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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, May 11, 2012

The Daily Drift

It's Friday by the way.

Today's readers have been in:

Groningen, Netherlands
Singapore, Singapore
Zurich, Switzerland
Puchong, Malaysia
Dublin, Ireland
Brussels, Belgium
Bern, Switzerland
Cork. Ireland
Antwerp, Belgium
Kuantan, Malaysia
Limerick, Ireland
Amersfoort, Ntherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cairo, Egypt
Kiev, Ukraine
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Sedang, Malaysia
Vantaa, Finland
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Mosow, Russia
Lagos, Nigeria
Bangkok, Thailand
Lahore, Pakistan
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Oslo, Norway

Today in History

1573 Henry of Anjou becomes the first elected king of Poland.
1689 French and English navies battle at Bantry Bay.
1690 In the first major engagement of King William's War, British troops from Massachusetts seize Port Royal in Acadia (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) from the French.
1745 French forces defeat an Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian army at Fontenoy.
1792 The Columbia River is discovered by Captain Robert Gray.
1812 British prime Minster Spencer Perceval is shot by a bankrupt banker in the lobby of the House of Commons.
1857 Indian mutineers seize Delhi.
1858 Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.
1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi lands at Marsala, Sicily.
1862 Confederates scuttle the CSS Virginia off Norfolk, Virginia.
1864 Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart is mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern.
1960 Israeli soldiers capture Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires.
1967 The siege of Khe Sanh ends, the base is still in American hands.

Georgia Justice?

Dekalb County Police: it's within policy for our officers to kick pregnant women in the stomach
 When Dekalb County, Ga., police officer Jerad Wheeler tased her brother, Raven Dozie started crying and demanding to know why. Wheeler kicked the heavily-pregnant woman in the stomach. While he is now under criminal investigation, his superiors on the force squelched an internal affairs complaint and explicitly approve of his conduct.
"What kind of a human being kicks a pregnant woman? I mean, forget whether or not it is a police officer that is supposedly protecting people," Dozier's attorney Mark Bullman said. Dozier filed a complaint with the DeKalb police department's internal affairs unit, but it was never investigated. Instead, four supervisors and an internal affairs detective signed off that Wheeler's use of force met policy. ... Fleischer filed an open records request and found two more use-of-force complaints against Wheeler within the last nine months. In all three cases, the victims were not the focus of the original police incident.
Wheeler was accused of twisting a 53 year-old woman's arm in 2011. This January, he shot a family's chained dog after showing up at the wrong home on a call. A

Dekalb County officers charged after beating cuffed teens 

Law enforcement in Dekalb County, Georgia, is not finished with you today, citizen. Greg Bluestein with the AP:
Three DeKalb County police officers were charged Thursday with beating four handcuffed teenagers, three of whom were juveniles at the time, in an investigation that prosecutors say could be part of a broader pattern of abuse.
You think? The charges come days after prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into another Dekalb County officer who kicked a pregnant woman in the stomach, pushed a woman into a cruiser by her face, and shot a chained-up dog.

Egypt sees Arab world's first presidential debate

Two election front-runners, a former foreign minister and a moderate Islamist, squared off Thursday in the Arab world's first ever presidential debate, trading barbs over the role of religion and how to bring democratic reform to Egypt.

Social issues may not turn election but will influence voters

In an election year that some pundits have predicted will be focused on jobs and the economy, social issues like same-sex marriage have stolen the spotlight a surprising number of times.

When to give in to top employees

Stop the Mutiny! 
Keep Employees from Quitting 

By Cindy Perman

With the crush of layoffs during the recession, it was easy to play the old "you're lucky to have a job" card. Now, as the economy starts to sputter back, you're going to have to come up with some new material - or you're going to have a mutiny on your hands.

No boss wants to see this flying in front of company headquarters when they drive into work in the morning, amiright?No boss wants to see this flying in front of company headquarters when they drive into … The employees left standing have been overworked for several years now, carrying the weight of both their job and the employees that were laid off, leaving the current workforce with a serious case of fatigue.

When times are tough or companies are going through big changes, they rely the most on their top employees. These "recession work-horses" are some of the employees that are most fatigued right now, said Mark Vaughn, a senior partner at Navint Partners, a management-consulting firm that works with a lot of financial firms.

"Every company relies on their top 20 percent," Vaughn said. "And the best [employees] are always at the most risk of leaving - certainly in good times, but even in bad times like this," he said. "Some people I've talked to have just checked out - they don't feel like they can be rewarded in the way they should be for the work they do," he added.

