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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Daily Drift

Home is where the heart is ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 191 countries around the world daily.

Bad, Neighbor, Bad! ...

Today is Neighbor Day

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Today in History

715   St. Gregory II begins his reign as Catholic Pope.  
1535   French explorer Jacques Cartier sets sail for North America. 1536   Anne Boleyn is beheaded on Tower Green.  
1568   Defeated by the Protestants, Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England where Queen Elizabeth imprisons her.  
1588   The Spanish Armada sets sail from Lisbon, Spain.  
1608   The Protestant states form the Evangelical Union of Lutherans and Calvinists.  
1635   Cardinal Richelieu of France intervenes in the great conflict in Europe by declaring war on the Hapsburgs in Spain.  
1643   The French army defeats a Spanish army at Rocroi, France.  
1780   Near total darkness descends on New England at noon. No explanation is found.  
1856   Senator Charles Sumner speaks out against slavery.  
1858   A pro-slavery band led by Charles Hameton executes unarmed Free State men near Marais des Cygnes on the Kansas-Missouri border.  
1863   Union General Ulysses S. Grant's first attack on Vicksburg is repulsed.  
1864   The Union and Confederate armies launch their last attacks against each other at Spotsylvania, Virginia.  
1921   Congress sharply curbs immigration, setting a national quota system.  
1935   The National Football League adopts an annual college draft to begin in 1936.  
1964   U.S. diplomats find at least 40 microphones planted in the American embassy in Moscow.  
1967   U.S. planes bomb Hanoi for the first time.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

About this interactive map of racist and homophobic tweets

About when the IRS targeted liberals

How long has longest-burning light bulb been burning?

About that terrible IRS scandal targeting griuos for political purposes? back in 2004?

That the western black rhino has been declared extinct

About the anti-vax movement: a terrible track record

About 7 weirdest conspiracy theories now taken seriously by the repugican cabal

About the 5 major scandals the press isn't obsessing about

That California sues Chase over credit card collection abuses

About why animals adopt other animals

Why you don't make fun of renowned Dan Brown

Man Grabs Girl, Mom Gives Chase

When a man grabs a four-year-old girl, the girl's mother springs into action. All ends well.

The truth hurts

What Is The Most Complex Chinese Character?

Chinese characters are made up of strokes. Learning to write them involves not only learning where all the strokes go, but also the order in which they are supposed to be written and the direction of each individual stroke (left to right, up to down, etc.).

The simplest character is yī (one), a single stroke written from left to right.
The most complex character, biáng (picture above), is made up of 57 strokes.

Out Down Under

Municipal services minister survives the fight but loses in a TKO.

Smuggling KFC into Gaza

There's no KFC in the Gaza strip, a 140-square mile coastal strip 1.7 million Palestinians call home, but that doesn't mean that you can't get the Colonel's finger lickin' good chicken there.Where there's a will, there's a way - and by way, we mean smuggling tunnels:
... after Mr. Efrangi brought some KFC back from El Arish for friends last month, he was flooded with requests. A new business was born. [...]
... whenever there is a critical mass of orders — usually 30 — he starts a complicated process of telephone calls, wire transfers and coordination with the Hamas government to get the chicken from there to here.
The other day, after Mr. Efrangi called in 15 orders and wired the payment to the restaurant in El Arish, an Egyptian taxi driver picked up the food. On the other side of the border, meanwhile, Ramzi al-Nabih, a Palestinian cabdriver, arrived at the Hamas checkpoint in Rafah, where the guards recognized him as “the Kentucky guy.”
From the checkpoint, Mr. Nabih, 26, called his Egyptian counterpart and told him which of the scores of tunnels the Hamas official had cleared for the food delivery. He first waited near the shaft of the tunnel, but after a while he was lowered on a lift about 30 feet underground and walked halfway down the 650-foot path to meet two Egyptian boys who were pushing the boxes and buckets of food, wrapped in plastic, on a cart.
Mr. Nabih gave the boys about $16.50, and argued with them for a few minutes over a tip. A half-hour later, the food was loaded into the trunk and on the back seat of his Hyundai taxi, bound for Gaza City.
Fares Akram explains how one smuggles KFC from Egypt into Gaza in this story over at The New York Times

India's OMICS Publishing Group threatens scholarly critic with $1 billion lawsuit, jail time

OMICS Publishing Group, an Indian scholarly publisher has threatened to sue one of its critics, Metadata librarian Jeffrey Beall, for $1 billion, and has threatened him with prison time over posts he made to his prominent Scholarly Open Access site. OMICS cites India's terrible Information Technology Act as the basis for its threats. However, it seems unlikely that Beall would be extradited to India even if OMICS makes good on its threats, and unless he has assets in India, they'll have a hard time collecting on any judgment.
Today The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a less amusing letter Beall received Tuesday. An Indian intellectual property management firm called IP Markets informed Beall that they would be suing for $1 billion in damages and that he could face up to three years in prison for his "deliberate attempt to defame our client." That client is OMICS Publishing Group, an India-based operation profiled several times on the blog. The group requested that Beall remove the posts and e-mail updates to anyone who published his work, yet IP Markets still intends to go through with the suit either way.
"All the allegation [sic] that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment of your imagination by you," the six-page letter reads according to The Chronicle. "Our client perceive the blog as mindless rattle of a incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."
I know nothing about OMICS's publishing practices, but based on how they handle their critics, I feel confident in saying that they're not the sort of firm that any scholar should be doing business with -- censoring, terrible bullies don't make good publishers.

The truth be told

Man set fire to neighbor's house over unmown lawn

A Bartow County man accused of burning down a neighbor's house on Wednesday morning has been captured. Phillip Roger Bennett, 58, was taken into custody on Thursday by US Marshals in Murphy, North Carolina He has since been returned to Georgia, and booked into the Bartow County jail. Cartersville Police Capt. Mark Camp said the suspect faces nearly a dozen charges, including arson, aggravated assault, criminal property damage, cruelty to children, second-degree burglary, reckless conduct, criminal trespass and terroristic threats.

Police are also talking with the Bartow County District Attorney about whether Bennett can be charged with attempted murder. They insist Bennett knew Corbitt and his three year old daughter were inside the home when he allegedly set it on fire, frustrated the family had failed to mow their lawn. "He kicks my door, tells me I've got five seconds to come outside. I turn around and call 911. And while I'm on the phone he comes back with two gas cans in his hand. He walks up to my kitchen door again, takes a gas can, smashes it against the glass, breaks the first pane," Corbitt said.

He continued, "Then he turns around and grabs a brick, throws it through the window. And then he grabs a gas can and starts pouring it into the kitchen. And as he's pouring he takes his lighter and lights it. And flames were everywhere. I ran back to my little girl's room, grabbed her, ran out the back door over to my neighbor's and watched the house burn," Corbitt said. "The mean man burned my house," said 3-year-old Kylie as Marty held her in his arms outside their burned shell of a house.

Court and prison records show Bennett has had a history of violence. He served time for voluntary manslaughter, after killing someone in Cobb County. While in prison, Bennett was convicted of aggravated assault for attacking an inmate with a shovel, ripping off the man's nose. Corbitt says he and his family have lived in the house, which belongs to his grandmother, for about four years. Bennett moved into the neighbourhood after his release from prison in 2010. Corbitt says he helped him move in and was aware of his criminal background. The Corbitts are staying with relatives.

Pool Water Contains More Poop Than You'd Think

vA group of researchers from the CDC sampled water from 161 public and private pools and water parks in Atlanta and found that half of them were contaminated with e. coli, which comes from -you guessed it- poop.
The study, published in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, specifically looked at pools in Atlanta, but the researchers say such contamination is likely a widespread problem in U.S. pools, thanks to swimmers not washing themselves off before taking a dip. According to the scientists, each of us carries about 0.14 grams of fecal material into the pool — and that doesn’t include accidents or cases of diarrhea. Among municipal pools, the genetic testing for pathogens detected E. coli in 70% of the filters, while 66% of the water parks contained the bacteria and 49% of pools in private clubs showed evidence of the contamination.

