Daily Archive: 02/25/2012

Feb 25 2012

Random Japan

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Well, duh

   A study panel from the labor ministry has identified six categories of behavior that constitute “power harassment,” including “giving the cold shoulder in the workplace” and “demanding the impossible.”

   The NPA says the recent rise in fatal traffic accidents on expressways might be linked to the elimination of tolls, which has “drawn inexperienced drivers to highways.”

   The welfare ministry found that workers who make less than ¥2 million a year “have more health problems than higher earners.”

   A 37-year-old Chinese man was arrested for throwing four Molotov cocktails at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Feb 25 2012

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.

Bibimbap: Rice Takes a Trip to Korea

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

In traditional bibimbap, a large serving of rice is placed in the center of a hot bowl and surrounded with small amounts of meat – usually beef – and seasoned vegetables that include a mixture of cultivated vegetables (cucumber, carrot, daikon or turnips, spinach, lettuce, mushrooms) and wild items like fiddlehead ferns and reconstituted dried toraji (bellflower roots). A fried egg is often placed on top of the rice, and diners stir everything together. In Jeonju, which along with Jinju and Tongyeong is famous for its bibimbap, special stone bowls are used for the dish. They are coated with sesame oil and heated until very hot so that when the rice is placed in them, a crust forms on the bottom. The egg is broken onto the hot rice and cooks as it is stirred in.

Bibimbap With Beef, Winter Squash, Spinach and Cucumber

Beef is the most typical meat served with bibimbap. It’s marinated and quickly seared in a hot wok or frying pan.

Bibimbap With Chicken, Broccoli Rabe, Mushrooms and Turnip

This dish focuses on hearty grains and assertive vegetables, so one chicken breast is all it takes to feed a family.

Bibimbap With Clams, Kale, Daikon and Carrots

The clams’ briny broth seasons the rice in this light and flavorful dish.

Bibimbap With Tofu, Cucumbers, Spinach, Shiitakes and Carrots

This cross-cultural dish borrows from Japanese tradition for the tofu marinade.

Bibimbap With Tuna, Sweet Potato, Broccoli Rabe or Kale, and Lettuce

Tuna steaks, sliced thinly after cooking, are a vehicle for a traditional Korean marinade.

Feb 25 2012

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”.

Ted Rall: Obama Sells Out Homeowners Again: Mortgage Settlement a Sad Joke

Joe Nocera, the columnist currently challenging Tom Friedman for the title of Hackiest Militant Centrist Hack–it’s a tough job that just about everyone on The New York Times op-ed page has to do–loves the robo-signing settlement announced last week between the Obama Administration, 49 states and the five biggest mortgage banks. “Two cheers!” shouts Nocera.

Too busy to follow the news? Read Nocera. If he likes something, it’s probably stupid, evil, or both.

Joe Nocera, the columnist currently challenging Tom Friedman for the title of Hackiest Militant Centrist Hack–it’s a tough job that just about everyone on The New York Times op-ed page has to do–loves the robo-signing settlement announced last week between the Obama Administration, 49 states and the five biggest mortgage banks. “Two cheers!” shouts Nocera.

Too busy to follow the news? Read Nocera. If he likes something, it’s probably stupid, evil, or both.

Simon Tisdall: Drumbeat of War with Iran Has a Familiar Ring

Impetus towards war with Iran can only be explained in terms of a western desire for Iraq-style regime change

The drumbeat of war with Iran grows steadily more intense. Each day brings more defiant rhetoric from Tehran, another failed UN nuclear inspection, reports of western military preparations, an assassination, a missile test, or a dire warning that, once again, the world is sliding towards catastrophe. If this all feels familiar, that’s because it is. For Iran, read Iraq in the countdown to the 2003 invasion.

A decisive moment may arrive when Barack Obama meets Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in Washington on 5 March. “The meeting … will be definitive,” said Ari Shavit in Haaretz. “If the US president wants to prevent a disaster, he must give Netanyahu iron-clad guarantees the US will stop Iran in any way necessary and at any price after the 2012 [US] elections. If Obama doesn’t do this, he will obligate Netanyahu to act before the 2012 elections.” [..]

But as with Iraq in 2003, the sense that war is inevitable and unstoppable is being energetically encouraged by political hardliners and their media accomplices on all sides, producing a momentum that even the un-bellicose Obama may find hard to resist.

Amy Goodman: How Far Can Russ Feingold Push Campaign Finance Reform?

Let’s hope the former Democratic senator’s new job as Obama campaign co-chair means Super Pacs’ days are numbered

“The president is wrong.” So says one of the newly appointed co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.Those four words recently headlined the website of the organization Progressives United, founded by former US Senator – and now Obama campaign adviser – Russ Feingold. He is referring to Obama’s recent announcement that he will accept Super Pac funds for his re-election campaign.

Matt Taibbi: Arizona Debate: Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost

How about that race for the Republican nomination? Was last night’s debate crazy, or what?

Throughout this entire process, the spectacle of these clowns thrashing each other and continually seizing and then fumbling frontrunner status has left me with an oddly reassuring feeling, one that I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on. In my younger days I would have just assumed it was regular old Schadenfreude at the sight of people like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich suffering, but this isn’t like that – it’s something different than the pleasure of watching A-Rod strike out in the playoffs.

No, it was while watching the debates last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It’s as if all of the American public’s bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.

Leah Bolger: Need to Talk Sense to Netanyahu

Recalling President George Washington’s farewell advice against tying the United States too closely to any foreign nation, Veterans for Peace urges President Obama to publicly warn Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran with the expectation of U.S. military support.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veterans for Peace

SUBJECT: You Need to Talk Sense to Netanyahu

We members of Veterans for Peace have served in every war since WW II. We know war. And we know when it smells like war. It smells that way now, with drums beating loudly for attacking Iran.

Gary Younge: Marriage Equality and the Civil Rights Inheritance

On the face of it, mixed-race and same-sex marriage rights are quite different. But look at who’s lined up in opposition and why

In the small hours of 11 July 1958, three policemen entered the home of Mildred and Richard Loving, in Central Point, Virginia and found them in bed. When Richard pointed to his marriage certificate indicating that Mildred was his wife, they arrested them. Richard was white; Mildred was black and Cherokee. They were breaking the law, as laid down in Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which banned mixed-race marriage.

The case eventually went to the US supreme court, which, in 1967, ruled in favour of the Lovings:

   “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

So, six years after Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, mixed-race marriage was formally recognised as a civil right nationwide. (Some states kept their laws on the books, even if they were unenforceable. Alabama was the last to get rid of its anti-miscegenation law in 2000.) Said Mildred, many years later:

   “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me. Even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry.”

Mike Elk: Workers on ‘Journey for Justice’ Meet Newly Scared Minn. Labor Movement

Touring locked-out workers from four states stop in possible new ‘right-to-work’ battleground

Yesterday, locked-out union workers from five different American Crystal Sugar (ACS) facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa, as well as locked-out workers from Cooper Tire, set out on a 1,000-mile “Journey for Justice” across the United States to raise awareness of their plight. The ACS workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), while the Cooper workers are part of a United Steelworkers (USW) Ohio local.

The five-day-long trip will stretch through key battleground states for labor rights in America right now: Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. The story of these struggling workers represents much of what’s ailing the labor movement right now.

ACS locked more than 1,200 employees out out of their plants last August after BCTGM rejected proposed increases in healthcare costs and provisions that would allow the company to undermine the union by outsourcing work to nonunion workers. In November, Cooper Tire locked out 1,050 workers after they refused to agree to demands that workers take a wage cut to as little as $13 per hour, assume additional healthcare costs and eliminate pensions for new hires.

Feb 25 2012

On This Day In History February 25

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.

February 25 is the 56th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 309 days remaining until the end of the year (310 in leap years).

On this day in Japan, the Plum Blossom Festival is held. The Festival at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto is one one of the most beautiful. The shrine was built in 947, to appease the angry spirit of bureaucrat, scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane, who had been exiled as a result of political maneuvers of his enemies in the Fujiwara clan.

The shrine was dedicated to Michizane; and in 986, the scholar-bureaucrat was deified and the title of Tenjin (Heavenly Deity) was conferred.

The grounds are filled with Michizane’s favorite tree, the red and white ume or plum blossom, and when they blossom the shrine is often very crowded. Open-air tea ceremonies are hosted by geiko and apprentice maiko from the nearby Kamishichiken district. The plum festival has been held on the same day every year for about 900 years to mark the death of Michizane.

Sugawara no Michizane, August 1, 845 – March 26, 903, was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He is regarded as an excellent poet, particularly in Chinese poetry.

He was educated in a private school run by his father where he studies to become an official in the Court of the Japanese Emperor. His training and skill with Classical Chinese language and literature afforded him many opportunities to draft edicts and correspondences for officials in the Court in addition to his menial duties. Records show at this time he composed three petitions for Fujiwara no Yoshifusa as well as the Emperor. Michizane also took part in receiving delegations from the Kingdom of Parhae, where Michizane’s skill with Chinese again proved useful in diplomatic exchanges and poetry exchange. In 877, he was assigned to the Ministry of the Ceremonial, which allowed him to manage educational and intellectual matters more than before. While serving as governor of Sanuki Province, he intervened in a Court matter on the side Emperor Uda over Fujiwara no Mototsune and at the end of his term returned to the Court in Kyoto where he served in many positions.

He was appointed ambassador to China in the 890s, but instead came out in support of abolition of the imperial embassies to China in 894, theoretically in consideration for the decline of the Tang Dynasty. A potential ulterior motive may have lain in Michizane’s almost complete ignorance of spoken Chinese; most Japanese at the time only read Chinese, and knew little to nothing about the spoken language. Michizane, as the nominated ambassador to China, would have been presented with a potential loss of face had he been forced to depend on an interpreter. Emperor Uda stopped the practice of sending ambassadors to China by what he understood as persuasive counsel from  Michizane.

Within the end of Emperor Uda reign in 897, Michizane’s position became increasingly vulnerable. In 901, through the political maneuverings of his rival, Fujiwara no Tokihira, Michizane was demoted from his aristocratic rank of junior second to a minor official post at Dazaifu, in Kyushu‘s Chikuzen Province. After his lonely death, plague and drought spread and sons of Emperor Daigo died in succession. The Imperial Palace’s Great Audience Hall (shishinden) was struck repeatedly by lightning, and the city experienced weeks of rainstorms and floods. Attributing this to the angry spirit of the exiled Sugawara, the imperial court built a Shinto shrine called Kitano Tenman-gu in Kyoto, and dedicated it to him. They posthumously restored his title and office, and struck from the record any mention of his exile. Sugawara was deified as Tenjin-sama, or kami of scholarship. Today many Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to him.

Feb 25 2012

An Invite to the Oscar Party

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I need a break from reality, at least for a few hours. The chance to sit in front of the big tube with a drink and a bowl of popcorn or other finger food and watch the glitz and glamor as the stars walk down the red carpet and make fools of themselves bumbling the lines of acceptance speeches.

Tomorrow night at The Stars Hollow Gazette, I will be hosting a live blog of the 84rd Academy Awards starting at 7:00 PM EST when the march of celebrities into the Kodak Theater begins. Like last year, I haven’t seen any of these movies. If it weren’t for all the hype about a few of them, I couldn’t even tell you the plot. This year’s show will be hosted by Billy Crystal who has been referred to as “the Oscars’ answer to the Texan oil well firefighter, Red Adair.”

Some folks make this show like the Super Bowl with special drinks and food. Some go as far as getting dressed. Some go for simple, while some just go all out for exotic drinks and fancy food. The fanciest I get is putting on my sequin-adorned blue suede pumps with my sweats, an extra olive in my martini and maybe some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on my popcorn. Last year I listed some of the special drinks that were concocted specially for some of the nominees. This year there is only one drink that the “in” crowd will be sipping, the martini, in honor of the movie, The Artist, that is expected to win “Best Picture”. I like mine with vodka.

In perusing the internet for new treats that would be suitable for the event, I found a great piece in the New York Times that has the recipes for 101 appetizers that can be made in 20 minutes or less. Here are just a few that sounded tasty.

On Bread or Crackers

  • Toss high-quality crab meat with minced shallots, a little tarragon or a lot of parsley and/or basil, and enough mayonnaise to bind. Also good on lettuce leaves.
  • Chop shrimp fine, then sauté in a minimum of oil, or poach quickly and drain. Mix premade pesto with mayonnaise so that it is gluey. Combine cooled shrimp with sufficient pesto to bind; chill.
  • Beef tartare: Carefully pulse good beef in food processor. For each pound, add an egg, a teaspoon dry mustard, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, a tablespoon Worcestershire, Tabasco to taste, 1/2 cup chopped scallions and a touch of minced garlic. Salt and pepper, if necessary. Amazing stuff.
  • Bruschetta

  • Bruschetta is the basis for so many good things. Don’t make it too crisp, and start with good country bread. Brush thick slices with olive oil. Broil until toasted on both sides. While it’s still hot, rub with cut clove of garlic on one side (optional). Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve, or top with prosciutto or tapenade.
  • Top bruschetta with chopped, well-cooked broccoli rabe or other greens tossed with minced garlic and olive oil while still warm. Health food, practically.
  • On Toothpicks

  • Cut chorizo into chunks. Cook in a lightly oiled skillet until nicely browned. Kielbasa is equally good (or better), if not as hip.
  • Portable Caprese: Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
  • A no-brainer: Cut slab of bacon into 1/2-inch chunks. Cook in a skillet, a broiler or a high-heat oven until nice and crisp. Skewer with a grape tomato.
  • Crab cakes: For each pound crab meat, add an egg, 1/4 cup each minced bell pepper and onion, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons bread or cracker crumbs, salt and pepper. Shape into small cakes and refrigerate, if time allows. Dredge in flour, then brown in oil (or oil mixed with butter). Serve with lemon wedges, aioli or tartar sauce.
  • On Skewers

  • Chicken kebab, Greek style: Cut boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch chunks. Toss with minced onion, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, crumbled bay leaf and oregano. Skewer. Broil, turning occasionally, until browned.
  • Pork kebabs, West Indian style: Mix 1 tablespoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, a pinch of nutmeg, a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, 1/4 cup chopped onion and the juice of a lime. Toss with 1 pound pork shoulder (you need some fat or these will be tough) cut into 1-inch cubes. Skewer and broil about 5 minutes.
  • Finger Foods

  • Shrimp cocktail: Combine ketchup with chili powder, pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco and horseradish. Make lots, because people will be double-dipping. Serve with cooked shrimp.
  • Soy ginger wings: This time baste with equal parts vinegar and soy sauce, mixed with a couple of tablespoons each minced ginger and sesame oil. You can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the wings.
  • Dips and Spreads

  • Hummus: Truly one of the great culinary inventions. Mix four parts well-cooked or canned chickpeas with one part tahini, along with some of its oil, in a food processor. Add garlic, cumin or pimentón and purée, adding as much olive oil as needed. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste; garnish with olive oil and pimentón.
  • Boursin: Maybe you have a few Ritz? Mash cream cheese with minced garlic (if you have roasted garlic, so much the better), pepper and small amounts of minced thyme, tarragon and rosemary.
  • Little Sandwich Triangles

  • Layer cooked ham and cheese (Gruyère, Cantal or good Cheddar) on thin bread, then press and grill in a not-too-hot skillet with butter or oil.
  • Cheese quesadillas: Use 4-inch tortillas; on each, put grated cheese, scallions and minced canned green chilies or chopped fresh poblanos. Salsa and beans are optional. Top with another tortilla. Griddle with oil, turning once, about 5 minutes.
  • You Might Need a Fork

  • This is easier than carpaccio: Cut trimmed filet mignon into 1/2-inch or smaller cubes. Toss with arugula, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Make parsley pesto (parsley, garlic, oil, lemon juice) in a food processor. Sauté whole shrimp or small pieces of fish in oil. Arrange fish on small beds of the pesto. You can put this on bread and forget the plates.
  • Soups and Wraps

  • Bisque: Heat shrimp, lobster, fish or chicken broth with minced onion and chopped tomato for 5 minutes. Add chopped shrimp or lobster to the simmering stock, and cook another two minutes. Purée, then add heavy cream or half-and-half, along with salt and pepper. Serve in small cups garnished, if you like, with a piece of cooked shrimp or lobster.
  • Gazpacho: Chop 2 pounds of tomatoes and a cucumber; blend with a couple of slices of day-old bread, torn into pieces, olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic (optional) and anchovies (optional). Add a little water (or more oil) to the blender, if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve in small cups. Optional garnishes include minced bell pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, a piece of anchovy, and/or parsley.
  • Broil a good hot dog, roll in a good tortilla spread with brown or Dijon mustard. Slice. You know everyone will eat them.
  • Get ready for the party and live blog with us tomorrow night.