Companies are gradually starting to hire again - April was the 19th straight months jobs were added to the economy - but few are feeling comfortable enough to start throwing money around for mass hiring or big bonuses for current employees. Just when we start feeling comfortable, another European country falters or gas prices race toward $4 a gallon.

So how do you keep your top employees from jumping ship without putting more money on the table?
"The challenge is for companies to come up with nonmonetary ways of motivating employees that doesn't impact the bottom line," Vaughn said.

Yeah, how's your cube, buddy? Guess where I'm calling from?Yeah, how's your cube, buddy? Guess where I'm calling from? He said one key thing - that doesn't cost anything - is offering flexible work hours to your best employees who have been working hard through the recession. Maybe that means working later hours, earlier hours - or working from home sometimes.

"I know I love taking my kids to school - it reminds me why I work," Vaughn said.

Another easy thing is to reimburse them for charitable donations. Chances are, there's already a line in the company's budget for charitable donations - why not let your employees decide where that money goes? Plus, getting reimbursed feels like cash in hand - even when it's not.

Sing their praises!

A little compliment goes a long way. If you increase a top employee's profile in the company - communicate their achievements to management and have them interact with higher levels of management, it gives them a sense of appreciation that's likely to foster more loyalty, even if they get offered another job.

Also: just give them the title they want, already! If you give an employee a better title - even without the monetary compensation - it's going to make them feel more valued.

Give them more work!

"I know that seems counterintuitive," Vaughn said. "But give your employees more responsibilities and more autonomy in their day-to-day activity. People tend to prosper in that type of situation."

Trim the fat!

Top performers the world over will appreciate this one.

"Companies need to continue getting rid of low performers," Vaughn said. "There's nothing more demotivating to high performers, or the recession work-horse, than working side-by-side with a low performer," he said.

"Your best people understand the value of performance. If you demonstrate that the company values performance, it will absolutely help you retain the best employees," Vaughn said.

Most importantly: find out what they want!

If you offer them a banana and they're allergic to bananas, that's a FAIL.

"Do something in the budget that's important to them. That goes a long way. Build a culture that people want to work in," Vaughn said.

Vaughn said at Navint, they went with ice cream, putting ice-cream machines on every other floor.
"People absolutely love it!" he said.

Who knew? All it took to keep your employees from raising the jolly roger pirate flag in front of corporate headquarters was ice cream!



Blue States offer best economic mobility

It's almost as though the Red States prefer keeping their population uneducated and in their (economic) place. For all of the griping about "northeast pinko socialist liberals" or whatever other silly remarks the repugicans churns out, it's hard to argue against the real world trend of economic mobility there.
Red State socialists and Blue State capitalists. If you want real opportunity to succeed move to the northeast and prosper. If you prefer being stagnant and going nowhere, stick to repugican land. Teabag this, repugicans.
Reaching for the American dream? Your best chances are probably in New York, New Jersey or Maryland.

Those states are best at helping Americans move up the income ladder, both in absolute terms and relative to their peers, according to a groundbreaking new study from the Economic Mobility Project at the Pew Center on the States.

Generally speaking, states in New England and the mid-Atlantic had the most upwardly mobile residents, whereas states in the South had the least mobile populations.

Daily Video

Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin

Up next on TV: The weather with Prince Charles

If this king thing doesn't work out, Prince Charles may be able to fall back on a budding career as a weather man.

Prince Charles, Weatherman

And he ain't bad, either:
Against a backdrop of the BBC's weather map, Prince Charles delivered a specially written script which included references to royal residences in Scotland.
Looking directly into the camera, he said: "The best of the bright and dry weather will of course be in the northern isles and the far north of the mainland. So, a little hazy sunshine for the Castle of Mey in Caithness.
"But a cold day everywhere with temperatures of just 8C and a brisk northerly wind. Thank God it isn't a bank holiday."
View the clip over at the BBC: here

How to Shop the Farmer’s Market

By Sayward Rebhal

Can you hear that? It's the sound of the world waking up. It's the sound of springtime, and boy howdy friends, does it sound fantastic. Spring is all about curbside daffodils, warm and friendly drizzling rain on the concrete, birdsong and baby squirrels, opening windows and airing out the winter musties. Spring is such a hopeful time of year!

And perhaps my very favorite sign of the changing season, is the start of the Farmer's Market. Spring means fresh food again: the tender greens and the precious asparagus, lazily leading into strawberry season ... which means all-the-other-berries season is right around the corner. Before you know it, there will be heirloom tomatoes and juicy peaches, and just when you're starting to feel overheated, the weather will shift again and the greens will return for their second showing. That will mean the glorious gourd days are right around the corner, with butternuts, acorns, and kabocha. Pumpkins everywhere, slowly dwindling down each week, until there's nothing left on the market tables but a few potatoes and artisanal food products like jam, honey and breads. If you are lucky enough to live nearby it, the Red Rock Springs Farmer's Market, which was started by a Phoenix electrician, sells artisanal hot sauce and salsa. And so it comes full circle.
Are you excited yet? Market season is upon us, so I'm sharing my best tips for making the most of your experience. In no particular order:

1. Buy in season and save.
It's always cheaper (and tastier) to buy food at the peak of it's season. For example right now, in May, I can get organic tomatoes at the supermarket for double (or more) what I'll pay at the Farmer's Market in August. The problem, of course, is that we don't just want to eat tomatoes in August! We want them year-round, and so we must learn to preserve them (and everything else along with them).
You can preserve by freezing (wash and chop first!), canning, fermenting, and drying/dehydrating. Different techniques lend themselves best to different foods. There's tons of tutorials all over the internet, so get your Google on and have fun with it!

2. Learn what you should skip, and what's considered a score.
There are some things that will always be cheaper at the supermarket, and if you're trying to save money, it helps to know what they are. For example in my neck of the woods, I can get a bag of organic carrots at Trader Joe's for 0.79 cents, year-round. But it doesn't matter what month it is or how much overstock they've got - I'm never going to find a price that low at the Farmer's Market.
Conversely, organic cilantro at Trader Joe's is $1.99 for a tiny package. But for most of the season, I can get cilantro at my Farmer's Market for $1.50 per big bundle. It's a steal and I snap some up every single week. So pay attention to those sorts of comparisons, and you'll learn which foods you should seize, and which you should skip.

3. Don't get over-zealous.
I'm so guilty! A few times in my early market days, I became too excited, too inspired, and went home with way too much food. Such a tragedy when it goes to waste. Don't get carried away!

4. Be a bargain hunter - not all stalls are equal.
Farmers are people, and people have different priorities. Some will put out pristine specimens and price them higher; others will throw out the bruised the battered veggies for a fraction of the cost. Make at least one complete pass around the market prior to purchasing anything. This way you'll know exactly what you're working with. Farmer's Market is an experience, so enjoy it and take your time.

5. Ask questions.
Farmers are mostly happy to engage, and it helps if you know which questions to ask. For example, we all want organic produce, but official organic certification is expensive, and many farms just skip it. They won't be able to say, "Yes it's organic", even if they follow all the same protocols. So instead of opening with, "Is it organic?" try asking, "Do you spray?" This is a better lead-in for them to let you know where they're coming from.

As well, don't be afraid to ask for advice. If you see something that looks super interesting, or that's a real bargain, but you don't have any idea how to prepare it, just ask the farmer. Recipe for rutabaga? I bet they have one! How to prep fava beans? They've probably got a few tips! Remember, nobody knows the food better than the people who grow it themselves.

6. Time your trip to suit your needs.
It all depends on what you want to get out of the market. For the very best selection, go first thing in the morning. You'll get food that was in the ground mere hours ago, and you'll get first choice on everything. But for the best social experience, go mid-morning through lunchtime. That's when there will be families and food vendors, jugglers and musicians, kiddies running around on the grass and the very best people watching. Finally, for rock-bottom prices, show up just before closing. Farmers would rather get rid of stuff at reduced prices than haul it all the way back home. The selection will be poor, but you can't beat the bargains.
So are you ready to hit the ground running? Don't forget your cash and your cloth bag. Happy shopping!

Does Drinking Water Make You Smarter?

Plus 6 Benefits of Staying Hydrated
 Does Drinking Water Make You Smarter? Plus 6 Benefits of Staying Hydrated 
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine

Water accounts for 60 percent of our body (or about 11 gallons or 92 pounds inside a 155-pound person) and is essential to every cell. So it's not to surprising that new research-reported on at the recent British Psychological Society Annual Conference in London-found that college students who brought water with them into an exam scored higher marks than their counterparts who didn't have water.

Unfortunately, the researchers didn't look into whether the students actually drank the water. Nor did they investigate the reasons behind the study findings. But the researchers hypothesized that drinking water could improve students' thinking and/or help students stay calm and quell their anxiety-both of which could hinder their test performance.

Their thinking makes sense to me: other research has suggested that staying hydrated keeps your memory sharp, your mood stable and your motivation intact. You can also think through a problem more easily.
Staying hydrated doesn't just impact your brain, though. Here's how water benefits your body's health, as previously reported in EatingWell Magazine.

Water Benefit #1: Prevents dry mouth
Water keeps your throat and lips moist and prevents your mouth from feeling dry. Dry mouth can cause bad breath and/or an unpleasant taste-and can even promote cavities.

Water Benefit #2: Promotes cardiovascular health
Dehydration lowers your blood volume, so your heart must work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood and get enough oxygen to your cells, which makes everyday activities like walking up stairs-as well as exercise-more difficult.

Water Benefit #3: Keeps your body cool
Your body releases heat by expanding blood vessels close to the skin's surface (this is why your face gets red during exercise), resulting in more blood flow and more heat dissipated into the air. When you're dehydrated, however, it takes a higher environmental temperature to trigger blood vessels to widen, so you stay hotter.

Water Benefit #4: Muscles and joints work better
When you're well hydrated, the water inside and outside the cells of contracting muscles provides adequate nutrients and removes waste efficiently so you perform better. Water is also important for lubricating joints. Contrary to popular belief, muscle cramps do not appear to be related to dehydration, but, instead, to muscle fatigue, according to Sam Cheuvront, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist.

Water Benefit #5: Keeps skin supple
When a person is severely dehydrated, skin is less elastic. This is different than dry skin, which is usually the result of soap, hot water and exposure to dry air. And, no, unfortunately, drinking lots of water won't prevent wrinkles.

Water Benefit #6: Cleanses toxins from your body
Your kidneys need water to filter waste from the blood and excrete it in urine. Keeping hydrated may also help prevent urinary tract infections and kidney stones. If you are severely dehydrated, your kidneys may stop working, causing toxins to build up in your body.

How much water do you drink every day?
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley Wright Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.


The Bacon Gene

According to a recent study, pork appreciation could be genetic. Though the finding remains speculative, the correlation of such a ...

Random Photos

"Game over for climate change"

A chilling op ed in the NYT from the head of NASA Goddard.
If [tar sands] Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

Good News: The Mayan Doomsday is Delayed

Photo: Tyrone Turner/National Geographic
Did you just put a down payment on that luxury missile silo condo to spend the Apocalypse in comfort? See if you can get your money back as archaeologist William Saturno has discovered a mural in a Mayan ruin that contradicted the Maya Doomsday of December 21, 2012:
Working with epigrapher David Stuart and archaeologist and artist Heather Hurst, the researchers noticed several barely visible hieroglyphic texts, painted and etched along the east and north walls of the room.
One is a lunar table, and the other is a "ring number"—something previously known only from much later Maya books, where it was used as part of a backward calculation in establishing a base date for planetary cycles. Nearby is a sequence of numbered intervals corresponding to key calendrical and planetary cycles.
The calculations include dates some 7,000 years in the future, adding to evidence against the idea that the Maya thought the world would end in 2012—a modern myth inspired by an ancient calendar that depicts time starting over this year.
And still more:

Oldest Mayan calendar unearthedWorking in the Xultun find

Archaeologists report a striking find in Guatemala of the first Mayan art on a wall, as well as the oldest known Mayan calendar.

Scientific Conversions

1.    Ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter = Eskimo  Pi  

2.    2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton  

3.    1  millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope  

4.    Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1  bananosecond  

5.    Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram  

6.    Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour =  Knotfurlong  

7.    16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Sterling  

8.    Half of a large intestine = 1 semicolon  

9.    1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz  

10.  Basic unit of laryngitis = 1 hoarsepower  

11.  Shortest distance between two jokes = A straight line  

12.  453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake  

13.  1 million-million microphones = 1 megaphone 

14.  2 million bicycles = 2 megacycles  

15.  365.25 days = 1 unicycle  

16.  2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds  

17.  52 cards = 1 decacards  

18.  1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 FigNewton

Free-floating planets in the Milky Way outnumber stars by factors of thousands

A few hundred thousand billion free-floating life-bearing Earth-sized planets may exist in the space between stars in the Milky Way.

Exoplanets: Home Planet of Aliens?

If there is alien life, then they'd live in an exoplanet like these four that scientists have found. Visual.ly has the scoop of the four candidates in this nifty little infographic: here.

Researchers Develop Wi-Fi Blocking Wallpaper

Are your neighbors tired of you stealing their unsecured wi-fi? Here’s an expensive alternative to providing password protection. The Grenoble Institut Polytechnique and its research partners have developed wallpaper that blocks wi-fi transmissions:
The wallpaper can block Wi-Fi signals in the 2.45 – 5.5 GHz range, while simultaneously allowing television, FM radio, and mobile phone signals to pass through its surface. Metapaper can be applied to a variety of surfaces including concrete, brick and plaster, and won’t be affected by decorative additions such as a layer of common house paint. No announcement has been made as to when this product might reach the U.S. market.
So far, the wallpaper costs $800 for 10 square feet.

Building a "scientific ghost town" to test technology

As reported by Boston.com:
A $1 billion city without residents will be developed in Lea County near Hobbs, officials said Tuesday, to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets.
Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said the unique research facility that looks like an empty city will be a key for diversifying the economy of the nearby community, which after the oil bust of the 1980s saw bumper stickers asking the last person to leave to turn out the lights...

Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings, said the town will be modeled after the real city of Rock Hill, S.C., complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No one will live there, although they could as houses will include all the necessities, like appliances and plumbing.
The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. For instance, while some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.

Hot Rod

Hot Rod by Well Oiled Machines on Flickr.

The 13 Loneliest Outhouses on Earth

When you’re looking for an outhouse, they shouldn’t be this hard to find. I understand you want them located away from the main house, but these are far away from anything! However, the locations were probably selected for the incredible views, which make a photo gallery of outhouses something work looking through. 

Carnivorous Plant Has Bodyguard Ants

The carnivorous pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata isn't that terrifying of a deathtrap: its pitcher leaf isn't slippery and it doesn't have the corrosive slime that kill its victims quickly.
But it does have something that makes up for all those weaknesses: vicious bodyguard ants!
The carnivorous plant has swollen tendrils at the base of each pitcher that serve as homes for the insects, and a food source in the form of nectar secreted on the pitcher rims.
In return, the ants apparently provide a host of services for the pitcher plants. They clean the pitcher mouth to keep it slippery enough to help catch prey. They attack weevils that would otherwise munch on the plant. They cart off the remains of large prey from the pitchers that would otherwise rot. They lie in ambush under pitcher rims and systematically attack any of the plant's prey that attempt to escape the traps. And their droppings fertilize the plants.

Awesome Pictures

Whales and Mermaids

Model Wears Mermaid Tail and Swims with Whales to Raise Awareness for Marine Conservation

36 years old Australian model Hannah Fraser is a professional mermaid, not something you see everyday. She does great work with children to raise awareness about marine conservation issues.

Calvin the calico lobster

A rare calico lobster that could be a 1-in-30 million, according to experts.
This lobster, dubbed Calvin, was headed for the dinner plate—by way of a pot of boiling water—only to be saved because he looked nifty. Ahhh, the capricious nature of humans.
According to an NPR story, this spotted pattern isn't even the most unusual lobster coloration out there. White lobsters are even more rare. They can also, apparently, come in a sort of Miller Lite-can blue.
And they make great pets:
... Gérard de Nerval, the French artist who famously kept a pet lobster, which he named Thibault. He reportedly walked the crustacean in the gardens of the Palais-Royal, on a leash. And he gave a convincing explanation for his choice in non-human companions.
"I have affection for lobsters," Nerval said. "They are tranquil, serious and they know the secrets of the sea."
NPR can point you toward a Harper's article that offers evidence for Thibault's actual existence. I will say this: As a former employee of Red Lobster, the leashed lobster story sounds entirely believable to me. I have personal experience racing lobsters and teaching them to stand on their heads.

Chimp Devises Increasingly Complex Attacks Against Zoo Visitors

And so the ape uprising has begun.
Researchers discovered that a male chimp at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden named Santino has been devising increasingly complex attacks against zoo visitors:
At first Santino was famous for throwing rocks and other projectiles at visitors who annoyed him. Now he has improved his technique, which requires spontaneous innovation for future deception. Researcher Mathias Osvath, lead author of a paper about Santino in PLoS ONE, explained what the clever chimp did:
"After a visitor group had left the compound area, Santino went inside the enclosure and brought a good-sized heap of hay that he placed near the visitor's section, and immediately after that he put stones under it," Osvath said.

"He also appeared to have placed projectiles behind, just before he went in after the hay. After this, he sat down beside the hay and waited. When the visitors came back, he waited until they were close by and, without any preceding display, he threw stones at the crowd." [...]
The calculated surprise attacks on visitors demonstrate very advanced thinking usually only associated with humans.

Animal Pictures


Badass (by home77_Pascale)