December 24, 2012 archive

The 12 Awkward Days of Xmas

12 Awkward Days of Xmas by the Miskreant Muppets

What’s Cooking: Sugarplum Bread

Republished from 12/11/2011 from the What’s Cooking Archives at The Stars Hollow Gazette

In Autumn, the appearance in grocery stores of stacks of candied fruit and mountains of nuts in all their wonderful variety is a sure sign of the approach of the holidays. As the days grow short and the nights grow cool preparations for a joyous time of baking begins.

My daughter is the bread baker but Sugarplum Bread is the one I enjoy making, too. This sweet bread studded with candied fruit is not as heavy as fruit cake. It is topped with a white icing glaze and decorated with red and green cherries to look like clusters of berries. It is a treat for breakfast or in the afternoon with tea. I make small ones baked in large muffin tins, decorated and wrapped in colored plastic wrap tied with ribbon as gifts for guests.

The following recipe is a rich dough flavored with nutmeg, candied fruit and peel, and raisins

Candied fruit would have melted in the summer heat and its sweetness would attract ants but it keeps well in the freezer. After the holidays, when the price is reduced for clearance, if you have space in your freezer buy a supply. It assures that you’ll have candied fruit on hand in the months when it can’t be found in the market.

On This Day In History December 24

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

December 24 is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are seven days remaining until the end of the year. This day is commonly known as Christmas Eve.

On this day in 1955, NORAD begins tracking Santa in what will become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.

According to NORAD’s official web page on the NORAD Tracks Santa program, the service began on December 24, 1955. A Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper. The advertisement told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Spring’s Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

On Christmas Eve, the NORAD Tracks Santa website videos page is generally updated each hour, when it is midnight in a different time zone. The “Santa Cam” videos show CGI images of Santa Claus flying over famous landmarks. Each video is accompanied by a voice-over, typically done by NORAD personnel, giving a few facts about the city or country depicted. Celebrity voice-overs have also been used over the years. For the London “Santa Cam” video, English television personality and celebrity Jonathan Ross did the voice-over for 2005 to 2007 and the former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr narrated the same video in 2003 and 2004. In 2002, Aaron Carter provided the voice-over for three videos.

The locations and landmarks depicted in some of the “Santa Cam” videos have changed over the years. In 2009, twenty-nine “Santa Cam” videos were posted on the website. In previous years, twenty-four to twenty-six videos had been posted.

NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Many volunteers are employees at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25.Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve.

By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.

Official NORAD Santa Tracker

a real christmas story

I’ve been sort of following the “humans are selfish dicks” slash “humans are capable of true love” story for a while now, often as they are presented in game-theoretic analyses, e.g., Hawks, Doves, and Tit-for-Tats, but mostly in terms of animal behavior in general.  And I will give you one anecdote from my experience.

About 20 years ago I saw Chris Langton (Santa Fe Institute) give a talk on a genetic algorithm of cellular automata using Hawks, Doves, and Tit-for-Tats. (briefly, a genetic algorithm is like life, wherein generationally, “like begets like;” cellular automata are rules-based checkerboard squares: e.g., if neighbor black, then white; and hawks, doves, and tit-for-tats are what you’d expect: hawks are always aggressive, doves, always kind, and tit-for-tats are kind first, then retributive against hawkishness; over generations, certain proportions of hawks, doves, and tit-for-tats emerge; tit-for-tat always wins, btw.)


Tit-for-tats are known to win over pure Hawks or Doves.  The interesting thing to me was that when there were sufficient tit-for-tatters in the population, the Doves, true love, were maintained over tens of thousands of generations.  In other words, doves went undetected, because tit-for-tatters cannot discriminate the peaceniks from themselves (and don’t want to), due to their own initially peaceful strategy; however, it requires the strong presence of tit-for-tat against hawks, someone willing to go toe-to-toe with hawks, in order for true love to exist.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  And Merry Christmas.

booman’s Christmas ass-kicking

I’ve suspected for some time that booman was stove-piping White House talking points.

I don’t think it’s violating any trust to reveal to you that I receive both on and off-the-record correspondence from the White House. On most weekdays, I’ll get a few heads-up about things the White House thinks are important.

Actually, if booman considers himself any sort of independent analyst, it would be wrong not to disclose such access, so I actually give him credit for doing so, even if it was inadvertently via bragging.  To the extent that he actually remains quasi-independent is anyone’s guess.  I personally think he’s drunk the access koolaid, as they say, and that if his “analysis” becomes any more shallow, you won’t even be able to get your feet wet at the frog pond.

Listen to this slapdash attempt at explaining the ongoing Greatest Heist Ever:

Why does America have worse economic inequality than almost any other developed nation? Because of the Republican Party. It’s that simple. Why is the Republican Party the way it is? That’s a more complicated question.

In booman’s world, there’s no mention of Clinton, NAFTA, the WTO, Rubinomics, Glass-Steagall, the transpacific partnership, etc.  It’s “Republicans.  That simple.”

Or his explication of the list of things we can’t do, due to crazy Republicans:

In light of last night’s debacle in the House, what do you think the chances are that we can:

1) pass comprehensive immigration reform.

2) pass a stimulus bill focusing on infrastructure.

3) raise the debt ceiling.

4) pass any legislation to address climate change.

