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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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Seeing your family members in this type of mood is a rare occurrence.
They're fiery, assertive and willing to say anything that crosses their minds -- except for the subject of exactly what they're up to.
You can tell there's something going on, but no one will give you even the tiniest of clues.
They're keeping quiet, and they're proud of it.
Well, think about it.
Might they be trying to keep a surprise from coming out?
Leave it alone, just in case.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Warsaw Mazowieckie, Poland
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reutlingen, Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Marseille, Provence-Alpes- Cote D'Azur, France
Marl, Norderhein-Westfalen, Germany
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Drachten, Friesland, Netherlands
Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Yogakarta, Yogakarta, Indonesia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Ingolstadt, Bayern, Germany

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, Vietnam, Norway, Finland and in cities across the United States such as Selma, Copperopolis, Huntsville, Harrisburg and more.

Today is:
Today is Tuesday, December 28, the 362nd day of 2010.
There are 3 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 
National Chocolate Day.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Thanks to our readers

Well, we made it.

200,000 readers and counting ... and still have a few more days left in the year.

It's A Great Day To Whoop Somebody's Ass

Little Shrunken Sings the Blues

And the original by Paul Thorn

Obama and Hillary Clinton are once again the people Americans admire most

For the third straight year, President Barack Obama ranks as the man most admired by Americans, according to an annual USA Today-Gallup poll.

Wikileaks: traditional liberalism with balls?

Rob Beschizza writes:
The mainstream media likes to suggest, with a nudge and a wink and abuse of the word "cyber," that Wikileaks represents a radical ideological position. But if there's a moral crusade to be found, maybe it's rooted in a tradition closer to home: classical Western liberal-democratic principles.
In The New Republic, Noam Scheiber takes for granted that Wikileaks is here to stay, with relentless pressure on big business and big government that permanently hampers their ability to prevent leaks. This will result in smaller, more humane organizations.
I have no idea what size organization is optimal for preventing leaks, but, presumably, it should be small enough to avoid wide-scale alienation, which clearly excludes big bureaucracies. Ideally, you'd want to stay small enough to preserve a sense of community, so that people's ties to one another and the leadership act as a powerful check against leaking.
To make this point, Scheiber reminds us that Wikileaks' stated aim--making organizations operate more ethically--is a mainstream one: "It's easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more affected negatively by leaks than honest businesses," he quotes Julian Assange.
Scheiber's argument seems to be that Wikileaks' disclosures could have more subtle and far-reaching effects on organizations than it expects.
It's easy to make a meal of the "crushing bastards" side of Wikileaks, but that distracts us from the fact that it reveals things that should not be hidden from us if we take liberal democratic principles seriously. It might be reasonable to argue against such disclosures, but you can't claim those principles as your own and then call Assange a terrorist for soliciting proof that they've been shat on.
And Scheiber's not the only person to draw unusual connections between Wikileaks' activities and mainstream politics.
Writing in The Economist, Will Wilkinson's inane hostility toward Bruce Sterling acquires a halitosis-like force that makes sticking with it hard going. But he scores one good hit on Sterling's otherwise superb essay, which is that seeing everything about Wikileaks through the lens of hacker culture is a mistake. Assange's activities are in fact consistent with traditional liberal demands of government, and only converge with sociopathic cyber-utopian anarchism on paper:
Liberalism was once a radical, revolutionary philosophy, but it has become hard to believe it. What is most intriguing about the WikiLeaks saga is not the pathology of hacker culture as envisioned by Mr Sterling's fecund imagination, but the possibility that Julian Assange and his confederates have made dull liberal principles seem once again sexily subversive by exposing power's reactionary panic when a few people with a practical bent actually bother to take them seriously.
I'll be leaving on the mirrorshades of sociopathy +1 myself, but Liberalism isn't the only other vantage point Wikileaks serves. Take, for example, the "nothing new here" response to cablegate. Stupid as that is concerning specific relevations, it's true that most of the disclosures are of trivial events that are routinely and inappropriately classified as secrets. This is something conservatives and the left-libertarian netariat alike can hate equally: government growing in dumb, relentless symbiosis with the bureacracy of its own secret bullshit.

More farmers' markets expand to year-round

A steady stream of customers filled baskets and shopping bags with vegetables, cranberries, cheese, fresh-baked breads and pies while chatting with the dozen or so farmers selling goods in the visitor's center of a local museum.

Non Sequitur


Harry Potter actress in hiding after death threats

afshanazad.jpgAfshan Azad, the 22 year old actress who played Padma Patil in the Harry Potter series, has gone into hiding after receiving death threats from her family.
According to BBC News, her older brother recently admitted physically attacking her - though CBS (via UK tabloid The Daily Mail) notes that at the time, he seemed to be more concerned with how the arrest would make his family look in public. The court cleared him and his father of the charges of making death threats. Apparently, Ms. Azad is dating a Hindu fellow, and this has angered her conservative Muslim family, and most notably her brother.
AOL News has more details about the attack and death threats, as well as why Ms. Azad is refusing to testify against them.

Man smuggled coke in Easter egg candies

Estebag Galtes, 23, of Miami, was busted a few days ago for attempting to smuggle 14 pounds of Cocaine into the US from Colombia. He had packed most of it into Easter egg candies. Perhaps he would have been less suspicious if they were inside Christmas ornaments.
 Cnn 2010 Crime 12 27 California.Easter.Egg.Smuggle Story.Coke.Eggs.Ice U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers sensed something was a little off with candy for the wrong holiday, a spokeswoman said. "That's certainly an anomaly, isn't it? They're trained to detect anomalies in all kinds of situations," said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "It's an unusual concealment method -- at least for this time of year. Maybe not for spring."



Guard Tower from the Napoleonic Wars Refurbished into Modern Home

To protect the country from an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, Britain built 103 towers along its southern shore to spot and slow down a French invasion force. The Martello towers, as they were called, had walls 30 feet tall and 13 feet thick. Some survive to this day, and industrial designer Duncan Jackson decided to convert one into a house:
It was the undulating new plywood roof, swooping over three-quarters of the battlements, that did most to turn Tower Y into a modern home. This elegant parasol not only provides a dramatic ceiling for the top floor living space, kitchen and dining area, it also allows mesmerising 360-degree views of the Suffolk coast: on one side tractors plough fields; on the other, vast ships plough the last leg of journeys from, say, China to Felixstowe.
Here is a special place to cook, entertain, or just while away the day. Stroll out onto the terrace and you feel as if you’ve walked from the bridge of a modern liner out on to its deck, where you stand bathed in light and sucking in sea air. Only the two spiral staircases beckoning from the sides suggest that, below decks, there’s another dimension: a cavernous, circular brick chamber, with oak floors set around a vast central brick column. Here, lit by windows set into those deep walls, is another ravishing living space.
You can see pictures of this luxury home here.



Schools get robot teachers

Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in South Korea. 

First Scientific Study of the Effects of Salvia on Humans

A new study provides some data: The hallucinogen kicks off an unusually intense and short-lasting high, with no obvious ill effects, researchers report in an upcoming Drug and Alcohol Dependence paper.
“This is a landmark paper because it’s the first paper in which authentic salvinorin A was administered to human volunteers under controlled conditions, and it was shown to be hallucinogenic,” says psychiatrist and pharmacologist Bryan Roth of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the research. “All we had before were anecdotal reports, where people had bought salvia extract from their local smoke shop.”
While the study is small and can’t vouch for the safety of salvia, the results lend some hard science to the current legislative fray around the substance, which is criminalized in some states but not regulated federally.

Ancient Human Remains Found in Israel

Israeli archaeologists have found teeth of modern humans in a cave in central Israel that date back 400,000 years. That makes them twice as old as modern humans found in Africa, which is where they’ve been thought to have originated.
“It’s very exciting to come to this conclusion,” said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.
He stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim. If it does, he says, “this changes the whole picture of evolution.”
The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human’s ancestors, it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.
Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said the study is reputable, and the find is “important” because remains from that critical time period are scarce, but it is premature to say the remains are human.
The archaeologists from Tel Aviv University are confident that other human fossil evidence will be found at the site.



New Knowledge about Sea Urchin Teeth Could Lead to Knives that Never Need Sharpening

Researchers led by physicist Pupa Gilbert of the University of Wisconsin at Madison examined how sea urchins are able to maintain razor-sharp teeth throughout their lives without any apparent means of sharpening them. Their findings could lead to the development of knives that never need to be sharpened:
“The sea urchin tooth is complicated in its design. It is one of the very few structures in nature that self-sharpen,” says Gilbert, explaining that the sea urchin tooth, which is always growing, is a biomineral mosaic composed of calcite crystals with two forms — plates and fibers — arranged crosswise and cemented together with super-hard calcite nanocement. Between the crystals are layers of organic materials that are not as sturdy as the calcite crystals.
“The organic layers are the weak links in the chain,” Gilbert explains. “There are breaking points at predetermined locations built into the teeth. It is a concept similar to perforated paper in the sense that the material breaks at these predetermined weak spots.”[...]
Knowing the secret of the ever-sharp sea urchin tooth, says Gilbert, could one day have practical applications for human toolmakers. “Now that we know how it works, the knowledge could be used to develop methods to fabricate tools that could actually sharpen themselves with use,” notes Gilbert. “The mechanism used by the urchin is the key. By shaping the object appropriately and using the same strategy the urchin employs, a tool with a self-sharpening edge could, in theory, be created.”

Rare Gyrfalcons Fly Again

photo ifaw gyrfalcons released russia smuggling 
Photos via IFAW
'Tis the season for heart-warming stories. This one is about eight endangered gyrfalcons, who were recently released back to the wild after being seized by customs officials in Moscow. The birds were found "swaddled in cloth, hooded and packed four to a box," according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Seals Returning to Baltic Coast

seals return to the baltic photo  
There was once a time when seals thrived in the cold waters of the Baltic sea, near the coast of Poland, but fishermen in the region didn't appreciate the competition. For decades, they drove away and killed thousands of seals until eventually there were none to be found. Now, after almost 50 years of absence in these waters, the animals are finally making a comeback -- thanks to tireless conservation efforts. Unfortunately, however, not everyone is cheering their return.

Owners Rent Flocks For Bored Collies

Border collies are compulsive herders and have an intense instinct to organize sheep.
They sometimes search for livestock behind the television when sheep appear on screen, says Geri Byrne, owner of the Border Collie Training Center, in Tulelake, Calif. Left unoccupied, they’ll dig up the garden, chew up the doggie bed or persecute the cat.
They are not content to be lap dogs and require homes that can indulge their herding instinct.  This breed needs to exercise their athleticism, intelligence, and strong work ethic. If owners cannot run the dogs frequently they can rent a flock of sheep to keep them occupied and to short circuit the boredom that can lead to destructive behavior. Fido’s Farm in Washington allows the dogs to practice on the farm’s 200-head flock of sheep for a $15.00 fee per dog.