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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 28, 2012

The Daily Drift

Wild and Free

Some of our readers today have been in:
Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Pretoria, South Africa
Lahore, Pakistan
Del Monte, Philippines
Warsaw, Poland
Paka, Malaysia
Clarin, Philippines
Waterloo, Canada
Lodz, Poland
Samarinda, Indonesia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Ankara, Turkey
Bridgetown, Barbados
Minsk, Belarus
Leeds, England
San Jose, Costa Rica
Butterworth, Malaysia
Basaksehir, Turkey
Makati, Philippines
Karachi, Pakistan
Cali, Colombia
Chisinau, Moldova
Istanbul, Turkey
Beirut, Lebanon
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Panevezya, Lithuania
London, England
Sofia, Bulgaria
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Salcedo, Philippines
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Poznan, Poland
Santiago, Chile
Ampang, Malaysia
Pasig, Philippines
Islamabad, Pakistan
Hanoi, Vietnam
Paris, France
Berlin, Germany
Vancouver, Canada
Montevideo, Uruguay 

Today is National Chocolate Day

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Today in History

1688 William of Orange makes a triumphant march into London as James II flees.
1694 George I of England gets divorced.
1846 Iowa is admitted as the 29th State of the Union.
1872 A U.S. Army force defeats a group of Apache warriors at Salt River Canyon, Arizona Territory, with 57 Indians killed but only one soldier.
1904 Farmers in Georgia burn two million bales of cotton to prop up falling prices.
1920 The United States resumes the deportation of communists and suspected communists.
1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt states, "The definite policy of the United States, from now on, is one opposed to armed intervention."
1936 Benito Mussolini sends planes to Spain to support Francisco Franco's forces.
1938 France orders the doubling of forces in Somaliland; two warships are sent.
1946 The French declare martial law in Vietnam as a full-scale war appears inevitable.
1948 Premier Nokrashy Pasha of Egypt is assassinated by a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood because of his failure to achieve victory in the war against Israel.
1951 The United States pays $120,000 to free four fliers convicted of espionage in Hungary.
1965 The United States bars oil sales to Rhodesia.
1968 Israel attacks an airport in Beirut, destroying 13 planes.
1971 The U.S. Justice Department sues Mississippi officials for ignoring the voting ballots of blacks in that state.

Non Sequitur


The truth be told

The Holly King

The Holly King is a speculative archetype of modern studies of folklore and mythology which has been popularized in some Neopagan religions. In his book The White Goddess, the author Robert Graves proposed that the mythological figure of the Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart/adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. At Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. The Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King's favour; he later vanquishes the Oak King at Yule. Graves identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr, Gwyn and Gwythr, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, Gawain and the Green Knight, the robin and the wren.

Eleven Food Trends That Need To Die In 2013

I'm sure all foodies are familiar with the food trends that made it on the hit list for 2013.
Some seem to have come out of nowhere (maximum kale), some have been resurrected as a food trend over and over again (pickling everything, Jell-O shots), all need to die in the new year.
There's bound to be more culinary trends comin' round the mountain, folks, let's put these old chestnuts in the fire where they belong!

Anti-Westboro baptist cult petition smashes White House records

The Huffington Post claims that this petitions.whitehouse.gov petition, calling for the classification of the Westboro Baptist Church as a "hate group," is now the most popular White House petition of all time. 
To be honest, I'm less interested in this petition than I am in a pair (1, 2) of similar petitions calling for the revocation of tax-exempt status for the Westboro kooks. Being classed as a hate group will make life a little less convenient for them, but losing tax-exempt status would be a serious blow in the nads and the wallet for 'em. 

And I Quote

I'm a trained sniper as well as a sex therapist so listen to what I have to say, frustrated people & guns don't mix well.

Did you know ...

That workers' rights must be strengthened nationwide!

Warrantless email snooping could still be killed

Buzzfeed's John Stanton: "Backers of new protections against warrantless monitoring of private citizens’ emails said Wednesday that Congress has a good shot of passing digital privacy legislation next year — despite complaints that a bill passed last week didn't include the provisions."

Community Memory: a social media terminal from 1973

Wired's gallery of the paleolithic antecedents of today's social media technologies is a bit mismatched (some really interesting insights into today's media lineage, but mixed with some silliness), but the lead item, the Community Memory terminal from 1973, is pure gold. I wrote half an unsuccessful novel about this thing when I was about 25, and it's never stopped haunting me.
Three decades before Yelp and Craigslist, there was the Community Memory Terminal.
In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer.
This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer -- a kind of "information flea market," a "communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest," according to a brochure from the time.
What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary.
"This was really one of the very first attempts to give access to computers to ordinary people," says Marc Weber, the founding curator of the Internet History Program at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
Holy shit, that is a thing of beauty.

Facebook founder’s anti-privacy sister changes tune after personal photo goes viral

Once again, I couldn’t be happier that I shut down my Facebook account so many years ago.Randi Zuckerberg — sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who used to be the marketing director of the company — had previously said that online anonymity “has to go away”:
“I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away… People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.”
Yeah, nice idea in theory.  But in practice, not so much.  Here’s what happened the other day when Zuckerberg, the sister, posted a photo to Facebook:
A picture that Zuckerberg’s sister posted on her personal Facebook profile was seen by a marketing director, who then posted the picture to Twitter and her more than 40,000 followers Wednesday.
That didn’t sit well with Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi, who tweeted at Callie Schweitzer that the picture was meant for friends only and that posting the private picture on Twitter was “way uncool.” Schweitzer replied by saying the picture popped up on her Facebook news feed.
It’s hard to miss the irony – Facebook’s property, Instagram, caused a big blow up last week by announcing that it was going to own every photo that users posted on the app/network, and would sell the photos to advertisers without your knowledge.  Sell your Instagram photo to advertisers without your knowledge or permission, okay – post your photo to Facebook photo to Twitter, oh the horror!  And it’s all the more ironic with Facebook’s long history of privacy controversies.
Germany has just forced Facebook to accept accounts under pseudonyms (Facebook previously banned any account that didn’t broadcast your real name to the world), which has to be upsetting to the Zuckerberg family – if one country gets a little more privacy, then some day everyone will want it.
CBS News:
A picture that Zuckerberg’s sister posted on her personal Facebook profile was seen by a marketing director, who then posted the picture to Twitter and her more than 40,000 followers Wednesday.
That didn’t sit well with Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi, who tweeted at Callie Schweitzer that the picture was meant for friends only and that posting the private picture on Twitter was “way uncool.” Schweitzer replied by saying the picture popped up on her Facebook news feed.
The picture shows four people standing around a kitchen staring at their phones with their mouths open while Mark Zuckerberg is in the background.
It’s an interesting question as to what expectation of privacy you should have when you post a personal photo to Facebook. We already know that employers are scouring Facebook — and even asking prospective job seekers for their Facebook log-in info — in order to find out all the dirt they can before hiring you.
Are you really signaling to the world that your family photos are private when you post them on a social network that has 800 million active users?

Reality Bytes

Mississippi River drops, threatening barge traffic

The Mississippi River level is dropping again and barge industry trade groups warned Thursday that river commerce could essentially come to a halt as early as next week in an area south of St. Louis.
Mike Petersen of the Army Corps of Engineers said ice on the northern Mississippi River is reducing the flow more than expected at the middle part of the river that is already at a low-water point unseen in decades, the result of months of drought.
The river level is now expected to get to 3 feet at the Thebes, Ill., gauge on Jan. 6, a juncture that could force new limitations. Worse still, the long-range forecast from the National Weather Service calls for the river to keep falling, reaching 2 feet on Jan. 23.
The Coast Guard remains confident that the nation's largest waterway will remain open. But officials with two trade groups — the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc. — said in a joint news release that even if the river is open, further limits on barges will bring commercial traffic to a halt.
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012 file photo, a barge powers its way up the Mississippi River in St. Louis. According to Coast Guard officials Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, the Mississippi River level is dropping again and could get so low as early as next week that some barge operators will stop operating. But a Guard official remains confident that the nation's largest waterway will remain open to traffic despite the worst drought in decades. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)Thebes, about 150 miles south of St. Louis, is a treacherous spot for barge operators because of hazardous rock formations and a big bend in the river. The corps is in the process of removing the rocks but work isn't expected to be finished until mid- to late-January at the earliest.
The trade groups renewed their call for presidential action requiring the Corps of Engineers to increase the flow of water from an upper Missouri River dam in South Dakota. The corps cut the flow by two-thirds in November because of drought conditions in that region, reducing the amount of Missouri River water flowing into the Mississippi.
Michael Toohey, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc., said that without the additional flow "we will have run out of time on this national crisis."
The depth of the Mississippi is regulated by dams north of St. Louis, and the depth increases south of Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio River converges. But the roughly 180-mile stretch from St. Louis to Cairo is approaching record lows. Experts say that if barges stop moving, the potential impact on shipments of essentials such as corn, grain, coal and petroleum could reach into the billions of dollars.
Drafts, or the portion of each barge that is submerged, are already limited to 9 feet in the middle Mississippi. If the river gauge gets to 3 feet at Thebes, the Coast Guard may be forced to limit drafts even further. Restricted drafts mean less cargo per barge. Officials with the trade group say that if drafts are restricted to 8 feet or lower, many operators will halt shipping.
Lt. Colin Fogarty of the Coast Guard said the agency remains confident "we can still maintain a safe, navigable waterway despite the low-water conditions."
But he acknowledged, "I'm not trying to paint a pretty picture here. We face very real, physical limitations at certain parts of the river that may inhibit barge operators because their vessels draft too much or push too much water."
Contractors hired by the corps have been using excavators on barges to remove the rock pinnacles near Thebes, and performed the first series of explosions on the pinnacles Friday. Further decisions on when to blast will be made on a day-to-day basis, Petersen said.
The corps released water from Carlyle Lake in southern Illinois earlier this month, a move that helped the river rise about 6 inches. Petersen says another release began Thursday, which will add another 6 inches of depth by around Jan. 6, a move aimed at trying to stave off barge restrictions.
Fogarty said every effort is being made to help barges keep moving, but don't expect any magic turning point.
"There is no silver bullet," Fogarty said. "This isn't a battle against the water. This is a campaign."

Florida man pleads guilty in NY in dinosaur dispute

FILE - This photo released by the U.S. Attorney's office shows the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus bataar dinosaur at the center of a lawsuit demanding its return to Mongolia. Florida resident Eric Prokopi has pleaded guilty, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, at Federal Court in New York to smuggling this fossil and others into the United States. In return for his cooperation, prosecutors say they will recommend leniency. (AP Photo/U.S Attorney Office for the Southern District of New York, File)
A Florida fossils dealer pleaded guilty to smuggling charges Thursday and agreed to give up a celebrated $1 million dinosaur skeleton seized by the U.S. government earlier this year for its eventual return to Mongolia.
Eric Prokopi, 38, said he would surrender the 70 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton known as "Ty" and give up any claims to six other dinosaurs and various other bones in a cooperation deal that might win him leniency from charges that carry a potential prison sentence of up to 17 years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin S. Bell read a list of the dinosaurs to Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis, saying a second substantially complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton was found at Prokopi's Gainesville, Fla., home, while a third was believed to be in Great Britain.
Bell said the government will also get to keep a Chinese flying dinosaur that Prokopi illegally imported; a skeleton of a Saurolophus, a duckbilled, plant eating dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period; and two Oviraptor skeletons, one found at Prokopi's home and the other at another residential dwelling in Florida. The Oviraptors have parrot-like skulls.
"It's among the larger dinosaur shopping lists you'll see today," Bell told the magistrate judge.
In a release, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "Fossils and ancient skeletal remains are part of the fabric of a country's natural history and cultural heritage, and black marketers like Prokopi who illegally export and sell these wonders, steal a slice of that history. We are pleased that we can now begin the process of returning these prehistoric fossils to their countries of origin."
The government accused Prokopi of smuggling bones into the country illegally from Mongolia before assembling them into a skeleton that was sold by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions for $1.05 million, a deal that was suspended pending the outcome of litigation. The government said the dinosaur skeleton was mislabeled as reptile bones from Great Britain.
Prokopi remains free on bail pending a sentencing scheduled for April 25. After his plea Thursday, he immediately went with prosecutors to their offices without commenting.
In a statement last spring, Prokopi defended his handling of the dinosaur, saying the value of the bones was labeled much lower than the eventual auction price because "it was loose, mostly broken bones and rocks with embedded bones. It was not what you see today, a virtually complete, mounted skeleton."
Prokopi pleaded guilty to conspiracy for importing the Chinese flying dinosaur, entry by goods by means of false statements for importing Mongolian dinosaurs and one count of interstate and foreign transportation of goods converted and taken by fraud.
In describing his crimes, Prokopi said he wrote an email to a fossils dealer in China in 2010, instructing him to mislabel customs documents to make it appear that the bones of a Chinese flying dinosaur were worth less than they were.
He said that from 2010 to 2012, he arranged for shipments of fossils from Mongolia to be described in customs documents as if their country of origin were Great Britain.
The magistrate judge asked Prokopi if the country of origin on the documents was an important fact.
"Well, apparently," Prokopi said, prompting a brief discussion between the prosecutor and Prokopi's defense lawyer.
Afterward, Prokopi said the labeling of the relics was purposefully "vague and misleading so that they didn't bring attention to the shipment."
The magistrate judge asked him what would have happened if he had labeled them accurately.
"Probably nothing," Prokopi said, pausing and then adding, "or it may not have been allowed to be imported."

