Are fake testicles obscene?

The city said artificial balls 
are not allowed.

Virginia Tice, age 65, was at a convenience store in Bonneau, South Carolina, when she was ticketed for obscenity.

Her crime? Driving with a pair of fake plastic novelty testicles dangling from her truck.

South Carolina law says that such decorations, if they depict "sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body" can be considered indecent if they offend community standards.

Someone has suggested that if the imitation testicles she displayed were not supposed to depict human testicles but instead depict bull testicles, Ms. Tice might have a good defense.

Are bull testicles her best defense?

Besides the more realistic flesh-tone testicles, you can buy fake testicles in various sizes and colors, such as camouflage patterns, chrome plated, with internal LED lighting, or printed with the Confederate flag.

- South Carolina woman faces trial for fake testicles, Reuters>>
- (WARNING - video starts automatically) Your Nutz>>

"Where's Waldo?" pranks Boulder

East Boulder Community Center Waldo

The character from Martin Handford's children's book Where's Waldo? has been appearing around Boulder, Colorado, courtesy of an unknown graffiti artist:
In addition to staying true to the original Waldo image, the artist also appears to be keeping with the spirit of hiding Waldo in tough-to-spot locations.

The Waldo painted on top of the Brewing Market, for example, can only be seen from far back in the parking lot. The one on ARHAUS furniture was painted on the top level of the building where it could only be spotted from across the street.

Tyler Kane, who was serving up coffees at the Brewing Market on Monday, said he likes the apparent game - and the lengths that the artist is going to.

"I just love it," he said. "I'm so glad it's there."

 Diagonal Plaza Waldo

Boulder Creek Path Waldo

- Where's Waldo? Boulder businesses rave about mystery art, Boulder Daily Camera>>
- Waldo artist strikes again in Boulder, Boulder Daily Camera>>

The world's most famous optical illusion

"All is Vanity"
(Click to enlarge)

Charles Allan Gilbert drew this optical illusion picture in 1892, when he was 18 years old. After he sold it to Life Magazine and they reproduced it as a print, it became famous.

This is an ambiguous optical illusion, where we see more than one thing in the picture. If we view the overall image, we see a human skull. When we focus on the details of the picture, we see a woman looking in her vanity mirror.

A window display from 1907 showcases 
multiple prints of the optical illusion "All is Vanity."

The phrase "All is vanity" comes from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Christian Bible. It refers to the vanity and pride of man. In art, vanity has long been represented as a woman preoccupied with her beauty. And art that contains a human skull as a focal point is called a momento mori (Latin for "remember you will die"), a work that reminds people of their mortality.

Vanitas by Philippe de Champaigne, 1671 

The type of optical illusion where faces or bodies make up another face is not new. The Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted similar illusions in the 16th Century. In his painting Eve and the Apple, Eve's face contains nude figures.

Eve and the Apple, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1578

If we look at a close-up, cropped image of "All is Vanity", we don't see the skull, we just see details of a woman sitting at her dressing table. Look at these three images:

There's no optical illusion here - 
it's merely the back of a woman.

A woman looks directly out
at us from a mirror.

A vanity table with 
tablecloth, candle and flowers. 
Again, nothing extraordinary.

But if we expand our view, even without seeing the entire image, once we know we're going to see a skull, we can't help but see it.

The skull starts to peer out from this image.

And when we look at the picture from a distance, because of all the black surrounding the skull, once the details of the woman get fuzzy, all we can see is the skull. In the pixelated version of the skull below, it's almost impossible to see anything but the skull.

"All is Vanity", - pixelated
(Click to enlarge)

(Strange, I never noticed this before, but is that a cross to the right of the skull?)

- Charles Allan Gilbert, Wikipedia>>
- Window display, Saks and Company, New York, 1907. Displaying the papeterie (fancy stationary) made popular by George E. Newcombe & Co., Google Books>>
- Vanity, Wikipedia>>
- Ecclesiastes 1 (King James Version), Bible Gateway>>
- Hidden faces, Wikipedia>>
- Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Olga's Gallery>>
- Momento mori, Wikipedia>>

Love doll for dentistry

The realistic silicone face of the dental robot.

