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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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
As you walk along some familiar territory today, you might suddenly feel a shift in the ground beneath your feet. 
It's not an earthquake. 
It's the universe letting you know that the stability you have been taking for granted is not a sure thing. 
Some support that you thought would always be there for you is not there right now, so it's time to stand firmly on your own feet again. 
This is a good thing that will empower you and get you strolling along happily again.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Metz, Lorraine, France
Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia
Newbury, England, United Kingdom
Bath, England, United Kingdom
Milton Keynes, England, United Kingdom
London, England, United Kingdom
Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Albury, New South Wales, Australia
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Ratingen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
London, Ontario, Canada
Minden, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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 Kailua, Hana, Mililani, Honolulu and more.

Today is:
Today is Thursday, August 18, the 230th day of 2011.
There are 135 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holidays or celebrations are:
Bad Poetry Day
Cupcake Day.
Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

America's most beautiful place

Ten dreamy spots from Rhode Island to Hawaii make the final list from which a winner is chosen.  

Healthy Living

7 myths about caffeine 7 myths about caffeine

China buzzes over backpack

A photo of the new U.S. ambassador buying coffee causes a social media frenzy.  

    Non Sequitur


    Teabaggers more disliked than Muslims, atheists

    In America, it takes a lot to be more disliked than a Muslim, or even, heaven forbid, an atheist.

    From the NYT:
    [I]n data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
    And here's a surprise - the Tea Party is actually conservative Republicans.
    Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.
    And the other factor that defines Teabaggers is the desire to see religion (their religion) play a prominent role in the politics.
    Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.
    Interestingly, and surprisingly I'd argue, the public has swung against mixing religion with politics.
    While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
    This is quite interesting. We'd need more details as to what's motivating people to be less interested in religion in the public square, but it might provide a nice line of attack for Democrats, if they have the courage to take on religion, even batty religions like Bachmann's and Perry's. 

    Do Bachmann and Perry think non-believers should be put to death?

    Bachmann and Perry both have ties to Dominionism, a fringe far-right Christian movement.  Since they both believe that they have the right to impose their religion on the rest of us via legislative fiat, perhaps it's time we learned more about their rather odd, and extreme, version of "Christianity."

    From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
    I didn't take Christian Reconstruction as a political philosophy seriously until I met an actual Theonomist (follower of God's Law) in the real world.

    "Oscar" was in his early 20s, as was I, when we met. He was a Jewish convert to Christianity, so he was always on the defensive. As a young believer, he fell in with a mob of Theonomists in San Diego before moving to Pennsylvania for college. The primacy of the Old Testament in Christian Reconstructionist thought appealed to his sense of cultural identification.

    Since I knew he was from a family of Holocaust survivors, I asked him what he thought of the mandate that all non-Christians would have to convert or die. Oscar said that if his relatives refused to become Christians or submit to forced exile, then they would suffer the civil penalty for practicing idolatry. He would carry out the execution himself if called upon to do so by the Christian state.

    Oscar was the first self-consciously Christian fascist I ever met, but he wasn't the last. Eventually, the movement, which was scorned by many leaders of the Religious Right for being "too crazy," went underground as its leaders died or fought among themselves.

    Today, two of the leading Republican presidential candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, reportedly have ties to the Dominionist movement. The press has got to get up to speed on the movement's ideas before either a President Bachmann or a President Perry are in a position to drag Jesus feet first out of heaven.
    It's time we stopped treating these nuts as just another religion.  They're not.  And what's worse, like the Mormons, and the religious right in general, they're trying to impose their religion on the rest of us by legislate fiat (or in the case of the Mormons, by creepily baptizing our dead against our will).

    Public Service Announcement


    It’s a record-breaking Congress

    It's really, really hard to get 84% of Americans to agree on anything. But, Boehner, Cantor and the teabaggers have managed it.

    From Gallup:
    Americans' evaluation of the job Congress is doing is the worst Gallup has ever measured, with 13% approving, tying the all-time low measured in December 2010. Disapproval of Congress is at 84%, a percentage point higher than last December's previous high rating.
    Congress approval full trend.gif
    These results are based on an Aug. 11-14 Gallup poll, which includes the first update on Congress' job approval rating since the government reached agreement on a deal to raise the debt ceiling after contentious and protracted negotiations between President Obama and congressional leaders. Standard & Poor's subsequently downgraded the United States' credit rating, in part citing the current political environment in Washington. That sparked a week of intense volatility in the stock market, with days of sharp losses and large gains.
    Great work! Now, this just has to translate into shifting control of the House back to the Democrats in 2012.

