Day: October 13, 2016

The astounding story of Iceland's constitution - and its government's failure

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In 2012, more than two-thirds of Iceland’s population ratified the most democratically crafted constitution in world history, written in public and drafted by a representative committee of 1,000 Icelanders; now in a stirring video in the leadup to the next national election, Icelanders are calling on one another to only vote for candidates who’ll take action on the constitution the nation voted for. (Thanks, Larry!)

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Apple Coffee Cake

Apple Coffee Cake

Almost every Sunday morning growing up, my father would make a huge apple coffee cake for us after church. We would hungrily watch him pour the batter into the pyrex baking dish, insert apple slices, and sprinkle with streusel topping.

Oh the magic of baking to young eyes! A half hour later the coffee cake would emerge from the oven, perfectly risen and crusted with brown sugar.

Continue reading “Apple Coffee Cake” »

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Bodum pour-over coffee maker with permanent filter

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“With the Chemex, even a moron can make good coffee.” Those were the memorable words of inventor and bon vivant Peter Schlumbohm, praising his creation. A Chemex costs $40 on Amazon, but you can buy what appears to be a functionally identical semiknockoff from Bodum for half the price. Unlike the Chemex, which requires a paper filter, the Bodum has a permanent stainless steel mesh filter. It’s made from borosilicate glass, and is “mouth-blown” as opposed to being blown with another orifice capable of producing pressurized gas.

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Two turtles, one hat

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It’s a classic problem: two turtles, one hat. Well, maybe not classic, but you get the idea. In the just-released and last book of his Hat series, Jon Klassen’s wit shines. Though his previous two Hat stories feature different characters, they both begin with a common problem – a stolen hat. We Found A Hat, however, is all about the moments before the grab.

There is so much brilliance in this book, and to be fully appreciated, it helps to know the series, as the pace and place of each differs subtly but smartly. In I Want My Hat Back, we clod through the forest with a bear, who slowly comes to the realization of who stole his hat at a pace not unlike that of one waking up from a long winter’s rest. In This Is Not My Hat, readers tail an underwater chase that is slow but necessarily suspenseful, with images and ending that, like vision under water, are clear enough, but not quite. We Found A Hat, perhaps fittingly for the last in the series, takes place in the desert. Who better than turtles to force the reader to slow down and savor the moral agony of friendship versus fashion? In this barren landscape, there are sounds in the pictures – the shape of the cacti echoes that of the newly found 10-gallon hat and the rocks echoes the turtles’ shells. The overall design of word and text calls back to each of the previous books.

The only thing that could make this book better is if Klassen partnered with a milliner to offer a box set complete with accompanying headwear. One could only hope.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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New York Times responds to Donald Trump's lawsuit threat"

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump boasted of groping women. This opened the gates, and women came forward with claims of Trump groping them. The New York Times reported their allegations. Trump threatened to sue the Times. Times lawyer David E. McCraw responds:

Dear Mr. Kasowitz:

I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States. You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about this non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slights effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance – indeed, as an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.

Sincerely,

David E. McCraw

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Mondo Mod - 1967 documentary of Sunset Strip strip scene

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An exploitation documentary that looks at Los Angeles youth culture in the 1960s. Without mobile phones they had to amuse themselves with sex, drugs, music, surfing, and motorcycles.

From the YouTube description:

Greasers, Mods, Beehived Go-Go girls, and pre-Hippie “Mod Generation” run wild in MONDO MOD, a lunatic look at the Hollywood Youth Scene of 1966 that’s so hilariously dated it’s almost breathtaking! From discotheques to dirt bikes, political protests to pot parties, MONDO MOD takes you to the Neon Neverland of the Sunset Strip, peers into an underground drug den, and even rides with an outlaw motorcycle gang!. Before there was Woodstock there was MONDO MOD, complete with mini-skirts, surfer dudes, narration by L.A. deejay Humble Harve, photography by Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider) and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) and non-hit title tune “It’s a Mod Mod World!”

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San Francisco's competitive lightsaber academy opens this week

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LudoSport is an international network for “sporting lightsaber combat” and they’ve just landed their first US location in San Francisco.

Via the SF Chron:

Light saber fighting is really a thing and has been for some time. In the past, light saber classes allowed wanna-be Jedis to learn the basics of saber handling. But thanks to LudoSport, one can now actually sign up for light saber tournaments and compete locally, nationally, and internationally.

Founded in Italy 10 years ago, LudoSport’s light saber academies and tournaments have swept Europe. Really. The whole concept is a bit complicated, although for “Star Wars” fans who wish to compete in international light saber duels, the detailed (and we mean DETAILED) rules, logistics, and philosophy behind the “sport” might be right up their alley.

There are seven forms of lights saber combat and ten rules. Much like karate belt colors, light saber athletes must wear the correct uniform for their level of light saber skill. Players are rated on experience, fighting skills, and technical quality (presumably by someone who fancies himself a present-day Obi-Wan Kenobi.) Points are earned by attending classes and meeting up with fellow light saber athletes in the LudoSport network for actual duels. The results must be deposited online after every battle.

LudoSport takes the whole thing very seriously. This isn’t “Star Wars” camp. LudoSport is making the leap to the United States by opening an academy right here in San Francisco. Classes begin October 15th at Studiomix on Van Ness.

This seems like a fantastic way for GenX parents to connect with their younger children.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fall has arrived and with it, the pumpkin season! There are always plenty of pumpkins to carve up around Halloween time and a great way to make use of the pumpkin seeds is to roast them for an easy, healthy snack.

I love to eat them shells and all. If they’re properly toasted and are small to medium sized, they are wonderfully crunchy and easy to eat.

Continue reading “Roasted Pumpkin Seeds” »

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My 9-year-old daughter is tearing through the Land of Stories series

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Yesterday my daughter insisted we go to the bookstore and get the third installment in Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories series. These addictive fantasy adventures have her reading rather than asking to watch teen web series about hair styles!

I was thrilled and a little bit shocked when my kid’s requested activity on a day off of school was to go to the bookstore. I assumed we were in for another long perusal, punctuated by me repeating the mantra “one fashion magazine AFTER you choose a book!” but she went straight to a clerk, asked for the book she wanted and was pleased as punch to find there was one copy left. She cheerfully brought it over and started to tell me all about it! Amazingly, I’d never heard of this Land of Stories.

Seems twins, Alex and Conner, are swept into the land of fairytales through their recently passed away father’s magic journal. Their grandmother turns out to be a fairy-grandmother, and the two go on various quests with familiar fairy tale characters.
While fun and fantastic, the content isn’t all whimsical as the twins learn to cope with the loss of their Dad in the first book, and rescue their Mom in the second.

The characters must be engaging, as my daughter clearly and animatedly discusses them. She could not wait to read the third book in the series, opening it as we left the store and double checking her backpack for it this morning.

While Colfer may be better known for his fantastic role on Glee, this series is helping teach my daughter to love reading.

The Wishing Spell is the first book in the series.

Land of Stories by Chris Colfer via Amazon

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How to make selfies look like portrait photographs

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There’s nothing wrong with “big noses, weak chins, and sloping foreheads” but if you want to adjust your selfies to make them less distorted, give this a try. It’s based on a research project called “Perspective-aware Manipulation of Portrait Photos” by Ohad Fried, Eli Shechtman, Dan B Goldman, and Adam Finkelstein. And was created by Brian McSwiggen and John Morone, advised by Ohad Fried and Adam Finkelstein.

paper introduces a method to modify the apparent relative pose and distance between camera and subject given a single portrait photo. Our approach fits a full perspective camera and a parametric 3D head model to the portrait, and then builds a 2D warp in the image plane to approximate the effect of a desired change in 3D. We show that this model is capable of correcting objectionable artifacts such as the large noses sometimes seen in “selfies,” or to deliberately bring a distant camera closer to the subject. This framework can also be used to re-pose the subject, as well as to create stereo pairs from an input portrait. We show convincing results on both an existing dataset as well as a new dataset we captured to validate our method.

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Comparing Trump and Clinton's careers is funny, ironic and sad

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The Clinton campaign has released a tool that compares notable events in the Democratic and Republican candidates for President lives, year over year. Someone at the Clinton campaign has a wonderful sense of irony, and humor, as the entries are frequently regrettably hilarious.

It also stands as sad testimony to the state of our union, when woman whose life has clearly been dedicated to public service has to suffer the meaningless, hate filled rage of a misogynist billionaire blowhard. The Trump campaign continues to tarnish our national dignity.

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Hillary could simply respond to Trump in the next debate by reading these.

The Making of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

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Appliance that makes tortillas from Keurig-like pods

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Those who enjoy digital-rights-management coffee will be attracted to the $437 Flatev. It’s a large kitchen appliance that makes tortillas (in a variety of flavors). Simply pop in a proprietary pod (79 cents) containing pre-mixed flour and water, and in a few minutes the Flatev will dispense a piping hot tortilla.

Some people on the Internet claim it’s possible to make a tortilla without a Flatev.

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A new certification program for Open Source Hardware

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Michael Weinberg writes, “After over a year of community development, the Open Source Hardware Association has released its new certification program. Hardware with the certification logo is guaranteed to meet the community definition of open source hardware. As a bonus, any hardware registered before the end of October is eligible to receive the coveted 000001 unique ID registration number.”

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“I Would Love To Live In A Country Where…” perfectly encapsulates the 2016 election

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Ijeoma Oluo’s latest for The Establishment is one of the best, most empathetic pieces I have read on this election. Here’s an excerpt:

I would really love it if I lived in a country where bragging about sexually assaulting women on tape would disqualify you from the presidency.

I would really love it if I lived in a country where being an unapologetic White Supremacist would disqualify you from the presidency.

I would love it if almost 50% of the country weren’t currently openly supporting placing hate in the highest office of our land.

I would love it if we could talk about Trump without someone mentioning Bill Clinton, as if it’s not fair that we’d elect one rapist and not another.

I would really love it if Hillary had believed women.

I would really love it if people didn’t call the women who support bad men “even worse” than the bad men who are choosing with their own free will to commit bad deeds.

I would really love it if I never heard someone say “boys will be boys” ever again.

You can read Oluo’s full piece over on The Establishment.

[Imagine via fivethirtyeight.com]
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Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature

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The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 went to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. From the New York Times:

Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, called Mr. Dylan “a great poet in the English-speaking tradition” and compared him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally. Asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician signaled a broadening in the definition of literature, Ms. Danius jokingly responded, “The times they are a changing, perhaps,” referencing one of Mr. Dylan’s songs.

Bob Dylan Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature(NYT)

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Jazz saxophonist Bhumibol Adulyadej dies at 88

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Legendary jazz saxophonist Bhumibol Adulyadej is dead at 88 following a series of illnesses.

Strongly influenced by Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Benny Carter, Bhumibol specialized in dixieland and New Orleans jazz, and played the clarinet and trumpet as well as the sax. He famously performed with Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, and Benny Carter, but was most renowned for his own compositions, which range from classical Waltzes to traditional Thai music. “But mostly jazz swing,” adds Wikipedia.

Adulyadej was also King of Thailand for 70 years and the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

A stabilizing force in the nation’s politics, he passes his crown to son Maha Vajiralongkorn, “regarded as erratic and virtually incapable of ruling” and who frequently avails himself of the nation’s laws against insulting royalty.

In a televised address to the nation, Prayut Chan-ocha said Thailand would hold a one-year mourning period and that all entertainment functions must be “toned down” for a month. “He is now in heaven and may be looking over Thai citizens from there,” he said of King Bhumibol.

The palace had warned on Sunday that the king’s health was “not stable”.
King Bhumibol was widely respected across Thailand, and thought of by many as semi-divine.

Bhumibol became a rare sight in public before his death. The nation’s strict lese-majeste laws, the BBC writes, mean there will be no public discussion of the succession.

Elizabeth II, queen of the United Kingdom and various other commonwealth nations for 64 years, is now the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

Photo: U.S. Information Office

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Watch The Beatles' LEGO Submarine

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“The Beatles’ LEGO Yellow Submarine vs. the Sea Monster,” a promo video for The Beatles Yellow Submarine set due out next month. And yes, there’s a Blue Meanie included. The concept for the set came from the LEGO Ideas crowdsourcing program, a submission from a fellow named Kevin Szeto:

“As an amateur musician and songwriter, I have always been drawn to the music of The Beatles,” Szeto wrote. “The creation of the Yellow Submarine model was really my way of showing my affection for The Beatles, as well as trying to pay a small tribute to The Beatles phenomenon. The Yellow Submarine is bright, fun, and colourful, which also made it a good subject to translate into LEGO form.”

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Watch The Beatles’ LEGO Submarine

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“The Beatles’ LEGO Yellow Submarine vs. the Sea Monster,” a promo video for The Beatles Yellow Submarine set due out next month. And yes, there’s a Blue Meanie included. The concept for the set came from the LEGO Ideas crowdsourcing program, a submission from a fellow named Kevin Szeto:

“As an amateur musician and songwriter, I have always been drawn to the music of The Beatles,” Szeto wrote. “The creation of the Yellow Submarine model was really my way of showing my affection for The Beatles, as well as trying to pay a small tribute to The Beatles phenomenon. The Yellow Submarine is bright, fun, and colourful, which also made it a good subject to translate into LEGO form.”

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Hungary's Prime Minister shuts down opposition press, then goes after everyone else

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Noemi writes, “After closing down Hungary’s largest opposition paper (online archive included) Hungarian Prime Miniter Viktor Orban is steadily and methodically turning back the clock on 27 years of history, steadily edging back towards a dictatorship — except this time with a fascist face. He is testing how far the beleaguered EU will allow him to stretch the boundaries of democracy. This is where the attention of European democratic efforts need to be directed. Not in kindergarten tantrums about sandwich spreads.”
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Rush Limbaugh complains about nonconsensual sex being called rape

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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh had thoughts yesterday on the problems faced by Donald Trump, whose campaign for president is falling apart after a recording emerged of him boasting about sexually assaulting women.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: You know what the magic word, the only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is? One thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine. Whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left.

It’s tempting to think that somewhere in Limbaugh is a decent man on the precipice of an epiphany: yes, consent is key to understanding rape, and what is so bad about it? Never has it been made clearer what the barrier is: a conservative moral system in which consent is irrelevant.

As Limbaugh is useless at both decency and conservatism, though, we’re left with the toxic sludge his paragraph represents—and all the men like Trump whose behavior it enables.

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Trump threatens to sue New York Times over new groping allegations

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Following new allegations of sexual assault aimed at Donald Trump by women, the millionaire presidential candidate is threatening the New York Times for publishing them.

In a “demand for retraction,” Trump lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz writes that the article is “reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se” and “nothing more than a politically-motivated effort.”

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The Guardian tallies the new allegations.

  • Two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, told the New York Times that Trump groped or kissed them without consent.
  • Another woman, Mindy McGillivray, claimed she was groped by the Republican nominee at a Trump foundation event at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida.
  • Natasha Stoynoff, a reporter for People magazine, who said Trump forced himself on her shortly before she was due to interview him and his wife in 2005.
  • Two Miss USA contestants claimed Trump deliberately walked in on them when they were naked in a dressing room. Five Miss Teen USA contestants also told Buzzfeed he had entered their dressing room while the young women – aged between 15 and 19 – were getting changed.
  • A recording emerged in which Trump appears to sexualise a 10-year-old girl, with a video recording him saying of the child: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
  • In separate recordings that emerged in the past week, Trump himself told Howard Stern in 2005 that he did in fact go backstage when contestants were undressing:

Trump’s election campaign appears to be falling apart. A recording of him boasting about groping women, and two dismal debate performances, have seen him slump in the polls as his party vacillates over ditching him to save itself.

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