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I just received an email from someone who works at TravelandLeisure.com (an American Express Publishing site):
Currently we're putting together a photo gallery feature about America's Roadside Attractions and we're including the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego. I'm working on collecting photos of the museum— overall interior and exterior shots are best. Please send a selection photos as soon as possible by the end of today/tomorrow morning at the latest.

Hmm. What should I send them?

Update: "Fred in na gadda da vida" suggested I send them this picture, which he kindly created. But I'd already sent them the three images on the 'About the Museum' page.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 30, 2011
Comments (10)
Unless you're reading this post by RSS, you should be looking at my new site design, which I spent the past week working on. My design skills aren't that great, but I'm hoping it's an improvement over the old design. One of my main objectives was to emphasize that the site isn't just a blog and forum, but also has a large archive of info about hoaxes throughout history. Which is why I put the new archive links front and center.

One feature you may not notice immediately: when you load the site you'll currently see either a pair of jackalopes or nessie to the right of the main banner. I've set it up so that random images will load in this place -- and clicking on the images will take you to the article about whatever hoax they represent. I just need to make some more images to add into the random rotation.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Aug 28, 2011
Comments (11)
I spent the last five days updating the software that runs this site. It was a pretty nightmarish process. First the update changed every URL on the site. Once I managed to fix that, I discovered that the server was repeatedly crashing.

My webhost looked into the issue and found that spammers were trying to submit large amounts of comment spam, which was locking up the servers. (Most of the spam wasn't making it onto the site because the spammers apparently weren't filling out the captcha form, but I guess it was still putting a strain on the server to have to keep denying the spam.) So to combat this, I had to make one large change to how the site runs. From now on, only registered members can submit comments. In fact, only registered members will even be able to see the comment submission form.

Of course, this won't stop spammers from registering and posting spam. But it will stop the lazier type of spammers who simply direct their autobots at the site's comment form and blast away until the server collapses.

This change will mean that there will be far fewer comments on the site. And I know that some people are basically allergic to having to register for sites. But the spammers didn't leave me much choice. And it should make the site more spam free and thus more pleasant for people who do leave comments.

So the spam problem was addressed, but the servers were still freezing up. After a lot more investigation, one of the guys from the software company traced the problem to a bug with how the software was dealing with comment pagination, and he fixed the bug. So, at last, the site appears to be working. Fingers crossed.

I'll keep an eye on the comment pagination problem, and if it looks like it's not fully resolved, I'll simply turn off pagination for all threads and set the comment count high enough so that all the comments for most threads can fit on one page. For those few threads with a lot of comments, I'll ask people to continue the discussion over at the forum, because the forum's software doesn't seem to have the same problem with pagination.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 17, 2011
Comments (7)
Been a little quiet here lately. Hello? Do I hear an echo?

I've returned from book writing (my new book, Electrified Sheep, is available for purchase in the UK... an American version is coming out in 2012), as well as home remodeling, and now I'm slowly slouching my way back toward blogging, one small step at a time. The first step was to address the problem of what to do with all my weird science material (such as my list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments which, somewhat confusingly, was housed here at the Museum of Hoaxes). I did this by creating the Mad Science Museum. My plan is that the MSM will serve as a sister site to the MOH.

The second step is to focus on the Hoax Museum again, and that means updating the site's software. That'll take me a couple of days because the software is now so out of date that updating it is going to cause a lot of things to go haywire.

The third step will be to freshen up the site's design and address the spam problem. Final step: start blogging again. So to those few people who may actually see this note, stay tuned for more!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 11, 2011
Comments (10)
Last week I handed in the final section of my book manuscript to my publisher. I think I originally anticipated completing it in June or July. So yeah, it took me a little longer than anticipated.

The title, I've recently learned, is going to be Electrified Sheep. This refers to a series of experiments in which sheep were placed in lightning simulators. I didn't actually come up with this title. I suggested a whole bunch of other titles including The Indestructible Atomic Pig and Psychoneurotic Atomic Goats, but the publisher decided to go with the sheep. The lesson is that authors don't get to choose the titles of their books! But the sheep title has been growing on me. I like the fact that it evokes Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

Anyway, I took a few days to decompress, and now I'm ready to turn my attention back to the Museum of Hoaxes. I'm not sure if there are any people still reading the site, except for the forum regulars... but that gives me the opportunity to make a fresh start and change things around a bit.

First of all, the comments pages need to be completely revamped, because the comment spam has run out of control. I'm thinking of making it so that all non-member comments have to be approved by a moderator, and all new members also have to be approved by a moderator. This will mean that far fewer comments get posted, but to me that's an acceptable trade-off.

And before I do that, I need to upgrade the entire site software, which will take a couple of days.

I also want to change around the front page of the site to highlight the fact that the site isn't just a blog, but is more like a blog sitting on top of a hoax encyclopedia. I want to put a "featured hoax of the day" on the front page, much like wikipedia has a featured article of the day.

So that's my plan.

I'd also like to say hello to everyone whom I haven't communicated with in almost a year. I'm finally back from secluding myself in the archives! I don't know why I write such research-intensive books. I guess I just like torturing myself. If I were smart I'd write my next book on a topic that doesn't require any research at all... maybe a novel about teenage vampires. I've heard those kind of books sell well -- a lot better than non-fiction books about sheep in lightning simulators, that's for sure!
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 15, 2010
Comments (29)
Like the Loch Ness Monster, I've been hard to find recently. So I thought I'd resurface for a moment and say hello. I've been working hard on my next book, and finding it difficult to focus on anything other than that.

I had grand plans to work on the book AND keep posting to the blog... but it hasn't worked out that way. It's hard to focus on two projects at once. Well, some people can do it, but not me.

Anyway, until the book is done (around June) I'll probably be pretty scarce around here, unless I'm procrastinating, in which case I may throw up an occasional post. But in the meantime, perhaps I'll put up some kind of notice at the top of the blog so that people don't think I've fallen off the edge of the earth, or anything like that: "Curator absent... writing a book!"
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 24, 2010
Comments (13)
I've recently started work on a new book, which is the reason for my absence from the site. I need to deliver the manuscript to the publisher (Macmillan) by June 2010. I assume it will be published in late 2010 or early 2011. The title is still undecided, but the book will essentially be a sequel to Elephants on Acid — though sequels are always worse than the original, so I prefer to think of it as an entirely new project that also happens to be about bizarre things done in the name of science.

Other people seem to be able to work on several projects simultaneously, but I just can't do it. So after working all day on researching and writing about science, I find it very hard to mentally switch gears and think about what hoaxy things to post on the site.

Nevertheless, as days go by and I don't post anything, I start to feel a nagging sense of guilt. So in order to alleviate this sense of guilt, what I'm going to try to do is to post stuff, but make it as short and simple as possible. Essentially just a link and a quotation. My theory is that if I don't have to think much about what I'm posting, I may be inclined to post more often. That's better than not posting at all... at least until the book is done.

We'll see how it goes. If you all see any hoax-related items in the news, forward me the links, and that'll make my job even easier.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Fri Oct 16, 2009
Comments (8)
Cranky Media Guy drew my attention to a list of the "Top 10 Hoaxes of all time" posted by Kelvin Lynch on examiner.com. Cranky asks: "Haven't we seen this exact list before... recently, in fact?"

I can't recall if this list had been posted elsewhere recently, but as I was reading through it, I felt that a lot of the language was strangely familiar. And then I realized why this was so. Much of the text has been lifted directly from the print version of The Museum of Hoaxes, published back in 2002.

For instance, here's part of what I wrote in my book about the Surgeon's Photo:

A highly respectable British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, was driving along the shore of the loch on April 19, 1934, early in the morning, when, he said afterward, he noticed something moving in the water. He happened to have a camera with him, so he quickly stopped his car and snapped a photo. The resulting image showed the slender neck of a serpent rising out of the loch. For decades this photo was considered to be the best evidence ever obtained of the existence of a sea monster in the loch.

And here's what Kelvin Lynch writes:

Colonel Robert Wilson, a highly respectable British surgeon, said that he noticed something moving in the water and took a picture of it. The resulting image showed the slender neck of a serpent rising out of the Loch. The photo came to be known simply as "The Surgeon's Photo" and for decades it was considered to be the best evidence of the monster.

