A Verizon risk team, looking for data breaches on a client’s computers, discovered that one company software developer was basically idle for many months, yet remained productive — because he had outsourced his projects to a Chinese software developer who would do all the work and send it back. The employee earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, according to a January Los Angeles Times report, but paid the Chinese worker only about $50,000. The risk team eventually learned that sensitive company information was flowing to and from Chinese terminals, leading the company to suspect hackers, but that traffic was merely the U.S. employee (obviously, “ex-employee” now) sending and receiving his workload. The U.S. man showed up for work every day, but spent his time leisurely web-surfing.
The entrepreneurial spirit
n One of Britain’s most famous “madams” announced in January that she was coming out of retirement to set up a brothel exclusively catering to disabled people and the terminally ill. An ordinary brothel would be illegal in the town of Milton Keynes (45 miles from London), but Becky Adams insists that the government could not shut hers down without illegally discriminating against the disabled.
n In January, the Japanese marketing firm Wit Inc. began hiring “popular” young women (judged by the extent of their “social network” contacts), at the equivalent of $121 a day, to walk around with advertising stickers on their thighs. (The stickers would be placed on the erotic “zettai ryouiki” — the Japanese mystical area between the hem of a short skirt and the top of long socks.) The women must be prepared to endure men hovering closely to read the ads.
n According to news reports in November, New York City physician Jack Berdy was doing a brisk business administering Botox injections (at up to $800) to poker players who were hoping to prevent facial expressions that might tip their hands.
n London’s The Independent reported in January that Dean Kamen (who famously invented the Segway, a standing, battery-powered scooter) had developed, along with a Pennsylvania medical team, what appears to work as a “reverse feeding tube” that will vacuum out up to 30 percent of any food in the stomach before it is digested and converted into calories. After installation of the stomach “port,” the diner could operate the device without daily medical help.
n The Polish cosmetics company Inglot announced in January a nail polish ideal for Muslim women, in that it can withstand the five-times-daily hand-washing required for prayers. (Normally, devout women wear nail polish only during their menstrual periods, when the hand-washing is not required, but polish thus signals menstruation and therefore embarrasses modest women.)
Advance in animal research
n Scientists from Sweden’s Lund University, reporting in a recent issue of Current Biology, explored the burning question of why dung beetles appear to be “dancing” on the tops of the dung balls they roll away. The answer is that the beetles need to roll their treasures away from the heap as quickly as possible (lest competitors swipe them) and that they can best maintain a straight line away by celestial navigation. To test the hypothesis, researchers actually outfitted some beetles with tiny visors to block their view of the sky, and those beetles mostly rolled their balls in irregular routes, whereas the sky-searching beetles moved in straight lines.