News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Air New Zealand announced in June that it will permit cockpit crews on international flights to nap during periods of low activity as long as one pilot remains awake. The airline said that it thus hopes to end "unofficial and uncontrolled" napping, which it said pilots on all airlines do. Air New Zealand also issued instructions on how to awaken a pilot: It should be done "in a normal tone of voice. An attempt should be made not to startle the waking flight crew member."

News from the Job Market
*Editor Martha Jette was eased out of her job after ten years at the weekly Dundas (Ontario) Review in June following a dispute with the publisher. She had run a story accepting the claim of local singer "Danny Boy," who had convinced her that he was the reincarnation of Jesse Garon Presley, Elvis's stillborn twin, and that he was given life in order to continue Elvis's gospel work. Said Jette, "Who can ignore a miracle?"

*According to the San Jose Mercury News, the only injury from the May 21 Calaveras earthquake (magnitude 4.7) near San Francisco was to Edvardo Meneses, age 21, who thought the quake was a break-in at his home. He grabbed his gun and, as he was running up the stairs to protect his mother, he shot himself in the leg.

*In December employees of the Advanced Medical Imaging Clinic in Newburgh, New York, forgot that Brenda Revella, age 42, was in the claustrophobia-inducing MRI machine when they locked up for the night. (The patient lies in a tube 27 inches in diameter with the edge only four inches from his or her face.) It took Revella three hours to wiggle out.

*Latest highway truck spills: 500 gallons of hydrochloric acid onto Interstate 10 near Lake Charles, Louisiana, in June; 300 gallons of chicken fat on U.S. 41 near Robards, Kentucky, in May; a ton and a half of chicken guts in Dobson, North Carolina, in May; several barrels of flea powder in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in April; and 6000 pounds of margarine on Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City in May (as the Daily Oklahoma reported, "Margarine Clogs Major Artery").

Weird Science
*Writing in the journal Nature in January, a Cornell University biologist described the short-term perspective of the male Australian redback spider, which is another species whose males, upon mating, are consumed by the females. The researcher found that as many as six males per web will mate at one time with a female and will vie for nature's "reward." The reward is that the female eats only the male that has most satisfied her, thus increasing the likelihood that the dead spider ultimately will have procreated. Also, the favored male's sex act lasted an average of 25 minutes (before he was eaten) while the males not eaten had sex only for 11 minutes.

No Longer Weird
*Beginning an occasional list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (1) The charity, or the church, or the company (such as NYNEX in northern Vermont in June) that a phone caller is expecting to reach when, because of an error somewhere, he reaches an adult phone-sex line, and (2) the suspiciously shaped package in a public place that causes authorities to call the bomb squad, who evacuate the area and then cautiously dispose of the package only to find that it is a doll, or a personal vibrator, or, in an incident in Hong Kong harbor in June, a large, floating sausage.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd