Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Crossing the Rubiocon," Aug. 14, 2010

Gods and Mammon

The elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha may not actively trade stocks in India's stock market, a Bombay High Court ruled July 16. After (somehow) securing income tax cards and savings accounts in the name of five Indian deities, including the well-known Ganesha, a private trust submitted applications for stock trading accounts in the names of the five gods. But the Indian court rejected the application, saying, "Trading in shares on the stock market requires certain skills and expertise and to expect this from deities would not be proper."

Tough Miss Manners

The next time a student encounters 66-year-old Tamiko Masuta, he'd better respect his elder. Police in Nagasaki, Japan, arrested Masuta for assaulting a young man who refused to give up his seat to her on a bus. And the senior citizen packs quite a punch: She broke his nose. According to press accounts, the 18-year-old student was sitting in a seat designated for the elderly. Masuta became incensed when he refused to move. Police say it wasn't the first time Masuta assaulted a student on a bus.

Driver for a day

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Police in Washington, D.C., say a 19-year-old man appeared to be living out an odd fantasy when he took a D.C. Metrobus on a joyride in July. Police say William Jackson arrived at a bus depot in his own bus driver uniform, walked onto a bus, and drove it away. But Jackson apparently didn't just take the bus for a spin-he drove one of the city's bus routes, even stopping to pick up passengers. But his route hit an abrupt end when he rammed a tree two blocks from the Congressional Cemetery. Police said Jackson fled on foot but police quickly caught him.

Survival skills

After arriving in North America aboard a slow boat from China, it's unlikely this kitty will be able to find its own way back home. Employees at a Canadian importer in Calgary discovered a skinny calico cat in a steel shipping container holding granite slabs. Amy Bindman, a designer with the firm, said the animal appeared "pretty distressed and very, very thin" and had apparently "been meowing for weeks." That's because the container ships headed for North America from China often take as many as 45 days to span the Pacific. "We had to empty the entire container before being able to reach the cat, because (she) jumped and hid in a corner that was unreachable," Bindman said. The cat's new name? Mandarin.

Snail's pace

It takes Sidney nearly four minutes to travel 13 inches-and that means he's lightning fast in the world of championship snail racing. Sidney the snail posted a time of three minutes, 41 seconds during the finals of the Snail Racing World Championship on July 17, which was good enough for the title. The English town of Congham has hosted the event for 25 years, and this year's competition included 200 snails. While Sidney's time was fast, it fell far short of the record: In 1995 a snail named Archie covered the 13-inch course in two minutes.

Railroad man

Since 1984, Russian pensioner Leonid Murlyanchik has put all his idle time toward a single pursuit. But instead of model trains, the retired man has decided on the real thing. For the past 26 years, Murlyanchik has labored to build his own personal subway system under his property. When complete, the system's fully automated cars should be able to move three or four people at a time under the pensioner's property. Murlyanchik says he can extend his tunnels about three feet every day. Then, because the pensioner insists on building his private metro system to code, it takes him another three days to build in the brick arch and concrete siding. Ever optimistic, Murlyanchik has left space in his lines should his neighbors ever wish to build their own subway and connect to his.

Weed whacked

Usually, something worth $2,400 arriving unexpectedly in the mailbox would bring joy. But authorities say an elderly woman in Blackman Township, Mich., was not happy when she found a 2-pound package of marijuana in the mail. Authorities, who did not identify the woman, say she immediately called them. The package has a fake return address, so they do not know who sent it. But they speculate that it may have been sent to the wrong address, or that someone was planning to take it from the mailbox before the woman retrieved it.

A House divided

A New York divorce court judge took a cue from Solomon in trying to divide property between a squabbling Jewish couple set to split. Justice Eric Prus ordered the Orthodox couple to erect a wall to split their 3,000-square-foot home in two during the divorce proceedings. Neither Pinchs nor Nechama Gold intends to leave the house. Prus said if the couple doesn't decide where to build a wall to divide the house, he'll decide for them.


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