Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Tilting at turbines," July 17, 2010

Age old question

There's no way to confirm it, but Indonesian officials say they may have discovered a woman who is still alive at age 157. The woman, a South Sumatran villager named Turinah, turned up in the nation's census. Turinah listed her birth year as 1853 and Indonesian census officials started investigating. She says she burned her identification documents to avoid being linked to a communist coup in 1965. But she does have a 108-year-old adopted daughter, the census ministry said. "There's no authentic data to prove her age but judging from her statements and the age of her adopted daughter, who's now 108 years old, it's difficult to doubt it," census official Jhonny Sardjono told reporters.

Fight of his life

An Australian surfer reportedly had a battle with a great white shark in June-and the surfer won. Witnesses say a shark knocked Michael Bedford off his board and then turned around to make another attack. That's when Bedford gave the shark a punch and then caught a wave to the shore. Bedford was hospitalized with bite wounds on his leg. "He gave it a good whack he reckons, a good punch," friend and witness Lee Cummuskey told local media. "And that doesn't surprise me knowing Mick."

Cast away

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Drinking and driving may be dangerous, but so is drinking and floating. Coast Guard officials say a man named Jerry Whipple passed out drunk on a pool float at a beach near Tampa and drifted a mile from the shore into the Gulf of Mexico. Tipped off by a boater, rescuers found the man unconscious on the float-but wearing a life jacket.

Reflecting reality?

West Virginia officials have a message for all artists thinking about submitting work in a statewide juried competition celebrating the state's sesquicentennial in 2013: no outhouses this time. The state wants to make that clear because of a 1963 controversy when a centennial art and culture exhibition awarded its top prize to a piece that resembled an outhouse. The competition was supposed to highlight (positively) West Virginia culture and heritage. But most felt the piece, entitled West Virginia Moon and constructed from broken boards and part of a screen door, embarrassed the state. Time magazine and The Washington Post ran stories about the controversy at the time and one state newspaper said then, "Tourism [in the state] may have been dealt a deadly blow."

Hand to mouth

It could be said that orthodontist Neil Counihan of the United Kingdom is all thumbs. While some orthodontists complain about having to fix the jaw alignment problems caused by thumb sucking, Counihan decided to open the world's first clinic devoted to weaning children from the infantile habit. Counihan says he treats older thumb suckers with metal mouth guards, plastic thumb guards, and counseling. The clinic is located in West London and is called the Metamorphosis center.

A bridge too far

How did the squirrel cross the road? For one Arizona colony of squirrels, not on a bridge. Worried too many of the 250 Mount Graham red squirrels in the colony located in southeastern Arizona would become road kill, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced plans to spend $1.25 million from the federal government to construct special bridges for the endangered rodents. That is, until it hit the local press. Officials admitted the rope bridges built over the roadway would only save, they estimated, five squirrels every year, putting the cost of each saved squirrel's life at $25,000 over a 10-year period. And as TV stations and newspapers across the state reported the spending proposal, support amongst Arizona officials quickly evaporated. "People were just bewildered about why would we spend $1.25 million on a project like this," said David Kincaid, city manager of nearby Safford. "I think it's probably best that it was handled this way."

License to sell

Short on cash in the state coffers, some California lawmakers are showing they will consider any revenue-generating idea. Lawmakers are entertaining a proposal to turn state license plates into virtual advertisements as a way to help close an estimated $19 billion budget shortfall. The digital plates would display a rotating advertisement when a car is stopped for more than four seconds at a light or in a traffic jam. At that point, a smaller image of the plate would appear in the corner of the screen. "We're just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues," said the bill's sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Curren Price. "It's an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront." But critics say the distracting plates could keep eyes on the ads, not on the road.


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