Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Elephant in the room," Nov. 3, 2007

Pests for the best

To draw new students, the University of California, Riverside, says it will try out a petting zoo at a Nov. 3 recruitment fair for local high-school students. But the university plans to have only one animal available for petting: cockroaches. University officials say the fair is geared to future science teachers and engineers who may not be completely grossed out by the idea of petting roaches. Even so, school representatives plan to have plenty of rubber gloves at the ready.

Fashion blends

Just imagine what the Japanese will come up with if the island nation is struck with an actual crime wave. Despite a declining crime rate, some ever-vigilant Japanese are getting creative in warding off what street crime remains. Fashion designer Aya Tsukioka has her own method: a questionably fashionable red skirt that unfolds to create a life-sized vending machine doppelganger. By stepping to the side of the street, a woman fleeing from an assailant could instantaneously blend in with Japan's urban scenery. Tsukioka says the camouflage garments-including a children's backpack that unfolds to look like a fire hydrant-present more plausible solutions to street crime than, say, pepper spray. "It is just easier for Japanese to hide," Tsukioka told The New York Times. "Making a scene would be too embarrassing."

Slow going

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German police had no troubles catching up to a thief who had earlier stolen some cheese from a local supermarket in the town of Limbach-Oberfrohna. The construction worker nabbed enough cheese for lunch but apparently didn't think through his getaway. After leaving the store, the bandit jumped back into his cement mixer and attempted to roll away from police who quickly captured him a few hundred yards away.

Wrong place, wrong time

According to Bayonne, N.J., firefighters, the explosion that destroyed Lindsay Millar's 2006 Toyota Camry only seemed like spontaneous combustion. Firefighters told Lindsay and her brother Tony that the fire and subsequent explosion was actually caused by a squirrel that chewed through a power line directly above the car, dropped from the sky engulfed in flames, bounced off the car, and slid into the engine compartment and caught the entire vehicle on fire. "It's something to laugh about once she has a new car," her brother said. But not for the squirrel, of course.

Getting their goats

Following the lead of Chattanooga, Tenn., a California neighborhood recently turned to goats to combat a local eyesore. In Tennessee, authorities used goats to munch up kudzu. Residents of the upscale San Francisco neighborhood Corona Heights say they are happy with the way the rented goat herd has been able to run off homeless folk who strayed too close to their million-dollar homes. The goats didn't attack the vagrants, but the animals did eat all the brush the homeless used to hide behind. Without the cover, residents say they just moved on.

Four-wheel felon

Frank Morello didn't buy the excuse. The Freedom, Maine, resident stopped near his home on Oct. 18 when he saw a man attempting to pull a pickup truck out of a ditch with a four-wheeler; the stranger explained he had borrowed the four-wheeler from a neighbor. Problem: The all-terrain vehicle belonged to Morello. He played it cool and returned to his nearby home only to discover that the stranger had not only taken his four-wheeler, but also rummaged through his home for valuable jewelry and coins. When Morello returned to the ditch with a .22 caliber pistol, the stranger had fled and left behind a pickup full of Morello's valuables. Derek Creasy of Knox, Maine, later turned himself in to authorities and admitted to the crime.

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