You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll recoil and go "Ewww!" -- these are the wackiest IT stories of 2004. OK, so you won't cry, but you will go "Eww!" more than once.
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10. Survey: Work stinks
OK, so this isn't an overtly IT story, but let's face it folks -- it does get hot in the data center. What's the most bothersome thing at work? Pesky IMs? The boss who's constantly checking up on you? The salesperson behind you with the loudest and phoniest laugh in all of cubicledom? If you're in Germany, the most annoying thing about work is body odor. BO. Good ol' "Ben Overstreet." Yes, in a recent poll of German workers (it was NOT commissioned by Old Spice, Secret or Febreze), nearly 40% said the smell of their colleagues is the most irksome aspect of their jobs. Nothing else even came close. You could say BO won hands down (or arms up). Twenty-six percent said they had nothing to complain about, but then again, their senses of smell may not be all that keen.
Moral: Wasch dich mal!
9. Odes to the codes -- when geeks can't just say goodbye
Dead code frankly belongs in a code commode, but it's got some prime subterranean real estate in Dayton, Ohio. Computer programmers at LexisNexis give their old software code a proper burial, complete with shovels, earth and grave markers. Yes, rather than jettisoning the code into oblivion, they print it out and send the reams of paper off for the long dirt nap. Evidently, it gives the geeks closure. And closure isn't always pretty -- the gravestone of one problematic program was adorned with the emblem of a pig. But the "corpse" of another code that was more dearly departed got the whole nine yards (to go with the six feet) -- coffin, pallbearers, eulogies, "Taps," and best of all -- chocolate cake for mourners.
Moral: Not in my backyard.
8. In germ warfare, PCs beat toilets hands down
If you want a nice, clean working environment, leave that computer and head to the restroom -- it's an operating room compared to your workstation. ElectricNews.net reported that a microbiologist at the University of Arizona put computer workstations under the microscope. What he found was a bacterial bash; a microscopic Mardi Gras that would make Kid Rock close his tab and call it a night. The scientist found that the average computer workstation not only has more germs than the average toilet seat, it has A LOT more germs than the average toilet seat -- about 400 times more. No "buts" about it. Makes you want to eat your Lean Cuisine in a nice clean place -- like stall #3.
Moral: Bacteria cannot be outsourced.
7. Rage against the machine -- for $52
One of the many great scenes from the movie Office Space is when the fed up software guys give their nemesis copy machine a few love taps with a Louisville Slugger. Life is imitating art in a little Spanish village. A junkyard operator in Lubia has become the Sanford and Son of stress therapy. For a mere $52, folks who're teched out and teed off can get in touch with their inner Luddite (or inner Buford T. Pusser) and take a sledgehammer to cell phones, computers -- even cars and pictures of the boss. The junkyard provides the sledgehammer, helmet, overalls and goggles, as well as a heavy metal soundtrack -- you provide the fury. Each rage against the machine is limited to two hours, but no one has lasted more than 30 minutes so far. It's good cardio, too, so you'd think maybe this could be part of a holistic wellness program.
Moral: Sometimes, you're the windshield, and the laptop's the bug.
6. Xbox marks the spot for Mike Rowe
Seventeen-year-old Mike Rowe stood his ground when Microsoft told him to give up his Web site (mikerowesoft.com) or else. Critics thought Gates and company were a little heavy handed in their response to Mike's site name. So instead of going to court, Microsoft went to the closet where the free stuff was. The company gave Mike an Xbox, money to cover his move to another site domain, a free trip to the Microsoft Research Tech Fest and free certification training. Mike took it all. Yes, Mike took on the great and powerful Oz of IT and managed not to scuff his ruby slippers. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
Moral: If we can't beat you, join us.
5. You want #@$* with that? Hackers serve unhappy meals
You won't see this in the movie Super Size Me, but it's another reason why you need to take it easy on the fast food. Thanks to hackers, Burger King customers in Troy, Mich., discovered that "the fire was ready" for their self-esteem. When one customer placed his order at the drive-through, the response was "You don't need a couple of Whoppers. You're too fat! Pull ahead." This was not an act of junk food sabotage courtesy of the Hamburglar -- it was the work of teenaged geeks who hacked their way into the wireless frequency of the BK. The perps told other customers that the restaurant had no food, and in some cases, they served up super sizes of obscenities. This is just the natural evolution of the "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" phone joke. But BK and the PD didn't care. The restaurant changed the frequency while the cops hunted their fast food fugitives.
