News of the Weird M526, May 7, 2017

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Chuck Shepherd

May 7, 2017, 8:28:55 AM5/7/17
WEIRDNUZ.M526 (News of the Weird, May 7, 2017)
by Chuck Shepherd

Copyright 2017 by Chuck Shepherd.  All rights reserved.

Lead Story

* A San Francisco startup recently introduced a countertop gadget
to squeeze fruit and vegetables for you so that your hands don't get
sore.  However, the Juicero (a) requires that the fruit and veggies
be advance-sliced in precise sections conveniently available for
purchase from the Juicero company, (b) has, for some reason, a wi-
fi connection, and (c) sells for $399.  (Bonus:  Creator Jeff Dunn
originally priced it at $699 but had to discount it after brutal
shopper feedback.)  (Double Bonus:  Venture capitalists actually
invested $120 million to develop the Juicero, anticipating frenzied
consumer love.)  [BBC News, 4-21-2017]

Great Art!

* Monument to Flossing:  Russian artist Mariana Shumkova is
certainly doing her part for oral hygiene, publicly unveiling her St.
Petersburg statuette of a frightening, malformed head displaying
actual extracted human teeth, misaligned, populating holes in the
face representing the mouth and eyes.  She told Pravda in April that
"only [something with] a strong emotional impact" would make
people think about tooth care.  [Pravda, 4-12-2017]

* Artist Lucy Gafford of Mobile, Ala., has a flourishing audience
of fans (exact numbers not revealed), reported in March,
but lacking a formal "brick and mortar" gallery show, she must
exhibit her estimated 400 pieces online only.  Gafford, who has
"long" hair, periodically flings loose, wet strands onto her shower
wall and arranges them into "designs," which she photographs and
posts, at a rate of about one new creation a week since 2014.
[ (Mobile), 3-20-2017]

Bright Ideas

* Though complete details were not available in news reports of
the case, it is nonetheless clear that a magistrate in Llandudno,
Wales, had ordered several punishments in April for David
Roberts, 50, including probation, a curfew, paying court costs, and,
in the magistrate's words, that Roberts attend a "thinking skills"
course.  Roberts had overreacted to a speeding motorcyclist on a
footpath by later installing a chest-high, barbed-wire line across the
path that almost slashed another cyclist.  (A search did not turn up
"thinking skills" courses in Wales--or in America, where they are
certainly badly needed, even though successful classes of that type
would surely make News of the Weird's job harder.)  [Wales
Online, 4-12-2017]

* Raising a Hardy Generation:  Pre-schoolers at the Elves and
Fairies Woodland Nursery in Edmondsham, England, rough it all
day long outside, using tools (even a saw!), burning wood, planting
crops.  Climbing ropes and rolling in the mud are also encouraged.
Kids as young as age 2 grow and cook herbs and vegetables
(incidentally absorbing "arithmetic" by measuring ingredients).  In
its most recent accreditation inspection, the nursery was judged
"outstanding." [Metro News (London), 4-10-2017]

Compelling Explanations

* Criminal Defenses Unlikely to Succeed:  (1) To protest a
disorderly conduct charge in Sebastian, Fla., in March, Kristen
Morrow, 37, and George Harris, 25 (who were so "active" under a
blanket that bystanders complained), began screaming at a sheriff's
deputy--that Morrow is a "famous music talent" and that the couple
are "with" the Illuminati.  (The shadowy "Illuminati," if it exists,
reputedly forbids associates to acknowledge that it exists.)
Morrow and Harris were arrested.  (2) Wesley Pettis, 24, charged
with damaging 60 trees in West Jordan, Utah, in 2016, was ordered
to probation and counseling in March, stemming from his defense
that, well, the trees had hurt him "first."  [WPLG-TV (Miami), 3-
28-2017] [Salt Lake Tribune, 3-29-2017]

Leading Economic Indicators
* Legendary German Engineering:  The state-of-the-art Berlin-
Brandenburg Airport, scheduled to open in 2012, has largely been
"completed," but ubiquitous malfunctions have moved the opening
back to at least 2020.  Among the problems:  cabling wrongly laid
out; escalators too short; 4,000 doors incorrectly numbered; a chief
planner who turned out to be an imposter; complete failure of the
"futuristic" fire safety system, e.g., no smoke exhaust and no
working alarms (provoking a suggested alternative to just hire 800
low-paid staff to walk around the airport and watch for fires).  The
initial $2.2 billion price tag is now $6.5 billion (and counting).
[ (Sydney), 3-27-2017]

