Real snail mail
By air or by sea, the mail will be delivered. As a 6-year-old 15 years ago, Natsumi Shirahige of Japan let loose a handwritten letter inside a red balloon near her Kawasaki, Japan, elementary school in 1993. On Jan. 31, a fisherman found the letter stuck to the side of a flatfish he hauled up from 3,300 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean some 90 miles away from its launch point. In the letter-still legible after more than a decade at sea-Shirahige asked for a reply and left the address for her school. The fisherman did just that. "I can't get over the wonder of how the letter survived 15 years. I never expected I'd get a reply this way," Shirahige, now 21, told the AFP news service when her letter was finally returned.
Paying a price
The environmentally conscious Canadian government has urged its citizens to conserve water. But now that enough citizens have listened, city officials in Toronto are learning that when the faucet turns off, the city's water works gets soaked in red ink. Armed with low-flow shower heads and toilets, Toronto residents used 11 percent less water in 2007 than they did in 1988. To make up for shrinking receipts from water usage, the city has instituted a 9.4 percent increase in water prices. "Conservation is killing us," one public works official, tasked with rebuilding an aging water infrastructure with declining revenue, told the Toronto Star.
Now thirsty loners in Carlisle, Pa., will have someone besides a bartender to share their troubles. Pastor Chuck Kish of the Bethel Assembly of God church organized a squad of chaplains to hit the town's bars to minister to inebriated lonely souls. "Some people may think this would be a strange place to find a chaplain," Kish said. "We're simply going to be there to help anybody who wants it. Sometimes people really just want somebody they can talk to who is not going to be judgmental, but be sympathetic."
While some 10-year-olds were asking for Xbox 360s for Christmas, fourth-grader Forest Pearson begged his parents for a 30-gallon air compressor. With the compressor, a pressure washer he saved for from his allowance, and some ingenuity, Forest finally completed a snow machine he's used to turn the backyard of his West Linn, Ore., home into a private ski slope. The contraption created by the young engineer made 3 feet of snow in just one night using the same principles employed by major ski resorts. "We're past toys," mother Elizabeth Pearson said. "We're into air compressors and spray nozzles."
Sometimes it's not easy being trendy. In the case of raw jeans, the pursuit of the perfect denim may involve reaching for a bottle of Febreeze every day for six months. Several jeans companies are now selling pairs of blue jeans made from unwashed, untreated raw denim that come with instructions not to wash for the first six months of wearing. According to the makers of raw jeans, wearing the pure denim without washing will not only preserve the color, but also acclimate the fabric to its wearer's proportions and routine. "With women, it's a hard sell," said Karen Mascavage, a retailer interviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "They want to put it on and look like a million bucks right away. They don't want to work for it." Besides the smell, Mascavage noted that the initial rough fit of the raw denim means men buying the jeans won't actually be wearing pants at first: "They wear you for the first two weeks."
Not enough Smurfs
When trying to nail a world record, it's probably best to know your target number. After some cursory internet research, Smurf-enthused organizers in Croatia falsely assumed the world record for most Smurfs gathered in one location to be just under 300. But when organizers of the record attempt submitted the snapshot of 395 blue-and-white painted participants to the Guinness Book of World Records, officials with Guinness informed them they were about 55 Smurfs short of the official record set by Warwick University students in the United Kingdom last year.
For Cpl. Frank Holden's last act as a police officer after 26 years on the force, he took a stroll through the station's parking lot ticketing police vehicles with expired registration stickers. The former Middletown, N.J., cop said he was just doing his job-but admitted he was retiring because he had disagreements with the chief of police. Each of the 14 tickets Holden wrote carries fines up to $200.
Perhaps Ann Marie Linscott thought she was logging into Craig's Hitlist. The FBI alleged that Linscott, a 49-year-old Michigan woman, put an ad on the Craigslist website seeking a hit man to kill a northern California woman. According to the FBI, Linscott sought to have the woman killed so she could pursue a relationship with her husband-a man she met online through a dating service. "I've seen some screwy things, but I've personally never heard of a person [trying] to advertise openly for a hit man on Craigslist," said Drew Parenti, special agent in charge of the Sacramento FBI office. According to the court documents, Linscott offered $5,000 for "the eradication task."
One too many
Nine lives. Five legs. One cat in 84. It's not the odds, it's just the situation of one stray kitty named Babygirl in Eighty-Four, Pa., that was dropped off at an animal shelter in the southwestern Pennsylvania town on Jan. 19 by a concerned citizen. Now veterinarians plan to practice addition by subtraction when they operate on Babygirl to remove not just the extra leg, but also a lame one.
How bad is the housing crunch in the ski resort town of Vail, Colo.? Just peek inside the local newspaper, the Vail Daily. With resorts and hotels adding hundreds of jobs this year, the paper's classifieds section has become cluttered with up to seven full pages of help-wanted advertisements for low-wage service positions-and just five available housing listings that included two ads for houses carrying a $5,000 charge for monthly rent. "We have some ratio issues," admitted town housing coordinator Nina Timm.