Modern Mummies: New York City artist Sally Davies offered in October the latest evidence of how unattractive today's fast foods are to bacteria and maggots. Davies bought a McDonald's Happy Meal in April, has photographed it daily, and has noted periodically the lack even of the slightest sign of decomposition. Her dog, who circled restlessly nearby for the first two days the vittles were out, since then has ignored it. (Several bloggers, and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, have made discoveries similar to Davies'.) Food scientists "credited" a heavy use (though likely still within FDA guidelines) of the preservative sodium propionate but also the predominance of fat and lack of moisture and nutrients — all of which contribute to merely shrinking and hardening the burger and fries.
Compelling Explanations: Maybe Just Safekeeping It for a Friend: Raymond Roberts, 25, was arrested in Manatee County, Fla., in September after an ordinary traffic stop turned up a strong smell of marijuana. At deputies' behest, Roberts removed a baggie of marijuana from his buttocks, but when the deputies saw another plastic bag right behind it (containing a white substance believed to be cocaine), Roberts said, "The weed is [mine]," but "[t]he white stuff is not ... ."
Firefighter Richard Gawlik Jr. was terminated by Allentown, Pa., in August for abusing sick leave after he posted his daily golf scores on a public website during three days in which he had called off from work. Allentown firefighters' contract allows them up to four consecutive days' sick leave without a doctor's note, and given their shift schedule of four days on, four days off, a four-day, undocumented sick call effectively means a 12-day holiday — a pattern that describes 60 percent of all firefighter "sick" days, according to an analysis by the Allentown Morning Call. (Gawlik's union president said the union would appeal and that "playing golf was well within the guidelines of [Gawlik's illness].")
Woody Will Smith, 33, was convicted in September of murdering his wife after a jury in Dayton, Ky., "deliberated" about 90 minutes before rejecting his defense of caffeine intoxication. Smith had claimed that his daily intake of sodas, energy drinks and diet pills had made him temporarily insane when he strangled his two-timing wife with an extension cord in 2009, and made him again not responsible when he confessed the crime to police. (In May 2010, a judge in Pullman, Wash., ordered a hit-and-run driver to treatment instead of jail, based on the driver's "caffeine psychosis." Some doctors believe the condition can kick in with as little as 400 mg of caffeine daily — an amount that, given America's coffee consumption, potentially portends a sky-high murder rate.)
An Iowa administrative law judge ruled in September that former police officer William Bowker of Fort Madison deserved worker's compensation even though he had not been "laid off" but rather fired — for having an affair with the wife of the chief of police. Although the city Civil Service Commission had denied him coverage (based in part on other derelictions, such as sleeping and drinking on duty and refusing to attend a class on search warrants), the judge ruled that Bowker's dismissal seemed too much like improper retaliation for the affair.
I Demand My Rights: A lawyer in Xian, China, filed a lawsuit in September against a movie house and film distributor for wasting her time — because she was exposed to 20 minutes of advertisements that began at the posted time for the actual movie to begin. Ms. Chen Xiaomei is requesting a refund (equivalent of about $5.20) plus damages of an equal amount, plus the equivalent of about 15 cents for "emotional" damages — plus an apology.
In an April journal article, University of East Anglia professor Brett Mills denounced the 2009 British TV documentary series "Nature's Great Events" on the ground that the program's omnipresent and intrusive video cameras violated animals' privacy. "[The animals] often do engage in forms of behavior which suggest they'd rather not encounter humans," he wrote, "and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy."
Bright Ideas: British entrepreneur Howard James, who runs several online dating sites, opened another in August to worldwide attention (and, allegedly, thousands of sign-ups in the first five days): dates for ugly people. James said new members (accepted from the U.K., the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland) will have their photos vetted to keep out "attractive" people. (Based on the Web pages available at press time, the photo-evaluation process is working well.)
Beyond "MacGyver": Keith Jeffery's book on the British intelligence service MI6, published in September and serialized in the Times of London, revealed that the first chief of the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) during World War I recommended, as the best invisible ink, semen, in that it "would not react to [ink-detecting] iodine vapor" and was, of course, "readily available."
Super-Exclusive Addresses: 1) Mr. Hamen Vile was transferred from Gulgong Hospital in Australia, in August, to another about 30 miles away after Gulgong was discovered with dangerous levels of asbestos. Vile had lived full-time at Gulgong since 1952, when he suffered an accidental gunshot in the back. 2) Recently, MSNBC and the New York Times discovered that 104-year-old Montana copper-mine heiress Huguette Clark has cloistered herself for the last 20 years in an ordinary room at an unnamed New York City hospital. All of Clark's affairs are handled by an attorney who has almost no contact with her but oversees her three well-maintained estates in Connecticut, Santa Barbara (Calif.) and New York City, worth, respectively, $24 million, $100 million and $100 million.
Least Competent Criminals: Overconfident: 1) Xavier Ross, 19, passing by a piano at an art exhibit in front of the Grand Rapids, Mich., police station in October, could not resist sitting down to play a few notes — and was arrested when officers recognized him from a recent home invasion case. 2) Selma Elmore, 44, was arrested in Lockland, Ohio, in October when she flagged down a police car to ask if there was an arrest warrant out on her. (Officers checked; there was; she ran; the warrant was minor; "resisting arrest" was more serious.) 3) Jason Williams, 38, was convicted in Maidenhead, England, in October of stealing a neighbor's window curtains, which he had immediately installed on his own windows — in plain view of the neighbor's window.
Recurring Themes: Almost Impossible: 1) According to a case report in the New Zealand Medical Journal, announced in August, yet another person has swallowed whole a standard-size toothbrush. (A 15-year-old girl, running with the toothbrush in her mouth, tripped and fell, and her gag reflex did the rest.) 2) Ms. Cha Sa-soon, 69, became a national heroine in South Korea in May when she passed her driver's license written test on the 950th try (after taking two-hour bus rides to the test center almost daily for three years). (It took her only 10 more tries to pass the driving test, and Hyundai gave her a new car as a reward.)
A News of the Weird Classic (July 1990): Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court clerks discovered last fall (1989) that they had failed to complete the paperwork to make nearly 500 pre-1985 divorce judgments final, thus leaving the parties still legally married. The worst-case scenario for one husband occurred in April (1990) when an appeals court ruled that his supposedly ex-wife, Bonita Lynch, was entitled to one-fourth of his $2.2 million lottery jackpot. The couple had been scheduled for final divorce 11 days before the jackpot was announced.
© 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD
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