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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, July 6, 2012

The Daily Drift

Admit it ... you didn't think Geek girls were like this.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Makati, Philippines
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Charleroi, Belgium
Cape Town, South Africa
Perai, Malaysia
Amman, Jordan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Poznan, Poland
Klang, Malaysia
Moscow, Russia
Kuantan, Malaysia
Zagreb, Croatia
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Johannesburg, South Africa
Manila, Philippines
Denpasar, Indonesia
Tbilisi, Georgia
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1415 Jan Hus, a Czech who spoke out against Church corruption, is burned at the stake as a heretic.
1519 Charles of Spain is elected Holy Roman emperor in Barcelona.
1535 Sir Thomas More is beheaded in England for refusing to swear allegiance to King Henry VIII as head of the Church.
1536 Jaques Cartier returns to France after discovering the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
1685 James II defeats James, the Duke of Monmouth, at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the last major battle to be fought on English soil.
1770 The entire Ottoman fleet is destroyed by the Russians at the battle of Cesme.
1788 10,000 troops are called out in Paris as unrest mounts in the poorer districts over poverty and lack of food.
1836 French General Thomas Bugeaud defeats Abd al-Kader's forces beside the Sikkak River in Algeria.
1835 John Marshall, the third chief justice of the Supreme Court, dies at the age of 79. Two days later, while tolling in his honor in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell cracks.
1854 The Republican Party is officially organized in Jackson, Michigan.
1885 Louis Pasteur gives the first successful anti-rabies innoculation.
1944 Lieutenant Jackie Robinson of the U.S. Army, while riding a civilian bus from Camp Hoo, Texas, refuses to give up his seat to a white man.
1945 B-29 Superfortress bombers attack Honshu, Japan, using new fire-bombing techniques.
1945 Operation Overcast begins in Europe–moving Austrian and German scientists and their equipment to the United States.
1982 President Ronald Reagan agrees to contribute U.S. troops to the peacekeeping unit in Beruit.

What's Behind The Record Heat?

The intensity and scope of the heat wave in the western United States is visible in this NASA map of land surface temperature anomalies.

The Searing Heatwave to Continue

Is this the last cool summer for America?


The heat wave cooking most of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic will keep raging today
as cities in at least 13 states endure triple-digit heat.

Jon Rowe, senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel, says more than 174 US cities set

record high temperatures Tuesday and a final tally of Wednesday's records likely will agree.
He said that pattern should continue today and through the weekend before finally easing
some by Sunday — but not by much.

"It's still going to be horrific," he says, "but a little more average."


It's going to keep getting hotter and hotter.

This may be the last "cool" summer have until 2060 when the measures taken in 2020
finally start to lower the global temperatures down from their 40-year highs.

"The thermometers are lying!
"The raging wildfires are lying, too!
"The glaciers are merely hiding from us and that
  you-know-what in the White House is a big, fat liar."

The 8 Worst People at Your Barbecue

You’ve met these folks before, and they’re coming to your holiday cookout! Even if it’s just a small family gathering, at least one of these will be there to try to ruin your holiday. Just laugh it off, because you’ve already read up on them at College Humor!

Me The People

Is “the pursuit of Happiness” Wrecking America?
Illustration: Joe Mortis
Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That famous phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence belies the cornerstone of the founding of America.
But is the "pursuit of Happiness" part wrecking the country today? Kurt Andersen of The New York Times opines how American individualism - undoubtedly the source of the country's greatest achievements, can also spell its downfall:
then came the late 1960s, and over the next two decades American individualism was fully unleashed. A kind of tacit grand bargain was forged between the counterculture and the establishment, between the forever-young and the moneyed.
Going forward, the youthful masses of every age would be permitted as never before to indulge their self-expressive and hedonistic impulses. But capitalists in return would be unshackled as well, free to indulge their own animal spirits with fewer and fewer fetters in the forms of regulation, taxes or social opprobrium.
“Do your own thing” is not so different than “every man for himself.” If it feels good, do it, whether that means smoking weed and watching porn and never wearing a necktie, retiring at 50 with a six-figure public pension and refusing modest gun regulation, or moving your factories overseas and letting commercial banks become financial speculators. The self-absorbed “Me” Decade, having expanded during the ’80s and ’90s from personal life to encompass the political economy, will soon be the “Me” Half-Century.

California is 6th state to call for constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United

Sadly, I fear it's going to take a lot more damage to our electoral process - like an election obviously stolen by one or two big businesses/businessmen - for the American people to wake up and fully comprehend the danger of money in politics.
From HuffPo:
One of the largest states in the nation took an official stand Thursday against the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which ruled that government restriction of corporation or union spending on political campaigns violated the First Amendment right to free speech.

California joins Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico in calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.

