Archive for the ‘Weird News’ Category

Occupational Hazard

November 16, 2011

“Oh my God!”

I’m trying to study for the Physics GRE, but my housemates are watching something on Youtube.

“Oh my God! Jesus, she was just standing there!”

As the tenor of their gasps grows more disgusted than amazed, I am compelled to turn around and see what they’re watching. It’s a video from the Occupy Cal march earlier in the day, featuring a brutal and clearly unnecessary beating of a apparently nonviolent crowd of people by police in riot gear. My eyes start to itch in disbelief. Is this the United States? Something is not right.

In the words of Stephen Colbert: If the Occupy Cal Movement had nothing concrete to protest before…well, now, they sure as hell do.


I’m sitting in the reading room in the Physics building, half doing my homework and half watching two fools bemusedly trying to solve a nonlinear equation analytically on the blackboard. All of a sudden I notice a noise in the background, one that wasn’t quite there before. It’s a helicopter, or maybe two or more, outside of the window. the sound gets louder, fades away, and then gets louder again, with Keplerian periodicity. It’s circling.

At once the cellphones of both of the fools at the blackboard buzz simultaneously. A text from the Berkeley Police Department. Someone has been shot in the Haas School of Business. My stomach drops to the floor.

“Whoa,” says one of the fools. “that’s crazy. Wasn’t someone shot in Oakland last week? was it to do with the protest?” As it turns out, it was an isolated incident. A man was spotted with a gun in the computer lab, and when the police arrived and surrounded him, he pulled it out and threatened, before a room full of students. He was nonfatally shot by the police, and is somewhere in urgent care in Oakland.

“Occupy your mind, occupy your class, occupy Math,” the other fool says, “that’s what I think.” And with that, they turn back to the equation.

I’m left sitting, staring blankly down at my own system of differential equations, staving off a vague and incomprensible sort of fear, and saddened by so much randomness.

Something is not right.


I’ve never found it in me to participate in protests. Mob mentality, to me, is at a level of valence I simply cannot handle. But somehow, after the surge of violence that has occurred in Berekely over the past few days, I feel the need to attend the Occupy Cal general Assembly, if only in some vague hope of understanding what the hell is going on. At first I can’t believe I’m sitting on my butt on the cold cement in Sproul Plaza, surrounded by what I precieve to be kooks and Sociology Majors, as per usual. But, on closer inspection: there’s something different here. First of all, it’s enormous: there are quite easily a thousand people. But really, what is most remarkable is that this time, all around me I see people I admire, people whose opinions I, well, would make the time to listen to. My housemates. My Physics classmates. Graduate students who taught me how to program in MatLab or determine earth structure from seismic wave speed. One of my professors.

As expected there’s a lot of talk, specifically, a lot of emotionally charged words meant to tickle the revolutionary within. the assembly utilizes a ‘human microphone,’ a technique in which the crowd repeats everything the speaker says so as to carry the message as far into the crowd as possible. I cannot bring myself to repeat things I do not completely agree with, and am thus, silent.

We break off into small groups to introduce ourselves. A woman asserts herself as the discussion leader, citing the fact that she has been to several General Assembly meetings, was there when the cops brought out the batons, and on top of that has not slept in the last several days. She talks loudly and uses some profanity. We discuss a good-natured though ill-defined and improbable proposal (to invite the Chancellor, the Regents and Jerry Brown to a public debate on Sproul Plaza). I abstain from voting as per the nebulous nature of the proposal. But its heart is in the right place. Dialogue, civil dialogue is what we need.

I leave as tents go up in the plaza, and Mario Savio’s name is practically deified. I assume they’ll be out there all night. I can hear the helicopters from my room.

People are discontented. Something is not right.


Weird News: Bartoli v. Coppi

October 13, 2011

A legendary rivalry played out on sprawling Italian mountainsides; an allegory so perfect it simply can’t be fiction.

I’m not sure how I came across this, but:

(click on the link in the article for the picture of them doing the water bottle handoff. Let’s just say it makes modern day cyclists look like giant wusses…)

Sverige i Internationella Nyheterna: Drunk Moose

September 9, 2011

 Stackars älg!

Let’s recap Sweden’s forays into the international news over the last year: Princess Victora gets married, Sverigedemokraterna get seats in parliment, aaand moose drunk off fermented apples gets stuck in a tree.

Fermented Apples sure do have a kick to them. A man from Göteborg called the fire brigade after he heard ‘bellowing’ in his backyard. Don’t worry, they rescued to poor creature, who in all honestly, probably just saw winter coming and decided to drown its sorrow in intoxication, just like rest of Sweden was doing. Systembolaget being legally prohibited from selling alcohol to minors or moose (or anyone after 6 PM), the poor creature had no choice but to turn to the apples, which, it discovered, were mighty tasty indeed.


kanske kanske om ja klattrar upp i träden så ska få plocka fler…jaja…det ska jag göra…det blir skitbra det…jaja

Can you blame it, really? Don’t pretend like you prolly wouldn’t a done the saaaame thing.


Wierd News: I heart Tycho

December 1, 2010

Apparently :

Tycho Brahe could have been Claudius—and Kepler, a stark mad Luthern with a penchant for planets and possibly murder.

Alchemy was, also, probably involved.

Or, the astronomer’s untimely death could have simply occurred as a result of the all-too-ridiculous act of too much drinking and too little urination. What a pathetic end that would have been, especially after having survived a duel about mathematics in which he lost part of his nose.

The one thing the article gets wrong, though. Tycho was not Danish. He was born in Skåne, making him, like it or not 100% Skåning. And although Hven is technically Danish…we all know these things, like Tycho’s true history, are up for debate.

volcano math

April 21, 2010

Number of tons of Carbon dioxide spewed into the atmosphere by Icelandic Volcano each day: 15,000


Number of tons of Carbon dioxide NOT spewed into the atmosphere each day european flights are grounded: 300,000


Meaning that each day the volcano erupts 285,000 tons fewer CO2 are released.

Mother Nature: She fights back.

an open letter

April 20, 2010

Kära svensk himmel,

Det är ju april. Det var solig igår. Typ 24 timmar sedan.

Jag skulle vilja fråga bara…






Dearest Swedish Sky,

It is indeed April. Yesterday it was sunny. Like 24 hours ago.

If I could please just ask you…..






A true story about strange things in this land of Skåne, strange, strange things.

Weird News: The mystery of the half-cock-chicken

March 13, 2010

It’s been a while, so I’ll just remind you: ‘Weird News’ is a feature keeping with the true journalistic nature of this humble media outlet. Every so often, I post a link to a fascinating, hilarious, or simply downright strange news story, accompanied as usual, by dim-witted commentary in a somewhat news-y tone.

As if the title of this post alone was not enough to intrigue you:

Imbuing new, unexpected meaning to the phrase ‘half-cocked’ the world over, Scottish biologists have recently come closer to solving one of the great mysteries of our time: half-cocks, or chickens that are quite literally split down the middle as half hen and half rooster. At first thought to be mutants of some sort, these chickens have baffled humans and, even more so, other chickens, for ages. New highly technological (insert jargon here) research has proven that these chickens are not mutants but are instead simply half male and half female all up in their chromosomes. Which, according to science, does not precisely indicate a mutant. As a result, half-cocks, despite their unappealing name, are making great gains in the eyes of traditionally resistant chicken societies everywhere.

But seriously, this is actually quite interesting. Read it. Plus, if you click on the link you get to see a picture of one of these chickens.

Wierd News: I just can’t make this stuff up!

February 7, 2010

Copied DIRECTLY from an email sent out to all UC Berkeley students and faculty.

Ever got the feelin’ that things are getting desperate? Well, here’s your sign:

> February 5, 2010
> Be on the lookout for a “Potty Pirate”        (Who came up with this? And, are they serious?)
> Somebody has been removing brass flushing hardware from toilets and
> urinals on the UC Berkeley campus.
> To date, more than three dozen fixtures have been stolen, sometimes
> along
> with other brass fixtures such as floor drains, affecting restroom
> facilities in ten buildings.
> The items are likely being stolen for their brass content. Each of
> these
> metal thefts is considered a burglary, as entering the building with
> the
> tools needed to remove the hardware is entering with intent to
> commit a
> crime.
> UCPD very much needs the public’s help and awareness. If you notice a
> suspicious person or persons present in any building you frequent,
> do not
> hesitate to make an emergency 9-1-1 report.
> If you have any information about this crime, please contact:
> University of California Police Department
> Criminal Investigation Bureau
> (510) 642-0472 / 8AM-5PM
> (510) 642-6760 / All other times
> As with any emergency situation, if you see suspicious activity,
> call 9-1-1.
>> From a cell phone on or near campus, call (510) 642-3333.

Keep your eyes open, boys and girls. There’s a potty pirate on the loose!

Wierd News: “wolves….oh my!”

January 3, 2010

Sweden Culls its Wolf Population

An article from the BBC.

Well, well well…would you look at that? It seems like Sweden and Idaho have a lot more in common than I previously expected. Namely: a wolf problem.

Apparently the population of wolves in Sweden has recently exceeded its 210 wolf limit (Why 210? Don’t ask me…maybe it’s the same reason why a good bean soup must have exactly 239 beans). So Sweden has briefly declared an open season for hunters, just until the population resumes its 210-wolf quota. Around 10,000 hunters have set out of the snowy forests in search of the 20 or so total wolves they are allowed to kill. Do the math and it seems like the wolves are at a gross disadvantage. As it turns out, wolves are extremely cunning, well-adapted animals and can only be hunted in the winter because the only way they can be tracked is by their footprints in the snow. Otherwise, they vanish into the forest and are virtually impossible to find. Chalk one up to the wolves!

Now, I personally don’t have anything against wolves, but I am also not a rabbit. Nor a reindeer. Nor a herder of reindeer. If I was any of these, I’d have a different opinion, I am sure.

Nevertheless, the whole idea of controlling animal population is interesting from both a scientific and social standpoint. Does population control work? It is possible that over a long period of time will the 210 quota continue to be the appropriate number of wolves for Sweden. Conversely, someday, all of a sudden, we could find ourselves with an unsettling preponderance of rabbits due to lack of wolves—and our adherence to a single, strange number (210). Are we inadvertently fixing a value that should, in fact, be a variable? If hold the population of wolves fixed, will nature adjust accordingly? It seems, with the recent resurgence of wolf population that prompted this whole deal, it may already be trying. I’m sure there are loads of research and papers and fantastic computer simulations on this problem…I’ll get back to you on that.

Socially, I can’t decide whether the wolf-quota scheme is perfectly aligned with Scandinavian environmental philosophy or completely opposed to it. This unfortunate circumstance could be merely a side-effect of the fact that I do not yet fully understand Scandinavian environmental philosophy—nor know how to unify what I do understand of it into a cohesive and consistent theory. Again, I’ll get back to you on that. But back to the case of the wolf-quota. Controlling the wolf population seems very Scandinavian in it’s emphasis on moderation and balance: the hunters only hunt if the wolves get out of hand, allowing reindeer herders and farmers (and the rabbits!) to be happy and to the wolf species to conditionally thrive. It is ‘Stewardship of the Earth’ on an extreme level, and involves very careful monitoring of the species that would make even Linnaeus proud. On the other hand, it seems counterintuitive to the great cultural respect for a natural balance, and the “Deep Ecology” mantra for non-interference in nature (somewhat ironically, Norwegian Arne Naess, founder of the Deep Ecology movement, calls for populations control among humans). One thing is for certain: allowing short periods of monitored hunting of the wolves prevents the over-hunting that threatened the species with extinction years ago. But still, they are killing wolves.

Environmental Ethical dilemma, anyone?

And this, my friends, is one of the major reasons I’m fascinated by Sweden. Not the wolves, silly. The dilemma.

Expect more Sweden-Idaho comparisons in the near future.

ain’t no power…

November 21, 2009

Onlookers behind police barricades outside of Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus.

I feel somehow validated as a UC Berkeley student now that I have legimiately run from police violence during a protest. Even though I wasn’t protesting. And in fact it was only a brief moment that I feared for my safety. When SWAT officers charged through a chain of students locking elbows around Wheeler Hall, I was standing a little too close when the batons came out.

Yesterday morning, a group of 40 UC Berkeley students climbed through an open window of the campus’s Wheeler Hall (The English Department) and claimed the building as part of the ongoing protest against 45% (OUCH!) increase in UC tuition that will happen last year. With Wheeler under siege, thousands of students where unable to attend class. In an annoying strategy to force all us disaffected science students out of the classrooms, protesters pulled the fire alarms in several campus buildings, including Leconte and Evans (the physics and math departments, respectively). That didn’t stop some professors, who began to chalk on the sides of the building in order to continue teaching:

Yes. That is some linear algebra on the outside of Evans. Math lives on—rain or shine or protest.

I didn’t protest because I have a hard a time striking against something that I am paying for, like my education. Also, as a journalist my employer forbids me from having any sort of expressed political opinion (neutrality of the press, or something like it, apparently also applies to theater writers). Nonetheless, here are my observations on the ordeal.

1. Mob mentality is a frightening, powerful thing, and is maddeningly easy to be swept up into. It makes people angry, giddy, and easily manipulated. A girl in leggings an UGG boots clasping a freshly ordered latte walking briskly in the crowd rounding the building on her cell phone, smiling: “the SWAT is going around the other side, let’s go!”

2. As police in riot gear marched toward Wheeler, student protesters shouted at them “Shame on You! Shame on you!” and spat in their direction. I couldn’t help but feel that this exchange was unwarranted. After all, the police were just doing what they have been trained to do (their jobs). There were violent actions on both sides, and the occupation of Wheeler was illegal. Where then, does shame lie? On the protesters? On the officers? On the UC Regents? On the entire system?

3. Sometimes, protests ironically make it easy to lose sight of what you are protesting against. It is the same phenomenon as repeating the same word over and over again until it is just a sound, meaningless.

4. Just curious: What gives Ananya Roy the position of all-powerfull mediator/savior/Christ figure? And, if she is Christ, when will she save us?

5. A man with gray hair and bongo drums sits in the middle of the Wheeler crowd, playing passionately. What does he have to do with the fact that student fees are being increased, department resources are being cut, and employees are losing their jobs? Most likely: absolutely nothing. Protests attract the fringe.

6. Student fee increases will suck. For everyone. What can we do, alternatively?

Running from the police

He’s not wearing shoes. Classic.