Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Schiavo’s fight for life," April 2, 2005

Hide and seek

An annoying bit of help may be on the way for those who have difficulty waking up in the morning. New Scientist magazine reports that scientists at MIT have developed a mobile alarm clock, named Clocky. When a sleeper presses the snooze button, the clock rolls off the table and migrates to a different part of the room. "When the alarm sounds again," says New Scientist, "simply finding Clocky ought to be strenuous enough to prevent even the doziest owner from going back to sleep."

Rich man, poor man

He may not dress the part, but Fidel Castro is one of the richest people in the world, according to Forbes. The business magazine estimates the Cuban dictator's net worth at $550 million, but the Cuban government insists that he's jus' plain folks. Cuba's Mexico Embassy called the estimate "a clumsy slander repugnant example of a campaign of lies perpetuated by the United States with the sole aim of justifying the criminal blockade of Cuba." Mr. Castro says he may try to sue Forbes.

Money for nothing

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A Zimbabwe businesswoman's imaginary friends were invisible, but they at least had good taste. Magrate Mapfumo told a court last month that she paid $5,000 to fly invisible mermaids to her hometown to help her find a stolen car and thousands of dollars of loot. Zimbabwe's Shona believe in mermaids and that they have the power to enchant and bedevil wrongdoers.

Apparently Ms. Mapfumo began to doubt her mermaid broker when she doled out cash for expensive hotel rooms for her invisible allies. "I asked about the names of the mermaids, and I was told they were called Emma, Charmaine, Sharvine, Bella, and a fifth one who was said to be an Arab mermaid," she said. Her broker, local musician Edna Chizema, is on trial for theft by false pretenses.

Reasonable demand

The Reuters news service reports that a 19-year-old paying passenger on a Tokyo bus last week threatened to hijack the vehicle unless it took him to Haneda airport. The driver had no problem complying: He was driving an airport bus that was on its way to Haneda. Police say the youth, whom they did not identify, was drunk and unarmed.

Professional dancer

Stu Hemesath of La Porte City, Iowa, asked Rachel Kay of Cedar Falls, Iowa, to her prom. He had to; she was the highest bidder. Stu, a high-school senior, offered himself as a prom date on eBay, and he received bids from as far away as Alaska. Rachel, however, won with a bid of $29.95. "I thought his write-up was pretty funny," said Rachel, who added that she bid on Stu in order to make her boyfriend jealous. "He says he's a wrestler, so that's good."

Devil in the details?

Michigantown, Ind., pet store owner Bryan Dora thinks he's seen Satan's face. In fact, he thinks he sees it every day. Mr. Dora says he can make out an image of lips, eyes, a goatee, shoulders, and pointed horns on the shell of a turtle, the only surviving animal of an October fire at the store. Mr. Dora says the image wasn't there before the fire: "The marking of the shell was like the devil wanted us to know he was down there."

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