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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.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Better not even think about hiding out now, regardless of the reason, or how much you might feel like it.
You're due for a lovely run of luck.
This might not mean the paparazzi are on their way -- thank goodness -- but it does mean that your talents will be showcased for your corner of the world.
Rather than trying to figure out the closest cave to hide in when the local news rolls up, then, decide which is your better side -- for the photographers, darling!

Some of our readers today have been in:
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
London, England, United Kingdom
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei and Muara, Brunei Darussalam
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Leeds, England, United Kingdom
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Manchester, England, United Kingdom
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Bilbao, Pais Vasco, Spain
Valencia, Comunidad Valencia, Spain
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Geneva, Geneve, Switzerland
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

as well as Slovakia, Malta, 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, Maldives, 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, Czech Republic, Vietnam, Norway, Finland and in cities across the United States such as Altadena, West Warwick, Galesville, Lawernceville and more.

Today is:
Today is Saturday, February 19, the 50th day of 2011.
There are 315 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is: 
Chocolate Mint Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

President Obama's Weekly Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
February 19, 2011
Hillsboro, Oregon
I’m speaking to you from just outside Portland, Oregon where I’m visiting Intel, a company that helped pioneer the digital age.  I just came from a tour of an assembly line where highly-skilled technicians are building microprocessors that run everything from desktop computers to smartphones.

But these workers aren’t just manufacturing high-tech computer chips.  They’re showing us how America will win the future.

For decades, Intel has led the world in developing new technologies.  But even as global competition has intensified, this company has invested, built, and hired in America.  Three-quarters of Intel’s products are made by American workers.  And as the company expands operations in Oregon and builds a new plant in Arizona, it plans to hire another 4,000 people this year.

Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete – that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe.  Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector – which was on display in my visit today.  But it’s also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business.

Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education beyond high school, many requiring proficiency in math and science.  And yet today we’ve fallen behind in math, science, and graduation rates.  As a result, companies like Intel struggle to hire American workers with the skills that fit their needs.

If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people.  We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world.  That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers.

This is why, over the past two years, my administration has made education a top priority.  We’ve launched a competition called “Race to the Top” – a reform that is lifting academic standards and getting results; not because Washington dictated the answers, but because states and local schools pursued innovative solutions.  We’re also making college more affordable for millions of students, and revitalizing our community colleges, so that folks can get the training they need for the careers they want.  And as part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need jobs with businesses that need their skills.

Intel understands how important these partnerships can be – recognizing that their company’s success depends on a pipeline of skilled people ready to fill high-wage, high-tech jobs.  Intel often pays for workers to continue their education at nearby Portland State University.  As a result, one out of every fifteen of Intel’s Oregon employees has a degree from Portland State.

In fact, Intel’s commitment to education begins at an even younger age.  The company is providing training to help 100,000 math and science teachers improve their skills in the classroom.  And today, I’m also meeting a few students from Oregon who impressed the judges in the high school science and engineering competitions that Intel sponsors across America.

One young woman, Laurie Rumker, conducted a chemistry experiment to investigate ways to protect our water from pollution.  Another student, named Yushi Wang, applied the principles of quantum physics to design a faster computer chip.  We’re talking about high school students.

So these have been a tough few years for our country.  And in tough times, it’s natural to question what the future holds.  But when you meet young people like Laurie and Yushi, it’s hard not to be inspired.  And it’s impossible not to be confident about America.

We are poised to lead in this new century – and not just because of the good work that large companies like Intel are doing.  All across America, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who are trying to start the next Intel, or just get a small business of their own off the ground.  I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women next week in Cleveland, to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.

The truth is, we have everything we need to compete: bold entrepreneurs, bright new ideas, and world-class colleges and universities.  And, most of all, we have young people just brimming with promise and ready to help us succeed.  All we have to do is tap that potential.

That’s the lesson on display at Intel.  And that’s how America will win the future.

Thank you.

Wizard of Id


Autocratic rulers losing hold

Long-disgruntled citizens are using unprecedented uprisings — and hope — to rattle autocracies.  

Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the King of Bahrain, is a murdering thug

The royal family of Bahrain is murdering the people of his country. This is beyond stunning, especially from a close U.S. ally. Al Khalifa's government is trying to prevent coverage of the carnage, but the story is getting out.

