Weird Universe Blog — January 19, 2017

Miniature Driving School

Back in the 1930s, if a Detroit judge suspected a driver was mentally unfit to be on the road, he might send the driver to see Dr. Lowell Selling, who would test the driver using a miniature street intersection to simulate various situations. However, I'm not sure what exactly this testing involved, beyond that vague description.

I found a brief note about Dr. Selling in the Law Enforcement Executive Forum (2008, pdf, p.51):

Despite the high incidence of both motor vehicle accidents and mental disorders in the general population, a literature examining correlates between the two is sparse. Almost 70 years ago, a Detroit psychiatrist, Lowell Selling, pioneered work in this area with a series of unfortunately forgotten journal articles. Beyond his seminal contributions, little has been published on this important area of crime.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Sep 13, 1936

Palladium-Item - Oct 21, 1936

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jan 19, 2017 - Comments (0)
Category: Motor Vehicles, Psychology, 1930s

January 18, 2017

Andor vs. And/Or

February 1953: The Georgia House of Representatives voted to make "andor" a legal word and directed that it should henceforth be used in place of the phrase "and/or." The House defined "andor" to mean, "either, or, both, and, and or or, and and or."

However, the Georgia Senate voted against the bill.

More info: NY Times (Feb 21, 1953)

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Feb 28, 1953

The East Liverpool (Ohio) Evening Review - Feb 26, 1953

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 18, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Languages, Law

Follies of the Madmen #301

The birth of the selfie generation.

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jan 18, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Family, Hobbies and DIY, Movies, 1950s

January 17, 2017

Allergic to her husband

BBC News reports on the case of Johanna Watkins who has a rare disorder (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome) that has caused her to become allergic to a whole bunch of stuff, including the scent of her husband. The allergy only developed after they got married.

At this point, they live in the same house but can no longer get close to each other. Instead they communicate via phone. Their "date night" involves watching a show together: "he will be three floors below me in a room on his laptop and I will be on mine and we'll watch the show at the same time and then text about it as we're watching it."

Scott and Johanna Watkins

This reminds me of the 1949 case of Joyce Holdridge, aka the "Allergic Bride," who broke out in a rash every time she was near her husband. She was the first reported case of a wife who developed an allergy to her husband. (I wrote a fairly long article about her for, but it looks like has since deleted it.)

After the Holdridge case, quite a few women came forward claiming to be allergic to their husband. So allergic wives are definitely a recurring theme in weird news. For whatever reason, cases of husbands who are allergic to their wives are much rarer (although not nonexistent).

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jan 17, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Health, Marriage

January 16, 2017

Shoes for Walking on Water

Inventor K.O.F. Jacobsen of Seattle, Washington debuted his water-walking shoes in 1934 at a Cincinnati inventors' congress. He later displayed them at several other meet-ups of inventors. But although I've found several photos of models wearing the shoes, I haven't been able to find any photos of someone actually walking on water with them.

The Decatur Daily Review - Mar 30, 1937

The Cincinnati Enquirer - July 17, 1934

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 16, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Inventions, Shoes, 1930s

Hinkle Tablets

In 1915, this nostrum contained a nice little dose of strychnine. One assumes that by the time of the 1956 advert, they had eliminated that ingredient.

Original letter here.

Original ad here (page 13).

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 16, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Advertising, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1910s, 1950s

January 15, 2017

News of the Weird (January 15, 2017)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M510, January 15, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Leading Economic Indicator: The salary the Golden State Warriors pay to basketball whiz Stephen Curry may be a bargain at $12 million a year, but the economics is weirder about the prices Curry's fans pay on the street for one of his used mouthguards retrieved from the arena floor after a game. One used, sticky, saliva-encased teeth-protector went for $3,190 at one August auction, and SCP Auctions of California is predicting $25,000 for another, expelled during the the NBA championship series last June. ESPN Magazine reported "at least" 35 Twitter accounts dedicated to Curry's mouthguard. [ESPN Magazine, 10-31-2016]

Cultural Diversity

In parts of Panama, some men still fight for access to women with the ferocity of rutting male elks. The indigenous Ngabe people mostly keep to themselves in rural areas but have surfaced in towns like Volcan, near the Costa Rican border, where in December a reporter witnessed two men fist-fighting to bloody exhaustion on the street in a typical "Mi Lucha" ("my struggle"), with the loser's wife following the winner home. As the custom loses its cachet, only about a third of the time does the wife now comply, according to the website Narratively. (Bonus: It's an often-easy "divorce" for the Ngabe--for a fed-up wife to taunt her husband into a losing fight, or for a fed-up husband to pick a fight and take a dive.) [, 12-30-2016]

The Continuing Crisis

Over a five-year period (the latest measured), drug companies and pharmacies legally distributed 780 million pain pills in West Virginia--averaging to 433 for every man, woman, and child. Though rules require dispensers to investigate "suspicious" over-prescribing, little was done, according to a recent Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by the Gazette-Mail of Charleston--even though nearly half of the pills were supplied by the nation's "big three" drugmakers (whose CEOs' compensation is enriched enormously by pain-pill production). Worse, year-by-year the strengths of the pills prescribed increase as users' tolerance demands. (West Virginia residents disproportionately suffer from unemployment, coal-mining disabilities, and poor health.) [Gazette-Mail, 12-17-2016]

University of Kentucky professor Buck Ryan disclosed in December that he had been punished recently (loss of travel funds and a "prestigious" award) by his dean for singing the Beach Boys' classic "California Girls" for a lesson comparing American and Chinese cultures--because of the song's "language of a sexual nature." The school's "coordinator" on sexual harassment issues made the ruling, apparently absent student complaints, for Ryan's lyric change of "Well, East coast girls are hip" to "Well, Shanghai girls are hip." [Lexington Herald-Leader, 12-17-2016]

Because the 2015 San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack that killed 14 and seriously wounded 22 was a "workplace" injury (in that the shooters fired only at fellow employees), any health insurance the victims had was superseded exclusively by coverage under the state's "workers' compensation"--a system largely designed for typical "job" injuries, such as back pain and slip-and-fall's. Thus, for example, one San Bernardino victim with "hundreds of pieces of shrapnel" still in her body even after multiple surgeries, and is in constant pain, must nevertheless constantly argue her level of care with a bureaucrat pressured by budgetary issues and forced to massage sets of one-size-fits-all guidelines. [New York Times, 12-2-2016]

Wait, What?

(1) The Las Vegas Sun reported in December that Nevada slot- and video-machine gamblers left almost $12 million on the floor during 2012 (i.e., winning tickets that remain uncashed for six months, thus reverting to the state), running the five-year total to nearly $35 million. (2) The pre-game injury report for football's December 31st Citrus Bowl included two University of Louisville linebackers, Henry Famurewa and James Hearns, who were out of action against Louisiana State because of "gunshot wounds." [Las Vegas Sun, 12-26-2016] [Sports Illustrated, 12-31-2016]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit!

Latest in Vending Machines: (1) Passengers awaiting trains in 35 stations in France now find kiosks dispensing short stories to pass the time. A wide range of selections (even poetry!), in suggested reading-time lengths of one, three, and five minutes' length, can be printed out for free. (2) The only U.S. vending machine for champagne is now operational in the 23rd-floor lobby of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Las Vegas. Moet & Chandon bubbly can be purchased with $20 tokens sold at the front desk. [Daily Mail (London), 10-4-2016] [Las Vegas Review Journal, 12-28-2016]

New World Order

Recent Awkward Apps: (1) The Kerastase Hair Coach (a "smart" hairbrush with wi-fi, monitoring brush strokes "on three axes" to manage "frizziness, dryness, split ends, and breakage"); (2) The still-in-prototype "Kissenger" (with a "meat-colored" rubbery dock for a smartphone that the user can kiss and have the sensation transmitted to a lover's receiving dock over the Internet); (3) The Ozmo smart cup (to "effortlessly" "empower you with a platform for better hydration choices" in your water and coffee--with software for other drinks coming soon!) (Bonus: Old-school users can also just drink out of it.); (4) The Prophix toothbrush (with a video camera so you catch areas your brushing might have missed); (5) Spartan boxer briefs (stylishly protecting men's goods from wi-fi and cellphone radiation). [The Register (London), 1-4-2017] [Boing Boing, 12-30-2016] [Boing Boing, 1-6-2017]

