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.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Today offers you a great chance to hand the reins over to someone else, which allows you to free up your time and investigate the things that truly interest you.
Your schedule is much more flexible than you realize, and this flexibility might not last much longer.
So act quickly to rearrange or reschedule stuff.
People will be flexible, so go for broke.
This window of opportunity is wide open right now; climb in before it slams shut again.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Sorel, Quebec, Canada
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
London, England, United Kingdom
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
Cadiz, Andalucia, Spain
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Jakarta, Jakarta Raya, Indonesia
Oakville, Ontario, Canada

as well as Austria, Georgia, Mexico, Japan, Peru, Kuwait, Serbia, Bangladesh, Latvia, Greece, Scotland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Wales, Iran, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Belgium, India, Croatia, Pakistan, Romania, Finland, Korea,  Argentina, Vietnam, Egypt, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, China, Iraq, Ecuador, Nigeria, Morocco, Chile, Honduras, Paupa New Guinea, Moldova  and in cities across the United States such as Montclair, Sun Valley, San Francisco, Delmar and more.

Today is:
Today is Saturday, December 11, the 345th day of 2010.
There are 20 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 

International Mountain Day.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

President Obama's Weekly Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
December 11, 2010
Right now, there’s a big debate taking place in Washington that will affect how much you pay in taxes next year.  If Congress doesn’t act, tax rates will automatically go up for just about everyone in our country.  Typical middle class families would end up paying an extra $3,000.

That’s unacceptable to me.  Not when we know that it’s the middle class that was hit the hardest by the recession.  And not when we know that taking this money out of the pockets of working people is exactly the wrong thing to do to get our economy growing faster.  Economists tell us that this tax hike on working families could actually cost us well over a million jobs.

That’s why I’ve been fighting so hard to cut middle class taxes.  And that’s why I brought both Democrats and Republicans to the table – to put together a compromise, and work through our differences, so we could get this done.

Now, the Republicans in Congress strongly favored permanent tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers and the wealthiest estates, most of which would go to millionaires and even billionaires.  But I didn’t believe that these tax cuts were worth the cost.  They’d add to our deficits without really boosting the economy.

I believed that the best way to help the economy, and working families, was to keep middle class tax rates low, and cut taxes for working parents, college students, and small businesses.  And I believed that with millions of people looking for jobs, it would be a terrible mistake to end unemployment insurance – not only for people who are out of work, but for our entire economy.

So we hammered out a deal that reflects ideas from both sides.  It wasn’t easy, and it’s by no means perfect.  And as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like.  But this is a good deal for the American people.  The vast majority of the tax cuts in this plan will help the middle class, including a new cut in payroll taxes that will save the average family about $1,000.  And as this plan is debated in Congress, what I want to make clear is the real difference it will make in people’s lives.

It’s going to make a difference for a single mom with two kids in Ohio working as a cashier.  With this plan, she’d get a new payroll tax cut and a bigger child tax credit together worth more than $2,300.

It’s going to make a difference for a couple in Florida earning about $50,000 and trying to put one of their two kids through college.  They’d save more than $4,000 because of the middle class tax cuts – including a $2,500 tax credit to go toward college tuition.

And it’s going to make an enormous difference for people looking for jobs.  For many of these families, emergency unemployment insurance is the last line of defense between hardship and catastrophe.  And I’d point out, if these folks stop spending money, it will also hurt businesses, which will hurt hiring, which will damage our recovery.

So this plan is going to help millions of families to make ends meet, through tax cuts and unemployment insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs by no fault of their own.  And we included tax relief for businesses, too – making it easier for them to invest and expand.  All told, this will not only directly help families and businesses.  By putting more money in people’s pockets, and helping companies grow, we’re going to see people being able to spend a little more, we’re going to spur hiring – we’re going to strengthen our entire economy.

Now, I recognize that many of my friends in my own party are uncomfortable with some of what’s in this agreement, in particular the temporary tax cuts for the wealthy.  And I share their concerns.  It’s clear that over the long run, if we’re serious about balancing the budget, we cannot afford to continue these tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers – especially when we know that cutting the deficit is going to demand sacrifice from everyone.  That’s the reality.

But at the same time, we cannot allow the middle class in this country to be caught in the political crossfire of Washington.  People want us to find solutions, not score points. And I will not allow middle class families to be treated like pawns on a chessboard.

The opportunity for families to send their kids to college hinges on this debate.  The ability of parents to put food on the table while looking for a job depends on this debate.  And our recovery will be strengthened or weakened based on the choice that now rests with Congress.

So I strongly urge members of both parties to pass this plan.  And I’m confident that they will do the right thing, strengthening the middle class and our economic recovery.

Thank you.

Awesome Pictures


The 2010 campaign included $132 million in ads from anonymous donors

Great job by the Supreme Court.
 They're helping deliver the best system that money can buy.
Independent groups that do not disclose the identity of their donors spent $132.5 million to influence elections nationwide this year, accounting for about a third of all spending by outside groups in the 2010 election cycle, a report released Friday found.

The analysis by the office of New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio aimed to quantify how federal campaigns had been affected by the Supreme Court's so-called Citizens United ruling. The ruling, handed down in January, cleared the way for companies and labor unions to spend unlimited funds to influence elections, often using money from anonymous donors.

Madoff's son dead in apparent suicide

Mark Madoff, the elder son of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff, was found hanged in his New York City apartment in an apparent suicide, police said on Saturday.

"He was found hanged in his apartment. It was an apparent suicide," New York City police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Mark Madoff, 46, was found dead on the two-year anniversary of the arrest of his father. Bernard Madoff is now serving a 150-year prison sentence after confessing to running a decades-long Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of millions.

Compare: 1980 prices vs. those in 2010

Despite complaints about rising costs, some items actually cost less in relative terms than 30 years ago.  


Yule is but ten days away.

It's time for this ...

You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch…
You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch …

Boris Karloff sings this best and original version.

Most counterfeited items of the season

There are plenty of impostor Ugg boots and Coach handbags, says one site.



Healthy holiday party food

Navigate the buffet wisely, and you'll avoid putting on pounds this season. 

Risks of the holiday season

Both live and artificial Christmas trees can be perilous at this time of year.  

    Get a workout while shopping

    It's easy to burn calories while grabbing gifts at the mall or stocking up at the supermarket.  

    Four moves for a ballerina body

    Natalie Portman's ballet trainer for "Black Swan" shares her key exercises.  

    Do You Suffer From Outdoor Deprivation Disorder?

    Call it ODD, although according to New York Times health writer Jane Brody, outdoor deprivation disorder is not odd; it's all too common.
    Brody reports that a general and widespread disconnect with the natural environment had been linked in a host of studies to obesity and obesity-related diseases in children and adults, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, stress, depression, attention deficit disorder and myopia.
    Yikes, it that all?
    No. It's also linked to lower cognitive function.
    The problem is apparently so acute that doctors have begun writing prescriptions for outdoor activity, providing patients with maps, guidelines and programs of gradually increased activity.
    The good news is that the treatment is widely available and usually free: all we have to do is get outside.

    Read more here.

    Yes, No, Maybe


    Cloud Computing: Top 25 Myths Busted

    Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, Service-oriented architecture and utility computing.

    You are probably already using the cloud. Updating Twitter or Facebook? Adding photos to Flickr? Listing items on Craigslist or eBay? Using Yahoo for email? Yes, you're using the cloud.
    Here are 25 cloud computing myths.

    FBI Arrests Russian Spammer Behind Notorious 'Mega-D' Botnet

    See the guy in the picture above? He's Oleg Nikolaenko, a 23-year-old from Moscow, who is believed by the FBI to be the man behind 'Mega-D,' a network of half a million computers that send out about one-third of all spam in the world. He was arrested while visiting Las Vegas for an automotive trade show.

    Experts cited by federal investigators reported that Nikolaenko's botnet controlled more than 500,000 infected computers that were capable of sending a total of ten billion spam e-mails a day.

    Woman wants to catch burglars with bear trap

    An East Texas woman has had it up to here with people stealing her property. Linda Frias of Tyler has come up with an unusual plan to trap a trespasser. She says the only thing stopping her from putting bear traps all over her property are the police. "The bear trap is huge, I mean it is big," said Frias.

    But Linda Frias is not talking about trapping a bear. She's talking about people trespassing onto her land, stealing her property. "What I wanted to do was get some bear traps and they sell them around here," she said. "I wanted to hide them underneath that travel trailer right there on those steps and put me some leaves and stuff and let the caretaker know that they were there that way when I heard it go off or heard somebody yell we know we'd caught them."

    Frias says she's spotted prowlers rummaging around her property. "It was enough because it was spooky because I saw the guy out in the front yard about 15 until midnight the night before," said Frias. The following night, they returned. Only this time they weren't just looking around. "They broke into my Land Rover, you little skunks and got my Kenwood stereo out," said Frias. "I worked hard you know to save up to pay the guy to put it in."

    To trap a trespasser, she says, would not be a pretty sight. At least not for them. "You got your perpetrator because he aint going no where ... you might have his leg left there, but just look for somebody without a leg." For Frias, this is just wishful thinking. Turns out, setting booby traps are illegal. "I don't want to break the law, but what am I supposed to do?" she said.

    Man gets 21 years for wheelchair bank robbery

    A 71-year-old terminally ill man has been sentenced to 21 years in a California prison for rolling his wheelchair into a San Diego bank and holding it up with a replica BB gun.

    Criminals using film quality masks during bank robberies

    A company that sells "movie quality" silicone masks that incorporate human hair to achieve what its adverts call "ultra high realism" is at the center of a snowballing police investigation after detectives discovered that it had become the favored supplier of disguises to America's most wanted bank robbers. The Los Angeles company SPFX Masks, set up to cater to the film industry, said yesterday that it is "proud" of the fact that its range of hand-painted products look realistic, "but not proud of the way they are being used" after learning that they had been linked to a string of unsolved crimes.

    In Ohio, a Polish immigrant called Conrad Zdzierak last week pleaded guilty to using one of the masks to transform himself from a 30-year-old white man into a black character he called "The Player," who carried out a string of robberies in the state. The disguise was so effective that local police mistakenly arrested a young African American for the crimes, holding him in custody for several months. Witnesses, including six out of the seven bank employees who took part in a photo line-up, went so far as to wrongly identify the innocent black man as the culprit. "We showed the picture [of the masked perpetrator] to his mother, and even she thought it was him," the detective in charge of the case, Keenan Riordan, told reporters. After that little misunderstanding had been ironed out, Zdzierak was convicted on six counts of robbery.

    Authorities are now starting to wonder if the notorious "Geezer Bandit," an elderly man who has held up a string of banks in Southern California, might actually be a younger person wearing one of the SPFX masks, which retail for between $600 and $1,200 (£760). The products are hand-made by a crew of six craftsmen who use a special variety of silicone that looks and feels like skin, down to its individual pores. They are individually painted, again by hand, and finished with real human hairs which are individually stitched in place. In October a Chinese man seeking asylum in Canada used one of the masks to disguise himself as an elderly male as he negotiated airport security in Hong Kong. "We're very embarrassed this has happened," said Slusser, of his company's sudden notoriety. "We were shocked that this happened."

    The masks, which have only been on the market for a couple of years, are particularly effective because they move in synch with facial muscles. Several Hollywood stars have even used them to evade paparazzi, claimed Slusser, though he declined to mention names. Zdzierak can no doubt testify to their effectiveness. He would have got away with his crimes had his girlfriend not gone to the police after finding a large stash of money and one of the masks in his hotel room. When detectives searched Zdzierak's home, they found two masks in a safe, one of a young black man – "The Player" – and another of an aging white man known as "The Elder". A search of his computer hard drive revealed videos of Zdzierak modeling "The Elder" mask and trying to speak like a person of that age. It also turned up emails he had sent to Slusser claiming to be a film producer wanting to know if a white man could pass himself off as an African American in one, and whether the silicone hand coverings sold alongside them might tear in a fight.

    The Batmen


    States people are fleeing

    High taxes, manufacturing job losses, and the BP oil spill have sent residents packing.

    Even Minor Medical Expenses Cause Problems For Homeowners Who Want To Refinance

    By Susie Madrak

    It's kind of crazy, isn't it? The high-rollin' cokeheads of Wall Street crash the economy and collect multi-million dollar bonuses, while you can't get a second mortgage because you were a few bucks short on a co-pay. I guess it's your own damned fault for not forking over the dough to Freecreditreport.com!
    Two erroneous $11 doctor bills stopped Jeanne White from refinancing her home.
    The 49-year-old resident of Colleyville, Texas, pays 7% on the mortgage for her three-bedroom house. In October, she says, she was shocked to learn that the two medical bills, which had been turned over to a collection agency, had caused her credit score to fall to 680 from 757—making refinancing far too expensive.
    "I was told I'd have to pay $14,000 in closing costs to get a 5.5% interest rate," Ms. White says, substantially more than she would have paid with a higher credit score. When Ms. White, a retired sales manager, contacted the doctor's office, she found out the bills had been issued in error.
    Ms. White's case is hardly an isolated one. Otherwise well-qualified borrowers with good loan-to-value ratios and steady employment are increasingly finding it difficult to refinance because of medical billing mistakes marring their credit, say mortgage bankers and real-estate agents.
    Jeanne White of Colleyville, Texas, saw her refinancing costs skyrocket after her credit score was dinged by two disputed $11 doctor bills—and is now in limbo as interest rates rise.
    Rodney Anderson, executive director of Supreme Lending, a mortgage bank in Plano, Texas, calls medical debt the single biggest roadblock for would-be refinacers. "People have no idea that they still owe small amounts which later end up on their credit report," he says.

    An egg-shaped house

    The 24-year-old can live on the sidewalk in this sun-powered structure he designed. 

    Lightning Strike


    Electromagnetic Railgun Shoots Target 100 Miles Away

    A railgun is a weapon that uses electromagnets to accelerate a  projectile to very high speeds.  The US Navy has been developing one for  several years.  Today they fired a shot at Mach 7 at a target 100 miles  away:
    An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously  unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly  powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn’t have any  explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And  at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing — more than  three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.[...]
    Ellis says the Navy has invested about $211 million in the program  since 2005, since the railgun provides many significant advantages over  convention weapons. For one thing, a railgun offers 2 to 3 times the  velocity of a conventional big gun, so that it can hit its target within  6 minutes. By contrast, a guided cruise missile travels at subsonic  speeds, meaning that the intended target could be gone by the time it  reaches its destination.
    Furthermore, current U.S. Navy guns can only reach targets about 13  miles away. The railgun being tested today could reach an enemy 100  miles away. And with current GPS guidance systems it could do so with  pinpoint accuracy. The Navy hopes to eventually extend the range beyond  200 miles.

    How Would NASA Rescue an Astronaut That Floated Away from a Space Station?

    When astronauts work outside the International Space Station, they remain tethered to it with a very strong cable. Nonetheless, NASA has made preparations for the unlikely event that the tether breaks. Astronauts have an emergency jetpack that they can use to move back to the station. But what if the astronaut is unconscious or the jetpack fails?
    Jim Oberg, a space journalist who worked at the space shuttle’s mission-control center for 22 years and specialized in rendezvous procedures, weighs in on the options for rescue. The station’s robotic arm, he explains, is usually not within range of where the astronauts work and moves too slowly to grab someone. The Soyuz vehicles need a full day to power up and undock. By then, the carbon dioxide filters in the astronaut’s spacesuit would run out, asphyxiating him. And the ISS cannot redirect its positioning rocket quickly enough to catch up to a runaway astronaut.
    In a worst-case situation, the only rescue option, according to Oberg, would be for a second astronaut to link together several tethers end-to-end, attach them to the station, and then use his Safer pack to jet over to his crewmate and haul him in. Certain conditions could make a rescue easier, he says. If an astronaut floated away more or less at a right angle from the station’s orbit, orbital dynamics (which require too much math to explain here) dictate that he would float back toward the station in about an hour.


    With a major winter storm set to hit much of the U.S., this seems to be an appropriate time to share photos from The British Museum illustrating how mankind has coped with winter in earlier periods.
    At the top are Eskimo-Aleut spectacles found at Southampton Island, crafted out of ivory.  The center piece was created by Siberian craftsman, using leather, white metal, and beadwork.  The bottom one comes from Salekhard, made of “metal, cloth, skin (reindeer, with fur), brass, beads, and buttons (brass).”

    Was Stonehenge Built with Balls in Rails?

    Andrew Young, a doctoral student at the University of Exeter, has a novel proposal about how ancient Britons built Stonehenge. He hypothesizes that they placed balls in grooved tree trunks to act as bearings for the heavy stones:
    Young first came up with the ball bearings idea when he noticed that carved stone balls were often found near Neolithic stone circles in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (map).
    “I measured and weighed a number of these stone balls and realized that they are all precisely the same size—around 70 millimeters [3 inches] in diameter—which made me think they must have been made to be used in unison, rather than alone,” he told National Geographic News.
    The balls, Young admitted, have been found near stone circles only in Aberdeenshire and the Orkney Islands (map)—not on Stonehenge’s Salisbury Plain.
    But, he speculated, at southern sites, including Stonehenge (map), builders may have preferred wooden balls, which would have rotted away long ago. For one thing, wooden balls are much faster to carve. For another, they’re much lighter to transport.

    Believe it or not


    Cool Shadow


    Central Texas city to coexist with coyotes

    West Lake Hills has decided against trapping coyotes in favor of teaching the community how to safely coexist with them.

    Twenty-one Things You Didn't Know About Honey Bees


    The world is full of wonders. The universe expands and contracts, men harness time through the written word and atoms dance under the microscope. Even the most humble of animals - such as the honey bee - are wrapped in a shroud of wonder if you know what to look for.

    Animal Pictures