Stuff I Found

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UFO at nearby theme park

This UFO (or whatever) was spotted over the weekend at a theme park that's about an hour away from me.

A few things:
1) That drop ride on the right is really fun! I've been on it quite a few times.
2) King's Dominion said it was a smoke ring from another ride... not entirely unbelievable, but that is strangely stable for a smoke ring.
3) There have been similar sightings of these weird rings in the sky; Google "UFO rings" or "UFO smoke rings."
4) I saw a UFO when I was younger, so although I tend to remain skeptical, I know our alien overlords (or government experiments) are out there somewhere. :-P

Similar sighting:

And how it was probably created:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama writes pardon note for student playing hooky

According to the article:

A young girl named Kennedy attended the town hall with her father, who was called on to ask a question.

Her father, John Corpus, started his query saying he hoped his daughter wouldn’t get into trouble for missing the last day of school.

“Do you need me to write a note?” Obama asked.

Clearly assuming that Obama was just kidding, Corpus continued with his question — only to be interrupted by the president.

“No, no, I’m serious. What’s your daughter’s name?” Obama said, as he started to write a note.

The student showed the note to her teacher. Because all teachers are Democrats, the teacher accepted the note. She said that she would have to keep it for the records. At first, the student refused to give up the note, because the president's signature was deemed valuable. But the teacher said that if she didn't get to keep the note, she would mark the student absent. In tears, the student gave up the note.

"Look, I love doings things like this," Obama later said. "It takes everybody's mind off politics and real work and allows us to laugh together and be friends and yes we can. Well, look, the student's father thought I was just joking. Having a president who can be funny... on purpose... is good for the American people and it will make people love me more and be team players. It shows that even though I am the Supreme Lord of the World, I am also just an American citizen, sort of. Because, look, I don't have to be serious all the time, just like you people."

The note is currently for sale on eBay and the teacher is preparing to retire.

Many other students have admitted that they plan on being absent from school near Obama. "I want a note too," little Billy Bumbkins told us. "And then I can use it to buy a new TV."

"Look, I love talking to children," Obama said. "They can't disagree with me on anything because they don't have any real opinions. They are the sort of people I always try to surround myself with."


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Playstation motion tracking controller

Pretty cool... if game designers will utilize it well. It'd be cool to see this sort of thing on a computer instead of a console, where developers have a bit more development freedom, and hobbyists can join in the fun.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Classical music attracts snobs

I got the idea for this post from reading this other person's blog post about how people should dress and present themselves at performances. It's not really snobbish, but it did make me wonder: does this blogger understand why she wants what she wants, why certain clothing and hair styles look more "professional" than others? Isn't it subjective? Isn't fashion in general a very strange emergent property? Does this blogger realize that she's just echoing stale fashion traditions?

But then it made me think of the larger issue . . . why is dress attire correlated with the sort of music being played at all? Why do people where bow ties and gowns to play in symphonies, yet at pop and rock concerts, the dress styles are more all-over-the-place? I think listeners experience similar emotions when listening to the music. I don't think rock-n-roll fans say to themselves "I sure wish I liked classical music since they seem to love it more since they dress up more."

And this leads to the even bigger issue . . . why are there so many dang old people at the symphonies and operas? Is it really such an acquired taste that only old people tend to enjoy it? I'm very tempted to think it's because it can be expensive, and snobby old people are willing to pay the price so that they can seem "classy".

So why is classical music the sort of music that attracts snobs who want to dress up and look classy? Maybe it's because classical music is otherwise the least liked musical genre, so it's what snobs cling to and call their own.

All that said, I love classical music. But I loathe that it has to be associated with dressing up in stuffy uncomfortable clothing and looking "classy" and being old. Classical music is just as lively and dynamic and energetic as any rock-n-roll concert. I certainly don't want to see violinists ripping off their shirts, tossing back their long girly hair, doing stage dives, and then doing drugs after the show. But I wouldn't mind seeing a less stuffy "classy" atmosphere, and a more casual fun atmosphere. Classical music is not God. It can make you feel incredible, yes, but it's not God.

And it's a lot of fun; it should be a natural extension of life itself. It should not be kept to the domain of snobs who want to dress up.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Time-lapse of earth changes

This article has some interesting videos showing changes on the planet's surface...

Over the past decade, the number of people on Earth shot up by more than 13 percent, to nearly 6.8 billion people. To make room for all the hungry, breeding, CO2-emitting bodies on our small planet, we’ve ravaged Earth’s surface with staggering feats of deforestation, irrigation and urbanization — and NASA satellites have captured it all. Here are a few videos, compiled from images posted on NASA’s Earth Observatory, of some of the most impressive conquests of man over environment.

We're just so darn powerful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

WolframAlpha easter eggs

Here are a few WolframAlpha easter eggs from a couple Mashable articles.

Easter eggs 1
Easter eggs 2

Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Another stupid article on animal intelligence

According to this article:

Researchers in Japan have pitted human adults against five-year-old chimpanzees in a test of mental agility and memory - and the chimps won.

In a test of short-term memory involving numbers flashed on a computer screen, the apes comfortably beat their human opponents.

This astonishing result, published in the journal Current Biology, shows that in at least some respects our position at the top of the intellectual tree may be a bit shakier than we thought.

So what is going on here? Are chimps really brighter than us, even in this sort of memory test?

And if so, what does this mean for the way that we treat them? After all, how could it be right to lock up creatures more intelligent than ourselves in zoos or laboratories?

Yeah... ooooooh...

Firstly, the article doesn't go into the specifics of the test. Then they conclude that since chimps "won" that they are (or might be) smarter than us. Almost every animal can beat us in something; that doesn't mean they're smarter than us. You might as well say "dogs recently beat humans in a smell recognition contest... so should we really be keeping them on leashes?"

And again the article brings that "apes can learn sign language!" ... uh ... there's still not any very good evidence of that. They can learn to make signs with their hands that can mean something, but there's a huge difference between that and the scope of human language. Dogs can scratch on doors when they want to go outside and relieve themselves, but that's quite different from them trying to talk to you.

And then there's the "mirror test" ... if an animal reacts to itself in the mirror then some conclude that the animal must be self-aware! What exactly does that even mean?

The stupidest thing about this article is that it blathers on and on about what this ground-breaking test must mean for us... we have to change laws and give chimps some human rights! We have to stop thinking of ourselves as so smart compared to animals! Give me a break.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Creepy little creature

I had never seen a Jerboa before... there certainly aren't any here in the USA... what a creepy looking little creature... like a deformed gerbil.