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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, December 14, 2012


Our children are dying!

This is it! Enough is enough! Now is the time for all the gun nuts to give up their notional fallacy that they are 'entitled to have a gun or thousand'. The 2nd amendment covers only the 'arms' of the day in the 18th century and then only to that which the common citizen would be able to afford. And here's clue for all you troglodytes - the 'arms' of choice and affordability for the common citizen of the early US was the same as it was during the colonial period ... the bow (and arrows) ... and even then the famed and common 'English Long Bow' was banned, lest the natives get hold to it and repel the colonials.

The Daily Drift

On the Night Wind

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Today is Monkey Day 

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Today in History

1799   George Washington dies on his Mount Vernon estate.
1819   Alabama is admitted as the 22nd state, making 11 slave states and 11 free states.
1861   Prince Albert of England, one of the Union's strongest advocates, dies.
1863   Confederate General James Longstreet attacks Union troops at Bean's Station, Tenn.
1863   President Abraham Lincoln grants amnesty to the widow of Confederate General B.H. Helm after she swears allegiance to the Union. Mrs. Helm is the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.
1900   Max Planck presents the quantum theory at the Physics Society in Berlin.
1906   The first U1 submarine is brought into service in Germany. Italy's MAS torpedo boats.
1908   The first truly representative Turkish Parliament opens.
1909   The Labor Conference in Pittsburgh ends with a "declaration of war" on U.S. Steel.
1911   Roald Amundsen and four others discover the South Pole.
1920   The League of Nations creates a credit system to aid Europe.
1939   The League of Nations drops the Soviet Union from its membership. Joseph Avenol sold out the League of Nations.
1941   German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel orders the construction of defensive positions along the European coastline. Desperate Hours on Omaha Beach
1946   The United Nations adopt a disarmament resolution prohibiting the A-Bomb.
1949   Bulgarian ex-Premier Traicho Kostov is sentenced to die for treason in Sofia.
1960   A U.S. Boeing B-52 bomber sets a 10,000-mile non-stop record without refueling.
1980   NATO warns the Soviets to stay out of the internal affairs of Poland, saying that intervention would effectively destroy the d├ętente between the East and West.

