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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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
If you're feeling pressure to pony up for extravagant gifts, your economical side is likely to rebel.
Sure, lovely things are lovely to give, but practicality is your stock and trade.
And if you apply your surprising creative side to it, you can find something practical and perfect that'll really please.
Who doesn't like a pair of fuzzy slippers, a wonderful book or a certificate for a homemade meal made with love?

Some of our readers today have been in:
Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Ramat Hasharon, Tel Aviv, Israel
Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Turku, Western Finland, Finland
Reutlingen, Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia

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, Sudan, Vietnam, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Qatar, 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 Aurora, Chicago, Springfield, Wheaton and more.

Today is:
Today is Friday, December 24, the 358th day of 2010.
There are 7 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 
There isn't one.  
  Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Non Sequitur


Christmas Arguments

A UK survey reveals what causes the most arguments at Christmas.
1.   Board Games – 68%
2.   Disliked gifts – 66%
3.   TV programs – 63%
4.   Driving responsibilities – 61%
5.   Cooking responsibilities – 58%
6.   Tension with In-laws – 54%
7.   Sharing parental responsibilities – 51%
8.   Too much alcohol consumption – 47%
9.   Lack of time spent with family – 44%
10. Working over the break – 41%
Lesson learned: Whatever you do, don't get out that Monopoly game.


The Beatles
This is the original promo for the song.

Ancient Humans Dubbed 'Denisovans' Discovered

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species. The ancient humans have been dubbed 'Denisovans' after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found. A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals perhaps around 50,000 years ago.

This provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans first left their African homeland. Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed The Hobbit. To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

World's Oldest Optical Illusion?

Image: Duncan Caldwell
Is the carving above the oldest optical illusion ever made? Amateur archaeologist Duncan Caldwell thinks so. He explains:
Perhaps the most dramatic candidate for a mammoth-bison image meeting this requirement and being an intentional illusion isn’t on a cave wall, but on a carving from a spear-thrower from the site of Canecaude. In this piece, as Caldwell sees it, it’s not that the animals share a contour or a few lines, but that just two small details allow the entire image to be read as either of the two species, and seeing one causes the other to "disappear."
The details in question are the eyes. Caldwell describes how there is "both an upper eye, which turns the crescent beneath it into a tusk, and lower eye, beside the front leg, that transforms the same crescent which we just interpreted as a "tusk", into a bison’s overhead horn." Looking back and forth between the eyes then, we are able to see the entire shape transform from one animal to the other, an effect much more like the classic Gestalt shift of the duck-rabbit.
Significantly, it is hard to think of other reasons for the unusual position of the eyes. First of all, their delicately carved shapes show that they were made intentionally, and are not just accidental markings. Secondly, the details of the body of the animal, its tusk/horns, long hair, and legs are all fairly realistically represented showing the artist’s ability to make an accurate full profile view if desired.
Andrew Howley of National Geographic has the full story.

Seven Mysterious Coded Texts that Defy Translation

Archaeologists find them; linguists try to read them, but even after years of study, some writings are indecipherable. Some are from unknown languages, others were written in code. All are baffling.

An example is the Rohonc Codex.
This most peculiar script is written from right to left, and seems to mix up runes, straight and rounded characters in the style of Old Hungarian – but it defies all attempts at translation. This bamboozling manuscript was given to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by Count Battyany in 1852, and is is believed to have been written in medieval times. Appearing to be hand-scripted, and illustrated with crude black and white sketches, the writing is simply not decipherable in any way. However, code-breakers have managed to at least ascertain that the language involved consists of 42 letters and over 200 different symbols, some non-alphabetic, as well as other symbols which see only occasional use.
The Rohonc Codex is just one of seven untranslated manuscripts in this list at Environmental Graffiti.


Awesome Pictures

The Library


Blue Martian Sunset

Earth is a blue planet that has red sunsets. Mars is a red planet with blue sunsets!
From its vantage point on the surface of Mars, NASA’s rover Opportunity relayed a spectacular series of images of a blue-hued sunset on the red planet. Scientists then stitched the pictures, taken over a period of 17 minutes, into a 30-second movie simulation.
The bluish glow around the sun is due to the same dust particles that make Mars’ sky appear red. The pictures were taken on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 using three different filters on the rover’s panoramic camera.
See the video and other images of and from Mars at Discovery News.

Antarctic clues to the cosmos

A cube deep below the Antarctic could help scientists understand how the universe began.  

Upping the cute factor

Monkey plays with Dachshund puppy

Cuba Launches Wikileak Site to Highlight how "Imperialist" U.S. Is

Cuba has just launched a new website, Cubadebate.cu, in which it will publish 2,000 U.S. diplomatic cables about Cuba, that have been leaked by Wikileaks.

Errors in Babe Ruth exhibit

A baseball fan with an eye for detail finds two glaring mistakes during a trip to Cooperstown.  

California towns plagued by mud

The messy aftermath of torrential rains spells catastrophe for many homeowners.

Just for the record ...


Enhanced Scrutiny For Thermoses

The Transportation Security Administration has issued a new alert on a new risk for travelers: thermoses.

Keeping you safe: TSA to give drink containers closer look at airports.
thermos bomb U.S. authorities are warning air travelers to expect greater scrutiny of thermoses and other insulated drink containers at security checkpoints after intelligence suggested they could be used to hide explosives.
There is "no information related to any specific or imminent threat," Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, told Reuters on Friday.
A notice on the TSA's website warned about the possibility that explosives might be hidden inside the beverage containers and said the warning was "based on intelligence."
So why do they announce this? Now terrorists will abandon the exploding thermos and move on to Plan B.

Indian police search Mumbai for 4 men suspected of plotting new terror attack, city on alert

Police launched a manhunt in India's financial and entertainment capital Friday for four alleged Pakistani militants authorities believe entered Mumbai to carry out a terrorist attack, a top police official said.

Car crash reveals indoor marijuana farm

A Baltimore area man has more than just insurance claims to worry about after a car crashed into his home.

Cocaine found in Christmas stockings

Santa sure didn't fill these Christmas stockings. 

Police arrested an Albuquerque father for child abuse and dealing drugs after a raid of his home turned up cocaine hidden inside the stockings hanging by the Christmas tree.

Wizard of Id


Bad Cops

Fired Arizona cop gets prison for 20 counts of burglary, possession of both meth and Percocet, hindering prosecution, conspiracy to commit perjury, trafficking in stolen property, and surreptitious video recording

Pennsylvania cop is arrested for emptying coins from borough parking meters into his pockets

Ohio town won't say what it paid to settle lawsuit over inmate's death in jail

Montana deputy is convicted of stealing ammunition

Baltimore pays $200,000 settlement after wrongful arrest and jailing of Soviet refugee

Fired Florida police officer charged with child abuse, again

New Mexico corrections officer is accused of raping female inmates

Aussie cops who forced boy to lie in street before he was run over and killed will face no charges

Kentucky town pays to settle lawsuit over battery, unlawful imprisonment by cops

New York child protective service worker charged with possessing child pornography

New York Times sues city police, saying information has been illegally withheld

Pittsburgh police officer charged with homicide by vehicle

North Carolina cop is charged with hit-and-run

New Mexico cop arrested for domestic violence

Jedi Police Officer Uses Mind Tricks on the Job

Pam Fleming, a police officer in Glasgow, UK, is a Jedi. She’s one of eight Jedi officers on the force, and she claims that she uses her supernatural abilities while at work:
She even admits to using Jedi mind tricks during interviews with suspects in ‘an effort to achieve the truth’, although she tells industry magazine Police Review that she does not use ‘The Force’ to influence what suspects say or do.
Jedi mind tricks are used in the Star Wars movies by characters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker to ‘influence the minds of weak-minded sentient beings’ to get them to do what you want them to do.
PC Fleming, who is one of ten police workers – eight of them officers – at Strathclyde Police who have listed their religion as Jedi, said her faith helped her ‘fight crime and disorder on Glasgow’s streets’.

Brain is not fully mature until 30s and 40s

Brain diagram
New research from the UK shows the brain continues to develop after childhood and puberty, and is not fully developed until people are well into their 30s and 40s. The findings contradict current theories that the brain matures much earlier. [...]
The prefrontal cortex is the region at the front of the brain just behind the forehead, and is an area of the brain that undergoes the longest period of development. It is an important area of the brain for high cognitive functions such as planning and decision-making, and it is also a key area for social behavior, social awareness, for empathy and understanding and interacting with other people, and various personality traits.

I think this will cause some problems for personality theory.

Suicide bombers: fanatics, or suicidally depressed?

A growing body of psychological literature suggests that suicide bombers aren't ideologues who are so committed to their cause that they're willing to die for it -- rather, they are suicidally depressed people who use the excuse of dying for a cause to psych themselves up to commit the deed, and as a loophole for committing suicide without committing a sin.
Lankford's forthcoming study, to be published early next year, is "far more robust" than his first: a list of more than 75 suicide terrorists and why they were likely suicidal. He cites a Palestinian woman who, five months after lighting herself on fire in her parents' kitchen, attempted a return to the hospital that saved her life. But this time she approached with a pack of bombs wrapped around her body, working as an "ideologue" in the service of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Lankford writes of al Qaeda-backed terrorists in Iraq who would target and rape local women, and then see to it that the victims were sent to Samira Ahmed Jassim. Jassim would convince these traumatized women that the only way to escape public scorn was martyrdom. She was so successful she became known as the Mother of Believers. "If you just needed true believers, you wouldn't need them to be raped first," Lankford said in an interview.
Lankford is also intrigued by the man who in some sense launched the current study of suicide terrorism: Mohammed Atta, the ringleader behind the 9/11 hijacking. "It's overwhelming, his traits of suicidality," Lankford said. An isolated, neglected childhood, pathologically ashamed of any sexual expression. "According to the National Institute of Mental Health there are 11 signs, 11 traits and symptoms for a man being depressed," Lankford said. "Atta exhibited eight of them."

Scientists Find Blood Vessel That Looks Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

While studying a human brain, researchers at Newcastle University (UK) found a blood vessel that looks like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
Claudia Racca, of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, who performed the experiment with colleague David Cox, said: “Biology can throw up things like this, but it was a nice surprise to find this image.
“We were looking at a section of the tissue and noticed this strange but familiar shape. “It was intriguing and we noticed the similarity to a reindeer.
“We then took an overexposed picture of it and the red blob for the nose and the white antlers showed up even better.
“We got distracted from the science at that point and had a bit of fun with the pictures of Rudolph instead.

Ten Surprising Benefits of Exercise

Discover other perks—besides weight loss—to working out regularly

by Olivia Putnal
10 Surprising Benefits of Exercise
10 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

For most people, weight loss is the main motivator for getting into shape. But there are a lot of other benefits to exercising than just fitting into those skinny jeans. Believe it or not, regular physical activity can improve your sex life, decrease your cancer risk, make your skin glow and more. Whether you’re already fit or looking for a little extra motivation, check out 10 additional reasons to get moving!  

1. Reduces your dementia risk.
Over the years, studies have found that staying active can boost mind function and energy, decreasing the risk of dementia. Physical activity “improve[s] cognitive function in healthy elderly persons, and potentially reduce[s] the risk of developing cognitive impairment,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Dance classes particularly, which require learning skills like memory and concentration, are especially helpful for individuals with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Photo: © iStockphoto

2. Decreases your osteoporosis risk.
Fitness, especially load-bearing exercise, is important for bone health, according to certified personal trainer Leigh Crews. "Exercise can be one of the most important things you can do to prevent osteoporosis, protect yourself from falls and help maintain bone mass,” she says. According to The University of Arizona, strengthening exercises like weight-lifting, jogging, hiking, stair climbing, step aerobics, dancing and racquet sports are best.

3. Improves your sex life.
The Harvard School of Public Health found that just 20 minutes of regular exercise a day can improve sexual response in women. Not only does working out leave you feeling energized, but it can also make you feel more desirable. “Since exercise can improve health, vitality, appearance and self-esteem, it does indeed tend to increase interest in—and capacity for—sexual activity,” says David Katz, MD, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “Just make sure your partner is on the exercise bandwagon as well!” Working out with your partner, Dr. Katz says, not only will allow you to spend time together, but it will trigger adrenaline and other feel-good hormones to get you in the mood.

4. Prevents muscle loss.
As we get older, not only do our bodies build muscle less efficiently, but the muscle we already have breaks down more quickly, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This makes regular exercise an integral part of healthy aging. “Exercise not only helps us maintain our muscle mass, it can increase it," says Crews. "This ultimately keeps our metabolism high, gives us strength and endurance to complete tasks of everyday life, and helps prevent falls, which can be a life-changing experience for older adults.”

5. Improves digestion.
The Gastroenterological Society of Australia found that exercise helps the intestinal muscles break down food and move it through your system correctly by strengthening the abdominal muscles and minimizing sluggishness. Dr. Katz seconds these findings, noting that regular exercise “can help prevent constipation.” He says even short, intermittent walking throughout the day can help keep things regular.

6. Reduces stress, depression and anxiety.
We’ve been hearing for years that regular activity boosts your mood, but it does much more than that. According to the Mayo Clinic, “once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference. Working out can definitely help you relax and make you feel better, keeping anxiety and depression from coming back.” How? When you exercise, neurotransmitters and endorphins that ease depression are released. Plus, you raise your body temperature, which has been shown to calm nerves.

7. Enhances mental performance and work productivity.
Dr. Katz is a firm believer that exercise is important for improving overall quality of life, especially when it comes to work. Not only does exercise improve self-confidence in the workplace, which helps you take on leadership roles and perform better, but it also increases overall productivity and focus. A study released by the American College of Sports Medicine found that 65 percent of employees surveyed reported an increased ability to manage their time and produce more, as well as an overall improved mental and interpersonal performance when they worked out in the middle of the day.

8. Reduces cancer risk.
Several studies have confirmed that the risk of lung, colon and breast cancers can be greatly reduced in regularly active people. In fact, a 2007 study found that exercise is an important step to preventing breast cancer because higher levels of estrogen (which is stored in fat) increase your risk. “Women who exercise heavily are, in general, older at the time of the[ir] first period, and tend to have irregular periods and a shortened estrogen-producing phase," the American Association for Cancer Research reports. "Postmenopausal women who are physically active have also been shown to have lower levels of estrogen."

9. Helps reduce stroke severity.
A study by the Bispebjerg University Hospital in Copenhagen following first-time stroke patients found that “people who exercised the most prior to their stroke were two and a half times more likely to have a milder stroke compared to those who exercised the least,” reports WebMD. Another positive tip? Even activities like “light housework, a walk outside and lawn care” count.

10. Improves your skin.
If vanity is still your number-one motivation to get in shape, then add glowing skin to the list of benefits. For one thing, “exercise enhances the blood flow to your skin,” Dr. Katz says. Studies have also shown that exercise improves acne by controlling the production of acne-inducing testosterone hormones like DHEA and DHT. Plus, sweating can unclog pores and help clear up your breakouts—ultimately detoxifying the skin of oils and dirt.

Biggest food trends in 2010

The ubiquitous mini-cakes lost their supremacy to another beloved dessert.  

Culinary DeLites

No joke — you can make a delicious holiday meal featuring a New York strip roast in under an hour.

Ten foods that boost energy

Avoid a midday crash by starting the day with foods that have both fiber and protein. 

'Stroke belt' mystery solved?

A food often considered beneficial may be contributing to these states' serious health issues.  



IRS: Tax refunds will be late

The agency says more than 50 million returns will be late due to the stall in Washington.

Wackiest tax deductions

You can write off unusual transportation, as long as you're going to a business meeting or event.

New tax law and your return

See what the provisions mean for sales taxes, student loans, and home ownership.  

Town that quit paying pensions

Retired city employees in Prichard, Alabama, are struggling since their pension fund ran dry.

Cities that could go bankrupt

Municipalities across the country are scrambling for funds even as the tax base shrinks.



Ten Fascinating And Unexpected Origins Of Words

Language is a fascinating thing.
The words we use today are drawn from, and have evolved for, today's usage from a wide variety of sources. One source is someone's name. An eponym is a word that has its origin in a person's name.

Here's a list that contains 10 eponyms and their fascinating origins.

Beatles' Abbey Road zebra crossing gets listed status

The Abbey Road zebra crossing in north London - made famous after appearing on a Beatles album cover - has been given Grade II listed status. The crossing - the first of its kind to be listed - is being recognised for its "cultural and historical importance" following advice from English Heritage. The Beatles were photographed on Abbey Road in Ian Macmillan's iconic cover shot for the 1969 album Abbey Road.

The original zebra crossing, where the photograph was taken, was moved several meters for traffic management reasons more than 30 years ago, and no original features remain. But John Penrose, Minister for Tourism and Heritage, said: "This London zebra crossing is no castle or cathedral but, thanks to the Beatles and a 10-minute photo-shoot one August morning in 1969, it has just as strong a claim as any to be seen as part of our heritage."

Roger Bowdler, head of designation at English Heritage, said: "This is obviously an unusual case and, although a modest structure, the crossing has international renown and continues to possess huge cultural pull - the temptation to recreate that iconic 1969 album cover remains as strong as ever. Together with the nearby Abbey Road studios, also listed at Grade II on our advice, they remain a Mecca for Beatles fans the world over."

The crossing is outside the Abbey Road studios, where the Beatles recorded much of their output. That building was granted Grade II listed status in February. A Grade II listing, the most common protected status, means that a building or monument is recognised as nationally important and of special interest.

Rare-violin theft at shop

An internationally acclaimed musician's snack stop may cost her $1.9 million.  

The $8 mil iPhone and other wild gifts

Offering an $8 million iPhone or $25,000 game table can help retailers in many ways. 

Odd houses that you can buy

A former nuclear missile storage facility and a cave that sometimes sheds dust are up for grabs.  

