Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

Twitter twit

Always seemingly one step behind Western culture, the famously eccentric and Western-culture obsessed North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il is now on Twitter, the social networking website. Officially, the account is linked to the government of North Korea over which the Asian tyrant presides. So far, the account's activity has been limited to official missives from state run media. As of June 11, the North Korean Twitter had accumulated 2,600 friends and 2,500 followers.

Money makers

Turns out, few are really smarter than a fifth-grader. That is, if the discussion centers on the financial smarts of a group of Tullar Elementary students in Neenah, Wis. Teacher Tim Hopfensperger helped a number of fifth-graders double their money in a fictional stock trading program known as the Stock Market Game. Investing exclusively in beleaguered financial companies like Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase & Co., Hopfensperger's best fifth-grade team grew a fictional $100,000 portfolio into $203,416 during the 10-week program that ran from Jan. 26 to April 3. Competing mainly against high school students in the educational program, the Tullar fifth-graders placed first and second in the statewide competition of nearly 1,500 teams. So how do these Oracles of Neenah compare to the investing professionals? The fifth-graders outperformed the S&P 500 by 94 percent during the time period.

Survey says: Canada

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The people of the world have spoken, and they yearn for Canada. According to a global poll taken by Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, the nation sometimes derisively called the "United States' Hat" took first place when respondents were asked this question: "I would like to visit this country if money were no object." Xiaoyan Zhao, a senior vice president of the firm, explained it this way: "[It] surprised a lot of people, but Canada has a lot going for it. . . . Canada doesn't have glamorous cities like Paris or London or Rome. But Canada was ranked No. 1 for natural beauty." The United States placed 10th in the survey of 50 nations.

Top 5 most-desirable destinations:
1. Canada
2. Italy
3. Australia
4. Switzerland
5. France

Top 5 least-desirable destinations:
1. Iran
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Nigeria
4. Estonia
5. Lithuania

Bright and healthy

Yellow lobsters are reportedly a one in 30 million rarity, and one of the orange and yellow creatures currently resides at Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham, Mass. Owner Nathan Nickerson says a friend caught the lobster, nicknamed Fiona, off the coast of Canada and gave it to him. Experts say the bright colors sported by yellow lobsters make them easy targets of predators, but they're proving to be Fiona's salvation: Nickerson told the Associated Press that boiling and serving this lobster would be like steaming a Rembrandt.

Law unto himself

Signs used by a property developer in Tarpon Springs, Fla., worked well-perhaps too well. In a report released in June by city officials, developer Mike Bronson admitted putting up 22 "no parking" signs along city streets near the Tarpon Turtle restaurant, owned by an estranged former business partner. Problem: Local police enforced the vigilante signs, issuing 233 $20 tickets over two years. Now the city has been forced to begin reimbursing each ticket and is seeking to recoup the $4,660 in costs from Bronson.

Us versus us

Channeling its best Ned Flanders, Electronic Arts (EA), distributor of popular gaming software titles like Madden and Rockband, staged a protest-of its own product. A marketing team hired by EA staged a protest of EA's upcoming release "Dante's Inferno," a third-person action-adventure game based loosely on the epic poem by the Italian poet. The undercover marketing group sought to stir up publicity at a trade show in Los Angeles on June 6 by posing as Christians who objected to the game, saying video games ought not glorify eternal damnation. The paid picketers even held up signs that read, "Hell Is Not a Video Game" and "Trade in Your PlayStation for a PrayStation."

A sly thief

The culprit who stole more than 100 shoes over an entire year in the German town of Foehren won't face jail time. That's because the perp is a fox. A forest worker found the missing shoes inside the fox's den on June 12, reportedly taken there by the fox at night from the doorsteps and garden terraces of Foehren residents. "There was everything from ladies' shoes to trainers," a local police spokesman told the Reuters news service. "We've found between 110 and 120 so far. It seems a vixen stole them for her cubs to play with."

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