News of the Weird

LEAD STORY -- Awesome!

Retirees Marli and Paulo Ciquinel of Meleiro in southern Brazil discovered a fetishist's dream in the vegetable garden behind their home: a 17 1/2-pound potato that has grown into the shape of a huge human foot (with six toes). The "toes" descend in size, much as human toes do, and the largest has roots that look like hair. The "foot" portion of the tuber reaches up almost to knee-height. Marli told the Mirror, "We have never seen anything like it." Paulo said he was "a little bit scared when we harvested that potato." The couple don't plan to eat it. [Mirror, 8/9/2018]

Irony

Tania Singer, 48, a renowned neuroscientist who is one of the world's top researchers on human empathy, has been accused by co-workers of being ... a bully. "Whenever anyone had a meeting with her, there was at least an even chance they would come out in tears," one colleague told Science magazine. Others said the daily working environment included threats and emotional abuse, The Washington Post reported on Aug. 12. For her part, Singer denied the most serious charges and said, "(T)he workload and pressure increasing led to stress and strain that in turn sometimes caused inadequate communication with my staff in problem situations." The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, where Singer has her lab, granted Singer a sabbatical in 2017 and said in a statement that when she returns, "it is envisioned that Prof. Singer will head, at her own request, a considerably smaller working group for social neuroscience." [The Washington Post, 8/12/2018]

Bold

In Columbus, Ohio, workers repairing a street on Aug. 8 hit an unmarked water main, causing homes along the road to lose water. One man couldn't be deterred from finishing his shower, though: WCMH TV reported that after screaming from his porch, "I was in the f------- shower!" the unidentified resident finished his morning toilette on the street, in the geyser from the pipe. Facebook user Cody Vickers took a picture of two astonished crewmembers as Mr. Clean rinsed off nearby. [WCMH TV, 8/8/2018]

Solving the Wrong Problem?

In Paris, the designer of a recently installed "urinoir," a sidewalk urinal, on the Ile Saint-Louis, says the new device offers "an eco solution to public peeing." But Reuters reports that nearby residents and business owners are unhappy about the urinals, saying they are "immodest and ugly" and will "incite exhibitionism." The "Uritrottoir," a mashup of the French words for urinal and sidewalk, looks much like a plastic trash receptacle, and local mayor Ariel Weil says they're necessary: "If we don't do anything, then men are just going to pee in the streets." [Reuters, 8/13/2018]

Oops!

Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado, is footing the bill for a possible $46,000 reprint job after a recent graduate found a typo on his diploma. Alec Williams, former editor of the school's newspaper, was examining his sheepskin when he found a line reading "Coard of Trustees," instead of "Board of Trustees" under one of the signatures. "There was this moment of laughing at it ... and the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got, because I'm sitting on $30,000 worth of debt and they can't take the time to use spellcheck," he said. CMU President Tim Foster told The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that the school will send out corrected diplomas to 2018 grads -- but the typo goes back to 2012 diplomas. Those graduates can request a new diploma if they want to. "This mistake is all ours," he said. [The Daily Sentinel, 8/9/2018]

Step Aside, Cat Ladies

Agents of Columbus (Ohio) Humane executed a warrant on a home in the Clintonville neighborhood on Aug. 14 in response to complaints about birds inhabiting the home. Columbus Humane CEO Rachel Finney told The Columbus Dispatch that concerns about the birds' well-being were warranted: Officials found more than 600 birds inside, including macaws, African gray parrots, Amazon parrots and other species. "It's pretty overwhelming to step into the house," Finney said. Removal took all day, and Columbus Humane was undertaking the task of examining each bird from beak to tail. Finney said the agency would decide which birds might be adoptable after assessments are complete. As for the owner, she said, "We're confident we'll have charges; it's just a matter of which charges and how many." [Columbus Dispatch, 8/14/2018]

Ewwww!

Dr. Jay Curt Stager and his colleagues, researchers at Paul Smith's College, have released results from a study showing that Walden Pond, made famous by naturalist Henry David Thoreau in the mid-1800s, is an ecological disaster, thanks to human urine. The pond was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and the site in Concord, Massachusetts, draws hordes of tourists each year. But NBC News reports that swimmers urinating in the water for generations is the most likely cause of high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the pond that cause algae to spread and block the sun's rays, devastating the fish population. The study authors suggest building a swimming pool nearby to take pressure off the pond. Here's an idea: More restrooms? [NBC News, 4/6/2018]

Obsession

Chen San-yuan, 69, of New Taipei City, Taiwan, has taken his gaming obsession to another level. "Uncle Pokemon," as the Feng Shui master is known around town, has mounted 11 smartphones on the handlebars of his bicycle so that he can better play Pokemon Go. United Press International reported that Chen sometimes stays out until 4 a.m. playing the virtual game. His habit costs him $1,300 per month, but he's not daunted: He hopes to expand his phone lineup to 15. [UPI, 8/9/2018]

Animal Antics

-- German police took a baby squirrel into custody on Aug. 9 following an incident in which it chased a grown man down the street. The Guardian reported that an unnamed man summoned Karlsruhe police when he could not shake the tiny squirrel. But when officers arrived, the squirrel suddenly lay down and went to sleep. Officers felt sorry for the exhausted little rodent, who apparently had been separated from its mom and was looking for a replacement in the terrified man. Police named their new mascot Karl-Friedrich, then took him to an animal rescue center, where he was doing very well. (UPDATE: Workers at the rescue center later determined the squirrel was a girl and renamed her Pippilotta. They expect to return her to the wild in September.) [The Guardian, 8/10/2018]

-- At the Puy de Fou historical theme park in Vendee, France, cleaning up litter is always a problem. But less so now that six "particularly intelligent" crows are being trained to pick up litter, according to Sky News. Nicolas de Villiers, president of the park, said that each time a crow drops a cigarette butt or piece of trash into a bin, it will be rewarded with a small nugget of food. The birds were set to begin their duties on Aug. 17. [Sky News, 8/11/2018]

Extreme Measures

Your city may not have the dubious pleasure of pay-per-minute electric scooters yet, but in some places, the handy people transports have overstayed their welcome. The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 10 that angry residents are throwing Bird scooters off balconies, heaving them into the ocean, stuffing them in trashcans and setting them afire. Robert Johnson Bey, a Venice Beach maintenance worker, said: "Sunday, I was finding kickstands everywhere. Looked like they were snapped off." What's worse, the perpetrators are documenting their destruction on social media; Instagram has a Bird Graveyard account devoted to chronicles of scooter desecration. Culver City resident Hassan Galedary, 32, has a visceral reaction to the scooters: "I hate Birds more than anyone," he said. "They suck. People who ride them suck." However, he has stopped defacing them: "I can't put bad energy into the world. I don't even kick them over anymore." [LA Times, 8/10/2018]

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