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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Headline of the day: No beer led to ceramic squirrel stabbing

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina authorities say a 44-year-old woman angry at a man for returning home without beer on Christmas beat and stabbed him with a ceramic squirrel.

The Charleston County Sheriff's office says in a report that deputies found a man covered with blood when they arrived at Helen Williams' North Charleston home early Wednesday. She told investigators the man fell and cut himself, but couldn't explain why her hands and clothes were also bloody.

Deputies say the man said Williams was so angry when he returned without beer because stores were closed on Christmas Eve that she grabbed a ceramic squirrel, beat him in the head, then stabbed him in the shoulder and chest.

Williams was in jail Friday and charged with criminal domestic violence. It wasn't known if she had a lawyer.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Video: Watch this guy cook a turkey using Lamborghini exhaust fire

A YouTube user calling himself Shmee150 just outdid Guy Fieri, the Mythbusters, and Alton Brown all at once by cooking a Christmas turkey — using the fireballs generated from the exhaust pipes of a high-end Lamborghini Aventador.



via The Braiser.

Brits posthumously forgive Alan Turing for being homosexual, after chemically castrating him as alternative to jail

Earlier this week, the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II posthumously pardoned Alan Turing. Turing, a mathematician and early computer scientist, is perhaps best known for two contributions. He proposed what has come to be called the “Turing Test” in artificial intelligence theory, used to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human. Turing also spearheaded the cryptography team at Bletchley Park in England that cracked the Nazi’s Enigma Code. His work contributed mightily to the Allies’ eventual victory in World War II.

Turing, one of the best minds of his generation or most others, was also openly gay. He was convicted of the crime of “gross indecency” in 1952, for admitting to a consensual sexual relationship with another adult man. With the conviction, the British authorities rescinded Turing’s security clearance and subjected him to ongoing monitoring, fearing that his homosexuality increased the risk of blackmail by the Soviets and enemies of the Crown. They also offered Turing a deal: he could avoid prison for his crime if he agreed to hormone treatments that would severely lower his testosterone levels, effectively eliminating his sex drive and rendering him impotent. Alan Turing chose chemical castration, answering one of the worst “which would you rather?” questions most men of any sexual orientation can imagine. Two years later, in 1954, Turing’s housekeeper found him dead, after he apparently ate a cyanide-laced apple. British authorities ruled his death a suicide.

More at Above the Law, via Althouse.

Video compilation: The Biggest 'OMG' TV Moments Of 2013

Major spoilers and emotional moments (if you haven't watched the whole series so far)  for Game Of Thrones, Family Guy and Breaking Bad, among others.

Watch full screen.






via HuffPo.

Friday links

Smithsonian: The Coolest Science of 2013, in GIFs. Related: Bugs That Live Under Your Skin and Other Creepy Discoveries This Year.

Pig Man and Chicken Woman: Lifelike Sculptures of Animal/Human Hybrids.

Spectacular Photos of Frozen Bubbles.

Infographic: How To Make Your Own Lightsaber.

Why It's Nearly Impossible to Castrate a Hippo.

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Donald Duck's Car.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here.

Why It's Nearly Impossible to Castrate a Hippo

Chances are you've never wondered how difficult it is to remove the testes of a hippopotamus. Other people have been thinking hard about it, though, because in fact it's almost impossible.

Before sitting down to emasculate a common hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius, it would be reasonable to ask why. They're a threatened species, so usually conservationists try to make more baby hippos—not fewer. But in zoos, hippos turn out to be prolific baby-makers. Females can live for 40 years and may birth 25 calves in that time. This would be great news in the wild, but zookeepers don't always have someplace to store a new two-ton animal.

(Another possible solution: the 1910 effort by Teddy Roosevelt to import hippos as a meat source)

Male hippos can also be aggressive toward each other, at least while they have all their man parts. For both of these reasons, zoos may want to have their male hippos fixed. But there are a few factors working against them, explains a new paper in the journal Theriogenology (that's reproductive science for vets) by an international group of authors.

The first challenge is that hippopotamuses hide their genitals. The testes are inside the body, instead of outside in a scrotum. (Other mammals in the internal-testes club, since you asked, include the armadillo, sloth, whale, and platypus.) This makes the hippo's testes totally invisible from the outside. Combined with a penis that the paper's authors describe as "discreet," it means it's hard to tell males from females at a distance.

Another problem is that testes aren't in the same place from one hippo to the next, and they may "retract" even farther during surgery. Hippopotamuses are also difficult to safely put to sleep. "In the past, hippopotamus anesthesia has been fraught with serious complications," the authors explain.

After moving past the anesthesia problem (they used an apparently safer blend of drugs, delivered via a dart to the hippo's ear), the researchers turned to the anatomical problems. Their answer was ultrasound. Once they had positioned the animal, they used ultrasound imaging to find the testes—then used it again after cutting into the hippo, if the testis they were looking for had scooted farther away from them.


Even after finding the sneaky organs, the procedure wasn't simple. The depth of the testes' hiding places varied by as much as 16 inches from one hippo to the next. Everything had to be done deep inside the animal's body, making it hard to see what was going on. "Grasping the testicle with forceps proved laborious" in most of the animals, the authors write. They also mention using a "two-handed technique" and "moderate traction." The whole hour-and-a-half procedure, based on a method for castrating horses, is described in detail for anyone who wants to try it themselves.

More at Inkfish, via Geekpress.

Pig Man and Chicken Woman: Lifelike Sculptures of Animal/Human Hybrids

Chinese artist Liu Xue creates sculptures of human figures that have been augmented with animal body parts. Not a new genre (think centaurs, and apparently there's a Pig-Man somewhere in England), but these are disturbingly realistic:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What Is Boxing Day?


Here’s how the world celebrates:

Lots of stores have Boxing Day sales

Boxing Day is observed every year on December 26. Before it took on its feistier name, the holiday was known as St. Stephen's Day.

Many historians think the holiday’s name is derived from the church practice of opening alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributing money to the poor.

Historically, British employers followed the church’s lead by sliding workers and servants gifts or cash on December 26. Merchants tossed servants a few coins, too, for bringing in a household's business.

Why give Christmas gifts the day after Christmas? Because the servants spent Christmas and Christmas Eve scrambling to pull off big holiday dinners for their masters.

Ireland sometimes refers to December 26 as Wren Day, a nod to an old tradition in which poor children would kill a wren, then sell the feathers to neighbors for good luck. In today’s celebrations, the wren is fake.

Despite the name, British observances of Boxing Day involve no fisticuffs. For patricians, however, another sport rules the day: fox hunting.

In other countries, Boxing Day celebrations are more literal. Many former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean celebrate the holiday with prizefighting events.

Like most Western holidays, Boxing Day has become pretty commercialized. With big sales and bigger crowds, Boxing Day is the British answer to Black Friday.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

De-Icing by Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in Wisconsin: "You want to use provolone or mozzarella"

NYT:

This month, Milwaukee began a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine for use in keeping city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution.

“You want to use provolone or mozzarella,” said Jeffrey A. Tews, the fleet operations manager for the public works department, which has thrice spread the cheesy substance in Bay View, a neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side. “Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.”

If at first it sounded like a joke, the reality of tapping the wellspring of dairy byproduct has become a serious budget-slimming conversation. The state produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012, the most of any in the nation. With it comes a surplus of brine that is shipped to local waste treatment plants.

Only in Florida: 'Surfin' Santas' draws hundreds near Cocoa Beach

From my stepdaughter, who lives in Cocoa Beach:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Inventor of AK-47 rifle Mikhail Kalashnikov dies at 94



Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the fabled AK-47 automatic rifle which became a weapon of choice for guerrillas and governments the world over, died in Russia on Monday at age 94.

Kalashnikov who continued working well into his nineties, had been suffering from heart and intestinal problems, and on November 17 was admitted into intensive care in Izhevsk in central Russia - where the plant that produces the eponymous rifles is located. The official cause of death will be revealed following a mandatory autopsy.

A public funeral will be organized by the regional administration, in consultation with surviving relatives, though no date has been named so far.

For most of his life, Kalashnikov, who was famous for his frugal lifestyle, was feted as a straightforward hero.

The self-taught peasant turned tank mechanic who never finished high school, but achieved a remarkable and lasting feat of engineering while still in his twenties.

He was forever asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other in the last fifty years.

"I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it," he told them.
Senior Sergeant Mikhail Kalashnikov
 as he designed his AK-47 assault rifle.
 (RIA Novosti)

On a few occasions, when in a more reflective mood, the usually forceful Kalashnikov wondered what might have been.

"I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists," he said once.

"I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower."

Indeed, at his museum in Izhevsk, where he spent most of his life working at the factory that was eventually named after him, there is an ingenious mechanical lawnmower Kalashnikov invented to more easily take care of the lawn at his country house.

It’s not what he will be remembered for.

Considering his age and circumstances, it was hardly surprising that Kalashnikov felt he could best serve his country by creating weapons.

Born in 1919, Mikhail was the seventeenth child of well-off peasants. When he was eleven, during Joseph Stalin’s collectivization campaign his parents had their land confiscated, and the whole family was exiled to Siberia (a fact rarely mentioned in fawning Soviet-era biographies).

As the country began to mobilize ahead of a war that seemed inevitable, but was as yet undeclared, Kalashnikov chose to go into a tank brigade.

His aptitude for engineering was immediately apparent.

He was allowed to create several modifications – a tank shot counter, a running time meter – that were to be adopted for the whole Red Army, and made him famous. He was destined to go on an engineering course, when Operation Barbarossa intervened.

Kalashnikov’s own career as a tank commander was cut short in the first few months of the conflict on the Eastern Front, when an explosive shell ripped open his shoulder.

Kalashnikov says the germ of the idea came to him as he recuperated in hospital.

But the invention of the AK-47 was not a Eureka moment, but a trial-and-error process of modifications and improvements undertaken by a team over six years.

While for propaganda purposes Kalashnikov’s invention was presented as a radically new development, it was based on several principles that had already been seen in British, Russian and Italian weapons to which the inventor had easy access as he drew up his blueprints.

Its main precursor was the German StG 44, the first truly effective automatic weapon of World War II.

But at the same time, Kalashnikov’s masterstroke was to combine the mechanisms of previous weapons to create something with a completely new function.

AK-47 is not a weapon designed for accuracy tests at the firing range. It is a weapon for firefights at close quarters, in harsh Russian conditions.

It can be assembled by a person with no military training, is fired by simply pointing at a target, and it can be easily looked after without a cleaning kit. It does not jam by itself (due to the generous allowances between moving parts, which also explain its mediocre accuracy at range) and it does not stop functioning in any weather conditions.

The AK-47 fulfilled its design brief to perfection, even though there is no way Kalashnikov could have known who it would be used by in the end. More than 60 years after its invention, it remains the world's most ubiquitous weapon.

Michelangelo’s Grocery List

Anyone know the origin of this?  Other than Michelangelo, I mean?