Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Judicial filibuster deal," June 4, 2005

Over not-so-easy

Real worms. Battered. And fried. That was the menu for Conestoga Elementary School principal Ryan Lindquist after students at the Murray, Neb., school won a reading contest. Mr. Lindquist and the school's librarian challenged 294 students to read a total of 100 million words during this school year (roughly 340,000 words per student) and in return he would do something wild. Once the students reached the goal, the librarian, Jan Madsen, offered an idea from Thomas Rockwell's book, How to Eat Fried Worms. But somehow Ms. Madsen avoided the stunt. Mr. Lindquist was instead joined by a second-grade teacher (who suggested the worms would taste better if battered) and a Conestoga fifth-grader. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman even dropped by to fry the worms himself. But despite the governor's efforts, Mr. Lindquist needed help getting them down. His secret weapon? Teriyaki sauce and Grey Poupon.

Pest control

Forget the mosquitoes, what about the camel? A West Virginia woman painting a fence had a significantly larger pest to deal with than the average insect. Somehow-authorities haven't yet said how-a camel came by and sat on the woman, who was then forced to call 911 on her cell phone to be rescued. The 1,500-pound animal wasn't easily budged either. It took a team of volunteer firefighters and the landowner to move the beast. Showing West Virginia's unfamiliarity with the desert creatures, ambulance driver Brent Hicks delivered this understatement: "There is no protocol on something like this.

Perfect

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Little League has met its match: a little girl. New York 11-year-old Katie Brownell struck out all 18 batters in her six-inning perfect game against an all-boys Little League team from upstate New York. In two pitching appearances, Katie mowed down 32 of 33 batters on strikes. She's no slouch at the plate, either. Through the team's first three games, she's batting .714.

Record smoke

How many carcinogens are there in a 20-pound cigar? Gigantic cigar maker Patricio Pena may never find out. He doesn't smoke. But thanks to his 62-foot stogie, Mr. Pena has earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest documented cigar. It took Mr. Pena, a Dominican cigar-roller living in Puerto Rico, only 90 minutes and about 100 leaves to concoct his masterpiece. The feat was his 44th birthday present to himself.

ID, please

The British authorities who picked up a soaking wet man wandering in Southeast England on April 7 still have no idea who he is. What they do know: he won't speak to anyone, but will go to a piano to play and compose music. Authorities, who moved the "Piano Man" to a mental health facility, received about 700 phone calls and 150 e-mail tips trying to pinpoint the man's identity. A Polish mime living in Italy even suggested "Piano Man" was actually a French street performer he had known. But like all the other tips, the lead fizzled. Meanwhile, since the patient won't speak, he's being allowed to compose and play on a piano provided by a local tabloid.

Mellow and yellow

Some things left behind by a work crew constructing a chimney have caused quite a stir in Holliston, Mass. That's because the work crew was most likely a group of 19th-century contractors and what they left behind was a 193-year-old bottle of whiskey. The bottle was discovered by modern workers restoring the home and most of the bottle's label is now unreadable, but homeowners could make out "1812" as the date of the whiskey. The address, "opposite Faneuil Hall Market," referring to Boston's famous landmark, could also be read. A broken cork blocked the opening, protecting a very, very well-aged whiskey.

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