Volume 40
A Fun Site created by
Professor William Hillman culled from a daily motivational series
compiled for his BU Education Classes 2000-2009
The daily tech news items have been omitted since many of the stories are now "old news."


An eclectic collection of oddities, humorous anecdotes, weird photos, funny headlines, cartoons, puzzles, inspirational items, jokes, and more. . .  gathered here as a reference repository for speakers, lecturers, teachers, students, writers, or Web travellers just looking for diversion and a bit of levity. 




A Message from John Cleese to the citizens of the United States of America: In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USAand thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. c Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect: (You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary)

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix-ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of  communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of '-ize'. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent.

6. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) -- roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as Beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. 

15. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad. 

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776). 

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

~ John Cleese

Interactive 'clickers' transform classrooms

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- Professor Ross Cheit put it to the students in his "Ethics and Public Policy" class at Brown University: Are you morally obliged to report cheating if you know about it? The room began to hum, but no one so much as raised a hand. Still, within 90 seconds, Cheit had roughly 150 student responses displayed on an overhead screen, plotted as a multicolored bar graph -- 64 percent said yes, 35 percent, no. Several times each class, Cheit's students answer his questions using handheld wireless devices that resemble television remote controls.

The devices, which the students call "clickers," are being used on hundreds of college campuses and are even finding their way into grade schools. They alter classroom dynamics, engaging students in large, impersonal lecture halls with the power of mass feedback. "Clickers" ease fears of giving a wrong answer in front of peers, or of expressing unpopular opinions. "I use it to take their pulse," Cheit said. "I've often found in that setting, you find yourself thinking, 'Well, what are they thinking?"'

In hard science classes, the clickers -- most of which allow several possible responses -- are often used to gauge student comprehension of course material. Cheit tends to use them to solicit students' opinions. The clickers are an effective tool for spurring conversation, for getting a feel for what other students think, said Megan Schmidt, a freshman from New York City. "It forces you to be active in the discussion because you are forced to make a decision right off the bat," said Jonathan Magaziner, a sophomore in Cheit's class.

Cheit prepares most questions in advance but can add questions on the fly if need be. His setup processes student responses through infrared receivers that are connected to a laptop computer. Clickers increased class participation and improved attendance after Stephen Bradforth, a professor at the University of Southern California, introduced them to an honors chemistry class there last fall, he said. Bradforth uses the clickers to get a sense of whether students are grasping the material and finds that they compel professors to think about their lesson plans differently. He says it's too early to say whether students who used the clickers are doing better on standardized tests.

Eric Mazur, a Harvard University physics professor and proponent of interactive teaching, says clickers aren't essential but they are more efficient and make participation easier for shy students. Many colleges already use technology that allows teachers and students to interact more easily outside the classroom. For example, professors can now post lecture notes, quizzes and reading lists online. Several companies market software, such as Blackboard and Web CT, that provide ready-made course Web pages and other course management tools.

Mazur envisions students someday using their laptops, cell phones or other Internet-ready devices for more interactivity than clickers offer. At least one company, Option Technologies Interactive, based in Orlando, Florida, markets software that allows any student with a handheld wireless device or laptop to log onto a Web site and answer questions, just as they would with a clicker. For now, the clicker systems appear to be selling. Two companies that make the systems say each of their technologies are in use on more than 600 university campuses worldwide. Some textbook publishers are even writing questions designed to be answered by clicker, and packaging the devices with their books. Versions of clickers have been available since the 1980s, but in the past six years several more have entered the market and advances in technology have made them both cheaper and more sophisticated.

Most universities that use clickers require students to buy them, although at Brown they're loaned through the library. Made by companies including the Maryland-based GTCO CalComp, eInstruction Corp., of Denton, Texas, and Hyper Interactive Teaching Technology, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the devices cost about $30. The clickers communicate with receivers by infrared or radio signals, which feed the results to the teacher's computer. Software allows the students' responses to be recorded, analyzed and graphed.

While each company offers slightly different features, the systems typically allow instructors to display the class's results as a whole, or to record each student's individual response. The clickers themselves vary among companies but generally allow students to respond to multiple choice questions or key in a numeric answer. The clickers can also be used to give quizzes that can be graded automatically and entered in a computerized gradebook, saving professors time. But several professors said they have avoided that so students will see the handheld devices as positive, rather than punitive. At the college level, the devices originally took hold in science classes, but they are finding their way into the social sciences and humanities, where the anonymity they offer may be an advantage. Cheit said that's especially true when it comes to sensitive topics, such as affirmative action. "People that are against it will click," Cheit said, "But they might not raise their hand and say it."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Group: Internet Explorer share slips below 90 percent 

NEW YORK (AP) -- Microsoft Corp.'s share of the U.S. browser market has slipped below 90 percent as the Firefox browser continues to grow in popularity, according to independent tracking by WebSideStory. Firefox, an open-source browser collectively developed by the Internet community under the Mozilla Foundation, had a 6.8 percent share as of April 29, an increase from 3.0 percent since WebSideStory began tracking Firefox separately in October. Other browsers based on the Mozilla code, including America Online Inc.'s Netscape, had a 2.2 percent share, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer share was 89 percent, a drop from 95 percent in June.

The figures are for all operating systems combined. On computers running Microsoft's Windows, Internet Explorer has a 91 percent share, down from 97 percent in June. Outside the United States, Germany is among the leading adopters of Firefox, with a 23 percent share, compared with 69 percent for Internet Explorer. "They just seem to be averse to Microsoft products and really interested relatively in these open-source products," said Geoff Johnston, a WebSideStory analyst. Microsoft is strong in Asia, with Internet Explorer commanding a share of 94 percent in Japan and 98 percent in China..

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age
HOUSTON, May 13 - Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.

By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

"In this information-seeking America, I can't think of anyone who would elect to build a books-only library," said Fred Heath, vice provost of the University of Texas Libraries in Austin.

Their new version is to include "software suites" - modules with computers where students can work collaboratively at all hours - an expanded center for writing instruction, and a center for computer training, technical assistance and repair.

Such digital learning laboratories, staffed with Internet-expert librarians, teachers and technicians, have been advancing on traditional college libraries since appearing at the University of Southern California in 1994. As more texts become accessible online, libraries have been moving lesser-used materials to storage. But experts said it was symbolic for a top educational institution like Texas to empty a library of books.

The trend is being driven, academicians and librarians say, by the dwindling need for undergraduate libraries, many of which were built when leading research libraries were reserved for graduate students and faculty. But those distinctions have largely crumbled, with research libraries throwing open their stacks, leaving undergraduate libraries as increasingly
puny adjuncts with duplicate collections and shelves of light reading.

Mr. Heath said removal of the books had raised some eyebrows among the faculty and anxiety among the library staff. But he said the concerns were needless. "Books are the fundamental icon of intellectual efforts," he said, "the scholarly communication of our time."

Rarely do today's students hunt for a book in the stacks, she said. Now they go online and may end up with a book, but also a DVD or other medium. But, she said, "it's unlikely there will be libraries without books for a long time." Significantly, librarians are big supporters of the trend.

"This is a new generation, born with a chip," said Frances Maloy, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries and leader of access services at Emory. "A student sends an e-mail at 2 a.m. and wonders by 8 a.m. why the professor hasn't responded."

Ms. Maloy praised the initiative at the University of Texas as signifying "that a great university with a fabulous library collection recognizes it's in the digital age."

Scientifically Wrong, But Politically Correct
FOX News

A chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin (2000), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: "Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return... Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth...

...Affirmative action for women and minorities is similarly pervasive in science textbooks, to absurd effect. Al Roker, the affable black NBC weatherman, is hailed as a great scientist in one book in the Discovery Works series. It is common to find Marie Curie given a picture and half a page of text, but her husband, Pierre, who shared a Nobel Prize with her, relegated to the role of supportive spouse. In the same series, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, is shown next to black scientist Lewis Latimer, who improved the light bulb by adding a carbon filament. Edison's picture is smaller.

