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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, April 15, 2011

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Spend your morning dealing with a few of the problems other people ask you to help them solve.
Yes, you can really help, but don't stress yourself out too much (after all, these aren't your problems -- you didn't create them, and ultimately you can't fix them).
Then spend the afternoon in a more public space.
Whether you're running a promotional dunking booth (water tank and all) at the local mall or speaking to investors, get your message out there.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
London, England, United Kingdom
Auckland, Aucklnad, New Zealand
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Jakarta, Jakarta Raya, Indonesia
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Nice, Provence-Alpes-Cote D'Azur, France
Madgeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
Doha, Ad Dawhah, Qatar
Gengenbach, Baden-Wurrttemberg, Germany
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Bangkok, Krung Thep, Thailand
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

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 Liberty, San Ramon, Mesa, Scranton and more.

Today is:
Today is Friday, April 15, the 106th day of 2011.
There are 259 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
Take A Wild Guess Day
That Sucks Day.
Don't forget to visit our sister blog!



U.S. Meats Tainted With Bacteria

Nearly half of U.S. meat samples in a recent study tested positive for a drug-resistant strain of staph. Read more

The 25 Worst Cities For Allergies

Allergy season is upon us again.

Find out if you live in one of the 25 worst cities for allergies as ranked by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

U.S. cities more diverse

The growing Hispanic population is shifting political dynamics across the country.  

On The Job

A career expert says you can shake the 9-to-5 doldrums by “patchworking.”  

Gasoline averaging $4 a gallon in 5 states

The average price of gasoline is now above $4 per gallon in five states, and it could rise to that level in New York and Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Cutting spending where it is important ...

Repugican threatens to filibuster debt ceiling vote, throwing country into recession and costing us billions for years to come

Sadly, this hostage taker is stupid enough to do it.
A slimy wingnut on Thursday indicated he is willing to go to extreme lengths to prevent a vote on raising the debt ceiling, even if it hurts the repugican party politically.
Jim DeMint (reptile-S.C.) said on the wingnut hate talk Laura Ingraham Show he is considering filibustering an upcoming vote to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit if it doesn't contain other fiscal reforms.
Meanwhile, other repugicans have said they would be open to doing so if serious spending cuts or fiscal reforms are attached to the vote. Some repugicans have called for their balanced budget amendment to be attached to the vote.
I'm so confused. I thought caving on the stimulus, and health care reform, and the Bush tax cuts was supposed to make the Republicans stop taking hostages because all the Democratic genuflecting would make the GOP's small hearts grow three sizes that day.

And keep in mind, if DeMint and the repugicans succeed in killing the debt ceiling vote, it's over for the economic recovery. The 'best case scenario' is another severe recession if this vote fails (and that is exactly what the repugicans want).
But once the Treasury exhausts this authority, the United States would default on its debt for the first time in its history, which could have consequences like the ones that Mr. Boehner has imagined: a severe global financial crisis (possibly larger in magnitude than the one the world began experiencing in 2007 and 2008), and a significant long-term increase in the United States’ borrowing costs, which could cost it its leadership position in the global economy. Another severe recession would probably be about the best-case scenario if that were to occur. three sizes. Yet, somehow, they just keep taking more hostages, and this time are taking the most dangerous hostage of all.

And just to remind you, another severe recession would be the "best case scenario" if DeMint and the repugicans succeed in killing this vote.
The White House and the Democrats should be running television ads about the repugicans' threat to send the country into another recession. We're watching.

Where your tax dollars go

The government spends 20% of every tax dollar on just one entitlement program.  

Online Advertising Now Surpasses Newspaper Advertising

The IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report for the full year 2010 and Q4 2010 both showed record results in the United States. Released today by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and prepared by PwC US, the latest report puts all 2010 Internet advertising revenues at a record $26 billion, up 15% from 2009. Fourth quarter revenue also hit new highs at $7.45 billion, up 19% from Q4 2009 and 15% from Q3 2010.

Highlights of the report include:

* There were record numbers for the yearly advertising revenue as well as record quarterly highs in the Q4 2010.
* The most popular ad format in 2010 was search which represented 46% of revenue and saw 12% growth from last year.
* Sponsorships saw the most growth with an 88% increase over last year and 142% increase in the fourth quarter alone.
* Display-related advertising – which includes Digital Video Commercials, Ad banners/display ads, sponsorships and rich media – continued to grow this year, totaling nearly $10 billion with an increase of 24% over 2009.
* The results exhibit revenue growth for the past five consecutive quarters.
* The Annual Report marks the debut of estimated US mobile ad revenue for 2010: between $550 and $650 million.

“As the latest IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report amply demonstrates, brand advertisers and marketers have adopted the power of digital media as a central element of their campaigns,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “Consumers have shifted more of their time to digital media – watching television shows and movies online – and advertisers now accept this multifaceted medium as a key component for reaching their targets.”

“With a strong rebound from 2009, the $26 billion spent on Internet advertising points to a continued focus on digital media ad spend, with dollars catching up to the eyeballs. More time spent online, especially with increases in digital video and social media, has certainly helped to fuel the continued growth,” said David Silverman, PwC Assurance partner.

“We now have had five consecutive quarters of growth since the great recession impacted interactive advertising in 2009,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Industry Services, IAB. “The record-breaking revenue in Q4 2010 and the total year indicate that interactive advertising has weathered the storm and then some.”

Why Washington balks on Syria

Embattled Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is no ally, but Washington seems unsure what to do.

Suicide bomber kills prominent Afghan police chief

Afghan officials say a suicide bomber pretending to be a policeman has killed the top police officer in the southern province of Kandahar.

City, Federal Officials Probe Detroit Mosque Fire

Federal and local authorities are trying to figure out what caused a fire at a Detroit mosque.

Police arrest Rupert Murdoch journalists in UK

OK, the use of the term 'journalists' is more than generous in this case ...

If Murdoch thought that admitting guilt was going to make it easier, he was wrong. His tabloid team in the UK hacked into the phones of many people from celebrities to politicians. They crossed the line so it's good to see that someone is taking this seriously instead of ignoring it. There could be a lot more problems ahead for Murdoch's newspaper.

The Guardian:
Despite the paper having promised that it would co-operate fully with police inquiries, executives descended on the desk of former news editor James Weatherup moments after learning of his arrest. Under the eyes of their legal team, they bagged up notebooks, papers and recording machines and removed them "via our lawyers", a firm whose identity the publisher refused to confirm.

A few hours later, the police arrived and took the bags to Scotland Yard. Detectives also conducted a search in the tabloid newsroom while staff were asked to decamp to a nearby bar.

The unexpected arrest of Weatherup, one of the most senior journalists at the News of the World, at his home leaves little room for doubt that the new police team investigating the phone-hacking scandal is determined to succeed where its much-criticized predecessors failed.

And, remember folks, this is the same sleaze ball who brings you Faux News!

Suspect in serial killings murdered people with matching initials

A 77-year-old man has been charged with four murders spanning 20 years amid bizarre claims the victims were targeted because their first and last initials were the same.

Photographer Joseph Naso was charged after investigators searched his home and found evidence linking him to murders across Northern California.

Roxene Roggasch, 18, was found murdered in 1977, Carmen Colon was discovered a year later and Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya were killed in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Detectives in California say they do not know if the alliterative initials are merely coincidence or part of the pattern of a serial killer.

Epic Fail

SWAT fail

Drug store thief comes after pills, gets beans

A pharmacist in southeastern Mississippi says some drug store burglar got a surprise when they broke into his business to steal the pain medication Lortab -- the pills had been replaced with beans.

Mushrooms limit brain blood flow and connections


(photo by Curecat/Wikimedia Commons)

Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream, indeed. A new scientific study suggests that psilocybin -- the psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms -- doesn't "turn on" parts of your brain but rather restricts blood flow and connections between the regions of the brain tied to perception and cognition. Imperial College London psychopharmacology researcher Robin Carhart-Harris presented the results of this study, in which 30 volunteers were injected with psilocybin and underwent brain scans, at last week's Breaking Convention conference on psychedelic consciousness. Interestingly, the data helps support psilocybin's potential use to treat depression. From New Scientist:
Less blood flow was seen in the brain regions known as the thalamus, the posterior cingulate and the medial prefrontal cortex. "Seeing a decrease was surprising. We thought profound experience equalled more activity, but this formula is clearly too simplistic," says Carhart-Harris. "We didn't see an increase in any regions," he says. Decreases in connectivity were also observed, such as between the hippocampus and the posterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex.
"Under psilocybin you see a relative decrease in 'talk' between the hippocampus and these cortical hub regions," says Carhart-Harris. "Changes in function in the posterior cingulate in particular are associated with changes in consciousness."
Psilocybin has a similar chemical structure to serotonin – a hormone involved in regulating mood – and therefore binds to serotonin receptors on nerve cells in the brain. The drug may have therapeutic potential because the serotonin system in nerves is also a target for existing antidepressants.

