Andromeda Strain vs. Colour Out Of Space FITE!

I’ve been eyeballs deep in Daniel Yergin’s The Prize: The Epic Quest For Oil, Money, & Power (short review so far: unlike most corporations the oil industry operates on schedules of decades – they’re already way ahead of most critics, power groups, and governments) to pay much attention to recent national debates on men’s restroom symbolic interactions and whether or not the world is round or flat but the Peruvian “mystery illness” meteor is high weirdness chum in the water.

The first thing I thought was that it’s not a meteor or inquisitive Fungi from Yuggoth, but a deorbited spy satellite loaded with radioactive fuel. There’s evidence for this… In 1978, Cosmos 954 crashed into Canada, spewing radioactivity over 600km of the Northwest Territories. More recently there was the crash of Mars 96 which had 200g of plutonium pellets which may (or may not) have landed in Chile and Bolivia.

Then there’s this story from the Oberg article:

After the explosion of a rocket near the Baikonur cosmodrome in 1970, Soviet soldiers found a nuclear battery in the wreckage. Later, investigators looking for the battery discovered that the shivering soldiers had secretly kept it as a hand-warmer in their poorly heated guardhouse. In this case, the unit was spotted by one of the searchers and confiscated immediately.

At least the Peru meteor didn’t crash into anywhere in the Middle East. Cthulhu knows how the itchy trigger fingers would react there.

Five recent animal stories

(accumulated from around the net)

1. Jessica the hippo who loves coffee.

2. The octopus archeologist who unearthed a 900-year-old treasure.

The extraordinary discovery on what was for 58-year-old Mr Kim another ‘day at the office’ began when he took his small boat out from the town of Taean, 60 miles south west of Seoul. As usual, he was hoping for a good catch of webfoot octopus, which are a delicacy in Korea.

But on this particular day, he decided to try somewhere new, a few miles south of his regular fishing spot.

Casting out a long line, he felt a familiar tug and hauled up his first octopus of the day. He was puzzled by several blue objects attached to its suckers and thought at first they were shells.

But when he examined them, he realised they were pieces of pottery. Not realising he was on the point of making an incredible discovery, he cast out his line again and again, bringing in more octopus with shards of pottery attached.

Then he brought one up with a whole plate caught on its tentacles.

3. Polar Bears vs. Submarines

In April 2003, USS Connecticut (SSN-22), a Seawolf-class submarine, surfaced through the Arctic ice and came under attack by a polar bear, which gnawed on her rudder for a while before disengaging. Submariners have seen polar bears in the past, but this is one of the few times that the bear saw the sub first, and apparently mistook it for the world’s largest chunk of bear food.

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4. Oscar The Cat

For like a harbinger of bad news, Oscar is able to discern the exact moment at which the angel of death comes to stand at their bedside. It is an unusual skill, certainly. All the more so because Oscar is just a cat.

The fluffy, two-year-old, grey and white brindled pet was adopted by the dementia unit at the home in Rhode Island and named by its residents after a famous American hot dog brand.

Yet his skills of divination are beyond question – and have even been the subject of an article in as august a publication as the New England Journal Of Medicine. To date he has predicted the deaths of 25 patients, and done so with such accuracy that he has completely won the trust of even the initially incredulous medical staff.

“This cat really seems to know when patients are about to die,” says Dr David Dosa, a geriatrician at Rhode Island hospital who also attends patients at Steere House.

We started to see something was happening about 18 months ago and at first I think we were all very sceptical. But it’s not an unusual occurrence for patients to die here, so we’ve had plenty of opportunities to witness and observe the phenomenon.”

The first signals come as early as two days beforehand, when Oscar leaves his usual favourite solitary spots under a doctor’s desk or sunbathing in the windows of an empty office and begins doing his rounds, padding round the corridors of the unit, visiting patients but never lingering.

“When somebody’s not ready to die, he leaves,” says Dr Dosa. “He doesn’t settle in their room until the day they die. Sometimes it can be as much as four hours beforehand, but he’s universally there, curled up on their bed, two hours before they take their last breath.”

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5. Man-eating badgers and GPS-equipped spy squirrels on the prowl in the middle east. (Remember what I was saying earlier about real life being stranger than the Weekly World News?)

British forces have denied rumours that they released a plague of ferocious badgers into the Iraqi city of Basra. Word spread among the populace that UK troops had introduced strange man-eating, bear-like beasts into the area to sow panic. But several of the creatures, caught and killed by local farmers, have been identified by experts as honey badgers.

The rumours spread because the animals had appeared near the British base at Basra airport.

UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: “We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

and

Reportedly, some 14 implike squirrels were recently “arrested by Iranian authorities for espionage,” as the critters were apparently found to have various amounts of “spy gear from foreign agencies” on (er, in) their bodies. Some reports even mention that the animals were sporting embedded GPS sensors, but due to the high level of secrecy surrounding the capture, things are still a bit foggy. Nevertheless, Iran has apparently claimed that the “rodents were being used by Western powers in an attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic,” and while it doesn’t seem that anyone is really aware of the squirrels’ fates, it looks like sending in the animals to do a human’s dirty work isn’t as effective as it once was.

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BONUS 6. The Lake Tahoe bear cub who climbed into a 1964 Buick Skylark and chowed down on beer and a barbecue-chicken-and-jalapeño pizza.

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Weekly World News

Still my favorite double entendre headline…

Space rock virus infects the U.S.

It’s hard for me to not be pig-biting mad about the Weekly World News shutting down, but honestly I’m not surprised. Sandwiched in between traditional celebrity d’jour tabloids and more timely fake satire like The Onion or The Daily Show, the Weekly World News was as antiquated as its pop paraculture stable of mutants, psychics, fat animals, and alien paternity stories. The world is a much weirder and paranoid place now and the WWN couldn’t really keep its edge, especially after the 2004 death of editor-in-chief (and Ed Anger/Bat Boy creator) Eddie Clontz. Recent issues were about as comforting as a thirty year old catalog of model train sets or amateur radios – still appealing for, well, oddballs like me but not enough of a cult demographic to keep going.

I still want to know which candidate the greys are going to support in 2008 (otherwise I’m voting for Elvis). I can’t remember if Serena Sabak ever returned back from fighting evil in the astral plane (her valley girl sister took over her WWN column) and I think there was an important public service telling you how to determine if your prostitute is an alien.

Pray For Rain

Alabama has been suffering from a drought for awhile now and with little relief in sight governor Bob Riley took action. Instead of announcing a comprehensive plan to switch to lesser-impact agriculture that uses more efficient irrigation systems, the governor’s plan is, well, a bit more speculative:

The governor issued a proclamation calling for a week of prayer for rain, beginning Saturday.

Riley encouraged Alabamians to pray “individually and in their houses of worship.”

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for his blessings and to hold us steady during times of difficulty,” Riley said. “This drought is without question a time of great difficulty.”

A prepared statement included endorsements from the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Market Authority.

As much as I want to take the cheap shot here, I have to back off and default to my higher power: Charles Fort, Lo! part 2, chapter 4:

For months, there had been, in the Provinces of Murcia and Alicante, Spain, a drought so severe that inhabitants had been driven to emigration to Algeria. Whether we think of this drought and the prayers of the people as having relation or not, there came a downpour that was as intense as the necessities. See London Times, Oct. 20, 1879. Upon Oct. 14th, floods poured upon these parched provinces. Perhaps it was response to the prayers of the people. Five villages were destroyed. Fifteen hundred persons perished.

Isolated incident? Try again (also from Lo!):

At a meeting of the Royal Geographic Society, Dec. 11, 1922, Sir Francis Younghusband told of a drought, in August, 1906, in Western China. The chief magistrate in Chungking prayed for rain. He put more fervour into it. Then he prayed prodigiously for rain. It began to rain. Then something that was called “a waterspout” fell from the sky. Many of the inhabitants were drowned.

And what the heck, let’s dogpile on some more:

Droughts in Russia. Straits Times, June 6 — droughts ended by downpours in Bengal and Java. In Kashmir and in the Punjab, violent thunderstorms and earthquakes occurred together (Calcutta Statesman, June 1 and 3). In Turkey, there would have been extreme distress, but about the first of June, amidst woe and thanksgiving, destructive salvations demonstrated efficacy, and for a week kept on spreading joy and misery. Levant Herald, June 4 — earthquakes preceded deluges, and then continued with them.

I know I know, dodgy stories from the past by a crackpot who tracked fishfalls. But can we at least agree that it might be prudent to be careful what you wish for? Apparently, Governor Riley missed that day in school because a couple days later:

Just a couple days after Gov. Bob Riley called for residents to pray for rain, a series of strong thunderstorms brought torrential rain, flash floods and lightning to the area.

The storms didn’t match the intensity of Friday night’s bad weather, but still strong enough for the county to be under a severe thunderstorm warning part of the early afternoon.

Several areas also reported flooding, with one north Huntsville resident reporting water flowing out of the drainage ditches into her and neighbor’s yards, even knocking down a fence.

So long and thanks for all the pollen?

(Insert obligatory photo of Killer Bees sketch from vintage Saturday Night Live here) Bees get tired of working conditions and that tired “busy as a bee” nonsense, and drop out of society (and apparently the planet).

VISALIA, Calif., Feb. 23 — David Bradshaw has endured countless stings during his life as a beekeeper, but he got the shock of his career when he opened his boxes last month and found half of his 100 million bees missing.

In 24 states throughout the country, beekeepers have gone through similar shocks as their bees have been disappearing inexplicably at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of numerous crops, including California almonds, one of the nation’s most profitable.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Mr. Bradshaw, 50, said from an almond orchard here beginning to bloom. “Box after box after box are just empty. There’s nobody home.”

This story is weird by itself, but when chimpanzees are using spears, and colossal squids are on the advance, I’d be thinking about getting out of Dodge too.

Strange Days…

Gas smells in NYC. Killer bees in New Orleans. Dead birds in Austin. Encephalitis outbreak in Rhode Island. UFO sighting over O’Hare.

Still, I think my favorite weird/unexplained story is from Antarctica (via The Adventure Blog). Team N2I is busy kite-skiing to the Southern Pole Of Inaccessibility – the point in Antarctica that is the furthest from the surrounding ocean. This point hasn’t been visited since 1958 yet last week the team encountered tracks:

It was here we began to make serious ground – only to be stopped in our tracks…..by tracks! Henry who was leading noticed that there was a line of disturbance in the ice. Slowing down as it was hard in the poor visibility (simular to whiteout conditions whilst skiing) to make out whether it was a crevase or not, he was amazed to find there were 3 massive sets of caterpillar tracks stretching into the distance. They apeared relatively fresh – not more than a day or so. This is an absolute mystery as there are no bases in the area we are crossing and have heard no reports of any activity in this rarely visited part of the Antaractic – especially when considering how far out from the coast we are.

Someone down there joyriding in the snow cat? Or Something/one Else?

R’lyeh Rising

newisland_maiken.jpgThe yacht Maiken encountered that new island that formed recently in the South Pacific and blogged about it. What I’m endlessly finding intriguing is just how much their photo series resembles every sci-fi “lost world” story ever. Distant travelers plow their way through an ultra-remote area. Weird stuff begins to appear in the water, whether it’s soil, strange plants, or an unusually warm current. The debris gets denser until suddenly you’re confronted with Skull Island or the Land That Time Forgot. I know, it’s good ole magma and volcanism, but if I was minding my own business out there and encountered the “stone sea” and an angry island I’d be wanting a crash refresher course in Welles, Verne, and Burroughs.

Geographers start your engines.

In other South Pacific news:

Oceanographers have discovered a broad, almost-bare patch of seafloor in the remote South Pacific. An unusual combination of circumstances has left the region without the mineral and organic sediments hundreds of meters deep that are typical elsewhere in the world’s oceans, the scientists say.

The sediment-poor region is about the size of the Mediterranean Sea and centered approximately 4,000 kilometers east of New Zealand. Researchers discovered the area, which they dubbed the South Pacific Bare Zone, during a cruise early last year, says David K. Rea, a marine geologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The scientists were surprised when their seismic equipment indicated that there was no sediment in that region. A unique combination of factors seems to have dictated the area’s dearth of sediment that’s accumulated since the basalt crust below formed between 85 million and 34 million years ago, Rea and his colleagues report in the October Geology.

As Chris Perridas rightly notices, “The … Alert … was sighted April 12th in S. Latitude 34d21m , W Longitude 152d17m with one living and one dead man aboard.”

Get your elder signs ready.