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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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
You have a clearer sense of purpose today than you've had in a long time -- it is obvious what you need to do.
The only question is how are you going to do it?
Experiment throughout today and you'll soon find a few ideas on what to do next -- you might even get lucky and come upon the answer.
The most important thing you need to remember is to not count anything -- or anyone -- out.
Listen to all ideas, entertain everyone's viewpoints, and you'll come out enlightened.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Geneva, Geneve, Switzerland
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
Oakville, Ontario, Canada

as well as Bulgaria, 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 Aurora, Brookings, Huntsville, Westport and more.

Today is:
Today is Sunday, December 12, the 346th day of 2010.
There are 19 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 

Poinsettia Day.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Winter Hasn't Officially Arrived But The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Winter Hasn't Officially Arrived But The Weather Outside Is Frightful
Bundle up! You thought it was cold last week, prepare for another arctic blast that will make it even colder this week.

Stunning video of roof collapse

Cameras inside the Metrodome in Minneapolis capture a wild scene as snow pours through the roof.  

Missing NC woman found in Va. after 200-mile walk

Authorities say a North Carolina woman reported missing in September walked 200 miles before she turned up at a Virginia shelter.

The Voice

The Moody Blues

New information regarding President Eisenhower and the military-industrial complex

Many months before delivering the farewell address in which he famously warned about the strength of the American "military-industrial complex," Eisenhower weighed various ideas for the speech, but concerns about the military were always central to his remarks.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library on Friday unveiled previously unseen drafts of the speech that were found recently in a cabin owned by Eisenhower speechwriter Malcolm Moos... Moos' son, Grant, found the papers — covered with pinecones, dirt and other debris — in a cabin in Minnesota earlier this year. He turned them over to the library in October...

The papers show that Eisenhower and his staff spent two years preparing for his final speech to the nation. One document features a typewritten note from the president lamenting that when he joined the military in 1911, there were 84,000 Army soldiers — a number that ballooned roughly tenfold by 1960.

"The direct result of this continued high level of defense expenditures has been to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions, where none had existed before," he wrote in the passage, a variation of which reached the delivered speech on Jan. 17, 1961...

Eisenhower biographer David Nichols noted that while the address is known for the reference to the military-industrial complex, the president had warned about military growth and Cold War threats throughout his presidency.

"He was always talking about the Cold War and the threat to American values and the danger that America would become a garrison state," Nichols said. "The military wanted a lot more than he was willing to give them. It frustrated the Army. He thought about it all the time."..

Eisenhower's farewell speech

Dwight D. Eisenhower, was, of course, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. Before that he had been a five-star Army general, Supreme Commander of all Allied forces in Europe in WWII, and subsequently Supreme Commander of NATO.

As he left office in 1961, he offered a televised address to the nation, from which the above is excerpted. Another video, with some commentary, is here. Further text and video (with subtitles) is here - part one, part two.

The full speech, with raw television feed is at Google video. If you have sufficient time the full presentation is worthwhile. The text without video is here. Some other excerpts:
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in the newer elements of our defenses; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research – these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in light of a broader consideration; the need to maintain balance in and among national programs – balance between the private and the public economy, balance between the cost and hoped for advantages – balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between the actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future....

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite...

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow...
There are a lot of prescient observations in the speech.

What sets off airport scanners

Even expert travelers might not expect a headband or snow globe to cause problems.  

Pornoscanners trivially defeated by pancake-shaped explosives

In case you were wondering whether pornoscanners are harder on the vast majority of innocent, non-terrorist fliers, or the minuscule minority of terrorists, wonder no more. From Leon Kaufman and Joseph W. Carlson's "An evaluation of airport x-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics," published in the Journal of Transportation Security:
The penetration not only distributes exposure throughout the body (this affecting the calculation of effective dose, which comprises a sum over all organs), but tends to diffuse the effects caused by contraband materials. Images can be made at low entrance exposures, but of very poor spatial resolution and S/N. The calculated signal excursions at high kilovoltage are so small as to make it doubtful that at any reasonable exposure levels density differences will be noticeable unless the contraband is packed thickly and with hard edges. Although the excursions are larger at low kilovoltage, they are still small and in the noise of the device's operational limits. The eye is a good signal averager at certain spatial frequencies, but it is doubtful that an operator can be trained to detect these differences unless the material is hard-edged, not too large and regular- shaped. Anatomic features and benign objects add structured noise that interferes with signal averaging. Figure 18 shows a widely-distributed backscatter image. On the left is a complete view of her torso, on the right, a section has been blacked out. While the breasts are easily recognized at right, without some prior knowledge of the subject, it would be hard to distinguish the increase of intensity in the superior part of her breasts from the natural gradients of the image. It is very likely that a large (15-20 cm in diameter), irregularly-shaped, cm-thick pancake with beveled edges, taped to the abdomen, would be invisible to this technology, ironically, because of its large volume, since it is easily confused with normal anatomy. Thus, a third of a kilo of PETN, easily picked up in a competent pat down, would be missed by backscatter "high technology". Forty grams of PETN, a purportedly dangerous amount, would fit in a 1.25 mm-thick pancake of the dimensions simulated here and be virtually invisible. Packed in a compact mode, say, a 1 cm×4 cm×5 cm brick, it would be detected.
The images are very sensitive to the presence of large pieces of high Z material, e. g., iron, but unless the spatial resolution is good, thin wires will be missed because of partial volume effects. It is also easy to see that an object such as a wire or a box- cutter blade, taped to the side of the body, or even a small gun in the same location, will be invisible. While there are technical means to mildly increase the conspicuity of a thick object in air, they are ineffective for thin objects such as blades when they are aligned close to the beam direction.

Social Security fears raised

The president's plan makes some people nervous about the program's future.

Vatican Bank under fire

A centuries-old bank that uses Latin on its ATMs has investigators suspecting the worst.  

    Wizard of Id


    What mechanics won't say to you

    An inspection may just be a reason to tear your car apart and find more repairs.  

    Hotter than a match-head


    Archaeology News

    World's Oldest Ropes Found 
    Coils of nearly 4,000 year-old rope has turned up in caves on the Red Sea.

    Kings of Controversy

    Nowhere in the world is archaeology as tied to politics as it is in Israel. Different factions have a stake in determining where the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel were ruled from, and how powerful its leaders were. At the heart of the matter is King David.
    He has persisted for three millennia—an omnipresence in art, folklore, churches, and census rolls. To Muslims, he is Daoud, the venerated emperor and servant of Allah. To Christians, he is the natural and spiritual ancestor of Jesus, who thereby inherits David’s messianic mantle. To the Jews, he is the father of Israel—the shepherd king anointed by God—and they in turn are his descendants and God’s Chosen People. That he might be something lesser, or a myth altogether, is to many unthinkable.
    “Our claim to being one of the senior nations in the world, to being a real player in civilization’s realm of ideas, is that we wrote this book of books, the Bible,” says Daniel Polisar, president of the Shalem Center, the Israeli research institute that helped fund Eilat Mazar’s excavation work. “You take David and his kingdom out of the book, and you have a different book. The narrative is no longer a historical work, but a work of fiction. And then the rest of the Bible is just a propagandistic effort to create something that never was. And if you can’t find the evidence for it, then it probably didn’t happen. That’s why the stakes are so high.”
    National Geographic looks at competing theories about the archaeological finds in Israel and the few hard facts that we have about them.

    Twelve Fascinating Food Facts

    Why is milk white? 
    Why do onions make your eyes water? 
    Why does Swiss cheese have holes in it? 
    Where do French fries come from? 
    Is there a difference between jelly and jam?



    Neck Specs

    Neck Specs take a novel look at the most classic of all ties: the bow tie.
    Shaped like popular versions of their eyewear counterparts, Neck Specs offer a bit of stylish wit and humorous decoration.

    Lovers 'till the end

    Wonder which old movie this is from?

    The World's Smallest Solar Powered Movie Theater

    Artist Paul O’Connor and his colleagues at the British art collective Undercurrents built a tiny solar powered movie theater in a 1960s-era travel trailer. Sol Cinema can seat eight adults and generally screens films with an ecological theme. The official website provides additional photos as well as a list of tour dates and locations in the UK.

    Green Water


    George and the Dragon

    An 18th-century vagabond in England, exhausted and famished, came to a roadside inn with a sign reading, “George and the Dragon.” He knocked.

    The innkeeper’s wife stuck her head out a window. “Could ye spare some victuals?” he asked.

    The woman glanced at his shabby, dirty clothes. “No!” she shouted.

    “Could I have a pint of ale?”

    “No!” she shouted.

    “Could I at least sleep in your stable?”

    “No!” she shouted again.

    The vagabond said, “Might I please…”

    “What now?” the woman screeched, not allowing him to finish.

    “D’ye suppose,” he asked, “that I might have a word with George?”


    Blue Oyster Cult

    Upping the cute factor

    Teddy crosses his eyes if you ask him to.

    Dude ...


    Australian teenager captures footage of alien

    Alex Player has captured footage of what appears to be a mysterious alien creature moving in his backyard. The 16-year-old Bilambil Heights resident has captured four different encounters with the alien creature on film and believes the creature has entered his home.

    “The first time I saw it was the clearest. It was not that tall – only as high as the grass – and a grey colour with a big head,” Alex said. “It didn’t make a single sound. I’m a believer but I have never seen anything like this before. I’m open to the idea. Who would be out in that area late at night? I don’t think it could be anything else.”

    The images were captured on October 5, October 24, November 20 and November 28 on a video camera and mobile phone. Alex said the being entered his home on one occasion.

    Contains NSFW language.

    “In early November it came into the house. I think it came from my mum’s room and through the house,” Alex said. “My mum and I sat in my room. It moved through the house in two minutes. Then we heard a thud outside, like it was jumping off the veranda.”

