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Off-Kilter

October 29, 1998|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

Message in a Bottle Department: Despite the advent of e-mail, cellular phones and overnight delivery service, some people still prefer to communicate the old-fashioned way -- by stuffing a message in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean.

A Netherlands researcher recently analyzed the content of those communiques. According to Beachcombers' Alert, Wim Kruiswijk studied 435 notes that washed up along Holland's coast from 1980 to 1998.

The findings: About 75% contained requests for pen pals or listed a return address (56 notes came from a Belgian fisherman asking for a picture postcard of the finder's hometown).

The rest of the bottles held 36 jokes, 27 religious pamphlets, a dozen love notes, 10 messages related to class projects, nine drawings, four pornographic letters, two advertisements and -- our favorite -- one message protesting pollution.

Only three bottles contained notes asking for help.

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Veni Vidi Grinchi: Two Kentucky professors have published a Latin version of Dr. Seuss' fable "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The book is titled "Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit."

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Eau de Tang: In a bizarre attempt to develop a fragrance that is literally out of this world, researchers at the University of Wisconsin are placing a miniature rose plant aboard the John Glenn Memorial NASA Publicity Stunt space shuttle flight (which will also study the effects of weightlessness on the absorption rate of Depends).

The Wisconsin scientists hope that low gravity conditions in outer space will cause the scent of the rose plant to change as it grows, which might produce a fragrance unlike anything found on Earth. If it works, a rocket-grown rose perfume could follow.

But don't expect the fragrance industry to start blasting other plants into orbit. They'll just grow flowers in Earthbound labs that mimic outer space conditions.

Meanwhile, in other perfume news, Bloomingdale's has begun selling a Miss Piggy fragrance called Moi, which is described as "a bouquet of seductive flowers warmed with 'come-hither'notes of blond woods."

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Creamy-Centered Corpse Bureau: Twinkie inventor Jimmy Dewar ate 40,177 Twinkies during his lifetime, according to the Harper's Index. Yet he didn't kill any San Francisco County supervisors.

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Note to Readers: Beginning next week, Off-Kilter will move to the comics page and run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, which will allow us to resume writing regular stories from time to time.

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Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Fama Nihil Est Celerius!" (Weeklius Worldius Nausius)

OK, not really. Just practicing our Grinchified Latin. The actual Weekly World News headline for today is: "Man Drops Dead After Choking on Bowling Ball!"

Paramedics could have saved him, but the 911 call was delivered via a message in a bottle.

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Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Unpaid Informants: http://www.beachcombers.org. Wireless Flash News service, "What Counts: The Complete Harper's Index," Playboy, "Carpe Diem: A Little Book of Latin Phrases"

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