News of the Weird (March 23, 2014)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M363, March 23, 2014
Copyright 2014 by Chuck Shepherd

Lead Story

San Francisco’s Number-One Problem: The ecology-conscious city (having recently encouraged routine composting of dinner leftovers) is now considering environment-friendly public urinals such as the “PPlanter” created by engineer Brent Bucknum. Users urinate into a ceramic basin and flush the waste with run-off hand-washing water, through a filter separating urine’s nitrogen and phosphorous, into a bed of bamboo plants. Bucknum claims minimal maintenance and an odor-free experience, but on the other hand, only a user’s midsection area is blocked from public view--a concession necessitated by San Francisco’s sour experience with lockable public toilets, which shielded sex acts and crime. (A less-elaborate structure--the open-air, similarly privacy-challenging “pPod”--is currently being readied for deployment in the city’s Dolores Park.) [Mother Nature Network, 2-28-2014] [KTVU (Oakland), 3-6-2014]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Branko Bogdanov, 58, and his wife Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, were arrested in March and charged in a 10-year shoplifting enterprise run out of their upscale Northbrook, Ill., home, which they allegedly used as a base while prowling stores in states as far away as Florida, stealing high-end toys and jewelry, which they resold on eBay and to their fences. Police estimate the Bogdanovs swiped as much as $7 million worth on their forays--many items being stashed in Lela’s customized flowing skirts with hidden pockets. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 3-5-2014]

A trauma victim arriving at a hospital emergency room but requiring specialized intensive care would usually be transferred promptly to a qualified “trauma center,” whose success rate with such patients is believed to be 25 percent better than that of ordinary hospitals. However, a recent study from Stanford University researchers found that, among 636 hospitals observed, there was a greater reluctance to make the transfer--if the patient was fully insured. (That is, the authors suggest, there is a tendency for hospitals to hang onto insured patients, even though their outcomes might be worse, but not to similarly hang onto the uninsured--who are more likely to properly transferred.) [NPR, 2-19-2014]

Latest Female Beauty Products: Cosmetic surgery is expensive, but beauty-conscious Japanese girls and women (especially those obsessed with a more “Western” look) have low-priced workarounds to choose from--as uncovered in January by the fashion blogger Liz Katz: (1) the $63 “Face-Slimmer Exercise Mouthpiece” (insert it for three minutes a day, make vowel sounds, and watch a “saggy” mouth turn taut); (2) the “Nose-Lifter” nostril clip, which emits electronic vibrations to raise the proboscis “profile”; (3) an altogether-different but similarly painful-appearing “Nose Straightener” (insert for 20 minutes a day for added “perkiness”). [ (1-4-2014]

Science Fair

Technological Know-How at Work: Hard-core pornography fans are split (according to a January report on on whether they want male actors to use condoms, but California’s Falcon Studios has the technology to serve both audiences. Falcon’s actors wear them, but in some movies those condoms might be digitally “removed” during post-production. The major downside, said one renowned director, is the prohibitive cost--about $100,000 to re-digitize each of the estimated 90,000 frames in a typical “low-budget” porno film. The Falcon president said he is trying an alternative--using clever lighting during filming to de-emphasize the condom’s presence. [Salon, 1-25-2014]

Security and law enforcement agencies are looking beyond traditional biometric identification techniques (such as the accurate but obtrusive fingerprint and iris scans and unobtrusive yet questionably accurate facial-recognition), and, based on recent laboratory research, are now considering earwax and underarm odors. Work by Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center shows that ear secretions may reveal personal identity, ethnicity, health status, and sexual orientation, among other information, and researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain) said their work demonstrates that recognizable patterns in body odor remain stable even through disease and diet change (although admitting that even the best odor technology is far inferior to a dog’s nose). [Science Daily, 2-12-2014] [ Science News, 2-4-2014]

Leading Economic Indicators

Farming continues to be a noble but grueling existence for rural residents of China, who work for the equivalent of only about $1,300 a year, but in one village (Jianshe in southwest Sichuan province), farmers have established a co-operative capitalist model, and in January officials delivered residents their annual dividend in cold cash--the equivalent of about $2.1 million dollars to split among 438 villagers. Authorities unloaded banknotes in stacks that constituted a seven-foot-high wall of money, requiring villagers to pull 24-hour shifts to guard it. [BBC News, 1-15-2014]

With property values sky-high in posh London boroughs like Chelsea and Kensington, some super-wealthy residents desiring to expand and who might ordinarily be forced to build up higher--are building down, constructing elaborate, multi-story basements, instead. CNN reported in January that additions are underway (one, covering five floors below ground) for subterranean home theaters, gyms, golf simulators, bowling alleys, and even swimming pools. [CNN, 1-24-2014]

* Costs of Spain’s Economic Collapse: (1) London’s Daily Mail reported in March that Spain might have as many as 2,900 recently-abandoned “villages” (swaths of land with clusters of houses) deserted by owners forced into cities to find work during the current recession--and that speculators were buying entire villages at single-house prices and turning them into vacation retreats. (2) A formal association of sex workers in Barcelona has introduced a four-hour, “introduction to prostitution” class for women transitioning from other occupations due to layoffs. Course topics include tax-return help (for prostitution is not illegal in Spain) and marketing, as well as sex tricks. [Daily Mail, 3-10-2014] [The Guardian, 3-3-2014]

News of the Weird has reported recently on the staggeringly large amounts of money to be made by financial trading firms that can execute buys and sells even a split-second before another firm. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that the “race to zero” (“zero” being trades executed at the speed of light) now involves sophisticated lasers beamed between trading hubs (initially, East Coast data centers, but eventually linking nearly all U.S. stock exchanges) so that a firm’s automatically-enacted trades (by self-actuating computer programs) can be further reduced from the current 0.004 seconds’ “lag” time. [Wall Street Journal, 2-12-2014]

People With Issues

PREVIOUSLY ON WEIRD UNIVERSE: A more ornate, dedicated subset of cross-dressers--the “living dolls” or “maskers”--was captured for a British TV documentary in January (and likely to appear on U.S. television soon). “Secrets of the Living Dolls” follows ordinary men (one, a forklift operator by day; another, a divorcee, 70, whose daughter knows he’s a “doll” but otherwise maintains a “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship) who come alive several nights a month when they don expensive ($800-$1,800), tailored, head-to-toe silicone bodysuits that feature breasts and genitalia, to party as young, glamorously-dressed women. Two of the men lamented the dolls’ lack of full acceptance into the transvestite or transgender communities--though much of that distrust may stem from dolls’ use of masks (perhaps similar to the backlash faced by clowns). [The Daily Beast, 1-7-2014; Daily Mail (London), 1-6-2014]

Least Competent Criminals

Christopher Fulton turned himself in in Midwest City, Okla., in March after seeing a surveillance photo of the robbery of an IBC Bank. He told police he indeed must be the robber, that he saw his body in the bank photo--although he insisted that his mind had no recollection of it. Police were about to arrest Fulton, anyway, because the robber’s holdup note was written on a blank check with the account holder’s name and address (Fulton’s) scratched out, except that police-lab technology easily read through the scratch-outs. [KOCO-TV (Oklahoma City), 3-4-2014]

The New Normal

(1) A plaintiff in an auto-accident lawsuit, who is claiming an injury that has impaired her inclination for “social activities,” was ordered by a judge in Nova Scotia to prove her loss by showing a reduction in the time she spent on Facebook. Justice Glen McDougall ruled that Joanne Conrod must disclose her log-in and log-out information but need not reveal her complete Facebook profile. (2) Arizona-based Christian “exorcist” Bob Larson, who claims to have performed more than 20,000 demon-expulsions, recently branched out by allegedly (in front of CNN’s Anderson Cooper) cleansing a client in Norway--via the Internet-enabled phone application Skype. (Given the fragility of computer operating systems, critics--including “mainstream” exorcists--find it puzzling that a demon could not disable Larson’s.) [Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, 1-30-2014] [CNN, 1-24-2014]

Thanks This Week to Simone Mishulovin and Tony Pappas and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Mar 23, 2014

The Bogdanov Mom always told me, "If you're going to do a thing then do it right!"

Hosp. Ins. Scam Obama Care will solve this problem! Nobody gets insured. (Unless, of course, you got to keep your old policy.)

Beauty Products A couple of those look like they provide good training, just not quite for what is advertised.

Raincoats The industry just needs to quit dickin' around and 'get'er done'.

ID Techniques Why not issue everyone a National ID Card driver's licence with that data in the mag strip on the back?

London's Posh They've discovered MAN CAVES!

Wall Street Trades Quit bailing them out and they'll go away! Quit feeding them and they'll wither and die.

Christopher Fulton Time for the 'Flip Wilson' defense.

Good one, Chuck!
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 03/24/14 at 01:38 AM
Lip trainer: I think I know why Angelina Jolie's lips look so weird...

London basements: Yawn. The Royals had dungeons, er, "entertainment rooms" in the basement in London centuries ago.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 03/24/14 at 12:03 PM
insurance- No insurance info till treatment has been rendered.

odor ID- Smells like ed just clocked in.

sub levels- Not a bad idea really.

Prostitutes- Well, if it is legal there then it naturally follows that there would be some training.

trading @ the speed of light- The poor e-trade baby will never keep up.

exorcisms- Oh is that how the devil go in my computer??
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 03/24/14 at 07:59 PM
China: "co-operative capitalist"? That's closer to real socialism than the rest of China currently has.

Wall Street: Aaannndd... there we go again! The next crash is already being worked on. Well, of course it is - we pay the price, the traders rake in the millions.

Exorcism: Be careful! You only want to exorcise the demons, not the daemons.
Posted by Richard Bos on 03/25/14 at 08:17 AM
PPlanter - Only in California would "making love" in a Porta Pottie be a protected human right.

Bogdanov - What's the big deal? Everyone knows that those stores and their insurance companies have money to burn.

Hospitals - "No pay, no treatment" would fix the financial situations of most hospitals.

Low-priced cosmetic manipulation - makes the feet tanners look reasonable.

Falcon Studios - "renowned director"?! Priceless!

Biometric - earwax collection is not obtrusive? Perhaps a combination tongue print/saliva tester would be of interest?

Wall Street - the next time your buddy gives you a hot stock tip, ask him if got his info 0.003 seconds ago.

Living Dolls - they obviously need to file a lawsuit, since their rights are being denied. The government should also require insurance companies to provide the bodysuits free of charge. That right must be in the Constitution somewhere.

Facebook Reveal - no right to privacy in Canada.
Posted by RobK on 03/25/14 at 12:57 PM
Nice post
Posted by Vidya on 05/15/14 at 11:50 AM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.