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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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Daily Drift

Ma Nature ... the artist at work.
Some of our readers today have been in:
Durban, South Africa
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tirana, Albania
Bandar Labuan, Malaysia
Khulna, Bangladesh
Klang, Malaysia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Muscat, Oman
Kuantan, Malaysia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Belgrade, Serbia
Moscow, Russia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Santiago, Chile
Cairo, Egypt
Bangkok, Thailand
Salcedo, Philippines

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1782 General George Washington authorizes the award of the Purple Heart for soldiers wounded in combat.
1864 Union troops capture part of Confederate General Jubal Early's army at Moorefield, West Virginia.
1888 Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia receives a patent for the revolving door.
1906 In North Carolina, a mob defies a court order and lynches three African Americans which becomes known as "The Lyerly Murders."
1916 Persia forms an alliance with Britain and Russia.
1922 The Irish Republican Army cuts the cable link between the United States and Europe at Waterville landing station.
1934 In Washington, the U.S. Court of Appeals rules that the govenment can neither confiscate nor ban James Joyce's novel Ulysses.
1936 The United States declares non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War.
1942 The U.S. 1st Marine Division under General A. A. Vandegrift lands on the islands of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon islands. This is the first American amphibious landing of the war.
1944 German forces launch a major counter attack against U.S. forces near Mortain, France.
1964 Congress overwhelmingly passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing the president to use unlimited military force to prevent attacks on U.S. forces.
1966 The United States loses seven planes over North Vietnam, the most in the war up to this point.
1973 A U.S. plane accidentally bombs a Cambodian village, killing 400 civilians.

Temple killer was white supremacist

From the "Why are we not surprised" Department:
Wade Michael Page, who killed six people inside a Sikh temple Sunday, was a "frustrated neo-Nazi who led a racist white supremacist band," reports the AP.
Page told a white supremacist website in an interview in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 when he left his native Colorado and the started the band, End Apathy, in 2005, the nonprofit civil rights organization said. He told the website his "inspiration was based on frustration that we have the potential to accomplish so much more as individuals and a society in whole," according to the SPLC. He did not mention violence in the website interview.

The long history of scapegoating the Sikhs

From Sunny Hundal, one of the top British bloggers, writing in the Guardian:
A little-known fact: the first victim of retaliatory violence following the 9/11 attacks was a Sikh man. On 15 September 2001, 52-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas-station owner in Arizona, was shot five times by Frank Roque. While Sodhi died instantly, Roque went on to shoot at other ethnic minorities before going to a local bar and boasting: "They're investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street."

Yesterday, a gunman opened fire on a Sikh congregation in Wisconsin, killing six people in what is now being treated as an act of "domestic terrorism". Some witnesses say the shooter had a tattoo marking the September 11 attacks, though this is not confirmed by the authorities.

While the "war on terror" that followed September 2001 badly affected Muslim families in the west, it is sadly less well-known that Sikhs have also faced significant harassment as a consequence. The Sikh Coalition of Washington said yesterday that Sikhs in the US have faced more than 700 such incidents since 9/11; authorities still do not officially collect data on religious hate crimes against them.

More closer to home, my own brother – an observant Sikh with a turban and beard – faced frequent low-level harassment with people shouting "Taliban" at him or worse.

Let's discuss the [INSERT SHOOTING TRAGEDY HERE] tragedy

It's time to have a somber national discussion about the [insert shooting tragedy here] tragedy.
Before we get started, let's go over a few basic ground rules.

1. In the wake of the __________ tragedy it's time for us all to come together as a nation and not assign blame. This is not the time, for example, to talk about how it's easier to purchase a gun in America than it is to vote (or buy French cheese).

2. And we won't tolerate any second guessing of the Second Amendment right to carry assault weapons, or questions about how the Framers could have possibly envisaged an assault rifle over 200 years ago, or why a "hunter" needs six thousand rounds of ammunition, or kevlar, or smoke grenades to kill a pheasant.

3. While the shooter may have been inspired by political fliers showing the victim in cross hairs, or may have come unhinged by inflammatory rhetoric about how said victim was coming for the shooter's guns, discussing such motivation at this sensitive moment would be completely inappropriate. Not to mention, disrespectful to the __________ victims.

4. If the tragedy involved someone flying an aircraft into a government building, or for that matter blowing up a government building, now is not the time to discuss people like Lush Dimbulb or Sean Handjob, or repugicans generally, incessantly trying to convince their audience that the occupant of the White House, or any government official, agency,  or entire branch of government is evil and/or "un-American" and/or out to get them or our country or our freedom.

5. And definitely don't mention the repugican party's frequent claim and/or insinuation, including suggestions from the repugican candidate himself, Mitt Romney, that the sitting Democratic President is a socialist, which in American parlance actually means "communist," which actually means "Soviet," which was America's deadliest enemy out for our utter destruction.  Sure, it would be entirely understandable why someone would take up arms against a Soviet takeover of the United States, but a Democrat said something mean once about a repugican's dog, or something, so aren't both parties really to blame, thus making the charge moot?

6. Never, ever mention the NRA.  Sure, they've proven themselves, time and again, incapable of passing laws that effectively keep guns out of the hands of crazy mass murderers, but that's no reason to blame them for the _______ tragedy because it's just too early to cast blame on anyone other than the shooter, who was obviously crazy, and thus this month's anomaly.

Now, let's discuss for a moment the race of the shooter and the victims.

7. If the ______________ tragedy involved angry white men opening fire on brown people of faith, this is definitely not the time to replay clips of bombastic commentators and politicians getting white men in places like Kansas whipped into a frenzy over Manhattan's zoning criteria for non-christian houses of worship.

8. But feel free to discuss if all brown people, and thus the shooter, or his victims, were muslims - sorry, I meant to say "radical islamists."  And even if neither was a muslim, make sure you discuss that point incessantly - muslims, muslims, muslims, muslims - so as to eventually sow suspicion in the public's mind as to whether there really is a muslim angle to this story.

9. Speaking of which, this is not the time to discuss the more general fear mongering around words like "muslim," including the ongoing, successful, attempt by repugicans to convince their base that our dark-skinned President is one.

Okay, I think we're ready now to discuss the ______________ tragedy.

First off, it is entirely acceptable for a repugican to opine that the tragedy could have been averted had the victims all been armed (please disregard previous tragedies where armed police officers themselves were injured by the shooter).

Second, poignant, but ultimately meaningless, gestures such as lighting tragedy candles at nighttime vigils, and posting anti-gun petitions on Change.org, are to be encouraged.

Finally, clutch your pearls, and all together now, ask the purely rhetorical question: "How could this happen?"

Forty-eight hours later return to talking about the Olympics and the latest Kardashian wedding until the next shooting occurs, then refer to point 1 above.

PS If the victims of the ___________tragedy were black, ignore the above restrictions and take up a collection for the shooter's defense fund.

Sandra Day O’Connor: Declining approval for high court a ‘disappointment’

Perhaps it has something to do with her own political party putting the demonization of government at the top of their list for decades.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor called the declining public approval of the high court a “great disappointment” and suggested the ruling in Bush v. Gore may have sparked the public’s loss of faith in the judicial branch.

In the past, when the public is asked about the three branches of government, the court has generally had, the juridical branch has had the highest respect among the three, and now it's about the same for all, and it's all down,” said ,” O’Connor, In an interview aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation. “So that's a great disappointment to me to see.”
The repugican party sees profit in destroying any and all trust in government, and they've been doing so for decades. Especially at it concerns the courts, it's the repugicans who have been admonished for making repeated threats against judges.

To O'Connor's credit, she's called out the repugicans before for their anti-court hate rhetoric.  The problem is, we have a party that wants to arm the populace just in case government becomes evil, and then the party turns around and tells the armed populace that government has in fact become evil.

And then we're surprised when their minions respond accordingly.


Romney trust continued investments in abortion, stem cells, China, Iran

Romney claims that he told the person running his blind trust to administer it in a way consistent with his public positions on issues.
That was the first mistake. Romney has taken every side of most hot-button issues, so which way should the trust go?

Second, it should have been clear that Romney meant consistent with his new-found conservative values. In that case, it shouldn't take a rock scientist to figure out that the "morning after pill," which conservatives consider a no-no, is off-limits. But Romney invested. Or stem cell research (again he invested). Or in Chinese companies (they even had the word "China" in their names!). Or companies that do business with Iran.

No wonder Romney won't release his tax returns. There's good reason to fear what's in them, in addition to what's NOT in them (such as payments for ten years of taxes he reportedly didn't pay).
Also,  can you hear the drip, drip, drip of Romney's tax rumors

Pelosi: "It's a fact" someone told Reid that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years

Why won't Romney just release his tax returns, like every other presidential candidate, including his own father, and be done with it?
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired back at Republicans accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of lying about a Bain Capital investor telling him that Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes in 10 years. They don’t know what they're talking about, Pelosi says.

"Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact," Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a Sunday interview. "Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes."
He's treating this as though we're asking for an anal probe.  Or someone is asking him to disprove that he's a communist (which his own staff suggested).  In fact, we're asking Romney to do what every other presidential candidate has done before him, release a slew of tax returns.

Romney clearly has something to hide, and it's increasingly looking like that something is "nothing" - meaning, it's true that he didn't pay taxes for ten years.

Romney lying again, this time it's about Israel

And the press is calling him out for it.  But when will they start asking Romney about it personally?  Asking him, to his face, why he keeps lying to the American people in his ads?

From National Journal:
While it's hard to remember who did what first, Romney took an early step down the low road when he quoted President Obama in a television ad late last year: "If we keep talking about the economy we're going to lose.'' Only the quote was from 2008, before Obama was elected, and he was referring to remarks by Republican John McCain. More recently, the Obama campaign has unfairly characterized Romney's position on abortion in television ads.

But Romney's most recent ad is particularly galling because it seeks to suggest the president is anti-Israel or anti-Jewish.
Romney's campaign clearly knows these facts but can't be bothered with a more nuanced and honest criticism of the administration's failure to broker peace in the Middle East. That's a shame.
Now it's time to ask him to his face why he keeps lying in his ads.

Typical Romney Voter

This asshole doesn't even recognize Romney but you can bet you sweet bippy he's voting for him.

Customer punched female shop assistant in face for calling him 'honey'

Police in Newington, Connecticut arrested a man they said became angry when a store clerk called him 'honey' and then punched her in the face. Police were called to a 7-11 after someone called 911 reporting the assault.
The unidentified clerk told police that the customer, who was identified as David Wright, 52, of Burgundy Hill Lane in Middletown, questioned the cost of items and when she told him the price she called him, "honey."

The customer told the clerk that if she called him "honey" again, he would punch her in the face. The clerk then questioned Wright's intentions and that's when she said he reached over the counter and punched her in the face. Another customer in the store grabbed Wright and threw him out.

The clerk was able to get a description and partial license plate number on the vehicle. With the assistance of the Middletown Police Department, a Newington police officer was able to locate and arrest Wright. He was charged with breach of peace and assault. He was released on $5,000 bond and is expected to appear in New Britain Court on Aug. 13.

Putting it all in perspective

With diplomacy dead, US banks on Syrian rebel win

With Syrian diplomacy all but dead, the Obama administration is shifting its focus on the civil war away from political transition and toward helping the rebels defeat the Syrian regime on the battlefield.

Last Polish soldier of WWII opening battle dies

Ignacy Skowron, the last known survivor of World War II's Battle of Westerplatte, has died.

A Marine’s Return to Ballet

Roman Baca became a ballet dancer after high school. Since male dancers are in the minority, he found plenty of work, but not the full-time position he hoped for. So Baca joined the Marines and was sent to patrol Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005. When he returned, he couldn't find satisfaction in a desk job.
My then-girlfriend, now my wife, sat me down and challenged me to make a change: “If you could do anything, what would you do?”
I wanted to be part of a dance company.
So I choreographed a duet for two women in the neo-classical style, and sent it to competitions for feedback. It was rejected, but I wasn’t surprised. I felt like I was forcing creativity instead of creating something that I cared about. So I turned the duet into a four-movement work called Habibi Hhaloua (Arabic for my beautiful, you have my eyes) about a Marine on patrol, and sent it out.
Over time, Baca developed a program to combine dance with veteran's services.
We started performing in festivals and showcases in and around New York City and within a few months we had a name and a mission, Exit12 Dance Company, an organization to advocate and educate through performance on behalf of a new generation of veterans.
He now holds workshops for veterans and schoolchildren in both the U.S. and Iraq. Read more about Baca and his mission at The Daily Beast . There's a dance video included. 

When Your 'Dream Job' Isn't Your Dream Job Anymore

by Megan Broussard
You have the perfect job. The one you always wanted-in an exciting industry, for a big name company, with a title that says you get to do what you love all day long. Except for that-well, you hate it. Realizing that your "dream job" has become a nightmare is as heart-wrenching as breaking up with someone you were once in love with. And speaking from experience, the grieving and recovery process is almost the same. From one broken-hearted working girl to another, here's an honest look at what happens when you realize that your love affair with your job is over-and more importantly, how to rebound.

The Honeymoon Phase

Remember when you started dating your first love-the googly eyes, gushy talk, pet names, and long days spent together? Not only could you two not keep your hands off of each other, but that person could do no wrong. His quirks were cute, his pet peeves funny, and when he slurped his tea, well, that was just adorable. (Never mind that you used to practically punch your little brother when he'd slurp his soup at dinner.) The same goes for that job you've worked your entire life to land. You're "living the dream," as you told your proud parents and envious friends upon receiving the offer letter. When you walk through those fancy doors to your fairytale job every day with Katy Perry's "Firework" blasting in your head, all you can think is: "The perks! The title! The bragging rights!" Who cares that you're working 90 hours a week and your boss is a borderline psychopath? You've "made it," and the two of you will live happily ever after.

The Rough Patch

As weeks turn into months and months start to feel like years (and not in a time-flies-when-you're-having-fun kind of way), the quirks you used to find endearing about the job-as much as you hate to admit it-start to seem unbearable. You find yourself working slower than normal, and you feel unmotivated. While you used to be excited to talk about your work with friends and family, you now try to dodge their questions. Maybe you've found that you actually get to spend very little time doing your favorite part of the job. Or, maybe you're starting to get sick of what you used to love-because doing it 10+ hours each day, including weekends, is more than you bargained for. For me, it was realizing that I was spending most of my effort each day trying to take on the persona I needed for the position I wanted-a persona that just didn't come naturally to me. It was exhausting, and no matter how hard I tried to force it to be a fit, it just wasn't.

The Mourning Period

Just like acknowledging that a relationship is over, admitting the truth about your job is a painful step. My admission came when I got off of work late, yet again, raced to the nearest pub to meet my girlfriends, and burst into tears when they asked how my day was. (Of course, while sobbing, I swore up and down, "I'm really happy though, guys!" until they held a compact mirror in my face and asked, "Oh, really? Is that what happiness looks like?" Touché.) I struggled to get past the feeling that I was giving up the perfect opportunity-the opportunity I'd been wanting for so long, one that "most people would kill for." Don't fall into this trap. It's kind of like your first Friday night alone after you break up with someone, when you instantly think you've made a mistake, confusing the feeling of convenience with passion. Remember that there's nothing wrong with the job or you. (Well, unless you're working for a psychopathic boss or putting in 90-hour weeks. Then there definitely is something wrong with the job.) It's OK to realize you're a better fit someplace else. That said, you're definitely allowed to shed the tears of disappointment that things didn't work out the way you wanted them to.

The Breakup

This is the part where dating and working differ: In most cases, you can't just have "the talk" with your boss and move on. You need to come up with a game plan. Start looking for a job that'll be a better fit. It's out there, I promise. In the process, it's important to dig deep and think about what didn't work for you in this job, and what you want in the next. What really interests you and motivates you, and what type of office culture and environment complement both? For instance, just because you're interested in communication, thrive under deadlines, and love creativity, doesn't mean the 'round-the-clock, high-energy agency life is right for you. All factors must be considered and aligned in order for you to be happy. Once you've lined up a new job offer, you can bring back a line from your personal life to break the news to your boss: "It's not you; it's me." (You should translate this into corporate-speak, of course-something to the effect of, "I've learned so much here, and I've been offered a position with a managerial focus where I can build upon those skills.") Then, prepare to part ways.

Finding the Perfect Match

As we little princesses were told in bedtime stories aplenty, you'll kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince. I think that stands true in our present-day quest to be career queens, too. Like dating, you usually figure out exactly what you want by process of elimination. It's not always easy to identify what will satisfy you without first pinpointing the qualities you know will be incompatible with yours. So, look at your dream-job-turned-not-dream-job the same way you would a person you're not meant to end up with. Now that you know what you don't want, the end of that relationship is one step closer to meeting the love of your life. My advice to you as you move on is to carry something old and something new with you: the old memories of why you left the last job, and new criteria for the next job that is perfect for you.

Man refused bank card for looking too much like Pavarotti

A Pavarotti lookalike was refused a personalized card by his bank after staff mistook him for the real singer. Colin Miller has worked as a double for the opera singer for more than 20 years, but believes his bank penalized him for his looks after refusing to issue him with a card which carried his photograph. The 66-year-old, of Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, said: "I spoke to the staff at my bank who said they didn't know why I was refused and could only assume it is because of who I look like.
Photo from SWNS.

"But I can't help who I look like. I don't try to look like Pavarotti, I have had no cosmetic surgery and I don't try to do things to myself to look like him. I am being penalized for looking how I do. In the past I banked with Abbey National and had a personalized card with my photo on, as it provides extra security. They later stopped doing the cards and I just stayed with Barclays, who I have been with for 20 years."

After Barclays recently started offering personalized cards, Mr Miller and his wife, of Gough Side, Burton, both applied. He said: "I uploaded a picture of me on to the website. It is the picture I use on my business cards because I look like this naturally, and then I cropped it to the neck." Mr Miller said his wife received her photographic card, but he was sent a plain one. He later received an e-mail saying the bank was unable to process his card.

Photo from SWNS.

Mr Miller said: "They say it is because of copyright, but I have never been contacted by people representing the real Pavarotti about it." Barclays called the error an "understandable mistake" after staff believed his photograph was that of the late opera singer. Nicola Fowkes, Barclays branch manager for Burton, said: "We are now in the process of contacting Mr Miller so that he can resubmit his application with the original image, so that Mr Miller will have his Barclays personalized debit card, complete with his chosen image."

Ten Movies You Didn't Realize Were Based On Books

Often people totally miss the books in favor of the movies that spring rom them. With film adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories like Total Recall, which tend to veer so wildly that you might not recognize even if you had read the source material, it's understandable. But as it turns out, there are a lot more movies that we didn't realize were based on books.

The Nutmeg Wars

nutmeg In the 17th century, all Europe was mad to have the little brown nut from Indonesia- nutmeg. Especially the Dutch, who monopolized its cultivation and, in doing so, built their tiny nation into one of the wealthiest trading powers on the planet.


Spices have been used by human beings for millennia for food preparation and preservation, medicine, and even embalming. But until modern times they were largely an Asian commodity, and controlling their flow to the spice-obsessed West meant power and fortune for the middleman. Over the centuries, these hugely successful merchants were the Phoenicians, Persians, Arabs, and later, Venetians.

Many of the great European explorations of the 15th century were driven by the need to bypass the Arab and Venetian monopoly. Crying, "For Christ and spices," the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama shocked the Arab world when he sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope in 1498 and showed up in the spice markets of India. It marked the beginning of the decline of Arab dominance and the rise of European power. For the next 100 years, as Spain and Portugal fought for control of the spice trade, the tiny countries of England and the Netherlands looked on in envy, waiting for their chance to get a piece of the action. It came first for the Dutch.


Always in danger of being overwhelmed by their much larger neighbor, Spain, the Portuguese began subcontracting their spice distribution to Dutch traders. Profits began to flow into Amsterdam, and the Dutch commercial fleet swiftly grew into one of the largest in the world. The Dutch quietly gained control of most of the shipping and trading of spices in Northern Europe. Then in 1580, Portugal fell under Spanish rule and the sweet deal for Dutch traders was over. As prices for pepper, nutmeg, and other spices soared across Europe, the Dutch found themselves locked out of the market. They decided to fight back.

Dutch East India Company FlagIn 1602 Dutch merchants founded the VOC -the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, better known as the Dutch East India Company. Other trading nations had formed cooperative associations like it but none were more successful than the Dutch. By 1617 the VOC was the richest commercial operation in the world. The company had 50,000 employees worldwide, with a private army of 30,000 men and a fleet of 200 ships. Yet even with that huge overhead, the VOC gave its shareholders an eye-popping annual dividend of 40% of their investments. How'd they do it? With sheer ruthlessness... and nutmeg.


By the time the VOC was formed, nutmeg was already the favored spice in Europe. Aside from adding flavor to food and drinks, its aromatic qualities worked wonders to disguise the stench of decay in poorly preserved meats, always a problem in the days before refrigeration.

Then the plague years of the 17th century came. Thousands were dying across Europe, and doctors were desperate for a way to stop the spread of the disease. They decided nutmeg held the cure. Ladies carried nutmeg sachets around their necks to breathe through and avoid the pestilence of the air. Men added nutmeg to their snuff and inhaled it. Everybody wanted it, and many will willing to spare no expense to have it. Ten pounds of nutmeg cost one English penny at its Asian source, but had a London street value of 2 pounds, 10 shillings -68,000 times its original cost. The only problem was the short supply. And that's where the Dutch found their opportunity.


Why was nutmeg so rare? The tree grew in only one place in the world: the Banda Islands of Indonesia. A tiny archipelago rising only a few meters above sea level, the islands were ruled by sultans who insisted on maintaining a neutral trading policy with foreign powers. This allowed them to avoid the presence of Portuguese or Spanish garrisons on their soil, but it also left them unprotected from other invaders.

Banda Islands

In 1621 the Dutch swept in and took over. Once securely in control of the Bandas, the Dutch went to work protecting their new "investment." First they preempted any resistance by the islanders by executing every male over the age of 15. Village leaders were beheaded and their heads displayed on poles to discourage any rebels who might have survived. Within 15 years, the brutal regime reduced the Bandanese population from 15,000 to 600. Next the Dutch concentrated all nutmeg production into a few easily guarded areas, uprooting a destroying any trees outside the plantation zones. Anyone caught growing a nutmeg seedling or carrying seeds without the proper authority was put to death. In addition, all exported nutmeg seeds were drenched with lime to make sure there was no chance a fertile nut would find its way off the islands.


The Dutch had their monopoly ...almost. One of the Banda Islands, called Run, was under control of the British. The little sliver of land (a fishing boat could only make landfall at high tide) was one of England's first colonial outposts, dating to 1603. The Dutch attacked it in force in 1616, but it would take four years for them to finally defeat the combined British-Bandanese resistance.

VOC ship

But the English still didn't give up; they continued to press their claim to the island through two Anglo-Dutch wars. The battles exhausted both sides, leading to a compromise settlement, the Treaty of Breda, in 1667 -and one of history's greatest ironies. Intent on securing their hold over every nutmeg island in Southeast Asia, the Dutch offered a trade: if the British would give them Run, they would in turn give Britain a far-away, much less valuable island that the British had already occupied illegally since 1664. The British agreed. That other island: Manhattan, which is how New Amsterdam became New York.


The Dutch now had complete control over the nutmeg trade. A happy ending for Holland? Hardly. By the end of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company was bankrupt. Constant wars with rival powers, rebellion from the islanders, and just plain bad luck -some might say bad karma- eventually broke the back of the Dutch spice cartel.

Pierre PoivreStrike 1: In 1770 a Frenchman named Pierre Poivre ("Peter Pepper") successfully smuggled nutmeg plants to safety in Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, where they were subsequently exported to the Caribbean. The plants thrived on the islands, especially Grenada.

Strike 2: In 1778 a volcanic eruption in the Banda region caused a tsunami that wiped out half the nutmeg groves.

Strike 3:In 1809 the English returned to Indonesia and seized the Banda Islands by force. They returned the islands to the Dutch in 1817, but not before transplanting hundreds of nutmeg seedlings to plantations in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Singapore. The Dutch were out; the nutmeg monopoly was over. While they would go on to have success trading steeland coal (not to mention tulips), the Netherlands declined as a colonial power, and they never again dominated European commerce.

Did you know ...

About from mouth to fat, the psychology of obesity

That beer goggles also work on yourself, says science

An unfortunate juxtaposition

I almost never watch television much less live television, so I did not see this faux pas, reported by the Daily Mail:
NBC has become the centre of a race storm after airing an ad featuring a monkey performing gymnastics, right after showing the performance of Gabby Douglas, the first African-American to win Olympic gold. The network has since apologised for the advert's poor timing, explaining: 'No offense was intended.'

The controversy ignited as sportscaster Bob Costas wrapped his analysis of her incredible routine during the all-around competition last night. Costas said: 'There are some African American girls out there who tonight are saying to themselves: "Hey, I’d like to try that too." More from London in a moment.'

The broadcast then went to a commercial break, showing an advertisement featuring a monkey wearing a gymnastics uniform and performing a rings gymnastics event.

Ten Insanely, Incredibly Close Olympic Finishes

Every Olympics produces at least a couple of nail-biting finishes, races so close we yell ourselves hoarse screaming at the television, as if that would push the athletes just a little bit harder. The job of measuring finishes that close falls to the Olympic timers, a team of 450 technicians who use more than 400 tons of equipment to ensure peerless accuracy timing.

But sometimes even the very finest in timing technology is not enough. Dead heats are rare, but not unheard of, as we saw during the 1984 Summer Games when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer registered the same time in the 100-meter freestyle. Both won gold, the first double-gold in swimming history. Close finishes are what give the Games their excitement.

Bolt frustrated by London's 'weird' Olympic rules

And the Olympic champion's not happy about it.

Especially when the security guards hold him up ahead of his showpiece 100-meter event.

Fat? We are fit. Get over it, say women athletes

American weightlifter Holley Mangold tips the scales at 346 pounds (157 kilograms) and she is proud of being the heaviest woman at the London Olympics.
Mangold, 22, who competed in the women's 75 kilogram-plus division, is one of growing number of women athletes speaking out at their frustration with the public scrutiny of their body size and image rather than their fitness and skills.
At the 2012 Olympics, a list of top female athletes have hit back at critics who have called them fat including British heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis, Australian swimmer Liesel Jones, and the Brazilian women's soccer team.
For Mangold, her weight is a something to be proud of.
"Between my team mate (Sarah Robles) and I, I think we both showed you can be athletic at any size," said Mangold whose Twitter profile has the tagline "Loving life and living big!"
"I'm not saying everyone is an athlete but I am saying an athlete can come in any size."
Mangold, who suffered a wrist injury three weeks ago, came 10th in a field of 14 on Sunday, watched by her NFL-playing brother Nick, centre for the New York Jets. Robles came seventh.
The 2012 Olympics have been hailed as the 'Women's Games' for including women in all sports and from all national teams with campaigners hoping this will lead to more role models in sport and increase female participation in physical activity.
The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), a UK charity aiming to get more women into sport to build self-esteem and confidence, said only 12 percent of British girls at age 14 were doing enough exercise to meet recommended guidelines.
WSFF Chief Executive Sue Tibballs said their research found negative body image was consistently cited as a barrier for girls participating in exercise as popular culture gave out the message it was more important to be thin than fit.
She said this negative attitude over body image was also applied to women athletes at the Olympics who are in peak physical condition with healthy body images but still come under fire for being fat.
"Women athletes will regularly get comments about their appearance although men won't," said Tibballs.
"This really adds to the pressure on women athletes, many of whom already have a disordered attitude towards foods because they are in a controlled routine where weight is a key issue."
British triathlete Hollie Avil, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, quit high-level sports in May for the sake of her health after the recurrence of an eating disorder brought on by a coach telling her she was too fat.
Tibballs said it was hard to believe that Ennis, poster girl of the London Games with a rippling washboard stomach, was called fat and accused of carrying too much weight by a high-ranking UK athletics official ahead of the Games.
Ennis, 26, won gold for Britain on Saturday.
Australia's three-times gold medalist swimmer Leisel Jones's figure was questioned by some Australian media before London, who suggested she did not look as fit as at Beijing in 2008.
This sparked an angry reaction from team mates and an online uproar about body image and what constitutes fit or fat.
"I'm embarrassed by the Aussie media having a go at Leisel, one of Australia's greatest Olympians. Support athletes don't drag them down," fellow swimmer Melanie Schlanger tweeted.
"U can't judge fitness from looks anyway and how about we don't criticize at all."
Jones helped Australia win a silver medal in the medley relay in London.
British swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who won two bronze medals at London, told reporters she was going to avoid reading Twitter comments during the Olympics because so many were insults about her appearance.
The Brazilian women's soccer team were called "a bit heavy" by the coach of the Cameroon team after the South Americans won their game against the African nation 5-0.
British weightlifter Zoe Smith won fans when she hit back at attacks on Twitter saying she looked like a "lesbian" and a "bloke", addressing her critics as "chauvinistic, pigheaded blokes who feel emasculated (as) we .. are stronger than them".
"We don't lift weights in order to look hot," said 18-year-old Smith, who set at new British record at London where she came 12th in the women's 58kg class.
"We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren't weak and feeble."

Why Sitting Leads to an Early Death?

Is your lifestyle too sedentary?
Do you sit down for hours at a time, either in front of the TV or reading or working at a visual display unit?
Well just how many hours are too many and what is the consequence of it?
The latest research is saying that more than three hours every day sitting will double your risk of dying two years sooner than you ...

Pumping Iron Cuts Diabetes Risk

Pumping iron can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes in men, a new study found. The study of more than 32,000 men found those who lifted weights for at least two and a half hours a week were 34 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease linked to complications including blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure and cardiovascular ...

Three Health Benefits of Your Favorite Song

by Sari Harrar
 Listening to music lowers blood pressure 
Listening to music lowers blood pressure 

If you've ever crooned a cranky baby to sleep or pumped up a flagging workout with Top 40 hits, you know the power of music. Now new research has documented impressive health benefits locked within the tunes you love best. Here are some of the most promising:
Lowering Blood Pressure
In one Italian study, listening to classical, Celtic, or Indian music while consciously breathing slowly for 30 minutes a day trimmed systolic blood pressure four points - on par with cutting back on salt.
Soothing Tension
Relaxing with music - again, for 30 minutes a day - lowered the stress hormone cortisol better than chilling out in silence, a Swedish researcher reported, and deep breathing while listening to music eased anxiety as effectively as a massage in a study at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Easing Pain
Really tuning in to a melody blunted sharp pain in a University of Utah study in which 143 brave volunteers listened to tapes while receiving brief electric shocks.
Music does more than provide distraction, says Joke Bradt, Ph.D., an associate professor in the creative arts therapies department at Drexel University and a board-certified music therapist. "It's first processed in the brain's medulla, which controls basic functions like breathing and heart rate. That may explain the blood pressure and cardio payoffs. Music also reduces activity in the amygdala, an area that regulates negative emotions, while acting on neural systems that stimulate pleasure - like the lift you get from eating a wonderful piece of chocolate."
To Get the Most From Your Listening
Choose Your Favorite
In studies, everything from Frank Sinatra to J.S. Bach has worked. "There's no style of music or number of beats per minute that's best," notes Bradt. "If Lady Gaga relaxes you, listen to her." One caveat: "For stress relief or blood pressure reduction, pick music that won't evoke disturbing emotions," she advises. If it reminds you of your ex-husband, don't play it.
Pay Attention
"So many of us play music all day as sonic wallpaper, but that won't work here," Bradt says. "Save a favorite song or two. Then sit down or lie down, and really listen to it purposefully."
Pick the Right System
Both headphones and speakers work, says Bradt. "But if you're worried you won't hear the phone, playing music through speakers will be more relaxing." Headphones may seem like the obvious choice for calming nerves or easing pain during a medical procedure, but without sensory input, you may become more anxious. Ask your doctor if he can turn on the radio.

Random Fact

On average you will spend one year of your life looking for misplaced objects

The Classics

1959 Cadillac Eldorados at the Cadillac Big Meet by geraldloidl on Flickr.
1959 Cadillac Eldorados at the Cadillac Big Meet

Extreme Heat Waves Becoming The Norm

From the "Tell us something we didn't already know" Department:

An increase in excessively hot summers over the last 30 years is too extreme to be considered a result of chance, pointing a finger at global warming as the underlying cause.
  hot water

Human-Triggered Earthquakes Surprisingly Common

Injecting liquid wastes from fracking, oil extraction and other processes causes a surprising number of small earthquakes.  
earthquakes, wells, quakes, underground, geothermal energy, fracking

Twenty-seven Of The Deepest Canyons You Can Explore

Canyons can be the most committing - and rewarding - places to hike, paddle, climb, or float. Whether you're there to take pictures or immerse yourself deep in the backcountry, here are 27 formidable canyons you can explore.

Awesome PIctures

Apes and Olympians Celebrate the Same Way

When Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Usain Bolt celebrate their wins, their displays of triumph link us to early humans and apes.
triumph, pride, olympics, displays, person, fist pumps, usain bolt, mic

Deaf pit bull stars in Shakespeare play

This summer's Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival has produced an unlikely star: a deaf pit bull named Michael who narrowly escaped euthanasia.

Cute Animals

A newborn baby gorilla at Melbourne Zoo in Australia gets a checkup at the hospital and shows surprise at the coldness of the stethoscope.

Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One?

Here's a dangerous, crazy thought from an otherwise sober (and very eminent) biologist, Bernd Heinrich. He's thinking about moths and butterflies, and how they radically change shape as they grow, from little wormy, caterpillar critters to airborne beauties. Why, he wondered, do these flying animals begin their lives as wingless, crawling worms? Baby ducks have wings. Baby bats have wings. Why not baby butterflies?

His answer: The radical change that occurs does indeed arguably involve death followed by reincarnation. The adult forms of these insects are actually new organisms.

Animal News

A cute, speckled deer "scampered" into the woods Thursday after being rescued by from a 20-ft hole in Suffolk County, NY.
• Two grey tiger kittens who spent hours trapped in a drain pipe were rescued by Igram County Animal Control. Officials believe the kittens were thirsty, and did not realize that the pipes were slippery.
• Puppies! Pongo the Rottweiler mix was rescued from a dumpster in Riverside, Ca., only hours before it was scheduled for pickup and crushing. Meanwhile, 57 puppies were rescued from a puppy mill by officers from Brunswick and New Hanover County Sheriff's department: "The raid was initially planned for next week, but ... the conditions were so bad, they had to take action earlier."
• Sadly, a group of campers in Nova Scotia was rescued from a circling pack of coyotes, which will now go hungry.

Animal Pictures