Daily Archive: 04/12/2014

Apr 12 2014

Random Japan

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Nankai Railways and Gundam combine their love of mobility to create the Gundam train

 Casey Baseel

In a way, it’s slightly ironic that Gundam, Japan’s most venerated giant robot, is honored with a huge statue that stands in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The original series in the franchise was titled Mobile Suit Gundam, but that 18-meter (59-foot) isn’t going anywhere since not only is it incapable of walking, Odaiba is an island and we’re pretty sure it can’t swim, either.

Coming soon, though, is a more logical way to pay homage to the franchise: a Gundam train.

It’s been 20 years since Nankai Electric Railways started operation of its Airport Line, which connects Osaka, central Japan’s largest city, with Kansai Airport. Nankai’s executives apparently concluded that the best way to commemorate this improvement in the mobility for the region’s residents was by teaming up with anime series Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.

Apr 12 2014

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

“Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives”

Barley and Herb Salad with Roasted Asparagus photo 07recipehealth-master675_zps267806ee.jpg

These five recipes from Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health in the New York Times were from the “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” conference at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, an event that bridges health care, nutrition science and cooking.

Barley and Herb Salad With Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus taste better when it’s not cooked in or near water, but also that it doesn’t cause that distinctive odor in urine many people experience after eating it.

Bulgur and Chickpea Salad With Roasted Artichokes

The roasted artichokes are perfect served atop or on the side of this lemony grain, chickpea and herb salad.

Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Mixed Nuts, Herbs and Dried Fruit

You can use a variety of dried fruits and nuts, as well as a mix of herbs. Chop the larger dried fruits small so that the pieces are uniform.

Red and Basmati or Jasmine Rice With Peanuts, Asian Dressing and Baked Tofu

The antioxidant-rich pigment from the red rice will bleed into the white rice, turning it an attractive pale rusty color.

Middle Eastern Black Rice and Lentil Salad on a Bed of Spinach

Black rice is inky, as black as squid ink, and glistens against a bed of spinach. The pigments provide anthocyanins, flavonoids that are high in antioxidants.

Apr 12 2014

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

New York Times Editorial Board: Torturing Children at School

Federal investigators have opened an inquiry into the tragic case of a high school student in Bastrop County, Tex., who suffered severe brain damage and nearly died last fall after a deputy sheriff shocked him with a Taser, a high voltage electronic weapon. [..]

Complaints about dangerous disciplinary practices involving shock weapons are cropping up all over the country. The problem has its roots in the 1990s, when school districts began ceding even routine disciplinary duties to police and security officers, who were utterly unprepared to deal with children. Many districts need to overhaul practices that criminalize far too many young people and that are applied in ways that discriminate against minority children. In the meantime, elected officials need to ban shock weapons in schools.

Naomi Klein: Why US fracking companies are licking their lips over Ukraine

From climate change to Crimea, the natural gas industry is supreme at exploiting crisis for private gain – what I call the shock doctrine

The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin’s fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security. [..]

For this ploy to work, it’s important not to look too closely at details. Like the fact that much of the gas probably won’t make it to Europe – because what the bills allow is for gas to be sold on the world market to any country belonging to the World Trade Organisation.

Sadhbh Walshe: Obama, deporter-in-chief: the shame of immigration policy, one family at a time

More than 2m immigrants kicked out. The vast majority of cases from minor crimes. All this for parents who want to see their American kids grow up?

Francisco Vega was just 15 years old when he got convicted for possession of a controlled substance, a minor crime – and one that has haunted this Mexican-born immigrant’s life ever since. The juvenile drug conviction was subsequently vacated, but not before costing Francisco the chance to become a permanent, legal American resident through marriage. This all-too-common incident ultimately led to his being deported in 2008. He made it back to the US, only to face deportation again five years later. Now he’s languishing in a cell in a privately run immigrant detention center in Tacoma, Washington, where his wife tells me he is not faring well: “We are not allowed contact visits, but I can see through the glass window that he is wasting away.”

If the Vegas lose their second battle and Francisco is permanently removed from this country – if they lose a husband and a father of four American-born children, one of whom served in the US Air Force – it will be just another casualty of the backward immigration enforcement policies pursued by the Obama administration that are ripping families apart.

David Sirota: In Chicago, You Have to Pay to Play With Public Money

Chicago is facing a pension shortfall for its police officers, firefighters, teachers and other municipal workers. If you’ve followed this story, you’ve probably heard that the only way Mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the situation is to slash those workers’ pensions and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.

This same fantastical story, portraying public employees as the primary cause of budget crises, is being told across the country. Yet, in many cases, we’re only being told half the tale. We aren’t told that the pension shortfalls in many locales were created because local governments did not make their required pension contributions over many years. And perhaps even more shocking, we aren’t told that while states and cities pretend they have no money to deal with public sector pensions, many are paying giant taxpayer subsidies to corporations-subsidies that are often far larger than the pension shortfalls.

Chicago exemplifies how corruption is often at the heart of this grand bait and switch.

