06/07/2014 archive

Random Japan

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Food art so cool you don’t want to eat it, but mmm…pancakes!!!

  KK Miller  

Food, although mostly delicious, doesn’t always look beautiful. But what if food that was tasty also looked cool? Something as simple as the humble pancake, always delicious, was turned into some pretty wicked art by a few artistic chefs on the Internet. It’s definitely making us impressed and hungry!

There are many ways to create beautiful pancake art, but an easy way is to make normal pancakes outlined in chocolate. For example:

The Belmont Stakes 2014

The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held Elmont right next to Queens.  Indications of that are they can’t settle on a song or a drink.  The song has ranged from Sidewalks of New York, a charming Tin Pan Alley tune better known as East Side, West Side, to the Theme from New York, New York (as performed by Frank Sinatra and appropriated as the Yankees anthem and not the original Liza Minelli rendition), to 2010’s Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z.

This year they are returning to Sidewalks of New York, hoping it will bring back some Triple Crown luck.

Likewise the drink has changed from the absolutely un-potable White Carnation to the refined trashcan punch that is the Belmont Breeze.

I suggest instead the classic Cosmopolitan.


  • Ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau
  • fluid ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Long thin piece orange zest


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Strain the cosmopolitan into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink and serve.

Note: The drink can also be stirred in a pitcher.

This year is the 146th running and for once we have the possibility of a Triple Crown.  While the past 36 years are littered with failure I’d argue that at least as many hopes have been dashed at Pimlico as at Belmont.

Hard Lessons From Belmont

By ERIC BANKS, The New York Times

JUNE 6, 2014

Though I welcome the fair-weather fans, few appreciate just how hard it is to sweep the Triple Crown. After prevailing in the Kentucky Derby, a horse that goes on to win the Preakness is often a victor by attrition, as the tougher challengers, no longer having a shot at the Triple Crown, frequently skip the second leg in the series to better prepare for the Belmont Stakes. Three weeks later, the Belmont’s acid test – a long distance over the racetrack’s unusual and tiring sandy surface, facing a slew of well-rested adversaries – usually exposes the champ’s flaws.

It’s ironic that the Belmont Stakes is able to generate a crowd (and betting handle) as large as the one it will see on Saturday only by dangling the prospect of a Triple Crown – which is likely to send its customers home disappointed.

I hope I’m all wrong about California Chrome. Every strand of his narrative is appealing, from his unlikely pair of regular-guy owners to the magical training job done by his 77-year-old conditioner. A Triple Crown sweep would also be a fitting send-off to the track announcer and Belmont legend Tom Durkin, the longtime voice of New York racing who is retiring in August. If you love the sport, despite its doping scandals and episodes of callous, even cruel treatment of animals, you can’t but hope that the 120,000 spectators who are anticipated at Belmont Park will be treated to a perfect Cinderella – or Seabiscuit – ending.

But horse racing hasn’t been a hopeful sport in some time. I’m content to wish the gallant horse good luck from a distance and take the slim prospect of celebrating far away from the track in exchange for the likelihood of familiar disappointment in person. With the Triple Crown, it just seems like the sporting thing to do.

History of Failure (all from The New York Times)

Still, Eric does identify many of the problems a potential Triple Crown Winner faces.  First of all the distance.  At 1 1/2 miles the Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races and comes hard on the heels of the sprint at Pimlico.

Pushing to Change the Triple Crown’s Grueling Schedule

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

MAY 30, 2014

Stuart Janney III, the vice chairman of the Jockey Club and a member of the New York Racing Association’s board, is joining Tom Chuckas, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, in calling for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to be spread out over three months. Janney said there was a groundswell of support from owners and trainers for a potential scheduling change, which is already stirring intense debate.

The spacing and order of the races has not always been the same. The Preakness was run before the Derby 11 times, for instance. In 1917 and 1922, they were held the same day. Sir Barton was recognized as the first Triple Crown champion in 1919.

Only two starters from the 19-horse Derby field joined California Chrome in the Preakness. Art Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer of California Chrome, expressed how uncomfortable he was with the turnaround, saying most horses require at least 10 days to recover from a race. Todd Pletcher, a top trainer who regularly claims a deep roster of 3-year-olds, started four horses in the Derby. He skipped the Preakness for the third consecutive year.

“The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years,” Chuckas said. “It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it.”

Recent history suggests the tightly bunched spring classics can take a toll on young horses that are still developing physically and mentally. Big Brown, the last horse to start in the Belmont Stakes after sweeping the first two legs, in 2008, was so thoroughly defeated that his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, eased him in the stretch. Although I’ll Have Another looked impressive in taking the Derby and the Preakness two years ago, he was scratched on the eve of the Belmont with a career-ending leg injury.

And indeed it is so, this year’s number one contender, Comanding Curve, has been on vacation.

In the Belmont Stakes, a Rested Commanding Curve

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

“I had never experienced the pure jubilation of running so well in the Kentucky Derby,” Finley said. “The first thing that happens is you have people talking about going to the Preakness right away, and you get caught up in the talk.”

Forty-eight hours after the race, the calculating former military man was back in charge.

“When I met with my team, we really felt very strongly the Preakness would not suit our strengths,” Finley said. “We didn’t really have the pressure of going on to the Preakness, not having the Derby winner.” The trainer Dallas Stewart agreed.

Stewart said the rest and the longer distance in the one-and-one-half-mile Belmont may allow his horse to deny California Chrome, who fended off Ride On Curlin by one-and-a-half lengths in the Preakness.

“The best scenario would be to just catch him at the eighth pole and let them fight it out,” Steward said. “It would be a dream to see them fight it out in the stretch.”

Commanding Curve also benefited from remaining at Churchill Downs, his home base, after the Derby. He produced two strong workouts there before being shipped to Belmont Park, where he turned in another sharp four-furlong drill Sunday. He worked in the company of Cost Effective, another West Point horse, and bested him by one length in blazing four furlongs in 47.38 seconds. The workout ranked third of 25 at the distance on a fast track.

It appeared to be the latest evidence that staying on the sideline was wise.

Also the Belmont track surface is looser, sandier, and harder to run on tran most tracks in the country.

The Complex Battle to Achieve the Perfect Dirt

By MELISSA HOPPERT, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

Grading, watering and an assortment of other procedures are necessary to keep the track, which is known as the Big Sandy, in uniform shape. It is a constant battle for the small army charged with its caretaking, and it goes on whether the day’s card is made up of modest claiming and allowance races, as it often is, or loaded with prestigious million-dollar races, as it will be on Saturday, when California Chrome takes aim at the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont’s racetrack is considered different not just because of its size but also because of its racing surface, which is a combination of sand, clay and silt. Still, the Big Sandy moniker may actually be a misnomer.

“There’s an impression that it’s a lot different, but the numbers really don’t show it as being dramatically different from the other tracks,” said Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine whose researchers routinely gather data on the surface. “It’s a little sandier, but it’s not that big a change.”

He added: “The biggest difference on racetracks, which is much more important than the sand or the surface composition, is the moisture. And one of the things that makes Belmont quite a bit different is the time of year when they’re racing and how they maintain that.” In other words, Belmont is a spring, summer and early fall track, which means thunderstorms, among other things, are a familiar factor.

One factor he fails to consider is that the NYRA is much stricter about “performance enhancement” than most racing associations.

Debating the Possibility of Winning by a Nose Patch

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

The owners, Perry Martin and Steven Coburn, asked the trainer Art Sherman to add the strip after California Chrome started slowly and finished poorly, running sixth among nine starters, in a one-mile stakes race limited to California-breds last Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. They also changed jockeys after their fourth defeat in six races. Victor Espinoza, who swept the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem in 2002, replaced Alberto Delgado.

With those changes, California Chrome rattled off six consecutive victories by a combined 27 ½ lengths. His convincing efforts in the Derby and the Preakness have put him one victory from the Triple Crown.

Martin and Coburn think enough of the nasal strip that Sherman suggested the day after the Preakness victory that California Chrome might not be run in the Belmont if the New York State Gaming Commission did not lift its ban on the nonmedicated, 4-by-6-inch adhesive patch. The commission obliged the next day, citing the opinion of Scott Palmer, its equine medical director.

“Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health and safety, and as such do not need to be regulated,” Palmer said in a statement released May 19 by the New York Racing Association.

Still, a lot of horses have failed or been pulled because they can’t use their favorite meds in New York State.

Performance Enhancing Drugs (all from The New York Times)

It is a compelling human (and horse) interest story from California Chrome himself who was picked up for a song because he looked like a runt and his breeding was unimpressive, to the owners who, if not exactly middle class (you don’t own race horses if you’re middle class), are at least not as obnoxiously wealthy as most of their peers, to the trainer with one last shot at the Triple Crown.

Human Interest (all from The New York Times)

Hey, at least he wasn’t turned into chevaux.

So you want to know who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Handicapping (all from The New York Times)

And how are New Yorkers reacting to the hype?  Well, the usual mix of insouciance and disdain with a side of suppressed excitement and anticipation.

Coverage has started on NBC and now we’ll have an hour and a half of hype.  Post time is 6:52 pm with pre-race setup starting at 6.

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

Cooking With Nuts and Seeds

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For years, nutritionists have been urging us to eat nuts in place of high-carb and sugary snacks. Regulators allow purveyors of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans to make claims that these nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia and sesame would be worthy candidates for a similar push, since they too are loaded with many of the same nutrients – protein and fiber, calcium and vitamin E, healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids. And oh, yes, they taste wonderful (at least sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds do – chia seeds are so small I can’t exactly tell what they taste like).

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Rice Pilaf With Pistachios, Almonds and Spices

This dish is based on Persian rice pilafs, but uses much less butter.

Asparagus, Green Beans and Potatoes With Green Mole Sauce

Green mole sauce, thickened with nuts or seeds, is a natural with seasonal vegetables.

Whole-Wheat Seeded Loaves

Soaked seeds make this bread wonderfully moist.

Seeded Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Cookies

There’s plenty of chocolate in these cookies, but also nutrients and fiber from seeds.

Yogurt With Mixed Seeds, Toasted Oatmeal and Ginger Syrup

A delicious breakfast with pumpkin, poppy, chia, sesame and sunflower seeds as well as toasted oatmeal for crunch.

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

Heidi Moore: The fault in our starry-eyed ‘recovery’: 2014 looks like we’re going bust again

Wall Street and Washington hype is just that. Anyone who’s really been paying attention knows the truth about the economy

Forget the cheerleading from the White House. Nevermind the latest job numbers. Look at your wallets. Despite the persistent happy talk about a recovery, and the hundreds of charts that come along with it, the US economy is not getting better – it may actually be getting worse.

There are millions of Americans who hoped 2014 would be the year their financial lives would improve. After the struggle of a stagnant country since 2009, economic forecasts predicted that a real recovery was coming – that this this would be the year for a well-paying new job, a house, the year those Americans would pay off student loans or reduce their credit-card debt.

But nothing can really improve for us individually until everything improves for all of us economically. And, increasingly, that utopia looks distant. According to the numbers – and to an increasingly frustrated group of experts – the first few months of 2014 are turning out to be a bust, and there’s no reason to believe the rest of the year will be any better, for the haves or the have-nots.

Duncan Black: Guns aren’t meant to be fun

Open carry shouldn’t become a way for people to show off while risking deadly accidents.

It’s rare that I agree with National Rifle Association officials about anything. Recently, though, they rightly sent a message to gun owners in legal open-carry areas, suggesting that what is (and, in their view, should be) legal is not always appropriate. In particular, groups of people “toting a variety of tactical long guns” to fast-food restaurants and similar establishments might be, at best, demonstrating poor manners.

It’s difficult to know when something is really a trend, or whether in the age of the Internet social media just puts the spotlight on things that aren’t actually any more common than they are normally, but let me remind people that guns are scary. They’re scary because they’re capable of killing people, and because it’s not unreasonable, in certain contexts, to think that a person with a gun might be planning to use it. Why else would you have it with you? People are going to suspect you’re a bad guy with a gun.

Dave Zirin: Throw FIFA Out of the Game

MOST people associate FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer, with the quadrennial joy of the World Cup. But as the 2014 tournament begins next week in Brazil, FIFA is plagued by levels of corruption, graft and excess that would shame Silvio Berlusconi. [..]

Under the iron-fisted leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has been steeped in rotating scandals for so long, it’s difficult even to imagine its not being immersed in one public relations crisis or another. Mr. Blatter succeeded his mentor, the similarly scandal-plagued João Havelange in 1998. Under his stewardship, FIFA officials have been accused of financial mismanagement, taking bribes and projecting a level of sexism and homophobia that seems to come from another century.

FIFA’s corruption has been such an open secret for so many years that when new reports emerge, they tend to provoke more eye-rolls than outrage.

George Zorrnick: Will the EPA’s Climate Plan Lead to a Counterproductive Fracking Boom?

There’s little doubt the Obama administration’s big push to cut carbon pollution, announced this week, will lead to much less coal-fired power in the United States. That’s a good thing.

But what if states instead turn to natural gas-powered electricity instead? That’s certainly what the administration would like them to do-it’s explicitly laid out as an alternative in the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule, and Obama echoed that suggestion when he spoke on a conference call the day the rule was unveiled. For years, his administration has pushed natural gas as a fundamental part of America’s long-term energy strategy.

If that happens, it could be a disaster for the environment, according to some leading climate experts. Federal regulations on the extraction and transport of natural gas range from insufficient to nonexistent, and the resultant methane emissions from a bigger natural gas boom could neutralize the gains made by the EPA’s rule, and possibly even accelerate climate change in the short-term.

Richard Reeves: Welcome Home, Sergeant

If today’s Republican Party had been around during the Civil War, it would have tried to stop its own president, a fellow named Lincoln, from appointing Gen. Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Union Army because he drank on duty-quite a lot, apparently. And if the president was a Democrat, say Thomas Jefferson, the Republicans would be calling for hearings to find out the “real” reason he was sending Lewis and Clark into the wilderness to learn what was out there between the Mississippi and the Pacific.

So now it is President Obama and Sgt. Bergdahl. It could be Obama and anyone or anything. In fact, the Republicans and other conservatives have been bad-mouthing the president for years for not doing enough to get the wandering sergeant back from the Taliban.

Davis Sirota: Private Equity Is Becoming a Public Problem

A few weeks ago, a top official at the Securities and Exchange Commission reported on what he called a “remarkable” amount of potentially illegal behavior in the private equity industry-aka the industry that buys up, changes and sells off smaller companies.

In its evaluation of private equity firms, the SEC official declared that half of all the reviews discovered “violations of law or material weaknesses in controls.” The announcement followed an earlier Bloomberg News report on how the agency now believes “a majority of private equity firms inflate fees and expenses charged to companies in which they hold stakes.”

At first glance, many probably dismiss this news as just an example of plutocrats bilking plutocrats. But that interpretation ignores how such malfeasance affects the wider economy.

On This Day In History June 7

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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 7 is the 158th day of the year (159th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 207 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1692, a massive earthquake devastates the infamous town of Port Royal in Jamaica, killing thousands. The strong tremors, soil liquefaction and a tsunami brought on by the earthquake combined to destroy the entire town.

Port Royal was built on a small island off the coast of Jamaica in the harbor across from present-day Kingston. Many of the buildings where the 6,500 residents lived and worked were constructed right over the water. In the 17th century, Port Royal was known throughout the New World as a headquarters for piracy, smuggling and debauchery. It was described as “most wicked and sinful city in the world” and “one of the lewdest in the Christian world.”

Earthquakes in the area were not uncommon, but were usually rather small. In 1688, a tremor had toppled three homes. But four years later, late in the morning on June 7, three powerful quakes struck Jamaica. A large tsunami hit soon after, putting half of Port Royal under 40 feet of water. The HMS Swan was carried from the harbor and deposited on top of a building on the island. It turned out to be a refuge for survivors.

Piracy in Port Royal

Port Royal provided a safe harbour initially for privateers and subsequently for pirates plying the shipping lanes to and from Spain and Panama. Buccaneers found Port Royal appealing for several reasons. Its proximity to trade routes allowed them easy access to prey, but the most important advantage was the port’s proximity to several of the only safe passages or straits giving access to the Spanish Main from the Atlantic. The harbour was large enough to accommodate their ships and provided a place to careen and repair these vessels. It was also ideally situated for launching raids on Spanish settlements. From Port Royal, Henry Morgan attacked Panama, Portobello, and Maracaibo. Roche Brasiliano, John Davis (buccaneer), and Edward Mansveldt (Mansfield) also came to Port Royal.

Since the English lacked sufficient troops to prevent either the Spanish or French from seizing it, the Jamaican governors eventually turned to the pirates to defend the city.

By the 1660s, the city had gained a reputation as the Sodom of the New World where most residents were pirates, cutthroats, or prostitutes. When Charles Leslie wrote his history of Jamaica, he included a description of the pirates of Port Royal:

   Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.

The taverns of Port Royal were known for their excessive consumption of alcohol such that records even exist of the wild animals of the area partaking in the debauchery. During a passing visit, famous Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck is said to have described the scenes:

   The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink from the large stocks of ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it.

There is even speculation in pirate folklore that the infamous Blackbeard met a howler monkey while at leisure in a Port Royal alehouse whom he named Jefferson and formed a strong bond with during the expedition to the island of New Providence. Port Royal benefited from this lively, glamorous infamy and grew to be one of the two largest towns and the most economically important port in the English colonies. At the height of its popularity, the city had one drinking house for every ten residents. In July 1661 alone, forty new licenses were granted to taverns. During a twenty-year period that ended in 1692, nearly 6,500 people lived in Port Royal. In addition to prostitutes and buccaneers, there were four goldsmiths, forty-four tavern keepers, and a variety of artisans and merchants who lived in 2000 buildings crammed into 51 acres of real estate. 213 ships visited the seaport in 1688. The city’s wealth was so great that coins were preferred for payment rather than the more common system of bartering goods for services.

Following Henry Morgan’s appointment as lieutenant governor, Port Royal began to change. Pirates were no longer needed to defend the city. The selling of slaves took on greater importance. Upstanding citizens disliked the reputation the city had acquired. In 1687, Jamaica passed anti-piracy laws. Instead of being a safe haven for pirates, Port Royal became noted as their place of execution. Gallows Point welcomed many to their death, including Charles Vane and Calico Jack, who were hanged in 1720. Two years later, forty-one pirates met their death in one month.

Although a work of historical fiction, James Michener’s The Caribbean details the history, atmosphere and geography of Port Royal accurately.

The Breakfast Club 6-7-2014

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.

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This Day in History