Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

Gold crush

An impromptu gold rush created a traffic jam on an Indian highway on June 12. Bright, shining dust fooled motorists who pulled over on a six-mile stretch of the Poonamallee Road in southern India. Authorities say the trouble started when a lorry bearing scrap iron and copper lost part of its load on the road. Motorists saw the scrap glittering in the sun and confused it for unpolished gold. And then traffic really began to stack up after some of the motorists began phoning friends and family and inviting them to participate in the bonanza.

Rocky roads

For economically-challenged Michigan, progress means going back to the good old days. About a quarter of Michigan counties have decided to save money by allowing deteriorating paved roads to become converted to gravel roads. The state's County Road Association estimates a $100,000 cost to repave a road-10 times higher than it would cost simply to convert the road to gravel.

Brown bagging it

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When it comes to plastic bags, Uganda means business. Beginning in 2010, the Ugandan government will ban the use of the thin, grocery-style bags in the country. Anyone caught using plastic bags could face up to three years in jail time or a fine worth $1,500. Theprohibition is a result of mounting concerns of the environmental impact of the ubiquitous plastic bags on Ugandan cities and countryside. Environmentalists say littered bags are choking Ugandan rivers and piling up into plastic mountains.

Seller beware

It must have seemed like a normal transaction at first. A German man wanting to sell a garden mower went on eBay in June and found a willing buyer. What the seller didn't know: The buyer's mower had been stolen. The potential buyer "went to inspect the goods and recognized the mower as his own," a Tübingen police spokesman told the Reuters news service. "Then he left and told police." Confronted by authorities, the 46-year-old seller confessed to having stolen the mower in February.

Lost in translation

On the bright side, budget hawks in the United Kingdom should now have another easy target. That's because an investigation disclosed in London's Telegraph newspaper found that town councils across the United Kingdom spent roughly $82 million on translation services so that official government documents and brochures could be read by British residents who do not speak English. Even more troubling, the report found that many of the translations had found no audience at all. The Haringey council in North London, which spent $630,000 alone on translation services, reported that no one read its Albanian, Bengali, Kurdish, Somali, or Urdu translations of its Women's Directory. Each translation costs money and, in all, one-third of the translations made available on the Haringey website hadn't even been viewed.

Feminist convert?

Libyan leader and noted eccentric Muammar Qaddafi is well known for being style-conscious. Therefore, when in Rome during a June trip across the Mediterranean, Qaddafi became a European-style feminist. Sort of. During his visit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the colonel claimed, "We need a feminist revolution." In the speech, Qaddafi denounced Arab Muslim nations that he said believe "a woman is like a piece of furniture, you can change it when you want." Despite the rhetoric, a group of women's leaders signed onto an open letter critical of the Libyan leader's human rights record and refused to meet with him.

Stone cold

Note for burglars: Do your research. Believing he was holding up a jewelry store, an unidentified Utah man broke into a Black Diamond Equipment store in Salt Lake City in the early morning hours of June 14. Problem: Black Diamond Equipment doesn't sell diamonds. It sells ski equipment. The robber broke in, brandished an ice pick, and demanded precious stones. Apparently undaunted by the lack of gems handed over by confused night shift employees, the would-be jewel thief did make away with some computers and climbing equipment.

The smell test

Got a new Kindle electronic book reader, but it just doesn't seem right? One novelty scent-maker thinks it has the solution. Smell of Books is hawking a number of aerosol cans that are seeking to add some authenticity to those newly-popular electronic gadgets that are taking the place of regular books. Sure, some might enjoy losing the bulk and fragile spine of a 19th century Russian novel, but Smell of Books is betting that consumers reading Tolstoy from their Kindle will want to add to the reading experience by spritzing the electronic device with its "Classic Musty"flavor of aerosol book fragrance. "When was the last time an e-book made you sneeze?" the product's ads asked. "Probably never. It's a scientifically proven fact that e-books lack the necessary 'character' to trigger a strong physical reaction. Our Classic Musty Scent solves that problem." Other fragrances from Smell of Books? "New Book Smell," "Eau, You Have Cats," and, of course, bacon-scented.


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