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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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Want to see an immediate difference in your work, your home life or a relationship?
Stop putting something off.
You've been meaning to do that extra project at the office, or fix that drippy faucet, or talk to 'em about the way you feel -- why keep postponing?
Even if it's only a small-scale action you take, it'll have a ripple effect in terms of new ideas and bigger, more meaningful positive change.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Bankok, Krung Thep, Thailand
Surabaya, Jawa Timur, Indonesia
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt
Sorel, Quebec, Canada
New Delhi, Delhi, India
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
London, England, United Kingdom

as well as Bulgaria, Israel, Finland, Austria, Norway, Georgia, Mexico, Peru, Kuwait, Serbia, Bangladesh, Latvia, Greece, Scotland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Wales, Iran, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Sweden, Afghanistan, Belgium, Tibet, Croatia, Pakistan, Romania, Paraguay, Sweden, Vietnam, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, China, Iraq, Ecuador, Nigeria, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Paupa New Guinea, Moldova, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, New Zealand, Czech Republic and in cities across the United States such as Travelers Rest, Palo Alto, Mays Landing, New Orleans and more.

Today is:
Today is Wednesday, December 22, the 356th day of 2010.
There are 9 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 
There isn't one.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Thanks to our readers

Thanks to you we here at Carolina Naturally are about to reach 200,000 readers for the year.
Let's hope we can do it.

Ain't it the truth


Storms hammer Western U.S.

Strong rain and heavy snow cause problems from California to Colorado, and more is on the way.

Awesome Pictures

A snowdrift inside a house

One couple's house becomes a winter wonderland when they skip town during a huge blizzard. 

And you thought your bathroom was cold


Balcony baffles neighbors

Neighbors are baffled by what appears to be a Brooklyn contractor's construction blunder.  

Tunnel People of Las Vegas

These two are a couple of the people leaving under Sin City.

Beautiful Lavender Farm

Lavender is a common name for any plant of the genus Lavandula, most of which are native to the Mediterranean region but naturalized elsewhere. Lavenders have clusters of small purplish flowers that yield an oil used in perfumery.

University of Minnesota discovery suggests a new way to prevent HIV from infecting human cells

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered how HIV binds to and destroys a specific human antiviral protein called APOBEC3F. The results suggest that a simple chemical change can convert APOBEC3F to a more effective antiviral agent a …

Deficit fixes ignite debate

There's no shortage of creative ideas for fixing the $1.4 trillion gap, readers prove.  

Non Sequitur


Jury pool "mutiny" in marijuana case

A jury pool in Missoula, Montana staged a "mutiny" last week when asked if they'd be willing to convict someone for possession of 1/16 ounce of marijuana. The vast majority of jurors agreed that the case was ridiculous. From Billings Gazette:
“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said (district Judge Dusty) Deschamps, who called a recess. And he didn’t.
During the recess, (Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul) Paul and defense attorney Martin Elison worked out a plea agreement. That was on Thursday.
On Friday, Cornell entered an Alford plea, in which he didn’t admit guilt. He briefly held his infant daughter in his manacled hands, and walked smiling out of the courtroom.
“Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances,” according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.

Bad Cops

Texas cop gets 324 months for decade-long involvement in drug trafficking conspiracy

Virginia cop gets five years in prison for boinking 16-year-old

Two Florida cops are fired for criminal mischief

Ohio police sergeant charged with tampering, falsification

California cop is accused of illegal access of records

West Virginia town pays $1200 settlement for wrongful arrest

10-year veteran Arizona cop quits after being charged with domestic violence

British government trained Bangladeshi paramilitary death squads

From the WikiLeaks File:

Who exactly were these UK troops training before?

The Guardian:
Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement".

Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as "crossfire" deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in "crossfire". In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.

Greg Mitchell's non-stop blogging about Wikileaks

Reminiscent of what Nico Pitney over at HuffPost did covering the Iranian protests.



Colleges where grads earn most

Grads earn the highest salaries from a school that isn’t an Ivy and has just 757 students.

Bankster robberies: Bank of America and friends wrongfully foreclose on customers, steal all their belongings

The NYT reports on a growing phenomenon of wrongful foreclosure by US banks on homeowners who are caught up on their mortgage payments -- and on homeowners who have no mortgage at all. In some cases, homeowners return from vacation to discover their locks changed and their every earthly possession sent to the dump (one woman lost her dead husband's ashes when her bank burgled her ski chalet). Prominent in the list of banksters who rob innocent people of their homes and all their belongings? Those upright guardians of morality at Bank of America, who have decided that their customers can't choose to contribute to Wikileaks's defense fund.
When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks. When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son's ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words "Together Forever," that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.
The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

Avoid credit problems in 2011

Make these five easy moves now to get a higher credit score next year.  

Best cities for business in 2011

The top metro area benefited from the government's moves to prop up the economy.  

Helpful Hints

Millions of people are cooking with nonstick pots and pans — but in the wrong way.  



America’s stroke belt partially fueled by fried fish

Eating a Southern staple, fried fish, could be one reason people in Alabama and across the “stroke belt” states are more likely than other Americans to die of a stroke ...

