These shoes not allowed to fly

These plastic gun heel shoes could not fire.

In July 2013, a woman at LaGuardia airport in New York was told she could not board an aircraft while wearing shoes with fake gun heels. She handed them over and was not arrested.

Also, the woman behind her in line was told she must surrender her prosthetic leg.

Woman tries to board LaGuardia flight wearing pumps with gun heels, Daily News>>
Image is a Cherry Darling doll from the movie Planet Terror (Grindhouse)

How a smart man got conned

The clincher was when he was told to call 
the number on the back of his bank card.

UK music journalist Andy Welch writes about how his credit card was stolen by con artists:
"Hello Mr Welch. Visa Card Services here." That was the line with which my nightmare started one Sunday morning, hungover, sitting on the sofa trying to piece together the night before. The landline rang. I was surprised because I’d only given the number to about three people.

The person on the other end of the phone – Mark – told me there had been a number of fraudulent transactions on my bank account since midnight, adding up to about £1,100. I’d never heard of Visa Card Services before, but then I’d never had money stolen like this before. Maybe this is what happens?

He then confirmed the last genuine withdrawal I’d made – at the Barclays opposite Highbury & Islington station – gave me a reference number and told me to ring the number on the back of my bank card.
And so the con game began.

Continue the story here: Won’t Get Fooled Again, Think I Wanna Tell the World>>

Via "Visa Card Services here" Metafilter>>

Damselfish are distressed without their fake eyes

Young damselfish develop fake eyespots on their
dorsal fins to confuse their enemies.

Sometimes it helps to be exposed to your enemies at a young age.

Scientists think young damselfish develop fake eyespots - which fade when they grow up - to fool their enemies into not knowing if they're coming or going. That way, a predator who thinks he's attacking the front of the fish might actually be attacking the less vulnerable back of the fish, enabling the fish to escape serious harm.

Like having his head bitten off.

But is this really true? Biologists did an experiment where they took young damselfish who'd never been exposed to predators and exposed some to predators and didn't expose others.

To expose them without killing them, they fooled the fish by placing a variety of harmless fish substitutes in their tank: a predator fish in a plastic bag, or the smell of a predator fish, or a harmless fish that looks like a predator but doesn't eat meat.

The fish who were exposed to the harmless predators developed the fake eyespots, as well as other features that helped them, such as smaller real eyes, deeper bodies, and a more cautious attitude.

When they finally exposed the damselfish to predators, the innocent fish who had never encountered predators were at a disadvantage compared to the fish who encountered the predators.

Their disadvantage? They died five times more often.

Researchers find young angelfish grow fake eyes to ward off predators, PhysOrg>>

Saul Alvarez said he was playing a prank

It was a Friday night on June 28th in 
New York City, and a woman was jogging.

At about 10:45 at night, twenty-one-year-old Saul Alvarez saw a woman who was jogging near 106th Street in New York's Central Park. He jogged behind her for a few minutes and waited until someone passed by on a bike. Then he grabbed the jogger's arm and wrestled her to the ground and cupped her hand around her mouth so she couldn't scream.

The woman did scream and she broke free and Mr. Alvarez fled. A passerby heard the screams and called 911 and stayed with her until police arrived and she gave them Mr. Alvarez's description.

He was captured soon afterwards.

When Mr. Alvarez talked to police, he said it was all a prank. He explained:
Her eyes made me think that she had a good sense of humor and she would be a good person to play the prank on.

When I first took her down, I said 'prank.'

I've never done this prank in my life. This is the first time ever.

My prank was supposed to be to scare her by grabbing her from behind and taking her down to the ground.
Later he admitted he had played the prank once before, with good results:
The only other time that I ever played this prank was on my wife a few years ago and that's how we met.
He said some of his other favorite pranks were to replace people's coffee with water and to switch out skateboard wheels with marshmallows.

His prank was interpreted slightly differently by police, and Mr. Alvarez was charged with first-degree attempted rape.

The suspect told authorities "her eyes" made him think she'd get the joke, NBC New York>>

How a runner got fooled in baseball

I don't want to talk about it...

In one of my past posts, I mentioned how Coco Crisp, a baseball player for the Oakland Athletics, fooled baseball pitchers in order to steal bases. (How baseball players steal bases>>)

But baseball runners can also be fooled.

Just ask Shin-Soo Choo.

In this clip from a baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers, a player from the Cincinnati Reds hits a ball to center field. Mr. Choo is on first base, running to second.

He should remain on second base, but he gets fooled.

It's hard to see, but as the ball is hit, second baseman Skip Schumaker from the Los Angeles Dodgers reaches up quickly, as if he's caught the ball. That causes Mr. Choo to think that Mr. Schumaker actually caught the ball, so he slides into the base hoping to make it, because Mr. Schumaker only has to touch him with the ball to get him out.

