Chuck Shepherd's News Of The Weird
■ The convenience beverage market got jumbled recently when, first, Oregon-based Union Wine Co. announced in November that it would soon sell its Underwood pinot gris and pinot noir in 12-ounce cans and, second, the London department store Selfridges unveiled a champagne vending machine for New Year’s celebrations. (The French bottler Moet & Chandon offered bottles of bubbly behind glass doors for the equivalent of $29.)
■ Marketing Challenges: Around Tokyo, “idle boredom is an impossible option,” wrote vice.com in December, as a reporter described a resort just out of town where one could swim in a pool of green tea, coffee, sake or (the most popular treat) wine. “A giant bottle of merlot” spilled into a pond the size of a minivan, he wrote (while braving the Yunessun resort’s warnings not to drink from the pool). Though both-sex nudity is tolerated in Japan’s hot springs spas, Yunessun discourages it.
■ The Joy of Researching: A team of Czech Republic researchers led by Vlastimil Hart, writing in Frontiers in Zoology in December, reported that dogs (among a few mammals), dealing with a nature’s call, spontaneously align their body axis with the Earth’s magnetic field. To reach that conclusion, the researchers said they observed 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582) over a two-year period.
■ If We Can Do It, We Should Do It: (1) Thinkgeek.com has introduced the Tactical Laser-Guided Pizza Cutter, at a suggested $29.99, for helping to achieve straight-line precision in those difficult four-cut (eight-slice) pizza formulations. (2) From the Japanese lingerie manufacturer Ravijour comes a bra whose front clasp can be locked unless its built-in heart-rate monitor signifies that the heartbeat is characteristic of “true love.” (Ravijour said it is still testing the bra.)
■ Man’s BFFs: (1) The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in Fulham, England, admitted in December that a rescued Staffordshire bull terrier, Barney, had a ladies’ underwear-eating habit and that potential adopters should keep him away from laundry baskets. (In his first days at Battersea, officials say, he “passed” knickers three times.) (2) The Cairns (Australia) Veterinary Clinic warned in December of several reports of dogs becoming addicted to licking cane toads (which notoriously protect themselves by a venomous secretion that can be hallucinogenic). One vet told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail of individual “serial lickers” treated for cane toad poisoning several times a year.
■ Who Knew That Racoons Were Easily Offended? The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals condemned a Pet Expo in Greenhithe, England, in October after reports emerged that a trainer had showcased “Melanie,” a raccoon who rides a bicycle-like device, apparently to great acclaim. An RSPCA statement denounced the expo for “degrading” a “wild animal” in such a “demeaning light.”
Leading Economic Indicators
■ Mumbai, India, has its share of Western-style financial advisers using computer programs familiar to Wall Street—but with the additional layering of “financial astrologers,” who forecast successes and failures based on the alignment of the planets, among other indicators. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report in October, the GaneshaSpeaks service (with inspiration by the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, god of wisdom) claims 1,200 subscribers at the equivalent of about $80 for three months. Said one astrologer, “Fund managers used to laugh at me.” During crises, he said, “I’m constantly crunching market and planetary data.”
■ American health care reformers routinely decry the inability of consumer-patients to compare prices of services to help drive down the costs. Two doctors, writing for the Journal of the American Medical Association in December, illuminated the problem by surveying 20 hospitals in the Philadelphia area. Nineteen fully disclosed the prices for parking in the hospital garage (and potential discounts were shown), but only three of the 20 would disclose their prices for routine electrocardiograms ($137, $600, $1,200).
© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD