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How bizarre!
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-04-25 09:04:36
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bizarre01_04Dreams can help with learning

Napping after learning something new could help you commit it to memory - as long as you dream, scientists say. They found people who dream about a new task perform it better on waking than those who do not sleep or do not dream.

Volunteers were asked to learn the layout of a 3D computer maze so they could find their way within the virtual space several hours later.  Those allowed taking a nap and who also remembered dreaming of the task, found their way to a landmark quicker.

The researchers think the dreams are a sign that unconscious parts of the brain are working hard to process information about the task.  Dr Robert Stickgold of Harvard Medical School, one of the authors of the paper, said dreams may be a marker that the brain is working on the same problem at many levels.  He said: "The dreams might reflect the brain's attempt to find associations for the memories that could make them more useful in the future."


The nine-bin nightmare: Families forced to follow green zealots' new recycling diktats

bizarre02_400_01Families are facing a nightmare future of recycling confusion.  In a regime set to spread across the country, residents are being forced to juggle an astonishing nine separate bins.  There has already been a storm of protest with warnings that the scheme is too complex and homes simply don't have the space to deal with the myriad bins, bags and boxes. The containers include a silver slopbucket for food waste, which is then tipped in to a larger, green outdoor food bin, a pink bag for plastic bottles, a green bag for cardboard, and a white bag for clothing and textiles.

Paper and magazines go in blue bags, garden waste in a wheelie bin with a brown lid, while glass, foil, tins and empty aerosols should go in a blue box, with a grey wheelie bin for non-recyclable waste.  The strict regulations have been introduced as councils come under growing pressure to cut the amount of household rubbish they send to landfill.  However, they go far beyond anything previously expected from householders and families.  Retired teacher Sylvia Butler is already being forced to follow the new rules. She said: 'I'm all for recycling and used to help educate the kids about it during my geography classes but expecting us to cope with nine different bins and bags is asking too much.'

Pressure on councils to enforce recycling schemes includes rising taxes on everything they send to landfill and the threat of European Union fines if they fail to hit EU targets from 2013 onwards.  Compulsory recycling is commonly enforced by bin police who can impose £100 on-the-spot fines for breaches like overfilled wheelie bins, extra rubbish left out, or bins put out at the wrong time.  If people do not pay the fines, they can be taken to court, where they face increased penalties of £1,000 and criminal records.  Officials in Newcastle-under-Lyme in North Staffordshire anticipated trouble when they introduced the nine-bin system last month.  They had to publish step-by-step instructions on how to fold down a cardboard box so that it fits into the green bag.  The council also put a film on its web-site in which a recycling officer demonstrates how to put a tenth container - a biodegradable liner - into the slopbucket.


City profits from right turn trap

bizarre03_02An intersection in Los Angeles, California is billing drivers nearly $500 for making a turn in the split-second before a permissive green turn arrow appears. Los Angeles hired American Traffic Solutions to operate thirty-two cameras in order to generate about $4 million a year in revenue. The cameras now pounce on drivers making technical mistakes on right-hand turns.

Motorist Stephen Lo found this out the hard way while driving his 2004 Nissan 350Z at the intersection of Sepulveda and Victory Boulevards at around 1:30pm on January 4. As he slowed to make his turn, looking both ways, a 0.6 second gap appeared between the end of the yellow light and the illumination of the green arrow. Because Lo was caught in between the split-second lag between the lights, the photographic evidence showed him apparently breaking the law. A look at the video evidence, however, shows that the vehicle's front wheels had barely entered the intersection by the time that the green arrow appeared.

"I might just decide to pay the ticket," Lo said. "I weighed my options and I don't have time to go into court to battle this out." Lo found himself in the company of about 80 percent of recipients of tickets in Los Angeles who were billed for making rolling right hand turns, according to a 2008 Los Angeles Times report. Despite the heavy focus on right-hand turns for citations, of the 1926 collisions reported at enforced locations between 2006 and 2008, only 2.6 percent were caused by "unsafe turns" -- a figure which includes the much more common left-hand turn collisions.


Arrest made in bank robberies

bizarre04_400A search warrant revealed sunglasses, clothing and a firearm, which altogether was enough to connect a 39-year-old man to a series of robberies at a bank just around the corner from his home, police said Friday. A resistant Toby Max Duckett was taken into custody late Thursday at his 2019 11th Ave. residence. He was charged with three counts of bank robbery and one count misdemeanor obstruction. The bank robbery charges are linked three incidents at Peoples Bank, located at 1126 20th St. The robberies occurred March 2, March 26 and April 17. In every instance, a masked assailant showed a handgun, made his demands and left with an undisclosed amount of cash. He wore different clothing each time, but consistently covered all but four to five inches of his body.

After police forced their way into his 11th Avenue residence late Thursday night, Duckett barricaded himself in a bedroom for approximately an hour, a criminal complaint stated. The criminal complaints against Duckett say police found clothing, sunglasses and a firearm at the suspect’s residence. Duckett allegedly used each of the items to rob the bank, the complaint states. Police did not recover any of the stolen money, Huntington Police Capt. Rick Eplin said.
Eplin explained investigators based the warrant, which was unavailable Friday for public inspection, upon clues they obtained by repeatedly interviewing residents and approximately three days of surveillance.

Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook praised the “extraordinary police work” of Lt. Rocky Johnson, Sgt. John Williams, Detective Chris Sperry and FBI Special Agent Jeff Long. They received a case with little solvability and developed a piece of the puzzle each day. “These are some of our most seasoned detectives, and their leadership was apparent in this investigation,” Holbrook said.

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