Fighting nerdy

Dutch artist Iepe created the sport of chess boxing, which began in earnest in Amsterdam in November with several matches of six four-minute chess rounds alternating with five two-minute boxing rounds, with victory coming by knockout, checkmate or, if the match goes the distance, judges' scoring of rounds. Both the Dutch Chess Federation (KNSB) and the Dutch Boxing Federation (NBB) have endorsed the sport, and cards of matches have been scheduled for Berlin and Moscow.

Hot sauce with that?

California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (runner-up to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the October recall election) is not the family's only public figure. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in September, his sister Nao Bustamante, 39, is a prominent performance artist whose work includes wearing a strap-on burrito for men to kneel before and bite in order to absolve themselves of "500 years of white man's guilt," and also sticking her head into a plastic bag filled with water and tying it around her neck to resemble a Houdini stunt, to create "an urgent situation to respond to."

Mini driver

In November, a Norwegian court ordered the government to buy a 22-year-old, 4-foot-2 man a car because of his severe anxiety about riding public transportation due to his size, which has made him the subject of taunts ever since he was a child.

Come on down

News of the Weird reported in 2001 that Dr. Stuart Meloy had inadvertently discovered a side effect of an electrical implant whose purpose is to block spinal pain: It taps into the nerve that produces orgasms in women. By November 2003, Meloy had Food and Drug Administration approval for clinical tests of this "side effect," but said, surprisingly, he was having trouble attracting volunteers at his clinic in Winston-Salem, N.C. He said the only volunteer to that point had had a terrific experience, but that at least eight more women were needed.

Like a hole in the head

A 14-year-old Spokane, Wash., boy has made nearly a full recovery after a September incident in which a pal accidentally slung a steel rebar rod at his face; it penetrated 6 inches, between his nose and lip, knocking out two teeth and piercing his tongue. And in August a Truckee, Calif., man miraculously survived an accidental fall from a ladder onto an 18-inch-long auger bit firmly locked into his drill, which penetrated his right eye, nudged his brain and exited above his ear.

Divine comedy

Brian Lawrence, 38, died of a heart attack in September, five days before he was due in court to answer the charge that he and his girlfriend had had sex in New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral in August 2002 as part of a radio station's stunt. Eight people on a 16-day sightseeing tour sponsored by their First Baptist Church of Eldorado, Texas, were killed in October when their bus slammed into a tractor-trailer in Tallulah, La. And at least 39 Hindu pilgrims were killed in August in a stampede of crowds waiting to ritually bathe their sins away in the holy Godavari River in western India.

Sins of omission

In a November report, The New York Times revealed that the highly touted Houston school district (praised as exemplary by President Bush) used apparently highly stylized statistics to show its widely admired low dropout rates and campus crime rates. A subsequent school district audit found that "thousands" of dropouts had been left out of the earlier record, and the Times further found that the district's principals had reported only 761 campus assaults in four years while the schools' own police officers reported 3,091.

Cough-y break

George Duncan was finally fired by the New York Department of Corrections in November, after having taken 744 "sick" days in 15 years for spikes of high blood pressure, none of which were ever authenticated by doctors examining Duncan afterward. And a week before that, the city of Vicksburg, Miss., took a step to alleviate its own problem with employees' illnesses: Henceforth, city workers will be expected to give 48 hours' notice before taking sick days.

Visionary leadership

According to an October Boston Globe profile, New Bedford, Mass., city council candidate Raimundo Delgado is a charismatic politician despite his freely disclosed bipolar disorder, which has resulted twice in his involuntary hospitalization during the campaign. Among his proposals: to create a "city underwater"; to "free the dogs, the sheep, the goats"; to grow a tropical forest in place of local Route 18; and to give $10,000 raises to numerous city employees that he has met. He lost the council election and an earlier mayoral election, though he did outpoll an opponent with schizophrenia.

Bad ideas in the news

"Mentally Disabled Taught How to Vote": a November Mainichi Daily News report on how employees at a nursing home in Yokkaiichi, Japan, have for years instructed residents how to print out names of their favorite candidates on ballots. "Woman Gets Probation for Chasing Kids With Dildo": an October article in the Pottstown, Pa., Mercury about Linda Schultz, 36, engaging in inexplicable conduct in front of three small children and being referred for psychological counseling.