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The Weird Week in Review

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Fake Cop Pulls Over Real Cop

21-year-old Antonio Fernandez Martinez of Oakland was impersonating a police officer when he tried to pull over a car driven by Jim Beere, who is an actual police officer in plainclothes working undercover. Fernandez was driving a car with flashing lights and loudspeakers. Martinez was promptly arrested. If convicted, Martinez faces more than a sentence for impersonating an officer -he will also have his probation revoked on an earlier charge of car theft.

Misspelled Highway Sign

A sign on Highway 51 in Wisconsin points to exit 185. There are four words on the sign, and three are misspelled. "Exit" was correctly spelled. The state Department of Transportation blamed a subcontractor, Decker Supply Company. The sign read "Buisness 51 Rothschield Schofeild." By Sunday morning, the sign had been replaced.

World's Oldest Potted Plant

It took three months of planning, a crane, and nine gardeners to transfer a palm tree called a cycad to a new pot. The operation at Kew Gardens in London was difficult and delicate because the tree is considered to be the oldest potted plant in the world. It was collected around 1770 during the Captain Cook's second voyage around the world, which would make it at least 235 years old. It has been growing in a pot at Kew Gardens in London for 160 years. The repotting procedure was successful.

Gnome Rescue Operation

150gnomesAn elderly resident of Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia died and left behind around 1500 cement garden gnomes. Not knowing what to do with them, the executor of the will contacted the Australian Gnome Convention for advice on disposing of them. A four-member team traveled 800 kilometers to pack up the gnomes of all sizes.They will be painted and refurbished, and will appear at the 2010 Australian Gnome Convention on January 26th.

Cheese Sculpture Melts

Artist Sarah Kaufmann created a life-size sculpture of astronaut Neil Armstrong made out of Wisconsin cheddar cheese. It was to go on display this week at the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Unfortunately, the air conditioners at the museum are turned off every night to save energy, and the statue started melting and slid off of its base. Visitors were disappointed to see the statue was not on display, or at least most of it wasn't.

The Only Zebra in Gaza

150gazazebraAfter two years of economic blockade, the zoos in Gaza are suffering. Only one has a zebra, but there's something about the zebra that seems, um, un-zebralike.
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"It's really a painted donkey," admitted Mahmud Berghat, the director of Marah, when asked about the creature. Making a fake zebra isn't easy—henna didn't work and wood paint was deemed inhumane, so they finally settled on human hair dye. "We cut its hair short and then painted the stripes," Berghat explained behind the closed door of his office.

Most zoo animals have to be smuggled in through tunnels, but a zebra was too expensive for the Marah zoo.

Doctorate on Ice

Diana Entwistle, a former champion ice dancer, is the first person in Britain to achieve a PhD in figure skating.

The ex-British Masters ice dance champ said: "There is so much science in figure skating and it's the difference between getting a gold medal and appearing lower down in the leadership table."

Diana, who is in her 20s and from Roxwell in Essex, still competes but now plans to become a coach.

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Thanks to a Wet Winter, New Zealand Faces a Potential Potato Chip Shortage
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New Zealand has plenty of unique and tasty snacks, but kiwis also love potato chips. The universal comfort food is in danger Down Under, however, as an unusually wet winter has devastated the island country’s tuber crops, according to BBC News.

Twenty percent of New Zealand’s annual potato crop was wiped out from a series of major storms and floods that ravaged the nation’s North and South Islands, The Guardian reports. In some regions, up to 30 percent of potato crops were affected, with the varieties used to make chips bearing the brunt of the damage.

Potato prices spiked as farmers struggled, but the crisis—now dubbed “chipocalypse” by media outlets—didn't really make the mainstream news until supermarket chain Pak’nSave posted announcements in potato chip aisles that warned customers of a salty snack shortage until the New Year.

Pak’nSave has since rescinded this explanation, claiming instead that they made an ordering error. However, other supermarket chains say they’re working directly with potato chip suppliers to avoid any potential shortfalls, and are aware that supplies might be limited for the foreseeable future.

New Zealand’s potato farming crisis extends far beyond the snack bars at rugby matches and vending machines. Last year’s potato crops either rotted or remained un-harvested, and the ground is still too wet to plant new ones. This hurts New Zealand’s economy: The nation is the world’s ninth-largest exporter of potatoes.

Plus, potatoes “are a food staple, and this is becoming a food security issue as the effects of climate change take their toll on our potato crop,” says Chris Claridge, the chief executive of industry group Potatoes New Zealand, according to The Guardian.

In the meantime, New Zealanders are preparing to hunker down for a few long months of potential potato peril—and according to some social media users, kale chips are not a suitable alternative. “Chipocalypse” indeed.

[h/t BBC News]

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Supermarket Employees to Compete in National Bagging Competition
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In today’s busy world, efficiency is king—especially at grocery stores, where long checkout lines can turn even the most patient shopper into a petulant purchaser. It only makes sense, then, that a nationwide competition exists among supermarket employees to determine the country’s best bagger.

As the Associated Press reports, Alysha Orrok, a teacher from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, recently won her state’s Best Bagger competition. She’s now headed to the U.S. finals, which will take place in Las Vegas in February 2018 and is sponsored by the National Grocers Association (NGA).

In Las Vegas, finalists from more than a dozen states—ranging from Washington to Florida—will duke it out onstage to see who’s truly king or queen of the checkout line. Competitors will be judged on weight distribution, appearance, speed, and technique (no smushed bread or bruised fruits allowed).

Orrok, who works evenings and weekends at a local grocery store, says she was initially clumsy on the job. “My first day as a bagger I dropped a soda and it exploded everywhere,” she told NBC Boston.

Over time, though, Orrok got so good at her side gig that she decided to compete in the New Hampshire state bagging competition earlier this month. At the tournament, "I was like 10 seconds faster than the next person," Orrok said. "I feel like I get in the zone and I just fly."

Competitors heading to 2018’s Best Bagger competition will face off to see who can achieve the best customer service in the shortest time span. The grand prize is $10,000, which will be awarded to a deserving grocery store employee “with infectious company pride and an enthusiastic commitment to customer service,” according to the NGA.

[h/t NBC Boston]

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