21 January, 2015

Calories: Back to Basics

I gave low carb a try for the past year, even enduring a problem that could literally be called a pain in the ass. I lost weight at first, but then I leveled off. It wasn’t until recently that I started losing weight again. Before you sing the praises of the low-carb diet, however, let me inform you that I had been eating chocolate and dognuts, both of which are high in carbs. I lost weight due to poverty, simply by eating only as much as I could afford, and I was consuming a lot of water at the same time. Instant ramen has a lot of water after preparation, after all.

In short, it was a good old calorie deficit. Finally coming to terms with low carb promises not living up to reality, I did some research. One site I checked was by an Australian body builder named Anthony Colpo, a former low-carber (if memory serves me right) who drew the ire of many low-carb true believers with his apostasy as well as already having that of vegans. I also remembered an experiment tried by a Professor Mark Haub, who lost 12 kilograms eating mostly Little Debbie snack cakes. Both Colpo and Haub affirmed something I came to accept once again: Calories are the alpha and omega of weight control.

I heard statistics that weight loss is more effective on the Atkins Diet than on the Ornish Diet. Then again, the fact that two different diets that limit different macronutrients, carbs in the former and fats in the latter, should tell you that these two diets have something in common: They both limit calories. They just don’t want to admit it. Then again, these diets lose their effectiveness when you do like I usually do on such diets, namely adding more of the nonlimited macronutrients to compensate for the loss of the limited ones.

05 May, 2013

Speaking in Character: Idolmaster Reviews AKB0048

(This is a fictional interview, of course. There may be spoilers, so be warned.)

Lucky Joestar: Greetings, everyone. I’m here today with two idols from 765 (pronounced “Nah-moo-koe”) Productions. Joining me now is Chihaya Kisaragi and Miki Hoshii. Welcome, you two. I heard you’ve just watched the new AKB0048 anime up to episode 26. As performing idols yourselves, what’re your general impressions of the series?

Chihaya Kisaragi: Well … where do you want me to start?

LJ: You sound like you didn’t care for it.

CK: Well, that’s a bit of an understatement.

LJ: Start with the characters then.

CK: The characters, I find, are the usual archetypes. You have your naïve main hero associated with the color red, Haruka for us, Nagisa for them. Haruka actually has brown hair and green eyes, but red is still her signature color. Then you have your cool second banana associated with the color blue or something close to it. For them, that’s Chieri. For us, that’s me. Then you got some third, fourth, fifth and so on bananas in there as well, and one of them just has to be tsundere. Yuuka fills that role. I have to admit that these characters are very much likeable, even adorable, but that’s the show’s only saving grace, unfortunately.

Miki Hoshii: I wouldn’t say that. I think it has another good thing going for it.

LJ: And what would that be?

MH: Well, the premise is so mindblowingly stupid that it’s hilarious. Seriously, banning entertainment is silly, aside from downright impossible. Besides, you don’t choose this career to fight in combat.

CK: If only Sunrise had gotten that message! Xenoglossia was just as stupid, only those alter egos of ours were anything but likeable. (To Miki.) I truly envy you for not appearing on Xenoglossia.

MH: Actually, I don’t think any of us appeared on that show. Those namesakes were nothing like any of us. Their Yayoi, the only namesake on the series I found likeable, acts much more like Hibiki than our own Yayoi.

CK: That and their Yukiho was stealing your narcoleptic thunder.

MH: I’m not narcoleptic. I just never miss an opportunity for beauty sleep.

LJ: So what was the most memorable moment for you in this anime?

MH: That’s easy. In episode 3, their producer, Tsubasa, said something like: “Fighting with weapons only brings pain and sadness.” I had café au lait squirting out my nose right after I heard that.

CK: Fighting without weapons brings pain and sadness too. It’ll just be your own pain and sadness instead of theirs.

LJ: And for you, Chihaya?

CK: In episode 12, Haru… I mean … Nagisa loses her singing voice. That was a clear case of déjà vu for me. If you’ve watched episode 20 of our own series … the real one, not Xenoglossia … you’ll know what I’m talking about.

LJ: I have, yes, and I see your point. … Now no discussion of AKB0048 would be complete without bringing up AKB48, the real-life pop idol army … for want of a better term … homebased in the Soto Kanda area of Tokyo’s Chiyoda burrough. (Note to readers: There is no Akihabara town, just an Akihabara train station.) What do you think of them?

MH: They play dating police with you when you join AKB48. No dating allowed? That’s total bullshit! It’s no wonder they’ve had members quit … I mean … “graduate” on them. They installed that rule so that you’re not ruining the fantasies of the fans, to make it look like they have a chance with you.

CK: Looking at it realistically, however, you can see where that logic collapses. First of all, we may be well known all across Japan … and even in other countries … but we were born with standard-issue human brains. The number of faces you can tie to a name probably numbers into the hundreds. We have fifty idols at 765 now, and I still have colleagues to which I often find myself saying “What’s your name again?” Then, there are the faces I can connect a name to, but I don’t even speak them regularly. The ones I’ve formed deep personal relationships with are twenty at most. If you don’t belong to one of those twenty at most, you simply have no chance at all with me as far as romance goes. Our fans? They number in the tens of thousands at least.

MH: In fact, our song “Overmaster” is a message to someone who doesn’t stand a chance with us. Then again, I myself am not seeking out someone wild and dangerous as the song suggests. I value my life, after all.

LJ: Let’s end this then with a question about Minami Minegishi. Do you think she went too far getting a buzzcut after getting snagged breaking the no-dating rule?

MH: Is the Pope Catholic?

CK: I agree. The head shaving was completely unnecessary. She should’ve just “graduated” and been done with it.

MH: You’d never be able to get me to join AKB48 for that one reason alone. Honestly, if they impose unrealistic rules like that on you, you should take your business elsewhere. AKB48 isn’t the only game in town, after all.

LJ: Thanks to you both for taking the time to share your thoughts. This is Lucky Joestar signing off.

22 November, 2012

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Nuke?

Ever since the reactors at Fukushima First Power Plant here in Japan melted down in March of last year, the anti-nuke scaremongers have been having a field day here, and opposition to nuclear power has become quite sexy. Before a sexy position is adopted, however, it should first be checked against the numbers to make sure it stands up to reality.
  I’m not saying that nuclear power is entirely safe, and nothing ever is, but the dangers of nuclear power have always been blown way out of proportion. It’s understandable that people would be scared of nuclear anything, considering the horrific damage that nuclear weapons did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki back during World War II. It’s especially scary here, since this is the only country in history, so far, to get hit with nuclear weapons.
  But is this fear justified when it comes to peaceful nuclear power? I don’t think so. Too many people look too much at the TV screens showing power plants going kaboom and not enough at the hard numbers. I support stringent safety measures to insure that nuclear power plant workers are working in a safe environment, but I don’t support abandoning nuclear power outright. Such a position is based on sensationalist paranoia and will prove untenable in the long run once fossil fuels become too expensive for Japan, a country with no significant fossil fuel sources of its own. Since renewables are far too limited to take up the slack, nuclear power is, like it or not, here to stay.
  Where I am, I see the hard numbers every day. I work in Fukushima county, and at all five schools I work at are these radiation monitors placed outside. Increased cancer risk, the barest minimum of ill effects from radiation, requires at least ten microsieverts of constant dosage, and it must stay above ten microsieverts to do so, but I have yet to see even one of these monitors top the one microsievert per hour mark. They’ve all been staying in the nanosieverts range.
  Finally, we should ask those seeking to ban nuclear power if they’re equally or more willing to get rid of cigarettes. Tobacco, aside from contributing nothing good to society, kills more people in one hour worldwide than nuclear power has killed in its entire history. In fact, nuclear power plant accidents such as Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island make the evening news because events like these happen so rarely. People dying of heart disease brought on from cigarette-induced inflammation happens so often that it’s nowhere near as newsworthy. News is, after all, entertainment as well as information. They know the sight of exploding power plants gives their viewers feargasms.
  If only there were such a thing as numbergasms. '-_-

