Paul the Psychic Octopus Hits the Big Time

Posted in Anthropromorphism, Bizzare Behavior, Psychic Pets, Randomalia, Roadside attractions, Travesties of nature on July 23, 2010 by Eric S.

If, like me, you could give a rat’s ass about soccer (football to those of you familiar with the metric system), there’s a chance you missed out on Paul the Octopus’s 15 minutes of fame. But this mid-phenomenon report by RussiaToday should be all you need to come up to speed:

Basically, what we have here is an octopus raised in captivity in a tourist aquarium in Germany with a considerably better than random ability to pick winners in Germany vs Whoever soccer matches. Paul lodged his predictions by choosing which side of a two-binned feeding dish to take his dinner from: one marked with a German Flag, the other marked with the flag of their opponent. According to stats on Wikipedia, his 2010 predictions were 100% accurate, making him 61% more accurate than Punxsutawney Phil and (if I’m doing the math right) 99.6% more accurate than dumb luck. NOTE: Yes, I did that math in my head before realizing it was right there on the Wikipedia page.

So, honestly, this followup story shouldn’t be that surprising:

Paul, welcome to the Big Leagues. But it’s not all bad, at least for Paul’s owners (I can’t claim to know the pros and cons of octopoidial life). A Russian bookmaker offered his owners €100,000, and I could swear I heard a story about someone stateside offering more than a million dollars for him. According to The Wall Street Journal, he has a job offer from Infosys. And according to this report, a black comedy Paul the Octopus murder mystery filmed in South Africa is in post production in Beijing.

All of which is trumped by the fact his immortalization in this little ditty by Perry Gripp, of Cat Flushing a Toilet fame:

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MSNBC reports: Even the Maya are Getting Sick of 2012 Hype

Posted in Nature gone amok, Objects in Space, The Unexplained on July 2, 2010 by Eric S.

A Google search for 2012 yields 367 million results. For frame of reference, Jesus turns up 202 million, while The Beatles wrack up scant more than 35 million (intoallthat, interestingly enough, pulls up an impressive 914 results). Apparently, nobody learned their lesson last time we had a calendar-related fear fest in the final six months of 1999. Good times, good times. But much like summer blockbuster season or commercials for cellphone service providers, the hype may be more than the masses are willing to put up with.

Apolinario Chile Pixtun, courtesy of MSNBC

MSNBC tracked down Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun, who they report to be “tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly ‘running out’ on Dec. 21, 2012.” Says the article:

But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya Indians say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials — such as one on the History Channel that mixes predictions from Nostradamus and the Maya and asks: “Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?”

I have to confess that I’m a little behind on 2012 paranoia, but I’m trying to catch up as I type. On the one hand, there seems to be a general fear of the end of the Mayan long cycle calendar. I’m having trouble chalking the End of Times up to the Mayans planning a calendar without a next page to flip forward to, so let’s just agree that this hold about as much water as fears that the Y2K bug was going to cause elevators to start dropping people to their deaths at midnight on 12/31/99. Next, there’s some sort of hooha with the transverse of Venus and a solar eclipse happening at even ‘Mayan month’ intervals leading up to 12/21/12. Admittedly, that’s pretty nifty. But where does the End of Times aspect come into play? Seems it could just as easily indicate a good day for a White Sale at JC Penney. And lastly, it seems that on that exact day the solstice sun will align with the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, thusly reversing the planet’s magnetic field. Which would also be really nifty, if it weren’t for the fact that the alignment with the galactic center tactually took place back in 1998 when everyone was too worried about Y2K to give this Mayan calendar business a second glance.

Still, if we’ve learned one thing from the TSA, it’s that we’re better off scared than sorry. Just because there’s nothing logical to be afraid of, it never hurts to be a little scared just as an insurance policy, right? Says the MSNBC article:

At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the “Ask an Astronomer” Web site, says people are scared.

“It’s too bad that we’re getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they’re too young to die,” Martin said. “We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn’t live to see them grow up.”

It’s a big scary world out there, so it’s probably a good thing these fourth graders are learning that lesson early. But long can you possibly be scared? Seems like it would wear off after a while. You know, like our collective fear of skin cancer, coronary artery disease and/or global warming.

Oscar, the Bionic Cat

Posted in Embracing the Future, Nature gone amok with tags , , on June 25, 2010 by Eric S.

What, you may ask, does it take to dig a retired blogger out of retirement after almost two years? As much as I might have hoped for verifiable signs of extraterrestrial intelligence and/or sightings of a school of flying sharks, it turned out to be a peg-legged cat:

As reported by ksl.com (from whom I appropriated the above image), absent minded Oscar was lazing around the family farm one afternoon when he suddenly found his rear feet being lopped off by a harvesting combine. How a combine is less intimidating to a cat than a vacuum cleaner I’ll never know, but there you have it.

And while I imagine Oscar is bound to get a lots of heckling for his chicken legs, he’ll probably get less pummeling than this similarly disabled English bulldog:

No, Oscar’s legs are almost as cool as the pair track star and uber hottie Aimee Mullins wore in the 1996 Paralympics…

…though not as cool as the glass pair she sported in that Matthew Barney film:

Incidentally, if you’re interested in the oft-overlooked upside of prosthetic limbs, have a look at this lecture by a 6’1″ Ms. Mullins (who, as she says in the video, usually stands 5’8″), which WordPress is going to make you go elsewhere to see. Anyway, there you go: putting the art in artificial limbs.

Emerging news on the MaKomati front

Posted in Destinations, Evidence!, Expert testimony, Fact Checking, Mysterious origins with tags , , , on November 30, 2008 by Eric S.

If you’re like me, September 20th’s post on the Indiana Jones-like activities of South African airplane pilot Johane Heine, his (unmentioned in the article) cohort Michael Tellinger, and their collective of against-the-establishment archaeologists aka The MaKomati Foundation, you may have finished reading still hungry for more answers. Truly, you may have found yourself with such a hunger even if you’re not even vaguely like me; there’s plenty of wtfage to go around with a theory like the one MaKomati is putting forth.

On the one hand, you’ve got the brotherhood of conventional Archaeology, Paleontology and Anthropology, who collectively agree the earliest traces of civilization can be found with the Mesopotamians, circa 5,000 BCE, in an area modern folk not terribly interested in Archaeology, Paleontology, Anthropology or, for the most part, Geography, refer to as The Middle East.

On a second, third and possibly fourth hand, there’s evidence of other primitive-yet-intelligent humans spread about here and there: Paleolithic tools 2.6-2.5 million years old; remnants of a migration across the Bering Strait during an interval between 50-9,000 years ago; and the reasonably well preserved remains of cave paintings in modern France and Germany commonly believed to be 15-20,000 years old. All of which boils down to this: there are plenty of gaps in the historical record. MaKomati believe they’ve found a hunk of history to spackle into one of the gaps.

Personally, I’m skeptical. No, wait; that’s not quite the right word. Dubious is probably closer to the fact. I admit that’s in part due to my comfort with what I’ve come to accept as fact through years of reinforcement by, well, every source of factual authority I’m exposed to. But I also acknowledge that the factual authorities with which Aristotle, Copernicus and Galileo had their comeuppance weren’t entirely dependable; I freely admit that much of my understanding of how the universe works is founded on the baby-talk summations of consensus of passionate, hard core geeks who take great pains to make sure that I’m handed as best-we-can-tell-fact has been tested, hypothesized, checked, rechecked, challenged, refuted, modified, shot down, rechecked again, confirmed, reviewed, published and subsequently checked by classrooms full of aspiring hard core geeks. Honestly, I don’t think it’s such a bad system.

The question then is, are Johan Heine, Michael Tellinger and the MaKomati Foundation a modern day archaeological Galileo? Or are they a couple of guys with a plane and some ruins in a remote corner of the globe looking to boost local tourism? Okay, unfair comparison on at least three counts: 1) everyone has already heard of Galileo, 2) hard science is by definition easier to validate than soft science, and 3) the establishment Galileo was up against was going to burn him for what he was saying. But I couldn’t think of a suitably foundation-shaking foundation shaker. Maybe Alfred Wegener.

Lucky for me, Michael Tellinger stopped by the site a couple of weeks ago. I followed his initial comment on the September 20 article with a list of questions, to which he graciously responded. Here are his answers in their entirety:

  1. First, according to makomati.com, conventional wisdom explains the ruins as cattle kraal built and used by the Bantu people within the past 1,000 years. The Makomati Foundation dates these structures as being far older: somewhere between 75,000 to 250,000 years old. This is actually the basis for several questions:

    75,000 – 200,000 years seems like a pretty broad estimate, given what little I personally know of dating techniques. What accounts for the 125,000 year discrepancy?

    We are dealing with a very complex site that covers over 500 square kilometres and makes up the largest and oldest city on Earth that has almost completely eroded.

    We have gathered artifacts from the same site that date back from 300,000 yrs and 600 years. This points to a very long occupation of these sites.

    BUT we deal with Archaeoastronomy mainly to determine the deviation from today’s cardinal points. 3 degrees; 17 min. and 42 sec deviation.

    The presessional cycle of 25,800 years has almost been completed – this means that we are in essence working with chunks of 25,000 years.

    Now we have to look for other clues as to how many years it actually is.

    The main indicators are the alignment with Orion – which could have only happened 75,000 years ago and more.

    And Geology – erosion.

    Dolerite erodes very slowly and the erosion patterns on most monoliths indicate that they were brought there a long, long time ago.

    Lichen growth is also a reasonable indicator. We have lots of evidence there.

  2. What techniques have been used? What are the advantages of these techniques?

    Archaeoastronomy; Geology – alien rocks brought from elsewhere; astronomy; and what most of us often forget about – logic and reason.

  3. Did the Bantu in fact use these structures as cattle kraal, as recently as the 13th century? If so, were they making use of what at that time were already ancient artifacts, or were additional structures built by the Bantuu (or other indigenous peoples) in the intervening time?

    Many examples indicate that the Bantu people used the existing materials to build their own dwellings and kraals and sometime simply occupying existing structures.

    They were also used by the British and Boer soldiers in the South African War around 1900. This has introduced many contaminants into the original sites but many still remain pristine.

