06/14/2014 archive

Random Japan

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How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker

   Casey Baseel

Every summer, I try to spend as many days as possible on the beach at Enoshima, and each time I get out of the station and walk towards the sand, I pass a long line of people waiting for a seat at the local pancake restaurant. This isn’t Japan’s only pancake joint with a lengthy wait, either, as you can find similar eateries with comparable lines in Tokyo, too.

It used to strike me as a little weird. After all, whipping up a stack of pancakes isn’t exactly the most challenging culinary feat. It can get tedious, though, as you settle into a monotonous pattern of plopping batter into the pan, flipping the half-cooked cake, and repeating over and over again.

Or, you could bypass all that by making an entire batch of pancakes all at once in a rice cooker.

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

A Better Ranch Dressing

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Ranch dressing for dipping makes almost any vegetable more appealing to children, but commercially prepared ranch dressings have nutritional drawbacks. So here’s a salad dressing base made with yogurt and white beans that can be the foundation of a healthful ranch dressing as well as a few variants. {..]

I’ve been making spreads with white beans and yogurt forever, but I hadn’t thought about thinning out the mixture for a salad dressing until Ms. (Lisa) Feldman presented 12 dressings using her base at the Culinary Institute of America’s “Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids” conference last May in San Antonio. I’ve adapted several of Ms. Feldman’s ideas for this week’s Recipes for Health.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Lisa Feldman’s Yogurt and White Bean ‘Ranch’ Dressing

This dressing can be used as a dip for crudités, or on a crisp salad.

Yogurt and Bean Dressing With Cilantro and Lime

This is a pale speckled-green dressing, slightly zingy.

White Bean and Yogurt Green Goddess

Fresh tarragon is the key to the flavor of green goddess dressing.

Yogurt and Bean Dressing With Thai Flavors

Sriracha sauce, lately popular with chefs, adds spice and pungency to this dressing.

Bean and Yogurt Caesar Salad Dressing

Don’t like a raw egg in your Caesar, but want it creamy? The bean and yogurt base is the solution.

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: The Koch Cycle of Endless Cash

It’s not enough, apparently, that some of the wealthiest Americans spend millions to elect their candidates to Congress. Now they are using their fortunes to lobby Congress against any limits on their ability to buy elections.

Koch Companies Public Sector, part of the industrial group owned by a well-known pair of conservative brothers, has hired a big-name firm to lobby Congress on campaign-finance issues, according to a registration form filed a few weeks ago. The form doesn’t say what those issues are, but there are several bills in the House that would reduce the role of anonymous big money in campaigns, and restrict the kinds of super PACs and nonprofit groups that the Koch brothers and others have inflated with cash.

Richard Reeves: What Can We Do in Iraq? Nothing!

Taking a couple of shots at President Obama over the latest round of war in Iraq, House Speaker John Boehner said last week: “This has been building for weeks.”

How about centuries, Mr. Speaker? Sunni Muslims and their Shiite “brethren” have been fighting over this bloody turf since the seventh century. [..]

From the time of the Crusaders until last week, we have had occasional success in ignoring Islam or trying our best to put Muslims inside borders we have drawn, or done our best, intentionally or accidentally, to set them to fighting each other and leaving us alone. If it weren’t for oil and Israel, we could be in an ignoring phase. And we are almost always in ignorant phases. [..]

That is the way of the world. We have seen this before. In March of 1973, American troops withdrew from South Vietnam, leaving our local allies to take over that war. Two years later the North Vietnamese reached Saigon, as the ISIS has reached the suburbs of Baghdad. Do you think we should have gone back and resumed the war in Southeast Asia? That would have been nuts, and it is nuts to go back into Iraq.

Eugene Robinson: Overdosing on Tea

The Republican Party’s reliance on tea party support is like an addict’s dependence on a dangerous drug: It may feel good at first, but eventually it eats you alive.

No House majority leader had ever been ousted in a primary before Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat on Tuesday. Republicans who tell themselves it was Cantor’s own fault-he lost touch with his Virginia district, he tried to have it both ways on immigration, he came to be seen as part of the Washington establishment-are whistling past the graveyard.

Cantor didn’t just lose, he got clobbered. His opponent, college professor Dave Brat, spent just $200,000 on the race-not much more than Cantor’s $5 million campaign spent on meals at steakhouses. Yet a powerful incumbent, running in a district whose boundaries were custom-designed for his benefit, lost by an incredible 11 percentage points.

There can be no doubt that the tail is now wagging the dog. The tea party should no longer be thought of as just a faction of the GOP. It’s calling the shots.

Michelle Chen: If colleges didn’t waste your tuition, we wouldn’t need new student loan reform

Saddling students with unsustainable debts is only a symptom of the deeper erosion within higher education

But while college is prohibitively costly for many students, and student loan reform merely papers over widening economic gap, full public funding for higher education is well within the government’s financial reach. An analysis by the advocacy group Strike Debt, for example, shows that for less than $13bn in additional federal funds, the government could theoretically “make every single public two- and four-year college and university in the United States tuition free for all students”. This would involve both straightforward changes to existing federal subsidy programs (particularly cutting support for notoriously substandard for-profit colleges) and a more fundamental political challenge: getting Washington to recognize that education is an entitlement, not a loan.

The state owes students a deeper debt than they owe the state – the cost of massive educational disinvestment and an economy broken by a generation of financial recklessness.

David Sirota: Al Gore’s Warnings About Inequality and Democracy

Inequality and democracy are the kind of topics you may expect to hear about at a political convention, but not necessarily at a tech industry conference. And so former Vice President Al Gore’s discussion at Nashville’s tech-focused Southland Conference this week could be viewed in context as a jeremiad spotlighting taboo truths about tech culture and philanthropic traditions.

Discussing the economy, Gore lamented that “we have rising levels of inequality and chronic underinvestment” in public programs. He reminded the crowd that when “95 percent of all the additional national income in the U.S., since the recovery began in ’09, goes to the top one percent, that’s not an Occupy Wall Street slogan, that’s a fact.”

Gore may have been alluding to the tech economy becoming a significant driver of that inequality.

Suzanne Goldenberg: Will Hillary Clinton please stand up and break the highest glass ceiling already?

In her new book, as on the campaign trail, she avoids serious talk about the impact of a female president. It’s not a hard choice at all – it’s the easy way out

Hillary Clinton is only a few pages into her new memoir, Hard Choices, when she throws out a hint that she, as a woman running for the White House, would run differently than a man.

She says there is no way she would ever give in to the sexist impulses of Obama campaign aides and attack another candidate – Sarah Palin, in this case – just because she is a woman. [..]

So it’s fair to assume that Clinton – six years removed from her first run for the White House, and two years away from her next (assuming she is running) – has a lot she wants to say about negotiating the treacherous terrain of women and power.

Except that she doesn’t say it.

The Breakfast Club (Requiem)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgMozart was a supremely talented asshole who lived fast, died young, and stayed pretty.  It is said he was working on his Requiem when he croaked, but I suspect that when he died he was busy dying and his major contribution (such as it was) was over.

You see it was a piece of ghost writing from it’s inception, intended to be passed off as a creation of Count Franz von Walsegg in honor of his recently deceased wife and at least half of it was done by Franz Xaver Süssmayr who, if he’d been talented at all and not just a hack, we’d be including in “Süssmayr, Bach, and Brahms.

But we don’t, do we?

The Süssmayr completion of the Requiem is divided into fourteen movements, with the following structure:

  1. Introitus: Requiem aeternam (choir and soprano solo) (D minor)
  2. Kyrie eleison (choir) (D minor)
  3. Sequentia (text based on sections of the Dies Irae):
    • Dies irae (choir) (D minor)
    • Tuba mirum (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo) (B-flat major)
    • Rex tremendae majestatis (choir) (G minor-D minor)
    • Recordare, Jesu pie (soprano, contralto, tenor and bass solo) (F major)
    • Confutatis maledictis (choir) (A minor-F major, last chord V of D minor)
    • Lacrymosa dies illa (choir) (D minor)
  4. Offertorium:
    • Domine Jesu Christe (choir with solo quartet) (G minor)
    • Versus: Hostias et preces (choir) (E-flat major-G minor)
  5. Sanctus:
    • Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth (choir) (D major)
    • Benedictus (solo quartet, then choir) (B-flat major)
  6. Agnus Dei (choir) (D minor-B-flat major)
  7. Communio:
    • Lux aeterna (soprano solo and choir) (B-flat major-D minor)

The Confutatis is well known for its string accompaniment; it opens with agitating figures that accentuate the wrathful sound of the basses and tenors, but it turns into sweet arpeggios in the second phrase while accompanying the soft sounds of the sopranos and altos.

“Agitating figures that accentuate the wrathful sound.”  I like that.  Obligatories below.

The Beginning of the Beginning

Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

June 12, 2014

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

On This Day In History June 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.

Click on image to enlarge

June 14 is the 165th day of the year (166th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 200 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1777, during the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

The Flag Resolution of 1777

On June 14, 1777, the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” Flag Day is now observed on June 14 of each year. A false tradition holds that the new flag was first hoisted in June 1777 by the Continental Army at the Middlebrook encampment.

The 1777 resolution was most probably meant to define a naval ensign, rather than a national flag. It appears between other resolutions from the Marine Committee. On May 10, 1779, Secretary of the Board of War Richard Peters expressed concern “it is not yet settled what is the Standard of the United States.”

The Flag Resolution did not specify any particular arrangement, number of points, nor orientation for the stars. The pictured flag shows 13 outwardly-oriented five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, the so-called Betsy Ross flag. Although the Betsy Ross legend is controversial, the design is among the oldest of any U.S. flags. Popular designs at the time were varied and most were individually crafted rather than mass-produced. Other examples of 13-star arrangements can be found on the Francis Hopkinson flag, the Cowpens flag, and the Brandywine flag. Given the scant archaeological and written evidence, it is unknown which design was the most popular at that time.

Despite the 1777 resolution, a number of flags only loosely based on the prescribed design were used in the early years of American independence. One example may have been the Guilford Court House Flag, traditionally believed to have been carried by the American troops at the Battle of Guilford Court House in 1781.

The origin of the stars and stripes design is inadequately documented. The apocryphal story credits Betsy Ross for sewing the first flag from a pencil sketch handed to her by George Washington. No evidence for this exists; indeed, nearly a century had passed before Ross’ grandson, William Canby, first publicly suggested it. Another woman, Rebecca Young, has also been credited as having made the first flag by later generations of her family. Rebecca Young’s daughter was Mary Pickersgill, who made the Star Spangled Banner Flag.

It is likely that Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the 1777 flag while he was the Chairman of the Continental Navy Board’s Middle Department, sometime between his appointment to that position in November 1776 and the time that the flag resolution was adopted in June 1777. This contradicts the Betsy Ross legend, which suggests that she sewed the first Stars and Stripes flag by request of the government in the Spring of 1776. Hopkinson was the only person to have made such a claim during his own lifetime, when he sent a bill to Congress for his work. He asked for a “Quarter Cask of the Public Wine” as payment initially. The payment was not made, however, because it was determined he had already received a salary as a member of Congress, and he was not the only person to have contributed to the design. No one else contested his claim at the time.

Friday Night at the Movies

Killing with Impunity

Last year, the FBI shot and killed a Chechen man in Orlando, FL, who was a friend of the 2011 Boston Marathon suspects. According to accounts, Ibragim Todashev, had been speaking for two hours in his apartment to officials from the Massachusetts State Police and the F.B.I when he suddenly grab an object and tried to attack an agent. Todashev was shot seven times and died at the scene.

While claiming to investigate these shootings thoroughly, an New York Times investigation found that between 1995 and 2011 no FBI agent has been found at fault in 150 shootings. So it came as no surprise that the FBI agent who shot Tdashev was cleared of any wrong doing by Florida prosecutors

The FBI isn’t the only agency that has a suspicious habit of clearing its agents in shootings. It seems that the US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) is another agency with little or no outside scrutiny or accountability with complaints of abuse mostly ignored and failed to adequately investigate 28 fatal shootings since 2010. In a scathing report in the LA TImes, independent law enforcement experts heavily criticized the agency for a “lack of diligence” in investigating U.S. agents who had fired their weapons.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which had commissioned the review, has tried to prevent the scathing 21-page report from coming to light.

House and Senate oversight committees requested copies last fall but received only a summary that omitted the most controversial findings – that some border agents stood in front of moving vehicles as a pretext to open fire and that agents could have moved away from rock throwers instead of shooting at them.

The Times obtained the full report and the agency’s internal response, which runs 23 pages. The response rejects the two major recommendations: barring border agents from shooting at vehicles unless its occupants are trying to kill them, and barring agents from shooting people who throw things that can’t cause serious physical injury.

The response, marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” states that a ban on shooting at rock throwers “could create a more dangerous environment” because many agents operate “in rural or desolate areas, often alone, where concealment, cover and egress is not an option.”

If drug smugglers knew border agents were not allowed to shoot at their vehicles, it argues, more drivers would try to run over agents.

This week the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson removed James F. Tomsheck as head of internal affairs for the CPB. Tomsheck’s defenders say he is being scapegoated for bigger problems.

For years, Tomsheck wrestled with larger, more established watchdog agencies at the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — all with jurisdiction over Border Patrol misconduct.

As a result, Tomsheck’s hands often were tied because of interference from these other agencies and even senior Customs and Border Protection officials, especially when it came to disciplinary action, said James Wong, who retired as Tomsheck’s deputy in late 2011. [..]

In some cases, Tomsheck’s office was kept in the dark about investigations or shielded from information. Wong said the office often was told that the FBI and homeland security inspector general were handling investigations and had minimal access to those cases. It would be months or years before internal affairs could conduct its own reviews of alleged misconduct or shootings to learn whether agents had followed policy.

In particular, Wong pointed to the June 2010 shooting death of Sergio Hernandez Guereca, a 15-year-old Mexican citizen who was gunned down near El Paso, Texas. The inspector general, senior Customs and Border Protection officials and others blocked the internal affairs office from significant information about the shooting, Wong said.

The Justice Department eventually declined to prosecute the agent involved. [..]

Ronald T. Hosko, who recently retired as the head of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, agreed that Tomsheck’s office was undermined by turf battles, and he never knew Tomsheck to back away from an investigation.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for Buzzfeed discussed the “opacity” of the CBP and Tomsheck’s dismissal just as he was due to testify before Congress,

The Colbert Report


Il Papa


Hillary, Hillary