A professor from Showa University School of Dentistry in Japan says that a realistic-looking robot face has a different psychological effect on users training to be dentists.

This dental training robot, Showa Hanako 2, has silicone skin, a series of movements, blinking eyes, a gag reflex and speech recognition. Its mouth lining was designed by Orient Industries, a maker of love dolls.

Ultra Realistic Dental Training Robot - Showa Hanako 2

When cigarette lighters try to kill

A cigarette lighter-shaped gun 
from North American Arms

 A gun-shaped cigarette lighter 
from China

A woman in Southern California saw a cigarette lighter lying on the ground. Novelty lighters can look like all sorts of things - mobile phones, packs of playing cards, lipstick cases. This replica lighter looked like a miniature gun.

The woman, Rachel Avila, tried to light the lighter. Her first try, nothing happened. The second time, the lighter fired a 22-caliber bullet, which shot her 12-year-old daughter.

Her daughter, who was shot in the arm, was treated at a hospital and released.

For those who like to argue, who's more "at fault" in this - the maker of the small gun, the maker of the replica lighter, the person who lost the gun, or the mom who couldn't tell a real gun from a fake gun?

The actual gun, four inches long, 
from the Banning Police Department

Mom accidentally shoots daughter with gun mistaken to be cigarette lighter, Los Angeles Times>>
- North American Arms .22 Short Mini-Revolver>>
- Classic Laser Pistol Gun Lighter, Zodiac Gifts>>

How to make $50,000 (in fake money)

You know you want.

I can't improve on Pat Kilbane's explanation at Mythodrome:
A bundle of cash is a powerful emotional trigger.  In fact, human brain scans have shown that the idea of money stimulates the same primal pleasure centers as food, sex and cocaine.  So what does this tell you?  That if you’re going to use prop money in your film or photograph, you must make it look as real as possible for maximum impact.  Here is an abridged how-to guide to making a top-notch bundle of prop money.
How to make fake cash: $50,000 Prop Money, Pat Kilbane>>

Who is this guy named Rick?

Can deception be a lifestyle choice?

He's gay, Jewish, has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, is rabidly right-wing, practices as an oil and gas attorney, and is a decorated Marine veteran. He's also not an attorney, has post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury, used to associate with Democratic politicians, and is homeless, bipolar, and has schizophrenia.

Who is he?

One person who knew him said, despite everything: "He's a really fun person to hang out with."
Last October, a man named Rick Gold, a 30-something lawyer who said he lived in Denver's trendy Highlands neighborhood, appeared on the social scene and slipped comfortably into a welcoming circle of young Jewish professionals.

He attended Passover meals and Sabbath dinners, knew enough Hebrew to participate in the prayers and joined several faith-based organizations as he told friends of his Israeli heritage and sought to reconnect with his religious roots.

Through parallel social networks, online and in person, a lot of people got to know Rick Gold.

Except that they didn't.

Last weekend, many of his friends concluded — to their shock and disbelief — that Rick Gold is, in fact, Rick Strandlof, the fake military hero whose unmasking in 2009 triggered an uproar and criminal charges.
READ MORE:  Man unmasked as fake military hero in Springs reappears as "lawyer" in the Highlands, The Denver Post>>

How sex workers poach rhino horns

The value is not in the trophy, 
but what is mounted on the trophy.

Rhino horns are valuable.

And even though rhinos are an endangered species, South Africa does allow officially-sanctioned rhino hunts.

So a group of criminals figured out a way to fake the official hunts.

However, one member of a syndicate blew the whistle on them, which led to arrests.

Here's how it worked: A wildlife trader in South Africa would buy live rhinos at auctions or from private owners, then move them to a farm.

He would call his connection, Mr. Chemlong Lemtongthai, and say he had so many animals ready for a "hunt" and he needed a corresponding number of "hunters."

The other man would enlist his friends, or get Thai women who were working as strippers or prostitutes to pose as hunters. (The sex workers were provided by a woman who was wanted in Thailand for human trafficking.)

To get the hunting permits, the fake hunters were fingerprinted and their passports checked. Then they were taken to the farm and met a professional hunter, who would:
" them the rifle and even take the girls to a quiet spot where they could let off one or two shots so that they can later say that they have at least fired the weapon."
An official, who likely received a kickback, would witness the fake hunt.

After the rhino was "hunted", the official would measure the rhino horn, scan the microchip inside the rhino, and enter details in a hunting registry.

The rhino's body was chopped up and the meat sold for sausages and burgers.

The horn was taken to a taxidermist, who would mount the rhino horn as a hunting trophy.

The trophy would leave South Africa as a trophy and arrive in Asia, where the horn would be ground up and used in traditional Asian medicine.

Rhino horn is thought by some to be a miracle cure, especially for cancer, and demand has increased, even though, as Dr. Raj Amin at the Zoological Society of London has said:
“There is no evidence at all that any constituent of rhino horn has any medical property. Medically, it’s the same as if you were chewing your own nails.”
It was reported that Mr. Lemtongthai, who oversaw the killing of 40 rhinos, sold the rhino horns for $55,000 a kilogram, or about $25,000 a pound.

- Poachers, prostitutes and profit, Mail & Guardian, South Africa>>
- Scientific studies conclude rhino horn is worthless as a remedy, Rhino Conservation>>

8 deceptive and playful artworks by Helmut Smits

Dead Pixel in Google Earth
(An approximately two-and-a-half-foot square
has been burned into the grass.)

The works of Helmut Smits fool me and/or make me laugh. He's a multidisciplinary visual artist who lives and creates in the Netherlands.

(It's not an optical illusion, but it reminds me of one.)

Nature in the Netherlands
(Blown-up plant labels decorate a nature reserve.)

Quarter Pipe
(For masochistic skateboarders.)

(A window broken by accident is
repaired with a leaded glass technique.)

Striped Shirt
(Blue ballpoint pen on a white button-down shirt.)

Without Cabinet
(No need to go to Ikea.)

Idea - Copy a Cloud
(Apply graffiti on a wall to imitate nature.)

(How a simple change of location changes everything.)

Helmut Smits>>

The printer cartridge scam

"Tell me again - why do we need 
so many printer cartridges?"

Marque Gumbs was a receiving clerk at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. To augment his salary, he took advantage of the hospital's lack of knowledge about the number of printer cartridges they used every year.

For three years, he ordered extra toner cartridges, met the delivery people at the loading dock, and stole the cartridges. He then resold the printer cartridges on the black market.

The cartridges didn't even fit the printers used at the hospital.

Mr. Gumbs, whose salary was $37,800 a year, had greater aspirations - he bought a Rolex watch, Louis Vuitton bags and watches and a 2011 BMW. He lived in an expensive Trump Tower condominium, and vacationed in Las Vegas, Cancun and Florida.

He stole $1.5 million in supplies before he was caught.

Sloan-Kettering Employee Pleads Guilty to $1.5M Ink Toner Scam, DNA Info, Manhattan Local News>>

Watch two babies get pranked!

This is Judah, our first victim. 

This short film by Jon Benjamin and Bill Buckendorff is called "Baby Pranks!" One of my favorite quotes: "This kid's name is Judah... what's that all about?"

Baby Pranks

How to attack internet crooks

Amputating a vital part made it harder for a pirate.

There's a lot of cybercrime out there. But what can we do to stop it when criminals can remain anonymous? Noah Shachtman wrote a paper suggesting that we cripple their economic support systems:
First and foremost: Target the relatively small number of companies that support this massive criminal underground. There are more than 5,000 Internet service providers around the globe; according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, half the world’s spam traffic comes from just 50 ISPs. A recent study of mass e-mail campaigns showed that three payment companies processed 95 percent of the money those scams generated. When the Silicon Valley-based McColo hosting company was taken down, worldwide spam dropped 65 percent overnight.
Mr. Shachtman compares modern criminal behavior on the internet with 18th and 19th Century naval piracy. When pirates began to threaten various government's economic interests, one of the first steps they took was to eliminate the pirate's ability to sell any of their pirate treasure:
“In all of the notable eras of piracy,” University of South Carolina historian Donald Puchala writes, “relationships between pirates and those who abetted their projects amounted in effect to conspiracies of greed. The relationships were symbiotic: pirates could neither accomplish their ends nor convert their booty into profits without the aid of their protectors; for their part, the protectors could not so readily and splendidly enrich themselves without the booty brought in by the pirates.”
- How to Stop Cybercrooks: Take Their Pals to Court, Wired>>
- The image is a portion of "Amputation in the Operating Room of St. Thomas Hospital, 1775", Google docs>>

"Surrender Dorothy" - Tracing the origins of a famous graffiti prank

“Surrender Dorothy” was painted 
on a railroad bridge near the 
Mormon Temple in Washington D.C.

The phrase "Surrender Dorothy", used in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, was drawn in the sky by the Wicked Witch to compel the inhabitants of the Emerald City to give up Dorothy.

 "Surrender Dorothy"

Someone obviously thought the local Mormon Church Temple in Washington D.C. bore a resemblance to the architecture of the Emerald City.

 The Emerald City

Columnist John Kelly from The Washington Post tried to discover who painted the Dorothy graffiti and was unsuccessful, yet he did discover something else:
...Answer Man can reveal who apparently first publicly linked the Mormon Temple with “The Wizard of Oz,” albeit temporarily. Would it surprise you to learn that they were Catholic schoolgirls?

In the fall of 1974, the senior class of Holy Child, a Catholic girls school in Potomac, visited the Mormon Temple before its dedication. To some, the building resembled the Emerald City. “The Wizard of Oz” might have been on their minds. It was going to be the school play that year. Almost immediately, a plan was hatched...
What did the Catholic schoolgirls do? READ>>

- Search for ‘Surrender Dorothy’ scrawler pulls back curtain on schoolgirl prank, John Kelly, columnist, The Washington Post>>
- Surrender Dorothy at Wikipedia>>

A hostage crisis ends with a surprise

The temperature outside was nearly 100 degrees.

It was 3:38 Saturday afternoon in Wyckoff, New Jersey.

Police received a call from a man saying he was inside a suburban home. He told them he had killed four people and taken two people as hostages. He wanted $10,000 and a police car. He had explosives.

The police arrived, followed by a heavily-armed SWAT team and the county's bomb squad. Authorities told residents to stay inside. They closed off nearby roads and prevented other residents from returning to their homes.

Police tried to reach the home's owner, or anyone who knew her.

Finally, after an hour, they contacted her. She said she was not inside the home, and she had not made the call.

Police were still unsure about the situation, so they sent out a reverse 911 call, which alerted residents to stay inside, lock their doors and close their windows.

There was still no communication from the hostage-taker.

About two and a half hours later, at around 6 p.m., a SWAT team member thought he saw a shadow of a person on a wall inside the house.

A decision was made.

Tear gas canisters were fired through two windows, an armored vehicle rolled up to the home, and the SWAT team stormed inside.

All they found was a cat, which they assumed was the cause of the shadow.

What happened?

A prankster likely used an internet phone to create a call that spoofed the home's phone number, making it seem that the call had come from inside. The hoax of sending a SWAT team to someone's home is called "swatting."

The homeowner?

She's Parry Aftab, a lawyer who founded groups to combat internet bullying. She's been called "the leading expert in cybercrime in the United States."

Someone had swatted her.

- Three-hour 'hostage' situation in Wyckoff called a hoax, North New>>
- Update: Authorities say 911 call in Wyckoff hoax came from fake, computer-generated phone number, North New>>
- Parry Aftab>>
(Note - the image is from Google Maps, taken a block from Ms. Aftab's home.)

How are you deceived by this painting?

Your astonishment increases 
if you know where it came from.

Things change if you know more about them. You are only fooled by this painting if you watch the following video.

As Aesop might have said (he didn't): "Humble origins can magnify art", which is the opposite of the old saying: "Never watch sausage or laws being made."

Super Sprayer

- Space Painting by Brandon McConnell>>
- Sausage quote info is at Otto von Bismarck, Misattributed, Wikipedia>>

Most Russians trust nobody

"...the state would definitely deceive..."

According to one survey, not only have Soviet citizens learned that not trusting others is a way to survive, they've learned that since the state was always trying to deceive them, they're justified in actively foiling the state:
A large-scale survey titled the "Post-Soviet Man and Civil Society," conducted by the independent Levada Center, found that most Russians find it difficult to trust other people. Such surveys have been conducted every year since 1991, recording the most important changes in the Russians' mentality since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The results of the survey reveal some bizarre trends. The number of people who trust others has decreased significantly over the last two decades. In 1991, only 41 percent of respondents were skeptical and suspicious. Now, 70 percent say they do not trust anybody, 72 percent do not want to help anybody, and 75 percent do not want to cooperate with other people in solving problems.

The authors of the survey believe that these attitudes are rooted in the Soviet past. "A Soviet man fully belonged to the state. He was dependent on the state. He knew the state would definitely deceive him, would try to use all of his resources, leaving him only the minimum required to survive. Therefore, he believed he had the right to mess up the authorities' orders, to make mistakes, to steal and avoid responsibility," they noted in an accompanying statement. The limited opportunities to manage his or her own life made a typical Soviet citizen passive, anxious and envious.

Paradoxically, this mentality did not disappear when the Soviet Union collapsed, and has even strengthened. The survey found that "dubious" forms of behavior, such as distrust, fear, aggression and willingness to commit fraud now have less negative connotations, and have become a normal part of social life...

The only area where utter distrust is less common is within a family. Most participants in the survey said that they trust close relatives and consider a close-knit family one of the most valuable things in life. Honesty and decency are the most attractive personal characteristics of both men and women when Russians look for spouses and partners.
- Trust Nobody: Most Russians Don't Trust Anybody Else, but Believe They Have the Right to Deceive Others, Johnson's Russia List>>
- Levada Center>>
- Photo by Aleksey Petrosian, Russian photographer, is from>>

Kurt Vonnegut explains the massacre of innocents

“Bad chemicals and bad ideas 
were the Yin and Yang of madness.”

The Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik killed innocent victims in his attack in 2011. Beforehand, he posted a 1,500-page manifesto online, which included passages he took from the manifesto of Theodore Kaczynski, the American killer called the “Unabomber”.

The author Kurt Vonnegut wrote the book Breakfast of Champions in 1973. It’s a story about America which includes fictional science fiction author Kilgore Trout and actual author Kurt Vonnegut.

In this passage, Mr. Vonnegut explains the origins of character Dwayne Hoover’s slide into madness:
As has already been said: Dwayne was a Pontiac dealer who was going insane.

Dwayne’s incipient insanity was mainly a matter of chemicals, of course. Dwayne Hoover’s body was manufacturing certain chemicals which unbalanced his mind. But Dwayne, like all novice lunatics, needed some bad ideas, too, so that his craziness could have shape and direction.

Bad chemicals and bad ideas were the Yin and Yang of madness. Yin and Yang were Chinese symbols of harmony. They looked like this:

The bad ideas were delivered to Dwayne by Kilgore Trout. Trout considered himself not only harmless but invisible. The world had paid so little attention to him that he supposed he was dead. He hoped he was dead.

But he learned from his encounter with Dwayne that he was alive enough to give a fellow human being ideas which would turn him into a monster.
As Mr. Vonnegut said repeatedly in his book Slaughterhouse Five:
So it goes.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Wikipedia>>
- Ted Kaczynski, Wikipedia>>
- Norway shooting: Anders Behring Breivik plagiarised 'Unabomber', The Telegraph>>

How to disappear

"...all you need to disappear is 
'a good computer and a 14-year-old kid.' 
And perhaps a dead person, too."

Some advice on how to hide yourself, from The New York Times:
How does one perform a vanishing act these days? In an age of smart phones and GPS — not to mention anonymity-piercing paparazzi and celebrity magazines — is it really still possible to disappear?

Absolutely, said Frank M. Ahearn, the author of the concisely titled primer “How to Disappear.” “Technology is a double-edged sword,” said Mr. Ahearn, a “skip tracing” expert who used to track missing people through credit-card and phone records and the like. “It can be used to find or to conceal. The real question is: Who’s better at technology? You or the people trying to hunt you?”
- How to Pull Off a Vanishing Act, The New York Times>>
- Cartoon is a modified version of a comic strip called the "Amazing Disappearing Act" by Matt Atack from Stuff is Happening>>

The nightclub prostitutes who are not hookers

Rachel Uchitel, who slept with Tiger Woods, 
made more than $500,000 a year as a VIP host.

How do famous men find women to cheat with? They turn to women like Rachel Uchitel and the secretive culture of the bottle girls. This long article from Lisa Taddeo at New Yorker magazine illuminates the world of the halfway-hooker.
Men like to hunt, and there is no need to hunt a prostitute. Men like to cheat without strings, and you can’t stop a civilian from falling in love. But Woods found a way to enjoy the best of both worlds in one type of woman, a Venn diagram of sexual satisfaction. Most of his mistresses lived in a nebulous in-between world. Not prostitutes, no, but just about halfway there. As surely as he has changed the game of golf, so too has Woods exposed the grazing ground of the halfway-hooker, and her natural habitat, the nightclub.
Rachel Uchitel Is Not a Madam - And the bottle girls who work at clubs are not prostitutes. As Tiger Woods’s very public escapades through the 21st-century courtesan economy suggest, it’s all much more complicated than that. New York Magazine>>

They shouldn't be able to screw this way

This image doesn't explain anything.

"Two nuts are moving in opposite direction although they are rotating the same way. The bolt has a continuous thread. This is from a Swedish TV show."

Magic nuts and screw threads

Famous person sues someone for looking like her

Kim Kardashian sued the woman below

Melissa Molinaro

Reality TV celebrity Kim Kardashian sued another woman, singer and reality TV celebrity Melissa Molinaro, for appearing in an Old Navy TV commerical. Ms. Kardashian's suit claims that since Ms. Molinaro is using her image to sell products, the fact that she looks like Ms. Kardashian might deceive and confuse consumers.

Can modern technology confuse one woman with another? I tested Ms. Kardashian's claim of deception by using Google's "search by image" function, where it searches and finds visually similar images. I used the above image of Ms. Kardashian, which returned 1,630,000 "similar" images. Here are a few I found on the first page of results:

Caroline D'Amore, 
a model and actress

Kanye West, a rap singer 
who dated Ms. Kardashian

I didn't realize Google's image algorithm is smart enough to also find people who've slept with the first image.

Priyanka Chopra, an Indian actress 
and former Miss World

Rihanna, a musician

Musician Justin Bieber in a scary-looking 
photo I hope is fake. It looks uncomfortably 
like the actor Steve Buscemi.

If we search Google Images using Melissa Molinaro's photo, we get about 200,000 results. Excluding any images of Ms. Molinaro, they include:

April Kelly, a finalist for 
Miss Cork 2011 in Ireland

Anna Popplewell, an actress who 
appeared in "The Chronicles 
of Narnia" movies

Pelli Kani Prasad, 
an Indian actress

Sarah Hyland, an actress who 
appears on the TV show 
"Modern Family"

Some guy at a children's 
reception in Belgium

- Kim Kardashian sues Old Navy over lookalike in ads, Yahoo News>>
- Old Navy Records Presents: "Super C-U-T-E" by The Audio Threadz, YouTube>>
- Kim Kardashian, Wikipedia>>
- Melissa Molinaro, Wikipedia>>