04/14/2012 archive

Random Japan



   Arata Fujiwara, who will represent Japan in the London Olympic marathon, credits a new dance craze with helping him qualify for the Games. “After I got some lessons from (dancer Hiromi) Kashiki and her curvy dancing, my running style dramatically improved,” said Fujiwara, after finishing second in the Tokyo Marathon.

   Hiroshi Hoketsu, 71, Japan’s oldest-ever Olympian, will compete in the equestrian dressage event at the London Games. Hoketsu first saddled up for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

   BJ League basketball star Lynn Washington of the Osaka Evessa, a two-time league MVP, and his wife Dana were arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle a kilo of weed into Japan.

   A couple of high school runners orphaned by the March 11 tsunami were part of a tour of Dodger Stadium while in Los Angeles for the LA Marathon.

   The news just keeps getting worse for the storied Yomiuri Giants baseball club. This time, the rival Asahi Shimbun dug up dirt that the Giants paid pitcher Takahiko Nomaguchi cash under the table when he was still an amateur playing in the corporate league, which is a definite no-no.

   Osunaarashi, or “Great Sandstorm,” won his debut sumo bout at the Spring Tournament in Osaka, becoming the first African to enter the age-old sport. The 20-year-old jonokuchi hails from Egypt.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News a 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.

Making Spinach the Star of the Meal

Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

It’s hard for me to resist buying spinach at the farmers’ market this time of year. The bunches are plush, and the leaves and stems, pale pink at the base, are tender. I’d almost forgotten what mature spinach tastes like, since I’d gotten into the habit of buying the bagged baby spinach that you don’t have to stem; at my Iranian market they sell three-pound bags at a very good price. But fresh, locally grown bunch spinach is definitely worth revisiting, even if it does require more prep time. ~ Martha Rose Shulman

Stir-Fried Sesame Shrimp and Spinach

Two rinses in a salty bath give the shrimp a succulent flavor and crisp texture.

Indian Tofu With Spinach

Tofu takes the place of cheese in this classic Indian dish.

Spinach and Onion Tart

Lighter than a quiche, this tart plays up the flavors of spring.

Spinach Bouillabaisse

Saffron lends an exotic note to this soup, and an egg in each bowl makes it a one-dish meal.

Provençal Spinach Gratin

This garlicky dish, topped with crispy bread crumbs, comes out of the oven sizzling.

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: Republicans and the Gun Lobby

Republican politicians gathering at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis are eagerly pandering to a powerful political lobby that is intent on making the nation’s gun laws weaker and more riddled with more dangerous loopholes. Rather than tackling public safety risks like the Stand Your Ground law implicated in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Mitt Romney and others offered nothing but exhortations to defend the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms at all costs.

President Obama has regrettably been avoiding the gun control issue. Still, Mr. Romney attacked him at the convention on Friday, promising to stand with the N.R.A. “for the rights of hunters and sportsmen and those seeking to protect their homes and their families.” This was a far cry from Mr. Romney’s 1994 campaign for the United States Senate when he assured centrist Massachusetts voters: “I don’t line up with the N.R.A.” Yet there he was in St. Louis, lining up. Newt Gingrich, in his over-the-top manner, urged a United Nations campaign to proclaim the Second Amendment “a human right for every person on the planet.”

Rik Smits: Lefties Aren’t Special After All

FEW truly insignificant traits receive as much attention as left-handedness. In just the last couple of generations, an orientation once associated with menace has become associated with leadership, creativity, even athletic prowess. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were born left-handed (as was Ronald Reagan, though he learned to write with his right hand). Folklore has it that southpaws are unusually common in art and architecture schools. Left-handed athletes like Tim Tebow and Randy Johnson are celebrated.

The idea of “correcting” left-handedness, common in the postwar United States, now seems quaint if not barbaric. “My parents understood I was left-handed/and didn’t make me write against the grain/the way so many people their age had to,” Jonathan Galassi writes in “Left-handed,” his new collection of poems.

Robert Parry: How Neocons Sank Iran Nuke Deal

Two years ago, Washington’s influential neoconservatives – both inside and outside government – shot down a possible resolution to the Iranian nuclear dispute because they wanted a confrontation with Tehran that some hoped would lead to their long-held dream of “regime change.”

In the ensuing two years, the cost of that confrontation has been high not just for Iranians, who have faced harsh sanctions, but for the world’s economy. For instance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent escalation of bomb-Iran rhetoric contributed to the spike in gasoline prices that seems to be choking off the U.S. recovery, just as job growth was starting to accelerate.

But the Israelis and their neocon allies have yet to back away from the path toward war. They appear ready to take President Barack Obama to task if he makes any meaningful concessions to Iran in international negotiations that are set to resume in Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday.

Bernie Sanders and Ryan Alexander: Stop the Nuclear Industry Welfare Program

After 60 years, the taxpayer should not continue to subsidize multibillion-dollar corporations in the nuclear energy sector

The US is facing a $15 trillion national debt, and there is no shortage of opinions about how to move toward deficit reduction in the federal budget. One topic you will not hear discussed very often on Capitol Hill is the idea of ending one of the oldest American welfare programmes – the extraordinary amount of corporate welfare going to the nuclear energy industry.

Many in Congress talk of getting “big government off the back of private industry”. Here’s an industry we’d like to get off the backs of the taxpayers.

As, respectively, a senator who is the longest-serving independent in Congress and the president of an independent and non-partisan budget watchdog organisation, we do not necessarily agree on everything when it comes to energy and budget policy in the US. But one thing we strongly agree on is the need to end wasteful subsidies that prop up the nuclear industry. After 60 years, this industry should not require continued and massive corporate welfare. It is time for the nuclear power industry to stand on its own two feet.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: The Rich Are Different from You and Me – They Pay Less Taxes

Benjamin Franklin, who used his many talents to become a wealthy man, famously said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes.  But if you’re a corporate CEO in America today, even they can be put on the back burner – death held at bay by the best medical care money can buy and the latest in surgical and life extension techniques, taxes conveniently shunted aside courtesy of loopholes, overseas investment and governments that conveniently look the other way.

In a story headlined, “For Big Companies, Life Is Good,” The Wall Street Journal reports that big American companies have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more profitable than ever: flush with cash, less burdened by debt, and with a greater share of the country’s income. But, the paper notes, “Many of the 1.1 million jobs the big companies added since 2007 were outside the U.S. So, too, was much of the $1.2 trillion added to corporate treasuries.”  

David Sirota: The End of ‘Shut Up and Play’

As high-profile events periodically prove, politics and athletics have long had a love-hate relationship, the affinity ebbing and flowing with the cultural tides. In the tumultuous 1960s, for instance, stars like Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and John Carlos used their notoriety to embolden the major social movements of the time. Then came the 1980s and 1990s, which saw the sports world depoliticized in an age of “Just Do It” and “greed is good.” For every Charles Barkley using Nike commercials to forward social messages about role models, there were far more Michael Jordans who avoided any political statements whatsoever.

Skip forward to 2012-a superheated moment primed by seething protest campaigns and a divisive presidential election. Not surprisingly, the sports world has again shifted, becoming just as politically fraught as the society it entertains-and whether or not you agree with a particular sports icon’s opinion, the larger change is a welcome development for participatory democracy.

Richard Reeves: The Quiet Campaign: Voter Suppression

The 2012 presidential election is not only about who votes for Barack Obama and who votes for Mitt Romney. It is also about who votes.

In a national campaign that does not get much national publicity, at least 41 states have passed laws or are considering new laws making it more difficult to vote in November, or legislation designed to discourage people from even trying to cast ballots, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

The center reports on a quiet wave of new state legislation sweeping the country that focuses on voting eligibility and estimates that these laws could reduce presidential voting by as many as 5 million votes. To put that number in perspective, in 2008, Obama won the presidency by 9 million votes.

On This Day In History April 14

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.

April 14 is the 104th day of the year (105th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 261 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln is shot in the head at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth, shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis! (Ever thus to tyrants!) The South is avenged,” as he jumped onto the stage and fled on horseback. Lincoln died the next morning.

The assassination of President of the United States Abraham Lincoln took place as the American Civil War was drawing to a close, just five days after the surrender of the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered [Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated, though an unsuccessful attempt had been made on Andrew Jackson in 1835.

The assassination was planned and carried out by well-known actor John Wilkes Booth as part of a larger conspiracy intended to rally the remaining Confederate troops to continue fighting. Booth plotted with Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson as well.

Lincoln was shot while watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln . He died the next morning. The rest of the plot failed. Powell only managed to wound Seward, while Atzerodt, Johnson’s would-be assassin, lost his nerve and fled.

Death of President Lincoln

Dr. Charles Leale, a young Army surgeon on liberty for the night and attending the play, made his way through the crowd to the door at the rear of the Presidential box. It would not open. Finally Rathbone saw a notch carved in the door and a wooden brace jammed there to hold the door shut. Booth had carved the notch there earlier in the day and noiselessly put the brace up against the door after entering the box. Rathbone shouted to Leale, who stepped back from the door, allowing Rathbone to remove the brace and open the door.

Leale entered the box to find Rathbone bleeding profusely from a deep gash that ran the length of his upper left arm. Nonetheless, he passed Rathbone by and stepped forward to find Lincoln slumped forward in his chair, held up by Mary, who was sobbing. Lincoln had no pulse and Leale believed him to be dead. Leale lowered the President to the floor. A second doctor in the audience, Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, was lifted bodily from the stage over the railing and into the box. Taft and Leale cut away Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and opened his shirt, and Leale, feeling around by hand, discovered the bullet hole in the back of the head by the left ear. Leale removed a clot of blood in the wound and Lincoln’s breathing improved. Still, Leale knew it made no difference: “His wound is mortal. It is impossible for him to recover”.

Leale, Taft, and another doctor from the audience, Dr. Albert King, quickly consulted and decided that while the President must be moved, a bumpy carriage ride across town to the White House was out of the question. After briefly considering Peter Taltavull‘s Star Saloon next door, they chose to carry Lincoln across the street and find a house. The three doctors and some soldiers who had been in the audience carried the President out the front entrance of Ford’s. Across the street, a man was holding a lantern and calling “Bring him in here! Bring him in here!” The man was Henry Safford, a boarder at William Petersen’s boarding house opposite Ford’s. The men carried Lincoln into the boarding house and into the first-floor bedroom, where they laid him diagonally on the bed because he was too tall to lie straight.

A vigil began at the Petersen House. The three physicians were joined by Surgeon General of the United States Army Dr. Joseph K. Barnes, Dr. Charles Henry Crane, Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott, and Dr. Robert K. Stone. Crane was a major and Barnes’ assistant. Stone was Lincoln’s personal physician. Robert Lincoln, home at the White House that evening, arrived at the Petersen House after being told of the shooting at about midnight. Tad Lincoln, who had attended Grover’s Theater to see Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, was not allowed to go to the Peterson House.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton came and took charge of the scene. Mary Lincoln was so unhinged by the experience of the assassination that Stanton ordered her out of the room by shouting, “Take that woman out of here and do not let her in here again!” While Mary Lincoln sobbed in the front parlor, Stanton set up shop in the rear parlor, effectively running the United States government for several hours, sending and receiving telegrams, taking reports from witnesses, and issuing orders for the pursuit of Booth.

Nothing more could be done for President Lincoln. At 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, he died. He was 56 years old. Mary Lincoln was not present at the time of his death. The crowd around the bed knelt for a prayer, and when they were finished, Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages”. There is some disagreement among historians as to Stanton’s words after Lincoln died. All agree that he began “Now he belongs to the…” with some stating he said “ages” while others believe he said “angels”

Formula One 2012: Shanghai Qualifying

Well here’s an interesting factoid I’ve missed so far this season.  There are now two female drivers working with Formula One teams, Maria de Villota of Marussia and Susie Wolff of Williams.  As the Daily Mail article alludes, they are hardly taken seriously by the corrupt macho culture that is F1 and frankly the backlog of drivers wanting seats is so deep that you have to bribe a team to get one.  I doubt either will see any race time even in GP2, but from little acorns…

Let’s talk a bit about Mercedes.  One of the reasons they’ve performed relatively well so far (though not top 3) is an aero innovation they’ve introduced.  Shades of the blown diffuser, holes exposed during deployment of the Drag Reduction System funnel air forward through carbon fiber chassis tubes and spoil downforce on the front wing too.  It survived a challenge from Team Lotus this week and is expected to be widely copied by the other teams to the extent they can.  The Mercedes chassis is purpose built around this and since they’re one of the most (and largest) pissed off teams at the moment, I expect this will stick while a similar innovation from Lotus got ruled illegal 3 weeks after approval.

Go figure.

Red Bull is very disappointed at their start this year and is intending to run dual setups.  Webber will be running a refinement of the rear aero used at Sepang and Vettel will be running the setup used in winter testing.  McLaren was using pitot tubes on the rear end to gather additional data during practice.

Hamilton has a problem.  His original gearbox is cracked and he’s highly likely to have to replace it and accept a 5 grid penalty though we won’t know for sure until today.  It may not matter so much as Qualifying has proven a less than reliable indicator of performance so far-

Pole Position Is Falling Behind

By BRAD SPURGEON, The New York Times

Published: April 13, 2012

It used to be that the man who scored pole position was almost certain to win the race. But as the series prepares for the Chinese Grand Prix outside Shanghai this weekend, the value of the pole and qualifying in general seem to have diminished as the fastest drivers on Saturday have rarely been those who finish the race in the top spots.

“I won’t deny that I’m disappointed to have had two pole positions and not to have been able to convert either of them into victories,” Hamilton said. “But I prefer to think of it that luck just hasn’t been on my side and that it will swing my way sooner or later.”

As usual it’s tires, tires, tires and the offering this week is Mediums and Softs though it’s distinctly possible that a large part of the race will be on Inters and Wets.  Shanghai has had rain 4 of the last 8 years and it rained during morning Practice on Friday.  Timo Glock parked hard in the second session, but says he’s ok and is expected to race.

The actual race is a 2:30 am start tomorrow on Speed with a repeat at 3:30 pm.  If you happen to be up right now you can join me in watching Formula One Debrief or wait until 2 pm.  If you start watching at midnight tomorrow you get the full trifecta run up of Debrief, Qualifying, and Race.

Popular Culture (Music) 20120413: The Lovin’ Spoonful

First of all, I apologize for missing Wednesday’s installment of My Little Town.  If anyone is interested why, I shall be happy to explain in the comments.  Briefly, yesterday was very busy.

The Lovin’ Spoonful were a short lived band that several well known hits.  Their music was more catchy than substantive, but better than much of the pap that was available at the time.

This is the only time that I intend to write about them, but they were quite popular for a few years.  There is controversy about the origin of the name for the band, and we shall address that first.