  4. If not, would you care to theorize on how this wrongful theory came to be accepted as doctrine?

    This incorrect doctrine was adopted by ignorant and lazy historians who have done very little research themselves into ancient human history – and simply accepted the stories taught in mainstream academic institutions.

    I know this sounds conspiratorial but unfortunately it is so. When ill informed people deal with the current finds they simply cannot see the bigger picture.

    It is as if there was no history in South Africa before the Bantu people arrived. This is obviously a very ignorant and arrogant stance – but it doe hold a firm grip an many academics in this part of the world. It is called political correctness and is doing us all a great disservice.

  5. The ruins cover a considerable piece of real estate. When I think of empires or civilizations with both a) similar geographical spread and b) an inclination to build durable structures ( for example, the Egyptians, Romans, Incans and Greeks, as opposed to the Sioux or Aborigine), I typically picture a display in a museum that includes all manner of ‘household items’: pots, tools, earthenware, jewelry and so forth. Has Makomati discovered any such artifacts?

    We are dealing with the largest and oldest city on Earth with many thousands of habitants over an extended period of time.

    With ancient terraces; roads; wells; irrigations systems; dwellings, temples and work places.

    Many artifacts that show a habitation period of over 300,000 years. With specific items pointing to various incidents.

    We also have what we now believe to be the OLDEST pottery in the world – maybe as old as 50,000 years. But the academics that dated it from WITS university in 1986 were so freaked out by this discovery that they returned the fragments to the owner with a short message – “They are about 10,000 years old.”

    Other archaeologists recall this find and attest that the ash heal in which the potter was found was around 30 – 50,000 years old.

  6. Same question as 1, above, applied specifically to Adam’s Calendar.

    Adam’s Calendar is the flagship among all these because it is unique in the world today and can be dated with some accuracy to a great time in antiquity.

  7. The people who built these structures: do they have a name? Beyond their architectural capabilities, what else do we know about them?

    We know very little about them except what we are discovering on a daily basis in the expansive ruins.

    They were most likely all involved in gold and other metal mining.

My thanks to Mr. Tellinger, and my invitation to anyone who’d care to contribute constructive input.

Two Faced Cat Born in Perth

Posted in Nature gone amok, Roadside attractions, The Unexplained, Travesties of nature with tags , , , on November 21, 2008 by Eric S.

Courtesy of eagle-eyed Australian correspondent and scourge of diabetics, Joey Ledlie:


(photo appropriated from the Sydney Morning Herald)

Where to begin, where to begin? A joke about Siamese twins? Copy cats? Yeah, no: those weren’t funny the last time this happened. Maybe a ponderance on whether stripes clash with calico, or if the litter box flushes the other way around in the Southern Hemisphere? Okay, I’ll shut up now.

Many may take the surprising increase in two-headed animal births as a sign of, if not the End of Times, at least something creepy and sinister. According to the Herald, even hardened firsthand eyewitness Louisa Burgess was taken aback:

Louisa Burgess, a veterinary nurse who helped deliver the kitten, told InMyCommunity.com.au that she had never seen such an unusual animal in her 12-year career.

“I have seen cats with two tails and extra legs, but not this,” she said.

I don’t know about the End of Times, but prudence might suggest checking the shelf life of the peanut butter in panic room and stocking up on Bat(tm) Two-Faced Adversary Repellent.

York, PA ice mystery begins to unfold

Posted in Evidence!, Fact Checking, Hysteria, Mysterious origins, Nature gone amok, The Unexplained with tags , , on October 22, 2008 by Eric S.

“Ice?” I hear old timers, raised in the days before global warming kicked into high gear, “Falling from the sky, you say? T’aint news. That’s what we old timers used to call snow.” Yeah, I threw in that “T’aint” bit because it sounded vaguely like the guy from the old Pepper Ridge Farms cookie commercials. Alas, it’s not the composition that makes this story a story in the news reporting sense of the word, so much as the girth of the invading particle and it’s mysterious origins:


(external video link)

Comet? Hailstone? So called ‘blue ice’? Sure, any of those *could* be the explanation. But come on, folks. How many comets, hailstones and hunks of frozen airline waste merit not only a full 2:10 news story, but demand the attention of a 4-person, multidisciplinary team of scientists including an earth scientist (e.g., code for ‘guy who knows how hunks of rock in outer space (not necessarily just Earth) are put together) and three (3!) biologists?? I’m not prone to alarmism, but this reeks of cover up. If the next thing you hear about this is reported by Tom Biscardi, I suggest you make sure all the supplies in your End of the World shelter are fresh.

Waterspout sighting, Key West

Posted in Nature gone amok, Sighting!, True Story with tags , , on September 30, 2008 by Eric S.

The bastard children of tornadoes and whirlpools, waterspouts provide all of the visual oohs and ahhs of more damage-heavy climatalogical events with (if the number of gawkers in this footage is any indication) the danger potential of a drugged circus cat. I saw footage of this particular event on the morning weather, and rushed to see if it had made YouTube yet. The news footage had not, but here’s a fine piece of work by resident/witness virgkw: