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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
If it feels like trouble in Paradise, remember first of all that there's no such thing as Paradise!
Still, if anyone needs things to be kept calm, they can count on you and your famously down-to-earth demeanor.
Since you've got both the time and the desire, go for it.
What's the worst thing that could happen?
You should still look like a hero in the end.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Oldenburg, Neidersachsen, Germany
Roskilde, Roskilde, Denmark
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
London, England, United Kingdom

as well as France, Indonesia, Serbia & Montenegro and in cities across the United States such as Brookings, Renton, Slidell, Durham and more.

Today is:
Today is Monday, August 30, the 242nd day of 2010.
There are 123 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holidays or celebrations are:
There are none.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

A 'kinder' winter

The 194-year-old publication says one area will still get a "cold slap in the face" this year.  

Non Sequitur


Lunatic Fringe

Lunatic Fringe
Otherwise known as the Seditionists
When dealing with wingnuts ... Remember the rule: 
If they accuse someone of something, then they're already guilty of it.

Liars and Fools

Being a birther isn't enough? Wingnut Cliff Kinkaid now wants proof of Obama's baptism.
He can want all he wants he just ain't going to get it.

Wingnut Pamela Geller lies: Obama's worldview is "distinctly anti-American".
Coming from an anti-American Nazi this is rich!

Faux's Sean Hannity lies: the "true agenda" behind global warming is to punish the U.S. and redistribute wealth.
And he wonders why he is referred to as 'handjob'?

Batshit crazy wingnut Ted Nugent lies: President Obama only "says he’s a Christian so he can continue with his jihad of a America-destroying policies".
Stick to 'hunting' caged animals asshole and cut out the drugs, weed or whatever - its destroyed what little mind you ever might have had.

Faux's Glenn Beck again implies that the President of the United States is a terrorist Manchurian candidate.
Nurse! Thorazine!

Faux's Glenn Beck lies: Obama's religious teachings are "the antithesis to the Jesus message".
Could someone clue me in on just when President Obama began religious teaching in the first place, I seem to have misplaced my memo again.
Need we say more?

... with liberty and justice for ... some

Steve Benen has quite a good run-down on what the tea party doesn't stand for:

This is about "freedom."

Well, I'm certainly pro-freedom, and as far as I can tell, the anti-freedom crowd struggles to win votes on election day. But can they be a little more specific? How about the freedom for same-sex couples to get married?

No, we're told, not that kind of freedom.

This is about a fight for American "liberties."

That sounds great, too. Who's against American "liberties"? But I'm still looking for some details. Might this include law-abiding American muslims exercising their liberties and converting a closed-down clothing store into a community center?

No, we're told, not those kinds of liberties.

This is about giving Americans who work hard and play by the rules more opportunities.

I'm all for that, too. But would these opportunities include the chance for hard-working Americans to bring their kids to the doctor if they get sick, even if the family can't afford insurance?

No, we're told, not those kinds of opportunities.

This is about the values of the Founding Fathers.

I'm a big fan of the framers' generation, who created an extraordinary nation. But if we're honoring their values, would this include their steadfast commitment to the separation of church and state?

No, we're told, not those values.
etc. etc. etc.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Glenn Beck regrets calling Obama a racist

Yeah, and the moon is made of green cheese, too.
A day after his rally, the TV host "amends" what he said last year about the president. 

German Bundesbank board member sounds off on Jews and Muslims

Wingnuts are the same everywhere: Ignorant and delusional.
German government officials and immigrant leaders are condemning remarks by a board member of Germany's federal bank as racist and anti-Semitic.

Thilo Sarrazin of the German Bundesbank came under fire Sunday for telling the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag that "all Jews share the same gene." He also said Muslim immigrants in Germany were not willing or capable of integrating into the country's mainstream society.

Tennessee mosque fire ruled as arson

It appears that 'religious rights' only apply to christians or possibly mormons.

CBS News:
Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson.

Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.

US wasted billions in Iraq rebuilding

Maybe the Teabaggers can explain how this fiasco was the fault of the Democrats and not the shrub and the repugicans. Funny how obvious over-spending and waste was not much of an issue when the repugicans were in power.
A $40 million prison sits in the desert north of Baghdad, empty. A $165 million children's hospital goes unused in the south. A $100 million waste water treatment system in Fallujah has cost three times more than projected, yet sewage still runs through the streets

As the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted — more than 10 percent of the some $50 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.

