Welcome to ...

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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Relationships are on the verge of changing significantly.
Weak friendships will naturally fade into the sunset, and you should let them.
You need the time and energy they've been taking up out of your life.
Friendships and other relations with true potential will become more central to your life.
This is the time to merge, incorporate or otherwise join forces.
Feeling a little scared?
That's normal.
Don't let it prevent you from moving on something good, though.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Milan, Lombardia, Italy
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia
As, Akershus, Norway
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Caracas, Distrito Federal, Venezuela
Nairobi, Nairobi Area, Kenya
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel

as well as in cities across the United States such as Ontario, Norwalk, Los Gatos, Seattle and more.

Today is:
Today is Sunday, September 5, the 248th day of 2010.
There are 117 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
Be Late For Something Day 

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Bosnian woman claims to have saved lives of 'YouTube puppies'

A 75-year-old Bosnia woman, who lives in the same town as the alleged "YouTube puppy thrower," claims to have saved the puppies the young girl threw into a river.

America's most beautiful coastal views

At low tide, you can walk a mile into the ocean on Cape Cod's vast tidal flats.

The Counselor

The new elementary school counselor was eager to help. One day during recess she noticed a girl standing by herself on one side of a playing field while the rest of the kids enjoyed a game of soccer at the other.

She approached and asked if the girl was all right. The girl said she was fine.

A little while later, however, the counselor noticed the girl was in the same spot, still by herself. Approaching again, she offered,
"Would you like me to be your friend?"

The girl hesitated, then said, "Okay," looking at the woman suspiciously.

Feeling she was making progress, the counselor then asked, "Why are you standing here all alone?"

The little girl heaved a sigh of great exasperation and said, "Because . . . I'm the goalie!"

Teenager Tries to Shoot Cell Phones into Prison Using Bow and Arrow

In the past, people in Brazil have tried to smuggle cell phones into prisons using pigeons and toy helicopters. Recently, a boy was caught outside of the walls of a Brazilian prison trying to shoot cell phones into the yard using a bow and arrow:
Police say a 17-year-old teen was detained after he shot arrows with cell phones attached over the walls of a prison in southern Brazil to inmates waiting on the other side.
Authorities say the boy was caught after one of the arrows he launched struck a police officer on the back. The officer was not seriously injured because the cell phone was tied to the tip of the arrow and softened the impact.
Police Lt. Mauricio Cravo told RBS TV that a local gang hired the teen, giving him a professional bow and training him how to use it.

How to make up for your unhealthy habits

These changes can reverse years of bad posture, being overweight, and too much alcohol. 

Eugene Robinson: 'The spoiled-brat American electorate'

 Eugene Robinson at his thoughtful best:
In the punditry business, it's considered bad form to question the essential wisdom of the American people. But at this point, it's impossible to ignore the obvious: The American people are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats....

The nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems. While they're running for office, politicians of both parties encourage this kind of magical thinking. When they get into office, they're forced to try to explain that things aren't quite so simple -- that restructuring our economy, renewing the nation's increasingly rickety infrastructure, reforming an unsustainable system of entitlements, redefining America's position in the world and all the other massive challenges that face the country are going to require years of effort. But the American people don't want to hear any of this. They want somebody to make it all better. Now.
Magical thinking with magical results — the amazing vanishing future.

Then there's this sweet music, and the right reason for it:
The richest Americans need to pay higher taxes -- not because they're bad people who deserve to be punished but because they earn a much bigger share of the nation's income and hold a bigger share of its overall wealth. If they don't pay more, there won't be enough revenue to maintain, much less improve, the kind of infrastructure that fosters economic growth. Think of what the interstate highway system has meant to this country. Now imagine trying to build it today.

Yeah, Right


How to get cheapskates to spend

Products that promise savings, but are "probably a complete waste of money," attract the frugal.  

How frugal billionaires spend their money

Carlos Slim HelĂș, the richest man in the world, has lived in the same house for 40 years.

An American Style Democracy


Do we look racist - in a word, yes

That's Bullshit ... Sam Seder talks to those attending Beckapalooza.

German Bundesbank votes to fire racist board member

It's not quite final, but almost.

If Sarrazin was in the US, he'd already be on Faux News and preparing his speech for the next Teabagger rally.
The board of Germany's Bundesbank said on Thursday it had voted unanimously to seek the dismissal of board member Thilo Sarrazin, who has sparked uproar with his comments about Muslim immigrants and race.

Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad dies

The man whose biting political cartoons landed him on Richard Nixon's enemies list passes at 86.

