Took It Too Far

Chuck Shepherd Thursday, July 20, 2017 Comments Off on Took It Too Far
Took It Too Far

The art house San Francisco Dungeon has planned a two-day experimental “Rat Cafe” for those who feel their coffee or tea is better sipped while rats (from the local rat rescue) scurry about the room. Pastries are included for the $49.99 price. The rats will be removed before the food comes. Sponsors promise at least 15 minutes of “rat interaction.” The price includes admission to the dungeon.

The New Power Nap

The federal government has given grants to several U.S. high schools to purchase $14,000 “nap pods” that keep out noise and play soft music for 20 minutes at a time. A May NPR report based on Las Cruces high school student experiences quoted favorable reviews by students. Those comments were backed by a doctor and a nurse practitioner, who pointed to research showing that adequate sleep can boost memory and attention and thus improve school performance.

Advertisers Are Coming For You

The New York Times reported in May that the “sophistication” of Google’s and Facebook’s ability to identify potential customers of advertisements is “capable of targeting ads … so narrow that they can pinpoint, say, Idaho residents in long-distance relationships who are contemplating buying a minivan.” Facebook’s ad manager told the Times that such a description matches 3,100 people (out of Idaho’s 1.655 million).

Government In Action

— Harry Kraemer, 76, owner of Sparkles Cleaning Service in London, Ontario, was alone in his SUV recently when he decided to light up a cigarette. He was spotted by Smoke-Free Ontario officers and cited for three violations. Since his vehicle was registered to his business, and the windows were up, the cab constituted an “enclosed workspace.” It took a long legal fight, but in May, the Provincial Offences Court cut Kraemer a break and dismissed the tickets.

— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finally prevailed in federal appeals court in its argument that wetlands in Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish should be preserved as a safe habitat for the dusky gopher frog. Landowners barred from developing the land pointed out that no such frogs have been spotted there for “decades.” But the FWS argued the St. Tammany area could be a place that dusky gopher frogs might thrive if they decided to return.

Cake Boy

In October, 2013, at the Kelso, Wash., courthouse, a woman carrying a cake was approached by Robert Fredrickson, a stranger who was in the building on business. Without warning, Fredrickson attacked — not the woman, but the cake. He grabbed it with both hands and stuffed his face. As he washed up a minute later at a drinking fountain, a deputy who witnessed the scene attempted to bring Fredrickson to justice, yelling, “Stand right there. Don’t move.” As soon as the officer looked away, however, Fredrickson returned to the cake and clawed at it again. Finally, several deputies subdued him and charged him with theft and resisting arrest.

The Job Of The Researcher

In an April academic paper, California State Polytechnic assistant professor Teresa Lloro-Bidart compared behaviors of California western gray squirrels and eastern fox squirrels: “I juxtapose feminist posthumanist theories and feminist food study scholarship to demonstrate how eastern fox squirrels are subjected to gendered, racialized and speciesist thinking in the popular news media as a result of their feeding/eating practices (and) their unique and unfixed spatial arrangements in the greater Los Angeles region.” The case “presents a unique opportunity to question and re-theorize the ontological given of ‘otherness’ that manifests in part through a politics” in which “animal food choices” “stand in” for “compliance and resistance” to the “dominant forces in (human) culture.”

The Continuing Crisis

— Agents in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service labor over computer screens 8 to 10 hours a day with facial-recognition software to scour websites to identify victims of nude-photo postings of military personnel that came to light earlier this year. “You get pretty burned out,” said the NCIS director. A simple word search of “uniformed military nude” got nearly 80 million hits, according to a May Associated Press dispatch from the Quantico Marine base, where the 20 investigators labor side-by-side.

— Japan is in constant conflict over whether to become more militarily robust, even though its constitution requires only “self-defense” forces. When the country’s defense minister recently suggested placing females in combat roles, constitutional law professor Shigeaki Iijima strongly objected, initiating the possibility that Japan’s enemies might have bombs capable of blowing women’s uniforms off, exposing their bodies. The ridicule was swift. Wrote one, “I saw something like that in Dragon Ball” (the popular Japanese anime comic book and show).

Bright Ideas

Organizers of northern Germany’s Wacken Open Air Festival (billed as the world’s biggest metal music extravaganza) expect the 75,000 attendees to drink so much beer that they have built a nearly 4-mile-long pipeline to carry 105,000 gallons to on-site taps. Otherwise, keg-delivery trucks would muck up the grounds.

Fine Points Of The Law

Convicted murderer John Modie, 59, remains locked up on an 18-to-life sentence. He couldn’t be punished for his 2016 escape attempt from Hocking, Ohio, correctional institution because of a technicality. In May, 2017, the judge, lamenting the inflexible law, found Modie not guilty of the escape because prosecutors had failed to identify the county in which the Hocking Correctional Institution is located, and thus did not “prove” that element of the crime. Note to prosecutors: the county was Hocking.

Bluffs Called

— In May, Charles Nichols III, 33, who facing charges of sex with a minor in Cheatham County, Tenn., was tagged with a $50,000 bail. But then he dropped an F bomb on Judge Phillip Maxie and dared him to increase the bail. That led to a new bond of $1 million. After further insubordination, the bail grew to $10 million, and so on until the final bail ordered was $14 million.

— Jose Chacon, 39, was arrested in Riviera Beach, Fla., after allegedly shooting and killing a 41-year-old acquaintance who had laughed at Chacon’s first shot attempt, then taunted Chacon to try again. The second shot worked.

Drugs. Is There Anything They Can’t Do?

— Sheriff’s deputies in Dade City, Fla., arrested Timothy Brazell, 19, for trespassing in May. Brazell, who was high on methamphetamine, he said, attempted to commandeer a stranger’s car by hot-wiring it. But he connected the wires of a voltage meter. And the key was already in the car. According to the owner, the door lock was jammed on the inside, and Brazell couldn’t figure out how to open it.

— On May 19, Carl Webb and his wife left a nighttime barbecue festival in downtown Memphis and headed home. They drove 14 miles on an interstate highway before a police officer pulled them over to ask if Webb knew there was a body on his trunk. The man was clinging to the lip of the trunk but was still unconscious (from drinking) and had to be jarred awake.

Fast Talker

A young woman, accosted by a robber on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill in October, 2013, told the man she was a low-paid intern for the National Security Agency and that within minutes of robbing her, the man would be tracked down by all-seeing NSA surveillance. She later said the man just “looked at me and ran away (empty-handed).”


— It recently became necessary for Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski to acquire a bigger home in the Los Angeles area because their 33,000 bunny-related items (stuffed bunnies, antique bunnies, bunny paintings, bunny dinnerware, etc.) required more space for storage and display.

— The world’s only museum devoted to the house cat allows self-guided tours in Sylva, N.C., where curator Harold Sims displays 10,000 artifacts including a petrified cat pulled from a 16th-century English chimney.

— Brantford, Ont., real estate agent Kyle Jansink said he accepted the challenge of selling a meticulously maintained home as is — still packed with the sellers’ clown-related items (dolls, miniatures, porcelain statues, paintings).

Unclear On The Concept

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam argues that his “hands are tied” by “federal food laws” and that fresh, “all-natural” milk with the cream skimmed off the top cannot be sold in Florida as “milk” (or “skim milk”) but must be labeled “imitation milk” unless the milk has added artificial vitamin A in it. A family farm in the state’s panhandle decided to challenge the law, and Putnam, who recently announced his candidacy for governor, said he would try to resolve the issue soon.

Compelling Explanations

— They’re “therapists,” not “strippers,” argued New York City’s Penthouse Executive Club, creatively characterizing its dancers to avoid $3 million in back taxes. But the state’s appeals board ruled against it in April. Penthouse had insisted that its performers were akin to counselors for lonely men, and that the club’s door charge was an untaxable fee for therapeutic health services.

— James Pelletier, 46, was arrested in Hollis, Maine, after he fired a BB gun point-blank at his two sons, ages 9 and 11. He only did it, he said, as a “rite of passage” into maturity. He said if the kids knew how it felt to get shot, perhaps they would not be so quick to fire their own guns.

Military Allies In Odd Places

In April, three days after ISIS fighters reportedly executed 25 villagers 50 miles south of Kirkuk, Iraq, the three murderers were themselves killed when a pack of wild boars overran their position and gnawed them to death.

Rights in Conflict

An elderly German man, unnamed in news reports, was fined the equivalent of $110 in May for “terrorizing” neighbors in the town of Hennef by violating a 2015 agreement to lower the sound of his pornographic videos. He demanded sympathy because of his hearing disability, arguing that if he wore headphones, he could not hear the doorbell, or burglars, and therefore would feel unsafe. (At his May hearing, he objected to the characterization that the “sex sounds” were from videos; on the day in question, he said, he had a prostitute in the room. “It was not porn,” he insisted, confusingly. “It was live!”)

Armed and Clumsy

Here are still more incidents in which people (make that, men) accidentally shot themselves: a National Rifle Association staff member, 46, training on a firing range (Fairfax County, Va.); a fleeing robber, run over by his victim, with the collision causing the robber’s gun to fire into his own mouth (Hawthorne, Calif.); two males, 17 and 19, practicing loading and unloading a handgun, managed to hit each other (Houston, March); a U.S. Park Police officer shot his foot in a confrontation with a raccoon (Washington, D.C.); a man, 48, shot himself, then, angry at how it happened, shot his bed (Oceana County, Mich.).

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