Dispatches > The Buzz

Quick Takes

Issue: "Reagan: Providential president," Feb. 7, 2004

Hill street clues

Postal workers in Elkins, W.Va., know their customers, not to mention their town's geography. A bookstore in Bridgeport last month wanted to notify resident Helen English that a book she ordered had arrived, but didn't have her street address.

A clerk remembered that Mrs. English said she lived on a hill, so the store addressed the postcard to "Mrs. English, On Top of a Big Hill, W.Va. 26241." The card arrived at its destination. Elkins Postmaster Francis Scott told the Reuters news service that local carriers know most of the town's residents: "If we get a name, we can find it if it's an old-time resident."

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Soft name, hard line

Mike Rowe isn't as soft as Microsoft officials once thought. The Canadian teenager found himself in a row with the software giant's lawyers when he registered the website www.mikerowesoft.com. Microsoft offered Mr. Rowe a paltry $10 to shut down the site, but Mr. Rowe took a hard line, arguing that he had a right to use his name.

The parties finally settled last month, but for much more than $10. Microsoft will not only pay the cost of Mr. Rowe's switch to a new site, it will also train him for certification on Microsoft products; provide him a subscription to the company's developer program website; give him an Xbox video game console with games; and bring him and his parents to Redmond, Wash., for an annual technology fair. Mr. Rowe says the outcome proves that "the small guy can win against the giant corporations."

Your brain on drugs I

Does smoking marijuana really kill brain cells? That may explain the actions of Iowa teenager Clyde Pace. When he entered the Polk County courthouse to face charges of drug possession and driving violations, a security guard asked Mr. Pace to empty his pockets for a routine inspection. Apparently forgetting the contents of his pockets, Mr. Pace complied, showing the guard, among other items, a small bag of marijuana.

"The person working the security post said, 'Hey, what is this?'" said chief deputy Bill Vaughn. Mr. Pace then "kind of gave that old I've-been-caught look, and the chase was on." The chase didn't last long, though. Attempting to flee the building, Mr. Pace trapped himself in a locked revolving door.

Lucky strikes out

Keith "Lucky" Stratton needs a new nickname. The convicted car thief's attempt to flee a work crew in Portland, Ore., last month failed when his jail-issued pants kept falling down, revealing the fugitive's pink underwear. A 911 call reporting a strange-looking man in pink underwear led police to a furniture store, where they collared Mr. Stratton, still struggling to keep his pants up. It wasn't Mr. Stratton's first thwarted getaway: Police found him hiding under dirty clothes and blankets in an apartment last April. The giveaway: His feet were poking out.

Your brain on drugs II

Marijuana also seems to have made a Canadian driver forgetful. Police pulled over an unidentified Newfoundland man on a routine traffic stop but the smell of alcohol made them suspect that he was driving drunk. The man said he could not drink because of medications he was taking, and he showed police two pill cases to bolster his argument. The problem: One of the cases contained four grams of marijuana. The man now faces charges of drug possession.

SARS superstition

Medical experts blame civet cats for the deadly SARS outbreak last year, but some Hong Kongers apparently believe that Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho is at fault. His mistake: Drawing an unlucky number during a Lunar New Year ceremony last February. The ceremony supposedly predicts Hong Kong's future. Bowing to public pressure, Mr. Ho declined to participate in this year's event.

Postal disservice

Sometimes the check really is in the mail. A customer several years ago insisted to Dean Little, a sales manager for a Pennsylvania ice cream company, that a check for $90.18 had been sent. The letter finally arrived last month, postmarked Aug. 24, 1998, and in an envelope bearing a canceled 32-cent stamp. "They weren't lying" said Mr. Little. "You wonder what happened to this, where it's been for six years."

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