NewsQuirks 680

Curses, Foiled Again

Daniel Fornash dug up a marijuana plant that he had grown in the front yard of a vacant house in Canton, Ohio, and was carrying it home, when he remarked to a passer-by, "Would you believe I'm walking down the street in the middle of the day with this pot plant?" The passer-by responded, "Would you believe I'm a cop?" He identified himself as Detective Joe Mongold and cited Fornash for misdemeanor cultivation and possession of marijuana.

Science to the Rescue

Hong Kong researchers Jintu Fan and Yisong Chen announced they have created a mannequin that perspires. Intended to help clothes designers develop more comfortable military clothing, sportswear and even spacesuits, the dummy is filled with pipes containing heated water and has three layers of custom-built skin. "The top layer allows water to pass through, while the bottom layer is water resistant," said Fan, associate professor at the Institute of Textiles and Clothing at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "The middle layers control the perspiration process by only allowing water to pass through in vapor form."

Traffic engineers, anticipating that drivers will be confused by a 9-mile elevated, reversible-lanes bridge connecting Brandon and Tampa, Fla., scheduled to open in 2004, announced they will install a giant net to snare errant vehicles. The device, similar to equipment used on aircraft carriers to prevent landing planes from overshooting the carrier deck, will feature two metal cables with heavy-duty meshing in between. Named the Dragnet, it will be deployed as a last-resort measure for cars that ignore signs warning them of oncoming traffic and break through two railroad-style crossing arms blocking their path. "It's like someone sticking out a giant hand and grabbing you and slowing you down," said John Rhatigan of Entwistle Co., which makes the Dragnet. "It's less than slamming your brakes on."

The Write Stuff

Todd Warren, 42, a Sunday school teacher at Prairie Oak Community Church in Andover, Minn., was sentenced to a month on work release for asking a 16-year-old boy to write "What would Jesus do?" on his penis. According to court papers, Warren told the boy that the words would prevent sexual temptation. He also requested daily e-mail updates about the boy's sexual thoughts.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Thud and Thud

Rear wheels fell off Baltimore city buses once last August and January, three times in February, twice in March, four times in April and six times in May. Some of the runaway 200-pound wheels rolled into cars, buildings and a natural-gas tank, which ruptured and leaked. After transit officials announced they had taken steps to solve the problem by retrofitting 400 buses with new equipment and revised maintenance standards, on June 12 one of them lost two rear wheels. "Based on what we've seen so far," Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said, "these are failures on multiple levels: quality control, training, supervision." According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the entire rest of the country during the past three years, only one bus has lost a wheel.

Second-Amendment Follies

Dean Ricketts, 28, a detention officer in Fulton County, Ga., had completed 14 weeks of a 16-week class to become a sheriff's deputy when he decided to act out a role-playing scenario from class with his girlfriend and fellow jailer Mychiska Patterson, 23. Ricketts, who was not authorized to carry a weapon, removed the magazine from a .40-caliber Glock pistol he was using in the game, according to Atlanta police investigators, but a bullet remained in the chamber. The gun fired, fatally shooting Patterson in the chest. "He had been trained not to role play with real guns," sheriff's Sgt. Clarence Huber said. "That's something that's taught in the academy, that's something you just do not do."

Pork Products

McDonald's announced it is testing a Spam breakfast entree at its 78 restaurants in Hawaii, where the pork-parts luncheon meat is already popular for lunch and dinner. The Spam platter, costing $2.69, consists of low-salt Spam, scrambled eggs and rice.

Suzanne Vasquez, 47, turned down a $75,000 offer from Wal-Mart to settle her claim that a 13-pound country ham caused her to develop epilepsy when it fell on her head after she reached to inspect it while shopping, confident that she would be awarded the $500,000 she sought. Instead, she received nothing when the jury in Bradenton, Fla., ruled in favor of Wal-Mart. "I'm still in shock," Vasquez said.

An Australian court awarded $34,817 (U.S.) to Troy Michael Bowron, 25, who claimed that he broke his arm while playing pool at the Jannali Inn in Sydney when he slipped on a greasy bar floor caused by a patron who wore pork chops for shoes. Ross Lucock told the New South Wales District Court that he taped the meat to his feet when the bar staff refused to serve him because he wasn't wearing shoes. Judge Anthony Puckeridge cleared Lucock of any responsibility for the accident and ruled that the inn was negligent for failing to clean up Lucock's greasy trail.

Field of Screams

Police in Calgary, Alberta, arrested nine people after a brawl between croquet and softball players in which three men were hospitalized. "For whatever reason, the two groups got into a verbal argument, which turned into a fistfight, and then they began hitting each other with wooden croquet mallets," Detective Dean Vegso said, adding, "I didn't realize croquet was a contact sport."

Disappearing Act

Fast-food restaurants have begun rationing, shrinking and even hiding napkins to combat customer misuse, which is significantly affecting profits, according to the Wall Street Journal. Besides ordering smaller, thinner paper napkins, some chains have moved dispensers from tables to counters beside the cash register to discourage customers from taking too many or resorted to overstuffing dispensers to make it harder to remove more than one napkin at a time. According to Georgia-Pacific Corp., the nation's biggest supplier of restaurant napkins, 43 percent of people "pinch a wad" of napkins. Many go unused and wind up in the trash or on the floor.

Meanwhile, Georgia-Pacific and Kimberly-Clark have developed napkin dispensers modeled after paper towel dispensers that release one towel at a time. The napkin makers claim the new dispensers will reduce napkin use by up to 30 percent.

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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