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Italian social media is all abuzz with the news that the European Commission is offering to pay any EU family 1500 euro a month to host a political refugee from Ukraine — but particularly to host young Ukrainian women "who have always been discriminated against for trivial reasons." In response, many men are taking to Twitter/Facebook and are selflessly offering to host a young Ukrainian woman without receiving any compensation at all!

Unfortunately the offer isn't real. The story comes from an Italian fake news site: Giornale del Corriere. [via blog sicilia]

Categories: Social Networking Sites
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 06, 2014
Comments (0)
In 1966, Dean Martin contributed a burger recipe to The Celebrity Cookbook, which was a collection of recipes by celebrities put together by Dinah Shore. Martin's simple recipe was as follows:
MARTIN BURGERS

1 lb. ground beef
2 oz. bourbon---chilled

Preheat a heavy frying pan and sprinkle bottom lightly with table salt. Mix meat, handling lightly, just enough to form into four patties. Grill over medium-high heat about 4 minutes on each side.

Pour chilled bourbon in chilled shot glass and serve meat and bourbon on a TV tray.

In 2010, Martin's burger recipe, scanned from The Celebrity Cookbook, appeared online and quickly went viral. I think it may have first been posted by the culinary site Ladles and Jellyspoons.

Two years later, Martin's recipe again began to do the rounds, but now it was accompanied by what appeared to be Frank Sinatra's response to Martin's recipe. Some sites explained that "upon hearing about the notoriety of Dean’s signature burger recipe and Dinah’s book, Frank immediately went to work perfecting his 'Sinatra Burgers' recipe."


Sinatra's recipe is a funny response to Martin's, and the two letters, as a set, circulated widely. And recently they've been circulating again.

However, there's no evidence that the "Sinatra Burgers" recipe was written by Sinatra himself. In other words, it's a recent creation. The evidence for this:

1) There's no source given by anyone for this supposed recipe by Sinatra.

2) Dean Martin's nickname was Dino, not Deano. Or rather, it was his original name. He was born Dino Paul Crocetti. Sinatra wouldn't have made this mistake.


3) Sinatra's signature on the recipe is identical to a copy of his signature posted on the site Star Wars Autograph Collecting. This suggests that the signature was cut-and-pasted onto the recipe. The typed recipe itself could easily have been created in any word-processing program (note the modern, proportionally-spaced font). And a photoshop filter could finally have been used to make the entire document look like it was written on old paper.


Sinatra's signature,
via Star Wars Autograph Collecting
Categories: Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 06, 2014
Comments (0)

The above photo has recently been circulating on social media purporting to show a "snow snake". A caption provides this warning:
This is the deadly snow snake. It has bitten 3 people in the state of Ohio and one in Pennsylvania. It’s been spotted in other states. It comes out in the cold weather and at this time there is no cure for it's bite. One bite and your blood starts to freeze. Scientist are trying to find a cure. Your body temperature start to fall once bitten. Please stay clear if you have see it. Please forward this and try to save as many people as we can from this deadly snow snake.

The usual skeptics are saying that the creature in the photo is really just a rubber snake, and that there is no such thing as a snow snake. Perhaps.

Or perhaps we can turn to more authoritative sources of information, such as Henry H. Tryon, author of Fearsome Critters (The Idlewild Press, 1939), who offers the following information about the Snow Snake.

THE SNOW SNAKE
Aestatesomnus hiemepericulosus

During the year of the Two Winters, when the July temperature dropped to -62°, these pink-eyed, white-bodied, savage serpents crossed over from Siberia via Bering Strait. They are bad actors; the venom is deadly, with a speed of action second only to that of the Hoop Snake or the Hamadryad.

Hibernating in summer but becoming active in winter, the Snow Snake coils on a low drift where its pure white color makes it wholly invisible to its prey. One strike is sufficient. Mankind is not often bitten as he makes too big a mouthful. But sometimes a Snake will get over-ambitious. When this does happen, tanglefoot oil is the only known remedy.

"I was treed by a Snow Snake" is still a much-used explanation of a late home-coming.


From newspapers, we also learn that the snow snake has long been considered to be the bane of skiers. As reported in the Roswell (N.M.) Daily Record - Dec 24, 1980:
Although zoologists disagree on the exact origin of the snow snake, knowledge of his habits is invaluable to every level of skier. These albino serpents tend to breed and overrun beginners' hills, abrupt drop-offs and large moguls...

He is a skier's scapegoat for stumbling, falling down and looking stupid on the slopes. Skiers can — and often do — blame his attempts to attach himself to a ski or pole for what might, otherwise, be mistaken for the skier's own clumsiness.


Roswell (N.M.) Daily Record - Dec 24, 1980


Because of their remarkable camouflage, snow snakes have rarely been captured, or even photographed. But in the Daily Sentinel (Le Mars, Iowa) - Jan 5, 1965 - we find some information about how one might try to capture a snow snake:
About the only way to capture these elusive creatures is to trick them into making themselves known. One method is to buy some black cough drops and lay them on the snow in a likely place. Then, when the snow snake takes the cough drop, it disappears. All you have to do is grab where the cough drop was but isn't and you have a snow snake. That is, you have one if you are quick enough at grabbing where the cough drop isn't.


Daily Sentinel (Le Mars, Iowa) - Jan 5, 1965
Categories: Animals, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 05, 2014
Comments (0)
On March 3 a video appeared online (with an accompanying website) announcing that a company had created an actual working hoverboard (aka HUVr Board), of the kind seen in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, using antigravity technology. The video immediately went viral, with over 3 million views already on YouTube.


As many have noted, the video is clearly fake. No one has created a working hoverboard. But it was an impressive fake. Especially noteworthy is the number of celebrities appearing in the video — including Christopher Lloyd, Moby, Tony Hawk, Terrel Owens, etc.


Which raises the question: why did someone go to the considerable expense of creating this video? What's the purpose of it?

A leading theory is that it may be a teaser for an upcoming Back to the Future sequel.

But apparently the comedy site Funny or Die was involved in the video's production, as discovered by sleuths who found that an LA wardrobe stylist mentioned in her online resume having worked on the video for that site.

So maybe the video is just a viral comedy bit for Funny or Die.

Categories: Technology, Videos
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 05, 2014
Comments (0)

On April 1, 2013, Internet commerce site Firebox.com released a new product — the 70s Hairy Chest Sweater.

From the product description:
What makes lumberjacks, 70s television stars and the giant Brown Bears of Alaska so irresistibly attractive to others? Simple. Their long, luxuriant chest hair.
Sadly, the recent 'man-scaping' trend has led to an epidemic of people pedantically plucking their pecs. Oh, the humanity.
Thankfully, we’ve found a solution (while you wait for your rug to regenerate). The 70s Hairy Chest Sweater. This 100% polyester sweater is almost guaranteed to increase your masculinity, virility and ability to chop wood.
Pull it on to cover that embarrassing hairless body, or add it to your existing rug for additional ‘70s style points.

Of course, it was an April Fool's Day hoax, but it's one of those April Fool hoaxes that continue to fool people well past April 1st. For instance, I saw it discussed recently on HomeAccentsToday.com.
Categories: April Fools Day, Fashion
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 02, 2014
Comments (0)
In June 1959, reports surfaced of a monster seen in the woodlands of Central Florida, near Brooksville, about forty miles north of Tampa.

Witnesses described seeing a giant creature with glowing eyes that towered over 9-feet-tall and moved rapidly through the trees with massive strides. The creature was active at night.

Monster hunters went out to search for it. Some of them were armed with guns, and a few claimed to have spotted it and took a shot at it, but no creature was bagged.

The reports aroused the curiosity of two Tampa Tribune reporters, Harry Robarts and Bob Fellows, who decided to track down the monster. They camped out for a few nights in the woods around Brooksville, but never saw anything.

Then they started interviewing locals. Finally, they got a good lead when one of these locals suggested they might want to talk to Mrs. Peggy Thomas, a young housewife who lived in the area.

The reporters found Mrs. Thomas, and when they confronted her she quickly confessed that, yes, the "monster" was her creation.


Mrs. Peggy Thomas showing off her "homemade spook".

She explained that she had created it by tying one small pinetree across another to form its body, which she had covered in a sheet. She used a cow's skull lit from the inside with a flashlight for its head. And she draped some moss over the creature for added effect.

In order to make her "monster" appear to be walking through the woods, she had tied it to a 100-foot rope between two trees and pulled it from side to side with a fishing line.

She made the creature as a joke during a camping trip with her family and was rather pleased that she had fooled not only her relatives but also many members of the general public.

The woods and swamps of Florida would eventually become known as the reputed home of the "Skunk Ape" — a large, foul-smelling, ape-like creature. However, Skunk Ape sightings only began to become common and attract the attention of the press in the late 1960s. So Mrs. Thomas's monster would not have been a reference to that creature.

Incidentally, the city of Brooksville has a curious history (in addition to its monster hoaxes), having been named in honor of Preston Brooks, a congressman infamous for having nearly caned abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner to death in 1856 on the floor of the Senate. In 2010, there was some debate over whether the city's name should be changed, but the suggestion was overwhelmingly opposed by locals.

References
Categories: Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 02, 2014
Comments (0)
On the night of Feb. 27, a geomagnetic storm caused Northern Lights to be visible in Europe at unusually low latitudes. And lots of photos of the lights soon began to appear online.

So thanks to Marco for giving us a heads up about this fake image that's begun circulating, purporting to show the aurora from space (with some tweets claiming it's a photo taken from the International Space Station).


The quick summary is that this isn't a photo at all. It's an artist's conception of what an aurora would look like from space.

But as Marco points out, this isn't how an aurora would actually look like from space, since there's no atmosphere visible in the image (no clouds). And the aurora is incorrectly positioned over the true Pole rather than the Geomagnetic pole.

Read Marco's article for a fuller debunking.

The original source of the image isn't known. Marco notes that some sources say it's a graphic from an unidentified "NASA video". But the scientific errors in the image cause Marco to doubt that.

Doing a Google image search, the earliest appearance of the image online that I could find is in a March 30, 2013 posting on the "Astro Bob" blog. That blog is run by Bob King, a photo editor for the Duluth News Tribune and amateur astronomer. He also credits the image to NASA, captioning it as an "Artist illustration of the northern auroral oval on planet Earth."

King doesn't provide a link to the NASA source, but he seems to know what he's talking about. So if he says it's a NASA image, I'm willing to take his word for it (in the absence of any other credible source info).

Perhaps the image used to be on a NASA site, but has since been deleted.
Categories:
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 28, 2014
Comments (4)
Since today is the first day of Error Day, this story seems appropriate. Assuming that the story was accurately reported, it demonstrates that the difference between sanity and insanity is often just a matter of context.

The clipping comes from The Sydney Morning Herald - Dec 26, 1884. But I first saw the story over at Brian Chapman's Legends & Rumors blog.
A correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette writes: — "An Oxfordshire woman met with an experience a few days back which should act as a warning to intending visitors to lunatic asylums. The person in question journeyed to Littlemore, a village four miles distant from Oxford, where there is an asylum, with the intention of visiting a female patient. The porter having admitted her, is said to have duly passed her on to one of the matrons with the words 'To visit a female patient;' but the nurse appears to have caught only the last words of the sentence; and a mistake resulted which cost the visitor a good deal of unpleasantness, to say the least of it. The stranger was taken to the top of the building, under the belief that she was going to see her friend, and then she was suddenly shut into an empty room. Shortly afterwards, a nurse entered, and, to the consternation of the visitor, at once proceeded to undress her. Protestations and remonstrances were alike unavailing, and firmly, though not unkindly, the poor woman was stripped and put in a bath, after which she was forcibly put to bed. By this time the mistaken lunatic was of course in a frantic state of alarm, which only favoured the belief that she was really a mad woman. Where this gruesome farce might have ended it is not pleasant to contemplate; but by a lucky accident the mistake was discovered later in the day, and the unfortunate woman was set at liberty with profuse apologies. It is satisfactory to hear, under the circumstances, that no complaint has been made as to undue severity on the part of the nurses, though their victim is very naturally aggrieved at a mistake which could only have resulted from grave carelessness on the part of the officials. The story is of value as pointing out how easily a very serious mistake may occur in a large lunatic asylum.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 28, 2014
Comments (0)
In August 2011, hundreds of cats were rescued during a hoarding case, and then a team of veterinary students volunteered their time to spay and neuter the cats in order to prepare them for adoption.

A photo of this mass spaying/neutering event (named Operation Cat Nip) ran in the Gainesville Sun.


But about a year later that same photo began appearing on Twitter, stripped of any explanatory context, and accompanied by the caption: "Retweet if you say NO to animal testing."

The photo also had a watermark added, "Cause Animale Nord,"which is the name of a French animal welfare society.


Thousands of people obediently retweeted the photo, many of them adding messages expressing their disgust and disapproval, unaware that the photo had nothing to do with animal testing.

Like many viral photo fakes, this one has gone through cycles of being debunked, disappearing for a while, and then suddenly resurging in popularity. Right now, it's again in a popular phase.
Categories: Animals, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Fri Feb 28, 2014
Comments (2)
One problem is that the planned hoax is too late in the day. According to the rules of April Fool's Day, pranks have to be done before noon! If you do it after noon, then you become the fool. (Does no one care about the rules any more???)

So it would be better to do this early in the morning on the 1st, rather than in the evening.

RC Group Plans UFO Hoax
A Group of RC enthusiasts plan a April Fools Day UFO hoax.

This group of RC enthusiasts seem to have a secret plan to create an apocalyptic UFO doomsday hoax on April Fools Day. I not sure how long this big secret can be kept seeing that the entire plan is posted on their public forum.
The group plans on getting as many people as than can to rig their flying RC quadracopters
(or anything else they can get in the air) with lights and release them to the skies on April 1st at 8 pm. The preferred color is blue but they say any color will do. The plan is to get them in the air while it is dark but early enough that people are still out and about.
Categories: April Fools Day, Extraterrestrial Life
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 27, 2014
Comments (2)

A Tumblr blog titled "Today is the Day Marty McFly Went to the Future" posts a new photo every day, indicating that today is the day McFly arrives in the future, as indicated by the Delorean's onboard time monitor in Back to the Future Part II (1989).

It's the latest take on the perennial return of Future Day (an ongoing internet prank in which people claim that the date of McFly's arrival is closer at hand than it really is).

The actual date of McFly's arrival is October 21, 2015.
Categories: Entertainment, Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 27, 2014
Comments (0)

A new website has many people slightly puzzled. It claims to be producing artisanal salamis made from lab-grown meat from celebrity tissue samples. So it's kind of like a celebrity version of Manbeef.com (from way back in 2001) — except that it's celebrity beef and the human meat is grown using in-vitro meat production.

Salon.com got a response from "Kevin" on the BiteLabs team who explains that "the site is partly a commentary on food culture, the ethics of meat, and 'the way celebrity culture is consumed.'"

So yes, it's a parody site. However, Kevin also insists that they do actually plan to make salami from celebrity meat.

I'm not sure about the current state-of-the-art of in-vitro meat technology. But I'm doubtful that the technology is good enough to make salami that tastes appetizing. Even if it is meat from Jennifer Lawrence of James Franco.

The idea of celebrity salami recalls an idea PETA proposed a few years back of making George Clooney-flavored tofu.
Categories: Celebrities, Food, Websites
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 27, 2014
Comments (1)
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