Monday, May 21, 2012

One Second After - An Anachronistic Cold-War Agenda?

One Second After is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel by William Forstchen, where the continental U.S. is hit by an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP), which instantly sends hundreds of millions of people back to the 19th century. It is rather surprising that a simple phenomenon of country-wide electric shut-down can cause such a huge damage, but when you read the novel, it sounds all too plausible - we are that dependent on electricity. The novel is well written in two aspects - one, the description of the post-EMP world is so touchingly real and persuasive, and two, the human drama is mind-numbing enough to make you think about the very nature of our existence and co-existence. Especially, I would like to recommend two scenes: the one with a girl soldier who dies holding John's hand after being triaged out, and the one where Jennifer, John's daughter, dies. The scenes are more riveting because the style of the narration is rather hard-boiled.

However, the novel reads too much like a Cold-war era propaganda against enemies of the state. John the protagonist and several others repeatedly say "But, this is America." For example, after describing kids who developed pot-bellies because of hunger, John reminisces seeing kids with pot-bellies in countries in Africa and Asia, but then he adds, "but, this is America!" Is child starvation in America qualitatively different from that in other parts of the world? (It is, actually, because it is fictitious, after all.) The novel is strewn with self-centered egotism deeply rooted in the protagonist's mind. For him, America is different, Black Mountain is different, and her daughter Jennifer is different. On top of that, the foreword to the book makes the whole thing sound like a Republican propaganda.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Much Caffeine Did You Consume Today?

I am a caffeine addict, like you and the person over there with Starbucks paper cup. I know the undesirable side effects of caffeine, but abstaining from drinking coffee does not solve anything, because I will be still drinking lots of tea with even more chocolate. Right now, I am having tea and chocolate at the same time, and just found out that the nutrition facts sheet on the chocolate package does not include caffeine amount. So, I would like to share with you some facts I found by googling.

The following is a table on caffeine contents in chocolate, from

Chocolate Percentage
mg/3.5oz (100g)
mg/2oz (56g)
43% (Semi-Sweet)
60% (Bittersweet)

What I am eating right now has 70% cacao, and I finished eating 75% of the whole, which is 35g. So, I’ve added 139mg * .35 * .75 = 35.44mg of caffeine into my system.

Also from the same webpage, the following is on caffeine amount in drinks:
Food / BeverageServing Size (oz)Caffeine (mg)mg/oz
Coffee (Brewed)8107.513.44
Coffee (Decaf Instant)82.50.31
Coffee (Decaf Brewed)85.60.70
Coffee (Drip)814518.13
Coffee (Espresso)1.57751.33
Coffee (Instant)8577.13
Tea (Brewed)8475.88
Tea (Green)8253.13
Tea (Instant)8263.25
Tea (Lipton Brisk)1290.75
Tea (Lipton Ice Teas)1290.75
Tea (Nestea Ice Tea)16342.13
Caffeinated Sodas
Cocoa Cola Classic1234.52.83
Cocoa Cola Diet12453.75
Pepsi (Diet)12363.00
Dr. Pepper12413.42
Dr Pepper (Diet)12413.42
Highly Caffeinated Sodas
Jolt Cola23.52209.36
Mello Yello1252.54.38
Mountain Dew12554.58
Red Bull8.3809.64

Since I had two tea bags of green tea and one cup of tea today, 25*2+47 = 97mg of additional caffeine has come into my body from the tea drinking.

Then how much is OK? According to, it is generally agreed that 300mg of caffeine per day is safe. I’ve already taken about 132mg of caffeine today, and most probably will drink one cup of coffee with some sweets this evening. That is additonal 77mg+ of caffeine. However, there will be some amount of caffeine in other foods, for example, the stir-fried noodle I had as lunch today, might also hold some caffeine in it, considering the various ingredients in it. According to some source, the caffeine in green tea is less absorbable into the body because of other substances in green tea. And I don’t have a clue whether the figures in the above table factors in this or not.

Still, I think looking at a table like that once in a while will keep you from having another cup of coffee. Yes, only sometimes, but sometimes is better than never. :)