Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "Soldiering on," May 27, 2006

Gnome phone home

Ed and Patricia Larkin's yard art used to stand guard over their lawn. Now their 300-pound cement gnome is roaming-presumably not alone. The Larkins, of Milford, Mass., say bandits stole "Shamus," their giant gnome, right out of their front yard. Mr. Larkin's statue was a gift from his wife on his 70th birthday. "On a global scale, it's silly for us to be so upset. . . . There are much more serious problems being faced by people," Mrs. Larkin told the Milford Daily News. "But when I came home from work the other night, I could not believe my eyes. Shamus was not there. I went into the house screaming, 'Shamus is gone! Shamus is gone!' It was like losing a child."

Food for thought

Only in Europe: When Danish college students wanted to protest against a reduction in government grants for higher education, they protested in a way that must make sense to someone, if only the protesters themselves. Their method? Dump 440 pounds of cooked spaghetti (and tomato sauce) on the steps of the finance ministry in Copenhagen.

Pennies at the pump

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If Americans only knew what Caracas, Venezuela, cab driver Jaime Tinoco pays to fill up his 1976 Chevy Nova every day. The cost to pump up his 19-gallon tank-$2.30. It must be nice to fill up for 12 cents per gallon, the lowest gas price in the world. "Those gringos have everything-so why does their gas cost so much?" asked Mr. Tinoco. "Don't they have oil reserves?"

Feeding time

Thanks to Dennis Russian, Lake Erie has one less oddity. While fishing the Pennsylvania shoreline, the New Alexandria man nabbed a 49-inch carp that weighed in (unofficially) at 54 pounds, 4 ounces. Mr. Russian, who brought in the giant carp on a fiberglass arrow, will hold the Pennsylvania record for largest carp caught if officials authenticate the catch. After the official weigh-in, Mr. Russian has plans for the fish: "It was an ugly, yellow-bellied thing. Makes good raccoon bait," he said, adding that he'll "chop it up and feed it to the skunks and possum. It's good for the ecology."

Don't ask, don't tell

Gas can be 35 times more expensive in Beverly Hills, Calif., than in the oil-rich nation of Venezuela (see "Pennies at the pump"). But don't tell that to Michele Best, a Beverly Hills resident and patron of a gas station who on May 10 pumped gallons of $4.299 premium gasoline into her Cadillac Escalade. Spurred higher by emissions standards and state taxes, gasoline cost, on average, 42 cents more per gallon in California on May 10 than the national average. Not that Mrs. Best knows: "I don't even look at the price," she told the Reuters news service. "Don't tell my husband."

'Getting old'

Johnny Lechner's never-ending college career will come to an end someday, but just not yet. Even though he has amassed 234 credit hours (over 100 more than he needs to graduate), Mr. Lechner, now 29, isn't ready to graduate. The perpetual student will work in his 13th year as an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater by studying abroad. His status as old-man-on-campus was novel at first. Now it's just creepy. "It's getting old," said Michelle Eigenberger, the editor of the student newspaper. "For the sanity of the rest of the campus, we want him to get out of here."

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