Intelligent Design: If the male nursery web spider were a human, he would be sternly denounced as a vulgar cad. Researcher Maria Jose Albo of Denmark’s Aarhus University told Live Science in November that the spiders typically obtain sex by making valuable “gifts” to females (usually, high-nutrition insects wrapped in silk), but if lacking resources, a male cleverly packages a fake gift (usually a piece of flower) also in silk but confoundingly wound so as to distract her as she unwraps it — and then mounts her before she discovers the hoax. Albo also found that the male is not above playing dead to coax the female into relaxing her guard as she approaches the “carcass”—only to be jumped from behind for sex.
The Continuing Crisis Son Theodore Zimmick and two other relatives filed a lawsuit in November against the St. Stanislaus cemetery in Pittsburgh for the unprofessional burial of Theodore’s mother, Agnes, in 2009. Agnes had purchased an 11-by-8-foot plot in 1945, but when she finally passed away, the graveyard had become so crowded that, according to the lawsuit, workers were forced to dig such a small hole that they had to jump up and down on the casket and whack it with poles to fit it into the space.
Recurring Themes James Ward’s second annual festival of tedium (the “Boring conference”), in November at York Hall in east London, once again sold out, demonstrating the intrinsic excitement created by yawn-inducing subject matter. Last year’s conference featured a man’s discourse on the color and materials of his neckwear collection and another’s structured milk-tasting, patterned after a wine-tasting. This second edition showcased a history of the electric hand-dryer and a seminar on the square root of 2.
Convoluted Plans A balaclava-wearing man “kidnapped” Julian Buchwald and his girlfriend in 2008 in Australia’s Alpine National Park as they were picnicking. The man separated the couple, tore their clothes off and buried them, but Buchwald escaped and rescued the girlfriend, and they wandered around naked for days before being rescued. The balaclava-clad man, it turns out, was Buchwald, whose plan was to convince the woman by his heroism that she should marry him (and more immediately, to have sex even though they had both pledged to remain virgins until marriage). Buchwald was convicted in Victoria County Court and sentenced in December to more than seven years in prison.
• After 12 almost intolerable months, Ms. Seemona Sumasar finally received justice in November from a New York City jury, which convicted Jerry Ramrattan of orchestrating a complex and ingenious scheme to convince police that Sumasar was a serial armed robber. Ramrattan, a private detective and “CSI” fan, had used his knowledge of police evidence-gathering to pin various open cases on Sumasar as revenge for her having dumped him (and to negate her claim that Ramrattan had raped her in retaliation). Ramrattan was so creative in linking evidence to Sumasar that her bail had been set at $1 million, causing her to spend seven months in jail. (Said one juror, “If I had seen this on TV, my reaction would be, ‘How could this really happen?’”)
People With Issues Prominent Birmingham, Ala., politician Bill Johnson describes his wife as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” but he revealed in December that, while on temporary duty recently as an earthquake relief specialist in New Zealand, he had clandestinely donated sperm to nine women (and that three were already pregnant). Becoming a biological father is “a need that I have,” he told a New Zealand Herald reporter, and his wife had been unable to accommodate him. Asked if his wife knew of the nine women, Johnson said, “She does now.” Indeed, Alabama newspapers quickly picked up the story, and Mrs. Johnson told the Mobile Press-Register that there is “healing to do.”
Least Competent Criminals Not Ready for Prime Time: The unidentified eyeglass-wearing robber of an HSBC Bank in Long Island City, N.Y., in December fled empty-handed and was being sought. Armed with a pistol and impatient with a slow teller, the man fired a shot into the ceiling to emphasize his seriousness. However, according to a police report, the gunshot seemed to panic him as much as it did the others in the bank, and he immediately ran out the door and jumped into a waiting vehicle.
No Longer Weird? One would think that classical musicians who carry precious violins, worth small fortunes, on public transportation would be especially vigilant to safeguard them. However, from time to time (for example, in 2008, 2009, 2010 and May 2011), absentmindedness prevailed. Most recently, in December, student MuChen Hsieh, 19, accompanying a 176-year-old violin (on loan from a foundation in Taiwan and worth about $170,000) on a bus ride from Boston to Philadelphia, forgot to check the overhead rack when departing and left without it. Fortunately, a bus company cleaner turned it in. (Most famously, in 1999, the master cellist Yo Yo Ma left his instrument in the trunk of a New York City taxicab.)