Monthly Archive: December 2011

Dec 31 2011

Victoria Jackson, Aliens, and Jesus

(h/t Omnipotent Poobah)

Dec 31 2011

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

New Year’s Recipes to Bring Good Fortune

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Red Lentil Kofta With Spinach

These bite-size bulgur and lentil balls can be part of a mezze spread – an assortment of appetizers – or they can be served as a side dish.

Baked Giant Limas With Winter Squash and Sage

This dish is luxuriously creamy (though there’s no cream in it) and comforting.

Albacore Roasted in a Bed of Lettuce

Inspired by a traditional Provençal tuna dish, this version has a lot going for it as a New Year’s dish, what with all the green leaves and the fish – lots of prosperity.

Light Lentil Soup With Smoked Trout

This is inspired by a traditional French combination of lentils and fresh salmon.

Soba With Black-Eyed Peas and Spinach

This comforting dish contains good luck charms from all over the globe: soba (buckwheat noodles) is traditional in Japan, black-eyed peas in the American South, and spinach or other greens pretty much everywhere.

Dec 31 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

New York Times EDitorial: The Damage of 2011

After they took power in January, the hard-line Republicans who dominate the House reached for a radical overhaul of American government, hoping to unravel the social safety net, cut taxes further for the wealthy and strip away regulation of business. Fortunately, thanks to defensive tactics by Democrats, they failed to achieve most of their agenda.

But they still did significant damage in 2011 to many of the most important functions of government, and particularly to investments in education, training and transportation that the country will need for a sound economic recovery.

Paul Krugman: Carelessly Mistaking Theater For Policy

One crucial thing you need to understand about political journalists in the United States is that, with some honorable exceptions, they don’t know or care about actual policy.

In a way, that makes sense – the skills needed to cultivate contacts, to get the inside scoop on what’s going on in Congressional scheming or campaign war rooms, are very different from the skills needed to interpret spreadsheets from the Congressional Budget Office.

The problem, however, is that all too often political journalists mistake the theater of policy for reality (or don’t care about the difference).

Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray: Urging Obama to Stop Rush to Iran War

President Obama needs to put an abrupt halt to the game of Persian Roulette about to spin out of control in the Persian Gulf. If we were still on active duty at the CIA, this is what we would tell him:

This informal memorandum addresses the escalating game of chicken playing out in the waters off Iran and the more general issue of what can be done to put the exaggerated threat from Iran in some kind of perspective.

In keeping with the informality of this memo and our ethos of speaking truth to power, we may at times be rather blunt. If we bring you up short, consider it a measure of the seriousness with which we view the unfolding of yet another tragic mistake.

Robert Reich: My Political Prediction for 2012: It’s Obama-Clinton

My political prediction for 2012 (based on absolutely no inside information): Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden swap places. Biden becomes Secretary of State – a position he’s apparently coveted for years. And Hillary Clinton, Vice President.

So the Democratic ticket for 2012 is Obama-Clinton.

Why do I say this? Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

William Rivers Pitt: The Rain and the Reckoning

Dewey Square, the patch of earth in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Building and One Financial Center that Occupy Boston protesters called home from September to December, is empty now. The same can be said for the original Occupy space at UC Davis, where a dozen kneeling and defenseless protesters were hosed down with pepper spray, and for Oakland, where the police rioted and very nearly killed a two-tour Marine Corps veteran of Iraq. Occupy encampments sprang up in hundreds of cities in all fifty states of the union over these last four months. Many, if not most, are gone now, done in by police invasion or uncooperative weather, or both.

You may have noticed the sudden lack of attention paid to the Occupy movement, now that the gendarmes of the status quo have wielded their truncheons and rolled up the encampments like so many windowshades. Nightly reports by the “mainstream” news media about Occupy actions all across the country have dwindled to almost nil, and for those so disposed, this is a good thing. The roused rabble have been crushed and scattered, and all this talk of inequality and justice can finally be replaced with what has for so long now been the real American anthem: everything is fine, nothing to see here, your betters are in control, go back to work. The uprising has been quelled, it would seem, and it is time to consign the Occupy movement to the dustbin of history.

