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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.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Daily Drift

Someone finally paid at least part of the air conditioning bill because the 90F temps are gone for a week ... we hope. Nothing like late summer temps in early spring.

Today's readers have been in:

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuantan, Malaysia
Doha, Qatar
Skudai, Malaysia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tel Aviv, Israel
Klung, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Copenhagen, Denmark
Zurich, Switzerland
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Riga, Latvia
Warsaw, Poland
Dublin, Ireland
Istanbul, Turkey
Belgrade, Serbia
Vienna, Austria
Nyon, Switzerland
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Bern, Switzerland
Groningen, Ntherlands
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Taipei, Taiwan
Seremban, Malaysia
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cork, Ireland
Kuching, Malaysia
Tallinn, Estonia
Athens, Greece
Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Singapore, Singapore

Man allowed to keep interest from €200 million bank error

A German man whose bank mistakenly gave him €200 million has been told he can keep the €12,000 interest earned while it was “resting in his account” overnight. The man, named only as Michael H., sold shares last April for €20,000 – but his online bank, Comdirect, accidentally put €200 million into his account.

Michael H. swiftly transferred €10 million of it into his current account in a different bank. And although Comdirect successfully clawed back all the €200 million, it demanded €12,000 on top – 14.4 percent interest on the money he moved.

The district court in Itzehoe, Schleswig-Holstein, ruled on Thursday that Comdirect should repay the man the €12,000 – plus the interest it accrued over the last year. But the bank – which is owned by Commerzbank – is going to appeal. “People who want to use money that does not belong to them generally have to pay interest," a bank spokesman said.

“That is the same for everyone. We only implemented normal procedures – it was nothing more than correct protocol.” Michael H. admitted it was fun to be a multimillionaire for a moment, but now regrets moving the money. “It would have been better if I had done nothing.”

Sage Wisdom

Romney falsely claiming the shrub had better job growth than Obama

As Paul Krugman notes in the NYT, Romney is promising 500,000 jobs a month by returning us to the economic policies of the "wonderful" Bush years.
While everyone, including president Obama, would like to see the current jobs growth numbers be better, the numbers are still looking good compared to the shrub's average numbers.  So how is Romney going to do better than Obama by returning us to the shrub?

As Business Insider shows, even excluding the disastrous final year, the shrub only generated an average of 65,000 jobs per month - compared to 131,000 per month under Obama. If you count everything, the number was an anemic 20,000.

Let Romney and the repugicans talk lovingly about the good old days of jobs growth during the shrub years, and then give them the facts. Immediately after, give them a glass of water so they can swallow it all since the truth might get stuck in their throats.

I wonder ...

... if Romney's finances were vetted, would his pinstripes turn into an orange jumpsuit?

How to piss of a repugican

Neo-Nazis win 6 percent of Greek vote, will have 19 deputies in Parliament

I don't care how bad things are with immigration or any other issue, you don't vote for neo-Nazis, especially when you're a country that was occupied by the Nazis.  AFT:
Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn warned rivals and reformers Sunday that "the time for fear has come" after exit polls showed them securing their entry in parliament for the first time in nearly 40 years.

"The time for fear has come for those who betrayed this homeland," Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos told a news conference at an Athens hotel, flanked by menacing shaven-headed young men.

"We are coming," the 55-year-old said as supporters threw firecrackers outside.

The Frequent Fliers Who Flew Too Much

Think about how much you paid for your last airline flight. Then imagine how much an unlimited-use lifetime first-class airline pass would be worth -one in which you could take a companion of your choice on each flight. American introduced the AAirpass in 1981 for $250,000. The price later went up, and the companion pass was extra, but it was always worth more to those who flew a lot. Steven Rothstein and Jacques Vroom each bought passes early in the program and flew everywhere -all the time.
In the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” the loyal American business traveler played by George Clooney was showered with attention after attaining 10 million frequent flier miles.
Rothstein and Vroom were not impressed.
“I can’t even remember when I cracked 10 million,” said Vroom, 67, a big, amiable Texan, who at last count had logged nearly four times as many. Rothstein, 61, has notched more than 30 million miles.
But all the miles they and 64 other unlimited AAirpass holders racked up went far beyond what American had expected. As its finances began deteriorating a few years ago, the carrier took a hard look at the AAirpass program.
Heavy users, including Vroom and Rothstein, were costing it millions of dollars in revenue, the airline concluded.
This is clearly a case of launching a promotion without crunching the numbers, or thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” American Airlines investigated both Vroom and Rothstein for fraudulent use of their passes. After raising the price of the unlimited passes to $3 million (with an extra $2 million for a companion pass), no more were sold. The airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last November.

Random Celebrity Photo

Can you guess who?

R.I.P. Goober

Actor and comedian George Lindsey, best known for playing the character Goober Pyle on television, died Sunday in Nashville. He had been ill since suffering a stroke in March.
He introduced the character of Goober — the quintessential grinning hayseed, equal parts annoying and endearing — on “The Andy Griffith Show,” the long-running situation comedy set in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry. When Jim Nabors’s character, the similarly likable but na├»ve Gomer Pyle, was given his own series in 1964, Mr. Lindsey joined the Griffith show as Goober Pyle, Gomer’s cousin.
The character Goober made guest appearances on Gomer Pyle, USMC, was also part of the TV series Mayberry RFD, and was a regular on the variety show Hee Haw for twenty years. Lindsey was 83.

Airport Cheerleaders

To lessen the stress of modern air travel, China's Dalian International Airport decided to enlist the help of ... cheerleaders!
To entertain waiting passengers, Dalian International Airport recently recruited a squad of cheerleaders to perform kicks, jumps and splits in the airport's main hall.
During massive fog-related delays in Dalian last week, the cheerleaders' pom-pom routines "soothed emotion and alleviated fatigue" for more than 5,000 stranded fliers, according to the Dalian Evening News.

Advertising Arms Race in Beijing Food Court

Photo: Anja Hitzenberger
If a little advertisement is good for business, then A LOT of it should be fantastic, right? During her two-month residency in Beijing, China, photographer Anja Hitzenberger captured the intense competition between stalls in a food court:
This series, shot in a temporary food court set up inside Beijing’s Olympic Park, reveals a visually and viscerally overloaded fast-food culture that may make some mouths water and other bellies ache. Hitzenberger concentrates on the saturated visual displays of the food stalls and the way the environment contrasts with the boredom of the workers, offering an insight into some of the contradictions in contemporary Chinese culture.
This is what happened when you have an arms race in advertising folks!

IV drips for cramming high school students in China

Photos posted on China's Sina Weibo microblogging platform reportedly depict a Hubei province high school classroom where student are cramming for exams while hooked up to IV drips of amino acids. I hope the drips are equipped with a button for as-needed amphetamine boosts. From Ministry of Tofu:
 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 05 Iv-Drip2-1 “(According to Mr. Xia, director of Office of Academic Affairs,) the state grants a 10-yuan subsidy for amino acids to each graduating senior that will participate in the gao kao (National College Entrance Exam). Any student that feels not well can go to the infirmary and take amino acids on the IV drip,” Mr. Xia explained. He said that some students had been below par recently due to the sudden weather changes in the city of Xiaogan, and the school infirmary had been packed with students. In order to spare students the trouble of running back and forth between the infirmary and the classroom and save their time, the school decided to arrange IV drip sessions right in the classroom.

The Truth be told

Most People Are Actually Below Average

Reach back into the deep recesses of your mind and recall the bell curve from that statistics class.
That Gaussian distribution is what most people think when they measure human performance (be it a school test or athletic performance). The bell curve posits that most of us are average, with a few extremely good and a few extremely bad people.
It turns out, however, that is wrong: most of us are actually well below average:
The bell curve powerfully shapes how we think of human performance: If lots of students or employees happen to show up as extreme outliers — they're either very good or very bad — we assume they must represent a skewed sample, because only a few people in a truly random sample are supposed to be outliers.
New research suggests, however, that rather than describe how humans perform, the bell curve may actually be constraining how people perform. Minus such constraints, a new paper argues, lots of people are actually outliers.
Human performance, by this account, does not often fit the bell curve or what scientists call a normal distribution. Rather, it is more likely to fit what scientists call a power distribution.
NPR's Morning Edition explains here.

Your Brain Knows The Difference Between Metaphors and Similes, Even if You Don’t

Much to the chagrin of my high school English teacher, my classmates and I always got our metaphors and similes mixed up.
But take heart, Mrs. Potter! It turns out that our brains did understand that there are differences between the two:
Midori Shibata and colleagues at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, asked 24 men and women to indicate, while in an functional MRI scanner, whether they could understand a series of metaphors or similes.
In keeping with previous fMRI research, participants' brains were active in the left inferior frontal gyrus. But Shibata's team also found that, when processing similes, there was an increase in activity in the medial frontal region, which may be linked to processes of inference. The right inferior frontal gyrus was more active for metaphors.

What Really Happens When You Swallow Your Gum?

You've heard the warnings: If you swallow gum, it will stay in your digestive system for nearly a decade. Which would mean there's a decent chance you've got some hanging out in your gut right now.

If you look at its ingredients - a delicious mix of indigestible compounds - it certainly seems possible. And if you look at the medical books, swallowed gum has caused some serious problems. Is it possible that your mom's crazy warnings were right?

The Physics of Spilled Coffee

Scientists are concerned about spilled coffee, because long hours of research require coffee, and a spill can ruin your train of thought, if not your valuable notes. Mechanical engineer Rouslan Krechetnikov of the the University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduate student Hans Mayer did some experiments after noticing coffee being sloshed at a fluid dynamics conference (of all places).
Back at the lab, Krechetnikov and Mayer set up an experiment: They asked a person to walk at different speeds along a straight path with a filled coffee mug in hand. The volunteer did this in one of two ways-either focusing on the coffee mug, or looking straight ahead. A camera recorded the person’s motion and the mug’s trajectory, while a tiny sensor on the mug recorded the instant of spillage.
A fluid’s back-and-forth movement has a certain natural frequency, and this is determined by the size of its container. In their paper published last week in Physical Review E, Krechetnikov and Mayer show that everyday mug sizes produce natural frequencies that just happen to match those of a person’s leg movements during walking. This means that walking alone, without any other interference, is tuned to drive coffee to oscillate in a mug. But the researchers also found that even small irregularities in a person’s walking are important: These amplify the wilder oscillations, or sloshing, which bumps up the chance of a spillage.
“This is a very cool study,” says Lei Ren, a specialist in the biomechanics of walking at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. “It reveals the sophisticated interplay between human body dynamics and the fluid mechanics of spilling coffee.”
Their advice? Don’t walk too fast while carrying coffee, don’t fill the cup to the brim, and watch what you’re doing. 

Awesome Pictures

Goodwill receives 1000 year old pottery, gives it back to Caddo tribe

I like hearing about cool discoveries at the Goodwill. What makes this story better is that the local Goodwill did the right thing and donated it back to the Caddo Indian Nation.

More on this story via the Buffalo News:
The piece of pottery that turned up last month in the warehouse of Goodwill Industries of Western New York might be described as "primitive."

Roughly 7 1/2 inches tall, the vessel features a fluted opening and wartlike protrusions.

But it arrived with a note inside suggesting that its provenance may be prehistoric.

"Found in a burial mound near Spiro Oklahoma in 1970," said the note written in pencil on a faded strip of lined paper.

The History of Scurvy

The word scurvy may make you think of pirates and sailors on long sea voyages, but “land scurvy” affected many European Crusaders who spent months trudging through the Middle East. In 1747, Scottish physician James Lind found that oranges and lemons could cure scurvy, but that didn’t help all sailors.
The British establishment grasped onto the concept of citrus, and then did it really really wrong. First, they substituted cheap and easy to get limes – readily available from British holdings in the Caribbean – for the more effective lemons or oranges. Then they further boiled the limes in copper vessels, which had the non-helpful side effect of reducing the (thus far unknown) Vitamin C content even further.
People began to suspect that maybe this whole citrus thing was not as effective as it had been claimed. Of course by then steam engines in ships brought the age of sail and voyages of longer than 6 weeks to an end. Semi-success-via-roundabout-ways!

A Famous Stolen Car

Ruth and Jesse Warren of Topeka, Kansas, bought a 1934 Ford Fordor Deluxe Sedan. They hadn’t owned it very long when on April 29th, 1934, Ruth noticed the car was missing. A month later the Warrens were informed the car was in Louisiana, with 160 bullet holes in it after Texas lawmen shot and killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The Warrens had to go to federal court to take back possession of their car, as the sheriff wanted to keep it for his trouble. Even then, they had to pay a $70 storage fee! The Warren car became more famous every year after that, as people flocked to see a part of history. You can follow its story through lots of links to tons of pages full of photographs and newspaper clippings.

Daily Funny

There were two guys on a motorcycle driving down the road. The driver was wearing a leather jacket that didn't have a zipper or any buttons.

Finally he stopped the bike and told the other guy,"I can't drive anymore with the air hitting me in my chest." After thinking for a while he decided to put the coat on backwards to block the air from hitting him. So they were driving down the road and they came around this curb and wrecked.

The farmer that lived nearby called the police and told them what happened. The police asked him, "Are either of them showing any life signs?"

The farmer said, "Well, that first one was 'til I turned his head around the right way." 

Turtle with boy's initials carved on its shell found by his father 47 years later in same backyard

It was 1965 when a boy in Washington County carved his initials in a turtle’s shell and then let it go. Now, 47 years later, the turtle is still alive and has been found by the boy’s dad.

Holland Cokeley, 85, of South Strabane, Washington County, was walking in the woods of his backyard with his neighbor dog, Zack. Zack began poking around at something and Cokeley realized it was a turtle. He didn’t think much of it, until he gave it a closer look.

“I picked it up, and I thought ‘Oh geez, this is Jeff’s turtle!’” said Cokeley. “It’s been here for 47 years, and it still has the same the same markings on it!” Jeff was 13-years-old in 1965 when he carved “JC” and “1965″ on the turtle’s bottom shell and then released it back into the wild.

Jeff Cokeley now lives in New York State, but began laughing when his dad sent him pictures of the turtle. Experts say under the right conditions in the wild, eastern box turtles can live up to a hundred years. Holland Cokeley kept it for a couple days and then released it, so it can wander for perhaps many more years.

Cladonota Inflatus

Treehoppers are real creatures. 
Whether you believe it or not.

Assassin Bug Carries the Exoskeletons of Its Victims on Its Back

Photo: rizalis/Flickr
Meet the world's most gruesome killer. The assassin bug proudly displays the exoskeleton of its kills (after it sucked out the innards as dinner) on its back! But there's logic to that macabre madness:
... the assassin bug’s width means it can pile them high, creating a mound of over twenty ‘shells’. The exoskeleton of ants is made of chitin, a particularly sturdy substance which can provide cover for the assassin bug for weeks.
The heap is stuck together by a sticky secretion. As it is usually larger than the bug itself, should another insect decide that the assassin would be good for its next meal it serves as a readymade getaway plan. The attacker goes for the larger part (the hollow exoskeletons) which are then simply shed, allowing the assassin bug to beat a hasty retreat.

Meet Claude the Tasmanian Giant Crab

Meet Claude the Tasmanian giant crab, who was saved from boiling death when a British aquarium bought him:
Catch of the day: Held up by Sealife aquarist Jemma Battric, Claude weighs a mighty 15lbs and measures 15 inches wide - when he is fully grown he will weigh a whopping 30lbs and gain an extra three inches [...]
He is the biggest crab on display in the UK and weighs a mighty 15lb with a 15-inch shell – enough to make 160 crab cakes.

Guide Dog for a Blind Dog

A guide dog is not news, but a guide dog for a dog? Now that's neat! Here's a heartwarming story of a blind dog and its guide dog:
It was a rough life for Tanner, a blind Golden Retriever suffering from epilepsy — until he found a four-legged friend to be his eyes.
Blair, a 1-year-old Black Labrador with a troubled past, grabs hold of Tanner’s leash and leads him around the Tulsa, Okla. animal hospital they call home, staff there told the Daily News on Monday.
“They go out every time,” said Karen Miller, Woodland West Animal Hospital’s practice manager. “It’s amazing to see them together.”

Meet the sarcastic fringehead

"...a ferocious fish which has a large mouth and aggressive territorial behavior. They can be up to 30 centimeters (12 in) wide and are mostly scaleless with great pectoral fins and reduced pelvic fins. With highly compressed bodies, some may be so widened as to appear eel-like. They tend to hide inside shells or crevices. After the female spawns under a rock or in clam burrows the male guards the eggs. They are found in the Pacific, off the coast of North America, from San Francisco, California, to central Baja California and their depth range is from 3 to 73 meters (9.8 to 240 ft)."
Now that's a name (scientifically, its Neoclinus Blanchardi). 

Animal Pictures