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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, May 31, 2013

The Daily Drift

Damn shame we have, too.

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Today is What You Think Upon Grows Day 
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Today in History

1433   Sigismund is crowned emperor of Rome.  
1678   The Godiva procession, commemorating Lady Godiva's legendary ride while naked, becomes part of the Coventry Fair.  
1862   At the Battle of Fair Oaks, Union General George B. McClellan defeats Confederates outside of Richmond.  
1879   New York's Madison Square Garden opens its doors for the first time.  
1889   Johnstown, Pennsylvania is destroyed by a massive flood.  
1900   U.S. troops arrive in Peking to help put down the Boxer Rebellion.  
1902   The Boer War ends with the Treaty of Vereeniging.  
1909   The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) holds its first conference.  
1913   The 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for direct election of senators, is ratified. 1915   A German zeppelin makes an air raid on London.  
1916   British and German fleets fight in the Battle of Jutland.  
1928   The first flight over the Pacific takes off from Oakland.  
1941   An armistice is arranged between the British and the Iraqis.  
1955   The Supreme Court orders that states must end racial segregation "with all deliberate speed."  
1962   Adolf Eichmann, the former SS commander, is hanged near Tel Aviv, Israel.  
1969   John Lennon and Yoko Ono record "Give Peace a Chance."  
1974   Israel and Syria sign an agreement on the Golan Heights.  
1979   Zimbabwe proclaims its independence.  
1988   President Ronald Reagan arrives in Moscow, the first American president to do so in 14 years.

Non Sequitur


Meet The Latest Thing That Can Kill Humanity ...

... MERS-CoV

Time to panic! A new SARS-like virus found in human has all the potential to cause a global pandemic. Meet the novel Coronavirus (nCOV or MERS-CoV) - and yes, it's transmissible from human to human:
A new SARS-like virus recently found in humans is "a threat to the entire world," according to the director-general of the United Nations' World Health Organization.
The so-called novel coronavirus "is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself," Margaret Chan said Monday in her closing remarks at the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
"We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond," she said.
CNN has more: Here.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman's Daughter!

What's life like when your father is "The Smartest Man in the World" and has a Nobel Prize to prove it? Michelle Feynman, daughter of the famous physicist Richard Feyman, tells us:
When I was very young, I thought my father knew everything. Indeed, a prominent magazine once declared him “The Smartest Man in the World.” Upon hearing this, his mother threw up her hands and exclaimed, “If Richard is the smartest man in the world, God help the world!” My father was the first one to laugh. [...]
Despite his success, my father encouraged an irreverent attitude toward himself. Our dinner conversations were full of tales about mistakes he made during the day: losing his sweater, having conversations with people and not remembering their names. On Sunday mornings, he would often forgo reading the newspaper in favor of a wild hour of loud, often discordant music, drumming, and storytelling with my brother and me. When it was his turn to drive the car pool to elementary school, he would pretend to get lost. “No, not that way!” all the kids would scream. “Oh, all right. Is it this way?” and he would turn the wrong way again. “Nooooooo!” we would yell in utter panic.
Read the rest over at Discover Magazine.

Great News: Michelle Bachmann to leave congress

Thursday, May 30

Max Read at Gawker watched the announcement so no-one else has to: "an interminable video posted to her websiteeight fucking minutes, of just her talking, the vibe somewhere between airplane safety video and personal-injury lawyer ad."