We owe a good part of our independence to France

A little fact the repugicans conveniently forget every time they bash France.  Then again, far too much repugican "patriotism" isn't based on fact, since facts, you know, have a liberal bias.
From the Library of Congress:
From beginning to end, France supported the Americans in their struggle for independence. In the early stages of fighting, assistance came from idealistic young officers such as Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834), who volunteered his military expertise to help train and lead the Continental Army. Under the guise of neutrality, the French Crown secretly provided arms, uniforms, and other supplies.

When the British defeat at Saratoga in 1777 presented the prospect of American success, however, France began to openly support the rebellion. In 1778 France formally recognized the colonists in the Treaties of Amity and Commerce, negotiated by Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), a longtime friend of leading French scientists and philosophers and the first American ambassador to Paris. Franco-American relations were far from perfect, but the mutually beneficial relationship endured for many years.
In no other battle was French military assistance more decisive than in the 1781 Battle of Yorktown. Conceived by French General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807) and General George Washington (1732-1799), the Yorktown campaign involved a combined overland and naval assault on the British troops led by General Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805). Having landed five battalions of infantry and artillery at Rhode Island the year before, Rochambeau and several thousand of his troops joined Washington’s Continental Army in Virginia. By mid-September French naval forces from the West Indies, under the command of Admiral François Joseph Paul de Grasse (1722-1788), and Continental forces under General La Fayette, had trapped Cornwallis on the Yorktown peninsula.

With the arrival of Washington’s forces on September 28, the Franco-American force laid siege until the British surrender of October 19, 1781. The capture of Yorktown gave the Continental Army control of the Chesapeake and forced the British to enter the peace negotiations that led to British recognition of American independence.

Political Partisanship Gap is Larger Than Ever

It's not just your imagination or the wild claims of media: political partisanship is indeed growing. Annual polling by the Pew Research Center showed how partisan polarization rose sharply in the past several years:
As Americans head to the polls this November, their values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.
Overall, there has been much more stability than change across the 48 political values measures that the Pew Research Center has tracked since 1987. But the average partisan gap has nearly doubled over this 25-year period – from 10 percentage points in 1987 to 18 percentage points in the new study.
Nearly all of the increases have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During this period, both parties’ bases have often been critical of their parties for not standing up for their traditional positions.

JPMorgan refusing to hand over energy manipulation emails to Feds

The supposedly best run bank in the financial industry is in the thick of yet another investigation once again. Besides suggestions that JPMorgan may also be involved in the Libor criminal manipulation that has taken down three top executives at Barclays, JPMorgan is under investigation in the US for possibly manipulating the US energy market.
How many more free rides and bogus settlements that involve agreement that nobody was guilty are we going to have to see before Washington gets serious about white collar crime? The right wing and much of Washington is always in favor of throwing people into jail unless they're rich white people with high paying jobs. Until this changes we can't expect to clean up the overflowing sewage dump called Wall Street.

More on the latest Wall Street investigation via Bloomberg:
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM)’s refusal to turn over e-mails in a federal probe of potential energy-market manipulation is the latest challenge for Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon as the bank faces multiple investigations.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sued JPMorgan July 2 to release 25 e-mails in an investigation of possible manipulation of power markets in California and the Midwest by J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp., according to court filings by the Washington-based agency. FERC opened the probe in August after complaints from California and Midwest grid operators that JPMorgan’s bidding practices were abusive, the documents show.
Go down towards the bottom of the article to read more about the allegations of extracting above market prices, which would then be passed on to consumers. The banks just keep hammering away at the 99% from every angle and they won't stop until someone in the political class finds enough backbone to stop them. Will anyone step up?

Lifeguard Fired for Saving a Drowning Man

As lifeguards are paid and trained to do, Tomas Lopez rushed down Hallandale Beach in Florida to rescue a drowning man and then got fired for it. The problem: Lopez stepped out of the beach zone his company is paid to patrol, a supervisor said. "I ran out to do the job I was trained to do," said Lopez, 21, of Davie. "I didn't think about it at all." At least two other lifeguards have quit in protest. "What was he supposed to do? Watch a man drown?" asked one, Szilard Janko.
Lifeguards in Hallandale Beach work for Orlando-based company Jeff Ellis and Associates, which has been providing lifeguard services for the city's beaches and pools since 2003. Company officials said Lopez broke a rule that could've put beachgoers in his designated area in jeopardy. The firm could ultimately have been sued, officials said. "We have liability issues and can't go out of the protected area," said supervisor Susan Ellis. "What he did was his own decision. He knew the company rules and did what he thought he needed to do." Lopez said he was sitting at his post at about 1:45 p.m. on Monday when someone rushed to his stand asking for help.

Lopez said he noticed a man struggling in the water south of his post. The man was previously swimming in an "unprotected" stretch of the beach, city officials confirmed. "It was a long run, but someone needed my help. I wasn't going to say no," he said. Company officials said the rescue took place about 1,500 feet south of the company's protective boundaries. The unprotected area has signs alerting beachgoers to swim at their own risk. By the time Lopez arrived, several witnesses had pulled the unidentified man out of the water. Lopez said the man appeared semi-conscious and had water in his lungs. Lopez said he and a off-duty nurse attended to the man until the city's paramedics arrived.

The man, whose identity was not released because of medical privacy laws, was taken to Aventura Hospital, where he remains in the intensive care, said city spokesman Peter Dobens. After the incident, Lopez said his boss asked him to fill out an incident report. His boss then fired him for leaving his assigned area. "They didn't tell me in a bad way. It was more like they were sorry, but rules are rules," Lopez said. "I couldn't believe what was happening." Lopez became a lifeguard four months ago after passing the company's requirements, which include swimming and physical exams. The job pays $8.25 an hour, the lifeguards said. Company officials said other lifeguards watched over Lopez's area during the rescue and were on the phone with 911 operators. "The beach remained protected at all times," Ellis said.


Tomas Lopez is a lifeguard in Florida who got fired because he saved a drowning man's life. If you think that's odd because that's exactly what a lifeguard's supposed to do, he was fired because the man was swimming outside of his zone:
"The reason I was fired is just ridiculous," Lopez told CNN late Wednesday night. "It is a ridiculous rule, really. What was I supposed to do? Just let the guy drown?"
The incident occurred Monday at Hallandale Beach in southern Florida.
Orlando-based Jeff Ellis and Associates, the company Lopez worked for, said lifeguards cannot go beyond the perimeter of the beach they are responsible for overseeing.
CNN has the story: here

The truth be told

Odds and Ends

New Laws for 2012: Vomit Cleanup Fee, Arrest Warrant by Fax
Own one of these guys? Don't even think about releasing it in public or the wild in the state of Kentucky after a new law passed.

Twitter helps find dog that took train to Dublin
Irish Rail sent a "Lost dog!" tweet with a photo attachment after the Jack Russell terrier arrived with Wednesday morning commuters on a train from neighboring Kilcock, County Kildare.

Hot dog eating contest kicks off
Two reigning champion chowers and their challengers are gathering for New York's annual July Fourth hot dog eating contest in Brooklyn.

Free Sunken Ship Offered in Craigslist Ad
Jack Roberts is offering the title to his boat for anyone who can retrieve the sunken vessel.

Dad pleads guilty after movie ruse
A man has been ordered to pay more than $32,000 in back child support after being lured back to Pennsylvania with the promise of a bogus role in a Jennifer Aniston movie.

Farmers parody 'Sexy and I Know It'
Kansas State University student Greg Peterson and some friends were unwinding at a drive-in restaurant when LMFAO's song "Sexy and I Know It" came on the radio.

San Diego fireworks malfunction in big, fast flash
Spectators watch from Coronado Island in San Diego as a malfunction causes the entire Fourth of July fireworks show go off all at once, Wednesday, July 4, 2012.

Phoenix mom accused of putting beer in sippy cup
A Phoenix mother has been arrested after authorities say she put beer in her 2-year-old son's sippy cup.

Artist who made near-perfect US$100 bills

From Wired comes David Wolman's indispensable piece on master counterfeiter Hans-Jürgen Kuhl, a printmaker, artist and rounder who forged millions in flawless US $100 bills, only to have the boodle nabbed in a sting before even one of his Franklins could circulate. Kuhl combined mechanical printmaking talent with an artist's eye and an obsessive commitment to detail, and came up with many ingenious workarounds for beating the Treasury's anti-forgery technology.
However, he sucked at tradecraft. He got rumbled when he took bags and bags of paper waste to a commercial incinerator. A worker noticed what seemed to be bags of US currency (at first) but turned out to be obvious cast-offs from his forging op, and the cops were called in. One sting later, and Kuhl was in jail.
He's out now, and painting again (for the first time in 20 years). He still dreams of making a forgery so perfect you could hand it to the US Secret Service.
Kuhl’s intricate production process combined offset printing with silk-screening (see “How to Make $100″). The hardest features to forge with any level of sophistication are on the front of the note: the US Treasury seal, the large “100″ denomination in the bottom-right corner, and the united states of america at the top. Real US currency is printed on massive intaglio presses (intaglio is Italian for engrave). The force with which the presses strike the paper lying over the engraved steel plates creates indentations that fill with ink, giving the bills a delicate 3-D relief and a textured feel. Its absence is a telltale sign of a counterfeit. For Kuhl this was the most critical puzzle piece: how to create that texture convincingly without the benefit of actual engraving. “I had an idea,” he says, “and I was itching to try it.”
His idea was to apply a second layer of ink, creating sufficient relief to mimic intaglio-pressed paper. But looking under a microscope, Kuhl saw that this second coat slumped as it dried, giving the image a blurred appearance. This problem stymied his progress until he read about UV-sensitive clear lacquer, which dries instantly when exposed to ultraviolet light. That, he says, was when everything clicked. “The ink wouldn’t have time to slump,” he says.
He ran a sheet of paper through the silk-screen press again, this time applying the lacquer and then drying it under UV light. “You don’t see the UV varnish—that is the key. You only feel it,” Kuhl says. This invisible coating atop the raised US Treasury seal and large “100″ in the lower-right corner of the bill was his masterstroke. One official told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that Kuhl’s dollars were “shockingly perfect.”
The piece includes a pretty good technical HOWTO on making your own forged notes. You know, for kids!

The Thief Who Stole A Dali Then Sent It Back

A brazen art thief recently stole Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio by Salvador Dali, valued at over $150k, from the Venus Over Manhattan Gallery in New York by distracting the guard and walking out with the piece in broad daylight. Then he sent it back.
The gallery put the word out about the thief, but didn’t expect to get the work back, until they received an anonymous email saying it had been sent back, and it was delivered to the gallery later that week via Express Mail.
Why would someone do such a thing? Your guess is as good as mine…

Medieval Codex Calixtinus recovered

Four arrested

A medieval text stolen from the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in northwest Spain last year was found in a nearby garage on Wednesday, after police arrested a handyman - fired after 25 years at the cathedral - and three members of his family.
The Codex Calixtinus, a 12th century collection of sermons and liturgical passages, vanished last July from a safe deposit box in the cathedral, the end of the ancient pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago.
Police said they had found the elaborately illustrated manuscript, a treasured part of Spain's cultural and religious heritage, in a garage near the Galician town.

The cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Greater, one of Jesus's twelve apostles who, according to tradition, went to Spain to preach Christianity.
The Codex tells the story of how the apostle's remains were transferred to Santiago de Compostela and details the various routes to the town - effectively a guide for early pilgrims.
Earlier dawn raids on properties connected to the detained former church handyman, his wife, son and another woman had led police to the discovery of at least 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million), eight copies of the Codex and other ancient books that had also been stolen from the cathedral.
Officers also found documents and correspondence related to senior church figures and keys to various outbuildings. The cathedral's book of hours, a popular type of devotional book in the Middle Ages, was also recovered.
The main suspect, whom police have not named, is a man who was sacked after working for the cathedral as a freelance handyman and electrician for more than 25 years, police said in a statement.
He was made redundant after faking a work contract to make it look like he had permanent job, and claimed he was owed 40,000 euros for unfair dismissal, the police said.
Facsimile of the codex

Malware make knock thousands off Internet on Monday

How to check whether you are vulnerable
This undated handout image provided by The DNS Changer Working Group shows the webpage resulting from not having the DNS malware.

Does Torture Work?

Ask the CIA.
As news of torture spills out of Syria, torture is again a matter of public debate, but does it even work? Read more

Does Torture Work? Ask the CIA.

A 911 call while sleeping leads to drug arrest

Drug charges have been filed against a central New Jersey man who apparently rolled over on his cell phone while sleeping and inadvertently called 911, then quickly ended the call after realizing what had happened.