    Daily Comic Relief


    Ways to deal with bosses

    Try these ideas if you work for someone suspicious, aggressive, wishy-washy, or tough.  

    Mean People Make More Money

    Psst! Want to earn more money? The secret to earning more money in the workplace is ... to be mean.
    That's right: a new study found that agreeable workers earn significantly less than their meaner counterparts.
    The researchers examined "agreeableness" using self-reported survey data and found that men who measured below average on agreeableness earned about 18% more—or $9,772 more annually in their sample—than nicer guys. Ruder women, meanwhile, earned about 5% or $1,828 more than their agreeable counterparts.
    "Nice guys are getting the shaft," says study co-author Beth A. Livingston, an assistant professor of human resource studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

    A Good One

    I kinda want to default on our loans, just to see if China will repossess our wars.
    ~ Ron White

    And I Quote

    "People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off,   I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone -- not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 -- shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000.
    You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation," 

          ~  Warren Buffet,       

    Money Matters: $360M lost in Afghanistan

    Tax dollars disappear into a vast and corrupt network of warlords, contractors, and insurgents.

      Low Blow: 45K Striking Verizon Workers Lose Benefits

      Tens of thousands of striking workers from Verizon Communications will lose their medical benefits if they're still picketing at the end of the month, the telephone service provider said Wednesday.

      Where ATM fees are highest

      Steer clear of these machines, which charge up to $5.50 to withdraw cash. 

      S&P downgraded as market embraces US treasury notes

      A few people are looking a bit silly right now.

      Eleven days after lowering the credit rating on the U.S. for the first time, Standard & Poor’s is suffering a downgrade among global investors as American bonds are proving world beaters -- undermining S&P’s mathematical assumptions -- and prompting disbelief among political scientists months after the company upgraded China because of the stability fostered by Communist Party rule.

      Since S&P, the New York-based subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Cos., dropped the U.S. to AA+ from AAA on Aug. 5, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from home mortgages to car loans, has declined to as low as 2.03 percent from a high this year of 3.77 percent, with American debt on pace in August for the biggest monthly gain since December 2008. Interest rates on American bonds are lower today than on most of the countries with AAA ratings by S&P and the Treasury recently financed its outstanding debt at the lowest cost ever.

      If anything, the decision from S&P, the largest ratings provider, resulted in an upgrade of U.S. securities as the American bond market outperformed world bond indexes during the period since the downgrade by S&P. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, the two next biggest rating companies, affirmed their AAA rankings on the U.S.

      Money flubs of the experts

      A former CNBC host confesses that she once failed to file her taxes on time.  

      Social Security's big mistakes

      After one of the agency's goofs, Laura Brooks lost her disability checks and her rent payments bounced.

      Escape to reality



      There were two backwoods hillbillies living across the river from each other, who feuded constantly. Billy Bob hated Clarence with a passion and never passed up a chance to throw rocks across the river at Clarence. This went on for years until one day the Corps of Engineers came to build a bridge across that river. Billy Bob was elated; he told his wife that finally he was going to get the chance to cross over and whip Clarence.

      He left the house and returned in a matter of minutes. His wife asked what was wrong, didn't he intend to go over the bridge and whip Clarence? He replied that he never had really seen Clarence up close and didn't realize his size until he started over the bridge and saw the sign: "CLEARANCE 8 FT 3 IN"

      Surprising hacking dangers

      Computers and cell phones aren't the only things hackers can break into and exploit.  

        Missing For More Than 50 Years

        A Nuclear Bomb

        More than 50 years after a 7,600lb (3,500kg) nuclear bomb was dropped in US waters following a mid-air military collision, the question of whether the missing weapon still poses a threat remains. The bomb was carried by a US B-47 bomber when it collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane.

        Despite being damaged, the B-47 remained airborne and purposefully jettisoned the bomb into the water to reduce the aircraft weight and prevent the bomb exploding during the emergency landing. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was lost somewhere in Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island.

        The Addams Family

        Addams Family

        Student arrested in bomb plot

        An expelled 17-year-old intended to cause more casualties than Columbine, Tampa police say. 

        Billionaire's island project

        The project aims to create floating countries, free from laws, regulations, and moral codes.   

          Did style icon spy for Nazis?

          The French fashion icon worked for the enemy during World War II, a new book claims.



          Tobacco firms sue over labels

          From the "Who cares what the fucking tobacco companies think" Department:
          The firms say the graphic warnings violate the First Amendment and were unfairly manipulated.

          ‘Brain-eating amoeba’ kills 3

          A rare parasite that thrives in warm water leads to three deaths, including those of two children.

          Microscopic worlds revealed

          Photos taken through a microscope uncover rarely seen realms of plant and animal life.

          The Spicy History of Your Favorite Spices

          These days, getting a hold of your favorite spice is simply a matter of heading to the grocery store and buying a bottle. If you want a particularly rare variety, you might need to drive to a specialty grocer. But only a few centuries ago, spices were a much bigger deal. Trade routes were established simply for the sake of spices. Monopolies were established to protect the value of these culinary specialties. And wars were even fought for them. Next time you reach into your spice rack, remember a few of these saucy facts about some of the most common seasonings.


          Let’s kick things off with the world’s most expensive spice, the exotic saffron. This colorful spice is the stigma of a beautiful purple/blue flower. Interestingly, the autumn-blooming plant with three highly valuable stigmas per flower doesn’t even exist in nature. It’s speculated that the sterile flower is a descendant of the Mediterranean flower Crocus cartwrightianus. Whatever the true origins of the flower though, it was subjected to extensive artificial selection starting over 3000 years ago by growers seeking longer stigmas until the plant became sterile and was no longer the same species as its original source.
          If you’re wondering how they keep a species of sterile flowers alive, the process involves digging up the flower’s bulbs, breaking them up and then replanting them. Each plant can produce about ten blubs. This process, along with the relatively small bit of the flower actually used account for why saffron is so darn expensive. About forty hours of labor are required to pick 150,000 flowers and each pound of saffron requires between 50,000 and 75,000 flowers. That’s about one week’s worth of work to pick about a football field worth of flowers all for two pounds of saffron. Once in the market, the price per pound of saffron ranges from $500 to $5,000.
          These days, saffron is most commonly used in paellas, but throughout history, the spice has been used to treat illness, to dye clothing, to bathe in, and as a yummy seasoning, of course. Alexander the Great used saffron in his rice and in his bath to help treat his battle wounds. His troops followed suit and brought the practice back to Greece where saffron baths became all the rage.
          During the Black Plague, saffron was sold as a medicine to treat the illness. There was such a huge demand that when a shipment of the spice was stolen by noblemen, a fourteen-week long “Saffron War” broke out. The flower’s cultivation soon started spreading north and soon there were so many people selling counterfeit saffron in Nuremberg that the city issued a law that made it a crime punishable by death to sell adulterated saffron.
          As it turns out, the spice is highly useful as a medicine although its effectiveness against the plague is still questionable. Recent studies have found that it can help treat Alzheimer’s, depression, obesity, PMS, breast cancer, allergies and help prevent heart and eye problems.


          While you probably know vanilla comes from a bean, did you know that bean came from a beautiful orchid plant? Or that while we are now accustomed to “Tahitian vanilla” and “Madagascar vanilla,” the orchid is actually native to Mexico? In fact, even though vanilla was brought to Europe by Cortez in the 1520’s, it wasn’t until the 1840’s that a 12-year-old boy figured out a way to hand pollinate the flowers that previously could only reproduce with the help of Mexico’s native Melipona bee. Once little Edmond Albius figured out this process, the plant quickly started being grown commercially in tropical climates around the world. These days, Madagascar is the largest supplier of the bean, responsible for 58% of the total vanilla production. Despite the fact that it can be grown in tropical areas throughout the world, the process to grow the plants is so labor intensive that vanilla is still the second most expensive spice in the world.
          Long before Cortez arrived in the New World, the Totonacs of the Gulf Coast were the first people to cultivate vanilla. According to their folklore, the orchid was born when the Goddess Princess Xanat was forbidden to marry a mortal. She fled to the forest with her lover, but both of them were captured and beheaded. When the blood hit the ground, the vines of the orchid plant magically took root.


