Let Your Heritage Lead You To Travel Destinations

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Copyright : Borislav Marinic

 

Though I thoroughly enjoy international travel for a multitude of reasons, the most meaningful trips I have taken have admittedly been the ones I took in an effort to learn about my ancestral roots.  The first time I went on a heritage trip was in September of 2014, exactly six months after I had ordered genotype testing through 23andme.  Despite the fact that I already pretty much knew the bulk of my heritage (Japanese and Hungarian), I was even more determined to visit Japan and Hungary after I received the test results.  It took me a full six years to visit Japan, but I was able to do so in March of this year, and made a point of visiting both prefectures which my grandparents were from.

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Copyright: ginasanders Budapest, castle hill and castle. city view

 

It turns out that my determination to visit my ancestral countries, occurred right at the beginning of the surge in heritage travel which has swept the globe.  One of the driving forces behind this boost in travel to ancestral lands has been the popularity of genetic testing kits such as the ones offered by 23andme. From personal experience, I can definitely tell you that a trip which is taken in an effort to learn about one’s heritage is definitely different from a trip which is taken for vacation purposes.

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Copyright : pitinan
Beautiful morning at Yasaka Pagoda and Sannen Zaka Street in summer, Kyoto, Japan. Yasaka Pagoda is the famous landmark and travel attraction of Kyoto.

 

Thanks to AirBnB, people can stay in dwellings which are more reflective of the culture which they are visiting, and thus more authentic and rich.  According to AirBnB, there has been a 500% increase since 2014 in travelers who use the AirBnB service to book accommodations and experiences.  Close to 80% of these trips are taken either with one travel partner or alone, which suggests that these treks are indeed meant to establish connection with mother cultures.

It’s no surprise that AirBnB and 23andme have joined forces and are offering services specific to heritage travel on their websites.  On 23andMe, customers who receive new ancestry reports, are now able to click through to their ancestral populations and find Airbnb Homes and Experiences in their countries of origin. Correspondingly,  Airbnb has dedicated pages which correspond with 23andMe’s genetic populations, making it a breeze for customers to book accommodations in the countries which emerge on their reports.

If you’re thinking of booking a heritage trip but are hesitant, take it from someone who has not only visited her two main countries of origin, but who has also visited the other countries (Italy, Greece, Germany, France) which had popped up on the genetic testing report, and just GO.

Why Some People Ghost

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Copyright : Nebojsa Markovic

 

Has someone ever just completely disappeared from your life, without any explanation?  It is an incredibly confounding experience, and has occurred more than once for me.  What blows my mind is that older adults, people in their forties and fifties, have exhibited this bizarre and rude behavior in recent years, so the phenomenon of “ghosting” cannot be pegged as a young person’s habit.

I honestly think that when a person ghosts anyone for reasons such as, they’re not feeling the same way about the other person (usually a dating scenario), or they have become bored with someone, the act of ghosting is truly a sign of immaturity and lack of emotional availability, which means that the ghostee is actually lucky to be cut loose.  However, when someone completely disappears without an explanation, whether it’s a dating situation, a more serious relationship, or a friendship, the person being ghosted often grapples with extreme mental anguish because there is no closure.

Even if the explanation for the person’s ghosting on another might be painful to hear, I bet most individuals would prefer to hear that explanation instead of scratching their heads in bewilderment, thinking, what in the world HAPPENED? I completely understand that feelings can change, but I also was raised to believe that you should offer a reason why you no longer wish to talk to or associate with someone.  If you don’t respond to texts, etc., and the ghostee can clearly see that you are doing fine, you are basically indicating to that person that they aren’t even worthy of any bit of respect. And while there are situations in which the ghostee might have done something egregiously wrong, in most situations, the person doing the ghosting is merely fickle, disrespectful, and narcissistic.  That’s been my observation in every situation in which I have been ghosted.

What are your thoughts on being ghosted?  If you have ghosted someone in the past, why did you choose to ghost someone instead of providing a reason why you wanted to discontinue communication?

 

 

 

Back In The Day…Attending Concerts

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erika8213

 

Among the memories from my childhood, teenhood, and early adulthood are all the incredible concerts I had the good fortune to attend.  I grew up in the 1970’s – 1980’s, and was exposed to all kinds of music during that time.  I was able to see most of my favorite artists perform live, some in front of massive coliseum-sized audiences, and others in cozy local venues like the Troubador.  Little did I know that when I was cheering Poison and Ratt that those bands were about to hit it big on the music scene.

Here is a partial list of some of the artists I was able to see live between 1976 and 1989:

Elton John (Dodger Stadium, 1976)

Rolling Stones (1981, 1989)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1980, 1981)

Pink Floyd

Mötley Crüe

Talking Heads

David Bowie

I thoroughly enjoyed being in the audience, rocking with the music, lighting my lighter (who remembers doing this?), and singing along when the lead singer would prompt the crowd to join in.  There was always a palpable energy at concerts, a buzz, and I’m not talking about the burning weed which circulated through the air.  The audiences were always so pumped, so excited to hear a favorite band play live.

I also remember wanting so badly to attend the US Festival on Labor Day weekend in 1982, but my mother staunchly refused.  Then there was another US Festival which I desperately wanted to attend on Memorial Day weekend in 1983, but my mother once again refused, pointing out that I had final exams the following week.  Some of the girls in my class threw caution to the wind and attended the festival, so I was able to live vicariously through them when they described the experience.  An estimated 570,000 people attended the 1983 Labor Day weekend US Festival, which is no surprise since tickets were a mere $20 for each day of the event.

Here’s a video of the full concert which Van Halen performed during the 1983 US Festival:

Other festivals have come to the forefront in popularity in, recent years, but now that we have spent the bulk of the year in lockdown, avoiding COVID, live concerts, with the audience standing in front of the band members, are nearly extinct.  We now rely on livestreams and virtual concerts, which don’t even come close to creating the same magic that a live concert in front of a packed audience can do.

Ventura County Fairgrounds recently hosted a drive-in setting for a live concert which apparently went pretty well.  The audience was limited to 500 cars, I wonder if this will be the new norm for concerts?  At any rate, I am thankful that I was able to see so many incredible artists live, when concerts were still fun.

 

Binge Watching

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Valerie Garner

 

How many of you have gotten sucked into a TV series during this year’s lockdown?  I have to admit that I definitely fell into the binge watching abyss back in June, when I watched season 1, episode 1 of Grimm.  It didn’t grab me immediately, but after several episodes which I watched over three separate days, I noticed that I was developing that all-consuming curiosity, that compulsion to watch one episode, and since the next episode would be ready within seconds after the previous one concluded, I allowed the binge-watching to occur over and over.

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Piotr Adamowicz

 

Since I don’t really watch a lot of television, the Grimm sessions haven’t distracted me from essential things I need to address in my life, but I have definitely spent more than one Sunday evening glued to the tube, learning about all the wesen (aka, creatures) which are only visible to the Grimms.  For those of you who are fans of Grimm, check out the site which offers an encyclopedic list of wesen.

I began to wonder what the wesen see when Nick Burkhardt shows up.  There is a scene between Nick and Monroe, and Rosalie which explains what the wesen see in the Grimm when they woge (show their physical selves to the Grimm):

Monroe: It’s your eyes.

Nick: My eyes?

Rosalee: It’s how we know you’re a Grimm after we woge.

Monroe: They turn black.

Rosalee: Not exactly black.

Monroe: No, you’re right, actually. Black’s too weak a word. It’s more like infinite darkness. And we see ourselves reflected in that darkness. We see our true wesen nature.

Since I love fairy tales, fantasy and certain types of horror (vampires, etc.), this show is right up my alley. Especially now that lockdown has really put a damper on going out at night, I truly enjoy sitting at home and watching what is currently my favorite television series.  It doesn’t matter that Grimm aired from October 28, 2011 to March 31, 2017, for 123 episodes, over six seasons.  It also doesn’t matter that Grimm was canceled due to the writers’ strike.  I have been immensely entertained by the series, and since I am only on season 2, I still have quite a few episodes left to binge watch!

Smart Homes, Or Invaders?

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Copyright : Daniil Peshkov

 

How many of you have jumped on board the smart home wagon?  I have to admit that I have tiptoed through setting up my home with smart home devices, starting with two Roku Ultra units I purchased last fall after breaking up with Spectrum Cable.  It hasn’t been completely seamless, and I already had a Roku remote stop working after only 5 months, but overall, I have gotten accustomed to watching shows on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

My next step was setting up a Wyze Camera which I had received as a Christmas gift.  I figured it would be a good way to watch my cats while I was away, and also ensure that no unwelcome guests were lurking in my bedroom. What I did not expect was that the camera would randomly scan the room when I wasn’t using the app, and after a couple of unnerving scans, I unplugged the thing and haven’t used it since.

Then I really took the plunge this past July, when I set up two Google Nests and several TP-Link Smart Plugs.  I decided to plug in certain key lamps and three humidifiers, and programmed some of them to turn on and off at specified times.  I have to admit that I love the convenience, and if I need to override the automated settings, I am able to do so easily simply by telling Google to perform a certain action.

If you are considering setting up your home with smart devices, make sure that you have a strong internet connection and a high quality internet router, or you will not be able to successfully connect your devices.  The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to setting up devices in your home, and it can get pretty expensive.  But the automation which you can establish in your home is pretty impressive.

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Copyright : Lacey Barton

 

I honestly dig the convenience of asking Google for the current weather, and I also love being able to start Spotify or SiriusXM on the Google Nest, so that I can have music playing in the background throughout the day.  But there is a part of me which still thinks it is rather bizarre to speak to Alexa, Google, and Siri while we are in the comfort of our own homes. I am also concerned about the collection of information which I am sure is occurring every time we use these devices.  It is already pretty unnerving to have a conversation with a friend and mention something like pizza, only to have supposedly random ads pop up in an email browser which feature pizza from Numero Uno.  Coincidence?  I think not.

At any rate, the convenience of having lights and humidifiers turn on and off automatically is worth it to me.  For example, I had set up a series of lights behind my sofa when I moved in over 2 years ago so that I could have cool mood lighting, but I rarely turned them on because I had to do so via a power strip which was wedged behind the sofa.  Now that I have the power strip plugged into a TP-Link Smart Plug and have it connected to Kasa and Google Home, I can just tell Google to turn the “uplights” on and off whenever I choose. Consequently, I use these mood lights almost nightly.

What do you have set up in your smart home?

How Coronavirus Has Changed Our Shopping Habits

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Shopping habits have changed dramatically since the appearance of COVID-19 and the subsequent scramble to socially distance and protect ourselves.  Grocery stores and retail pharmacies now have plexiglass shields at the checkout stands, and there are shoe stickers on the floors as visual reminders of the six foot distance we are urged to keep from each other.

Malls are nearly empty, and many merchants haven’t even dared open their doors.  The days when you could just hop over to a local store and pick up a couple of items have been replaced with long lines of people waiting to get in, and staple items which are perpetually low in stock or completely depleted.  Let’s not forget about all that toilet paper hoarding which defined the earlier part of 2020.

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Copyright : Ida Åkerblom

 

The new normal when it comes to consumer spending is largely confined to purchasing only the essentials, but there has also been a peculiar yet predictable surge in what can reasonably be described as online retail therapy.  Since we’ve basically been forced to become homebodies, our shopping preferences have changed to reflect this lifestyle shift.  Online streaming services have increased dramatically in popularity, as people search for shows and films to chew up some of their time at home.

Industries which have seen an uptick in their sales since the global pandemic hit include food delivery and takeout services, alcohol, exercise equipment, health supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, and beauty and wellness products.

