Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "The Haiti quake," Feb. 13, 2010

Dances with rabbits

If you're trying to run an insurance scam, try to avoid dancing in public with a life-sized bunny. A court in Sweden convicted a supposed wheelchair-bound Swedish man and his family for perpetuating a disability fraud that cost the government more than $420,000 over three years. The man had convinced doctors and Sweden's Social Insurance Agency that he needed help eating, moving about, and even turning over in bed. But a neighbor wise to the man's scheme tipped off local authorities who searched the man's house and found smoking-gun proof against his claim: pictures of the not-so-disabled fraudster dancing with another person in a rabbit costume.

A snowball's chance

Some people save love letters. Others save pictures. Prena Thomas of Lakeland, Fla., has spent more than three decades preserving a snowball in her freezer. Thomas says she keeps the 33-year-old ice chunk-just as white as the day it was rolled into a snowball in 1977-in a bread bag and occasionally shows it off to friends. "It's just like a little pet," she said. A pet that stayed alive only because Thomas has never had a significant power outage.

Tiny tiger

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Amateur artist Chen Forng-shean specializes in miniature sculptures. Just how small is his latest work of art? It can pass through the eye of a needle. In honor of the Chinese "Year of the Tiger," which begins on Feb. 14, the Taiwanese artist created a sculpture of a tiger that stands just 0.04 inches in height. Chen says it's the world's smallest tiger sculpture. "The toughest part," he told the AFP news service, "was painting the tiger's tongue red."

Blood for beer

One Washington state blood donation center may have finally hit upon the ultimate way of drumming up blood donations: free beer. The Cascade Regional Blood Services of Tacoma, Wash., recently began giving all blood donors who are at least 21 years old coupons for one free pint of beer at participating pubs and restaurants. Of course, there's one catch: Donors must wait until the day after giving a pint of blood before cashing in their coupon for a pint of beer.

Cold feet

Thanks to an eagle-eyed railroad track inspector, one Alabama dog has a second chance at a life. Early on Jan. 9, Gary McLean, a track inspector for CSX Railroad outside of Birmingham, spotted a tiny puppy on the railroad tracks about an hour before a train was scheduled to pass. Upon further inspection, McLean discovered the stray puppy frozen to the tracks. As well as McLean can figure, the 5-inch-tall stray had gotten his paws wet in a nearby ditch. Then, when trying to jump the 7-inch-tall tracks, the puppy's paws froze to the metal rails. The dog "was big time shivering," McLean told The Birmingham News. "I felt so sorry for him." And before the train arrived, McLean managed to free the dog from his icy shackles. The track inspector even helped the dog find a permanent home: with a local woman who has named the puppy Track.

Grammar innovator

Having problems with co-workers, friends, and family members misunderstanding your snarky remarks via email? One Michigan company says it has a solution. A Washington Township, Mich., software firm says it's invented a punctuation mark to indicate sarcasm. "Statements have the period. Questions have the question mark. Exclamations have the exclamation mark. When you see the newest punctuation mark for sarcasm, you'll know the writer of that sentence doesn't literally mean what they're writing; they're being sarcastic," SarcMark officials said in a release. The mark looks like an unclosed loop with a dot in the middle.

Bat crazy

When Danny Zane Tatum gets to court, he might want to consider another line of defense. Deputies with the Bay County Sheriff's Office arrested Tatum on Jan. 16 when they caught him casing an empty house while carrying a bag of burglary tools. Authorities charged Tatum with burglary. When deputies questioned the 35-year-old about his suspicious tools, Tatum said he was operating as the area's "Batman"-the shadowy vigilante of film and comic book fame. Tatum's love interest told authorities that when they had earlier broken into a motel room Tatum had said that the room was his "Bat Cave."

Not looking good

Perhaps responding to the critique that history is too often the study of dead white men, Texas' State Board of Education, in revising the state's history curriculum, has touched off an ideological firestorm across the Lone Star State. But while interest groups lobby for expanded study of African-American and Latin-American issues, it's been the inclusion of a dead white woman that has really grabbed the headlines. In the early version of the curriculum standards, native Texan Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, was mentioned twice. Christopher Columbus was mentioned only once.

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