News of the Weird

  • Article by: CHUCK SHEPHERD
  • Updated: September 5, 2007 - 5:27 PM

Ric Hoogestraat is married to Sue and works at a call center in the Phoenix area but spends 30-plus hours a week inside the online Second Life video game, pretending that he is the digitally drawn Dutch Hoorenbeek, a 6-foot-9, muscular babe magnet who lives on his own island. That unnerves Sue, according to an August Wall Street Journal profile, especially since Dutch recently "married" a digital woman and set up housekeeping with their two digital dogs. (The real-life creator of the new Mrs. Hoorenbeek has never met Ric and says she never will.) Dutch and his wife spend hours shopping and motorcycling together, leaving Ric little time for Sue. "Is this man cheating on his wife [meaning Sue]?" the Journal asked. Lamented Sue: "You try to talk to [Ric] or bring [him] a drink, and [he] will be having sex with a cartoon."

Ric Hoogestraat is married to Sue and works at a call center in the Phoenix area but spends 30-plus hours a week inside the online Second Life video game, pretending that he is the digitally drawn Dutch Hoorenbeek, a 6-foot-9, muscular babe magnet who lives on his own island. That unnerves Sue, according to an August Wall Street Journal profile, especially since Dutch recently "married" a digital woman and set up housekeeping with their two digital dogs. (The real-life creator of the new Mrs. Hoorenbeek has never met Ric and says she never will.) Dutch and his wife spend hours shopping and motorcycling together, leaving Ric little time for Sue. "Is this man cheating on his wife [meaning Sue]?" the Journal asked. Lamented Sue: "You try to talk to [Ric] or bring [him] a drink, and [he] will be having sex with a cartoon."

The entrepreneurial spirit!

World of Warcraft, too, is an online game as popular as Second Life, with warrior-players amassing digital gold coins from every opponent they vanquish, and the greater the lucre, the higher they advance in the WOW ranks. Some players take the easy route, though, and buy their WOW gold coins from dealers, who mostly get them from "Chinese gold farmers" in Nanjing and other cities -- men and women hired to play the game 80 hours a week, not for advancement but to score coins that they can sell to other players, at the equivalent of about $1.25 per 100 coins (marked up to $20 per 100, retail), according to a June New York Times Magazine article.

Science on the cutting edge

Cytori Therapeutics (cited in a recent Chemistry and Industry Magazine report) has developed a procedure to grow breast tissue from a mixture of stem cells and fat liposuctioned from the recipient's belly, thighs or butt. A spokesman for British plastic surgeons said he was hopeful for success, on behalf of mastectomy patients, but less generous toward women seeking ordinary breast enlargement. The implanting surgery is still in clinical trials, but is expected to be available in Europe next year.

In August, the Discovery Channel reported on the equipping of Bushmen (indigenous to Africa's Kalahari Desert) with handheld Palm Pilot personal digital assistants to track animals and locate plants via special software. The illiterate hunters can tap screen icons representing various animals, the activities they're engaging in, and how many they see, with a global positioning satellite automatically recording the location.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University announced in July that they had bred the world's first mentally ill mouse (with schizophrenia) to see if it could help them understand the disorder in humans. (The human schizophrenia genes came from a mutant gene from a family in Scotland.) And Duke Medical Center researchers announced in August similar success inducing obsessive-compulsive disorder in mice.

Leading economic indicators

The New York Times reported in July that at least eight buyers were vying to purchase one of the five parking spaces in the basement of new condominiums, at 246 W. 17th St., for $225,000 each. And in Chappaqua, N.Y., the owner of the Via Genova water bar told WCBS-TV in July that she offers 80 different bottled waters from around the world, with the most popular at $30 and "Bling H2O" priced at $55, but hopes business picks up: "There are so many people that are uneducated about water."

In June in Spain, about 30 executives were chosen in a contest by NH Hoteles to help demolish Madrid's NH Alcala hotel; they were let inside with mallets and told to have at it. In London and Tokyo, another option recently became available, according to the Daily Mail: misery clubs (such as Loss in London). Executives can rent rooms and view weepy movies or attend group crying sessions and "tear therapy" to "indulge their inner gloom," wrote the newspaper.

Least competent fraudsters

Dr. Ajit Trikha, a psychiatrist in Belleville, Ill., pleaded guilty in June to defrauding Medicare and Medicaid of at least $1.85 million, including invoices that claimed he worked more than 24 hours a day on 76 occasions (40 hours on one day and treating 83 patients in 2½ hours on another). He also claimed to treat patients 1,267 times in Belleville while he was traveling in Europe.

In June, the New York state comptroller charged Brooklyn dentist Dr. Mohinder Mayell with defrauding Medicaid of at least $124,000, including claims for treating eight patients between 123 and 170 times each and filling 52 cavities in another patient in about two hours' time.

News that sounds like a joke

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