[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]
• The upscale restaurant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced in August that it would soon add a 20-item selection of waters from around the world, priced from $8 to $16 a bottle (except for a $12 “tasting menu”). Martin Riese, general manager of Ray’s & Stark Bar, who is also a renowned water gourmet, will sell his own California-made 9OH2O, which comes in “limited editions of 10,000 individually numbered glass bottles” at $14 each. Said Riese, “[M]any people don’t know that water is just as important to the entire dining experience [as, say, a good wine].” Riese has been certified as a Water Sommelier by the German Mineral Water Association.
The Continuing Crisis
• A security lab, delivering a report to the makers of software for a luxury Japanese toilet, warned that a flaw in their Android program renders the toilet hackable — even while a user sits on it. The Satis (which retails for the equivalent of about $5,600) includes automatic flushing, bidet spray, fragrance-spritzing and music, according to an August BBC News report, and is controllable by a “My Satis” cellphone app. However, the PIN to operate the app is unalterably “0000,” which means that a prankster with the app could create some very uncomfortable mischief in a public restroom.
• The CEO of Christian Schools Australia told the Australian Associated Press in June that Caloundra Christian College in Queensland teaches a range of creative sexual-health messages and offered the school’s recent student pamphlet, “101 Things to Do Instead of Doing It,” as evidence. Recommended substitutes: “Pretend you’re six again,” “Have a water fight,” “Blow bubbles in the park” and “Have a burping contest.”
• What hawkmoth researchers know: According to their study in July in the Royal Society of Biology Letters, researchers from the University of Florida and Boise State somehow have learned that the hawkmoth evolved to avoid predator bats by jamming bats’ signature radar-like hunting technique called echolocation. A co-author told ScienceRecorder.com that the hawkmoth “confuses” the bats by emitting sonic pulses from its genitals.
• New meaning to “Hon. John Hurley”:
Immediately following Judge John Hurley’s having reduced her bond from $76,000 to $10,000 on drug trafficking charges in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla. courtroom in August, Felicia Underwood, 38, asked, “You can’t make it a little lower, hon?” According to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, Hurley was momentarily taken aback, asking: “Did she just refer to the court as ‘honey’?” “Oh, well …” (He kept the bond at $10,000.)
• Adult “swinger” clubs occasionally rent commercial facilities like restaurants for an evening in which randy couples can mingle, but a club in Melbourne, Australia struck a deal with the Casey Kids Play House Cranbourne, where frolickers could enjoy the playtime equipment — until parents of children who play there found out in June. The parents were especially concerned about the partiers cavorting among the plastic balls in the giant ball pit. One parent told the Herald Sun, “My son is one [who] puts balls in his mouth.”
• British birdwatchers were especially excited by news earlier this year that a rare White-throated Needletail (the world’s fastest flying bird) had been spotted on the UK’s Isles of Harris — only the eighth such sighting in Britain in 170 years — and ornithologists arranged for an expedition that attracted birdwatchers from around the world. A June report in the Daily Telegraph noted that about 80 people were on the scene when the bird appeared again, but then had to watch it fly straight toward the blades of a wind turbine. (As the event might be described by Monty Python, the bird thus joined the choir invisible, left this mortal coil, became an ex-White-throated Needletail.)
• Helpful derivative military technology: Manayunk Cleaners in Philadelphia has been testing delivery of customers’ clothing via its own drone (a converted fourblade DJI Phantom quadcopter originally used for aerial photography), guided by GPS. Said one bemused customer, “I was wondering what the hell that was, to be honest.” So far, the payload is limited to a shirt or towel, to be picked off the hovering aircraft by the customer, but owner Harout Vartanian hopes to buy a bigger drone soon. Agence France-Presse news service reported an even bolder drone program in August: delivering beer to music festivalgoers in South Africa. The director of the Oppikoppi festival in Limpopo province attested to the drone’s success. A reveler places an order by cellphone, which marks the location, and the drone is dispatched to lower the beer by parachute — usually in the midst of a cheering crowd.
• Contrary to popular wisdom, cows do not sleep standing up but actually spend 12-14 hours a day lying down, even though their shape makes the position uncomfortable. Conscientious dairy farmers use beds of sand to adapt to the cow’s contour, and since the late 1990s, a Wisconsin firm (Advanced Comfort Technology) has marketed $200 cow waterbeds, which are even more flexible. Waterbeds may be superior, also, because they are built with an extra chamber that makes it easier for the cow to lower herself safely. The founders’ daughter, Amy Throndsen, told Huffington Post in June that her parents endured awkward moments starting the company: “Everyone… is telling them, Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Are you kidding me? Waterbeds?”
• “High School in the Community” (HSC), the teachers’ union-managed school in New Haven, Conn., recently completed the first year of its program aimed in part at ending “social promotion” — the automatic passing of students to the next grade even if they lack the skills and knowledge necessary for that grade. However, the officials were shocked to learn that not a single one of the school’s 44 first-time 9 th graders passed the promotion tests (and will have lengthy 9 th grade make-up sessions over the summer or beginning again in September). (Several other 9 th graders, who were already repeating 9th grade, were promoted.)
• Look! Up in the sky!: (1) Andy Hill was enjoying a leisurely inner-tube ride on the Clark Fork River near Missoula, Mont. on Sunday, July 21 — when a man landed on top of him, sending Hill to the hospital with broken bones and torn ligaments. The man, who was not seriously hurt, had playfully jumped from a bridge without looking. (2) College baseball shortstop Mattingly Romanin, 20, suffered a concussion in July, while on the field before a summer league game, when a skydiver knocked him to the ground. The skydiver was part of a pre-game flyover at the Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen’s game, but was windblown slightly off-course.
Least Competent Criminals
• Recurring themes: (1) A 28-year-old man ordered to submit to fingerprinting in Mason, Mich. in July in connection with a fraud investigation, had another charge added when he decided to pay the $16 fingerprinting fee with a stolen credit card. (2) Sheriff’s deputies in Apopka, Fla. charged Chad Winslow with burglary after finding him stuck in a grease vent (facing outward) on the roof of Sam’s Discount Food Store in June. According to a deputy, Winslow’s first words were, “I’m stuck, and I have to take a poop.”
A News of the Weird Classic
Librarian Graham Barker, 45, of Perth, Australia, casually revealed to a reporter in October (2010) that his hobby of 26 years — harvesting his own navel lint daily, just before he showers — has now won acclaim in the Guinness Book of World Records. His three-jar collection (a fourth is in progress) has been sold to a local museum.
His pastime, he told London’s Daily Mail in October, “costs nothing and takes almost no time or effort, so there is no compelling reason to stop.” Barker, who also collects McDonald’s tray liners, said he once did a “navel lint survey,” and “a handful of respondents” “confessed” to having the hobby. “One guy [said he] might have persisted, but he got married, and his wife ordered him to stop.”
© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.