THE ICE VAN COMETH 


Probably the most notorious example of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's under-preparation for Hurricane Katrina was the over-ordering of 91,000 tons of ice cubes intended to cool the victims and their food and medicine. One now-famous truck, for example, picked up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa., drove to a Carthage, Mo., FEMA facility, then to Montgomery, Ala., for a day and a half, then to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, then to Selma, Ala., then to Emporia, Va. (where it idled for a week to keep the ice frozen), and finally to Fremont, Neb., where the ice was put in storage.

On the day that Hurricane Wilma hit Florida in October, FEMA acting director David Paulison proudly noted that because of the overordering for Katrina, plenty of ice was on hand after Wilma.

BLAME FLORIDA

In Homosassa, Fla., Ralph Padgett, 73, was arrested in October and charged with running down (on his riding lawn mower) estranged neighbor David Ervin, who was also on a riding lawn mower. And in nearby Zephyrhills, in October, retiree Bryan Toll became the third person this year to pay more than $200,000 for a manufactured home at the Betmar Village Mobile Home Park (an 1,800-square-foot double-wide, located next to a golf course clubhouse).

THE F-WORD AGAIN

All four of the Seminole County, Fla., judges who hear drunken driving cases have routinely tossed out all challenged breath-alcohol readings since January – a total of more than 700, according to a September Orlando Sentinel story – because the judges believe the defendants should be given access to the machines' computer code. (Without the readings as evidence, about half of the DUI defendants go free.) The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says the machines are accurate and that, anyway, manufacturers protect their codes as trade secrets.

I SPIT IN YOUR SUSHI

As traditionally domineering husbands reach retirement age in Japan, the wives of as many as half of them may suffer some degree of Retired Husband Syndrome (rashes, ulcers, other stress symptoms), according to an October Washington Post dispatch. Said one morose 63-year-old woman, "I had developed my own life, my own way of doing things, in the years when he was (working long hours)," but, she told the Post, she now can't stand even to look at her husband across the dinner table and sits at an angle so she can stare out a window instead.

According to psychiatrists treating RHS, the numbers may soon explode further unless husbands lower their expectations of spousal servitude.

I'M WITH STOOOPID

Among the extraordinary exhibits constructed especially for this year's Burning Man festival in late August in Nevada's Black Rock Desert was Don Bruce's and Tracy Feldstein's "The Disgusting Spectacle," a 23-foot-tall human head designed with a pulley and large hamster-type wheel that lets it pick its own nose. In a July interview in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bruce admitted that theirs wasn't the typical artsy Burning Man project: "Ours is stupid. That's stupid with three O's."

FLORIDIAN? YOU DON'T SAY

In September, after law enforcement officers in North Carolina spotted a reportedly stolen ambulance and chased it through three counties before forcing it into a ditch north of Greensboro, they found the driver to be mohawk-hairstyled Leon Hollimon Jr., 37, who is not a medical professional but was wearing a stethoscope and had latex gloves in his pocket. Strapped to a gurney in the back was a dead six-point deer, and according to witnesses cited by the Florida Times-Union newspaper (Hollimon is from Jackson-ville, Fla.), an intravenous line was attached to it and a defibrillator had been used.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS

Notorious performance artist Zhang Huan gave a live show of his books-themed photo installation "My Boston" at the city's Museum of Fine Arts in September, including burying himself under a pile of volumes, eating pages, and shimmying up a flagpole while weighted down with books. Zhang's previous notable works include "Seeds of Hamburg," in which he coated himself with birdseed and honey and sat in a cage with 28 doves. According to a Boston Globe reporter, some people "outside" the performance-art world might call Zhang a "crackpot."

SMARTY PANTS

The museum at Cherepovets, Russia (about 400 miles north of Moscow), recently introduced a collection of items actually used by students for successfully cheating in school, including a pair of women's panties on which logarithms and math formulas had been written upside down in black ink.

Also on display: a sports jacket with (according to a September dispatch in the Chronicle of Higher Education) "enough secret mechanisms to keep a card shark flush for decades" and a denim skirt with 70 numbered pockets for cheat sheets.

YOU ALWAYS PAY IN THE END

Italy's highest appeals court ruled in March that a divorcing man would have to pay alimony to his ex-wife because he had refused to have sex with her for seven years as punishment for challenging him in a family argument. (Whatever point the husband was trying to make was not disclosed.)

weirdnews@earthlink.net

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