That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. And it does not take into account security costs, which have run almost 17 percent for some projects.

Union Man Fired For Trying to Organize Union's Own Workers

Just a bit of the irony here, don't you think!

Jim Callaghan, a veteran writer for the United Federation of Teachers, just got canned for … trying to unionize the powerful organization’s own workers!
Jim Callaghan, a veteran writer for the teachers union, told The Post he was booted from his $100,000-a-year job just two months after he informed UFT President Michael Mulgrew that he was trying to unionize some of his co-workers.
"I was fired for trying to start a union at the UFT," said a dumbfounded Callaghan, who worked for the union’s newsletter and as a speechwriter for union leaders for the past 13 years.

Callaghan said he personally told Mulgrew on June 9 about his intention to try to organize nonunionized workers at UFT headquarters.
"I told him I want to have the same rights that teachers have," said Callaghan, 63, of Staten Island. "He told me he didn’t want that, that he wanted to be able to fire whoever he wanted to."

Companies thriving in the recession

By making fun of its "cardboard crust" and overhauling the recipe, Domino's Pizza is remaking itself. 

On The Job

On The Job
Major companies are implementing nap rooms and sleep pods to encourage employees to recharge. 

America's most dangerous jobs

The most perilous professions in the U.S. are often poorly paid as well.  

Bad Cops

Bad Cops

Officer, that's not me!

Mistaken ID jails pastor
A series of unfortunate coincidences led to a case of mistaken identity that put a Louisiana minister behind bars for nearly eight hours.

My Hannah


Mileage jump has couple wondering where car's been

Can you say "Joy Ride"
A couple who left their car parked in a long-term lot near Kennedy Airport during a trip to California were trying to figure out what their car has been doing without them.

King of Air Guitar crowned in Finland

Sylvain Quimene from France was, for the second year in a row, crowned winner of the World Air Guitar Championship in Finland

A Frenchman has been tipped for stardom after being crowned the world's best air guitarist - for the second year in a row. Sylvain Quimene, performing as Gunther Love, played his way to success in a performance at the 15th Air Guitar World Championship held in Oulu in northern Finland.

Contestants from Japan, Malaysia, the UK, Canada, Germany, Slovakia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil flew in for the event in the remote town near the Arctic Circle. Each finalist had to perform twice; once with their own choice of song and the second time with a performance of Jimi Hendrix's Foxy Lady.

Thousands of people gathered at the Oulu marketplace to watch the 41 contestants in total - including one of the youngest competitors ever, 10-year-old Aapo "Little Angus" Rautio - who finished sixth.

"This is something anyone can do, maybe you can be on stage some day, anyone can be on stage. Maybe that could be the reason why people like this so much," said veteran jury member and musician Juha Torvinen.

Winner Gunther Love suspected he knew why he had triumphed for the second time. "Why did I win? I think it's only the gold pants, you know gold, you are first, next year I will come with a silver pants ... for the second. That's the only reason."

According to the judges, musical talent was not necessary nor is the ability to play an actual guitar. The winner was chosen for his or her ability to move around the stage playing the air guitar as realistically as possible. Quimene's prize - once again - is a handmade Flying Finn electric guitar.

Electronic Home Library, Envisioned in 1959

In 1959, futurist Arthur Radebaugh’s Sunday comic strip Closer Than We Think predicted the electronic home library of the future:
Some unusual inventions for home entertainment and education will be yours in the future, such as the "television recorder" that RCA’s David Sarnoff described recently.
With this device, when a worthwhile program comes over the air while you are away from home, or even while you’re watching it, you’ll be able to preserve both the picture and sound on tape for replaying at any time. Westinghouse’s Gwilym Price expects such tapes to reproduce shows in three dimensions and color on screens as shallow as a picture.
Another pushbutton development will be projection of microfilm books on the ceiling or wall in large type. To increase their impact on students, an electronic voice may accompany the visual passages.
How many did Radebaugh got right? Tivo, 3D TV, projection system (though he envisioned it for books, not for movies). Paleofuture has the larger picture: Full Story

This silver dollar just sold for $1.2 million

The story goes that on Oct. 15, 1794, chief coiner Henry Voigt coined the silver dollars and delivered all the acceptable ones, 1,758 of them, to David Rittenhouse, director of the US Mint, according to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. He handed them out as gifts to dignitaries...

Only 140 of the 1794 so-called Flowing Hair silver dollars are thought to exist. (The coins depict a woman with long flowing hair)... The $1 coin that sold in Boston to an anonymous bidder was considered the fourth best specimen of the six mint 1794 silver dollars known to exist. The best specimen, called the Neil/Carter/Contursi 1794 Flowing Hair silver dollar, sold for nearly $7.9 million in May, setting a new record price for a coin.

Man arrested over fake 'million dollar bills' in UAE

A man has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates after a woman was tricked into trying to change two souvenir US$1 million notes at the UAE Central Bank. The 44-year-old suspect, AB, from Ivory Coast, convinced the woman that the notes were being used in currency markets and told her to exchange them in return for 30 per cent of their value, police sources said.

The notes were, in fact, issued by the US-based World’s Millionaires Club as a souvenir for selected members and are sold at nominal prices. They do not have a value of US$1m. The case was brought to light after the counter-money laundering and suspicious cases unit at the bank reviewed two notes presented to it to verify their authenticity.

Col Hammad Ahmed al Hammadi, the director of the criminal investigation department (CID) at Abu Dhabi Police, said the man had been living illegally in the UAE and was trying to cash the notes through the woman. He was arrested in a police trap following investigations.

“The suspect claimed that he was not aware that the notes do not have any value and that he is a mere mediator for a diamond trader from Belgium who asked him to exchange the notes in exchange of money,” said Col Dr Rashid Mohammed Bursheed, the head of the CID’s organised crime unit. “He also said the diamond trader was supposed to send him an 154 additional notes from the same category.”

Dictionary out of print

The next unabridged edition of the Oxford English Dictionary might be available only on the Web.

English Rules That Even The Grammar Nazis Got Wrong

Don’t let the grammar Nazis get you down! If they’ve corrected you for misusing that for whom, starting a sentence with and, but and however, or gasp – the sin of "verbing" – fight back!
Jan Freeman of Throw Grammar from the Train blog has a nifty post over at Boston about English language rules that even the grammar Nazis got wrong.

For example:
The girl that I marry. No, it doesn’t have to be whom I marry. “People that has always been good English,” notes Bryan Garner in Garner’s Modern American Usage, “and it’s a silly fetish to insist that who is the only relative pronoun that can refer to humans.” Choose who if you like, but to claim that using that “makes a person seem less human,” as Mignon Fogarty suggested in a Grammar Girl podcast — that’s just looking for trouble.
Since you asked. It’s totally legit to use since for because, unless it would cause ambiguity. Since has had its causal sense, as well as its temporal sense, from the beginning.

The Long Quest for Gender-Neutral English Language Pronouns

One of the weaknesses of the English language is that it presents no way to refer to person without being gender-specific. The use s/he and his/her, while accomplishing this goal, gets cumbersome. Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan put it like this:
The whole pronouns-must-agree-with-antecedents thing causes me utter agony. Do you know how many paragraphs I’ve had to tear down and rebuild because you can’t say, “Somebody left their cheese in the fridge”, so you say, “Somebody left his/her cheese in the fridge”, but then you need to refer to his/her cheese several times thereafter and your writing ends up looking like an explosion in a pedants’ factory?
Awareness of this problem is not new, and English Prof. Dennis Baron of the University of Illinois has a lengthy post describing how English users have tried to resolve it over the past 150 years. He writes:
In 1890, a report in the Rocky Mountain News recommends hi, hes, hem, as a paradigm that will be “readily taken up and assimilated spontaneously,” though of course that didn’t happen, and so, after more than thirty years of proposals for hi, ir, hizer, ons, e, and ith, no word took hold, in 1894 the paper called on the state legislature to create a gender-neutral pronoun to “correct a well known imperfection of our language.” And shortly thereafter, a reader suggests a “bi-personal pronoun,” either the coordinates he or she, his or her, him or her, or the compounds hesher, hiser, himer: “It was particularly appropriate that Colorado should do so, because the ladies are on a political equality with men.”
And in 1897 a Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper reports on a Massachusetts law that forbids certain kinds of feathers to be worn in hats, a law presumably aimed at women but which employs a masculine pronoun. This presents a problem for the Boston police commissioner, who insists that the masculine pronoun does not include the feminine: “I don’t believe I could arrest a woman on that law,” he said. “The masculine pronoun does not specifically include the women. The law including both usually says ‘person’ or ‘persons,’ but this one simply says ‘his.’”

Westerners Are Actually The Weird ones

In the Ultimatum game, you’re handed $100 and told to offer a portion to someone else. If the person accepts, then both of you get the money. If he declines, then none of you get it.
Americans typically offer (almost) $50, and reject offers below $40 if the tables were turned. After all, fair is fair, right? But is this how the rest of the world think?
Researchers from the University of British Columbia decided to test the Ultimatum Game to the rest of the world and found that the Western concept of fairness is actually not the norm, it’s the outlier. Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic (WEIRD) people, he argued, are actually the weird ones:
It seems most of humanity would play the game differently. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia took the Ultimatum Game into the Peruvian Amazon as part of his work on understanding human co-operation in the mid-1990s and found that the Machiguenga considered the idea of offering half your money downright weird — and rejecting an insultingly low offer even weirder.
"I was inclined to believe that rejection in the Ultimatum Game would be widespread. With the Machiguenga, they felt rejecting was absurd, which is really what economists think about rejection," Dr. Henrich says. "It’s completely irrational to turn down free money. Why would you do that?"

University of Florida ... Now Offering Course on StarCraft

The University of Florida is now offering a three-credit course on the computer game StarCraft in its graduate school on business management. The doctoral student behind the idea says that the game teaches players how to wisely allocate scarce resources:
“My problem solving skills in StarCraft are the same problem solving skills learned in school or the real world,” declares Nate Poling, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida and the instructor behind EME2040: 21st Century Skills in StarCraft.[...]
“In StarCraft you’re managing a lot of different units and groups of different capacities,” says Poling. “It’s not a stretch to think of that in the business world or in the work of a healthcare administrator.”
Poling points out that people who manage hospitals, factories, small businesses and, say, nuclear power plants all have to manage people who have different abilities, and that they might have learned a thing or two about this process from StarCraft, which demands the same kind of resource and unit management.

18 people die in 10 days picking mushrooms

Eighteen people have died while mushroom picking in Italy in little more than a week. The victims have died after falling into rocky crevasses and gorges or from similar physical mishaps, rather than from inadvertently eating poisonous fungi.

Authorities said an early and bountiful mushroom harvest in the Alpine valleys of northern Italy had attracted more people than usual to scour the woods and forests in search of succulent funghi to bring to the dinner table. Many of them were unfit and ill-equipped, venturing into remote areas without proper footwear or rainproof clothing, and without checking weather forecasts.

Collecting wild mushrooms as autumn approaches is an extremely popular pastime in Italy. Seven of the deaths happened in the Lombardy region while others occurred in Piedmont, on the border with France, and Trentino-Alto Adige, adjacent to Austria.

“Lots of people go to areas which are easy to access, but there are always a few people who want to search out remote bits of woodland which no one else knows”, Marco Biasoni, a mountain rescuer from Bolzano, in the north of the country, said. In the most recent case, a 65 year old woman died after falling 40 metres down a steep rocky slope in a forest near the town of Sondrio, in a mountainous region close to the Swiss border.

The Year The Army Stopped Niagara Falls

In 1969, the Army Corps of Engineers accomplished an awesome feat: They turned off Niagara Falls. They did it to clean up the area, and check for structural integrity. Here are pictures of this bizarre episode in structural engineering history.

"Gateway to the Viking empire" discovered in Denmark

[I]n northern Germany, not far from the North Sea-Baltic Canal... one can marvel at a giant, 30-kilometer (19-mile) wall which runs through the entire state of Schleswig-Holstein. The massive construction, called the Danevirke -- "work of the Danes" -- is considered the largest earthwork in northern Europe...

The researchers have discovered the only gate leading through the Danevirke, a five-meter (16 feet) wide portal. According to old writings, "horsemen and carts" used to stream through the gate, called "Wiglesdor." Next to it was a customs station and an inn that included a bordello...

