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September 2004
A message posted on the microsoft.public.word.printingfonts news group:

When I print out flashing fonts they do not flash. I have tried a color
laser printer but even so they do not flahs. Do I need to update my printer soft ware. or is is it a problem with my
printer? THANK YOU



I bet this guy was constantly being sent to the store when he was young to pick up some striped paint, sweet vinegar, or straight hooks. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Pranks, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 27, 2004
Comments (0)
Here's an interesting rumor. It seems that if you simultaneously press the 'door close' button and a floor button in an elevator, the elevator will go into 'express mode' and proceed directly to the selected floor without stopping at any other floors. Could be a useful trick if true, but I can't imagine that it actually works. I don't even think repeatedly hitting 'door close' would prevent an elevator from initially opening at a floor. I've written to the Otis elevator company to see what they have to say about this rumor. I'll report back if I get a response from them.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 27, 2004
Comments (20)
Looks like while I was on vacation I missed the riveting spectacle of CBS News falling flat on its face and humiliating itself by falling for an obvious hoax involving President Bush's service (or lack of it) in the National Guard. A lot of ink has already been spilled over this (especially about the difference between Microsoft Word-produced fonts and typewriter-produced fonts), so I won't repeat the whole sorry episode. But I did notice that many commentators have pointed out that this is not the first time the media has fallen for a hoax. But the only previous example of a hoax that anyone seems to mention is the Hitler Diaries. So here are a few more gems that the media has fallen for (not including hoaxes perpetrated by journalists themselves):

1856: Railways and Revolvers in Georgia. The London Times sparked a transatlantic row when it published a letter detailing a series of bloody duels that had supposedly been fought with 'Monte Christo Pistols' on a Georgia train while passengers idly went about their business ignoring the bloodshed. The Times offered the letter as proof of the barbaric nature of American society, but the New York Times angrily denied that the duels had ever occurred. The Times realized it had been duped when it learned that 'Monte Christo Pistols' was Southern slang for bottles of champagne.
1924: The Zinoviev Letter. A few days before the British general election the Daily Mail published a letter supposedly written by Grigori Zinoviev, president of Comintern, that revealed secret links between the British Communist party and the Labour party. As a result, Labour was defeated in a landslide. Years later, the letter was revealed to be a phony.
1990: Whatever Happened to Buckwheat? 20/20 aired an interview with William Thomas, the actor who played Buckwheat in the 'Our Gang' comedies of the 1930s and '40s. 20/20 claimed that Thomas now lived in Tempe, Arizona where he worked as a grocery bagger. But the man 20/20 interviewed was actually an impostor named Bill English who had been claiming to be Buckwheat for the past 30 years. The week after it aired the segment, 20/20 sheepishly admitted its mistake. In the ensuing scandal, a producer was fired and 20/20 was sued for negligence by the son of the real William Thomas (who had worked as a film technician before dying in 1980 at the age of 49).
1992: President Bush Almost Dies. CNN almost reported that President Bush (the first one) had died, after they received a phone call from a man claiming to be the president's heart specialist on board Air Force One. The caller later turned out to be mentally unstable. Anchorman Don Harrison interrupted the regularly scheduled newscast to deliver the news of Bush's death but was halted at the last second by a producer yelling 'Stop! Stop!' in the background.
1992: Grungegate. The New York Times published an article about the Grunge subculture in which it included a lexicon of 'grunge speak' that included terms such as cob nobbler, lamestain, wack slacks, and swingin' on the flippity-flop. Later it learned that its source, Megan Jasper of Seattle-based Caroline records, had simply made the terms up as a joke.
1996: Diana Tape. The Sun claimed that it had a videotape of Princess Diana frolicking in her underwear with cavalry officer James Hewitt. But the tape was a phony created by an amateur filmmaker who shot it in a suburban house in London using two Diana lookalikes. The total cost to make the film was $1300. What the filmmaker received from The Sun was said to have been in the six figures.
1997: The JFK-Marilyn Letters. ABC had prepared a $2 million three-part documentary series about the relationship between JFK and Marilyn Monroe, alleging that not only had the two had a long-time affair, but that JFK was intending to establish a trustfund for Marilyn Monroe's mother in order to guarantee the actress's silence. ABC's proof: a series of love letters penned by JFK to Marilyn. But upon examination (and just in time to scuttle the series), ABC realized that the letters were produced on a typewriter that wasn't manufactured until after Kennedy's death. Plus, the letters contained zip codes, and zip codes only came into use in 1963.
2001: Lovenstein IQ Report. The Guardian reported that according to research conducted by the prestigious Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania, President Bush had the lowest IQ of any president for the past fifty years. But the Lovenstein Institute didn't exist. The Guardian had fallen for a joke originally penned by the Linkydinky.com website.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 27, 2004
Comments (0)
image The eBay seller of this laptop with two display screens claims that his strange invention is the "most exciting and freshest idea to hit the technology market." True, I've definitely been in situations where this would have come in handy. But the fatal flaw in the idea is that it doesn't do anything which a projection device or video output port wouldn't do just as well, for a lot cheaper. Which leaves one wondering if this guy seriously believed that anyone would offer him $850,000 for this invention, or whether it was all just a joke.
Categories: eBay, Technology
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 26, 2004
Comments (9)
I've finally made it back to San Diego. The vacation was great, but it's good to be back home. I'm also glad to see that the site wasn't completely overrun by spammers in my absence. Here's a few snapshots from the trip:

image
Posing with Nessie in Drumnadrochit.



image
The relatives I was staying with in Gloucester had a weird, mutant goldfish swimming around in their backyard pond. I dubbed it Nessie. Later we learned that the poor fish was suffering from dropsy and had to be put down before it popped and infected all the other fish in the pond.


image  image I was amazed by the meats they sold in French supermarkets. On the left is lapin, otherwise known as rabbit meat. Since the rabbits were already skinned, I couldn't tell if one of them was Bernd. On the right is pigeon meat, which isn't really very shocking, though you'd still be hard-pressed to find it in any American supermarket.


image Here I am posing in front of the Piltdown Man Pub located in the town of Piltdown. Unfortunately the pub was closed when I was there, so I didn't get a chance to go inside. Plus, it was raining when this picture was taken, so I didn't stick around for very long.

image
Finally, here's an odd advertisement that was painted on a wall next to the hotel I was staying at in York. I had no idea if 'Bile Beans' were ever a real product, and no one I asked knew either.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 26, 2004
Comments (19)
I'm posting this message from Paris, France. So far I've been finding it very hard to get onto the internet, but when I turned on my laptop in my hotel room I discovered that someone nearby is running an open wireless network (it's definitely not the hotel... I think it's the cafe on the corner).

Anyway, when I visited Loch Ness a few days ago I didn't think I had seen the monster, until I later examined the pictures I had taken. Then I noticed this mysterious object on the Loch that I didn't see while taking the picture. Perhaps it's just a small boat... or perhaps it's Nessie. Hmmm. image


By the way, if you ever stay in Loch Ness, skip the Loch Ness Lodge. It's a tourist trap. Opt for the Benleva Hotel instead. That's where the locals hang out. It's also got a great restaurant. I had kangaroo meat for dinner there (kangaroo meat in Loch Ness!!).
Categories: Cryptozoology, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 15, 2004
Comments (56)
I'm off to Europe for a two-week vacation, so don't expect that much in the way of posts during that time, though I'll be trying to check in from time to time. The itinerary is Loch Ness, Liverpool, Gloucester, Paris, Southampton, Canvey Island, and finishing up in York. So I'll be moving around quite a bit. Speaking of Loch Ness, I've haven't seen any word on how the Virgin sacrifice at the Loch went off. I'll try to find out when I'm there.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 08, 2004
Comments (14)
image About a week ago Turkish construction worker Ilker Yilmaz set the world record for squirting milk out of his eye, projecting it a full 9.2 feet. The sport of eye squirting is definitely a new one to me. If someone had told me about this I would have sworn they were joking, but the story has appeared in numerous papers and there's even pictures of Yilmaz with the milk coming out of his eye. So looks like it's real. Of course, only a very few people who are born with the appropriately anomalous tear glands can participate in the sport. However, sponsors are already lining up behind it. Yilmaz, for instance, was sponsored by Kay Sut, a Turkish milk company (seeing milk spray out of some guy's eye really makes me thirsty for a glass of the stuff). Maybe someday in the future eye squirting will become an Olympic event.
Categories: Gross, Sports
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 07, 2004
Comments (30)
image Natalia is a "fun-loving, shoe-hoarding, chocolate-loving gal who likes to travel, flirt with cute guys, and hang out with friends." She also happens to be 90 feet tall. You can read all about her adventures on her blog, 90-foot babe. All I can say is that a) she gives new meaning to the term 'tall tale'; and b) she really puts Heather Haven in her place. (via the Hoax Forum)
Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 07, 2004
Comments (4)
image Hmmm. There's either a typo in the caption to this Yahoo! News photo, or maybe they're trying to tell us that all those NASA manned space missions really were a hoax:

A Mercury-Redstone rocket that once stood upright at the credentialing center at the Kennedy Space Center (news - web sites) in Titusville, Fla. lies on the grass after being blown down by Hurricane Frances Saturday, Sept. 5, 2004. A rocket similar to this was used to launch Alan Shepard on the first unmanned suborbital mission. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
Categories: Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 07, 2004
Comments (10)
image The opening statement says it all: "I swear by God, I will have this lovely rabbit for New Year's Eve Dinner if my account doesn't show a balance of at least 1'000'000 € by latest 31st Dec 2004!" Wow. It's cute rabbit blackmail. How low can you stoop? One million Euros is a lot. I'm not quite sure of the current exchange rate, but I think that's about a million dollars. But if somehow the world does band together and raise the ransom, then Bernd will be given to a bunny breeding farm "where he can spend the rest of his life as playboy in a way that we would all be jealous of." Will Bernd really be eaten if the money isn't raised? I'm doubtful (which is why I'm putting the site up here), though I should note that Europeans eat rabbit quite often... so maybe Bernd should be searching for ways to escape. The Free Bernd group (in German) is circulating a petition to demand Bernd's release. And Rabbit Company appears to be some kind of German militant group threatening to rescue Bernd by force. The plight of Bernd reminds me of all the fuss about Grendel a year ago. I've actually eaten rabbit once before in my life when I was in France years ago visiting my Aunt. It tasted okay, but I don't think it's something I'd do again. For some reason it's just really hard to stomach eating cute, fluffy animals.
Categories: Animals, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 07, 2004
Comments (35)
So out of the blue this girl from Russia sends you an email via Yahoo Personals. The two of you start corresponding. She sends you her picture... and she's really freakin' hot! Then she says she wants to call you. But she also insists that you give her your mailing address and full name. Why would she need that? So the question is: are you being set up to be scammed? If so, then what's the scam? That's the real-life question facing Johnny over at LiveJournal. I don't know exactly what the scam is, or even if there is one, though it sounds like one to me. Posting under the username 'hornswoggle' I theorized that Johnny could be faced with either some kind of identity theft scam, or the classic Lonely Hearts Scam. In the Lonely Hearts Scam, men are duped into sending gifts and money to beautiful female pen-pals, not realizing that their pen-pals are never who they claim to be. One of the most famous practitioners of this con was Susanna Mildred Hill, a 60-year-old mother of ten who conned hundreds of men out of thousands of dollars during the 1940s by convincing them that she was actually a beautiful young woman in her 20s.
Categories: Con Artists, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 04, 2004
Comments (14)
Do you think you're not superstitious? Then test it using this simple little experiment devised by John Stilgoe:

Stilgoe's Law: to test if you are really NOT superstitious.


Bring a photograph of your romantic partner, or of a son or daughter to a meeting. Here is an ice pick. Will you poke out the eyes in the picture? Will you poke out the eyes for ten dollars? Most students will not do this, the image has the power of a voodoo doll.


-- suggested by Professor John Stilgoe, Harvard Magazine, (Jan.-Feb. 1996) pp. 36-42.

Personally, I would fail. (via Liquito)
Categories: Paranormal, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 04, 2004
Comments (15)
The Anchorage Press reports on a prank whose grossness lies not in what is said, but rather in what isn't. Read it for yourself:

Troopers were called to Showboat II, a club also known as “Showgirls,” where “a female employee had spiked another female employee's drink with a laxative” according to troopers. No further details were given, and the investigation continues.
Thinking about this too much might just give me nightmares tonight.
Categories: Gross, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 04, 2004
Comments (13)
Britney Spears' used chewing gum is the latest craze on eBay. Just do an eBay keyword search for Britney's Gum and all kinds of stuff comes up. Apparently there must be hordes of people following Britney around, devotedly picking up her gum (probably are). When I saw the article about Britney's gum, I actually thought it was old news. Didn't someone sell a piece of her used gum about a year or two ago? Or maybe I'm thinking of the time someone sold a piece of french toast NOT eaten by Justin Timberlake; or the time someone sold Paris Hilton's pubic hair. So much fake celebrity detritus constantly being sold on eBay. It's hard to keep track of it all.
Categories: Celebrities, eBay
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 02, 2004
Comments (10)
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