Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Who will vote?," April 21, 2012

Titanic in Texas

For Texans with a big appetite-and a bit of a shipwreck fascination-one Houston restaurant has just the thing. Cullen's Upscale American Grille in Houston is offering deep-pocketed guests a Titanic-themed dining experience. According to the restaurant, patrons who are willing to pay the $12,000 bill will enjoy a 10-course meal that seeks to copy the menu of first-class passengers on the famous vessel's last night afloat. At that price, a dozen guests can enjoy wine and beef appetizers as well as century-old brandy.

Beloved reptile

British bride-to-be Lizzie Griffiths chose to postpone her own wedding bells after a family emergency came up-a very scaly family emergency. As she and her fiancé, both of London, were finalizing their wedding plans, Griffiths discovered her pet bearded dragon lizard named George had developed a cancerous tumor on its face. Confronted with the decision of whether to pay for radical lizard chemotherapy or put the animal down, Griffiths opted for the medical procedure. To pay for the treatment, she and her husband-to-be raided nearly $5,000 from the savings account earmarked for their wedding.

Underwater aging

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Government officials in a tiny autonomous island chain in the Baltic Sea have taken the buy-low, sell-high doctrine to heart. Divers off the coast of Finland near the Aland Islands in 2010 found a cache of 145 bottles of antique champagne and beer in a sea-floor shipwreck. Now the government of the Aland Islands has claimed ownership and put 11 of the bottles-which mostly date to the mid-19th century-up for auction. The Aland Islands government put two bottles up for sale last year with one champagne setting a world record with a selling price of $43,630. Government officials plan to sell the next lot in an auction scheduled for June 8. Experts who inspected the unopened antique bottles said the cool temperatures of the Baltic Sea provided ideal conditions for long-term storage.

Up in smoke

Hungary is struggling economically, but the country has money to burn. Facing an unusually cold winter in central Europe, the nation's government turned old, worn-out bank notes that no longer have monetary value into compact briquettes to burn for heat. A single briquette reportedly contains the remains of what had been the equivalent of $20,000 in Hungarian currency. The government gives the briquettes, as much as 30 tons of them, to charities.

Special guests

John and Frances Canning won't have to hold onto their guestbook as proof-the newly wedded couple has the pictures to prove it. That's because when Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip popped in as unexpected wedding guests, they stayed long enough to be in the wedding photos. The surprise came on March 23 at the Canning wedding held at Manchester Town Hall in Northern England. After being informed that the queen would be nearby, the bride-to-be sent an invitation on a whim to Buckingham Palace inviting the monarch plus a guest to attend the party. The queen politely declined, but then instructed her office to begin planning a surprise for the newlyweds. The stunned couple told The Sun that the surprise made their day. "She said I looked lovely and she wanted to wish us all the best for the future," Frances Canning told the tabloid. "We're going to have to get a bigger wedding album now. ... Not many people will have pictures like that."

Sub standard

San Francisco's new $10.24 per hour minimum wage already has created some unintended consequences for sandwich lovers. According to San Francisco weekly, signs posted in San Francisco county Subway sandwich shops in March have been alerting customers that the restaurant chain won't be offering its popular $5 footlong sub promotion in the Golden Gate city due to the "higher cost of doing business."

Paper or plastic?

Within a few months, Canadians will no longer be offering anyone a penny for their thoughts. Noting that it costs 1.5 cents for the government to make a penny, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced on March 29 that it would cease to make pennies and pull them from circulation by the end of the year. While stores will still accept pennies, they will have to round their prices up or down in five-cent increments. "The penny has simply outlived its purpose," said Canadian Sen. Irving Gerstein. "It is a piece of currency, quite frankly, that lacks currency." Canada is also one of a growing number of countries that, hoping to thwart counterfeiters, are replacing paper bills with plastic bills. Last year Canada introduced the plastic $100 bill, with a plastic $50 bill coming this year and plastic versions of smaller bills next year.

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