Moral: You can't always have it your way, and special orders can be very upsetting.
4. Blessed are the cheesemakers: 'Miracle' sandwich fetches $28K
Every once in a blue moon, the opportunity to buy a sacrosanct sandwich comes along. And when that opportunity knocked on eBay, an online casino was there to take a bite. GoldenPalace.com paid $28,000 for a 10-year-old, partially eaten cheese sandwich that supposedly bears the image of the Virgin Mary (it could also pass as a toasted, whole wheat Gwen Stefani, but try getting 28 grand for that). The woman who crafted the vestal Velveeta says she's kept it in a plastic case since 1994, and that it hasn't gotten moldy. No mold on a 10-year-old sandwich? Now that's a miracle! GoldenPalace.com is already selling Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese T-shirts and plans to use the sandwich to raise money for charity. As long as they don't use it to feed the hungry!
Moral: Sometimes it takes more than Miracle Whip to whip up a miracle
It would be irresponsible not to mention two other oddities that turned up on eBay this year: Governor Schwarzenegger's half-sucked throat lozenge (pulled from auction, darn it, because of eBay's "no body parts" clause), and a napkin covered in Senate candidate Alan Keyes' brow sweat. So why did the spit hit the fan for the lozenge while no one did fret over the sweat? Same reason why Jerry Van Dyke turned down the role of Gilligan -- no one knows.
Moral: Go ahead, let them see you sweat. Just don't let them see you suck.
3. It's a dog-eat-phone world, and he wore Nokia underwear
Dogs just aren't eating homework like they used to. When a gas station attendant in Turkey couldn't find his cell phone, he called it from another phone. Then his dog's stomach started ringing. Yep, the pooch had noshed on the Nokia. Give that dog a phone! The man got the phone back when nature called the canine. OK, everybody, 1, 2, 3 -- Ewwww!
Moral: Nokia -- it takes an eating and keeps on ringing.
2. Booble puts the 'ogle' in 'Google'
If Google were the NFL, then Booble would be Janet Jackson. Google blew a gasket when Booble, a steamy search engine for extreme grownups, took its household name and stripped it down to a pornographic parody, something pornographic punslingers have practiced to prurient perfection in the cinema (that's what my friends tell me anyway). Google wanted Booble to find a name and a look that didn't sound like "pornified" versions of "Google." But Booble, undaunted by Google's gaggle of lawyers working to burst Booble's bubble, claimed that "Only a lawyer could say 'Booble' without smiling." I tried to find an update to this story, but frankly I'm too scared to do any "Boobling" on company time. Plus I live with my parents, and the door to my room doesn't lock.
Moral: Boobler beware.
1. This is my son @ and my grandson @, Jr.
Ladies and gentlemen, the winner. This story seemed to really strike a nerve -- the nerve that makes you say, "My parents aren't so weird after all." In a story that made the whole Prince symbol thing look alarmingly normal, a man in central China wanted to name his newborn son "@." Not "#" or "&" or even "/" but "@." Not exactly your standard Chinese character. The man said that the @ symbol is so common, thanks to e-mail, that it would make an uncommonly good name for his newborn. But province officials named the @ppellation unacceptable, and claimed that Chinese law requires that all names be translatable into Mandarin. So for now, you can just call the kid "The boy formerly known as @."
Moral: @ll's well th@t ends well.
Believe it or not, a similar story emerged in 2004 from Michigan, when Jon Blake Cusack, an admitted geek, named his newborn son Jon Blake Cusack 2.0. There's no telling if the scalable version 2.0 is a best-of-breed or otherwise enhanced edition of version 1.0, although it will take many years of optimization before v2 will pack the functionality of its predecessor. Let's hope v2 leverages some of mama's features -- it took the elder Cusack months to convince her that "Junior" and "II" just weren't right.
Moral: Being a boy named Sue looks a whole lot better.
Only the most tested and credible scientific metrics were used in compiling this list -- in other words, 10 co-workers were e-mailed at the last minute and begged for their feedback. The best thing about this list? It does not cause anything in laboratory animals, and unlike People magazine, it will not make you feel fat, poor and unattractive.