DON’T TELL BERNIE MADOFF
In December, a prominent online game player, Buzz “Erik” Lightyear, won the auction for ownership of a virtual space station in the Planet Calypso game, paying 3.3 million Project Entropia Dollars (PEDs), which at various points entered the game’s economy at an out-of-pocket cost of 10 actual U.S. cents per PED. Thus, Lightyear “paid” $330,000 for nothing more than digital representations of cool-looking structures. However, Lightyear can now charge other PED-seeking players who shop and hunt for valuables on the popular space station, and appears confident he will eventually earn back his investment. (On the other hand, if everyone suddenly abandoned the game, Lightyear will have spent thousands of hours online, buying, selling and bartering to earn $330,000 worth of PEDs that would then be worthless.)
In January, the Berkeley (Calif.) School Board began consideration of a near-unanimous recommendation of Berkeley High School’s Governance Council to eliminate science labs from its curriculum, reasoning that the classes mostly serve white students, leaving less money for programs for underperforming minorities. Berkeley High’s white students do far better academically than the state average; black and Latino students do worse than average. Five science teachers would be dismissed.
SEIZURING THE DAY
In December, Portuguese dancer Rita Marcalo, seeking to raise public awareness of the tragedy of epilepsy (which has afflicted her for 20 years), performed a 24-hour “show” at a West Yorkshire, England, theater in which she attempted to trigger an epileptic seizure on stage. She had stopped taking medication beforehand and continually stared into flashing strobe lights, but was unsuccessful. However, in the second part of her project (which has been funded by an Arts Council grant of the equivalent of about $20,000), she will continue the quest, but only in front of cameras, hoping to capture a seizure for a subsequent video production.
Although the U.S. military can direct a drone aircraft halfway around the world to deliver bombs mostly on highly specific targets in Iraq, the Pentagon acknowledged in December that even after six years of war, its signals to the drone are still not encrypted. Thus, Iraqi insurgents can pinpoint drone locations merely by using ordinary computer programs like SkyGrabber, which is widely available from software retailers for about $25. U.S. officials admitted that the software could make it easier for insurgents to anticipate the timing and location of attacks.
(1) Prominent eastern Idaho prosecuting attorney Blake Hall, 56, was fired in November (and he also resigned from a major national political position) after his conviction for stalking an ex-girlfriend. Evidence at trial revealed that Hall had been tossing used condoms onto the woman’s lawn, a total of 19 collected on 10 different days. (2) Truck driver Yuuki Oshima, 22, was arrested in Chiba, Japan, in December after allegedly urinating through the mail slot of a woman’s apartment door on more than one occasion. Oshima told police that he was frustrated, apparently too shy to approach the woman and admit that he was “crazy” about her.
(1) In December in Cardiff (Wales) Crown Court, James Snell was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a bank robbery from which he made his getaway in his own car with an easy-to-remember personalized license plate (“J4MES”). (2) Mark McAvinew, 52, was arrested in Kansas City, Mo., in December after allegedly robbing the Metcalf Bank and fleeing in an A.M. Heating & Cooling company van (a business he co-owns). (3) In November, Christopher Walker was sentenced to two years in jail for robbing a Lloyds TSB Bank in Birmingham, England. He had been caught within minutes, as he fled the bank to his home across the street.