A study about kissing

This article from Sapiens (“Is romantic kissing a human universal?) explains that kissing (romantic kisssing rather than the kind of kiss a parent gives a child) is surprisingly uncommon around the world. You’d never know it if you went by most movies (see, for example, “Most iconic movie kisses of all time” from InStyle, or tons of YouTube movie clip collections titled “Best movie kisses of all time”).

Iconic movie kiss #6: from “The Lady and the Tramp” (Japanese title: 「わんわん物語」

A few excerpts from the Sapiens article:

“In Melanesia, the Trobriand Islanders regarded kissing as ‘a rather silly and insipid form of amusement’

“even chimpanzees and bonbobos kiss”

“In fact … less than half of the (168) cultures we sampled engage in the romantic kiss.”

“Societies with distinct social classes are usually kissers; societies with fewer or no social classes, like hunter-gatherer communities, are usually not.”

And there are two theories about how romantic kissing originated. Try skimming the the article to find them.


Helping the needy

It felt like spring yesterday, but it’s cold again today. It’s hard to imagine having to “sleep rough” but that’s what the homeless are faced with.

In Brussels, Belgium, where (according to the video below) there are 2,600 homeless, and where canvas is illegal but cardboard shelters are not, Belgian entrepreneur Xavier Van der Steppen helps the homeless with “origami cardboard tents” that cost only $35 to make.

More about this story from the BBC

More about homelessness in Brussels (from the Brussels Times).

How about the homeless in Tokyo? According to this article from Mainichi Shimbun, “Tokyo sees 4,000 homeless sleeping in 24-hr cafes on any weeknight”.

One interesting point about the cardboard tents is that they’re made by prison inmates. One possible research project topic is to find out what prison inmates in Japan (or another country you’re learning about) are doing. Do they work? Do they make anything that contributes to society?

Another project for helping the needy (of a different kind): help the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare with their English-language information. This is just awful: “Self-support of needy person” (PDF)

One incomprehensible sentence:

The best of 2017, part 1

(image from Pixabay)

Today and tomorrow, I’ll share a couple of lists about the best of last year. Today is a list of “The 99 best things that happened in 2017” (from Quartz).

Some inspiring statistics on the list:

#27: Eleven countries are building a wall of trees on the border of the Sahara desert to slow desertification, and it’s already working. (video from BBC)

#38: 16,000 schools were built in Afghanistan, where the literacy rate increased by 5%, and the youth literacy rate increased by more than 16%. (from USAID)

#68: Almost a quarter (23%) of worlwide parliamentary seats are occupied by women. That’s up from 12% 20 years ago. (this and much more about gender equality from the World Bank)

#71: The number of biracial couples in the U.S. is now at 17%, five times as many as there were 50 years ago, when it was legalized in 1967. (from Pew Research)

#99: India and Italy banned the use of wild animals in circuses, making the total 40 countries which have done this. (from Inhabit)

Something you could do in your portfolio: make a list of a few of the best things that happened in Japan in 2017.

Try this for a-ka-sa-ta-na

This is a graph of the frequency of English letters of the alphabet, based on where they’re most likely to appear in words — at the beginning, middle or end. For example:

The letter “a” most frequently appears towards the beginning of a word, and rarely at the end.

Here are the rest. Can you think of examples for each letter? For “b” — “baseball” and “thumb”. Keep going! This is a good way to activate your latent vocabulary. And for students who like this kind of data analysis, try it with Japanese kana.