News of the Weird (January 1, 2017)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M508, January 1, 2017
Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

The Hästens workshop in Köping, Sweden, liberally using the phrase "master artisans" recently, unveiled its made-to-order $149,000 mattress. Bloomberg News reported in December on Hästens's use of superior construction materials such as pure-steel springs, "slow-growing" pine, multiple layers of flax, horsehair lining (braided by hand, then unwound to ensure extra spring), and cotton covered by flame-retardant wool batting. With a 25-year guarantee, an 8-hour-a-day sleep habit works out to $2 an hour. (Bonus: The Bloomberg reviewer, after a trial run, gave the "Vividus" a glowing thumb's-up.) [Bloomberg News, 12-2-2016]

The Job of the Researcher

Humans are good at recognizing faces but exceptionally poor at recognition when the same face's features are scrambled or upside down. In December, a research team from the Netherlands and Japan published findings that chimpanzees are the same way--when it comes to recognizing other chimps' butts. That suggests, the scientists concluded, that sophisticated recognition of rear ends is as important for chimps (as "socio-sexual signaling," such as prevention of inbreeding) as faces are to humans. [Washington Post, 12-6-2016]

Suspicions Confirmed

Humanity has accumulated an estimated 30 trillion tons of "stuff," according to a research by University of Leicester geologists--enough to fit over 100 pounds' worth over every square meter of the planet's surface. The scientists, writing in the Anthropocene Review, are even more alarmed that very little of it is ever recycled and that buried layers of technofossils that define our era will clutter and weigh down the planet, hampering future generations. (Don't just think of "garage sale" stuff, wrote Mother Nature News; think of every single thing we produce.) [Mother Nature News, 12-7-2016]

Finer Points of the Law

A federal appeals court agreed with a jury in December that Battle Creek, Mich., police were justified in shooting (and killing) two hardly-misbehaving family dogs during a legal search of a house's basement. Mark and Cheryl Brown had pointed out that their dogs never attacked; one, an officer admitted, was "just standing there" when shot and killed. The officers said that conducting a thorough search of the premises might have riled the dogs and threatened their safety. (Unaddressed was whether a dog might avoid being shot if it masters the classic trick of "playing dead.") [Battle Creek Enquirer, 12-21-2016]

Sounds Like a Joke

(1) Spencer Hanvey, 22, was charged with four burglaries of the same MedCare Pharmacy in Conway, Ark., in October and November, using the same modus operandi each time to steal drugs. (Bonus: Oddly, the drugs were not for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.) (2) If You See Something, Say Something: Hamden (Conn.) High School was put into lockdown for an hour on December 15th when a student was seen running in the hallway, zig-zagging from side to side, swinging an arm, and leaping into the air. Police were called, but quickly learned that it was just a 12th-grade boy practicing a basketball move and pretend-dunk. [Arkansas Online, 12-7-2016] [New Haven Register, 12-15-2016]

The Aristocrats!

Low-Tech Pervs: (1) A camera-less Alan Ralph, 62, was arrested in Sarasota, Fla., in December after being seen on surveillance video in October in a Walmart stooping down to the floor to peer up the skirt of a woman. (2) John Kuznezow, 54, was charged with invasion of privacy in Madison, Wis., in November after he was discovered, pants down, up a tree outside a woman's second-floor bedroom window. [WFLA-TV (Tampa), 12-6-2016] [WMTV (Madison), 11-8-2016]

Bright Ideas

The Immigrants Wanted to Believe: For about 10 years, organized crime rings operated a makeshift U.S. "embassy" in a rundown pink building in Accra, the capital of Ghana, issuing official-looking identification papers, including "visas" that theoretically permitted entry into the United States. The U.S. State Department finally persuaded Ghanian officials to close it down, but it is unknown if any purchasers were ever caught trying to immigrate. The "embassy," with a U.S. flag outside, had well-spoken "consular officers" who reportedly collected about $6,000 per visa. [Ghana Business News, 12-2-2016]

Weird Old World

(1) Wu Jianping, 25, from China's Henan province complained in November that he had been denied home loans at several banks for not providing fingerprints--because he has no arms (following a childhood accident) and "signs" documents by holding a pen in his mouth. He was not allowed to substitute "toeprints." (2) Classes were canceled in early December in the village of Batagai in the Yakutia region of Siberia when the temperature reached minus 53C (minus 63F)--but only for kids 15 and under; older children still had to get to school. Yakutia is regarded as the coldest inhabited region on the planet. [China Daily, 11-22-2016] [The Sun (London), 12-8-2016]

Sex Toys in the News

(1) The government in Saxony, Germany, chose as 2016 third-place winner of its prize for innovation and start-up companies the inventor of the ingenious silent vibrator (leading to shaming of the economy minister Martin Dulig, now known as "Dildo Dulig"). (2) An unknown armed robber made off with cash at the Lotions and Lace adult store in San Bernardino, Calif., in December--although employees told police they angrily pelted the man with dildos from the shelves as he ran out the door. [The Local (Berlin), 11-25-2016] [KNBC-TV (Los Angeles), 12-14-2016]

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Leonard Rinaldi, 53, was arrested in Torrington, Conn., in November following his theft of a rare-coin collection belonging to his father. The coins were valued at about $8,000, but apparently to make his theft less easily discoverable, he ran them through a Coinstar coin-cashing machine--netting himself a cool $60. (2) James Walsh was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on December 12th at a Walmart after carting out an unpaid-for big-screen TV. Walsh said he had swiped a TV on December 11th with no problem--but failed to notice that, on the 12th, the store had a "shop with a cop" event at which St. Lucie County deputies were buying toys for kids. [WTIC-TV (Hartford), 11-16-2016] [WPEC-TV (West Palm Beach), 12-12-2016]

Recurring Themes

Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation remains the most storied, but Venezuela is catching up. In mid-December, the government declared its largest-currency bill (the 100-boliver note) worthless, replacing it with larger denomination money (after a brief cash-in period that has ended and which some drug dealers were likely shut out of). The 100-bolivar's value had shrunk to 2 cents on the black market. Stacks of it were required to make even the smallest food purchases, and since wallets could no longer hold the notes, robbers feasted on the "packages" of money people carried around while shopping. [Wall Street Journal, 12-13-2016]

The Passing Parade

(1) In October, Chicago alderman Howard Brookins Jr. publicly denounced "aggressive" squirrels that were gnawing through trash cans and costing the city an extra $300,000. A month later, Brookins was badly injured in a bicycle collision (broken nose, missing teeth) when a squirrel (in either a mighty coincidence or suicide terrorism) jumped into one of his wheels, sending Brookins over the handlebar. (2) In October, officials of Alaska's Iditarod reaffirmed an earlier decision to allow mushers to use mobile phones during the 2017 race; "purists" maintain that phones destroy the "frontier-ness" of the event. [Chicago Tribune, 11-22-2016] [Alaska Dispatch News, 10-28-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic

Update: Every several years, News of the Weird helpfully reminds readers of what is one of planet’s most bizarre local customs: the Christmas tradition in Spain’s Catalonia region of decorating Nativity scenes with figurines, of traditional Catalonians and famous people, each squatting to answer nature’s calls. The update this year, of course, is the availability of squatting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, joining past presidents (including the all-time best-seller, President Obama), Queen Elizabeth, and Pope Francis. (Perhaps the least-tone-deaf explanation for the tradition is that if the manger is fertilized, the coming year’s crops can be expected to flourish.) [New York Times, 12-6-2016]

Thanks This Week to Stan Kaplan, Rob Zimmer, and Alan Magid, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Jan 01, 2017

The way I read the story of the sex shop robber, he left without any ill-gotten gain.
Posted by ges on 01/01/17 at 02:48 PM
Suspicions Confirmed: When the technosphere gets heavy enough, will the earth fall out of the galaxy, will it stop spinning, or will it just implode? Since the raw materials have come from the same planet, the mass (weight) of the stuff we have produced is no issue. We've done nothing to change the mass of the earth (well, except for those moon rocks). We're just rearranging things a bit.
Posted by Virtual on 01/02/17 at 01:58 AM
Did they think to subtract the weight of all the equipment we've sent to Mars, Venus, etc. or the moon rover and other junk we left behind?
Posted by Phideaux on 01/02/17 at 02:55 PM
Virtual: it's not about the mass, that's just Chuck being facetious. The article itself explains that the problem is that we're dumping our unrecycled, and often not easily recyclable, used materials on nature, and that we're running out of raw materials to make new stuff out of. Which, I'm afraid, is all too accurate. We're already having problems finding enough copper.
Posted by Richard Bos on 01/02/17 at 03:34 PM
I was being facetious, as well; I know it's a big problem. We've gotten good at turning mountains into computers, etc.; however, we're pretty much lousy at recycling. It's so easy and cheap to simply throw the stuff into a landfill, making a new mountain of "technofossils." That floating continent of plastic in the Pacific is pretty horrifying. How handy it is to kick the ball downfield to people who aren't on the field yet.
Posted by Virtual on 01/02/17 at 06:11 PM
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