Monday, October 19, 2009

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
October 19, 2009
(bewildering and/or outrageous news from October 10-17)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd. (All rights reserved. But please forward this issue to your pals.)

"Science" Imitates Science Fiction
How do people even think up these things? (1) University of Oxford researchers figured out that 12 specific brain cells of a fly are responsible for what it "learns," and now they're controlling a fly with lasers. Seriously. (2) That's maybe even beyond this DARPA project out of the University of California, Berkeley, where they implant electrodes in a beetle's larva so that when it gets bigger, you can fly it around the room using a laptop controller. (3) And don't even start about randy fruit flies. A University of Toronto team figured out that if they removed specific cells that produce hydrocarbons, the flies will be sexually irresistible to fruit flies of both sexes, and maybe even to different species. (4) An NIH team was given the task of figuring out how to control the norovirus (which creates havoc with acute gastroenteritis), and fortunately, they found just the rich research database they needed: a collection of old clinical infant stool samples back to 1974. What luck! (5) And the most pressing problem at Kellogg's is fighting knock-off corn flakes, but they've got a solution: A laser beam is focused on a flake, then mirror galvanometers are used to steer the beam across the flake's rough surface, allowing the beam to create precise, dark images on the flake . . in the exact "Kellogg's" logo. Holy sh*t. BBC News [Do not miss the spectacular close-up of the fly!] /// BBC News [beetle] /// BBC News [fruit flies] /// Science Daily /// Kellogg's UK press release

Dept. of Silly Names
In the news this week (test your knowledge): Mr. Raven Knickerbocker. Mr. Spiral Lightninghawk. The town of Humpty Doo. [And I won't even link to little Falcon Heene.] New York Times /// St. Paul Pioneer-Press /// Northern Territory News (Darwin, Australia)

Litigation That's Almost as Lucrative as Drug-Dealing
The East 21st Street Crew of Brooklyn probably makes OK money street-dealing crack, but we also know they've made over $500k by suing cops 20 times for "civil rights" violations and "winning" every time because New York City "aggressively" settles such lawsuits at the outset. Can't afford to risk a trial. New York Daily News

Government in Action
(1) It's eight yrs after 9-11, and the gov't still doesn't know how many "visitors" come into the country lawfully but don't leave. Homeland Security thinks there are 200,000 like that, not counting the ones who leave on time but just aren't recorded. (2) North Carolina must now release 20 murderers and rapists that judges once sentenced to life in prison — because somebody found a law on the books at the time of sentence that declared "80 yrs" as the value of a life sentence. So when the state legislature later mindlessly cut some sentences in half, that converted "life in prison" to 40 yrs (or less, with bonus credits), and time's up! New York Times /// News and Observer (Raleigh)

Maybe The Lord's Sayin' GTFO With That Large Hadron Collider
The U.S.'s Superconducting Supercollider and the Large Hadron Collider now under repair in Switzerland were both designed basically to recreate the moment of the Big Bang, but the U.S. shut its down in 1993 after a huge investment, and the LHC bang has already been postponed once. Two otherwise distinguished physicists believe the reason for the failures is obvious — the same as the reason you can't go back in time and kill your grandfather (because then you wouldn't exist). These big-time physicists have the theory all written up. New York Times

Leading Economic Indicators
The Pentagon slipped this number into a report the cost of gasoline for U.S. troops in Afghanistan (counting delivery by convoy through Pakistan): $400 a gallon. And up at the citadel of learning, Harvard's annual financial report disclosed not only that its endowment lost $11bn last year but that its operating-cash account lost $1.8bn (causing staff layoffs) because they invested so much of it in risky ventures instead of what you're supposed to do with operating cash, which is keep it handy for operating. Harvard should start a school to teach people such things. The Hill (Washington, D.C.) /// Boston Globe

Britain's Clumsiest Art Patron
More than 12,000 people visited London's Tate Modern gallery on opening day to "see" and walk through How It Is, a giant shipping-container-like box that's pitch black inside [yep, that's art]. However, only one of them managed to walk into a wall, bloodying his head. Daily Telegraph

The Secret to Achieving Bliss
"I experienced a feeling of total happiness," said Nina Tunney. "It is a feeling I would love to experience again. It was amazing. I felt marvelous." Turns out a fella in Dublin had predicted that if you show up at the Knock Shrine, at precisely 3 p.m. on October 11th, and stare into sun for a while, something will happen that will make you think that the famous Apparition of 1879 has returned, and Nina, bless her heart, is down with the program. Irish Times

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You

We men all have to relieve our procreative juices once in a while. According to the security camera in the busy hallway of the parish courthouse in Opelousas, La., Frank Lahay, 28, did his relieving while sitting on a bench in full view. KLFY-TV (Lafayette, La.)

