For Your Consideration – And They’re Off! Edition

 

Jim Keller   

 

I maintain that one can liken the Oscar race to a horserace with each studio betting on its thoroughbreds hoping to place. In the analogy, the studio is the owner, public relations is the jockey, and the horse is the actor or film. Here I’ve included my rankings as they stood on the eve of Oscar nominations—the number in parentheses indicates my placement following nominations. I chose eight nominees for Best Picture out of a possible ten. All other categories reflect five nominees. The picks that appear in black text within the table were my original nominee picks, and those in red represent actual nominees that I had not chosen.  

 Because Christian Bale and Michael Shannon have history of sneaking in at the last minute, I chose to go with them. (See Bale’s Best Actor nomination in 2014 for American Hustle and his Best Supporting Actor nomination in 2016 for The Big Short and Shannon’s supporting role last year for Nocturnal Animals). That’s the thing about the Oscar race: just because you try not to get burned, doesn’t mean you won’t in the end. 

 With that, I give you my current Oscar predictions:

 

When Winter Makes You Feel Like Crap: A Look at Seasonal Depression

 

Antonia Martinez

A text message stopped me dead in my tracks: “The moving truck is coming next Friday.” So soon? Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that my cousin mentioned the idea of relocating to Nevada? She has lived in New York City her entire life. Now, here she was nearly all packed and ready to leave for good. “What made you want to leave now?,” I asked. “It’s the cold,” she said, revealing that heading for warmer pastures had been a secret desire for years. “I get so depressed in the winter time.” Coincidentally, I had just been reading about people like her. “That’s a thing,” I told her. “Yeah,” she said. “I know.”  

That “thing” is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a pattern of recurring depression that coincides with the change of seasons. Winter SAD, or winter depression, is the most common. Symptoms appear in fall or winter then subside with the return of spring or summer.  Reverse SAD, or summer depression, is rare, accounting for only one-tenth of cases.  SAD affects an estimated 1-10% of the global population, predominantly those living far from the equator. It is more prevalent in women than men and more frequently starts in young adulthood. Roughly 10 million Americans suffer from SAD.   

The clinical definition of seasonal affective disorder began appearing in the scientific literature in the 1980s, but the phenomenon of illness triggered by seasonal change has been described since ancient times, including by Hippocrates himself. Yet, the exact cause remains elusive. Many scientists believe that seasonal shifts in the amount of available sunlight create imbalance in the hormones that affect our mood and internal clock, triggering depression. Reduced sunlight reduces levels of our “happiness hormone,” serotonin and increases levels of the ominous-sounding “hormone of darkness,” melatonin, which affects sleep patterns. However, some scientists question if SAD really exists. 

 

Signs and Symptoms 

If you find yourself desperately seeking brightly lit or sunny places every winter or keeping the lights burning all night at home, you might have SAD or a less severe form of the condition called “winter blues.” In his book, Winter Blues, SAD research pioneer Norman Rosenthal, M.D. says many sufferers instinctively gravitate toward light in an effort to feel better, but don’t necessarily make the connection. Some people worsen their condition by withdrawing to dimly lit or dark places in response to their darker mood. Other unhealthy attempts to self-medicate include overeating and excessive use of stimulants. Common signs and symptoms of SAD include: 

Winter SAD: low energy and extreme fatigue,  difficulty waking up, increased cravings for sweets and starches, increased cravings for alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or recreational drugs, weight gain, poor concentration, feeling down or depressed, social withdrawal, decreased sex drive, and unexplained aches and pains. 

Summer SAD: poor sleep or insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, and anxiety. 

 

Treatment and Prevention
If left untreated, SAD can become more severe, leading to other problems, including serious mental health issues such as eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. Treatment may include light therapy, medication, psychotherapy, and mind-body techniques such as meditation and relaxation techniques. Light therapy, the go-to treatment for SAD, exposes the patient to full-spectrum bright light in an attempt to rebalance hormone levels and readjust the internal clock. However, people may mistake SAD for conditions that have look-alike symptoms, among them: seasonal bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. So it’s important to consult your physician if you think you may have seasonal affective disorder.  Preventative measures you can take to help reduce symptoms or your chances of triggering SAD include: exercise regularly, spend more time outdoors, stay socially active, restrict your sleep to 7-9 hours a night, eat a balanced diet, reduce stress, use full spectrum light bulbs and home and work, get plants, and add color to your walls and wardrobe. 

 

Explore these resources to learn more about SAD: 

Winter Blues:  Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Overcome It, Norman Rosenthal, M.D. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (NIH) 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (Mayo Clinic) 

Why Winter Makes You SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Explained (The Royal Institution YouTube Channel) 

 

Nessa Noms: Paku Pakus

 

 

Vanessa J Wu*

download

Paku Pakus is a new ramen restaurant on 2nd Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd Streets. It is right off the 72nd Street stop on the Q line and opened on Monday, October 23. The restaurant is the culmination of two sisters’ love of food and Japan, modified to fit the needs of those on the Upper East Side. They are enthusiastic about their housemade products, signature flavors, and quality you can taste. I spoke with both the owner, Chin Ip, and the chef, Sarah Ip.

Paku Pakus Sisters.

 

NS: Would you say there’s a special meaning to the name Paku Pakus?

CI: Paku paku literally means open and close. So for dining, it means your mouth is opening and closing constantly. Eating nonstop and also in big mouthfuls. Paku paku is also this [picks up origami fortune teller]; it is part of our logo. This paper-folding is like fortune-telling, so it would be good to expect what is unexpected and let life tell you what is going on and the next step.

Paku Paku.

 

NS: What inspired you to open this restaurant?

CI: I spent quite some time in Japan–a lot of different kinds of places, a lot of different kinds of food. But ramen has really become my passion. I like trying different kinds of ramen from different regions. Different regions have different kinds of soup. Like kaito is more fattening, more rich. Soup noodle is one thing, but I found out I also like mazemen, which is with different kinds of sauce; it’s kind of spicy. In the Upper East Side, you don’t see a lot of ramen shops, unlike Lower Manhattan, so I saw this as a good opportunity to open one for myself. And I knew to find a good chef, so I hired Sarah and the team in the kitchen. I think, together, we can really make it work.

 

NS: Sarah, how did you start working with Chin and Paku Pakus?

SI: Actually, we’re sisters! So we’ve been working together for quite a long while. We’re always looking for good food, good restaurants. If we thought a restaurant was serving crappy food, we thought, “Oh, if we had a restaurant, we could do it better.”

 

NS: How long have you been cooking?

SI: I’ve been cooking since I was young! Actually, I was a pastry chef before. I love cooking and I went to Paris for cooking classes. Also, I spent time in Japan. We tried many different places for ramen, so we were like “Oh! Maybe this is something we can handle and try to make our own.”

 

NS: How long were the two of you in Japan?

CI: I have been on and off for 2-3 years; Sarah would travel to Japan and visit me. She also visited her friends there before. She and our cooking staff have been working on Japanese food for quite a while, so I thought this would be a good team to start with.

 

NS: What do you both think makes for good ramen?

CI: First of all, it should not be soggy. The noodles have to be chewy, but not undercooked. For soup noodles, the soup has to be steamingly hot, especially to fit the cold weather in New York. The meat–the chashu–has to be melty, not dry; it should still be moist, so we keep the fat to keep the moisture of the meat. Egg-wise, it should not be overcooked, it should be—

SI: Soft-boiled.

CI: Yes. That’s what I was thinking. How about you?

SI: No MSG! The soup that we cook, I cook over 8 hours. A lot of people just use from concentrate.

CI: We are trying to tell the story to the community about the birth of our most popular dish so far, the Rich and Creamy. So how we get it, we have a big pot and we load it with a lot of bones, full of gelatin, which is good for our cold weather.

Rich and Creamy.

SI: We use maybe 60-80 pounds of meat in order to reduce to only 20 quarts of soup. So in the summer, we will probably make it less concentrated, because it will likely be too rich for people in the summer. But in the cold, it is really good when it’s really thick. So if you put a spoon to your lips, it’s gonna’ stick.

CI: It’s one of our most popular ones so far. It’s really picking up in the cold weather.

SI: For the dumplings and everything, we grind the pork ourselves, do the dumplings ourselves, instead of just buying it from the store.

CI: The principle is that we are not making anything for our customers which we ourselves don’t eat. So for us, no MSG and the pork has to be hand-ground. That’s our principle; that’s our rule.

 

NS: What would you say is your favorite item, for each of you, on the menu?

CI: Tantan men! I always go for some strong flavor–black coffee, strong tea. So tantan is my favorite because it is spicy, nutty, sour. Everything seems to be going on in your mouth.

Tantan Mazemen.

SI: The chicken lollipops. First, we got the Japanese wing sauce, and after that, we thought why don’t we put some strawberry puree and balsamic vinegar? We loved it. That’s still my favorite.

 

NS: What are your future plans for the restaurant?

CI: After we get more business, we will be thinking of spinning off to other areas in Manhattan or Queens. That will be some years down the road. We want to really stabilize our quality, make this one successful, and make a name for ourselves before we start expanding.

SI: After we make this successful, maybe we can have a central kitchen and make our own noodles. It is only one store right now and the space in the kitchen is not really big, so we cannot make our own noodles. But if we have a central kitchen, we could.

CI: Our next step is making our own noodles. That’s how you can maintain the quality and customize it, too.

SI: For example, some of our customers think the lunch portion noodles are too big. If we could make our own noodles, we could make it a smaller portion for lunch hours. For lunch, we have our lunch combo with the salad and appetizer; if they have the full portion of the ramen, it’s probably too much and they’ll fall asleep when they get back to the office.

CI: Also, we think the mazemen, those with sauce, should go with a thick noodle. It’s like pasta. To me, I’d like for it to be like linguine, but when we check with our supplier, the thickest they can offer us is not really to our standards.

 

NS: And are you planning on expanding the menu?

SI: We are minimizing at the beginning because we like to do everything step by step. We still have a lot of interesting dishes that we’re going to do.

CI: Some of the items printed on our flyer, we are taking out from our menu, because we talked to the staff and they said it’s better to minimize the number of dishes and make sure it’s good quality before we expand the menu. I think the next step is vegetarian stock. We are now offering fish stock and the pork stock that we are proud of. It used to be a Jewish area, so the pork stock is actually a minus here. As for the fish stock, some people are vegetarian, so they can’t even take the fish stock. So we really want to embrace our vegetarian community.

 

NS: Do you have any sneak previews of what you want to add to the menu once you start expanding, besides making your own noodles and veggie stock?

CI: The ones we planned before that we’ve taken out from the menu. Like the cheesy gyoza. We find it quite interesting. The first few days, we offered it and people loved it; it’s just a little labor-intensive.

SI: It has parmesan on the bottom, so it’s crispy.

CI: It takes a long time to prepare, so I said let’s sacrifice it for the time being and come back later. That is one thing. Another is the eggplant, which is on our flyer, but we took it out as well. That one is –

SI: Spicy miso and also lime miso. We use the Korean spicy sauce, mix it with the miso on the eggplant, and grill the top; you can eat it alone or with chips.

CI: The miso that we use is four types of miso; we blend it all together in different portions, so it is something that is really house-made for us. It’s not something you can get from the supermarket. We want to use this miso blend that we have, our signature one, and use it in more and more dishes.

 

NS: The area we’re in is more Eastern, traditional seating while the rest of the restaurant is more Western style seating. What made you choose this difference in layout?

CI: Tatami is very uniquely Japanese. I thought a tatami table would be good especially when it’s facing the street, kind of overlooking the street: being seen and also seeing people. The problem with the tatami is that a lot of Westerners, probably with long legs, would have a harder time, because with the real tatami, people sit on the floor with their legs folded at the back. That’s why we have the hole down there so people can stretch out their legs. We tried to make it Japanese, but we modified it in order to try to fit the Americans. We have the long table over there in the back as well. We thought of putting those low stools, which is very Asian, but we found out this area, the Upper East, has a lot of elderly people, so they may have problems with backless seating. So for the backless, we have it at the bar, but for in the dining hall, we have something with a back.

 

NS: There’s this eye-catching mural all along the wall when we walk in. Tell me about how that came to be.

CI: Noodle shops usually have a long noodle bar. This was our first thought of what to do with our décor. But the thing is our setup is a little difficult, so we changed our mind. When you think of a noodle bar, it’s a long table. And we wanted to have a lot of different, colorful characters. When you think of a long table, with a lot of characters, the first thing that comes to mind is Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” So when I talked to my manga artist in Tokyo, I gave them the idea of a long table with different characters that [mimicks] Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. So some of the gestures, you can find in “The Last Supper” as well. The judge who is holding back those two guys behind him, you can also find in “The Last Supper,” but we kind of changed it a little bit. The theme is still there, but instead of Jesus saying someone betrayed him, we get the reactions of colorful figures and how they handle their different bowls of noodles. A little boy gets shocked by his dad and drops his bowl, so it flies off the table and we have a girl in school uniform flying off and catching a mouthful. And we have a guy nonstop paku paku, nonstop eating. We also have a ramen competition–three contenders trying to get in the competition: the winner and the other two, still trying to fight for it and stay in the game. We’re thinking of different ways people will handle their noodles, how people treasure it, and fight for what they want.

 

NS: You mentioned the ramen eating contest. Do you think you’ll have anything like that here?

CI: That would be a very good promotion for us, but we haven’t really thought that through yet.

 

NS: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

SI: I really want to take any comments where we can make improvements from it. At the beginning, I don’t mind. Tell me, instead of not coming back!

CI: Daily, we are fine-tuning our recipes from the comments we are getting from our customers. The serving team and the cooking team are working very closely. If anyone isn’t finding it good enough for any reason, we always tell the cooking team.

 

*This interview was conducted on November 4, 2017. Since then, Paku Pakus has made some of the changes mentioned in the interview, such as creating a vegetarian-friendly broth.

 

New York State Of Mind

 

Guadalupe Astorga

This month Natural Selections interviews Kipchirchir Bitok, Postdoctoral Associate.

How long have you been living in the New York area? 

Five years now.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I first moved to Brooklyn before I came to the Rockefeller housing. I like the Upper East Side, because it’s convenient to go to work, I can go running to the Central Park and the East River esplanade, Randall’s Island, even Brooklyn. You also have access to several subway lines, so it’s very convenient.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Overrated, I think is the subway. It’s always crowded and delayed. I like the Citi Bikes over the subways. Underrated, the diversity of the city, there’s people from all over the world, and a great variety of food. I really enjoy meeting people from far countries.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

Even if I think the subway is overrated, I miss it when I’m out of town. When I go to a city without a subway I really miss it.

 

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us New Yorkers?

Not really, I can’t think of anything negative or positive that has changed. I thought I wouldn’t like the city because it would be overwhelming. But, I really like it now, and I know how to navigate the jungle, so that’s positive.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

Pay fewer taxes. I feel I pay too much in taxes and get little out of it.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I like finding hidden places with delicious food, I like to walk around different places, do my groceries. I like to run on bridges all around the city. I also enjoy getting out of the city and to go hiking.

What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?  

When my parents came, I enjoyed showing them the city and watching their surprise was a great experience.

Bike, MTA or walk it?

Run!

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

I would live outside the city. I like the area of Mountain Lake, upstate. The city can be overwhelming.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Oh, yeah!

Dominique Ansel Nominated Best Pastry Chef in the World: A Cronut Comeback?

 

Juliette Wipf

Picture by Edmondo Campisi

Who hasn’t heard of the famed 2013 food the Cronut? After quickly gaining worldwide attention, Cronut followers were soon considered frivolous, and the pastry over-hyped. TIME magazine naming the pastry one of the 25 best inventions of the year in 2013, can be a particularly bittersweet pill for us scientists to swallow. However, the fame of this hybrid delicacy is based on the skills of an extraordinary chef, Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut, who recently won the title of “Best Pastry Chef in the World,” as part of the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. Ansel received his training at Fauchon in Paris, a legendary delicatessen company and symbol of French-style luxury. Without having any sort of culinary degree, he started as a seasonal staff member, and ultimately worked himself up to head of Fauchon’s international expansion. In 2005, he settled down in New York City and worked as the executive pastry chef at Daniel, a renowned French restaurant on the corner of 65th Street and Park Avenue. Many ascribe a large part of Daniel’s success to Ansel, who worked at the restaurant when it first received three Michelin stars. He finally opened his own bakery in Soho in 2011, which gained cult status long before the Cronut® hype. Other popular pastry creations by Ansel are the DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann, a Breton puff pastry), Frozen S’mores (ice cream covered in chocolate millefeuille and flamed marshmallow, served on an apple wood-smoked willow branch), the Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot (a shot glass shaped cookie filled with cold-infused vanilla milk, only available after 3 p.m.), the Magic Soufflé (notably the only soufflé that does not collapse, with Grand Mariner liquor and orange blossom), the Gingerbread Pinecone (a layered pastry finished with 70 individual chocolate petals), and the Christmas Morning Cereal (only available in December). You can also choose from more conservative, but similarly beautifully presented pastries on display, or a classic chocolate croissant. My favorite is the Pear & Champagne Mousse Cake.

In case you decide to try a real Cronut, let me give you some advice. Everyday, about 350 Cronuts are made. The flavor of the Cronut changes every month, and is never repeated. Dominique Ansel Bakery opens at 8 a.m., and to secure a Cronut you should arrive before 7:30 a.m. If you are lucky, the bakery will serve you a sweet little appetizer while you are waiting in line. Once you get to the cashier, you can purchase two Cronuts per order. However, you can go back to the end of the line, wait again and purchase two more. If you don’t want to wait in line, you can plan ahead and preorder the pastry online. Every Monday at 11 a.m. sharp, orders are taken for dates two weeks out. You will therefore wait longer for your pastry fix, but are allowed to purchase up to six Cronuts at a time.

Good Luck!

Picture by Juliette Wipf

Picture by Edmondo Campisi

Culture Corner: On the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s

 

Bernie Langs

Detail of the elusive back cover of Sgt. Pepper’s with lyrics and The Beatles in full costume

Late 20th century philosophy took a longwinded detour from practical thought with its micro-analysis on the importance of the structure of language, but there is one idea that emerged that I find of great interest. It is the notion that once an author writes a work of literature and publishes it for a wide array of readers, in some manner the writer relinquishes his or her rights as the sole proprietor of the work. Since the reader is drawing from their own experiences, what is created in their minds brings whole new meanings, imaginations, and so on beyond the control of the original author’s intention.

Along those lines, I would suggest that after The Beatles (George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and John Lennon) laid down the instrumentation and vocals for the songs on the 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with George Martin producing and scoring the orchestral charts and Geoff Emerick at the helm as engineer, the meaning of the work was passed on to their multitude of listeners as individuals. What follows here is a song-by-song analysis of my personal notion of Sgt. Pepper’s.

The LP opens to the sounds of a mulling crowd outdoors, awaiting the stage appearance of a good-time band, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A distant, surreal wave of an accordion invites the listener to join the pleasant afternoon outing. After the misery of touring and the madness of Beatlemania, McCartney devised the concept of Sgt. Pepper’s as a Beatles’ alter-ego group, who would perform the album. The famous first lines, “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play,” nods to an imagined, sweet nostalgia. The guitars are on the heavy side and Martin introduces the first break with bold horns as the crowd elicits a peal of laughter to some antic on the bandshell they are witnessing.

McCartney enthusiastically tells us in his vocalization about what we will be hearing in the “live performance” to follow, and sends the cheering crowd off to listen to singer, “Billy Shears.” We’re seamlessly led next to the quieter studio sound of Starr singing With a Little Help from My Friends. The acoustics and overall sound of Pepper’s is immediately discovered to be new for The Beatles. The mature period of the band began with its two previous albums, Rubber Soul and Revolver, each boasting revolutionary songwriting and production, but still maintaining a loose feel in sections. Pepper’s, on the other hand, is musically and sonically perfect and The Beatles sang or played take after take to make sure it would be so. It’s incredibly cleanly produced and also very tightly bound, as if the band knew their efforts would be examined and listened to for many decades. This near sterility contrasts sharply with The Beatle’s swan song, Abbey Road. that is also technically perfect but very warm in production.

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Life on a Roll

Qiong Wang

One amazing thing about New York City is that it is never the same experience whenever you step out onto the streets. You will always witness different details, even if you are walking on the same street, at a different time of the day, on different days of the week, and in different seasons of the year, such as brand-new street arts that appeared overnight, new décor from fashion store windows or random moments of a New Yorker that fit beautifully into the city backdrop. It is like you are going on a date with a different city at different times. Here are just a few examples of these city moments on a roll.

lor-2lor-3ny3

Quotable quote

“Loblolly – A lout; a stupid, rude or awkward person

Blatherskite – A person who talks foolishly at length

Poltroon – A spiritless coward

Cacafuego – A swaggering braggart or boaster

Crepehanger – A killjoy; someone who takes a pessimistic view

Slubberdegullion – A dirty rascal; scoundrel….”

In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved 4/15/15, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hacker

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

By George Barany and Marcia Brott

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977). Marcia Brott is a human genome researcher by day, wordsmith by night. Both are currently at the University of Minnesota. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit http://tinyurl.com/wonderlandpuz. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle.

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April Fools!

By Aileen Marshall

April Fools’ Day is celebrated on April 1. This is the day when it’s common to pull pranks on friends and false news stories run rampant. However, the truth is always revealed later that day. While not an official holiday, the practice is commonly accepted.

No one really knows when the tradition started. Many cultures going back to ancient times have a spring rite of turning the social order upside down, when unacceptable behavior acceptable just for that day, as a way of celebrating winter’s end. In England, the tradition is that the prank must be pulled and then revealed by noon. Anyone who attempts a prank after noon is considered the fool.

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Doubly Distinguished

By George Barany, Jed Fisher, Micheel Hanko, and Marjorie Russel

GB is a Rockefeller alum (1977); JF is a native New Yorker transplanted to the mid-west, where at the University of Notre Dame he continues to read, think, and write about important minutiae at the interface between biology and chemistry; MH is a NYC voice teacher, writer, and performer; MR, a long-time member of the Laboratory of Genetics, is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor at Rockefeller. For more puzzles by Barany and Friends and for the solution to this month’s puzzle, visit http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle

Click here to download this month’s puzzle in pdf!

Stopping to Smell the Rhododendron

by Jessica Phippard

Stop to admire the azaleas, but don’t take a bite! (Photograph by the author)

A sense of calm overcomes me as I enter campus each morning, the street sounds fading out as the stresses of the morning commute melt away. It is the landscaping on campus that does this to me. Despite any anxieties about what the day may bring, the flowers and trees in sharp contrast to the urban environment put my mind at ease. This concept of plant life improving mood is a popular study in the field of psychology, and I believe this is true regardless of whether or not we actively revere our surroundings. Whether this is a learned association or something more deeply rooted in our evolution, it matters not; my workday is more enjoyable due to the vibrant surroundings.

Winter or summer, it is the tall centenarian London Plane trees lining the main path up from 66th Street that best stand out to me. In the warm months it is their shade which I most readily embrace, but in the cooler months when their branches are bare, I simply admire Continue reading