Sunday April 20, 2014




Snuggles are now on sale

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After its launch was delayed for a month by the Madison, Wis., city attorney, the Snuggle House was cleared and scheduled to open on Nov. 15 to provide in-bed, pajama-clad “intimate, non-sexual touch(ing)” for $60 an hour. “So many people,” said assistant manager Emily Noon, “don’t have a significant other in their lives” and “just need to be held” (including, she said, the elderly and hospice patients, who are part of the target clientele). The city’s delay was, a spokesman said, to assure that Snuggle House had protocols for dealing with “risky” situations in which a customer refuses to take “no sex” for an answer. (Snuggle House has prominent surveillance cameras and panic buttons for the staff.)

 Among the underreported catastrophes caused by Hurricane Sandy in the New York-New Jersey area in October 2012 was the tragedy that befell the 27,000-case WineCare storage cellar in Manhattan. Though it claimed to have lost only about 5 percent of its inventory when waters from the Hudson River flooded its supposedly secure warehouse, that number apparently did not count the many preserved bottles whose labels washed off, dramatically reducing the value of customers’ toweringly priced grape and forcing WineCare into bankruptcy court, according to a New York Times report in July.

The California genetic testing company 23and Me was recently awarded a patent for a computer program that lets parents, by running probabilities through the known relevant cell and DNA variables (of over 240 conditions and traits), predict their “perfect” baby. Of course, the program can provide only the percentage likelihoods, and a company spokeswoman, anticipating a backlash against the concept of “designer babies,” rejected the idea that 23andMe would work with fertility clinics.

In July, just days after the one-year anniversary of the spree killing of 12 people at the Century 16 Theaters in Aurora, Colo., Cassidy Delavergne was arrested after he entered the NCG Trillium theaters in Grand Blanc Township, Mich., wearing full body armor and carrying a loaded gun and a fake CIA badge (and alarming some but not all bystanders). Delavergne explained that he wore the equipment only because he did not want to leave it in his car while he watched the movie — and thought the badge might alleviate other patrons’ fears.

Update: Person-to-person fecal transplants have been mentioned here several times for the bizarre but therapeutic idea that gastrointestinal illness results from an imbalance between healthy and unhealthy gut bacteria — and that a transplant of healthier antigens may relieve the sickness. But what happens if no “compatible” donor is available? Emma Allen-Vercoe and her team at Canada’s University of Guelph are thus creating artificial gut bacteria (“robogut”) under demanding control conditions, for implantation. (Allen-Vercoe grumbled to Popular Science in August that the most disagreeable part of the job is disposing of excess sludge — the process for which causes “the whole building” to “smell like poop.”)

A Brazilian minor-league soccer match in September ended in a 2-2 tie only because, with minutes left, the trainer for one team stepped to the goal and cleared two quick tie-breaking shots that his players could not have reached in time. “It was our only chance,” he said later. (The referee allowed play to continue.)

She Got Game: Bringing her basketball skills to an October five-on-five contest in Thimphu, the queen of Bhutan, 23, scored 34 points with 3 rebounds and 4 assists, and talked up basketball’s imminent rise in the Asian kingdom to a New York Times reporter. The queen said she, and the king, play almost every day.

Artist David Cerny, fed up with the collapse of the governing parties in the Czech Republic, launched a barge on the River Vitava in Prague in October, holding a gigantic purple hand with middle finger extended, aimed at Prague Castle (the office of President Milos Zeman).

In a November protest against Russia’s “police state,” artist Pyotr Pavlensky, in front of horrified tourists at Moscow’s Red Square, nailed the skin of his scrotum into cobblestones near Lenin’s Mausoleum. Pavlensky, who was arrested, earlier called his stunt “a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society.”

The Azerbaijani government’s official vote totals for the Oct. 8 elections (showing President Aliyev winning, as expected, with 72.76 percent of the votes), was mistakenly released to the public on Oct. 7. (Officials blamed a computer app “bug.”)


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