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March 2005
The UFO community in Hong Kong is up in arms about a newspaper flyer that featured a picture of a UFO. The flyer looked like some kind of news feature about a new UFO sighting, but it was actually an advertising insert for a cable TV company. What the UFO community is upset about is that people might have seen the flyer, thought it was a real news story, and then would have been disappointed to learn it was just a fake picture for an ad. A UFO researcher warns that the indiscriminate use of UFO imagery in this way might have dire consequences for public belief in UFOs: "What if there's something real happening in the future? People would still think it was fake... People won't believe in the existence of UFOs any more even if there were a real case in the future." I love that line of reasoning.
Categories: Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 16, 2005
Comments (9)
A search engine called NeighborhoodScout claims that it will locate the top gay-friendly neighborhoods in any area: "NeighborhoodScout's patent-pending search engine will reveal and richly describe the top gay-friendly neighborhoods in your chosen area and price range." So how exactly does it do this? According to the site:

NeighborhoodScout® applies an exclusive, patent-pending algorithm to measure the similarity of neighborhoods based on customer-specified criteria, such that exact matches to what the customer wants are delivered instantly. This revolutionary approach is applied to the nearly 200 characteristics used to describe each of the more than 61,000 neighborhoods (i.e. census tracts) in America to create blazingly accurate matches, no matter what the customer is looking for in a neighborhood.

So I tested it out for San Diego. Anyone who lives in San Diego knows that Hillcrest would be the most gay-friendly neighborhood in the city. Did NeighborhoodScout pull up Hillcrest? No. It chose La Jolla as the most gay-friendly neighborhood. Well, La Jolla is definitely just about the most expensive area in San Diego, but I don't know about it being the most gay-friendly. I'm curious what criteria the search engine is using to locate gay neighborhoods, or whether it actually just pulls up neighborhoods based on price range.
Categories: Places, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 16, 2005
Comments (32)
image Since I posted a story last week about an egg with a tail, when I came across this other story about a spoon-shaped egg, I knew I had to post it as well. Both eggs come from China. Could it be something they're feeding the hens over there?

A Chinese hen has produced a spoon-shaped egg. The hen is owned by Huang Yazhou, a railway worker from Huaibei city, Anhui province, reports Chinanews.com. One morning, Huang awoke to hear the hen, which he bought from a market two months ago, making weird noises. When he checked, Huang found the hen had laid a spoon-shaped egg, 8.5 centimeters long and 35 grammes in weight.
Categories: Animals, Food
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 15, 2005
Comments (19)
Comfort Zone® with D.A.P.® Canine Behavior Modification Plug-in. Is there any chance this thing would actually work? It's a plug-in unit that will diffuse "natural pheromones of the lactating female [dog]" within a room. These pheromones give puppies "a sense of well-being and reassurance" and supposedly they'll do the same for over-anxious adult dogs. Within a couple of days your stressed-out pooch will be as mellow as can be. My parents have had some dogs with nervous-type personalities. Whenever there was a thunder storm one of their dogs, Mollie, would spend hours pacing back and forth and panting, no matter what we did to try and comfort her. Somehow I can't see that a plug-in room freshener would have made any difference. (via Snarky Malarkey)
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 15, 2005
Comments (17)
image A teenage girl put her sister's diary up for sale on eBay. The sale is an act of revenge, done to get back at her sister because she "told my boyfriend that I cheated on him! " Bidding has already ended, with the diary going for $66. Some of the secrets you could have been privy to had you been able to bid in time include that her sister "cheated on her boyfriend, but NOT with another guy... She got into a fight at a supermarket with this fat guy... There were a lot of parties that she went to  and the outcomes were shocking". Wow!

The thing that gets me is that the girl says that the diary was not stolen. She has to say this because it's illegal to sell stolen merchandise on eBay. But if it's not stolen, then she must be selling it with her sister's consent. If her sister has given her consent, then it's hardly a revenge sale. In other words, any way you approach this, there's something fishy about the sale. The girl probably doesn't have a sister at all.
Categories: eBay
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 15, 2005
Comments (18)
Status: Hoax website
If you're ever shopping around for a contract killer, look no further than HITMAN, "The most trusted name in professional killings." They conveniently take Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. Plus, they offer "discounts for packages of three hits or more, as long as the marks are all grouped together in one geographic location, and as long as our services have to be rendered all within the same timeframe." I'm impressed by their list of 'greatest hits' that includes: "Olympic Medallist Dies in Failed Suicide Attempt;" "Used-car Dealer Drowns in Public Restroom;" "Chef Found Roasted (With Stuffing) Inside Own Oven;" "Surgeon Dies in Apparent Self-surgery Attempt;" and "Poet Commits Suicide by Firing Two Rounds into Own Head." (Thanks to Mike for the link)
Categories: Death, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 14, 2005
Comments (37)
image A lot of people lately are wearing those yellow LiveStrong bracelets that help support the Lance Armstrong Foundation's efforts to fund cancer research. But the rumor going around is that if you do wear one of them, you better hope that you don't get into an accident and end up at the hospital, because the bracelets look exactly like the yellow wristbands that hospitals place on 'Do Not Resuscitate' patients. Apparently there is some truth to the rumor. Some hospitals do place yellow wristbands on DNR patients. However no one has ever been left to die because of a mix-up involving a LiveStrong bracelet and a DNR band. Nevertheless, some hospitals reportedly are taping over LiveStrong bracelets, just to be safe.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 14, 2005
Comments (20)
image A sign photographed outside a pub in England bears this warning:

CAR PARK THEFT
Dear Customers,
Thames Valley Police have brought to our attention that thieves now have the technical means to identify electrical products hidden anywhere within a vehicle INCLUDING THE BOOT!
Lap Top Computers being the main target.
Please note we are happy to store most items for the duration of your visit just ask at the bar.


The question this raises in my mind (and the mind of the person who took the picture) is whether thieves really do have the ability to detect laptop computers hidden anywhere in a car, or is the warning a hoax? I suppose it would be possible to detect hidden electronic gear, given the right equipment. But it doesn't seem like the kind of stuff your average thief would be carrying around. And why does the invitation to give your laptop to the guy behind the bar seem a bit fishy?
Categories: Photos/Videos, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Mar 14, 2005
Comments (32)
A recent documentary about the legendary '70s porn film Deep Throat includes the assertion that the movie was the most profitable film ever made. Why? Because it cost around $25,000 to make, and grossed over $600 million. Michael Hiltzik, writing for the LA Times, has been busy debunking that claim, first in an article that appeared February 24, and again in a follow-up article on March 10. He uses the technical term 'baloney' to describe the claim. He points out that a) the movie was financed by the mob, so any financial figures about it are suspect; and b) to have made that much "it would have had to sell tickets to enough customers to populate the entire United States one and a half times over" (given 1970s ticket prices). It would also have had to sell far more tickets than Star Wars ever sold. The makers of the Deep Throat documentary responded to Hiltzik, defending their claim (actually they end up claiming Deep Throat could have made far more than $600 million), but their defense reveals that they're basically pulling numbers out of thin air.
Categories: Entertainment, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 13, 2005
Comments (25)
image In the debate about the Shroud of Turin, perhaps the strongest argument that the pro-Shroud side had going for it was that no one could figure out how a medieval forger could have created such a thing. How could the forger have etched a three-dimensional photo-negative image of a crucified man onto a piece of linen? Nathan Wilson has pretty much demolished this pro-shroud argument by showing that it would have been quite easy for a medieval forger to have done this. All he (or she, but probably he) would have needed is some white paint, a large piece of glass, and a piece of linen. You paint a figure of a man on the glass, place the glass over the linen, and leave it out in the sun for a couple of days. The sun then bleaches the material, thereby transferring a three-dimensional photo-negative image of whatever was painted on the glass onto the linen. It's one of those things that seems so obvious when you think about it, and answers so many questions about the shroud, that it has to be the solution. And yet it's taken centuries for someone to figure it out. Wilson has a great (and quite detailed) article in Christianity Today explaining how he went about solving the mystery. There's also a shorter article about Wilson's 'shadow shroud' on discovery.com. Finally, check out Wilson's website: shadowshroud.com. The thumbnail shows a shroud-of-turin replica that Wilson created using his method.
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 11, 2005
Comments (106)
A Connecticut senator, Andrea Stillman, has introduced a bill into the state legislature to impose a $250 fine on anyone who uses a cell phone while pumping gas. She sees it as a public health issue. Here's her reasoning:

Stillman said there are already warnings pasted on gas pumps informing people that a cell phone in the proximity of a gas pump could cause an electrical charge that might ignite the pump. However, she said, there are no penalties.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought that whole thing about cell phones making gas pumps blow up was just an urban legend. Engadget agrees, pointing out that "there’s no evidence that a cellphone has ever sparked a fire at a gas station."
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (44)
image Ananova brings us the 'Tall-Tail' Egg:

An egg in China has been found with a tail. The egg, found by chef Wang of at his restaurant in Anyang city, Henan province, is normal size, but has a tail that is 3 cm long. It is not known why the egg has the tail reports Dahe Daily. Wang says he wants to hatch the egg and see what will come out.

(via Liquito)
Categories: Animals, Food, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (28)
I came across this story posted on LiveJournal. This may be an urban legend that's been around for a while, but I haven't heard it before:

Subject: The most disgusting thing I've ever heard. Ever.
So I know this girl. She has all these weird white things in the back of her throat, so she goes to the doctor thinkings she got some nasty STD of the mouth. Turns out its not an STD at all. She has f*****ng maggots growing in her throat. (I know this girl, this is not an urban legend) So the doctor asks how many people shes having sex with and she tells him only her boyfriend. She is told by the doctor that her boyfriend is either having sex with animals or with dead people. Her boyfriend works in a morgue.


Update: David Emery at About.com has a lengthy write-up about earlier versions of this story. So yes, it is an old urban legend.
Categories: Death, Sex/Romance, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (30)
Moon Base Clavius is "an organization of amateurs and professionals devoted to the Apollo program and its manned exploration of the moon. Our special mission is to debunk the so-called conspiracy theories that state such a landing may never have occurred." Their site is "named after the Clavius Moon Base in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, and visualized by Stanley Kubrick in the film of the same name." I've only just begun browsing around their site, but already it looks like it has a lot of good info on it.
Categories: Conspiracy Theories, Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (26)
image Fan Death is "the belief that if someone is sleeping in a sealed room (windows and doors are closed) with an electric fan on, they could die." The theory is that either hypothermia will get you, or the fan breeze will somehow form a vacuum around your mouth and suffocate you. Apparently many people in Korea believe this is true. Or at least, this is what Robin, the creator of fandeath.net, has concluded after living in Korea for five years. He writes:

When I first heard about fan death, I discussed it with my Korean friends and students. I was the foreign skeptic and they were the loyal natives. I was shocked at how powerful their belief was and at the lack of critical thinking about the issue. All you have to do is bring up the issue of fan death with a Korean and it would be difficult to get them to accept the fact that fan death might not be true. Especially when talking to a foreigner, they are more likely to defend their cultural belief than question it. So, unable to have a semi-neutral discussion, I turned to the internet. After checking the internet for more information about fan death, I became greatly frustrated. I could not find any detailed information about fan death. So, I decided to make this site to encourage others to tell their stories and share their knowledge about the issue.

Robin's site includes info about some other unusual Korean beliefs, such as tongue- cutting, which is the theory that if you cut the frenulum (the tissue linking the tongue to the floor of the mouth) "your tongue will be more flexible and be able to pronounce those difficult English sounds." Robin says that for this reason tongue surgery is quite popular in Korea.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Death
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 10, 2005
Comments (55)
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