped making pennies out of  pure copper in 1837.

http://www.usmint.gov/about_the_mint/fun_facts/index.cfm?flash=yes&action=fun_facts2

According the U.S. Mint, as linked above, things started out well and went downhill:

The following is a brief chronology of the metal composition of the cent coin (penny):

  • The composition was pure copper from 1793 to 1837.

  • From 1837 to 1857, the cent was made of bronze (95 percent copper, and five percent tin and zinc).

  • From 1857, the cent was 88 percent copper and 12 percent nickel, giving the coin a whitish appearance.

  • The cent was again bronze (95 percent copper, and five percent tin and zinc) from 1864 to 1962.(Note: In 1943, the coin’s composition was changed to zinc-coated steel. This change was only for the year 1943 and was due to the critical use of copper for the war effort. However, a limited number of copper pennies were minted that year. You can read more about the rare, collectible 1943 copper penny in “What’s So Special about the 1943 Copper Penny.”)

  • In 1962, the cent’s tin content, which was quite small, was removed. That made the metal composition of the cent 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc.

  • The alloy remained 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc until 1982, when the composition was changed to 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper (copper-plated zinc). Cents of both compositions appeared in that year.

The reason that the cent could not possibly be made of copper today is that the amount of copper that it would take is worth a great deal more than one one hundreth of a dollar. The demand for copper has risen steadily over this period of time, and productions has been stepped up.

So what kinds of uses do people make of copper, besides coating zinc coins with? Here are a few:

  •  as a trace dietary mineral. It is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex cytochrome c oxidase’. In humans, copper can be found in the liver, muscles and bone.
  • In compounds, copper can be used as bacteriostatics, fungicides and wood preservatives.
  • present in the Earth’s crust at a concentration of about 50 parts per million (ppm), so it’s used to keep the earth together.
  • It forms an alloy called brass when mixed with zinc.
  • It forms an alloy called  bronze when mixed with tin.
  • It forms an alloy called cupronickel when mixed with nickel. The US five cent coin is actually made of 75% copper and 25% nickel. Its composition is homogeneous.
  • Copper can also form compounds, such as copper oxides, sulfides and halicides.
  • The major industrial applications of copper are: electrical wires, roofing and plumbing and industrial machinery.

When the United States economy is doing poorly, people have been known to pilfer copper wiring from other people’s houses, especially when those houses are not being occupied. More than gold and silver, copper is a useful substance found in many industries whose value goes up when other resources are not available.

 

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Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets is a new title in the Pagan Portals series

book cover copy

Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets is a new book in the Pagan Portals series, published by Moon Books.  In it I look in some depth at the subject of how culinary and medicinal herbs were once given astrological rulers by the ancient herbalists such as Nicholas Culpeper.  Of course, there are no herbs growing on the other planets of our Solar System, as far as we know, and they would certainly be very different to those on Earth if there were, but the herbalists had a system in which they were able to assign a plant to a planetary ruler according to their mutual characteristics.

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Sunflower (Photo: Steve Andrews)

For example, herbs ruled by the Sun, might have yellow flowers or petals that radiated outwards. The Sunflower is a very good example, and not surprisingly is included in the herbs that were believed to be under the dominion of the Sun. The Chamomile, is another in this group. It has petals that radiate out around a yellow central disk. The St John’s Wort is regarded as a herb ruled by the Sun too. In its case it is because it has golden-yellow starry flowers and blooms and is harvested when the Sun is at its strongest at midsummer. St John’s Day being 24 June.

Herbs of the Moon have something whitish or silvery about them. Perhaps they bloom at night or have rounded leaves like the Moon. The waterlily is a herb of the Moon, so too is the white-flowered Jasmine, which emits its perfume strongly after dark.

Mercury was thought to be the Messenger of the Gods, and so herbs said to be ruled by Mercury have something that communicates about them. The Fennel, with its delicate feathery leaves, fragrant aroma like anise, and tall and graceful flowering stems speaks to our senses, and is a herb under the dominion of Mercury.

Venus is the Goddess of Love. Herbs she governs have associations with matters of the heart and of sensuality. The Rose, being a symbol of love, was an obvious herb to be included in this group of plants.

