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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1298 King Edward I defeats Scots under William Wallace at Falkirk.
1515 Emperor Maximillian and Vladislav of Bohemia forge an alliance between the Hapsburg and Jagiello dynasties in Vienna.
1652 Prince Conde’s rebels narrowly defeat Chief Minister Mazarin’s loyalist forces at St. Martin, near Paris.
1789 Thomas Jefferson becomes the first head of the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs.
1812 A British army under the Duke of Wellington defeats the French at Salamanca, Spain.
1814 Five Indian tribes in Ohio make peace with the United States and declare war on Britain.
1881 The first volume of The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, is published.
1894 The first automobile race takes place between Paris and Rouen, France.
1934 American gangster John Dillinger is shot dead by FBI officers outside a Chicago cinema.
1938 The Third Reich issues special identity cards for Jewish Germans.
1943 Palermo, Sicily surrenders to General George S. Patton’s Seventh Army.
1966 B-52 bombers hit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam for the first time.

Silicon Valley Turns to This Wiccan Witch to Remove Computer Viruses and Demons

This is Joey Talley, a witch of the Wicca faith. She works in the tech industry of the San Francisco Bay area. Or, rather, she works for the tech industry. Computer programmers, software designers, and engineers call upon her to ensure that their businesses and equipment are safe from dark, mystical forces:
"Most people want me to protect their computers from viruses and hacks," she says, "so I'll make charms for them. I like to use flora."
Jet, a black gemstone energy-blocker, is ideal for debugging office hardware, Talley says; bigger or more vulnerable computer networks often require "a rainbow of colors to divert excess energy." If all else fails, she can cast a protection spell on the entire company, office supplies included.
Talley's foray into tech is still fresh enough that she sometimes calls it the "techno industry." That hasn't dissuaded savvy clients in the market for spiritual counseling, hypnosis, dream therapy, moon rituals, house clearings, potion-brewing, and other niche services. Her speciality? "I really like dealing with demons," she says.
She recounts a recent episode involving a startup whose office alarm was infected by an "invasive species." After multiple electricians failed to rout whatever poltergeist was causing the alarm to shrill at odd intervals, the company contacted Reverend Talley.
"I don't know anything about electronics, but I got the spirit out," she says. It's hard to tell whether she's boasting or apologizing.
This is a selection from a longform article by Jeremy Lybarger in San Francisco Weekly. It examines the incredible popularity of occult mysticism in Silicon Valley. Psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, and witches are thriving as tech companies consult them for clairvoyance and spiritual warfare.

Bad Cops

Colorado Springs Officer Tyler Walker slamming 18-year-old Alexis Acker to the ground - Screencap

Jailed for being transgender

Shackled woman (Shuttershock)
Meagan Taylor, 22, was arrested Monday by Des Moines police after staff at the hotel she was staying with another transgender friend called police.

Germany's most beautiful undertaker chosen

A new beauty contest in Germany is attempting to breathe fresh air into a 'dying' industry and the inaugural winner has just been chosen. Rahel Merks beat off competition from 46 other competitors to be crowned “Miss Farewell” - the most beautiful undertaker in Germany.
“It is wonderful to show this depressing taboo theme in another light for once,” said Mrs Merks. The 36-year-old runs her undertaking firm with her husband in Lachheim, Baden-Württemberg and clearly has a passion for her work. “I am a last event manager ” she jokes. “I am counsel and companion. I have an intimate relationship to people.”
After Mrs Merks' brother-in-law brought the competition to her attention she sent a few photos to the jury and a short description of herself. The judges noted that it was not only her physical beauty that made Mrs Merks stand out, but her lust for life too. “Beauty is always about maturity and character,” Mrs Merks herself said. “I wouldn't have anything to do with Miss Baden Württemberg.”
But other reactions from within the industry were not so positive. “In this sensitive line of work, that's really pushing it,” said Hans-Joachim Möller, manager of the association of independent undertakers. Rolf Lichtner of the Association of German Undertakers was more sympathetic, saying: “It doesn't hurt when an undertaker is also beautiful.” Mrs Merks' husband Stefan is delighted. “I often tell my wife how beautiful she is,” he says. “Now finally she believes me.”

Dumpster-diving for beauty products

Excerpts from an article at Racked:
"[Selling] makeup is like selling drugs," James Jugan, a New Jersey man, says. Jugan has sold items from the dumpster since 1978, but for the last few years his biggest moneymakers came from the beauty industry. "It’s like having a license to print money. It’s amazing."..
Wimbush started her own [Facebook group], and in just three months she had close to 2,000 members buying and selling items like Urban Decay Naked palettes and Ecotools makeup brushes. Many of the members are there for the sole incentive of high-end cosmetics at dramatically slashed prices—dismissing the obvious, large other price, of course: the item’s source.
"[Sellers] clean up their stuff and [customers] know it's from the dumpster," Wimbush says. "People are willing to take that chance because it's at a really, really discounted price."
Amanda, a professional makeup artist and mother of two, started diving and selling about six weeks ago in Arizona. She says the same dumpster can vary wildly, depending on management. One week it might hold items that look straight off the shelf, the next they’ve "cut bristles off the brushes, gouged out all the eyeshadow, and is completely worthless." ..
All the divers we spoke to were aware of the questionable legality involved. "It's a gray area," Jugan says. "It's worth getting caught. Because the worst they can get you with is trespassing. That's almost like paying for the product. I'll take a trespassing charge once a month if I can get away with getting more product. It's worth it." A typical box haul can yield anywhere between zero to $1,200 worth of products. It’s a gamble, but one these divers keep throwing dice for...
The products making their way to the Facebook marketplace go for ridiculously reduced prices. For example, Too Faced Cocoa Powder Foundation Sephora, which retails for $34, goes for $12 in one group. A bundle including Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer and Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water goes for $15. Sephora retail prices for those same two items jump to $36 and $32, respectively.

Propeller crashed through roof of house after falling off plane

A propeller crashed through the roof of a home in Hagaman, New York, on Thursday. The Federal Aviation Administration said a Homebuilt Meyers OTW lost its propeller at around 2pm. Police said the small, single engine plane developed mechanical problems and the propeller fell off as a result.

Would-be carjacker was too tall to fit into vehicle

A would-be carjacker in Omaha, Nebraska, found he was too tall to steal a vehicle early on Thursday morning.
At around 1:30am a woman called 911 after a man showed a gun and pulled her out of her car. “He say get out of the car, and he show me a gun," said the victim.
The victim said she is four feet nine inches tall. When the taller carjacker tried to get behind the wheel he did not fit. Police said the suspect did not know how to adjust the seat.

He made a break for it empty-handed. Police are still looking for him. “Well I am thankful for the car, my life most of all, the car ya know, that is nothing," said the victim. The victim was not seriously hurt.

Man who woke up in the woods with mysterious injuries wonders if he was attacked by a big cat

A man who woke up with mysterious injuries after being knocked unconscious in remote woodland believes he may have been jumped on by a wild cat. Nich Boden has little recollection of the encounter in the early hours of Thursday morning near to Tarn Hows Wood, between Coniston and Hawkshead in Cumbria. The incident unfolded when the 26-year-old felt 'something hit him' as he walked home from a friend's house in the pitch black. Thirty minutes later he woke up with a deep five-inch gouge on his left shoulder and what appears to be four claw marks on his forearm.
"I know it's all a bit far-fetched but it seems very mysterious and not beyond the realms of possibility," said Mr Boden, who is originally from Rochdale. "I know the woods quite well so have no problem walking in the dark. All I really remember was being hit from my front right and because I smacked my head when I fell it was all a bit hazy after. It wasn't until I got back to Hawkshead that I realised how bad it was." Danny Bamping, founder of the Big Cat Society, said he could not determine from the images whether they were caused by a big cat and was planning to visit Cumbria to speak with Mr Boden this weekend and investigate further.
South Lakes vet Iain Richards cast doubt on the encounter, saying: "Any wild cat will almost certainly do a runner rather than attack. It does make you wonder when you see four parallel scratch marks but I think the most likely thing is that he has fallen onto brambles and it's just a coincidence. It appears the deepest of the four marks is closest to his elbow. Generally with cat scratches the deepest would be in the middle." Tom Smith, a Scottish GP who has written dozens of medical books, added: "Animals generally attack from the back. The spaces between the claws are too large unless the cat was the size of a lion and no cat I know of produces single slash marks."
"Everyone who has seen the scars has suggested I was attacked by a wild animal," Mr Boden says. "I laughed it off at first until one of my colleagues mentioned a wild cat being spotted very close to where the incident happened. I am still covered in these scars, some of which will probably be permanent, but I just thought this is highly coincidental, considering that a lot of the scars I have could have been caused by a large cat." Luke Barley, the National Trust’s ranger for Coniston and the surrounding area said: “We care for Tarn Hows and the surrounding landscape 365 days a year, but we’ve never seen any signs of a wild cat, nor have we had any reports from anyone that they’ve seen a wild cat. Tarn Hows is a beautiful and safe place for a walk, whether by day or night."

