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News of the Weird 

Sign language: A business consulting firm teaching how to use astrology to increase profits was inaugurated in May in San Francisco by two former telecommunications executives (and ex-Marines). Bruce Cady and lawyer Tom Mitchell founded Jupiter Returns to show executives, for example, that a failed business collaboration may have been prevented simply by understanding that one's associates "(act) out their (astrological) program." Mitchell told the San Francisco Chronicle that the firm's best customers are women.

Fowl play: Performance artists and computer gamers staged a cockfight night in a basement in Los Angeles' Chinatown in October, attracting about 200 people to go down-culture, drink beer and wager on "roosters" flapping and pecking and clawing at each other, except that the cocks were humans dressed in garish rooster outfits. Tech people had rigged the outfits with sensors to register the effectiveness of the fighters on a large screen that exhibited virtual blood.

No Longer Weird: Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but that now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (57) The accidental bombardment of a house by an airliner's "blue ice" toilet waste, such as by the melon-sized ball that plunged through the bathroom ceiling of Susan Seltzer's house in North Massapequa, N.Y., in September. (58) And the usually elderly citizen who must fight the cutoff of government benefits brought on by the bureaucracy's erroneous insistence that he or she is dead, as happened to the 80-year-old Ms. Addie Nelson of Natick, Mass., in September, by the Veterans Administration.

Spectacular Errors: For an anniversary tribute to Sept. 11 victims, the city of Jersey City, N.J., planned to release a flock of doves at a downtown ceremony, but since officials waited until the last minute to order the doves, all suppliers were sold out. Jersey City wound up having to use pigeons (which had been caged most of their lives), and observers at the solemn ceremony were forced to witness the awkward birds smashing into office-building windows, plunging into the Hudson River and careening into the crowds.

Teri-Lynn Tibbo filed a lawsuit in October, charging that doctors at St. Martha's Regional Hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, not only left a 15-inch-by-20-inch surgical towel inside her after a hysterectomy but opened her wound eight more times in the next four months to drain it, never suspecting that a towel was there. Another hospital, Meadow Lake, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was sued in October by Rebecca Chinalquay, who charged that while she was in the delivery room in labor, all personnel had stepped out so that when little Tyler emerged, there was no one to help, and he slid off the gurney onto the floor. (He's OK now, but Chinalquay fears later-manifesting problems.)

People With Issues: Bill Saintclair Patton, 45, was convicted of indecent exposure in Warren, Mich., in September, and sentenced to 90 days in jail; he was the subject of neighbors' complaints after he appeared nude in his back yard and used a pumpkin to sexually gratify himself. And Ross Watt, 33, was convicted of disorderly conduct in Edinburgh, Scotland, in October after witnesses and police testified that he rolled around on the ground, simulating sexual intercourse with an orange and white traffic cone.

Updating Recent Weird Stories: The Augustine Band of Mission Indians (a "tribe" of seven kids and an adult) finally opened its $16 million casino, 130 miles east of Los Angeles (July). Surgeon David Arndt, who was suspended for running to the bank on an errand literally in the middle of an operation, was charged with possession of cocaine and the sexual assault of a boy (Cambridge, Mass., September).

Our Civilization in Decline:

The chairman of the Knox County (Tenn.) School Board revealed that "zero tolerance" rules (against even accidental or benign possession of drug- or violence-associated items) got 172 students automatically expelled last school year (and is thus proposing to soften the rules) (September).

Also, in the Last Month:

A national paintball federation was formed to inaugurate a 28,800-square-foot paintball facility in downtown Tehran, Iran (but females are not allowed to play yet). The Pentagon introduced a portable digital musical insert for a bugle so that "Taps" can be played by non-musicians at funerals, thus sparing grieving relatives the now-increasingly flawed human versions.

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