In a competition in March, perennial Guinness Book records jockeys Zoe L’Amore and Ashrita Furman squared off over the record for stopping blades on an electric table fan the most times in one minute using only their tongues. On Italian TV, L’Amore stopped blades 32 times. But Furman, at a different venue, later stopped 35.
Why? Just Because.
— The AquaGenie, subject of a current crowdfunding campaign, would be a $70 water bottle with Wi-Fi. The consumer fills the bottle, then enters his “water goals.”
— A company called Blacksocks has introduced Calf Socks Classic With Plus: a pair of socks with an internet connection. The smartphone app can help you color-match your socks and tell you, among other things, whether it’s time to wash them. Ten pairs cost $189.
Hipsters On The Rise
The Columbia Room bar in Washington, D.C., recently introduced the “In Search of Times Past” cocktail, which includes a tincture of old, musty books. Management vacuum-sealed pages with grapeseed oil, then “fat-washed” them with a “neutral high-proof” spirit, and added a vintage sherry, mushroom cordial and eucalyptus.
— The California reggae rock band Slightly Stoopid recently produced a vinyl record that was smokable, according to Billboard magazine. The band tried using a “super resinous variety of hashish” mastered at the Los Angeles studio Capsule Labs. The first two versions had weak sound quality and were apparently quickly smoked. A third is in production.
Why Trillion-Dollar Bills Don’t Really Work
Prominent tax avoider Winston Shrout, 69, was convicted in April on 13 fraud counts and six counts of willful failure to file federal tax returns from 2009 to 2014. His defense was ignored by jurors in Portland, Ore. Shrout, through seminars and publications, had created a cottage industry of teaching people ways to beat the tax code. But he always mentioned that his tips were “void where prohibited by law.” Among Shrout’s schemes: He once sent homemade “International Bills of Exchange” to a small community bank in Chicago, apparently hoping the bank would carelessly launder them into legal currency. But, in violation of his rule to “keep a low profile,” he had given each IBE a face value of $1 trillion.
Dark Days For Competitive Eating
A 42-year-old man choked to death on April 2 at the Voodoo Doughnut shop in Denver as he accepted the store’s “Tex-Ass Challenge” to eat a half-pounder (equivalent of six regular donuts) in 80 seconds. Later the same day, in Fairfield, Conn., a 21-year-old college student died, three days after collapsing at a pancake-eating contest at the Sacred Heart University student center.
The Complexities Of Identity
The telephone “area” code in the English city of Bath (01225) is different from that of adjacent Radstock (01761). A Bath councilwoman said that she is dealing with complaints by 10 new residents who paid high-end prices for their homes, only to find that they came with the 01761 code. Admitted one Bath resident, “I do consider my phone number to be part of my identity.”
— Dennis Smith, 65, was arrested in Senoia, Ga., and charged with stealing dirt from the elderly widow of the man Smith said had given him permission to take it. Smith, a “dirt broker,” had taken more than 180 dump-truck loads.
— New for Valentine’s Day from the SayItWithBeef.com company: a bouquet of beef jerky slices, formed to resemble a dozen full-petaled roses ($59). Also available: daisies. Chief selling point: Flowers die quickly, but jerky is forever.
In March, University of Basel biologists calculated that the global population of spiders consumes at least 400 million tons of prey yearly — about as much, by weight, as the total of meat and fish consumed by all humans.
— University of Utah researchers trained surveillance cameras on dead animals in a local desert to study scavenger behavior. They were apparently astonished to witness the disappearances of two bait cows. Over the course of five days, according to the biologists’ recent journal article, two different badgers, working around the clock for days, dug adjacent holes and completely buried the cows for storage or to keep the carcasses from competitors.
Scott Dion, who has a sometimes-contentious relationship with the Hill County, Mont., tax office, complained in April that he had paid his property bill with a check, but, as before, had written a snarky message on the memo line. He told reporters that the treasurer had delayed cashing the check — potentially creating a late fee for Dion — because Dion had written “sexual favors” on the memo line.
Try, Try Again
Samuel West announced in April that his Museum of Failure will open in Helsingborg, Sweden, to commemorate missteps that might serve as inspiration for future successes. Among the initial exhibits: coffee-infused Coca-Cola; the Twitter Peek (a 2009 device that does nothing except send and receive Tweets — and with a screen only 25 characters wide); and Harley-Davidson’s 1990s line of colognes. West’s is only the latest attempt to immortalize failure with a museum. Previous attempts, such as those that opened in 2007 and 2014, apparently failed.
— College activist Pablo Gomez, Jr., 22, was arrested in Berkeley, Calif., in March and charged with the brutal stabbing death of an elementary school teacher. Gomez, a senior at University of California, Berkeley, is well-known on campus for insisting on a gender identity for which the pronoun “he” is an inappropriate reference. Police said “they” was charged with what is so far the only homicide in Berkeley this year.
— Paul Perry, Jr., 39, who was sound asleep behind the wheel of his car with the motor running at 6 am on April 2, was in no position to talk his way out of a DUI ticket. But he did offer a gentle challenge to the Youngstown, Ohio, police officer. Perry offered to “thumb-wrestle” the officer to get out of the ticket. From the report: “Perry was advised officers would not thumb-wrestle him.”
— A father, 43, and his son, 22, argued on April 9 about who would walk the dog at their home on Chicago’s South Side. They apparently decided to settle the issue with a gunfight. Police, who recovered the weapons, said both men received multiple wounds. The son was killed, and the father was in critical condition.
— Police in Brookfield, Wis., released surveillance photos of a woman in the act of robbing banks on March 25 and 27. She committed both robberies while standing at teller counters and talking on the phone during the entire episodes. Acting on a tip from the photos, police arrested Sarah Kraus, 33, on March 28.
The Passing Parade
Norway unseated Denmark as the world’s “happiest” country, according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network. There was no word on whether Denmark was unhappy about losing the top spot.
— Human populations in Chile’s Atacama Desert have apparently developed a tolerance for arsenic 100 times as powerful as the World Health Organization’s maximum safe level. This is according to recent research by University of Chile scientists.
— While 80 percent of Americans age 45 or older have calcium-cluttered blood veins (atherosclerosis), about 80 percent of Bolivian Tsimane hunter-gatherers in the Amazon have clean veins, according to an April report in The Lancet. Keys for having “the healthiest hearts in the world”: walk a lot and eat monkey, wild pig and piranha.
A News Of The Weird Classic
British birdwatchers were especially excited by news in early 2013 that a rare white-throated needletail (the world’s fastest-flying bird) had been spotted on the U.K.’s Isle of Harris. It was only the eighth such sighting in Britain in 170 years. Ornithologists arranged an expedition that attracted 80 of the planet’s most dedicated, adventurous birders, who were thrilled as, indeed, the bird appeared again — and then inadvertently flew straight into the blades of a wind turbine.
Leading Economic Indicators
The eight elite Ivy League universities are better thought of as “hedge funds with classes,” according to a March report by the activist Open The Books. Therefore, there is little reason for taxpayers to have given them the more than $41 billion in grants and entitlements they received over a recent six-year period. The schools are already legendary for their $119-billion endowments (based on donations from alumni and aggressive investment). Those endowments are enough that — if they continue at the present rate — the schools could provide free tuition to every student forever. Even if no new donations were made, the eight schools could provide free tuition to all for 51 years.