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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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Suspicions Confirmed      

A fire hydrant at 393 University Ave. has brought in more parking ticket revenue (since 2008) than any other hydrant in Toronto—$289,620 on 2,962 violations, according to an August Toronto Star report. While hydrants are usually located at curbside to facilitate fire-engine access, the one at 393 University Ave. was placed about 20 feet from the curb, in the middle of a sidewalk, and obscured by a tree in a planter about 8 feet long. (Nonetheless, the law’s wording treats the hydrant, for illegal-parking and revenue-earning purposes, as if it were curbside.)              

A woman hiking in Down Valley Park near Placerville, Colo., told Denver’s KUSA-TV in August of her narrow escape from a mountain lion that had stalked her for a half-hour (crouching menacingly each time she attempted to retreat). At the closest point, recalled Kyra Kopestonsky, it was about 8 feet away. At that point, she told the reporter, “I don’t know why,” but “I just started singing opera really loud.” The mountain lion “sort of put its ears down and…backed away.” (Only then was she able to call a friend, who alerted rescuers.)                                  

 

Police Report                     

I Know the Feeling, But: (1) Gloria Baca-Lucero, 48, was arrested in Albuquerque, N.M., in July after allegedly holding a Comcast cable installer’s tool bag at gunpoint in her home. She said she believed that her service call was free, but the installer told her otherwise, and she apparently decided to detain the tool bag. (2) German truck driver Michael Harry K., 58, went to trial in August in Wuerzburg, Bavaria, charged with firing his gun in the direction of drivers more than 700 times in five years out of displeasure with their poor road habits. He never actually killed anyone (but police said he caused at least one serious injury by frightening a driver into a collision).      

Immature: (1) Princeton University professor John Mulvey, 67 (who teaches financial engineering applications), was charged in July with stealing 21 yard signs around the town of Princeton—signs for a computer repair business owned by a man with whom he was feuding. (2) Nathan McCoy, 21, sought by police near Boise, Idaho, in July on a probation violation, took off running, forcing officers to chase him onto the Eagle Hills Golf Course. McCoy sought “refuge” in a pond, standing waist-deep as deputies tried to coax him out, but even with the pond surrounded, it still took McCoy a half hour of standing there to conclude that he did not have a Plan B.                               

 

The New Normal               

In 2010, the village of West Lafayette, Ohio, barred residents from keeping fowl and farm animals, but Iraq war veteran Darin Welker, 36, believes his post-war depression and trauma are unusually well-assisted now that he has befriended 14 pet ducks that he keeps at home. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which paid for Welker’s back surgery, stopped short of providing physical therapy and counseling, causing him more than ever to rely on the ducks, which he says motivate him to get out of the house and provide them with caretaking services. Village officials, however, cited him in June for misdemeanor fowl-housing.                               

 

Perspective          

“Streamers,” according to workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in California's Mojave Desert, are birds that cross the path of the 300,000 garage-door-sized mirrors that magnify the sun's rays on their way to producing steam to power 140,000 homes. Those birds, instantly fried, go down in plumes of smoke at the rate of perhaps one every two minutes, according to an August Associated Press dispatch from Ivanpah Dry Lake near the Nevada border. According to federal wildlife officials, the plant’s bright light attracts insects, which then attract even more birds. The operator, BrightSource Energy, said there is no feasible way to protect the birds.                                   

Least Competent Criminals           

Questionable Decisions: Robert Haught Jr., 42, was captured after a high-speed chase through Burlington, Mass., in August, with police recovering “stacks” of stolen credit cards and suspected-stolen high-end electronics from the car. Haught had attracted police attention by parking his car (with a mismatched license plate), unattended, with engine running, in a handicapped parking spot.                                     

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD