Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 2004," Dec. 11, 2004

Of mice & mammon

A thief was stealing euro bills almost every night last month from a shop's cash register in Villach, Austria, and no one could figure out the identity of the bold robber. Police interviewed employees but didn't turn up any leads. So the owner, whom authorities did not identify, installed a video camera and caught the perp red-handed: A mouse was taking the bills, chewing them up, and using them for nesting materials.


Can't decide what to get the new mother who has everything? The Reuters news service reports that a South Korean company for the past several months has offered to gold plate umbilical cords cut from newborn children. The company, U&I Impression, has sold about 80 to 100 gold-plated cords a month to parents since August for between $76 and $96 per cord. Another company, Agamo, preserves umbilical cords for parents in personal seals. Agamo executive Suk Tae-jin said the service was a response to pent-up demand: "The company got the idea from mothers just storing umbilical cords and navels in an album or what-not."

Buying on a budget

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Christmas gift givers with a $90 million budget can buy loved ones a 17th-century English estate and village. Or they could go cheap and spend $4.5 million on a natural gas-powered sea-air-land hydrofoil, $320,000 for a Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster, or $250,000 for an armored Humvee with a hot tub and nine television sets. All these items made it into the annual gift guides for duPont Registry and Robb Report magazines. Among other gift ideas: a $12.5 million Faberge chess set; a five-person, $338,700 fly-fishing trip in Wyoming and Alaska; and a $15,000 golf cart. Personal jets once dominated well-to-do gift guides, but not this year. "Planes are passé as gifts," said duPont Registry publisher Tom duPont. "Everybody's got one."

Circle of life

For New Zealander Rob Howes, dolphins are man's best friend. Mr. Howes, his daughter, and two friends were swimming off New Zealand's northern coast on Oct. 30 when a group of dolphins began herding them together "by doing tight circles around us," Mr. Howes told the Northern Advocate newspaper. Mr. Howes and lifeguard Matt Fleet (in a nearby lifeboat) didn't realize what the dolphins were doing-until they saw a great white shark coming toward the swimmers. The dolphins apparently had made the formation to repel the shark, and it worked. The shark swam away, and the swimmers made it safely to shore. "They had corralled us up to protect us," said Mr. Howes.


Chicago-based LifeGems says it has "the most unique memorial product ever invented." Over the past three years, the company has crafted nearly 1,000 synthetic diamonds for relatives of deceased persons-made out of the remains of the deceased. Using eight ounces of human ashes, the company will fashion a quarter carat diamond for about $2,500 and a full carat diamond for about $14,000. Dean VandenBiesen, LifeGem's vice president of operations, says coffins and urns cannot match the "closeness and mobility" of a LifeGem.

Inn season

There will be room at the inn for Mary and Joseph this year-any Mary and Joseph. Britain's Travelodge hotel chain is offering a free night's stay over Christmas to any couple that can prove their names are Mary and Joseph. "Our hotel is definitely more comfortable than a stable," said Sandy Leckie, manager of the Travelodge hotel in London's Covent Garden. "I just hope they don't bring their donkey."


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