Yet while he's sliding, he's facing away from the outfield. When he finally looks into the outfield, he realizes his mistake. Mr. Schumaker did not catch the ball - the outfielder caught the ball.

But Mr. Choo has missed the fact that the ball bounced on the ground.

So he thinks that his teammate on first base is out, and he will be too if he doesn't run quickly back to first base.

So Mr. Choo starts running towards first base.

And that's when he realizes, hey, wait, that guy in the outfield didn't catch the ball in midair, and that means that I should stay on second base, and...

It's too late.

The outfielder throws the ball to second base, and Mr. Choo can't run to first base, and he can't go to second base. He's trapped and he's fooled and he's out.

All together, the tricky play took about five seconds.

Shin-Soo Choo Twice Falls For Dodgers’ Fakery On One Play, Deadspin>>

A woman riding a bicycle - an optical illusion

Possible reasons why this is funny:
  • Being fooled by an attractive woman who turns out to be a man is funny.
  • Inadvertently exposing a body part that should remain private is funny.
  • Being unaware of impending embarrassment - as long as you're not the victim - is funny.
  • When you figure out that it's really a bike seat and you were fooled is funny.
  • The human penis is funny.
Source: The wide world of the internets.

In Russia, babies wear $30 Armani diapers

 In this ad that appeared in Russian magazines, 
happy babies frolic on a bearskin rug 
while sporting Armani diapers.

The original idea was hatched at a dinner where marketing executives, whose clients were a global diaper brand, discussed whether Armani or Gucci could be licensed to create a luxury brand of diapers. Images from the advertising campaign were first sent to online fashion sites. Then the ad went viral.

Some in the United States questioned whether the ad was real, but the ad's creator said nobody in Russia was surprised, because in Russia:
"If you go to a kids' store, you can easily find an Armani corner with $300 sneakers. If you go to a toy store, you can find a toy car for $20,000 or a baby carriage for $30,000."
The advertisement was created by artist Petro Wodkins. Here's an excerpt from his interview in the magazine Paper:
Wodkins says he got the idea for his latest project while attending a dinner last year with a group of marketing executives whose client was a global diaper brand...

Whatever shred of believability the ad had was connected, on some level, to the pervasive stereotype of billionaire nouveau riche Russian oligarchs with indiscriminate spending habits; it's likely that the spread of the image would not have been as successful -- or as credible -- if it had claimed to be selling Armani diapers in France, Germany or even the U.S. "The current image of Russia is that any shit can happen here," Wodkins says. There are "many reasons to believe that because there are people buying basketball clubs, expensive yachts, expensive art, security guards... It makes people worldwide believe that these crazy Russians are spoiled."

In post-communist Russia "it's about showing off and buying whatever you can," Wodkins says of the consumer culture there. "I hope my work will get people to think about whether they really need all of this. I want the Russian image to change."
The ad, of course, was a fake. Here's another of Mr. Wodkin's works that I mentioned on Deceptology: The golden pissing Petro prank>> 

Read more about his diaper prank: Is Armani Selling $30 Diapers to Russian Babies? Paper>>

- Petro Wodkins>>

Fart spray prank sends 6 Bible campers to hospital

Yes, it's a real product, 
and yes, it's called Liquid Ass.

I don't usually quote complete news stories and their headlines, but this one from the New York Daily News was too perfect:
Fart spray prank sends 6 Bible campers to hospital

A young camper at Camp Wo-Me-To used Liquid Ass for a fart prank that sent six fellow campers to the hospital.

Fart spray caused quite a stink at a Maryland Bible camp after a prankster ended up hospitalizing six of his friends.

Cops say a young camper unleashed Liquid Ass into the air conditioning units of two cabins at Camp Wo-Me-To, in Jarrettsville, on Tuesday.

The putrid concoction — which smells like human feces — was mixed with rodent repellent that contained rancid meat and eggs.

But the practical joke backfired and more than a dozen campers started suffering breathing and other respiratory problems.

One 16-year-old boy and five other students were rushed to hospital, reports the Fallston Patch. They were released several hours later.

Other children had to be hosed down as local hazmat teams were drafted in to ventilate the cabins until the fumes dissipated.

Firefighters are now investigating the incident.
Fart spray prank sends six Bible campers to hospital, New York Daily News>>

Fake GPS rouses you from your taxi stupor

Wait... what did it just say?

I laughed out loud at this prank on cab passengers.

The GPS Prank

3 commercials for fake reality shows

It's not hard to create fake ads when the 
reality show format can be so ridiculous.

These three television commercials (for the reality shows Long Island Landscapers, Clam Kings, and Meet the Tanners) are ads that fool you into thinking the shows they're advertising are real, except they're actually promoting PBS station WNET as a mainstream TV alternative, using the line:
"The fact that you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV."
Clam Kings, Trailer

"The ocean is big but it's not nearly big enough for these two clam diggers, and they'll stop at nothing to be crowned king of the clams. Dig into their competitive and high stakes world as they battle over clams, territory, and more clams. Clam Kings, premiering this September 17th, at 9/8C. It'll be one shell of a good time."

Long Island Landscapers, Trailer

"For this ragtag group of landscapers the only thing they do better than cutting grass, is cutting corners. With bad attitudes and endless fighting, every landscaping job could be their last. Long Island Landscapers, season premiere coming this September 26th, at 9/8C. Backyards beware!"

Meet The Tanners, Trailer

"A new family is stepping into... the sunlight. Sparks and oils will fly, because for this family getting the perfect shade of perfection is no easy task- and they're going for the bronze. Meet the Tanners, premiering Sunday, August 18th at 8/7C. It'll be sunsational."
Found via Laughing Squid>>

Fool an auto thief with a vintage Gard-A-Car

Thief Is Left Stranded 
at Scene of the Crime. 
He Must Flee!
While visiting the ReSource yard in Boulder, a place where you can buy or donate reusable building materials, I discovered this old Gard-A-Car Auto Immobilizer.

It was probably sitting in a garage for 36 years until it was unearthed and donated in the hopes that it might be useful to someone.

Patent Pending.

You wire the "complete - ready to install in minutes" Gard-A-Car security system into your car's ignition system to foil any potential car thieves. It doesn't completely stop your car from starting. That would be too easy. Instead, it stalls the car with a timed circuit breaker and fools the thief with clever psychology:
"Permitting car to start and then stopping it catches thief off guard, stranded with a stolen car. He doesn't know what to do so he leaves car and runs."
Not sure if this would work with modern cars, but let me know if you'd like me to buy it for you. Never been used. Mint condition. Original box. Includes instructions. Hurry, only one available!

 Has one-year warranty, 
which expired in 1978.
(Click to enlarge)

Today, finding this device in a car would likely
prompt a call to Homeland Security.

ReSource Yard, Boulder>>

Chipotle's hacked Twitter account was a hoax

"Burritos so big you'll fart for days."

You just can't trust big companies these days:
"Sorry all. We had a little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now!"
That's the Twitter message sent from Chipotle Mexican Grill after their Twitter account seemed to have been hacked after a series of odd tweets.

But it was really a publicity stunt to publicize their online scavenger hunt. The tweets contained clues to solve one of the puzzles.

Since the company gained 4,000 new Twitter followers, they considered the fake tweets a success.

When I searched online, I found the ad shown above, and at first I thought it had to be a fake, but now, who knows?

Chipotle stages bogus Twitter hack for promotional campaign, CNET>>

The marvelous talking machine of 1845

Was a small person hidden inside?
Did he use a ventriloquist?

Although it may have looked and sounded like a magic trick, no deception was used to create Joseph Faber's Euphonia. The machine he invented in 1845 consisted of the technology that was available in 1845: bellows and air chambers and a woman's fake head with an artificial tongue.

The Euphonia could sing and speak different languages and was exhibited at P. T. Barnum's museums. It never made Mr. Faber rich.

However, the Euphonia may have influenced another inventor. When Melville Bell saw - and heard - the invention, he was impressed. He was the father of Alexander Graham Bell, the man who invented a slightly more enduring technology - the telephone.

The Euphonia - A Marvelous Talking-Machine, Curious History>>
Via Boing-Boing>>

How baseball players steal bases

It's a cat and mouse game between pitcher and runner.

In an article by Jonah Keri on the website Grantland, Coco Crisp, a baseball player for the Oakland Athletics, explains how he steals bases.

If he can time his run for just the right moment...
Are you a big video guy then?

Yeah, that's my main thing. A lot of guys like to see what kind of pitches a pitcher will throw, for hitting. Since I don't care about that [laughs] … I just like to go up there, see the ball, hit the ball. I don't like too much information for hitting. But for base stealing, I can never have too much information. So I like to go in there and see what their first movement is, check on their times [to home]. With base stealing, the biggest thing is knowing what time you can steal off of a pitcher, and being patient with that. I just try to collect as much information as possible so I have a higher-percentage chance to steal.

Are you scouting seven or eight pitchers a game then? The starter and all the possible relievers?

No, I study the starters, and as relief pitchers come in, if other guys get on base, I just stand on the rail, look at 'em and try to pick up on certain things they're doing in the moment, during the game. And I'll try to give my pointers, the things that I just learned, to the team as well.

When you're playing poker, if you have a tell, you fix it. Do pitchers ever switch it up on you?

Every now and then, every now and then. But for most pitchers, it would be hard to change what they're doing and still feel comfortable. I know for me it would be hard to come up to the plate, and say I'm susceptible to a slider down and in, so OK, I'm going to change my hands up so I can get to that slider down and in. But that might mess up something else. So you just don't swing at that slider, I guess. But for a pitcher, it's similar I would think, where if you're used to loading heavy on your back leg and bending your back knee first, it would be hard to not do that, and risk changing your mechanics. So you can usually rely on pitchers to keep doing what they've always done.
Read the article: Grand Theft Baseball. Oakland's Coco Crisp brings us deep into the mind of a base stealer, Grantland>>

3 illusions explain why texting and driving can kill

It's either one or the other.

In this excellent illustration of how the brain works, an ad agency in Brazil used optical illusions for a Fiat ad campaign against texting and driving. The idea is that you can see either the letter or the girl (or the bus, or the dog), but you cannot see both things at the same time.

Via: Karen Hurley, graphic designer>>

A scuba-diving soldier pranks his family

It definitely wouldn't have worked 
if he was wearing vintage diving gear.

Captain Bronson surprises his family by emerging from the water three weeks before he was supposed to return home.

Scuba Soldier - 
Back From Afghanistan Early - Surprises Family

Doubting Mormons discover the web

The church has always taught that 
the Book of Mormon is historically true.

If religion works for you and doesn't harm others, I have no problem with it, even if your belief might be "irrational." However, some who learn more facts about their religion have their faith severely shaken. Said Hans Mattsson:
“Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”
From an article by Laurie Goodstein in The New York Times:
In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.
Read the article: Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt, The New York Times>>

Sometimes, Snow White can be a very bad app

Zombie Snow White

Wallpaper apps are fun applications that allow you to change the background of your electronic device.

And while some phone apps might look legitimate, they can deceive you.

These rogue apps, which are available from legitimate sources, abuse people's love of well-known brands (like Disney's Snow White) and contain ads that spam you, send your private information to advertisers, change your homepage, or show you ads for porn sites.
"Hey dad, what's this mean?"

"Give me that!"
Neither the deceptive apps nor the image above have been approved by Disney.

- Mobile Threat Monday: Fake Disney Princess Wallpapers, PC Mag>>
 - Zombie Disney Princesses, HiConsumption>>
The artist who created Zombie princesses is Witit Karpkraikaew>>

The woman who makes antique food

These hardtack biscuits were not for strict vegetarians.

Talk about a specialty occupation.

Sandy Levins never much liked crafts, or cooking, and she has no formal art training. But she does love history, which is how she sort of fell into her career in deception. She is the go-to woman for historically researched fake food, which is made of clay, plaster or papier-mâché.

She created the hardtack biscuits shown above, which nourished soldiers during the Civil War, with a real 19th-Century dough cutter.

Her living room is filled with racks of fake meat.

She makes her faux food for museums and historic sites:
Her work has gotten around. She made faux fish in mustard sauce for Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate on the Potomac. That is also where the smoked-meat models hanging in her living room will end up. Monticello has some of her hams, Independence National Historical Park's Deshler-Morris House in Germantown got chickens and cucumbers. For Manhattan's Lower East Side Tenement Museum, she created pickled pig's feet with latex molds she made using real pig's feet.

Awaiting shipment for a Civil War-era exhibit at Arkansas's Fort Smith National Historic Park are salt pork, hardtack biscuits, and, for that extra touch of reality, maggots. The curator asked for them.
You can see the maggots in the first photo. Although hardtack contained only flour, water and salt, the biscuits were not always strictly vegetarian. That's why soldiers called the biscuits "worm castles".

Haddon Twp. woman is an expert at sculpting fake food.>>

This criminal needed to be more deceptive

Criminals: it's a good idea to have 
one of these on your car.

It started as a routine traffic stop.

A police officer in Roseville, California stopped a vehicle because it did not have license plates. The officer also discovered the vehicle did not have current registration.

But it did contain burglary tools.

The man and woman were arrested and released.

Police then realized that the man had given them a fake name. His real name was Bobby Louis Jones-Hanley, and he was wanted on another charge in another town.

Mr. Jones-Hanley was arrested again.

When police searched his home, they discovered $350,000, which might be suspicious, but not in itself illegal. However, they also found paper and printers and other items which led them to conclude that the $350,000 was illegal because it was counterfeit.

Later, he told police that he'd made $500,000 worth of fake money, and already sold $150,000 of it.

Mr. Jones-Hanley was arrested.

This time he was not released.

Officers Seize $350,000 in Counterfeit Cash, Fox40>>

How to half promote a magician

Andy Gross pranks people with his 
magician cut in half illusion.

Funny, Craziest Magic Trick / Prank! 
Magician Cut in Half

How does he do it? Well, it's obvious, really. Besides being a magician, Mr. Gross is also a ventriloquist.

Andy Gross>>

The kid with the magnetic nose

Preparing to win the Soapbox Derby

I'd never heard this story about my hometown. It appeared in a column about Boulder County history in my local paper, The Daily Camera. It happened years before I got to Colorado, yet it perfectly explores many of the themes in the deceptions I love to write about.

