Daily Archive: 09/27/2014

Sep 27 2014

Random Japan

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 Japanese company creates ball-balancing cheerleader robots

   Michelle Lynn Dinh

Japan has an infatuation with robots; after all, you don’t see beautiful cyborg women hanging out in restaurants in the US or 24-fingered hair washing bots in the UK. That’s why we weren’t surprised at all to find that Japan has just produced a gang of cheerleading robots that dance in sync while balancing on a ball.

Officially called the “Murata Cheerleaders,” these balancing robots are the fourth generation of robots to be produced by the company. The bicycle-riding Murata Boy was first to come in 1991, followed by the second version of the Murata Boy in 2005, and the Murata Girl who learned to ride a unicycle in 2008.

Sep 27 2014

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s 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

Beauty and the Beets

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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

I sometimes wonder when I’ll run out of ideas for beets, as year after year around this time I’ve devoted a week’s worth of Recipes for Health to beets and their greens. But it hasn’t happened yet. Beetroots, whether roasted, steamed or raw, easily find their way into new salads, side dishes and main dishes. They are friendly with Mediterranean seasonings of all kinds: Greek, Middle Eastern, North African, Italian and Provençal. The greens are interchangeable with other mild-tasting greens like Swiss chard and spinach; one bunch of beets gives you two vegetables to work with. With the beets and their greens you get two sets of nutrients: anthocyanins and betalains, known for their antioxidant properties, from the beetroots, and vitamins K and A, as well as other phytonutrients – lutein and zeaxanthin – from the greens. Both are excellent sources of folate, and beets are a very good source of manganese, potassium and copper.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Steamed or Roasted Beets and Beet Greens With Tahini Sauce

A pungent Middle Eastern tahini sauce is all that is needed to season these simply steamed beets and their blanched greens.

Fennel, Beet and Orange Salad With Cumin Vinaigrette

This is a refreshing salad that has great staying power.

Greek Beet and Beet Greens Pie

Beets add color and substance to this classic Greek greens pie.

Wild Arugula and Beet Salad With Orange, Walnuts and Tarragon

This is a nourishing salad with sweet, peppery and pungent flavors.

Puréed Beets With Yogurt and Caraway

This is a North African twist on a Middle Eastern dish from Yotam Ottolenghi.

Sep 27 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: Losing the Race Against Ebola

There is an urgent need to provide more health workers to track down every patient’s contacts for testing, and more workers to bury victims safely. Home health kits are needed to protect people from infection when family members become sick, and local leaders must persuade an often hostile public to take precautions. Health care systems that have disintegrated must be rebuilt so that people don’t die from other afflictions while treatment facilities are clogged with Ebola patients. It is a task of mind-boggling complexity, requiring international assistance on a massive scale.

Many countries and organizations have pledged to contribute money or health resources, although the speed of delivery is uncertain. President Obama told the United Nations on Thursday that there was “still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be.” Faster action is desperately needed to prevent hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths.

Glenn Greenwald: Inside the Shadowy Manipulation of American Journalists by Former Treasury Officials on the UAE’s Payroll

The tiny and very rich Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar has become a hostile target for two nations with significant influence in the U.S.: Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Israel is furious over Qatar’s support for Palestinians generally and (allegedly) Hamas specifically, while the UAE is upset that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (UAE supports the leaders of the military coup) and that Qatar funds Islamist rebels in Libya (UAE supports forces aligned with Ghadaffi).

This animosity has resulted in a new campaign in the west to demonize the Qataris as the key supporter of terrorism. The Israelis have chosen the direct approach of publicly accusing their new enemy in Doha of being terrorist supporters, while the UAE has opted for a more covert strategy: paying millions of dollars to a U.S. lobbying firm – composed of former high-ranking Treasury officials from both parties – to plant anti-Qatar stories with American journalists. That more subtle tactic has been remarkably successful, and shines important light on how easily political narratives in U.S. media discourse can be literally purchased. [..]

One of the most critical points illustrated by all of this tawdry influence-peddling is the alignment driving so much of US policy in that region. The key principals of Camstoll have hard-core neoconservative backgrounds. Here they are working hand in hand with neocon journalists to publicly trash a new enemy of Israel, in service of the agenda of Gulf dictators. This is the bizarre neocon/Israel/Gulf-dictator coalition now driving not only U.S. policy but, increasingly, U.S. discourse as well.One of the most critical points illustrated by all of this tawdry influence-peddling is the alignment driving so much of US policy in that region. The key principals of Camstoll have hard-core neoconservative backgrounds. Here they are working hand in hand with neocon journalists to publicly trash a new enemy of Israel, in service of the agenda of Gulf dictators. This is the bizarre neocon/Israel/Gulf-dictator coalition now driving not only U.S. policy but, increasingly, U.S. discourse as well.

Glen Ford: The Big Switch: Obama Preparing to Bomb His Way to Regime Change in Syria

The strategic ‘rebel’ breakthrough is being prepared in the vulnerable southern underbelly of the country

The U.S. offensive against ISIS in Syria will very soon revert to its original mission: regime change in Damascus, the strategic objective that unites America’s Euro-Arab-Turkish-Israeli coalition. Although U.S. military planners insist it will take eight months to a year to fully assemble and train a “moderate” Syrian rebel spearhead to confront government forces, political and military realities dictate that the Americans must move much more quickly to upset the balance of forces on the ground. Otherwise, the whole structure of western dominance in the region could unravel – catastrophically.

The contradiction at the heart of the western crisis in Syria, is the refusal of tens of thousands of jihadists to act as mere foot soldiers for the West and Arab monarchs. The jihadist genie is out of the bottle, and its conjurers and paymasters cannot put it back. The problem is not just Isis. The Islamic State has swelled through absorption of other Islamic fighters pursuing a similar theo-political logic, one that seeks its own version of “liberation” from western shackles and, increasingly, the overthrow of royal regimes allied with the United States. ISIS has become engorged with defectors from other Islamist organizations more dependent on and obedient to proxy war planners in Riyadh, Doha, Ankara and Washington. Therefore, ISIS must be punished, to reduce its appeal to the jihadist rank and file, who make up the bulk of effective fighters arrayed against the Syrian state. For the same reasons, those jihadists not yet in ISIS’s orbit, who are the West’s only actually existing resources on ground, must be provided a redemptive victory, and quickly, before the whole edifice of proxy war disintegrates.

Shamus Cooke: The Unspoken Consequences of Bombing Syria

Now that U.S. bombs are falling in Syria, will Islamic extremism be stopped in its tracks? Such a question is an insult to the intellect, yet it’s the dominant theory in Washington D.C., where years of Middle East war have taught politicians nothing.  

Bombing yet another Middle East country will create yet more extremists, while broadening an already-existing proxy war in Syria between regional rivals. Obama’s strategy to combat ISIS purposely excludes key players that, if included, could actually help stop the fighting. The strategy of exclusion will thus intensify the regional proxy fight, leading to the likelihood of even deeper U.S. involvement in the Syrian war and a broader conflagration.

Iran, Syria, and Russia were not invited to join the war against ISIS, since the broader regional proxy war is a war between the U.S. and its allies versus Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

Syria cannot join the anti-ISIS coalition even though Syria has been fighting ISIS for over two years. Obama’s reason is that the Syrian government has “no legitimacy.” But Obama’s “coalition” of Gulf states are composed of totalitarian dictatorships that, in comparison, make Syria look like the bastion of democracy.

David Sirota: A Pension Jackpot for Wall Street

Most consumers understand that when you pay an above-market premium, you shouldn’t expect to get a below-average product. Why, then, is this principle often ignored when it comes to managing billions of dollars in public pension systems?

This is one of the most significant questions facing states and cities as they struggle to meet their contractual obligations to public employees. In recent years, public officials have shifted more of those workers’ pension money into private equity, hedge funds, venture capital and other so-called “alternative investments.” In all, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators reports that roughly a quarter of all pension funds are now in these “alternative investments”-a tripling in just 12 years.

Those investments are managed by private financial firms, which charge special fees that pension systems do not pay when they invest in stock index funds and bonds. The idea is that paying those fees-which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year-will be worth it, because the alternative investments will supposedly deliver higher returns than low-fee stock index funds like the S&P 500.

Unfortunately, while these alternative investments have delivered a fee jackpot to Wall Street firms, they have often delivered poor returns, meaning the public is paying a premium for a subpar product.

Sep 27 2014

On This Day In History September 27

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.

September 27 is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 95 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone with the help of groundwork laid by his predecessors: Athanasius Kircher, Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Akerblad, Thomas Young, and William John Bankes. Champollion translated parts of the Rosetta Stone, showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.

Thomas Young was one of the first to attempt decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, basing his own work on the investigations of Swedish diplomat Akerblad, who built up a demotic  alphabet of 29 letters (15 turned out to be correct) and translated all personal names and other words in the Demotic part of the Rosetta Stone  in 1802. Akerblad however, wrongly believed that demotic was entirely phonetic or alphabetic. Young thought the same, and by 1814 he had completely translated the enchorial (which Champollion labeled Demotic as it is called today) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words). Young then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet and made some progress but failed to recognise that demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. In 1823 he published an Account of the Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities. Some of Young’s conclusions appeared in the famous article Egypt he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

When Champollion, in 1822, published his translation of the hieroglyphs and the key to the grammatical system, Young and all others praised this work. Young had indicated in a letter to Gurney that he wished to see Champollion acknowledge that he had made use of Young’s earlier work in assisting his eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics. Champollion was unwilling to share the credit even though initially he had not recognized that hieroglyphics were phonetic. Young corrected him on this, and Champollion attempted to have an early article withdrawn once he realized his mistake. Strongly motivated by the political tensions of that time, the British supported Young and the French Champollion. Champollion completely translated the hieroglyphic grammar based in part upon the earlier work of others including Young. However, Champollion maintained that he alone had deciphered the hieroglyphs. After 1826, he did offer Young access to demotic manuscripts in the Louvre, when he was a curator. Baron Georges Cuvier (1825) credited Champollion’s work as an important aid in dating the Dendera Zodiac.

Sep 27 2014



Sep 27 2014

The Breakfast Club (Dancing Fool)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgOne, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three.

It’s amazing to me (though perhaps it shouldn’t be) how many dances have signatures of three.

Ok, enough with the doggerel, it was making my head ache anyway.

But it’s true enough that an amazing amount of music written specifically for dancing is in 3/4, 3/8, or 6/8 time (not Rock of course which is relentlessly 4/4, or the Polka in 2/4).  I suppose I should take a moment and explain Time Signatures.

Signatures are a notational convention to let the musician know “how many beats are in each bar and which note value constitutes one beat.”  They look like fractions, but mean something entirely different.  The beats per bar is the first number and can really have any value, bars are a mere divisional convenience (like periods), though they do effect the accenting.  The second number, the note value, is almost uniformly 4 or 8.  This corresponds to the duration of each individual note where open notes without a staff last for 4 beats, open with staff 2, solid with staff 1, solid with staff and a flag 1/2, solid with staff and 2 flags 1/4, etc.

What makes it confusing is that solid with staff is called a quarter note because it conventionally (in 4/4 time) takes up a quarter of the bar and a whole note (open, no staff) takes up a whole bar (I think I’ll have some of Chuck Pierce’s Prestone now).

Anyway how many beats also gives you an idea of how the music is naturally accented.  Common (4/4) time is accented DAH, duh, Dah, duh with the 3rd beat slightly less prominent than the first.  Cut time (think Sousa) the same except twice as fast though it’s easy enough to transpose into a 2/4 Polka but then you lose the inherent subtlety of the 3rd beat as all the down (first) beats are accented the same.  Confused yet?  I sure am.

If the beats per bar are divisible by 3 (3/4, 6/8) each bar is accented DAH, duh, duh (or in the case of 6/8 DAH, duh, duh, Dah, duh, duh).  The 6/8 accenting really gives you a better feel for the rhythm of the music as actually played and while you can duplicate it notationally in any signature with the Triplet, if you’re going to be using it with frequency being divisible by 3 is a time saver.

Personally it’s this coincidence of quarter time and third time in the 6/8 and 12/8 signatures that make them intellectually attractive to me though I’m not a composer, have barely any theory, and as a performer am in the words of the immortal Leonard Falcone himself- “Hopeless.”

One of the defining characteristics of modern and post-modern “art” music is using creative time signatures, eccentric accents, and syncopation to distance itself from this “tyranny of the barline” and Stravinsky was one of the strongest proponents, but you can’t dance to it very well.

Back to dancing.  Wikipedia implicitly likens “classical” dancing to Square Dancing and now that I think about it I can see the parallels.  Performed in groups like a line dance, participants were expected to know the moves with a certain interchangability as opposed to individual efforts like the mosh pit mania of Rock or even the stylized but solo (well, pairs) of contemporary ballroom styles.

Excluding the Polka the 3 most popular types were the Minuet and the Scherzo (an uptempo, long format Minuet), and the Waltz all in 3/4 time.  What made the Waltz particularly scandalous was not really the music, which was actually fairly conventional, but the fact that the dance is performed in the “closed” position where you are looking at your partner and can even give them a squeeze if nobody’s looking.

So this morning I’ve decided to illustrate each of those 3 types and as a bonus I’m including Le Sacre du printemps which was so revolutionary in its noise that it nearly caused a riot.

For a Minuet I’ve chosen a piece by Jean-Baptiste Lully who introduced the trio section to the form.

Menuet pour Trompettes

For a Scherzo I’ve selected a piece by Schubert who finished much more than he left unfinished and along with Beethoven really popularized this format in “art” music.

Scherzo Presto from Symphony #6

And for the Waltz you can’t go wrong with some Johann Strauss.  This is Opus 4, Kettenbrücke-Walzer, about a suspension bridge.


Oh, Stravinski.

Those kids.  They’ll listen to any kind of cacophony.

Oblgatories, news, and blogs below.

Sep 27 2014

Party at SHG- Let Me Count The Ways

Hey there Party People! Tonight’s Party is all about numbers or anything even loosely related to them, counting, time, years, any little thing that strikes your fancy, y’all know my roolz, play what you like~