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The Odd Truth, Dec. 6, 2002

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Legendary Prankster's Last Laugh

SEATTLE - Now the story can be told. The feet were big all right, but they weren't Bigfoot's. The family of Ray Wallace remembers him as a prankster whose biggest hoax contributed to the Bigfoot legend. Wallace died of heart failure last week at a Washington state nursing home, at the age of 84. In 1958 he was working on a construction project. Wallace carved some really big feet out of wood, and used them to leave tracks. The local news media even covered the supposed "Bigfoot" sighting. His nephew Dale Wallace still has those "Bigfoot" fake feet.

Dave's Alley Draws Protest

MUNCIE, Ind. - Television talk show host David Letterman wasn't even there to see his college town name an alley for him — and he was still upstaged.

City leaders were displaying a sign Thursday night dubbing one of the city's busiest alleys, "Dave's Alley — Open 24 hours," when fans of Garfield, the cartoon cat, showed up to protest.

Cartoonist Jim Davis, who created Garfield, is a Delaware County resident; Letterman only lived there while he attended Ball State University.

The two protesters, costumed as Garfield and dog Odie, held picket signs saying "Dave Bites," "Cats Rule, Dave Drools" and "Alleys are for cats."

Mayor Dan Canan said the eastern Indiana city was planning a parade next June to honor Garfield's 25th birthday.

The new name was inspired by Letterman's recent campaign on his CBS show to have Indianapolis officials rename Interstate 465, the highway that encircles the city, the Dave Letterman Expressway. That came about a year after a running gag on his show in which he tried to persuade Ball State to name its football stadium after him.

Even though it wasn't a stadium or an interstate — or even an actual street —Canan said naming the alley after Letterman was an appropriate honor.

"Tongue in cheek, he talks about us a lot," Canan said. "So why not pay him back a little bit?"

China Declares War On 'Chinglish'

BEIJING - Fed-up with menus offering delicacies such as "fried pawns" and "bean eurd," Beijing is declaring war against incomprehensible and misspelled English-language signs and notices, the state-run China Daily reported Friday.

"There are many 'Chinglish' words on road signs, public notices, menus and signs describing scenic spots, which often puzzle foreigners," Xiong Yumei, vice director of the Beijing Tourism Bureau, was quoted as saying.

The signs feature misspellings, obscure abbreviations and jarring word-for-word translations of Chinese characters into English.

Some examples: "Collecting Money Toilet" for a public toilet, and "To take notice of safe, the slippery are very crafty" on a sign warning that roads are slippery.

Restaurant menus are also fertile ground for indelicate misspellings.

"When I had dinner with my friends at a Chinese restaurant at the Temple of Heaven, it took us a while to realize that the 'crap' on the menu was, in fact, a misspelled but very tasty fish," said Janet Clause, an Australian tourist, referring to "carp."

"The soft-fried 'pawns' are a seafood without 'r' and the 'bean eurd' is, I presume, bean curd. It is surprising how many spelling mistakes can exist on a five-page English menu," she was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

The newspaper said more than 3 million foreign tourists will likely have visited Beijing by the end of this year.

Exciting New Pi Six Times Longer Than Old Pi

TOKYO - A team of researchers at a leading national university have set a world record by calculating the value of pi to 1.24 trillion places, one of the researchers said Friday.

Professor Yasumasa Kanada and nine other researchers at the Information Technology Center at Tokyo University calculated the value for pi with a Hitachi supercomputer over 400 hours in September, project team member Makoto Kudo said.

The new calculation is more than six times the number of places in the record currently recognized by Guinness World Records — 206.158 billion places — which Kanada also helped calculate in 1999.

The Hitachi supercomputer is capable of 2 trillion calculations per second, or twice as fast as the one used for the current Guinness record calculation.

Pi, usually given as 3.14, is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle and has an infinite number of decimal places.

Such an extremely precise calculation of the figure isn't necessary for any practical scientific use, but researchers say it contributes to improving scientific calculation methods.

Clergyman Robbed At Gunpoint For Charity Money

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Robbers have made off with $400 donated to buy Christmas presents for fatherless children.

Bufalo police are looking for two teenagers who robbed a clergyman as he left a bank with the money.

The Reverend John Alderson said he had just cashed a check when he was robbed at gunpoint in the bank parking lot.

He says the check was from a woman who asked that the money be used to help brighten the holidays for poor children who don't have fathers at home.

Despite the crime, the pastor is ready to forgive the robbers. He says some people get really desperate at Christmas.

Would You Like To Super-Size Your Rage?

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - You've heard of road rage. How about drive-thru window rage?

Police in Jamestown, New York say they arrested an intoxicated driver early yesterday morning after he rammed another vehicle at a McDonald's drive-thru.

Police say the man was arguing with an employee over his food order when the next person in line laid on the horn. The man who was arguing allegedly put his truck in reverse and rammed the car that was blowing the horn.

The suspect faces driving while intoxicated charges.

An infant and two adults in the other car weren't injured.

Asthmatic Opera Singer Sues Over Fog

SAN FRANCISCO - A Mill Valley singer is suing the San Francisco Opera Association, claiming mist produced by the Opera's fog machines gave her asthma.

Alexandra Nehra filed the suit last week. It's the first stemming from an ongoing feud between some singers and the Opera.

The singers say the fog is a menace. The Opera insists it's safe.

Yesterday -- San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly scheduled a hearing on the issue after getting complaints from people who fear the fake fog made them sick.

Nehra's suit also names Rosco Laboratories and two other manufacturers. The suit accuses the Opera and the companies of negligence and fraud.

Nehra has been a member of the Opera chorus for more than 17 years. She says she first fell ill during a performance three years ago, when she had a severe allergic attack while on stage.

She was later diagnosed with asthma -- and she's spent the past year recuperating at home. Nehra was a judge to order the Opera to stop using the fog machines and to clean the Opera House of any residue from the fog. She's also asking for unspecified damages.

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