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April 23, 1998|RAY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Weird Insurance Policies Department: If you're thinking about insuring your uvula or some other obscure body part, there is a precedent. John Harrison of Oakland has a $1-million policy on his taste buds.

Harrison, who claims his blood is 16% butterfat, is the official taste tester for Dreyer's Ice Cream. Since 1982, he has sampled millions of gallons of ice cream, including such flavors as granola, ginger and jalapen~o.

To keep his 9,000 taste buds in top form, Harrison says he avoids spicy foods, booze and cigarettes. He also drinks herbal tea because caffeine reportedly clogs the buds. At work, the 56-year-old taster--who comes from a long line of ice cream industry workers--uses a gold-plated spoon because metal and wooden utensils supposedly interfere with the flavor. Also, he never actually eats the ice cream. He swirls it around in his mouth, then spits it out.

Airborne Jiminy Crickets Department: We know you've been breathlessly awaiting the results of this year's cricket-spitting contest at Purdue University. And the winner is . . . Dan Capps of Madison, Wis., who set a world record by spitting a frozen insect corpse 32 feet.

The projectile-cricket competition was part of Purdue's Bug Bowl '98, a spring tradition that also includes cockroach races, an insect disco, a live bug petting zoo and a snack bar that serves chocolate-covered crickets on a stick and other bug-infested dishes.

Sponsored by the school's entomology department, Bug Bowl draws thousands of spectators and athletes, said spokesman Tom Turpin.

Rock-a-bye Baby Department: The Handsome Rewards catalog sells an alarm clock that wakes heavy sleepers by creating the sound of a big-rig truck bearing down on them, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Spelling by Cuisinart: Our friend Tom Schenden (also known as Stench Demon) told us about an Internet site that converts names or words into anagrams. So we tried it with "Off-Kilter" and got "Filet Fork," "Fit for Elk" and numerous other combinations.

When we typed in "President Clinton," we got "Indecent Lip Snort." And "George Herbert Walker Bush" became "Huge Berserk Rebel Warthog." You can scramble names at Tell them "Left of Irk" sent you.

Tombstone Rewrite Department: Our item on a British epitaph that said, "Underneath this pile of stones, lies all that's left of Sally Jones; her name was Briggs, it was not Jones, but Jones was used to rhyme with stones," brought out the editor in reader Michael X. Ferraro. He wrote: "With all due respect to the family of Sally Briggs, it wouldn't have been that hard to work with what they had. How about, 'Under this blanket of grass and twigs, lies all that's left of Sally Briggs.' That's a substantial savings in per-letter engraving charges."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Brain Surgeon Arrested During Operation--for Not Paying His Student Loans! 'I Kept Begging Them to Let Me Reattach the Top of the Patient's Skull, but They Refused!' " (Weekly World News)

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at

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