Some people have been compelled to stock up on bundles of essentials like pasta, toilet paper and the like, while others have fallen into the habit of purchasing unnecessary items, perhaps a long coveted item which was purchased with the attitude, life is short, might as well buy it.

The following excerpt from an article by Leanne Italie is an excellent description of the purchasing habits which many of us might find ourselves falling into as this lockdown continues:

“Shopping as therapy has been shown to reduce negative moods and boost overall happiness,” he said. “The big downside, however, is that such relief is very short-lived. That good feeling very quickly dissipates.”

Mr. Galak said some research points to “shopping while bored” as a variation with less emotional payout.

“Browsing for things that one doesn’t need fills the time and then clicking `buy now’ just naturally follows,” he said. “Consumers may find themselves on page 20 of a search result for a new pair of shoes, a place that when engaged and not bored, they would never reach.”

Jennifer Salgado, 42 of Bloomfield, N.J., is a shopper with many heads these days.

“Resourceful me has purchased: a pasta roller and drying rack, because now I’m Ina Garten; stuff to make hand sanitizer, because I’m now a chemist; and dog nail clippers that my 76-pound bulldog noped out of real fast and is now looking like Snooki from the ‘Jersey Shore,’” she said.

There’s also “luxurious me,” Ms. Salgado said, snapping up 96 macarons from a bulk-buying store, along with the Jennifer who needed 24 pounds of frozen peas.

“Most of the time, I forget what’s coming,” she said, echoing others who accepted long delivery dates out of fear. “And most of the time, I realize I never really needed these things in the first place.”

Kellie Flor-Robinson of Silver Spring, Md., just may be a combination of all of the above.

“I ordered a case of Moet,” she said. “I’m not sure that it was an accident, though — this thing has me buggy.”

 

 

Physicians (Including Female Physicians) Are People Too

I am posting a compelling article written by Nina Shapiro which calls attention to an article which went viral, then was retracted due to uproar and outrage.
The original post can be found here.

Viral #MedBikini Response To Controversial Manuscript Leads Editor To Retract Article

Remember that time you saw your teacher at the grocery store? Maybe you’re still recovering from the trauma. Even though nine-year-old you knew that your teacher was, well, human, the idea that he or she engaged in human behaviors similar to those of your own family was a tough pill to swallow. Spotting a teacher on vacation? Perish the thought. What about your doctor? Your surgeon? They don’t actually eat food, do errands, or (gasp) go to the beach like the rest of us, do they? Well if they do, just hope you don’t have to witness it, right? With social media, oftentimes a click of a button will save you a trip out in public to peek at the private lives of those who care for you or your children. One group based in Boston sought to take their own peek into the lives of young surgeons via fabricated social media accounts. And they wrote about it in a highly respected academic journal.

In the August 2020 issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery, a manuscript entitled “Prevalence of Unprofessional Social Media Content Among Young Vascular Surgeons,” was retracted by the journal’s editorial board yesterday. The article sought to identify what the authors consider to be “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” behavior on various social media platforms by young vascular surgeons, in efforts to recognize and, in turn, discourage, any such behavior which could have a negative impact on patient respect for physicians. While some of the issues addressed are clearly critical for patient care, including patient privacy violations, slander of colleagues, and illegal drug use, many of the other issues addressed can be construed as privacy violations into the lives of young physicians. Particularly female physicians. The investigators focused on recent vascular surgery residency and fellowship graduates, putting the average age of the study subjects (who did not give permission to be studied) at around 30-35 years old. They created “neutral” (translation: fake) Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts to search the social media feeds of young surgeons.

  • The three fake accounts to search for unprofessional behavior were created by male students and fellows, ages 28-37 years old. Included in what they considered to be unprofessional behavior were photographs of “provocative” Halloween costumes and poses in bikinis. In addition, any reference to politically or socially-charged issues such as abortion and gun control were included as unprofessional behavior. The real social media world got word of this publication, and responded loud and clear. The notion that the focus was targeting young female surgeons on how they dress during their non-work time was met with disgust and uproar. The hashtag #MedBikini went viral on Twitter and Instagram, bringing countless women (and men) to proudly post pictures of themselves in bikinis or other casual attire, along with the #MedBikini hashtag, in mutual support of so-called “unprofessional” behavior outside of the operating room.

While the authors did address issues of patient privacy and uncollegial behavior, the focus on female surgeons wearing bikinis, especially tracked by male students and fellows under fake social media accounts, raised the “creep” factor to higher and higher levels as the issue came to the public. Hearkening back to the #ILookLikeASurgeon hashtag, which began in 2016, pointing out that, yes, even bikini-clad, all-shapes-and-sizes, all-genders-regardless-of-identity can be and are surgeons, #MedBikini is a trend to humanize, not de-professionalize, women in a traditionally male profession.

Dr. Mudit Chowdhary, a Chief Resident in Radiation Oncology at Rush University, shared his concerns with the study and on social media. When asked why he felt so strongly about the manuscript, he stated, “I have issues with the definition of unprofessional behavior…it is inappropriate to label social issues as unprofessional. We are humans first before physicians. Plus, the issues they label as controversial (gun control, abortion) are healthcare issues. Physicians are taught to be community leaders in medical school and we need to speak up in order to help our communities.” When asked about whether or not physicians should be held to higher standards, even on social media, he responded, “I do believe physicians should have some higher standards. For example, disclosing HIPAA information is something nobody else has to deal with. However, much of the issue is that the medical field is highly conservative and misogynistic.”

In response to such widely disseminated disgust with this publication, one of the lead authors, Dr. Jeffrey Siracuse, issued a public apology on Twitter:

And soon after, the editors of the journal issued a public statement with plans to retract the article from the journal. In their statement, they reveal that there were errors in the review process, including the issue of conscious and unconscious bias on the part of the investigators, as well as failure to obtain permission from national program directors to use the database in searching private and public social media accounts of recent graduates of training programs. Their retraction statement concluded as follows:

“Finally, we offer an apology to every person who has communicated the sadness, anger, and disappointment caused by this article. We have received an outpouring of constructive commentary on this matter, and we intend to take each point seriously and take resolute steps to improve our review process and increase diversity of our editorial boards.” (Peter Gloviczki, MD and Peter F. Lawrence, MD, Editors, Journal of Vascular Surgery).

There was some favorable response to this statement and retraction, yet many continue to feel that an assessment of professionalism was carried out in an extremely unprofessional manner, underscoring the irony of such an endeavor. Not to mention the lack of diversity in the editorial board, comprised of two male surgeons who happen to share the same first name.

While the issue of professionalism on the part of physicians should remain paramount, and does, indeed, require further exploration, monitoring, and careful attention, especially when it comes to patient privacy, social issues outside of the medical sphere should, perhaps, remain just social. But if you do see your surgeon out at the grocery store, or even at the beach, all that should matter right now is that they (and you) are wearing a mask.

The journal’s editor, Dr. Peter Gloviczki, commented that the paper had gone through the journal’s standard editorial review process, with three reviewers accepting the manuscript after major revisions. While the board is racially diverse, Dr. Gloviczki acknowledges that it lacks gender diversity. Soon after the concerns for the paper were made public, the editorial board “immediately reviewed the data collection, methodology, gender bias, results, and conclusions. It was obvious within our board that we found issues, including the fact that the list of doctors obtained from the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery is designed for internal society use, not for clinical data collection.” In addition, Dr. Gloviczki noted the journal’s failure “to identify definitions of unprofessional behavior and we missed the issue of subjectivity and bias in the review process.” He emphatically apologized for the errors, stating “We learned from this. We will be changing our review process, initiating a series of changes, including expanding the editorial board to include more women.”

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Gustatory Challenges In The Land Of The Rising Sun

A lovely sashimi lunch in Tokyo…

The biggest bucket list destination on my list has always been Japan, so when I finally went there in March of this year, I set out to absorb as much of the country as I possibly could, traveling through Northern, Central, and Southern Japan over the course of 14 days.  I had a bit of a concern about encountering odd food items, but since I grew up eating Japanese food, I felt pretty confident that I would fare well through most of the trip.

One of my favorite Japanese food items, umeboshi

There are many Japanese food items which I love to eat, and some of them are comfort foods for me.  Things like manju, chawanmushi, umeboshi onigiri, tsukemono, and just plain old gohan (rice) give me a sense of great joy whenever I eat them, because they take me back to my childhood.  I knew that I could always order my favorite food items without any issues.

Overpriced imported strawberries and tomatoes

One thing I noticed immediately was that the sashimi I ordered in Japan was not only far superior to most of the sashimi I have had in the states, it was also much cheaper.  What would cost me about $25 in the U.S. ran only $11 to $13, and the fish was incredibly fresh and flavorful.  The food items which were outrageously overpriced were imported fruits like baby watermelon ($15), strawberries ($30 for 6 jumbo fruits), tomatoes (also $30 for 6 large fruits), and I wasn’t interested in those items anyway.

I wasn’t about to limit myself to safe food items like sashimi and ramen, but I also had some trepidation about encountering bizarre, Fear Factor type foods. What also added to the challenge was the fact that some restaurants which didn’t give a hoot about gaijin (foreign) customers refused to put out menus in any language other than Japanese.  So I struggled to decipher a few menus while I was in Japan, searching for the kanji and kana I knew, like 肉 (niku, or meat), 魚 (sakana, or fish), ご飯 (gohan, or rice), and 野菜 (yasai, or vegetables).

The first evening I was in Japan, I walked to a quaint little restaurant near the hotel I was staying at in in Ota-ku.  The proprietors were lovely, gracious, spoke a bit of English, and also served a tasty chirashi bowl which I happily devoured.  I was tempted to return to the same restaurant the following night, but I wanted to explore, and ended up in a very bizarre restaurant which featured the first nihongo-only menu.  The instant I walked in, the proprietors and guests all stared at me, making me very uneasy.  At that point though, it was late, I was hungry, and I needed to eat, so I put up with the icy reception.  One table in particular was quite loud, and one middle-aged man clad in manga covered pajama pants was making the most noise at that table.  He kept talking and cackling while taking long drags off his cigarette, creating clouds of off-putting fumes which wafted over to where I was sitting.  There was no way I would have a relaxing evening at this place!

The proprietress handed me a menu and mumbled something very rapidly in Japanese, then shuffled off hurriedly.  I took one look at the menu, took a deep breath, then scanned the menu for kanji I could recognize.  I ended up ordering a bowl of rice, tsukemono, edamame, gyoza, and a whole fish which was so tiny that I had to order 3 more to fill up on the meal.  The food was ordinary, unimpressive, and it was incredibly expensive.  Thank goodness I was leaving for Sendai the following morning!

On March 9th, I took the shinkansen from Haneda Tokyo to Sendai, and once there, I was determined to have a bowl of ramen.  I had fantasized about eating ramen while in Japan, and I wasn’t about to wait any longer.  Luckily, I was able to find a tiny yet popular ramen house in Sendai, and I was rewarded with a spectacular bowl of ramen.

Later that evening, I became hungry again and began to scan the area for a place to have dinner.  My travel companion noticed a restaurant which was perched on the second floor of a building and suggested we try it, so we trekked upstairs for what would become the most bizarre and costly meal of the entire trip.  The menus were only in Japanese, and the waitstaff spoke absolutely no English.  We ended up ordering sake, rice, gyoza, sashimi, chicken skewers, and tsukemono.

The menu at a small restaurant in Sendai

The tsukemono, sashimi, and chicken skewers were not what we were expecting, and our taste buds were definitely offended by the experience.  The tsukemono featured vegetables like eggplant which, in our estimation, does not produce an ideal pickle, due to its mushy texture and bland flavor.  Next was the sashimi, which included some very strange seafood selections which were a very different texture and flavor from what we have enjoyed, even in other restaurants throughout Japan.  Let’s just say there were some neglected morsels of seafood after we relinquished the plate.

Lastly, there were the chicken skewers, which were also quite surprising.  There were eight skewers, but only two had chicken muscle meat, and those two consisted of chicken thigh and not chicken breast.  Two skewers were chicken skin, two were chicken kidney, and two were chicken gizzards.  I was a sport and ate one kidney skewer, but I could not tolerate the gizzards or chicken skin, and my buddy wouldn’t touch any of them.  We learned our lesson from that restaurant and avoided ordering any chicken skewers for the remainder of our trip, because we noticed that all chicken skewer dishes in Japan seemed to include the undesirable organs which we were served while in Sendai.

The next day, I had another bizarre food experience which almost completely turned me off from ikura, or salmon roe.  I visited the Mitsukoshi in Sapporo, and saw numerous vendors selling the bright orange, salty roe which was my grandmother’s favorite.  I alighted upon one vendor whose ikura looked especially fresh, and was offered a sample, which was absolutely divine.  I promptly selected a tray and paid for it, not noticing the mentaiko which was also on the tray.  For those of you who don’t know what mentaiko is, just click here for a description.  Despite the fact that I had only heard about mentaiko, and didn’t know that it was sold with the roe sac.  I quickly found out that it was tough, rubbery, very strong in flavor, and so disgusting that I spat out the first bite, drank a bunch of green tea, then brushed my teeth to get rid of the taste.  They say that people either love or hate mentaiko, and I found out I am definitely a hater!

 

 

Green Thumb

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Copyright : sonjachnyj

 

Like many others who have been sequestered at home for the last few months and have gained a  new appreciation for the homestead, I found myself gravitating towards cultivating plant species which I had never grown before.  At first, I thought it would be nice to add a collection of vegetables, fruits and herbs to my side yard, so that is where I started.  I ended up with a small collection of edible plants which are a nice addition to the succulents I have out there.

Evidently, the side yard project wasn’t enough for me, and I slowly began adding numerous new houseplants into the interior of my home towards the end of May.  In the span of less than a month, my indoor plant collection grew from 6 to 35.

A view of my kitchen plants

 

I’ve had this Aglaonema commutatum “Silver Bay” for many years. I bought it in 2003!

 

Before you start thinking that I had suddenly taken on more than I could handle, I once had over 70 plants inside a 1,320 square foot cottage-style apartment back when I was in the midst of my medical training, as well as a whole patio full of outdoor plants, and rosebushes at my front door.  During that time, I proved to myself that I did indeed have a decent green thumb, and thought nothing of allowing my vining and creeping plants to encroach the walls of the place and assert their presence.  Entering my abode was like entering a lush jungle, and people would remark constantly on how many plants I managed to squeeze in that space.

My largest Zamioculcas zamiifolia plant, which threw out all this growth less than one month after I purchased it.

 

My Peperomia shelf…Peperomia scandens, Peperomia caperata rosso, Peperomia obtusifolia variegata

 

Now I am in a 1,632 square foot townhouse, with less than half the number of plants I once nurtured.  These days, I favor more hardy plants like Hoyas, Senecios, and Zamioculcas zamiifolia (aka ZZ plant) which won’t beg to be watered constantly.  Not that I plan to traipse all over the globe anytime soon, but 1) you never know, and 2) I don’t want the responsibility of taking care of petulant plant babies.

Lovely Hoya shepherdii in the master bath…

 

Hoya obovatas are so cool…I’m training this one on a loop…

 

Hoya pubicalyx…I loved this plant so much, I bought a second one!

