Weird Universe Archive

August 2008

August 12, 2008

Stop massaging that horse!

Maryland-resident Mercedes Clemens has been forced to shutter her horse massage business. Although she's certified to massage humans, she's not certified to massage animals. According to the Associated Press:

She shut down her equine massage practice in a Washington suburb after state officials told her state law only allows veterinarians to perform such services. Now she's suing two state agencies, saying regulators are unfairly barring registered massage therapists who want to practice on animals. Animal massage regulations vary from state to state, with some allowing only veterinarians to practice. Clemens' case is being closely watched by those in the animal massage industry, who say business has grown steadily along with interest in other alternative treatments and pampering for pets.

In other news, THERE ARE ANIMAL MASSAGE REGULATIONS!
(Thanks, Big Gary!)

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 12, 2008 - Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Regulations

August 11, 2008

Unanticipated Consequences of Hypermiling

My wife and I have recently caught the hypermiling craze. (For those who don't know, hypermiling basically means trying to stretch a tank of gas as far as possible.) For us, it's not just about saving money. It's also kind of fun to see how high we can get our MPG. The key is to keep a slow and steady speed, and to stop as infrequently as possible. (When you're stopped, you're getting 0 MPG.) Our record is 42 MPG in our Honda Civic.

However, the hypermiling phenomenon is having some unintended consequences. The Associated Press reports:

Police say there's been an alarming rise in urine-filled plastic containers found along a three-mile stretch of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon. A litter crew for the Oregon Department of Transportation picked up an estimated 200-300 urine filled plastic bottles, along the highway, about half of which were found in a short stretch dubbed "Three Mile Hill."

Police say that drivers - particularly commercial trucks - are typically driving very slowly through the area. Police think the price of fuel may be causing drivers to travel slower than normal to save fuel while at the same time passing rest areas or truck stops.

If you're thinking about learning how to hypermile, there's some books at Amazon about it. Just please keep your urine in the car.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Travel, Transportation

Dime-Dropping Ghosts

Researchers of the paranormal have identified a common theme in ghost tales: dime-dropping ghosts. That is, many people report the belief that ghosts are leaving them dimes. Consider this example reported on about.com's paranormal phenomena blog:

My aunt Julie died two years ago, on November 14, 2006. She had three children. Her youngest was only 14. Not long after her death, my uncle (her husband) found a dime on the floor of his workout room. No one, but him goes in that room. It was weird because he never has money when working out! He told my mom about it, and my mom had found a dime too! That same day. She found it at work, in the corner of her office. She called my mom about the stories. She found that very odd because she just found two dimes underneath my pop's chair at the kitchen table. Neither one of them put the dimes there. After almost the whole family found many dimes that were randomly anywhere, we knew it was Aunt Julie.

That's just one example. There are many more. My dead relatives must be stingy because they never leave me any dimes. But if any of them are listening out there, and are feeling generous, please consider leaving more than ten cents! $100 bills would be nice.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (11)
Category: Forteana, Paranormal

Smoking-Cessation Lighter

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US Patent 5871518, issued on February 16, 1999, is for a "smoking cessation lighter and method." The patent abstract offers this description:

A lighter for tobacco products suppresses the urge to smoke by operant conditioning. It delivers a shock to the user's hand when the lighter is extinguished. This generally happens when the first puffs of smoke are being inhaled. Inhalation of the smoke gives a positive reinforcement of the habit because of the pharmacologic effects of the smoke. The shock provides a negative or suppressive action at the same time. The anticipation of the shock will negate the anticipation of the relief the drugs in the smoke provide. In an alternative embodiment, the shock is applied at the time of activation of the lighter. In yet another embodiment of the invention a negative stimulus is provided by a pin that pricks the user at the time of activation of the lighter.

Maybe I'm not understanding the invention, but it seems to me to be exactly the same as the electric-shock lighters that have been a favorite of pranksters for years. Except that the patent dresses up the prank with some scientific mumbo-jumbo. And instead of being conditioned not to smoke, wouldn't a smoker simply learn not to use that lighter? (Thanks to Sherry Mowbray!)

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (2)
Category: Inventions

Cursed Movies

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Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac have both died recently after working together on SOUL MEN.

Do we have a new movie curse in the works?

Read about famous past incidents of doomed films here and here and here.



Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (7)
Category: Celebrities, Death, Entertainment, Hollywood, Movies

Follies of the Mad Men #10

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[From Good Housekeeping for December 1958]

Here's part of the reason why we're a nation of fatties today. "Lose weight the hard way? No thanks! I'll just compress my flab and strap it in with manmade materials!"

And why is it that the only women ever shown in girdle ads are already so trim and underweight that they aren't the real customers?

Posted By: Paul - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (10)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Fashion, Food, Torture, Fetishes, 1950s, Women

Chuck’s Hand-Picked Overnight Weird News for Monday

All we need to know about American vs. Japanese cuisines
The Associated Press lauds California candymaker Joseph Marini III's chocolate-covered bacon in Santa Cruz (and actually, he's not the first one to the market with it in the U.S.), while the captivating flavor at last week's Yokohama Ice Cream Expo (175 flavors) was, er, "beef tongue" (beating out cheese ice cream, octopus ice cream, and a garlic flavored "Dracula Premium Ice"). Associated Press via MSNBC // Daily Telegraph (London)
Comments 'chocolate_bacon'

A Nigerian man has 86 wives, and apparently they're all happier about that than he is
Muhammed Bello Abubaker, 84, is basically a healer (and, he says, confidant of the Prophet Muhammad!), and women flock to him for cures and protection. As for himself, he's ambivalent about the marriage thing. (Maximum 4 wives in Islam? He says the Quran doesn't specify punishment for more than 4.) The astonishing issue is how in the world can he feed his 86 wives and 170 children? Being buds with the Prophet Muhammad must come in handy. BBC News
Comments '86_wives'

Another example of gov't's thinking a little bit about a problem, but not a lot
Californians were worried about sexual predators committing new crimes after they had served their time for the old ones, and so a 2006 law requires almost all convicted sex offenders to get psych screenings, and pronto. Well, any idea how many convicted perverts there are in California? And to get the work done promptly, state officials set generous contract terms for shrinks. Results so far: $24m spent on evaluations, resulting in probably no one's being re-committed who wouldn't have been re-committed under the previous law that targeted only the serious predators. Los Angeles Times
Comments 'california_perverts'

The dog-cloning woman admits she was the 1970s kidnap-scandal ex-beauty queen
This drama played out last week when reporters noticed that the woman who had her deceased pit bull cloned, to great fanfare, by that South Korean lab looked a lot like a larger-than-life scandal figure from the 1970s. Persuasive evidence was gathered. She denied it. Now, she has come clean. Though the dog-cloning aspect has its moments (it involves the lab associated with the researcher who falsified human-cloning data), it is the 1970s backstory that drives it. A beauty queen obsessed herself with a gorgeous Mormon guy, who was (very wisely) advised to drop her, so she kidnaped him in Britain, and they had all kinds of sex (consensual? depends on who's answering), and she finally did some time for it, yet continued for a while to obsess over having his kids (keywords in the backstory: mink handcuffs, Mormon chastity belt). She moved on, to B-list and C-list kinda activities, until recent years when she realized that it was that pit bull of hers, Booger, who was her salvation. Hence, the cloning. Daily Mail (London) (backstory) // Daily Mail (admission)
Comments 'dog_cloner'

Recurring Themes
Here's someone else who lives at the airport: Bettina, 48, a well-to-do German who hasn't left the terminal in Mallorca for 10 yrs, even though she could. She's clean, educated, uses the ATM, just likes terminal life! (And here's the latest sighting of the rare bloom from the large, ultra-putrid, phallic-shaped flower that never fails to provoke astonished editors and reporters to treat it as something that's never happened before.) The Guardian (London) // Reuters via MSNBC
Comments 'bettina_flower'

Updates from last week: the claw-hammer-and-motor-oil guy, and the bondage-game death
WANE-TV wrote he was naked and "conducting a lewd act with a claw hammer, plastic big, and motor oil," puzzling a few Weird Universe readers. Let The Smoking Gun help you out! And on the bondage death, Chuck's emphasis was on how the victim seemed to be begging for it, but on reflection, the money fact was that the first thing she did to try to revive him was to put bulldog clips on his nipples. (Didn't work.) TheSmokingGun.com // The Australian
Comments 'clawhammer_bondage'

Your Daily Loser
He remains at large, so he's not yet a loser, but, still . . why would Silbestre Menera, 32, decide to escape from California's Stanislaus County Inmate Honor Farm on the day before his scheduled release? KCRA-TV (Sacramento)
Comments 'silbestre_menera'

People Whose Sex Lives Are Worse Than Yours
Sourcing is not up to Chuck's standards, but the accompanying video looks good enough so we're going with it: "Xing" (or "Xian"), 41, called police in Hong Kong last week from Lan Tian park to request assistance in getting his manhood unstuck from one of the holes in a steel bench (on which he, lacking a partner that night for sex, had mounted). WeirdAsiaNews.com reported this, based on Chinese-media video and news // Video
Comments 'bench_sex'

Your Daily Jury Duty (Bonus doubleheader!)
[no fair examining the evidence; verdict must be based on mugshot only]
(1) Stanley Tippett, Peterborough, Ontario, points out that he's a married man with five children and so how could he be guilty of abducting and assaulting a 12-yr-old girl? National Post
(2) Robert Craft, Salt Lake City, might have gotten mad at various family members and threatened them with his chainsaw and his Weedeater. Salt Lake Tribune
Comments 'tippett_andcraft'

More Things to Worry About on Monday
Arrested in South Windsor, Conn., for drug-dealing: Mr. Almighty Supremebeing Allah . . . . . Angela Tuttle is the new, self-elected constable of Hancock County, Tenn. (no candidates on the ballot; she wrote her name in; she wins, 1-0) . . . . . The downscale airline easyJet finally settled up with the vacationers stranded in the Canary Islands when the pilot's license expired before he could get the return trip airborne . . . . . Immigration and Customs Enforcement's new self-deportation program (if illegals give themselves up, we'll deport them gently), targeted to 457,000, already has, er, 3 sign-ups.
Comments 'worry_080811'

Editor's Note
As I advised last week, August is historically slow on weird news (though rich this year on trivia, like, y'know, war in Georgia, and the Presidential campaign, and the contests for worldwide athletic domination), and thus Chuck's Hand-Picked Overnights will not appear on Tuesday. See ya Wednesday. Today's Newsrangers: Emory Kimbrough, Joe Littrell, Paul Music, Kathryn Wood, Ian Pert, James Wicht, Kevin Staggers, Karl Olson, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Eric Appellof

Posted By: Chuck - Mon Aug 11, 2008 - Comments (0)
Category:

August 10, 2008

Obama = Antichrist?!?

Did John McCain and posse really intend to portray Barack Obama as the Antichrist in this recent campaign ad?

Decide for yourself....

Posted By: Paul - Sun Aug 10, 2008 - Comments (9)
Category: Celebrities, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Government, Officials, Humor, Politics, Religion, ShowBiz, Television, Video, Advertising

13 Things That Don’t Make Sense

I just read this breezy yet well-researched pop-sci book to write it up for THE BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW, and my essay will appear there soon. But for now, I can heartily recommend it to WU readers interested in the many unexplained weirdnesses lurking beneath the tidy coverlets of science.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Aug 10, 2008 - Comments (3)
Category: Science, Technology, Unsolved Mysteries, Books

Dogs Catch Human Yawns

I imagine that many dog owners have noticed that dogs can "catch" yawns from humans, and vice versa (I think). So was an experiment to verify this really necessary? The animal behaviorists at the University of London evidently thought so. In their defense, I'd argue that just because something seems obvious, it still might yield interesting results when examined under controlled conditions in a laboratory setting. From the Aug 2008 issue of Biology Letters:

This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs observed a human yawning or making control mouth movements. Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy. Since yawning is known to modulate the levels of arousal, yawn contagion may help coordinate dog–human interaction and communication. Understanding the mechanism as well as the function of contagious yawning between humans and dogs requires more detailed investigation.

The BBC has a video of a yawning dog -- making me sleepy! (Thanks, Sandy!)

Posted By: Alex - Sun Aug 10, 2008 - Comments (1)
Category: Animals, Experiments

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Chuck Shepherd
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

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