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Dear Matt:

I just received this e-mail. "Doctors are blaming a rare electrical imbalance in the brain for the bizarre death of a chess player whose head literally exploded in the middle of a championship game. Four players and three officials were sprayed with blood and brain matter when Nickolai Titov's head suddenly blew apart. Experts say he suffered from a condition called hypercerebral electrosis or HCE. Five people are known to have died of HCE in the last 25 years, including European psychic Barbara Nicole, whose death was reported in newspapers around the world. Said Dr. Anatoly Martienko, 'It is a condition in which the circuits of the brain become overloaded by the body's own electricity. The explosions happen during periods of intense mental activity, when lots of current is surging through the brain. Victims are highly intelligent people with great powers of concentration.' The doctor urges people to take it easy and not think too hard for long periods of time...."

-- WhatTheHeck?DotCom

I've been giving people that advice for years. Leave thinking to the professionals. Unless you're Criss Angel or David Caruso, do not try it at home. Judging from the news lately, I concluded that everybody had pretty much gotten the message. But then comes this e-mail, which has been making the rounds for, oh, a decade. I guess if you think about the unfortunate Comrade Titov, and imagine Dr. Martienko puzzling over the pumpkin pie that used to be Titov's head, then picture people in Mongolia and Guam and Andorra reading Ms. Nicole's grisly obit, then think about how our own heads throb when we fill out tax forms, the whole scenario might be believable. "I'm a highly intelligent person with great powers of concentration," you say. "Several times I believe my head came very near exploding!" And then of course you're off into the land of spoon bending and tin foil hats rigged with Radio Shack gadgets. Didn't I once say I was over urban legends? That I never would deal with them again? I lied.

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