Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "After Osama," May 21, 2011

Milk man

Shoppers at a Stafford County, Va., Wal-Mart did a double take when they saw an overt shoplifter crawling around the store on all fours. The thief was wearing a cow costume as he crawled around stealing gallons of milk. When store employees called police, the unidentified suspect had ditched the cow costume and was simply handing out the ill-gotten milk jugs to passersby. Sheriff's deputies who arrested the 18-year-old said they didn't know if the stunt was a prank, but did indicate the costumed thief would be prosecuted.

Automated prices

This is what happens when you let robots take over the humans' work. An unforeseen price war between two computerized pricing systems has left Amazon.com shoppers with sticker shock. Two Amazon independent booksellers offering the same title-The Making of a Fly by Peter Lawrence-turned pricing their books over to a computer program only to see the price of the book at both sellers spiral up to $23.7 million dollars. The culprit appears to have been competing pricing algorithms, rather than supply and demand for Lawrence's insect book. One seller programmed his system to keep the book at a 27 percent higher price than the second, while the other bookseller's program kept altering the price to make it only fractionally cheaper than the first. As a result, both sellers' prices skyrocketed, though neither reported making a sale.

Canine survivors

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Cats may have nine lives, but a pair of Golden Retrievers in Clackamas County, Ore., seem to have more than one each as well. The two dogs, 8-year-old George and 10-year-old Doug, survived a fall down a 175-foot cliff during an April 27 landslide. Witnesses told the Associated Press that the dogs wandered onto an overhang on their owner's property, causing it to collapse. Rescuers retrieved the dogs and a neighbor who had tried to help them.

Mixed (reaction) media

Miriam Simun, a graduate student at New York University, took some human breast milk, used it to make cheese, and called the result art. The Michael Mut Gallery in New York City is featuring Simun's creations in an exhibit called "The Lady Cheese Shop." Visitors to the gallery can sample the cheese, made from milk voluntarily given by three nursing women. Simun told the Reuters news service that the exhibit is getting a mixed reaction: "Some people are loving it, and some people are gagging."

Cab tab

During a birthday celebration in New York City, John Belitsky and a friend decided to go to Los Angeles. So the pair went to LaGuardia airport-and hailed a cab. Wanting to do something "magical," the duo persuaded Mohammed Alam, a New York City cabbie, to chauffeur them more than 2,800 miles to Los Angeles for just $5,000. Belitsky, an investment banker from New Jersey, and his friend haven't decided how they'll get back home yet. But they won't be going with Alam. The cabbie, who will make nearly 90 cents per total mile driven, had a California friend to help him make the 45-hour journey back to the Big Apple.

American as apple pie

According to a report in Forbes magazine, Chinese-American fast food eatery Panda Express is making plans to launch its chain in a foreign country-China. But the purveyor of dishes like beef broccoli and General Tso's chicken might find its menu a hard sell in the land where Americanized Chinese cuisine is often unrecognizable to residents. After all, the ubiquitous fortune cookie was invented not in Beijing but in California. As food writer Jennifer 8. Lee told NPR: "The Chinese food we eat in America is very alien to Chinese people."

Number crunched

"It seemed like a good idea," a young woman named Robin attending a Milwaukee Brewers game told a FOX Sports reporter. The woman, whose last name was not revealed, had just held up a poster asking Brewers slugger Ryan Braun to marry her. But the trouble was, she included her cell phone number on the sign, which was subsequently shown to the FOX Sports audience watching the game at home. By the time field reporter Telly Hughes reached Robin, she had already turned her phone off because of the torrent of phone calls. Worse still, when reporters made Braun aware of the sign after the game, the Brewers outfielder tried to call Robin's cell-but her phone was off and mailbox was full.

Lawnmower man

Police in East Lyme, Conn., say they don't know what motivated a 22-year-old man to embark on an illegal 3 a.m. yardwork spree, but officers insist alcohol was likely involved. According to reports, Nikolaus Trombley was intoxicated and looking for a place to pass out when he broke into a groundskeeping trailer at East Lyme High School near his home. Officers say Trombley then found keys for a riding lawnmower. Abandoning his plans for sleeping, Trombley allegedly stole the Skag mower and rode it three miles to his parents' house. Then after mowing his parents' lawn, Trombley apparently tried to return the mower to the trailer, but abandoned it more than a mile away from the school. Police charged the 22-year-old with third-degree larceny and burglary.

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