[T]he earliest parts of the wall might have been built by the Frisians and not by the Danes. Archeologists now think the foundation stone might have been laid as early as the 7th century...

Comparative structures like border fortifications built by the Romans or the Great Wall of China were built to protect them from marauding hordes. But in the case of the Danevirke, the builders themselves were the ones known for their pillaging ways... But there was an Achilles heel in this far-flung trading empire, and that was at Hedeby. In order for goods from the east to be shipped to the west, they had to cross the narrow strip of land at the base of present-day Denmark...

For the duration of this short overland trek, the valuable goods -- including gold from Byzantium, bear pelts from Novgorod and even statues of Buddha from India -- were open to attack from the mainland. In order to protect this important trade artery, archeologists now believe, a bulwark of earth, stone and bricks was constructed. The Danevirke, in other words, was little more than a protective shield for commerce.

Silent for 400 years

Indonesia is on its highest alert after Mount Sinabung spews hot lava 5,000 feet in the air.  

Russian trilobites

Paraceraurus exsull
Coming from the nearly half billion year old Middle Ordovician Asery Level deposits of the Wolchow River region near Saint Petersburg, Russia, this is an example of a member of the Order Phacopida, Family Cheiruridae called Paraceraurus (formerly Cheirurus) exsull. These are very dramatic trilobites, with expansive genal and pygidial spines.

Bacteria Survives in Space, Without Oxygen, for a Year and a Half

space bacteria Bacteria Survives in Space, Without Oxygen, for a Year and a Half
The bugs were put on the exterior of the space station to see how they would cope in the hostile conditions that exist above the Earth’s atmosphere.
And when scientists inspected the microbes a year and a half later, they found many were still alive.
These survivors are now thriving in a laboratory at the Open University (OU) in Milton Keynes.
The experiment is part of a quest to find microbes that could be useful to future astronauts who venture beyond low-Earth orbit to explore the rest of the Solar System. [...]
This type of research also plays into the popular theory that micro-organisms can somehow be transported between the planets in rocks – in meteorites – to seed life where it does not yet exist.
Interestingly, the bacteria selected weren’t known extremophiles, they were selected apparently at random.



Facts: 21, 29 and 16 of them as a matter of fact

At Battlacaloa, Sri Lanka, there is a salt water lake which on calm nights, especially when there is a full moon, emits clear musical notes.

The largest plants in the world are the giant redwood trees of North America. Sequoias can grow up to 107 m or more in height and may be up to 7.5 m across.

In Russia the keen eyesight of the pigeon is put to a very practical use for, at one factory in Moscow, they are used to sort ball-bearings. After four or five weeks special training, the birds inspect the ball-bearings as they pass on a conveyor.

Can Social Media Save Vaquita, the World's Rarest Porpoise?

photo vaquita about documentary 
Screen capture: About the Vaquita, vaquita.tv
The Vaquita porpoise may be living its last days in Mexico's Gulf of California. The demise of the species is imminent, says Chris Johnson, who's spent the last three years on a documentary, "Vaquita - Last Chance for the Desert Porpoise." Johnson hopes the film, available online, will help change the practice of gill netting, which has been wiping out the Vaquita year-by-year, one-by-one. Johnson believes that every Tweet, Facebook share, Digg or green thumb on StumbleUpon about his project could make the difference between life and extinction for the little porpoise.
Article continues: Can Social Media Save Vaquita, the World's Rarest Porpoise? (Video)

The Fascinating Life and Times of the Humble Pigeon

pigeon in nyc photo 
If you´re a city dweller, chances are you see them everyday - strolling down the sidewalk with their friends, having lunch at a local cafe, or just hanging out in the park. But for as much as we share with our urban lifestyles, few animals are as misunderstood or as maligned as the humble pigeon. They are such a part of life around the world that it´s not so strange to hear otherwise sensible animal-lovers refer to pigeons as ¨rats with wings,¨ offering nary a word on their unique history or simple beauty. Perhaps the time is nigh to better understand our feathered city-dwelling neighbors who´ve been pigeonholed too long.
Article continues: The Fascinating Life and Times of the Humble Pigeon

Police shoot dead rare leopard in Indonesia

A rare Javan leopard was shot dead by police after it strayed into a village in Indonesia, police said Sunday. Police killed the animal on Saturday after it entered the village near Sukabumi city in West Java province, local police official Ardiansyah said.

