By now, some residents are probably wishing that town officials in Skowhegan, Maine, would simply let Bruce Obert do what he wanted with his land. Officials in Skowhegan barred Obert from building on a quarter-acre parcel near downtown. So, rather than let the land sit unused, Obert, who lives in Norridgewock, hung a banner, saying, "Nature Park, Nature Trails for the Homeless People of Somerset County." Since the "nature park" opened, an 84-year-old homeless man and his Rottweiler dog have moved onto the land.
You can't blame Jeanette Sedillo for being surprised when a police officer pulled her over on Aug. 18 in Belen, N.M. "He said, 'You were going 34 in a 40,'" said Sedillo. She said she thought she was simply practicing safe nighttime driving. Nevertheless, the officer presented her with a $70 ticket for driving 6 mph under the speed limit. Sedillo said she plans to fight the ticket in court.
Driven to drive
If you ask Irv Gordon what he'll be doing for the next three years, chances are he'll say driving. That's because the East Patchogue, N.Y., man has set his sights on rolling 200,000 more miles onto his 1966 Volvo's odometer by the end of 2013. Already a Guinness world record holder, Gordon's Volvo P1800 currently has nearly 2.8 million miles. The 70-year-old retired science teacher says he'd like to get his red coupe over 3 million miles. Gordon bought the car new in 1966 for $4,150 and used it to commute 125 miles to and from school every day in Manhattan. His advice to car owners seeking to keep their car alive? "Maintaining a car over decades and millions of miles doesn't just happen accidentally," he says. "You've got to follow the factory service manual, replace worn or broken parts immediately and don't let little issues become big issues. I have been extremely good to this car. I don't even let anyone else drive it."
Taxing a state treasure
New Yorkers noticing the price of bagels increasing across the state have state lawmakers to thank. That's because the cash-strapped state has begun enforcing a stale measure that imposes a small tax on sliced or whole bagels-an Empire State staple-consumed at the place of purchase. After a recent state audit, the owner of Bruegger's Bagels, a popular New York chain, said he was hit with a significant charge in back sales taxes. Now bagel shops across New York are raising prices about 8 cents per bagel to cover the now-enforced tax.
Add swinging a golf club to things you might want to avoid to prevent forest fires. Fire investigators in Irvine, Calif., say a golfer's swing was sufficient to spark a wildfire that blazed up 25 acres in and around Shady Canyon Golf Course. Officials say the fire was touched off by a spark caused by a golfer's clubhead scraping off a rock during a routine swing. And after the fire got started, it took about 150 Orange County firefighters-both on the ground and in the air-to put it out.
Famous for surrendering to Germans, it now seems that French authorities on the nation's northern coast surrendered to a piece of driftwood. At least three people near the coastal town Boulogne-sur-Mer reported seeing a 12-foot crocodile swimming around sailboats near the coast. Worried for the safety of swimmers, local authorities shut down the beach along the English Channel-only to realize later the 12-foot "crocodile" was a piece of floating wood.
The case of a stolen vehicle reported to Allentown, Pa., police on Aug. 23 proved easy enough to solve. Police reports indicated the suspect, 39-year-old Preston Renninger, drove the stolen car right past an officer as he was taking a report from the victim. Police say Renninger attracted even more attention by blaring the stereo with the windows down.
When the garbage reached critical mass at one New Jersey landfill, local authorities decided to fight smell with smell. More than 2 million pounds of garbage arrive every day at the Middlesex County Landfill in East Brunswick outside of New York City. And after hearing a bevy of complaints from residents, landfill operators have outfitted special trucks to spray fragrance around the landfill, which is on pace to receive as much as 1 billion pounds of garbage this year. "It has a pleasant, showery smell," said Richard Fitamant, executive director of the organization that runs the landfill. "It's not offensive and it's not overpowering. It's a light scent." Neighbors say that would be an improvement on the current stench, which they say seeps through the walls some days.
No two ways about it?
Ask Nevadans how to pronounce their home state's name and they'll almost certainly say, "Ne-VAD-a" with the second syllable sounding like "mad." Residents of the Silver State have booed presidential candidates who mispronounced it, saying "Ne-VAH-da." So imagine the gumption of Democratic state legislator Harry Mortenson of Las Vegas who submitted a draft of a bill proposing that either pronunciation of the state's name is acceptable. "I expected a big controversy, and I got it," he said. "The bottom line is, I do not want to change the pronunciation that Nevadans use for their state. I am trying only to ask them to be tolerant of those who use the Spanish pronunciation." But Nevada residents aren't likely to be so understanding. And just to be on the safe side, Mortenson waited until state term limits prevented him from running for reelection before submitting the controversial bill.