Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "A few good men," May 6, 2006

Walking billboards

Every marketer wants to get attention, and the Dutch online reservations company Hotels.nl certainly succeeded with its latest strategy: the display of its corporate logo on blankets worn by roadside sheep. The International Herald Tribune reports that the company's sales are up 15 percent since it began advertising on sheep throughout the Netherlands last month, but officials in some locales are bleating. The town of Skarsterlan is trying to fine the company, a move Hotels.nl is fighting in court. "My first reaction was a smile; it is very creative," Bert Kuiper, the town's mayor, told the paper. "My second reaction is that we have to stop this. If we start with sheep, then next it's the cows and horses."

Spare the gavel and spoil the child

A Michigan teen angered the wrong man when he stole a Circuit Court judge's gavel. Judge Gene Schnelz sentenced Cameron D. Wells, 17, to 56 days in an Oakland County boot camp after the boy vandalized his court office and stole his gavel. The teen was in the courthouse to fulfill the requirements of a previous minor conviction for possession of alcohol. Mr. Wells' attorney asked for leniency. Judge Schnelz declined: "No, no favors. Quit whining and being a baby. You're 17 years old." The judge said "a little discipline" is all the young man needs.

Light touch

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Colombian police have a new ally in the nationwide effort to rid the countryside of hidden landmines. Authorities have been training rats to sniff out C-4, a powerful explosive used in the almost 100,000 explosives that litter Colombia after four decades of civil strife between the government and leftist rebels. Why rats and not, say, bomb-sniffing dogs? Rats aren't heavy enough to set the explosives off.

It's official: Hollywood is for the birds

They don't know her reasons, but they certainly want her to stop. Businesses and residents in Hollywood are fed up with a mysterious woman who has taken to pouring out several 25-pound bags of birdseed every day in 29 different spots in Hollywood's downtown. And with good reason. The massive amounts of seed the mystery woman dumps out make the area's vehicles and sidewalks prime targets for the birds' excrement bombs. The president of the local civic association, who says she's picked up empty seed bags left behind, estimates the unknown woman distributed 112 tons of birdseed last year in the area near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. Too bad for street cleaners: Authorities say she's done nothing illegal. "You can't paint over it. You can't wash it out with a hose because it turns into a muddy slurry that you can't send down the flood drain," said Dave White, a spokesman for the state's Department of Transportation. "So you shovel it out into bags or knock it to the ground and clean it up as fast as you can."

Long day's journey

It's a contest most Americans wouldn't want to win. But when auto services giant Midas went looking for the U.S. citizen with the longest everyday commuting drive, Dave Givens, 46, of Mariposa, Calif., turned up a winner. Mr. Givens said his 370-mile round-trip commute from his home to his workplace in San Jose affords him the lifestyle he desires. No word on how seven hours in the car every weekday is part of that lifestyle.

Life stinks . . .

. . . for Mac and Meg McCormick of Charlotte, N.C. At least their house does. Nearly 3,000 gallons of raw sewage flooded the couple's home after city workers botched an attempt to fix a grease clog in a sewer line. Fear not, McCormicks. Charlotte city authorities promised to pay for a hotel and all cleanup and repairs to the home and furniture (up to an estimated $150,000). "We feel we have no choice but to put our trust and faith in the hands of the city," Meg McCormick said. "And I'll be honest, that's a little scary."

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