Non Sequitur


Loud TV commercials have been banned

Thank the freak.
The FCC has a page set up about the new rule, and where to report violators.
Q:   Will the new rules eliminate the problem of loud commercials?
A:   The rules should eliminate any systematic difference between the loudness of commercials and the loudness of the programming they accompany. The ATSC practice that Congress directed us to adopt does not set an absolute cap on loudness. Rather, it requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programming they accompany, so that the volume a consumer chooses is the one at which both the programming and the advertisements will air. We hope and expect that compliance with this practice will significantly reduce the problem of loud commercials for consumers.
This is all well and good, but what about enforcement?  The Do Not Call list’s enforcement has been questionable.  While the Do Not Call List works great for me, it hasn’t helped my friend Matt, or my parents, who are seniors, and who routinely get barraged by calls (apparently there’s a whole “thing” about telemarketing predators who go after seniors with scams, etc.)
noise loud tv commercials 
I know when I’ve written about loud TV commercials before there were some naysayer libertarian types (though they may have been conservative trolls) who worried about the impact on our overall freedom of limiting the volume of absurdly screeching TV commercials (first they came for the loud tv commercials…).  And I have a few responses to that.
First off, while I do buy the argument that we have to be careful of creeping infringements on our freedom, I tend to think that admonishment has more to do with, oh I don’t know, AT&T letting the government tap our phones without a warrant than the FCC taking away your right to yell in my eardrum because you think it will make me buy more Skittles.
But even more importantly, I have a theory.  I’ve not found anything online about it, but just wait a few years.  It’s about loud TV commercials and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that can affect people who have been through an extremely stressful event.
Things are better now, but loud noise still sets me off more than it should.  And one of the loud noises that upsets me the most are TV commercials.
I am convinced that there’s a link between PTSD and loud TV commercials.  I’m not saying that the commercials necessarily cause PTSD, but I know for a fact that they aggravate it.  The loud noise coming on every five minutes, it can be jarring, depending on the commercial.  And for me at least, when the commercials really start to get on my nerves – they all have loud fast, excitable music, all of them – I get that familiar unsettling feeling start to well up that tells me this isn’t a “normal” reaction to the noise.
There are a lot of people in this country, especially military, who are suffering from symptoms of PTSD.  Estimates are that between 4% and 17% of US Iraq war vets have PTSD (a recent study showed 30% of vets treated by the VA have PTSD). How many vets is that?
Nearly 250,000.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post-traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.
It also affects cancer patients, among others.  From Cancer.gov:
Reviews of the literature [1] note that post-traumatic stress has been studied in a variety of cancers, including melanoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, breast cancer, and mixed cancers. The incidence of the full syndrome of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (meeting the full Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition [DSM-IV], diagnostic criteria) ranges from 3% to 4% in early-stage patients recently diagnosed to 35% in patients evaluated after treatment. When incidence of PTSD-like symptoms (not meeting the full diagnostic criteria) are measured, the rates are higher, ranging from 20% in patients with early-stage cancer to 80% in those with recurrent cancer.
I’ve often wondered how many Americans have PTSD (or borderline cases) that are being aggravated by the excessive loudness of TV commercials.  And also, putting PTSD aside, to what degree the loudness of commercials is simply making people more nervous, on edge, and angrier.  I admit I don’t have absolutely proof, but I’ve wondered about this before.  We watch a LOT of TV – 4 minutes and 39 minutes on average every day.  And that equals a lot of commercials.  I just wonder to what degree, in a society where people already seem to be increasingly agitated as the years go on, the jarring noise from the idiot box, as my mom calls it, jumping out at you ever five minutes or so, over a nearly 5 hour period each day, doesn’t start to take its toll.
Let’s hope these rules work.  One concern already, the rules require “commercials to have the same average volume as the programming they accompany.”  On another page the FCC explains the dilemma:
 A commercial may have louder and quieter moments, but, overall, it should be no louder than the surrounding programming. This may mean, however, that some commercials will comply with the new rules, but still sound “too loud” to some viewers.
Well that’s disconcerting.  So the commercials can still be as loud as they’ve been, so long as they have a less loud period that “averages” the entire thing out to the same volume level as the show before it.  So if we’re watching a war move, the commercials can quite literally blow us out of seats, so long as they go silent for a period of time as well.  I can imagine commercials starting with a bang, to get your attention, then whispering.  We’ll have to see how this plays out, but if the advertisers start abusing the spirt of the rules, we may need to revisit it.
Still, it’s nice to know that Congress can do something right.

Wall Street critic Warren to join U.S. Senate Banking Committee

Isn't Karma wonderful
Senator-elect for Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren addresses supporters during her victory rally in Boston, Massachusetts, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl  
Wall Street critic and Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren will join the Senate Banking Committee next year where she is likely to be a loud voice in favor of tight financial regulation.
The Democratic Steering Committee on Wednesday approved committee assignments for Warren and other Senate Democrats, installing Senator Patty Murray of Washington state as chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who won a hard-fought election in Massachusetts, will now have a powerful platform from which to oversee banking regulation.
The pick is a controversial one for the financial services sector, where many bankers have criticized her as an overzealous regulator bent on punishing Wall Street and who does not fully understand the financial system.
She has called for the breakup of largest banks and is expected to fight fiercely against Republican efforts to dilute reforms contained in the post-financial crisis Dodd-Frank Wall Street law.
Warren would also be able to forcefully push for financial regulators to use all the powers available to them to write strict interpretations of rules.
That could mean stronger curbs on Wall Street trading, higher capital buffers and rules that would compel mega-banks to shrink.
Warren is the architect of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by Dodd-Frank in 2010. Although she helped set up the new government watchdog, President Barack Obama refrained from nominating her as its first director, because of fierce opposition in the Senate.
"These committee assignments will allow all members of our caucus to bring their unique talents and expertise to bear as we work together to advance the interests of the middle class," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement.
Warren was a leading speaker at the Democratic National Convention in September and gave a rousing speech attacking Republican Mitt Romney as an out of touch elitist
She also won a seat on Wednesday on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Two other newly elected Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, will join the Senate Agriculture Committee. Heitkamp also was assigned to the Banking Committee, while Donnelly also will join the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Murray replaces the retiring Kent Conrad as head of the Budget Committee, while Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon will become chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, replacing the retiring Jeff Bingaman.
The assignments are still subject to approval by the Democratic caucus and the Democratic-majority full Senate, but these approvals are viewed as largely pro forma following the steering committee vote.

Did you know ...

How the middle class wealth collapsed to a 40 year low

The anti-Obama food chains pay big price for nasty attitude

The truth be told

Poll: Obama has large mandate to raise taxes on the rich

Americans overwhelmingly believe President Obama has the right to raise taxes on the repugican protected class.This should add more fuel to the fire for Obama to force this issue with repugicans. Boehner’s bizarre attempt to show compromise yesterday, by digging in his heels for permanent tax cuts for the top 2%, is so far from what anyone outside of that little group wants.
More on the NBC News/WSJ Poll via CNBC:
By 65 percent to 28 percent, respondents to the survey preferred that political leaders compromise to reach a deal—even if that means tax increases and cuts in Social Security and Medicare—rather than stick to their positions and allow across the board tax hikes and spending cuts on Jan. 1. The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Dec. 6-9, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.
But on the specific measures that might be part of a compromise, public opinion favors Obama’s views. Fully 68 percent said Obama “has a mandate” from the November election to cut taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year; 65 percent said he has a mandate for “increasing taxes on the wealthy and reducing federal spending.”
Some 59 percent said Obama has a mandate to eliminate the shrub tax cuts on incomes above $250,000. And an overwhelming 76 percent said that higher tax rates on incomes that high would be an “acceptable” element of a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Filip Fuxa / Shutterstock.com
Americans are also saying that they want “compromise,” though so far, no solid majority can point to any specific areas where they want the budget cut. We also know that austerity is not the way, as it’s crashing the UK and European economies. The one point most can agree on though, is that taxes must go up for the repugican protected class.
I’m certainly not clear on why we need “entitlement” cuts since the budget problems have everything to do with the shrub’s lies about the tax cuts not adding to the deficit and the wars being necessary and quick, so someone is going to have to help me out. Instead of people repeating this idiotic “we want compromise” they need to be very specific and say what they want cut.
The economy is still soft thanks to the shrub’s lies, and it won’t be strong for years. Cutting “entitlements” won’t do anything to help, and it will only hurt those who need it due to tax cuts for the rich and unnecessary wars.

Poll: repugican voters oppose repugican fiscal cliff cuts

So repugican voters aren’t thrilled about repugican members of Congress proposing cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid in the so-called fiscal cliff talks with the President.The trend to be in favor of government spending cuts, so long as the cuts aren’t for anything you want, has been around for a while.  And the public’s split personality on such cuts isn’t surprising.  As John wrote in early 2011, the repugicans have bashed government spending for years, convincing many that any government spending is bad government spending (so long as you don’t get into the details).
Shockingly, these same repugicans failed to show concern for the shrub budget-busting lies. The trillion-dollar tax cuts never saved us a dime, they actually busted the budget, and the unnecessary wars are still costing us billions each month (Iraq alone may end up costing us $5 trillion). That big government spending that they all hated so much? Somehow, that was now fine too.
fiscal cliff flying grandma

More recently, we also heard countless complaints from Republicans about the evils of 47% of the public who eat at the trough of big government spending. It’s just terrible for them to think about, that some people might actually need food stamps, or Medicare or Social Security. Although few publicly agreed with Romney’s 47% remark, privately, many repugicans believed and said the same thing - Romney even said it again after the election, and Bill O’Reilly and others agreed with  him.
The problem for the repugicans, though, was that they too were looking for government money.  And many of them   had more money than god, but didn’t want you to have a dime.
Whether it was the moocher 1% types who feed on government money, or the repugican voters, who needed it to survive, they wanted stuff too. The repugican-voting states have benefited enormously from federal tax dollars over the years and this year, the bulk of the counties with the fastest-growth in food-stamp aid voted for Romney. Everyone wants stuff, including repugicans.
Now that there are budget discussions to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, repugicans and some Democrats are proposing cuts to the social system. Besides being unnecessary and unfair, voting for such cuts is even unpopular with repugican voters. It’s seems repugicans still want stuff, according to a new poll.
repugican voters support tax increases on the wealthy, but are also against:
  • Letting the Obama payroll tax expire.
  • Cutting Medicare spending.
  • Raising the Medicare eligibility age.
  • Eliminating the home mortgage tax deduction.
  • Eliminating charitable tax deduction.
  • Cutting spending for Medicaid, the program for the poor.
More from McClatchy:
The only option that voters endorse, by a ratio of 3-to-2, is to raise taxes on the wealthy.
A majority oppose other often-discussed options, including raising taxes on everyone, cutting Medicaid or Medicare spending, raising the age for Medicare, or taking away tax deductions for charitable contributions or home mortgage interest.
Go read the poll.  It’s amazing how much it sides with Democrats and against repugicans.  (Well, some Democrats. The public is NOT in favor of any of the crazy cuts being proposed at the moment.)  If any Democrat blinks and wants to give away anything in light of this information, they might as well leave the party today. There is no need to back down to pay for the shrub’s lies.  We have the public on our side.  Let’s, for once, use that to our advantage and do the right thing.

The repugicans demand tax cuts for rich be made permanent in fiscal cliff talks

They don't 'demand' anything, they are told what is to be!

CNN’s Dana Bash, and the Washington Post, are both reporting that repugicans may now be demanding that tax cuts for the rich be made permanent as part of any fiscal cliff deal.
Dana Bash ‏@DanaBashCNN
Dem source tells me a big reason last night’s POTUS/Boehner call was tense: repugican counter included permanent extension of tax cuts for wealthy
Dana Bash ‏@DanaBashCNN
more: Dem source says repugican offer of permanent tax cuts for top 2% is sign to WH that repugicans “unwilling” or “unable” to cut a deal that can pass
It’s kind of amazing that we’re having a negotiation with these guys at all. The public hates the Grepugican offer, and they’re not terribly thrilled with the inkling that Democrats may be settle for Medicare and Social Security cuts.
What the public does like is letting the repugican tax cuts for the rich expire.
This new McClatchy poll, that Chris wrote about earlier today, is devastating to the repugicans. The only thing that the American people agree on is letting the shrub tax cuts for the rich expire:
The one thing that voters support is letting the shrub tax cuts expire as scheduled on Dec. 31 – and thus raising taxes – for individual income above $200,000 and family income above $250,000.
Voters support that 57 percent to 40 percent.
It just gets worse from there for repugicans:
Social Security via Shutterstock

– Voters oppose, by 59 percent to 40 percent, raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. There’s a gender gap on that issue, with women more opposed to raising the age, perhaps reflecting their longer life expectancy.
– Voters oppose cutting overall spending for Medicare, by 74 percent to 23 percent.
– They oppose cutting spending for Medicaid, the program for the poor, by 70 percent to 26 percent.
– They oppose reducing the federal tax deduction for home mortgage interest, by 67 percent to 29 percent.
– They oppose eliminating the tax deduction for charitable contributions, by 69 percent to 28 percent.
“None of these things are attractive to a majority,” said Miringoff.
In other words, the two big issues being discussed – letting the tax cuts for the rich continue, and cutting Medicare, are opposed by the American people.
It gets even more interesting, albeit a mixed bag, when you look just at repugicans in the poll:
  • Of repugicans, 30% support, 68% oppose: Let shrub tax cuts expire and raise taxes on individual income above $200,000 and families above $250,000.
  • 37% support, 47% oppose: Let payroll tax cut expire.
  • 26%-68%: cut Medicare spending.
  • 33%-61%: cut Medicaid spending.
  • 44%-56%: raise Medicare age to 67.
And of course, overall the public is still on the President’s side:
According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, registered voters disapprove of Boehner’s performance during the fiscal cliff talks by more than 2 to 1, a negative rating due in large part to the lack of uniform support for him among repugicans.
In contrast, Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the way Obama is handling negotiations. Registered voters as a whole are evenly split on the president’s handling of the talks, the poll shows.
To summarize, the public at large likes letting the repugican tax cuts expire for the wealthy, and hates every other proposal being talked about.  And even repugicans hate every other proposal being talked about.
So why are we even negotiating with the repugicans on any of this?  And why are we putting Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid on the table.  Maybe it’s time we reined in actual health care costs, rather than simply limiting how much we spend on health care.  The health care reform debate was a first step, but far too few Democrats, and no repugicans, wanted to consider the public option.  Well, too bad.  You don’t get to cut my Medicare and Social Security because you weren’t willing to address the real underlying problem.

