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Quick Takes

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Issue: "2014 Books Issue," June 28, 2014

Flying high

On May 28, weather radars picked up what meteorologists initially believed to be flash storms brewing just west of Albuquerque, N.M. At first, technicians believed their equipment to be malfunctioning. But eventually meteorologists discovered the true source of the radar images: mammoth swarms of grasshoppers carried overhead up to 1,000 feet by high winds. The clouds of grasshoppers continued for the next three nights.

Beer money

Faced with an enormous price tag and skittish, big-money investors, Amy Johnson and two business partners needed $220,000 to secure a bank loan to open her dream restaurant. Johnson, a Minneapolis entrepreneur, came up with an idea: Why not sell tiny shares of the planned brewpub in exchange for the promise of free beer for life? The plan worked. Offering free in-house beer for life for any investor willing to pony up $1,000, Johnson found 118 participants—many of whom invested more than $1,000 in order to gobble up more shares of the restaurant. And now that the Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub has been open for more than a year, Johnson reports that investors didn’t drink them into the red. On average, the brewpub dishes out 17 free beers daily with a cost of 40 cents per beer.

Losing his shirt

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You know crime is bad in Phoenix when the police chief gets his own shirt stolen. Phoenix police say Chief Daniel Garcia’s uniform was stolen from Suntown, a local dry cleaners, in early June. “We are not immune to that,” a police spokesman told KTVK. “Our officers, from any rank, really, from time to time become victims of crime.”

Blue light special

To observers, it may have looked like a routine traffic stop on June 2 in St. Augustine, Fla. Matthew Lee McMahon pulled in behind a vehicle, turned on red and blue lights, and ordered the driver to pull over. But 20-year-old McMahon was only impersonating a police officer, and the car he chose to pull over was an unmarked sheriff’s department vehicle driven by Detective Chance Anderson. Detective Anderson knew something was wrong with the traffic stop: St. Augustine is a tightly knit community, and he didn’t recognize McMahon as a law enforcement official. Anderson quickly placed McMahon under arrest, and he was charged with impersonating an officer and unlawfully displaying blue lights.

Beach front property

Kansas City is more than a thousand miles from any ocean, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at Georgianna Reid’s front lawn. Tired of keeping up her yard, the Missouri woman of a certain age converted her grass lawn by covering it with 80 tons of sand. “Now being over 60, I’ve decided that I’ve owned the house for 33 years and that I wasn’t going to mow anymore or water,” Reid told KCTV. City inspectors say that Reid’s beach-style front yard violates no city codes because Reid is using the sand for landscaping purposes.

Name plan

If you don’t have money for television ads or direct mail, how exactly do you win a campaign for U.S. Congress? For a white Republican named Scott Fistler, the key to winning an Arizona congressional seat will be a name change and a party switch. Fistler, 38, legally changed his name to Cesar Chavez and switched parties in order to run in the Democratic primary for Arizona’s 7th Congressional District seat left open by incumbent Rep. Ed Pastor’s impending retirement. The long-shot candidate’s name change has earned him some free publicity as critics charge him with cynically thinking that voters in the majority Latino district will automatically cast their ballots in the August 26 primary for someone who bears the same name as the famous Mexican-American labor leader who died in 1993.

Customer care

Employees at a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Carle Place, N.Y., are glad that Nassau County ambulance medical technician Joseph Biundo wanted some coffee at 4 a.m. on May 30. That’s because, unknown to anyone, a malfunctioning oven vent was leaking dangerous levels of carbon monoxide at the time, and Biundo happened to be carrying a carbon monoxide detector strapped to his hip. When the carbon monoxide detector fired off, Biundo hurried patrons and employees out of the store and then phoned authorities, who were able to pinpoint the source of the leak.

One of a kind

It’s the Honus Wagner card of the stamp world. And if you have $10 million to spare, it could be yours. Auction house Sotheby’s said it planned to auction off the world’s last remaining British Guiana One-Cent Magenta on June 16 in New York. The stamp, originally discovered by a boy in South America in 1873, dates back to 1856 when a late shipment from overseas caused the local postmaster in Georgetown to commission a small emergency printing of stamps. The stamp was last sold in 1980 for nearly $1 million, but the auction house expects the one-of-a-kind stamp to fetch between $10 million and $20 million. To date, the most expensive stamp ever sold went for $2.2 million in 1996.

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