NewsQuirks 654

Curses, Foiled Again

Officer J.D. Burke of the Hampden, Maine, police department was following a vehicle with expired registration stickers, intending to pull it over once he got beyond a residential area, when the driver suddenly pulled into a driveway, apparently trying to lose the officer. The driveway happened to be Burke's. When confronted, Christopher Lawrence, 19, said he was having car trouble. After Burke detected alcohol on Lawrence's breath, a further check revealed that Lawrence was driving with a suspended license and that he was wanted for failing to pay fishing fines.

Humbug ... Up to a Point

Colin Wood, a 30-year-old British financial services worker, paid $430 for the right to spend two weeks in December in a decommissioned fallout shelter living on Spam, baked beans and tap water because he wanted to escape the stress of Christmas. "It's OK in theory," he said, "but the running around, the buying of presents for people you don't like, the family bickering, the endless turkey and terrible films on TV are just too much."

After only a week in the bunker, Wood emerged and said he couldn't take any more. "It was great," he explained, "but I was dying for a pint" of beer.

Luck of the Irish

The University of Notre Dame paid Georgia Tech $1.5 million to buy out the contract of football coach George O'Leary so he could become head coach of the Irish. Five days after he was hired, O'Leary resigned when it was revealed that his resume falsely claimed he had a master's degree and was a three-time football letter winner in college.

Flushed with Success

More than 200 restroom professionals attended the three-day World Toilet Summit in Singapore in November to discuss design, ventilation, sanitation, incontinence and the future of the restroom. Also on the agenda were a mime performance depicting desirable and undesirable bathroom behavior and a tour of Singapore's top three facilities, including one at the zoo that features plants and rock gardens. "We have reached a stage where we should recognize the contribution of the toilet with such a major event," said the sponsoring Restroom Association of Singapore. "After all, we visit the toilet every day. The need to visit the toilet makes us all equals."

Fishy Business

Fish need to relax to taste better, according to Greek researchers who are working to reduce stress among farm-raised fish. Sofronios Papoutsoglou, professor of applied hydrobiology at Athens' Geoponic University, told the daily newspaper To Ethnos that fish living in water tanks under artificial lighting tend to suffer severe stress and depression, which affect their flavor. Papoutsoglou recommends customizing water tank color according to the species, providing more playtime in the tanks and improving the quality of their food.

A Helsinki court fined fish vendor Magnus Ekstrom $200 for selling fish that was too fresh. A 27-year-old veterinarian complained to authorities that the fish were suffering from unnecessary pain after he observed them still moving their gills and wiggling around. Ekstrom whacked his fish to prove they were dead, but they continued to flop around. "I think I am the only fisherman in Europe -- no, in the entire world -- that has been convicted with a thing like this," Ekstrom said. "Usually people want fish to be as fresh as possible when it's sold."

Teen Leader

Voters in Mount Carbon, Pa., elected an 18-year-old as their new mayor. Jeffrey J. Dunkel decided to run after attending council meetings for his high school American government class and deciding nothing was getting done. He unseated incumbent John A. Furphy in the May primary. In the November general election, he received 43 votes to Furphy's eight write-ins.


New York's Ground Zero has become a hot spot for women trying to pick up eligible rescue workers. Former fire department spokesperson Robert Leonard compared the trend to a rock concert where groupies try to pick up the performers, but the New York Post reported some firefighters are annoyed with the attention. "It's beginning to wear a little thin," Paul Iannizzotti said. "We appreciate all the support from everyone, and it's been amazing. But we also have work to do."

Travelers passing through metal detectors at Denver International Airport since Sept. 11 have been leaving behind as many as a dozen laptop computers a day. Officials blamed the long waits to clear security -- up to three hours -- and the subsequent rush by passengers to make their flights.

Despite facing a $1.6 billion budget deficit after Sept. 11, the Arizona House of Representatives is going ahead with plans to spend $400,000 on new club chairs, leather sofas, credenzas and end tables. The state Senate is spending $270,000 to recarpet its hallways and replace desks and computers. Outside, the lawmakers are spending $40,000 to repave the House parking lot. The purchases were authorized before Sept. 11, but other government agencies have canceled similar purchases, saying it isn't a good time to spend taxpayers' money. To top things off, House leaders bought 137 computers over the Internet to avoid paying state sales tax.

Some residents of Kabul are coping with a building shortage by converting metal shipping containers, many of which still bear the stenciled names of shipping companies in the United States, Hong Kong, Britain and Bermuda, into houses, shops and even police stations, according to a Washington Post report. "It's very convenient, and it was cheaper than building a shop," said Abdul Rahman, who sells auto parts from his rust-red, 20-foot container that is part of a long row stretching in both directions along one road. "When peace comes to Afghanistan, these containers will be removed. When they go, we will plant flowers here."

Lucky Looks

After an employee at a Paramus, N.J., Honda dealership mistook the Rev. Jack Copas, 47, for an accused child pornography dealer featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted" and called the FBI, the dealership said it would give Copas a Honda Passport sport-utility vehicle as a goodwill gesture. "I'm in the business of forgiving and forgetting," Copas said.

Noisier Than Bubble Wrap

During a heat wave in Hong Kong this summer, a metal container packed with more than half a million pingpong balls burst into flames. "The blast was probably caused by air expansion inside the pingpong balls," a police spokesperson said.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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