Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "After the revolution," Feb. 26, 2011

In a pickle

With their budget too busted to buy road salt, Bergen County, N.J., authorities have come up with a briny solution to keep the county's roads ice-free. County leaders announced a plan to use pickle juice as a cheaper alternative to de-ice roads for the remainder of the winter season. And if it works, other counties may adopt the cheap workaround: Officials say the salty juice costs just $16 per ton compared to $63 per ton of road salt.

Collateral damage

It was a long process, but the birds finally prevailed over a gas station awning in Vacaville, Calif. Fire department officials in Vacaville blame the Jan. 24 collapse of an awning at a local gas station on the tremendous weight of bird droppings. Officials say a flock of pigeons created a two- or three-inch film of droppings over the entire awning, causing the structure to give way. No one was hurt in the collapse. Firefighters equipped with hardhats-and respirators-helped clean it.

Flashy fingers

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Some women glory in their hair. For Jazz Ison Sinkfield, her glory comes from her fingernails. For the past 22 years, the Atlanta woman has shunned fingernail clippers and let her nails grow and grow. Now that she has accumulated more than 16 feet of cumulative fingernails, she says she wants to share her gift with the world. "One day, I want to meet Oprah," she told WXIA television. "And a lot of more celebrities. And I just want them to hear my story." Sinkfield has one fingernail in excess of 24 inches, but she will have to gain 11 more inches to catch up with Lee Redmond of Utah, who grew one nail past 35 inches. Despite having gigantic nails that cost about $250 per month to maintain, Sinkfield says she can do most anything anyone else can do-besides tie shoes, type, or bowl.

Airborne weed

Mexican drug smugglers are apparently enlisting a very old technology as a new way to get marijuana into the United States. Tipped off by the U.S. National Guard, the Mexican army on Jan. 26 discovered a nine-foot-tall catapult and 35 pounds of pot about 20 miles from the border with Arizona. U.S. officials had become suspicious after surveillance cameras had recorded several people launching packages over the border fence. The Mexican army seized a second catapult in another spot near the border on Jan. 27.

Sandbar art

In January, a mysterious piano struck a chord with Miami residents. On Jan. 2, a burned-out baby grand piano appeared on a sandbar in Biscayne Bay. And for weeks, boaters riding the waves off the coast of Florida speculated on just how a piano ended up on a sandbar in the middle of the waters. With the real culprits keeping quiet, local filmmaker Billy Yeager claimed responsibility. But days later, 16-year-old Nicholas Harrington set the record straight, showing reporters video of him and his father torching the piano and installing it on the sandbar on New Year's Eve. Harrington said the stunt was an art project-part of a "home test" that the Cooper Union School of Art in New York requires of applicants. Mitchell Lipton, the school's dean of admissions, told the New York Daily News that Harrington's idea was not what school officials had in mind: "There are lots of ways to grab our attention, and that's not one we would necessarily condone."

Nepal's Rambo

Nepal has announced it will honor a Gurkha soldier from Pokhara, Nepal, who fought off 40 bandits during a train robbery attempt in Nepal in September. Authorities say Bishnu Shrestha killed three and injured eight when a mass of train robbers boarded the Maurya Express in between Gorakhpur and Ranchi and attempted to loot passengers. Armed with only a knife known regionally as a khukuri, Shreshtha, a passenger, used his training as a Gurkha to slice and dice his way through the robbers.

Long fall

When rescue workers found Adam Potter at the base of a mountain late last month, he was examining his map and trying to orient himself to his new surroundings. But when the rescue workers were called, Potter was tumbling down Sgurr Choinnich Mor after losing his footing near the summit of the Scottish mountain. Despite falling from 1,000 feet, tumbling down the face of a cliff, Potter survived with just scrapes on his face and a minor chest injury.

Going to the dogs

Every dog has its day. And for some, that day is becoming ever more lavish. Brooklyn dog bakery owner Betty Wong told the Reuters news service that she has seen a rise in orders for dog birthday cakes over the last few years as more and more of her customers are opting to hold birthday parties for their dogs. New York City media buyer Jessica Winston has reportedly thrown two parties for her Bichon Frise named Ernie: one birthday, and one "Bark Mitzvah" party. "In dog years," she told Reuters, "Ernie turned 13."

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