Terrance Heath: The Ryan Budget Shows What Republicans Want To Do To America

Sometimes a budget is a moral document. Sometimes it’s a threat. With the passage of Rep. Paul Ryan’s latest austerian budget, the GOP is once again spelling out very clearly what they want to do to America. It’s not a threat, but a promise that Americans must make sure Republicans never have the power to fulfill. [..]

Not that they said as much during the debate over the Ryan budget. Over the last two days, Republicans resorted to a rhetorical trick unworthy of a second-rate high school debate team. “Only in Washington,” they said over and over again, “is a spending increase called a cut,” because the budget increase federal spending at a slower rate.

Only in the Republican mind is a reduction in spending not a cut. Whether you call it a $5.1 trillion spending reduction or $5.1 trillion in cuts, that’s how much less the government would spend under the Ryan budget. Most of those cuts – 69 percent – come from programs that serve low- and mid-income Americans.

Michelle Chen: Why Do Bosses Want Their Employees’ Salaries to Be Secret?

In a narrow vote this week, the Senate politely smothered the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have protected workers’ rights to compare and discuss their wages at work. Aimed at dismantling workplace “pay secrecy” policies, the legislation built on the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens safeguards for women and other protected groups against wage discrimination. Both measures aim to fill gaps in the enforcement of longstanding civil rights laws, which, half a century on, are still failing to combat the most insidious forms of discrimination-the subtle labor violations that grease the gears of economic inequality. Wage discrimination has persisted in large part because workers are routinely discouraged or outright banned from discussing compensation levels with coworkers. [..]

The struggle for fair pay isn’t captured in wage statistics; it’s part of a struggle against the asymmetry of knowledge that divides management and labor-and fundamentally, a struggle for a democratic workplace. In the economic superstructure, the real depths of of the wealth gap are not between coworkers but between workers and the CEOs on top. Yet those stunning inequalities are not contemplated in any legal concept of “paycheck fairness.” Workers are, of course, trained to view such inequalities as central pillars of the corporate edifice, just as society has normalized the interlocking inequalities in race and gender that are plainly on display in our communities and workplaces every day.

Apr 12 2014

The Breakfast Club (L’Orfeo)

Got your sitz muscles on and your warm beer and cold pizza ready?  Good, because today I have 2 solid hours of Baroque Opera for you.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.pngI told you to expect something completely different.

Now the truth is I’m not big on Opera.  Uniformly (well, almost) it’s hours and hours of butt numbing tragedy and L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi is no exception.

It tells the story, at great length and repetitively in song and a foreign language that I don’t understand, of Orpheus and Eurydice.  Allow me to summarize-

Orpheus was a legendary Bard (who says you don’t learn anything from D&D?) who could literally (and I know the difference between that and figuratively) out sing the Sirens and did so in the service of Jason and his fellow


He married a beautiful woman named Eurydice.  Just after their wedding she was accosted by a satyr and rather than submit she ran away and fell into a pit of snakes suffering a fatal bite.

Distraught, Orpheus expressed his grief in songs that made the gods themselves weep and he was allowed to enter Tartarus where his lamentations softend even the hearts of Hades and Persephone.  They agreed to release Eurydice on a single condition- that Orpheus not look back until they were both safely out of Tartarus.

Did I not say tragedy?  Nothing ever goes well in an Opera.  Orpheus misinterprets the agreement and when he reaches the land of the living again with Eurydice a step or two behind (totally sexist) he turns back to see how she is doing.  Poof.  She is now dead dead, no saving throw.

Like a lot of myths and legends you should take this one with a pillar of salt, but you can see why it’s a particularly attractive one for musicians and it is constantly re-visited in that pre-corporatist intellectual property kind of way.

What’s interesting about L’Orfeo is that it’s one of the earliest examples of the ‘classical’ Operatic format that was enormously popular for over 300 years and could be argued persists even today in what we contemporarily call ‘Musicals’.

Monteverdi was right on the cusp of the transition between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque basso continuo.  He was a singer, a gambist (an instrument that hardly exists now except in museums), and, oh yeah, a priest.

Look, I know he had a wife and 3 kids.  He didn’t take orders until after she died and back in the day becoming a priest was kind of like retiring on a pension.  Give him a break.

In fact he’s rather more famous for his Madrigals which in addition to being eminently singable and pleasant to listen to (much more than Opera to my mind) clearly demonstrate the transition between the Renaissance and Baroque styles.

As Baroque style rose the Madrigal was displaced by the solo Aria and that made me sooo mad.

How mad are you?

I’m sooooooooooooooo mad.


I’m so mad I’m not even going to sing my Aria!

OK, maybe a little.

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD.  And I am highly organized.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

This Day in History

Apr 12 2014

On This Day In History April 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.

April 12 is the 102nd day of the year (103rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 263 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

After his historic feat was announced, the attractive and unassuming Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Monuments were raised to him across the Soviet Union and streets renamed in his honor.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.