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10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (2/16/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It is Saturday, which means it is time to do a quick review of the most notable stories that occurred over the last few days. Click here to check out some recent urgent matters while we focus on tales that come out of left field.

This week was Valentine’s Day, so naturally, we needed to have a few strange stories regarding the holiday. There is also controversy from the pizza world and the discovery of a tiger by two stoners. We introduce you to the Assman and a nun who liked to party. Finally, we say a bittersweet farewell to the Opportunity rover.

10 Tiger In The Garage

Two people from Texas snuck into a derelict home to smoke a little weed and found a tiger inside the garage.

Last week, an unidentified man and woman entered an abandoned home in Southeast Houston to relax with a joint. While the human tenants might have been gone, there was still one notable occupant inside the home. The smokers found a male tiger locked inside a “rinky-dink” cage in the garage.[1]

After making sure that the large feline was not the result of a weed-induced hallucination, the woman called the authorities. A vet ensured that the tiger was in good health, and animal control officers were able to tranquilize him and move him safely to a temporary home at the local shelter.

The tiger has been named “Tyson” in reference to The Hangover and was relocated to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, southeast of Dallas.

9 Ultima Thule Gets Weirder

Photo credit: NASA

New images of Ultima Thule have come in, and puzzled scientists say they have “never seen something like this orbiting the sun.”

At the start of the year, the New Horizons probe sent back our first images of Ultima Thule, which became the most distant object ever explored by humans. Back then, it looked like Ultima Thule was a contact binary made from the collision of two round shapes, which made it resemble a snowman.

Of course, New Horizons took more pictures of the cosmic object, but it took them a while to get here. New images from the side suggest that the two lobes are flatter than previously thought and resemble a walnut smashed into a pancake.[2] More importantly, though, this bizarre shape is not something we have encountered before. Scientists now have a new conundrum before them as they try to work out how such an object could have formed.

It should be mentioned that the recent shots show Ultima Thule brightly lit only on one edge. While this has given us a better idea of its true form, the final shape might be altered yet again as New Horizons beams more images back to Earth.

8 Who Was The Patriarch Of Pizza?

There is controversy in the world of pizza. One researcher has suggested that the man who brought pizza to America might not have been, in fact, the man who brought pizza to America.

An Italian immigrant named Gennaro Lombardi is the one typically credited with the accolade. According to legend, he applied for a restaurant license to sell pizza in 1905 and opened Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan. However, food historian Peter Regas has scoured through old newspapers and uncovered articles which suggest that the true patriarch of American pizza is one Filippo Milone.[3]

Curiously, Regas still believes that Lombardi’s was the country’s first pizzeria. He merely asserts that it already existed before Gennaro Lombardi obtained ownership. The researcher claims that Milone opened Lombardi’s under a different name in 1898. He then sold it to Giovanni Santillo, who owned it until Lombardi came along.

Independently, food historian Scott Wiener was researching the origins of New York pizza around the same time, and he discovered that Gennaro Lombardi didn’t own the pizza joint until 1908. This lends some validity to Regas’s story, but it remains to be seen if it is accepted by the industry.

7 Knowing Your Mark

A telephone scammer picked the wrong target after trying to con the only person in US history to serve as director of both the FBI and the CIA.

William Webster might be 94 years old now, but he can still tell when something smells fishy. Therefore, when someone called him up and told him he’d won $15.5 million and a brand-new Mercedes-Benz in the Mega Millions Lottery, he knew it was a scam. When the caller told Webster he had to pay $50,000 to cover the taxes on the prize, he notified the FBI.[4]

When the Websters refused to pay, the calls turned into harassment and then threats. On one occasion, the scammer talked to Webster’s wife, Lynda, and described in gory detail what would happen if he were to shoot a sniper’s bullet through her head.

The scammer was 29-year-old Keniel Thomas from Jamaica. He had no idea that the FBI had already identified him and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. In late 2017, he flew into New York and was promptly detained. He was sentenced last week to 71 months in prison for extortion using interstate communications.

6 Mother Knows Best

The Towson University Police Department advised students of a woman in her fifties who was walking around campus looking for a date for her son.

Valentine’s Day is here, and some people might be willing to go to great lengths in order to share the holiday with a special someone. In the case of one Maryland mom, she was more interested in playing matchmaker for her offspring. Campus authorities received complaints from several female students who said that the woman approached them, showed them a picture of her son on her phone, and asked if they would be interested in dating him.[5]

Towson police sent out an advisory to the student body and also released two images of the woman in an attempt to identify her. They made it clear that there were no criminal charges against her, but that they did want her to stop playing cupid on campus.

5 No More Giri Choco

Photo credit: Ishikawa Ken

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, women in Japan are pushing against a tradition which involves them buying chocolates for male coworkers during the holiday.

The practice is called giri choco—literally meaning “obligation chocolates.”[6] They are intended not just for romantic interests or friends but all colleagues of the opposite sex. In turn, men are supposed to reciprocate on White Day on March 14.

Women say they are tired of having to spend thousands of yen on chocolates just to avoid awkward situations in the workplace. According to a survey, almost two thirds of women intended to buy the treat just for themselves on February 14. Around 56 percent planned to buy some for their family members, while 36 percent were going to give chocolate to their partners or romantic interests. Less than 35 percent planned to buy some for their coworkers.

Some companies have banned giri choco entirely in recent years. And while the holiday accounts for a huge chunk of sales for confectioners, some of them have seen the writing on the wall and are acting accordingly. Last year, Godiva Chocolatier caused a bit of commotion when it ran a marketing campaign against giri choco. They argued, “Valentine’s Day is a day when people convey their true feelings, not coordinate relationships at work.”

4 The Assman Cometh

Photo credit: Dave Assman

Back in 1995, a Canadian gas station employee got his 15 minutes of fame because he had the humorous name of Dick Assman. Now, a new Assman is in the news, thanks to his battle with Saskatchewan authorities to use his name for a vanity plate.

Dave Assman (pronounced “Oss-men”) wanted to immortalize his last name on a license plate. However, the Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), which deals with vehicle registration in the province, denied his request. They considered it offensive out of context. They subsequently denied an appeal filed by Assman.

Not one to give up easily, Dave came up with an alternative solution. SGI might be able to tell him what license plate he can and cannot have, but they have no authority over decals. Therefore, he adorned the back of his truck with a giant green “ASSMAN” decal.[7] It appears that SGI are satisfied with Dave’s workaround, simply saying that “all’s well that ends well.”

3 Toilet Scare At Home Depot

A man’s warning of a vigorous bowel movement in a public bathroom was mistaken for a bomb threat which brought in the Wichita Police Department.

If you ever find yourself in a public restroom, and your stomach is telling you that you are about to do something particularly heinous in the stall, it’s common courtesy to give those around you a quick notice. That’s what happened at the Wichita Home Depot. A man entered the bathroom and told the other two customers inside that they “need to get out of here because [he is] fixin’ to blow it up.”[8] Of course, they all understood his meaning and had a quick laugh. The man entered the stall, did his business, and went on with his day.

When one of the other two customers was leaving his stall, a Home Depot employee entered the bathroom. The customer thought he would continue the joke and told the staff member that he should leave because someone told him there’s a bomb in there.

The employee didn’t quite get his meaning so the man repeated it . . . twice. The employee then proceeded to go to store security and report a potential bomb threat.

By the time police arrived on the scene, the customer had left Home Depot, but a clerk identified him as a “regular.” Fortunately, police decided not to act hastily and simply called the man to inquire about his bomb comment. He apologized for causing alarm and said he didn’t expect his bathroom humor to be taken so seriously.

2 Nun On The Run Looking For Some Fun

British historians from the University of York went through medieval business records that once belonged to the archbishops of York. So far, so dull, you might think. However, they also stumbled upon the tale of a 14th-century nun who faked her death using a dummy in order to escape her convent and pursue “the way of carnal lust.”[9]

It all started with a marginal note written in Latin by Archbishop William Melton in 1318. It said simply to warn Joan of Leeds, who used to be a nun at St Clement by York, to return home. The notes continued as the archbishop wrote to the Dean of Beverley to inform him of the scandalous rumor that Joan had fled the convent, casting aside both “the propriety of religion and the modesty of her sex.”

She did this by faking an illness and then pretending to die. Joan had unnamed “evildoers” as her accomplices, who helped her fashion a dummy in her likeness which got buried instead of her. After that, she “perverted her path of life” and wandered at large “to the notorious peril to her soul.”

Chief researcher Professor Sarah Rees Jones likened the tale to a Monty Python sketch. Unfortunately, the notes appear to end there, so we will never know what the outcome was for Joan the runaway nun.

1 A Farewell To Mars

After almost 15 years of service, NASA has declared the Opportunity rover dead and officially ended its exploration mission on Mars.

Back in July, the Red Planet was engulfed in a massive dust storm. As a precautionary measure, scientists powered down the Opportunity rover in hopes of preserving its solar battery. They knew that it would be weeks, even months, until the vehicle would be able to resume communications, but they also had a lurking fear that it might never become operational again.

The storm ended in early October, but Opportunity didn’t respond. It was possible that the violent weather either caused a catastrophic malfunction or covered the solar panels in a thick layer of dust. Even so, NASA scientists were still hopeful that strong winds might clear the dust, so they kept waiting.

Those winds came in late January. Over the following days, mission control sent over 800 commands to the rover in the hopes that one of them might generate a response, but none succeeded. A final attempt to make contact took place on February 12, and NASA declared the mission over the next day.

Launched in 2004, Opportunity ‘s initial goal was to last for 90 Martian days and travel 1,000 meters (3,300 ft).[10] Instead, it endured 60 times longer than expected, traveled over 45 kilometers (28 mi), and ended its journey, fittingly, in Perseverance Valley. Two new rovers are scheduled to launch in 2020, both with the goal of searching the Red Planet for past signs of life.


Read more offbeat stories you might have missed from February 9, 2019, and February 2, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater