DARWIN GOES ELECTRIC 


Among the reality-TV series being batted around in London, according to recent reports in the Daily Telegraph and The Independent, is Make Me a Mum, in which a woman reduces a field of men to the two whom she believes will make her the (genetically) best offspring. At that point, producers will inseminate the woman with sperm from both men and, using intravaginal microtechnology, will attempt to record a "race" to see which sperm gets to the egg first. Said Remy Blumenfeld, the creative director for the Brighter Pictures production house, "(This show is) much more about the rule of science than the rules of attraction."

SURFIN' THE WEB

British surfboard designer Jools Matthews, working with Intel Corp., built an Internet-ready surfboard with an 80-gigabyte wireless laptop, powered by solar panels and housing a video camera, for exhibition in June in Devon, England. The waterproofed circuitry adds about 5 pounds to the 9-foot-long board and is carefully placed so as to retain surfers' balance points.

GOT NO GAME

A commander at a military conscription unit in Finland told reporters in August that some men recently have been discharged shortly after enlisting because they had become "addicted" to the Internet and longed for their computers. Said the official, Jyrki Kivela: "For people who play (Internet) games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock." (All males are scheduled for at least six months in the military, but about 20 percent get specially exempted.)

MCMULTI-TASKING

McDonald's franchisees in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Brainerd, Minn., and Norwood, Mass., recently began outsourcing their drive-through order-taking to a call center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Thus, a Big Mac order shouted into a microphone in Missouri gets typed into a computer in Colorado (and a digital photograph of the customer's car is taken in order to reduce errors) and then clicked back to the originating restaurant's kitchen, which has the order ready in less time – 30 seconds less, on average, with fewer errors – than the average McDonald's takes.

FOR LOVE OR MONEY

An econometric study of happiness by professors David Blanchflower (Dartmouth College) and Andrew Oswald (Warwick University, England), announced in July, found that a successful marriage brings such a level of joy that those without it would need an additional $100,000 to compensate. Their conclusions: Money can buy happiness, but each unit of it is very expensive; increasing the frequency of sex from monthly to at least weekly brings the same happiness as a $50,000 raise; and those who must buy their sex are the least happy of all.

PISS WHERE YOU EAT

A U.S. Army laboratory in Natick, Mass., has developed a lightweight dried-food meal that can be safely hydrated by adding virtually any kind of liquid, from dirty swamp water to a soldier's own urine, according to a July report in New Scientist. A membrane with very tiny gaps allows only water molecules to pass through, filtering out "99.9" percent of any bacteria and most chemicals. (While urine will theoretically work in a pinch, the developers discourage its use since urea is not blocked by the membrane and will build up in the kidneys over time.)

GROPING FOR JUSTICE

A New Hampshire judge was suspended and the state's attorney general resigned, both over allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from their after-hours behavior in separate incidents at the same conference. The May conference was a workshop on preventing sexual and domestic abuse. Five women complained of being groped by Judge Franklin C. Jones, 55, and one woman complained that Attorney General Peter Heed had touched her inappropriately on the dance floor. (The local prosecutor later said there was not enough evidence to file a criminal charge against Heed.)

FUNNY MONEY

Japanese police have made no arrests in connection with a flurry of 400 counterfeit 1,000-yen notes that keep turning up in vending machines in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo; in each one, a real 1,000-yen note is cannibalized to supply a key part of the bogus note. Similarly, in Calgary, Alberta, in July, Jason James Cremer was fined the equivalent of $600 for passing a set of counterfeit $20 bills that he made by removing the optical security devices from real $20 bills and inserting them onto his bogus ones (and discarding the remnants of the real bills, believing them then worthless, which police said was not true).

PACKIN' DUM-DUMS

Bristow, Okla., resident Drew Patterson, 27, getting his .22-caliber pistol ready after news got out of an escaped fugitive in the area in August, stuck the gun into the waistband of his trousers and accidentally shot himself in the buttocks. And The Crescent reported that David Walker, 28, of Dinnington, England, while carrying his shotgun back into a pub to settle an argument over whose turn it was to buy, accidentally shot himself in the scrotum. Then, in July, he was sentenced to five years in prison for illegal possession of the shotgun.

BEAR BALKS AT BUSCH BEER

In August in a camping area of Baker Lake, Wash., Fish and Wildlife agents found a black bear passed out amidst three dozen empty (clawed and bitten open) cans of locally brewed Rainier Beer. "And (the bear) definitely had a preference," said an officer, noting that only one can of Busch beer had been drunk, though many unopened ones were nearby.

A MIGHTY WIND

The Gentle Wind Project of Kittery, Maine, was recently in the news for filing a federal lawsuit against a couple who had allegedly slandered the group with claims of mind control and child neglect, among other charges. According to a Gentle Wind spokesperson, each human lives inside an energy field 8 to 10 feet high, 4 to 6 feet wide, which sometimes gets damaged and must be repaired. Gentle Wind claims its "healing instruments" are just the tools to do that. For example, its "Puck Puck," which resembles several tuning forks, is said to bring relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, migraines, ulcers and chronic fatigue, and allegedly has even been known to help people "forgive." On the other hand, wrote the spokesperson, "We're not New Age wackos."

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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