Weird Universe Blog — October 22, 2016

Windsurfing Swans

In the latest issue of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, Olle Terenius of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences reports observing swans windsurfing (i.e. "using tailwind as a support for high-speed water transportation"). This is something that bird experts were apparently unaware that swans could do.

Terenius hopes to spread awareness of the phenomenon of windsurfing swans, although he notes that the general public may have been more aware that swans can do this than bird experts were. He says, "I think the reason that this is missing in the literature is that ornithologists who are out in the field only quickly note that they see a Mute swan and write it down on the list of bird observations, while the general public has observed windsurfing swans thinking that this is already a well-known phenomenon." (Science Daily)

Below are his field observations of windsurfing swans.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Oct 22, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals, Sports

October 21, 2016

Watered her lawn non-stop

1984 - Richmond, California: After 71-year-old Alice Richie's husband died, she began watering her lawn. And she didn't stop. She kept the sprinklers on 24 hours a day, for over a year. Rain or shine. Using over 20,000 gallons of water a day.

Her yard turned into a swamp, breeding mosquitoes. The runoff poured over onto her neighbor's properties, damaging the foundations of their homes and causing algae to grow on driveways. The city had to put up caution signs on the sidewalk in front of her home.

Richie ignored pleas to turn off the water. When asked why she was watering so much, she replied, "It's none of your goddamn business." People speculated that she believed she was washing away evil spirits.

However, she paid all her utility bills on time, so the water company couldn't simply cut her off. Finally, her neighbors took her to court.

Even in court she wouldn't explain why she watered so much. But the court ordered a flow restrictor put on her waterline, limiting her to 500 gallons a day (which still sounds like a lot for a single person). This finally put an end to the non-stop watering, after a year-and-a-half. A utility spokesman said, "She'll have just enough water to do her laundry, dishes and bathe. But she'll have to make some sacrifices if she decides to water her lawn."

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any photos of Richie's front yard, or of Richie herself. Nor, to my knowledge, was her mania for watering ever explained.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 17, 1984

The New London Day - June 10, 1984

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 21, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Eccentrics, 1980's

Kenner Easy Care Manicure Set

Posted By: Paul - Fri Oct 21, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Cosmetics, Stereotypes and Cliches, Toys, Children, 1970's

October 20, 2016

Staged shooting as motivational stunt

November 1993: As high school football coach Dale Christensen was giving a pep talk to his players in the school cafeteria, hours before a game, a fight broke out between two students and Christensen moved immediately to intercede.

Then shots rang out. Christensen fell to the ground, blood spreading across his shirt. Christensen's son (who was a player on the team) shouted, "My dad's been shot!" Panic erupted, and people started running, seeking cover from the shooter.

But a few seconds later, Christensen jumped back up and announced he was okay. The shooting had been fake — staged as a stunt to motivate the players.

Unfortunately for Christensen, he had a hard time getting anyone to understand why the fake shooting was motivational. He later noted, "people in general outside the football team... do not understand what he was trying to accomplish."

School officials definitely didn't understand. The team lost the game, and a few days later Christensen was forced to resign.

Reminds me of that coach who arranged for his players to view a bull castration before a game as a "motivational experience." When asked how it was motivational, he replied, "That's everybody's different perception."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Nov 25, 1993

Posted By: Alex - Thu Oct 20, 2016 - Comments (1)
Category: Sports, 1990's

Fabulous Lady Diet Food


This is one of those rare instances where I can learn nothing on the internet about an old-time product. I suspect it was simply a forerunner of such drinks as Metrecal. If anyone can discover the secret ingredients of this drink, or even more press about it, they will be a master sleuth!

Original ad here.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Oct 20, 2016 - Comments (6)
Category: 1950's, Women, Dieting and Weight Loss

October 19, 2016

Most Expensive Potato Chip

Swedish beer-maker St. Erik's Brewery recently debuted the world's most expensive potato chip. A box of 5 chips cost 499 kr, or around $56, which comes out to about $11 per chip.

They're made with a bunch of fancy-sounding ingredients: Matsutake, Truffle Seaweed, Crown Dill, Leksand Onion, India Pale Ale Wort, and Ammarnäs Potatoes.

However, you can no longer get your hands on any of these chips because the beer-maker only made 100 boxes of them, and they've already sold out.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Oct 19, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: Food, Junk Food, Overpriced Merchandise

October 18, 2016

Compelled by jasmine to shoplift

Shirley Cromartie was working as a housekeeper at President Nixon's Key Biscayne retreat when, in 1971, she was arrested for shoplifting. She admitted to the crime but insisted that it hadn't been her fault. She explained that a mysterious woman wearing a wig had approached her in the store's parking lot, asked her the time, and had then released a "jasmine-like scent" from her left hand. Cromartie immediately fell into a trance, and the woman instructed her to steal four dresses, which Cromartie proceeded to do.

A medical expert testified that he believed Cromartie was telling the truth.

The Philadelphia Inquirer - Oct 23, 1971

An odd story. But what are we to make of it? There's a couple of possible theories:

Theory 1: Ms. Cromartie got caught shoplifting and made up a b.s. story to explain away her actions.

Theory 2: She was totally nuts.

Theory 3: She had an encounter with an extraterrestrial! UFOlogist John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies, advanced this theory. He speculated that the mysterious, wig-wearing woman was actually a "woman in black" (the female counterpart of a "man in black"). He noted that "Women in Black" cases often describe them as wearing wigs, and the aliens are fond of asking people what time it is.

But why would an alien being bother to make a housekeeper shoplift some dresses? Keel speculated, "perhaps this was not some small demonstration for the benefit of President Nixon, similar to the power failures that seemed to follow President Johnson in 1967. (The lights failed wherever he went ... from Washington to Johnson City, Texas, to Hawaii)."

More info:

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 18, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Crime, Paranormal, 1970's

Paul Starr, Space Agent

More info at the YouTube URL of this clip, as well as here.

Posted By: Paul - Tue Oct 18, 2016 - Comments (3)
Category: Puppets and Automatons, Television, Science Fiction, 1960's

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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