ELO front man killed by rogue hay bale

A former member of the band Electric Light Orchestra, was killed when a nearly 318kg bale of hay rolled down a hill, flew out of a field and smashed into his van as he drove by.

London's Daily Telegraph reported Mike Edwards, 62, died instantly in the freak accident Friday on a highway in Devon, England.

He was a founding member of ELO and played cello with the band from 1972-75.

Unhear It

Do you have a song stuck in your head and you can't get it out no matter what you do. Unhear It can help. They just let you listen to a random song instead.

Using the latest techniques in reverse-auditory-melodic-unstickification technology, we've been able to allow our users to 'unhear' songs by hearing equally catchy songs. So all we're doing is making you forget your old song by replacing it with another one... sorry.



Things Organized Neatly

Things Organized Neatly is a photo site by Austin Radcliffe of things organized neatly.

Old Wives Tales that are Actually True

Old wives tales are often scoffed at but many have scientific evidence to show why you should listen to your mother. Take a look at some of the more surprising findings.

Modern Book Sizes Are Based on Sheep

Most printed books come in certain standard sizes which have been used for hundreds of years. Even the dimensions of Kindles and other eReaders are derived from these norms of printing. And where did these standards come from? According to medieval scholar Carl Pyrdum, they’re based on the size of a sheep:
The question then becomes, I guess, why were medieval books the size they were? And the answer to that is simple: medieval books were the size they were because medieval sheep were the size they were. Remember, paper wasn’t the original medium for page-creation. Medieval books were constructed of parchment, which is a fancy word for sheep or goat skin (and primarily sheep skin, because there were a lot more of them around).
The whole sheepskin, flattened out and folded in half, is one common size. Fold it again, and it’s another size. All of these sizes and dimensions are still being used by printing houses in the 21st century. The Kindle, for example, is the size of a sheepskin folded over three times. Pyrdum provides further examples and concludes:
Next time you’re squinting at your mass-market copy of Dan Brown’s latest wishing the pages were just a smidge roomier, blame the medievals for not having bigger sheep.

Ripped her a new one

The earth suffers a lasting effect from a powerful quake in the South Pacific.  

Grains of pollen as seen by an electron microscope

Behold, the face of the enemy.
(Why, yes, my nose is rather runny, why do you ask?)
Urge to vengeance aside, my main reaction while flipping through this gallery of pollen images was wonder at the intense variety of sizes, shapes, textures and tricks floating through the microscopic world of plant pollen. This group shot ranges from the (relatively) giant orb of pumpkin pollen in the center, to the teensy blue dot that belongs to the forget-me-not. Some of the grains seem like completely alien things, but others bear a striking resemblance to the plants they help create—for instance, I guessed that Venus fly trap pollen went with the Venus fly trap before I read the caption.
All these shots are the work of Swiss scientist Martin Oeggerli, who makes amazing art using a scanning electron microscope. The images actually start out in black and white, with Oeggerli going back and adding color, pixel by pixel. The colors can, but don't necessarily, reflect reality, but they do help make textures stand out and make the form more easily readable by your eye.
The Telegraph: Full pollen image gallery
Martin Oeggerli explains the technology behind his photos, from microscope, to sample preparation, to coloration.

The history of "Ms."

People always assume that the term was a modern contrivance created several decades ago.  That is a Ms-understanding on their part, as the Oxford University Press blog explains:
The form goes back at least to the 1760s, when it served as an abbreviation for “Mistress”... and for “Miss,” already a shortened form of “Mistress,” which was also sometimes spelled “Mis.” The few early instances of “Ms.” carried no particular information about matrimonial status (it was used for single or for married women) and no political statement about gender equality... While “Miss” was often prefixed to the names of unmarried women or used for young women or girls, it could also refer to married women...

Ms. didn’t really take off until the politically-motivated language reforms of second-wave feminism and the cultural impact of Ms. Magazine in the 1970s. Many of the form’s popularizers at that time thought of Ms. as a blend of Miss and Mrs., but some evidence suggests that it derives more directly from Miss, or possibly from Mistress.
It may have come from all of these, at different times. The 1885 citation from the Vermont Watchman (see illustration left), which has just come to light, provides a new link in the development of Ms. This newspaper ad, masquerading as a news story, contrasts Ms. Parrtington with Mrs. Dull, suggesting that Ms. is meant to abbreviate Miss...

The earliest example of Ms. found so far is on the tombstone of Ms. Sarah Spooner [top], who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1767... the Ms. on her tombstone is not a stab at language reform or a slip of the chisel, it’s just a shortening of Mistress by a stonecutter trying to save space on the already crowded slab.
The "S" is superscripted to the right of the "M" at the end of the second line of text.   The rest of the history of the term is discussed at the link, which concludes "This confusion of usage simply continues the long tradition of women’s titles indicating, masking, or ignoring age or marital status, providing proof that while language planners can consciously put a logical, “preferred,” or politically-motivated form into play, language users will either adopt or ignore those recommendations, or adjust them in unforeseen ways. Instead of following prescriptions, we twist them, invent our own expressions, or reshape existing ones, all to fit our ever-changing contexts and needs."

The Mystery Behind the Ancient Stone City of Nan Madol

Check out the story here.

Cup made of terra sigillata

Here's the description from the Victoria and Albert Museum:
This cup was made from a special clay from the island of Lemnos in the Aegean, thought to have health benefits including offering protection against poison. The clay was used to make drinking vessels in prehistoric times, and people even ate the clay itself.

The Ottomans conquered Lemnos in 1453, and the Ottoman governor of the island presided over an annual ceremony to dig up the clay on 6 August each year. This may have been a revival of the tradition from Antiquity, or the clay may have been in continuous use on the island. Because it was only excavated for 6 hours per year, the clay was very rare, and so vessels made from it were marked with a special seal to prove that they were genuine. The seal can be seen at the base of the handle of this cup. The Latin word for a seal - sigillum - gave these vessels the name terra sigillata or 'sealed earth'. Wares made from this clay are also known as Terra Lemnia after the island of Lemnos.

Red clay from Lemnos was particularly prized, and was used at the Ottoman court and even shaved into the Sultan's food. Whiter clay was used to make vessels like this for sale in the Istanbul bazaar.
The use of clay to counteract possible poison actually has a very sound scientific basis (although prior to the 20th century the mechanism was not known).  Many clays throughout the world are able to act as a de facto cation exchange resin, absorbing metallic ions.  Having the clay in one's stomach prior to ingesting poisoned food would in fact offer a measure of protection - at least against arsenic and other heavy metal poisons.    I should think it would be less effective when fashioned into a vessel.

The modern relevance is that persons whose cultural background results in their developing the habit of eating clay can put themselves at substantial risk of zinc deficiency.  If I remember correctly, the first clinical reports of zinc deficiency came from Turkey, not far from the region where this vessel was fashioned, but clay-eating is a form of pica which also used to be common in the rural southern United States.



Teen sues after playground accident 'left her unable to make friends'

A teenager is suing a council for £100,000 after claiming an accident in her school playground 11 years ago left her with a personality disorder which means she is unable to make friends. Natasha Caley-Winborne was just six years-old when she hit her head after tripping on an allegedly uneven grass bank at St Peters Primary School in the village of Ardingly, East Sussex. Now a 17 year-old college student, she claimed the incident had left her with a catalog of health problems including violent mood swings, severe headaches, post traumatic amnesia and difficulty forming friendships.

Natasha, who had to regularly attend clinics at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, has issued a writ against West Sussex County Council, who run the school. The writ, signed by her mother Jane, alleges that since the accident in September 1999 Natasha has developed a personality disorder requiring specialist treatment. It states: "Natasha has continued to suffer from frequent severe headaches and dizziness. Her headaches have resulted in her missing days at school and have affected her education. She has also suffered from mood swings and behavioral problems, including sudden loss of temper and violence.

“She is irritable and intolerant and over-sensitive in her reactions to her peer group. She suffered from low self confidence and has difficulty forming friendships.” Natasha was playing with friends when one of her feet allegedly got caught in a hole causing her to fall and bang her head on the adjacent concrete playground. She was taken to hospital two days later where doctors diagnosed her with whiplash and concussion and has since undergone acupuncture, cranial osteopathy and attended special headache clinics and mental health groups.

The writ, seeking damages of £50,000 to £100,000 for pain and injury, loss and damage, states that up to the end of the 1999 summer term there were three or four holes in the surface of the grass bank. Neurological lawyers Osborne Morris and Morgan, who have taken up Caleys case, claim the accident was caused by the negligence and/or breach of statutory duty the council. A spokesman for the council said: "Proceedings have been issued seeking damages for alleged personal injury and loss. The claim is being defended and will follow the due court process."

Angry grandma knifed 12-year-old over jigsaw puzzle

A grandmother has been charged after allegedly taking a knife to her granddaughter's ear when a fight broke out over a jigsaw puzzle. According to a criminal complaint filed in Dakota County District Court (Minnesota), Parbati Kalicharan, 64, was chopping peppers when she became angry with her 12-year-old granddaughter for saying "shut up."

