Originally created 05/04/04

Odds and Ends



COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It was a stunt worthy of Animal House - and so was the way it all went awry.

Members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity tried to load an antique cannon on their front lawn with fireworks, but ended up destroying the cannon, punching a hole through a roof and blowing out the window of an apartment across the street.

An 8-inch portion of the cannon crashed through the roof of the apartment building Thursday, tearing through the fifth floor before landing on a pingpong table in the lounge on the fourth floor.

The explosion also left some debris embedded in the building's brick exterior. No one was hurt.

Two members of the fraternity at the University of Missouri-Columbia were arrested. The national Kappa Alpha fraternity said Missouri's chapter president and vice president were facing charges.

Elaine Pohl, a teacher, said she and a visiting scholar from China had been playing pingpong in a fourth floor lounge of University Place apartments when they heard two loud explosions.

She said she then noticed a 12-inch hole in the ceiling and a piece of metal on the pingpong table. About a dozen people were in the room at the time.

"It came down into the net like it would've sliced the table in two, though it didn't break the table," she said.

* * * *

FLAGLER BEACH, Florida -- It didn't make it across the Atlantic, but 7-year-old Dylan Goodman got a long-distance answer to a message put in a bottle that was thrown in the ocean.

His floating note sent March 4 said: "Hi. My name is Dylan. I'm 7 years old and if you find this message, please write back."

A surprising reply, postmarked from Jork, Germany, several weeks later had the first-grader, his family and friends wondering how the bottle could have made the 4,637-mile journey.

What the message didn't say was that the bottle made only a short trip.

"I found the bottle in Flagler Beach," explained Sybille Lohse, who answered the youngster's note. The bottle was found in mid-March and Lohse took it home with her when she returned to Germany.

The reality was disappointing to Dylan's mom, Kelly Goodman.

"In a way, I wish we never knew that," she said Saturday. "But I guess the mystery is solved. It was kind of bizarre that it would get there that quickly."

* * * *

MISSOULA, Mont. -- If you want to have a complete collection of Montana license plates - that would be plates from 1914 to 2004 - you need a 1944 soybean-based plate.

In 1944, Montana license plates felt like thick cardboard. With World War II raging and metal scarce, the state got hold of year-old soybean-based plates from Illinois, flipped them upside down and backwards, and painted a new background and numbers on them.

There were two problems. The plates didn't hold up to the elements well. And, since they were soybean-based, cows liked to eat them.

On Saturday, people who know these odd facts - members of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association - gathered to sell and swap plates.

Bill Phillips, of Ulm, had a box of foreign license plates among those he offered for sale or trade.

"It's a worldwide hobby," Phillips said. "I have people I trade with in Belgium, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand. I'll send them 60 U.S. plates, they'll send me a bunch of theirs. There's a lot of expense involved in foreign trade, just in shipping them. But I don't smoke and I only drink the occasional brewski, so I figure it's OK."

* * * *

SAMPHRAN, Thailand -- A former model who once weighed a mere 115 pounds before more than tripling her weight was crowned Jumbo Queen at an annual pageant where big is beautiful.

Dressed in billowing silks, the 20 contestants sashayed down a stage Saturday and climbed on a weighing scale before showing off talents ranging from Indian dance to lip synching songs.

At nearly 375 pounds, Bangon Waiyawong was a clear winner in weight, beating the second placed Sirirat Wongknongwa by 63.93 pounds.

Bangon, dressed in a mauve skirt and flowing orange crepe wings attached to the shoulders, got the audience rocking with her performance of a disco dance.

"The way I danced ... I did things the judges didn't think I could do," Bangon said after being crowned.

The 34-year-old Bangon is the owner of a beauty shop and trains aspiring contestants in conventional beauty contests.

The Jumbo Queen event was staged at the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo, 25 miles west of Bangkok, as part of the zoo's annual Jumbo Banquet elephant feast. The event is aimed at highlighting elephant conservation.