Gullibility may be early sign of dementia

Elderly people who are increasingly unable to detect sarcasm or lies may be exhibiting early signs of dementia/neurodegenerative diseases, according to University of California scientists. The new research suggests that it might be possible to spot certain neurodegenerative diseases by looking for surprising gullibility in someone who otherwise may seem healthy. This connection has been somewhat obvious for years, as elderly people are sadly more easily suckered by scam artists. (Not to say that being an easy target for a con means one has a neurodegenerative disease.) In this latest work though, he UCSF team used brain scans to show that damage and deterioration in certain regions of the brain correlate with an inability to known when someone isn't being sincere.

From UCSF Medical Center:
Healthy older subjects in the study could easily distinguish sincere from insincere speech.  However, the subjects who had frontotemporal dementia were less able to discern among lies, sarcasm, and fact. Patients with other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, did better. To associate the detection inability with neurodegeneration, the UCSF team used MRI to make extremely accurate maps of the brains of the subjects in the study. This allowed them to measure the volumes of different regions of the brain showing that the sizes of those regions correlated with the inability to detect sarcasm or lying.
According to Rankin, the work should help raise awareness of the fact that this extreme form of gullibility can actually be a warning sign of dementia -- something that could help more patients be correctly diagnosed and receive treatment earlier in the long run.

Non Sequitur


Oldest Readable Writing In Europe Discovered

Marks on a clay tablet fragment found in Greece are the oldest known decipherable text in Europe, a new study says. Considered 'magical or mysterious' in its time, the writing survives only because a trash heap caught fire some 3,500 years ago, according to researchers.

Found in an olive grove in what's now the village of Iklaina in the municipality of Pylos, prefecture of Messenia, the tablet was created by a Greek-speaking Mycenaean scribe between 1450 and 1350 B.C., archaeologists say. The markings on the tablet fragment are early examples of a writing system known as Linear B.

Genes, language, and how we study human pre-history

The Wall Street Journal has a story out today about a study published in the journal Science that claims all modern languages evolved out of the same proto-language—the linguistic version of Out-of-Africa. Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting on a paper published in Nature which suggests features that are shared between languages actually evolved independently, rather than being concepts coded into our brains by biology.
Not sure whether these two sets of results can be easily compared to one another. The studies were aimed at answering very different questions, so you can't just line one up against the other. Depending on your point of view, these results may be contradictory ... but that's not necessarily the case. What is interesting about these two studies is the fact that both are based on research methodologies and theories that were born in the fields of evolutionary biology and genetic anthropology.

For instance, the Wall Street Journal article says:
His research is based on phonemes, distinct units of sound such as vowels, consonants and tones, and an idea borrowed from population genetics known as "the founder effect." That principle holds that when a very small number of individuals break off from a larger population, there is a gradual loss of genetic variation and complexity in the breakaway group. Dr. Atkinson figured that if a similar founder effect could be discerned in phonemes, it would support the idea that modern verbal communication originated on that continent and only then expanded elsewhere.
And in the BBC story:
Lead author Michael Dunn, an evolutionary linguist at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, said the approach is akin to the study of pea plants by Gregor Mendel, which ultimately led to the idea of heritability of traits. Modern phylogenetics studies look at variations in animals that are known to be related, and from those can work out when specific structures evolved. For their [linguistic] studies, the team studied the characteristics of word order in four language families: Indo-European, Uto-Aztec, Bantu and Austronesian.
I'd be curious as to how widespread this interdisciplinary approach is within linguistics, and whether most linguists think it's a reasonable way to study language evolution. One would think, at the very least, that you have to make some adjustments. After all, as the Wall Street Journal article points out, the forces that shape biological evolution work differently from those that shape cultural evolution.
Dr. Atkinson's approach has its limits. Genes change slowly, over many generations, while the diversity of phonemes amid a population group can change rapidly as language evolves. While distance from Africa can explain as much as 85% of the genetic diversity of populations, a similar distance measurement can explain only 19% of the variation in phonemic diversity. Dr. Atkinson said the measure is still statistically significant.
Wall Street Journal: The Mother of All Languages
BBC: Language Universality Idea Tested with Biology Method

Soccer's early years

Explains all those rocks standing about all over the place you know ...