Nicholas Kristof is in Bahrain -- and he's witnessing the carnage first-hand. His column today is especially compelling
:A column of peaceful, unarmed pro-democracy protesters marched through the streets here in modern, cosmopolitan Bahrain on Friday. They threatened no one, but their 21st-century aspirations collided with a medieval ruler — and the authorities opened fire without warning.
There are many people in Bahrain who want this story told:
It turns out that members of Bahrain’s medical community have been reading my Twitter postings, and doctors and nurses rushed me from patient to patient so I could see and photograph the injuries and write messages to the world and get the news out right away. They knew that King Hamad’s government would wrap its brutality in lies.

The doctors spoke in enormous frustration about what they termed butchery or massacres, but they encountered evidence of the danger of speaking publicly. In the midst of the crisis, a democracy activist staggered in for treatment from a fresh beating by security forces. He had made public statements about police brutality he had witnessed, and so, he said, the police had just kidnapped him and brutalized him all over again.

The hospital’s ambulance drivers had been beaten on Thursday morning by Bahrain’s army and police for attempting to rescue the dead and injured, and some had been warned that they would be executed if they tried again to help protesters. But they showed enormous courage in rushing to the scene of the carnage once again.

Global Warming Good For Montana

From the "Yep, he's a idiot" Department:

One way to approach the problem: Montana Legislator Introduces Bill To Declare Global Warming ‘Natural’ And ‘Beneficial'
joe reed A bill has been introduced in the Montana state legislature to declare global warming a “natural occurrence and human activity has not accelerated it,” and that it is “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana.” State Rep. Joe Read (retard-MT), a farmer and emergency firefighter who stole the election from a Democratic incumbent in 2010, introduced HB 549 “to ensure economic development in Montana”
Read did not consult any climate scientists — including Montana’s own experts, who warn of drought, infestation, wildfires and “large economic impacts” — in the drafting of this bill. Instead he relied on his own experience and understanding of the issues at play. He told us:
"If you follow the money, the science has been pushed toward where the money is coming from. The money is coming from the federal government. I believe global science is an ideal, not a true science."
Here it is: House Bill No. 549.

Signs of sketchy tax preparers

The IRS says to be especially wary of anyone who will guarantee you a refund. 

Tricky cases for estate planning

Taxes, inheritance, and benefits can all be much trickier for those not in a traditional marriage.

Awesome Pictures


Rare syndrome may stop cancer

Scientists in Ecuador attempting to find a cure for stunted growth make an unexpected discovery.  

Drinking Diet Soda Increases Risk of Vascular Events By 61 Percent

diet soda health nutrition heart disease photo
Photo: sivart13
For years diet soda has been portrayed as the "healthier soda" choice because it has no calories. But zero calorie sweeteners like saccharin and aspartame come with risks including a link with bladder cancer, brain tumors, and osteoporosis. If that's not reason enough to put down the frighteningly sweet bubbled beverage, new research recently presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles found that daily intake of diet soda increases your risk of vascular events by 61 percent, according to a story on the Today Show.

Colors that help you eat less

Choosing the right kitchen hue is just one simple change to improve your diet. 

Food Pyramid

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World's hottest chili grown in Grantham

Its previous claim to fame was as the birthplace of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But now the market town of Grantham in Lincolnshire has produced an even fierier export after a local producer grew the world’s hottest chili. Measuring 1.17 million on the Scoville Scale - an official measure of spicy heat - the Infinity chili is so hot that it carries a health warning.

Grown by Nick Woods, 39, the chili - which was grown in a greenhouse - made it to the Guinness Book of Records after out-spicing the previous title holder, the Bhut Jolokia, from India. Mr Woods, who runs his own business Fire Foods from his home in Grantham, said he grew the record breaking chili by accident.


He explained: "I didn't set out to grow it, it's really easy for chilies to crossbreed in a greenhouse, one day I just saw this new chili plant growing. When I tried it tasted nice at first, like an odd fruity taste, the effect is delayed. Then it hit me. All of a sudden I felt it burning in the back of my throat, so hot that I couldn't speak.

“I began to shake uncontrollably, I had to sit down, I felt physically sick. I really wouldn't recommend anybody eat it raw like that.” Former RAF worker Mr Woods started his chili business five years ago after being given a plant by a friend.

Nice Libraries


Kremsmünster abbey library, Austria.
Kremsmünster library in Austria

Big Boat

Toni Schlesinger describes life On the World’s Largest Cruise Ship.
Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, launched in December at a cost of about $1.4 billion, has taken the concept of land to a point where, on a seven-day western Caribbean voyage, from Dec. 19 to 26, with stops in Labadee, Haiti, and Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, my Aunt Dorothy and I entirely forgot we were at sea.
Stepping off the zigzagging gangplank into the enclosed Royal Promenade, we were hit with blinking lights, video screens and shop windows stuffed with jewels and muffins. Where had we come? On smaller ships there is a small area where a social hostess greets you with a little beverage and everyone hugs one another. This place looked like the inside of a shopping mall in Singapore or Dubai.
After a quick salad at the Park Café, one of the Allure’s 22 restaurants, where a song played about how wonderful life is, we looked at the ship’s map — nightclubs and casino on Deck 4; specialty restaurants mainly on 8, around the park; child and baby areas on 14; sunlight and sports on l6; staterooms from decks 6 to 14.
It's basically a floating city, and it even has a park. From the ship's Web site, we learn that it has seven "distinctly designed neighborhoods." And, of course, a Starbucks.

The Ten Most Iconic Photo Portraits Of the 20th Century

They say that 'a picture is worth a thousand words,' but some photographs eschew any such numeric limitation and go on talking to us forever; certain photo portraits have that rare power.

Far more than pictorial representations of celebrated or instantly recognizable figures, they capture so much more, seeming to encapsulate not simply the very essence of the person in shot but all they have come to stand for - the attitudes, beliefs and values of an entire era. Here are ten photographs of iconic individuals which triumph in communicating in myriad and immeasurable ways.


Looks like we'll be going to the movies in May.

A 400 lbs. Shoplifter Arrested After Getting Stuck In Door While Attempting Getaway

From the "You can't make this stuff up" Department:

A 400-pound Michigan woman was busted for shoplifting--and later hit with a Taser-- when her motorized cart got stuck in a supermarket's door, according to police.

Jerrie Perkins, 30, allegedly tried to steal more than $600 worth of electronic merchandise from a Meijer in Rochester Hills last week.

As she attempted to drive out of the supermarket in her cart, the door's alarm was activated. Perkins became hostile when Meijer employees approached her and asked for her receipt.

The 5-foot-2 woman shoved a loss-prevention officer and hit her in the face, the Oakland County sheriff's office told The Oakland Press.

When authorities asked her to put her hands behind her back, she cursed, according to a press release from the sheriff's department, "balled her right hand into a fist and took a fighting stance."

Twice Perkins was asked to put her hands behind her back before deputies zapped her with the Taser.

On her Friendster account, Perkins describes herself as a singer/songwriter/deejay with "a little extra weight."

She was released on $15,000 bail and charged with unarmed robbery, resisting and obstructing a police officer and second-degree retail fraud.



Worst cities for speed traps

You could owe nearly $1,400 if you're pulled over in one metro area.  

Seven Idiot Proof Tips For Driving Safely


Although it is terrifying to refer to one of the most dangerous daily tasks that adults perform as 'idiot proof,' the fact remains that not everyone with a driver's license is a good driver. Whether it is due to a lack of discipline, motor skills, or short attention spans, many motorists are distressingly inept.

If you have a hard time keeping your car out of accident reports, or are paying more for your car insurance than most people pay for their mortgages, these driving tips are for you.

Bollards Of London

Bollards are posts preventing vehicles from entering an area. Bollards of London is a site dedicated to those rather odd looking pavement objects you find in the most interesting of places.
Bollards have a history richer than most objects placed upon the pavement. Some of them even date back to to the earlier part of the 19th century.

Temperature swings 100 degrees

A town that was colder than the South Pole last week now brushes up against a very different milestone.  

Geomagnetic storm warning

The Sun has unleashed its strongest flare in four years, observers say. The eruption is a so-called X-flare, the strongest type; such flares can affect communications on Earth.

Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft recorded an intense flash of extreme ultraviolet radiation emanating from a sunspot. The British Geological Survey (BGS) has issued a geomagnetic storm warning, and says observers might be able to see aurorae from the northern UK.

The eruptions are expected to hit the Earth's magnetic field over the next couple of days, causing an increase in geomagnetic activity. The monster flare was recorded at 0156 GMT on 15 February and directed at the Earth. According to the US space agency, the source of this activity - sunspot 1158 - is growing rapidly.
Additional info at this BBC followup article.  And this PopSci article.  Photo from APOD.

Hudson River Fish Evolve Incredibly Quickly

Fish in the Hudson River (US) have developed an immunity to polychlorinated biphenyls, a type of toxic chemicals developed in 1929. They’ve done so at an amazing speed:
“This is very, very ra­­­­­­­­­­­­pid evolutionary change,” said Isaac Wirgin, an environmental toxicologist at New York University’s School of Medicine, and the study’s lead investigator. “Normally you think of evolution occurring in thousands to millions of years. You’re talking about all this occurring in 20 to 50 generations maybe.”
The fish in question is called the tomcod, and scientists have determined the specific gene which has changed:
It turns out the fish sport a handy modification to a gene encoding a protein known to regulate the toxic effects of PCBs and related chemicals, called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor2, or AHR2.
The fish are missing six base pairs of DNA of the AHR2 gene, and the two amino acids each triplet would code for. PCBs bind poorly to the mutated receptors, apparently blunting the chemicals’ effects.
The adaptation occurs almost universally in Hudson River tomcod, but crops up only infrequently in two other tomcod populations—in Connecticut’s Niantic River and the Shinnecock Bay at Long Island’s south shore.

The Great Banyan Tree

The Great Banyan Tree is a 250 year-old tree that covers about 14,500 square meters of land in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Botanical Garden near Calcutta, making it the widest tree in the world. From a distance, the tree has the appearance of a forest but what appear to be individual trees are actually aerial roots, around 2,800 of them.

The Mystery Boat of Bouvet Island

Bouvet Island is 1,700 miles from Antarctica, and further away from anywhere else. The island is a volcano covered with a glacier. The few expeditions to explore it were many years apart, and some of those explorers never set foot on Bouvet Island, since there is no safe place to land. But in 1964, a South African expedition spent less than an hour on the island and found … an abandoned boat.
It was a mystery worthy of a Sherlock Holmes adventure. The boat, which Crawford described as “a whaler or ship’s lifeboat,” must have come from some larger ship. But no trade route ran within a thousand miles of Bouvet. If it really was a lifeboat, then, what ship had it come from? What spectacular feat of navigation had brought it across many miles of sea? How could it have survived a crossing of the Southern Ocean? There was no sign it had ever borne a mast and sail, or engine, but the solitary pair of oars that Crawford found would barely have been adequate to steer a heavy, 20-foot boat. Most unnervingly of all, what had become of the crew?
It was another two years before anyone else went to the island, and the boat was never recorded to have been seen again. Mike Dash set out to research what the boat was doing on such an isolated island, and came up with some interesting theories. However, a definitive answer has yet to be found.

Read the whole story at A Blast from the Past.

Greetings From The Golden Horde

The Astrakhan region can boast of an ancient settlement Sarai Batu – the former capital of the Golden Horde and a major ancient trading center.

You’ve Never Seen St.Petersburg Like This

St. Petersburg is admittedly one of the most beautiful Russian cities.
It inspired many artists to praise it – painters, poets, singers, film directors …
Here are photos made by one more inspired man – modern photographer Alexander Petrosyan.



Animal Pictures

Flying Fish

A streamlined torpedo shape helps flying fish generate enough speed to break the water’s surface, and large, wing-like pectoral fins help get them airborne.

 Flying Fish range

Fast Facts

Map: Locator map for the flying fishType: Fish
Diet: Omnivore
Size: Up to 18 in (45 cm)
Did you know? Flying fish can soar high enough that sailors often find them on the decks of their ships.

Flying fish can be seen jumping out of warm ocean waters worldwide. Their streamlined torpedo shape helps them gather enough underwater speed to break the surface, and their large, wing-like pectoral fins get them airborne.

Flying fish are thought to have evolved this remarkable gliding ability to escape predators, of which they have many. Their pursuers include mackerel, tuna, swordfish, marlin, and other larger fish. For their sustenance, flying fish feed on a variety of foods, including plankton.

There are about 40 known species of flying fish. Beyond their useful pectoral fins, all have unevenly forked tails, with the lower lobe longer than the upper lobe. Many species have enlarged pelvic fins as well and are known as four-winged flying fish.

The process of taking flight, or gliding, begins by gaining great velocity underwater, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) per hour. Angling upward, the four-winged flying fish breaks the surface and begins to taxi by rapidly beating its tail while it is still beneath the surface. It then takes to the air, sometimes reaching heights over 4 feet (1.2 meters) and gliding long distances, up to 655 feet (200 meters). Once it nears the surface again, it can flap its tail and taxi without fully returning to the water. Capable of continuing its flight in such a manner, flying fish have been recorded stretching out their flights with consecutive glides spanning distances up to 1,312 feet (400 meters).

Flying fish are attracted to light, like a number of sea creatures, and fishermen take advantage of this with substantial results. Canoes, filled with enough water to sustain fish, but not enough to allow them to propel themselves out, are affixed with a luring light at night to capture flying fish by the dozens. There is currently no protection status on these animals.

More animals at: www.nationalgeographic.com/animals