Originally created 03/16/04

Odds and Ends



ALEXANDRIA, Ind. -- A man who's spent years applying layers of paint to a baseball that's grown to enormous proportions is hoping to have it declared the world's largest ball of paint.

For the past 27 years, Mike Carmichael has been painting a baseball that hangs in a shed behind his home. It now weighs 1,300 pounds, is more than 35 inches in diameter and has a 111-inch circumference due to more than 18,000 layers of paint.

On Saturday, Carmichael watched as a crew took a core sample from the green ball that's needed before it can earn a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.

In honor of Carmichael's work, Saturday was declared Ball of Paint Day in Alexandria, about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis. It starting with a proclamation honoring Carmichael on the steps of City Hall, followed by a photo exhibit and ending with the core sample taken at Carmichael's home.

"I am not going to start any more baseballs," Carmichael declared.

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ALISO VIEJO, Calif. -- City officials were so concerned about the potentially dangerous properties of dihydrogen monoxide that they considered banning foam cups after they learned the chemical was used in their production.

Then they learned, to their chagrin, that dihydrogen monoxide - H2O for short - is the scientific term for water.

"It's embarrassing," said City Manager David J. Norman. "We had a paralegal who did bad research."

The paralegal apparently fell victim to one of the many official looking Web sites that have been put up by pranksters to describe dihydrogen monoxide as "an odorless, tasteless chemical" that can be deadly if accidentally inhaled.

As a result, the City Council of this Orange County suburb had been scheduled to vote next week on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons given for the ban were that they were made with a substance that could "threaten human health and safety."

The measure has been pulled from the agenda, although Norman said the city may still eventually ban foam cups.

"If you get Styrofoam into the water and it breaks apart, it's virtually impossible to clean up," Norman said.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Students at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have a good use for their old textbooks. They're now on their way to Iraq.

Jonathan Erpenbach, a third-year medical student, said the idea came to him after he learned students studying medicine and health care in Iraq had little to work with after years of dictatorship, sanctions, war and looting.

He led fellow students in a roundup of used textbooks. They've collected 2,200 or so that will be heading for Iraq.

"This was the perfect project," said Erpenbach, a 27-year-old Knoxville native who has joined the Navy and will become a flight surgeon. "This is what Americans should be doing to show our support for Iraq."

While the U.S. military helps by providing the transportation overseas, the medical students have to come up with the money to get the books as far as the American Red Cross in New York.

That's a detail the students are still working on, Erpenbach said.

"We're medical students; we're poor," he said.

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MADISON, Wis. -- Call it the bill that got away - again.

State Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud's proposal to increase state regulation of fishing tournaments made it through the Assembly for a third consecutive legislative session.

But the Senate, for a third time, never even brought it to a vote.

Johnsrud, a Republican, said tournaments need tougher rules because they can deplete fish populations and crowd lakes, rivers, boat landings and parking areas, making it difficult for others to enjoy the waters.

His bill would have expanded the authority of the state Department of Natural Resources to keep the tournaments in check. Johnsrud said his bill fell victim to feelings among Republican senators that the powers of the department should be cut.

The current permit system for fishing tournaments applies only to organized events with $500 or more in prizes and more than 20 boats or 40 participants.

Unless it's resurrected during an extraordinary session of the Senate, Johnsrud's plan to regulate fishing tournaments is dead until at least January, when the next legislative session begins.

"I never give up," Johnsrud said.