Ric Hoogestraat is married to Sue and works at a call center in the Phoenix area but spends 30-plus hours a week inside the online Second Life video game, pretending that he is the digitally drawn Dutch Hoorenbeek, a 6-foot-9, muscular babe magnet who lives on his own island. That unnerves Sue, according to an August Wall Street Journal profile, especially since Dutch recently "married" a digital woman and set up housekeeping with their two digital dogs. (The real-life creator of the new Mrs. Hoorenbeek has never met Ric and says she never will.) Dutch and his wife spend hours shopping and motorcycling together, leaving Ric little time for Sue. "Is this man cheating on his wife (meaning Sue)?" the Journal asked. Lamented Sue: "You try to talk to (Ric) or bring (him) a drink, and (he)'ll be having sex with a cartoon."
The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
World of Warcraft, too, is an online game as popular as Second Life, with warrior-players amassing digital gold coins from every opponent they vanquish, and the greater the lucre, the higher they advance in the WOW ranks. Some players take the easy route, though, and buy their WOW gold coins from dealers, who mostly get them from "Chinese gold farmers" in Nanjing and other cities -- men and women hired to play the game 80 hours a week, not for advancement but to score coins that they can sell to other players, at the equivalent of about $1.25 per 100 coins (marked up to $20 per 100, retail), according to a June New York Times Magazine article.
Science on the Cutting Edge
-- Solving Two Female Problems at Once: Cytori Therapeutics (cited in a recent Chemistry and Industry Magazine report) has developed a procedure to grow breast tissue from a mixture of stem cells and fat liposuctioned from the recipient's belly, thighs or butt. A spokesman for British plastic surgeons said he was hopeful for success, on behalf of mastectomy patients, but less generous toward women seeking ordinary breast-enlargement. The implanting surgery is still in clinical trials, but is expected to be available in Europe next year.
-- In August, the Discovery Channel reported on the equipping of Bushmen (indigenous to Africa's Kalahari Desert) with handheld Palm Pilot personal digital assistants to track animals and locate plants via special software. The illiterate hunters can tap screen icons representing various animals, the activities they're engaging in, and how many they see, with a global positioning satellite automatically recording the location.
-- They're Scientists So They Must Know What They're Doing: Researchers from Johns Hopkins University announced in July that they had bred the world's first mentally ill mouse (with schizophrenia) to see if it could help them understand the disorder in humans. (The human schizophrenia genes came from a mutant gene from a family in Scotland.) And Duke Medical Center researchers announced in August similar success inducing obsessive-compulsive disorder in mice.
Leading Economic Indicators
-- The New York Times reported in July that at least eight buyers were vying to purchase one of the five parking spaces in the basement of the new condominiums at 246 W. 17th St., for $225,000 each. And in Chappaqua, N.Y., the owner of the Via Genova water bar told WCBS-TV in July that she offers 80 different bottled waters from around the world, with the most popular at $30 and "Bling H2O" priced at $55, but hopes business picks up: "There are so many people that are uneducated about water."
-- How Executives Deal With Stress: In June in Spain, about 30 executives were chosen in a contest by NH Hoteles to help demolish Madrid's NH Alcala hotel; they were let inside with mallets and told to have at it. In London and Tokyo, another option recently became available, according to the Daily Mail: misery clubs (such as Loss in London). Executives can rent rooms and view weepy movies or attend group crying sessions and "tear therapy" to "indulge their inner gloom," wrote the newspaper.
Least Competent Fraudsters
(1) Belleville, Ill., psychiatrist Ajit Trikha pleaded guilty in June to defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of at least $1.85 million, including invoices claiming he worked more than 24 hours a day on 76 different occasions (40 hours on one day and treating 83 patients in 2 1/2 hours on another). He also claimed to treat patients 1,267 times in Belleville while he was traveling in Europe. (2) In June, the New York state comptroller charged Brooklyn dentist Mohinder Mayell with defrauding Medicaid of at least $124,000, including claims for treating eight patients between 123 and 170 times each and filling 52 cavities in another patient in about two hours' time.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
Two Port Washington, Wis., inmates brawled in July, started (said officials) when James Lala (who has served time for having sex with an underage girl) asked another man what he thought of Woody Allen's having married the teenage daughter of his then-girlfriend Mia Farrow. When the man responded that he thought that was perverted, Lala punched him in the face.
People Different From Us
-- In July, a California appeals court rejected the challenge of Nizameddine Chokr, 51, leaving in place his five-year-plus sentence for repeatedly masturbating in public. However, Chokr, a suede-pants-wearing, facially discomforting, secret FBI agent (according to him), shamelessly lamented that women are constantly demanding sex from him, leading him once to proclaim in court, "I am the best ever." He termed one of the masturbation episodes (according to a July Orange County Weekly report) an "involuntary" discharge and expressed confusion why patrons in Angelo's Hamburgers restaurant would scream when he unzipped to clean himself. In another incident, he said he tried mightily to resist two women who picked him up at a bus stop, but said he had to accede to their sexual demands lest they file bogus criminal charges.
-- In Orlando in July, Brittany Ossenfort complained that it was not she who had been jailed recently on a prostitution charge, that the arrestee claiming to be her was Richard Phillips, who had befriended Ossenfort last year (while pretending to be a woman) and become her roommate but who with the passage of time began dressing and acting like her until Ossenfort finally discovered "she" was a man (after which Phillips allegedly stole Ossenfort's financial identity). Ossenfort admitted to being completely fooled by Phillips: "(H)e acted like a girl, talked like a girl, looks like a girl. He doesn't even have an Adam's apple."
News of the Weird has reported several times on various designers, and even engineers, who claim to have invented a more comfortable bra. In July, a team from Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute, citing "the complex 3-D geometry" of the breast, offered a mathematical equation that they said would yield greater comfort, producing a larger variety of sizes. The researchers tried out 100 different measurements, eventually narrowed to eight -- overall build, volume, breast shape (inner, outer and lower), height, "gradient" and "orientation." Their "depth/width ratio" would increase the number of sizes from the current A/B/C/D to as many as 20.
Life-Saving Properties of Sewage
(1) In April, a woman hanging out laundry on the sixth-floor roof of a building in Nanjing, China, fell off but was only slightly injured when she happened to land in a shallow pool of the contents of the building's septic system, which workers were cleaning. (2) A fiery auto crash in July near Augusta, Ga., had killed the driver and would likely kill the passenger, too, if the fire were not immediately smothered. Firefighters were still minutes away, but passing by was a pump truck from a local plumbing company, whose quick-thinking driver extinguished the flames with 1,500 gallons of raw sewage from a septic tank-cleaning job he had just finished.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600