Saturday, January 14, 2017

Time for Some Bizarre Things in the News

Government in Action

New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation has completed its two-year project of assigning ID numbers (with arboreal characteristics) to every one of the 685,781 trees in the city's five boroughs. More than 2,300 volunteers walked the streets, then posted each tree's location, measurements, Google Street View image, and ecological benefits for the surrounding neighborhoods (rainwater retained, air pollution reduced). (Privacy activists hope the National Security Agency is not inspired by this.)

The Continuing Crisis

-- A note in The New York Times in October mentioned a website that comprehensively covers everything worth knowing and wondering -- about shoelaces. Ian's Shoelace Site shows and discusses (and rates) lacing methods, how to mix lace colors, how to tie (comparing methods, variations and, again, ratings), lengths of laces (how to calculate, which formulas to use, what to do with excess lengths), "granny knots," aglet repair and much more -- neatly laid out in dozens of foolproof drawings for the shoelace- challenged (because no one wants to be caught in a shoelace faux pas).

The most recent city to schedule a civic-minded conference with community leaders to discuss options for affordable, accessible housing in a meeting place that was highly unfriendly to the non-ambulatory was Toronto, in November. The first proposed site required a seven-step walk-up, but following complaints, officials relocated it -- to a building whose only rest room was in the elevator-free basement.

Questionable Judgments

-- The Space World theme park in Kitakyushu, Japan, opened a popular (with visitors) ice-skating rink in November, but was forced to close it two weeks later for being hugely unpopular (with social media critics). The park had placed 5,000 fish and other sea animals in the ice deck of its "Freezing Port" rink so that skaters could look down as they glided along, gazing at marvels of nature (all dead in advance, of course, purchased from a fish market). Nonetheless, the park manager apologized for grossing out so many people and closed the exhibit (melting the ice and conducting an "appropriate religious service" for the fishes' souls). [CNN, 11-28-2016]

-- The government-run Channel 2M in Morocco apologized for a segment of its daily TV program "Sabahiyat" that featured a makeup artist demonstrating techniques for obscuring blemishes on women subjected to domestic violence. The model being worked on had been made up with a swollen face and faked bruises. Said the host, "We hope these beauty tips will help (victims) carry on with your daily life." (Bonus: The program aired Nov. 23 -- two days before International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.)

Add goat horns to the "religious covering" items permitted to be worn in government identification cards. It took Mr. Phelan MoonSong of Millinocket, Maine, two trips to the BMV, but his ID, after his name change, was finally approved in December, based on his "Paganism" religion.

In November, an arranged custody swap of a child from one grandmother to another in a Walmart parking lot near Dallas ended when both ladies pulled guns and started firing. One granny was hit in the neck and the other arrested after she also fired at an off-duty officer trying to calm things down.

And Finally, Quiet, Please:

Officials at Seaford, England's, 12th-century St. Peter's Church, which is renowned for its eerie quietness, created a 30-minute CD (in 2013) of "total silence," first as a small-scale fundraising project, but later for general sales (since word-of-mouth had attracted orders from the noise-annoyed as far away as Ghana). Those who have heard it said they could make out only the occasional squeaking of footsteps on the wooden floor and the very distant hum of a passing car. Said one admiring parishioner, "People sometimes like to sit down and just have a bit of peace and quiet."

Live Long and Prosper...

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