The double-headed horse - an optical illusion

Photographer Geoffrey Baker discovered this 
new species of horse while he was out birdwatching.

Crazy horses! Photographer sees double after taking snap of pony with two heads, Daily Mail>>

Why do most Americans think adultery is bad?

91% of Americans think adultery is morally wrong.

Americans have become more accepting of divorce, pre-marital sex, having babies outside of marriage and gay marriage, so why do so many hate the idea of adultery and cheating? The number of those who disapprove is almost twice as large as it was in the 1970s.

One theory is that marriage is now seen as a "capstone" rather than a "cornerstone." A "cornerstone" marriage is embarked upon by younger people who must struggle through problems yet still make it through. Adultery might be considered one of those problems.

A "capstone" marriage is a marriage where people are older and wiser and have gotten all those problems out of the way. It's a marriage where both parties should be mature enough to be honest with each other, which means no hanky-panky.

Interestingly, the abhorrence towards cheating has risen while the acceptance of alternatives has also risen:
The same Gallup poll that found near-unanimous disapproval of cheating also found rising acceptance of many other non-traditional, consensual sexual relationships. The new ethical consensus that you can do whatever you like as long as you're not hurting anyone—and as long as you're being rigorously candid—reflects a thoroughly modern mix of tolerance and puritanical censoriousness. We've become more willing to embrace diverse models of sexual self-expression even as we've become ever more intolerant of hypocrisy and the human frailty that makes hypocrisy almost inevitable.
How Marital Infidelity Became America's Last Sexual Taboo, The Atlantic>>

The two rotating hands - an optical illusion

Which direction are the hands moving?

An illusion created by Marcel de Heer.

Two hands stirring in your brain

The Hitler tea kettle - an optical illusion

Can you spot Adolph Hitler?

It's an inadvertent optical illusion.

Designer Michael Graves created this kettle, sold exclusively at J. C. Penney:
"This stainless steel tea kettle has all the bells and whistles you'll need—a cool-touch handle, space-saving design and a delightful whistle to let you know when it's ready to pour."
No mention of Nazis.

Some have noticed, however, that a billboard of the kettle in California bears a resemblance to Mr. Hitler giving a Nazi salute.

I don't see it...

Maybe if you drive by quickly and the image is blurry, Hitler appears.

Do you see me now?

It's reported that sales of the kettle have increased. Not sure how J.C. Penney will handle this problem. We can only imagine the sales meeting:
"Well, I've got good news and bad news..."
(In a first step at damage control, J.C. Penney did remove the billboard.)

- Hitler or Tea Kettle? L.A. Billboard Causes Internet Commotion, The Hollywood Reporter>>
- Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle, JC Penny>>

Watch the Ghost Army fool the enemy

This tank, it's not real.

Over a year ago, I wrote about Rick Beyer trying to finish his documentary on the Ghost Army, a secretive American squad that used various techniques to fool the enemy during World War 2. He finished the documentary and it aired on public television. If you hurry, you can watch it for free, streaming HERE on PBS (It starts automatically). It's definitely a worthwhile watch for any deceptionist.

Ghost Army Trailer

My previous post: The American Ghost Army of World War II, Deceptology>>

Ghost Army>>

Does an "expansive" posture make you a cheat?

Should you watch out for the guy on the left?

An academic paper called "The Ergonomics of Dishonesty" explains that people who take more stretched-out, "expansive" poses in the world are more likely to deceive others compared to those who have more "constricted" poses:
"...individuals who engaged in expansive postures were more likely to steal money, cheat on a test, and commit traffic violations in a driving simulation."
Can the structure of our everyday environment lead us to behave dishonestly? Four studies found that expansive postures incidentally imposed by our ordinary living environment lead to increases in dishonest behavior. The first three experiments found that individuals who engaged in expansive postures were more likely to steal money, cheat on a test, and commit traffic violations in a driving simulation. We also demonstrated that participants' sense of power mediated this effect. The final study found that automobiles with more expansive drivers’ seats were more likely to be illegally parked on New York City streets. These findings are consistent with research showing that (a) postural expansiveness leads to a psychological and physiological state of power and (b) power leads to corrupt behavior.
The paper was written by Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, Andy J. Yap (MIT), Abbie S. Wazlawek (Columbia University), Brian J. Lucas (Northwestern University) and Dana R. Carney (University of California, Berkeley).

