Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

It's a small world

According to Microsoft, the fabled Six Degrees of Separation theory holds water. After studying 30 billion computer instant message conversations among 180 million people, Microsoft found just 6.6 degrees of separation between any two users of its Microsoft Messenger instant message program. In essence, any two random people in the Microsoft survey were separated by a string of just 6.6 acquaintances on average. "To me, it was pretty shocking. What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity," Microsoft researcher Eric Horvitz told The Washington Post. "People have had this suspicion that we are really close. But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore."

A true fat cat

Princess Chunky has a new name. Or rather, an old one. Moreover, the she is actually a he. The 44-pound stray cat earned national fame when it appeared with an animal shelter employee on Live With Regis and Kelly on July 31, less than a week after being found wandering through a Voorhees, N.J., apartment complex. After the cat's appearance, a southern New Jersey woman stepped forward and claimed she was forced to abandon the cat when her home went into foreclosure. The cat's former owner cleared up something else: Princess Chunky is actually a male named Powder. Show host Kelly Ripa probably doesn't care: "We in the media love a 44-pound cat," she said. If Powder can gain two more pounds, he could become the fattest cat on record, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Political pooch

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Calling all Yellow-Dog Democrats: Willie Bean Rosco P. Coltrane needs your vote. A pet owner in Fairhope, Ala., has put her 7-year-old Golden Retriever up as a mayoral candidate in the coastal Alabama city of around 12,000. Having missed the official candidate deadline, Willie Bean doesn't have much of a chance in the crowded seven-man, one-dog race. But dogs have been elected mayor before: In 2004, Rabbit Hash, Ky., elected a black Labrador retriever as its mayor. Owner Tress Turner said she put her pooch in the election after being dogged by customers at her coffee shop about who she was supporting in the anticipated contest.

Easy collar

Call it an arrest wish. A Plant City, Fla., man repeatedly phoned 911 telling the operator he had a warrant out for his arrest and that he would wait by the pay phone for a cruiser to pick him up and take him to the station. Problem: 47-year-old Peiter Vanvliet had no arrest warrant. But after repeated phone calls, a sheriff's deputy drove over to the pay phone to arrest Vanvliet for misuse of the 911 phone system.

Baseball block

It's no secret China's repressive communist government blocks numerous websites that could fuel dissension amongst the proletariat. Internet surfers in China won't be able to access pictures of Tiananmen Square or read up on the Falun Gong-both taboo subjects in China. But Rocky Mountain News reporter Daniel Oshinsky made an odd discovery while browsing the web on assignment to cover the Beijing Olympics: China also bans the baseball blog FireJoeMorgan.com. Visitors to the baseball site won't find criticism of the communist government. Instead the site began as a lampoon on the ESPN baseball commentator who derided the use of statistical analysis to evaluate players. "Maybe they're against those who lurk in their mother's basement, thumbing through the dusty box scores in old editions of Sporting News," Oshinsky mused on his newspaper blog.

Weed killer

Thanks to the patient plodding of a box turtle and the diligent tracking of a National Park Service employee, U.S. Park Police in Washington, D.C., uncovered a small garden of marijuana plants and its teenage tender. The park employee had rigged a small box turtle with a GPS device to track it as it wandered through Rock Creek Park. Along its way, the turtle stumbled upon a marijuana farm, which the employee then discovered. Park Police put surveillance on the site until they found 19-year-old Isiah Johnson tending the illegal plants. The Maryland teen faces charges of possession with intent to distribute.

Skirt chaser

Letter carrier Dean Peterson isn't Scottish, but he's on a campaign to make the classic fashion for male Scots-the kilt-a uniform option for Postal Service employees. "In one word, it's comfort," Peterson told the Associated Press. The letter carrier, who weighs in at 250 pounds, says slacks chafe against his thighs. Last month at his union's convention he made the case for the kilt option: "Please open your hearts-and inseams-for an option in mail carrier comfort!" But the union decided against a kilt resolution. Now he's trying to convince management that he'll be a better worker in a kilt. "It's the difference," he said, "between wearing jammies to bed and wearing your work clothes to bed."

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