10/12/2013 archive

Random Japan

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11 unique experiences for tourists to Japan

Oona McGee

If you’ve been scouring the net looking for ways to experience the most unique things Japan has to offer, then dock your wireless device and hang up those bunny ears because we’ve found the list for you. These 11 experiences are so unique you’ll be amazed they even exist. From crazy, subculture adventures to mystical, secret classes, now you can fill up on a unique blend of pop and tradition thanks to the activities on offer from new travel website Voyagin. We’ve picked the best courses for you to enjoy.

1. Have tea with a Lolita (2,500 yen [US$25], 2 hours)

In Japan, Lolitas are quaint girls who like to dress in Victorian-era clothing. And what better way to get acquanited than over a cup of tea? Complete with teaspoons and china cups, you’ll feel like you’re down the rabbit-hole at a mad-hatter’s tea party.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness NewsWelcome 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

Beets, Raw and Cooked

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Beets are available year-round, but the best time to buy them is June through October, when they are at their most tender. Look for unblemished bulbs with sturdy, unwilted greens. In addition to the usual red variety, you may find beautiful golden beets, and pink-and-white striated Chioggia beets. Unless a red color is important to the dish, either type can be used interchangeably with red beets.

~Martha Rose Shulman

Spinach Salad With Red and Chioggia Beets, Quinoa and Walnuts

This is one of those salads where the grain enhances texture and adds a nutritional punch, but isn’t what the salad is about. It’s about beets and spinach.

Shredded Beet and Radish Slaw With Rice Noodles

If you do want to wrap this salad, I suggest wrapping it in romaine lettuce leaves.

Stir-Fried Beet Greens, Tofu and Beets

The greens should be crisp-tender.

Beet and Chia Pancakes

It’s important to purée the roasted beets until they’re really smooth; I found using a powerful hand blender was more effective for this than my food processor.

Seared Fish With Beet Salsa

The sweet crunch of the apple contributes texture and juice to the tangy/pungent salsa, which is delicious with all sorts of foods, not just fish.

Economic Populist: Premium Bonds Would Disarm Default Threat

Just as the GOP Shutdown was getting underway, 2 October, Matt Levine at Bloomberg was calling on the administration to Mint the Premium Bonds!.

The creepy trick that has swept the nation* is the platinum coin option, in which Treasury mints a $1 trillion platinum coin, deposits it at the Fed, and suddenly has an extra $1 trillion of money to spend without incurring any debt (and, thus, without breaching the debt ceiling). This is a good trick as tricks go, and it’s been extensively advocated by Josh Barro, Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, Joe Weisenthal, basically every economics blogger really. I am unaware of any good arguments that the platinum coin wouldn’t work, but it does have the problem that it is really really really really obviously a trick. I mean, it’s a trillion dollar coin, come on. So it’s sort of sub-optimal symbolically, and would make people really mad. It’s a crisis-enhancer, although with the benefit of avoiding immediate default.

So there is an alternative that Matt Levine is putting forth:

Instead of just rolling those Treasuries — paying them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 100 cents on the dollar — it should pay them off at 100 cents on the dollar by issuing new Treasuries at 275 cents on the dollar and using the extra money to pay its bills. The 10-year yield today is around 2.6 percent, so you could sell a 10-year with a 23 percent coupon for 275 cents on the dollar.**** The 30-year is about 3.9 percent, so a 14 percent coupon should get you there. Etc. Math here.

Now, given my previous writing on Fixed Interest Payment Consol Bonds … would this work too?

Yes, in a functional sense, of course it would. Its a similar, though not identical, answer, but it goes through the same loophole. Premium bonds are, by law, counted on their face value. So any bond with a face value substantially below its issue price that is used to roll over maturing long term bonds would “roll back” the debt ceiling count.

