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June 2004
image Confirming my theory that haunting is the ultimate way to add value to any product on eBay, a haunted Gmail account is now up for sale on the auction site. Of course, the value of Gmail accounts is plummeting now that so many of them are available. But a haunted Gmail account that places a curse on whomever owns it... that's something special. I'm tempted to make an offer on it myself. (thanks to Lothar in the Hoax Forum for this find)
Categories: eBay, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 30, 2004
Comments (13)
image Displaying some very impressive sleuthing skills, Jonathon Keats has apparently solved the mystery of the origin of the ubiquitous Bill-Gates-will-pay-you-to-forward-this-email hoax. He writes about it in an article in Wired. He traced the origin of the hoax back to November 18, 1997 when Iowa State student Bryan Mack was sitting in a campus computer lab and created the first version of the email as a joke that he sent to a friend sitting beside him. It read:

"My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an email-tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know, and if it reaches 1,000 people, everyone on the list will receive $1,000 at my expense. Enjoy. Your friend, Bill Gates."


Mack's friend sent it to another friend, who sent it to yet another friend, etc., etc., And the rest was history. Soon it had blossomed into a thousand different forms that found their way into the inbox of just about everyone who's ever used email. Keats notes that Mack had also inadvertently written one of the 'greatest social critiques of our age.' "He'd shown that when it comes to technology, people believe that anything can happen - that invasion of privacy is inevitable - and that even those who don't like it are willing to benefit from it." Oh, and Keats also quoted me in the article, which was a nice, ego-flattering surprise to stumble upon.
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 30, 2004
Comments (29)
Here's a strange medical case from China. It seems a bit odd, but it's in the Shenzhen Daily, so I guess it must be true. Why make something like this up? Doctors treated a man whose sweat had turned green. As the article describes: "On the evening of May 28, he noticed green stains on his shirt. At first he thought the stains had probably come from some dye he had accidentally touched. However, when he was helping a friend move furniture Sunday morning, he was shocked to see green sweat streaming down his arms and soaking his shirt." Thankfully the patient's name is Zhou. If it was Bruce Banner the doctors would have had legitimate cause for concern.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 30, 2004
Comments (23)
image This is a step beyond the online DVD rewinding service that I reported on back in February. That worked via the CD tray of your computer, but this new home DVD Rewinder from 1783 Productions sits on your desk and whirres, flashes, and spins. The blurb about it says: "assure that you never again have to pay another DVD Rewind fee! This novelty, created by 1783, spins discs backwards while playing a customizable "rewind" sound and flashes lights. The DVD Rewinder even has a USB port for MP3 and other external digital media. In tech colors, flourescent green and black, the DVD Rewinder provides great fun and lots of interesting conversation."
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 30, 2004
Comments (5)
A bus shelter in Norfolk County, UK has become a favorite target for pranksters. Local residents woke to find the shelter transformed into a living room. "The culprits decked the shelter out with a comfy chair, a television, a lamp, a stereo system and even created a fake fireplace on the wall to complete the homely effect." This isn't the first time the pranksters have struck. Last month "a lawn appeared in the shelter, along with a gnome and a windmill." Unfortunately the article doesn't include a picture of the transformed shelter.
Categories: Gnomes, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 29, 2004
Comments (4)
image If you've studied any biology at all, then you probably believe that DNA is a two-stranded molecule shaped like a double helix. How foolish you are! Toby Alexander has revealed that DNA is actually a 12-stranded molecule. There are two visible strands, and then 10 'etheric' strands. Toby laments that scientists have never learned about the 10 other strands because scientists "have to rely on physical observations and can only validate things that they can see with their eyes and microscopes." Ah, yes. Those silly old scientists relying only on their eyes and microscopes. But Toby, armed with a B.S. in Computer Science (and a natural flair for B.S. in general), has cast aside these limitations and pioneered a whole new field of scientific discovery. He's found a way to activate this etheric DNA, thereby allowing paying clients to get exciting results such as thicker hair growth and the disappearance of varicose veins. Toby has a lot more to say about DNA, the history of the human race, and how to telepathically control the stock market, but most of it, unfortunately, is way above my head. (via Archana in the Hoax Forum)
Categories: Science
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (24)
Instructions for building a time machine: "You will need rocks, a Sega Saturn, some celery, spaghetti noodles, thumbtacks, a port-o-potty, and a cellular telephone from the 1980's." But this model of time machine will only transport you to 1993, so it's not of much use. (via The Presurfer)
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (13)
image Someone has placed the internet up for sale on eBay. The seller assures us that "This is serious. Comes with original certificate of authenticity." According to the picture accompanying the auction, the internet looks a bit like a shiny black ball. The certificate of authenticity, however, looks like it's been printed out on a home inkjet printer. If memory serves me, this joke about putting the internet up for sale has been done before, and yet the current seller has already made at least $27, so they're the one laughing all the way to the bank. (via Red Ferret Journal)
Categories: eBay, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (4)
image I found this email today in my inbox:
This e-mail from Japan. Please write about me in your paper. I am the fastest man in Japan. I put off clothes in about one second. You can see me. Click here. http://www.joqr.co.jp/bbqr/56bakuhatsu2.asx
Japanese people can watch me in TV. I want world people to watch me. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.Thank you.
Itabasi-ku 2-14-17, Tokyo, OfficeHERA, Jun Nagatani

Of course, I couldn't resist checking that out. Sure enough, he does remove his clothes in less than a second (it's safe for work). There must be some trick to it. Clothing designed to be ripped away would be the most obvious thing.
Categories: Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (5)
This isn't going to mean much to anyone, but when I heard the news I was dumbfounded. Plain Layne is Odin Soli. I haven't seen Odin in years, but I know him quite well. We went to grad school together at UC San Diego, though he left before I did. I've also read a novel he wrote. It was a detective story and pretty good. We TA'ed for the same class, plus we had quite a few beers together in the campus pub. Well, this makes the entire Plain Layne saga much more up close and personal for me. Strange how people in your past can suddenly pop up again like that. I'm going to have to see if I can contact Odin to see what he's been up to (besides pretending to be Plain Layne).
Categories: Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (4)
image This story about a catfish with a big, red inflatable ball stuck in its mouth found bobbing around in Sandalwood Lake has been getting quite a bit of attention. Apparently the guy who found the fish, Bill Driver, first saw a red ball in the water, then he noticed that there was a catfish attached to it. The story was reported in the Wichita Eagle by Michael Pearce, so there's no reason to think it isn't true. But what I wonder about is how the ball got into the fish's mouth in the first place. Aren't catfish bottom feeders? So how would it have come across a ball floating on the surface? Is it possible that someone stuck the ball in its mouth and then released it in the lake? Who knows. Though it's just as possible that the fish was swimming near the surface for some reason, saw the ball, and opened its mouth real, real wide. I guess I'll just have to file this case under 'unsolvable mysteries.'
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 28, 2004
Comments (4)
The BBC is reporting that a woman in Iran has given birth to a frog. Doctors are speculating that a frog larva somehow got into her uterus while she was swimming, and then grew inside her to a full-sized frog. That seems very unlikely to me. What would a frog feed on inside a person's body? Wouldn't the frog suffocate? Actually, the brief article seems a bit ambiguous on whether it's definitely a frog that came out of her, or if it's a baby that looks rather frog-like. Either way, this case immediately reminded me of Mary Toft, the 18th-century English woman who gave birth to rabbits. Of course, Mary Toft didn't really give birth to rabbits. She stuffed rabbits inside herself and then pretended to give birth to them. It seems possible this Iranian woman is pulling a Mary Toft.
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 27, 2004
Comments (14)
Harry Potter and the Pillar of Storgé. Could this be the title of the next book in the Harry Potter series? It sounds like a bit of a mouthful, but over at Mugglenet, a site for Harry Potter fans, someone calling themselves HPstorge claims to have found a way into a secret area of J.K. Rowling's site where this new title was supposedly revealed. The new title is apparently going to be officially announced on July 1 (we'll just have to wait and see what happens). HPstorge placed screen shots of his/her discovery on a geocities site , but the site promptly exceeded its bandwidth limit, so the shots are no longer viewable. The claim is being treated with skepticism over at Mugglenet, but anything to do with Harry Potter is such a big deal that the BBC is even reporting about this possible find. (via Ozymandias in the Hoax Forum)

Update (June 28, 2004): A spokesman for JK Rowling has confirmed that this book title is definitely a hoax.
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 27, 2004
Comments (7)
image ESPN recently offered up a strange story about Chimezie Kudu, a 7-foot 11 South African entering the NBA draft. Chimezie almost missed the filing for the draft, since his application was written in an obscure Hottentot dialect. And despite his size, Chimezie's future success hardly seems guaranteed. He's never actually played competitive basketball before, though he has been playing the game for a while. He practices shots "on a single hoop in a local park in his native land -- the rim made out of antelope horn, the netting from the skin of a zebra." Oh, and the ball he plays with isn't quite NBA standard. It's made out of fused sheep's testicles.
Categories: Sports
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 26, 2004
Comments (6)
image From the Hoax Forum: An Indiana company called Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems is developing a stun gun called the StunStrike that it boasts will be able to stun people at a distance, kind of like a taser without the wires. The company president, Pete Bitar, explains that the weapon will fire "a stream of electricity like water out of a hose at one or many targets in a single sweep." Sounds a little sci-fi, but certainly not implausible. At least until you check out the company's website, and then the credibility meter drops way down. The website looks kind of like something a high school student would slap together for his 'intro to the internet' class, and it's hosted on a free server. So here you have a hi-tech company that evidently hasn't mastered the complexities of html. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Plus, the picture of the weapon looks phony. Posters at Slashdot have been all over this, dubbing the company a 'homeland security scam' and declaring that the weapon doesn't exist. In the company's favor, it has been awarded a small grant from the navy. Plus, they've been written about in the New Scientist. The Slashdot criticism is evidently making the company nervous, because on its website it now announces (in all capital letters) that:
CRITICISM OF THIS WEBSITE OR THE LIMITED INFORMATION UPON WHICH THE CRITICISM IS BASED IS IRRELEVANT AND WILL SOON BE PROVEN SO. PLEASE STAY TUNED.

The company promises a public demonstration of the StunStrike in the Autumn of 2004. So the question is, will the Slashdot people be proven right and the StunStrike turn out to be just smoke and mirrors... or will Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems disprove them and produce a real weapon? Poll below. We should know the answer by the end of the year.

Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 26, 2004
Comments (16)
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