“These findings indicate the need for swimmers to help prevent introduction of pathogens, e.g., taking a pre-swim shower and not swimming when ill with diarrhea, [for] aquatics staff to maintain disinfectant level and pH according to public health standards to inactivate pathogens, and state and local environmental health specialists to enforce such standards,” the authors write in their report.
Because of the way they did the tests, the researchers did not determine whether the bacteria was alive. If pools are properly chlorinated, they should be dead. Atlanta had no reported pool-borne illnesses last summer, when the samples were taken. But just to be sure, try not to swallow pool water. More

The Tantalizing Tales Behind Used Clothes

vEmily Spivack, who runs the Smithsonian blog Threaded, browses eBay for vintage clothing. She found herself especially drawn to clothing items that had stories behind them. Intrigued, she began buying those items with the best stories. It became a hobby.
“I was intrigued by the idea that this marketplace—which was supposed to serve one function, to be transactional—could also have a storytelling emphasis,” Spivack explains. “Interestingly, the time I spent on eBay became much more about looking for stories than things that I actually wanted to purchase.”
Of course, those stories feed right into her blog about historical clothing. Now, Spivak has an exhibition of some of those clothing items (and their stories) called “Sentimental Value” at the  Philadelphia Art Alliance.
Spivack’s favorite stories typically blur the line between historical, personal, and hearsay, like the description of the green silk gown belonging to a seller’s aunt in the 1920s. “Supposedly, her aunt wore the dress to a club one evening,” says Spivack. “She was a blonde, and moved fast, and her boyfriend was involved in the mob. And when they went out that night, someone next to her was shot and killed, and blood splattered on her dress. So they were selling this dress with blood splattered on it. I bid on it, and it’s in the show. To me, that story is absolutely incredible.”
Read about how the clothing items of eBay reached out and grabbed the historian at Collectors Weekly.

The Highs And Lows Of Human-Powered Flight

Greek mythology's Daedalus and Icarus famously got airborne under their own steam, and set the stage for a lively cast of historical characters that flew the noble flag for science while taking to the skies - and more often than not, the ground again a little too quickly.

Early attempts at human-powered flight were unsuccessful because of the difficulty of achieving the high power-to-weight ratio. As of 2008, human-powered aircraft have been successfully flown over considerable distances. However, they are primarily constructed as an engineering challenge rather than for any kind of recreational or utilitarian purpose.

Why Do Old People Get So Hairy?

You've seen it at the local pool, at the beach, or even on your own grandpa. Old grizzled men with enough back hair to knit an afghan. Rampant tufts of hair springing out of dark nasal and ear cavities and eyebrows that look Cro-Magnon. What causes hair to grow everywhere but the head as we age?

Scientists don't exactly know what causes hair to sprout excessively from places like the ears and nostrils but Dr. David Liebovitz, an associate professor of Medicine at Northwestern University, guesses that it has to do with hormones and the lifecycle of hair.

Human News

The average intelligence level of Victorian-era individuals was higher than that of people today, according to a new study.
Only 1 percent of people in China are left-handed, while the global average is 10-12 percent.

Archaeology News

Archaeologists have made a discovery in southern subtropical China which could revolutionise thinking about how ancient humans lived in the region. They have uncovered evidence for the first time that people living in Xincun 5,000 [...]

Diamond Rain

Studies suggest that under high enough pressures methane can form into diamond. Although such conditions do not occur on Earth, the theory has been tested under artificial conditions and found to be true. If this occurs on Neptune and Uranus, which have strong pressures and large amounts of free methane, then it would cause diamonds to rain down through the atmosphere towards their cores. This would also account for unusual heat signatures emitted by these planets.

Double rainbows: Here's what they mean

The physics blog Skulls in the Stars has answers to your rainbow-related questions. Among the fascinating things we learn here — each color in a rainbow represents the light reflected by a separate group of raindrops; skydivers can see circular rainbows; and the famous double rainbow happens when light bounces off the inside of a raindrop not just once ... but twice. 

