‘Vampire skeleton’ prompts tourist boom in Bulgaria

A “vampire skeleton” with an iron bar in his chest discovered in Bulgaria may provide the country with an unexpected tourist boom as visitors flock to take in the macabre sight.

Travel agencies have reported a surge in interest in “vampire vacations” since news of the discovery of the remains in the Black Sea town of Sozopol broke in the international press earlier in the week…Agencies said interest from Britain and Germany was especially high, but they had also received enquiries from Russia and the United States.

The site of the dig has also been inundated with visitors curious to see the last resting place of the vampire.

Bozhidar Dimitrov, the archaeologist who discovered the skeleton, which dates back 700 years, said the victim had been stabbed a number of times in the chest and stomach with the metal stake to prevent him from rising from the dead and attacking the living.

The archaeologist explained that the “vampire” was a probably a legendary pirate called Krivich Crooked and speculated that his pirating skills may have led to rumours that he practised witchcraft, and that accounted for the stake.

To cope with an expected clamour to see the skeleton historians plan to put it on display in the national museum in Sophia. A glass case has been prepared and the remains will become part of a special display.

One of those LCD = lowest common denominator tourist attractions. It’s like traveling the world inside an American reality TV show.

MIT awards pirate certificates to undergraduates

As far as MIT is concerned, Jacob Hurwitz is a pirate.

The sophomore has the certificate to prove it. Hurwitz “is no longer a lily-livered landlubber,’’ the MIT document affirms. “Ahoy, Avast, and finally, Arrrrrr!’’

It’s been an unofficial, underground practice among students at MIT for at least 20 years: Any student who completes courses in pistol, archery, sailing, and fencing is considered a pirate.

But last fall MIT made it official, granting pirate status to six students, with many more expected to follow.

MIT, which requires undergrads to take four physical education courses, is a haven for competitive, unconventional students, and some of them wanted official recognition for their efforts. Carrie Sampson Moore, MIT’s director of physical education, said she is contacted every year by students who want to receive a tangible pirate document.

“I always tell them it’s a student initiative,’’ she said, “and they’re very disappointed.’’ Not anymore. As of this school year, the physical education department is formally conferring pirate status on students, printing certificates on faux parchment with diploma-esque calligraphy. Each paper, authorized by the “swashbucklin’ ’’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology, certifies that the named “salty dog’’ is entitled to a Pirate Certificate “with all its privileges and obligations thereof.’’

“It’s something to work toward and you can brag about it,’ said Hurwitz, a math and computer science major. Hurwitz, who for years has observed International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19), showed up for an interview with the Globe wearing a pirate hat, eye patch, earring, knickers, and a stuffed parrot on his shoulder…

RTFA for the gory details. And the inevitable MIT add-ons to make the process more complex.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Private guards repel pirate attack off Somalia, kill one!

A suspected pirate has been shot dead as private guards repelled an attack on a cargo ship off Somalia, in what may have been the first such incident. Guards aboard the Panamanian-flagged MV Almezaan returned fire after the ship was attacked – the third time in a year that pirates had targeted the ship.

The EU naval force (Navfor) said a team from an EU warship found the dead man after responding to a distress call. Six other suspected pirates were detained by a Spanish Navfor ship…

The ESPS Navarra found one pirate mother ship and two skiffs. The mother ship was destroyed after the suspects were taken into custody, Navfor said.

Bullet-holes were found in the skiffs in which they were found, he added…

The Navarra received a distress signal early on Tuesday from a merchant ship off the Somali coast and sped to the area, Navfor said in a statement…

Pirates had launched an attack on the MV Almezaan. This was successfully repelled by members of an “armed private vessel protection detachment” on board the ship, who returned fire.

A second attack was also repelled and the pirates fled the area, Navfor said.

A helicopter from the Navarra sighted the suspected pirates’ boats and ordered them to stop, firing warning shots when they refused to do so. When a team from the Navarra boarded the vessels, they found three suspected pirates in one skiff and three in the second, along with the body of a fourth man…

Somalia has not had a functioning government for nearly two decades and analysts believe that attacks on shipping will continue as long as there is no central government capable of taking on the pirate gangs.

Bravo! One less to worry about.

Absalon sinks pirate mother ship – UPDATED

Danish forces boarded and sank a pirate control ship as part of Nato operations off the coast of Somalia

The Absalon, a Danish attack support ship, sank a pirate control ship off the coast of Somalia on Sunday.

The Absalon is the current flag ship of the Nato fleet operating in the pirate-stricken Gulf of Aden off the east African coast and has been involved in numerous pirate run-ins.

The latest saw a pirate mother skiff intercepted by a boarding team from the Absalon before it was scuttled. It had been spotted earlier in the day after leaving a Somali camp outfitted with pirate equipment and supplies.

‘This was a very well executed operation,’ said Admiral Christian Rune. ‘Disrupting the pirates’ capability just off their main pirate camps sends a strong signal to the pirates that Nato and the international community do not tolerate their actions. Disposing of their vessels before they can head to sea hits the pirates before they can present a threat to merchant shipping.’

Another one for the guys with the white hats!

UPDATE: There’s a good TV documentary on the work being done by HDMS Absolon starting to make the rounds. Just saw it this morning on HD Theatre via DirecTV satellite. 5th July.

Thanks, Jägermeister

Big Brother pulls the plug on a million XBox gamers – UPDATED

It’s oh-so enticing: You find a copy of a brand-new game like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on a pirate site and the temptation to download it is too strong.

Well, that temptation may have cost up to 1 million users of Microsoft’s Xbox Live the ability to use that service. According to a report in InformationWeek, Microsoft has banned as many as a million players from Xbox Live for altering their consoles in order to play pirated versions of games…

“Xbox 360 consoles are equipped with digital rights management technologies designed to detect pirated software,” InformationWeek wrote, “but some players have successfully ‘modded,’ or modified, their machines to circumvent DRM protections.”

InformationWeek said that even if someone has been banned, their Xbox will still play offline games. But it’s not at all clear if the bans are permanent or if Microsoft will allow those who have been booted from Xbox Live to return at some point down the line.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a statement received by InformationWeek, the company said, “All consumers should know that piracy is illegal and that modifying their Xbox 360 console to play pirated discs violates the Xbox Live terms of use, will void their warranty and result in a ban from Xbox Live.”

Kiss your $50 XBox Live fee goodbye, folks!

UPDATE: Microsoft says the ban is permanent. You need to buy a new console to start afresh. Har!

Talk like a Pirate Day is almost here – me hearties!

Easy tip number one, if you want to talk like a pirate: Add “me hearties” to the end of any sentence.

The meaning is simple — “my friends, my mates” — said John “Ol’ Chumbucket” Baur, before offering as way of example, “Turn your head and cough, me hearties. Or, fill it up with regular, me hearties.”

Saturday marks “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” an observance that has been recognized on all seven continents and beyond. It inspires dress and behavior — of the Long John Silver variety — in seedy bars, staid workplaces and even the International Space Station. It has fueled fundraisers, been the topic for a New York Times crossword puzzle and mentioned on various game shows.

Pirate speak:

Ahoy — Hello.
Avast — Stand and give attention; listen up.
Aye — I heartily agree with everything you said or did.
Aye Aye — Yeah, boss, I’ll get on that as soon as I finish this coffee or rum.
Aarrr — Not to be confused with Arrgh (a sign of pain), it’s a way of announcing yourself to the world, telling everyone you’re here and alive. It could mean don’t look at my girlfriend that way, or I’m enjoying this hamburger.

You realize after a while that “me hearties” is piratespeak for “homie”.