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The first moon landing "blew my 12-year-old mind," Tom Hanks said recently at a Washington press conference. A space addict as a kid and the star of the space epic "Apollo 13," Hanks said he hoped to inspire a new generation of space travelers with his upcoming 12-hour HBO miniseries "From Earth to the Moon." Hanks, who produced the $65 million series, said he wanted kids to realize that flying to the moon "isn't as easy as 'Beam me up, Scotty.' " The series, which takes viewers from the beginning of the Apollo program to man's first step on the lunar surface, will air in April.

If you think your ideas are over-the-top, check out a Web site called "Wacky Patent of the Month" ( Some of the most bizarre contributions to humanity are laid out here.

People actually drew up detailed plans and sketches for such odd inventions as egg jerky (yechh!), a bird diaper, an elongated football and a self-pat-on-the-back for those who have nobody else to encourage them.

The Web site belongs to a lawyer specializing in patents. But there are links for wanna-be inventors, a step-by-step guide to patenting and a growing collection (now 30) of history's strangest inventions.

If you're doodle crazy, try the new gel inks (they ooze out for great coverage, come in wild colors and are waterproof). Look for the sets from Hybrid Roller (Pentel, $4.50 for six) or Jimnie Gel Ink (Zebra, $5 for four). Or check out double-tip markers (one end's thick, the other thin) from Dual Sharp (Avery, $5 for four). Look for all at office supply stores.

We were eager to scoop up and chug down Gatorade's new Midnight Thunder (in inky purple-black) and Riptide Rush (in luscious purple) when we found it at the grocery store. But we didn't get any kind of rippin' rush; in fact, we found them bland. (Guess the "thirst-quenching experiences" the publicity info promised went a little overboard.) We'll stick with Lemon Ice any time.

"She's gotten really lazy, but early Aretha is a mind blower. She was one of my greatest teachers -- I tried so hard to sing along to 'Lady Soul' and 'Aretha's Gold.' I'm sure I sounded horrible, but it got me to open my mouth and sing from my guts."

-- Paula Cole, Grammy-winning new artist of the year, on being inspired by the First Lady of Soul.

-- Knight Ridder

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