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October 2007
Ordering pizzas to the house of someone who didn't expect to get them is one of the oldest pranks around. The concept dates all the way back to the Berners Street Hoax of 1810 (although that prank involved just about everything except pizza being delivered to a woman's front door). Here's a case of the prank being perpetrated long-distance, from over a continent away:
A Singapore Airlines pilot accused of making prank calls about a colleague in B.C. could be facing a hefty fine -- and up to three years in jail -- if found guilty. Looi Kang San, 53, was charged in Singapore last week with making four prank calls from there to three Canadian fast-food outlets for food to be delivered to the home of Steven Cameron Gillis in Surrey, the Straits Times reported. Looi is said to have called on Nov. 11 last year to Canadian Pizza and McDonald's for food to be delivered to Gillis, also a Singapore Airlines pilot. The following day, he allegedly called Kentucky Fried Chicken and made a second call to Canadian Pizza. When reached at home, Gillis, 57, declined to comment, but alluded that there was more to the story.

I've never heard of anyone facing serious punishment for this prank, but Looi has been suspended from his job because of it, and that's just the start:
Looi's passport has been impounded and he is out on bail for $8,000 Singapore dollars, or about $5,322 Cdn. A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for this Tuesday. Under Singapore's Telecommunications Act, anyone who transmits a false message by phone can be fined up to $10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,652 Cdn) and jailed for up to three years.

I'm making a note to myself never to order pizza to someone who doesn't want it while in Singapore!
Categories: Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 16, 2007
Comments (12)
Police in the Philippines have found a chest in a banana grove that contains $3 trillion in Federal reserve notes and certificates. However, they're warning that the notes could be counterfeit. From Cebu Daily News:
The chest which is 27.3 inches long, 10 inches wide and 14.4 inches in height has the markings of Federal Reserve Bank, Cleveland,Ohio, series of 1934. Total Face Value: three trillion USA.” On top of the markings was an engraved seal of the United States. The opened compartments contained seven film clichés, 12 bank certificates, 12 redemption act certificates, 12 treasury certificates, 12 inventory lists, 12 gold reserve act certificates, 11 insurance certificates and 12 gold bullion certificates. The fourth compartment contained 200 pieces of US federal bond interest coupons, with each coupon stating it was worth $1 billion.

I like the fact that the police are only willing to say that it "could" be counterfeit. Apparently they're not sure yet, despite the grammatical errors on the certificates and the lack of an embossed seal on the documents.

With $3 trillion you could buy an entire country somewhere. But where would you cash the certificates?
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 16, 2007
Comments (4)
Do you ever feel like if you see just one more fake giant inflatable pumpkin, that you're going to go mad and attack something? Apparently this guy did:
LLOYD, N.Y. -- A woman says a neighbor attacked her inflatable Halloween lawn display of three ghosts and a giant pumpkin, then apparently smashed his head through her window in a fit of rage. State Police said officers found a drunken John Odee, 43, inside Dawn Garcia's house in the Hudson Valley town of Lloyd on Thursday night, arrested him after a brief struggle and charged him with burglary.

Garcia told the Middletown Times Herald-Record she heard hollering and swearing and looked outside to see Odee struggling with the giant pumpkin. "He was enraged. I could see that," she said.

When she yelled at him to go away, Odee charged the house. She fled through the back door with three of her children and heard window glass breaking. She called 911 from another neighbor's house. Police said Odee used his head to smash a window to get in.

"What made him do that, I don't know," Garcia said. "We had the same decoration up last year and it didn't bother him."
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 16, 2007
Comments (8)
About four months ago (on June 3, 2007) this brief article appeared in the London Sunday Times:
Police moved swiftly to foil a child kidnapping when a witness spotted a boy being locked in a car boot. Officers set up road blocks, flagged down a Mercedes that fitted the description, and opened the boot -where they found mechanic Klaus "Shorty" Mueller, 27, who had climbed in to find the source of a rattling noise. A spokesman for police in Bremen, north Germany, said: "It seems the driver had been worried by inexplicable rattling noises in or near his boot. He called a mechanic, who was very small, and who climbed in the boot to get to the bottom of the problem."

Similar versions of the article appeared in other papers, all with the same vague details. To Peter Kenter of CanWest News Service, the story sounded like an urban legend that had made its way into the news. For instance, Kenter cited old stories of stoned teenagers tossing "leprechauns" into the trunk of their car, only to discover later that the leprechaun was actually a frightened child. Kenter also thought it was strange that Klaus Mueller would have an English nickname, "Shorty." And why was no one but Mueller identified by name?

I think Kenter was absolutely right to be suspicious of the story, but what he did next was even smarter. Instead of just figuring his hunch was correct, he did some more research. He emailed the press officer of the Bremen police, and to his surprise received this reply:
Dear Mr. Kenter:
The story is true. Have a nice day.
Ronald Walther
Pressesprecher
Polizei Bremen

So unless the press officer was pulling his leg, that means the tale of the dwarf in the trunk was true. But the tale of the dwarf eaten by the hippo remains false.
Categories: Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 16, 2007
Comments (7)
What do you get when you combine yoga and fake laughter? Laughter Yoga! The Ventura County Star has an article about this new twist on yoga. Groups of people get together and just start laughing. At first they fake the laughter, but after about ten minutes, apparently most people are laughing for real. Googling the term "laughter yoga" reveals that this seems to be a pretty popular new form of yoga.

The article explains that the technique was created by yoga instructor Madhuri Kataria back in 1995. At first Kataria started a group in which people sat around and swapped jokes. But then they ran out of jokes. So then he realized, "If you can't make it, fake it. If you can't laugh, pretend laugh."
It was, he realized, very much like yoga. Just as the physical poses in yoga are designed to pave the way to a deeper sense of spiritual connectedness, the physical act of laughing could lead the way to an improved mental and physical state. "So, with about 50 people we started Hahahahahaha,' and people started cracking up for real," he said. The behavior of laughing — without the jokes or humor catalyst — still resulted in an attitude change.
I can understand how this could have therapeutic benefits. Releasing tension, etc. But it definitely seems like something you want to avoid doing in public. I've seen people doing yoga at parks and even in airports. But if you're standing there laughing loudly for no good reason, you might get carted away to the loony bin.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 15, 2007
Comments (8)
No, it's not pork. It's "pork stone." Sohu.com has posted these pictures (which they, in turn, got from the China News Network) of stone that looks like pork. Apparently this stone has been on display at the Suzhou International Expo, and has been attracting a lot of attention.

Reportedly, the stone hasn't been altered in any way. It's naturally formed in the earth to look like slabs of pork. It's selling for 120 yuan (about $16) per kg. (via spluch)



Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 12, 2007
Comments (9)
The CScout Japan blog has posted about a new health/beauty product from Japan. It's called the Exideal. It's basically a panel of LED lights that you're supposed to sit in front of as it flickers and pulses. The company claims that the LED light will "“permeate the vitamins and collagen in your skin and make you beautiful from the inside”. This will set you back around $900.

I suspect you could probably receive the same health benefits from sitting in front of a regular lightbulb for a few minutes a day, and that would be a lot cheaper. (via OhGizmo)

Categories: Body Manipulation, Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 12, 2007
Comments (12)
Here's an unusual theory. David Alice, webmaster of dianamystery.com, argues that the singer Morrissey (formerly of The Smiths) predicted the death of Princess Diana. I would dismiss it all as an elaborate joke, except that the guy seems really serious about it.

The crux of his argument (at least in the video posted below) is that one of the songs on The Smiths' album The Queen is Dead, speaks about two people getting killed together in a car crash. And this song was released as an exclusive single in France. He comes up with a variety of other clues and weird coincidences, all equally farfetched.

The guy's theory is like a strange inversion of the Paul is Dead rumor, in that the Paul is Dead rumor involved people combing through the Beatles's music to find clues referring to a car crash that had supposedly happened in the past, whereas this guy is desperately searching through Morrissey's music to find evidence that the singer was providing clues about a car crash that would happen in the future.

Categories: Death, Future/Time, Music
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 11, 2007
Comments (13)
Racelift.com is the online home of the Institute of Ethnological and Racial Modification. The staff at the institute claim to have developed powerful new "Racelift Technologies" that allow you to change your race. For instance, among their testimonials is that of Hohepa Mikhailov, who transformed from what looks like a Russian sailor into a New Zealand Maori. His testimonial reads:
When I was studying and living with the Native Maori culture of New Zealand, I found it hard to relate because I would always be an outsider to them. I got my RaceLift in order to gain an insiders perspective of the Maori culture. The IERM surgeons were even able to apply the traditional Maori tattoo's on my face at no extra charge! Thank you Dr. John!
The site is pretty obviously a joke. If the dodgy science doesn't give away the joke, then the numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes throughout the site should. (Thanks, Oz)
Categories: Body Manipulation, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 11, 2007
Comments (7)
I'm sure this can't be real. Is it, perhaps, an ad for Cadbury's creme eggs?

Categories: Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 11, 2007
Comments (8)
My publisher is looking for approximately 20 volunteers willing to participate in a campus book drop guerilla marketing effort for my new book, Elephants on Acid. Their idea is to have people leave copies of the book in highly visible places, such as on college campuses, where someone else will pick it up. Hopefully this will help spread the word about the book.

I'm not sure how many sales these book drop efforts actually create, but it's worth a try (especially since my publisher is the one paying for it!). If you volunteer, my publisher will mail you a free copy of the book. Of course, it's not a copy you can keep forever. The idea is to leave it somewhere after you've finished reading it. And yeah, it's all on the honor system, so you could just keep the book. But that would be dishonest!

Contact me by email if you'd like to volunteer. The only conditions are that you have to live in the U.S. or Canada. (Sorry, it's not being published anywhere else yet.) And we're also looking for some geographic variety, so that we don't get twenty people all in the same city.

UPDATE: So I've now already got all the volunteers I need. Thanks to everyone who's agreed to help out. And sorry if you wanted to volunteer, but are only reading the post now. You can always buy the book and leave it somewhere. wink The geographic location of volunteers turned out to be well distributed, just by random chance. The largest concentration of volunteers was in Missouri, but there's not enough Missourians to warrant dropping anyone for that reason. After all, It doesn't hurt to have a couple of the books circulating in the same state.

UPDATE 2: One other thing. A couple of people mentioned that the books should be marked in some way to prevent people from simply selling them on eBay. I assume the publisher is going to do this, but I'll point it out to them, just in case this possibility never occurred to them.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 10, 2007
Comments (13)
Big Gary sent me a link to this story with the comment, "I'm not sure who was haoxing whom, but something strange is going on here. If there's a hot black market for cat urine, I think I may be rich." From Yahoo! News:
Cynthia Hunter spent almost two months in jail over a vial of cat urine. Hunter, 38, was arrested Aug. 15 on a charge of petty theft after she was accused of stealing from a Wal-Mart store. Deputies added charges of possession of a controlled substance after finding a vial containing a yellow substance in her purse. A drug field test suggested the substance was methamphetamine, The Tampa Tribune reported. Hunter had protested, saying the substance was dehydrated cat urine for her son's science project and that it had been purchased at an animal clinic. She was released Thursday after lab tests found the substance was, in fact, cat urine.
I once bought coyote urine. It was supposed to scare away animals such as opossums, though it didn't work on the opossum living in our attic. Maybe cat urine does something similar. I can't believe it took the police almost two months to figure out that the substance actually was cat urine.
Categories: Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 10, 2007
Comments (7)
Mikhail Simkin has a "true art, or fake" quiz on his website, reverent.org. It doesn't test your knowledge of art forgery. Instead, it tests whether you can spot the difference between what critics call true art (which will cost you thousands of dollars to buy) and fake art (produced by a non-artist, which will cost you nothing). I got a 58%.

Below are two images from the quiz. One is a Mark Rothko masterpiece. The other is Mikhail Simkin non-art. I think they both look nice, and would happily hang either one on my wall.

Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Wed Oct 10, 2007
Comments (14)
Halloween Mart has a page of "Halloween costume masterpieces." I couldn't help but notice the one of the three-headed dog. It reminded me of Vladimir Demikhov's two-headed dogs, that I included on my list of the top 20 most bizarre experiments of all time. On the left is a fake three-headed dog. On the right is a real two-headed dog.

Categories: Animals, Body Manipulation
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 09, 2007
Comments (5)
The Past Life Analysis website offers you a chance to find out who you were in your past life. I entered my birthday, and this is what I got:
I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Egypt around the year 1150. Your profession was that of a writer, dramatist or organiser of rituals.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Ruthless character, carefully weighing his decisions in critical situations, with excellent self-control and strong will. Such people are generally liked, but not always loved.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
Your lesson is to combat violence and disharmony in our world, to understand its roots and origins. All global problems have similar origins.

Do you remember now?
Interesting that I was a writer in my past life. Maybe I was the Pharaoh's Official Debunker of Legends and Hoaxes! Unfortunately, I remember none of it.

The disclaimer for the past life analysis admits that, "you should know that this software is only slightly more sophisticated than an electronic fortune cookie."
Categories: Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 08, 2007
Comments (17)
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