Dispatches > Quick Takes
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

Deep cover

One indication that your grass needs mowing: It's so high, you lose a car in it. A 78-year-old Georgia widow called police in May to report that her late husband's van had been stolen. But hours later she had to place another phone call to police. After looking more closely in her yard, she discovered the inoperable van parked there-the last place anyone had seen it-obscured by high, untended weeds and grass.

Aged speedster

Some men are born with an irresistible need for speed. And some like Craig Breedlove never outgrow it. At age 75, Breedlove is organizing an attempt to bring the land-speed record back to the United States. Breedlove-well-known decades ago as a daredevil-became the first man to take a car past the 400 mph barrier. Then he became the first to travel 500 mph on the ground. Now, decades later, an Englishman holds the land-speed record at 763 mph. Breedlove says he's planning on coming back to the driver's seat-despite his advanced age-and going for the 800 mph mark. According to friends of the legendary racer, Breedlove and his team will go for the new mark in 2013-the 50th anniversary of his first world speed record.

Cost crazy

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How scarce is land in Lower Manhattan? So scarce that owners of a luxury condominium building on 11th Street think they can sell a parking spot in their parking garage for $1 million. The spot, which measures 12 feet wide and 23 feet long, will come with a deed and will incur building maintenance fees. The $1 million price tag would make the Manhattan parking spot six times costlier than the average single family home in the United States.

Gun nuts

A county employee in Detroit has learned a hard lesson about the maddening ways of bureaucracies. Veteran Wayne County, Mich., employee John Chevilott discovered a loaded revolver while at work in May mowing grass for the county in a Detroit neighborhood. Chevilott phoned the police to turn in the handgun-but the cops never arrived. So Chevilott did the next best thing: At the end of his shift, he transported the gun to a Detroit police station. But that's when county officials became involved. Though the police praised him for taking a gun off the streets, county officials fired him, saying he violated policy by being in possession of a gun while on the job. Chevilott said he hopes to fight to get his job back.

Pumped up

The last time James Peterson attempted to fist-pump for hours, he neglected to document it. But on May 11 when he felt the urge to pump his fist again, he made sure to bring a camera crew and alert Guinness that he was aiming for a record. In all, the 34-year-old Akron, Ohio, resident managed to pump his fist in the air for 16 straight hours, which, Peterson says, should be good enough to put him in the record books. To accomplish the feat, Peterson says he took no chances-he even super-glued his hand shut. "I used to hang light fixtures," he said, "so I am used to having my hands above my head."

Juggling act

Joe Salter can probably walk and chew gum at the same time. Bored by normal triathlons, the 31-year-old public-school counselor juggled balls during the entirety of an April 21 triathlon race, which included a quarter-mile swim, a 4-mile run and a 16.2-mile bike sprint. According to Salter, the swimming-while-juggling was the hardest part, since he had to do a slow backstroke the entire time. Juggling on the bicycle only proved difficult during gear changes, he reported. His final time: 1 hour, 57 minutes-and only three balls dropped.

Down grade

Some critics have always alleged that Congress' antics are sophomoric. Now there's proof. On a whim, a researcher for the Sunlight Foundation, an open government advocacy group, plugged all congressional floor speeches into a database that analyzes word complexity and sentence length to posit a writing level. The result: Congress had been operating on an 11th-grade writing level until around 2005, when apparently the level of discourse began a long slide down to sophomore-level dialogue. In 2005, Congress scored an 11.5 on the Flesch-Kincaid scale. This year, Congress scored a 10.6.

Olympic cheating

In the battle to secure London as the home of the 2012 Summer Olympics, some stretched the boundaries of law. According to a top organizer, London 2012 officials used GPS locator tools to rig traffic lights so International Olympic Committee officials would never have to stop at a red light while visiting the city. London 2012 executive Sir Keith Mills admitted to the light-fixing-which occurred during an IOC visit to London in 2008 to judge the city's ability to handle the Olympic Games-in the Daily Mail.

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