What I wrote about the Hitler Diaries:

On April 22, 1983, the German magazine Der Stern announced that it had made the greatest Nazi memorabilia find of all time: a diary kept by Adolf Hitler himself. And this was not just one thin journal. It was a sixty-two-volume mother lode, covering the crucial years of 1932-1945.

What Kelvin Lynch writes:

On April 22, 1983 the German magazine Der Stern announced that it had made the greatest Nazi memorabilia find of all time: a diary kept by Adolf Hitler himself. And this was not just one thin journal.

And it goes on like this for a number of the other items in the list. Strangely, Kelvin Lynch doesn't cite the Museum of Hoaxes as a reference. So I guess he just coincidentally came up with the exact same words as I did to describe these hoaxes!

I've had this problem before with finding my writing posted on associated content and examiner.com. (My list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes has been a popular source of content.) The people who write for those sites seem to think that if they slightly shuffle other people's words, that makes it their own, and there's no need to give any credit. What makes this not only rude but illegal is that they're getting paid to post these articles.

Update: Looks like examiner.com took down the article. I never even got around to complaining directly to them.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 24, 2009
Comments (20)
I recently created a twitter page for the Museum of Hoaxes, so if you're on twitter, check it out.

I'm pretty inept at this social networking stuff. I created a personal twitter page months ago, but almost never posted to it. Hopefully I'll be more disciplined about tweeting on the MOH page.

There may be a bit of a learning curve, because I still haven't figured out all the twitter lingo. RT is the only abbreviation I understand.

But I'm excited that I already have nine "followers," and I hadn't even told anyone about the page yet.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Jun 28, 2009
Comments (8)
I periodically get bored with how the site looks and decide it needs to be overhauled. That's the kind of mood I was in today, so I redesigned the blog.

I'm not sure if the new look is better or worse than the old one, but it is different, which is the important thing. (I haven't yet changed the comments or permalink pages, so if you're nostalgic for the old look, you can see it there, for now.)

In another year or two I'll probably get bored of this look and change it again.

More importantly, I'm also adding a new section to the site: the Hoax Archive.

One of the problems with the site has been that, although it contains a lot of information, that information has been very disorganized. There are all kinds of stray articles in forgotten corners of the site. So I'm trying to import all that information into one central database. I'm also merging the hoaxipedia into the archive, so that everything will be in one place, and easily searchable.

There's still a lot of work to do on it. I've only imported about one-third of the site's articles into it. But since I'm unveiling a new front page, I figured I might as well unveil the Hoax Archive as well.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu May 21, 2009
Comments (18)
I'm back, after a two-week absence! It was two weeks spent doing the always fun job of home remodeling (sarcasm).

My wife and I are slowly remodeling our home. Since we figure we can't afford to move any time soon, we're fixing up the house we have to make it nicer to live in. But since we also can't afford to hire real contractors, I get stuck doing all the work. Last year I redid the hallway bathroom. This time, it was the master bathroom. I thought I would be able to keep blogging as I did the remodeling, but after the first day of back-breaking work I realized that wasn't going to happen and decided to focus on getting the remodeling done as soon as possible. Luckily I had my dad to help me. He traveled out from the east coast to give me a hand.

Fun discoveries made during the remodeling process included finding that the sub-flooring was completely rotten and needed to be replaced, and that the old cast-iron pipes were so clogged that they also needed to be entirely replaced.

The job isn't done yet, but I made a lot of progress in the past two weeks. Some pics are below. In the meantime, I should now be able to pay some attention to hoaxes.

Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Thu May 07, 2009
Comments (8)
Marc Silver of National Geographic interviewed me about the history and customs of April Fool's Day. The interview is now up on the Nat Geo blog.

And in other news, programmer Mark Greenfield turned the list of the Top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes into an iPhone app (for those people who want to have the list in an easy-to-read format on their phone). The app is now available at the iPhone store. I don't have an iPhone, so I haven't been able to test the app. I think it costs $1, of which I get about ten cents. Now, if only I could get everyone who reads the list on my site on April 1st to pay me a dollar, I'd be a rich man.
Categories: Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 31, 2009
Comments (1)
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