Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

Cash for cache

For a few thousand internet denizens, web browsing just got profitable. Search engine giant Google has offered $25 in gift cards for the right to monitor web users' browsing habits and share the data with a third-party research firm. The program called Screenwise, a collaboration with Knowledge Networks, had been offering users a $5 Amazon.com gift card for signing up and an additional $20 in gift cards for participating for an entire year. By comparison, Bing, a Microsoft-branded Google competitor, offers about $40 in Amazon.com gift cards for the right to snoop into your browsing history. On Feb. 12, Google announced it was swamped with applications for Screenwise and was closing the program to new applicants.

Six-fingered man

The first hint police had that the lot of Nike Air Jordan shoes they had seized were counterfeit was that the Michael Jordan logo had six fingers on one of his hands. Gwinnett County, Ga., police stopped two women riding in a Pontiac Grand Prix on Feb. 9 only to discover they were transporting 78 pairs of very suspicious shoes. Police say that not only did the Air Jordan logos on the sneakers have the wrong number of fingers, but they also peeled right off the counterfeit shoes.

Digital departure

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Like the last manufacturers of buggy whips, erstwhile photo giant Eastman Kodak has had trouble evolving into the digital age. Still, the Rochester, N.Y., company's decision to scrap its digital camera business caught many by surprise. The 133-year-old company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, announced on Feb. 9 that it would no longer produce Kodak digital cameras or digital photo frames. "Of course I'm saddened by it," former employee Steve Sasson, who invented the first digital camera in a Kodak lab in 1975, told The Wall Street Journal. "We had a long history of enabling people to capture pictures."

Bottled fortune

It's the type of collection that only your liver could hate. One Dutch alcohol enthusiast says he's planning to sell off his entire rare liquor collection, and he hopes to make $8 million in the process. Bay van der Bunt says he's planning on selling his 5,000-bottle collection of rare and old bottles of cognac, whiskey, armagnac, port, and madeira because he and his wife have no children to pass the collection on to. "My grandfather had hundreds of bottles which my father passed on to me, so collecting is something I have grown up with," he said. "Collecting cognacs and old liquors was very time consuming and cost a fortune, but it proves to be the best financial investment I have ever made."

Reproach and revision

Just in case you were planning a beach vacation to Los Angeles, county officials there would like to inform you that, no, you won't be fined $1,000 for throwing a Frisbee or football on Los Angeles County beaches. News that beachgoers would face heavy fines for those activities on local beaches raced around newswires in early February after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors updated some rules with vague wording. "It went viral within minutes," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told CBS, noting that the supervisors were inundated by complaints from as far away as Australia. County officials clarified the rules at a Feb. 14 meeting.

Monument to waste

For nearly two decades, the Ryugyong Hotel dominated the Pyongyang skyline, serving as a half-finished homage to a North Korean state too impoverished to complete construction on its own landmarks. Now, thanks to investment from an Egyptian telecom company, North Korean officials say they plan to open at least part of the 105-story building sometime later this spring. Construction began on Ryugyong in 1987 and was originally scheduled to be completed two years later. But in 1992, construction finally ceased, leaving it a topped-out concrete skeleton, without glass windows or internal fixtures. It is now nearly finished, and North Korean officials say it will partially open this year as an office space, not as a hotel.

Clean break

A South Bend, Ind., woman came home to a clean home, folded clothes, and a cooked meal-and perhaps the most unsettled feeling she's had in a while. Ann Murray arrived home on Feb. 6 to find an intruder in her kitchen. But instead of interrupting a burglary in progress, Murray says she found the intruder cooking dinner. About the only thing 45-year-old Keith Davis stole from the apartment was some beverages: "Yes, he drank up my orange juice, but it's cool, because he swept my floors and folded my clothes," she said. When police arrived, Davis was sitting in her living room. Authorities say they could not ascertain why he had broken into her home through an open window. Even though nothing of value was taken, Murray said she couldn't sleep there for two nights and may move.

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