Dispatches > Quick Takes
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Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "All-American adoption story," Nov. 21, 2009

Smart move

Disney has offered refunds to all the parents whose children were not transformed into child geniuses by Baby Einstein. And that's basically everyone, considering nearly all child welfare experts now agree that the video series, which was supposed to make infants and toddlers smarter, doesn't deliver the goods. The American Academy of Pediatrics still advises children younger than 2 shouldn't be exposed to any television or video programming. The move by Disney to offer full refunds for all Baby Einstein videos made between 2004 and 2009 and returned to the company came after lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit last year.

Rocket Ismael

It wasn't so much that Ismael Esparza was speeding. It was by how much. Grapevine, Texas, police officers began chasing the 37-year-old Esparza after he flew past a cruiser. When an officer of the Dallas suburb finally caught up, he clocked Esparza at 150 mph-2.5 times the posted speed limit. Also amazing: Esparza managed the high-speed feat not in some sports car, but in a Buick.

A real mouthful

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Some records you don't want to break. The single-time-roaches-in-mouth record would be one of them, unless your name is Sean Murphy. Murphy, an employee at a Lansing, Mich., pet store, recently was able to stuff 16 live Madagascar hissing cockroaches in his mouth at one time, apparently breaking the world record by five cockroaches. Murphy said he got to a record-setting 12 roaches, held them there for the required 10 seconds, but then kept going until he managed to stuff four more in his mouth. When mature, the Madagascar hissing cockroach can be 2 to 3 inches long.

Eating hazards

Belying the prim and genteel mystique, about one half of Britons have been injured by cookies eaten during tea breaks. A survey titled "The Biscuit Injury Threat Evaluation" found Britons' haphazard eating of tea time cookies, called biscuits, has led to chipped teeth on particularly hard bites, scalded fingers from mis-dunking treats into hot tea, as well as an assortment of other bizarre cookie-related incidents. Nearly a quarter of respondents reported having accidentally choked on cookie crumbs at least once, while 7 percent surveyed said they had been bitten by an animal trying to abscond with a treat from their hand. Three percent of Britons said they had accidentally poked themselves in the eye with their snack.

Unusual car loan

It wasn't going to go unnoticed forever. And even though Sarah Gaspar said she told the University of Notre Dame three times, she said university officials didn't respond to her claim that she had been overpaid on a tip by nearly $30,000. In April, Gaspar, a Granger, Ind., resident, received a $29,387 paycheck from the school after catering an event. She should have been paid $29.87. When university officials didn't respond to her solicitation, Gaspar used the cash to buy a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta. Finally noticing the mistake, Notre Dame sued Gaspar. But according to the settlement, Gaspar will only be forced to repay $17,000 in $50-a-month increments for the next 28 years.

Heavyweight contender

It's probably not on the menu, but Nonni's Italian Eatery in Concord, N.H., broke a month-old world record by creating a 222.5-pound meatball on Nov. 1. The previous record, set by Los Angeles-based talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, was 198.6 pounds. The record prior to that one, set in Mexico in August, was 109 pounds. Regional pride was apparently a motivator for Nonni's owner Matthew Mitnitsky, who told the Associated Press that he wanted "to bring the meatball back to the East Coast because that's where it originated."

Whiskey on the rocks

More than 100 years ago, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton cached some belongings at a hut he built at Cape Royds, Antarctica. Now, a century later, a team of conservators is heading back to the abandoned hut to try to recover something the British explorer left behind: two cases of Scotch whiskey. Members of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the group in charge of preserving the historic home base for Shackleton's 1907-1909 attempt to reach the South Pole, discovered the Scotch in 2006. But despite the ever-present sun of the Antarctic summer, the crates were frozen solid underneath the hut and couldn't be moved. When conservators from the trust return this January, they'll use special drills to try to break the whiskey free. Richard Patterson, a master blender at Whyte & Mackay, which donated the cases to Shackleton in the early 20th century, said the Scotch should taste just fine provided the corks haven't been dislodged by decades of freezing and thawing in the Antarctic.

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