Daily Archive: 12/24/2011

Dec 24 2011

Merry eksmas TV Part the First

It’s time for public service again and like membership in my club this counts under most court rulings (we’re also considered a halfway station for rehabilitation and socialization).

You know the drill, it’s eksmas eve and you need something to keep you awake as you finish your last minute wrapping and wrestling with directions in Swedish or Mandarin (love their fish and/or oranges).

And TV sucks.  None of your usual choices at the usual times.

It’s the most, laziest, time, of the year…

Well Zap2it and your humble dysfunctional Television addict has you covered and smothered below the fold.

This edition covers the 12 hours from 6 pm to 6 am.

Dec 24 2011

Random Japan



The environment ministry says that ¥11.5 billion worth of “eco points” from the government’s recent energy-saving promotion are set to expire next March without being redeemed.

Authorities are investigating the president of a used-car company over suspicions that he bilked 2,500 investors out of ¥1.3 billion “on the pretext of helping victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and poverty-stricken African people.”

Police in Okayama and Yokohama busted three Chinese man and one woman for smuggling 3kg of stimulants into Japan aboard a cargo ship last month. The drugs have a street value of ¥230 million.

It was announced that Japan will provide $2.9 million of additional funding to support the UN-backed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. By the end of the year, the tribunal will have spent nearly $150 million.

Sentence of the Week: “A ‘veteran’ pickpocket has told police he’s lost his touch and he’s going straight after he was caught lifting a person’s wallet on a bus [in Fukuoka] by another passenger.” (via The Mainichi Daily News)

Dec 24 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.

Tacos for the Holidays

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

   The holiday season can be like an ongoing house party. Children are home from school, their friends are coming by, relatives are in from out of town, and one meal follows the next. One way to meet the challenge of feeding everybody is to pick up a supply of corn tortillas (all the better if more locally made) and make a big pot of beans and some other dishes that are at home in a taco. Buy a few jars of salsa, or make your own, and your house will be taco party central during the busy holiday week.

   Tacos are such an informal way to feed people well. I like to have my fillings made in advance, my garnishes arranged in bowls or on platters. Then all it takes is warming tortillas in a microwave, oven or steamer, and guests can assemble their own tacos. Fillings can be vegetarian or vegan, or they can include meat. Even those who can’t tolerate gluten won’t have to worry, as corn tortillas are gluten-free, and they’re the best ones to use for these recipes.

Soft Tacos With Turkey Picadillo and Cabbage

Picadillo is a typical filling for tacos, enchiladas and chilies, traditionally made with ground beef. Lighten the sweet and savory mixture by using ground turkey breast.

Tacos With Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas in Chipotle Ranchero Salsa

These winter vegetables sweeten with roasting and contrast beautifully with the chipotle-spiked cooked tomato salsa.

Soft Tacos With Mushrooms, Cabbage and Chipotle Ranchero Salsa

The mushroom filling will keep for about three days in the refrigerator.

Tacos With Black Beans and Chard

Black beans and greens make a hearty but healthful taco.

Cauliflower and Red Onion Tacos With Cotija Cheese

Vegetables bathed in vinegar are typical condiments in Mexico, but you can bring them to the center of the plate as a filling for a taco.

Dec 24 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”.

Justina C. Ray: Reindeer Are Fading Into Holiday Myth

Climate change and large-scale development are making it hard for reindeer to survive.

CHRISTMAS is tied to the magical north and to the reindeer – creatures of mythical power that fly through the night across the world, helping to distribute happiness and good will. But reindeer do exist – we call them caribou in North America – and these animals and their home in the boreal woodlands and on the barren-ground tundra are in trouble.

For the past decade, I have been conducting aerial surveys of caribou herds. As I sit strapped in small planes in minus-20-degree temperatures, it amazes me that that they survive against the challenges of their environment – particularly the females. These animals spend most of the year on the move and live in places that seem intolerably harsh. They undertake long journeys of hundreds or thousands of miles and return to give birth in the same traditional areas. Such large-scale migrations are an ecological phenomenon that, sadly, is fast disappearing across the planet.

Justina C. Ray, a wildlife biologist, is executive director and senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.

Joe Nocera: The Big Lie

This is why the myth lives on that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started the housing crisis

You begin with a hypothesis that has a certain surface plausibility. You find an ally whose background suggests that he’s an “expert”; out of thin air, he devises “data.” You write articles in sympathetic publications, repeating the data endlessly; in time, some of these publications make your cause their own. Like-minded congressmen pick up your mantra and invite you to testify at hearings.

You’re chosen for an investigative panel related to your topic. When other panel members, after inspecting your evidence, reject your thesis, you claim that they did so for ideological reasons. This, too, is repeated by your allies. Soon, the echo chamber you created drowns out dissenting views; even presidential candidates begin repeating the Big Lie.

Gail Collins: Remember the Alamo

What’s the last political lesson of 2011 to be learned from Congress passing a two-month extension of a popular tax cut?

Just in time for the holidays, Congress showed us it can work in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation to pass a two-month extension of a popular tax cut. On its own! With perhaps a small amount of prodding.

The payroll tax cut bill zipped through Congress on Friday, approved by a Senate with only two members present and then passed by a near-empty House in a five-minute session. Then everybody went away. Why can’t they do this all the time?

The House Republicans, who had tried to hold up the bill out of principle, only to be pummeled by everyone from John McCain to The Wall Street Journal editorial page, hunkered down for a seriously sulky Christmas.

Eugene Robinson: Obama Benefits From Republican Civil War

Finally. After a year of artful camouflage and concealment, Republicans let us glimpse the rift between establishment pragmatists and tea party ideologues. There may be hope for the republic after all.

Forty Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats in voting for compromise legislation providing a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. The bill passed by 89-10, the kind of margin usually reserved for ceremonial resolutions in favor of motherhood. Senators clearly were confident that House approval would quickly follow.

But it didn’t, because House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t get his tea party freshmen to go along. The result was a kind of intramural sniping among Republicans that we haven’t seen in years.

E. J.Dionne, Jr.: The GOP’s Iowa Chaos

OTTUMWA, Iowa-Is Rick Santorum the next non-Romney to emerge from the pack? Could he conceivably win Iowa?

That these are plausible questions tells you all you need to know about the unsettled nature of the Republican presidential contest-particularly here, the state whose caucuses on Jan. 3 have become a bookie’s nightmare. At the moment, anyone among the six major candidates has a reasonable chance of coming in first or second, and the contest is becoming less settled as the brief Christmas interlude in campaigning approaches.

Joe Conason: The Bigots and Billionaires in Ron Paul’s Orbit

The latest evidence of simmering racial resentment on the American political fringe showed up Monday in a Facebook post by a California man who urged the assassination of the president and his two daughters in obscene, racist language. Aside from the Secret Service, there was little reason for most of us to pay attention to this sick boob-except that he was identified as a local political leader of the tea party and an avid supporter of Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who now seems likely to place first in the Iowa presidential caucuses.

To those who have followed Paul’s long career as a failed presidential candidate-these campaigns have become a family business-the appearance of yet another racist nut job in his orbit is scarcely news. The newsletters that earned millions of dollars for him from gullible subscribers over the decades were often soiled with vile invectives against blacks and other minorities. He is a perennial favorite of the John Birch Society and kindred extremists on the right. He once refused to return a donation from a leader of the Nazi-worshipping skinheads in the Stormfront movement.

What is it about the kindly old doctor that attracts some of the most violent and reactionary elements in society to his banner?

Dec 24 2011

Dinner Time

A Black Hole’s Dinner is Fast Approaching

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Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed. This Video News Release shows the new results and includes spectacular simulations of how the cloud will break up over the next few years.

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. ESO provides state-of-the-art research facilities to astronomers and is supported by Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Several other countries have expressed an interest in membership.

ESO’s main mission, laid down in the 1962 Convention, is to provide state-of-the-art research facilities to astronomers and astrophysicists, allowing them to conduct front-line science in the best conditions. The annual member state contributions to ESO are approximately 131 million Euros and ESO employs around 730 staff members. By building and operating a suite of the world’s most powerful ground-based astronomical telescopes enabling important scientific discoveries, ESO offers numerous possibilities for technology spin-off and transfer, together with high technology contract opportunities and is a dramatic showcase for European industry.

Whilst the Headquarters (comprising the scientific, technical and administrative centre of the organisation) are located in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO operates, in addition to the Santiago Centre, three unique observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor.

h/t John Aravosis at AMERICAblog

Dec 24 2011

On this Day In History December 24

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 24 is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are seven days remaining until the end of the year. This day is commonly known as Christmas Eve.

On this day in 1955, NORAD begins tracking Santa in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.

According to NORAD’s official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the service began on December 24, 1955. A Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Spring’s Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.

By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

Dec 24 2011

Christmas Eve

In Sarajevo

Dec 24 2011

Popular Culture (Music) 20111223: A Brief History of The Who

The year 1970 was a roller coaster for The Who.  The success of Tommy, both in record sales and in touring revenue, were making them rich.  Not just doing OK, but rich.  However, the year started with a real tragedy, and probably marked the beginning of the end of the band, but no one knew it at the time.

Actually, there were two events that presaged the decline, but the one on 19700104 was the actual tragedy.  What I find interesting is that this event, which really happened, is not nearly as well know as the one about Moon driving the car into the swimming pool at the Holiday Inn the previous year, which as we discussed last week, never happened.