"The black leopard made the villagers very anxious. They chased it and it ran towards a police school. Police shot it when it entered one of the classrooms," he said. Conflict between humans and animals are a rising problem in the massive archipelago nation with some of the world's largest remaining tropical forests, as human settlements encroach on natural habitats.

Conservation official Didi Wuryanto said police should have sought the help of forestry officials to trap the animal and return it to its habitat in Gunung Gede Pangrango national park instead of killing it. "The leopard might have been lost while chasing its prey or its habitat was disturbed by deforestation," he said. "There's been no record of the Javan leopard biting humans so it's a pity that it was shot when it could have been saved and released into the forest."

The Javan leopard, which is found only on the country's Java island, is listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "Red List" of threatened species. The number of mature Javan leopards, which are skilful tree climbers, is "certainly less than 250", the IUCN said.

Mutton Bustin’

Sheep-riding craze called Mutton Bustin’ is growing popular among American children
American youngsters have gone mad for the shear thrills of Mutton Bustin’ – riding bareback on a bucking and bounding sheep. They have to hang on as long as they can to feisty Columbian cross-breeds weighing up to 13 stone as they are released from a gate along a 50-yard course.

Organizers of the events insist it’s not cruel to the sheep. All competitors have to be under six, weigh less than 60lbs – and wear a helmet and face-guard. Most are flung off within seconds. But the winners go through to the world championships in California in October and the chance of a £3,200 first prize.

Entrepreneur Tommy G, 44, who pioneered the event, said: “It started as a bit of fun during the intervals at rodeos, but the kids loved it and now it has really taken off.”

US safety inspectors gave the go-ahead after deciding it was no more dangerous than skateboarding – so parents have no need to worry.

Crocodile Cage of Death

So last season: shark cage
The new thing: croc cage
Here’s a new tourist attraction: the Cage of Death over at the Crocosaurus Cove park in Darwin, Australia:
Fearless participants climb into the clear container – nicknamed the Cage of Death – which is suspended on a monorail track that runs above four crocodile enclosures. Two grated doors lock into position on the top of the 10ft tall box which is then lowered into the water and comes to rest 2ft beneath the surface.
To ensure that the paying customers get their money’s worth, chunks of meat are tied to the bottom of the cage. The crocodiles instantly drawn to it when it enters the water. The results vary from the crocs ‘eye-balling’ the swimmer, rubbing against the cage or going into a full on ‘aggressive attack’ against it.

How animals got their names


“First used in a Greek translation of 5th century BC Carthaginian explorer Hanno’s account of a voyage to West Africa. He reported encountering a tribe of wild hairy people, whose females were, according to a local interpreter, called gorillas. In 1847 the American missionary and scientist Thomas Savage adopted the word as the species name of the great ape and by the 1850s it had passed into general use.” (From Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto)


(Image credit: Flickr user Stacy Lynn Baum)
Ferret comes from the Latin furritus, for ‘little thief,’ which probably alludes to the fact that ferrets, which are related to pole cats, like to steal hens’ eggs. Its name also developed into a verb, to ferret out, meaning ‘to dig out or bring something to light.’” (From Cool Cats, Top Dogs, and Other Beastly Expressions, by Christine Ammer)


“Because the little striped animal could squirt his foul yellow spray up to 12 feet, American Indians called him segankw, or segonku, the Algonquin dialect word meaning simply ‘he who squirts’. Early pioneers corrupted the hard-to-pronounce Algonquin word to skunk, and that way it has remained ever since.” (From Animal Crackers, by Robert Hendrickson)


“Before the Norman conquest of England, French hunters bred a keen-nosed dog that they called the St. Hubert. One of their rulers, William, took a pack to England and hunted deer-following the dogs on foot. Saxons had never before seen a dog fierce enough to seize its prey, so they named William’s animals hunts, meaning ’seizure’. Altered over time to hound, it was long applied to all hunting dogs. Then the meaning narrowed to stand for breeds that follow their quarry by scent.” (From Why You Say It, by Webb Garrison)


