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The Weird Week in Review

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Violinist Gives Thank You Concert for Cabbies

Violinist Philippe Quint took a cab home from the airport in New Jersey last month, and left his 285-year-old Stradivarius in the car. Cab driver Mohamed Khalil returned the $4 million instrument to Quint. As a "thank you," Quint performed a special lunchtime concert for about 200 cabbies in the parking lot at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Artificial Beak for Bald Eagle

Beauty is an Alaskan bald eagle whose beak was shot off several years ago. She was taken to a refuge, but her beak did not grow back. Next month, Beauty will get a new nylon-composite beak, thanks to the work of volunteer engineers and veterinarians. The bird must remain in captivity, but will be able to drink and eat properly.

Self-tracheotomy with a Steak Knife

55-year-old Steve Wilder of Omaha, Nebraska awoke one night and couldn't breathe. He had a similar episode once before, in which his air passage swelled shut. Figuring he didn't have time to wait for emergency medical help, Wilder used a steak knife to cut a small hole in his throat, which allowed air to enter his windpipe. Doctors expect no adverse effects from the self-tracheotomy.

Chunky Monkeys Put on Diet

fat-monkey.jpgVisitors to Ohama Park in Sakai, Japan love to feed the monkeys. Now 30 percent of the monkeys at the zoo are so fat they have trouble getting around, and some weight three times as much as they should! Zookeepers have instituted a strict diet, and visitors are asked not to feed the monkeys.

X-ray Shows Python Swallowed Kitten

An eight-week-old kitten in Australia's Northern territory was killed and consumed by a five-foot python. The cat's head was three time the size of the snake's head, but the python unhinged its jaw and swallowed the kitten whole, as an x-ray shows. The kitten's owner found the bulging snake, and called a snake wrangler after rounding up the other cats. The python will be released after he has digested his big meal.

World Record Lego Tower

150legotower.jpgLegoland Windsor in Berkshire, England has the world's largest Lego tower ever! The tower, shaped like a Viking longboat, was completed with the help of park visitors. Children built 20 cm sections, which were hoisted in place by crane. The previous record is held by a 96-foot tower built in Toronto last year.

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London's Sewer-Blocking 'Fatbergs' Are Going to Be Turned Into Biodiesel
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UK officials can't exactly transform the Whitechapel fatberg—a 143-ton trash mass lurking in London's sewer system—into treasure, but they can turn it into fuel. As The Guardian reports, Scottish biodiesel producer Argent Energy plans to convert parts of the noxious blockage into an environmentally friendly energy source.

For the uninitiated, fatbergs (which get their names from a portmanteau of "fat" and "icebergs") are giant, solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, grease, wet wipes, and sanitary products. They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships release waste products like palm oil. These sticky substances combine with floating litter to form what could be described as garbage heaps on steroids.

Fatbergs wash up on beaches, muck up city infrastructures, and are sometimes even removed with cranes from sewer pipes as a last resort. Few—if any—fatbergs, however, appear to be as potentially lethal as the one workers recently discovered under London's Whitechapel neighborhood. In a news release, private utility company Thames Water described the toxic mass as "one of the largest ever found, with the extreme rock-solid mass of wet wipes, nappies, fat and oil weighing the same as 11 double-decker buses."

Ick factor aside, the Whitechapel fatberg currently blocks a stretch of Victorian sewer more than twice the length of two fields from London's Wembley Stadium. Engineers with jet hoses are working seven days a week to break up the fatberg before sucking it out with tankers. But even with high-pressure streams, the job is still akin to "trying to break up concrete," says Matt Rimmer, Thames Water's head of waste networks.

The project is slated to end in October. But instead of simply disposing of the Whitechapel fatberg, officials want to make use of it. Argent Energy—which has in the past relied on sources like rancid mayonnaise and old soup stock—plans to process fatberg sludge into more than 2600 gallons of biodiesel, creating "enough environmentally friendly energy to power 350 double-decker Routemaster buses for a day," according to Thames Water.

"Even though they are our worst enemy, and we want them dead completely, bringing fatbergs back to life when we do find them in the form of biodiesel is a far better solution for everyone," said company official Alex Saunders.

In addition to powering buses, the Whitechapel fatberg may also become an unlikely cultural touchstone: The Museum of London is working with Thames Water to acquire a chunk of the fatberg, according to BBC News. The waste exhibit will represent just one of the many challenges facing cities, and remind visitors that they are ultimately responsible for the fatberg phenomenon.

"When it comes to preventing fatbergs, everyone has a role to play," Rimmer says. "Yes, a lot of the fat comes from food outlets, but the wipes and sanitary items are far more likely to be from domestic properties. The sewers are not an abyss for household rubbish."

[h/t The Guardian]

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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Restaurant Seeks Donations to Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center
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Kevin Burkett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever wondered where all those Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish that flew off shelves in the early 2000s have gone, take a look inside a Flying Fish restaurant. Each location of the southern seafood chain is home to its own Big Mouth Billy Bass Adoption Center, and they’re always accepting new additions to the collection.

According to Atlas Obscura, the gimmick was the idea of Dallas-based restaurateur Shannon Wynne. He opened his flagship Flying Fish in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2002 when the Big Mouth Billy Bass craze was just starting to wind down. As people grew tired of hearing the first 30 seconds of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for the thousandth time, he offered them a place to bring their wall ornaments once the novelty wore off. The Flying Fish promises to “house, shelter, love, and protect” each Billy Bass they adopt. On top of that, donors get a free basket of catfish in exchange for the contribution and get their name on the wall. The Little Rock location now displays hundreds of the retired fish.

Today there are nine Flying Fish restaurants in Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee, each with its own Adoption Center. There’s still space for new members of the family, so now may be the time to break out any Billy Basses that have been collecting dust in your attic since 2004.

And if you’re interested in stopping into Flying Fish for a bite to eat, don’t let the wall of rubber nostalgia scare you off: The batteries from all the fish have been removed, so you can enjoy your meal in peace.


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