Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Oddball occurences

Issue: "Cities of God and Man," March 27, 2010

Fire starter

Just because your roof is snow-covered doesn't also mean it's not flammable. That's the hard lesson a Louisville, Ky., suburbanite learned when he tried to melt icicles off the roof of his Buechel, Ky., home with a blowtorch. Instead, the man set his house on fire, causing severe damage to his attic, roof, and a new addition. A police spokesman questioned the man's judgment: "Breaking them off is what most people do. Choosing to use a torch to melt them, in hindsight, he probably agrees is not the best idea."

Their ears are burning

If common sense doesn't stop people from shoving candles in their ears and setting them on fire, what hope does the Food and Drug Administration have of convincing homeopathic devotees? The FDA again warned American consumers in February against using ear candles: fabric dipped in wax, rolled up like a siphon, placed in a person's ear, and ignited. Supporters of the ear candle say the technique helps draw earwax out of a patient's ear. The FDA, however, says people are more likely to clog their ears accidentally with molten candle wax-or burn themselves, or puncture an eardrum with the ear candles.

Running man

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Jesse Pozvek tried to run, but he didn't get far. Authorities in Thomaston, Conn., say the 21-year-old fled on foot after crashing his car on Route 8 on Feb. 21. When emergency crews arrived, they discovered Pozvek had fallen off a 70-foot cliff as he attempted to scramble away from the car crash. Miraculously, Pozvek survived the fall with just a leg injury. Police haven't filed charges-yet.

Tiny invader

More than 7,000 miles from home, a horde of New Zealand mudsnails is about to get an eviction notice. State authorities in Washington are making plans to drain the fresh water out of Capitol Lake near Olympia and replace it with saltwater to kill off the non-native snails, which are considered parasites. New Zealand mud snails, which are no bigger than a grain of rice, reproduce asexually and have no known predators in Washington. State officials, who do not know how the mudsnails got into the lake, are hoping to eliminate them before they infest the rest of the Puget Sound region.

Korean caper

Police in Seoul, South Korea, say they have in custody a 59-year-old man who made off with over 1,200 pairs of expensive designer shoes. But the unidentified man didn't steal the loafers and pumps from shoe boutiques. Instead, the thief cased Korean funeral homes. As per local custom, Koreans leave their shoes outside when entering funeral homes to mourn the dead. Police say the suspect would wear cheap slippers to memorial services, pretend to be a mourner, and slip on the nicest shoes he could find when he left. According to police, the man used the funeral scam to help keep his second-hand shoe store stocked.

Monk for a weekend

Those craving to feed their inner ascetic will now be allowed to try out a monastic lifestyle with monks near Vienna, Austria. The Franciscans from Maria Enzersdorf are taking in curiosity seekers for one-weekend trial runs of working and praying with the brothers. And while male applicants may simply be seeking a peaceful weekend, the Franciscans are hoping for some conversions along the way. According to the monastery chaplain, three graduates of the weekend program are now considering joining the brothers permanently.

Fetched and caught

German police say a dog helped locate a suspect on Feb. 19, but it wasn't a police dog. When authorities arrived at the wanted man's home on that day, a friend holding a Jack Russell terrier said the man wasn't there. But the behavior of the dog made them suspicious. "When he put the dog down," police said in a statement, "it proceeded with a wagging tail to a small cupboard . . . and stood expectantly in front of it." The dog, it turns out, belonged to the suspect, who was "hunched up inside" the cupboard. Authorities did not identify the man or his alleged crime.

Animal fat

Veterinarians in the United Kingdom are urging pet owners to help pooches lose their paunches. The veterinary charity People's Dispensary for Sick Animals reports that more than one-third of all British dogs are overweight and not exercising enough. The organization claims owners have gotten into the unhealthy habit of giving their pets too many treats and too many table scraps. And dogs are not alone. The PDSA claims the average British cat is 5 percent heavier than three years ago.

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