Unclear on the Concept

In December the European Union's 28 nations reached what members called an historic agreement to thwart terrorists: a ban on private citizens' possessing semi-automatic weapons--but exempted terrorists' firearm of choice, the Kalishikov assault weapon. (Finland vetoed inclusion of the AK-47 because of concerns about training its reservists.) [Reuters, 12-28-2016]

Least Competent Criminals

A December post on the Marietta, Ga., police department's Facebook page chided a shoplifter still at large but who had left his ID and fingerprints (and inadvertently posed for security cameras). The police, noting "how easy" the man had made their job, "begged" him to give them some sort of challenge: "Please at least try to hide." Suspect Dale Tice was soon in custody. [Gwinnett Daily Post, 12-28-2016]


In January, tireless convicted fraudster Kevin Trudeau, who pitched magical remedies for countless ailments on late-night TV for almost 20 years (dodging investigations and lawsuits until the feds caught up with him in 2014) was turned down in what some legal experts believe might be his final judicial appeal. Still, he never gives up. From his cell at a federal prison in Alabama, he continued to solicit funding for appeals via his Facebook fans, promising donors that they could "double" their money. Also, he said he would soon share "two secrets" that would allow donors to "vibrate frequencies . . . to create the life [they] want." [Chicago Tribune, 1-3-2017]

The Passing Parade

(1) Steve Crow of Point Loma, Calif., near San Diego International Airport, told a reporter he had given up--since no relief had come from the 20,068 complaints he made during 2016 about airport noise. (2) A six-point deer head-butted the owner of a fur company in Willmar, Minn., in November and broke into the building where thousands of recently-harvested deer hides were being dried (and largely wrecked the place). The owner was slightly injured, and the vengeful buck escaped. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 1-1-2017] [Forum News Service, 11-18-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (March 2013)

Leaders of the ice-fishing community, aiming for official Olympics recognition as a sport, have begun the process by asking the World Anti-Doping Agency to random-test its "athletes" for performance-enhancing drugs, according to a February [2013] New York Times report. (The chairman of the U.S. Freshwater Fishing Association said, "We do not test for beer” because "everyone would fail.") Ice-fishing is a lonely, frigid endeavor rarely employing strength but mostly guile and strategy, as competitors who discover advantageous spots must surreptitiously upload their hauls lest competitors rush over to drill their own holes. [New York Times, 2-24-2013]

Thanks This Week to Bruce Alter and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Bob McCabe, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Sandy Pearlman, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Peter Smagorinsky, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).

Posted By: Chuck - Sun Jan 15, 2017 - Comments (3)

Japanese Typewriters

The first Japanese typewriter was invented in 1915 by Kyota Sugimoto. By the 1920s these typewriters had begun to be used by Japanese businesses. The San Jose history blog gives a description of how they worked:

The letter tray, which Sugimoto called a “type-nest” in the patent application, is an array of 70 X 35 cells. Each cell holds a metal letterpress-style type, for a total of 2450 characters. Fifty characters were used for numbers, punctuation, etc. and the 2400 remaining Kanji characters satisfied most business requirements, even though the Japanese language uses over 100,000 unique characters. Knowledge of about 2400 characters is required for a high school diploma in Japan, so this is a reasonable compromise for this typewriter.

The paper cylinder and typing mechanism are on ball-bearing rollers, forming a very complex mechanical marvel. Using a Bakelite knob, the operator can move this mechanism left to right or up and down above the type-nest and position the striker over the selected character. Pressing down on the knob causes a pin under the type-nest to push up the selected type block, which is grasped by the striker from above. The striker rotates the type block 90 degrees over a small ink wheel and then strikes the paper. The striker then returns to its original position, dropping the type block back into the type-nest.

The Gatunka blog notes, "The beginning of the end for Kanji typewriters was heralded by the arrival of affordable digital word processors in 1984. By the mid 90s, personal computers also began to become popular in Japanese homes, and the age of kanji typewriters came to an end."

The Whitewright Sun - June 14, 1928

source: Wikimedia Commons

source: Wikimedia Commons

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 15, 2017 - Comments (6)
Category: Inventions

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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