Woman set on fire in LA as she sleeps on bench

Phil Furtado places candles on a burned city bus bench in Los Angeles on Thursday, Dec. 27,2012. Police arrested a man for allegedly setting a 67-year-old woman on fire who was sleeping on the bus stop bench. A witness said he saw a man come out of the store and pour something on the woman who had been sleeping on a bench before striking a match and setting her ablaze. The woman, who may be homeless, was taken to a hospital and listed in critical condition. (AP Photo/Greg Risling)
For more than 10 years, the homeless woman slept on the same plastic bus stop bench at a busy intersection in the San Fernando Valley, no matter how cold it was or if it was raining.
The 67-year-old woman, described by one church volunteer who saw her regularly as the "sweetest lady on the street," was nestled in her regular spot early Thursday when the unthinkable happened: A man came out of a nearby drug store, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her ablaze.
She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was listed in critical condition.
A witness called 911, and police arrested Dennis Petillo, 24, a short time later. He was booked for investigation of attempted murder and was held on $500,000 bail. It wasn't immediately known if he had retained an attorney.
Police provided no possible motive and released no details on Petillo. The victim's name also was withheld.
The attack shocked nearby residents, and later Thursday about a dozen people held vigil around the charred bench, urging motorists to honk their horns in support of homeless rights. One sign placed on the bench read, "Our Prayers to Violet," believed to be the victim's first name.
Tej Deol, 31, who resides at a nearby sober living house, said the woman made the bench her home and often could be found sleeping there after sundown. He said he saw her Christmas Eve, getting ready to eat some soup.
"I told her, 'Merry Christmas and happy New Year,' and she said she was doing good," Deol said. "She was so kind. She was happy to have someone talk to her."
Thursday's incident was at least the third in Los Angeles County since October where people were set on fire.
Last week, a 55-year-old man was seriously injured when he was torched as he slept outside a doughnut shop in Norwalk. Two months earlier, Long Beach police said Jacob Timothy Lagarde, 27, threw a lit Molotov cocktail at a man who had been waiting for his father outside a store. Lagarde has since been charged with attempted murder and five other counts.
Los Angeles police are investigating whether Petillo might be tied to any other similar crimes, but at this point detectives don't believe he is, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
As the number of flowers and candles around the scorched bench grew Thursday, people who knew the victim tried to comprehend why a woman who seemed so benign could be so viciously attacked.
Robert Wyneken, 75, who volunteers at a nearby church that serves meals for the less than fortunate called Violet the "sweetest lady on the street." He said she was quiet, independent and resourceful.
Wyneken said she supported herself by recycling cans and didn't like to panhandle. He said there were efforts to get her housing and in contact with family, but she wouldn't have it.
"I just think she had something in her life where she wanted to be alone," he said. "She didn't want to be a burden to anybody."
Wyneken, Deol and others said they were deeply troubled by what had happened at the bus stop.
"The guy who did this should spend the rest of his life in jail," Deol said.
Steve Williams, 62, who identified himself as a homeless veteran, said he is aware of the dangers of sleeping on the street but that it's difficult to find space at nearby shelters, especially at this time of year.
"We are all human. No one should be treated like that," he said.

OMB blocking EPA report on chemical dangers to kids

There’s nothing quite like rich, powerful industry lobbyists to warm your heart, and poison your body and mind (literally), during the holiday season. Thank you, OMB, it’s just what I asked Santa for!Clearly it’s best that American families know nothing about potential chemical dangers to their kids because the chemical industry doesn’t want the information to be published. The chemical industry surely knows what’s best for American families, right? And who really trusts peer-reviewed research anyway?
Public health officials view it as a source of one-stop shopping for the best information on what children and women of childbearing age are exposed to, how much of it remains in their bodies and what the health effects might be. Among the “health outcomes” listed as related to environmental exposures are childhood cancer, obesity, neurological disorders, respiratory problems and low birth weight….
In a section on perfluorochemicals (PFCs), for example, which are used to make nonstick coatings, and protect textiles and carpets from water, grease and soil, among other things, the draft notes that they are found in human breast milk.
Toxic chemicals in breast milk, nummy.
Sure, your kid might have serious health problems like asthma and learning disabilities from everyday chemicals, but how else are these businesses expected to make an easy buck? To deny Big Chemical is to deny freedom and profits, and that’s all that matters in the star-spangled-bannered-world.
Why does the EPA hate America? (And who’s OMB is this anyway, the shrub’s?)
NBC News:
Kids via Shutterstock
Some present and former EPA staffers, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their jobs, blamed the sidetracking of the report on heightened political pressure during the campaign season.  The OMB has been slow to approve environmental regulations and other EPA reports throughout the Obama Administration — as it was under George W. Bush according to reports by the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit consortium of scholars, doing research on health, safety and environmental issues, which generally advocate for stronger regulation and better enforcement of existing law.
“Why is it taking so long? One must ask the question,” said a former EPA researcher who works on children’s health issues. “It is an important document and it strikes me that it’s falling victim to politics.”
The EPA states that the report is intended, in part, to help policymakers identify and evaluate ways to minimize environmental impacts on children.
That’s an unwelcome prospect to the $674 billion chemical industry, which stands to lose business and face greater legal liability if the EPA or Congress bans certain substances mentioned in the report or sets standards reducing the levels of exposure that is considered safe.

More meth labs showing up in cities and suburbs

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2010 file photo, Franklin County Detective Jason Grellner, center, sorts through evidence with Detective Darryl Balleydier, left, and reserve Officer Mark Holguin during a raid of a suspected meth house in Gerald, Mo. Methamphetamine lab seizures are on the rise in the nation's cities and suburbs, raising new concerns about a lethal drug that has long been the scourge of rural America. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File) Methamphetamine lab seizures are on the rise in the nation's cities and suburbs, raising new concerns about a lethal drug that has long been the scourge of rural America.
Data and interviews from an investigation by The Associated Press found growing numbers of meth lab seizures in cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and Evansville, Ind. Authorities are also seeing evidence that inner-city gangs are becoming involved in meth production and distribution.
"No question about it — there are more labs in the urban areas," said Tom Farmer, coordinator of the Tennessee Methamphetamine and Pharmaceutical Task Force. "I'm seeing car fires from meth in urban areas now, more people getting burned."
The increase in labs is especially troubling because meth brought into the U.S. from Mexico also is becoming more pervasive in urban areas. The Associated Press reported in October that so-called Mexican "super labs" are upping production, making meth more pure and less expensive, and then using existing drug pipelines in big cities.
Data obtained by AP shows that homemade meth is on the rise in metropolitan areas, too.
St. Louis County had just 30 lab seizures in 2009, but 83 through July 31, putting it on pace for 142 in 2012. The city of St. Louis had eight in 2009 and is on pace for 50 this year.
— Jackson County, Mo., (which includes Kansas City) had 21 seizures in 2009 and is on pace for 65 this year.
— Meth lab seizures have tripled in the Nashville area over the past two years. In one case in late 2011, a man and his girlfriend were accused of recruiting more than three dozen people, including some who were homeless, to visit multiple pharmacies and purchase the legal limit of cold pills containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient. The couple and 37 others were indicted.
— The Evansville, Ind., area has seen a more than 500 percent rise in meth seizures since 2010, with 82 in 2011.
Authorities cite numerous reasons for meth moving into cities, but chief among them is the rise in so-called "one-pot" or "shake-and-bake" meth.
In years past, meth was cooked in a makeshift lab. The strong ammonia-like smell carried over a wide area, so to avoid detection, meth had to be made in backwoods locations.
As laws limited the availability of pseudoephedrine, meth-makers adjusted with a faster process that creates smaller batches simply by combining ingredients — mixing cold pills with toxic substances such as battery acid or drain cleaner — in 2-liter soda bottles. Shake-and-bake meth can be made quickly with little odor in a home, apartment, hotel, even a car.
"Bad guys have figured it out," said Rusty Payne of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. "You don't have to be as clandestine — you don't have to be in rural country to lay low."
Niki Crawford, who heads the meth suppression team in Indiana, said that with shake-and-bake labs, "the odors are not as strong. And they're just so portable. We find them in backpacks and gym bags."
And inside stores: A woman was arrested inside a St. Louis County Wal-Mart earlier this year with a meth-filled soda bottle in her coat pocket.
Another reason for the rise in urban meth is a process known among law enforcement as "smurfing" —the abundance of pharmacies in cities attracts meth-makers from surrounding rural areas, who can bring in friends to help purchase pseudoephedrine pills.
"We know the fuel for domestic labs is pseudoephedrine," Farmer said. "The source for that is pharmacies and the majority of pharmacies are in urban areas."
Farmer also has seen an increase in meth activity involving inner-city Tennessee gangs, which tend to be better-organized than rural cookers when it comes to marketing and selling the drug. For the most part, the gang members work as smurfers, though Farmer worries they'll eventually become involved in the manufacture and distribution of the drug. Sometimes, gang members and meth-makers first connect while in prison.
"They see there's a market there to make money off of pseudoephedrine," Farmer said. "Pseudoephedrine has become as good as currency."
Missouri State Highway Patrol statistics are indicative of the growing urban concern: All four of the top meth counties in Missouri were in the metropolitan St. Louis area — Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis and Franklin.
Ed Begley, a St. Louis County meth detective, said the drug is attracting users from all socio-economic levels.
"Lower class all the way up to upper middle class," Begley said. "We've even had retired folks who have become addicted. It's a brutal drug."

Random Photo


What an amazing red lingerie set!

Lamenting the loss of children's chemistry kits

A New York Times piece on post-9/11 chemistry sets, modified for the age of lawsuits and terror-noia: “Basically, you have to be able to eat everything in the science kit,” says Jim Becker, president of SmartLab Toys, "who recalled learning the names of chemicals from his childhood chemistry set, which contained substances that have long since been banned from toys." It's a good piece, though Steve Silberman pretty much wrote the same piece back in 2006 for Wired Magazine.
If you're into this as nostalgia, there are lots of cool vintage sets routinely available on eBay. Here's a neat midcentury specimen.

Twenty-Seven Science Fictions that became Science Facts In 2012

Click on the picture to see the list.

The Marriage Of Science And Art

The Armillary Sphere

You may have seen an armillary sphere before. At its heart there is something recognizable - the Earth. Around it is a bewildering array of rings, centered on our planet. All have distinct scientific functions yet the armillary sphere is also a profoundly beautiful object: art and science married in harmony.

Although the armillary sphere was superseded in the seventeenth century by the European telescope, surviving examples remain objects of fascination and wonder. The first question, of course, is what does it do? The second is invariably who invented it?

What Do Astronauts Eat?

In the early days of the U.S. space program, astronauts had to contend with freeze-dried powders and small cubes of food as well as gel-like liquids packaged in aluminum tubes. There wasn't a lot of flavour or choice either but eventually, when packaging improved, freeze-dried food had an expanded repertoire which came to include shrimp cocktail, butterscotch pudding and applesauce.

By the time NASA began its Apollo program in the early 1960s, hot water became available on missions and the hungry astronauts were able to rehydrate food easier and eat from a 'spoon bowl' - a plastic container which could be opened and eaten from. Food pouches came on board in the 1970s and those lucky astronauts had a menu of 72 different food items.

Awesome Pictures

Cathedral Group Under Clear Skies by Robby Edwards on Flickr.

The House with Underground Caverns

This is Domus Civita, a home in Italy built in the 14th century and purchased by new owners in 2011. Studio F remodeled the house, which consists of three floors above ground, but that's not all.
However the most interesting feature of the house was its umbilical connection to its underground world all carved into the soft volcanic tufa stone. Through a series of tunnels and caves dating from the middle ages as well as Roman and Etruscan times the house ground floor had a stair dug into the stone and reaching a large underground Roman water cistern still perfectly preserved. Through the cistern you could reach an abandoned garden suspended between 2 stone cliffs at the edge of town. From the garden more caves of Etruscan and medieval times were dug into the rock opening up interesting possibilities for creative uses.
The underground chamber was remodeled to include a meditation room, a wine cellar, and an art gallery. It opens to a garden (with a second kitchen) and pool. See lots more photos and floor plans of the finished masterpiece at Arch Daily.


It may sound like a Sy-Fy movie (and in fact was), but this fish is real -or was, 10 million years ago. Megapiranha paranensis was about ten times the size of the tiny but dangerous piranhas we know, and had a relative bite force that would put T. rex to shame.
The bite force of Megapiranha, which lived 10 million years ago, was extrapolated from the first field measurements of the biting force of Earth’s largest piranha today, Serrasalmus rhombeus or black piranha. One 2 ½ pound fish delivered a bite with a force of 320 newtons, or about 72 pounds, which is 30 times its body weight. The force is nearly three times greater than the bite force of an equivalent size American alligator.

Based on the 2 ½ pound piranha and other specimens tested in the wild,  the scientists calculate that Megapiranha paranensis, which weighed approximately 22 pounds, could have had a bite force anywhere from 1,240 to 4,750 newtons  – or 280 to 1,070 pounds – and possibly more.

Other scientists have previously estimated that T. rex slammed its jaws shut with 13,400 newtons, or 3,000 pounds of force, but that’s nowhere near 30 times its body weight.
The chart here compares apex predator fish (living and extinct) in bite force relative to size. More

Rare Rock Arch Formation in Massif de la Chartreuse, France

And it seems it's been only discovered in 2005 (in modern history): "At the end of May 2005 Grenoble climber Pascal Sombardier was exploring the foot of the Grand Manti cliffs situated in the Chartreuse mountains between Grenoble and Chambery. He spied a couloir and decided to explore further... Turning to his right he had trouble believing what he saw: a giant double arch spanning some 32 meters. An expert on the region, he had never heard of this natural wonder."

See beautiful photography of this formation here and read some info here.

Of coral and common sense: Why it's important to test our theories

Pseudopterosins are a family of naturally occurring chemicals with the power to reduce inflammation, skin irritation, and pain. In other words, they make a great additive in skin cream. If you want skin that less red, pseudopterosins can help. Want a lotion that soothes your face after a particularly vigorous round of exfoliation? Call on pseudopterosins.
Pseudopterosins come from a coral called Pseudopterogorgia elisabethae. That's it in the photo above. For years, researchers and pharmaceutical companies thought they were sustainably harvesting P. elisabethae because, instead of simply gathering any of the coral they could find, they merely pruned it — leaving plenty of the creature to grow back.
But, it turns out that this is a really good example of a frustrating problem — what seems sustainable is not always actually sustainable. Doing the right thing, environmentally speaking, isn't as intuitive as we'd like it to be. (Also, pruning an animal isn't like pruning a plant.) At Deep Sea News, Dr. M explains:
After prunings in 2002 and 2005 and before the annual spawning, Christopher Page and Howard Lasker examined 24 pruned corals and 20 unpruned corals. What the researchers found is that although colonies appeared healthy pruned corals produced less eggs. ... Why would pruned corals produce less eggs and sperm? When organisms are injured more energy is diverted away from reproduction and toward repair. Interestingly, this pruning may actually also creating artificial selection. If workers are targeting larger and fuller corals to prune, then smaller less thick corals will be reproducing more and eventually become more dominant.
This is why science is important. Because, frequently, "common sense" isn't really all that sensical.

Nine Cutest Animals Of 2012

Cuddly animals are always popular on the Internet. Everyone likes funny or cute pictures and videos of animals. Enjoy this list of sweet little animals.

Animal Pictures


On National Public Lands Days, September 29, volunteer at Sand Wash Wild Horse Herd Management Area northwest of Maybell, Colorado.  Sand Wash Basic has some of the most colorful wild horses in Colorado.
For more information about this and other National Public Lands Day events in Colorado click here: http://www.publiclandsday.org/npld-sites/search?state=Colorado