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]

Did Donald Fite III, 27, Portland, Ore., get railroaded, or is he the type who might take out his anger on an ex-girlfriend by stabbing her pet fish? The Oregonian

American Sub-Prime

Michael Spagnola, 38, was charged in a DUI traffic stop after clumsily trying to climb into the back seat as the cop was walking up (because being in the back seat would give credibility to Spagnola's contention that he wasn't the one driving). Problem: No one else was in the car. Buffalo News

New Jersey's Least-Street-Savvy Politician: Atlantic City Councilman Eugene Robinson, 67, admitted being caught receiving oral sex from a 24-yr-old woman, but, he said, he was with her only because he "was waiting for God to send me the one that's supposed to be my Christian wife." (Bonus Lack of Savvy: The woman was hired to set him up.) Associated Press via

For some reason, a Minnesota couple, ages 48 and 52, bought black powder and helped train seven teenagers on how to make pipe bombs . . because, the man said, "it would be a good educational tool for the kids to build pipe bombs." [Seriously. That's all the cops know.] Star Tribune

Lee Standberry's excellent adventure: Flee the deputies in a high-speed chase, get run into the ditch, run away, get bitten by a snake. America-Statesman (Austin)

Below The Fold

"No Toilet, No Bride": Indian women put their foot down to potential suitors: If you want marital privileges with me, I'm gonna need indoor plumbing. Washington Post

Facebook Jumps the Shark: (BBC News headline: "Auschwitz Launches Facebook Site") BBC News

Meet the winner in the shot-put category (age group: 100-104) at the recent World Masters Games in Sydney (training six days a week, bench-pressing 80 lbs): Ruth Frith. (Bonus: The Masters organizers seemed to anticipate that there might be 105-yr-old female shot-putters and that it would be unfair to lump them in with the 104-yr-olds.) Daily Telegraph (London)

Britain's Papworth Hospital made a booboo, failing to catch the fact that the donated lungs it had just implanted in a 31-yr-old war veteran were from . . a heavy smoker . . and the patient is no longer with us. The Guardian

Think of Italian mothers, who sometimes comically overprotect their sons, even into their 30s, and then try to imagine what you would have to do in Italy to be criminally charged, like this woman, with smother-mothering your 12-yr-old boy. The Independent (London)

Same Old Same Old

Another hardcore Sharia crackdown: A Somalian group is accosting women in public to check whether they're wearing bras. (The way this story is written up, what's troubling the Sharia nazis is the "deception" of having perky breasts underneath the robe; if they're perky without a bra, well, OK.) Reuters via Daily Mail (London)

First seasonal sighting of an actual dead body that neighbors think is just a Halloween decoration: Marina Del Rey, Calif. Los Angeles Times

Readers' Choice

Life imitates a Chris Farley movie: Tossed off of a train in Lauenbrueck, Germany, he managed to re-board, and basking in his cleverness, he dropped trou to moon officials as the train pulled out . . except his pants caught in the door, and he was half-in, half-out all the way down the platform until the train stopped. Reuters via MSNBC

A 29-yr-old man in a convenience store had just removed his baseball cap but didn't realize that the marijuana packet he had hidden in the cap's headband had remained stuck to his forehead. Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News

Good collision of interests: Stockholm periodically cull its many rabbits, and an energy plant in central Sweden is looking for biofuel. Voilà! The Local (Stockholm)

More Things to Worry About

There is such a thing as a skunk whisperer (1) . . . . . Headline: "Louisiana Couple Pleads Guilty in Bird-Children Swap" (although not just any bird, a cockatoo) (2) . . . . . Blind in one eye, he qualified for a truck driver's license by memorizing the eye chart, but now he's run over a pal he failed to see while turning (3) . . . . . Syrian-born driver-hustler Torkieh Sadagheh, convicted in New York City of rape, objected loudly as he was dragged from court, "In America, sex is legal!" (4). (1) Associated Press via WXII-TV (Winston-Salem, N.C.) /// (2) Associated Press via MSNBC /// (3) BBC News /// (4) New York Daily News

Eyewitness News

Fla. Championship Wrestling, live from a St. Petersburg City Council meeting, as two old coots square off over some overblown issue. St. Petersburg Times

Watch overalls-wearing Pastor Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church take on the Rick Warren wing of Christianity and schedule a Halloween book-burning . . of all Bibles that are not the King James version. WLOS-TV (Asheville, N.C.)

Surveillance video of the October 8th shootout at the Route 66 Kitchen in Toledo, Ohio, featuring a bunch of guys who sorta look like gangbangers shooting it out, and who were ID'd as gangbangers shooting it out, but who missed with every single shot they took (unless they were purposely aiming at "wall"). CBS News

Finally, here's a real time-waster (irresistible, but still a time-waster), date-stamped October 6th, but I don't know where it's from. This is the drunkest conscious person I've ever seen. [Link from, which gave it the title "Drunk Man Fights Gravity"]


Sam Gaines, Stephen Taylor, Kathryn Wood, Mike Mendenhall, Steve Dunn, Heather Ross, Pete Kerezman, Jim Rehmann, Cathy Wojciechowski, Sasha Oberheim, Patricia Haggerty, H. Thompson, and Lyle Mariam, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.