Paper (opens PDF):
The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The Effect of Incidental Posture on Stealing, Cheating, and Traffic Violations, Berkeley>>

The Palestinian prison sperm deception

Sperms for Palestine

Palestinian women whose husbands are imprisoned for security violations in Israel are not allowed conjugal visits with their jailed husbands.

Yet some Palestinian woman claim they've gotten pregnant and are having their husband's children.

How is that possible?

They've figured out a way to smuggle their husband's sperm out of jail and are getting artificially inseminated.

One wife said she used this method because she'll be too old to have children when her husband is eventually released from jail. She also said it's an act that challenges the Israeli authorities and boosts her husband's morale.

Doctors at the Razan Medical Center in Ramallah say that as of May 2013, 11 women had gotten pregnant using this method.

No precise details were given about how the sperm was smuggled out, although one woman said it involved a plastic bag.

Israeli prison authorities said that smuggling sperm out of prison is a crime.

Palestinian Used Imprisoned Husband's Sperm To Get Pregnant, NPR>>

A bunch of guys - an optical illusion

Click to enlarge

Here are some young men at what looks like a convention. But what's odd is that there's something in the photo that many people miss at first glance. Can you see it?

Hint: It has something to do with the number four.

Have you found it yet?

And when you do find it, why did you miss it?

The very impossible staircase illusion

These optical illusion stairs actually exist 
at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Skip to 1:41 to get to the meat of the presentation.

The Escherian Stairwell

It's not really dirty underwear, by Mary Leu

Underwear that's not white

A napkin and a bowl

Knit fabric

 A glove that needs mending

These are not what they seem to be. Each of these objects took Taiwanese artist Mary Leu three months to a year to create by carving them out of a solid block of wood.

- Mary Leu, Designboom>>
- Mary Leu>>

Aaron Crow's mad sword skills

It's a trick that ends with a pineapple.

Audience volunteers - they'll do anything if you ask them on stage, won't they? Magician Aaron Crow tries not to harm anyone during his act.

Aaron Crow shows off his blindfolded sword skills - 
Week 3 Auditions | Britain's Got Talent 2013

The serial killer nurse and his helpful machine

He knew how to exploit a device 
that dispenses medication.

If you're going to kill people, what better place to work than as a nurse in a hospital? Charles Cullen liked to kill people. Luckily for him, he worked as a night nurse in a hospital, a place where people's deaths are not investigated as rigorously than if they died mysteriously on the street.

He had three major deceptive strategies: he knew which drugs were less regulated, he knew how to make those drugs lethal, and he knew how to abuse the computerized drug-dispensing device called the Pyxis Medstation:
During their attempt to stop Cullen, Homicide detectives studied his Pyxis records, but they didn’t see a smoking gun — a clear pattern of drug orders by him corresponding to the hospital overdoses. What they did find were a large number of canceled orders. Cullen had realized that if he placed an order of the drug for his own patient, then quickly canceled it, the drug drawer popped open anyway. He could simply take what he wanted without recording it in the system. It was that easy.
He admitted killing 40, but some think he may have killed hundreds.

Read more (it's short): How a Serial-Killing Night Nurse Hacked Hospital Drug Protocol, Wired>>

The article is based on the book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber>>
Original photo, flickr>>

A type font only humans can read

When you want to write so computers cannot read your text, use this Human Readable Font:
Ƭңє Ĥ∪ṃαи 尺єαďαӸє Ƭƴρє ʪ α ғΓєє ďσẘ␤σαďαӸє αиď є℁ƴ ʈσ ㏌§ʈαƖƖ Ⱪєƴ♭σαΓď ρƖ㎍㏌ ғσΓ ᗰα⊏ ʈңαʈ ㏚σď∪₠§§ ң∪ṃαи-σ␤ƴ ΓєαďαӸє ʈєχʈ ℁ ƴσ∪ ʈƴρє․ ШσΓď§ ẘΓįʈʈєи ʈңʪ ẘαƴ αΓє įƖƖє⅁įӸє ʈσ α∪ʈσṃαʈį⊂ §єαΓ⊂ң ㏚σ₠§§є§ αиď ďαʈα ṃٱи㏌⅁ σρєΓαʈįσ觧․ ␟є įʈ ғσΓ ␙αįʪ˛ ẘє♭ρα⅁є§˛ ғα₠♭σσʞ ρσ§ʈ§˛ єʈ⊂․ ιʈ ʪ ΓєαďαӸє ♭ƴ ң∪ṃαи§ σи αƖṃσ§ʈ αиƴ ďį⅁įʈαƖ ďє√į₠ αиď ρƖαʈғσΓṃ
Ƭңє ғįƖє ʪ θρєи Ƨσ∪Γ₠˛ αиď ∪ρďαʈє§ ẘįƖƖ ♭є ρσ§ʈєď ℁ ʈңєƴ σ⊂℆Γ.
Yes your brain can read, but your brain might hurt.

