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A May Wall Street Journal dispatch from Beijing profiled China's first successful restaurant franchise. Now up to seven outlets, Shen Qing's Baked Pig Face serves a government-patented specialty: a 30-herb, 12-hour-cooked whole pig's head. Connoisseurs eat all parts of the head, Shen said, including the cheeks, eyes, snout, lips and tongue and especially the brain, the consumption of which "can make you smarter." Among the restaurant's side dishes: roast ox penis.

'Blair Witch' sequel hits the streets

In July, the San Francisco Chronicle profiled local beggar David "Bushman" Johnson, who solicits spare change after "entertaining" customers by leaping out from behind handheld shrubbery and trying to scare them. His partner, Gregory Jacobs, sets up the passerby, holds the collection can and then admonishes, "Hey, the Bushman got you fair and square! Pay the man!"

Ursa market

According to an October Philadelphia Inquirer report, several dozen astrologers are making a living by dispensing financial advice. An investors' newsletter, Investing by the Stars, is available for $300 a year. Blue Bell, Pa., appliance repairman Robert Hitt -- who tracks celestial alignments at $35 a month for the 200 subscribers to his AstroEcon website -- says the market is headed down and will tank on May 5, 2000. One mainstream financial adviser explained the astrologers' success by advancing the theory that many investors just "want somebody to tell them what to do."

Self serving

Joe Pietrangelo, 54, who represented himself in his September trial for assaulting the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ontario, elected to remain silent in the courtroom after a judge he viewed as "corrupt" refused to let him complain about more important issues: matters concerning his father's will. (He was convicted.) And Lawrence Brown, 30, on trial at press time for murder in Toronto, decided he didn't need a lawyer even though he had told a prison guard, "You guys are always picking on me because I killed some white bitch." And Norman Laurence, 37, set for trial in Warwick, R.I., in January for murder, previewed his lawyerless defense by telling the judge: "I did kill the woman. But that confession isn't right."

Visible assets

Jesus T. Rodriguez, 34, was arrested in September on drug-trafficking charges; he had aroused suspicion when he walked into a Firstar Bank in Strongsville, Ohio, with two grocery bags full of cash (total: $300,000), yet listed himself on a federal form as unemployed. And Drtangyn Sinclair, 33, was arrested in Franklinton, Ohio, in October and charged with robbing a CVS Pharmacy; he had yanked the cash register off the counter and carried it away, unaware that the cash drawer was a separate unit under the counter.

Out with the Tide

University of California at Davis researcher Gang Sun announced during the American Chemical Society's August annual meeting that he has developed the technology to attach anti-microbial substances to textiles, clearing the way for the manufacture of self-cleaning clothes. Sun said the discovery's first commercial uses would be to reduce the spread of germs in hospital gowns and bedding and to control the odors in sports clothing.

Counter measures

Richard and Peter Walkley of Hemel Hempstead, England, who this year launched a website on which they share shopping tips, paid their startup costs with about $19,000 they made last year by exploiting the discrepancies between posted and scanned prices at Sainsbury's supermarkets. (The store offers a 100 percent discount on price-mismatched items.) After examining every item on the shelves, the Walkleys came away with large quantities of free, mispriced products, including 19 cases of Rolling Rock beer.

Perspiring minds

Among this year's disclosures from Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center: Volunteers who sniff underarm pads retrieved from happy people and fearful people can generally tell which is which; the underarm pads of elderly women make sniffers feel happy; and the pads of young men produce depression. The center's 50 staff scientists derive most of their data the old-fashioned way: They sniff armpits and have subjects exhale in their faces.

He's at that awkward age

In a summer issue of the journal Pediatrics, doctors reported that a 2-year-old boy had developed pubic hair, acne and an enlarged penis due to accidental, repeated contact with his father's high-testosterone body-building cream. And at the INPEX inventors' fair in Pittsburgh in May, renowned Japanese inventor Yoshiro NakaMats introduced his Love Jet spray-on libido booster to U.S. audiences (though it has been sold in Japan for 10 years). Applied directly to the genitals, the aerosol supposedly helps the body to release inhibition-reducing hormones.

Two guys and a gill

Australian biologist Mark Norman of James Cook University reported in July that small male cuttlefish, who would ordinarily be too puny to attract mates, are able to change colors and shape so that they resemble females. According to a report in New Scientist magazine, this allows them to swim harmlessly with male-female pairs, then steal the female as soon as the male is distracted.

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