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 thea Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Rolling the Dice on Food-Borne Illnesses

The government shutdown has caused staff reductions at two important federal health agencies, increasing the risk of serious harm to American consumers from food-borne illnesses. The two agencies – the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – have decided to focus their remaining resources on imminent threats. But they have shut down very important work that allows them to spot potentially serious problems in advance and take steps to head them off. The longer Congressional Republicans allow the shutdown to continue, the greater the danger of harm. [..]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which looks at disease outbreaks rather than at food products, has furloughed about 9,000 of its 13,000 employees, leaving only 4,000 on the job. Important programs have been stripped bare of expertise. [..]

The theory of a shutdown is that all but essential workers will be furloughed. But the vast majority of workers in these agencies do work that is necessary to protect the public from harm.

Robert Reich: The Tea Party Republicans’ Biggest Mistake: Confusing Government with Our System of Government

Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama and a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act, has just changed his tune. He now says: “My primary focus is on minimizing risk of insolvency and bankruptcy. There are many paths you can take to get there. Socialized medicine is just one of the component parts of our debt and deficits that put us at financial risk.”

Translated: House Republicans are under intense pressure. A new Gallup poll shows the Republican Party now viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. That’s the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992. The Democratic Party is viewed favorably by 43%, down four percentage points from last month. [..]

What’s the lesson here? The radicals who tried to hijack America didn’t understand one very basic thing. While most Americans don’t like big government, Americans revere our system of government. That’s why even though a majority disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, a majority also disapprove of Republican tactics for repealing or delaying it.

David Sirota: Right-wing coup: Deluded secessionists have already won

Conservative secessionists want their own country? Their agenda already rules, even though a majority opposes it

In his seminal book “Better Off Without ‘Em,” Chuck Thompson marshals data to argue that America would benefit by letting the Republican Party and its strongholds formally secede from the country. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Thompson, the argument he forwards is compelling on the policy merits. It also raises an important but less-explored political question: Why would today’s conservatives want to formally secede from a nation that gives them the privilege of governing the whole country, even though they remain in the electoral minority and even though their policy agenda is opposed by a majority of the country?

Partisans on both sides will inevitably deny this reality, because they see the world exclusively through a red-versus-blue prism. The reality-distorting effects of such a prism cast Democratic politicians as uniformly liberal, and therefore creates the illusion that Democratic Party control of the presidency and the U.S. Senate mean those institutions are similarly liberal. But such a partisan view obscures ideological conservatism’s undeniable dominance of both parties – and, thus, American politics.

Slavoj Žižek: Who is responsible for the US shutdown? The same idiots responsible for the 2008 meltdown

In opposing Obamacare, the radical-populist right exposes its own twisted ideology

In April 2009 I was resting in a hotel room in Syracuse, hopping between two channels: a PBS documentary on Pete Seeger, the great American country singer of the left; and a Fox News report on the anti-tax Tea Party, with a country singer performing a populist song about how Washington is taxing hard-working ordinary people to finance the Wall Street financiers. There was a weird similarity between the two singers: both were articulating an anti-establishment, populist complaint against the exploitative rich and their state; both were calling for radical measures, including civil disobedience.

It was another painful reminder that today’s radical-populist right reminds us of the old radical-populist left (are today’s Christian survivalist-fundamentalist groups with their half-illegal status not organised like Black Panthers back in the 1960s?). It is a masterful ideological manipulation: the Tea Party agenda is fundamentally irrational in that it wants to protect the interests of hardworking ordinary people by privileging the “exploitative rich”, thus literally countering their own interests.

Eugene Robinson: Boehner in the Catbird’s Seat

Don’t feel sorry for John Boehner. His party and his country may be losers in this absurd crisis, but he clearly intends to come out a winner.

It’s tempting to sympathize with the House speaker, putative ringmaster of an unruly and at times incoherent Republican majority that delights in thinking the unthinkable. How do you handle someone like Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who actually believes that crashing into the debt ceiling-and triggering a default-would somehow inspire confidence in the U.S. economy?

Leading the hard-core tea party caucus is in no sense an easy task. But it should at least begin with an honest dose of reality. Instead, Boehner has been feeding his difficult charges a steady diet of fantasy-strengthening his position as speaker while bringing the nation to the brink.

Ralph Nader: Atomic Energy — Unnecessary, Uneconomic, Uninsurable, Unevacuable and Unsafe

No other industry that produces electricity poses such a great national security risk should sabotage or malfunction occur. No other means of generating power can produce such long-lasting catastrophic damage and mayhem from one unpredictable accident. No other form of energy is so loaded with the silent violence of radioactivity.

Nuclear energy is unnecessary, uninsurable, uneconomic, unevacuable and most importantly, unsafe. The fact that it continues to exist at all is a result of a ferocious lobby, enlisting the autocratic power of government, that will not admit that its product is unfit for use in the modern world. Let us not allow the lessons of Fukushima to be ignored.

On This Day In History October 12

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.

October 12 is the 285th day of the year (286th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 80 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1810, Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, marries Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

The Bavarian royalty invited the citizens of Munich to attend the festivities, held on the fields in front of the city gates. These famous public fields were named Theresienwiese-“Therese’s fields”-in honor of the crown princess; although locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n.” Horse races in the presence of the royal family concluded the popular event, celebrated in varying forms all across Bavaria.

Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and the world’s largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modelled after the Munich event.

The Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally, takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival will go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1. In 2010, the festival lasts until the first Monday in October, to mark the 200-year anniversary of the event. The festival is held in an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called Wiesn for short, located near Munich’s centre.

Visitors eat huge amounts of traditional hearty fare such as Hendl (chicken), Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezn (Pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Kasspatzn (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).

First hundred years

In the year 1811, an agricultural show was added to boost Bavarian agriculture. The horse race persisted until 1960, the agricultural show still exists and it is held every four years on the southern part of the festival grounds. In 1816, carnival booths appeared; the main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. The founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility for festival management in 1819, and it was agreed that the Oktoberfest would become an annual event. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward, the reason being that days are longer and warmer at the end of September.

To honour the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, a parade took place for the first time in 1835. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people-mostly from Bavaria-in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the centre of Munich, to the Oktoberfest. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl.

Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and “Germanised” the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.

In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was finished. In 1854, 3,000 residents of Munich succumbed to an epidemic of cholera, so the festival was cancelled. Also, in the year 1866, there was no Oktoberfest as Bavaria fought in the Austro-Prussian War. In 1870, the Franco-Prussian war was the reason for cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was once more cancelled due to a cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated over 400 booths and tents (Albert Einstein helped install light bulbs in the Schottenhamel tent as an apprentice in his uncle’s electricity business in 1896). In 1881, booths selling bratwursts opened. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892.

At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. They wanted more room for guests and musicians. The booths became beer halls.

In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration

In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Braurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests.

I have very fond memories of Oktoberfest. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Europe, do it in late September because this is a must see and experience.

2013 Senior League Championship: Dodgers @ Cardinals Game 1

Squirrels!  Squirrels!

Not to get you all distracted, but we also have Suzuka tonight @ 1 am ET (yes, this is another edition of it sucks to be me).

Anyway, back to Baseball, the real thing, not just a game of Rounders where weenie Pitchers get to sit on the bench while geezers too old to throw, run, or field suck down a bajillion bucks based on reputation alone.

At least I get around the bases pretty good considering my 120+ years.  It’s because I’m a dancer.

Why do I favor the Cardinals?  The Dodgers are traitors to Brooklyn and opened the floodgates of fungible franchises that extort money from municipalities in Stadium subsidies that promise minimum wages and fail to deliver even that.

Fuck you.  A professional sporting franchise is not a business, it’s a billionaire ego trip and if you’re not willing to pay what it takes to win don’t come complaining to the taxpayer or the League about the size of your market and the unfairness of it all.

Whiny Ass Titty Baby.

So the LaLas send up Zack Greinke (15 – 4, 2.63 ERA R) against Joe Kelly of the Cards (10 – 5, 2.69 ERA R).  It looks like a boring Pitcher’s duel on paper and goodness knows I could use one.