[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]
Making Outsourcing Work for You
A Verizon risk team, looking for data breaches on a client’s computers, discovered that one company software developer was basically idle for many months, yet remained productive — because he had outsourced his projects to a Chinese software developer who would do all the work and send it back. The employee earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, according to a January Los Angeles Times report, but paid the Chinese worker only about $50,000. The risk team eventually learned that sensitive company information was flowing to and from Chinese terminals, leading the company to suspect hackers, but that traffic was merely the US employee (obviously, “ex-employee” now) sending and receiving his workload. The US man showed up for work every day, but spent his time leisurely web-surfing.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
• One of Britain’s most famous “madams” announced in January that she was coming out of retirement to set up a brothel exclusively catering to disabled people and the terminally ill. An ordinary brothel would be illegal in the town of Milton Keynes (45 miles from London), but Becky Adams insists that the government could not shut hers down without illegally discriminating against the disabled.
• Advances in the service sector: (1) In January, the Japanese marketing firm Wit Inc. began hiring “popular” young women (judged by the extent of their “social network” contacts), at the equivalent of $121 a day, to walk around with advertising stickers on their thighs. (The stickers would be placed on the erotic zettai ryouiki — the Japanese mystical area between the hem of a short skirt and the top of long socks.) The women must be prepared to endure men hovering closely to read the ads. (2) According to news reports in November, New York City physician Jack Berdy was doing a brisk business administering Botox injections (at up to $800) to poker players who were hoping to prevent facial expressions that might tip their hands.
• Ingenious: (1) London’s the Independent reported in January that Dean Kamen (who famously invented the Segway, a standing, battery-powered scooter) had developed, along with a Pennsylvania medical team, what appears to work as a “reverse feeding tube” that will vacuum out up to 30 percent of any food in the stomach before it is digested and converted into calories.
After installation of the stomach “port,” the diner could operate the device without daily medical help. (2) The Polish cosmetics company Inglot announced in January a nail polish ideal for Muslim women, in that it can withstand the five-times-daily hand-washing required for prayers. (Normally, devout women wear nail polish only during their menstrual periods, when the hand-washing is not required, but polish thus signals menstruation and therefore embarrasses modest women.)
Advances in Animal Research
• Scientists from Sweden’s Lund University, reporting in a recent issue of Current Biology, explored the burning question of why dung beetles appear to be “dancing” on the tops of the dung balls they roll away. The answer is that the beetles need to roll their treasures away from the heap as quickly as possible (lest competitors swipe them) and that they can best maintain a straight line away by celestial navigation. To test the hypothesis, researchers actually outfitted some beetles with tiny visors to block their view of the sky, and those beetles mostly rolled their balls in irregular routes, whereas the sky-searching beetles moved in straight lines.
• Intelligent design: Japanese researchers learned recently that a species of sea slug may lose its penis after copulating, but then grow another one and use it the next time the occasion arises. Writing in the British journal Biology Letters, the scientists also found that the slugs have both male and female organs and in effect copulate with each other through a simultaneous hookup. A final breathtaking finding of the team was that the sea slugs’ penis has the ability to remove competitors’ sperm from the female openings of its mate.
Leading Economic Indicators
• In January, the National Hockey League labor dispute ended and players returned to work, but as usual, some owners resumed claiming that players’ high salaries were killing them financially. The Phoenix Business Journal reported in December that the Phoenix Coyotes, for example, stood to turn a profit for the 2012-2013 season only if the lockout had continued and wiped out all the games — indicating that, based on the team’s projections, the only way for it to make money was to never play.
• In the Czech Republic, per-capita beer consumption is twice that in the United States, and competition is such that some beers are priced lower than any other beverage, including water. (The brewery Pizensky Prazdroj delivers beer in tanker trucks that in the US might deliver gasoline, and delivers it to pubs’ storage tanks just as US gas station have storage tanks.) Recently, concerned about overconsumption, the country’s health minister proposed to prohibit restaurants and bars from offering a beer as the lowest-priced drink, per ounce.
• In January about 1,000 workers at Shanghai’s Shinmei Electric Co. held 18 managers captive at the plant from Friday morning until nearly midnight on Saturday in protest of recent employee rules. The workers dispersed when parent company officials promised to reconsider the policies, which included a fine of the equivalent of about $8 for being late and a limit of two minutes per toilet break.
Job Prospects Dim
Willie Merriweather, 53, was detained in February by police in Aiken, SC after an employment agency reported that, when he was sitting for an interview, he exposed himself (allegedly telling the interviewer that “it fell out,” that he “must have forgotten” to zip his pants). Police said Merriweather had been accused of a similar incident at a different employment agency a few days earlier.
(1) On Jan. 27, Pope Benedict XVI released two doves in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican’s end-of-prayers ceremony, but almost immediately, a gull flew over and attacked one. (The faithful were rewarded, though, as the dove, though wounded, managed to elude the irreligious predator.) (2) On Feb. 11, only hours after Pope Benedict had announced his imminent retirement, a rare winter thunderstorm hit Vatican City, and an Agence France-Presse photographer snapped a photo of one powerful lightning bolt from the heavens appearing to strike St. Peter’s Basilica (as if offering a dissenting opinion to the pope’s decision).
Least Competent Dogs
(1) A Palm Bay, Fla. police officer was sent to the hospital in February after a supposedly highly trained K-9 bit him in the crotch during a burglary investigation. A trainer attributed the lapse to the dog’s natural “intensity” during searches. Apparently, all was forgiven, and both “officers” returned to work. (2) In Cottages Row, England, firefighters were called in January when a metal lamppost was reported as smoking because of an electrical short, which was discovered when a Labrador retriever lifted his leg. That species is regarded as quite intelligent, but the dog, after being knocked back by the shock, moments later attempted to engage the lamppost a second time, with the same result.