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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

Money laundering

He's not exactly a golden goose, but something good is coming out of Augie, a 2-year-old greater Swiss mountain dog. Augie's owner, Kelley Davis of Apex, N.C., noticed something unusual in the dog's waste during a walk: digested legal tender. That's when Davis realized what happened to the $400 she thought she had lost. Unbeknownst to her, Augie had earlier rifled through one of her pockets and eaten an envelope of cash she earned from a part-time job as a physical therapist. Disgusting as it was, Davis retrieved pieces of three $100 bills and five $20s in an attempt to piece her deposit together from Augie's deposit. Her next trick: finding a bank that will accept the bills.

Picture project

What did you do in high school? These four Spanish high-schoolers took pictures of Space. For a science project, students Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta Gasull Morcillo, and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort rigged a $60 weather balloon with a $78 camera to float 20 miles above ground and into the stratosphere. After reaching 100,000 feet, the students' balloon began loosing helium, but not before snapping off a series of dazzling digital images. The long descent back to the ground didn't damage the camera's image card. "We were overwhelmed at our results, especially the photographs, to send our handmade craft to the edge of space is incredible," Marull told the Telegraph.

'Not just another job'

In a sign of growing pressures on just about every sector of the American economy, bartender and Boston institution Eddie Doyle got the pink slip from bosses at the Bull & Finch Pub. For the uninitiated, the Bull & Finch served as the model bar for the hit sitcom Cheers while Doyle, a 35-year veteran of the Bull & Finch, served as the model for the show's lead character, Sam Malone. "This bar, for me . . . it was not just another job," Doyle said. "It was the perfect job."

Out in the cold

Highlighting the inherent danger of Alaskan endurance sports, a biker in the little-known Iditarod Trail Invitational fell off the trail and spent much of the first week of March lost in the freezing climes of the Alaskan wilderness. On March 7, a helicopter pilot spotted 53-year-old Australian adventurist Yair Kellner after the Aussie spent four days stranded in near-zero temperatures with winds gusting above 30 mph. Days earlier, Kellner crashed through ice and into a creek after taking a wrong turn during the 350-mile bike race. Once soaked in quickly freezing water, Kellner managed to drag himself and his bike ashore and negotiate his way to the top of the embankment, where he managed to light his portable stove. He tried to wring out his wet clothes, but, according to Kellner, no matter what he did, they kept developing icicles. To prevent hypothermia, Kellner built snow caves to escape the wind until his rescue.

No B's, please

When the Kansas Jayhawks lost to underdog Baylor early in the Big 12 men's basketball tournament on March 12, the Kansas Senate had had enough. On a voice vote the body passed a (purely symbolic) resolution that the Jayhawks should not play schools that begin with the letter "B" during March. Baylor, after all, wasn't the first heavy underdog to beat Kansas in March: The Jayhawks, last year's national champion, lost in the first round of the 2005 NCAA tournament to Bucknell and in 2006 to Bradley. The NCAA apparently wasn't listening. Among the teams sharing a bracket with Kansas for this year's NCAA tournament: Boston College.

Pillow case

Because people didn't play nicely, San Francisco authorities say they may shut down the city's burgeoning Valentine's Day tradition: the mass pillow fight. This year, up to 3,000 people flocked to a city park as they have since 2006 for the pillow fight. But after the feathers flew, few stayed to clean up the mess. The city had to dispatch nearly 70 sanitation workers and a street sweeper to the park to straighten things up. "It was quite a mess, much more than we have experienced in previous years," Mohammed Nuru, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, told United Press International. "Everywhere was feathers."

Penny protest

A Bristol, Va., resident went to unusual lengths to protest an electric bill he considered too high: He attempted to pay the $350 bill in pennies. John Almany's plan hit an early snag when he began calling through the Yellow Pages to find banks that would let him exchange cash for rolled pennies. He found just two: "We got all the way to the W's in the phone book. One bank gave me $170 in pennies and the other $123." But that still left him $57 worth of coins short. But after dividing the change into two duffle bags, the undaunted Almany lugged his 29,300 pennies (170 pounds in all) up to the pay window of Bristol Virginia Utilities. "To make my case better, I noticed a man just paid cash right before me. I laid my bill on the counter and told the lady, 'Here is my bill and I'm here to pay every penny of it,'" Almany said. BVU took his change, but after a long discussion among BVU supervisors and several hours of counting. The utility has since changed its payment policy.

Catch of the day

Connecticut teen Aidan Murray Medley has a great fish story. Trouble is, the story keeps getting smaller. Last year, the 13-year-old reeled in a 551-pound bull shark while vacationing in Florida. This year, Aidan hooked a 340-pound bull shark-a prize catch for most salt-water fishermen, but still 111 pounds shy of Aidan's spring break catch of 2008-a state record. This year's catch took the 8th-grader three hours to reel in.

A matter of taste

Call it the ultimate indication of job security: British coffee shop chain Costa has taken out an insurance policy worth $14 million on the tongue of their prize coffee taster Gennaro Pelliccia. The chain that sells over 108 million cups of coffee every year uses Pelliccia and his tongue to test each batch of roasted beans before shipments are sent from the London-area roaster. "The taste buds of a Master of Coffee are as important as the vocal cords of a singer or the legs of a top model, and this is one of the biggest single insurance policies taken out for one person," said a spokesman for insurance broker Glencairn Limited, which arranged the policy through Lloyds of London.

Long lost recipe

Why did the United States have to delay refurbishing its aging arsenal of Trident rockets? Because scientists forgot how to make them. National Nuclear Security Administration officials admitted to congressional investigators that scientists didn't exactly know how to cook up Fogbank, a code name for a super secret component in the nuclear warheads of the Trident. The U.S. Navy first deployed the ballistic missiles in 1979 on submarines as a Cold War-era nuclear deterrent. The Navy rolled out its second incarnation throughout the early 1990s but, after that, scrapped the facility that made the nuclear warheads. To keep the aging warheads, the NNSA had to scour old records for the secret ingredient that makes the nuclear arsenal viable.