The nonprofit Arming Women Against Rape and EndangermentAWARE
seeks to provide women with the self-defense information and resources they need to “avoid, resist and survive” violent assault. Their self-defense FAQ is here. AWARE-sponsored classes are offered throughout the US (email [email protected] for details or to request a class in your area) in assault prevention, firearms safety and skills, and use of other defenses (pepper spray, kubotan). “Effective self-protection for intelligent women who want help, not hype.” Men are welcome, too.

Women who have kids and decide to go the firearms route should definitely look
into the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” child-safety gun education program. In addition, Handgun Control’s
rather typographically challenged Web site has a grudging “Gun Owners Only”
section that contains a useful, police-written Handgun Safety Tips brochure
covering safe gun ownership for homes with children. Skip the several
layers of advocacy you’d ordinarily have to navigate to get there by clicking

Finally, one of the best self-defense sites is Paxton Quigley’s Home Page. Unusual and useful resources here
include a list of Bad-Idea Weapons (those you may NOT want to try carrying, and why
not). Don’t miss a pithy
new page on thwarting stalkers and criminals that includes discussions of
car safety, safe messages for home answering machines, and how you can keep
your gender and home address a secret.

Urban legends on the Net

My sophomore-year college roommate told me an absolutly fascinating story
about an encounter between her aunt, Jack Nicholson, and an ice cream cone.
I believed it as gospel (and retold it for years), until I found it in a book of
urban legends by folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand.

What is an urban legend? Says the Urban Legends FAQ: “An urban legend:

appears mysteriously and spreads spontaneously in varying forms.
contains elements of humor or horror (the horror often “punishes” someone who flouts society’s conventions).
makes good storytelling.
does NOT have to be false, although most are. ULs often have abasis in fact, but it’s their life after-the-fact (particularly in reference to the second and third points) that gives them particular interest.”

Examples of urban legends from the alt.folklore.urban archives:

Anyway, the Jack Nicholson ice-cream-cone story didn’t seem to be on that
site, so I proceeded to the Urban Legend Reference Pages. No luck there either, although I did find a most
impressive database of urban legends — not to mention some pretty scary
NON-legends (the site uses handy color-coded accuracy ratings

Check out this 100 percent-true story, for instance:

    Two kids signed up an imaginary boy for free yearly ice cream; years later,
    they received a draft notice from Uncle Sam for their invisible friend!
    “The Selective Service was forced to acknowledge that in 1983 it paid a mailing
    list broker $5,687 for 167,000 names of birthday club boys who would be 18
    that year so that it could remind them to register. Farrell’s Ice Cream
    Parlor Restaurant, a large national chain, was ‘outraged’ to discover its list had
    been passed to the government without permission”.
(this site contains the Eddie Murphy elevator story!) and here.

Finally, I never did find the Jack Nicholson story online — so here it is:

My ex-roommate Cathy’s aunt goes into an ice cream store, and
behold: there is Jack Nicholson at the counter. She decides to
be very cool and just pretend she hasn’t even noticed him. She
orders a chocolate ice cream cone, pays, and leaves the store.
Then she realizes she doesn’t have her ice cream. As she’s
standing there on the sidewalk trying to work out where her ice
cream cone is, JN comes out of the store behind her, leans over
her shoulder, and murmurs, “It’s in your purse.”

Op-ed Web choice: Ladd on the tobacco bill

In Internet journalism this week: Read Everett C. Ladd on why the tobacco
came to grief — and, if you like, post a response of your own — at the
only e-zine Ladd’s
is the best op-ed sum-up I’ve seen to date on the tobacco melee. Besides, any
self-styled “e-zine” that’s got Nadine Strossen on its masthead is worth
checking out

18th-century sound bites

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know
where we can find information upon it.” — Samuel Johns

Inveterate quoters will find their nirvana at the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite
. Over 500 pithy, well-contextualized
quotations are available here, taken from the three great writers on
Johnson: Boswell, Piozzi, and Johnson himself. Not an academic tool (full sourcing
of quotations is not available); just a great, fun source for public speakers,
conversationalists, and Johnson lovers.

Quotations are usefully organized into topics — including some imaginative
ones (“The O.J. Simpson Trial”). “Ouch!!!” contains especially devastating
instances of Johnson’s wit. Thus, from Boswell’s Life: “Johnson having
argued for some time with a pertinacious gentleman, his opponent … happened to
say, “I don’t understand you, Sir”; upon which Johnson observed, “Sir, I have
found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”

Where it’s OK to play with your food

At Food Art, kids and adults can create their own mess-free artwork using
tiny images of “twenty-one healthy foods” as building blocks. (If you’re
wondering why on earth Froot Loops make the cut along with all those picturesque
fruits and veggies, it’s because Kellogg’s is a cosponsor. They do add a welcome
floral note of color to the game, though.) “Color in” one of several Sesame
Street characters — broccoli works great for Oscar the Grouch — or go
your own, freeform way on a plain white page (requires Shockwave

Learn a few things about Things

The Monopoly game Web site offers lots of cool
Things you can play with and download, including a great free screensaver.
A Thing is a sort of pocket-sized chunk of multimedia Webstuff, and it’s lots
and lots of fun; surf over and learn all about it. The site is also
presently conducting a vote to select one of three proposed new tokens — biplane,
moneybag, and piggybank — to add to the good old canon of dog, top hat,
shoe, wheelbarrow, etc, that we all love and cherish so. (Everybody should vote
for the biplane!)

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