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Friday, April 1, 2011

Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird

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Winning Is Everything

Houston police officer Mike Hamby, 51, was suspended in February following an alleged incident in which he was off-duty and not in uniform. Witnesses reported that Hamby tossed a tear-gas grenade into a group of rivals in a rodeo cooking contest. Hamby has 30 years of police service and was a member of his union's board of directors. About 300 teams compete in the popular barbecue cook-off; police were investigating whether Hamby was trying to sabotage a competitor's food.

The Redneck Chronicles

(1) Timothy Walker, 48, was hospitalized in Burlington, N.C., in February after he fell off the top of an SUV. He was on top of the vehicle in an attempt to hold down two mattresses for the driver, who apparently rounded a curve too fast. (2) Three people were hospitalized in Bellevue, Wash., in January when their van stalled and then exploded when the ignition was re-engaged. They were carrying two gallons of gasoline in an open container and had been feeding the carburetor directly, through an opening in the engine housing (between the seats) as the van was in motion. (It was not reported why they were doing it that way.)

Every Vote Counts

Nicole Pugh, a resident of Washington, D.C., arrived at her polling station in November with the sole intention of casting a vote for mayor. While voting, she noticed a line on the ballot asking her to choose an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, even though no candidates were listed. On a lark and with no knowledge of the office, she wrote in her own name. That evening Pugh was informed that she had been elected, 1-0, to an office that had been vacant for the previous 14 years—through apathy. (It's not a paid position.)

Least Competent Criminals

Elusive Perp: Armed-robbery convict Edward Nathan Jr. escaped from a Florida work-release center in 1983. Using the name "Claude Brooks," among other identities, Nathan managed to avoid police for the next 27 years. But he slipped up in December in Atlanta, when he was arrested after being caught urinating in public. He was returned to Florida and charged with escape.

The Feral Professor

In January, Tihomir Petrov, 43, a mathematics professor at California State University, Northridge, was charged with misdemeanors for allegedly urinating multiple times on the office door of a colleague with who he had been feuding. (Petrov was identified by a hidden camera that had been installed after the original puddles turned up.) Petrov is the author of several scholarly papers, with titles such as "Rationality of Moduli of Elliptic Fibrations With Fixed Monodromy."

A News of the Weird Classic

The German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported in November 1992 on Japanese inventor Kenji Kawakami's "New Idea Academy," which features his own innovations and counts among his most successful products a portable washing machine that straps onto the user's leg (swirling the clothes with each step); a travel necktie with room for writing utensils and a calculator; padded booties for cats so they can dust the floor while walking around; and a "solar flashlight" that provides a strong beam of light as long as the sun is shining.

Correction:
Two weeks ago in this space, News of the Weird fell for a hoax (for only the fifth time in 22 years, covering more than 20,000 stories). The seller of meat-flavored water, originally reported as a legitimate entrepreneur by AOL News, is apparently engaged in elaborate "performance art." I am duly embarrassed, and I apologize to readers.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd

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