[EDITOR’S NOTE: News of the Weird author Chuck Shepherd has retired. Until further notice, this column is written by the Editors at Andrews McNeel.]
THIS WEEK IN CRANKING
Jordan Haskins, 26, was sentenced to probation and sex counseling in May after pleading guilty to eight charges arising from two auto accidents in Saginaw, Michigan. Prosecutors said Haskins described “cranking,” in which he would remove a vehicle’s spark-plug wires to make it “run rough,” which supposedly improves his chances for a self-service happy ending. Haskins’s lawyer added, “[Cranking] is something I don’t think we understand as attorneys.”
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT!
Le Plat Sal (The Dirty Plate) restaurant in the Marais district of Paris features specialties actually containing dirt–or as Chef Solange Gregoire calls it, “the mud of the earth that caresses our toes, the sand kissed by the sun, and rocks.” Mused a Food Network host in April, “What’s left? People are already eating snout-to-tail, leaves-to-roots….” Gregoire extolled her four-star dishes, including pastry crust a la Mont Lachat rock and a Boue Ragout stew simmered with silt from the River Seine. (NPR also noted that the founder of The Shake Shack was “quietly” planning a new American chain, Rock in Roll.)
Goldman Sachs analyst Noah Poponak’s 98-page paper (leaked to Business Insider in April) touted the wealth obtainable by capturing the platinum reputed to be in asteroids. The costs to mine the stone (rockets, launch expenses, etc.) might have dropped recently to about $3 billion–a trifle next to the $50 billion worth of platinum Poponak said a single asteroid might contain. (On the other hand, experts point out, such abundance of platinum might crash the worldwide price.)
UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT
Yale University graduate students (well, at least eight of them), claiming “union” status, demonstrated in front of the Yale president’s home in April demanding better benefits (beyond the annual free tuition, $30,000 stipends and free health care). Some of the students characterized their action as an “indefinite fast” while others called it a “hunger strike.” However, a pamphlet associated with the unionizing made it clear that strikers could go eat any time they got hungry.
Police in Cleveland are searching for the woman whose patience ran out on April 14 awaiting her young son’s slow haircut at Allstate Barber College. She pulled out a pistol, took aim at the barber and warned: “I got two clips! I’ll pop you.” She allowed him to finish up–more purposefully, obviously–and left without further incident. And Barbara Lowery, 24, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Cullman, Alabama, in May after police spotted her standing on a car, stomping out the windshield and smashing the sun roof. She said it was a boyfriend’s car, that she thought he was cheating on her, and that she had spent the previous night “thinking” about what to do, “pray[ing] about it and stuff.” (However, she said, “I did it anyway.”)
THE DRONE ECONOMY
A Netherlands startup company announced in March its readiness to release drones capable of tracking freshly deposited dog poop (via an infrared glow from the pile) and, eventually, be guided (perhaps via GPS and artificial intelligence) to scoop up the deposits and carry them away.
POTENTIALLY UNEMPLOYED BEES
Researcher-inventor Eijiro Miyako announced in the journal Chem in March that he had created a drone that pollinates flowers (though requiring human guidance until GPS and AI can be enabled). Miyako’s adhesive gel lightly brushes pollen grains, collecting just enough to touch down successfully onto another flower to pollinate it.
Social critics and futurists suggest that the next great market for computerization (already underway) will be selling “human improvement” (alas, perhaps merely helping already successful people to even greater heights). Some sports teams are experimenting with “transcranial direct current stimulation” as a way to put athletes’ brains into constant alert, and KQED Radio reported in May that about a third of the San Francisco Giants players have donned weak-current headsets that cover the motor cortex at the top of the head. The team’s sports scientist (bonus name: Geoff Head!) said players performed slightly better on some drills after the stimulation. (One the other hand, at press time, the Giants were still next-to-last in the National League West.)
CLEARING THE CONSCIENCE
In February, a 52-year-old man who, arrested for DUI and taken to a police station in Germany’s Lower Saxony state, wound up spontaneously confessing to a 1991 cold-case murder in Bonn. Police confirmed that, after reopening the files, they found details matching the man’s account, though the man himself was “not quite clear” why he had confessed.