You, Too, Can Be Pac-Man

For those who find real life just too much, a group of Singapore researchers may have the solution: human Pac-Man.

Adrian David Cheok and his colleagues at the Mixed Reality Lab — love that name — at the National University of Singapore (search) equip players with a headset and goggles wirelessly linked to a central computer, reports the BBC.

Once all the gear is strapped on, participants see elements of the classic early-'80s video game superimposed onto real objects. GPS trackers keep tabs on their locations as they move around the game's maze, "gobbling up" prizes and avoiding being "eaten" by opponents.

To readers over 45, under 25, or simply female: The object of Pac-Man (search), and its even better sequel, Ms. Pac-Man (search), is for a little yellow circle controlled by the player to cover every inch of a maze while avoiding ingestion by mean, hungry "ghosts."

In the human version, participants can choose to be either the little yellow guy or one of three ghosts, who "kill" Pac-Man by tapping him (or her) on the shoulder.

Once a certain magic cookie is "eaten," however, the roles are reversed and the pursued becomes the pursuer — if only for a few seconds.

Test runs on a course measuring 230 feet by 230 feet lasted 10 to 20 minutes, with separate humans playing all four essential roles.

It may all sound silly, but Cheok is very serious about it.

"These games symbolize the dawn of an era where real and virtual interactive experience will form part of the routine of our daily lives," he told the BBC, "allowing users to indulge in the seamless links across different domains, be it for entertainment or socializing."

Americans will have a chance to try Human Pac-Man for themselves at the Wired NextFest 2005 (search) in Chicago, scheduled for the last weekend in June.

Woman, 91, Fights Off Purse-Snatcher

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — She's 91 and uses a hearing aid and eyeglasses, but Katherine Woodworth wasn't about to let somebody steal her purse.

Woodworth clobbered the would-be thief with her bag until he ran away, police said.

"I didn't have my hearing aid in, and I thought he said that he was going to take my pulse," Woodworth said. "Then he said it again, that he was going to take my purse, and I said, 'No, you're not.'"

She fought off the man in a department store parking lot Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

Police arrested a 20-year-old suspect and charged him with robbery, felony theft, assault, aggravated menacing, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sgt. Tim Hanus said women of Woodworth's age shouldn't try to fight attackers. Woodworth said she didn't think her age was much of a factor.

"I'll be 92 in August and I guess I've got more nerve now than when I was younger," she said.

— Thanks to Out There reader Kirk R.

Cop Pulls Over Own Stolen Car

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — An off-duty police officer on a Sunday drive saw something awfully familiar — his recently stolen Volkswagen Jetta.

North Charleston patrolman Ethan Bernardi whipped his cruiser around and pulled over the stolen vehicle. He called other deputies, who arrested three suspects, police said.

"One of the advantages to having off-duty police officers using their patrol cars while off-duty is that they are able to respond to crimes when needed," North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt said.

Investigators don't know how the suspects got the car, which was recently stolen from Bernardi's home.

The driver, Vicki K. Grooms, 42, and two passengers were charged with possession of a stolen vehicle.

— Thanks to Out There readers Joy J. and Kristopher B.

Money-Making Initiative Not Rewarded

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — A homeless man is facing a possible prison term for allegedly charging tourists $5 to park in a free lot during the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Bruce Lee Thompson, 57, was held Monday at the Okaloosa County jail (search) in Crestview on $2,000 bail. He has a July 19 court date on charges of obtaining property by impersonation, theft and a licensing violation. If convicted, penalties could range from probation to more than five years in prison.

The unemployed man set up a sign advertising "party parking," according to his arrest report.

"It's totally ridiculous," said Beverly Canady of The Finishing Touch, a store in the small shopping center where Thompson put up his sign. "We don't mind people parking here, but you just don't come literally off the street and charge people to park."

Canady said the center has an unspoken agreement that customers of a nearby restaurant can use the lot at night. She said she pulled beside Thompson on the night of May 28 to ask him what was going on.

"He said he watched the parking lot fill up the night before and said it looked like a good way to make money," Canady said.

A deputy told Thompson to stop but caught him collecting a parking fee an hour later, the report said.

Jail records did not indicate whether Thompson had a lawyer. The Public Defender's Office has a policy against commenting on pending cases.

Huge 'Star Wars' Memorabilia Collection Stolen

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Angry he is. Jason Scott wants his "Star Wars" collection back, including his 12-inch model of a beast called a tauntaun (search) and his C3PO and Darth Vader carrying cases.

And especially the original and rare "blue snaggletooth" figure that showed up in the first film's Mos Eisley Cantina (search) scene.

Scott said Monday that he's posted a $1,000 reward for his stuff, which was stolen last week from his padlocked storage unit inside his Lincoln apartment building.

"These figures are vintage," he said. "Some were the hard-to-find 1985 figures" — like a Death Star play set, for example.

Scott said he's posted reward notices around his apartment complex and remains hopeful, but the loss is uninsured.

He'd been collecting seriously since 1994, and he said his 92-piece collection of action figures is only five short of the 97 total. He estimated the 92 pieces together could fetch $3,500 or more in an Internet auction.

"It would be nice if the person just set the stuff back on my doorstep," Scott said. "Fifty percent of it is I want the person to get busted, but I want the stuff back more," he said.

Certain Number Disappearing From Minnesota Road Signs

Hanging on someone's bedroom wall — maybe on a lot of bedroom walls — is a sign from southern Minnesota that says "420th Avenue" or "420th Street." That might not mean anything to mom or dad, but to a stoner, it's far out.

Officials in three counties noticed a problem a few years ago. The signs marking rural roads as "420th Avenue," "420th Street" and even "420th Lane" were disappearing.

It turns out that the number 420 carries a special significance in the marijuana subculture. The reasons are foggy, as one might expect, and urban legends abound.

With sign replacement costs averaging $80 to $100, officials decided it was high time to take action — by changing the street names.

Waseca County recently decided to change the names along the 11 miles of 420th Avenue to 42Xth Avenue. Le Sueur County officials renumbered their 420th Street and 420th Lane to 421 about a year ago.

"I drove most of the road yesterday," said Brad Milbrath, chief deputy for the Waseca County sheriff's office, "and all the signs were up."

Steven Hager, editor of the marijuana magazine High Times, contends the use of "420" as a code of marijuana apparently originated in San Rafael, Calif., in the 1970s.

In an interview posted on the High Times Web site, he debunked a popular theory that 420 was the San Rafael police department's radio code for marijuana.

He gave greater credence to a claim by a group of people from San Rafael High School who met every day after school at 4:20 p.m. and used the number as a secret code so they could talk about marijuana in front of their parents and teachers.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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