Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Post-party election blues?," Nov. 6, 2004

Speech code

When in Rome, get a license before doing as some Romans do. The local newspaper Messaggero reports that authorities fined Giovanna Pizzorno $216 for "pointing out the historic and artistic beauty of the Trevi Fountain to a group of Italian tourists without authorization." By telling the group about the famous fountain, Ms. Pizzorno allegedly broke a 1985 law that bans unauthorized tour guides from describing Roman landmarks to tourists. The Reuters news service reports that undercover policemen patrol tourist sites looking for unlicensed guides and issue about 1,000 fines per year for violations of the law.

Mixed signal

Chris van Rossman of Corvallis, Ore., was watching television when rescue workers arrived at his home on Oct. 2. A satellite had picked up the international distress signal-a 121.5 megahertz beep-emitting from his home. He was fine, he told them, and he didn't own a boat or an airplane, the usual emitters of the signal, so the officials left. But they returned later that night when they had pinpointed the signal's source: Mr. van Rossman's Toshiba television set. "Their equipment was just bouncing everywhere as they turned it on and off," he said. Toshiba spokeswoman Maria Repole says the company will examine the set and give Mr. van Rossman a new one: "We have never experienced anything like this before at Toshiba."

Talk of the town

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Cell phones are like cigarettes at The Vineyard restaurant in Bentonville, Ark.: Some customers don't like being around them. So Vineyard management has designated what may be the nation's first "No Cell Phone" area for dinner customers. Customer Bo Landry says he likes the idea: "It's an interruption. It's loud. Normally you speak louder on a cell phone and it interrupts the peaceful atmosphere of a restaurant."

Power control

Customers last month began snapping up a new keychain remote that turns off most television sets in public places. A touch of the TV-B-Gone remote sets off a chain of about 200 infrared codes that turn off about 1,000 different television models. Inventor Mitch Altman of San Francisco says he received hundreds of orders the day after the $14.95 product was announced in Wired magazine: "I didn't know there were so many people who were into turning TV off."

Scrapbook crime

Voting had always been important to Marguerite Adams of Lancaster County, Neb. So daughter Carolea Adams thought she would request an absentee ballot with her deceased mother's name on it for a scrapbook. But the request looked like voter fraud to authorities, who on Oct. 20 cited Ms. Adams on suspicion of fraudulently attempting to get an absentee ballot, a Class I misdemeanor. Ms. Adams insists that she had no intention of voting with the ballot: "When you are in a state of grief, you don't think as clearly as you ought sometimes."

Husband hunting

Shanghai native Helen Zhou is taking an unconventional approach to finding a traditional man: mass advertising. Ms. Zhou, who lives in Sydney, Australia, has posted a large "Husband Wanted" billboard-complete with age, financial, and lifestyle requirements -in a Sydney suburb. Ms. Zhou, who spent $3,700 on the billboard, says she's looking for a frugal man, "an old-fashioned kind of guy, not one who spends every cent and doesn't worry about tomorrow."

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