Originally created 03/03/03

Odds and Ends



MIAMI -- Those who like to bare it all on the beach can get a head start stripping in the air.

A travel agency that specializes in clothing-optional vacations has chartered a 172-seat Boeing 727 for a flight from Miami to Cancun in May. Once the plane reaches its cruising altitude, passengers will be invited to disrobe.

Castaways Travel of Spring, Texas, is touting the trip as the world's first flight for nude passengers. The crew will be clad and the temperature inside the plane's cabin will be regulated to accommodate the nudists, Castaways co-owner Jim Bailey said.

"People are looking for stress relief," Bailey said. "In a nudist environment, everyone is the same."

Vacationers will stay at a nudist resort for a week. Rooms start at $910 weekly, plus $499 for the flight, according to the company's Web site.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said there are no regulations specifically banning nudity aboard an aircraft. "It's not a safety issue," she said.

Some safety issues are being addressed, however - no hot drinks or hot food will be served to nude passengers. And all nude travelers will be asked to keep a towel between themselves and the plane seat.

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PALMER, Mass. -- Police officers who want more than mustaches have struck a deal with their boss: goatees for good deeds.

Thirteen officers in this western Massachusetts town began grooming whiskers on their chins last week after making an unusual agreement with Chief Robert P. Frydryk. They had previously been permitted only to grow hair on their upper lips.

Officers who raise at least $50 by April 1 for the Jimmy Fund, which helps children fight cancer, can keep their goatees. Those who do not must shave their chins clean.

"I love it. It's just something different. We've all talked about it," Officer Robert A. Young said.

A few weeks ago, Officer Theodore Bonnayer, president of the local officers union, approached Frydryk about the issue and the two came up with "A Hair-raising (Hair-razing?) Event for the Jimmy Fund."

Frydryk said the contest will boost department morale, involve the community, and raise money to fight cancer. The chief himself plans to compete himself.

Officer Erin F. Sullivan likes the contemporary look of a goatee. "It shows our chief is progressive and open to new ideas," he said.

State Ethics Commission guidelines prohibit officers from collecting donations while on duty, but they may hand out donation forms. The fund is part of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- Building a snowman is usually carefree child's play, but for the engineering department at Bluefield State College, it's an exact science.

After decades of research and development, members of the department have worked out 10 surefire steps for creating the perfect snowman.

It begins with baseline conditions - at least 2 inches of wet snow covering a large flat surface preferably a front yard.

Construction should start at the base by rolling a ball approximately 3 feet in diameter, said Josh Hamilton, a senior at BSC. Another ball 2 feet in diameter must be centered on top of the first.

For the head, roll a ball 1 foot in diameter and place it on top. Two sticks measuring about 2 1/2 -feet long must be inserted halfway up either side of the center ball.

The next, and very important, step is to give the snowman an identity.

Five rocks must be arranged on the top snowball in a semicircle or arc to create a smile. Place two slightly larger rocks above the smile to form eyes.

A fresh carrot is mandatory, Hamilton said. It should be placed, stem first, just above the smile and below the eyes to form a nose. Old gloves, a hat and a scarf can add an extra bit of dash.

"Building a snowman is a fun way for small kids to think of structures. It's good to know the weight of objects and what they will hold," said Bruce Mutter, an associate professor of architectural engineering.

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RACINE, Wis. -- No wonder they call it the wise old owl.

This one outsmarted officials at the Racine zoo and the state Department of Natural Resources.

They didn't realize why the owl in front of Angie Anderson's house wasn't moving and appeared injured: It was a real fake.

A few days after Christmas, a zoo official carrying a large net and a snare knocked on her door.

"And he said, 'I just wanted to let you know I'm going to be out front trying to catch this injured owl,"' Andersen said. "I just broke out laughing. I told him it was a fake owl."

She bought the owl at Wal-Mart two years ago for $14.99.

Since she moved to a busy corner in October, people have stopped to stare, including the zoo official, who thought the owl was real - and injured.

Anderson pulled it out of the ground to reveal the metal legs that push into the ground. The zoo official laughed and drove away.

A couple days later, a DNR conservation warden stopped by and told Andersen that someone had complained and that he needed to check out the owl.

He didn't think it was real, but he needed to see whether feathers came from a real owl. Possessing owl feathers violates the federal Migratory Bird Act. Owl and wildlife experts determined they were dyed chicken feathers.

He returned the owl to Andersen and suggested she not put it back in the front yard, because bird-lovers could think it's inappropriate.

But she didn't give a hoot about his advice.

"I put it right back out there when I got it back," Andersen said.

She has since put up a sign that reads, "This is not a real owl."

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Police arrested a man who was restrained by bank employees after he apparently thought better of his plan to commit a robbery.

Police Capt. Allen Soukup said the 27-year-old man entered a Cornhusker Bank branch Thursday and asked to use a phone. Minutes later, the man reached inside his bib overalls and told the teller to give him all the money, Soukup said.

As the teller led him to the vault, she asked if he was sure he really wanted to rob the bank. He first said "Yes," but then said, "No." He then said, "Call the cops."

The man crawled under a swinging door leading to the teller areas and was restrained by bank employees until police arrived, Soukup said.

He was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery.

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SAN DIEGO -- The driver of an armored car has vanished - along with more than $100,000, police said.

The Loomis Fargo armored car was found abandoned Thursday with its engine running and door open in downtown San Diego, a few blocks from a major command center police have set up in preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl.

The 29-year-old driver had dropped off a fellow security guard moments earlier at a city administration building for the final pickup of the day, police Lt. Jim Collins said. When the passenger walked out of the building 10 minutes later, the truck was gone.

Police were trying to determine whether the robbery was an inside job.

"We're covering our bases," Collins said. "We're treating it both ways."

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AUSTIN, Minn. -- High school students who make the honor roll here used to look forward to public recognition. Now, they'll have to settle for a certificate.

Principal Joe Brown said he decided to end publication of the honor roll as a matter of data privacy. That's because school policy barred students who met grade requirements from the list if they had discipline problems.

"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that certain students had gotten in trouble with school and/or legal policies," Brown said.

Brown said the change was his idea and was not prompted by complaints from parents or students.

"I've always felt uncomfortable about releasing an honor-roll list that wasn't fully complete. People would be calling and saying, 'I know so-and-so's a straight-A student. Why isn't he or she on the list?"'

Brown says he'd be open to hearing other views.

"If I heard from more folks who want it publicized, we might consider doing that," he said.

After first quarter, only one person called to inquire about the absent honor roll, he said. "It's not a hot issue until we get three calls," Brown said.