    Humans Behind Deadly Shark Attacks in Egypt

    sharm el sheikh beach resort egypt photo
    The Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh has been hit by five shark attacks in two weeks. 
    A series of recent shark attacks -- one of them fatal -- on tourists at Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort have swimmers scared and authorities scrambling for an explanation. In what is surely the most bizarre theory, the governor of the region has suggested the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad might be involved. But people -- and their environmental negligence -- are behind what is emerging as the most likely actual cause.

    Foxes behind brake cable vandalism

    Animal experts have warned motorists that fox cubs have developed a taste for brake fluid which could dangerously affect the performance of their cars. A couple discovered the problem when they took their car to a mechanic after noticing “small bits of debris” on the ground under the spot where they park their car. The driver said: “The brake pad warning light came on when we next started up and the local garage cited fox damage.”

    The mechanics then remembered a spate of similar problems being reported to them and the damaged parts were sent off to wildlife experts, who found teeth marks similar to those made by a juvenile fox. The driver added that the experts warned “they like the taste of brake fluid and know how to find it”. It is not the first such series of incidents.

    A year ago, Kent Police investigated when several motorists said their cars had suffered damaged brake pipes and cables. Professor Stephen Harris, an environmental scientist Bristol University, who studies urban foxes and helped in Kent, said at the time: “They love chewing things. They also love lying under cars, particularly on cold nights. What could be better than resting out of harm's way, next to a large lump of warm metal and playfully passing the time by gnawing on the nearest piece of plastic or rubber?

    “I told the police they were almost certainly looking for a young fox, under a year old, which was simply playing the games he had learnt as a cub.” Experts believe the behaviour could be a result of the habits of vixens, which often bring old leather gloves or discarded rubber boots back to the den for her cubs to chew on. Others speculate that foxes enjoy the slightly sweet flavour of brake fluid, a phenomenon which has been reported among stone martens in mainland Europe.



    Brazilian Trees Implanted with Microchips For Forest Management

    rainforest amazon brazil photo
    According to a story on Reuters, trees throughout the Amazon rainforest will be equipped with microchips to gather data in the event they are illegally cut down. Now when a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, we'll still know its story.
    Article continues: Brazilian Trees Implanted with Microchips For Forest Management

    Redwood trees eat fog

    To obtain sufficient moisture for photosynthesis and growth, redwoods reach into the air with leaves shaped like baseball mitts and capture the fog that rolls in by night and languishes through most mornings. "From 25 to 40 percent of the moisture in the system comes from fog," says Dawson, who has been studying the relationship between the coastal fog and the redwoods for two decades. Some of the fog simply covers the leaves and prevents evaporation. But some of it also enters the stomata, or tiny pores, on the leaves and is drawn down through the branches to the roots. This is the reverse of transpiration, the normal flow of water from the roots to the leaves that exists in most trees. Redwoods are the first trees found to move water in both directions, though others have been identified.

    Fog is not just a vital element for the redwoods—it's also crucial to the entire redwood forest ecosystem. Some of the moisture drips off the redwood leaves, landing on the forest floor to water the trees and young saplings. "It's not just a drip, drip, drip," says ecologist Holly Ewing of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, who also worked with Dawson. "The moisture can descend into the ground up to 35 centimeters deep, and that's a lot of water."
    More information at Scientific American.

    New theory on Saturn's rings

    A "death spiral" may have caused one of the solar system's most evocative mysteries.  





    Conjoined ... ants !!

    Via Brazilian myrmecologist Rodrigo Feitosa comes this shot of conjoined leafcutter ant sisters. Two fully grown adult ants dorsally fused from abdominal segments 3 onward.

    Incredibly, this developmental oddity was observed carrying leaf fragments in a foraging trail.

    Might we suggest ...

    ... Moving a tad further back!

    Xanthopan morgani

    AKA: "Darwin's moth"

    The spur of the flower is 20–35 cm (7.9–14 in) from its tip to the tip of the flower's lip. The name "sesquipedale" is Latin for "one and a half feet," referring to the spur length... The moth approaches the flower to ascertain by scent whether or not it is the correct orchid species. Then the moth backs up over a foot and unrolls its proboscis, then flies forward, inserting it into the orchid's spur.

    Flipper and Fido

    Dog has been helping raise kittens for 13 years

    George the fox terrier has a rare talent that has been the making of many a Hunter family’s moggy. For 13 years the caring canine has been helping owner Mike Sargent raise kittens for the Australian RSPCA after the Raymond Terrace man noticed his pet’s talent for the job.

    ‘‘At first we kept the kittens away from him but when they got out he would lie down and they would crawl all over him,’’ Mr Sargent said. Since then George’s nurturing nature has developed and he has kept a watchful eye on about 250 kittens until they were ready for adoption.

    Behaving more like a feline than a foxy, George is also dedicated to the kittens’ cleanliness, often grooming them with his tongue. ‘‘It’s incredible to watch,’’ Mr Sargent said.

    And George is always on the lookout to make sure his brood of kittens does not stray too far and wide. ‘‘He rounds them up like a sheep dog,’’ Mr Sargent said. ‘‘He’ll bark at them if they go too far away and bark at people if he thinks they are getting too close.’’

    Animal Pictures