Originally created 02/03/03

Odds and Ends



NEW YORK -- Nervous about navigating New York City's night spots? Forget asking people on the street where to eat. Just hop in a cab and quickly find the best places for food, drink and merriment.

Seven different companies are vying to install interactive video screens in yellow cabs - 178 of them in a pilot program so far. They also offer news, hotel and theater information - everything a visitor, and many locals, might want to know.

"This is awesome!" said Kara Logan, a 26-year-old Manhattan waitress, as she tapped the 12-inch screen inserted flush with the back of the driver's seat. "When the traffic is terrible, you can just say, 'Where are we?' and find a restaurant."

Operated by a wireless mobile computer, the $3,500 touch-sensitive TV screens list restaurants by cuisine and location, movie theaters and show times. Cultural information comes from New York & Company, the city's tourism bureau; news, sports, weather and business updates come from the cable channel NY1 and the Fox Network.

Customized programming ranges from documentaries about New York neighborhoods to segments of plays and original comedy skits.

More than 200 million riders per year spend close to $1 billion to get around in Gotham's 12,187 yellow cabs.

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LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- It was a chilling mystery when a beachball-sized ice block crashed through a roof and landed in an unoccupied bedroom.

The sound was "like a door was slammed, but 20 times louder," said Joey Woodard, 14. "I looked around and wondered if a car hit the house."

No one was injured when the 2-foot wide chunk landed one morning last week. Neither Rachel Smith, 23, nor her 6-year-old half-sister Barbara, were in the bedroom they share.

The piece of ice may have fallen from a passing airplane, homeowner Christine Woodard said she was told by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA said it is investigating.

"We've heard of cases happening before, but it is very rare," FAA spokesman Christopher White said. "A lot depends on the prevailing winds."

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HAMPSTEAD, N.H. -- A collie named Jarrod has earned the title of man's best friend.

The 1 1/2 -year-old dog pushed his owner away from beneath his snow-covered roof down a stairway seconds before the roof collapsed onto the deck.

"If I was under it I would have been crushed," said David Levesque, who uses a wheelchair. "The way I was leaning over the rail I would have been cut in half, I would have been killed."

The weight of the 12-by-14-foot roof was later estimated at nearly 4,000 pounds.

Levesque, 61, disabled by severe arthritis and spinal problems, said he was leaning against a railing and reaching up with one of his arm crutches to remove some snow when Jarrod started pushing him.

Levesque says he believes Jarrod, who is trained to help him get around, knew exactly what he was doing and saved his life the morning of Jan. 6.

"Dogs and other animals have heightened senses that allow them to hear things we can't hear," said veterinarian Roger G. Wells. "He may have heard the rafters creaking or the timbers starting the break in the roof before it collapsed."

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CARPINTERIA, Calif. -- It turns out Santa was too big for his bridges.

Workers were preparing a 5-ton plaster-and-chicken wire statue of St. Nick - a Highway 101 landmark for a half-century - for a move to Oxnard. They determined that the 22-foot-high Santa was too tall to clear overpasses and power lines along the 30-mile route.

Movers considered laying the him face down on a flatbed trailer but decided, after inspecting his crudely braced interior, that Santa had to remain upright to remain intact.

So workers lopped off the 5-foot plywood base painted to look like a red-brick chimney.

"We saved Santa, we couldn't save the chimney," said Mike Barber, board president of the Garden Acres Mutual Water Co. near Oxnard. "He just won't be as tall. He'll be 17 feet instead of 22."

The water company, which owns a freeway-adjacent parcel, plans to spend up to $5,000 to install a concrete foundation, lighting and landscaping for the statue in its new home.