Middle-school science textbooks are riddled with errors, a Packard Foundation Study found. British students will study "science lite" under the new national curriculum: The science that all pupils study from the age of 14 is to focus more on "lifestyles," general knowledge and opinion and less on chemistry, biology and physics, says the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. ...Instead of learning science, pupils will "learn about the way science and scientists work within society."

They will "develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others' decisions about lifestyles," the QCA said. In addition, they will be taught that "there are some questions that science cannot answer, and some that science cannot address." Especially, if nobody actually knows science.

Genetic Testing Reveals Awkward Truth Xinjiang's Famous Mummies (Caucasian)
Khaleej Times

URUMQI, China - After years of controversy and political intrigue, archaeologists using genetic testing have proven that Caucasians roamed China’s Tarim Basin 1,000 years before East Asian people arrived. The research, which the Chinese government has appeared to have delayed making public out of concerns of fueling Uighur Muslim separatism in its western-most Xinjiang region, is based on a cache of ancient dried-out corpses that have been found around the Tarim Basin in recent decades. “It is unfortunate that the issue has been so politicized because it has created a lot of difficulties,” Victor Mair, a specialist in the ancient corpses and co-author of “Mummies of the Tarim Basin”, told AFP. “It would be better for everyone to approach this from a purely scientific and historical perspective.” The discoveries in the 1980s of the undisturbed 4,000-year-old ”Beauty of Loulan” and the younger 3,000-year-old body of the ”Charchan Man” are legendary in world archaeological circles for the fine state of their preservation and for the wealth of knowledge they bring to modern research.

New findings and discoveries
In historic and scientific circles the discoveries along the ancient Silk Road were on a par with finding the Egyptian mummies. But China’s concern over its rule in restive Xinjiang has widely been perceived as impeding faster research into them and greater publicity of the findings. The desiccated corpses, which avoided natural decomposition due to the dry atmosphere and alkaline soils in the Tarim Basin, have not only given scientists a look into their physical biologies, but their clothes, tools and burial rituals have given historians a glimpse into life in the Bronze Age. Mair, who played a pivotal role in bringing the discoveries to Western scholars in the 1990s, has worked tirelessly to get Chinese approval to take samples out of China for definitive genetic testing. One expedition in recent years succeeded in collecting 52 samples with the aide of Chinese researchers, but later Mair’s hosts had a change of heart and only let five of them out of the country.

“I spent six months in Sweden last year doing nothing but genetic research,” Mair said from his home in the United States where he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. “My research has shown that in the second millennium BC, the oldest mummies, like the Loulan Beauty, were the earliest settlers in the Tarim Basin. “From the evidence available, we have found that during the first 1,000 years after the Loulan Beauty, the only settlers in the Tarim Basin were Caucasoid.” East Asian peoples only began showing up in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, Mair said, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, largely based in modern day Mongolia, around the year 842. Modern DNA and ancient DNA show that Uighurs, Kazaks, Krygyzs, the peoples of Central Asia are all mixed Caucasian and East Asian. The modern and ancient DNA tell the same story,” he said. Mair hopes to publish his new findings in the coming months. China has only allowed the genetic studies in the last few years, with a 2004 study carried out by Jilin University also finding that the mummies’ DNA had Europoid genes, further proving that the earliest settlers of Western China were not East Asians.

Mixed opinions…

In the preface to the 2002 book, “Ancient Corpses of Xinjiang,” written by Chinese archeologist Wang Huabing, the Chinese historian and Sanskrit specialist Ji Xianlin soundly denounced the use of the mummies by Uighur separatists as proof that Xinjiang should not belong to China.

“What has stirred up the most excitement in academic circles, both in the East and the West, is the fact that the ancient corpses of “white (Caucasoid/Europid) people’ have been excavated,” Jin wrote. “However, within China a small group of ethnic separatists have taken advantage of this opportunity to stir up trouble and are acting like buffoons, (styling) themselves the descendants of these ancient “white people’ with the aim of dividing the motherland.” Further on, in an apparent swipe at the government’s lack of eagerness to acknowledge the science and publicize it to the world, Ji wrote, “a scientist may not distort facts for political reasons, religious reasons, or any other reason”.

Meanwhile, Yingpan Man, a nearly perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old Caucasoid mummy, was only this month allowed to leave China for the first time, and is being displayed at the Tokyo Edo Museum. The Yingpan Man, discovered in 1995 in the region that bears his name, has been seen as the best preserved of all the undisturbed mummies that have so far been found. Yingpan Man not only had a gold foil death mask -- a Greek tradition -- covering his blonde bearded face, but also wore elaborate golden embroidered red and maroon garments with seemingly Western European designs.

His nearly 2.00 meter (six-foot, six-inch) long body is the tallest of all the mummies found so far and the clothes and artifacts discovered in the surrounding tombs suggest the highest level of Caucasoid civilization in the ancient Tarim Basin region. When the Yingpan Man returns from Tokyo to Urumqi where he has long been kept out of public eye, he is expected to be finally put on display when the new Xinjiang Museum opens this year. China has hundreds of the mummies in various degrees of dessication and decomposition, including the prominent Han Chinese warrior Zhang Xiong and other Uighur mummies. However, only a dozen or so are on permanent display in a makeshift building until the new museum is completed.


As a writer, Walter felt when he worked he "entered a timeless sort of dimension. It is almost as though time stands still. The stories just come out of nowhere." So they did, just as the many characters he created, and the many names he adopted for himself: Walter B. Gibson, John Abbington, Andy Adams, Ishi Black, Douglas Brown, C. B. Crowe, Felix Fairfax, Wilber Gaston, Maxwell Grant, Maborushi Kineji, Gautier LeBrun, Rufus Perry, and P. L. Raymond. For Walter, output meant money. Although much of the public is under the impression that writing is easy, in reality a writer's life is difficult. In the March 1941 issue of Writers' Digest, Walter offered certain suggestions regarding his own output of "The Shadow":

I have found out certain points regarding my own output. Here they are:

  • Working hours: I tried getting up at a reasonable or stated hour, to approach writing like a regular job. No good. Experience proved that I wasted the extra time I could have slept, and became tired earlier.
  • Peak of Progress: Roughly, after the first two thousand words, I begin to approach the peak, and reach it between three and four thousand. Generally good through five thousand, and sometimes longer.
  • Pauses: Whenever I want them, even when unjustifiable. The latter type encourage a return to work, with greater zeal.
  • Time to Quit: Never, until after the peak has been reached, though long pauses can be inserted, such as going somewhere to dinner, a party, or a show. Such excursions, however, must be made with intent to resume work upon return. After the peak, I quit whenever I want.
  • Reward for Merit: When writing, I take the fun first, and pay up for it. This has given me discrimination and wariness regarding fun.
  • In breaking off, I follow a method which I believe has been frequently suggested: that of quitting in the middle of a chapter, often in the middle of a paragraph, or even a sentence. Once when a car was tooting for me to go somewhere, I couldn't wait to put another page in the typewriter, so I ended up in the middle of a hyphenated word. In picking up the next day I found it was very easy, perhaps because of the novelty. I often end work when I pull out a page, regardless of whether the sentence has ended.
  • When I finish a story, I put a new page in the typewriter, and begin on the next. I regard it as a sure-fire system to keep up output. Every writer is bound to have something in him upon completion of a story that will be of value, if he uses it right then.
  • This plan, judging from tests that I have made, is more applicable to the short story than the novel length.
  • One Wednesday I had the best of all excuses. Trying to start the next story outline, I couldn't find an idea to go with it. It was a really tough nut that would take a few days to crack. The day was lousy, and I felt the same. I was in Maine, and unless I mailed the synopsis the next afternoon, John wouldn't get it until Monday, since the office is closed Saturday. So I gave myself a complete out and began to read a magazine that was around the house.

    In it I found an article by a successful writer of mystery stories. It told how the source of inspiration, or what have you, can go dead or latent, leaving a writer more or less helpless until it returns. My agreement was so absolute, that it suddenly changed to horror. I was acknowledging a luxury that I couldn't afford. I went back to the typewriter, drove through the outline, and into the synopsis. The works was in the mail on Thursday, and the OK arrived Saturday. By Monday, I was deep into the story, a breeze to write from that synopsis.

