News of the Weird (June 5, 2016)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M478, June 5, 2016
Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

By 2009, when Zimbabwe’s central bank gave up on controlling inflation, its largest currency was the 100-trillion-dollar bill--barely enough for bus fare in Harare and not even worth the paper needed to print it. However, that 100-trillion-dollar note (that’s “1" plus 14 zeros) has turned out to be a great investment for several astute traders in London and New Zealand, who bought thousands of them at pennies on the trillion and now report brisk sales to collectors on eBay at US$30-$40 a note--a six-year return on investment, according to a May report in London’s The Guardian, of nearly 1,500 percent. [The Guardian, 5-14-2016]

Can’t Possibly Be True

Long-divorced Henry Peisch, 56, has seven children but only one still living with his ex-wife (who had originally been awarded $581 weekly support for all seven). (Three children are now independent, and three others successfully petitioned courts to live with Henry.) The resultant hardship (the $581 remains in effect) caused Henry to ask the Bergen County, N.J., Family Court several times for a “hardship” hearing, which the court denied (thus even defying the New Jersey Supreme Court). On April 8th, Family Court judge Gary Wilcox, noting Peisch’s appearance on a related matter, spontaneously “granted” him his “ability to pay” hearing (with thus no opportunity for witnesses or evidence-gathering)--and summarily jailed him for missing some $581 payments (because, the judge concluded, he did not “believe” Peisch’s hardship claims). [Bergen Dispatch, 4-28-2016]

Magician and professional gambler Brian Zembic, 55, finally consulted surgeons recently about removing his historic C-cup breast implants, which he bore on a $100,000 bet in 1996 (with a rider of $10,000 annually for retaining them). (He also won an companion game of backgammon to determine who would pay for the original surgery.) He told news sources in May that he had intended to have them removed early on but that they had “grown on” him and become “a normal part of my life.” [Huffington Post, 5-18-2016] (The Daily Mail has more detail.)

Government In Action

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, in a May publication deriding the value of certain federally-funded research, highlighted several recent National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation projects such as the $13 million for exploring musical preferences of monkeys and chimpanzees; the $1.1 million judging whether cheerleaders are more attractive seen as a squad than individually; the $390,000 to determine how many shakes a wet dog needs to feel dry; and the $5 million to learn whether drunk birds slur when they sing. (Also strangely included was the actually-valuable study by Michael Smith of Cornell University ranking where on the human body a bee sting was most painful. He found, from personal testing, that “on the penis” was only the third-worst--research that brought Smith a prestigious Ig Nobel prize last year.) [Fox News, 5-10-2016] [Sen. Jeff Flake, “Twenty Questions,” May 2016]


(1) Yahoo News Australia reported (with photos) a man in Tallebudgera Creek on the country’s Gold Coast swimming with his pet snake. The man, standing chest-deep in water, would toss the snake (apparently a carpet python) a few feet, and according to the videos, the snake would swim back to him each time. (In the man’s other hand, of course: beer.) (2) In April, police in Broome (in Australia’s far northwest) on traffic patrol stopped a 27-year-old man whose “several” children, including one infant, were unrestrained in his car while “cartons of beer” were “buckled into car seats,” according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp. report. He faces several charges, including driving on a suspended license. [Yahoo News Australia, 3-1-2016] [Australian Broadcasting Corp. News, 4-7-2016]

New World Order

Transgender Blues: Ms. Jai Dara Latto, 23, won the title Miss Transgender UK last September in London, but in February organizers stripped her of the title as being insufficiently trans, passing the crown to Ms. Daisy Bell. Officials had spotted Latto (who has worked as a “drag queen”) in a BBC documentary wearing boxer shorts, and since switching “underwear” is usually such a crucial step for transgenders, officials concluded that Latto must not yet have made a sufficient-enough commitment to qualify for the title. [The Herald (Glasgow), 2-20-2016]


In a recent book, biologist Jennifer Ackerman noted the extraordinary intelligence of birds--attributed to the dense packing of neurons in their equivalent of humans’ cerebral cortex (according to an April Wall Street Journal review of Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds). For example, the New Caledonia crow, among others, knows how to make and use hooked tools to hide food (and retrieve it from tricky-to-reach places), and the blue jay and others, which store many thousands of seeds during autumn, also steal seeds from less-vigilant birds--and they even return to re-hide food if they sense they have been spotted storing it earlier). Additionally, of course, the birds’ equivalent of the human larynx is so finely tuned as to be regarded as the most sophisticated sound in all of nature. [Wall Street Journal, 4-23-2016]


The president of the New England Organ Bank told U.S. News & World Report recently that she attributes the enormous upsurge in donations in recent years to the opiod “epidemic” that has produced a similarly enormous upsurge in fatal overdoses. Now, one out of every 11 donated organs comes as a result of the overdosing that in 2014 claimed over 47,000 lives. (An organ-sharing organization’s chief medical officer reminds that all organ donations are carefully screened, especially those acquired from overdose deaths.) [Washington Post, 5-9-2016]

Nature 2, Florida 0

(1) Nicole Bjanes, casually zipping along Interstate 4 in Volusia County around noon on May 9th, saw a red-eared slider turtle come sailing through the air and crash into her windshield, sending her car off the road. The Florida Highway Patrol said it had become airborne after a truck hit it. (It was apparently unhurt and swam away when a firefighter released it into a nearby pond.) (2) On May 10th police in Key West, responding to a caller at the scene of a giant banyan tree (common to Florida and featuring vertical roots that thicken, spread, and become entangled with the central trunk). A woman had attempted to climb the tree but had fallen among the vertical roots, making her barely visible.. Said a proud police spokesperson, “[W]e popped her out like a cork.” [WFLA-TV, 5-13-2016] [WPLG-TV (Miami), 5-10-2016]

Unclear on the Concept

Prolancia Turner, 26, was arrested on May 13th at Vero Beach (Fla.) Outlets mall after she allegedly walked out of a Claire’s store with unpaid-for earrings tucked into her waistband. Police reported her “crying and angry” and complaining that, “Everyone steals from this store. Why are you picking on me?” [The Smoking Gun, 5-19-2016]


In 2006 a court in Preston, England, apparently weary of Akinwale Arobieke’s repeatedly, unconsensually “touching” men’s biceps in public, issued a Sexual Offenses Prevention Order making any such future contact automatic offenses. Arobieke admitted a longtime fascination with buffed-up physiques and continued from time to time to find biceps irresistible, but in May 2016 convinced a Manchester Crown Court judge to lift the SOPO based on his assurance that he wanted a “fresh start” and would behave himself. The judge seemed not quite sure but noted that police could still arrest him under other sexual or assault statutes. [Manchester Evening News, 5-5-2016]

News of the Weird Classic (May 2012)

At the 10th Arab Shooting Championships in Kuwait in March [2012], as medals were presented and winners' national anthems were played, officials were apparently ill-prepared for medalist Maria Dmitrienko of Kazakhstan. Consequently, they cluelessly played, as her "national anthem," the humorous ditty from the movie "Borat." (Instead of such lyrics as "sky of golden sun" and "legend of courage," the audience heard "Greatest country in the world / All other countries are run by little girls" and "Filtration system a marvel to behold / It removes 80 percent of human solid waste.") Dmitrienko reportedly kept a mostly-straight face, although Kazakhstan later received an official apology. [BBC News, 3-23-2012]

Thanks This Week to Chuck Hamilton and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Jun 05, 2016

I don't have the $100 trillion note, but I do have the $100 billion and $10 trillion notes in my eclectic coin and currency collection. I paid $12 U.S. for the $10 trillion note, and $15 U.S. for the other one. (I didn't buy them using eBay, I have a regular world currency dealer.)
Posted by Fritz G on 06/06/16 at 08:04 AM
Henry Peisch - that's what he gets for getting divorced. Best to avoid any activity that puts you in contact with the court system.

Brian Zembic - did he keep getting $10K/yr?

Bee sting - not sure how this is valuable, since I sure wouldn't stick out my appendage hoping to avoid a sting on the 2 worse spots. And does the ratings apply to other people or just to Dr. Smith?

Broome - gotta protect what's most valuable.

Jai Dara Latto - Outrageous! How dare they tell a "lady" what appropriate clothing to wear?!

New England Organ Bank - so, what's the deal with municipalities trying to reduce drug overdoses? They should be encouraging them, so us oldsters have a more consistent supply of replacements.

Prolancia Turner - easy answer: the store clerks and the cops are all racists.

Akinwale Arobieke - perhaps if he just didn't touch, but only moved in close and stared, drooling slightly.
Posted by RobK on 06/06/16 at 01:34 PM
Zimbabwe- Till they flood the market and devalue... oh, too late.

$581- It's a man's world but it's a woman's court system.

Stay alive at 55- Finally hit the age where $10,000 wasn't enough to out weigh the risk of breast cancer.

Money for nothing- Every single one of those 'studies' was thought up by a man, guaranteed.
Fosters- Australian for child endangerment.

Birdbrain- Apparently we are not using that word correctly.

OD- Darwinian redistribution of health.

Turtle wax- Does not belong on Windows.

Tree climbing- Leave that crap to the kids lady!
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 06/06/16 at 11:33 PM
There's a Brian Zembic wikipedia page, which makes no mention that the original bet went beyond 1 year and $100,000. However, some other guys afterward bought the rights to make a movie of his manboob thing, and one of them urged him to keep the implants for an appearance in the film. They renewed the movie rights contract annually, so this could be the source of the $10,000/year to keep them. I suspect the concept of him deciding he liked them has been purely PR.

But it's definitely true. I saw this guy on The Man Show ~12 or 15 years ago, and was one of millions who FREAKED when he opened he shirt.
Posted by Virtual on 06/07/16 at 01:59 AM
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake lives up to his name -- he's certainly a scatterbrained fool. True to his political roots, he seriously misrepresents every single one of those studies. Example: Michael Smith was part of a $1Million graduate research program, but finding out where it's most painful to be stung by a bee was something he did on the side. It wasn't part of the grant! It cost the taxpayers nothing!

As a scientist, he stumbled across the question and searched for an answer. Since it involved letting himself be stung hundreds of times, I'd say he's a rather dedicated scientist.
Posted by Phideaux on 06/07/16 at 11:57 AM
Phideaux - I would be interested to hear the other side of the stories. Why are the 4 other projects mentioned above important enough to use taxpayer money to fund them?
Posted by RobK on 06/07/16 at 03:52 PM
@RobK -- The wet dog one is best explained by the scientist himself:

For the others, I suggest you check out Improbable Research's take on it:
Posted by Phideaux on 06/07/16 at 06:47 PM
Yes, all the research criticism shows is that politicians are still too effing dumb to understand even the slightest thing about real science. Sociology and economics, that's where the game is for these charlatans. The implications a more thorough understanding real biology has for our ability do deal with our own bodies and environment is entirely lost on these numbskulls. Perhaps someone should fund some research into the specific mixture of concrete that constitutes the average senator's "brain".
As for the money, piffle. 13 million is pushing it, but only a very little bit; anything below a million is peanuts, for any Western government. If you want ridiculous numbers, consider this: my government just bought eight Joint Strike Fighters from the USA, and has a dozen or two more on back order - for 85 - eighty-bloody-five! - million eurodollars. EACH! And that's not counting the extra costs they made along the way sponsoring the murder industry. If you can pay for all of these research projects, together, four times over, with change, for the price of one single fighter jet, then science is weirdly and lamentably under-funded, not over-.
Posted by Richard Bos on 06/09/16 at 10:07 AM
Tell us what you really think Richard. 😉
Of course you are right about the war machine vs everything else dilemma. That's not likely to change in our lifetime though.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 06/10/16 at 10:08 PM
Oh, I'm aware it's not going to change. That shouldn't stop those of us who are even slightly scientifically educated from trying, though.
Posted by Richard Bos on 06/11/16 at 06:01 PM
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