News of the Weird

What a winker

Dave "The Dragon" Lockwood and his tournament-tested sons, Max, 16, Jon, 13, and Ben, 10, of Silver Spring, Md., might become to competitive tiddlywinks what the Manning family of quarterbacks is to football, according to a January Washington Post story. Dave was previously ranked No. 1 in the English Tiddlywinks Association (and is currently No. 8, with Max No. 52). "Tiddlywinks doesn't sound very serious," said Max, but "(t)here's so much strategy." For the uninformed: You mash a "squidger" down on a "wink" to propel it either into the "pot" or to "squop" it onto an opponent's wink to temporarily disable it. Dave said he plans to get Britain's Prince Philip, a winker, to suggest tiddlywinks as a demonstration "sport" at London's 2012 Summer Olympics.

Cultural diversity

In November, the military ruler of Myanmar, Gen. Than Shwe, ordered his entire government to immediately pack up and move from Rangoon to a new capital 200 miles away in the small town of Pyinmana, based on dire warnings from his astrologer (though the move had long been rumored). Myanmar/Burma has a history with astrology and numerology, and in fact, democracy activists purposely commenced their most propitious demonstrations on Aug. 8, 1988, at 8:08 a.m. Shwe was just named the world's third-worst dictator by Parade magazine.

The traditional Norwegian dish of smalahove is smoked sheep's head with all parts except the skull itself counted as delicacies. Especially tasty are the eyes, said a restaurateur quoted in a November Agence France-Presse dispatch from Voss, Norway, since they are the most-used muscles in the face: "(Eye) just melts on the tongue." A visiting Englishman, served eyes, lips, tongue and ears, remarked that it is "a bit of a visual challenge, but the meat is very good."

In September in Bethlehem, Pa., the annual haggis-eating contest was won by Darren Lucey of Brooklyn, N.Y. (1.5 pounds in 2 minutes), but the only female entrant, slow-eating Joanne Shaver, said she competed only to get the free haggis, which she loves. Haggis is sheep stomach stuffed with tongue, heart, liver, oats and onions, best served at the enticing color of gray.

Downward spiral

Twice recently came news reports of people attempting suicide by sticking their heads in toilets: a 23-year-old woman being held in Chicago for three murders and using her cell's toilet (unsuccessful), and a man being held on a murder charge in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in December (successful, as his head lodged in the toilet during flushing).

In Belmont, N.H., in January, a suicidal man was successful with his elaborate homemade guillotine, although the blade merely left a gash in his neck, causing him to slowly bleed to death.

Certificate of deposit

The University of Florida announced in January it would provide health care and other benefits to domestic partners of their employees, provided the employee certifies that the pair are having sex (specifically, having a "nonplatonic" relationship). A University human resources official said such a pledge is "increasingly standard" in domestic-partner programs, even though married couples are not required to certify that they actually have sex.

Sticking points

Hunter Raybon E. Upton was tracked down and rescued by his worried wife near Mount Holly, Ark., in December, after he spent almost nine hours hanging upside down from branches following his entanglement in his tree stand. He was hospitalized with hypothermia and required surgery. And a fire rescue officer had to pull Australian Robin Toom, 38, out of a commercial washing machine in Townsville, Queensland, in January after he got stuck while playing hide-and-seek with his kids.

Holy crap

In January, an Anglican church vicar in Cambridge, England, commenced twice-monthly services for goths at his St. Edward King and Martyr church. Vicar Martin Ramshaw, 34, said he is a goth himself and reports that his dozen or so worshippers go straight from services to a goth nightclub. He will soon issue T-shirts with Jesus saying, "If the world hates you, remember, it hated me first." And in Waco, Texas, in January, in another congregation-building move, Catholic Monsignor Isidore Rozycki, attending a gala opening, blessed the city's new Hooters restaurant.

Evangelical Christian minister Rob Schenck and two colleagues entered a U.S. Senate hearing room the day before the January confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and daubed each seat with "holy oil" to bless the proceedings, saying that things had gone well when they had done the same thing for Chief Justice Roberts' hearings. "God … is interested in what goes on" there, Rev. Schenck told a Wall Street Journal reporter.

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