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Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Haute Water

The upscale restaurant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced in August that it would soon add a 20-item selection of waters from around the world, priced from $8 to $16 a bottle (except for a $12 “tasting menu”). Martin Riese, general manager of Ray’s & Stark Bar, who is also a renowned water gourmet, will sell his own California-made 9OH2O, which comes in “limited editions of 10,000 individually numbered glass bottles” at $14 each. Said Riese, “(M)any people don’t know that water is just as important to the entire dining experience (as, say, a good wine).” Riese has been certified as a Water Sommelier by the German Mineral Water Association.

The Continuing Crisis

  • A security lab, delivering a report to the makers of software for a luxury Japanese toilet, warned that a flaw in their Android program renders the toilet hackable—even while a user sits on it. The Satis (which retails for the equivalent of about $5,600) includes automatic flushing, bidet spray, fragrance-spritzing, and music, according to an August BBC News report, and is controllable by a “My Satis” cellphone app. However, the PIN to operate the app is unalterably "0000," which means that a prankster with the app could create some very uncomfortable mischief in a public restroom.
  • British birdwatchers were especially excited by news earlier this year that a rare White-throated Needletail (the world’s fastest flying bird) had been spotted on the U.K.’s Isles of Harris—only the eighth such sighting in Britain in 170 years—and ornithologists arranged for an expedition that attracted birdwatchers from around the world. A June report in the Daily Telegraph noted that about 80 people were on the scene when the bird appeared again, but then had to watch it fly straight toward the blades of a wind turbine. (As the event might be described by Monty Python, the bird thus joined the choir invisible, left this mortal coil, became an ex-White-throated Needletail.)

Bright Ideas

  • Helpful Derivative Military Technology: Manayunk Cleaners in Philadelphia has been testing delivery of customers’ clothing via its own drone (a converted four-blade DJI Phantom quadcopter originally used for aerial photography), guided by GPS. Said one bemused customer, “I was wondering what the hell that was, to be honest.” So far, the payload is limited to a shirt or towel, to be picked off the hovering aircraft by the customer, but owner Harout Vartanian hopes to buy a bigger drone soon. Agence France-Presse news service reported an even bolder drone program in August: delivering beer to music festivalgoers in South Africa. The director of the Oppikoppi festival in Limpopo province attested to the drone’s success. A reveler places an order by cell phone, which marks the location, and the drone is dispatched to lower the beer by parachute—usually in the midst of a cheering crowd.
  • Contrary to popular wisdom, cows do not sleep standing up, but actually spend 12-14 hours a day lying down, even though their shape makes the position uncomfortable. Conscientious dairy farmers use beds of sand to adapt to the cow’s contour, and since the late 1990s, a Wisconsin firm (Advanced Comfort Technology) has marketed $200 cow waterbeds, which are even more flexible. Waterbeds may be superior, also, because they are built with an extra chamber that makes it easier for the cow to lower herself safely. The founders' daughter, Amy Throndsen, told Huffington Post in June that her parents endured awkward moments starting the company: “Everyone…is telling them, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Are you kidding me? Waterbeds?’”

Oops!

College baseball shortstop Mattingly Romanin, 20, suffered a concussion in July, while on the field before a summer league game, when a skydiver knocked him to the ground. The skydiver was part of a pre-game flyover at the Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen’s game, but was windblown slightly off course.             
                                                             
© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD