Dispatches > The Buzz

Quicktakes

Issue: "Mel Gibson's passion," Feb. 28, 2004

eBay watch

How much is a phone number worth? If it's "867-5309," the name of a 1981 hit song by Tommy Tutone, it's apparently worth $80,700. That's how high bidding for the coveted number reached last week on eBay, with bids scheduled to continue into the weekend. Newsday reports that a New York attorney, identified only as "John," requested the number (with a 212 area code) from Verizon, and then put it up for sale on the popular internet auction site.

Verizon officials object to the auction, saying phone numbers aren't transferable. That may turn out to be a blessing for the highest bidder: John told Newsday that, even before he put the famous number up for sale, the phone line received regular calls from strangers, "mostly on weekends, mostly from people who are drunk."

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Moody travel companion

The Wobbegong sharks off the coast of Australia are known for tenacity, but one of them met his match in snorkler Luke Tresoglavic. The small, two-foot-long shark chomped into Mr. Tresoglavic's leg and refused to let go near a reef off Caves Beach. So the snorkler swam about 300 yards to shore where he says "a couple of people tried to help me, but I could not remove it." So he walked to his car, drove to a clubhouse, and walked in-all with the shark still biting onto his leg.

"He basically asked the question: 'Can you help me get it off?'" said lifeguard Michael Jones. "There's nothing in our procedure manual for that type of thing." The lifeguards finally forced the shark to loosen its grip by flushing its gills with fresh water, leaving Mr. Tresoglavic with 70 punctures from the shark's razor-like teeth. The Wobbegong sharks can grow to 10 feet in length and are described by marine experts as "moody."

eBay watch II

Does the Second Amendment protect the right to keep and bear a Navy F/A-18A Hornet jet fighter? If it does, there was one to be had last week for about $1 million (unassembled) on eBay. The plane once belonged to the Blue Angels aerial demonstration team and was listed on the site by Landa and Associates, a Washington state brokerage firm.

Mike Landa refused to identify the plane's current owner but told the Virginian-Pilot that he obtained it legally: "This thing obviously slipped through the system somehow." Mr. Landa said he received a visit from the FBI after he placed the jet's unassembled parts for sale on the internet auction site.

Caller ID

Madrid police called it "arrogance" and "a desire to be in the spotlight," but for whatever reason a Spanish fugitive helped authorities catch him when he called in a fake tip on a murder case to a TV crime program. Reuters reports that police officers tracked down the fugitive, who was wanted in six robbery investigations, when they tried to make a routine follow-up call to the caller. The man already has 44 previous robbery arrests on his record.

Name game

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering to give $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to the town of Slaughterville, Okla., if the city council will change the town's name to "Veggieville." The council planned to take up the proposal this week, but veggie burgers don't seem to be a meaty enough inducement for the Oklahomans: "We do not intend to change the name," town manager Marsha Blair told the Reuters news service.

Dopey questions

Teachers often try to relate lessons to students' lives-but not if their students are convicted criminals. The Arkansas Department of Correction this month reprimanded a math instructor who used imaginary units of cocaine and methamphetamine to test inmates' multiplication skills. Test questions included:

"Rico sells 422 rocks per week in four different territories. He wants to expand to seven different territories. If he continues to sell at the same rate, how many rocks per week will he sell in seven territories?"

"Jim Bob is cookin' crystal meth in his back yard." After giving the formula for meth, the test asked, "How many Sudafedrine pills must he mix with 2.8 quarters of ammonia?"

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