Nothing, but nothing, but nothing, could be further from the truth.

Gail Collins: A Quiz for All Seasons

What a big week coming up! New Year’s Day and then the Iowa caucuses! Doesn’t get any better than that. And, in honor of this double-whammy of exciting events, here’s the End-of-the-Year Republican Presidential Primary Quiz [..]

Dec 31 2011

On this Day In History December 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. The last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, it is widely known as New Year’s Eve.

On this day in 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

Guiness is a popular Irish dry stout. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide.

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter).

Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001[1], is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later on 19 May 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time, when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have invented stout,[citation needed] however the first known use of the word stout in relation to beer appears in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym “Student” for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student’s t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student’s t-test.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1974.

Guinness has also been referred to as “the black stuff” and as a “Pint of Plain” – referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O’Brien’s poem “The Workman’s Friend”: “A pint of plain is your only man.”

Dec 31 2011

Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine Falcon Cam Covers Stoop

Cam covers vertical stoop of falcon at over 100 MPH. The stoop is the corkscrew dive it uses to catch prey.

A Few Facts About Peregrine Falcons:

   

  • The peregrine falcon’s scientific name is Falco peregrinus, which means “falcon wanderer”.
  • Three subspecies are recognized in North America: F.p. pealei from the coastal islands off Alaska; F.p. tundrius, which nests above the tree line in the Arctic; and F.p. anatum, which once ranged over North America from coast to coast.
  • Peregrine falcons are about the size and weight of a crow.
  • Peregrines normally grow to 15 inches in length with a 40-inch wingspan.
  • The speed of a peregrine has been said to reach 175 miles per hour or more. Experiments conducted by scientists put the bird’s diving speed at approximately 82 miles per hour and level flight at approximately 62 miles per hour.
  • Females are larger and more powerful than males. Adults have slate dark blue-gray wings and backs barred with black, pale undersides, white faces with a black stripe on each cheek, and large, dark eyes. Their wings are long and pointed.
  • Their prey includes ducks, pheasants, and pigeons. Biologists are frequently surprised by the variety of species brought to Ohio nests. Remains of meadowlarks, chimney swifts, and woodcock show that falcons find many different birds in their urban surroundings.
  • Prey is caught in flight. Using its great speed, the falcon delivers a powerful blow to its prey with a half-closed foot. It retrieves the dead bird either in mid-air or after it falls to the ground.
  • Although they have a high mortality rate, peregrines have been known to live as long as 15 years.
  • In the 1960s, scientists discovered that a pesticide called DDT was interfering in the egg shell formation of meat and fish eating birds. Healthy birds were laying eggs so thin they were crushed by the weight of the incubating adult.
  • By 1965, no peregrine falcons were fledged in the eastern or Central United States.
  • By 1968, the peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River.
  • In 1972, use of DDT was severely restricted in the United States and worldwide.
  • In 1979, the Eastern Peregrine Recovery Plan was developed to restore a peregrine population to the eastern United States.
  • Peregrine falcons are a threatened species in Ohio.
  • Traditionally, they nested on ledges of high cliffs in remote areas. In cities, they use niches along ledges, such as inset windows or window boxes.

We have two Peregrines and a Red Tail Hawk that use our yard to dine on their catch.

Dec 31 2011

Popular Culture (Music) 20111230: A Brief History of The Who

Last week we finished up 1970, which to date had been by far the best year for The Who insofar as commercial success goes.  Sales of Tommy were still good, and Live at Leeds was very well received both critically and in sales figures.

Now, what to do?  Townshend was at sort of a crossroads, knowing that he had to do something to show that Tommy was not just a fluke.  The answer to this, at least in his mind, was turned out to be the ill-fated Lifehouse project.  Since I did a standalone piece about Lifehouse here, I shall concentrate on other aspects of 1971.

I suggest that you read this chronological treatment of other things from 1971, then take a break and read the Lifehouse piece, then come back.  It’s OK, I can wait!  I have some snacks and can answer comments all night!

Dec 30 2011

How Did They Do That? Easy, Balls

Stonehenge is a massive prehistoric stone monument located just north of Salisbury, England, constructed anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. The site and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986.

The history of Stonehenge’s function and construction is subject to much debate since it was produced by a culture that left no written records that has led to multiple theories. Whatever religious, mystical or spiritual elements were central to Stonehenge, its design includes a celestial observatory function, which might have allowed prediction of eclipse, solstice, equinox and other celestial events important to a contemporary religion.

Two of the big questions about the construction of Stonehenge are: Where were these stones? How were these massive stones, weighing tons, moved from where they were quarried? Those questions have some answers, the first, official and the second, an interesting theory.

It’s Official: Stonehenge Stones Were Moved 160 Miles

Some of the volcanic bluestones in the inner ring of Stonehenge officially match an outcrop in Wales that’s 160 miles (257 kilometers) from the world-famous site, geologists announced this week.

As it looks today, 5,000-year-old Stonehenge has an outer ring of 20- to 30-ton sandstone blocks and an inner ring and horseshoe of 3- to 5-ton volcanic bluestone blocks. [..]

So how did a primitive society move these gigantic stones from Wales to the plains of Salisbury? Easy. Balls. Or at least that is the lasted theory that archaeologists have presented:

Photobucket

U.K. archaeology students attempt to prove a rail-and-ball system could have moved Stonehenge stones.

Photograph courtesy University of Exeter

A previous theory suggested that the builders used wooden rollers-carved tree trunks laid side by side on a constructed hard surface. Another imagined huge wooden sleds atop greased wooden rails.

But critics say the rollers’ hard pathway would have left telltale gouges in the landscape, which have never been found. And the sled system, while plausible, would have required huge amounts of manpower-hundreds of men at a time to move one of the largest Stonehenge stones, according to a 1997 study.

Andrew Young, though, says Stonehenge’s slabs, may have been rolled over a series of balls lined up in grooved rails, according to a November 30 statement from Exeter University in the U.K., where Young is a doctoral student in biosciences.

Young first came up with the ball bearings idea when he noticed that carved stone balls were often found near Neolithic stone circles in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Balls and a lot of “heart” 😉

H/t Rachel Maddow Blog

Dec 30 2011

The Drone Wars

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has waged an increasing clandestine war using unmanned drones controlled by civilians members of the CIA. In a recent article Washington Post‘s Greg Miller exposes some troubling aspects of the program which has little oversight or control:

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force­ ­cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents. [..]

The rapid expansion of the drone program has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military. Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force.

In Yemen, for instance, the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command pursue the same adversary with nearly identical aircraft. But they alternate taking the lead on strikes to exploit their separate authorities, and they maintain separate kill lists that overlap but don’t match. CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaeda operatives. [..]

Obama himself was “oddly passive in this world,” the former official said, tending to defer on drone policy to senior aides whose instincts often dovetailed with the institutional agendas of the CIA and JSOC.

Joshua Foust in The Atlantic observes that there are consequences for the successes claimed by the Obama Administration:

In the countries where the drone system is most active — Pakistan and Yemen — relations with local governments and communities are awful, and perceptions of the United States could barely be any worse. There is agreement seemingly only on the need for long distance killing, and even then — especially in Pakistan — there is a great deal of contention.

In fact, one could argue that the severe degradation of relations with Pakistan, which are driven to a large degree by popular anger over drone strikes (as well as a parallel perception among some Pakistani elites that the U.S. disregards Pakistani sovereignty at will), is driving the current U.S. push to ship supplies and, eventually, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, through Uzbekistan.

Besides the political consequences, Foust notes the reorientation of the intelligence community to this killing program may hinder its ability of collecting and analyzing the data needed and a heavy reliance on information from sketchy local partners that can, and has, resulted in unnecessary fatalities. His opinion of Obama’s expansion of the drone war is scathing:

This sloppiness with life and death decisions is a substantial moral failing, and should be a huge scandal for President Obama. But, he has decided to both distance himself from it while also taking credit for its successes, even as it focuses on ever less important and marginal figures within the terrorist milieu. [..]

It is an absolute scandal. We owe ourselves better questions and more accountability of the drones we use to wantonly kill people around the planet.

Senior reporter for Wired.com’s Danger Room, Spencer Ackerman, discussed the sharp increase in drone attacks to do the military’s job since Obama took office.

Dec 30 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Keynes Was Right

“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy – which had been steadily recovering up to that point – into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Notable Death of the Year: RIP Austerity Economics, 1921-2011

This is the time of year when we’re reminded of all the famous people who died over the last twelve months, a list which includes two of my favorite guitar players (Hubert Sumlin and Cornell Dupree). But there were also some notable non-human deaths in 2011, especially in the world of economic policy.

One of those deaths should have completely altered the political debate in Washington. The name of the deceased was “Austerity Economics,” and it was first glimpsed in a 1921 paper by conservative economist Frank Wright. Austerity died of natural causes brought on by prolonged exposure to reality.

But the debate in Washington didn’t change nearly enough after its passing. In the nation’s capital, dead things still rule the night.

The Guardian Editorial: United States as a Global Power: New World Disorder

The US is struggling with a paradox: while its military power retains global reach, its role as world leader is gradually ending

The time has long since past when it became fashionable to talk about a new world order. The collapse of the Soviet Union provided an opportunity to fashion one. But instead of using that opportunity to create a new security architecture in Europe, Nato expanded eastwards as the military anchor for democracy promotion. Not content to have seen off one global military competitor in the Soviet Union, the western military industrial complex and the think-tanks they funded scurried around for a worthy replacement. When 11 September happened, they thought they were in business again. For a brief moment, al-Qaida seemed to fulfil some of the characteristics of communism: it could pop up anywhere in the world; it was an existential enemy, driven ideologically and uncontainable through negotiation; and it was potentially voluminous. Neither the doctrines of the pre-emptive strike, nor attacking a foreign country abroad to ensure security at home, were new. Swap the domino theory of the Vietnam era for the crescent of crisis of the Bush and Obama eras, and you had the same formula for a foe that hopscotched across the globe.

Mike Ervin: Why the Payroll Tax Deal Is Bad for People With Disabilities

Hold the applause: Extending the payroll tax cuts is a bad deal for nearly 9 million disabled Americans who rely on Social Security Disability Insurance for survival.

Like millions of Americans, my first paycheck of 2011 was slightly larger because of the tax relief provided by the one-year reduction in my Social Security payroll taxes. But I didn’t feel much of a sense of relief. As a person with a disability who will someday soon need Social Security Disability Insurance, I feared that raiding Social Security was a dangerous precedent that would continue far beyond one year.

Danny Schechter: It’s Time to Occupy a New Year

Out with the old. I would say good riddance to 2011 even as I fear 2012 may be worse, given the financial trends, social chaos and political idiocy that we confront every day.

Every time I believe it can’t get worse, it does.

It seems so clear that the political system is moribund and paralyzed and the economic system may be in worse shape.

A tiny sliver of the 1% may be in charge although not in control. Their own short-term greed makes it unlikely that they can stabilize the system or do any longer term planning. Their Titanic has hit its iceberg. Some new technologies may be keeping it afloat for now but for how long?

We lurch from crisis to crisis in an atmosphere of deep denial.

New York Times Editorial: Iran and the Strait

Iran’s threat to shut the Strait of Hormuz – one-fifth of the world’s oil trade passes through there – if the United States and Europe press ahead with new sanctions is unacceptable. The Obama administration is right to signal, in deliberately moderated ways, that Washington will not back off if Tehran ever attempts to carry it out.

A show of American naval force kept the strait open to oil tankers during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. A Fifth Fleet spokeswoman usefully reminded Iran this week that the Navy always stands “ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.” Oil markets reacted calmly, at least for now, with no price spikes.

Dec 30 2011

On this Day In History December 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Today history was made in in Parson’s Kansas where the last roll of Kodachrome was processed at Dwayne’s Photo Shop, the only Kodak certified processor of Kodachrome film in the world as of 2010. The final roll of 36-frame Kodachrome to be manufactured was tracked by National Geographic; it was shot by photographer Steve McCurry.

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas By A. G. Sulzberger

PARSONS, Kan. – An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

A Color-Saturated Sun Sets on Kodachrome

I have fond memories of my 35mm Yashika and Canon cameras.

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