offbeat

Offbeat
11:44 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Do we really need foam and lycra baby helmets?

The "Thudguard" helmet in action.
user chkpnt YouTube

These helmets are not for kids with medical conditions, but for your run-of-the-mill little snappers who take a dive every now and again.

Sue Toms on MLive asks whether these helmets are necessary on their "Question of the day."

I can’t help but feel sorry for parents of small children trying to figure out how much to protect and how much to let go in a world where their fears are fodder for profit-making marketing campaigns.

Do infants need 3.2 ounces of foam and Lycra, with little bunny ears, strapped on their heads as they crawl or walk in their living room? The doctors, paramedics and psychiatrists endorsing the product on the website say they do.

But watching a YouTube video of a toddler cruising along a coffee table wearing a Thudguard on his head is a little unnerving...

Here's the video... complete with a close call with a sandal.

Too much?

Offbeat
11:08 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Michigan pair lose appeal in John Stamos extortion

John Stamos. A Michigan pair tried to blackmail the actor.
user hyku wikimedia commons

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of a man and woman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula who were accused of trying to blackmail actor John Stamos.

A three-judge panel in Cincinnati rejected challenges to the indictment Monday as well as claims that Allison Coss and Scott Sippola should have received a break at sentencing for accepting responsibility.

They were sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after a jury convicted them of conspiracy and using email to threaten a person's reputation. Coss and Sippola threatened to sell old photos of Stamos with strippers and cocaine to the tabloids unless he paid $680,000. The FBI said the photos didn't exist.

Stamos met Coss in Florida in 2004 and had a friendship.

Offbeat
3:08 pm
Mon April 9, 2012

"Petoskey Batman" hanging it up, plans to auction off suit

Mark Williams as Batman. The infamous suit went to the highest bidder.
Courtesy of the Petoskey, Michigan Department of Public Safety.

It all started last year.

That's when police in Petoskey turned on their caped crusader - "Petoskey Batman."

From UPI:

A Michigan man nicknamed the "Petoskey Batman" after he was arrested while wearing a Batman costume on a rooftop was sentenced to six months of probation.

Mark Wayne Williams, 32, of Harbor Springs, was arrested May 11 after being spotted on a Petoskey rooftop while wearing a Batman costume and carrying weapons including a baton-like striking weapon, a can of chemical irritant spray and a pair of sand-filled Sap gloves.

This raises two questions. What in the world are "sand-filled Sap gloves"? And what was the plan for them?

Last October, a judge sentenced Williams to six months of probation. He was banned from donning his bat-suit for the duration of his probation.

Now we hear news that "Petoskey Batman" plans to hang up the suit permanently.

He's auctioning it off on E-Bay, with a starting bid set at $100. From the listing:

Well folks here's the deal my bud got himself in trouble last year hanging off a building(i'm sure you've all seen it on the news, we got a good chuckle here.) Seems "The Petoskey Batman" Needs some cash for his legal fees. So what were doing is Auctioning off the suit that was made famous round the world on the nightly news and most of the late night comics(gloves not included lol.) Will come with a signed statement and picture of him next to it, hell he'll even sign the picture for you.

p.s. It has been laundered lol
happy bidding folks
Shipping listed is for U.S. only Canada and International will be higher 

So far, there have been zero bids. But there are more than 2 days left. No word on yet on plans for, or the existence of, the Petoskey Batmobile. 

*Correction - a previous version used the phrase "begs the question" incorrectly. It's been corrected in the copy above.

Sports
5:09 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Madness: A 192 foot basketball shot?

The longest basketball shot? How can we really know? YouTube
Read more
Offbeat
4:02 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Taking water recreation to new heights, introducing the 'Dolphinator'

Every summer, it seems there's some new water recreation device on the Great Lakes, I wonder if we'll see the "Dolphinator" anytime soon.

That's not what the inventor, Franky Zapata, calls it, that's what Robert Krulwich calls it on his blog "Krulwich Wonders":

I'm looking at this thing and thinking it should be renamed "The Dolphinator," because this is about as close as a human is ever going to get to flying in and out of the air and sea as dolphins do. In fact, it beats the dolphins.

Have a look:

I can't wait to spot one in action on the Lakes. I don't know how hard it would be to get your hands on one (Mr. Zapata's online store is down at the moment). But Krulwich writes that the "Dolphinator" (as it is now known here at Michigan Radio), costs $6,441.

And riding it is a snap... according Zapata:

"...the Flyboard is very intuitive : it’s like learning to walk. Find your balance and you will become Flying Man or Dolphin Man! Between 2 and 20 minutes are needed to learn with an instructor and 20 minutes/ 1 hour without." 

Sign me up.

Offbeat
11:38 am
Wed January 11, 2012

What flavor of ice cream best represents Michigan's outdoors?

Go to this page to suggest an ice cream flavor.
screen shot

The Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company want to create a new ice cream flavor... one that captures the spirit of the Michigan outdoors.

Here's more from the Hudsonville Creamery:

The Department of Natural Resources and Pure Michigan are partnering with Hudsonville Ice Cream to create a unique flavor that best represents all that Michigan State Parks and the great outdoors have to offer.

And it has to be appetizing, so "black fly" and "pine tar" are likely not good options.

You can suggest flavors on their page, or suggest them below.

I believe "Moosetracks," and "Bear Claw" are already taken.

Offbeat
11:17 am
Thu January 5, 2012

Will.I.Am announces new car company on Tonight Show

The new car the pop star Will.I.Am says he will begin building in East Los Angeles. The car is based on Chrysler parts.
rap-up.com

The front man for the pop music group the Black Eyed Peas, William James Adams, Jr., more commonly known as Will.I.Am, announced that he will start a car company in East Los Angeles, the neighborhood he grew up in.

"I invested my money in building my own vehicle, because I want to bring jobs to the ghetto that I come from, so why not invest like I invested in making a demo to start the Black Eyed Peas," said Adams.

He's not building a car from the ground up - more like modifying a car with existing Chrysler parts.

Here he is announcing the new venture, IAMAUTO, on the Tonight Show (apologies if you have to suffer through a commercial):

Jalopnik, the Gawker website of the automotive world, didn't take the announcement too well.

Here's what Matt Hardigree wrote in his post "Will.I.Am Launches Crappy Car Company":

I didn't watch Leno last night, so all of this is coming via one online report attached to this picture. I'd like to think it's a hoax but it's so bad it seems like it could credibly be a BEP byproduct.

The vehicle will be built using "OEM parts from Chrysler" with a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system. Given he drives a Chrysler 300 in his new video it's likely this is the basis for the car. Lord help us if it's a Chrysler 200.

Will.I.Am wants Leno to test drive the car when it comes out.

Offbeat
11:01 am
Wed December 14, 2011

A Yarn Giver (not a Yarn Bomber), strikes in Ann Arbor (SLIDESHOW)

Yarn bombers have been "bombing" all across the country.

They knit their creations around trees, parking meters, light poles, and statues.

In Cincinnati, an entire city bus was "yarn-bombed" (see the slideshow above for a picture of that "bombing").

But along South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor recently, yarn has been put to a different kind of use.

A "yarn giver" has been leaving items for people to discover - or perhaps there are multiple "yarn givers."

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson recently spotted several parking signs draped with scarves.

The note attached to each scarf read "If you are cold take this."

When we came back to take a picture, one scarf was left.

And more than scarves are being left. Last month, my wife found a hat on a fence post along S. Ashley St.

Thinking someone lost it, she took a closer look to discover a note that read "FREE! Handmade wool and alpaca hat for YOU!" (photo in the slideshow).

The discovery totally lifted her spirit, and reminded her of the goodness in people.

Small gestures, either from "yarn-givers" or "layaway-payers," can be especially helpful in a world dominated by news of recession, conflict, and controversy.

Offbeat
4:43 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan to Wisconsin: Hands off our mitten image

The offending use of a mitten.
travelwisconsin.com

In a fight over mittens, the gloves have come off.

Michigan and Wisconsin are tussling over which state can rightly lay claim to using mittens in their public-relations and tourism campaigns.

Michiganders, who have long nicknamed the state’s lower peninsula “The Mitten,” for its similar shape to a hand, have taken good-natured umbrage to a new campaign launched by Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism, which uses a knit-brown mitten to represent the shape of the state.

Wisconsin began using the new image in tourism campaigns on Dec. 1, and tells the Detroit Free Press it follows up on an earlier seasonal campaign that used an image of a leaf shaped like the state in the fall. A Wisconsin Department of Tourism spokesperson tells the newspaper that people in Wisconsin consider their state mitten-shaped as well.

Dave Lorenz, who manages public relations for the state of Michigan, tells the Free Press that, “We understand their mitten envy. But there is only one mitten state, only one Great Lakes state.”

Offbeat
4:44 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Forget "high speed" trains, how about "mothership" trains?

The concept: A moving platform docks with a high speed train.
Priestmangoode

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in Michigan for high speed higher speed rail.

For that, we'll get trains that can travel 110 m.p.h. for much of the Detroit to Chicago trip.

A modest boost in speed is about as much as we can ask for given the state of our infrastructure (over the summer, some passenger trains in Michigan were ordered to travel at 25 m.p.h. because of the sorry state of the tracks).

One drawback to train travel is the number of stops along the way. Detroit to Chicago has stops in Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo, Michigan.

What if the train could just slow down around those stops?

Behold the "Moving Platforms" concept from Paul Priestman of the English design group Priestmangoode (bob head while watching):

O.k. - this pie-in-the-sky idea has been around for awhile. New Scientist magazine writes that they first featured an article about a similar idea in 1969.

Priestman told CNN that its valuable to throw off the chains and think big:

While Priestman admits that it will be some time before his vision could be implemented, he says the time has come to rethink how we travel.

"This idea is a far-future thought but wouldn't it be brilliant to just re-evaluate and just re-think the whole process?" he says.

But why not dream big?

Meet George Jetson while you think about it:

Read more
Offbeat
10:57 am
Wed November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Day ringtone, the sound of Narragansett turkeys

John Harnois gobbles to the turkeys and the turkeys respond in unison. We collected the sound for your phone.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Sometimes we collect some great sound for our stories.

Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams caught this sound of Narragansett turkeys gobbling and barking for her microphone.

Their timing is perfect.

As the farmer described them for Rebecca, they speak up at his disconcerting words. Have a listen:

("They're old time turkeys, much closer to wild. They don't have the broad breasts, so proportionally for eating..." *turkeys gobble in unison here* "...they have more dark meat to white meat.")

So, for your Thanksgiving enjoyment, here's a Narragansett turkey ringtone pulled from this Thanksgiving feature story:

To make the ringtone work, right click and download the MP3 file above.

Once you have it, you can send it to your phone. From WikiHow:

Send the file to your phone. Here are three ways:

1. Email the MP3 file to your phone as an attachment. In just a minute or so, your phone should receive your file. Your phone’s email address is your 10-digit number at your carrier’s email URL.

Example: 5555555555@company.net

AT & T: @mms.att.net

Sprint: @messaging.sprintpcs.com

T-Mobile: @tmomail.net

Verizon: @vzwpix.com or @vtext.com

Send a picture message or text message to your email account if your carrier is not listed. This will give you an address to reply to your phone.

2. Use Bluetooth technology to directly send files from your computer (at a short distance). This only works if you have a phone that is BlueTooth enabled and has the OBEX File Transfer Profile and it is also dependent on what kind of computer system you have.

3. Transfer the file by an USB cable (if applicable to your phone model).

Open the email on your phone, save the sound clip under message options, set it as a ringtone, and enjoy!

Offbeat
10:45 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Man stumbles upon $1,160, turns it in, now giving to charity

wikimedia commons

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported on the find by an attorney from Howell, Jules Fiani.

They report that Fiani found $1,160 in a white envelope outside of a Dairy Queen last May. He turned the found money into police, but when no one claimed it, the police returned it to him.

From the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Although Fiani could keep the money, he said, "It's all going to charitable organizations."

"It's found money and it's the right thing to do," Fiani said. "I wish I had more to give away."

The first $250 is earmarked for the Sheriff's Department's Shop With a Cop program, which pairs underprivileged children in the community with a police officer to shop for Christmas gifts.

"It's been really exciting dropping money off," Fiani said Thursday, noting that so far he's made donations to Make-A-Wish and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Offbeat
11:10 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Squirrel blamed in Grand Rapids for power outage

A red squirrel in Michigan.
Steve Burt Flickr

Colder weather means squirrels are looking for indoor homes and places to cache their food. Some are more aggressive in establishing their indoor domiciles than others.

From the Associated Press:

Officials at Consumers Energy are blaming a squirrel for knocking out electrical service to about 10,000 customers yesterday in the Grand Rapids area. The critter managed to get into a piece of equipment at a substation, briefly knocking out power.

Offbeat
8:56 am
Mon October 31, 2011

A warning to Ann Arbor residents this morning

A warning from Ann Arbor Road workers.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor residents were warned about a potential danger lurking around the city today.

These are likely the smaller, softer, and less dangerous versions of true velociraptors.

Be alert today!

Offbeat
11:30 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Phew! Space junk threat decreasing for United States

Space junk from a Delta 2 third stage, known as a PAM-D (Payload Assist Module-Delta), reentered the atmosphere over the Middle East and landed in Saudi Arabia, according to Space.com. The titanium motor casing weighed about 154 lbs.
NASA

You've probably caught wind of the space junk hurtling toward the earth's atmosphere.

If not, you can catch up on the story here: Your Friday Forecast: Sunny, with a 1-in-21-Trillion Chance of Getting Hit by Orbital Debris.

The latest projections from NASA: debris from the six-ton "Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite" (UARS) that survives re-entry is less likely to land in the U.S.

From NASA:

As of 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 100 miles by 105 miles (160 km by 170 km). Re-entry is expected late Friday, Sept. 23, or early Saturday, Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time. Solar activity is no longer the major factor in the satellite’s rate of descent. The satellite’s orientation or configuration apparently has changed, and that is now slowing its descent. There is a low probability any debris that survives re-entry will land in the United States, but the possibility cannot be discounted because of this changing rate of descent. It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 12 to 18 hours.

If you're one of the lucky ones that stumbles upon newly fallen space junk, NASA wants to make sure you don't touch it... you might cut yourself.

@NASA just tweeted - "Nothing radioactive on . Main reason NOT to touch anything that you think could be debris: sharp metal cuts."

Read more
Offbeat
12:07 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Hear dramatic readings of iTunes license agreement by Richard Dreyfuss

Actor Richard Dreyfuss (left) brings drama to the iTunes user agreement.
Mark Taylor Flickr

Our lives our busy. Who has time to read the myriad of license agreements tossed up on our computer screens by the websites we visit each day?

Well, now's the time to slow down, relax, and really take in the construction and word choice used in some of these documents.

Academy Award winner actor Richard Dreyfuss brings gravitas, a little crazy, and some Nazi to the 40-page iTunes end-user license agreement.

You can hear Dreyfuss ply his craft below (thanks to CNET).

Please read:

Your responsibility:

Damages:

Effective until:

Offbeat
5:09 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Airport in Sturgis, Michigan flooded by callers seeking tax advice

Search for IRS in Google Maps and you find the airport in Sturgis, Michigan.
Google Maps

Don't have the phone number? Just Google it.

That modern day phenomenon led callers seeking information from the Internal Revenue Service to accidentally dial a small airport in Sturgis, Michigan.

The FAA airport code for Kirsch Municipal Airport in Sturgis is "IRS."

If you type in a search for IRS on Google Maps, you'll get the airport's phone number.

Andrian Chen wrote about the mix-up on Gawker.com:

"The phone calls started two months ago, and it was just a trickle at first. Since then it's grown to a deluge of "20 to 50 calls a day" from people with tax questions, according to a weary-sounding office manager named Becky who took the time to talk to us this afternoon...

The calls haven't been a huge issue, Becky says, but she's getting sick of them. "It's just irritating," she said. "Most of them calling aren't the most intelligent, calling us at 7pm on the weekends. And it's like, do you seriously think the IRS is going to answer their phone at 7 on a Sunday?"

Becky will be glad when tax day ends at midnight tonight.

She may, or may not know, that if you need to file an extension, form 4868 is the paperwork you seek.

On the Radio
2:49 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

In case you missed it... April Fools Edition

user cpstorm Flickr

NPR has a tradition of releasing an April Fool's Day story every year.

They're not obvious about revealing the joke, so they end up fooling a fair number of people every year.

Morning Edition goes 3-D

Here's this morning story from "Jen Sands-Windsor" about people opting for eye surgery so they can improve their 3-D movie experience:

People were definitely fooled.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller said she was "hollering while driving about that stupid woman risking her vision for the sake of 3-D movies. Got me!"

And Facebook fan Barb said, "Boy, am I gullible! I was complaining to my husband about this crazy surgery. Guess I gotta keep my radar on today. :)"

And Jim West wrote about it on his blog - telling people to check the story out as a sign of the times:

When NPR reported this today I thought for sure they would end it with ‘April Fools!’- but they didn’t.  Which can only mean that people are getting crazier by the minute...What craziness rules these days.

Someone let Jim know it was a joke to which he responded, "i had that feeling but since they never ended with ‘april fools’ …. well, it’s npr. i trust them. im gullible."

Marketplace gets in the game

Our Facebook fan Brian W. pointed out another April Fools story from the Marketplace Morning Report.

David Brancaccio brought us this report "France's new measure of well-being: Boredom."

Brancaccio reported:

In addition to new measures of well-being in his country, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today there must be balance, calling for new, regular government surveys of public levels of "ennui," or boredom. Sarkozy said the intention is to "Keep France French" by insuring that Anglo-American-style happiness does not get out of hand.

Take a listen:

 

Here & Now producers get into the game with its Twitter Time story

The producers fooled host Robin Young with this fictitious story (it's wonderful to hear her surprise when she discovers the whole interview was a joke).

They set Young up to interview a radio station manager who was turning his airwaves over to Twitter as a way to attract a younger audience.

The Tweets, he tells Young, are converted to audio using special computer software.

Station Manager @smittyd tells Young it's "a world that is happening right now, Robin - not however many hours ago as the traditional media might report it."

From the Here & Now:

A small public radio station on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is taking social media to the next level. The station, WAFD-FM, in Pocomoke, Md. has turned over its airwaves to Twitter.

From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on weekdays, listeners will hear a constant stream of “tweets” to the station.

I hear Pocomoke is lovely this time of year.

Listen to Tweets turned to audio here. "You gotta develop an ear for it."

You can also hear the bleeped out tweets. The offending words are replaced with "NPR News."

On Here & Now's comment section Jesse wrote:

I'm thinking, "this is the dumbest idea I have ever heard." Then, boom! Ya got me!

NPR's True Gem

While we're at it, don't forget to pick up the wonderful 40th Anniversary CD collection of NPR's best funding credits.

Read more
Offbeat
2:39 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

FYI... "OMG" is now in the Oxford Dictionary... LOL!

Texting is influencing our language.
user kamshots Flickr

The culture of texting is making its mark on our language. There are some surprising new entries in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

From the Associated Press:

LONDON (AP) - OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary. The term - short for "Oh my God" - is one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book's latest online update.

Other Internet-inspired expressions given the stamp of approval include LOL, "laughing out loud"; IMHO, "in my humble opinion"; and BFF, "best friends forever."

The dictionary says that although the terms are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of "OMG" was in 1917.

The new update, released Thursday, includes "flat white" - a type of milky coffee - and "muffin top," defined as "a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers."

Some other gems making it into the dictionary include "FYI, and " WAG," according to CNN.com.

"WAG" is a new one to me, so I definitely fall outside of the Oxford English Dictionary's requirement "that the word is used and understood by a wide audience" requirement.

"WAG" is an abbreviation for "wives and girlfriends" used in reference to partners of soccer players - definitely a British thing.

It's a good thing LOL is now in the dictionary. Now confused parents can look up the meaning of the term before making a few glaring instant message faux pas.

For more on the confusion over "LOL," listen to the hilariously sweet story by Adam Gopnik from the Moth Radio Hour - you need to sign up for a free PRX membership to hear it, it's worth it! - the story comes at 13:08.

Offbeat
5:25 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Paczki photos (no calories if you just look)

Zingerman's Bakery enters the paczki world for the first time.
Mike Perini Michigan Radio

Our afternoon host Mike Perini sent along these Paczki photos in honor of Fat Tuesday.

He took them at Zingerman's Bakery and at Copernicus European Delicatessen in Ann Arbor.

Mike says feel free to enjoy these "zero calorie" photos!

Tomorrow, some lent recipes to counter those Fat Tuesday calories.

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