ďє⊂єρʈσƖσ⅁ƴ seems almost readable.

Currently only available for Mac computers. Someone?

- Human Readable Type>>
(Via Book of Joe>>)

Milton's Walmart fraud

Sorry, wrong Milton.
(Milton from the movie Office Space)

Robert Milton from South Carolina

Robert Michael Milton had a good thing going. The former computer business owner figured out a way to scam Walmart stores with fake returns.

In three years, he may have stolen over $600,000.

He was caught when an employee at a storage company looked inside Mr. Milton's open storage locker and called police.

Inside were thousands of counterfeit DVD sets and counterfeit copies of Microsoft software, over 70 driver's licenses, printers for printing receipts and about 2,000 pre-paid gift cards.

There was also an atlas listing every Walmart store in the U.S. The locations in North and South Carolina and Georgia were covered in handwritten notes.

Coincidentally, those were the stores that were hit.

Mr. Milton bought counterfeit versions of products such as DVD sets or Microsoft software, possibly from China, but he didn't try to sell them directly.

Instead, he went to Walmart and paid real cash to buy $100 American Express gift cards and received legitimate receipts.

He used information on those real receipts to print his own counterfeit receipts. He changed the information on his receipts so that instead of saying "gift card", the receipts now had the name of a specific product.

Then he would return a counterfeit version of that product.

Mr. Milton, charged with wire fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods and conspiracy to traffic, faces 40 years in prison.

Read more here:

Man accused of stealing $624,000 from Walmart in Carolinas and Georgia, Charlotte Observer>>

The difference between pot and tomatoes

This is a tomato plant.

This is a pot plant.

Maybe he's lived in the city all his life and never really taken notice of actual living plants.

A New York city police lieutenant and two officers were called by building superintendent Christian Delarosa, who said he had discovered marijuana plants growing on a roof:
“I don’t know much about plants. I’m not too good with that. When I saw them, the first thing I thought was ‘Oh, my God.’ Right there I looked it up on my phone and they looked close to marijuana plants, but I thought I should call someone who knew about plants, so I called police.”
At first, police couldn't tell them apart, either. You would think that since both tomatoes and marijuana plants have distinctive odors, it would've been easy to just follow your nose.

The plants were soon identified as tomatoes.

The owner of the plants has not been identified.

The super said that people shouldn't have been out on the roof anyway, so now he's going to make sure he locks the door.

Two police officers, one lieutenant, a bucket 
of potting soil and 15 cups filled with tomato plants

Marijuana mix-up: Brooklyn building superintendent, cops at first mistake tomato plants for pot, Daily News>>

An absurd prank message in the sky

“It’s such a stupid thing, 
and I love stupid,” said Braunohler.

Comedian Kurt Braunohler had an idea for a prank, so he turned to the online fundraising site Kickstarter and raised about $7,000 to hire a plane to skywrite a message over downtown Los Angeles:
I think we can all agree that life is pretty bleak place to be a lot of the time. Often you might even think, “Who thought this was a good idea to begin with!?” (God – what a jerk.) But I think that if there’s a way we can, just for a fleeting moment, give strangers an unexpected gift of absurdity, then I think we can make the world a slightly better place.
Kurt Braunohler hires man in plane to write stupid things in the sky, Salon>>

What are cardboard, hair and baseballs worth?

Is this the face on the most valuable 
baseball card in the world?

William Mastro ran what he called the “world’s leading sports and Americana auction house." They held exclusive auctions of items such as a 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings trophy baseball, locks of hair from Elvis Presley, and a rare Honus Wagner baseball card.

Except the paint on the baseball was not used until after World War 2, a DNA test on the hair said it was very probably not from Elvis, and the baseball card had its edges trimmed to make it seem more valuable.

Combined with various auction irregularities like having shills bid on items to drive up the prices, Mr. Mastro and his associates are in a bit of trouble.

I guess Honus Wagner baseball cards - the most valuable baseball cards ever - have quite a history of fraud. The specific card even has its own book: The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card by Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson.

