Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Summer Books 2004," July 3, 2004

Car trouble

Loaded gun? Check. Cash bag? Check. Bandana for mask? Check. Accused bank robber Knute Falk had almost all the details taken care of when he allegedly made his first heist. But when he stepped outside a Bank of America branch in Beaverton, Ore., to make a getaway with his impressive haul of $188,665, he noticed the detail he had forgotten. Mr. Falk had parked the getaway car too far away. He then returned to the bank and demanded keys from bank customer Steven Sturtevant. But when Mr. Falk couldn't figure out which key operated the car, he returned again to ask. By this time, police tracked down the transmitter in the stolen loot and arrested Mr. Falk just as he began his getaway. Mr. Sturtevant says Mr. Falk told him he would leave the keys under the front seat when he was finished with the car: "He was very polite."

Phone fanatics

In Bahrain, phone numbers are apparently becoming status symbols. The Agence France-Presse news service reports that a businessman who specializes in selling mobile telephone and license plate numbers is selling the number 9111119 for $13,200. The entrepreneur, Abdullah al-Hammadi, has sold about 5,000 high-status numbers since starting his business in 1988, including a license plate number for $74,000.

Dirty old man

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A Vietnamese man is going for a record that few would want to hold: world's longest hair. Tran Van Hay, 67, has not had his hair cut in 31 years-or washed in six years-and it is currently 20 feet long. If Guinness World Records confirms the length at 20 feet, Mr. Tran, who usually keeps his mane tied up in a scarf, would beat the current record by nearly four feet.

Whining at Winer

Thousands of bloggers, or online journal writers, are furious at blog pioneer Dave Winer, with one blogger calling him an "egomaniacal blowhard" and another accusing him of "blog murder." His crime: He decided last month to stop hosting 3,000 blogs on his servers - a service he had provided for free since 2000. He said time constraints and poor health prompted the decision, but that didn't stop a barrage of whining aimed at Mr. Winer. "I can't have 3,000 people who depend on me for free stuff yelling and screaming at me, saying, 'I need this now,'" he said. "I gave and I gave, and I paid a great price."

Den of robbers

Bangkok Buddhists apparently have more clout than American baseball fans. A Thai Buddhist monk drew the ire of locals when he sold corporate advertising space on everything from temple walls to ceremonial fans. Bowing to pressure, Prakru Uthaithamaret, head monk of Samiennaree temple, has agreed to remove the advertisements. "It does not violate any Buddhist rules," he said, "but if Buddhists say it is inappropriate, I will change it."

Hard cell

Perhaps Robert A. Hill just didn't apply enough grease. The West Virginia inmate earlier this year broke a window in his cell, greased himself, and tried to escape through the 6-inch opening. His head and arm made it through, but the rest of his body became stuck-for four hours as prison personnel tried to free him from the tight spot. As part of a plea agreement last month, Mr. Hill will spend 10 to 18 years in the jail-and he'll pay $3,500 to repair the damage to the cell.

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