Whistle while it works 

Police in Northumbria, England, have agreed to pay Detective Brian Baker the equivalent of "several" thousand dollars (he was asking for about $25,000) to compensate him for the snoring habit he picked up, allegedly from too many years working in the evidence room where he inhaled dust from a countless number of seized marijuana plants. His maladies, including a whistling in his nose, were said to have caused Baker marital disharmony.

Slow-key operation

In Halberstadt, Germany, in September, an organist kicked off a performance of the late, radical composer John Cage's "Organ 2/ASLSP" (an acronym somehow derived from "as slow as possible"). Cage wrote the piece to be played in 20 minutes, but thanks to technology and imagination, the new performance will take 639 years. The first six months will be devoted to creating the very first note on the organ. The purpose of the recital is to contrast the piece with the frenzied pace of modern society. The question is: How well will the organist be able to perform in another six centuries?

Weirded out

Add to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (No. 47) A husband enthusiastically takes his wife back into the marriage even though she just tried to murder him, as David Martin of Moulton, Ala., did in June after his wife, Tammie, emptied a gun into him and his father. (This retired story works also for wives taking husbands back). And (No. 48) forcing young miscreants to listen to less popular kinds of music as punishment for playing rap or rock music too loud in public, as Cambridge, Ohio, Judge John Nicholson sentenced Alan Law to do in August. Law was forced to listen to polka.

Confidence games

According to The Denver Post, Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colo., sold his entire initial run of airtight briefs called Under-Ease, which contains a charcoal-filter lining that effectively, he says, prevents flatulence from escaping into the air. And the Potty Putter (mentioned in a recent Newsweek article) is a toy golf green, complete with hole, flag, ball and putter, that men can put on the floor and play with while seated on a toilet.

Urge protection

In July, Richard Davis, 53, settled his lawsuit with a London doctor and a pharmaceutical company over his claim that a prescription drug made him so sexually wild that it led to his bankruptcy and a criminal fraud conviction. He said he was a virgin until he started binging on the apparently magical bromocriptine, which caused him to act like a "cross between a deranged sex maniac and a highly overexcited teen-ager."

Fueling up on fondue

Among the potential 21st-century foods being developed for military use (according to research led by Purdue University professor Michael Ladisch, is a chocolate bar with special nutrients to change body temperature, which could not only make soldiers warmer in cold climates but could also thus render soldiers "invisible" to an enemy's thermal-imaging equipment.

Big wheel

In August, the Metropolitan Transit board of Santa Cruz, Calif., had to resort to obtaining a judicial order restricting the bus travel of one of its own members, Bruce Gabriel, because it feared he might continue to assault its transit drivers and others with his wheelchair. According to court documents, Gabriel has deliberately rolled into two drivers, knocked over a boy in a crosswalk and verbally assaulted numerous passengers. Gabriel called the collisions accidents and said he is merely an aggressive advocate for people with disabilities.

Mover and shaker

Tim Nelson, a La-Z-Boy recliner tester profiled in a recent Associated Press report, said the job of sitting down, kicking his feet up and rocking back and forth in the company's chairs is much harder than it looks: "It's not like they give us popcorn and a TV set to watch; `going` up and down all day can be a workout." Actually, said colleagues, the job is one of the hardest at the Dayton, Tenn., plant because testers must certify the comfort and balance of up to 130 recliners a day (with 10 to 15 pieces not making the grade).

Can you dig it?

William Lyttle, 71, of North London has been a compulsive digger for years, neighbors told England's The Guardian. To satisfy unarticulated inner needs, Lyttle has dug extensively all over his multi-acre property, once going about 50 feet straight down before getting bored and cementing up the hole. However, in his latest adventure, which authorities said is probably the first time his digging has gone past his own property line, his excavation caused the street in front of his home to collapse. Lyttle lives in a 20-room home that would be worth more than $1.5 million if it were in good repair.

A piercing look

Also, in the last month ... a 31-year-old Chicago man barely survived a deadly bacterial infection of the heart valve, brought on by by the numerous body piercings that he acquired in order to look like his idol, basketball player Dennis Rodman. ... Responding to several noise complaints, the environmental officer of Stockport, England, publicly urged citizens to be quieter at night while making love).

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