Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Red & blue all over," Sept. 23, 2006

Tech outfitted

Microsoft founder Bill Gates once complained about public schools in the United States. Now, a West Philadelphia school just opened with Microsoft's fingerprints all over it. At the Philadelphia School District's behest, the Washington state technology giant fully designed a public high school that opened its doors Sept. 7. For the initial class of nearly 170 freshmen, the school probably seemed confusing. Forget trapper keepers-each student received a laptop. And instead of blackboards, teachers used computer-interactive "smart boards." Kids heading to the locker between class don't need a memorized lock combination. Instead, the school issued swipe cards for the students. Word to the students: Don't look for the library. There's only wireless internet in aptly named School of the Future.

Bombs away

Now legal in Colorado: blowing up prairie dogs. In the past, landowners have been allowed to shoot at, poison, drown, and even vacuum up prairie dogs in an attempt to keep the pests from ruining crops. Now with clearance from the Colorado Wildlife Commission, angry farmers can go all Carl Spackler on the burrowing rodents with systems like the Rodenator Pro, which, at $1,900 ($2,600 with the official Rodent Assault Cart), uses the ignition of gases to collapse prairie dog tunnels. In an interview with the Denver Post, Sterling farmer Matt Fickes seemed excited. "I'm tickled pink," he said. "I've got prairie dogs so thick I can't see straight. . . . Ever see that Star Trek episode, 'The Trouble with Tribbles'? It's like that. They are born pregnant." (Actually, prairie dogs are born blind and without fur.)

Your brain on drugs

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Tennessee hardware store owner Edward Rowland no doubt thought he had a good business idea. But state investigators weren't amused when they busted Rowland for setting up an aisle devoted to selling ingredients used in manufacturing methamphetamines. And when Tennessee Bureau of Investigations officers took some popular meth-making ingredients to the cash register of his Quebeck, Tenn., store, Rowland even gave the officers some advice on making the dangerous drug. Prosecutors charged the 78-year-old man with promoting the manufacturing of meth-an act made illegal by Tennessee's recent efforts to combat rural meth manufacturing across the state.

Lost & found

A 62-year-old jogger who had been missing for four days probably needed a good long shower after being found alive in a swamp on the outskirts of Orlando. Rescue workers say Eddie Meadows was in good spirits when officials found him stuck waist-deep in a swamp. Besides the insect bites and the dirtiness, Meadows seemed no worse for his experience. "He said he slept a lot and stayed down in the water," volunteer rescuer Ron Eaglin told the AFP news service. "And he's been having to drink the swamp water."

California dreaming

Compared to one traffic jam in Hawaii, Californians have it easy. After a military vehicle clipped a pedestrian bridge on Honolulu's H-1 Freeway, Oahu commuters got stuck in a 14-hour traffic jam. Engineers actually had to knock down the bridge, which had been deemed too unstable for more cars to pass underneath. As a result, thousands of cars became stuck on the freeway during the deconstruction-with some drivers even deciding to sleep through the event in their cars.

Working like a goat

Caution-Goats at Work. Even though a number of goats continue to munch kudzu on a roadside on Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, Tenn., in efforts to control the leafy invader of the South, local officials said they plan on taking down signs warning motorists to slow down near the goats. Why must they go? The orange signs, which read, "Slow goats working," were placed by a rogue agent, not a legitimate transit official.

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