Chuck Shepherd

Large kidney stones typically mean eye-watering pain and sudden urinary blockage until the stone "passes" (often requiring expensive sound-wave treatment to break up a large stone). Michigan State University urologist David Wartinger told the Atlantic in September that he had recently happened upon a pain-free way to pass stones before they become problems: the centripetal force from a roller-coaster ride.

In a 200-trip experiment preparing for a validating "human" trial, he successfully passed stones in his handheld, silicone model kidney (using his own urine) about two-thirds of the time when sitting in a rear seat at Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Busy turtle

Diego the giant tortoise, believed to be more than 100 years old, now lives in semi-retirement on Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos, but from 1976 to 2010, Diego brought an almost-extinct species back to life by fathering about 800 babies in the captive breeding program on Espanola, another of the Galápagos Islands.

Biologists did not realize Diego's prowess until 2010 when DNA tests identified him as the father of 40 percent of all tortoises on the island. Even on Santa Cruz Island, Diego keeps busy, with a "harem" of six females. Another Galápagos tortoise species did die out in 2012 when the last male, the centenarian Lonesome George, maintained his celibacy until death.

Compelling explanation

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is bureaucratically at the epicenter of the state's drought crisis, but in September KCBS-TV aired video of the department actually using sprinklers to water the artificial lawn at a substation in South Los Angeles. A DWP spokesperson said such watering is routine at substations to "clean" the plastic (and wash off any dog urine, for example).

Persistence pays off

Wanda Witter, 80, had been living on Washington, D.C., streets for 10 years, but insisting to anyone who would listen that the Social Security Administration owed her sums that recently reached $100,000, and that she had documents to prove it. However, given her circumstances, most regarded her as just another luckless person confused by homeless life.

In June, though, after social worker Julie Turner took a closer look and found, improbably, that Witter was indeed owed $100,000, and even more improbably, that all of her paperwork was carefully organized among the unimpressive possessions she hauled around daily, SSA paid her $999 on the spot, and the remaining $99,999 arrived in August.

French fry thief

A woman was arrested on Sept. 7 at the Italian Pizza Kitchen restaurant in Washington, D.C. She was chatting up a police officer she did not know, then playfully took a French fry from his plate. He asked her to stop, but she took another, and when the exasperated officer issued an ultimatum, she took yet another.

The arrest report for second-degree theft, cited by WUSA-TV, included "property stolen" as "three" "French fried potato(es)."

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