The card was last sold to hockey player Wayne Gretzsky in 2007 for $2.8 million.

No word on what it's worth today.

- Dealer admits he altered Honus Wagner baseball card, Chicago Sun Times>>
- William Mastro and Two Other Executives of Former Mastro Auctions Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding Bidders in Online and Live Auctions of Sports Memorabilia and Other Collectibles, FBI Chicago>>
- The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card, Amazon>>

An illusion that reduces racism

Black like me... or at least black like my hand

From LiveScience:
Here's a novel way to reduce racism: Convince people their skin is darker than it really is.

No need to break out the tanning booth. A new study finds that an illusion that makes people feel that a rubber hand is their own can make white people less unconsciously biased against people with dark skin.

"It comes down to a perceived similarity between white and dark skin," study researcher Lara Maister, a psychologist at Royal Holloway University of London, said in a statement. "The illusion creates an overlap, which in turn helps to reduce negative attitudes because participants see less difference between themselves and those with dark skin."

The rubber hand illusion is a classic psychology experiment in which a participant sits at a table with his or her hand obscured by a screen. A rubber hand is placed parallel to the person's own hand, where the participant can see it. By stroking or touching the fake hand and the person's real hand at the same time, a psychologist can make the participant feel like the hand is part of their body...

Maister and her colleagues wanted to know if using a rubber hand in a dark skin tone might influence the way white people perceived race.
Yes, yes it does.

- Weird Skin Color Illusion Can Reduce Racism, Live Science>>

- Detail of a photo of the UK Nelson Mandela statue from psicorps2000, Flickr>>

The discovery of a missing Vietnam war veteran

Prisoner of War, Missing in Action
You are not forgotten

This is the story of the movie Unclaimed:
"While working in Southeast Asia, a war torn veteran of the Vietnam War discovers a mysterious man claiming to be an American MIA and so begins his struggle to prove the lost soldier's identity and reunite him with his family."
The mysterious man, 76-year-old Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, said he was a U.S. soldier who disappeared in Laos in 1968 when his helicopter crashed. He was caught and imprisoned for four years but escaped, and rather than return to his American family, he married a woman in Vietnam and took the name of her dead husband, Dang Tan Ngoc.

His memory is shot, he's forgotten how to speak English, and he can't remember the names of his American children or the date of his own birth.

This is not a new story.

And it's not a true story, either.

The man's name really is Dang Tan Ngoc, and he's been telling this story for 20 years, hoping to get benefits from the U. S. military.

As of May 2013, the film had not been released.

- "Missing Soldier" Found Living in Vietnam Is Just a Vietnamese Con Man, Gawker>>
- Claim by man he’s US special forces solder shot down in Vietnam 44 years ago revealed as hoax, Metro UK>>
The movie is called Unclaimed>>

The golden pissing Petro prank

It functioned as a fountain.

There is a famous 15th Century statue in Brussels called Manneken Pis which depicts a naked boy urinating into a fountain. Russian artist trickster Petro Wodkins decided to install a golden statue of himself standing on a pedestal, holding his own penis and peeing into the fountain. His reason:
" impression of Belgium that it was a boring country and I wanted to give the Belgians some fun and a new art experience."
Police removed the statue.

Crazy Russian Artist Hijacks Manneken Pis

Petro Wodkins>>

"You are invited to a games party"

I don't have a Clue.

Here's a video made by Nicholas J. Johnson (Australia's Honest Con Man) and a bunch of his friends. It's a promo for his show "Beat The Cheat" playing at the 2013 Melbourne Magic Festival. 

Can you spot how they did the magic (easy) and name all the games they're referencing? (less easy)

Can you name all the games and beat the cheat?

(Thanks, Nic!)

The Steve Buscemi family photo prank

Steve is everywhere...

From a guy named Jim who knows how to prank:
"so my parents were gone for 2 days and I switched most of our family photos with pictures of steve buscemi…"
If you have to ask why this is a great prank, you may be incapable of pranking.

Goodbye, Miss Laura! Chimpanzeejim, Tumblr>>

It's a 3-way optical illusion

An ambiguous figure
reveals multiple interpretations.

This video, created by Guy Wallis and David Lloyd from the University of Queensland, Australia, was a finalist in the Illusion of the Year contest.

Three-fold cubes: An object whose form 
can be interpreted in three different ways

She spoke to the dead and stole from the living

Yes, your money can be thought of as energy, 
but it's not a good idea to let a psychic clean it.

