Category: WTF

Your body is surrounded by farticles


Everywhere you go, in everything you do, you are surrounded by an aura of microbes. They drift down from your hair when you scratch your head, they fly off your hand when you wave to your friend, they spew out of your mouth when you talk. Even when you sit around doing nothing, you’re sitting in your own, personal microbial bubble.

Made up of millions, billions, trillions of bacteria, yeast, cells, and cell parts, this bubble is actually more like a cloud — a cloud, new research suggests, that is unique to you. And as gross as it is to imagine everyone around you shedding microbial bits and pieces into the air, studying those clouds can be useful for people like doctors tracking down disease outbreaks and cops tracking down criminals.

The gut microbiome, often invoked in expensive probiotic-heavy diets, is probably the hottest microscopic community right now. It’s the collection of microbiota, living inside you, that helps you break down food, fight disease, and control your hunger.

But your outer body has its own microbiome, too. Your body is covered in skin, and that skin is like a vast savannah populated with millions of exotic critters. They feed on the oils seeping from your skin, dead cells, bits of organic matter, and each other. “In a single centimeter of skin, you can find thousands of bacteria,” says James Meadow, former University of Oregon researcher and co-author of a microbiome paper published…in the journal PeerJ.

Combined, the non-you cells in your body outnumber the you cells by about 10 to one. And if some sadistic scientist were to grind up and sequence all the DNA in every cell in and on your body, only about 2 percent of the genetic material would be human. The rest is microbes

So how different could individuals’ microbial clouds really be? The two trials showed that, at least in these 11 people, microbial clouds varied significantly from person to person. They also found that different people shed microbes at different rates…

That knowledge will help shape microbiome cloud research in fields like contagious disease and forensics. In hospitals, nobody really knows how germs spread. Since leaving Oregon State University, Meadow has joined a biotech company in San Francisco that wants to use the understanding of microbial clouds to help hospitals prevent things like MRSA outbreaks.

Cops see other opportunities for the microbial cloud. Gilbert has been helping crime scene investigators use microbial residue to track down criminals. He says people pick up microbes from the soil, the air, the food they eat, and the water they wash and drink with. So an individual’s unique microbial signature could put them at the scene of a crime—or exonerate them if the microbes in their cloud match their alibi.

Any guess as to who gets the most funding, first?

Don’t pee on snakes!

Levantine viper responding to a curious photographer in Dagestan

While urinating in an open field in India, a farmer’s penis was struck by a Levantine viper (Macrovipera lebetina). The “gunas,” a local name for the cold-blooded culprit, injected venom through two fang entry points just behind the glans.

The man, 46, arrived at the hospital 3 hours after the attack with a “grossly swollen penis and formation of hemorrhagic bullae” at the puncture sites, Tajamul Hussain, MD, and Rafi A. Jan, MD…reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fortunately, the man’s vital signs were stable, but labs showed poor clotting action…Doppler ultrasound of the veins and arteries of the penis revealed normal flow throughout.

A polyvalent antivenom effective against cobra, common krait, and viper was administered, and 36 hours later, the patient’s labs showed normal coagulation function.

He still had swelling for what had to be a difficult 4 days, and necrotic tissue formed black scabs at the puncture sites. But, thankfully, at the 2-week follow-up, the physicians wrote that the man had completely recovered…

On the plus side, we now know a penis can be saved after a viper attack, and to be careful not to pee on snakes.

I’d be more likely to pee on myself while running away from a poisonous snake! :)

Don’t click through to the article unless you’re prepared for a couple of gross photos of the injury.

Trucker choking on his Dr Pepper crashes into 23 new cars

Park your truck before you chug your Dr Pepper

Police say the driver of a milk tanker truck was choking on a soft drink when he drove off a Pennsylvania highway and crashed into 23 new cars on a dealership lot.

Police in Hermitage say the driver choked on Dr Pepper on Sunday and drove the truck nearly 600 feet through a grassy area before smashing into a building at Montrose Buick-GMC-Cadillac.

The Sharon Herald reports the truck rumbled down an embankment before hitting the cars, including one that was pushed into the dealership showroom.

State police found no mechanical problems with the truck and no indication the driver tried to brake. The driver of the truck owned by Neimeyer Milk Transfer was cited for careless driving.

Careless is putting it kindly.

FBI spies on Burning Man festival to “prevent terrorism”

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The FBI has admitted to gathering secret intelligence about the annual Burning Man festival since 2010.

In response to a request under the 2012 Freedom of Information Act, the security service said its Special Events Management unit has kept files on festival-goers, known as ‘burners’ – to ‘aid in the prevention of terrorist activites and intelligence collection’.

But the FBI’s 16-page response to the question by Inkoo Kang is heavily redacted, with information about the technology being used to secretly gather the information being blanked out…

The FBI document describes the festival as a ‘cultural and artisan event, which promote (sic) free expression by the participants’…

The FBI said its involvement was ‘even more critical in the light of the ongoing war on terrorism and the potential for additional acts of terrorism being committed in the United States.’

But later the FBI warns: ‘The greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.’…

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Predictably, the FBI promotes their own full employment by seeing saboteurs everywhere and anywhere folks listen to music and have a good time.

I guess it keeps a certain number of conservatives out of twelve-step programs for constipation and in fresh air.

Will monster wildfire seasons become the new normal?

Harley looks just like our Sheila

In the end, Ira and Carolyn Hodge drove out with some photos, their clothes, their horse and their dog, Harley.

Their home took seven years for them to build and contained everything they owned – vehicles, mementos from their parents, memories. All of it was reduced to fine ash when the fire swept down the high sides of the densely forested gorge that bottoms out at Canyon Creek in Grant County, Oregon, six hours’ drive east of Portland.

“It was a monster,” Ira says. “A beast.”

He and Carolyn were helping a neighbour hose down their house when it became clear the fire was moving with astonishing speed towards them. “We had five minutes to get out,” Ira recalls. They tossed the few things they had gathered in their car, rounded up their frightened horse and fled over a wooden bridge that burned behind them.

Ira has since talked to experts who came up to survey the damage. They said that the flames may have reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt copper and aluminium. They sifted through the rubble and there was almost nothing left.

Harley recovered just one possession: a charred bone he had buried somewhere in the yard.

When you drive south out of John Day, up into the canyon towards the Malheur national forest, the flattened homes and the blackened Douglas firs and ponderosas tell this summer’s story.

Wildfires are capricious, and some houses are untouched. But those that the fire found were razed, and the forest it burned will take decades to recover.

Thirty-six homes were destroyed in Grant County on 14 August. That night, the Canyon Creek Complex fire became the most destructive in Oregon for 80 years. The national media glanced and moved on, but the fire is still burning on just over 105,000 acres. That’s about 10 times the size of Manhattan.

In Oregon as a whole, there are 11 large fires burning on 435,799 acres. In Washington there are 14 burning on 900,000 acres. This season – which is still in full swing – has seen 1,422,880 acres burned in the two states, or 2,223 square miles, an area just a little smaller than the state of Delaware.

More than 11,000 firefighters are still in the field. Firefighting resources in the American west are completely committed, and both states have called out their national guardsmen to help contain the blazes. Firefighters have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand to pitch in, and three firefighters died while in duty.

RTFA. These fires have become an annual national emergency. People are to blame, habits and carelessness are to blame, short-term weather is often to blame and, yes, climate change plays a significant role.

That may be hard to understand for someone who has never had their home or community threatened by a wildfire; but, it is true.

I do not count climate change deniers as relevant. It’s hard to count them as useful citizens of Earth.

Canadians can’t stop laughing over Scott Walker’s border wall proposal

Click to enlargeObviously, we need a wall here…

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford says Canada has no plans to invade the United States – and that Americans can rest assured the threat from the north is receding.

There is no need, the ailing mayor and most cackling Canadians seem to agree, for the 5,000-mile wall along the Canadian border that presidential candidate Scott Walker suggested this week is “a legitimate issue” on the campaign trail to the White House…

“I don’t have a problem with the States,” the outspoken former mayor declared in a brief interview with the Guardian on Monday evening, as he limped toward Toronto’s Rogers Centre to watch the city’s surging Blue Jays baseball team play the Cleveland Indians, a rival visiting from the far side of unfortified Lake Erie.

Most Canadians, the former magistrate known for smoking crack added, are similarly well-disposed toward their southern neighbours – and understand full well that such an endeavour would be nearly impossible anyway…

“It’s ludicrous and hilarious,” a Blue Jays fan named Neil from Toronto said of Walker’s fleeting flirtation with a norther border wall. “But that’s the Republicans.”

Bonnie, from nearby Milton, could not stop laughing at the mention of Walker’s name. “He’s a nutcase,” she exclaimed. “They can’t afford healthcare, but they can afford walls.”…

Defending the US-Canadian border would – hypothetically, of course – require a wall 8,891 kilometres long, with 2,475 kilometres devoted to protecting Alaskan wilderness and even more wall running down the middle of the Great Lakes.

Citing preliminary estimates made by the US Department of Homeland Security for the cost of a southern wall with Mexico, the Toronto Star estimated the cost of a Walker-style wall at “north of $18 billion (US)”…

Cheerfully channeling Sarah Palin, Mike Bradley boasted that he can see America from his window in the Canadian border town of Sarnia, where he is mayor. But to him and others who have watched the increasing militarisation of the formerly undefended border over the past decade, Walker’s comments were no joke.

“This is just ongoing,” Bradley said, citing examples of unexpected hostility on the northern border since 9/11 including plans to launch observation balloons, proposals to charge fees for crossing the border, and live-fire exercises by US coast guard patrol vessels armed with machine guns.

The difference between ignorant and stupid requires that “stupid” work at defending their beliefs. So, what Canadians call the world’s longest undefended border is just one more opportunity for nutball militarists to resolve a paranoid delusion with guns.

Asylum seekers enter Norway in the Arctic – from Russia – by bicycle

Norway Arctic border crossing
Click to enlargeStorskog Boris Gleb border crossingCornelius Poppe/AFP/File

As Europe grapples with record-breaking numbers of migrants, a trickle of asylum seekers from Syria and the Mediterranean region have found an unlikely route: Through Russia to a remote Arctic border post in Norway, partly on bicycles.

Police Chief Inspector Goeran Stenseth said…that 151 people have crossed the border this year near the northeastern Norwegian town of Kirkenes, 2,500 kilometers northeast of Oslo.

He said that most of the migrants are from Syria, with some from Turkey and Ukraine, and that they mainly cross in motor vehicles although some have resorted to arriving on bicycles because the Storskog border post is not open to pedestrians, in line with a Norwegian-Russian border agreement.

“There have been about 100 during the past two months, at least 50 in July and looks like August will be much the same,” he told The Associated Press. “But the conditions will be bad soon. It’s getting colder by the day … Soon no one will be able to bike, that’s for sure.”

Woo-hoo! Probably be snowing there, next week. I’ve done a few not-so-legal border crossings in my life; but, none this far North.

Meanwhile, the Mother of Invention still rules.

Bear thinks he can fit through a cat door


An Idaho man snapped pictures of a bear attempting to get into his home through a cat door but only managing to fit its head through the opening.

Doug Harder of Sandpoint said bears have become a frequent nuisance at his condo this year and he first snapped photos of the animals when a mother and two cubs climbed onto his second floor deck to eat birdseed in late May.

He said bear sightings continued in the area and a yearling broke into his condo while he was on vacation last week by opening the sliding glass door, which he had left cracked open with a piece of wood blocking the doorjamb.

Harder said the intruder did very little damage to his property, but the animal defecated on the carpet and raided the domicile for food including flour, brownie mix, Toblerone and Pepsi.

The homeowner said he went to investigate a racket at his door Thursday and was shocked to see a bear attempting to squeeze through his cat door. He said the animal was far too large to fit more than its head through the door.

It came to the cat door Thursday night, trying again and again to get through, which is when I took the photo,” Harder said…It came back yesterday trying to get through the cat door again.”

Time to get some bear spray. It won’t harm the bear; but, it will likely get the idea.