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Quick Takes


Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Quick Takes
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Land and water sale

A clerical error in Brooksville, Fla., led to the city accidentally selling its water tower to a local man who wanted to open a fitness studio. Bobby Read thought he was buying a small building and attached garage when he paid $55,000 to the city. As part of the deal, the city should have divided the parcel and retained the portion with the water tower. But Brooksville’s city manager admitted someone forgot to split the parcel before finalizing the deal. Read discovered the error when he requested a new address from the county property appraiser. Later, Read paid a $10 fee to deed the water tower back to the city. In total, he owned the water tower for more than a week, although he never received keys to access it, according to NPR. The redevelopment agency director of the city of 8,500 residents north of Tampa resigned following the mishap. “We’re human,” admitted city manager Mark Kutney. “Sometimes we make a mistake.”

The height of fame

A British civil engineer has fulfilled a lifelong dream to get his name on a Guinness World Record title—by stacking candy. Solihull, England, resident Will Cutbill recorded himself stacking five M&M candies in June, more than anyone else, according to Guinness. After hours of failed attempts, Cutbill found five of the candy disks he could balance, breaking a record of four set by an Italian and an Australian. Since securing his record, Cutbill said his acquaintances are surprised the number is so low. “When I tell ’em it’s a whopping five, they’re shocked,” Cutbill told CNN. “They want to give it a go, try and beat me.”

Gas pump reprieve

Motorists in Oregon enjoyed a rare privilege amid a record-breaking heat wave that struck the state in late June. Oregon’s fire marshal temporarily allowed Oregonians to pump their own gas. State law typically doesn’t allow motorists to pump gas in the state’s western, more-populated counties. New Jersey has also long prohibited self-service gasoline, citing safety concerns. But with temperatures exceeding 110 degrees beginning June 27, the state’s fire marshal granted a two-day reprieve to spare gas-station attendants from standing outside all day during the heat wave.

Bovine breakout

A herd of cattle, running for its life, brought chaos to a Los Angeles suburb June 22. Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had to round up nearly 40 cows that escaped from a meat packing plant in Pico Rivera, Calif., and fled into a neighborhood. Sheriff’s deputies surrounded a majority of the escapees in a residential cul-de-sac only for the herd to scatter as the deputies moved in. After knocking over mailboxes, denting cars, and leaving hoof prints behind, all but one of the cows were rounded up and returned to Manning Beef. The final animal, captured a day later 5 miles from the location of the escape, was given over to an animal shelter.

Bail gone bad

A Maine man’s plan to spring himself from jail failed when a bail commissioner spotted his funny money. The York County Sheriff’s Office said Michael Deschesne attempted to make bail on May 27 with two counterfeit $100 bills. Police had stopped Deschesne earlier and arrested him on an outstanding warrant for theft. After he presented the counterfeit cash to the bail commissioner, authorities returned Deschesne to the local jail with an additional charge: forgery. He later posted bail with real money.

Dressed to impress

Female Ukrainian soldiers are set to march in high-heeled shoes during a military parade slated for August. But the sartorial splendor of high-heeled dress uniforms caught many in Ukraine off guard. Iryna Gerashchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, said she thought the black pumps were a hoax when she saw pictures of female soldiers practicing ahead of the Aug. 24 march to commemorate independence from the Soviet Union. Gerashchenko joined other Ukrainian lawmakers in demanding an apology from the nation’s defense ministry for designing what she called a sexist dress uniform.

Ban on “Champagne”

Tony denizens of Russia may soon notice something missing at celebrations. A piece of legislation Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on July 2 now prohibits any non-Russian sparkling wine maker from using the term “champagne.” That’s a problem for French makers of the namesake drink produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne maker Moët Hennessy briefly suspended shipments of the alcoholic beverage to Russia in early July, citing the new law, before announcing it would relabel its bottles bound for Russia as “sparkling wine.” Social media users poked fun at the strange rule. “Now it’s necessary to ban Scots and Americans from using the word ‘whisky,’” joked restaurateur Sergei Mironov, according to the AFP.

On borrowed time

Nearly a century after being borrowed, several books have found their way back to the Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts. Methuen, Mass., resident Bob Alvarez said he discovered the books while looking through an old box in his basement in June. The 39 books he found belonged to his late aunt, who died as a teenager in 1937. While some of the titles were from his aunt’s personal collection, others were on loan from the local public library. Alvarez contacted the library in early July to return the books, checked out in the 1920s and ’30s, and to inquire about possible late fees. The timing was to Alvarez’s benefit: The Somerville Public Library amended its policies and stopped collecting late fees on July 1.

Stone Age settlement

A San Francisco–region homeowner will get to keep her quirky, Flintstones-inspired landscaping after reaching a settlement with the town of Hillsborough. City officials had been battling in court with retired publishing mogul Florence Fang, whose Stone Age–themed lawn ornaments and bulbous-style home recall the 1960s Flintstones cartoon series. The town had called Fang’s backyard dinosaur sculptures “a highly visible eyesore” and said she hadn’t obtained proper permits for them. Under the settlement, the town will approve a survey of her landscaping changes, while Fang will apply for necessary building permits.

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