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Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird

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Unclear on the Concept

  • In August, the Mother Nature Network website showcased an array of camping gear seemingly designed for the daintiest of those ostensibly “roughing” it. The Blofield outdoor couch inflates in minutes to produce a facsimile of a Las Vegas lounge sofa. The Rolla Roaster’s 42-inch-long steel fork assures elegance (and evenness) in marshmallow roasting. For fashion-conscious backwoods women, Teva makes high-heeled hiking sandals ($330). The mother of all Swiss army knives, by Wenger, has so many gadgets that it suggests a parody of a Swiss army knife. To be a camper is to sleep in a tent, though, and why not the trailer-mounted Opera tent, including hardwood floors and a wine cooler?
  • A July direct-mail campaign by Canada’s Conservative Party, intended to show concern for the disabled population, might have fallen short, according to a Toronto Star report. The first wave of brochures, “Supporting Jobs for All Canadians” (meaning the disabled as well), featured the well-known wheelchair symbol and a message in a series of Braille dots. However, the brochure was useless to blind recipients, who could neither see the dots nor read them, as the dots were printed on a flat surface.

Inexplicable

Because We Can, That’s Why: Two onetime roommates at the University of Michigan announced in August that they have developed a smartphone app to accommodate the questionable number of people who seek an easy way to share leftover food on restaurant plates (to save it from wasteful discarding). Using smartphones’ location service, one diner could offer to clean another’s plate or have a stranger rush to his own table for scraps. “We’re not gonna make millions,” one of the developers told NPR in July.

People Different From Us

Jian Yang, 33, a media executive in Singapore, told Reuters in September that he was concerned about the diminishing respect the Mattel Inc. is giving Barbie, reducing production in favor of trendier dolls like those modeled after the Twilight characters. Yang is apparently protective of his collection of more than 6,000 Barbies that dominate his row house—which he estimates has cost him the equivalent of nearly $400,000 since he took up the obsession at age 13. He said his parents have come to accept his passion, but acknowledged that he had a few “ex-girlfriends” who felt “insecure” around his supermodels. Yang also owns about 3,000 non-Barbies, and on his last trip to New York bought 65 more.

Perspective

It is now well known how America’s wounded warriors are victimized by the huge backlog of unaddressed Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims, with waits of many months or years. Nonetheless, the department is so proud of shrinking the backlog that it has begun to issue bonus checks to bureaucrats who meet the department’s numerical goals in case-reduction (according to data from the Office of Personnel Management reported in the Washington Post in August). However, another Washington Post story, in September, reported that backlog reduction likely resulted merely from quickly approving the easier cases—while the roster of serious or complicated cases continued to grow, along with appeals of decisions too hastily made by the bonus-clutching department employees.

Undignified Deaths

(1) A 40-year-old woman was killed in a near-head-on collision in August in Spring Lake, Fla., while joy riding on a back road at night on her dirt bike. She was accidentally hit by her husband, who was also joy riding, in his all-terrain vehicle, and who also died. (2) A 50-year-old man in Berne, N.Y., was killed in August when, driving an all-terrain vehicle, he virtually decapitated himself on nearly invisible wire strung across a road as one of a series of booby traps he had installed to protect his marijuana plants.                                             

 

© 2013 CHUCK SHEPHERD
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