The Odd Side – December 23, 2014

Worker Spends 90 Minutes Stuck In Mud Up to Waist

GREENLAND, N.H. (AP) — Fire officials say a fuel delivery worker in New Hampshire sank in soggy ground up to his waist and it took nearly 90 minutes to pull him back out.

Greenland Deputy Fire Chief Myrick Bunker tells the Portsmouth Herald that John Hanscom was filling a propane tank Wednesday when he dropped into the heavily saturated ground.

He was able to call his boss who got rescuers to the scene.

Up to 10 firefighters, using shovels and perched on plywood slabs, worked for nearly 90 minutes trying to free Hanscom from the muck that was 3 feet deep.

Bunker says every time a shovel load came out, another one slithered back in.

Eventually an excavator helped speed the rescue.

‘Nut Rage’ Gives Hawaii Macadamia Nuts a Boost

HONOLULU (AP) — A Korean Air Lines executive’s tantrum over bagged nuts in a first-class cabin is drawing enough attention to give Hawaii’s $38 million macadamia nut industry a boost.

Cho Hyun-ah, an airline vice president of cabin service and daughter of the company’s chairman, ordered a flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight from New York City after she was served macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a plate.

The incident, dubbed “nut rage,” imploded her career, embarrassed her family and led to an unexpected boom in sales of macadamias in South Korea.

Some producers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that’s also helping Hawaii, home to more than 700 macadamia nut farms and eight processing plants.

“Any type of publicity is good for the industry,” Hawaii Macadamia Nut Association President John Cross said. “Macadamia nuts are not well-known outside of Hawaii and the West Coast. If they were as well-known in the Central and Eastern U.S., there wouldn’t be enough nuts to supply demand.”

Almost all of Hawaii’s macadamia nuts come from the Big Island. They are also grown in Australia, Central America and South Africa.

“If anything should be served on a silver tray, it should be macadamia nuts,” Richard Schnitzler, president of Hamakua Macadamia Nut Co., said with a laugh, referring to the inflight outburst. “It’s a high-quality nut. It’s understandable how that can happen.”

Macadamias are now a household name in South Korea, and with curiosity about their taste piqued, sales are booming.

South Korea’s largest online shopping retailer, Gmarket, owned by eBay, said macadamia nut sales jumped 20 times from one week to the next earlier this month.

Japan Rations Fries as U.S. West Coast Port Dispute Drags On

TOKYO (Reuters) – McDonald’s Holdings Co (Japan) Ltd has embarked on the emergency measure of only offering small-sized french fries to customers, as a protracted labor dispute at U.S. West Coast ports has contributed to long delays in imports.

The fast-food chain said it was importing frozen fries by air through ports on the U.S. east coast.

Those steps alone, however, are not sufficient to prevent a shortage.

“Unfortunately without this sales restriction step, we would run the danger of running out of fries at some of our stores,” said company spokeswoman Kokoro Toyama.

Toyama said the company, which has 3,100 stores in Japan, was not placing any limit on the number of small-sized fries a customer may buy.

Japan is the biggest Asian market for U.S.-made frozen potato products, importing $336 million worth last year.

A U.S. Potato Board official said last week that said port jams have at least doubled transit times for shipments of french fries to Japan from two to four weeks.

Robot Flies to Germany as Airline Passenger From L.A.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A humanoid robot with a head, hands and feet and wearing stylish red sneakers boarded a flight for Germany at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday, becoming what was billed as the first robot traveling as a paid passenger on an airline.

The robot, named Athena, created a scene at the Tom Bradley International Terminal as she was pushed in a wheelchair up to the Lufthansa counter to pick up her ticket to Frankfurt. Camera flashes went off and people aimed their cell-phone cameras at her, exclaiming: “It’s a robot!”

Built by the Salt Lake City engineering and robotics company Sarcos, Athena was purchased by Germany’s Max Planck Society, which along with researchers at the University of Southern California are trying to make the robot perform tasks too dangerous for humans, such as cleanup after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan.

“We don’t want humans to go there and sacrifice their lives,” said Max Planck doctoral student Alexander Herzog, who was pushing Athena through the airport. “I would like to have a robot achieve the same task, such as opening up doors and cleaning up.”

Right now, Athena can do little more than sit and bask in attention. The software to make the legs move and to make the robot stand is still in the works, though the arms can operate and the mouth glows blue on a white head fitted with cameras and sensors.

The robot got an economy ticket but still received special treatment, including a cut to the front of the ticket line in the first-class lane.

And while Athena did not have to go through the regular metal detector, the Transportation Security Administration had a special electronic screening, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Suey Castles. “TSA didn’t want us to say what it was,” she said.

As for the flight, Athena was strapped into a seat like a regular passenger, but was put in the off position, accompanied all the way to her new laboratory home in Germany by Herzog and Jeannette Bohg, senior research scientist at the Max Planck Society.

Representatives for Lufthansa could not be reached for comment.

Athena could have been shipped in a big box like any other electronic gear, but the scientists “wanted to see how humans responded to a robot sitting in a plane,” said Castles.

Plus, added Herzog, “It’s cheaper to get a seat.”