90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/8/18)

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

10 Offbeat Stories You Might Have Missed This Week (12/8/18)

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.

This week is a cornucopia of singular tales. They include the AI aboard the ISS, the fake first lady, the ancient plague, and the cowbell court case.

10Don’t Be So Mean, Please

Photo credit: NBC News
The International Space Station (ISS) saw the addition of a new member—the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN (CIMON). It is an AI which takes the form of a floating plastic ball with a video screen face and digital voice.

CIMON was built by Airbus and uses a modified version of IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence. According to the IT company, “Project Spaceball,” as it was initially called, has “the language skills of C-3PO, the conversation abilities of Marvin, . . . the cuteness of WALL-E, and the technical know-how of HAL 9000 . . . without the evil part.”

In the future, CIMON’s role aboard the ISS will be two-fold: to help astronauts with tasks and to act as a companion. For now, it was only involved in a small test run during the 57th mission aboard the station and it went about as eerie as movies taught us to expect.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst started up the AI with the command “Wake up, Cimon,” to which the floating ball cheerily inquired how it could help. At first, things went smoothly. The two chatted for a bit. CIMON recognized Gerst’s face, helped him with an experiment, and even played some Kraftwerk.

The situation became a little awkward when the astronaut told CIMON to stop the music. The AI appeared to have misunderstood the command, and it kept talking about music.

After repeated requests from Gerst to stop, CIMON pleaded with the astronaut to “be nice, please,” also asking “don’t you like it here with me?” The AI then changed the subject, saying that Gerst was probably hungry because it could hear his stomach roaring.[1]

9Too Much Cowbell?

There is a fiery debate going on in the tiny German town of Holzkirchen—does it have too much cowbell? A couple has sued a local farmer and the council because the farmer’s cows graze near their property and the nonstop clanging of the animals’ cowbells has caused the couple sleeplessness and depression.

The unnamed couple argues that the cowbells are too loud. Furthermore, the cows produce a lot of manure, which brings with it foul odors and lots of insects. Finally, they believe that forcing cows to wear loud bells in the flat, open countryside is not only unnecessary but amounts to animal cruelty. Modern alternatives such as GPS trackers are available.

The pro-cowbell camp argues that the trackers are too expensive and experimental. Furthermore, the cowbells are traditional and part of the local agriculture.

The original lawsuit was launched by the husband. However, the court ruled against the couple in 2017 and that decision is currently being appealed. Now the wife has filed a second lawsuit against dairy farmer Regina Killer which is expected to be heard in Munich’s regional court in January.[2]

8Age Is Just A Number

Photo credit: The Guardian
Last month, we talked about the strange legal case of 69-year-old Emile Ratelband who petitioned the Dutch court in Arnhem to officially lower his age by 20 years. The court ruled against him on Monday, writing that allowing his request would invalidate rights and obligations based on age.

The sexagenarian believed that his age was denying him opportunities in work and love. He was particularly annoyed by the lack of responses on Tinder. He felt much younger than he actually was. Ratelband compared his situation to that of transgender people who successfully had their genders changed in the eyes of the law.

The court said in a statement that Ratelband is free to act as young as he feels. Granting his request, however, would erase 20 years of records which would come with numerous legal and societal implications.[3] Moreover, the court didn’t think the 69-year-old adequately proved that he was the victim of age discrimination and, even if he was, there were alternative solutions to changing his date of birth.

Ratelband was actually pleased with the result, saying that the rejection provided him with different angles he can use on appeal.


Photo credit: usatoday.com
A young boy managed to overturn the 100-year-old ban on snowball fights in Severance, Colorado.

The law is believed to have gone into effect when the town was incorporated in 1920. It prohibits the throwing of stones and other projectiles at people or property. On a school trip with his third-grade class to town hall, nine-year-old Dane Best learned that this included snowballs. Mayor Don McLeod challenged the children to change the law if they had a problem with it, and to his surprise, Dane took him up on it.[4]

This Monday, there was a Severance Town Council meeting and Dane was there with letters and signatures in support of snowball fights. He presented his case, and the council members unanimously approved a measure to legalize the throwing of snowballs within the town limits. The mayor then presented Dane with the first legal snowball in the town’s history.

The young man already has set his next challenge. Dane plans to tackle a law that only recognizes cats and dogs as pets and limits three per household. He’s doing it on behalf of his apparently illegal guinea pig.

6The Indus Valley Toothbrush Holder

Photo credit: atlasobscura.com
Back in 2013, Karl Martin from Derbyshire, England, found a ceramic pot at a car boot sale (English flea market). He bought it and another pot for £4 and then used it as a toothbrush holder. Now he has found out that it was a genuine 4,000-year-old antique jar made by the Indus Valley Civilization.

Martin works as an appraiser for Hansons Auctioneers. Recently, he was helping a friend unload some objects destined for the auction block when he spotted a piece of pottery that looked familiar. It had the same kind of antelope patterns as his toothbrush holder. That’s when Martin decided to bring his pot from home to an expert. Auctioneer James Brenchley identified it as an Indus Valley artifact that was roughly 4,000 years old.[5]

How exactly an antique like that ended up at a car boot sale in South Derbyshire we’ll probably never know. Martin put it up for sale at Hansons’ November antiquities auction where it went for £80.

5McDonald’s, Home Of The Whopper

Photo credit: cnbc.com
Burger King is selling its famous Whoppers for just one penny in an effort to promote the relaunch of the company’s app and, ideally, steal some...
Read More HERE

1 comment:

Kye said...

And here I thought the worst plague derived from Europe was communism. Wait! It still is as they estimate the Black Plague killed 50 million people in the 15th century but the commies have racked up over 100 million....so far and they're still improving the numbers daily.