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November 2004
image Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed the latest in long-distance surrogate affection. It's a robotic pillow named The Hug. Katie in Kansas hugs her pillow, which then transmits a signal over the phone lines, instructing another pillow in Florida to start squeezing Grandma. It's meant to bring the sense of touch back to long-distance communication. But for some reason I think I'm going to stick with simple phone calls (I have visions of the pillow malfunctioning and not letting go).

Not to be outdone, Japanese inventors have developed the Girlfriend Lap Pillow. Put simply, it is "a pillow imitating a woman's legs made from urethane foam." Tired Japanese businessmen can pretend that they're taking a nap with their head on their girlfriend's lap. Kind of like the Boyfriend Arm Pillow, but slightly creepier. I'm sure a fusion of the robotic Hug and the Girlfriend Lap Pillow is being developed somewhere, by someone. And while listing weird pillows, of course I can't leave out the breast pillow.
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 15, 2004
Comments (4)
Here's another political spoof photo that's going around. At least, I'm assuming it's a spoof. Kerry's head looks pasted on, and the words on the t-shirt also look photoshopped... not to mention that it's hard to imagine Kerry really wearing a t-shirt like that. (via J-Walk) image
Categories: Photos/Videos, Politics
Posted by Alex on Sun Nov 14, 2004
Comments (5)
image I've received a free copy of David Wilton's new book, Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, courtesy of Oxford University Press. So I'm having a contest to give it away. The book has just been published. I'm not sure it's even out in stores yet, but you can get a copy here... if you win the contest.

First, what's the book about? Wilton debunks all those stories about where words come from, such as 'is GOLF really an acronym for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden?' or 'does SOS stand for Save Our Souls?' or 'was F**K originally an acronym meaning For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?' You'll have to get the book to find out the answers. It's a lot of fun, and quite enlightening.

Here's what I've decided for the contest: urban legend haiku. I figure this is appropriate since it's a book about urban legends and language. Whoever comes up with the best haiku describing an urban legend (or a hoax, since this is the Museum of Hoaxes) wins the contest. What's 'best' will, of course, be subjectively decided by me.

If you need inspiration, examples of urban legend haiku can be found here or here. I'm not going to be a stickler about whether or not entries maintain proper haiku form (three lines: first line five syllables, second line seven syllables, third line five syllables), since apparently the idea that haiku must adhere strictly to this form is itself a bit of an urban legend. Keep it to three lines, but if the number of syllables isn't perfect, I don't care.

Here's my own rather weak attempt at a hoax haiku. It took me all of a minute to write:

Enclosed in glass,
Soon she'll be rectangular,
My Bonsai Kitten.


You'll have to do better than this to win the book.

The contest will end on Nov. 20, about a week from today (oh, and you can submit as many haiku as you like).
Update: And one more thing, submit your entries as comments. Don't email them to me directly.
Update: Okay, the contest is now closed. I need a day or two to review all the entries.
Categories: Miscellaneous, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 12, 2004
Comments (143)
In late 2000 a man calling himself John Titor began posting messages on internet discussion boards, claiming that he was a time traveler from the year 2036 (his time travel machine was a 1967 Chevrolet). His mission had been to journey back to the year 1975 and make contact with his grandfather, who was a member of the engineering team developing the IBM 5100, but somehow he ended up in 2000 instead. The tale of John Titor is pretty familiar internet lore by now, and I'm surprised that I've only made brief references to him before (though I have posted more about other time travelers). Anyway, to make a long story short, John Titor, during the few months he spent posting messages on the internet (he 'traveled back to the future' in March 2001), made a number of specific predictions about the future. In a nutshell, here they are:

2004: Civil unrest develops around the US Presidential election.
2005: An American civil war begins in earnest: "I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse. The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII."
2015: Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States. A world war proceeds that kills nearly three billion people
2034: First time machine built by GE
2036: Titor travels back in time to acquire the IBM 5100

Mr. Dark, on LiveJournal, does a good job of debunking much of the illogic in Titor's vision of the future. However, he also points out that we have arrived at the first stage of Titor's predictions: the 2004 election that is supposed to cause unrest that eventually flares up into civil war. Mr. Dark notes:

"it's been a week and no civil war has broken out, and only the most fringe elements of the left wing still dispute the outcome of the election, do you think we can officially declare the John Titor tale a hoax?  Without this lynchpin, the story falls apart completely.  If there is no 'civil unrest' over a 'disputed election in 2004', then there is no civil war.  No civil war, no nuclear war.  No nuclear war, no need to return to the past for some near-ancient IBM PC to solve some otherwise-unsolvable problem."