The Explosive Potential of Methane Frozen Beneath Abraham Lake

Below the surface of Alberta’s Abraham Lake, blue-white columns greet the eye. Yet these beautiful formations are in fact trapped frozen bubbles of flammable methane gas. More

It's all about the Water

Melted snow from the Rocky Mountains supplies drinking water for about 70 million Americans, but a study by the U.S. Geological Survey warns that warmer springs reduced snow cover in the mountains by 20 percent since 1980.
A systematic sampling of lakes around Minnesota turned up a wide variety of chemicals, including DEET, BPA, prescription drugs and cocaine.
Goodbye, glaciers. These rivers of ice are melting worldwide.

Earth News

Goodbye, glaciers. These rivers of ice are melting worldwide.
A new study finds near-unanimity among climate scientists: humans are causing global warming. 
Volcanoes are rumbling in both the Arctic and the tropics of North America, while other eruptions continue on an Italian island and in the frozen tundra of Russia.
A new chemical process based on corn starch may make future gold mines greener. 

Astronomical News

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has recreated the world's tiniest droplets of a primordial state of matter that last existed moments after the Big Bang, some 13.82 billion years ago.
Later this month, three planets will gather very close in the twilight sky -- make sure you don't miss this stunning conjunction!
A big asteroid will cruise by Earth at the end of the month, making its closest approach to our planet for at least the next two centuries.


Saturday, May 18

Twelve Animals to Bring Back from Extinction

saber-toothed tiger
Cloning technology may permit scientists to revive extinct species. The writers of Mother Jones contemplated which species they'd like to bring back from the dead. Maddie Oatman proposes the saber-toothed tiger:
The saber-toothed tiger was a compact killing machine, chasing small mammoths, giant sloths, and bison all over North America until about 10,000 years ago when it and many other species mysteriously died out at the end of the last Ice Age. Its genus name, smilodon, comprises the Greek words for "chisel" and "tooth," though the modern lion's bite is probably three times as strong as old smilodon's.
Can we bring it back? About 2,000 saber-toothed fossils have emerged from the La Brea tar pits in Southern California—it's the state fossil—and, being around 10,000 years old, they likely contain recoverable DNA. But so far, no scientists have actually attempted to recreate it.
What species would you like to revive?

Animal Kingdom Kleptos

7 Species That Steal v 
We already know that cats will steal anything that's not tied down. But what about the rest of the animal kingdom? The tendency to steal food is a beneficial adaptation for a species, and taking what another critter has is not really rare. For example: Flowers produce nectar to attract bees for pollination purposes, but bumblebees take nectar from flowers without pollinating the plants in exchange.
Bees who’ve evolved with short tongues and thus can’t reach for the sweet nectar have learned to carve holes into the side of a flower in order to reach their reward. This phenomenon, first observed by Charles Darwin, gets a bee nectar without the bee pollinating the plant. More cannily, there’s evidence suggesting that bees aren’t born behaving this way—they learn how to thieve from other bees, a sad sign that bee society is being overrun by hoodlums.
Read about seven thieving species here.

What tigers and kiwi birds have in common

Species that lack significant levels of genetic diversity have a big problem. And it's not just about ending up with tiger and kiwi bird versions of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. Beyond the risk of inbreeding, genetic diversity supplies the tools that help a species adapt to change. If there's not enough of it, then the species is more likely to die out when subjected to stressful conditions ... like, say, climate change. 

Just What Is It About Bees And Hexagons?

Solved! A bee-buzzing, honey-licking 2,000-year-old mystery that begins with a beehive. Look at the honeycomb in a beehive and ask yourself: Why is every cell in this honeycomb a hexagon? Bees, after all, could build honeycombs from rectangles or squares or triangles.

But for some reason, bees choose hexagons. Always hexagons. And not just your basic six-sided hexagon. They like 'perfect' hexagons, meaning all six sides are of equal length. Why?

Animal Pictures


Caught! by Jordan Gough Photography on Flickr.