Emiratis Want Dress Code For Tourists

By Michael Casey Uae Dress Code 
With the number of foreigners dwarfing that of locals in her hometown of Abu Dhabi, Asma al-Muhairi has become increasingly anxious at the prospect of her younger nieces abandoning their full-length black robes in favor of Western attire that seems to be everywhere she goes.
But it wasn't until the 23-year-old marketing worker came face to face with two scantily-clad female foreigners at one of the many luxury shopping malls in the United Arab Emirates that she decided to take action.
"While going to a mall, I saw two ladies wearing ... I can't say even shorts. It was underwear," said al-Muhairi, whose black abaya – a long garment worn by conservative Gulf women – is offset by a gold Versace watch and egg-shell blue handbag.
"Really, they were not shorts," she said. "I was standing and thinking: `Why is this continuing? Why is it in the mall? I see families. I see kids around.'"
Failing to persuade the mall to intervene, al-Muhairi and another Emirati woman, Hanan al-Rayes, took to Twitter to air their concerns in May.
They were inundated with responses that prompted them to launch a Twitter campaign dubbed (at)UAEDressCode that aims to explore ways to combat the growing number of shoppers in low-cut dresses and hot pants.
As the campaign picked up steam, it also has served to symbolize the growing concerns among Emiratis, a tiny minority in their own country.
Emirati citizens account for a little more than 10 percent of the 8 million people living in the Gulf nation. Most of the population is made up of Asian, African and Middle Eastern guest workers, as well as Western expatriates living here temporarily.
The overall population more than doubled over the past decade as the country embarked on a building boom that transformed Dubai, up the coast from Abu Dhabi, into the Arabian Gulf's financial hub and a popular tourist draw.
"I think in an increasingly tumultuous region and in an era of powerful and often intrusive globalizing forces, citizens of the UAE are increasingly concerned that their traditions and core values are being eroded," said Christopher Davidson, an expert on Gulf affairs at Britain's Durham University.
"In some senses, it is a grassroots reaction to authorities and leaders that have for many years done little to check this erosion," he added. "We've seen reactions to alcohol, so now we are seeing a reaction to immodest dress."
Jalal Bin Thaneya, an Emirati activist who has embraced the dress code campaign, said it is a way for Emiratis to show they are concerned about the loss of traditions.
"If we were the majority and had the same make up, things would be different," Bin Thaneya said. "You wouldn't need anything. You would see Emiratis everywhere and you would be afraid of offending them ... Now, we're a minority so you feel the need to reach out to an authority."
As the number of foreigners has increased, so have the stories of them violating the UAE's strict indecency code, which limits drinking to bars and nightclubs and bans public displays of affection. A drunken couple was caught having sex on the beach and another allegedly having sex in a taxi. A Pakistani was deported for flipping the middle finger at a motorist, and the courts are filled with cases of foreigners having sex out of wedlock.
Most Emiratis rarely come face-to-face with misbehaving foreigners.
The malls, however, are a different story.
They are one of the few places where everyone comes together to escape the brutal summer heat. The cultural clash is hard to ignore, as families of traditionally dressed Emiratis shop and relax in cafes alongside foreign women wearing tank tops, shorts and even transparent gowns over bikinis.
Most malls have policies in place that require "conservative" dress and encourage shoppers to avoid showing shoulders and knees, but few publicize them or enforce them. Police in Dubai, where the mall that al-Muhairi visited was located, didn't respond to a request for comment. They told the Gulf News newspaper there is nothing they can do since there are no specific laws against immodest dress.
"People were seeing it for a long time but they didn't say anything," Bin Thaneya said. "You can't go to the police for such stuff. There is no one to go to. You can't go to the mall management. The mall security guard gets paid less than someone at McDonald's. He isn't going to do anything."
Al-Muhairi's campaign is just one of several over the years led by Emirati women who have tried in vain to enforce the dress code – handing out brochures, confronting foreigners. But hers has benefited from the growing popularity of social media as well as the Arab Spring popular uprisings, which has given Emiratis a sense they can speak out on some social issues.
The UAEDressCode feed has more than 3,300 followers with a lively discussion that includes plenty of support for a code but also concerns that it would unfairly target foreigners or create divisions between locals and foreigners. Unlike similar campaigns in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, the impetus for a code has not come from Islamic hard-liners, but from moderate locals like al-Muhairi who love their Starbucks and Western movies but just want foreigners to respect local customs.
"We are not asking others to cover up like us. We are giving them freedom based on their beliefs and religion," al-Muhairi said. "We are not judging and saying this shows she has other interests. We never want to judge. Do whatever you want and wear what you want but with limits. Just respect the public here."
The campaign has caught the attention of the Federal National Council, which pledged last month to push for stronger measures to enforce the dress codes. That came after the country's culture minister, Abdulrahman al-Owais, supported efforts to emphasize the conservative traditions of the UAE.
Members of a half-elected, half-appointed council have suggested a law could include warnings and fines but not jail time for offenders. But the FNC has no law-making powers, so any decision now rests with the UAE government.
"If there is a law, the behavior will be different," said Hamad al-Rahoomi, an FNC member who compared a UAE dress code to laws in France that bans the niqab, in which a veil has only a slit exposing a woman's eyes, or the new dress code at Royal Ascot in Britain that aims to limit provocative outfits.
"We don't want to catch people. We just want people to think of the other parties," al-Rahoomi said. "What I want is to go with my family in my country and not see something that is harming me."
The Abu Dhabi police issued this week a booklet on dos and don'ts for tourists that will be available at the Abu Dhabi International Airport and hotels, according to The National newspaper. It advises tourists that public displays of affection including kissing are considered indecent and that they should wear "modest" clothing.
Tourists – some in skimpy summer dresses, others in shorts and T-shirts – defended their right to wear what they want, either because it is fashionable or keeps them cool in the summer heat. None of the 10 people interviewed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi knew about a mall dress code, nor were they advised their outfits violated it. Several said a dress code law would go too far.
"I think it's ridiculous because most of the people in Dubai are tourists," said Sarah, a 21-year-old tourist from Kenya wearing a short dress exposing her shoulders and legs. "I want to go somewhere where I would be comfortable in my own skin as a travel destination. I feel comfortable like this and this is how I will dress."

World News

New Mexican president could target small gangs
Mexico's next president has boldly promised to halve the number of kidnappings and murders during his six-year term by moving law enforcement away from showy drug busts and focusing on protecting ordinary citizens from gangs.

Syria observer chief says violence 'unprecedented'
In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed Monday, July 2, 2012, black smoke leaps the air from shelling near Ali bin Abi Taleb mosque in Talbiseh, the central province of Homs, Syria.

King of Great Britain Dies in Australia

Mike Hastings of Jerilderie, Australia passed away at the age of 71. He was a forklift driver by trade. But according to one understanding of British history, he should have sat on the royal throne in place of Elizabeth II:
He made international headlines in 2004 when a documentary team from Britain’s Channel Four conducted extensive research into the monarchy and concluded his ancestors were cheated out of the crown in the 15th century. [...]
Hastings was a descendant of England’s House of York, whose dynastic struggle with the House of Lancaster became known as the Wars of the Roses and was dramatised by William Shakespeare.
The British documentary’s historian Michael Jones found documents in France’s Rouen Cathedral that he believed showed King Edward IV, who ruled with a brief interruption from 1461 to 1483, was illegitimate.
Jones believes that Edward’s father Richard of York was fighting the French at Pontoise when he was conceived, while his mother Cecily was 200 kilometres (125 miles) away at Rouen, allegedly in the amorous arms of an English archer.
If true, the crown should have passed on to Edward’s younger brother George, the duke of Clarence, who was a direct ancestor to Hastings.

Contemporary wax cylinder recordings

 Wp-Content Uploads 2011 08 Recording Williamson Web
Phonographies is a collection of contemporary audio recordings made on wax cylinder phonographs from more than a century ago. In the late 1880s, Thomas Edison's wax cylinder phonographs were a mass market item. By the 1920s though, gramophone records totally dominated and cylinders quickly became a dead media. Phonographies founder Aleks Kolkowski records numerous musicians using the technology, from a jazz trio to a children's choir to avant-garde electronic composers. From the project's introduction (photo by Helen Petts):

The epoch of sound rendered into physical objects has reached its nadir with the rise of the digital file. Compact discs are devalued while vinyl records and magnetic tapes have become niche products for audiophiles and widely fetishised. This archive began as a response to the increasingly transient nature of digital music consumption by returning to the very first stable recording and reproduction medium of the 1880s – the wax cylinder, in order to create and assemble a permanent collection of material sound objects. It has since developed into a more exploratory project, one that examines the potential of the wax cylinder as a recording medium by employing experimental techniques and pushing the boundaries of its recording capabilities, as well as being a joyful discovery for each contributor who re-enacts for the first time, the bygone practice of acoustically inscribing sound.

Sewer hunters of Victorian London

In 1851, Henry Mayhew published the four volume London Labour and the London Poor, an influential work of sociology/journalism that documented the life of working class Victorians. He wrote of "bone grubbers," basically dumpster divers seeking food and bits of household detritus, individuals who spent their days seeking cigar-ends for reselling, and scores of others with strange, sad, dirty, and curious jobs. One of the most interesting groups were the "toshers," sewer hunters who traveled the tunnels and sieved the waste for bones, metal, coins, cutlery, or other valuable goods, all the while avoiding the supernatural "Queen Rat" and "race of wild hogs" (predating NYC's alligators!) that roamed the shafts, according to other historians. Apparently, toshers could earn as much as six shillings (approximately $50 today) for their work. Drawing from Mayhew's work and others, Smithsonian offers a fascinating description of what they call "quite likely the worst job ever":
 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 07 History Files 2012 06 Tosher Even after the tunnels deteriorated and they became increasingly dangerous, though, what a tosher feared more than anything else was not death by suffocation or explosion, but attacks by rats. The bite of a sewer rat was a serious business, as another of Mayhew's informants, Jack Black - the "Rat and Mole Destroyer to Her Majesty" - explained.
"When the bite is a bad one," Black said, "it festers and forms a hard core in the ulcer, which throbs very much indeed. This core is as big as a boiled fish's eye, and as hard as stone. I generally cuts the bite out clean with a lancet and squeezes… I've been bitten nearly everywhere, even where I can't name to you, sir."
"Quite Likely the Worst Job Ever"

Hairdresser uses Zen meditation to cut hair with his eyes closed

Hairdresser Tian Hao is head and shoulders above his rivals with a hair-raising stunt where he cuts two heads of hair side by side - with his eyes closed.

Tian - from Xi’an, Shaanxi province, western China - claims he uses Zen meditation techniques to 'feel' the aura of the hair on his customers' heads.

"It takes a lot of concentration but I have never had an accident with the scissors yet," explained Tian, who charges £400 for a blind trim.

