News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M515, February 19, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.
San Francisco's best-paid janitor earned more than a quarter-million dollars cleaning stations for Bay Area Rapid Transit in 2015, according to a recent investigation by Oakland's KTVU. Liang Zhao Zhang cleared almost $58,000 in base pay and $162,000 in overtime, and other benefits ran his total income to $271,243. He worked at San Francisco's Powell Street station, a hangout for the homeless, who notoriously sullied the station 24/7 (urine, feces, and needles, especially), necessitating overtime hours that apparently only Zhang was interested in working. In one stretch during July 2015, he pulled 17-hour days for two and a half straight weeks. [KTVU, 2-7-2017
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
"Of All The Gin Joints In The World . . .": An Abbotsford, British Columbia, burglar was successful in his February 7th break-in at a home, but his getaway was thwarted by a snowfall that blocked him in on a roadway. He eventually decided to ask a passerby for help--and inadvertently picked out a man (of the city's 140,000 residents) whose house had he had just broken into (and who recognized him from reviewing his home's security camera footage). The victim called police, who arrested the man (and reported that it was the second residential break-in that night in which the snowfall had foiled a burglar's getaway.) [Vancouver Sun, 2-7-2017
Everyday Hazards: In Portland, Ore., in January, Ashley Glawe, 17, a committed "goth" character with tattoos, piercings, and earlobe holes ("gauges") was, she said, "hanging out" with Bart, her pet python, when he climbed into one of the lobes. She couldn't get him out, nor could firefighters, but with lubrication, hospital emergency workers did (thus avoiding an inevitable split lobe if Bart had kept squeezing his way through). [The Oregonian, 2-1-2017
Iraqi forces taking over an ISIS base in Mosul in January reported finding papers from at least 14 Islamic State "fighters" who had tried to claim "health" problems, asking commanders to please excuse them from real combat (and martyrdom). One (a Belgian man) actually brought a note from a doctor back home attesting to his "back pain." Five of the 14 were initiated by volunteers from France, a country that endures a perhaps-undeserved national reputation for battle-avoidance. [Washington Post, 2-7-2017
Government in Action
Legislators in Iowa and Florida recently favorably advanced bills giving women who receive legal abortions up to 10 years (or longer, in Iowa) to sue the doctor if the abortion winds up causing them "emotional distress." (Doctors in all states are already liable, of course, for actual "negligence" in their practice.) In the Iowa version (which the Des Moines Register
reported would likely face amendments), even a signed consent form by the patient would not immunize the doctor (but might mitigate the amount of damages awarded). [Des Moines Register, 1-17-2017
] [Miami Herald, 2-9-2017
German art collector Rik Reinking paid the equivalent of about $138,000 in 2008 for a resplendent, complex drawing by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, but it was one created in ink on the skin of (the still-alive) tattoo parlor manager Tim Steiner--to be delivered only upon Steiner's death, when his skin will be displayed in Reinking's collection. (The deal also requires that, in the meantime, Steiner personally showcase his back at galleries three times a year, and BBC News recently caught his latest appearance.) [BBC News, 2-1-2017
More Things to Worry About
Higher Math: The first robots to have survived journeys close to the "core" of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan (which melted down in a 2011 earthquake) returned a reading of 530 "sieverts" per hour. (Some scientists label just 4 Sieverts an hour fatal to half the people exposed to it.) Since the robots stopped short of the actual nuclear fuel, and since they only visited one of the three cores, the true danger of Fukushima remains unknown. (On a more optimistic note, scientists in February said they have developed a computer chip that would survive on the surface of Venus for 21 days, eclipsing the old record of two hours--long enough to send back meaningful data, including the temperature. The current estimated temperature is 878 degrees (F).) [Washington Post, 2-8-2017
] [Ars Technica, 2-8-2017
Priests Gone Bad
Prominent Tallahassee, Fla., pastor O. Jermaine Simmons, a community leader who ministers to the homeless and downtrodden, was rescued by police on January 17th, naked and hiding behind a fence after making a run for it when the husband of his mistress found the two in bed. The husband, screaming, "I'm gonna kill him," ran for his handgun, and the mistress summoned police, but by January 30th, all involved had declined to press charges. Simmons, married with a son, is highly regarded for good deeds such as running a "cold night" shelter. [Tallahassee Democrat, 1-30-20178
The decidedly-uncelibate Catholic priest Don Andrea Contin, 48, of Padua, Italy, was accused by three women in December of having as many as 30 different lovers over the years, organizing "orgies" on church property, visiting a "swingers'" resort in France several times, making pornographic "home videos" of his trysts, "encouiraging" one woman to have sex with a horse, and "always" carrying a briefcase full of vibrators, sex toys, and bondage equipment. Contin has not yet been charged with a crime but, said a Catholic official, is "finished" as a priest. (Bonus: The boxes for his home videos were labeled by the names of Popes.) [The Independent (London), 2-5-2017
In January, a New York City judge dismissed the original indictment of John Kennedy O'Hara, 55, who had been convicted in 1996 of the crime of "felony voting"--the only person convicted under that state law since Susan B. Anthony, who cast a ballot in 1872 even though females were barred from the polls. O'Hara was indicted for voting in 1992 and 1993 after registering in Brooklyn elections from a "bogus" address--a basement apartment that was considered uninhabitable. (A judge in 2017 determined that the apartment "could" have been habitable.) O'Hara paid $15,000 in fines and did 1,500 hours of community service. [New York Times, 1-13-2017
Least Competent Criminals
Recurring Themes: Once again, in January, curiosity got the better of a perp. Adriana Salas, 26, allegedly stole a truck in Jonesboro, Ark., and drove it to Fort Smith, 260 miles away, but then could not resist stopping by the local sheriff's office to ask whether the truck had been reported stolen. (It had; deputies, taking a look outside, read Salas her Miranda rights.) [KFSM-TV (Fort Smith),25-2017
The Passing Parade
(1) Belgium's federal parliament decided to keep supplying free beer and wine during legislative sessions (over the objection of its ethics committee) because, since drinkers would continue to drink off-premises, anyway, serving the items on-premises would at least improve attendance. (2) On January 30th, as police, with a search warrant, approached the front door of child-porn-possessing suspect Brian Ayers, 57, they spotted him inside, hatchet in hand, pounding away at his tablet computer. Ayers, of Florence, N.J., was free at the time, pending sentencing in another New Jersey court on earlier counts of distributing child porn. [Politico.eu, 1-20-17
] [NJ.com (Burlington, N.J.), 2-1-2017
A News of the Weird Classic (April 2013)
Those Clever Toddlers of Finland: A University of Kansas professor and two co-authors, in forthcoming  Journal of Finance
research, found that children age 10 and under substantially outperformed their parents in earnings from certain stock trading. A likely explanation, researchers said, is that mom and dad were buying and selling in their children’s accounts if they had illegal insider information--because they feared getting caught by regulators if they used it for their personal accounts. The kids’ accounts (including those held by babies) were almost 50 percent more profitable than their parents'. (The study, reported by NPR, covered 15 years of trades in Finland, which, unlike the U.S. and most other countries, collects traders' ages.) [NPR, 4-9-2013
Thanks This Week to Anthony Yeznach, Robin Daley, Michelle Jensen, Michelle Collier, Mark Lillicrap, and Mel Birge, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
After filing for divorce, Frances and Harold Mountain proved unable to agree on how to split up their Beanie Baby collection. So Family Court Judge Gerald Hardcastle instructed them to bring the entire collection into the courtroom, spread them out on the floor, and pick one each until they were gone.
The judge remarked, "This isn't about toys. It's about control. Because you folks can't solve it, it takes the services of a District Court judge, a bailiff and a court reporter."
Frances Mountain said, "I don't agree with the judge's decision to do this. It's ridiculous and embarrassing." Nevertheless, she got down on her hands and knees and started picking out Beanie Babies.
Santa Cruz Sentinel - Nov 6, 1999
In 1830 Mr. Wheatstone, a solicitor of Chancery Lane died and left the following will, which was admitted to probate:
|As to all my worldly goods now or to be in store,|
I give to my beloved wife and her's, for evermore;
I give all freely! — I no limit fix!
This is my Will, and she's Executrix.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time anyone ever used this rhyming will, but it definitely wasn't the last. It caught on, and many other people subsequently used the exact same poem as their final will (slightly updating the language to make it more modern). It continued to be used at least up until the 1950s. I'm not sure if anyone has used it since then.
The London Observer - Apr 18, 1830
The New Bloomfield, Pa Times - Sep 27, 1870
Altoona Tribune - Nov 16, 1912
Battle Creek Enquirer - Mar 3, 1928
The Greenwood Index-Journal - Oct 16, 1950
The Louisville Courier-Journal - Aug 6, 1954
In 1927, William S. Dutton, a writer for American
magazine, decided to locate America's most average man. The requirements were that whoever it was had to be:
A native-born American, of average age, average size, average education and average viewpoint. He had to own an average home on an average street, drive an average automobile and be head of a family of four, which is the average used by the census bureau. He had to be engaged in an average one-man business, be neither a leader nor a laggard in public affairs, neither prominent nor obscure, popular or unpopular.
To conduct his search, Dutton used the census report, a map, and a weather chart to select America's most average city, which he decided was Fort Madison, Iowa. Then he conducted a survey of Fort Madison's residents to determine who the most average man living there was.
He finally settled on Roy L. Gray, owner of a clothing store. Gray was 43 years old, married, and had two children.
Dutton knocked on Gray's door and informed him that he was the most average man in America. Gray seemed to take the news in stride. He agreed to an interview, and then was whisked off to Chicago where he was given the VIP treatment, which included getting to meet the mayor. Then he returned to his average life, and as far as I can tell never made the news again.
He should have tried to hook up with Miss Typical
Rushville Daily Republican - Oct 26, 1927
The Lincoln Star - Oct 25, 1927