05 November, 2012

Thoughts on Heavy Metal

I grew up in the 1980s, a time when heavy metal (or more a popular imitation of it) became popular. I got to know big names like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and I still love both those bands. Granted, the former have produced a few albums not worthy of their name, but the rest have been good, and Iron Maiden have never made an album unworthy of the Iron Maiden name. Along with those two greats have been “cock rockers” such as Mötley Crüe (pronounced “Murtley Cree” for those of you who don’t know how umlauts really change the sounds of vowels), bands that somehow think we all give a flying shit about their (sometimes made-up) nightly flirtations with syphillis and gonorrhea.
   Former-greats Metallica gave me a welcome alternative to all that fucky-sucky garbage by introducing me to thrash metal. It was far more authentic as metal to me than cock rock. From there, it led me to other thrash metal bands. However, even thrash was sorely lacking, as it was just too political for my taste. Too many thrash songs sounded like news reports. If I wanted news, I’d read it off the internet. I now make fun of some of the bands I used to like at the time.
   Then came the 1990s. Metal was declared “dead,” but it wasn’t. It was just untrendy. The trendy thing at the time was grunge. I listened to grunge greats like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. They seemed weak musically, but lyrically, they were far better than the fucky-sucky shit and guitar-backed news reports I was listening to in the previous decade. I remember how the original members of Kiss got back together in the early 1990s with their famous make-up to try to “save” metal, but Kiss, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t metal, so how could they save it?
  Rather, it was another band, one I now love, that truly helped save metal.
  In university, I told someone I was into heavy metal. “You mean like Korn?” they asked. I hadn’t heard of Korn at the time. Eventually, I saw a poster of them, and they looked nothing like a metal band. Honestly, I thought they were gonna be some weak grungy knockoff undeservedly calling themselves “metal.” Then one night, while visiting my parents, I watched the video for “Right Now,” from their album Take a Look in the Mirror. It blew me away. Not only is Korn very much worthy of being called metal, but they’re even more metal than Judas Priest! Their music, however, does have a clear grunge influence, in that their lyrics are at a personal level. Korn’s lyrics, though, convey personal anger and frustration, things that metal ought to be about.
  In short, the 1990s were the best thing to ever happen to metal. By putting the anger and negativity back into the lyrics, bands like Korn, often called “new metal,” take metal back to its dark roots. MTVs Headbanger’s Ball, from which I first heard Korn, showed a remarkable improvement in the quality of the music it played around this time. New metal is true metal!
  Not that it’s the only true metal.
  Not too long ago, I came across (or actually Yahoo search-engined) an online radio station dedicated to extreme metal. Death FM, it’s called, but it plays black and doom metal as well as death metal, and I love all three subgenres. Death metal is an extension of new metal, making it more brutal musically and lyrically. Death metal lyrics take the lyrical negativity one step further, depicting characters surrendering to their dark impulses and going apeshit. Black metal conveys a hostile natural environment and the tribulations it puts its characters through. Both these forms of metal tend to be fast-paced in their rhythm, but metal can also have a slow rhythm. Doom metal is rhythmically slow, conveying a sense of impending death and the dread attached to it. All have one thing in common with new metal: personal introspection.
  I have a rule towards metal lyrics: Tell me about you. Don’t bother telling me about the world, like thrash does. I have eyes to see the world for myself, so I don’t need your input. Don’t brag about your wonderful sex life either. I frankly don’t give a shit, and I don’t believe most of it anyway. Tell me about your anger, as it lets me know that I’m not alone in my own times of anger.

05 October, 2012

Giving Low Carb a Try

I’m a vegan apostate. I’ve been feeling so much better since I started eating meat, dairy and eggs again four years ago, ending my nineteen years as a vegan. (Comments are disabled, because I know some vegan fundies are gonna flame me for this.) Veganism, however, had left a long-lasting mark on me ever since: namely my being overweight. I was thin at first, down around 60 kilograms, but then I ballooned up to over 90 kilograms! I continued on as a vegan after getting my MA and starting my working life here in Japan. I noticed that I was always tired, however, and it annoyed me to no end when students rudely poked my then corpulent belly, and I really wanted to slap them for doing that.
  I’m at 72 kilograms now, well within my healthy weight range, and I haven’t had any kids poking me in the belly (since losing fingers is considered a bad thing in Japanese culture), but now I’ve decided to aim for the low 60s, getting rid of the last of my love-handles, manboobs and double chin. I’ve been trying calorie restriction, which has worked wonders, along with walking 13 kilometers from Sukagawa to Kooriyama now and then. However, I recently heard about Tom Naughton’s Fat Head movie, where he advocates reducing carbohydrates below 100 grams a day, less than a third of the “recommended daily allowance” of 300 grams.
  For those of you not familiar, Tom Naughton, in Fat Head, repeated Morgan Spurlock’s 30-day experiment at eating nothing but McDonalds™ in Spurlock’s Supersize Me movie, but for 28 days. Naughton, unlike Spurlock, ate reasonable instead of gigantic quantities and declined the french fries when asked if he wanted any. He also removed the ketchup from his burgers, even though he could’ve simply said “hold the ketchup.” I always say “hold the onions,” which is tamanegi nuki in Japanese, when I order a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese™.
  Yesterday, all I had for dinner was a package of cheese. It was this presliced velveeta-like stuff available at any supermarket. The two days before, I had three Johnsonville sausages each night. At my workplace, where I eat the school lunches, I started requesting that bread, rice and anything else loaded with carbs be elided from my lunch, giving them clear reason why I want this done. Another change is that I stopped using sugar in my coffee. I now use whole milk to make a café au lait, and it tastes good without sweetening. The milk, 200 ml per mugfull, adds 10 grams of carbs in the form of lactose, but that’s not much. Besides, the fat mitigates the carbs. I don’t buy skim milk. If I wanted something watery in my coffee, I’d just add more water.
  Wait! I just now weighed myself. I’m at 71 kilograms now.
  The premise of low-carb, according to my understanding, is that when you eat ample amounts of carbohydrates, your body has no reason to draw off its fat reserves, instead using up the carbs you eat regularly. Cut the carbs way down, however, and your body is forced to go into ketosis, the mode where you start drawing off your fat reserves. Fat isn’t such an efficient fuel, though. First, your liver has to make it usable by turning it into ketones. Your brain, which is often touted as running exclusively on glucose, can also run on ketones. Honestly, if it could only consume sugar, you’d be brain dead every morning, since you can’t eat in your sleep … unless you’re a sleepwalker.
  Another nifty thing about ketones is that, unlike sugar, if there are too many of them, you can simply piss them out. At first, I didn’t believe Naughton when he said he lost more weight than expected according to the calorie-restriction paradigm, but it makes sense when this fact is considered.
  That’s right! Naughton lost weight eating McDonalds for 28 days. I don’t know if he somehow managed to cut his calories way down or if low-carb really works … but let’s find out.


I’m happy to report that this is working immensely better than I had expected. I’m now down to 70, my original weight loss goal! Also, I’ve just read Gary Taubes Why We Get Fat and found out how it all works. I found out that:
  • Eating less doesn’t make you thin … just hungry.
  • Exercising doesn’t make you thin either. It also makes you hungry.
  • Calories are totally irrelevant.
  • Carb grams are the number to watch. Tom Naughton, on his own McDiet, made sure to never go over 100. Lately, I’ve been going lower than that, managing a mere 14 grams today.
Seeing how effortlessly I took myself down to 70, I’m gonna see if I can take myself down to 60.

30 September, 2012

Decorative Chicken Scratch

I love Japan. It’s the country that made an adult of me, so how could I not love it? Does that mean I love everything about it? No way! There are some things Japanese that, in spite of my love for this country, I find offputting … aside from Tubgirl:
  • I don’t like watching scantily-clad fat men groping each other with their flabby buttcheeks hanging out. That shit turns my stomach.
  • I don’t like the idea of getting naked and bathing with other men. The mere thought of it makes my skin crawl.
  • I think kanjis are completely useless for writing Japanese.
I can hear the weeaboos out there now whining about how Japanese can’t be written without kanjis. Bullshit. Japanese has a kana for every phoneme combination, and some literary works in Japanese history have been written entirely in kanas, including The Tale of Genji. You won’t find a single kanji in that fine classic! All the letters therein are those that Japanese kids learn in first grade, after which you should be done learning to read. If you go through high school not knowing all the letters of your writing system, then there’s something seriously wrong with your writing system. In the case of Japanese, it’s too many letters … 13,000 strong … and all but under a hundred of them fucking useless!
  And you thought English spelling was fucked up!
  One objection I hear often to writing only in kanas is that it’s hard to read. There’s a brutally simple solution to that little problem. Look down at your keyboard. Do you see that big wide key in the middle of the bottom row? It’s called a space bar, and we use it to put spaces between words. Wouldn’t it make more sense to do that for Japanese as well? It’s a lot easier to leave spaces between words than learn shitloads of kanjis, isn’t it?

これ が にほんじん に わかれない なら、 おれ が けんしょく を たべる。

Another defense of kanjis I hear is that kanjis “save space.” Bullshit! Kanas can be reduced to a much smaller typeface size than kanji before it becomes a string of illegible blots.
  So why do traditionalistic Japanese, including the ones who worship the spirits of hanged war criminals and poopoo the Nanjing Massacre, cling so desperately to that decorative chicken scratch they borrowed from a country that has hated their guts since World War II? It’s simple: cultural snobbery.
  I mean … “tradition.”
  “Tradition” has been a classic excuse for doing the same stupid shit throughout the ages, even if that tradition makes life insanely difficult and results in schools having to waste their teachers’ and students’ time needlessly. Then again, the traditionalists have a long-reaching aversion to idleness, and making something that should be so simple so ridiculously complicated is the perfect way to keep people needlessly busy.
  Instead of learning kanjis, why not instead learn to appreciate idleness?

30 August, 2012

Goodbye, Youtube.

It’s official. I’m quitting YouTube. I just see no point in it. I never really had anything of value to post to the site. Sure, I posted some vlogs (blogs for people too lazy to read) a long time ago, but those are long gone now. Besides, a text blog like this one takes up far less bandwidth than a vlog, and you won’t have to quickly reach for the volume control when I type in all uppercase letters.
  Not that I’ll never go back to YouTube, though. When I said I was quitting YouTube, I meant that I was quitting the YouTube “community”, which has degenerated into something worse than a high school. You have bullies, of course. Trolls are called “haters” in YouTube terminology. Sure, you can block them, but there’ll be plenty more to take their place.
  The worst part about it is that it was turning me into one. Some stupid troll insulted me in a comment, so I insulted them back. I then sent a personal message telling them off in a somewhat threatening manner, basically calling them out on their anonymous cowardice. Finally, I opened the troll’s profile page and selected “Block User” to insure that I got the last word on them. But then again, they have no idea who I am. I’m just as anonymous to them as they are to me.
  With that, I finally realized I was being sucked into a cauldron of juvenility. Tonight, I deleted my Google Plus profile and in turn my YouTube channel. With that, I become completely invisible to the morons swarming the hallowed halls of YouTube High School. I can no longer comment on videos, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’ll be observing the YouTube community from where I’d rather be: on the outside looking in.
  Besides, I transferred to a better high school with a more mature student body: DailyMotion.

Update: Monday 6 May 2013:

A lot of written fora are no better than YouTube. Ebaumsworld forum is even worse, inhabited by latent homosexuals who regularly post pictures of their scrota. (For another critic of this forum wondering about the correct plural, this is it.) Let them fantasize about teabagging each other all they want. I’m staying out of it.