I don't have a problem with those claiming psychic powers as long as they help people. It's kind of my "whatever floats your spiritual boat, yet do no harm" philosophy. The problem is, opening yourself up spiritually makes it easy for con-artists to exploit you, and that's exactly what happened here, in an old phony psychic scam by a neither spiritual nor psychic Janet Miller, who ripped off a woman for $650,000:
Ironically, the guru grifter won the woman’s trust by telling her that other people were cheating, deceiving and stealing money from her and that the guru, possessed of spiritual powers, could help.

The phony spiritual leader, 39-year-old Janet Miller, has pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny for her involvement in a year-long scam that started when Ms. Miller met the victim at an apartment on East 41st Street in July 2011, according to the District Attorney’s office. Somehow, Ms. Miller won the victim over by telling her that she could see her dead grandmother crying and requesting $900 to make a shield to block the devil. After the victim gave her $400, she gave the victim “holy” water, oils, salt and crystals and started communicating with her on an almost daily basis.

Over the course of the year, demands and/or necessities for warding off the devil and curing the victim’s father of cancer escalated from hundred dollar bills to jewelry and Rolex watches.

The most dubious request of all—and the one which apparently brought down the scam—was when the so-called spiritual guru told the victim that her money was cursed and unclean and that she could cleanse it on a mountaintop, instructing her to give her $600,000 in cash (which would all be returned, of course)—the old cleaning your money on a mountaintop trick. The victim started to suspect that she had been swindled when Ms. Miller only returned a small portion of the “cleansed” cash.
(The image is from the book The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth. A quote from Booklist: "Nemeth is a clinical psychologist who, after losing $35,000 in an investment scam, became interested in psychological and emotional attitudes about money and how financial decisions are made.")

The Guru Grift: Spiritual Fraudster Pleads Guilty To Swindling Client Out of $650,000, The New York Observer>>

Skechers makes sketchy claim, loses $40 million

They were endorsed by Kim Kardashian.

A bit too much ad puffery cost this shoe company:
Skechers will pay $40 million to settle claims in a class-action suit between Skechers USA Inc. and consumers who bought toning shoes after ads made unfounded claims that the footwear would help people lose weight and strengthen muscles...

The settlement grew out of a series of ads Skechers aired featuring celebrity endorsers such as Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke, with claims that the shoes could help people lose weight and strengthen their butt, leg, and stomach muscles.

Skechers billed its Shape-ups as a fitness tool designed to promote weight loss and tone muscles with the shoe's curved "rocker" or rolling bottom — saying it provides natural instability and causes the consumer to "use more energy with every step." Shape-ups cost about $100 and are sold at retailers nationwide.

Ads for the Resistance Runner shoes claimed people who wear them could increase "muscle activation" by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles and 71 percent for one of the muscles in the buttocks.
They were merely taking lessons from the shoe company Reebok, who ran a similar deceptive ad campaign and then had to refund customers $25 million. (Still, Reebok likely made a profit on the shoes.) See my post: Being Sexy and Deceptive is Profitable>>

Skechers to pay $40 million for exaggerated shoe claims, Christian Science Monitor>>

Reflect on this optical illusion


Optical Illusion, Fossil Freak (Jan Yarnot), Flickr>>

It does not look like one, and you can't say it does

What does this building look like to you?

When it's finished, it's going to be the Beijing headquarters of the state-run People's Daily newspaper, but while it's being constructed, it does look a bit on the phallic side.

Members of China's Twitter-like site Sina Weibo began noticing the erection resemblance and posted humorous photos and comments until the unamused Chinese government began censoring any mention of the building at all.

It probably doesn't help that the building is near the China Central Television Headquarters, which many have nicknamed "Big Underpants."

Another building with a snickery nickname

China's State-Run Newspaper Is Building Itself a Penis-Shaped HQ, Gawker>>

The hazards of making secret traps for vehicles

He made secret spaces that could only be opened 
by pushing buttons in certain sequences.

If you're going to provide a service for criminals by creating secret hiding places in their cars and trucks, it's going to be difficult to convince the government that you didn't know it was going to be used by criminals. A story in Wired explains how one meticulous maker of secret compartments thought he was protected by the law but instead was prosecuted as a major drug dealer:
Alfred Anaya took pride in his generous service guarantee. Though his stereo installation business, Valley Custom Audio Fanatics, was just a one-man operation based out of his San Fernando, California, home, he offered all of his clients a lifetime warranty: If there was ever any problem with his handiwork, he would fix it for the cost of parts alone—no questions asked.

Anaya’s customers typically took advantage of this deal when their fiendishly loud subwoofers blew out or their fiberglass speaker boxes developed hairline cracks. But in late January 2009, a man whom Anaya knew only as Esteban called for help with a more exotic product: a hidden compartment that Anaya had installed in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Over the years, these secret stash spots—or traps, as they’re known in automotive slang—have become a popular luxury item among the wealthy and shady alike. This particular compartment was located behind the truck’s backseat, which Anaya had rigged with a set of hydraulic cylinders linked to the vehicle’s electrical system. The only way to make the seat slide forward and reveal its secret was by pressing and holding four switches simultaneously: two for the power door locks and two for the windows.

Esteban said the seat was no longer responding to the switch combination and that no amount of jiggling could make it budge. He pleaded with Anaya to take a look.

Anaya was unsettled by this request, for he had suspicions about the nature of Esteban’s work. There is nothing intrinsically illegal about building traps, which are commonly used to hide everything from pricey jewelry to legal handguns. But the activity runs afoul of California law if an installer knows for certain that his compartment will be used to transport drugs. The maximum penalty is three years in prison. Anaya thus thought it wise to deviate from his standard no-questions-asked policy before agreeing to honor his warranty. “There’s nothing in there I shouldn’t know about, is there?” he asked. Esteban assured him that he needn’t worry.

Esteban drove the F-150 to Anaya’s modest ranch-style house and parked by the back porch. A friend of his, who introduced himself as Cesar, followed right behind in a black Honda Ridgeline truck. The 37-year-old Anaya, a boyishly handsome man whose neck and arms are covered with tattoos of dice and Japanese art, tested the switches that controlled the truck’s trap. He heard the hydraulics whirr to life, but the seat stayed firmly in place. He would have to use brute force.

Anaya punched a precise hole through the upholstery with his 24-volt Makita drill, probing for the screws that anchored the seat to the hydraulics. After a few moments he heard a loud pop as the drill seemed to puncture something soft. When he finally managed to remove the backseat, he saw what he had hit: a wad of cash about 4 inches thick. The whole compartment was overflowing with such bundles, several of which spilled onto the truck’s floor. Esteban had jammed the trap by stuffing it with too much cash—over $800,000 in total.

Anaya stumbled back from the truck’s cab, livid. “Get it out of here,” he growled at Esteban. “I don’t want to know about this. I don’t want any problems.”
Mr. Anaya did get problems. Read the article: Alfred Anaya Put Secret Compartments in Cars. So the DEA Put Him in Prison. Wired>>

They were pranked at the pump

More fun than a toy gas pump

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno decided to prank people who were pumping gas by setting up a fake "Pumpcast News" newscast. Will and Monifa did such a good job singing and dancing that they were invited on to the show to sing with the band.

I especially loved the wife's reaction.

Pumpcast News

What happens when you play along with a prank

An optical illusion for Mother's Day

A view from inside a cave.

This image was created by Neil Rhodes and posted to>>

Amazingly realistic fake birds

Of course, you could find more realistic-looking 
fake birds, but these are made of paper.

When I was in grade school I designed and made a paper model of the USS Monitor, the Union Navy's round-turreted iron-clad warship. There was something very satisfying about taking flat paper and twisting and gluing and painting it to create something that looked solid.

This guy must be much more satisfied.

Dutch artist Johan Scherft creates three-dimensional models of birds and other animals from thin paper templates that he hand-colors with watercolor and gouache paints and then assembles.

Kingfisher 2 - he's a hollow model 
made only from paper, paint and glue.

Here's how he makes his papercraft Kingfisher:

Paper Kingfisher

You can download various templates and assemble your own paper creatures, here>>

I also love this creature hatching from an egg:

The hatching Deinonychus

Johan Scherft>>

Befuddled by a bar of chocolate

The infinite supply puzzle

Magician and chocolate lover Mariano Tomatis explains:

How to create chocolate out of nothing  

Actually, he doesn't explain it. He's using white chocolate, and to chocolate lovers, that's not really chocolate at all.

 Here you go.

Tricked by the stink of natural gas

Where there's a smell, there could be an explosion.

