After joking about alien spaceships in a couple of recent columns, I received this email from a reader:

“If the government has no knowledge of aliens, then why does Title 14, Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations, implemented on July 16, 1969, make it illegal for U.S. citizens to have any contact with extraterrestrials or their vehicles?”

Now, that would be an intriguing question. Unfortunately, it’s simply not true. It is, instead, yet another urban myth.

Like most urban myths, this one carries a grain of truth. The executive branch really did create a Title 14, Section 1211, and it really was enacted on that date — the same day we launched Apollo 11, the mission that put humans on the moon for the first time.

As is noted on the fact-checking website Snopes, the fear at the time was that something similar to the novel The Andromeda Strain could take place: heretofore unknown microorganisms or germs could be carried back on the astronauts or their equipment and unleash a worldwide plague.

Scientists were pretty sure no type of life could exist on the moon, but who really knew?

The law required anyone who had “touched directly or come within the atmospheric envelope of any other celestial body” to undergo a quarantine.

Even if you weren’t blasted into space yourself, you would be subject to quarantine if you came in contact with the astronauts, their capsule or its contents — in other words, if Neil Armstrong happened to drop a moon rock on your patio immediately after re-entry.

The regulation no longer exists, having been removed from the books in 1991.

Please note: The rule never addressed space travelers whose flights originated on other planets.

So feel free to have a close encounter with E.T. or the Coneheads or the Body Snatchers.

Well, maybe not the Body Snatchers.

Sounds plausible

You’d think the chief of police in a city of 27,000 would be able to come up with a better alibi.

Medina’s Patrick Berarducci was given a four-week suspension recently for making a sexual hand gesture during a meeting with dispatchers. The city’s law director said Berarducci initially claimed the gesture was not sexual in nature, that he was merely pretending to roll a set of imaginary dice.

That’s not even a good try.

Honor role

When are people going to realize that Twitter, Facebook and the other social networking sites aren’t the best place to brag about wrongdoing?

An 18-year-old Copley High student recently tweeted that he was in the school lunchroom drinking alcohol that he had purloined from home and concealed in a water bottle.

He was busted shortly thereafter and released to the custody of his not-so-delighted mother.

Better info

The Rev. Christy Ramsey is among the many motorists who have grown weary of passing the same electronic signs on our interstates and seeing exactly the same travel times — “6 miles, 6 minutes” — day after day after day.

He is more intrigued with the electronic billboards that show waiting times at area emergency rooms. Besides, he says, “considering a trip to an ER makes me more reflective about my driving habits than travel time that I’ve never seen change.”

Ramsey wonders whether some of the following would be a better utilization of the pricey “Intelligent Transportation Systems” technology:

•?Number of cars in line at fast-food drive-throughs.

•?Wait times for a table at sponsoring restaurants.

•?This hour’s gas prices at the next exit.

•?Number of tickets remaining for the next concert.

•?March Madness scores.

•?“Remember the milk.”

•?Hourly countdown to the income-tax deadline.

•?Number of miles “to the next radar gun — and the next, and the next. They are stacking them now, I see.”

Little foul-mouth

Beacon Journal photographer Phil Masturzo has shot a lot of fires during his 17 years at the newspaper, but he never heard anything like he heard after a blaze at an apartment complex in Cuyahoga Falls. A 4-year-old boy was looking at the damage, including a badly burned seat cushion, when he exclaimed, “Oh, my holy nutsack!”

Yes, age 4.

Armageddon is upon us.

Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or bdyer@thebeaconjournal.com.