          The nutmeg tree is the only tropical tree that provides two different spices, nutmeg and mace. The tree is native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia, which is also where cloves come from. The first non-natives to discover the islands were Arab spice traders, who kept the location of the spice-bearing islands a secret. Eventually though, the Portuguese captured the natives and forced them to show them where the spices grew, but the Moluccans fought back, forcing the Portuguese to abandon the islands. In the meanwhile, the Dutch and English led a bloody battle over the island’s spices, one which the Dutch eventually won after massacring huge numbers of the area’s natives. During Napoleon’s reign, the English took over the islands and transplanted a few nutmeg trees into their other colonial properties, Grenada and Zanzibar, effectively destroying the Dutch monopoly.
          When the Dutch were in control, they would generally apply lime to the seeds they imported to Europe to prevent people from being able to grow their own spices and hurt their monopoly. At the time, all spices were called peppers and a pirate/horticulturalist named Pierre Poivre managed to raid a few of their stores hoping to get seeds to cultivate his own seasonings. Hence the origins of the Peter Piper rhyme.
          One of the compounds that gives nutmeg its particular taste is myristicin, which also happens to be a hallucinogen. While most of us limit our intake of the spice so we never feel its effects, it is banned from most prison kitchens because of its popularity among drug users who can’t get a hold of other substances. While the initial feeling has been compared to smoking marijuana, side effects include headaches, nausea, convulsions, hallucinations and really short trips. In fact, the side effects are so bad that even William Burroughs swore the stuff off after one use.


          Fennel is an incredibly useful plant. Its bulbs can be enjoyed as a vegetable, its leaves can provide a delicate flavor to a variety of foods and its seeds and pollen are used as an anise-flavored spice. The history of the plant goes back millennia and there are even a few different Greek myths related to it. In one myth, Prometheus used the stalk of the plant to steal fire from the gods. In another, the god Dionysus fashioned a self-pleasuring toy out of a fennel branch to satisfy himself after one of his lovers died before he was able to consummate the relationship.
          Strangely, this myth is still directly connected to the plant in Italy, where the word for it, finoccio, is also a derogatory term for homosexuals. The term has been used all the way back since the Italian Inquisition. Of course, the word “fennel” itself is hardly offensive, coming from the Latin word “fenum,” which means hay.


          Salt is one of the world’s oldest food preservatives and evidence even shows that Neolithic people were extracting salt from salt-laden spring water all the way back in 6050 B.C. Experts believe their salt extraction may have even had a direct correlation to the rapid population growth that occurred soon after the salt-removal process began. Back in Egyptian times, salt was used to preserve fish and birds, but it was also included in funeral offerings located inside their tombs.
          The word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium” which was used to describe the money paid to Roman soldiers towards their purchase of salt. The word “salad” also comes from the spice, and refers to the Roman practice of salting leafed vegetables.
          Poland was a massive empire in the 16th century due to their many salt mines, but their kingdom was soon destroyed when the Germans started manufacturing sea salt.  Venice and Genoa even fought wars over the mineral.
          More recently, Mahatma Gandhi led over 100,000 people in protest of the British rule against making their own salt from the sea, as it allowed people to avoid paying their salt tax. The civil disobedience made international headlines and inspired millions of people to protest the British rule of their country and fight for Indian independence.
          And you thought table salt was boring.


          Pepper is salt’s table-side cousin, but it hasn’t always been so closely related to the world’s most natural preservative. The spice is native to South Asia and has been used in Indian food since at least 2000 B.C. Peppercorns were found in the nostrils of Ramesses II in his tomb, used as part of the mummification rituals from around 1200 B.C.
          When trade routes connected India to the rest of the world, pepper was one of the most highly-valued spices, often referred to as “black gold” for the incredibly high prices it would fetch. In fact, in some areas, peppercorns were even used as a form of currency. In fact, the Dutch language still uses the term “peperduur” meaning “pepper expensive” in English, to describe something very expensive.
          The spice was so important to Europeans that it even changed the course of world history, being one of the spices that led the Portuguese efforts to discover a faster sea route to India during the age of discovery. So if you live in the Americas and you aren’t a descendant of the natives, you can thank pepper and the rest of the Indian spices for driving explorers to actually find your home.
          In more modern times, peppercorn is relatively inexpensive as far as spices go, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big market item. In fact, pepper is still the most widely traded spice in the world, accounting for around 20% of all spice imports.
          If you’ve ever wondered what the difference between black, green, red, white and pink peppercorns are, here’s the break down. Black pepper is produced from unripe fruit of the pepper plant, as is green pepper. Green peppers are treated in a way to preserve their color, such as freeze-drying or treatment with sulfur dioxide, but otherwise, they’re essentially the same as dried green peppercorns, which turn into black peppercorns. Red peppercorns are also preserved in the same way, but their fruits are already ripe. Green peppercorns are also some times preserved in brine and sold pickled for use in sauces. These peppercorns are considered spicier than the white peppercorns, which is made from the ripe seed of the pepper plant but without any of the fruit.
          As for pink peppercorns, they aren’t actually from the same family as real pepper plants. In fact, while true peppercorns grow on a vine, pink peppercorns grow on large trees. While you can still use them and they have a similar taste, they can cause nausea and diarrhea in those with weaker digestive systems.

          Chili Peppers

          Chili peppers are native to the Americas and have been part of the native’s diet since at least 7500 B.C. and it is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas that are actually self-pollinating. When they were brought to Europe, they were first grown solely as a novelty by Spanish and Portuguese monks, but when they started experimenting with the chilies’ culinary properties, they soon started using their homegrown peppers in place of black pepper, which was incredibly expensive at the time.
          If you’ve ever wondered what makes peppers burn your mouth, it’s because the capsaicinoids in the peppers bind to the pain receptors in your mouth that are responsible for sensing heat. The brain responds by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and releasing endorphins. The endorphin release is why some people become so obsessed with eating chilies.
          The heat of the peppers is measured with the Scoville heat units (SHU). This is measured by how much a chili extract has to be diluted in sugar syrup before the heat is undetectable to a panel of tasters. The baselines are bell peppers, which ranks at 0 SHU, and pure capsaicin, which measures at 16,000,000 SHU. Habaneros come in at 300,000 SHU and the Guinness  World Record holding pepper is the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper, which comes in at 1,463,700

          Sixteen Unassuming-but-Lethal Poison Plants

          While many types of plants contain levels of toxins for defense from insects and other predators, this list of plants are extremely lethal to humans. When foraging for plants to eat in the forest, be sure not to have any of these such as the “Angels Trumpet” on your menu.
          What could be sweeter than the sound of an angel’s trumpet? Perhaps the moaning agony of a trip that won’t end. Related to petunias, tomatoes and potatoes, the angel’s trumpet (datura stramonium) is a highly effective hallucinogen, but should not be consumed for recreational purposes as it can also be lethal. According to wikipedia: “The active ingredients are atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine which are classified as deliriants, or anticholinergics. Due to the elevated risk of overdose in uninformed users, many hospitalizations, and some deaths, are reported from recreational use.” This common plant also goes by many other names, including jimson weed, stink weed, loco weed, and devil’s snare. One 18-year-old who was house-sitting alone for his uncle recounts how he decided to prepare some angel’s trumpet tea in curiosity and almost died (a friend burst in on him convulsing on the bathroom floor and the authorities assumed he was on an acid trip).

          Sunflower Soars To 23ft And Heads For World Record

          It hasn't exactly been a blazing summer, but this sunflower doesn't seem to have noticed. It has shot up to a height of 23ft despite a distinct lack of the sunshine on which its species famously thrives. With no sign of it slowing down, the giant bloom could soon break the world record height for a sunflower of 26ft 4in.

          The sunflower towers over the back garden of Eve Fielding from Margate, Kent, UK, who expected it to grow no bigger than the 12ft her other efforts have tended to reach over the years. When it passed that mark and kept going the 48-year-old grandmother nicknamed it the Eiffel Flower.



          Twelve Incredible Snapshots of Animals Silhouetted Against the Sun

          Oh, now this is a great bunch of photographs, all a bit reminiscent of the opening shot in the Disney movie The Lion King. Great beasts in silhouette against a sunrise (or sunset, or in one case, the moon) would make great computer wallpaper. See a dozen of these at Environmental Graffiti.

          Capybara sighting causes stir

          The world's biggest rodent has mysteriously appeared three times in a California city.

          'Chupacabra' caught on video

          Locals discover an animal in the woods that seems to be part dog, part rat, part kangaroo, and part deer.

            Animal Pictures