The creepy thing, however, is that this election has produced an incredible amount of bitterness and division. Witness all the maps of the New United States that people are sharing via the internet. But are we on the verge of a civil war? I don't think so. So it looks like Mr. Dark is right. John Titor is definitely a hoax (was this ever really in doubt?). Though we'll know with even more certainty at the end of next year when the all-out civil war has never materialized.
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 12, 2004
Comments (42)
About five days after I decided to have non-member comments be moderated, I've changed my mind. From now on there will be no moderation (it was a pain for me to do, plus it disrupted the spontaneity of comments). Instead, I've put in place a high-tech anti-spam feature in which people who submit comments have to first type in a word displayed in a box. Members won't have to do this. Hopefully the spammers won't be willing to do this. If they do it'll be a complete waste of their time since I'll promptly delete their spam.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 11, 2004
Comments (6)
Found on Liquito (the only Portuguese weblog I regularly read, even though I don't read Portuguese) [note: I meant portuguese-language blog... Liquito is a Brazilian blog]. Proof that the Egyptian pyramids and the Easter Island statues were constructed by superendowed children: image
Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 11, 2004
Comments (16)
A rumor flew through Lexington, Kentucky that the County Council had passed a law banning people from smoking cigarettes in cars. Given all the new laws banning smoking in public places, I guess such a law wouldn't be that unbelievable. Reportedly, hundreds of people called the Lexington police and City Hall to ask if the rumor was true. It wasn't. The rumor had been started as a prank by DJs at a Lexington radio station, Z-103. An early April Fool's Day joke apparently.
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 11, 2004
Comments (9)
image Could the makers of Boo Bee Juice Drink really not realize the double meaning of the product's name? Or do they realize perfectly well and are going for the titillation/subliminal advertising thing? I'm sure even kids would pick up on what the name means, especially when they hear the adults giggling behind their backs. I suspect it all could be another Haribo-Fruit-Chews-type marketing ploy. (via Boing Boing)
Categories: Food, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 11, 2004
Comments (5)
image Someday I'm going to get tired of checking out the haunted things for sale on eBay, but not yet (I'm easily amused). So here's the latest haunted offering. It's a Porcelain Doll Possessed By the Dead. I've got to hand it to the seller. That's a spooky looking doll. And the story that accompanies it is pretty good as well.
Categories: eBay, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 10, 2004
Comments (13)
From The Register comes a news report about a dog who swallowed a mobile phone. The owner of the phone only realized what happened when the phone started ringing... inside the dog's stomach. Now it seems to me that a) most dogs would not swallow something as large as a mobile phone, though it could happen; and b) the acid inside a dog's stomach would pretty quickly short-circuit a phone. Oh, and c) The Register says it got the news report from Ananova. And everyone knows how reliable Ananova is. (via Engadget)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (10)
According to a rumor, students at a Baltimore County school were recently suspended for wearing John Deere shirts. The shirts, apparently, are considered racist. (I'm still trying to figure that one out. I guess if you wear a John Deere shirt you must be a redneck and, by extension, you must also be racist). But a spokesman for the school system has denied that any John-Deere-shirt-wearing students have been suspended on account of their fashion choice.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (36)
image If you'd like to go hunting, but, for one reason or another, you don't want to get up from your computer, there's a new option available: remote control hunting. Live-shot.com is a site that allows its members to control, via the internet, a pan/tilt/zoom camera located on a ranch in Texas. The camera, in turn, is connected to a rifle. Aim your shot and fire away. Sounds a little odd, but I guess there's no reason a system like this couldn't be set up. But currently live-shot will only allow you to remotely fire a gun that's in a shooting range. But their site promises that in the near future they're going to allow members to remotely hunt animals such as sheep, antelope, and wild hogs. They'll even ship you the meat from your kill. I don't know quite how the remote control hunting will work (what if an animal never wanders within sight... will your gun somehow be mobile?), but the concept of it has the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission worried. They're considering a new regulation that would ban "hunting by remote control" (look at the second-to-last bullet point under 'white-tailed deer'). I think I'd support such a ban. The fusion of video games and real-life hunting seems a little disturbing.
Categories: Sports, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (3)
Reality TV has definitely sunk to a new low. Reuters reports that Channel 4 in Britain is considering televising a human corpse as it decomposes. They're currently searching for volunteers willing to donate their body after they die. This reminds me of two things. The See Me Rot Decomposition Cam, and also that theater group that held auditions to get someone to donate their corpse.
Categories: Death, Entertainment
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (15)
I was going through old email when I came across this image of a wolf howling at auroral lights. The person who sent it to me wondered whether or not it's real. A photographer would have to be pretty lucky to catch a scene like that, but that doesn't mean the picture isn't real. My guess would be that it's a composite image... that the images of the sky and the wolf were pasted together for dramatic effect. But that's only a guess.
image
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (14)
image This software sounds like a joke, but I'm pretty sure it's real, in the sense that it's a product you can actually buy (whether or not it works is another question). It's PawSense, the software utility that catproofs your computer. "PawSense analyzes keypress timings and combinations to distinguish cat typing from human typing. PawSense normally recognizes a cat on the keyboard within one or two pawsteps." If it senses cat typing, it'll automatically block any further keyboard input and play a loud noise to scare the cat away. So this should deter those cats who like to sneak onto the computer when their guardian isn't looking and work on their own weblogs.
Categories: Animals, Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 09, 2004
Comments (9)
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