To finish off, artist Tian shuns hairdryers and uses a vacuum cleaner to style his punters' hair. "Not only does it layer the hair perfectly, but is also sucks up all the clippings too," he said.

The Exam From Hell

Drunk Teacher Forced Students to Take 23-Hour Exam
Think that your professor is bad? Try this one for size:
A lecturer at a Russian university allegedly submitted students to a 23-hour exam without food or lavatory breaks while she was drunk.
Landysh Zaripova is said to have mostly ignored students and rambled about her business interests and her love for clothes during the marathon science test at Kazan Federal University, in central Russia.

Space Fireworks

Image: Yves Grosdidier (University of Montreal and Observatoire de Strasbourg), Anthony Moffat (Universitie de Montreal), Gilles Joncas (Universite Laval), Agnes Acker (Observatoire de Strasbourg), and NASA/ESA 

Did you enjoy spectacular fireworks display on Fourth of July? (Well, maybe not those of you in San Diego, though that is spectacular on its own right).
Take a look at these celestial fireworks set off millions of years ago. This one above is from the start WR124:
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope picture of the energetic star WR124 reveals it is surrounded by hot clumps of gas being ejected into space at speeds of over 150,000 kilometres per hour, somewhat resembling an aerial fireworks explosion.
Check out more at SPACE.com: here

The Judas Ear

That's not a real ear in the picture above. Its quite remarkable resemblance to the human ear has, however, given it a host of names throughout the ages - some it has to be said less flattering (or at least politically correct) than others.

The fungus is called Auricularia auricula-judae and it is found throughout the world. As you will see, some examples look more ear-like than others. In fact, anywhere you find elder trees you will likely find the Judas Ear.

Dark Matter Bridge Connects Galaxies

Image: Jörg Dietrich, University of Michigan/University Observatory Munich
Scientists have discovered a "bridge" made of dark matter that connect clusters of galaxies:
A ‘finger’ of the Universe’s dark-matter skeleton, which ultimately dictates where galaxies form, has been observed for the first time. Researchers have directly detected a slim bridge of dark matter joining two clusters of galaxies, using a technique that could eventually help astrophysicists to understand the structure of the Universe and identify what makes up the mysterious invisible substance known as dark matter.
According to the standard model of cosmology, visible stars and galaxies trace a pattern across the sky known as the cosmic web, which was originally etched out by dark matter — the substance thought to account for almost 80% of the Universe’s matter. Soon after the Big Bang, regions that were slightly denser than others pulled in dark matter, which clumped together and eventually collapsed into flat ‘pancakes’. “Where these pancakes intersect, you get long strands of dark matter, or filaments,” explains Jörg Dietrich, a cosmologist at the University Observatory Munich in Germany. Clusters of galaxies then formed at the nodes of the cosmic web, where these filaments crossed.

Japanese Doctor Fabricated 172 Science Papers

A investigation by a panel set up by the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists have discovered that a particularly productive doctor named Yoshitaka Fujii has been faking a whopping 172 papers over the past 19 years:
Fujii's findings have been under a cloud since 8 March when an analysis in the journal Anaesthesia raised questions about his data. On 9 April, 23 journal editors publicly asked seven Japanese institutions named in the papers to investigate. The anesthesiology society took on the task because "it would have been difficult for any one institution to clarify what happened," says Koji Sumikawa, an anesthesiologist at Nagasaki University who headed the investigation.
The panel focused on 212 of 249 known Fujii papers. It tried to review the raw data, laboratory notebooks, and records on the patients or animal subjects involved. Committee members also interviewed relevant people.
Among the 172 papers judged bogus, the report claims that 126 studies of randomized, double-blind, controlled trials "were totally fabricated." The committee identified only three valid papers. For another 37 papers, the panel could not conclusively determine if there had been fabrication.
That beat the record for faked scientific papers, previously set by Joachim Boldt (curiously, another anesthesiologist) who fabricated 90.

Astronomical News

Fetal Solar System Aborted
Astronomers believe the star, mysteriously stripped of its planet-forming dust disk, still has the right stuff for making planets.  
Spacecraft Raises Mercury Mysteries
Theories about the origin of Mercury need to be discarded based on data from NASA's Mercury MESSENGER probe.
Spacecraft Raises Mercury Mysteries

Physics and the Metaphysical

6 Reasons Why The 'God Particle' Matters
In the world of science, the excitement doesn't mount much higher than the frenzy yesterday around the announcement that scientists at the world's biggest atom smasher may have found the 'God particle.' The discovery is called a boson, a class of sub-atomic particle, but the description stopped just short of confirming that it's the long-sought Higgs boson particle.

While there are still questions to ask and research to do to confirm it is indeed the Higgs boson, physicists see massive implications to the discovery.

Full Moon Names
Some almanacs like to give each month a special full moon name. Other almanacs like to reference full moons relative to seasonal markers, as defined by equinoxes and solstices. Is one way better than the other? No. Both have their roots in folklore. Here's a list of common North American full moon names, by month and by season.

9 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics
So now that scientists have discovered the elusive Higgs boson, what's left in physics? Don't worry, science geeks - there are a lot left for you to work on.
Natalie Wolchover of Life's Little Mysteries put forth the 9 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics. For example:
What is dark matter?
Evidently, about 84 percent of the matter in the universe does not absorb or emit light. "Dark matter," as it is called, cannot be seen directly, and it hasn't yet been detected by indirect means, either. Instead, dark matter's existence and properties are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation and the structure of the universe. This shadowy substance is thought to pervade the outskirts of galaxies, and may be composed of "weakly interacting massive particles," or WIMPs. Worldwide, there are several detectors on the lookout for WIMPs, but so far, not one has been found. [If Not Dark Matter, then What?]

A Soap Bubble Is the World’s Thinnest Display Screen
Do you remember Star Trek‘s holographic viewscreens that would disappear when not in use? We may have something like them in the near future. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a system that projects images onto the surfaces of bubbles:
“It is common knowledge that the surface of soap bubble is a micro membrane. It allows light to pass through and displays the color on its structure,” the lead researcher, Yoichi Ochiai from the University of Tokyo, wrote in his blog.
“We developed an ultra-thin and flexible BRDF [bidirectional reflectance distribution function, a four-dimensional function defining how light is reflected at an opaque surface] screen using the mixture of two colloidal liquids.”

Awesome Pictures

Clements Mountain Dawn — Glacier National Park, MT by Light of the Wild on Flickr.

Sloth Photobomb

If you want to photobomb someone, it takes hard work and speed. This sloth has both. He dropped in front of several international student volunteers in Costa Rica posing for a photo.

How Does A Spider Spin A Web Between Two Trees?

If you look up in a tree, you might see a spider web that spans a distance of several feet or more. How is the spider able to reach between this distance? How do they do that?

Squirrel-Tailed Dinosaur with Feathers

Scientists have found the fossil of a squirrel-tailed dinosaur with feathers that challenged the image of the dinosaurs as giant lizards:
Previously, paleontologists have found feathers only on coelurosaurs—birdlike dinosaurs that evolved later than so-called megalosaurs such as Sciurumimus.
Because Sciurumimus is not closely related to coelurosaurs, the new fossil suggests feathered dinosaurs were the norm, not the exception, Rauhut said.
"Probably all dinosaurs were feathered," he added, "and we should say good bye to the familiar image of the overgrown lizards."

Animal News

30 Squirrels Escape from Zoo, 38 Recaptured
A typhoon wrecked the squirrel enclosure of the Inokashira Park Zoo in Tokyo last week, resulting in the escape of 30 squirrels. Attempts to recover the animals have been quite successful; at one count, 38 squirrels have been “recaptured.”
So why the mysterious additional squirrels? Zoo officials have come up with a number of explanations. According to Japan Today, zoo official and animal biology specialist Hioshi Mashima said on Friday, “More than 40 squirrels must have gotten away in the first place. There are no wild squirrels inhabiting this area. That is for sure.” Mashima said the zoo could not be precise on the exact number of squirrels it currently has in it possession “because they are difficult to catch, and they keep reproducing.”
But another zoo official, Eri Tsushima, told the Japan Times on Friday that animal handlers may have actually swept up wild squirrels from outside the zoo’s walls, noting that the zoo implants a microchip in each one of its squirrels and that each animal taken into captivity would be checked for the microchip.
Meanwhile, the zoo continues to get calls about runaway squirrels at large in Tokyo.

Three little bear cubs found in back seat of car

A Colorado town has issued a bear warning to its residents after three cubs were photographed rummaging around inside a car. A woman spotted three of the bears and their larger mother when she went to her car in a parking lot in Snowmass Village on Saturday.

The mother bear ran away, but when local police arrived they found three cubs still inside the car. Police believe the group of bears have broken into 14 cars recently. Kevin Wright from Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the mother bear's spree began a week ago when it got inside a vehicle that had food inside.

"We're trying to get a hold of her before she breaks into any homes," Mr Wright said. The mother bear has gained entry mostly through unlocked car doors, but at least two cars have been damaged as a result.

"Please lock your cars and try to clean all traces of food out of them," the Snowmass Village Transportation Department said. "These cute little guys' lives depend on you to act responsibly in bear country."

Baby giant panda born in a Tokyo zoo

A baby giant panda was born at a Tokyo zoo on Thursday, in a rare success for Japan's captive breeding program, a zoo official said.

Animal Pictures


i strut at my own pace