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Postmortem bonding: In June, Reuters profiled Jerri Lyons, 55, of Sebastopol, Calif., who conducts seminars on the legalities and etiquette of do-it-yourself funerals, which are supposedly becoming more popular as alternatives to $5,000 funeral home services. According to one Lyons client, personally bathing and dressing a deceased friend made the loss easier to accept. Tip: Ice must be applied after about 24 hours (packages of frozen vegetables OK). A funeral-industry analyst said Lyons was not a threat; of more concern to the industry these days was, as Reuters put it, "a soft mortality rate due in part to a weak flu season."

Family values: According to a wrongful-firing lawsuit filed in June by a former media relations assistant for the Sacramento Kings pro basketball team, star player Doug Christie is not permitted to speak to any female other than his wife, for any reason. The assistant said she was fired because she innocently passed along a telephone message to Christie in the course of her work, but that when Mrs. Christie found out, she pressured the organization to fire her and reaffirm the Christie family policy.

Age is relative: Earlier this year in Mobile, Ala., Daina Sancho, 42, and Irwin Vincent ("I.V.") O'Rourke III, 14, were married after a several-month courtship. Said the boy's approving father of Sancho's infatuation, "If you've met the man of your dreams, why wait?" The couple lives in Gonzales, La., but I.V. could not marry there until he turns 16; Alabama permits 14-year-olds to marry if they have their parents' permission.

No place like home: On May 25 in the town of Baqubah, Iraq, Ms. Iman Salih Mutlak, 22, was gunned down by U.S. soldiers, who said she relentlessly charged at them, despite orders to halt, intending to explode the 10 grenades she was carrying. While some Iraqis treated her as a courageous martyr, her family in Zaqaniyah, Iraq, was disgusted with her, not because they are pro-American, but because she shamed them by leaving home without permission. Said her father, to an Associated Press reporter in May, "Had she returned home, I would have killed her myself and drunk her blood."

Plumbing for dummies: In June in the state penitentiary near Indiana, Pa., Raymond Davenport, 19, doing time for aggravated assault, told fellow inmates that he did not believe them when they told him that another inmate had recently gotten his hand stuck in a prison toilet. It was impossible, he said, and he would show them. A short while later, guards had to call in civilian firefighters with an air chisel to free Davenport's arm.

Update: Tyrone Henry, 30, appeared here in 2000 after he was arrested in Tucson, Ariz., for running a scheme in which female college students were paid $10 to "test" facial cream that turned out to be Henry's sperm. He was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison, but is still (according to a June 2003 Tucson Weekly story) aggressively proclaiming that he violated no law. Argues Henry: The women were adults; there was no sexual contact; they were paid; Henry did not "expose" himself because the girls were blindfolded. Henry said he was just pursuing "the American dream" with his website, selling men photos of women's sperm-adorned faces.

No longer weird: Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (63) Genetic modification experiments using DNA from jellyfish to create some organism or other that lights up -- like an aquarium-pet zebrafish that glows yellow and green -- created in Taiwan by the Taikong Corporation. (64) The man with a police obsession who dresses as a cop and makes freelance traffic stops with emergency flashers on his car, only to discover that the person he stopped is a real police officer, as happened when Clifford Holloway, 30, stopped off-duty officer Matthew Bandler in Kansas City, Mo.

Also, in the last month: Becky Nyang, 26, was hospitalized while on holiday in Greece after she was struck by lightning, attracted to her face by her tongue stud, leaving her with severe blisters about the mouth, face and feet. ... In Seoul, a 4-year-old girl was hit by a computer that came flying out of a 12th floor apartment window, flung by a father angry that his 12-year-old daughter wouldn't stay off the Internet.

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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