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|•||Famous writers just have more readers 03/09/2014|
|•||Pretend chef on five morning TV shows 03/04/2014|
|•||Image of "Aurora from Space" going viral is a hoax 02/28/2014|
|•||Supposed Ghost Caught on Securtiy Cam at Britain Pub 02/22/2014|
|•||Anyone up for a challenge? 02/20/2014|
|•||Bruno Gröning Documentary Film 02/15/2014|
|•||Science, Pseudoscience, and Crap 02/04/2014|
|•||Fake Snow 02/03/2014|
|•||Tapeworms ≠ Weight Loss 02/01/2014|
|•||NASA sued for failing to investigate Martian Fungus 01/30/2014|
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Status: Dumb criminalGerman police report an encounter with a master criminal who, when caught in the act of stealing a computer, tried the old "pretend you're dead" act to elude capture: Maybe he thought that if it works for opossums, it might work for him.
Status: Unusual productWant some marijuana? Of course, here in America it's illegal to buy the real thing, but you can buy mock marijuana... lifelike marijuana plants made out of silk and wood. It would be a pretty cool conversation piece to have sitting in the corner, especially if the police ever show up unexpectedly. The mock marijuana is sold by New Image Plants, operated by pro-pot activist Joseph White. It's a small business. Most of his customers, ironically, are law-enforcement agencies. But he did just sell $40,000 worth of his plants to the set director of Weeds, a Showtime series about a marijuana-dealing suburbanite soccer mom. White notes that he does have some customers who seem to think he's selling the real stuff, but he notes that: "We cannot be held liable for stupid people smoking our plants."
Actually I did once hear that while it's illegal to buy and sell marijuana plants, it's legal to buy the seeds. I thought this was an urban legend (if not, it's a strange loophole in the law), but a quick google search reveals that there are quite a few internet sites offering to sell marijuana seeds. Personally, I'd be very cautious about giving money to these sites (not that I was planning on doing so, mind you). I'd be worried that they would take the money and run.
Status: Weird News (True)Big Gary forwarded me this news story about a "machete-wielding gang in angry clown make-up" who have been attacking people in Washington State. The article notes that the group call themselves "juggalos" and often shout "Woo, woo, juggalo!" to each other as they attack victims. The article concludes by noting: "Juggalos often dress in black and wear clown face paint."
Big Gary wonders: "Does Seattle really have a subculture of people who call themselves 'Juggalos,' dress in black, wear 'angry clown' face paint, and carry machetes? And if so, how do I join?"
Yes, Gary. There is such a subculture of Juggalos. But please, as a favor to me, reconsider your decision to join them. It really tears me up inside every time a Museum-of-Hoaxer succumbs to the dark side and ends up prowling the streets as an angry, machete-wielding clown. I've seen it happen far too often!
As for these Juggalos. They're fans of the musical group Insane Clown Posse. Though as the site whatisajuggalo.com explains, they go beyond merely being fans: For what it's worth, my advice if you see a machete-wielding clown approaching you in a dark park at night: run the other way as fast as you can.
Status: Strange NewsNigerian travellers have been warned by their government to watch out for conmen while in Britain: The advisory seems sensible enough, though given Nigeria's reputation for crime it seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. The Reuters article points out that, "Nigeria itself has seen a sharp rise in violent crime since President Olusegun Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending 15 years of military rule. Africa's top oil producer, ranked by Berlin-based sleaze watchdog Transparency International as the world's seventh most corrupt country, is also famous for junk mail scams."
Big Gary (who forwarded me the article) wonders who are the other six most corrupt countries, if Nigeria is number seven. As best I can find out, the other six would be (starting with the most corrupt): Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, and Equatorial Guinea. This is from the 2005 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (on which Nigeria was actually ranked #6, not #7).
Status: Weird NewsI'm not quite sure what's going on in this story, but it's not often that a wild goose chase literally happens, so I thought it was worth posting. Chris Kaye reports for KSL local news in Utah: So did the dispatcher send Sergeant Spencer to pull over the car with the goose as a joke? Or had some people really stolen a goose from the Utah Botanical Gardens? And if so, why?
Status: Strange but trueHere's the scene: a high school criminology class on a field trip to the local park. Their teacher has created fake bodies for them to find. But wait a second. One of those bodies looks awfully real. The AP reports: Reality has a strange way of doing that, intruding on our make-believe games. But I predict that it's only a matter of time before this particular event gets refictionalized as part of the storyline of a TV crime drama (probably CSI).
Status: Urban LegendThe Miami Herald reports the case of a man who threatened to shoot the mother of his child with a gun silenced by a potato. He never fired the gun, but did explain to her how the potato would silence the shot, insuring that no one would hear what happened. The police had this to say about the man's knowledge of acoustics: Another favorite, often seen in movies and on TV, is to tape an empty plastic soda bottle onto the muzzle of the gun. I don't think this works any better than the potato technique. The Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics Page points out that movies, in general, tend to grossly misrepresent the effectiveness of silencers. In real life they don't silence guns as much as they do in movies. (I should note that I've never handled a gun, so I'm relying entirely on the word of other sources here.): (via David Emery)
Status: Strange, but trueThe Press Association wire service is reporting that "Two black Labradors have become the world's first dogs to be trained to search for counterfeit DVDs." The two dogs, Lucky and Flo, were trained by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact). In their first assignment "Lucky and Flo were put to work at FedEx's UK hub at Stansted Airport in Essex where they immediately identified packages and parcels containing DVDs for destinations in the UK."
Okay, obviously these dogs can't have been trained to sniff out counterfeit DVDs specifically. Why would a counterfeit DVD smell any different than a regular DVD? But still, the idea of using dogs to sniff out DVDs at all seems absurd to me because I can think of many totally legal reasons why people would be shipping DVDs to each other.
I don't see any reason to believe this news isn't real. However, it doesn't seem to have been posted yet on Fact's website. [Update: it's now on their site.]
Status: TrueIt's not quite as miraculous as the (false) case of impregnation by bullet recorded in 1874, but it's still pretty remarkable. A bullet fired by a cop at an assailant ended up lodged in the assailant's gun. Not in the barrel of the gun, but in the cylinder. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Of course, I'm sure the miraculous quality of this is lost on the dead guy.
Status: HoaxThis is in pretty bad taste, but kind of funny nevertheless, in a twisted kind of way. A guy in Bali named Eddie Hutauruk claims to be offering guided tours that allow you to visit Schapelle Corby in her jail cell. (For those who don't recognize who Schapelle Corby is, she's the Australian woman who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for supposedly trying to import 4.1 kg of cannabis into Bali. The cannabis was found in her luggage. A lot of people think she's innocent, and that the cannabis was put in her luggage by baggage handlers at the airport who were part of a drug-smuggling ring.) The Schapelle Corby tours offer a variety of options. The photo tour gives you just enough time to pose for a photo with her, or you can opt for the more expensive All Day Tour:
This tour allows you to observe Schapelle's entire day, starting from her wake up call at 700 am. Optional extra: For just $10AUD or more you can personally ring the wake up alarm to start Schapelle's day. Observation chairs are provided, as well as food and drinks throughout the day. We respect Schapelle's privacy – so the day finishes at 6.30pm to allow Schapelle to return to her bedroom.
I'm pretty certain that the Indonesian authorities aren't going to allow a private tour company to shuttle people in and out of one of their prisons all day. Which is why I'm labelling this a hoax. Eddie's efforts to get everyone to click on his google ads also don't add to his credibility. And the pictures of people posing with Corby are obviously photoshopped. (Thanks to Emily de Saint Jores for the link.)
Status: Civil Disobedience PrankIn order to demonstrate the stupidity of the 55 mph speed limit, four Atlanta students pulled a dangerous stunt: they all drove exactly 55 mph on the highway, in a line, thereby blocking the flow of traffic and creating an enormous traffic jam. Check out the video of it. I realize the students thought they were doing something clever, but as I watched the video I found myself getting more and more angry at them. It was like experiencing road rage while sitting behind a computer. I kept imagining the people in the blocked traffic who probably had to get to work, or wanted to get home, and who were instead being held up by these idiots and their road block.
Anyway, their argument — that their experiment proves the absurdity of the 55 mph law — is flawed. It didn't prove that at all. All it proved is that if you form a rolling blockade, it's going to create a traffic jam. It would have had the same effect at 65 mph. Plus, it's definitely against the law to form a blockade like they did. Only the police are allowed to do that. So they weren't actually obeying the law.
I realize that pranks are supposed to be obnoxious and annoy some people. But delaying innocent commuters, and creating a situation in which people could easily have gotten hurt as anger escalated, just doesn't seem quite right to me. Though this is probably the angry driver inside of me feeling that way. (One more thing: at the beginning of the video they misspell the word obedience.)
Update: Some quick googling, and I found the section of Georgia law (code 40-6-40, section D) that applies to what they did:
No two vehicles shall impede the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same time while in adjacent lanes, provided that this Code section shall not be construed to prevent vehicles traveling side by side in adjacent lanes because of congested traffic conditions.
So it was illegal, and they made a video of themselves doing it. Not too smart.
Update 2: David Spear, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, has been quoted as saying that what the students did was legal:
David Spear, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said if the students weren't blocking emergency vehicles and were going the speed limit, "they didn't do a thing wrong." Spear added that the speed limit was lowered to 55 because it saves lives. "In Atlanta, the actual effect of it is we expect the people going 75 to move over so the people going 95 can have the right of way," he said.
So I guess I was wrong. Though I'm still having a hard time understanding how it can be legal, when the code referenced above seems to state that it's not legal.
Status: urban legendsAn article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer records some Philippine urban legends: the "White Lady" of Balete Drive, Robina Gokongwei's "snake twin" lurking in department store dressing rooms, the elusive "kapre" that lives in an ancient mango tree near the Emilio Aguinaldo house in Kawit town, and Andres Bonifacio's love child from a place aptly named Libog (now Santo Domingo) in Albay province. None of those mean much to me. But most of the article is devoted to discussing two other Philippine legends that are of more general interest. The first one is that Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, "was the father of Adolf Hitler, the result of an indiscretion with a prostitute in Vienna." The second one is that Jose Rizal was also Jack the Ripper:
Rizal was in London from May 1888 to January 1889, in the British Library copying "Sucesos de las islas Filipinas" by hand because there were no photocopying machines at the time. Jack the Ripper was active around this time, and since we do not know what Rizal did at night or on the days he was not
in the library, some people would like to believe Rizal is suspect. They argue that when Rizal left London, the Ripper murders stopped. They say that Jack the Ripper must have had some medical training, based on the way his victims were mutilated. Rizal, of course, was a doctor. Jack the Ripper liked women, and so did our own Rizal. And -- this is so obvious that many overlooked it -- Jose Rizal's initials match those of Jack the Ripper!
If Jack the Ripper did turn out to be Filipino, that would throw a wrench in his status as the Most Evil Brit of all time.
Nov 9, 2005: Japanese Urban Legends
Oct 14, 2004: Iraqi Urban Legends