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Ancient Chinese opera attracts Taiwan youth to explore cultural roots
Through Kunqu Opera, Cheng Ting-yi has explored a larger landscape of Chinese culture by moving from Taiwan to the Chinese mainland to seek the roots of the ancient art, fostering a sense of pride in his identity as Chinese. Cheng, now a doctoral student at Beijing Normal University, said there is a craze for 'China chic' among younger consumers including those in Taiwan who prefer products or entertainment with Chinese cultural elements, reading Chinese classics and wearing traditional attire. 'The motivating force behind the trend must be that China is rising on the world's stage. We have confidence in our nation. That's why we want to explore the nation's past to learn about the splendid history and glorious culture,' he added. Source: CD
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Social media addiction: How can we avoid it?
Users are spending more time online. Among children, social media consumption has skyrocketed compared to pre-pandemic levels. In the US, tech giants are on trial for endangering minors with addictive platforms. Oh why not, just one more post. Not that good? Well then how about the next one? That content will surely be more interesting. Anyone who's been on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok knows the feeling: Before we realize it, "a quick peek" can easily become an hour or two of doom scrolling. Social media is everywhere. We can access it through our phones, on our computers, at work, or during our free time. We use it to chat, to post, to stay up-to-date, to follow the latest gosssip, to hear what others have to say. But social media has its dark sides. The number of people consuming excessive amounts of social media content is rising. Over 6% of Germany's youth, or about 600,000 girls and boys, are addicted to social media and gaming. That's according to a study by German health insurer DAK and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), published this spring. It found that over two million minors used social media or streaming platforms in ways it labeled, "problematic." Accordingly, the amount of time children and young adults spend in front of a screen has risen sharply compared to pre-pandemic levels, up to about two hours and 45 minutes a day on social media alone. Helpful or harmful? So are social media just another dangerous contraption? "At the very least, their role is ambivalent," said Tobias Dienlin, assistant professor for interactive communication at the University of Vienna in Austria. "There is a lot of trivial content, but some of it can also be beneficial."  The expert added: "You can use social media in many different ways. You can passively consume content, or you can actively engage with social media to communicate and maintain relationships." As long as this happens in moderation, everything is fine, he said. Things only become problematic, he cautioned, when users start excessively frequenting social media sites. To date, there is no precise medical definition of social media addiction. "But just because a diagnosis doesn't exist, doesn't mean the phenomenon doesn't exist," said Dienlin. The media expert explained that excessive social media consumption became an addiction when users weren't able to get around to other important things in their lives, when they had the desire to use social media less but found themselves unable to think about anything else, and when they started neglecting real-life social relationships. Attractive algorithms Most social media platforms exploit peoples' neurological hardwiring by offering a system of short-term rewards. Likes and emojis provide positive reinforcement, and any unpleasant content can easily be swiped away. "Introducing the possibility to scroll endlessly has meant that users never finish browsing. There's always new content to see," Dienlin said. "Of course that's extremely addictive, because it means users have to actively disengage from their screens. When I finish reading a book, then I'm done. All television shows come to an end. But that's not the case online." What's more, many social media platforms run on algorithms designed to tailor the content we see to our personal preferences. This makes it even harder to control how much we consume. Those who struggle in other areas of their lives are particularly vulnerable to media addiction. "People who already have weak impulse control, or who struggle to organize their daily lives, have an even harder time with social media," Dienlin said. Escapism and echo chambers  To people who are lonely, or depressed, consuming excessive amounts of social media can also be a welcome escape from reality. "In these cases, it helps us regulate our mood and exit uncomfortable situations," the expert explained. "If I'm feeling bored, or overwhelmed, or if I'm feeling ashamed and guilty, and then I reach for my phone and open social media, it's all gone. In an instant." On the other hand, excessive social media consumption can also worsen existing psychological conditions, such as depression or eating disorders. This can happen when users seek out certain harmful content, which algorithms then learn to present more frequently in accordance with the users' stated preferences. US class action again big tech In the United States, hundreds of families have now joined a class action lawsuit against four of the world's largest tech firms. They blame Facebook operator Meta, Chinese TikTok operator ByteDance, Google and YouTube operator Alphabet, and Snapchat operator Snap for not only disregarding the risk of children becoming addicted to social media, but also actively promoting it. Several school districts have also filed suit. Among other things, the plaintiffs claim companies have insufficiently enforced parental controls and age-verification systems, and made it unnecessarily difficult to delete social media accounts. It was long unclear if the lawsuit would proceed, as the defendants denied all accusations, brushing them off as unsubstantiated. But in mid-November, a US district court judge rejected the social media giants' bid to throw out the case. But how meaningful might the case be? Dienlin is unsure: "A lawsuit like this attracts a lot of attention. The way I see it, it's not irrelevant to point these things out. But, as is so often the case, there are two sides to the story. If providers want to make their services more attractive, which any profit-oriented business aims to do, then they of course automatically raise the potential risk for addiction. But users can't deny their responsibility. We have to do both: optimize technology, and also train and help users." The EU has meanwhile launched investigations into YouTube and TikTok, too, on suspicion of violations against child protection regulations. Strategies to prevent addiction Above all, the expert recommended users remain vigilant about their own social media habits, as well as those of their children. "It's good to discuss it as a family, and to practice abstinence, without immediately resorting to thinking that all social media is absolute hogwash." He also recommended restricting time spent on social media, and physically putting phones aside occassionally. It's important for users to rediscover alternatives to their smartphones, too. Dienlin suggested physical activity, pursuing a hobby, meeting friends, or volunteering. "It would be wrong to assume that social media networks are to blame for us feeling down. Oftentimes, being glued to one's phone is indicative of a wider problem. But it can cause more problems," he explained. Even just realizing this, he said, could be the first step out of social media addiction.
Live parasitic worm plucked from Australian woman's brain
Scientists this week published information on an unprecedented case in Australia, where they found and extracted a live parasitic worm from the brain of a woman in Canberra.  The worm was some 8 centimeters (just over 3 inches) long and is a roundworm most commonly seen in python species, known as Ophidascaris robertsi.  It was found in the brain of a 64-year-old woman after she had complained of a variety of changing symptoms and afflictions over a prolonged period. 'Just get it out of my forceps!' Neurosurgeon Hari Priya Bandi found and removed the parasite with forceps during a biopsy.  "I used tumor-holding forceps and lifted out something that I definitely was not expecting: a linear, squiggling line," Bandi told DW on Tuesday. "And my junior doctor said, 'is that an artery?', because that's what it looked like. And I said, 'it's not an artery, we're nowhere near any artery!' And I noticed it was moving and I went, 'just get it out of my forceps!' So we rapidly put it in a pathology pot, and it was a vigorously wriggling worm." Asked whether it was fair to assume the worm had been moving around inside, Bandi said it was and that their scans demonstrated as much.  The woman's symptoms had started as lung, liver and adominal problems, Bandi said, but evolved towards problems like depression, presumably as the animal's activities kept affecting different parts of the brain.  Her psychiatrist had conducted CT scans in which what was later identified as the worm was first visible, and later MRI scans to prepare for the procedure had then shown how the abnormality was moving.    A known possibility, but an unprecedented find "When you operate on someone's brain and you take a biopsy or something, you never expect to encounter something living," Doctor Sanjaya Senanayake, who co-authored the study with Bandi, told Reuters. "[It] was certainly something we'll never forget."  The paper on the case was published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal on Monday.  Bandi and Senanayake speculated that the woman might have been exposed to the parasite when foraging for wild grasses to make a dish similar to spinach, when she might have been exposed to python feces.  The worm was successfully removed last year. The woman, whom Senanayake praised as being "very courageous and patient," returned to normal life after the operation to remove the parasite, but medical professionals have continued to monitor her.  "Obviously, because this was an unusual case at so many levels, we're keeping a close eye on her and keeping in touch," Senanayake said.  Senanayake said the discovery came as a surprise, but that they were aware of the possibility, particularly as human and animal habitats continue to overlap more and more.  "Other snakes around the world carry this parasite, so it is quite likely that other new cases will be documented," he said. "So hopefully, raising awareness of that will help other healthcare workers around the world."
Soya Chili Recipe with Soybeans
Enjoy a delicious and healthy Soya Chili recipe made with soybeans. This vegetarian dish is easy to make and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. Ingredients: 1 cup soya chunks, soaked and drained 1 onion, chopped 2 green chillies, chopped 1 tomato, chopped 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste 1 teaspoon turmeric powder 1 teaspoon coriander powder 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1 teaspoon red chilli powder 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup oil Instructions: Over medium heat, preheat the oil in the pan. 5 minutes should be enough time to soften the onion after adding it. Cook for one further minute after adding the green chilies. After adding the ginger-garlic paste, simmer for another minute. About 5 minutes after adding the tomato, it should be soft. Salt, red chilli powder, garam masala powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder should be added. Cook for one minute while stirring continually. Stir in the soya chunks to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the soya chunks are heated through. Serve hot with rice or roti. Tips: More red chilli powder can be used to make a meal hotter. If you don't have soya chunks, you can use tofu or tempeh instead. Serve with your favorite toppings, such as chopped cilantro, onions, or peanuts.   Health Benefits: Soya chunks are a good source of protein, fiber, and iron. Additionally, they have less calories and fat. This dish is a great option for vegetarians and vegans who are looking for a healthy and satisfying meal. Enjoy!
How to Make Custard?
Custard is a delicious and versatile dessert that can be served warm or cold. It is made with milk, eggs, sugar, and sometimes cornstarch or flour. Custard may be flavoured with flavours other than vanilla or chocolate. It can also be served with fruit, cookies, or other toppings. Here is a simple recipe for making custard: Ingredients: 2 cups milk 4 large egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Optional) 1 tablespoon cornstarch Instructions: 1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract. 2. In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it is just simmering. 3. Continue to whisk while gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg mixture. 4. Return the custard mixture to the saucepan and simmer, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. 5. If you are using cornstarch, whisk it into the custard mixture before adding it to the saucepan. 6. Remove the custard from the heat and let it cool slightly. 7. Pour the custard into serving dishes and chill in the refrigerator until cold. Tips: To prevent the custard from curdling, make sure the milk is not too hot when you add it to the egg mixture. If the custard is too thick, you can thin it by whisking in a little bit of milk. For up to three days, custard can be kept in the refrigerator. Variations: To make chocolate custard, add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the custard mixture. To make fruit custard, stir in 1 cup of chopped fruit, such as berries, peaches, or mangoes, before chilling. To make a custard tart, pour the custard into a pastry crust and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until the custard is set. Enjoy!