Modern Life


Inside the Secret World of Russia’s Cold War Mapmakers

As the Soviet Union was falling apart in 1989, Russell Guy bought a group of crates from some military officers that turned out to be a treasure. They were intricately-detailed maps of the world, created by Soviet cartographers with the help of government spies.
During the Cold War, the Soviet military mapped the entire world, parts of it down to the level of individual buildings. The Soviet maps of US and European cities have details that aren’t on domestic maps made around the same time, things like the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and the types of factories. They’re the kinds of things that would come in handy if you’re planning a tank invasion. Or an occupation. Things that would be virtually impossible to find out without eyes on the ground.

Given the technology of the time, the Soviet maps are incredibly accurate. Even today, the US State Department uses them (among other sources) to place international boundary lines on official government maps.
The maps are a storehouse of not only geography, but intelligence about the places shown. Guy made a business out of them. But he wasn’t the only one to come into possession of such maps. Others, such as John Davies, have spent years studying them. Read about these beautiful and detailed formerly secret maps at Wired.

Giant Books

Late medieval choir books

From medievalfragments:
While most medieval manuscripts are of a size that could be easily picked up and carried, there are some books that are so large and so heavy that it would take two (or more) people to move them...

There are a number of potential explanations on offer. In the first place, size tends to reflect importance. Because large-format manuscripts often contain the word of dog, it is very possible that some bookmakers wished to reflect the importance of the text with a suitably impressive material format. Alternatively (or perhaps additionally), some have suggested that these books were meant to reflect the power and prestige of the donors who paid for their commission — a wealthy bishop or nobleman perhaps, who wished to memorialize his name in the production of a massive and showy pandect. Others have provided more pragmatic reasoning, suggesting that these books were designed big in order to rest on a lectern for public reading — their large size making it easier for readers in a church to see the page.
Indeed, the collective reading of large-format books stationed on lecterns has been recorded in a number of medieval illuminations and paintings, such as the image below:

Mystery Ulfberht Viking sword has archaeologists stumped

A mystery sword made by the Vikings and engraved with the word Ulfberht has stumped archaeologists. The sword is forged in such a way that it looks to have been made by technologies that weren’t available until 800 years after the Viking era.
Around 170 of the swords have been found, all of which date from between 800AD to 1000AD, but the technology that would have forged them is from the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and 1900s.
A television program has looked into the mystery in more detail called, ‘Secrets of the Viking Sword’. Its researchers say that to forge the iron which the swords are made of, the ore needs to be heated to around 3000 degrees (F). It then liquefies and the impurities are removed. It is then mixed with carbon to strengthen the iron. However medieval technologies, which are what the Vikings would have been using, would not have been able to heat any metal or substance that high a temperature. In those days, the impurities would have been removed by hammering them out of the iron.
In contradiction to this, the Ulfberht contains almost no impurities at all and it has thrice the amount of carbon in it than any other metals that are known to have existed at the time. The metal the swords are made of is known as crucible steel.
Furnaces that could heat metals and substances to extremely high temperatures what not invented until the industrial revolution when the tools for heating iron to these temperatures were also developed.
A blacksmith has consulted with the television program’s researchers and has said that to make a sword like the Ulfberht Is highly complex and difficult. The blacksmith is the only person who has the skills and tools available to try to reproduce the metal of the Ulfberht. He believes that whoever made the sword during the Viking era would have surely been thought to possess magic powers since the metal was and still is so special and unique, Ancient Origins reports.
The sword bends but doesn’t break, it stays razor-sharp, and is very light weight, and so to soldiers it would have been thought of as almost supernatural.
The blacksmith spent many days working to try to recreate the Ulfberht using medieval technology, and finally did produce a similar metal with great skill and hard work. Researchers now believe it is possible that the knowledge to make the swords originated in the Middle East and that trade routes between there and Europe would have spread the knowledge and technologies. When those trade routes eventually closed, due to lack of use, so too did the Ulfberht ceased to continue being made.

Seaweed Tastes Like Bacon

NASA just found something big hiding out behind Pluto

by Julia Calderone
pluto tail
NASA and the team behind its New Horizons spacecraft announced today that Pluto — the dwarf planet — has a giant tail.
It's not a physical tail like a dog's, of course, but rather a frigid cloud of ionized gases trailing an estimated 48,000 to 68,000 miles behind Pluto, according to a NASA press release.
This giant tail is actually part of Pluto's atmosphere. Except that the bits of atmosphere are being stripped away by solar wind, a torrent of electrically charged particles that constantly pours out of the sun in all directions.
"We see the atmosphere way far out," Randy Gladstone, a New Horizons co-investigator at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said during a NASA press conference on Friday. "We see it from the ground out to 1,000 miles above the surface."
Because Pluto is such a tiny planet — it's a fraction of a percent as massive as the Earth — its atmosphere escapes directly into space, Gladstone said.
Gladstone and others discovered the tail after examining data from the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument on the New Horizons spacecraft. The device found an anomaly in the solar wind around the dwarf planet: A depression composed of nitrogen ions. This depression is the tail, and it extends an unknown length behind the planet.
"We have actually flown through this [tail]," Fran Bagenal, a New Horizons co-investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder, said during the press conference.
Ionized gas forms when a bunch of energy pummels atmospheric atoms and molecules. This bombardment pops electrons off the atmospheric gas particles, allowing their electrons to freely circulate. The end result is plasma: A fourth state of matter after solids, liquids, and gases.
As far as we know, plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe. There's simply a lot of energy pouring out of stars, and a lot of gas in space to form plasma. So while it might seem surprising, plasma tails like Pluto's aren't new. They even exist behind other planets in the solar system, including Venus and Mars.
The team still hasn't determined the precise shape of Pluto's newly discovered tail. They also don't know exactly how the was formed.
So NASA is anxiously waiting for New Horizons to beam back more data. By August the team hopes to calculate how fast Pluto is losing its atmosphere to space — and, likewise, how quickly the icy world is shrinking.

Stuffed birds replace poultry at state fair

There's still plenty to remind the residents of Sherburne County, Minnesota, of the traditional county fair. But the stuffed toy chickens and ducks in the poultry barn cages are a reminder of the changes brought by avian flu. Sue Oelke remembers the reaction when members first learned their project birds would be banned from the fair this summer.
"Oh, lots of sad faces, 'My chickens, I can't bring my chickens in.'" Oelke, who is in charge of the poultry exhibit at the Sherburne County Fair, was determined project participants would still get a fair experience. So several cages contain member's stuffed chickens, ducks and turkeys to represent the birds that couldn't come to the fair.
Last year, chickens alone filled more than half a barn at the Sherburne County fair, more than 200 cages. Oelke says it was important "to symbolize that they still have a presence here at the fair." The state Board of Animal Health announced the ban on live bird shows back in March, an effort to halt the spread of avian flu.

Jim Hermel, vice president of the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs, says many fairs are trying to come up with substitute activities to keep poultry project members involved in their fairs, "by making up different types of educational displays." Hermel is confident the poultry bans will not hurt county fair attendance. In Sherburne County, poultry judges will evaluate pictures and video of poultry, with stuffed toy birds serving as stand-ins for the handling part of the judging.

You’ll Find The Biggest Male Appendage in the World—at the Beach

Picture of a very crowded beach with people playing in the shallow water in the foreground and a densely packed beach behind
by Robert Krulwich
So tell me: Of all the males on our planet—and I’m talking all, scale be damned, from the littlest insects to the biggest of whales—who’s got the most impressive appendage? Who (you should pardon the expression) is our Biggest Daddy?And I don’t mean just sex organs, impressive as they sometimes are. I’m talking about any outstanding male appendage—whatever guys have that thrills the ladies, the obvious non-penile example being the peacock tail, which as we all know when fully displayed makes peahens dream of George Clooney.
Picture of a peacock with its feathers fanned out
Impressive? Yes. The problem being that between trysts, a superheavy tail must be a drag to lug around. It costs energy to maintain and more energy to get up and unfurled. But the drive to reproduce is a powerful thing, and sexual selection, as Darwin taught us, just keeps pushing the limits of bigness.
Obviously, there is such a thing as too big. I imagine it gets awkward to be a walrus with tusks curling dangerously close to your chest.
Picture of a pacitic walrus with very long tusks lying on rocks
And the weight of these things? Not the absolute weight, but the proportional weight—that’s another limitation. How much can a guy carry? According to Douglas Emlen in his wonderful book Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, while the rack of bone that sits atop a male caribou is hugely impressive (those antlers can weigh 20 pounds and stretch five feet across) …
Picture of a caribou with large antlers amid a lush green landscape on a misty day next to an equal sign that says ''8%''
… as big as they are, they account for only 8 percent of the male’s total body weight. Moose and elk have even larger antlers, but even the biggest elk antlers equal only 12 percent of its body weight. So that’s doable. Once upon a time, 11,000 years ago, there was a deer (called Megaloceros giganteus, or the Irish elk) that wandered Europe and Asia, and those guys had boney tops so insanely branched, so crazily big, that our prehistoric humans painted them worshipfully onto the cave walls at Lascaux.
Picture of an Irish elk painted onto the wall at Lascaux cave next to a ''less than'' sign that says 20% next to it
But even these antlers, 12 feet across and wildly branched, weighed less than 20 percent of the total animal.
Go Small to Get Big
You have to drop down to the insect family, to a group of horned beetles, to find a big appendage that approaches a third of the animal’s body weight. There are several beetles that have fighting, clamping horns almost the size of their bodies, and a thing like that growing out of your skull, writes Emlen, “is a little like having your leg sticking up out of your forehead.” You feel it.
Picture of a rhinocerous beetle on wood
But if you’re looking for the male who wears the crown, whose appendage is so big, so startling, so colorful, so attractive, so monstrous, and therefore unequaled in the animal kingdom—if you’re looking for the champ? Well …
He’s not in the African savannah. He doesn’t have a tusk. He’s not especially large. You have to look down to see him, down near your feet when you’re at the beach. This is him:
Picture of a fiddler-type crab standing on sand and waving a claw in the air
He’s a fiddler crab. And that appendage is his claw. And while sizes vary from crab to crab, the biggest fiddler crab claws weigh roughly half the body weight of the animal. Half! That’s nature’s biggest appendage, says Emlen. And what is it for? Not for feeding. The claw is useless at mealtime. Males eat with their other, smaller claw only. But, says Cornell biologist John Christy, the claw’s bright colors definitely attract female attention. It can also snap down and inflict real harm, so they’re potential weapons. But mostly, he discovered, males use them—I kid you not—to wave.
“Up and down, up and down, again and again,” writes Emlen, “they raise their claws high and drop them. Dozens of times each minute, thousands of times per hour, hour after hour … ” They look a little silly doing this, like a lonely fan trying to start a stadium wave. Check out this fellow:
Why are they waving? It’s a warning. “Look what I’ve got!” the male is saying to any male who would trespass into his burrow. “This thing is going to pound you if you come near, so stay away!” In effect, Emlen writes, “fiddlers are employing their claws as warnings rather than instruments of battle.” And it works. “An overwhelming majority of contests end before they ever begin, without anything even resembling a fight. A mere glance at a big claw is sufficient to deter smaller males.”
The male has built a tunnel, which leads to a nesting burrow. His claw has attracted a lady, and she’s down below raising his family. His job is to stay on top, waving till she’s done or he drops. It’s a tough life, lifting that gigantic appendage over and over, using up energy, constantly getting bothered by would-be challengers. The male can’t eat. Not while he’s guarding. His food is at the water’s edge, which is down lower on the beach. So he stands there, day after day, getting hungrier, until eventually, Emlen says, “Even the best males run out of steam and are forced to abandon their burrows to go feed and refuel. The instant they leave, others will claim their burrows.” And then they become challengers and have to start all over again.
So while it may be glamorous to top the list of Biggest Appendage Ever, what with the lifting, the waving, the straining, the not eating, the worrying about how long you’ll last, it might be better to have a medium-size claw and not have to be always worrying about the biggest bullies at the beach. Yes, the big claw does dramatically increase your chances of producing babies, which, as Darwin will tell you, is the whole point. But if I were a fiddler crab lucky enough to have the biggest appendage in the world, I think I’d get myself a nail file (claw file?), erase my genetic advantage, and spend lazy afternoons sipping pond scum by the ocean’s edge. I like a gentler life.

Foal born with white patch that looks like profile of another horse

The newest addition to the equine family at Fyling Hall School at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire has a marking in the profile of another horse.
DaVinci, known as Vinny, was born at the end of May with a striking white patch above his front legs and mane much to the surprise of Wendy Bulmer who runs the riding school.
She said: “I bought his mother at a sale and didn’t know she was in foal so that was a bit of a surprise. and I wasn’t very happy at first but he is so friendly and the kids love him.

“The chestnut horses have irregular patches but they don’t normally make something as recognizable. He's even got a little white heart shape on his bottom as well”

Animal Pictures