MAKING OUTSOURCING WORK
A Verizon risk team, looking for data breaches on a client’s computers, discovered that one company software developer was basically idle for many months, yet remained productive–because he had outsourced his projects to a Chinese software developer who would do all the work and send it back. The employee earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, according to a January Los Angeles Times report, but paid the Chinese worker only about $50,000. The risk team eventually learned that sensitive company information was flowing to and from Chinese terminals, leading the company to suspect hackers, but that traffic was merely the U.S. employee (“ex-employee” now) sending and receiving his workload. The U.S. man showed up for work every day, but spent his time leisurely web-surfing.
SERVICE SECTOR ADVANCES
In January, the Japanese marketing firm Wit Inc. began hiring “popular” young women (judged by the extent of their “social network” contacts), at the equivalent of $121 a day, to walk around with advertising stickers on their thighs. (The stickers would be placed on the erotic “zettai ryouiki”– the Japanese mystical area between the hem of a short skirt and the top of long socks.) The women must be prepared to endure men hovering closely to read the ads.
London’s The Independent reported in January that Dean Kamen (who famously invented the Segway, a standing, battery-powered scooter) had developed, along with a Pennsylvania medical team, what appears to work as a “reverse feeding tube” that will vacuum out up to 30 percent of any food in the stomach before it is digested and converted into calories. After installation of the stomach “port,” the diner could operate the device without daily medical help.
ANIMAL RESEARCH ADVANCES
Scientists from Sweden’s Lund University, reporting in a recent issue of Current Biology, explored the burning question of why dung beetles appear to be “dancing” on the tops of the dung balls they roll away. The answer is that the beetles need to roll their treasures away from the heap as quickly as possible (lest competitors swipe them) and that they can best maintain a straight line away by celestial navigation. To test the hypothesis, researchers actually outfitted some beetles with tiny visors to block their view of the sky, and those beetles mostly rolled their balls in irregular routes, whereas the sky-searching beetles moved in straight lines.
Japanese researchers learned recently that a species of sea slug may lose its penis after copulating, but then grow another one and use it the next time the occasion arises. Writing in the British journal Biology Letters, the scientists also found that the slugs have both male and female organs and in effect copulate with each other through a simultaneous hook-up. A final breathtaking finding of the team was that the sea slugs’ penis has the ability to remove competitors’ sperm from the female openings of its mate.
LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS
In January, the National Hockey League labor dispute ended and players returned to work, but as usual, some owners resumed claiming that players’ high salaries were killing them financially. The Phoenix Business Journal reported in December that the Phoenix Coyotes, for example, stood to turn a profit for the 2012-2013 season only if the lockout had continued and wiped out all the games — indicating that, based on the team’s projections, the only way for it to make money was to never play.
JOB PROSPECTS DIM
Willie Merriweather, 53, was detained in February by police in Aiken, S.C., after an employment agency reported that, when he was sitting for an interview, he exposed himself (allegedly telling the interviewer that “it fell out,” that he “must have forgotten” to zip his pants). Police said Merriweather had been accused of a similar incident at a different employment agency a few days earlier.
LEAST COMPETENT DOGS
A Palm Bay, Fla., police officer was sent to the hospital in February after a supposedly highly trained K-9 bit him in the crotch during a burglary investigation. A trainer attributed the lapse to the dog’s natural “intensity” during searches. Apparently, all was forgiven, and both “officers” returned to work. And in Cottages Row, England, firefighters were called in January when a metal lamp post was reported as smoking because of an electrical short, which was discovered when a Labrador retriever lifted his leg. That species is regarded as quite intelligent, but the dog, after being knocked back by the shock, moments later attempted to engage the lamppost a second time, with the same result.