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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Friday, November 28, 2008

Santa has spies!!!

Why won't polar bears mate? They're both female

Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old AP – Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old 'male' polar bear, is seen at Kushiro Municipal Zoo in Kushiro, northern Japan …

TOKYO – Puzzled Japanese zookeepers have cleared up a mystery over a lack of chemistry between a couple of polar bears as both turn out to be female, a Japanese zoo said Wednesday. Tsuyoshi, a four-year-old "male" polar bear, and his 11-year-old female partner, Kurumi, have been living together since June at the Kushiro Municipal Zoo in Hokkaido, northern Japan.

But much to the frustration and puzzlement of zookeepers, the bear couple, on a breeding mission, showed no signs of chemistry, and Tsuyoshi has never gone into rut even during "his" mating period.

"Observing his behaviors, we got suspicious as to whether Tsuyoshi was really a male," the zoo said in a statement.

The zoo put Tsuyoshi under an anesthetic earlier in the month for a gender checkup, and learned he was a she.

"I have mixed feelings," Yoshio Yamaguchi, head of the zoo.

Tsuyoshi is very popular at the zoo, and Kyodo News agency said the zoo would not change his name to a female name. Tsuyoshi is a very common Japanese name for boys.

Experts say when polar bears are young, it is difficult to determine their gender as their long hair covers reproductive organs.

The zoo said it had determined Tsuyoshi was a male three months after his birth.

Original here

10 Memorable Thanksgiving Snapshots Of U.S. Presidents

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
-Abraham Lincoln

On every Thanksgiving, the U.S. President pardons a turkey that is to be selected as the National Thanksgiving Turkey. This tradition roots back to the days of Honest Abe Lincoln.

The tradition supposedly started when Abe Lincoln’s son became friends with a turkey that was supposed to be dinner. Lincoln’s son convinced him to spare it.

Below are 10 famous pictures of Presidents celebrating Thanksgiving and/or pardoning a turkey.

George W. Bush (President: January 20, 2001-January 20, 2009)

Bill Clinton (President: January 20, 1993 - January 20, 2001)

George H.W. Bush (President: January 20, 1989 - January 20, 1993)

Ronald Reagan (President: January 20, 1981 - January 20, 1989)

Gerald Ford (President: August 9, 1974 - August 20, 1977)

Lyndon B. Johnson (President: November 22, 1963 - January 20, 1969)

John F. Kennedy (President: January 20, 1961 - November 22, 1963)

Dwight D. Eisenhower (President: January 20, 1953 - January 20, 1961)

[Photo credit: LIFE]

Harry S. Truman (President: April 12, 1945-January 20, 1953)

Franklin D. Roosevelt (President: March 4, 1933-April 12, 1945)

[Photo credit: LIFE]

Original here

Most Amazing Snow Sculptures

The winter is almost here and the most of us are happily expecting first snowflakes and the first. big, beautiful snowman. However, some people are too skilled to make a simple snowman and they decided to make a real pieces of art made of snow.

This art is called snow sculpture. It is comparable to sand or ice sculpture, it is practiced outdoors, and often in full view of spectators, thus giving it kinship to performance art in the eyes of some. The materials used for this tehnique are simple hand tools such as shovels, hatchets, and saws. Snow sculptures are usually carved out of a single block of snow about 6 to 15 feet on each side and weighing about 20 - 30 tons.

There are snow sculpture cnotests all around the world. Most famous ones are those in Quebec City, in Ottawa and in Perm, Russia.

There is also annual Winter Carnival at Michigan Technological University which has been a tradition since 1928. These sculptures are not carved from a single block, but rather many blocks made over a month.

Here are some most amazing snow sculptures we collected:

Original here

Vatican warns mobile phones are bad for the soul

By Claudine Beaumont

Pope Benedict XVI is keen to guard against the excesses of modern life
Pope Benedict XVI is keen to guard against the excesses of modern life

Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said that without a spiritual life, people risked losing their souls.

“In the age of the cell phone and the internet it is probably more difficult than before to protect silence and to nourish the interior dimension of life,” Father Lombardi told the Vatican television show Octavia Dies. “It is difficult but necessary.”

“There is an interior and spiritual dimension of life that must be guarded and nourished. If it is not, it can become barren to the point of drying up and, indeed, dying,” he added.

“Today, this is a very grave threat, and it is the most irreparable misfortune.”

The Vatican has long counselled against the excesses of modern life. Last month, Pope Benedict XVI said that the current global financial crisis was proof that the pursuit of money and success is pointless, and that wealth meant nothing.

“Nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” he told a recent assembly of the Synod.

However, Pope Benedict has embraced many aspects of modern technology in order to convey the Catholic message to a young, tech-savvy audience.

At World Youth Day in Sydney, the Pope texted daily messages of inspiration and hope to attendees, while digital prayer walls were erected on-site.

The Vatican has even made some of the manuscripts, documents and ancient texts from the Apostolic Vatican Library available to view online.

Original here

The 5 Most Insane Versions of Thanksgiving Around the World

By Ian Fortey

We all know and love Thanksgiving, our happy way to celebrate the subjugation and destruction of a race of indigenous peoples via eating turkey and mashed potatoes. But underneath all the stories, Thanksgiving is just America's own brand of weird brand of harvest holiday.

And, just in case you thought we were the only peoples world wide who enjoyed such things, behold the other, much more awesome harvest fests that our international friends enjoy, like...


Our foolish Western Thanksgiving has nothing on Sankranthi and never will until the day we stop eating the turkeys and start dressing them up like stereotypically flamboyant homosexuals. That's what Indians do with cows during this festival that celebrates the beginning of their harvest season.

In order to celebrate the new growing season in an "Out with the old, In with the new" attitude, womenfolk cook up a pantload of sugary goodies while every piece of old shit you own is tossed on a fire to teach it a lesson for getting old and useless. So if you value sugar cookies more than all of your material possessions and grandparents, you might have a new favorite holiday in Sankranthi. You also have some pretty profound mental issues that should probably be dealt with.

Cows and bulls are decorated to look about as tacky as livestock can ever hope to look and are paraded from house to house where they are forced to "demonstrate their skills." Since the only real "skills" we've noticed in cows involve "eating," "farting" and "being delicious," we can't imagine this ceremony is at all interesting.

To further demonstrate their boundless awesomeness, once the sun goes down bonfires are lit and the cows are forced to jump over them. This may seem strange, but you have to remember that cows are sacred, and not to be eaten. If we couldn't eat cows, we'd probably make them do some pretty weird shit too.

Gotta do something with all these cows.


Like any good festival to celebrate the harvesting of the summer crop, Holi traces its roots back to a demon king. This particular demon, angry at his son for worshipping Vishnu, tried to set him on fire and instead burned his sister. Presumably, everyone in attendance stared at the floor in an awkward silence until some enterprising young soul said "Welp, might as well party." Thus, Holi was born.

Nowadays, various peoples in India, Nepal and elsewhere celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors, by hanging pots of buttermilk above the street so that children can form human pyramids to try to break them. Lest you think it's as simple as that, it should be noted that girls will also be throwing colored water at them at the same time. It's sort of like a wet t-shirt contest, but with children, and the water is full of dangerous chemicals, and everybody loses.

In retrospect, this is nothing like a wet t-shirt contest.

That's part of what makes Holi the Festival of Colors, the prevalence of colored waters, pastes and powders which regular folks just seem to toss at each other all willy nilly. And while it only seems like a minor annoyance to have someone throw a pot of red or blue water on you, when you factor in that some of the ingredients used in the modern colors (like asbestos) can cause renal failure, blindness and various cancers, it hardly seems worth it to bust open a pot of buttermilk and be named the King of Holi.

BFF's with Cancer! Yay!

Green Corn Festival

This cleverly named festival was and is observed by various American Indian tribes to celebrate the ripening of a new crop of corn (or, as they called it, "maize"). The festival marks a renewal of things and past offenses are forgiven, with the exception of things like rape, murder and attending Wayans brothers movies, all of which are banishable offenses in the eyes of the Green Corn Festival (or, "Green Maize Festival").

Only one of these three deserves a party.

These American Indians celebrate autumn a little bit differently than we do. While we feast like epic fatties and let our children pick pumpkins and run around the corn maze (or, Maize Maze), the village's men-folk traditionally start a fast on the first night of the festival and then maybe some do ceremonial blood-letting on the next day, so they'll be nice and miserable. For the party. This is carried out by raking thorn covered sticks down their backs or, if they were feeling particularly festive, snake fangs embedded in a wooden holder.

It probably looked nothing like this.

A major part of the festival involves drinking something called the Black Drink after the fast, a tea made from ilex vomitoria. If you don't know what "ilex" and "oria" mean, that's fine- you still probably have a pretty good idea for what this drink does. The idea was to drink the tea then spray the remaining contents of your stomach across the ground in an effort to purify yourself of sins. Maybe we're just corny (maizey), but we'd prefer sitting around a table with our family to wandering around puking on a bunch of strangers and beating the shit out of ourselves any day of the week.

Gawai Dayak

Celebrated in Malaysia, Gawai Dayak is a festival in which food and wine are offered to the gods of prosperity, and tribal poets from the Iban and Dayak recite special poems. Then they smear the blood of a sacrificed rooster on everything so the gods will be pleased, much as we smear gravy on everything so fat uncle Bob with the breathing problems will be pleased.

I'm not smiling, it's just the 40lbs of shit on my head pulling my face taught.

There are many rituals to be undertaken in order for the event to go off without a hitch, including brewing rice wine about a month in advance, cooking food, cleaning out long houses and visiting graveyards to make offerings to the dead. All of this sounds incredibly intense, solemn and traditional, which is ironic considering the holiday was invented on a radio show in 1964.

The cover of this book doesn't explain anything.

That might be why some of the other somber events of the day include a beauty pageant and cock fights. Basically, it's the Malaysian equivalent of a long weekend when the family gets together to watch Nascar and then offer up corn dogs smeared with blood to the baby Jesus.


If you've ever thought not enough holidays are based on property disputes and bloodfeuds that lead to violence and death, then you haven't been celebrating Bonderam enough. And for that you should be ashamed.

At some point in time in Goa, there was an intense amount of hatred between two sections of one village, enough that, to stop them from killing each other, the Portuguese government set up flags to clearly mark the borders of each section of town.

In what probably came as a shock to the Portuguese and absolutely no one else, flags don't have magic powers, and the result was that people from the opposing sections would constantly throw rocks at the others' flags, knocking them down. Shenanigans!

Nowadays, this ancient hatred is playfully acted out on an annual basis when colourful flags are playfully knocked down with berries and and people wail on each other with bamboo-stemmed weapons all in the spirit of mockingly re-enacting past murders and spite. If that seems like a weird way to celebrate a holiday, don't worry, there's also a bunch of brightly colored floats with kids dressed as chickens, or something.

Hopefully this answers all of your questions.

Check out a special Thanksgiving comic for The Weirdest Thing to be Thankful For on Thanksgiving. Or check in with Swaim to find out why Extinction Is Only For Ugly Animals and while you're there, check out Cracked's newest blogger, Robert Brockway, in 5 Astounding Advances in the Science of Getting Drunk.

Original here