New 3-D map of Guatemala’s ‘Head of Stone’ confirms size, location of ancient buildings

Archaeologists have made the first three-dimensional topographical map of ancient monumental buildings long buried under centuries of jungle at the Maya site “Head of Stone” in Guatemala.

Stalagmite sculptures

Artist Tofer Chin installed 14 monolithic black stalagmites—"living and breathing souls, ghosts, spirits, voids, shadows"—in Rio de Janeiro's Parque Lage.

Tornado Strips Tree


The World's Tallest Tree

Redwood National Park in California, is hiding the tallest tree in the world. The tree is called 'Hyperion,' and is 379 feet and 4 inches (115,6 meters) high. Where to exactly find the tree is not known since its discoverers, Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, won't tell. A team of scientists, led by Humboldt State University ecologist Steve Sillett, climbed to the top of the tree and dropped a tape down to the ground.

The rotated picture above is 'Stratosphere Giant, the former tallest tree in the world which can be found in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, also in California. The tree is 369 feet (112 meters) high.

Could Life Survive Inside a Black Hole?

Black hole
Stable planetary orbits are theorized to exist inside black hole event horizons, sufficiently advanced lifeforms may live there too.  

Photos of elderly animals

While we normally think of baby animals as being the principal cuteness emitters of the animal kingdom, photographer Isa Leshko's "Elderly Animals" series reveals the beauty revealed by animals at the end of their lives: "I began the series as a means of exploring my feelings about my mother's decline due to Alzheimer's Disease. As I've worked on this project, though, I've come to realize that these images are a testament to survival and endurance. And they raise questions about what it means to be elderly."

Antarctic Lake Hides Bizarre Ecosystem

Under an ice-covered Antarctic lake, astrobiologists discover otherworldly mounds that tell tales of the planet’s early days.



Dinosaurs That Loved the Nightlife

Flying pterosaurs and other dinosaurs prowled around at night, suggests new research on the shapes of these animals' eyes.  

The Lizard and the Koala

A koala was sitting up in a gum tree, smoking a joint.

When a little Lizard walked past and looked up and said:

"Hey, Koala! What are you doing?"

The Koala says: "Smoking a joint. Come up and have some."

So the little Lizard climbed up and sat next to the Koala and they burned a few. After awhile, the little Lizard says his mouth was "dry" and he was going to get a drink from the river. But the little Lizard was so stoned that he leaned too far over and fell into the river.

A crocodile saw this and swam over to the little Lizard and helped him to the side. Then he asked the little Lizard, "What's the matter with you?"

The little Lizard explained to the crocodile that he was sitting, smoking a joint with the Koala in the tree, got too stoned and then fell into the river while trying to get a drink.

The crocodile says he has to check this out. He walks into the rain forest, finds the tree where the Koala is sitting, finishing a joint, and he looks up and says, "Hey, you!!"

So the Koala looks down at him and says:
"Holy shiiiiiite, dude!! How much water did you drink?"

The Surprising Life of Banana Slugs

banaba slug image
Image via video screengrab
Like the redwoods? Then thank a banana slug.
I used to think that the University of California, Santa Cruz in California was so weird for choosing the Banana Slug as its mascot. What college student wants to cheer their team on by rooting for big yellow blobs? But after watching this short video on the banana slug, I have a whole new adoration for, and fascination of these odd creatures. Turns out, they're actually surprisingly amazing, and important for keeping redwood forests healthy.

The Peacock Spider Dance

Animal News

  1. Maybe it was spring fever that made a 9-foot, 20-year-old alligator make its getaway in south Arkansas. 

  2. A potbellied pet has been put out to pasture, much to the chagrin of its suburban Philadelphia owner.Brian Maguire tells the Philadelphia Daily News he wants police to return the Vietnamese micro potbellied pig they captured when the animal escaped from his suburban yard.

Gorillas in Congo Survive Civil War

eastern lowland gorilla photo
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gorillas in Africa have had a rocky century, with populations suffering from disease outbreaks, habitat loss, and poaching. Thriving trades in charcoal and bushmeat continue to threaten gorillas across the continent but, in some places, civil war and other conflicts makes monitoring and protecting the species nearly impossible.
Such has been the case with the Grauer's gorilla subspecies. Trapped in the crossfire of a civil war in Congo, conservationists feared that a census—if and when it could finally be conducted—would reveal a grim result. Now, with new data finally in, these fears have been eased—it seems that the subspecies has survived the latest conflict.

Budget bill's wildlife rider

A provision that has nothing to do with money allows hunting of an endangered species.

Animal Pictures


precious© Shlomi Nissim