12/08/2012 archive

In Glorious Black & White

Frank CapraIt’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (2:10)

His pictures let viewers witness “a triumph of the individual over corrupt leaders”, and experience “inherent qualities of kindness and caring for others.” Most of his best works have been revived, and are today considered timeless fables filled with love and respect for the struggles of the common man.

Holiday Books NOT To Give

The Onion Book of Known Knowledge

Starting at $15.97 (used) The Onion Book of Known Knowledge is useless even for emergency toilet paper or starting fires.

Sample entry-

Arson, term used when the purity of setting something aflame gets all tainted by meddling police and lawyers.

Do not be misled by that atypically admirable example, the bulk of the book is consumed by outrageous lies and falsehoods illustrated by this more repesentative excerpt-

Appalachian Trail, 2,180-mile-long path along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States that is the worst, least efficient way to travel from Georgia to Maine. Traversed each year by those who willingly deny the existence of America’s vast transportation system for some inexplicable reason, the Appalachian Trail takes roughly four months to hike but can be covered in two days by car, 26 hours by rail, or five hours by plane-three fully air-conditioned means of conveyance that offer zero chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes, spraining an ankle, or going weeks without bathing. If one absolutely must walk from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin, a far more sensible choice would be to use Interstate 95: It’s a straight shot, and there are plenty of stores and hotels along the way so that one doesn’t have to travel across 14 states while carrying 50 pounds of gear. Overall, hiking the Appalachian Trail offers nothing but the chance to grow a mangy beard and waste time. It literally defies logic.

Everyone knows that the Appalachian Trail is an entirely fictional destination used to deceive your spouse while doing the horizontal mambo with your Argentine paramour.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316133265
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
  • Publication date: 10/23/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 10.92 (h) x 0.84 (d)

(for a more extensive preview visit truthout.org)

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News 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.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

For Holiday Party Fare, Try a Purée

Spinach and Yogurt Dip

Here’s a new concept: view the holiday party season as an opportunity to eat more vegetables and legumes. I spent a week making Mediterranean vegetable and bean purées that we spread on toasted bread and devoured for lunch and dinner every day. [..]

This week the focus is on the savory (in a couple of weeks I’ll bring you some sweeter and crunchier ideas). As always, the cuisines of the Mediterranean offer everything I am looking for – vibrant, nutrient-dense seasonal vegetables and legumes flavored with herbs, spices and aromatics. I transformed some of my favorite vegetable and legume dishes into spreads simply by blending them in a food processor. Serve these on toasted croutons or crackers, or if you need a lower-carb delivery system, spoon or pipe onto squares of red pepper, endive leaves, or cucumber rounds.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Spinach and Yogurt Dip

With the help of a food processor she transformed one of her favorite Middle Eastern spinach dishes into a spread.

Carrot Purée

This simple recipe can be served on toasted bread, or as a dip with fresh vegetables.

Mediterranean Lentil Purée

The spices of a popular Egyptian lentil salad are delicious in a purée.

Winter Squash and Walnut Spread

The filling from a winter pie offered inspiration for a delicious spread.

Warm Hummus

A lighter, Turkish version of the classic hummus dish.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Hilary Leila Kreiger: The True Meaning of Hanukkah

WHEN my brother was in kindergarten, where he was the only Jewish student, a parent organizing enrichment activities asked my mother to tell the class the story of Hanukkah. My mother obligingly brought in a picture book and began to read about foreign conquerors who were not letting Jews in ancient Israel worship freely, even defiling their temple, until a scrappy group led by the Maccabee family overthrew one of the most powerful armies in the world and won their liberty.

The woman was horrified.

The Hanukkah story, she interrupted, was not about war. It was about the miracle of an oil lamp that burned for eight days without replenishing. She urged my mother to close the book. My mother refused.

The woman wasn’t alone. Many Americans, Jews as well as Christians, think that the legend of the long-lasting oil is the root of Hanukkah’s commemoration. And perhaps that mistake is no surprise, given that for many the holiday has morphed into “Christmas for Jews,” echoing the message of peace on earth accompanied by gift giving. In doing so, the holiday’s own message of Jewish survival and faith has been diluted.

Paul Waldman: It’s Time to Kill the Debt Ceiling

Let’s use this opportunity to end the prospect of future economic hostage crises.

There are a number of strange aspects to the negotiation/maneuvering/posturing now taking place between the White House and congressional Republicans about the Austerity Trap (a.k.a. fiscal cliff), but one that hasn’t gotten much attention is the disagreement over the debt ceiling. As part of their initial offer, the White House included something I and other people have been advocating for some time: Just get rid of the debt ceiling altogether. The Republicans, particularly in the House, don’t seem to be interested. But we should take a good look at how crazy their position on this issue is.

In an ordinary negotiation, each side has things it wants, while it dislikes some or all of the things the other side wants. A union wants higher wages for its workers, while the company doesn’t want to pay the higher wages. You’d rather have your partner do the laundry while you do the dishes, but your partner doesn’t like doing the laundry either. The White House wants to increase taxes on the wealthy, which Republicans don’t like, while Republicans want cuts to social programs, which the White House doesn’t like.

Charlotte Silver: Normalising death: The business of drones

As the leading suppliers, users and developers of drones, the US and Israel have defined the landscape of the industry.

As the two leading suppliers, users and developers of drone technology, the US and Israel have defined the landscape of the industry. While this leads to an inherent competition, the industries maintain a more co-operative than adversarial relationship.

American drone manufacturers have benefitted widely from the kind of warfare and attendant weaponry that Israel has helped pioneer. Not only did America’s initial drone capabilities come from Israel, but the policy of targeted assassinations, under which 300 American drone strikes have been deployed by the Obama administration, was instigated by Israel. [..]

In 2005, Forbes magazine named the Jewish state as the “go-to country for anti-terrorism technology” and today, Israel is very well the go-to country for drone technology. The country’s academic institutions are principally to thank for that grand achievement. This symbiotic relationship between academia and drone warfare may well be coming to the US.

Assisting the US drone industry in its efforts to rebrand its unsavoury image, Israel is helping drone makers to align themselves with academic and philanthropic institutions.

Robert Kuttner: Folks Like Me

Obama should retire his line about needing to pay more taxes, and start focusing more on the mega-rich.

When President Obama calls for raising taxes on the top 2 percent, he has a habit of declaring that, “Folks like me” should pay higher taxes. He used the phrase dozens of time during the campaign, and just this week again in an interview on Bloomberg.

Either someone on the president’s speechwriting staff has a tin ear, or Obama himself does.

For starters, the comment puts unnecessary distance between the president and the citizenry. It signals: I am not like most of you. I am far wealthier.

But the phrase, “folks like me,” is wildly misleading. The people whose taxes really need to rise are not folks from the professional class like Barack Obama. They are folks like Mitt Romney and Pete Peterson-people with net worth in the billions or hundreds of millions; people behind the corporate Fix the Debt campaign; people like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.

Robert Reich: Today’s Job Numbers Show Why Job-Creation Must Take Precedence Over Deficit Reduction

Today’s jobs report shows an economy that’s still moving in the right direction but way too slowly, which is why Washington’s continuing obsession with the federal budget deficit is insane. Jobs and growth must come first.

The cost of borrowing is so low — the yield on the ten-year Treasury is near historic lows — and the need for more jobs and better wages so high, and our infrastructure so neglected, that it’s insanity not to borrow more to put more Americans to work rebuilding the nation.

Yes, unemployment is down slightly and 146,000 new jobs were created in November. That’s some progress. But don’t be blinded by the hype coming out of Wall Street and the White House, both of which want the public to believe everything is going wonderfully well.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Tea Party Quitter DeMint Cashes In, Exposing DC’s Dark Side

They say “walk before you run,” but for politicians like Jim DeMint it’s the other way around. First you run, then you walk — walk out, that is, on your commitment to serve.

But DeMint’s performed one public service by abandoning his post: He’s given us a glimpse of a half-hidden Washington where leaders don’t lead, think-tankers don’t think, and the house always wins.

DeMint’s leaving to run the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Reagan-era “think tank.” Is he a policy expert, a problem solver, a “thinker”? What was DeMint’s professional background before he entered politics?

Sales. DeMint ran a small marketing group (one to four employees, according to business databases) in Greenville, South Carolina.[..]

These politicians aren’t leaders. They’re corporate America’s sales force.

“Will You Help Save the American Dream?” asks the Heritage Foundation website. But that’s just another sales ploy. These politicians have already cashed in on their dreams — by selling yours.

Toys for Girls

I think gender stereotyping is the moral equivalent of teaching children gibberish instead of a language.  It is wrong for the child and bad for society and it’s amazing to me that people defend it on the basis of biology.  Balls does not equate to brain, quite the opposite.

Easy-Bake Oven accused of sexist marketing by 13 y.o. girl (and she’s right)

by Chris in Paris, Americablog

12/4/2012 7:03pm

As someone who loves to cook, does all of the cooking at home, and who has enjoyed cooking since I was a kid, I would say most definitely, yes – the Easy-Bake Oven’s marketing is sexist (see a sampling below).

Just as it’s sexist to dissuade young girls from math, it’s completely sexist to suggest cooking is not for young boys.  And that’s what Easy-Bake Oven’s entire marketing scheme is about – girls, to the exclusion of boys.

What makes all of this a strange topic is that in the world of “top chefs” in the restaurant business, there’s also a heavy dose of sexism against women. Most of the big name chefs are men, though fortunately there are more women that are getting the respect that they deserve. Even in the context of sexism, cooking is odd since it discourages one sex or another depending on age (it’s okay for men to cook but not boys, and women’s place is in the kitchen unless it’s a really big famous kitchen).

What’s so complicated about being a boy or a girl, a man or a woman and wanting to cook without regard to your gender?

‘Worst Toy Awards’ Target Lego Friends

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA, The New York Times

November 29, 2012, 6:15 pm

The Lego Friends line may promote gender stereotyping. It may be an unnecessary segmenting off of would-be girl Lego builders into “girly” Legos and away from more basic brick sets that offer the complex challenges of creating your own models and worlds (although no more so than any branded Lego kit, all of which are too limiting in the eyes of many Lego fans). It might have provoked all sorts of debate, here and elsewhere when it was introduced, over whether the sets (designed for more role play and storytelling) exploit girls’ natural play patterns or embrace them.

There’s much to consider in the realm of gender-targeted marketing and products, and as I wrote earlier today, it’s all too easy to find yourself grabbing the pink Lego set for a girl without thinking about whether she’d rather just have the Volkswagon Camper Van. One of my girls loves the pink Legos. The other prefers the classic stuff. But they’re both sitting in there on the floor building and whispering stories to themselves, and that’s scarcely destructive to their childhoods.

Lego may have created and marketed its Friends line in the hope of selling more girls on its product, but that’s what toy companies do – and that product, no matter what color it is or what it can build, is still one of the least commercialized options out there, still without batteries or screens, and still, at its core, a building toy.

I love Legos, it’s still just about my favorite toy.  As a point of information it’s structurally possible to build a tower 2.17 miles high out of 2 x 2 bricks, but professional Lego engineers say it’s a practical impossibility because they don’t stack straight enough.

How tall can a Lego tower get?

By Ruth Alexander, BBC News Magazine

3 December 2012

“There isn’t a chance you could do it in reality,” Johnston says. “Long before the brick fails, the tower would fail as a structure itself, by buckling. The other thing you have to remember is that we were very careful to load this equally down the middle, so that all four walls were loaded.”

A 3.5km tower would have to be built so straight that it was no more than 2mm off centre at the midway point, he says.

“And I’d be delighted to meet a Lego builder who could make a 3.5km tower so accurately.”

Cue Duncan Titmarsh, the UK’s only certified Lego builder – and one of only 13 worldwide – and Ed Diment, his partner at company Bright Bricks.

They built the 12.2m (40ft) Lego Christmas tree that stood in London’s St Pancras station last Christmas, and the 5m x 3m advent calendar standing in Covent Garden.

Do they think they could take up the challenge? No.

“If you try stacking 2×2 bricks as soon as you get beyond 3 or 4m tall there’s almost no way you can take out all of the kinks,” Ed Diment says.

And their computer games are as highly structured as their bricks.

Lego The Lord of the Rings – review

Simon Parkin, The Guardian

Monday 3 December 2012

The Lego games, which seek to rebuild colossi of contemporary family cinema franchises in miniature bricks, have rather less to do with the plastic stuff from which they take their name than appearances suggest. The physical toy is a creative material that allows us to build from the imagination in near limitless ways. From a relatively small palette of interconnecting bricks – which click together with all the reassurance of a lipstick lid – one can fashion everything from a lopsided hot-rod to a lumpy dog to the Taj Mahal. Therein lies its simple wonder and universal appeal.

Traveller’s Tales’ games, by contrast, are entirely prescribed. You squeeze a button and the loose collection of bricks at your character’s feet assembles itself in a magical micro-hurricane into a bridge or a ladder or whatever object is needed to facilitate minifigure Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones’s pre-laid story. There is no capacity for personalisation; a player may only affect the rate at which they move towards the conclusion. If Minecraft is the true freeform construction game, offering players a world of blocks to heave into a world of shapes, the orthodox Lego games have us closely following an instruction manual. Piece by piece we reveal the predestined finished article, meticulously prepared for us by the game’s designers.

The basics of the recipe remain consistent – each cinematic plotline split into 18 sequential stages; the characters divided into “types”, each with their own set of exclusive abilities which must be called upon to overcome obstacles; the post-completion secret hunting – but the structure is ever-changing.

