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Pounding the pavement



During the last four months, an unidentified motorist in a maroon Volvo has been reported by construction workers in the California cities of Fremont, Hayward, Brentwood and Dublin to have approached them and requested that they fill his car with concrete or hot asphalt. An employee of Independent Construction in Concord, Calif., honored the request in May, pouring concrete up to steering-wheel level. The man allegedly said that he was trying to get back at his ex-wife. Police want to question him, according to an Oakland Tribune report, although they admit he has not committed any crime.

Head stones

LifeGem Memorials, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill., announced in August that, using available technology, it can turn a loved one's cremated ashes into a diamond by pressing and heating the ashes to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit. A chemistry professor cited by The New York Times agreed that the plan was sound; carbon from the ashes converts to graphite, which can be pressurized into a diamond. LifeGem prices start at $4,000 for a quarter carat.

DC follies

Twice in June, firefighters in Washington, D.C. had to battle house fires with garden hoses because pumper trucks were out of service.

Many of the city's police officers were not told about D.C.'s new vehicle registration program, resulting in the officers ticketing cars that didn't have the old (now invalid) stickers, even though owners had conscientiously affixed the new stickers.

In August, D.C.'s Board of Elections ruled that Mayor Anthony Williams' name could not be printed on the primary ballot this month because his election workers forged too many signatures (e.g., "Kelsey Grammar," "Robin Hood") on his qualifying petition.

Hit bottom

In Seymour, Conn., in July, a federal judge ruled against lawyer Milo J. Altschuler, who claimed that his across-the-knee, bare-buttocks spanking of client Leslie Cerrato in his office was a legitimate trial-preparation tactic, and thus, when she recovered a $250,000 settlement against him for the assault, Altschuler's insurance company should pay it, as "malpractice." He claimed that he thought the spanking would improve Cerrato's credibility as a witness.

Heavy mettle

Football player Dennis Johnson, now an Arizona Cardinals rookie defensive end, began his high school football career at age 6 as a 5-foot-7-inch, 170-pound second-grader playing for Harrodsburg High School in Kentucky, according to an April Los Angeles Times profile. (Nowadays, only ninth-graders and up can play, by national rule.) Johnson appeared in several games that year (after Harrodsburg had built up big leads), apparently holding his own against 18-year-olds.

Bear necessities

Twice in a two-week period, what authorities believe to be the same yearling bear was roughed up by tourists in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee because each time he had a fawn in his grasp and was about to have dinner. Floridian Michael Shaw, 38, was charged by park rangers with interfering with wildlife for kicking and roughing up the bear (even though he insisted that saving the deer was the right thing to do). In the second attack on July 7, a group of visitors drove the bear away by pelting him with rocks -- until an animal researcher in the group explained to them the way nature works.

Friends in deed

The Japanese enterprise of paying strangers to come to private homes, pretend they are the occupants' relatives, and exchange family gossip was reported in 1995, and apparently business is still booming. According to an August Miami Herald dispatch from Tokyo, Kazushi Ookynitani's "convenience agency" supplies "friends" for weddings and funerals and even to sit in at college lectures (to keep a professor's spirits up). Recent wedding-party "friends" of one bride (who were paid about $500 each) were given detailed biographies of who they were to pretend to be, so as to mingle more interestingly with the bride's actual relatives.

Abominable behavior

A homeowner in Amarillo, Texas, found one of cross-country spree-bomber Luke Helder's active explosives in May but for some reason brought it into his house before calling police.

In July, near Woodland, Wash., a woman found a bomb along the Columbia River, but rather than calling police, carried it directly to the police station.

In December 2001, a member of the cabin crew on the American Airlines plane carrying accused shoe-bomber Robert Reid, confiscated Reid's shoes and put them in the cockpit for safekeeping.

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