Man has pearl removed from ear after 41 years

Some people carry around mementos from childhood - lockets, medals or rabbit's feet - to remind them of fond memories of their family and friends. Calvin Wright was one of them, only he didn't know it until just recently. Wright had been carrying a pearl from one of his mother's necklaces inside of his ear canal for 41 years. An emergency room nurse discovered the bauble when Wright went to St. Mary's Hospital in Athens earlier this month with an acute case of bronchitis.

"At first she asked if I used Q-tips," Wright said of the nurse who examined his ears and admonished him for sticking things in his ear. When she tried to remove the white mass with tweezers, however, she discovered it was hard and round, not soft and cottony. "She said, "I think it's a pearl," Wright recounted. The pearl got stuck in his right ear when Wright was 5 and roughhousing with his sister, Regina. The family lived in Chicago at the time.

"She had broken my mother's pearl necklace," Wright said. "I can remember (our baby sitter) picking them up off the floor - except for two, of course." Regina stuck those two missing pearls into her older brother's ear. When the kids realized the pearls weren't coming back out, Wright's mother took him to Cook County Hospital. "I was screaming and hollering," he said. "I know it was bad because the doctor gave me two lollipops."

But the doctor retrieved only one of the pearls - the other escaped detection for decades. Wright is not one of those people who avoids doctors. Over the years, when he got sick he went to see the doctor. He's had his ears examined several times, but no one spotted the pearl until the sharp-eyed nurse at St. Mary's, he said. "The doctors said it was amazing that it was down in my ear for all these years and I didn't have any damage," Wright said. He says his hearing is fine, but his barber and his wife notice that he talks a little quieter now that the pearl is gone.

Eight sneaky sleep stealers

As many as 50% of Americans snore, and for most of them it's no big deal.  



The 10 best new restaurants in America

An eatery with the "most fascinating pizza toppings on earth" is among the most notable places to nosh.  

Culinary DeLites

Swap 3 cups of popcorn for a small bag of chips and bank about 90 calories.

Coburn trying to block 9/11 First Responders bill

The repugicans really are a twisted bunch.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, citing cost concerns, is threatening to block a vote on legislation that would provide additional aid to those suffering from illnesses linked to the devastation in New York following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Oklahoma repugican said yesterday that he is trying to reach an agreement with the sponsors of the $6.2 billion measure that would allow it to proceed. He couldn’t say whether that would happen before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

“We’re working on it,” Coburn said. “It costs too much; it allows things to be covered that should never be covered, like sleep apnea; it pays way too much to health-care providers.”

A Case for 2,000-year-old Pills

In 1989, a shipwreck from about 130 B.C. was discovered. Divers retrieved dishes and other artifacts. One surprising discovery was a chest of vials and containers with tablets in them, some still dry! Evolutionary geneticist Robert Fleischer said they were made of compressed vegetation.
“It was assumed the pills were medicines that the physicians were using. There were things associated with this chest that led them to believe it was a physician’s chest,” said Fleischer.
Using DNA sequencing, Fleischer has identified some of the plant components in the tablets: carrot, radish, parsley, celery, wild onion, cabbage, alfalfa, oak and hibiscus.
Researchers are looking into the ingredients to determine what they were for. Speculation is that the tablets were used to treat dysentery, which was common among ancient sailors.

Upping the cute factor

Leonardo da Vinci's bicycle

The photo above depicts a modern model based on the drawing (inset below left), in Milan's Codex Atlanticus, which contains the drawings of da Vinci.
[Augusto Marioni] published his discovery in 1974 in a paper delivered precisely in Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo. Subsequently the bicycle of Leonardo run a brilliant career, it has been also modeled in life size for the Florentine exhibition in honor of the millennium traveling all over the world. Its only fault was the impossibility of being steered. Apparently this minor problem did not excite the master.

It was only in 1997 that Dr. Hans-Erhard Lessing pointed out in a detailed study that the design was a forgery, and a quite recent one at that, drawn into the codex (!) after its restoration in the 60s, more precisely between 1967 and 1974. No trace of it can be seen on the photos made before and during the restoration, only some circles and lines appear through from the other side of the page, and these were complemented into a bike by the forger.
There's more on this subject at Poemas del rio Wang.

Kids' bee study published

A prestigious organization lauds the surprisingly thorough experiment on bee vision.  

Neanderthal Relative Bred With Humans

A previously unknown Siberian group, the Denisovans, left fingerprints in some humans' DNA.

Decapitated Gladiators Found in England?

The lives of Roman gladiators and the wide reach of the bloody games throughout the empire is coming more into focus thanks to the discovery of a possible gladiator graveyard in Britain. 

Archaeology: Decapitated Gladiators Found in England?

Ancient Lost Army Found?

Has the lost army of Cambyses II been found? The Persian army of 50,000 soldiers supposedly perished in a sandstorm in ancient Egypt 2500 years ago. Researchers have located a valley of bones they think may belong to the fabled army.

Archaeology: Ancient Lost Army Found?

Ancient Etruscan House Discovered

For the first time, Italian archaeologists have uncovered an intact Etruscan house.
Researchers hope this find sheds light on the mysterious pre-Roman civilization.

Archaeology: Ancient Etruscan House Discovered

Ancient Roman Aqueduct Source Discovered

Two British filmmakers recently uncovered the long-lost source of Rome's ancient aqueduct.

Archaeology: Ancient Roman Aqueduct Source Discovered



New clues to mass extinction

A trove of 20,000 unusual fossils sheds new light on Earth's most devastating mass extinction.  

Scanning the Monster

Pliosaur (Mark Witton
The UK's most powerful CT scanner is helping to reveal the innermost secrets of a colossal sea monster skull that was recently unearthed in Dorset.

Pterygotid sea scorpions

No longer terror of the ancient seas?
Experiments by a team of researchers in New York and New Jersey have generated evidence that questions the common belief that the pterygotid eurypterids (“sea scorpions”) were high-level predators in the Paleozoic …

Ohio museum to move 10,000-year-old mastodon

A giant, skeletal rear end is one of the first things to greet visitors at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.

"Canine Assistants" in Doctors' Offices

An article at The Wall Street Journal discusses the growing trend of physicians having dogs in their offices to interact with patients.
Some patients pat Gus while they talk to Dr. Ramsey. A few talk to Gus instead. And if they get emotional, Gus provides physical comfort that therapists can’t offer. “We can’t hug patients, but patients can hug Gus…”
“Coming to this office can be unnerving for dementia patients, but when they see a dog, it’s disarming. They feel comforted and safe,” she says… Early in his practice, child psychologist Aubrey Fine treated a 9-year-old girl who was painfully withdrawn and refused to speak until his golden retriever, Puppy, laid her head in the girl’s lap. The girl slowly began patting Puppy, smiled and spoke to her as her astonished parents looked on…
While there are no set requirements for having an animal assistant, most dogs who work with doctors have been trained in obedience and as therapy dogs… Of course, some patients are allergic or frightened around animals. Most doctors who practice with dogs inform patients before the first visit, and put the pup elsewhere for part of the day if necessary. But most find that practicing with a dog is a draw for patients, not a deterrent.
Much more at the link, including diagnostic skills attributed to dogs, and why dogs are better than cats in an office setting.


As of today, it's been 72 years* since humans figured out that some Coelacanths—an order previously known only in the fossil record—were still alive and swimming around in our modern oceans. The story of the discovery is a great one, full of serendipity and giant dead fish riding around in the back of taxis. Museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, who found the Coelacanth in a pile of "trash" fish hauled in by a trawler, had to fight to get anyone to take her discovery seriously. Once the big shots started paying attention, though, they quickly recognized the Coelacanth as a new and fascinating species.
The Coelacanth is not a "living fossil".
Coelacanth isn't a single species. It's an order—comprising multiple extinct species, and two living ones. The living Coelacanths aren't the same as the fossil Coelacanths, and there's nothing that looks exactly like a living Coelacanth in the fossil record. The order survived. But it didn't survive untouched by evolution.qerg.jpg Pictured: Courtenay-Latimer's sketch of the first, oddly cheerful, Coelacanth. Put it another way: Imagine if you were an alien who only knew of Earth primates from the fossil record. You'd seen the bones of Australopithecus, but you thought primates had gone extinct—until the day you stumbled upon a living chimpanzee. That's the story of the Coelacanth, in a nutshell.
You might think this makes the living Coelacanths less exciting—if they aren't undead fossils, then they're just boring old fish. And that's partly true. In the grand scheme of things, there's nothing really special about Coelacanths. They exist today. And they evolved, just like everything else that exists today.
But don't be so quick to write them off. Coelacanths are important—as a symbol. The Coelacanth is a reminder that there are still discoveries to be made ... that we haven't seen everything ... and that, sometimes, we're wrong. The order of Coelacanth wasn't totally extinct, we humans just didn't know that yet until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer pulled one out of a fish pile. The Coelacanth isn't a living fossil. But it is a call to arms—a reminder to never stop exploring the world.

The reptiles' answer to the Coelacanth

This handsome fellow is a Tuatara, a rare reptile, native to New Zealand. Like the Coelacanth, Tuataras are the last surviving species of an order that thrived in ancient, ancient history and was once thought to be totally extinct—in this case, Sphenodontia.
The Tuatara looks a lot more like its fossilized relatives than the living Coelacanth does, but Tuatara isn't a species frozen in time. In fact, its genome seems to be accumulating mutations faster than any other living vertebrates'. It's just that most of the mutations are happening in places that don't change what the Tuatara looks like. Fascinating stuff. And it gets better. See, the Tuatara has a the remnants of a once-functional third eye on top of its head.
Last month, the New York Times published a great story about Tuatara, written by Natalie Angier, which will catch you up on the basics of his awesome (and awesomely long-lived) animal.

Border collie takes record for biggest vocabulary

In the war between cats and dogs, dogs have made a mighty blow – a border collie has learned the names of 1022 items, more than any other non-human.

Animal Pictures