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The mad, bad world of April foolery

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Column One of the more astonishing non-tech news stories this weekend was the discovery of a hybrid "ling" or heather shrub, which has powerful Viagra-like properties.

Equally astonishing, to those who knew her, was the discovery that Carly Fiorina has taken against the media and shaved her head as a sign of feminist solidarity with pop singer Britney Spears. Less surprising, perhaps, is the leaking of plans to protect robots from abuse by humans: "The 'Robot Ethics Charter', which will be unveiled later this year, will insist that humans should not exploit robots and should use them responsibly."

Tech freaks who remember the first attempts at high fidelity 100 years ago will have been quite pleased to learn that the dog which thought a gramophone recording was his master's voice is to get its last appearance: "This week the HMV group is switching to Gromit. The only masters voice he is used to is Wallace saying: 'Nice cheese, Gromit', as reported by The Times online. It added: "It is a unique marketing deal in which no money has changed hands."

In the arts, or maybe politics, Kevin Spacey has confessed to having found a theatrical role for soon-to-be-ex Prime Minister Tony Blair: Arthur Miller's The Crucible, in which Blair will play the part of the Rev John Hale. It is, says The Observer, likely to be a sell-out.

Kevin Spacey told The Observer: 'We're always looking out for talent in unexpected places. When I first approached Tony at the Labour conference he just laughed. Then he looked at me and said: "Seriously?"

Sadly, as 1 April comes to an end in the UK, the world turns out to be less sceptical than even the fictional Blair.

"Love it or hate it, 29 per cent of workers say they have either initiated or been on the receiving end of an April Fools' Day prank at work, according to a press release about CareerBuilder.com's annual April Fools' Day survey," Baltimore TV station WBAL said.

Is this "press release" kosher? Hard to be sure. The basic thrust of the article - that people at work play tricks on each other today - has to be treated sceptically. And nobody else has mentioned this "annual survey" either.

The Hoax Museum was quoted by The Tide News for 10 of the best hoaxes, ever. Yes, there really is a museum of hoaxes.

The Google Gmail Paper announcement convinced some; the Google TiSP news, rather fewer. Some shared the TiSP news: "In what could be seen as a major push by the web search leader from providing services over the data communications lines of telecom companies to data over municipal plumbing systems, the Mountain View, Ca. company has now made available its Toilet / WiFi Internet service, affectionately called TiSP," said one blogger, but made it clear that this was, indeed, an April Fool prank (and if you think the Gmail Paper goes well with the Google toilet, you're right).

Others, sadly, just reproduced the press release verbatim, which could be called tongue-in-cheek, or could be called "leaving the press releases for Sunday to the intern". No marks to the Arizona Reporter, then. Or was that the prank? Hm...

A bad day then to release real breakthrough news, as a group of Australian cancer researchers did. At least you can verify that one: most reports came out Friday.

Harder to understand is the Monday 2 April date IT Wire put on "Astronaut Sunita Williams preps for space marathon" - a story saying that despite being stuck in orbit she'll run the Boston race on a treadmill. Most reports came out with that one Friday, too! Oh, yeah, sadly it is true.

Meanwhile, if someone offers you "a proof copy of the theatre programme, contains a cast list showing Tony Blair's name against the part of Reverend John Hale," then don't part with money. As for the Robot Charter? Afraid that's true, too. Unless the Korean April Fool's day comes in early March...because that's when the story first ran.

Actually, to be really, really safe, it's probably best you don't read anything on eBay for another week.

But I'm pretty sure this is the only intentionally daft story in The Register this weekend...well, maybe. ®

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