May 8, 2002

By Roy Rivenburg
Electronic MD: If the Internet could perform surgery and write prescriptions, it would make a fine doctor. Until then, there’s That’s our nickname for, an automated online physician that lets you describe symptoms and then tells you what disease or illness you probably have.

For example, if you type in that you’re experiencing chest pains at an undisclosed location, it tells you there’s a 75 percent chance that you’re Vice President Dick Cheney. We think the service would be more realistic if you first had to spend an hour in, reading Highlights for Children and/or 15-year-old copies of Ladies Home Journal.

We also wish someone would invent an online shrink that can diagnose psychiatric problems because we’re pretty sure the world has gone completely insane. Here are the latest symptoms:

-- A New York playwright has turned her daughter’s bout with anorexia into a musical. The songs include ‘‘Cooking for the Starving,’’ a vaudeville number set in a grocery store, and ‘‘Pretty to the Bone,’’ a pop ditty in which the daughter defends her diet.
-- Donny Osmond spent May 9 in New York City’s Grand Central Station, serenading mothers as they munched bagels and reclined on a set of 50 mattresses at the ‘‘World’s Largest Breakfast in Bed.’’ The publicity stunt was sponsored by I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
-- A hard-core surfer has sued a fellow board rider for ‘‘stealing his wave.’’
-- A Florida pooch named Genevieve and her owner, Dennis Fried, have launched a campaign to ban sports teams from having canine-related names such as Bulldogs or Timberwolves. Fried says such mascots are ‘‘culturally insensitive’’ because ‘‘silly humans running around chasing a ball violate every dog’s civil rights.’’ However, he says Genevieve doesn’t object to Wildcat or Bull mascots because ‘‘it’s up to those animals to fight their own battles.’’
-- A museum devoted to salad has opened in New York.
-- Engineers at the University of Vermont claim they have created the world’s smartest bridge. It crosses the Winooski River in Waterbury, Vt., and features fiber optic sensors that can detect damage from cracks and road salt. No word on whether the brainiac bridge is smart enough to diagnose medical problems. But it did have the good sense to avoid Grand Central Station on May 9.

Encyclopedia of Useless Information: At age 6, Ringo Starr spent two months in a coma.

Going Postal: Two weeks ago, after mentioning that Texas police were using radar detector detectors to detect drivers with radar detectors, we joked that someone would probably invent a radar detector detector detector. As usual, truth proved stranger than fiction. Reader Paul Marteney notified us that such devices are already on the market.

Supermarket Tabloid Story of the Week: Funerals can be so depressing. But they don’t have to be! The Weekly World News reports that a Scottish mortuary now offers comedy send-offs for the deceased, featuring day-glo embalming fluid, ventriloquists who make the dead talk, coiled snakes that spring out of urns and whoopee cushions on chapel seats. There’s also an optional slapstick funeral service in which pallbearers drop the casket and race around like Keystone Kops trying to replace the spilled corpse.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, ‘‘Buy This Book... Or We’ll Sue You!’’ by Laura and Attila Benko, M2 Presswire, Life magazine,

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
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