* Rich Numbers in the News:  (1) A one-bedroom, rotting-wood
bungalow (built in 1905) in the Rockridge neighborhood of
Oakland, Calif., sold in April for $755,000 ($260,000 over the
asking price).  (2) Business Week reported in April that Win
Financial Holdings (part of the Russell 2000 small-company index)
has reported stock price fluctuations since its 2015 startup--of as
much as 4,555 percent (and that no one knows why).  (3) New
Zealand officials reported in March that Apple had earned more
than NZ$4.2 billion ($2.88 billion in U.S. dollars) in sales last
year, but according to the country's rules, did not owe a penny in
income tax. [, 4-19-2017] [Business Week, 4-21-2017]
[, 3-20-2017]
New World Order

* Why?  Just . . Because:  (1) The AquaGenie, subject of a current
crowdfunding campaign, would be a $70 water bottle with wi-fi.
Fill the bottle and enter your "water goals"; the app will alert you to
various courses of action if you've insufficiently hydrated yourself.
(2) Already on the market:  A company called Blacksocks has
introduced Calf Socks Classic with Plus--a pair of socks with an
Internet connection.  The smartphone app can help you color-match
your socks and tell you, among other things, whether it's time to
wash them.  (Ten pairs, $189)  [PR Web, 4-17-2017]
[, 4-27-2017]

Undignified Deaths

* Dark Day for Competitive Eating:  A 42-year-old man choked to
death on April 2nd at a Voodoo Doughnuts shop in Denver, Colo.,
as he accepted the store's "Tex-Ass Challenge" to eat a half-
pounder (equivalent of six regular donuts) in 80 seconds.  Later the
same day, in Fairfield, Conn., a 21-year-old college student died,
three days after collapsing, choking, at a pancake-eating contest at
the Sacred Heart University student center. [KUSA-TV. 4-3-2017]
[Connecticut Post, 4-4-2017]

Recurring Themes

* Prominent tax avoider Winston Shrout, 69, was convicted in
April on 13 fraud counts and six of "willful" failure to file federal
returns during 2009 to 2014--despite his clever defense, which
jurors in Portland, Ore., apparently ignored.  Shrout, through
seminars and publications, had created a cottage industry teaching
ways to beat the tax code, but had managed always to slyly
mention that his tips were "void where prohibited by law" (to show
that he lacked the requisite "intent" to commit crimes).  Among
Shrout's schemes:  He once sent homemade "International Bills of
Exchange" to a small community bank in Chicago apparently
hoping the bank would carelessly launder them into legal currency,
but (in violation of the "keep a low profile" rule) he had given each
IBE a face value of $1 trillion. [The Oregonian, 4-21-2017]

Readers' Choice

* (1) A successful business in Austin, Tex., collapsed recently with
the arrests of the husband and wife owners of a "massage parlor,"
who had come to police attention when sewer workers fixing a
backed-up pipe noticed that the problem was caused by "hundreds
of condoms" jamming the connection to the couple's Jade Massage
Therapy.  (2) Scott Dion, who has a sometimes-contentious
relationship with the Hill County (Mont.) tax office, complained in
April that he had paid his property bill with a check, but, as before,
had written a snarky message on the "memo" line.  He told
reporters that the treasurer had delayed cashing the check
(potentially creating a "late fee" for Dion), apparently because Dion
had written "sexual favors" on the memo line.  [KVUE-TV
(Austin), 4-11-2017] [Associated Press via Great Falls Tribune, 4-

A News of the Weird Classic (August 2013)

* British birdwatchers were especially excited by news in early
[2013] that a rare White-throated Needletail (the world's fastest
flying bird) had been spotted on the UK's Isles of Harris--only the
eighth such sighting in Britain in 170 years.  Ornithologists
arranged an expedition that attracted about 80 of the planet's most
dedicated, adventurous birders, who were thrilled as, indeed, the
bird appeared again--and then inadvertently flew straight into the
blades of a wind turbine (becoming, as Monty Python might
describe it, an ex-White-throated Needletail).   [Daily Telegraph,

     Thanks This Week Larry Neer, Alex Boese, Peter
Burkholder, Alex Cortade, Bob Stewart, Mel Birge, Gerald Sacks,
and Conan Witzel, and  to the News of the Weird Board of
Editorial Advisors.

                     ****, weirdnews at earthlink dot net, and P. O.
Box 18737, Tampa FL 33629
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