Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Marathon man," Feb. 17, 2007

On the house

An elderly Pennsylvania man won big in a slot-machine game he didn't actually know he was playing. And his confusion probably helped him win $7.9 million on a high-stakes slot machine at Reno's Grand Sierra Resort casino. John Bromiley, 71, says he never would have been playing the machine if he knew he was gambling away $3.75 per spin rather than the 75 cents he thought he was spending. "To be honest with you, I had no idea how I was even playing the game," said the machine shop owner from Bucks County, PA. He thought they were just bringing him champagne to be nice.

Highway robbery

How do you know aluminum is getting expensive? When thieves begin stealing highway guardrails to resell the scrap metal. Crooks in Northern California are cashing in on stolen guardrails-sometimes at a rate of $3 per pound for the boosted metals. California's transportation authority reported that in one month thieves stole nearly 3,000 feet of guardrail, valued close to $90,000. The transportation authority says it will consider replacing the aluminum guardrails with cheaper, less alluring, substitutes.

Sealand for sale

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The list of investors interested in Spanish real estate firm InmoNaranja's top property may not be so long. How many people out there are looking to buy an old anti-aircraft platform in the North Sea with an asking price of close to $1 billion? But it's the amenities that make Sealand such a big-ticket item. For one, Sealand's purchaser wouldn't just be buying an old rusty platform off the coast of England, but rather a sovereign nation with its own passports, currency, and stamps. After a horrible fire this past summer, Sealand's founders and self-styled royal family decided to put the 5,900-square-foot micro-nation up for transfer (countries cannot be bought and sold, say Sealand's owners). Shady businessmen looking for tax shelters might be especially interested.

Light thinkers

How many California lawmakers does it take to change a light bulb? Apparently, more than 60. Some California lawmakers are proposing legislation to ban conventional light bulbs by 2012, but to do so they'll need to get the bill through the 80-member assembly and 40-member senate. "Incandescent light bulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," assemblyman Lloyd Levine said. Levine and his Democratic colleagues hope the law will not only force consumers to switch to more efficient (though more expensive) bulbs, but also spur manufacturers to improve their products further.

Playing with fire

Unaware of the seemingly self-evident dangers of trying to thaw frozen pipes with a blowtorch, a Rockland, Ontario, man caused fire to rip through the attic of an apartment complex when he lost control of his blowtorch. Residents of the complex had complained of frozen pipes in the attic. Quick action by local authorities helped contain to roof damage the destruction from the blowtorch folly.

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