Nine repugican senators are more conservative than socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is liberal

Vote View’s analysis of the 112th Congress and projections of the 113th Congress are out, and there are a few interesting things in the results.As has been pointed out before, repugican extremism in the Congress doesn’t have a Democratic analog.
While Democrats have kinda moved to the left over the years; repugicans have lurched to the right.
What’s more, polarization is expected to increase slightly over the next two years as compared with the last two.
Some examples of just how wingnut the repugicans are compared to the Democrats:
  • In the 112th Congress, Nancy Pelosi was as liberal as John Culberson (who?) was wingnut.
  • What’s more, you have to add Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Henry Waxman together to get a liberal counterpart to Ron Paul’s wingnuttery.
It’s okay to be extreme in the Senate, but only if you’re a repugican.
tea party

Senators are generally expected to be more moderate than House members due to their broader, and therefore more ideologically diverse, constituencies. In the 112th Congress, this was true only for those in the Democratic caucus.
The most liberal member of the Senate, Bernie Sanders, was more conservative than 38 members of the House. Furthermore, nine Republican senators were more conservative than Sanders was liberal. By contrast, only three members of the House were more conservative than Rand Paul (one was Ron Paul, go figure) and no representative came close to being as liberal as Paul was conservative.
Some additional findings…
Shelley Moore Capito is toast.
She is the most liberal Republican to hail from a state carried by Mitt Romney, and Romney won West Virginia by a lot. Heaven help her in a repugican primary for that state’s Senate seat.
repugicans Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey hopefully are toast, too.
Two of the six Senators with DW-Nominate scores more polarized than ±.600 (all repugicans), Johnson and Toomey, both hail from states that Barack Obama carried by more than five points in the past election, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, respectively. Neither are up for re-election until 2016, but if they don’t move to the left they will be far too conservative for the states they represent by the time they’re up for re-election.
South Carolina is completely nuts.
As I pointed out recently, repugican Joe “You Lie” Wilson was the second-most-liberal congressman from the state in the last term. He and Democrat Jim Clyburn are the only South Carolina congressmen who weren’t among the top 20 most wingnut House members overall.
A lot of these are things we already knew (though the Bernie Sanders comparison was surprising), but it’s nice to be able to quantify them. The next time your friend is complaining about dysfunction and partisanship in Washington, be ready to throw some hard numbers at them showing why it really is the repugicans’ doing.

Where does Assad's online army come from?

Syria's brutal Assad regime has damned few allies left in the world, but one of them, Russia, is governed by a dirty-tricking ruling elite who've made a science out of manipulating Internet opinion. This may explain the weird, stilted pro-Assad astroturf army who appear in any discussion of the regime's atrocities to explain that it's all a Jewish conspiracy.
And on like that. SyriaTribune maintains a YouTube channel stocked with clips from — surprise — Vladimir Putin’s Russia Today portraying Assad as the victim of a bloody-minded western conspiracy. A self-described French intellectual named Thierry Meyssan — author of 9/11 The Big Lie — reveals that TV images purporting to show Assad’s massacres of civilians were prepared by the CIA, along with White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, and “aims at demoralizing the Syrians in order to pave the way for a coup d’etat.” The #FakeRevolution hashtag on Instagram provides pictorial, meme-filled boosterism for Bashar, like a screengrab from Time’ app kindly telling user mybubb1e to stop voting for Assad for Person of the Year or Hillary Clinton with flames shooting out of her eyes and ear, courtesy of Bashar4Ever.

City buses across America now covertly recording passengers' conversations

City buses across America increasingly have hidden microphones that track and record the conversations that take place on them. It's easy to see the reasoning behind this: once it's acceptable to video-record everything and everyone on a bus because some crime, somewhere was thus thwarted, then why not add audio? If all you need to justify an intrusion into privacy is to show that some bad thing, somewhere, can be so prevented, then why not? After all, "If you've got nothing to hide..."
According to the product pamphlet for the RoadRecorder 7000 system made by SafetyVision (.pdf), “Remote connectivity to the RoadRecorder 7000 NVR can be established via the Gigabit Ethernet port or the built-in 3G modem. A robust software ecosystem including LiveTrax vehicle tracking and video streaming service combined with SafetyNet central management system allows authorized users to check health status, create custom alerts, track vehicles, automate event downloads and much more.”
The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.
Cities that have installed the systems or have taken steps to procure them include San Francisco, California; Eugene, Oregon; Traverse City, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore Maryland; Hartford, Connecticut; and Athens, Georgia.
There are lots more exciting possibilities opened up here. For example, our phones and laptops could continuously stream all the audio from our immediate surroundings when we're in public, even when we're not actively using them. No one would listen to them in real-time (or, at least, no one would be authorized to do this), unless they were a cop or someone in government. But when a crime was committed, imagine how useful it would be if all the phones in the vicinity could be tapped for a record of the event!
Why not? If you've got nothing to hide?
This is the NSA's argument, by the way. They're recording all of the Internet and voice traffic in the USA, but they only plan on examining it after the fact, to find criminals who do bad, bad things. Once you accept that logic, there's no reason that they shouldn't put prisoner-tracking ankle-cuffs on all of us (mobile phones are only slightly less invasive than these, anyway, in the current legislative regime), start using lawful interception backdoors to watch us through the webcams in our consoles and computers, and so on.
It's also UK Home Secretary Theresa May's argument in favor of her "Snooper's Charter" -- the communications act she's pushing, which will give law enforcement the power to order service providers to retain any data, and give government and law enforcement access to it.
Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations

The Classics

1958 Buick Roadmaster 75 NVS498 by spixpix on Flickr.

Untouched 18th Century Woodworking Shop Found

Forgotten in a preschool's yard in Massachusetts, the workshop is perhaps the oldest in the U.S. Read more
  Untouched 18th Century Woodworking Shop Found

How to Carve an Elephant According to a Sixteenth Century Cookbook

The Renaissance brought about a revival in classical cookery, including a 1541 edition of a classic Roman cookbook. A 1905 issue of The Strand describes it:
One of these bears the date 1541, and amongst the dishes herein enumerated we may find hot-pots of cowheel, pickled broom buds, and Tetrapharmacon, of which the latter delicacy we are told that it was made of pheasant, peacock, a wild sow's hock and udder, with a bread pudding over it.
The manuscript also contained a recipe for yummy dormouse sausages and this handy if vague chart for butchering an elephant.

Prehistoric Farmers Made Cheese

Prehistoric Farmers Made CheeseNot only did cheese provide a key source of nutrition for prehistoric Europeans, it also allowed them a way to store milk long-term.  

You'd Better Watch Out: Krampus Is Coming To Town

You've heard the rumor that Santa Claus will leave a lump of coal, possibly some switches, for children who rank on his 'naughty' list. But did you know that before the 20th century, old Saint Nick - that is, the European St. Nikolaus - had a devil sidekick do his dirty work?

Krampus, a furry, horned, cloven-hooved creature with a disturbingly long tongue, was in charge of filling boots with spanking switches. And if children were really bad, he'd throw them in a wheelbarrow or in a wooden basket carried on his back, or cuff them to a long chain, and haul the little brats off to torture them.

How to: Tell time like the ancient Maya

We would be remiss not to point you toward this nifty, interactive version of the Maya's long count calendar system. It does a great job of helping explain the Mayan number system and how those numbers come together to mark important dates. 

If you're interested in Mayan hieroglyphics, we'd also recommend reading the book A Forest of Kings, which explains how the ancient Maya wrote and what their writing really tells us about their history.

Random Celebrity Photo


Redhead Bardot! Thank You Lord!
Redhead Bardot!

Tower Bridge draws up to let a 50' rubber duck sail the Thames

Tuesday, Tower Bridge's drawbridge was raised to allow a 50-foot-high yellow rubber duck to sail down the Thames. It was part of the launch of "Facebook Fundation, a bursary granting funds and rewards for daft ideas to encourage Brits to have more fun."

