Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Realities: 2011-2020," Jan. 15, 2011

Tech rescue

Fed up with having to replace characters in their nativity scenes year after year, some churches with outdoor displays have opted to use technology to protect their manger displays. BrickHouse Security of New York City offered churches and synagogues GPS devices and security cameras as a way to deter people from stealing their nativity scenes or menorahs-and 70 signed up. The BrickHouse approach embeds a GPS tracking device inside the nativity characters so that they can be easily tracked if they are stolen.

Twelve days of debt

Before the 12 days of Christmas even started, it would have been wise to spend several years saving. According to PNC Wealth Management, a financial services company, buying every item mentioned in the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," would cost nearly $100,000-about 10 percent more than last year. The exact amount, $96,824, assumes the purchase of 364 items, or all the things mentioned in all the verses of the song. The majority of the Christmas inflation can be attributed to the rising price of gold, which PNC said would make the five golden rings 30 percent more expensive.

Boat for a buyer

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Facing a huge budget deficit and looking to raise cash in any way possible, the United Kingdom has elected to put one of its navy's aircraft carriers up for sale. The Ministry of Defense listed the HMS Invincible for sale on a government website, saying all bids would be considered. Mothballed in 2005, the Invincible was once one of the crown jewels in Her Majesty's Navy. The nearly 700-foot vessel was almost sold to Australia in 1982 before the outbreak of the Falklands War convinced British authorities to keep the ship.

Texting error

If one of the first rules of selling is to know your customer, then a 26-year-old Martinsville, Ind., man violated it in the worst possible way. Shawn Means allegedly texted an offer to sell illegal drugs to the wrong person. The person who received the text message by mistake? Deputy prosecutor Courtney Swank on her department-issued cell phone. Authorities have charged Means with dealing in a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, and public intoxication.

Full stops

Some cities have the problem of traffic signs disappearing. Then there's Cranston, R.I., where local officials are wondering where hundreds of unauthorized stop signs came from. According to city officials, the 80,000-person town has about 700 unauthorized stop signs erected within city limits. State transportation officials have 'fessed up to putting up about one-third of them. That leaves the city to sort out the legality of about 450 renegade stop signs on streets and parking lots. The Cranston mayor's office is urging residents to regard all signs as legitimate until the city sorts things out: "Drivers . . . should not take this as a free pass. A stop sign is a stop sign."

Don't go, Diego

Police in Seattle say a driver tried to get away with driving solo in a carpool lane on Nov. 29 by placing a large doll in the passenger seat. The stuffed doll of Diego from the Nickelodeon children's show Go, Diego, Go! reportedly belonged to the unidentified driver's daughter. Apparently the doll's huge, unblinking eyes drew the suspicions of a state trooper on the lookout for commuter lane violators. Authorities cited the driver for an HOV lane violation.

Cleanup crew

A pair of University of Colorado graduates have found tidy profits in some very dirty work: cleaning up after drunk people. Marc Simons and Alex Vere-Nicoll call their company "Hangover Helpers." And for a small fee, the duo will arrive at a dorm or house the night after a party, deliver breakfast burritos and Gatorade to hungover students, and clean up messes that can include empty beer cans, spent plastic cups, and anything else littered after a night of partying. The pair, who charge $15 per roommate, expect steady business this spring-the Boulder campus' chief party season.

Snowed inn

Usually being stranded by a snowstorm for more than a week would be a nightmare. But it apparently wasn't for five staff members and two customers who were trapped for nine days in the Lion Inn, a pub in North Yorkshire, U.K. "It was really novel at first and quite exciting," waitress Katie Underwood told the Daily Mail. "It's been freezing, but we've been lucky that it's a pub and B&B we're trapped in. We've got plenty of coal for our fire, which has been great, and there are rooms upstairs so we have somewhere to sleep, and plenty of food." The pub's reputation for having ample stocks of high-quality ales probably didn't hurt either.

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