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News of the odd and strange with Chuck Shepherd

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Bright Ideas

Unapparent Problem, Solved: Vladimir Laurent (an insurance executive in Coral Springs, Florida) received his U.S. patent on Sept. 29 and can proceed mass-producing “The Shield” — his brainstorm to keep men’s genitalia from dragging on the inside of toilet bowls while they’re seated. Laurent told the South Florida Business Journal that his device was something he “needed, personally” (though he’s aware that not all males experience the sensation). The Shield is basically a cup attached to the bowl by suction that allows movement via a ball-and-socket joint.

Latest Human Rights

Kentucky’s government ethics law bars gifts from lobbyists to legislators, but state Sen. John Schickel filed a federal lawsuit in September claiming that he has a constitutional (First Amendment) right to receive them. (The laws were passed after the FBI found several Kentucky politicians selling their votes.) And in May, officials of the American Gaming (gambling) Association and the Association of Club Executives complained to the Pentagon that a threatened prohibition of the use of government credit cards at casinos and strip clubs violated card users’ constitutional rights, in that protected activities (such as business strategy meetings) take place at those venues.

Can’t Possibly Be True

Florida Justice: Orville “Lee” Wollard, now 60, was convicted of aggravated assault in 2008 after he fired one “warning shot” into a wall of his home during an argument with his daughter’s boyfriend. Believing his shot defused a dangerous situation (the boyfriend had once angrily ripped sutures from Wollard’s stomach), Wollard had declined a plea offer of probation and gone to trial, where he lost and faced a law written with a 20-year minimum sentence. Florida has since amended the law to give judges discretion about the crime and the sentence, but Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s clemency board have refused to help Wollard, who must serve 13 more years for a crime he perhaps would not even be charged with today.


Christopher Hiscock, 33, got only a year’s probation after his guilty plea for trespassing on a ranch in Kamloops, British Columbia, in September — because it was a trespass with panache. Since no one had been home, Hiscock fed the cats, prepared a meal, shaved and showered, took meat out of the freezer to thaw, made some coffee, started a fire in the fireplace, did some laundry, put out hay for the horses, and even wrote some touchingly personal notes in the resident’s diary (“Today was my first full day at the ranch.” “I have to remind myself to just relax and take my time.”) In court, he apologized. “I made a lot of mistakes.” “Beautiful ranch. Gorgeous. I was driving (by) and I just turned in. Beautiful place.”

New! Amazing! Awesome!

Low-benefit (but Internet-connected!) devices now on sale (from February MacLife magazine): HAPIfork (Bluetooth-connected, alerts you if you’re eating too fast); iKettle (heat water at different temperatures for different drinks, controlled by phone); an LG washing machine that lets you start washing while away (provided, of course, that you’ve already loaded the washer); Kolibree “smart toothbrush” (tracks and graphs “brushing habits”). Also highlighted was the Satis “smart toilet,” which remotely flushes, raises and lowers the seat, and engages the bidet — features MacLife touts mainly as good for “terrorizing guests.”

The Job of the Researcher

Scientists have somehow determined that rats dream about where they want to go in the future. Dr. Hugo Spiers of University College London (and colleagues) inferred as much in a recent eLife article based on how neurons in the rodent brain’s hippocampus fire up in certain patterns. They discovered similar patterns when a rat is asleep just before conquering a food “maze” as when he awakens and actually gets to the food (as if it plotted by dream). (Buried Lede: Rats have dreams.)

Latest Religious Messages

The Power of Prayer: (1) Two men with handguns walked through an open door of a Philadelphia home in July and demanded drugs and cash from the three women inside, threatening pistol-whippings. According to a report, a 55-year-old woman in the home immediately burst into loud prayer, causing the gunmen to flee empty-handed. (2) Police in Bellevue, Ohio, initially believed that texting behind the wheel was what caused Marilyn Perry, 62, to crash and badly injure another driver. However, in July, she and her lawyer convinced a judge that she was “looking down” as she drove only because she was praying over “personal problems.”

Least Competent Criminals

Paul Neaverson, 61, was convicted in September in England’s Maidstone Crown Court for a robbery his own lawyer called “ridiculous.” He had gone to a NatWest bank in Rainham, pointed a knife at a cashier, and demanded that money be placed “on the table” or “into his account” at NatWest, according to the police report. Earlier, he had walked out of an HSBC bank when the teller balked at his robbery demand. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

People With Issues

(1) Miami-Dade (Florida) police arrested Eddy Juan, 52, two weeks after someone matching his description was reported at a library at Florida International University, crawling under tables and sniffing women’s feet. He was charged with violating a previous sex-offender registration order. (2) In what was originally a domestic disturbance case, Britain’s Cambridge Magistrates’ Court handed Nelson Nazare, 45, a six-week suspended sentence in September — for the photo on his seized cellphone of a man having sex with a large fish (plus two woman-dog sex photos).

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