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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.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Daily Drift

Yeah, we went there ... so?

Some of our readers today have been in:
Warsaw, Poland
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Almaty, Kazahkstan
Waterloo, Canada
Manchester, England
Cukai, Malaysia
Beirut, Lebanon
Zawiercie, Poland
Kuwait, Kuwait
Bandar Labuan, Malaysia
Marseilles, France
Szczecin, Poland
Manado, Indonesia
Cheras, Malaysia
Lahore, Pakistan
Surabaya, Indonesia
Sampaloc, Philippines
Quito, Ecuador
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Manila, Philippines
Cape Town, South Africa
Lille, France
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Oakville, Canada
Belgrade, Serbia
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Hyderabad, Pakistan
Paris, France
Nis, Serbia
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Karachi, Pakistan
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Kuching, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

And in case you might be interested: Today in National Mutt Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog! 

Today in History

1804 Napoleon Bonaparte crowns himself Emperor of France in Notre Dame Cathedral.
1805 Napoleon Bonaparte celebrates the first anniversary of his coronation with a victory at Austerlitz over a Russian and Austrian army.
1823 President James Monroe proclaims the principles known as the Monroe Doctrine, "that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by European powers."
1863 General Braxton Bragg turns over command of the Army of Tennessee to General William Hardee at Dalton, Ga.
1864 Major General Grenville M. Dodge is named to replace General William Rosecrans as Commander of the Department of Missouri.
1867 People wait in mile-long lines to hear Charles Dickens give his first reading in New York City.
1907 Spain and France agree to enforce Moroccan measures adopted in 1906.
1909 J.P. Morgan acquires majority holdings in Equitable Life Co. This is the largest concentration of bank power to date.
1914 Austrian troops occupy Belgrade, Serbia.
1918 Armenia proclaims independence from Turkey.
1921 The first successful helium dirigible, C-7, makes a test flight in Portsmouth, Va.
1927 The new Ford Model A is introduced to the American public.
1932 Bolivia accepts Paraguay's terms for a truce in the Chaco War.
1942 The Allies repel a strong Axis attack in Tunisia, North Africa.
1944 General George S. Patton's troops enter the Saar Valley and break through the Siegfried line.
1946 The United States and Great Britain merge their German occupation zones.
1964 Brazil sends Juan Peron back to Spain, foiling his efforts to return to his native land.
1970 The U.S. Senate votes to give 48,000 acres of New Mexico back to the Taos Indians.
1982 Dentist Barney Clark receives the first permanent artificial heart, developed by Dr. Robert K. Jarvik.

Non Sequitur


Geithner says next move up to repugicans, who must accept higher tax rates on top earners

President Obama is ready for difficult concessions to reach a deficit deal, but repugican lawmakers must first commit to higher tax rates on the rich and specify what additional spending cuts they want in a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.

Word ...

Anti-climate change business groups demand Obama fixes climate change problems

Climate change via Shutterstock
Even more wingnut groups are asking for stuff from big government.

Ah yes, repugicans once again want stuff. Even better though, the groups that “want stuff” are deep pocketed business groups. Even better, they are demanding that Obama takes action to fix problems that are linked to climate change. As in the same climate change that they’ve fought against for years.
It’s easy to be sympathetic to Democratic Senator Tom Harkin but for the rest, it feels too easy to give them a free pass without demanding that they get their act together and accept climate change. Many of us are really tired of moochers like Carly Fiorina, Lloyd Blankfein and the repugican base always “wanting stuff” but not admitting it.
In the case of the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, not only do they “want stuff” but they also want big government to help. Why should those groups – who complain so often about big government – get anything more than they already receive when it’s their mission to deny climate change? The drought that devastated the corn belt has been linked to climate change, so let’s move this discussion back to where it needs to be.
For the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, they’re moochers and they hypocrites. Would someone in Washington please call them out and make them scream “uncle” before lifting a finger (or spending millions of taxpayer dollars) to help them? They can’t have it both ways.

To hell with the deniers. Let them get their fat wallet donors fund it. Why is it so difficult for them to admit that climate change is real?
Lawmakers, including Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute urged Obama to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hasten the planned removal of submerged rocks near Cairo, Illinois, that may impede barge traffic at low water levels. The Corps also should stop its seasonal restriction on the flow of Missouri River water into the Mississippi, which it began last week, the groups said.
“We still got a lot of stuff to move down that Mississippi before winter totally sets in,” Harkin said in an interview. “They can release more water, sure they can.”
Mississippi River barge traffic is slowing as the worst drought in five decades combines with a seasonal dry period to push water levels to a near-record low, prompting shippers including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM) to seek alternatives. Computer models suggest that without more rain, navigating the Mississippi will start to be affected Dec. 11 and the river will reach a record low Dec. 22, Corps spokesman Bob Anderson, based in Vicksburg, Mississippi, said.

The Fingerprints of Climate Change on Two Extreme Natural Disasters

In the last few months, West Africa and Haiti have suffered epic disasters – immense humanitarian emergencies in which climate change appears to have played a part. More

Short-term exposure to essential oils lowers blood pressure, heart rate

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Extended sleep reduces pain sensitivity

A new study suggests that extending nightly sleep in mildly sleepy, healthy adults increases daytime alertness and reduces pain sensitivity.
“Our results suggest the importance of adequate sleep in various chronic pain conditions or in preparation for elective surgical procedures,” said Timothy Roehrs, PhD, the study’s principal investigator and lead author. “We were surprised by the magnitude of the reduction in pain sensitivity, when compared to the reduction produced by taking codeine.”
320px WLA metmuseum Bronze statue of Eros sleeping 7 e1353422213624 300x133 Extended sleep reduces pain sensitivity 
The study, appearing in the December issue of the journal SLEEP, involved 18 healthy, pain-free, sleepy volunteers. They were randomly assigned to four nights of either maintaining their habitual sleep time or extending their sleep time by spending 10 hours in bed per night. Objective daytime sleepiness was measured using the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), and pain sensitivity was assessed using a radiant heat stimulus.
Results show that the extended sleep group slept 1.8 hours more per night than the habitual sleep group. This nightly increase in sleep time during the four experimental nights was correlated with increased daytime alertness, which was associated with less pain sensitivity.
In the extended sleep group, the length of time before participants removed their finger from a radiant heat source increased by 25 percent, reflecting a reduction in pain sensitivity. The authors report that the magnitude of this increase in finger withdrawal latency is greater than the effect found in a previous study of 60 mg of codeine.
According to the authors, this is the first study to show that extended sleep in mildly, chronically sleep deprived volunteers reduces their pain sensitivity. The results, combined with data from previous research, suggest that increased pain sensitivity in sleepy individuals is the result of their underlying sleepiness.

Apocalypse Rumors Have Dark Side, NASA Warns

Children and impressionable youth may suffer anxiety amid Mayan doomsday rumors, NASA scientists say. Read more

What is a Butterknife

The good news is, this world has in it a thing that looks like an elaborate butter-knife, but is really a flintlock pistol. The bad news is, you missed your choice to buy it -- it sold in Sept 2011 for $3750.
This unusual knife/pistol combination has a flintlock pistol as the handle for the knife and the knife the grip area for the pistol. The knife blade is 5 3/4 inch in length with a curved tip (similar to a butter knife) and decorative ricasso with floral scroll engraving. The handle/pistol portion is silver plated with floral scroll engraving. The top has a banner marked "F.X. RICHTER" and the bottom "IN REICHEBERG". The muzzle is coming out of a dragon/serpents mouth. There is a hammer, pan, frizzen and single spring mounted on the right side and the trigger, two springs and a locking mechanism between the hammer and forward spring are mounted on the left side. When the hammer is cocked, the mechanism rotates and the hammer catches a notch and holds the hammer. Pulling the trigger, releases the hammer and the pistol is fired. Due to the fact that the knife is the grip for the pistol, writer assumes there would normally be a scabbard of some sort otherwise firing the pistol could be a little hazardous.
1154 Unique Engraved F.X. Richter Marked Combination Flintlock Pistol and Knife

Bizarre Movie Theaters from All Over the World

There's a world of variety in movie theaters beyond your mall cineplex. Flavorwire shows us open air theaters, solar-powered theaters, theaters that float on water, and even a drive-in on the roof!
The disappearance of the drive-in is largely a matter of space and location; us city folk who’d like to frequent them often live in places where there’s just not room for them. And that’s the genius of the Electric Dusk in Los Angeles: their monthly (“sometimes bimonthly” their website charmingly hedges) drive-in screenings are held on the roof of an LA parking garage. If there’s a better nighttime use for garages, we can’t think of it — and there’s some karmic justice to it as well, considering how many wonderful old theaters were demolished to make way for parking garages.
Maybe you'll travel to one of these theaters someday - or maybe one of them is near where you live! More

Daily Comic Relief

The "Stairway to Heaven"

The Haiku Stairs, or the Stairway to Heaven, is a semi-secret forbidden hike on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The stairs were originally built in 1943 to install antenna cables as part of a larger military radio communication system to communicate with US Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay. The original wooden steps were replaced by metal, cable-supported stairs in the early 1950s when the US Coast Guard took over the installation. 
According to Friends of Haiku Stairs, there are 3,922 steps.
The men who made the first ascent up Keahiakahoe in 1942 required 21 days to pioneer the route up the south wall of Haiku Valley. They considered it a "sissy's climb" when the way was made easier by laying wooden ladders along the trail, held in place by four-foot metal posts pounded into the lava cliffs. The ladders were later replaced by a wooden stairway. When the wooden stairs were done, the trip to the summit could be made in 3 1/2 hours. Ten years later, the wooden stairs were replaced by the galvanized steel stairway that was used until its closure in 1987. In spite of corrosion, shifting, and missing sections, a fit climber can now reach the top in two hours or less, passing remnants of the original wooden stairway cast off to the side.

The Haiku Stairs, however, are more than an artifact of World War II history. Climbers can experience a variety of micro-climates and ecological communities on the way up. Progressing from a disturbed area of mostly alien plants at the base, the Stairs ascend into a relatively undisturbed plant community, where more than 50 native plant species can be observed. On a clear day, the panorama of Windward Oahu opens to view, with glimpses to leeward through the mountain gaps. On a typical trade wind day, a full range of weather can set clouds swirling in motion, bringing sunshine and pouring rain, sometimes both at once. 
Much more information in sublinks at the organization's website.

Upon further review, giant sequoia tops a neighbor

In this 2009 photo released by Steve Sillett, The President, a Giant Sequoia Tree, is shown in Sequoia National Park, Calif. After 3,240 years the Giant Sequoia is still growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how they and coastal redwoods will be impacted by climate change and whether they have a role to play in combatting it. (AP Photo/Steve Sillett) MANDATORY CREDIT
Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the famous General Grant giant sequoia tree is suffering its loss of stature in silence. What once was the world's No. 2 biggest tree has been supplanted thanks to the most comprehensive measurements taken of the largest living things on Earth.
The new No. 2 is The President, a 54,000-cubic-foot gargantuan not far from the Grant in Sequoia National Park. After 3,240 years, the giant sequoia still is growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how the sequoias and coastal redwoods will be affected by climate change and whether these trees have a role to play in combatting it.
"I consider it to be the greatest tree in all of the mountains of the world," said Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher whose team from Humboldt State University is seeking to mathematically assess the potential of California's iconic trees to absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide.
The researchers are a part of the 10-year Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative funded by the Save the Redwoods League in San Francisco. The measurements of The President, reported in the current National Geographic, dispelled the previous notion that the big trees grow more slowly in old age.
It means, the experts say, the amount of carbon dioxide they absorb during photosynthesis continues to increase over their lifetimes.
In addition to painstaking measurements of every branch and twig, the team took 15 half-centimeter-wide core samples of The President to determine its growth rate, which they learned was stunted in the abnormally cold year of 1580 when temperatures in the Sierra hovered near freezing even in the summer and the trees remained dormant.
But that was an anomaly, Sillett said. The President adds about one cubic meter of wood a year during its short six-month growing season, making it one of the fastest-growing trees in the world. Its 2 billion leaves are thought to be the most of any tree on the planet, which would also make it one of the most efficient at transforming carbon dioxide into nourishing sugars during photosynthesis.
"We're not going to save the world with any one strategy, but part of the value of these great trees is this contribution and we're trying to get a handle on the math behind that," Sillett said.
After the equivalent of 32 working days dangling from ropes in The President, Sillett's team is closer to having a mathematical equation to determine its carbon conversion potential, as it has done with some less famous coastal redwoods. The team has analyzed a representative sample that can be used to model the capacity of the state's signature trees.
More immediately, however, the new measurements could lead to a changing of the guard in the land of giant sequoias. The park would have to update signs and brochures — and someone is going to have to correct the Wikipedia entry for "List of largest giant sequoias," which still has The President at No. 3.
Now at 93 feet in diameter and with 45,000 cubic feet of trunk volume and another 9,000 cubic feet in its branches, the tree named for President Warren G. Harding is about 15 percent larger than Grant, also known as America's Christmas Tree. Sliced into one-foot by one-foot cubes, The President would cover a football field.
Giant sequoias grow so big and for so long because their wood is resistant to the pests and disease that dwarf the lifespan of other trees, and their thick bark makes them impervious to fast-moving fire.
It's that resiliency that makes sequoias and their taller coastal redwood cousin worthy of intensive protections — and even candidates for cultivation to pull carbon from an increasingly warming atmosphere, Sillett said. Unlike white firs, which easily die and decay to send decomposing carbon back into the air, rot-resistant redwoods stay solid for hundreds of years after they fall.
Though sequoias are native to California, early settlers traveled with seedlings back to the British Isles and New Zealand, where a 15-foot diameter sequoia that is the world's biggest planted tree took root in 1850. Part of Sillett's studies involves modeling the potential growth rate of cultivated sequoia forests to determine over time how much carbon sequestering might increase.
All of that led him to a spot 7,000 feet high in the Sierra and to The President, which he calls "the ultimate example of a giant sequoia." Compared to the other giants whose silhouettes are bedraggled by lightning strikes, The President's crown is large with burly branches that are themselves as large as tree trunks.
The world's biggest tree is still the nearby General Sherman with about 2,000 cubic feet more volume than the President, but to Sillett it's not a contest.
"They're all superlative in their own way," Sillett said.

How Rare Black Dahlias Get Their Color

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Random Photo


Cecilie Melli Chiffon Tunic

The Ten Largest Canyons On Earth

Nothing illustrates the steady corrosive powers of water like a river canyon. Carving their way through solid rock, sometimes over the course of millions of years, rivers slowly create these incredible and vast natural sculptures.

Long and deep canyons are particular places of wonder. Some, like Arizona's Grand Canyon, are well known; others, such as Tibet's Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, aren't quite so famous. However, they're all astonishing in their own unique ways.


Adam LeWinter on the rim of Birthday Canyon on the Greenland Ice Sheet. The black deposit in the bottom of channel is cryoconite. Birthday Canyon is approximately 150 feet deep.
The photo comes from a small gallery at The Guardian depicting scenes of glacial melting in the Arctic.  Second gallery.

Blogged for the stark beauty, but it also prompted me to look up what "cryoconite" is.
Cryoconite is powdery windblown dust which is deposited and builds up on snow, glaciers, or icecaps. It contains small amounts of soot which absorbs solar radiation melting the snow or ice beneath the deposit sometimes creating a cryoconite hole. 
Cryoconite holes have been suggested to play important roles in the glacier ecosystems because many kinds of living organisms have been reported from this structure on the glaciers, for example, algae, rotifer, tardigrada, insects and ice worm.
Details about cryoconite granules

Cave Structure Tells Tale of 13,000 Winters

Scientists have found a stalagmite in an Oregon cave that tells the story of thousands of winters in the Pacific Northwest.
  Cave Structure Tells Tale of 13,000 Winters

The wild rivers above California

Atmospheric rivers are meteorological phenomenon that we humans only discovered in 1998 and which supply about 30-to-50 percent of California's annual precipitation. In the NOAA satellite image above, the atmospheric river is visible as a thin yellow arm, reaching out from the Pacific to touch California. Or, more evocatively, reaching out to slap California silly with a gushing downpour.
An atmospheric river is a narrow conveyor belt of vapor about a mile high that extends thousands of miles from out at sea and can carry as much water as 15 Mississippi Rivers. It strikes as a series of storms that arrive for days or weeks on end. Each storm can dump inches of rain or feet of snow.
The real scare, however, is that truly massive atmospheric rivers that cause catastrophic flooding seem to hit the state about once every 200 years, according to evidence recently pieced together (and described in the article noted above). The last megaflood was in 1861; rains arrived for 43 days, obliterating Sacramento and bankrupting the state.
As you might guess, climate change is also involved. Evidence suggests that warming global temperatures could increase the frequency of atmospheric rivers. That, combined with the 200-year event expected soon and the fact we're learning so much much more about these storms, means that you should expect to hear the phrase "atmospheric river" more often.
Scientific American has two interesting stories on the phenomenon right now. The first, which I quote from above, is a blog post by Mark Fischetti. The second is a much longer feature story that gets into the forces that cause these storms and the climate change connection.

How To Photograph The Moon

For centuries the moon has captivated people, given direction and provided hours of enjoyment and wonderment. Being the brightest object in the night sky, it's something photographers of all levels can shoot, however it does take planning and preparation to accomplish.

The moon is bright, but it isn't bright enough to simply snap a photo. It's an object that's lit with sunlight, so nearly every aspect of preparing the shot is the same.

The Classics

Classic 1957 GMC Pick-Up Truck by Gordon Calder on Flickr.
Classic 1957 GMC Pick-Up Truck

Oceanic Algae Can Be Crude ...

... Oil That Is

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North Korean archaeologists report discovery of unicorn's lair

Normally, North Korea's official state news agency is the place to go for reports ranging from the reclusive totalitarian state's unparalleled scientific achievements to the limitless love which its inhabitants reserve for their successive leaders.

Yet in what appears to be a genuine world exclusive, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has now broken the incredible news that archaeologists in Pyongyang have discovered a unicorn's lair.

Or rather, the report says that they have "recently reconfirmed" the lair of one of the unicorns ridden by the ancient Korean King Tongmyong, founder of a kingdom which ruled parts of China and the Korean peninsula from the the 3rd century BC to 7th century AD.

The KCNA goes on to state that the location happens to be 200 metres from a temple in the North Korean capital, adding: "A rectangular rock carved with words "Unicorn Lair" stands in front of the lair." "The carved words are believed to date back to the period of Koryo Kingdom (918-1392)," says the report. Archaeologists from the Academy of Social Sciences at North Korea's History Institute were credited with making the discovery.

Coming soon: Dinosaur hotel

A Best Western in Denver is set to begin a remodeling project that will turn it into a dinosaur-themed wonderland.

Rare Cat Captured on Camera

Rare Cat Captured on Camera: Big PicA camera trap in Bolivia captures an image of a rare oncilla -- a wild cat that's about the size of a house kitty. Read more

Bizarre Insect-like Creatures Found in Spanish Cave

cave creatureThe tiny creatures have tails that allow them to jump away from danger.  

Grey-mouse lemurs serve as model for the early primates from which humans evolved

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Animal Pictures