To be honest, I cringe at the phrases “plant mom” and “plant dad”, but I can see how people would be compelled to fuss over plants in the same way they fuss over pets or children.  Whenever I see new growth on a plant, I get a bit giddy, and tend to monitor it to see how it is progressing.  I now also juggle a staggered watering schedule, which means that some plants are watered weekly, some every two weeks, a few every three weeks, and once every six weeks, my largest ZZ plant gets a drink.  However, other than watering and fertilizing, the needs of my plants don’t interfere with my normal daily life.  I also don’t worry about light needs, because I have intentionally chosen prime spots for the plants which require more sunlight.

The science nerd in me also enjoys learning all the nomenclature, which is no surprise coming from someone who memorized the longest word in the English language (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis) at the tender age of nine, and who was forced to learn about 15,000 terms while in medical school.  There is something about scientific language which absolutely thrills me and satisfies my constant thirst for learning.

Who has developed a new interest in gardening since the lockdown started?  I’d love to hear what other people have been drawn to plant-wise.

 

 

 

ALL The Ramen!

Sendai ramen

As a result of my Japanese heritage, my palate has always been primed for ramen.  I’m not talking about the economical dried version which has become a rescue meal for most monetarily challenged college students (admittedly, I availed myself of this habit when I was a struggling college student and also holding down two jobs).  I’m talking about authentic, Japanese ramen which can be found in ramen houses in Japantown areas around the United States, as well as ramen shops and yatai (stalls) throughout Japan.  A steaming bowl of authentic Japanese ramen is a masterpiece, full of slurpy golden noodles, briny broth, meat, and vegetables, irresistible and unforgettable.

There are over 32,000 ramen houses throughout Japan, and there are enough ramen varieties and regional variations to steep your fascination for this delectable soup.  It is quite common to see long lines of people spilling onto the street in anticipation of a bowl of heaven from the more popular noodle joints.

In the months leading up to my trip to Japan, which took place in March of 2020, ramen was the dish I was the most excited about eating while in my maternal grandparents’ native land.  Even though I am supposed to avoid wheat and eggs, I was NOT about to deprive myself of ramen while in Japan.  I ended up paying the price every single time I consumed a bowl of ramen, developing abdominal cramping within 20 minutes after ingesting each bowl of those incredible noodles.  Then the next day, I was ready to eat more ramen, even though I knew full well that my belly would writhe in digestive protest.

There wasn’t a single bowl of ramen I had while in Japan that was less than spectacular, and I truly got a kick out of the bizarre yet efficient way in which most ramen houses had their patrons order (basically, you order from a station and pay through it as well, without any human interaction).  I was also intrigued by the distinct regional variations which popped up depending on what prefecture I was visiting.  Curious about the main types?  Click here to learn more.

Sapporo Ramen…miso base with ground chicken, crabmeat

I quickly noticed that in Sapporo, miso ramen was featured in many of the ramen-ya.  And before you think it’s just a basic miso, noodle masters add in fresh garlic and ginger and simmer with pork broth for an unbelievably tasty concoction.

Kyoto Ramen

Kyoto Ramen

I had both shoyu ramen (first image above) and miso ramen while in Kyoto, and loved both.  Then as I headed further south, I encountered creamy, extremely flavorful broth.  In Okayama, I encountered a specific type of  tonkotsu style broth, made from slow simmered pork, but with Okayama-specific seasonings.  Delicious.

Okayama ramen

Then I arrived in Kumamoto, my grandmother’s birthplace, and noticed that the ramen houses featured a very milky, rich, flavorful broth which was also made from pork bones for many hours.  Though I am not a big consumer of pork, I was happy to ingest it daily as part of my almost daily ramen indulgence.

Obviously with all the ramen around, I didn’t follow a low carb diet.  In fact, I had rice balls to snack on whenever I rode the shinkansen (bullet train), and I had a devil of a time finding high protein meals or snacks of any kind.  So I just allowed myself to enjoy the constant carb bump for 2 weeks straight. If you ever travel to Japan, don’t deprive yourself of ramen, rice, mochi, manju, and other carb-heavy foods.  You will be moving around so much during the day that you will burn off the carbs pretty steadily.

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