    Which proves that one source of inspiration is a good, swift, self-delivered kick in the pants. Someone might answer this by telling me: "Maybe you don't need much inspiration, writing for your market." I need just as much as if I were writing for another, because I'm not writing for any market. I have always written for readers, and have found it valuable to continue that policy. It keeps a writer from going stale, enables him to follow any trend, and sometimes to start one.

    Asked if he enjoyed being a writer, Walter said: "I'd rather do any of a thousand other things. But whatever job I took, I'd spoil all the fun of it by wanting to write. So there it stands." Walter B. Gibson became the ideal example of a professional writer. He was a composite of many minds, centered in a generous and friendly personality. He truly enjoyed people and conversation, and he was constantly challenged by mental projects that found their way to his written pages. Creating fiction, nonfiction, almost any subject, posed a challenge for him, and he met each challenge with the same enthusiasm. Perhaps it might be a hardback book, or a booklet which detailed the lives of the presidents. It might be a book on Yoga, or How to Tie Knots, or Hypnotism Through the Ages. The range and breadth of subject matter which he tackled was vast, and his research retention ability was awesome. When publicity appeared on Halley's Comet, which made its appearance in 1986, Walter had already written of it years before. He once told me, "Bill, I would like to live to be 100 years old, so Willard Scott could mention it on the Today Show, but then again, I think I might like to go out on Halley's Comet like Mark Twain."

    All the various rooms in Walter's home contained a typewriter. In some of those typewriters, pages of uncompleted articles or projects remained even at the time of his death. With so many typewriters in simultaneous operation, he could work upstairs or downstairs, and shift from one subject to another.

    Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments 
    100. 28 Days Later 
    99. Creepshow 
    98. Zombie 
    97. Cat People 
    96. The Birds 
    95. Jurassic Park
    94. Child's Play
    93. Pacific Heights
    92. Village of the Damned 
    91. Shallow Grave
    90. Night of the Hunter 
    89. Alice Sweet Alice
    88. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    87. Black Christmas
    86. Wizard of Oz
    85. Blood & Black Lace
    84. Blue Velvet
    83. The Others
    82. Terminator
    81. The Howling
    80. Poltergeist
    79. Dracula
    78. The Brood
    77. Signs
    76. Evil Dead
    75. Candyman 
    74. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory 
    73. Blood Simple 
    72. Them!
    71. The Sixth Sense
    70. The Stepfather
    69. Re-Animator
    68. The Black Cat
    67. Duel
    66. The Tenant
    65. Marathon Man
    64. Near Dark
    63. Deliverance
    62. The Wolf Man
    61. The Devil's Backbone 
    60. The Beyond
    59. Fatal Attraction
    58. Cujo
    57. House of Wax
    56. Single White Female
    55. The Vanishing
    54. The Changeling
    53. Demons
    52. The Phantom of the Opera
    51. The Dead Zone
    50. The Last House on the Left
    49. Diabolique
    48. The Thing 
    47. Nosferatu 
    46. The Sentinel
    45. The Wicker Man 
    44. The Game 
    43. It's Alive!
    42. An American Werewolf in London
    41. The Hills Have Eyes
    40. Black Sunday
    39. Dawn of the Dead
    38. Peeping Tom
    37. House on Haunted Hill 
    36. Cape Fear
    35. Aliens
    34. The Hitcher
    33. The Fly
    32. Pet Sematary 
    31. Friday the 13th 
    30. Blair Witch Project
    29. Serpent and the Rainbow
    28. When a Stranger Calls
    27. Frankenstein
    26. Seven
    25. Phantasm
    24. Suspiria
    23. Rosemary's Baby
    22. Don't Look Now
    21. Jacob's Ladder
    20. The Ring
    19. Hellraiser
    18. The Haunting
    17. A Nightmare on Elm Street
    16. The Omen
    15. Freaks
    14. Halloween
    13. Scream
    12. Misery
    11. Audition
    10. Wait Until Dark
    9. Night of the Living Dead 
    8. Carrie
    7. Silence of the Lambs
    6. Shining
    5. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
    4. Psycho
    3. Exorcist
    2. Alien
    1. Jaws


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