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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, August 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

Sounds about right ...!
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Today is International Whale Shark Day  

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Today in History

30 BC Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, commits suicide.
1617 Rosa de Lima of Peru becomes the first American saint to be canonized.
1721 The Peace of Nystad ends the Second Northern War between Sweden and Russia, giving Russia considerably more power in the Baltic region.
1781 The French fleet arrives in the Chesapeake Bay to aid the American Revolution.
1813 Creek Indians massacre over 500 whites at Fort Mims Alabama.
1860 The first British tramway is inaugurated at Birkenhead by an American, George Francis Train.
1861 Union General John Fremont declares martial law throughout Missouri and makes his own emancipation proclamation to free slaves in the state. President Lincoln overrules the general.
1892 The Moravia, a passenger ship arriving from Germany, brings cholera to the United States.
1932 Nazi leader Hermann Goering is elected president of the Reichstag.
1944 Ploesti, the center of the Rumanian oil industry, falls to Soviet troops.
1961 President John F. Kennedy appoints General Lucius D. Clay as his personal representative in Berlin.
1963 Hot Line communications link installed between Moscow and Washington, DC.
1967 US Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall as first African-American Supreme Court justice.
1976 Tom Brokaw becomes news anchor of Today Show.
1979 First recorded instance of a comet (Howard-Koomur-Michels) hitting the sun; the energy released is equal to approximately 1 million hydrogen bombs.
1982 Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forced out of Lebanon after 10 years in Beirut during Lebanese Civil War.
1983 Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford, Jr., becomes the first African-American astronaut to travel in space.
1986 KGB arrest journalist Nicholas Daniloff (US News World Report) on a charge of spying and hold him for 13 days.
1983 Eiffel Tower welcomes its 150 millionth visitor, 33-year-old Parisian Jacqueline Martinez.

Non Sequitur


The Piper

The piper fits into the Scottish landscape like a glove on your hand. Pipers have served in Scottish regiments from the earliest times; the Royal Scots have records referring to pipers dating back to the early seventeenth century. Where pipers were employed as pipers (rather than just happening to be a soldier who also was able to play), they were employed by the officers of the regiments as private pipers. This situation continued until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for all things Highland was instrumental in the War Office's decision that each battalion of the Highland Regiments be allowed five pipers and a Pipe Major, which continues to be all that the British Army provides funds for to this day. Any additional pipers in the battalion pipe band were and are equipped today by funds from the Officers' Mess Fund of the battalion.

By this time, pipers were already playing together with drummers, probably modelling themselves on the fife and drum bands which had existed in Switzerland since the fifteenth century. Drumming is, of course, as ancient as the concept of formed military units, and their original purpose on the battlefield was to signal tactical movements and keep cadence on the march.

By the end of the Crimean War, pipe bands were established in most of the Scottish Regiments. The first civilian organizations to adopt pipe bands were police and fire brigade bands; even today, several forces maintain bands that play to a very high standard.

By the time World War I broke out, the pipe band represented a popular image of Scotland, both internally and externally.

Military pipers were killed and injured in significant numbers in the Great War, before the War Office banned the practice of playing in the trenches in 1915. The ban was often not observed; Canadian piper James Richardson was awarded the Victoria Cross for playing in action in 1916. Pipes have occasionally played into battle, notably at El Alamein, Dieppe, the Normandy beaches, and the crossing of the Rhine. The Calgary Highlanders went into action for the first time at Hill 67 in Normandy with company pipers playing; it was the only time the Regiment did so. Military pipers have also served in both Gulf Wars.

Did you know ...

That a father and 12-year-old son died when room full of ammunition explodes

That Obamacare is gaining traction among the American people

That even young repugicans want health insurance

That the military removed commander of nuclear weapons unit

Survey Says ...

What if the pie chart used vibrant, pastel colors and had a 3D effect? I read somewhere that doing so improves the quality of polling data. Doghouse Diaries is being too skeptical.

Data Proves NC’s Voter ID Law Declares War on Women’s Votes

Without question, the ALEC inspired "Voter ID" law in NC, and in other red states, target votes by blacks and Hispanics. Make no mistake about it, ALEC has…

Justice Ginsburg's Terrifying Assessment Of Her Own Court

From Think Progress
(Click HERE to read the entire article)

In an interview with the New York Times' Adam Liptak, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offered a grim assessment of the Court where she so often finds herself leading a four justice dissent - the Roberts Court is "one of the most activist courts in history."

As an historic matter, this is a pretty staggering claim. The Supreme Court in 1905 handed down a decision called Lochner v. New York that is now widely taught in American law schools as an example of how judges should never, ever behave. Lochner treated any law improving workplace conditions or helping workers to obtain an adequate wage as constitutionally suspect. And Lochner was hardly an anomalous moment in the Court's history.

Thirteen years after Lochner the Supreme Court struck down federal child labor laws in a decision that is also widely taught as an example of inexcusable judicial activism. In 1895, the Supreme Court rendered the country virtually powerless against monopolies and other powerful combinations of corporate power, and then it held an income tax on the wealthiest Americans unconstitutional just a few months later. The Supreme Court has, with rare exception, been a largely malign force in American history.

There is, however, one important way in which the Roberts Court is distinguishable from the Courts that decided cases such as Lochner. Laws such as the Sherman Antitrust Act and the first federal ban on child labor arose as lawmakers with struggling with many of the negative side effects of the Industrial Revolution. The birth of the railroad and the dawn of mass production massively improved the American standard of living, but they also enabled monopolists to thrive and they resulted in mass exploitation of the working class. The Supreme Court in this era did not so much tear down established rights as it stood for a status quo that favored capital over labor and the rich over the rest of the nation.

The Roberts Court, by contrast, has actively rolled back existing laws protecting workers, women and people of color. The Nineteenth Century Supreme Court blocked America's first meaningful efforts at racial equality, but the Roberts Court stole from minority voters rights that they had enjoyed for decades. The Lochner Court strangled basic protections for workers in their crib, but the Roberts Court takes fully matured protections for workers and carves them up a piece at a time. And, while Lochner Era courts acted out in the open, undermining human rights in published opinions. the Roberts Court pushes an alternative, corporate-run arbitration system that operates largely in secret.

None of this is to say that the world we live in now is worse than the world our great-grandparents lived in under the Lochner Court - if the Roberts Court's goal is to bring us back to this era, they are currently shy at least one vote. Nevertheless, the Roberts Court is unusually willing to take from ordinary Americans rights they have enjoyed for a very long time. The Supreme Court has a long history of standing athwart history yelling stop. This Supreme Court, however, wants to shift history into reverse.

The truth be told


Gawker reveals NYPD's "spy taxi"

This, writes Gawker's John Cook, is a taxi used in "NYPD's indiscriminate and probably illegal spying program." According to the two Pulitzer Prize–winning authors of the book, Enemies Within, it's a "real yellow cab, complete with an authentic taxi medallion registered under a fake name used by the department's intelligence division to conduct surveillance operations."
It's mainly used to keep tabs on activities around New York's mosques, say the book's authors, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman.
Cook's advice, "If you hail this cab, don't tip."

Russian police seize Putin, Medvedev painting

Picture the scene: a quiet moment between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. A momentary intersection between two lives made busy–so busy–by the hard work of government. Medvedev has just put his bra back on. He is disheveled. Putin grabs a comb and runs it lazily through his deputy's hair. Medvedev's eyes firmly engage the viewer, but Putin looks oddly to one side. What is he looking at? Perhaps his eye falls upon the Romanov Tercentenary Egg on his desk, adorned with portrait miniatures of the dynasty.
They seem to gaze back at him, no longer lost within Fabergé's gilded relic. Putin once saw their deaths in his mind's eye, over and over, that invigorating minute in Yekaterinburg. Now he hears only their voices, the whispers that wake him. Though both men creep toward the threshold of the golden afternoon, the evening is yet young.
Alas, this delightful set-piece is no more: police raided the gallery and took it away without a word of explanation.

California school district hires firm to eavesdrop on students' social media activity

Matthew says, "The Glendale [California] Unified School District has hired Geo Listening ["Your students are crying for help. We have heard these cries of despair, and for help and attention, loud and clear from students themselves via their public postings on social networks"]to eavesdrop and monitor students’ public posts on websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram."

The Birth of the Bleep

The Verge has an extensive article on the rise of broadcast censorship. Despite the devotion to freedom of speech, broadcasters have always been terrified of audience response, and did what they could to avoid offending anyone. The first incidence of broadcast censorship occurred in 1921, when Vaudeville performer Olga Petrova visited one of the earliest radio stations. Petrova was known to be opinionated, and a friend of birth control advocate Margaret sanger.
One night in 1921, Petrova, then engaged at a Newark theater, went to the local radio station WJZ to perform. The Great War had just ended, during the course of which the government had forbidden the use of private radio equipment. After the armistice the Navy tried to retain monopoly control of radio, but Congress put a stop to their power grab. Wartime restrictions were lifted, but the pioneers of broadcasting such as those at WJZ were mindful of potential government interference, and Petrova had a reputation as a firebrand. She disarmed her hosts by announcing that she would be performing her own versions of Mother Goose rhymes, and then proceeded to read the following:
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children because she didn’t know what to do.
The 1873 Comstock laws, which banned the distribution of “obscene” materials, including information about contraception, were still in force; Petrova had, arguably, kind of broken the law.
"The means for censoring broadcast content came years before the emergence of the first national broadcast network"

“The staff was terrified,” Barnouw relates. “They were certain there would be trouble from Washington. Westinghouse [then owner of WJZ] executives were already nervous about possibilities of this sort, and had wondered what to do if a 'red' got on the air. An emergency switch was provided for the engineer in the shack.” Thus, he could switch to that “phonograph beside him — on his own judgment or on a signal from the studio.”
Petrova marveled at how broadcasters had to take control over the possibility of offending, as if listeners at home could not control their own radios. That was just the beginning of a system that evolved to protect the delicate sensibilities of the general public. More



Can a Messy Desk Make You More Creative?

One of my favorite adages is "An uncluttered desk is the sign of an uncluttered mind." It appears to be true that a messy desk fosters creativity. Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota cites three experiments in which a neat or messy setting influenced a person's thinking process. In one experiment, 48 subjects were placed in either a neat or a messy room, and told to come up with creative uses for ping pong balls.
Two assistants rated each idea on a one-to-three scale (from not at all creative to very creative). After adding the scores, the researchers found that those who worked in the messy room were more creative overall, and came up with more highly creative ideas, than those who performed the same task in the neat room. On average, those working in the pristine environment came up with as many suggestions as those in the messy one; their ideas just weren’t as innovative.

“Being creative is aided by breaking away from tradition, order and convention,” Vohs and her colleagues conclude, “and a disorderly environment seems to help people do just that.”
An interesting observation here is that the subjects did not select whether their experimental environment was neat or messy, so a person's natural messiness or creativity did not come into play. And a neat desk has its advantages, too. Vohs tells us of other experiments in which people working in a neater environment tended to be more generous and to select more nutritious foods afterward. More

The US Built and Operated Aircraft Carriers on the Great Lakes during World War II

During World War II, the US converted two sidewheel steamships into aircraft carriers and operated them entirely on the Great Lakes. But their mission wasn't to guard America's freshwater border with Canada. The USS Sable and the USS Wolverine (pictured above) were training vessels for pilots.
I learned about these carriers through a post written by Glenn Reynolds. He comments:
You know, Nick McCall and I were going to write a novel about a U-boat in the Great Lakes, being chased by, among other things, these very carriers, but we couldn’t come up with a good way to get it there. 
That would be a fine alternate history challenge!

How to Treat College Freshmen in 1495

Ask the Past is a delightful blog that conveys medieval advice to modern readers. For example, would you like to haze college freshmen? According to a Leipzig University statute promulgated in 1495, it is forbidden:
Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.
Behave yourselves.

In Peru, drones help map archaeological treasures

Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian archaeologist with Lima’s Catholic University and an incoming deputy culture minister, flies a drone over the archaeological site of Cerro Chepen in Trujillo August 3, 2013. Reuters / Mariana Bazo
In Peru, Archaeologists are using drones to "help set boundaries to protect sites, watch over them and monitor threats, and create a digital repository of ruins that can help build awareness and aid in the reconstruction of any damage done," according to this Reuters item. The Peruvian government "plans to buy several drones to use at different sites, and [says] the technology will help the ministry comply with a new, business-friendly law that has tightened the deadline for determining whether land slated for development might contain cultural artifacts."
"Commercial drones made by the Swiss company senseFly and the U.S. firms Aurora Flight Sciences and Helicopter World have all flown Peruvian skies." Read the full article over at Skift.

Awesome Pictures

Honey The Magical, Immortal Superfood

Honey is awesome, and we're not talkin' just the taste. It can do things no other food can do! Anthony dishes on this magical golden treat.

Mustard Spiced Ancient European Cuisine

Ancient northern Europeans spiced their venison, seafood and other dishes with tangy mustard seeds

Higher temperatures ...

Hgher food prices.
Higher the flares of tempers.
Oh, yeah. there are "good times" ahead.
The earth’s rising temperature also affects crop yields indirectly via the melting of mountain glaciers. As the larger glaciers shrink and the smaller ones disappear, the ice melt that sustains rivers, and the irrigation systems dependent on them, will diminish. the continuing loss of mountain glaciers and the resulting reduced meltwater runoff could create unprecedented water shortages and political instability in some of the world’s more densely populated countries. - More

Earth News

Nearly 70 percent of the groundwater stored in parts of the United States' High Plains Aquifer, could be used up within 50 years.
Calls for an active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, with six to nine hurricanes, have been met with silence by Mother Nature so far.

Astronomical News

New results from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show Titan has an icy shell far more rigid and thicker than previously believed.
About 250 light-years away in the constellation Capricornus lies a star that looks awfully familiar.

Funny Pictures

Ocean Worm Wriggles Back Into View after 140 Years

A deep-sea worm last seen in 1873 has again been found living at the bottom of the ocean.
used up within 50 years.

Octopus limbs have a mind of their own

A couple of years ago, I recorded a talk on octopus neurobiology. One of the freakiest things you'll learn, if you watch it, is that an octopus' "brain" isn't really a centralized thing the way ours is. The processing capacity is distributed throughout the animal's body. At io9 today, Annalee Newitz writes about a new study that backs up that idea, demonstrating that disembodied octopus arms react to threats in ways a severed human hand never could.

It's A Pig's World

European hunter-gatherers owned pigs as early as 4600BC
European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence. European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to
Read more... 
Stone Age hunter-gatherers in Europe may have acquired pigs from settled farmers as long as 7,000 years ago.

Animal News

Like mobsters assassinating witnesses and informants, elephant and rhino poachers poison the carcasses of their quarry to kill vultures and thwart law enforcement efforts. 
A deep-sea squid pretends to be a small animal, by use of a hand puppet-like lure, fooling prey to approach ever closer before the squid attacks.
If you could clone a mammoth, would it be able to mate with an Asian elephant? And would it survive?
Rare and endangered animals may be legally hunted in parts of Africa, so long as the hunter is willing and able to pay the hefty price.

Animal Pictures