The year was 1973. It was the same year that Richard Nixon said "I am not a crook" before he resigned the next year because of the Watergate scandal which proved that yes, he was a crook.

A 14-year-old Boulder kid named Jimmy Gronen, who was sponsored by the local Jaycees organization, entered and won the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.

Until he was disqualified for cheating.

His race car, which was supposed to head down a hill powered only by gravity, contained an electromagnet in the nose that was switched on when he leaned his head back against a hidden switch.

The cars were held back by a metal rod, and when the rod was released, the magnet was attracted to the metal and helped the car to surge forward.

 A diagram of the deception

Said an Ohio prosecutor after the scandal was uncovered:
"It's like seeing apple pie, motherhood and the American flag grinding to a halt."
Jimmy Gronen's father had died and his mother was very ill, so he was living with his uncle and the Lange family in Boulder. Robert Lange was a businessman who studied engineering and economics at Harvard and started the innovative Lange ski boot company.

Mr. Lange admitted yes I helped the boy cheat using a "speed gimmick". He wrote:
 "I knew that this was a violation of the official Derby rules and consider it now to be a serious mistake in judgment."
He justified himself by saying that everyone cheated.

That was also very likely true, since the cars were supposed to be built by the young people themselves, with no added non-official parts, and there was a great deal of evidence that there was cheating, and that the All-American Soap Box Derby was really of course all about winning.

"Big" Jim Gronen's car

This sounds like Lance Armstrong and other athletes of today as they also explain why they cheated - how could they compete fairly if everyone else was cheating and they didn't cheat as well?

There were consequences of course to the cheaters, such as Mr. Lange having to pay $2,000 to the Boys Club of Boulder, and no racing for you for two years, but the most interesting thing I found in my research was an 2004 article from Westword magazine. Reporter Eric Dexheimer wanted to know how Jimmy Grogen fared when he grew up, so he found him and asked.

Mr. Grogen said "I've spent a lot of time in spiritual inquiry."
Following the derby, Gronen traveled to Minnesota to visit his mother at the Mayo Clinic. It was there, while sitting in his hotel room, that he heard Walter Cronkite mention his name. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, there's one little boy in America unhappier than Richard Nixon this evening," Cronkite said. "And it's little Jimmy Gronen, who cheated in the Soap Box Derby."

To escape the media circus, Gronen was quickly whisked away to an isolated family vacation spot in Northern Wisconsin, a fishing lodge accessible only by boat. He remembers reporters staking out the lake. Although derby officials demanded that Gronen return his championship trophy, he decided not to. Instead, he says, he sawed it up with a hacksaw and threw it into the lake.

That seemed symbolic of what happened within Gronen's family, as well. At home, he says, the subject of the dirty derby seemed to disappear like a crazy aunt exiled to the attic, leaving Gronen alone with his thoughts. "It was a funny time," Gronen recalls. "I really didn't have any support. I basically had to bear the brunt of this, at the age of fourteen."

When it came time to take responsibility for the derby scandal, among the Langes the notion of blame was a confusing one. For example, when the idea of installing the magnet was raised, Gronen says that, while it wasn't his idea, he didn't object, either. "I don't recall having any qualms," he says. But, he adds, "it was overpowering. My uncle, Bob Lange, was an overpowering figure." As a result, Gronen says from a vantage point of three decades, it's hard to know how much say he really had in the matter.

"To my uncle, it was more a technical issue than a moral one. Bob passed away three years ago. He was never really able to face it. He was a really gung-ho entrepreneur; he wasn't a reflective man. I think he felt really bad for me, but also felt it was a really corrupt environment. It was easy for him to rationalize. My grandfather was the only one who talked about it to me. He said, 'It's a wholesome thing to be busted in an act of dishonesty.' But he died shortly after the derby."

With the uproar over the scandal fizzling out, Gronen returned to school that fall. He says that far from being ostracized, he was treated well. Indeed, several of his teachers told him they thought what he did was great.

Morally, the response was perplexing, and Gronen himself seems to have struggled with the ambivalence. He recalls an incident that symbolized the ambiguity he felt: "I went to a small private school in the mountains. I had a really far-out algebra teacher who also taught religion. Every spring he told his class to design and put on a boat race in a local irrigation ditch. It had to do with design, but it also taught us to take responsibility for the event.

"When it came time to write the rules -- e.g., no batteries, no engines -- everyone wanted to detail all the things you couldn't do. I became extremely annoyed. I'd been through the race process; I knew how corruption occurs. So I said, 'Let's just write a paragraph explaining the spirit of the race, then have three judges decide whether entries qualify.' Listing every way to cheat encourages people to think of ways to go through the cracks."

Gronen says his classmates overruled him. So to make his point, he found a fifty-foot rubber band and made what was in effect a huge slingshot. His boat won the race easily.

"I didn't cheat," he points out. "I actually played within the rules. I was demonstrating to them the folly" of trying to anticipate all the ways people might cheat.

Toward the end of high school, Gronen says, he began exploring the notion of spirituality, mostly through Eastern mystic religions. Studying them soon became the central part of his life. "I was so focused on my spiritual pursuits that I didn't develop a career, per se," he says. "I finished high school and college; I've worked a number of jobs. But I've spent most of my life in monastic life, seeking truth. My real passion has been the study of dharma. It's just a big quest."

Gronen says he stayed attached to Boulder because of the Naropa Institute. But he also spends time in Iowa, where, he says, he helped found a non-profit institute called Four Mounds. The institute revolves around a 54-acre plot of land donated to the city of Dubuque by one of Gronen's relatives.

According to its website, Four Mounds features a program called Y.E.S., or Youth Empowerment Services, described as "alternative intervention services for children and adolescents ages 14 to 17 who are in need of direction, support, mentoring and the growth of self-esteem."

The description is familiar, and the connection seems obvious. But Gronen is not prepared to say he pursued a life of spiritual inquiry and do-gooding to atone for his derby sins. "I'm sure the scandal affected my life," he says. "I'm not exactly clear how, though. Did I go into religion and spirituality because of this? I don't know."

He continues: "The scandal overall was a real blessing to me. I'm sorry that it happened, but I think there was a benefit to it."

"There are two motivations for seeking the truth. One, to escape pain. And two, a love of the truth itself. I share both of these motives."
- Uphill Racer. Jim Gronen steers clear of his boyhood Derby scandal. Westword>>
- Soap Box Derby cheating scandal put Boulder boy in spotlight, The Daily Camera>>
- Photo from Modcult>>
- Photo from Flickr>>
This book has a chapter on the Magnetic Nose - Champions, Cheaters, and Childhood Dreams: Memories of the Soap Box Derby, Amazon>>

No, not french fries and ketchup

They look good enough to eat.

But that's not what you do with them.

Completely sidestepping the question "Why?"

Fake Food Hatanaka, Japan>>
Via Book of Joe>>

Watch a deceptive two-year-old thief

He uses nail clippers as a lock pick.

So, are criminals made, or born that way? Parents secretly film their son breaking into his sister's room.

2 yr old Bedtime Bandit

When fakes can be very, very bad

The USS Missouri

Fake handbags or shoes can be a problem for companies who lose out on revenue from the counterfeits.

Submarine parts, however...

Peter Picone is a military-components distributor charged with sending fake semiconductors to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut, the home of the Navy's nuclear submarine fleet.

The parts were labeled as coming from Xilinx, National Semiconductor, and Motorola, although they were actually counterfeits from Hong Kong or China.

In 2008, Mr. Picone sent an instant message:
“I have to buy China and risk fake parts to compete. ... It’s my whole biz."
Some of the circuits he sold were scheduled to be installed on active-duty nuclear submarines, and it's unclear if they were installed or not.

In 2011, the Senate Armed Services Committee looked into the dangers of fake components. At the time, some estimated that 15 percent of semiconductors bought by the Pentagon were counterfeit.

Feds: Counterfeit submarine parts shipped to Groton base, The Day, Connecticut>>
Photo from USS Missouri (SSN 780) Commissioning Photo Gallery, U.S. Navy>>

Deception, a cell phone, and rape

A story from the UK.

Matthew Stacey was not always a nice guy.

When he began his relationship with Vittoria Di Franco, he told her he was single. That was not true. Although he was estranged from her, he was still married to his wife, Faith.

After Ms. Di Franco discovered this lie, she still continued to see him, even though he was controlling and many times hostile and drunk.

And then there was the incident with the cell phone.

The couple argued. He was angry at her for holding his mobile phone, and, after they fell on the bed and his phone fell underneath her, Mr. Stacey raped Ms. Di Franco.

His phone, however, had accidentally dialed someone. That person heard the attack and listened to Ms. Di Franco shouting at him repeatedly to stop.

The person on the phone testified against him at trial, where he was sentenced to six years in jail.

The person on the phone was his estranged wife, Faith.

Ipswich: Estranged wife of rapist heard sexual attack on girlfriend, Ipswich Star>>

How James Clegg helps you pretend to be popular

Because everyone wants to be popular

An article at PC Magazine explains how James Clegg makes a profit selling fake followers on social networks like Twitter:
Clegg’s business is simple: You visit one of his 13 websites that sell fake followers, and punch in how many you want to buy. Today, the going rate for 1000 Twitter followers is about $11.
But why do people want to have fake followers?
“There is no one single type of buyer,” says Clegg. “I have had minor celebrities, big corporations, comedians, people buying for their friends for a practical joke, and many more. I’d say the majority are companies looking to get themselves from 20 followers to 1000 followers—and they start their real social media marketing from there.”
Mr. Clegg focuses on making his fake followers look unique, since social networking sites will delete followers who are obviously fake.

But what about morals? Does Mr. Clegg worry that he's fooling people?
Clegg says he has some qualms about the ethics of the business, saying that he thinks it’s the wrong way to build social presence, and that, ironically, he doesn’t set up fake followers for his own social campaigns. (The real Clegg has fewer than 100 followers on Twitter.)

Explaining his position, he says, “On a personal level I find it difficult to justify, but it goes a little something like this: If I were selling a product that nobody wanted, then I wouldn’t make any money, so I pass the moral-judgment decision to the consumer. Additionally, I always offer a money-back guarantee and advice on how to remove the followers. It’s the easiest way to clear the conscience.”
Read the whole article: Gaming Twitter: How one man turns fake followers into windfall profits, PC World>>

The used lottery ticket prank

They make an interesting car cover. 
(Click to enlarge)

Jim Price and Pedro Castaneda have been friends for over a decade. For a few years, they've been pulling lottery ticket pranks on each other. Mr. Price would stick a few used scratch lottery tickets in the back bumper of his friend's car, and then, in response, Mr. Castaneda would attach tickets to the side of his friend's vehicle. 

After Mr. Castaneda strung a line of tickets across the tailgate of Mr. Price's pickup, Mr. Price figured it was time to up the ante. He collected 1,200 used tickets from friends and from trash cans where lottery tickets are sold. Thirty hours later, he completed his masterpiece, the lottery ticket car cover, shown above.

Mr. Price said that Mr. Castaneda hasn't yet figured out how to retaliate.

The Worm: A winning prank and a birthday bash, The Wenatchkee World>>

Where to hide your valuables

You can hide your USB drive inside a wall.

I've aleady found and posted many of these sneaky places where you can hide your valuables, but there are a few I hadn't seen before. They're all from a post at Make>>

Via Boing Boing>>

The inappropriate power of a 13-year-old girl

It was a just a silly teenage prank 

While riding in her dad's car at nine o'clock at night in Valencia, Spain, a 13-year-old girl decided it would be funny to hold up a sign that said:
"Help. I'm being kidnapped."
But it was not so funny to the off-duty police officer driving nearby, who cut off their car, forced it to stop, and pulled a gun on the father.

More police officers arrived, and everyone soon realized it was all a joke gone bad.

Father and daughter were released without charges.

I wonder if, afterwards, father and daughter had a little conversation about appropriate passenger behavior.

Teenage prank goes horribly wrong in 'kidnapping' scare, Digital Journal>>

Naked waitresses flirt with you

An example of truth in advertising

Pet flipping is not always about acrobatics

There's good pet flipping and bad pet flipping.

House flipping is when a buyer purchases a house with the intent to quickly sell it to make a profit.

Pet flipping is when someone deceptively steals a pet and sells it to make a profit.

There are two major scams that "pet flippers" use to acquire their pets.

The simplest scam is to steal a pet and then act as if it's their own pet and sell it to unsuspecting buyers.

The other method is more devious. Someone will respond to an ad about a missing pet, claim it as their own missing pet ("Oh, you found my little Snowie, thank you!") and then sell it.

The thieves usually target purebred pets because they will bring in more money. Thieves also like to target pets who haven't been spayed or neutered, because those animals can be sold to breeders.

How can you protect your pet? Implant a microchip to identify your animal, and make sure your animal can't breed.

‘Pet Flipping’ Is Now a Thing, Time Magazine>>

When nature approves of your billboard

"Campanelle - Antica Acqua de Roma"
(Click to enlarge)

There were no reports of lawsuits by dissatisfied consumers who thought the water would restore their hairy youth.

Superhero Adolf Hitler salutes your graduation!

Congratulations from Batman, Captain America, 
the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, army men... and Hitler

Freshman art students at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University learned that art criticism comes fast and furious when you paint Hitler.

To honor graduating seniors, the students painted a mural which contained an image of Hitler giving the Nazi salute.

The university apologized, saying that the students explained that what they meant to show was that good and bad people exist, which is why they painted Hitler in black and white.

If that's true, in that case their art was badly executed, and merely misinterpreted by others.

Or it was a flimsy excuse. Most photos of Hitler in that pose are almost all in black in white, and the composition of the mural doesn't suggest that Hitler was bad.

It's more likely that students were painting images of leaders who wielded power, and they couldn't distinguish between good power and evil power.

In that case, the freshman students were ignorant.

Yet so were the graduating seniors, some of whom posed in front of it mimicking Hitler's Nazi salute.

"Salute me, I graduated!"

The banner was up for two days before it was removed.

Chulalongkorn University in Thailand sorry for Adolf Hitler superhero mural, Australia>>

Murderer couldn't fool his search engine

Daniel Maoz was accused of 
stabbing his parents to death in 2011

Mr. Maoz is a 29-year-old Israeli man who police said murdered his parents because he had gambling debts and wanted their inheritance money. His story kept changing: in one account, he said he didn't know about the attack, and in another, he said he had fought the attacker. When police found his DNA at the crime scene, he blamed his twin brother.

However, it did not help his case when authorities discovered his online search history, where he had searched for phrases such as:
- how to kill your parents and get away with it
- can soap clean DNA from a knife?
- murder for inheritance
Mr. Maoz, a software engineer, said he had searched "out of academic curiosity".

He was sentenced to two life terms in prison.

- Israeli who murdered his parents used tips he found online, Reuters>>
- Court convicts Daniel Maoz of brutal double murder of parents, Jerusalem Post>>

It's the most common optical illusion

It's so common, we don't even think 
of it as an optical illusion.

All "moving pictures" - movies, television, videogames, cartoons and so forth - rely on our brain to interpret separate images as motion.

It turns out that images need to pass by our eyes at around ten frames per second to trick our brain into thinking it's seeing actual motion.

Watch this five minute TED presentation for more.

Animation basics: The optical illusion of motion

Prank tells students they can pay for better grades

"Money is life’s report card"

A letter from Stevenson High School in Illinois was being sent around via social media and email. The letter said that the school was going to start a new program where freshman could "make financial donations to ease academic and extracurricular obligations."

In other words, students could pay money to get extra credit. For instance, the letter said $20 would give a student five extra credit points, while $35 would excuse a student from a test.

Just like the real world.

School officials said it was a hoax and had to calm down people who thought it was real. They posted a message on their Facebook page:
“This is a hoax, and IS NOT a Stevenson letter, program, or from a Stevenson employee. This is not something the district would ever endorse."
Stevenson High School Principal Troy Gobble said he didn’t know who created the hoax, but he said he’d “want to have a chat with them about responsible use of our letterhead.”

But it turns out the school was the one responsible.

The fake letter was part of a lesson plan. It had been used by teachers for years to teach a history lesson about medieval papal indulgences by the Catholic Church, where sinners could pay to have their sins erased.

So the high school was responsible for the contents of the letter, yet not responsible for how the letter was used.

- Extra credit for $20 at Stevenson High? Just a hoax, Chicago Tribune>>
- Fake letter was teaching tool, District 125 official says, Chicago Tribune>>
- "Money is life's report card."  William Hamilton, New Yorker Cartoon>>

Tasteless fake name prank will test your tolerance

Does gallows humor, cultural ignorance, racism, 
bad taste and media stupidity make you laugh?

TV station KTVU aired a television news report where they named the pilots of the Asiana flight that crashed in San Francisco.

Asiana Flight 214 Pilot's Names Released

The names were fake gag names, and were the supposed reactions the pilots had during the crash. If you say them out loud, you'll hear the joke:
Sum Ting Wong
Wi Tu Lo
Ho Lee Fuk
Bang Ding Ow
Something wrong
We Too Low
Holy Fuck
Bang Ding Ow!
The TV station did not say where they got the names, but they apologized profusely once they figured out that they had been pranked.

They said they had cleared the names with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Later, the NTSB said that when the station called to confirm the names, a summer intern told the TV station that the names were real.

Sources have not verified the intern's name as Stew Pidmeedya.

KTVU Reports Asiana Air Pilots Were “Sum Ting Wong” and “Ho Lee Fuk” Gawker>>

UPDATE: the station fired three producers over the incident. The owner of the station, Cox Communications, demanded that the video be removed from YouTube out of respect for Asian-Americans and because of copyright infringement. They did not mention the fact that it makes them look like idiots. 

Producers Fired at TV Station for Airing Fake Asiana Pilot Names, Newsmax>>

A joke from 1890 finally pays off

2,794 mint British farthing coins 
wrapped in tissue paper.

Every so often you hear about someone who pays a debt in a huge number of small coins to inconvenience the receiver.

The story told by one English family is that in 1890, a family member made a bet with a friend for £5. They were wagering on which raindrop would win a race by sliding first to the bottom of a window pane. The friend lost. He then jokingly paid off his debt with thousands of brand new British farthing coins, which were worth about a quarter of a penny.

By my calculations he may have originally paid off the debt with 4,800 farthings.

Some of the coins were spent, but in 2013 the remaining 2,794 coins, described as "Generally all glorious mint state with full lustre", were put up for auction. They were expected in bring in £14,000 - £18,000.

The Salesroom, Auction Catalogs, Woolley & Wallis>>

Inappropriate melons

Yes, inappropriate melons.

This type of illusion image, where a photo is taken at exactly the right time, are all over the internets, but for some reason I was in the mood to find this one particularly funny.

What would have made this photo an even more impressive piece of deception would have been if in the next photo the woman turned towards the camera and she was actually wearing this outside her clothes:

Innuendo made real.

Also, in the tossing melons photo, why are there melons hanging from poles?

- Source of watermelon toss pic: unknown.
- Watermelon bra: Squirrels of Doom>>