Bled Island

Slovenia's Fairy Tale Isle

Lake Bled in Slovenia has had visitors for thousands of years. Little wonder when you consider its mild climate and beautiful surroundings. The lake has an island, tear-shaped and the only real island in the virtually land-locked country.

When people say that a place is like something from a fairy tale often they are exaggerating. Not so with Bled Island. Formed by a glacier it is every inch worthy of that description.



Chimps Play with Stick Dolls

Why do girls play with dolls and boys with cars (much to the consternation of feminists everywhere)? The answer may be rooted deep in evolution: scientists observed that female chimpanzee youngsters in the wild play with sticks as dolls:
The new work by Sonya M. Kahlenberg and Richard W. Wrangham, described this week in the journal Current Biology, provides the first suggestive evidence of a wild non-human species playing with rudimentary dolls, as well as the first known sex difference in a wild animal’s choice of playthings.
The two researchers say their work adds to a growing body of evidence that human children are probably born with their own ideas of how they want to behave, rather than simply mirroring other girls who play with dolls and boys who play with trucks. Doll play among humans could have its origins in object-carrying by earlier apes, they say, suggesting that toy selection is probably not due entirely to socialization.

Reindeers 'Shroomin'

 Wikipedia Commons 6 62 Psilocybe Cubensis Reindeer tripping on shrooms? Drunk finches and starlings? Goats on speed? Jaguars on yage? In the Pharmaceutical Journal Online, Andrew Haynes presents a fascinating look at animal drug use. Apparently, the animals may have been the ones to turned us on to various recreational drugs.

From PJ Online:
One such species, appropriately for a Christmassy article, is the reindeer, which goes to great lengths to search out the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) — the one with the white-spotted red cap that garden gnomes like to sit on. Eating the toadstool makes reindeer behave in a drunken fashion, running about aimlessly and making strange noises. Head-twitching is also common. Fly agaric is found across the northern hemisphere and has long been used by mankind for its psychotropic properties. But its use can be dangerous because it also contains toxic substances. Reindeer seem to metabolise these toxic elements without harm, while the main psychoactive constituents remain unmetabolised and are excreted in the urine. Reindeer herders in Europe and Asia long ago learnt to collect the reindeer urine for use as a comparatively safe source of the hallucinogen.
Another hallucinogen used by wild animals is the African plant iboga (Tabernanthe iboga). It has been reported from Gabon and the Congo that boars, porcupines, gorillas and mandrills will dig up and eat the powerfully hallucinogenic roots.
In the Canadian Rockies, wild bighorn sheep are said to take great risks to get at a rare psychoactive lichen. In scraping it off the rock surface they can wear their teeth down to the gums.
On the prairies of the south-west US, horses and other grazing mammals can become addicted to hallucinogen-containing plants known generically as locoweed. These plants, mainly species of Astragalus and Oxytropis, are normally avoided, but animals that try them can come back time and again for a repeat fix. Symptoms include altered gait, aimless wandering, impaired vision, erratic behaviour and listlessness.

Elusive cheetah photographed

The Saharan animal sighting is so rare scientists aren't sure how many of the big cats exist.

Lost dog who boarded bus to keep warm is reunited with owner

A little lost dog who boarded a bus by himself and refused to leave as temperatures plunged to minus 11C has been reunited with his owner in time for Christmas. The frozen Cairn terrier, named Hamish, was found cowering on the bus in the west end of Glasgow with icicles hanging from his fur. Passengers were astounded when the dog, aged about eight years old, boarded the First bus when it stopped on Dumbarton Road on Wednesday. He was so cold he found a warm spot in the corner and curled up.

The bus driver took the freezing dog along to the local police station and he was then taken to the Scottish SPCA's Glasgow Animal Rescue and Rehoming Center. Luckily, his owner Ashley McGuinness heard about his antics on the news and was able to track him down. She said that he had been out in the garden of her home in Drumchapel when he disappeared.

Ashley added: "My sister in law heard on the radio that the Scottish SPCA were looking for the owner of a Cairn terrier who had gone on a bus and I thought it had to be Hamish. He was out in the garden and I think he escaped by going under a fence. I was desperate to get him back home and I couldn't be happier."

Anna O'Donnell, assistant manager at the center, said: "The passengers on the bus must have had a real surprise when Hamish decided to climb onboard. Even in his short time with us he showed he was a cheeky wee character. He certainly must have plenty of spirit about him, especially given his age, to have walked a few miles and then jumped on a bus. "We're just pleased to have been able to look after him and return him to his owner."

Animal Pictures