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 [ BACK]  [NEXT]                       Issue #008 - 10/06/1996

Party Animals Department

Strange Animal Tales.

     So many of the funny things that I find for this column are
too good (or too weird) to have been made up.  Only things that
really happen could be this crazy.  This week the focus is
weird animal stories, though not necessarily animals in perfect
working condition...  Hope the dead whale story doesn't gross
anyone out!  Special Thanks this week to Dale Frederickson, who
got me thinking about animals with his report on the flying
chickens.  And a special Congratulations to Nnamdi Elleh, whose
book, 'African Architecture: Change and Transformation' has just
been published by McGraw-Hill (Available through your local
bookstore or 1-800-2-MCGRAW for $75).  Yes, it's a commercial,
but, what the heck!  OK, on with the funny stuff...
     Have a great week everybody!

Anecdotal DooDah!
Empiricism at its Worst

The Chicken Gun:
     In a recent issue of "Meat & Poultry" magazine, editors
quoted from "Feathers," the publication of the California Poultry
Industry Federation, telling the following story:
     It seems the US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique
device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes.  The
device is a gun that launches a dead chicken at a plane's
windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies.
     The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the
carcass impact, it'll survive a real collision with a bird during
flight. It seems the British were very interested in this and
wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, high-speed locomotive
they're developing.
     They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken
and fired. The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went
through the engineer's chair, broke an instrument panel and
embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British
were stunned and asked the FAA to recheck the test to see if
everything was done correctly. 
     The FAA reviewed the test thoroughly and had one
recommendation: "Use a thawed chicken.

     [ So did the Brits respond with an icy stare? :-) ]

How NOT to Remove a Dead Whale...

     The authorities near Portland, Oregon had a serious health
problem; a 45 foot (14 meter) long whale had beached itself and
died on a popular beach, and they had no easy way to remove it. 
Since a whale of that size weighs about 8 tons, they couldn't
just pick it up, especially since it was on sand too soft for
construction equipment.  Cutting up the decomposing carcass would
have been a long and expensive job as well as being a pretty
nasty week's work.  So, as the whale began to smell worse and
worse, they searched for a cheap way out.  The solution they
tried has become pretty famous - Dave Barry even wrote an article
about it a while back.
     For now, though, it was the classic large smelly problem
that no one wanted.  Finally, the Oregon State Highway Division
proposed just dynamiting the remains.  Their analysis of the
problem showed that the one big slab of whale wasn't being eaten
by the sea gulls fast enough.  The Highway Department's plan was
to use high explosives to blow the whale remains into Moby
McNuggets so the sea gulls would feast on the remains and clean
up the beach quickly.  That way, it would be a fast and simple
job using very little manpower, and cheap too.
     Unfortunately, no one took into account that the highway
department uses dynamite mostly to get rid of large boulders that
end up as navigational hazards on highways.  They are used to
dealing with large crunchy objects, but not large squishy ones. 
They had never tried this before.  So, to make doubly sure the
job was done thoroughly, the highway workers packed a half a ton
of dynamite under the dead whale.  Under normal conditions, this
should have been enough explosive to put the whale carcass into a
low orbit.  Around Jupiter.  A local TV station in Portland heard
about this little project, and thought that a nice big explosion
would make for a fun feature story, so they sent a crew to cover
the big blast.
     As demolition time approached, the police moved the
gathering crowd back away from the beach.  Everyone was in a
party mood, laughing and cheering.  They watched patiently while
the highway folks unloaded case after case of explosive, and
arranged it carefully around the dead whale.  They counted out
loud along with the countdown, and then, **** BLAMMO!! ****.  The
whale remains disappeared in a tremendous pinkish cloud of dust
and sand that shot hundreds of feet in the air.  Everyone was
cheering and applauding, just like they do for fireworks on the
4th of July.
     They kept on cheering until the sky darkened and started
raining dirt, sand and softball-sized chunks of flying whale.
People ran for cover as the ballistic blubber broke windshields,
damaged buildings and caved in car roofs as much as a quarter
mile (1/2 km) away.  A number of people suffered minor injuries
from being hit by the meaty missiles.
     As the dust settled, a pile of dead whale about the size of
a beer truck still remained on the beach.  Instead of one large
glob of whale, the authorities were faced with several tons of
whale steaks scattered over a couple of square miles of terrain. 
And the sea gulls?  As soon as they heard the blast, they took
off for a quieter stretch of beach in, say, Honduras.  Who wants
a lunch buffet that explodes, even if it is free?
     Always a bad idea to clean up one mess by making a larger
one!  But the Oregon Highway Department did learn one important
lesson.  Next time they should sell tickets.

[By the way - out there in the weird corner of the World Wide Web
there are pictures of this event.  I'll send them to you if you
really want to see it, but it's better to just imagine.  Trust me
on this...   bbb ]

Faster... Faster!  Breathe... Breathe!

   In a San Francisco Chronicle story in May, Officer Cliff
Kroeger of Martinez, Calif., said he once gave a ticket to a man
clocked at 87 mph in a car that had a large flexible tube
sticking out of a rear window. The tube extended to an aquarium
in the back seat. The driver explained he had mathematically
calculated that 87 was the exact speed he needed to aerate the
aquarium, to keep his fish alive.
     [ Haven't heard yet if the judge believed that one! ]


Apparently Didn't See the Movie:

     A Universal Studios Hollywood employee -- a woman who
normally works weekdays in the wardrobe department -- discovered
while leaving work on a recent Saturday that her regular exit
gate was locked.  Driving around the lot looking for a way out,
she followed a tour bus full of visitors, presumably thinking it
would eventually lead her to an exit.  The bus then cut through
the special passageway that was used to film Charlton Heston
leading the Israelites through the parted waters of the Red Sea
in the movie 'The Ten Commandments', and the woman followed.  But
upon reaching the end, the bus triggered a device to close the
parted waters, trapping the woman and her car as the waters rose,
much like the Pharaoh's soldiers.  It took Hollywood's Urban
Search and Rescue unit an hour to rescue her. (LA Times)

     [Better than being lunch for Jaws, I suppose.]



     It's political time here in the US, with the Presidential
campaign down to the last few weeks.  I'm getting pretty tired of
the political ads, but it could be alot worse.  For one thing,
neither Bill nor Bob have any desire to be goat ranchers...      
Joshua Nkomo, the vice president of Zimbabwe, is rearing more
than 100 goats at his official residence.  Neighbors have
complained, saying it's against city regulations.
     Meanwhile, police in Brasilia, Brazil are investigating the
death of a goat that was running for mayor of the town of Pilar
-- where it had been leading in the polls.  The animal's
political supporters have suggested that the goat, "Frederico",
was assassinated by a political rival.  "He had a lot of foam in
his mouth," his owner said. (Reuters) 

     [Foaming at the mouth? He really was a politician!]


Mane Event:
     A racehorse with the appropriate name "Devil His Due" came
in second at the Whitney Handicap at the Saratoga Race Course
last month, winning $77,000.  He was entered in the race by the
Internal Revenue Service, who seized him a few days earlier in a
tax case.  The tax folks will apply the winnings to the $4.4
million in back taxes and interest owed by the horses original
owner. (AP) 

     [Only 57 more races to go, boy. You can do it!]


     At a religious revival in rural Tennessee, a fundamentalist
minister encouraged worshipers to come forward and be bitten by
rattlesnakes.  "The rattlesnake is the heart of Satan," he     
preached.  "Only those who live with the devil will die from the
venom."  Incredibly, more than 10 people came forward, and
several were bitten, but only one died.  Unfortunately, it was
the minister.

© 1996 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.