Paul Janssen's basement project was the nexus of his two passions: football and Legos. Recently the 42-year-old Ohio State professor put the finishing touches on a two-year project where he constructed a replica of Ohio Stadium made completely from Legos pieces. The Horseshoe, as Buckeye fans call the stadium in which Ohio State plays football, presented Janssen some challenges in creating curves with rectangular blocks. But he finished the 8-foot by 6-foot replica without any glue or cutting of pieces. And while his project has impressed friends-a civil engineering colleague admiringly called the project "insane"-his wife probably has a different view. "It's probably best I don't comment on that," she told The Columbus Dispatch.
Breaking and centering
Police in Boca Raton, Fla., say a burglar broke into a local apartment on Jan. 11 but didn't take the television. Or a computer. Or anything. Instead, police say the intruder broke into the apartment while no one was home and simply moved a couch and then left. Police have few leads about the identity of the redecorating intruder but suspect it may have been either an ex-girlfriend of the apartment dweller or a homeless person.
Rooms without a view
Wanting to travel on the cheap in China? You might consider the country's first "capsule hotel," which opened in January near the Shanghai Railway Station. The hotel features 68 cabinet-sized rooms (for men only) imported from Japan, a pioneer in the capsule hotel industry. The rooms may be small, but so is the price: about $10 for a 10-hour stay and about $13 for 24 hours. "This is a huge bargain," owner Ta Zan told the China Daily, "compared with other budget hotels in Shanghai."
Students in Daegu, South Korea, may like their new English teacher, but they won't be bringing her apples. That's because their English teacher is a robot. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology developed 29 robots to teach English at 21 of the city's elementary schools, hoping to help boost the nation's robot industry. The robots, which began teaching in late December, feature an avatar face of a Caucasian woman but are controlled remotely by teachers in the Philippines who can see and hear the students. Remote cameras also detect the faraway teacher's expressions and reflect them on the avatar's face. Daegu education official Kim Mi-Young told the AFP news service that the robots so far have been popular with students: "The kids seemed to love it since the robots look, well, cute and interesting."
Thirteen-year-old Walter Eikrem was walking home from school in the Norwegian town of Rakkestad when he encountered a pack of wolves, four to be precise. All alone in the sloping hills between school and his farmhouse, Walter remembered his mother's warning never to run away from wild animals, then realized he was not defenseless. Yanking out his earbuds, he blared Creed's Christian rock anthem "Overcome" from his cell phone, waved his arms, and yelled along with the music. The wolves turned and scampered the other way.
He was bitten by a snake, but before a South African man scurried off to a hospital, he captured the snake and stopped off at an animal clinic. Jean du Preez, a government education official, went to capture the snake after schoolchildren had discovered it in their classroom. As he was attempting to secure the reptile, it bit him on the finger. But du Preez says he was hoping that the snake was a non-venomous python-which is why he drove not to a hospital but to an animal clinic where the snake could be identified. That's when du Preez received bad news: The snake was a puff adder, Africa's most deadly snake. Thankfully for du Preez, despite his delay in finding medical help, the hospital he eventually reached had enough anti-venom to save his life.
With a total commitment to the tastiness of spuds, one Washington man has picked up an honor that should starch his pride. For eating potatoes, and only potatoes, for 60 straight days, the National Potato Council has named Chris Voigt its Potato Man of the Year. The trade group says the honor recognizes people who best represent the potato industry. Voigt, who heads the Washington Potato Commission, received the award during the NPC's annual meeting in Las Vegas in January.
Two thieves in Cologne, Germany, turned themselves in, but only because they didn't have much of a choice. The duo, whom authorities had not identified, allegedly broke into an office building during the weekend of Jan. 9 and wanted to get to a higher floor. They entered an elevator, which then broke down. After one of the thieves injured his hand trying to get the door open, they decided to call for help. "This sounds really dumb," one of the thieves reportedly told police using the elevator's emergency phone, "but I'm afraid that we wanted to break in and the elevator has gotten stuck." Firemen rescued the pair, who were promptly arrested.
A big headache
By allegedly trying quietly and painlessly to avoid a medicine recall, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has caused a self-induced headache. Oregon Attorney General John Kroger filed a lawsuit against the company on behalf of the state claiming that the drug-maker discovered in 2008 that some supplies of Motrin sold in gas stations and convenience stores did not dissolve properly. But Kroger says that instead of recalling the drug-and possibly creating a national panic-Johnson & Johnson hired contractors to go to every store that sold the defective products and buy every bottle off the shelf. According to the State of Oregon, the company missed more than 787 bottles of the defective pain reliever on shelves in the state, opening the company up to fines that could exceed $19 million.
Not so Niceville
A 911 operator in Niceville, Fla., got a call from a local 4-year-old boy who made an unusual request. The child claimed his father had "been very bad" and wanted the 911 operator to write a note to Santa Claus for him detailing his father's deeds. When asked by the operator what the father had done, the boy said, "When you're bad you get a big rock and you have to put it under your house." The operator sent an officer to the home as a precaution and found no problems.