Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Africa: The new frontier," July 16, 2005

Ugly prize

For the third year in a row, Susie Lockheed can return to Santa Barbara, Calif., with a rather inauspicious award: Ms. Lockheed owns the world's ugliest dog. The pooch, Sam, a 14-year-old Chinese crested, is almost ugly beyond description. What the dog lacks in hair (and it has almost no hair) it makes up for in warts. Below its neck hangs a droopy fold of flesh, and Sam's smile is crowned by a set of snaggle teeth. The judges were said to have recoiled in horror at the sight. "People are always horrified when I kiss him. He may turn into a prince yet. He's definitely a toad," Ms. Lockheed said during the World's Ugliest Dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin fair. "I always thought he'd be great on greeting cards or on a commercial for Rogaine."

Terminal experience

It was possibly the longest layover ever. And all Kenyan Sanjai Shah wanted to do was become a British citizen. Last year, Mr. Shah bought a one-way ticket to the United Kingdom using his British Overseas Citizen passport, since he was born in Kenya during Great Britain's colonial rule. But once Mr. Shah, 43, arrived in England, UK officials banished him back to Kenya for having insufficient funds and no return ticket. Of course, Mr. Shah had bigger problems. When he left Kenya, the man renounced his Kenyan citizenship because of laws prohibiting dual citizenship. That left Mr. Shah a man without a country since May 2004-time he spent living in the terminal at Nairobi's international airport awaiting the time when British officials would grant him full citizenship. That time came July 12, when Mr. Shah was scheduled for a citizenship ceremony after more than a year of sleeping on airport benches, eating airport food, and bathing in terminal restrooms.

Just surfin'

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Robert Guinther of Killeen, Texas, got a bit more than he bargained for when he clicked through an internet link to enter what he thought was a low-stakes online poker tournament. Instead, Mr. Guinther, 65, had entered a World Series of Poker satellite tournament. But Mr. Guinther held his own against the big boys in the $100-entry-fee game, eventually working his way through 180 other players to win a spot at the 2005 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Glads & chariots

Some Jordanians, fond of Roman times, are bringing back gladiator games and chariot races, except without the death. After nearly 2,000 years, locals near the ruined city of Jerash north of Amman have begun dressing as Roman legionnaires and recruiting folks to fight tamed-down gladiator fights and compete in safer chariot races. Officials are even planning on a sort of gladiator games set to start in September. Jordan's King Abdullah II is scheduled to make an appearance.

Fish tale

Talk about a fish story: Will anyone believe Thai villagers who caught a Mekong giant catfish weighing 646 pounds? Villagers in Chiang Khong nabbed the 9-foot-long monster in the Mekong River. Now researchers say the fish, which died shortly after capture, is the largest freshwater fish ever caught. After the giant died, villagers butchered it for sale at the local market.

Time on his hands

Some people take up knitting. Others build model airplanes. According to media reports, Japanese psychiatric counselor Akira Haraguchi has parlayed his hobby (or passion) into an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr. Haraguchi, 59, recited from memory the mathematical value of pi to 83,431 decimal places. If true, the Japanese man would have broken his old record of about 54,000 digits. Of course, neither of Mr. Haraguchi's records has been verified yet by Guinness. After all, it must take some time to double-check 83,431 digits.

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