5) restrict sales of assault weapons and high capacity clips.

6) restore cuts in discretionary spending (other than military) that is reduced in the Sequester.

7) do sensible tax reform, including on the Doc Fix and the Alternative Minimum Tax?

You can add to this list anything else we need to do but won’t be able to do because the Republicans are crazy.

Yep.  Republicans are crazy.  Democrats have had their hands tied on gun control since the mid-seventies, and Obama never scuttled the Rio Earth summit.  The WTO and Kyoto had nothing to do with globalization and China’s use of coal.  Or outsourcing of jobs.  Or trade deficits.  Nope.  Nothing at all.

On Obama’s continually “folding like a tissue in the rainstorm:”

Critiques of President Obama’s negotiating style are certainly warranted, but the most boring thing in the world is the suggestion that the president is really a moderate Republican who wants to move the Democratic Party to the right and gut entitlements. We have control of half of Congress, and any suggestion that we can get 100% of what we want if only we are more inflexible is moronic. The only real debate is over what we are willing to give up, not whether or not we have to give anything up. So, progressives should put themselves in the shoes of a negotiator and ask themselves honestly what they are willing to sacrifice and what they want in return. This talk of rainbows and ponies needs to end.

Ladies and Gents, I am fucking psyched by this block-headed, self-proclaimed “progressive” bullshit of pushing Oh, Brother!’s  austerity agenda, and the ridiculous  “Who blinked first?” framing.  Blink, blank, blunk.  Obama!  

Now, booman ain’t stupid, in the sense that he does mine certain truths, but he speaks in the language of mountaintop removal: to get to that vein, you have to blow the top of your head off.  This is the same reason I recently accused BTD of ignorant slutness.  They know (I hope they know) better.

Did you ever stop to think that our problems in America are not partisan, but substantive?  Systemic?  Decades long structural problems that tower over party politics, partisan hackery and hemi-neglect?  Energy, trade, and investment deficits?  Resource wars?  Environmental collapse?  An American Ponzi economy/wealth pump beginning to run in reverse?

SCROTUS (Supreme Caver-to-Republicans Of The United States), the hare-brained economists and incontinent ubermensch master-class investment bankers have crashed the system (repeatedly), and as usual they are taking it out on the ever more penurious.  There are reasons for this, stupid liberals.  It’s Obama’s job to make penury “okay” with stupid liberals, and his performance on this “inside job” should garner him an Oscar.

Either booman (and his ilk) is stupid, or he thinks you’re stupid.  I don’t cotton either way.

Oh, Brother!’s got the stoopid libruls also supporting Kerry and Hagel.  Fer realz.  Jus’ like he got ’em to hooray HillBill’s attack on Libya, and givin’ bin Laden cement galoshes (We killed Dillinger!), etc..    Jus’ like he got ’em to support Kagan on SCOTUS, which sounds like an astringent to be used on porcelain after you FLOTUS or POTUS in the bathtub.  Next up, swear to god, he’ll get libruls to support Jamie Dimon at Treasury.  Stoopid libruls will draw a line in the sand and fight to the last stoopid librul on cutting Social Security to ribbons.  Swear.  To.  Fucking.  God.

Oh, and Syria has mobile weapons labs containing weapons of mass destruction!

This is your so-called “reality-based community” giving you the straight poop.

The “reality-based community” is as drugged-up and strung out on American Exceptionalism as any winger.


All they really want for Christmas is genetically modified orgasms, but it wasn’t the spermaceti they were after: their motives were mad.

Merry Times.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Ornament 0

Cranberry Canes

A holiday tradition at my house, I enjoy them any time of year.

Cranberry Canes are basically a stuffed yeast bread roll up, like a Cinnamon Roll.  It’s the presentation of twisting the prepared strips and putting a crook at one end that gives them their distinctive appearance.  There are 3 basic elements-


Scald 1 Cup Milk, cool to lukewarm
In a large bowl combine:

4 Cups Unsifted All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest

Cut in 1 Cup (2 Sticks) Margarine until like coarse meal
Dissolve 1 Package of Dry Yeast in 1/4 Cup Warm Water
To Flour Mixture add Yeast, Milk, 2 Beaten Eggs.  Combine lightly, dough will be sticky.
Cover dough tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.  When ready to bake prepare filling.


In a pot or pan combine:

3 Cups finely chopped Cranberries (about 2 12 oz. bags, freeze before chopping)

1 Cup Rasins (about a 16 oz box)

2/3 Cup Chopped Pecans

2/3 Cup Honey

3 Teaspoons Grated Orange Zest

2 Cups Sugar

Bring to a smimmer over Medium heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Cool.


A basic buttercream flavored with some frozen concentrated Orange Juice.


Divide dough in half.  On a floured board roll out the half into an 18″ x 15″ rectangle.
Spread half the filling on the dough.  Fold dough into a 3 layer strip 15″ long and about 6″ wide.
Cut dough into 1″ strips.
Holding the ends of each strip twist lightly in opposite directions.  Pinch ends to seal.  Place on greased baking sheet, shaping the top of each strip to form a cane.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake in a hot oven, 400 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
Cool on racks and frost.

Henri Le Chat Noir: The Worst Noël

The Worst Noël

h/t twolf at Dependable Renegade