Welcome to ...

The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Daily Drift

Yep, that sounds about right.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Makassar, Indonesia
Cape Town, South Africa
Al Jizah, Egypt
Ankara, Turkey
Bordeaux, France
San Jose, Costa Rica
Vancouver, Canada
Jakarta, Indonesia
Douala, Cameroon
Bogota, Colombia
Beirut, Lebanon
Quezon City, Philippines
Leeds, England
Lahore, Pakistan
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Bangkok, Thailand
Peshawar, Pakistan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Lublin, Poland
Kuwait, Kuwait
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Potsdam, Germany
Panevezys, Lithuania

And from Malaysia we had readers from the cities of: Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Bahru, Puchong, Kota Kinabalu, Kajang, Batu Pahat, Paka, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, George Town and Petaling Jaya.

Today is Celebration of Life Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1689 England's "Bloodless Revolution" reaches its climax when parliament invites William and Mary to become joint sovereigns.
1807 President Thomas Jefferson exposes a plot by Aaron Burr to form a new republic in the Southwest.
1813 During the War of 1812, British forces under Henry Proctor defeat a U.S. contingent planning an attack on Fort Detroit.
1824 A British force is wiped out by an Asante army under Osei Bonsu on the African Gold Coast. This is the first defeat for a colonial power.
1863 In an attempt to out flank Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside leads his army on a march to north Fredericksburg, but foul weather bogs his army down in what will become known as "Mud March."
1879 Eighty-two British soldiers hold off attacks by 4,000 Zulu warriors at the Battle of Rorke's Drift in South Africa.
1905 Russian troops fire on civilians beginning Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg.
1912 Second Monte Carlo auto race begins.
1913 Turkey consents to the Balkan peace terms and gives up Adrianople.
1930 Admiral Richard Byrd charts a vast area of Antarctica.
1932 Government troops crush a Communist uprising in Northern Spain.
1939 A Nazi order erases the old officer caste, tying the army directly to the Party.
1943 Axis forces pull out of Tripoli for Tunisia, destroying bases as they leave.
1944 U.S. troops under Major General John P. Lucas make an amphibious landing behind German lines at Anzio, Italy, just south of Rome.
1971 Communist forces shell Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the first time.
1979 Abu Hassan, the alleged planner of the 1972 Munich raid, is killed by a bomb in Beirut.
1982 President Ronald Reagan formally links progress in arms control to Soviet repression in Poland.

Non Sequitur


Chad troops move toward Niger's Mali border to face Islamists

An armored column of Chadian troops in Niger moved towards the Malian border on Tuesday, part of an African military force that is gradually deploying to support French operations against Islamist rebels in northern Mali.
A Reuters reporter witnessed the Chadian forces, who are experienced in desert operations, advancing north from the capital Niamey on the road to Ouallam, some 100 km (60 miles) from the border, where a company of Niger's troops are already stationed.
France, which launched air strikes in Mali 11 days ago to halt a surprise Islamist offensive toward the capital Bamako, has urged a swift deployment of the U.N.-mandated African force to back up its 2,150-strong ground forces already there.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, who visited the troops at Ouallam military base, condemned the al Qaeda-linked Islamist alliance controlling Mali's vast desert north. An Imam, or Muslim cleric, said prayers for the troops.
"We are going to war. A war imposed on us by traffickers of all kinds, an unjust war, from which the peaceful citizens of northern Mali are suffering terribly," Issoufou told the forces.
"I am confident in your burning desire for victory."
France says its troops will remain in Mali until they have completely dislodged the Islamist fighters from the north, amid concerns that the militants could use the vast desert area to launch terrorist attacks on the West and on neighboring African countries.
Fears of this wider security threat from al Qaeda and its local allies in North and West Africa have increased sharply following a raid last week on a gas plant in Algeria by Islamist fighters. At least 37 foreign hostages were killed in the raid and its aftermath, when Algerian forces stormed the installation.
Niger's armed forces, which completed their training a month ago, are expected to advance toward the rebel-held north Malian city of Gao in collaboration with the Chadian troops. It was not clear when exactly they would cross the border.
Gao, the largest city of Mali's north, has been hit by French air strikes in recent days.
Niger has already sent a technical team to Mali, part of a battalion of 544 troops accompanied by six French liaison officers which it will deploy to Mali.

Ten U.S. Vice Presidents

A Celebration Of Almost-Great Men
In the words of Vice President John Nace Garner, the vice presidency 'isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss.' That may be true, but the characters who've held the job are definitely worth a few good pages of trivia.

The truth be told

Tuesday, January 22

Did you know ...

About the five step process to screw the middle class

That Wal-Mart plans to hire any veteran that wants a job

That outrage without action is just whining

That a cat outperformed investment brokers picking stocks

Middle Class in Manhattan

"What is middle class?" is a simple question with a very complex answer. Obviously, it depends on where one lives - but in Manhattan, New York, with cost of living that are akin to skyscrapers compared to other places in the United States, the answer becomes much muddier:
In a city like New York, where everything is superlative, who exactly is middle class? What kind of salary are we talking about? Where does a middle-class person live? And could the relentless rise in real estate prices push the middle class to extinction?
“A lot of people are hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” said Cheryl King, an acting coach who lives and works in a combined apartment and performance space that she rents out for screenings, video shoots and workshops to help offset her own high rent.
“My niece just bought a home in Atlanta for $85,000,” she said. “I almost spend that on rent and utilities in a year. To them, making $250,000 a year is wealthy. To us, it’s maybe the upper edge of middle class.”
“It’s horrifying,” she added.
Amy O'Leary of The New York Times explains: Here.

The truth hurts

Tuesday, January 22

Why You Truly Never Leave High School

Science knows that our teenage years are extremely important in determining who we are. It's the time our bodies become adult and our brains rewire themselves to give us a sense of adult identity. It's also the time we learn our place among other people in the world, explore what to do with our lives, and begin mate selection. Through most of history, these changes would occur in the context of the larger world, among family and community. But in the last 100 years or so, we've expanded the role of education so much that teenagers spend about 16 hours a week interacting with adults and 60 hours a week with other teenagers who are just as clueless. This is akin to throwing them into a crucible, a "Roman amphitheater," in which cliques and hierarchies are determined by arbitrary standards such as athletic prowess, looks, or family wealth. The experiences of high school can leave scars for the rest of one's life.
In 2000, three psychologists presented a paper titled “Peer Crowd-Based Identities and Adjustment: Pathways of Jocks, Princesses, Brains, Basket-Cases, and Criminals,” which asked a large sample of tenth-graders which of the five characters from The Breakfast Club they most considered themselves to be, and then checked back in with them at 24. The categories were “immensely predictive,” according to Jacquelynne Eccles, one of the authors. (Criminals were still most apt to smoke pot; male jocks still had the highest self-esteem.) But one datum was interesting: At 24, the princesses had lower self-esteem than the brainy girls, which certainly wasn’t true when they were 16. But Eccles sees no inconsistency in this finding. In fact, she suspects it will hold true when she completes her follow-up with the same sample at 40. “Princesses are caught up in this external world that defines who they are,” says Eccles, “whereas if brainy girls claim they’re smart, that probably is who they are.” While those brainy girls were in high school, they couldn’t rely on their strengths to gain popularity, perhaps, but they could rely on them as fuel, as sources of private esteem. Out of high school, they suddenly had agency, whereas the princesses were still relying on luck and looks and public opinion to carry them through, just as they had at 16. They’d learned passivity, and it’d stuck.
From my vantage point, 24 seems awfully young to say that anything "stuck," but I'm no scientist. Besides, my high school was so small that everyone had to wear more than one label. Still, now that my kids are in high school, I can see the findings of the many different adolescent studies cited in this New York magazine article playing out in their experiences. How has your high school experiences shaped your life afterward? More

It's sad sometime ...

Grown Man Refused to Eat When Forbidden to Play Video Games

Throwing tantrums when not allowed to play video games ain't exactly a new thing for parents, but there's a small twist in what the Yang family in Chongqing, China, is facing:
Yang Yang (pseudonym) was at home playing video games all day last Wednesday. Unhappy that her son was gaming all day, as well as worried for his well-being, Yang's mother wanted him to take a break.
After a failed attempt by the her mother to get Yang Yang to relax, Mr. Yang became fed up with his son's attitude and barged into his room. Seeing his son's room covered with snack wrappers and empty soda bottles, Mr. Yang asked Yang Yang how long he's been playing. He flippantly replied "not long."
Angered by his response, Mr. Yang seized Yang Yang's keyboard and smashed it to the ground. Shocked and angry, Yang Yang gave his father a death stare only to be told by his father "The heck are you looking at? Time for Dinner."
As soon as Mr. Yang left Yang Yang's room, he locked the door.
Yang Yang, a man in his twenties, locked himself in his room, inside his parents house, for a whole night, refusing to eat or drink anything.
Eric Jou of Kotaku has the full story. See if you can guess who folded first: Here.

Evidence mounts for role of mutated genes in development of schizophrenia

Johns Hopkins researchers have identified a rare gene mutation in a single family with a high rate of schizophrenia, adding ...
Continue Reading 

More on "Escape From Tomorrow," the guerrilla art-house movie shot at Walt Disney World and Disneyland

The New York Times's Brooks Barnes has some tantalizing details on "Escape From Tomorrow," the art-house movie I blogged about yesterday, which was shot in part at Walt Disney World and Disneyland:
His cast and crew spent about 10 days filming at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and two weeks at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., he said. The end credits cite the involvement of over 200 cast and crew members, although only small groups entered the Disney parks at one time to avoid drawing attention.
Still, there were moments during filming that Disney clearly knew something was up, Mr. Moore said. “I think they probably just thought we were crazy fans making a YouTube video, which is something that happens a fair amount,” he said. He added, “Look, I have amazing memories as a kid from going to the parks. I think Walt Disney was a genius. I just wish his vision hadn’t grown into something quite so corporate.”
Barnes (and the headline writer) focus on whether this infringes Disney's copyright. Judging from what I've read about the film, this sounds like fair use to me. Film insurers routinely require that filmmakers go far beyond what copyright demands and act as though fair use doesn't exist, but the Stanford Fair Use Center has an insurer that will extend coverage to any film that complies with its broad, sensible fair use guidelines.
There's a possible trademark claim, and I suppose that Disney could conceivable bring suit for violating the park's terms of use, but these are much harder cases to make than copyright, and don't have built-in, easy Internet censorship in the form of DMCA takedown notices.

The Ten Most Futuristic Museums Of Contemporary Art Around The World

Admired by many experts and people around the world, these 10 futuristic museums of contemporary art are indeed stunning works with both great architectural and cultural value. They have changed the way the world thinks about museums, and it continues to challenge our assumptions about the connections between art, architecture, and collecting.

Reality is ...

What Is Lake-Effect Snow?

If you live on the downwind side of a large lake, you're probably all too familiar with this weather phenomenon. It happens when cold winter air moves over a relatively warm body of water. What you get are small-scale but intense snowstorms.

Lake-effect snow occurs on such a small scale, almost on the scale of a summertime thunderstorm. One portion of a neighborhood or city might be under heavy snow, where a few miles away you may be under sunny skies.

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot

Climate Change and Spicy Food

It is tough being a freelance writer. You have to be pitching stories left and right, grabbing interviews whenever you can and literally dance for every drink, every lunch and every story. Meanwhile, any jerk with a blog could come along and steal your job. Your life is best defined by these three words: Dance, monkey, dance!
Or so I’m told. While freelancing can be a cold and cruel world, being the friend of a freelancer is awesome. You end up tagging along to random strange locations (Fermentation Festival, anyone?) where people are talking about weird things (colon health!) and doing unusual things (cedar chip enzyme bath? Sure!).
While your friend is hunting down photographs of kombucha mothers and pygmy goats, as their “date” you get to surreptitiously stuff your face with complementary goat salami, and sip sherry while Sean Lennon performs his dad’s “Oh Yoko!” — OK, that was a little freaky.
As a diligent friend, you put up with these unusual encounters, because, like, what else are you going to do with your time?
One of the best of these “friend missions” involved an encounter with hot sauce. Or I should say, many hot sauces. A certain writer-friend had been given the mission of taste-testing 10 of the spiciest hot sauces on the market. These were not simple “five alarm” sauces – please, if you are going to truly have a hot sauce you wouldn’t give it such a clichéd name. We are talking hot sauces with names involving major players in the underworld, outlandish scatological terminology and references to BDSM activities that I’ve only heard about on the Savage Love. These were not meant to be shared in polite company.
After a few hours of nose-dripping, eye-watering fun, we had chosen the tastiest and hottest of the bunch. We were no doubt experiencing the spiciest of the spicy, but the question was clear, could we go even hotter?
It turns out, that with climate change the answer is, Hell yeah!
In a higher carbon dioxide environment, habanero plants (you know, the really f*ing hot ones) have more peppers. Those peppers are larger and when ripe, they have more capsaicinoids (which includes capsaicin – the hot stuff — and a couple other secondary metabolites) (1). Since capsaicin is thought to be a deterrent to herbivores (hello bugs!) and fungal infection, this could be a good thing for both hot sauce-enthusiasts and plants alike.
Moreover, while other chili plants (which are a little different from habaneros) may be more susceptible to bacterial infection in a warmer climate, when combining a warmer and higher carbon dioxide environment they are not more susceptible to fungal infection (2). Could it be that higher CO2 is increasing capsaicin and other defensive compounds, thereby making the plants a little bit better at protecting themselves from fungal infection?
Eh, possibly. We have just entered what is called “hypothesis-ville”. It’s somewhere between “maybe-town” and “perhaps-square”.
If you are looking for a cool experiment, this could be your next USDA grant. You just need a panel of Texan scientists to read your proposal and a couple freelance writers to follow you around to document the whole thing. Who knows? If it works out, you might find me sitting in the back of your very first press conference on the topic. I’ll be the one stuffing those complimentary donuts into my pockets.
Because, that’s what friends are for.
Further Reading:
(1) Enrichment of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the capsaicinoids content in Habanero peppers (Capsicum chinense Jacq.)
(2) Elevated CO2 and Temperature Effects on the Incidence of Four Major Chili Pepper Diseases

In The News

No cloned Neanderthal baby for Harvard (at least not yet)

For the record, a Harvard scientist is NOT looking for an "adventurous woman" to give birth to a cloned Neanderthal. Ladies, you can stop filling out those application forms. Apparently, geneticist George Church and the German magazine Der Spiegel had a bit of a translation problem.

Great mysteries of archaeology

These flat ceramic disks were either playing pieces for an ancient Roman game, or, possibly, really uncomfortable toilet paper. Scientists are investigating. 

French stench reaches London 

Reuters: "A cloud of harmless gas smelling of sweat and rotten eggs leaked out of a chemicals factory in northwest France and wafted across the English Channel as far as London on Tuesday."

What, 300 Million year old machine parts?!

Unexplained Things Are Out There shares the story of a purportedly 300 Million year old bit of something found in some Russian coal.
The metal detail was supposedly 300 million years old and yet the scientists suggest that it was not created by nature but was rather manufactured by someone. The question of who might have made an aluminum gear in the dawn of time remains unanswered.

"Bog army" found in Denmark

From a report at ScienceNordic:
Archaeologists have spent all summer excavating a small sample of what has turned out to be a mass grave containing skeletal remains from more than 1,000 warriors, who were killed in battle some 2,000 years ago... The site is located in the Alken Enge wetlands near Lake Mossø on the Jutland peninsula.

The area that has so far been excavated contained bone fragments from around 240 men aged between 13 and 45. The men’s bones are marked by melee weapons such as swords and axes...  The marks from the predators’ bite indicate that the dead warriors were left to die and rot on the battlefield, without anyone bothering to bury or even remove the bodies...

One of the greatest historians of the Roman Empire, Tacitus (56 AD – 120 AD) described the aftermath of the Roman’s famous defeat in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD.
“In the middle of the plain, bones lay either spread out or heaped, depending on whether they had fled or resisted. Next to the bones lay bits of spears and horse limbs, and there were also human heads nailed to trees. In the nearby groves were barbarian altars in which they had sacrificed tribunes and centurions of the first rank,” Tacitus wrote in his Annals...

“The bones are completely fresh,” he says. “Some DNA has been preserved, so we can get a good profile of what Iron Age man looked like. An anthropological analysis of the bones will provide us with a picture of their diet and their physical appearance.” ..

The project, titled ‘The army and post-war rituals in the Iron Age – warriors sacrificed in the bog at Alken Enge in Illerup Ådal’ is a collaboration between archaeologists and geologists at Skanderborg Museum, Moesgård Museum and Aarhus University.

Random Photo



Unloading supplies onto the International Space Station

As Matt Lynley put it, "Meanwhile, in space ..."

Bow Shock

Wave in Space
This one is pretty cool: a wave in space called a "bow shock".
This wispy yellow arc was created by the massive star Zeta Ophiuchi (centre), which emits about 65,000 times more light than the sun. The star is speeding through space at more than 85,000 kilometres per hour - possibly because of the gravitational recoil it experienced when a former companion star exploded in a supernova.
Zeta Ophiuchi sloughs off a strong wind of charged particles that compresses the gas and dust in front of it, creating a curved feature called a 'bow shock' that resembles the shape that water takes in front of a speeding boat (or in this case, a bird's profile).
From the NewScientist.

Places That Don't Not Look Normal, But Are Actually Real

Mount Grinnell – Glacier National Park, Montana enhanced-buzz-18733-1350405180-20

Welsh Tourist Wrestles Australian Shark

vPaul Marshallsea of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, was barbecuing at Bulcock Beach in Australia when he heard bathers yell "Shark!" The 62-year-old tourist saw a shark approaching children and ran into the water, grabbed the shark, and pulled it away from the youngsters.
"My instincts took over and I just grabbed the shark by the tail.

"I know it was dangerous but it almost looked beautiful - you have got to have respect for a beautiful animal."

Helicopters and lifesavers on water bikes later lured the shark out to sea with the tide.

An Australian coastguard spokesman said: "We don't recommend manhandling sharks but this gentleman did a great job."
The six-foot dusky shark snapped at Marshallsea's leg, but missed by a fraction of an inch. A nearby TV crew caught the action on video. More

Shellfish Feel Pain

A recent experiment adds to evidence that shellfish, such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp, experience pain.

This 500-Million-Year-Old Animal Looked Like a Tulip

The Cambrian marine animal Cotyledion tylodes in fossil form and as illustrated by artists.
An ancient sea animal that looked like a flower had its anus right next to its mouth, a new fossil study finds.
The research reveals that this odd marine creature was likely an ancestor of a group known as the entoprocta. Previously, the oldest fossil entoprocta came from the late Jurassic, about 145 million years ago. The new fossils date all the way back to theCambrian, about 520 million years before the present.
That is near the so-called Cambrian Explosion, when most of the major lineages of animals appeared on the scene, as did complex ecosystems. Some odd animals emerged during this time, such as bizarre shrimplike monsters called anomalocaridids that could grow up to about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length; a 515-million-year-old predator with compound eyes containing 3,000 lenses; and a 50-legged arthropod that skittered along the seafloor of what is now Canada.
The newfound species, Cotyledion tylodes, has been analyzed before, but the discovery of hundreds of new specimens allowed researchers led by Zhifei Zhang of Northwest University in Xi'an, China, to take a more detailed look. The team analyzed 418 specimens from Yunnan, China.
They found that C. tylodes lived a lifestyle fixed to one spot, filtering water through a ring of tentacles that surrounded its mouth — and its anus. The two openings sat right next to one another, connected by a U-shaped gut.
That gut proved that the previous classification of C. tylodes as a cnidarian, or jellyfishlike creature, was wrong, the researchers report today (Jan. 17) in the journal Scientific Reports.
Instead, the flowerlike filter feeder was likely an early entoproct, Zhang and colleagues found. The body pattern is almost identical, though the ancient version grew to a length of 0.3 inches to 2.2 inches (8 to 56 millimeters), while today's entoprocts are comparatively tiny at between 0.004 inches and 0.27 inches long (0.1 to 7 mm).
Another big difference between C. tylodes and modern entoprocts is on the outside. Unlike what is found in living entoprocts, the stem and flowerlike feeding cup of the ancient creature were covered by tiny hardened protuberances called sclerites, which may have formed a sort of hard exoskeleton for the creatures.

Amazing video of dolphin seeking help from scuba divers

This video of a dolphin in need is really something on so many levels.It turns out that the dolphin had fishing line and a hook stuck on one of its fins, so it approached a group of divers who were watching manta rays at night near Kona, Hawaii. Fortunately one of the professional divers was able to help remove some of the fishing line that was restricting the movement of the dolphin, though in the end they were unable to remove the hook.
diver helps dolphinThere are plenty of warnings at the beginning (the divers are professional so don’t try this at home), followed by the dolphin swimming around the group, with the untangling action starting around the 3:30 mark.
You won’t believe how calm and trusting the dolphin is with the diver, who patiently cuts away the line.

Animal Pictures


Arctic Wolves