Dragon_tree

Dragon Tree (Photo: Public Domain)

Herbs of Mars have something aggressive about them because Mars was the God of War. The Dragon Tree with its spiky sword-shaped leaves, red berries and sap that dries dark red like blood was an ideal candidate to be included in the herbs believed to be ruled by the Red Planet and its deity.

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Herbs ruled by Jupiter have something expansive about them and many are trees that expand outwardly with their branches. The Lime Tree and the Oak and Pine were all assigned under the rulership of Jupiter.

The other giant planet of Saturn was thought of as the “Grim Reaper” and has associations with time, old age and death. Many poisonous plants were included in the herbs of Saturn.  Deadly Nightshade, Hemlock and Henbane are all in this category. Many of these dangerous plants were once used by witches who included them as ingredients in their flying ointments. It seems likely that their “flying” was probably inspired by the hallucinations the poisonous herbs of Saturn they employed had caused.

Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets is divided into seven sections in which seven herbs are examined with regard to what characteristics they possess that probably resulted in why they were selected to be representative of the herbs under a particular planetary ruler.

 

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What to see in the Mountains of the North of Tenerife

Tenerife North’s Anaga Mountains

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In the Anaga Mountains (Photo: Public Domain)

Tenerife is a popular holiday destination in the Canary Islands with some incredible countryside, including forests, mountains, ravines and valleys that overlook the rocky and sandy beaches of the island’s coastline. One of the best mountain ranges is the Anaga Mountain range in the north of Tenerife.

It is easy to travel by bus from the university city of La Laguna up into this part of the island, or you can drive there. There are services that run to most parts of the mountains of the north, including the remote hamlets in this area, though some services run only a few times a day. The mountains and forests of the Anaga Massif, as it is also known, have many hiking trails that can be used by walkers. Many people choose to explore the beautiful scenery on foot, and not only do you get to see some amazingly picturesque locations but it keeps you really fit at the same time.

The forests that cover the Anaga Mountains are mainly what is known as “Laurisilva,” which means evergreen laurel forest. These woodlands are kept moist by the frequent clouds that shroud these mountains. They have a fascinating endemic flora and fauna and are of especial interest to naturalists. The evergreen laurel forests of Anaga are some of the only stretches of this type of woodland that remain in the world today, so are a very important habitat. One of the only problems encountered when out and about in the Anaga Mountains is that the weather can change quickly, and it can get cold, wet and cloudy. You need to consult the local weather forecast for the day, and it is wise to take suitable clothing. Also the cloud cover can spoil the views, although it is still a memorable experience being up in this part of the island whatever the weather is like!

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A forest trail in Tenerife (Photo: Public Domain)

One of the main places to visit in the Anaga Mountains is the small village of Taborno, which has a rocky pinnacle that can be seen easily from other parts of the area, as it towers above the already high ground. Las Carboneras is the name of the village near to Taborno.

It is possible to walk from Las Carboneras to the troglodyte hamlet known as Chinamada where there are around 30 cave-houses where people still live. There is even a bar in a cave in this fascinating village in the remote parts of Tenerife’s north. You can carry on walking from Chinamada across the mountains and cliffs and down into Punta del Hidalgo on the coast where you come back to civilisation again and can catch a bus back to La Laguna.

Taganana is another coastal village that is below the Anaga Mountains. Other places of interest include Cruz del Carmen, Las Mercedes, Pico de Ingles, and El Bailadero. This last-named place is traditionally thought to be where local witches once used to gather. The forests and mountains of the north of Tenerife are certainly very magical places to visit!

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Songs From the Debt Collector, A Libertarian Musical

Some musicals promote class warfare. Les Miserables is one of those, denigrating landlords and elevating the poor to a station of sainthood. The Debt Collector aims to unite us all in understanding of rights and responsibilities. The enemy is not our neighbor, our landlord or someone who has money. The enemy is not the debt collector or the welfare mother who lives down the street. The enemy is that which seeks to divide us into classes and make us believe that for some of us to thrive, others must be brought down.

SynopsisDCColor

Nobody in The Debt Collector is a saint, but nobody is irredeemable.  Take Lottie Lark, the welfare mother.  When one of her children shoplifts, Lottie reprimands the child and explains that it is not necessary to steal, because the law already provides them with everything they need at other people’s expense. The Larks are law abiding people.

“Law Abiding People” is the third song in the musical. We actually have two versions of it: the one with Mindy Pack as Lottie, included above, and another earlier demo with Victoria Trestrail as Lottie, shown below.

But the same system that protects Lottie and her family from landlords and debt collectors and allows them to live at taxpayer expense is the system intent on stealing her children, and in time, Lottie comes up against the social welfare system.

Victoria Trestrail as Lottie does an excellent job of conveying the despair of the poor woman hounded by social workers who want to dictate to her how to raise her children and who stand poised to snatch them away if she does not comply.

The social workers also want Lottie to divorce her husband who drinks, and they are planning to force him to go to work so they can garnish his wages for non-payment of child support — and the money will not go to Lottie. It will go to pay for the welfare checks she has been getting. But Carl Lark has no intention of going along with that plan. He is determined not to work for “the Man.”

Eventually, the Lark’s daughter Sophie is removed from the home and placed in the hands of a dangerous foster parent who wants to adopt her. This woman is so liberal that she does not believe in spanking, so every time Sophie gets out of hand, she “humanely” ties and gags her in the basement, leading to a very real possibility of asphyxiation.

When their son, Dexter, who has been visiting his sister in secret, informs the Larks of the danger to Sophie, they decide to ask the Debt Collector to help them rescue their daughter. But in order to reach the Debt Collector, the Larks have to speak with their former landlady, Mrs. Hauser. And that’s when they realize that the enemy is not the person who gave them a place to live. That’s when Lottie apologizes to Mrs. Hauser.

Eventually, when everything turns out for the best, the Lark children sing a song about Landlords and Tenants and how they all need each other. And rather than relying on the police to keep the peace, they all depend on the The Debt Collector, a private citizen who helps keep the books balanced with only a ten percent charge on the debts he collects.

Free enterprise rules!

 

 

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Tenerife’s mountains are great for climbing

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Tenerife in the Canary Islands is a very popular destination for tourists seeking sandy beaches and subtropical sunshine but the island has a lot more to offer that makes it a wonderful location for taking a holiday. You cannot fail to see the mountains and they are a major attraction of Tenerife.

Mt Teide, at 3,718-metre (12,198 ft), is the highest mountain, not just in the Canaries, but in all of Spain, and it towers over the rest of the island. There are many more mountains in Tenerife that are great for climbing, with some of them being smaller volcanic cones and others being very high, though not as high as Teide. So let us take a look at some of the best mountains in Tenerife.

To see the summit of Mt Teide you need to get a special permit from an office in the capital of Santa Cruz, but to experience the lower parts, which are still incredibly high, one of the easiest ways is to take the bus from Playa de Las Americas or Puerto de la Cruz bus stations and get off at the “Parador de Turismo” (tourist hotel) or at the stop for the centre where you can catch a cable car most of the way up the mountain. There are guided tours of Mt Teide too, but walkers need to be very fit to go to the top, not just because of how steep the climb is but because of the risk of altitude sickness. Lower levels by the tourist hotel are spectacular, and it really looks like another world up there.

The Anaga Mountains in the north of the island are covered in ancient evergreen laurel forest. There are many mountain villages, like Las Mercedes, and incredible views over the valleys. It is easy enough to find buses from the city of La Laguna that will take you into these mountains. Chinamada, is a village in this range that has houses made from caves in the mountainside. There are plenty of footpaths and hiking trails in the Anaga Mountains but the weather can change fast, so be prepared and take appropriate clothing.

Also in the north, or more accurately, the northwest, are the Teno Mountains. Life goes on in the remote village of Teno Alto much like it has done for a very long time, and goat farming is the main occupation there. The Teno Mountains look down over the coastal towns of Buenavista and Los Silos. The views are amazing and the countryside is incredible. Just like in the Anaga range the weather can change fast and a sunny day can become chilly, cloudy and wet, so consult the local weather forecast and have the right sort of clothing, and most importantly, don’t get lost.

In the south of Tenerife there are some much lower but still spectacular cone mountains, which are well worth climbing. Montana Amarilla (Yellow Mountain) is right next to Amarilla Bay in the tourist resort of Costa del Silencio. This volcanic cone provides stunning views along the coast and over the sea. You can easily see Montana Roja (Red Mountain) near El Medano, further along the southern coastline. It is another great mountain to climb.

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Should the World Be Run By a Giant Computer?

Should the World Be Run by a Giant Computer?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

“Every problem is a technical problem.”

Do you think that’s true? Is every problem a technical problem that has a technical solution?

I don’t think so. In fact, the biggest problems in life, while they all have a technical dimension, really hinge on preference. War and Peace? Usually about who gets to live in the same spot of land and control its resources. Can a giant computer decide that? How? By flipping a coin? How much should I spend on painting my house? Can a giant computer determine that? How about what color I should paint it?

This is not a problem a computer can solve, without heavy reliance on a random number generator. Or a program that presets the preference according to the values of the programmer. Heads I win. Tails you lose.

All those things that most of us wouldn’t let a giant computer decide are also the things that should not be a matter open for the public to vote on. Why? Because they are not a technical problem with a single technical solution. They are a matter of personal preference. There is no right answer. There is only the answer that seems right to each of the participants.

Who should own a piece of land? How is that decided? How much do you want it? How much does someone else? Whether the field of battle is a real war or an economic bid, there is no right answer. There is only how much each side is willing to sacrifice in order to gain control.

What color should I paint my house? Should a giant computer decide that? No. Should everyone on the planet be given a vote on what color my house should be? No. It should be up to me alone.

If I hire my neighbor to paint my house the color I want, how much should I pay him? Should a giant computer decide? No. Should everybody on the planet get a vote, including my neighbor and me? No. I get to decide how much I am willing to pay. My neighbor gets to decide if it’s enough for him. If it’s not enough for him, he won’t paint the house.

When I lend money to a neighbor, who should decide what interest I can charge? A giant computer? No. Everybody on the planet, including my neighbor and me? No. I should get to decide what interest I want. My neighbor should decide if he’s willing to pay that kind of interest. And nobody else gets a vote!

A Simulated Conversation with a Zeitgeist Supporter

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Who should decide?

Do you think the world should be run by a giant computer?

  • No.
  • Yes, if I get to program it!
  • Yes, if a Liberal Majority gets to program it.
  • Yes, if a Conservative Majority gets to program it.
  • Not unless it’s a Mac.
  • Not unless it’s a PC.
  • Not unless it is programmed to be Politically Correct.
  • Other.

Please answer this poll in the comments section.

While the number of people who currently believe that the world should be run by a giant computer is fairly small, the number of people who believe that every problem is a technical problem is much higher. Most discussions of issues like communitarianism versus individualism, or the price of oil, or who should wear a seatbelt, or which breed of dogs people should be allowed to own, or how fast anyone should drive a car down a lonely stretch of road at night, revolve around the notion that there is a “right” answer, if only we could all agree. But the fact is, these are NOT technical problems with technical solutions. It’s a matter of preference!

(c) 2009 Aya Katz

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Mayapples

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Have you ever seen a mayapple blossom? They are shy, and hide about halfway down the stem of the plant, their faces turned away from prying eyes. Mayapples grow in colonies from a single root system. That’s why you will … Continue reading

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Blue-Eyed Grass

When viewed from a distance, while taking a walk, the blue-eyed grass does not look all that different from the rue anemones  scattered all around — just a slightly bluer tinge to the petals.

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Blue eyes grass when viewed from a standing position

But when we move in closer, we see it is a completely different flower.

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If we bother to squat down so that we look on the blue-eyed grass at eye level, what is revealed is a rare and delicate flower with fringes on every light blue petal and a fragrant yellow middle. There are six petals to these flowers, very regularly, unlike the rue anemone, whose petals often vary in number.

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Blue-eyed grass, from the family Sisyrinchium, is a common prairie grass, but mine grows just at the edge of my woods. At night, the tiny flowers close their petals, and you would hardly notice them. But in the the daytime, when you are chasing butterflies, you might be drawn to their elegant charm.

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Copyright 2016 Aya Katz

 

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