Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Left behind," June 28, 2008

Send in the clown

A pair of Sacramento, Calif., thieves found nothing to laugh at when their attempted robbery was held up by a rodeo clown wielding a fake pistol. Kevin Powers was putting on his chaps and makeup for his clown job at the rodeo when he noticed two men prowling around his yard on June 1. Police say Hector Zavala and Lorenzo Cerecer were trying to steal Powers' only mode of transportation: his bicycle. Thinking quickly, and desperate to save his ride, Powers, in full clown regalia, grabbed his fake .44 magnum and confronted the men, jumping in front of their vehicle and acting out a Clint Eastwood-type routine. A neighbor called police.

Block art

Combining art, plastic toys, and civic improvement, one Italian artist has taken to the streets of a small village outside of Rome to fix the town's stone walls in an unusual way. Jan Vormann helped lead a team of artists and enthusiasts to patch gaps and holes in the village's walls with brightly-colored Lego construction toys. The Italian art group "20 Eventi" filled in the walls of Bocchignano, and hopes to complete similar projects in three other Italian villages.

Lovers' quarrel

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Mainers love lobsters. So does the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They just love the crustaceans in different ways. In June PETA sent a letter to Somerset County officials asking the county to lease part of the local jail to house a "Lobster Empathy Center." The center, PETA wrote, would "teach visitors to have compassion for these interesting, sensitive animals while also commemorating the millions of lobsters who are ripped from their homes in the ocean off the coast of Maine each year before being boiled alive." According to the Maine Lobster Promotion Council, "Maine lobster is sweet, succulent and delicious."

Life in the slow lane

Frustrated drivers on the Illinois Tollway say the lowered speed limits in construction zones are actually making driving more dangerous. Signs posted along large stretches of construction bear the 45-mph speed limit-an imposition that apparently few are following. In an email to the Chicago Sun-Times, motorist John Ripley, who drives through the zones at 45 mph, described the peril: "90 percent of the motorists in these areas hate me, tailgating to try to impose a faster speed on me, and/or cut around and then swerve in front of me to show they know better than to go as slow as I am." With law-abiding motorists claiming the $375 speeding tickets have provided little deterrence, state transportation officials are asking drivers to be patient as speeding tickets begin to mount.

Got your goat?

Lost your pet goat in Portland, Ore.? Authorities might have found your missing beast-wandering onto a bus. On June 2 a city bus driver was stunned when a 35-pound pygmy goat hopped through the vehicle's door and sped down the bus aisle. Thinking quickly, the driver closed the door, penned the animal, and called for help. Though it wore a nylon collar, workers at a local animal shelter could not identify the goat's owner.

Friendly fire

It seemed like a good idea at the time: After all, if the plans of average-sized humans can be thwarted by pepper spray, how much more effective could it be on a puny squirrel? That was the thinking of a Rochester, N.Y., man who tried to evict a squirrel from his home by spraying the animal down with pepper spray. But the squirrel's quickness helped it elude the spray, which instead forced the sprayer and four other inhabitants of the home to call paramedics after being exposed. Only after firefighters arrived to begin ventilating the home by opening windows did the squirrel finally scurry out the door.

No time lost

After 67 years, Teddy Bacon and his fine gold watch have been reunited-and both are still ticking along strong. Bacon watched his watch slip into the waters off of Gibraltar in 1941 while he threw a line from the HMS Repulse to the shore. Divers could not find the British lieutenant's watch at the time and he considered it lost. In 2007 workers dredging the harbor discovered the watch amid masses of silt. And, because Bacon also left an entry in the harbormaster's logbook with a description of the watch in 1941, workers knew whom to send it to. After traveling from previous address to previous address, Bacon's watch finally found him earlier this year. "Now I wear it every day and it keeps perfect time, even after all those years in the water," Bacon told the Daily Mail. "It is absolutely excellent and I consider it a long-lost friend."

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