Lego Lord of the Rings presents the most dramatic overhaul yet, retaining the 18-stage structure, but granting players the run of Middle Earth in between these climactic chapters. It’s not quite Lego Skyrim, but these hills and valleys are filled with nooks and secrets, valuable bricks hidden behind waterfalls and deep inside yawning caves, the land seasoned with eager minifigs waiting to send you off on fetch quests. It’s this expanse of hub that gives Lego Lord of the Rings a rare sense of scale and place, one articulated by a map that, more than in Tolkien’s prose or Jackson’s film, allows one to understand exactly how Shire links to Mordor in geographical terms.

On This Day In History December 8

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 8 is the 342nd day of the year (343rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 23 days remaining until the end of the year.

John Lennon, October 9. 1940 – December 8, 1980

The Tea Maker

Yoko Ono

John and I are in our Dakota kitchen in the middle of the night. Three cats – Sasha, Micha and Charo – are looking up at John, who is making tea for us two.

Sasha is all white, Micha is all black. They are both gorgeous, classy Persian cats. Charo, on the other hand, is a mutt. John used to have a special love for Charo. “You’ve got a funny face, Charo!” he would say, and pat her.

“Yoko, Yoko, you’re supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water.” John took the role of the tea maker, for being English. So I gave up doing it.

It was nice to be up in the middle of the night, when there was no sound in the house, and sip the tea John would make. One night, however, John said: “I was talking to Aunt Mimi this afternoon and she says you are supposed to put the hot water in first. Then the tea bag. I could swear she taught me to put the tea bag in first, but …”

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”

“Yeah …”

We both cracked up. That was in 1980. Neither of us knew that it was to be the last year of our life together.

Trickle Down Economics

Just don’t tell me it’s raining.

Innumeracy and Magnitude

I know none of my regular readers have a problem with concepts like this because…

Well basically because they’re not ignorant rubes who reject mathematics in favor of magic.

Herr Doktor Professor

Dean Baker catches David Ignatius suggesting that trade liberalization can provide enough economic boost to offset the effects of austerity. As Dean says, the arithmetic is totally off – almost two orders of magnitude off.

Order of magnitude.  What does that mean?

Without overly complicating things (there are 10 types of people, those who know binary and those who don’t) what makes our modern, Arabic system of numeric notation superior for quick calculation to that used by Rome is that we represent numbers positionally using a zero to indicate that no elements occupy a particular multiple of our base.

When you line numbers up in columns this gives you a quick and easy way to see which numbers are about the same size.  Which is bigger- MM or MCMXCIX?



Why MCMXCIX obviously, it has more numbers.

How about this way?



Now that’s actually a bad example because 1999 and 2000 are really close together.  Let’s try something where we are actually displaying some orders of magnitude.




So 10 is 9 more than 1 and 100 is 90 more than 10.  What’s important to notice is not only is 100 more than 10, it’s a lot more than 10.  The difference is bigger between 100 and 10 than it is between 10 and 1, a lot bigger.

Conveniently for us the difference between 100 and 1 is exactly 2 orders of magnitude, just what Herr Doktor ordered.

Let’s look at what Dr. Baker says-

Ignatius’ trade deal will increase growth over the next decade by an average of 0.09 percent a year.

By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the tax increases and spending cuts associated with the end of year fiscal dispute will reduce GDP by close to 4.0 percent, or roughly 40 times the impact of Ignatius’s trade deal.

40 times?  How does he come up with that number?  If we take out the confusing decimal place it looks like this-



So the real number is something like 45 (44.4) times, but that’s still rather big.

Ok, so what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Well, if you don’t know how to deal with orders of magnitude you might end up spending an awful lot more for your Chinese tea.  Let’s look at another example shall we?

Goldman Fined for Failing to Block Trader’s $8.3 Billion Bet

By Silla Brush, Bloomberg News

Dec 7, 2012 4:30 PM ET

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) will pay $1.5 million to settle U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission claims the firm failed to supervise a trader who hid an $8.3 billion position. One CFTC commissioner dissented, saying the penalty is far too small.

Goldman Sachs inadequately policed trades made by Matthew Marshall Taylor on seven days in late 2007, ultimately suffering more than $118 million in losses as his bets were unwound, according to the CFTC. Later, Goldman Sachs didn’t send the regulator “important information” on the incident that was provided to another industry watchdog, the CFTC said.

$1.5 million, that’s a lot of money isn’t it?  Perhaps to you and I, but let’s take a look at those orders of magnitude shall we?

       $8,300,000,000 == Amount of the illegal trade ($8.3 Billion)

         $118,000,000 == Amount the trade lost ($118 Million)

           $1,500,000 == Amount of the fine ($1.5 Million)

So the fine was $116.5 Million dollars less than Matthew Marshall Taylor cost Goldman Sachs just by being stupid and wrong and $8.2985 BILLION less than the amount of money at risk in the trade.

And a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

The moral of the story is, don’t let verbal shortcuts confuse you.