Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

News of the Weird

Smells Like Love

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A startup dating service from Massachusetts offers the usual questionnaires about likes and dislikes, but bases compatibility specifically on how one person smells to another. Eric Holzle’s ScientificMatch.com claims to test each person’s “major histocompatibility complex” (MHC) genes, which the company says will dictate how one person will translate the scent of another. In one famous study, women preferred the smell of T-shirts from men whose MHC was the most different from their own.

Holzle predicts a higher success rate than for ordinary dating agencies, but at a fee of $1,995 per client.

Bright Ideas
Michael Windisch, proprietor of the Maltermeister Turm restaurant in Goslar, Lower Saxony, Germany, solved what has become a crisis for other restaurants ever since the state extended a smoking ban in August. Windisch opened three holes in an outer wall so that a smoker can simply stick his head and arms through the holes and puff away while remaining inside, instead of having to walk outside in cold weather (according to a December report in Der Spiegel).

The Continuing Crisis
Noxious Substances: (1) New York City apartment house doorman Jonah Seeman was suspended in December after excessive complaints about his bad breath. His job, said a resident, is opening the door, “not … his mouth.” (2) Maurice Fox, 77, said in December that he would comply with the wishes of the Kirkham Street Sports and Social Club of Paignton, England, to step outside when he needed to pass gas, which management said had become a problem.

Great Moments in Maturity
Douglas Hoffman, 61, was sentenced in January to as much as five years in prison for staging a small-scale terror campaign among his neighbors in Henderson, Nev., in order to mask his own vandalism in destroying more than 500 trees to get a better view of the Las Vegas Strip. At first, according to prosecutors, Hoffman cut down just the trees that affected his own view. To divert attention, however, he cut down other trees in the subdivision and wrote a threatening letter suggesting that an extremist militia would continue to attack the property, finally promising “chemical, biological and nuclear mass destruction.”

John Hayes, 46, a middle-school coach in Marietta, Ga., was arrested in December and charged with driving a group of his students around at night so that they could vandalize various Christmas yard decorations (in one case, leaving reindeer entangled in “sexual positions”). A neighbor whose display was wrecked pursued Hayes’ truck, caught up to him and asked, “Are you crazy?” Hayes allegedly responded by saying, “It’s just a bit of fun.”

The Weirdo-American Community
Since November, authorities in Valentine, Neb., have been on the lookout for a vandal who has approached several storefronts at night and, apparently with Vaseline smeared over his nude body, pressed himself against windows and doors. A radio station called the person “the buttcheek bandit” (although some speculate there may also be a copycat). Ben McBride, Valentine’s police chief, asked, “Who in their right mind would do something like that?”

Least Competent Criminals
Clumsy: (1) A 26-year-old accused shoplifter was hospitalized in Grand Rapids, Mich., in January after he got into a scuffle with a department store security officer. He had allegedly stuffed some knives under his clothes, and when he was knocked to the ground, he accidentally fell on several of the blades. (2) Josue Herrios-Coronilla, 18, was arrested in Durham, N.C., in January and charged with DUI after he accidentally drove through a yard in a residential neighborhood.

He then abandoned his car and hitched a ride. However, at a later traffic stop, police identified him by his shoes, in that when he ran out of the resident’s yard, he had stepped in several piles of dog droppings.

Recurring Themes
Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre makes News of the Weird periodically (the latest in May 2007) because the six Christian denominations that share its management become involved in petty but elaborate disputes.

A similar problem arises at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics share space at the site thought to be the birthplace of Jesus. In December, when some Orthodox faithful wandered into the Armenian section during Christmas season, officials of both faiths squared off and flailed at each other with brooms before being separated by Palestinian police.

2008 Chuck Shepherd