Thursday, May 30


Tom the Dancing Bug


Texas to pass landmark email privacy law

Texas is on the verge of passing legislation that patches a hole in federal privacy law. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, no warrant is needed to spy on email once it has been opened, or if it is unopened on a server for more than six months. The Feds have fought efforts to reform this antiquated law, which the DHS and its affiliated snoops rely upon to conduct mass-scale, warrantless surveillance. The Texas law is somewhat symbolic (since it won't stop Fed snooping), but it's still an important step toward establishing a better norm in privacy standards for files on cloud-based services:
On Tuesday, the Texas bill (HB 2268) was sent to Gov. Perry’s desk, and he has until June 16, 2013 to sign it or veto it. If he does neither, it will pass automatically and take effect on September 1, 2013. The bill would give Texans more privacy over their inbox to shield against state-level snooping, but the bill would not protect against federal investigations. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year without a single "nay" vote.
This new bill, if signed, will make Texas law more privacy-conscious than the much-maligned (but frustratingly still in effect) 1986-era Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). With the ECPA, federal law enforcement agencies are only required to get a warrant to access recent e-mails before they are opened by the recipient.
As we've noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has been sitting in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days. In March 2013, the Department of Justice acknowledged in a Congressional hearing that this distinction no longer makes sense and the DOJ would support revisions to ECPA.

How to get out of your AT&T contract early without an early termination fee

This month AT&T started charging a monthly "Mobility Administrative Fee" of $0.61 to mobile customers. If you want to get out of your contract early, you can use this fee increase to cancel the contract without paying an early termination fee.
This fee offers a rare chance to fight back against a corporate giant. You can use the administrative fee as a loophole to break your contract, without having to pay any costly early termination fees.
Even if the monthly fee isn't a big deal to you, upgrading your phone early probably is. By canceling your contract, you can get a new Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One with AT&T or another wireless carrier at the cheaper subsidized pricing.

IRS targets medical marijuana businesses in government's war on weed

Ariel Shearer in HuffPost: "For the past several years, the Internal Revenue Service has been systematically targeting medical marijuana establishments, relying on an obscure statute that gives the taxing agency unintended power. The IRS has been functioning as an arm of justice, employing the U.S. tax code as a weapon in the federal government's ongoing war against legal cannabis." 

Newly-opened café charges customers for the amount of time spent there

A newly-opened café in Wiesbaden in western Germany is charging customers for the amount of time they spend there, rather than for what they order. The concept comes from Russia, where it is has proven to be a success. 24-year-old Daria Volkova, who moved to Germany from Russia in 2008, opened the Slow Time Das Zeitcafé in the middle of April. For now her goal is to make enough money from the café to support herself and her six-year-old son.

"I hope to capture the spirit of the times," Volkova said. Customers are charged €0.05 per minute, amounting to €3.00 an hour. When they come in the door, Volkova gives them a wristband with the time marked on it. When they leave they hand it back and their bill is calculated to the minute. The concept of time is turned on its head, with several clocks purposely showing different times. The intention is for people to forget about time and focus on those around them.

"It's easier - and cheaper - to meet people here than in a bar, where you have to buy expensive drinks," Volkova said. Customers are allowed to have as much coffee as they want, and they can even bring their own food. The entire space is supposed to feel like a living room, with books, board games and slippers provided. The 75 square-meter room has space for about 25 customers and to make money, Volkova needs eleven people to come in an hour. So far, she hasn't been able to break even.

However, she is confident that things will take off in the coming months. She has few expenses and only needs one other member of staff to run the café. She attributes the teething problems to the novelty of the concept in Germany and to the fact that she hasn't yet set up regular events at the venue. When she's not running the coffee shop, Volkova can be found in a lecture hall in Mainz, where she is studying music. It costs €2.00 to enter the 'Slow Time' café and that price covers the first 30 minutes. After that, customers are charged €0.05 per minute.

UK film industry requisitions cops for massive raid on suspected pirate, get to question him at police station

In the UK, the movie industry's lobby group gets to requisition huge numbers of police officers to raid peoples' houses, solely on their say-so. Here's the story of one man who was raided by ten cops, who arrived in five cars, along with representatives from FACT (the horribly named Federation Against Copyright Theft). The FACT agents directed the arrest of a 24-year-old man, along with the seizure of all his computers and storage media, on the basis of an "emergency" search-warrant. The FACT agents conducted the bulk of his questioning at the police station, with the cops acting as stenographers. When the man was bailed, the bail sheet specified that he had been arrested for a "miscellaneous offense." He has been banned from entering any cinemas in England or Wales as a condition of bail.
As TorrentFreak notes, FACT offers cash bounties to cinema workers who disrupt people thought to be "cammers" who are recording movies in cinemas. They paid more than a dozen such bounties last year, but did not have a single successful prosecution.
“This morning I was arrested at my home under suspicion of recording and distributing Fast and Furious 6 and a few other titles,” the arrested man told TorrentFreak. Mp> After seizing numerous items including three servers, a desktop computer, blank hard drives and blank media, police detained the 24-year-old and transported him to a nearby police station. Despite the ‘emergency’ nature of the raid, no movie recording equipment was found.
“At the police station I was interviewed by the police together with FACT (Federation Against Copyright and Theft). During questioning they asked me about Fast and Furious 6, where I obtained a copy from and if I was the one who went and recorded it at the cinema.”
Despite police involvement, as in previous cases it appears they were only present in order to gain access to the victim’s property, sit on the sidelines taking notes, and for their powers when it comes to presenting crimes for prosecution.
“I was detained for 3 hrs 12 minutes, out of that I was questioned for approximately 40 minutes. One police officer and two FACT officers conducted the interview. The police officer sat back and let FACT do all the questioning, so FACT were running the show,” the man reports.

Ten Of The World's Most Unique Movie Theaters

Ten of the most unusual and unique movie theaters from around the world.

Coffee Vs. Beer

Which Drink Makes You More Creative?

From a scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain. Which one would actually help you be more creative and get work done, coffee or beer?

Indian police officers attacked each other with bamboo canes while on duty

Two officers from Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), a state police unit that is controversial for its handling of communal riots, assaulted each other with lathis while on duty in Lucknow at a function attended by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The two policemen, head constable Mukund Chandra Yadav and constable Sunil Dixit of the 10th battalion of the force, bled profusely following their clash in the presence of the media outside the Indira Gandhi Pratishtan where the Chief Minister was meeting industrialists.

The policemen, now suspended, suffered serious head injuries and were taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. An FIR has been lodged against the duo and they are likely to be arrested after they are released from hospital.

According to the police, it all started when Yadav alleged Dixit was missing at his duty point during the Chief Minister’s visit. After a heated argument over the issue, they were asked to go to their duty points by their seniors. The clash ended after the intervention of PAC company commander Keshav Nath.

Boy who wanted to see what inside of garbage truck looked like almost killed after hiding in garbage can

A young boy's fascination with garbage trucks almost turned deadly when he came close to being crushed after hiding in a garbage can in northern Victoria, Australia. Nine-year-old Connor, of Yarrawonga, was curious to see what the inside of a dump truck looked like and hid inside a garbage can and waited to be picked up. A short time later, the garbage can, containing Connor, was dumped into the hopper at the back of the truck.

In a fortunate twist of fate, the keen-eyed truck driver checked his safety camera and spotted the young boy clinging to the side of the vehicle. Had the driver not seen him, the truck's hydraulic system would have almost certainly crushed Connor to death. "There's a big paddle in the back that crushes all the rubbish up and compacts it all," the truck driver said. "If he got caught under that, it could have been really, really bad."

Connor had previously been warned not to play near the garbage cans because of the dangers, but curiosity got the better of him. "I just wanted to know what it looked like inside the dump truck," Connor said. "I hid in the bin hoping to hold on to the ledge and I slipped. He (truck driver) didn't know I was in there. My shoe got stuck and I started to get dragged by my shoe.

"He saw my hands in the mirror so he pushed the stop button and helped me get out. He was nice enough to help me get my shoe and sock out of there too." A frightening close call, the truck driver had almost completed his final round of pick ups and was about to turn on the trash compactor. Amazingly, Connor escaped the frightening ordeal with a only a few cuts and bruises. "I felt grateful that I was out and that I'm still alive," he said.

Rescuers save baby lodged in sewage pipe in China

Firefighters in China have rescued a newborn baby boy lodged inside a sewage pipe leading off a toilet. Residents of an apartment building in Jinhua city, Zhejiang province, called rescuers on Saturday after they heard the infant's cries.

Rescuers tried to pull the baby out of the pipe but failed and ended up sawing through a section of the pipe instead. They took the pipe to hospital, where it was carefully pulled apart to release the infant.

The baby, thought to be just a few days old, was found inside a pipe 10cm (4 inches) in diameter. Firefighters and doctors worked together using pliers to cut the pipe apart to get to the baby. The baby is now in stable condition.

Police are said to be treating the case as attempted murder and are searching for the parents. The baby was named Baby No 59 - after the number of his hospital incubator.

Teen Built DIY Submarine out of Drainage Pipe

Give me a ping, Beckerman. One ping only, please.
Many high school students are planning to lounge around the lake this summer, but not Mendham High School, New Jersey, student Justin Beckerman. The 18-year old teen will be doing the final testing of his one-man DIY submarine, made from drainage pipe:
Co-existing with Jet Skis and fishing boats in the picturesque West Jersey lake is Justin’s latest invention — complete with lights, paddles, ballasts, air compressors, 2,000 feet of wire and a Plexiglas dome top that looks like the head of Star Wars robot R2-D2.
Justin, who turned 18 last weekend, spent a month designing and five months building his 9-foot-long submarine, into which he can fit.
Mike Frassinelli of The Star-Ledger has the story: Here.

NewImage High school student Justin Beckerman made his own single-person submarine to explore a lake near his New Jersey home, he says, and "see fish and hopefully find a bit of history, like the cannons from my neighbors' historic house" dumped in the lake long ago. The project took him six months and cost $2,000. The window is an old skylight, the regulators and gauges are from a trashed soda fountain. From CNN:
The submarine has ballast tanks to maintain its depth and equilibrium; air vents that bring oxygen down from the surface; a functioning PA and a range of emergency systems including back-up batteries, a siren, strobe lights, a breathing apparatus and a pump to fight leaks. The vessel can remain submerged for up to two hours and travels beneath the waves at one and a half miles per hour.

Turning Cement into Metal

Forget the sleek aluminum case of the iPhone or the magnesium alloy used in HTC's smartphone. The new hot thing is metal made out of cement. That's right, cement:
In a move that would make the Alchemists of King Arthur's time green with envy, scientists have unraveled the formula for turning liquid cement into liquid metal. This makes cement a semi-conductor and opens up its use in the profitable consumer electronics marketplace for thin films, protective coatings, and computer chips. [...]
This change demonstrates a unique way to make metallic-, which has positive attributes including better resistance to corrosion than traditional metal, less brittleness than traditional glass, conductivity, low energy loss in magnetic fields, and fluidity for ease of processing and molding. Previously only metals have been able to transition to a  form. Cement does this by a process called electron trapping, a phenomena only previously seen in ammonia solutions. Understanding how cement joined this exclusive club opens the possibility of turning other solid normally insulating materials into room-temperature semiconductors. [...]
The team of scientists studied mayenite, a component of alumina cement made of calcium and aluminum oxides. They melted it at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius using an aerodynamic levitator with carbon dioxide laser beam heating. The material was processed in different atmospheres to control the way that oxygen bonds in the resulting glass.

The Mortsafe

  ... Or How To Protect Your Loved Ones From The Bodysnatchers

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the eighteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number.

A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. Those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

Ladder to be Installed at Mount Everest

Well, climbing Mount Everest ain't what it used to be. Sixty years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Sir George's mountain, there are so many people waiting in line to reach the top that there's now a plan to install a ladder there:
"We are now discussing putting a ladder on the Hillary Step but it is obviously controversial," said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who runs commercial expeditions on Everest and is a senior member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal.
This year, 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest. On 19 May, around 150 climbed the last 3,000ft of the peak from Camp IV within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers queued to descend or ascend harder sections.
"Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature," said Sherpa ...
I think I'll wait till they install an escalator.
Jason Burke of The Guardian has the story: Here.

The Living Root Bridges Of India

India has a population of over a billion and our ideas about the country are often informed by that statistic. Yet there are places on the sub-continent which are still almost inaccessible.

Meghalaya in the north east of the country is home to mountainous subtropical forests. In order to get around, local people have come up with an ingenious form of natural engineering - the living root bridge.

A soil atlas of Africa

A group of international experts has created a Soil Atlas of Africa, which maps the earth to "help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil, and the need to manage it through sustainable use." More at the Guardian.

Twelve Examples Of Guttation

Guttation is the exudation of drops of sap on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses. Guttation is not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmosphere onto the plant surface. When there is a high soil moisture level, water will enter plant roots, because the water potential of the roots is lower than in the soil solution.

The water will accumulate in the plant, creating a slight root pressure. The root pressure forces some water to exude through special leaf tip or edge structures, hydathodes or water glands, forming drops. Here is a beautiful gallery that shows examples of guttation.

Sierra Club magazine list of "Earth's Weirdest Landscapes"

NewImage Sierra Magazine posted their picks of "Earth's Weirdest Landscapes." Some I was familiar with, like the Fly Geyser in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, California's Mono Lake, and Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. But others are new-to-me strange spots that I would be delighted to explore. For example, above is Lake Hillier in Western Australia's Recherche Archipelago. Yes, it really is pink. According too Sierra, "some believe (the hue) comes from a dye produced by two microorganisms called Halobacteria and Dunaliella salina, while others suspect the red halophilic bacteria that thrive in the lake's salt deposits." Earth's Weirdest Landscapes 

Spider Silk Dress

Stylish and bullet proof! What's not to like?
This new blue dress by Japanese company Spiber is woven from synthetic spider silk, which is five times stronger than steel, more flexible than nylon, and is extremely lightweight.
The electric-blue dress was created from a material Spiber calls Qmonos (from kumonosu, or "spider web," in Japanese). [...]
The high-collared cocktail dress, on display at the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, was created to demonstrate the technology behind Qmonos.
The territorial nature of spiders makes them difficult to farm like silkworms. So instead, Spiber developed a technology that uses synthesized genes and coaxes bacteria to produce fibroin, the structural protein in spider silk. Spiber then uses technology it developed to culture the microbes efficiently and weave the fibroin into fabric.
Apart from clothing, Qmonos could potentially be be used to make film, gels, sponges, artificial blood vessels, and nanofibers.
Tim Hornyak of CNET has the scoop: Here.

Police called after pony pooed on liquor store floor

Police were called to a liquor store in Warren, Rhode Island, on Monday night after reports of property damage. The owner of a Shetland pony took it into the store, allowed the pony to defecate on a rug and failed to properly clean up after it.

The store owner was prepared to press charges and called police. But police were able to calm the incident by taking the pony's owner, William Saviano, back to the store to clean up after the pony.

Saviano, 51, said before entering the liquor store he was at a children's pony show down the street. He said he stopped by to pick up wine on the way home.

Police said Saviano has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1988. He's been charged with domestic assault, disorderly conduct, malicious destruction of property and driving under the influence of alcohol, among other things. No charges were filed in this incident.

Pregnant elephant does prenatal Pilates

Rozie the pregnant Asian elephant at Albuquerque Zoo is doing Pilates to build strength and flexibility. She and the rest of the herd are part of a well-developed exercise and enrichment program that keeps the pachyderms healthy and happy.

Zookeepers are paying extra close attention to Rozie's routine to keep her fit for a healthy pregnancy and to prepare for a successful birth. "We have exercise sessions twice a day with leg lifts, squats and other calisthenics," said Rhonda Saiers, Elephant Manager.

"The exercises are especially important for Rozie. When she is strong and at ideal weight, we know chances are much better that she'll have an uncomplicated and successful birth. Just as in humans, birth carries risks, but we're doing all we can to minimize those."

Elephant calves have the longest gestation period of any mammal at around 21 months. "Due dates" are difficult to predict, so zookeepers use a birth window for planning. In this case, Rozie could give birth anytime between August and November.

Penguin joined guests in viewing area at new exhibit

A penguin jumped out of an exhibit at SeaWorld's new 'Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin' attraction in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, joining guests in the viewing area.

SeaWorld staff ushered guests out of the area and surrounded the penguin while waiting for a handler. The penguin was returned to the water unharmed.

Animal Pictures


IMG_5956 by !STORAX on Flickr.