Police say Kalicharan tore up the box from the puzzle on which the girl was working and threw it in the garbage. The girl pleaded with her grandmother, saying she could not finish the puzzle without seeing the picture on the box.

The complaint alleged Kalicharan wouldn't surrender, and began tearing the box into even smaller pieces. When the 12-year-old announced that she didn't like her grandmother, Kalicharan is accused of chasing her with a knife.

The granddaughter ended up with cut about three-quarters of an inch long inside one of her ears. The grandmother has been charged with felony assault. Kalicharan posted $1,500 cash for bail that had been set at $15,000 and was released.

Wizard of Id


About That Carburetor

A man's car stalled on a country road. When he got out to see what was wrong, a cow came along and stopped beside him.

"Your trouble is probably in the carburetor," said the cow.

Startled, the man jumped back and ran down the road until he met the farmer. He told the farmer his story about a talking cow.

"Was it a large red cow with a brown spot over the right eye?" asked the farmer.


"Oh, then, I wouldn't listen to her," said the farmer. "Bessie doesn't know anything about cars."

Epic Shark Feeding Frenzy Caught on Film

Sharks are normally considered solitary hunters, but one incredible video shows that sometimes they do get together -- and in a big way. Off the coast of Australia recently, a rescue helicopter spotted hundreds of sharks in an epic feeding frenzy, capturing the feast on film. The sight of so many big sharks attacking a school of fish prompted authorities to issue a warning to lifeguards in the area, lest their appetite turn to swimmers.
Article continues: Epic Shark Feeding Frenzy Caught on Film

Counting Fireflies

A painstakingly tedious project may tell scientists whether the firefly population is dropping.  

Indian Giant Squirrel

Have you ever seen a squirrel like this? You might, in the forests of India. This is Ratufa indica, or the Malabar Giant Squirrel. They grow up to 16 inches long, and that doesn’t count the tail! Learn more about the Malabar Giant Squirrel at The Ark in Space.



High Levels of Arsenic Found in Children's Urine

photo: Sara Novak
A story reported in Grist and first published in the Salt Lake Tribune said that alarming amounts of arsenic were found in two Utah children's urine. The girl's urine tested 50 percent above what's considered safe and the boy's tested 75 percent above acceptable levels. The culprit turned out to be the chicken feed. Find out how the kids were exposed to such high levels of arsenic.
Article continues: High Levels of Arsenic Found in Children's Urine, You'll Never Guess Where it Came From

A glut of acorns, or a bad case of The Plague?

What would you make of medieval historical records that prominently note the occurrence of large crops of acorns? It's a bit of a weird departure from the kinds of things these records normally care about, i.e. battles and the deaths of famous people. In fact, the people keeping these records didn't even eat acorns, and other, more useful, crops aren't mentioned at all.
But, sometimes, an acorn might be more than just an acorn, according to a 2003 paper by classicist David Woods. That's because the Latin word for "little nut" and the word sometimes used to describe the swollen lymph nodes caused by the Capital-P Plague are one and the same.
The Latin term glandularius is the root of our word for gland; etymologically, glandula means 'little nuts' because this is what they felt like when palpated. There is at least one other example of a plague record using glandulara as a descriptor. In c. 660 the Burgundian 'Chronicle of Fredegar' describes the 599 plague of Marseilles as a cladis glanduaria.
So "a spark of leprosy and an unheard of abundance of nuts", becomes the far more logical, "we've had some issues with leprosy and The Plague this year".

Whiskey from diabetics' urine

 Resources Gilpinfamilywhisa
Gilpin Family whisky is a new single malt whisky made from the urine of diabetics. Creator James Gilpin doesn't sell the stuff, but rather gives away bottles as a public health statement. From the product page:
 Resources Gilpinfamilywhisb Sugar heavy urine excreted by diabetic patients is now being utilized for the fermentation of high-end single malt whisky for export. The Whisky market is growing faster then any other alcoholic beverage worldwide. With a prevalent genetic weakness being exposed in the northern hemisphere leading to a sharp rise in type two diabetes, economists have found a new exportable commodity to exploit and are keen to capitalize on this resource quickly. Large amounts of sugar are excreted on a daily basis by type-two diabetic patients especially amongst the upper end of our aging population. As a result of this diabetic patients toilets often have unusual scale build up in the basin due and rapid mould growths as the sugar put into the system acts as nutrients for mould and bacteria growth. Is it plausible to suggest that we start utilizing our water purification systems in order to harvest the biological resources that our elderly already process in abundance?