At 8 o'clock in the morning, calls starting coming in from people in downtown Great Falls, Montana. All the callers reported they smelled a natural gas leak, and authorities completely evacuated at least six buildings as they searched for the problem. It turns out it was an olfactory deception caused by the gas company, and it had nothing to do with a leak:
Nick Bohr, general manager at Energy West, said workers at the company were cleaning out some storage areas and discarded several boxes of scratch-and-sniff cards that it sent out to customers in the past to educate them on what natural gas smells like.

“They were expired, and they were old,” Bohr said. “They threw them into the Dumpsters.”

When the cards were picked up by sanitation trucks and crushed, “It was the same as if they had scratched them.”

The chemical mercaptan is added to natural gas, which is odorless, so people can detect gas leaks. It smells like rotten eggs and is not poisonous.

All the cards combined to make a very strong smell, so as the garbage truck drove around downtown, it left behind the smell people think of as natural gas.

“It’s really, really potent,” said Jamie Jackson, a battalion chief for Great Falls Fire/Rescue...

Workers still were checking for possible gas leaks at noon “to make sure two things didn’t happen at once.” Workers followed the garbage trucks out to the dump and went through those loads of garbage after they were dumped.

“There’s no problem with contamination,” Bohr said, and the smell samples “can be buried with normal garbage.” He said 25,000 of the samples were sent out at one time.

Bohr said the company apologizes for the problem, especially since the smelly culprits originally were just part of a process to make everything safer.

“In a sense, it worked the way it was supposed to,” Bohr said of the numerous calls reporting gas leaks.
Energy West official: Scratch-and-sniff cards to blame for gas smell in downtown Great Falls. Great Falls Tribune>>

It was fraud... plus a little something else

It comes in many varieties.

It seems to be a somewhat common fraudulent scheme (at least, when I troll through the world of deception) for an employee to create fake companies, bill their own company for products or services that never existed, and pocket the dough.

Clayton “Craig” Hogeland tweeked that basic fraud story enough to deserve special mention.

He was convicted because he created three fake companies and stole about $400,000 from the trucking company where he worked. He was charged with a typical list of crimes (mail fraud, money laundering, income tax evasion.)

Yet he also received an "obstructing justice" charge because of his novel tactic for delaying his trial and his sentencing hearing.

Prosecuters were pissed off because Mr. Hogeland faked a "life-threatening medical condition."

Before he was sentenced, Mr. Hoagland went to a hospital due to very high potassium levels, and his illness delayed the date of his trial almost eight months.

Yet after he was finally placed in custody, his condition suspiciously improved.


His wife turned over four suspicious zip-lock bags she found among his things. When tested, they turned out to be potash, or potassium chloride.

Just the thing to raise your blood potassium levels and keep you from beginning to serve your time in prison.

In Mr. Hoagland's case, he was sentenced to 16 years.

(By the way, although potassium chloride is primarily used to make fertilizer, it also has a another use related to criminal justice. In high enough doses, it's part of a cocktail of chemicals used to stop the heart in an execution by lethal injection.)

Fraud, fake illness get Advantage employee 16 years, StarTribune South>>

When puzzles are more than a game

Some puzzles are not merely 
idle pastimes for hip teens.

I just watched an episode of the British TV series Sherlock called "The Great Game" where a contemporary version of the Sherlock character matches wits with the evil Moriarty. Sherlock of course is a master at discovering and piecing together connections between all types of clues. But does that sort of character exist in real life?

Then I read this article in The New Yorker about people who are insane about - and insanely good at - crosswords and other types of puzzles:
When Henry Hook was fourteen years old, living in East Rutherford, New Jersey, his grandmother gave him a crossword jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. Designed by Eugene T. Maleska, who became a legendary editor of the Times crossword, the puzzle had three parts. First, you had to solve the crossword puzzle on paper; then you had to fit the jigsaw pieces together in order to verify your answers. When you were done, if you looked carefully you could find a secret message zigzagging through the answers: “YOU HAVE JUST FINISHED THE WORLD’S MOST REMARKABLE CROSSWORD.” Hook was less than impressed. Within a matter of days, he sent a rebuttal puzzle to Maleska. It contained a hidden message of its own: “WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOUR PUZZLE IS MORE REMARKABLE THAN MINE?

In the thirty-two years since then, Hook has come to be known as the Marquis de Sade of the puzzle world: a brilliant and oddly beloved misanthrope, administering exquisite torture through dozens of puzzle books and syndicated crosswords. But he’s not used to being clueless himself. Standing at the corner of Forty-third Street and Ninth Avenue one Saturday night, glaring out from beneath a Brooklyn baseball cap, he looks both fearsomely focussed and a little disoriented. He’s been brought here, along with a team of other puzzle experts, by a blank scroll of paper—the first clue in an elaborate treasure hunt known as Midnight Madness. From Fortieth Street to Sixtieth Street and from the East River to the Hudson, fifteen teams are scrambling across Manhattan in search of clues, each of which points to another location. Every fifteen minutes, teams can call in to headquarters and ask for a hint; the first team to reach the last location wins.

Half an hour ago, one of Hook’s seven teammates pulled out a tape measure and found that the blank scroll was exactly forty-three by nine inches. That brought them to this intersection, where they’ve been searching ever since. Across the street, a writer for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and a crossword virtuoso named Ellen Ripstein are scrutinizing graffiti in a phone booth. Catercornered to them, the editor of the Wall Street Journal crossword is standing beside a professional palindromist who is riffling through a bin of adult-education pamphlets. But by now they’re not alone. All around them, spindly cryptologists from fourteen other teams are scanning signs and peering sharply at Chinese menus. Hook’s teammates already look winded—they’re accustomed to more sedentary puzzle-solving—but their opponents are dismayingly sprightly. They are also better prepared: one team has come with nearly twenty members, many of them dressed in black, who are being deployed like ninjas around the intersection.

Hunts like this are the X-Games of cryptology: half wordplay and half extreme sport. The clues are as much as a mile apart, and the organizers—three shadowy figures known to us only by their first names—seem more interested in absurdist humor and elaborate effects than in pure deductive logic. “I hope you know I’m missing my karaoke night for this,” Hook mutters, lumbering past. Given his reclusive ways, it’s a wonder he agreed to join at all, and it’s clear that he expects to regret it. The T-shirt he’s wearing shows a man with thick spectacles irately crumpling an I.Q. test. “Why am I doing this?” the man is saying. “Why am I allowing myself to be humiliated by these moronic puzzles?!”
Read more: The Riddler. Meet the Marquis de Sade of the puzzle world. The New Yorker>>

The Montana State yearbook prank

Clarence Mjork, an outstanding student

The pranks that live on as legends are ones that require planning, a sense of humor, and brilliant execution.

In 1933, when students opened copies of their college yearbook at Montana State University, they saw that something was not quite right.

Dave Rivenes was the yearbook editor, and he'd been planning his prank before he went to college. Nobody knew what he was going to do except a few close friends. He graduated a year later than planned because he spent so much time on it.

The prank wasn't discovered until all the books had been printed:
Sorority women might have been pleased to read that "all the popular girls on campus are members of this sorority," but every sorority was described the same way. Readers saw the Exponent staff listed as if they were cast members of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," playing slaves, Simon Legree, blood hounds, cakes of ice and back stage noises. Text from "The Rover Boys Go to College," a series of popular children's books of the time, ran throughout the yearbook, describing the fictional adventures of Dick, Tom and Sam instead of the real experiences of MSC students.

Finally on page 55, readers began seeing Mjork. In real life, he was Rider in disguise.

Once he began showing up, Mjork appeared in almost every photo in the activities section. He laid across laps, held women on his lap, draped his arm over shoulders, peered between heads and hung from a lamp. In one photo, he held a giant fish. Another time, as Col. Mjork, he peered down the barrel of a gun. On one page, he appeared eight times, with each photo supposedly showing a different Clarence Mjork, all from Endgate, Mont., but unrelated.

The yearbook that included real-life faculty members who went on to have MSU buildings named after them--men like Cobleigh, Gaines and Linfield--listed Mjork as the campus playboy, escort to the campus queen, senior class adviser, junior class adviser, sophomore class adviser and freshman class adviser. He was the printer's devil and editor-in-chief of the yearbook, as well as its proofreader, military editor, power behind the throne, shadow, and friend to the editor. He supposedly worked for the student newspaper as sports editor, managing editor, society editor, business manager, circulation manager and proofreader. He apparently belonged to more than 25 clubs.
The yearbook won various awards, including "most original" of the year.

David Rivenes, the trickster, 
in later years.

Read more: The long, unlikely life of Clarence Mjork, Montana State University Magazine>>

This one is a master of camouflage

It's an orchid mantis.

Go 40 seconds into the video and spot the doomed fly and the slowly moving mantis, until...

An orchid mantis eats a fly

Found via Kotke>>