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Friday, June 22, 2007

Night food

Last night, on my way home from the Oxfam meeting, I decided to see how the D40x would deal with low-light conditions. All of my DSCs up until now have made a lousy job of trying to capture anything outside after dark. It's either been a case of blur, overexposure of the foreground due to the flash (only natural), or, in the case of the Sony T30, splotches appearing all over the photo. I never figured that one out.


This image, your typical car-lights at night shot, has suffered terribly at the hands of the compression engine built into my Coppermine photo database over at tgw.com/photos (in fact I was so surprised at the lousy quality of images it produces I've just changed the settings so that it publishes them in their original form from now on). That aside, I was very happy with the camera's ability to deal with the scene. I used shutter priority /jpeg mode for this, selecting 30 seconds and letting it figure out the rest. At full resolution it looks great (in terms of exposure etc, not as an iconic image or anything like that!).

Even without a bridge or tripod providing stability, it took some good quality shots of the (pretty dark) shotengai. Naturally, at such a high ISO there is a bit of noise, although I think there's a noise-reduction system built in, which I have yet to use. Must check that out.


It's also pretty good with freezing action, as seen in this photo (although once again, the picture has suffered from jpeg-compression - the original is much clearer). With the Star Festival approaching, lots of streamers have been put up along the roadside; yesterday there was quite a breeze, bringing these tassles to life.

I've been looking at some professionals' websites ...wow. Blow my socks off. Way out of my league, for the time being. I know that I currently lack the skill and courage to be a great photographer, but I do have the passion, and I believe that that is the most important thing. The skill and the courage can be worked upon. The way things are going at present it looks like I won't have to get a proper full-time job when I return to Tokyo next year, thus I can concentrate on my passions, such as photography, websites and charity work. And Macs, whilst working sort of part time, or at least in a job that does not suck me of my energy.

I really want to live somewhere with a garden too. Were making do with a little tub of soil this year. Check out my tomato plants (this is what they looked like 8 weeks ago)! There's some real tomatoes appearing too! Very exciting :-)


This week I took delivery of The New Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford. Wow. It's a very good read, and really makes you realise just how much our diets and environment have changed in the last two centuries, following thousands of years of relative stability. Is it any wonder that cancer rates are soaring? That millions of people are affected by an increasing number of allergies?

I would throughly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in being healthy. The cynics regard it as a thinly disguised marketing tool to promote his own range of multivitamins, but whether or not that is the case, the information it contains (the majority of which is backed up by scientific evidence) serves as a genuine wake-up call to anyone with health problems. One can choose to ignore any advertising if that's what you perceive it to be.

I personally can vouch for what he says when he talks about the huge difference to one's health that a good diet can make. Thanks to my decision to up my intake of B vitamins (accompanied by a good multivitamin), I have now been able to lower my dose of Epilim to 300mg (from 700mg), with no seizures! In over 13 years of being epileptic, I have never been able to get it that low. It's now 200mg below the threshold at which the drug is supposed to have any effect ...I shall be continuing with my trial.

Cynics may say you would say that, but put yourself in my position for a moment: If you were able to more or less cut out a synthetic drug from your daily diet, something that you'd had to take everyday, knowing that it's not doing your body any good, and replace it with something completely organic (such as a vitamin complex) that your body actually welcomes, wouldn't you want to tell everyone?! Incidentally, I realised last night that my gums have stopped bleeding (always obvious when I brushed my teeth). The dentist had advised me that I just needed to brush my gums more (inadequate plaque removal is one of the causes, but not in my case). However, a few weeks of sticking to a proper nutritional diet has sorted it out, and a bit of research shows that a vitamin deficiency is also a known cause.

Our bodies really are incredible. We are incredible in that we continue to stuff all these processed foods into them and think it's not doing us any harm! What gets me though, in a kind of I really can't believe they do this type way, is smokers. I mean, intentionally inhaling so many toxic chemicals on a regular basis? It's understandable in Japan where the suicide rate is so high in any case, but in happy countries (e.g. the UK, which comes out as twice as happy as Japan in international surveys)...? I suppose it's a case of either ignorance or one's attitude towards life, or a combination of the two. If one isn't particularly happy then why would one want to live a longer, healthier life? "Live fast die young" and all that. Personally I'd rather live fast and fun and die old, whilst doing something like riding in a silent glider over an Africa that knows no poverty or hunger, in a cool sky (I can dream).

Another interesting thing covered in this book is the power of synergy, that is, different vitamins and minerals working together to produce a result that is greater than the sum of the parts. It essentially reiterates the kind of thing that can be found here.

Take folic acid as an example, something which all pre-pregant and pregnant women are advised to take. Why are they advised to take it? To lower the level of the toxic protein Homocysteine in the blood, which has been connected with depression, caridovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, miscarriage and of course birth defects.

A scientific study conducted here in Japan found that a group of women who took folic acid alone saw a drop in their Homocysteine levels of 17.3%, but those who were given a combination of Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 saw a 57.4% reduction.

That's quite a significant difference (and something we'll certainly bear in mind when we decide to make babies). Just goes to show that the idea that you can just isolate a single nutrient and expect your body to benefit enormously from it in its isolated form is a bit daft.

If one was to take all of Patrick Holford's recommendations on board though I think one would end up munching on raw grass all day whilst taking the odd multivitamin, so I won't be following his advice word for word. None the less, it certainly makes you look at the crap you see in the convenience stores in a new (even harsher) light. Did I mention that Japan has legalised over 300 man-made chemicals for "safe" inclusion in foods (for the purpose of preservation and looks etc), one of the highest rates of any industrialised nation? And they wonder why cancer is such a problem over here! They should all move to Okinawa. All 126 million of them. I'm not sure my classmate Jason would be too happy though. He seems to like the peace and quiet down there.

I say, scrap the chemicals and start selling apples that cost less that 150 yen (70 pence) each.

Anyway, homework to do. tarra.

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