(Image source: The Medieval Bestiary)
“It was once wrongly believed that the leopard was a cross between a ‘leo’ (a lion) and a ‘pard’ (a white panther)-hence the name ‘leopard.’” (From Why Do We Say It?, by Nigel Rees)


“According to Greek legend, the god Apollo’s earliest adventure was the single-handed slaying of Python, a flame-breathing dragon who blocked his way to Pytho (now Delphi), the site he had chosen for an oracle. From the name of this monster derives the name of the large snake of Asia, Africa, and Australia, the python.” (From Thou Improper, Thou Uncommon Noun, by Willard R. Espy)


“One would think that such an attractive creature would have given its name to many things, but in fact it is the other way around. The bird’s name comes from the red-robed official of the Roman Catholic Church, who in turn was named for being so important-that is, from the adjective cardinal, from the Latin cardo, meaning ‘hinge’ or ‘pivot’. Anything cardinal was so important that events depended (hinged or pivoted) on it.” (From It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, by Christine Ammer)


“Captain John Smith, one of the original leaders at Jamestown, wrote accounts of the colony and life in Virginia, in which he defined the creatures as Moos, a beast bigger than a stagge. Moos was from Natick (Indian) dialect and probably derived from moosu, ‘he trims, he shaves,’ a reference to the way the animal rips the bark and lower branches from trees while feeding.” (From The Chronology of Words and Phrases, by Linda and Roger Flavell)


(Image credit: Flickr user Luis Argerich )
“This long-legged pink wading bird is named for the people of Flanders, the Flemings, as they were called. Flemings were widely known for their lively personalities, their flushed complexions, and their love of bright clothing. Spaniard explorers in the New World thought it was a great joke naming the bird flamingo, which means ‘a Fleming’ in Spanish.” (From Facts on File Encyclopedia of Words and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson)

Drunk baboons plague Cape Town's exclusive suburbs

Groot Constantia, in the heart of Cape Town's wine country, can deal with inebriated holidaymakers – but it is invading baboons which have developed a taste for its grapes that the wine makers are struggling with. Each day, dozens of Cape Baboons gather to strip the ancient vines – the sauvignon blanc grapes are a particular favorite – before heading into the mountains to sleep. A few, who sample fallen fruit that has fermented in the sun, pass out and don't make it home.

"They are not just eating our grapes, they are raiding our kitchens and ripping the thatch off the roofs. They are becoming increasingly bold and destructive," said Jean Naude, general manager at the vineyard, which is celebrating its 325th birthday this year. Guards banging sticks and waving plastic snakes have been deployed with only limited success, and not even a blast of a vuvuzela, the plastic horn made famous at the World Cup, seems to frighten them.

It is not just the vineyards in South Africa which are under siege, however, but also the exclusive neighboring suburb of Constantia, home to famous residents including Earl Spencer, Wilbur Smith and Nelson Mandela. Crisis meetings between animal welfare groups and traumatized locals are struggling to find a workable solution. "Where there's a mountain, there's a baboon," said Justin O'Riain of the Baboon Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. "As we take up more and more of their land, the conflict increases."

The baboons lived in the mountains of Cape Town long before humans took up residence, but development has forced the unlikely neighbors into increasingly closer contact. Before laws afforded baboons a protected status a decade ago, troublesome animals were regularly killed or maimed by home owners and farmers. Now around 20 full-time "baboon monitors" are employed to protect them and guide them away from residential areas. It has proved mission impossible. Last week, a 12 year old boy was left traumatized after confronting a troop who had broken into his family home.

Hearing noises from the kitchen, he went to investigate and found the beasts ransacking cupboards. When the child fled upstairs to find his babysitter, three males gave chase and surrounded him as he made a tearful phone call to his mother, while the animals pelted him with fruit. "When he called me he was terrified. They had him surrounded," said the Constantia housewife, who did not wish to be identified.

Chickens, geese, peacocks and even a Great Dane dog have been killed in recent weeks by the marauding baboons - the males have huge and terrifying canine teeth. Roof tiles, electric fences, orchards and vegetables gardens have been trashed. In a concession to despairing residents, wildlife authorities have begun collaring baboons identified as "troublesome" and imposed a strict "three strikes" policy whereby animals which repeatedly break into homes are humanely destroyed.