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September 2005
image Jelena sent in the image to the right, asking "Americans do have a reputation, but this can't be for real, can it?" By real, I assume she means--is the RIAA really distributing this poster? The answer is no. Looking at the fine print on the side of the image, I can see that it's author was
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 08, 2005
Comments (8)
In Jackalope news: a Minnesota woman found in her yard a dead rabbit with horns growing out of its head, exactly like a jackalope. A veterinarian declared that it had been infected by Shope papilloma virus, "a highly contagious disease that causes rabbits to grow things on their head and face that look like horns." The veterinarian's explanation is, of course, part of the continuing conspiracy to conceal the existence of jackalopes from the general public.
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (23)
image You may never have heard of the Atom Chip Corporation before, but you will if they've really built what they claim to have built--a notebook computer that boasts a 6.8GHZ CPU and 2TB of non-volatile Quantum Storage (in place of a hard disk). For those who aren't tech savvy, a notebook computer like this would be years ahead of anything else on the market. The company says that it will present this miracle technology to the world during an upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. However, the pictures it has on its website look strangely amateurish, like pieces of computer hardware glued together. The liberal use of the word "quantum" in its description is also a clue that this thing is totally bogus. The Register states that it's a "trifle sceptical" of the company's claims.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (90)
The organizers of the world testicle-cooking championship in Serbia were all prepared for the arrival of Nigel Bevan, Australia's leading kangaroo testicle cook. They even had a supply of kangaroo testicles on hand, ready for him to cook up into a delicious dish. But Bevan never showed up. It's hard to tell from the text of the article, but it seems to imply that Nigel Bevan, master kangaroo testicle chef, is real enough, but that some prankster was pretending to be him. However, a google search turns up no references to a testicle cook named Nigel Bevan (except for the references made in this article itself).
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (12)
image Hippo Eats Dwarf now has a cover, thanks to the art department at Harcourt. This will almost definitely be the final cover unless (as my editor cautions) changes are made after the sales conference in October. Ideally one wants a cover that will make people curious enough to pick up the book and flip through it, and I think this does the trick. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to point out that the book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (6)
Here's a prank perpetrated on the Skype system (an internet-based phone and chat service) that proves you never know who you're talking to online:

A profile is put up with a girl's name and picture, and put in "Skype me" mode. Within minutes some seedy guy will invariably try calling/chatting, and there's a little program I made running the whole time which will partner up people 2 at a time, and send messages from the first person to the second, & vice versa. This way both people think they're talking to a girl, when they find out, well, they're not normally too happy about it...

It reminds me of the VixenLove program (which was a computer program designed to simulate a 19-year-old girl). But this is better, because it pairs up two real people and makes them waste their time hitting on each other.
Categories: Identity/Imposters, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (10)
The most recent edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) defines esquivalience as "the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities." However, esquivalience isn't a real word. It's a copyright trap, placed in the dictionary so that the editors can know when others are stealing their work. This was reported in last week's New Yorker. The editors of NOAD admit that they made up esquivalience: "An editor named Christine Lindberg came up with “esquivalience.” The word has since been spotted on, which cites Webster’s New Millennium as its source." But, of course, if enough people start to use the word, it could become real. I think the most famous case of fake entries in a dictionary occurred in the 1889 edition of Appleton's Biographical Dictionary. But in that case, the fake entries weren't put there purposefully. (At least, not by the editors.)
Categories: Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (2)
CNN reports that the latest weight-loss fad to sweep the country is the Hypnosis Diet. Therapists place hypnotic suggestions in their patients' minds, telling them to "picture themselves in a relaxing place whenever they feel the impulse to overeat." (Hopefully their relaxing place isn't a donut store.) I was going to chalk up whatever effect this therapy might have to the power of suggestion, but I guess that's the whole point.

Hey, if it helps some people, that's great. But I'd assume it would work best on highly suggestible people. I wonder if the hypnosis therapists have ever considered taking a cue from Elizabeth Loftus and tried hypnotically implanting fake memories to help their patients lose weight.
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 07, 2005
Comments (4)
image United Nuclear is selling a Hydrogen Fuel System Kit that will allow you to convert your existing car to run on hydrogen. It's not for sale just yet, but they promise that they're "currently fleet-testing our systems and are in final preparation for sales to the general public." If they ever do manage to perfect this, I'd buy it. I'd love to never have to worry about going to a gas station again. But I have serious doubts that United Nuclear really does have a system like this nearly ready for sale to the public.

I've written about United Nuclear before, expressing doubts about whether they were really selling all the stuff they claim to sell. For instance, do they really sell super radioactive ore for the home hobbyist? Apparently United Nuclear was founded by Bob Lazar, who's known to be a bit of a crackpot scientist. He claims to have reverse engineered alien spacecrafts, for instance. This would seem to lower the company's credibility a little. (Wikipedia link via Gizmodo)
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 06, 2005
Comments (83)
Last week a woman wrote in to Dear Abby with an interesting dilemma:

Dear Abby: My husband gave me a diamond and sapphire ring for our anniversary. Because it was too large, I took it to a jeweler, who asked me where it came from. When I asked the jeweler why he asked, he informed me that the sapphire was synthetic and the "diamonds" were cubic zirconia. I'm not certain whether to tell my husband. I don't want him to think I don't like the ring. It is beautiful, and I will love wearing it regardless. However, if he bought the ring thinking it was the real McCoy, he may have spent a lot more on it than it is worth. Because my husband has always given me exquisite jewelry, I suspect he doesn't know. Should I share this information with him or keep my mouth shut? - Stuck in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Dear Stuck: Tell your husband that you took the ring to the jeweler to have it sized and what he told you. Assure your husband that you love it and want to keep it "regardless." He may have bought it from the Home Shopping Network or he may have been taken advantage of. Either way, it will clear the air.

I suspect Stuck in Stone Mountain made two false statements in her letter. First, I doubt she took the ring to the jeweler because she thought "it was too large." She wanted to know if it was real. Second, there's no way that she thinks "he doesn't know." She's sure that he knows and is dying to let him know that she knows. (But my wife says I'm being too cynical and thinks the woman might really be concerned that her husband got ripped off... as opposed to being concerned that he was trying to slip a cheap gift past her.)
Categories: Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 06, 2005
Comments (20)
David Emery throws some cold water on rumors that sharks are swimming through the streets of New Orleans. He points out that the shark sightings seem to be the "seen by a friend of a friend" variety:

I found repeated references to unnamed "authorities" and "officials" reporting one "3-foot shark cruising the city." Which authorities? Which officials? Digging further, I could only find mention of one by name: Mayor Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish (a New Orleans suburb), who, according to the August 30 issue of the Palm Beach Post, "told residents Tuesday that at least one 3-foot shark had been spotted." Again, that's one small shark reportedly sighted — exactly where and by whom, we don't know — and as far as we know he hadn't eaten anybody.

But alligators are a different matter altogether. Officials assume there will be alligators in the water.
Categories: Animals, Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 05, 2005
Comments (9)
After 9/11 fake tales of heroism and survival soon began to pop up, so it's inevitable that after Katrina people will also invent stories. A tale that's been posted on a gamer's site has some people suspecting a hoax. I have no idea if it's real or not, so you'll have to decide for yourself.

In the story, Naomi tells of how life on the coast of Alabama has descended into a state of primitive lawlessness. She claims to be living on the second floor of a house (the first floor was flooded and is covered in mud), keeping her gun close at hand to fend off looters. She's running a generator that allows her to connect to the internet (her electricity is out, but her telephone connection seems to be fine). She observes a couple of times that it all reminds her of a video game:

People are getting looted and mugged, it's no different than in a video game where all you do is run around and do whatever you want. I'm not afraid to die, but I don't want to die here in this sunken city....
Like I said before, it's like a video game. I don't know what it was, the flood, the hurricane, or the death that has husked these people of their minds, but the people here have died, it's just that they still walk like humans. There's no place for us here, and they just walk, looking for something. Home, family, pets, someplace cool.. You bump into them, and they say one thing to you, maybe two. But that's it, that's all they can muster. If you say hello, it's like being in an RPG.

I suppose what makes people suspect the story as a hoax is that a) the video game analogy sounds a bit odd, and b) she has no power, everything around her is a wasteland, but she still has internet access? If her phone is working, why not just pick it up and call for help?
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 05, 2005
Comments (11)
image This image of a veteran wearing a "Bullshit Protector" over his ears as he listens to President Bush giving a speech was doing the rounds about two weeks ago. So I'm a bit late getting to it, but better late than never. The veteran is Bill Moyer, and the picture was taken by AP photographer Douglas Pizac. was inspired by the picture to design an entire series of Bullshit Protectors that you can print out and make on your own.
Categories: Politics
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 05, 2005
Comments (12)
John Camm, writing for the BBC, has compiled a long list of ways in which life as it's portrayed in advertisements differs from real life. For instance, in advertisements:
  • Men are obsessed with sex but will forego sex in order to watch football or drink beer.
  • Any act of male stupidity (e.g. walking across a clean floor in muddy boots, putting the dog in the dishwasher, etc.) will be met with a wry smile, not genuine annoyance/anger.
  • If you work for the emergency services, you are a better person than the general population.
  • Elderly relatives NEVER suffer from senile dementia.
  • Scandinavians are, without exception, blonde and beautiful.
  • Women have jobs they never do in real life, e.g. dockworker (who looks like a model).
  • Men are inherently lazy/slobbish; women are the reverse.
  • Chocolate, however, will cause women to immediately fall into the languor of the opium eater.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 05, 2005
Comments (10)
On Friday I sent in the final, fully edited manuscript of Hippo Eats Dwarf to my publisher. A few small things remain for me to do. For instance, I need to write the acknowledgments page. But basically it's completed. Now the publisher needs to finish the cover art and start formatting it to look like a real book. But the book has already been listed on Amazon, which means it can now be pre-ordered. So over the next seven months I'll be bugging people to pre-order it, since the more people pre-order it, the easier it is to convince bookstores to stock it and display it prominently. And at $10, it's a bargain. Here's the catalog copy for the book (which may end up being the blurb on the inside cover):

Reality Check: Can you grow a bonsai kitten? Should you stock up on dehydrated water? Is it easy to order human-flavored tofu? Or is this all just b.s.?
In a world of lip synching, boob jobs, payola punditry, and staged reality shows, it's hard to know the real from the fake. HIPPO EATS DWARF is the essential field guide to today's Misinformation Age. Whether you're deciphering political doublespeak or trying to decide whether to forward that virus warning, hoaxpert Alex Boese provides the guidelines you need. For instance, Reality Rule 6.1: Just because you read it on the internet doesn't make it true. With case files, reality checks, definitions, and plenty of doctored photos, HIPPO EATS DWARF is an entertaining guide to life, death, and everything in between—including eBay.

For the past week, I've also been glued to my TV set (like everyone else) watching the catastrophe unfold in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. After the Asian tsunami I donated a month's worth of free ad space to a charity, but I suspect that wasn't the most efficient way to help out the disaster victims, because I assume everyone knows where to give money. So instead I'm donating a portion of the ad revenue directly to the Red Cross, and I'll continue to do that for the next few months because the people down there are going to need help for a long time.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 04, 2005
Comments (21)
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