Female Pilots Cut From Return of the Jedi

vAlmost 30 years later, we find out that there were female Rebel pilots in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi. Two of them are finally seen in the Blu-ray version just released.
Though women fighter pilots were seen amongst the crowd within the Rebel Cruiser briefing room earlier in RETURN OF THE JEDI, it was believed that none were seen in the actual final battle above Endor...until now, with the Blu-ray revealing that one of the brave A-wing pilots was indeed female (as seen in the above image) but, for reasons unknown (probably an accident made during the Post Production dialogue re-dubbing phase in the US) replaced with a male actors voice instead (with one line: "Got it"). Her character was seemingly killed mere seconds later by a TIE fighter.
There were four female Rebel pilots in all, but two are still unseen. Which means, of course, that there is still a lot of unused Star Wars footage available for new edits of the existing films for future releases. See more pictures at Star Wars Aficionado Magazine.

ScienceBlogs on the acceleration of rising sea levels

Tim Lambert at ScienceBlogs debunks the idea that rising sea levels are slowing or have stopped.

So if you were unscrupulous, and wanted to try to make it look like sea level rise had decelerated what could you do? You could split the series at a point where sea level was above the trend line and compare trends before and after. this is what Klaus-Eckart Puls did (green line added by me):

Weird meteor shower to peak tonight

The Geminids are one of the big deal meteor showers that happen every year. In fact, they're regarded as one of the most reliable and impressive. They're also a little strange.
Most meteor showers happen when Earth and a comet cross paths, slingling rocks, dust, and debris from the comet's tail into our atmosphere. The sudden influx of shooting starts that results is a highly noticeable event and humans have been recording them for millennia.
The Geminids are different. They sort of just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, back in 1862. And it wasn't until the 1980s that scientists were finally able to identify the thing that was producing them. At which point, ish got weirder.
That's because the object, known as 3200 Phaethon, is really confusing. It doesn't seem to be a comet. At least, not a normal, healthy, functioning comet. It doesn't even have a tail. In fact, at this point most scientists think it's probably an asteroid, which then leads to still-yet-unexplained question of where all the meteors come from. Asteroids, after all, do not typically accumulate tails of small rocks. So far, the best guess has to do with 3200 Phaethon's orbit, which over the course of about a year and a half takes it closer to the Sun than Mercury and then back out further from the Sun than Mars. Those wild temperature swings might lead to the asteroid cracking and throwing off dust and debris, which then becomes meteors. But, as a NASA info page pointed out in 2010, that explanation doesn't totally cut it.
The amount of dust 3200 Phaethon ejected during its 2009 sun-encounter added a mere 0.01% to the mass of the Geminid debris stream—not nearly enough to keep the stream replenished over time.
According to the International Meteor Organization, you can expect the Geminids to peak tomorrow night, around 5:30 pm, Central Time. But this is a big shower, so you're likely to see something even if you can't hit the exact peak.
Also: While you're watching for meteors, also keep an eye out for an upcoming feature here by Miles O'Brien, which will delve into the latest in Geminid science!
Read the 2010 NASA info page on the Geminids and an earlier NASA piece that describes a different theory for their origins.
Make use of The Bad Astronomy guide to meteor watching

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Lower Great Lakes levels reveal Mich. shipwrecks

A section of the 290-foot shipwreck Aurora is exposed on Dec. 11, 2012 in Grand Haven, Mich. due to low water levels in the Grand River. The Aurora is in the Grand River, which flows into Lake Michigan nearby. Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates members and officials with the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven have surveyed the area. Valerie Van Heest, director of MSRA and a maritime historian, says this offers a rare chance to see wrecks without having to scuba dive. The Great Lakes are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Ken Stevens) ALL LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL TV INTERNET OUTThe remains of a wooden steamer built 125 years ago recently were uncovered in Michigan because of lower Great Lakes water levels.
The Muskegon Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/XS5bCY ) sections of the 290-foot steamer Aurora, which burned in 1932, and parts of at least four other shipwreck hulks were exposed by the receding waterline at Grand Haven near the edges of Harbor Island.
The Aurora is in the Grand River, which flows into Lake Michigan nearby.
Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates members and officials with the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven have surveyed the area. Valerie Van Heest, director of MSRA and a maritime historian, says this offers a rare chance to see wrecks without having to scuba dive.
The Great Lakes are shrinking because of drought and rising temperatures.

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