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April 2006
Status: Partially true, partially false
An email is circulating around that makes the following claim:

On Wednesday of this week (tomorrow), at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 a.m., the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.
This will never happen again.

That's just wrong. It probably won't happen again in any of our lifetimes, but it will happen again: in 2106, 2206, 2306, etc. And in Europe they write the date as day, month, year, so it won't be true over there. (But you could fly over to the UK and experience the same 'rare' phenomenon on May 4th of this year!)
Categories: Email Hoaxes
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (9)
Status: Probably real
image (a Nepalese website) has reported the birth of a severely deformed child to a woman in Dolakha. (Warning: the newspaper article contains a possibly disturbing image.) The poor child looks a bit like a mutant muppet doll and created quite a stir in Nepal:

The news about such a baby being brought to the hospital spread like wildfire and there were hundreds gathered at the hospital to have a look. The police had to be deployed to control the crowd.

Someone left a note on the Wikipedia page for April 1, 2006 speculating that the child had anencephaly (a neural tube defect which results in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp). This strikes me as plausible... more plausible than the idea that the baby shown in the picture is an elaborately crafted hoax. (Thanks to Sara for the link... She notes that it looks like a character from The Oblongs TV show.)
Categories: Birth/Babies
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (36)
Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it sure seems like all the items in UKTV's list of 20 Great April Fools, which Jon Holmes presented on air on April 1st over in Britain, were lifted almost verbatim from my list of the Top 100 April Fools ever. Not to complain (actually to complain bitterly), but it took me a long time to create that list... a lot of tedious searching through decades of old newspaper archives to find all the April Fool's Day classics that had been, for the most part, forgotten. If UKTV did their own research and collected together what they thought were the Top 20 April Fools, that would be fine. But their research seems to have simply consisted of visiting here and cutting and pasting what they found, and then presenting this to their viewers as their own work. Can that actually be legal?
Categories: April Fools Day, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 04, 2006
Comments (28)
Status: True
A story about the threat to hippos posed by consumers buying strawberries out of season appeared in a few papers last week. Because of the story's proximity to April Fool's Day, it seemed like it might have been a joke, but apparently it wasn't. The reasoning behind the warning is that Kenya is a major supplier of strawberries to Europe. But in order to keep up with the demand for year-round strawberries, Kenyan farmers are draining Lake Naivasha, which is home to thousands of hippos. So if you buy fresh strawberries in the middle of winter, you may end up causing the death of a hippo in Kenya. Dr. Harper, of the University of Leicester notes:

"Almost everybody in Europe who has eaten Kenyan beans or Kenyan strawberries, and gazed at Kenyan roses, has bought Naivasha water. It will become a turgid, smelly pond with impoverished communities eking out a living along bare shores."

Just something to feel guilty about as you enjoy your strawberries and cream.
Categories: Animals, Food
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 03, 2006
Comments (22)
Status: April Foolery
Happy April Fools, everyone! Sorry about the light posting recently, but the past few days I've been doing almost back-to-back radio interviews to promote Hippo Eats Dwarf. (I've got a few more radio interviews today, then I'm doing a book signing at the Borders in downtown San Diego.) You may also have noticed that the site is loading slowly. That's the April Fool's Day effect, which happens every year. Traffic to the site spikes, causing the server to grind to a halt. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm lucky the site is loading at all.

Whenever I have a chance during the day (which may not be often), I'm going to try to list some of this years April Fool's Day hoaxes here. I should note that for the past few years Jason Pearsall of has been keeping a great list of April Fools internet hoaxes, and he's doing it again this year, so definitely check that out. Hopefully I can supplement what he has by noting some of the offline hoaxes from newspapers and advertisers.

[Note: if anyone in the UK could scan some of the April Fools-related pictures appearing in the UK papers and email them to me, I'd love to see them.]

Google Romance. "Search for love in all (or at least a statistically significant majority of) the right places with Soulmate Search, our eerily effective psychographic matchmaking software." And "Endure, via our Contextual Dating option, thematically appropriate multimedia advertising throughout the entirety of your free date."
The Hair Color Diet: "The Hair Color Diet tells you how to eat right for your hair type."
♠The Fat Tax (An Esquire article, with an accompanying website).
Jackass Penguin: The Sun ran a photo of a penguin wandering along the banks of the Thames. "It is believed to be the first time a penguin has been spotted in the Thames -- and comes weeks after tragic Wally the Whale got stranded... Experts said the penguin, normally seen at the South Pole, may have been released into UK waters by fishermen who accidentally snared him... Marine biologist Lil Faroop said: 'It looks like a Jackass. They feed on sprats and fly through the water at five miles (eight kilometres) per hour. They have a donkey-like bray.'"
Biscuit Highway: The Daily Express claimed that biscuits were being mixed into tarmac to help make roads safer. "Scientists yesterday revealed that broken biscuits are in fact the perfect material to help resurface roads... Years of experimental research revealed that crushed-up ginger nuts are the best biscuit for a road's sub-base, as they are more porous and allow water to drain away."
Royal Family Tree: The Daily Mirror claimed that an oak tree bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles had been found by "Lionel Day" as his dog chased a squirrel. "The exact location of the tree in the New Forest, Hampshire, is being kept secret because of fears it could attract druids."
Red Door for 10 Downing Street: The Daily Mail reported that Tony Blair, in a "literally incredible break with decades of tradition," had decided to paint the door of 10 Downing Street red. ""After 270 years, Blair paints No 10 front door socialist red."
Coldplay singer becomes conservative: The Guardian reported that Coldplay singer, Chris Martin, known for his liberal views, had decided to throw his support behind Conservative David Cameron.
Chip and Sing Cards. The Times reported that "Britain's banks are developing a system of credit card security that uses the voice's tonal range. Rather than needing to recall a PIN, you will need to remember a line of a song... Optical scans are too fallible, and standard voice recognition too easy to mimic electronically. But no two people sing the same way. Tills and cash dispensers are to have microphones."
Categories: April Fools Day
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 01, 2006
Comments (17)
Status: Journalistic errors
CNet has an article about April Fool's Day hoaxes on the internet. It has some interesting info in it, but surprisingly it makes two rather large errors. First of all, it describes the Microsoft iLoo (an internet-enabled portable toilet) from 2003 as an April Fool's Day hoax. Microsoft announced the iLoo on April 30, making it a real stretch to describe it as an April Fool's Day hoax. But more importantly, although Microsoft did initially say the iLoo was a hoax, it later changed its mind and admitted that it was a real project. And that was the final word from them about it.

The article also describes a story that ran in the BBC last year about Cold war bombs being warmed by chickens as a hoax. I believe that's wrong. The story was odd, but true. Although when it ran a lot of people suspected it to be a joke. Wikipedia correctly lists the story as genuine but widely interpreted as an April Fools joke.
Categories: April Fools Day, Journalism
Posted by Alex on Sat Apr 01, 2006
Comments (0)
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