Originally created 11/04/04

Odds and Ends



DAYTON, Ohio - Among the tiny graves on Blocker Hill, the wind echoes with the tortured cries of computer programmers.

Beneath the eight grave markers, and perhaps in a rumored unmarked grave nearby, lie reams of paper printouts of code for software that has left this mortal operating system.

The cemetery is a quirky tradition among the programmers at LexisNexis, which provides online legal and business information. Rather than simply delete programs that are retired or replaced, they print them out for a proper send-off - not always with fond regards.

"The code wakes us up in the middle of the night," said Doug Perseghetti, who recalls the many times his fellow systems engineers and technical support workers are called in the middle of the night to fix system problems.

The name Blocker Hill was picked because the outdated equipment and code represented roadblocks to the company's future.

"Some things die gracefully and other things we've had to kill," Perseghetti said. He said workers had to "drive a stake" through the heart of a poorly performing program named CCI, which received an ignominious burial beneath an emblem of a pig.

In 1992, up to 50 mourners followed pallbearers carrying a wooden coffin with a printout of the former Database Update Control System as a trumpeter played "Taps," project consultant Alice Kaltenmark said. Eulogies were said and chocolate cake served.

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WARREN, Mich. - A man trying to stop a robbery at a gas station ended up smashing a plate glass window, wrecking his car and fingering the wrong man. The suspect escaped - minus a shoe - and remains at large.

Michael Lonsway's insurance company says it won't pay for the damage. Police say what he did was too risky. Even so, Lonsway, 43, says he would do it again.

If people refused to get involved, "we'd have anarchy in our system," he said.

Lonsway had pulled into a Shell station Sunday when he saw a man run inside and dart behind the counter. Seconds later, an employee stepped back toward a window, hands held high.

Lonsway said he pulled his Pontiac Grand Prix within a few feet of the entrance, hoping to surprise the robber upon exit.

"First I just tried to pin him," Lonsway said. "He said, 'Come on, let me go!' I said, 'You ain't going anywhere.' That's when I floored it."

As the robber climbed across the hood of Lonsway's car, the vehicle plowed through a window, shattering the glass and knocking over merchandise.

The impact knocked a shoe off the robber's foot, and a fake pistol from his hand.

The robber fled, and Lonsway gave chase. Lonsway says he thought he saw the robber drive off in a Cadillac and called police on his cell phone. It was someone else.

Authorities have a description of the real robber.

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A high school student's costume garnered a top prize - and a five-day suspension - at the school's Halloween masquerade party.

The Ku Klux Klansman getup took the prize for the scariest costume at the City High School dance attended by the principal, assistant principal and other staff members.

Superintendent Bert Bleke said he agreed with the school's decision to suspend the student but wanted to know why adults at the party failed to stop the senior, who was wearing a white-hooded outfit, from entering, much less winning a prize.

"There are a number of questions I have and don't yet have answers to," Bleke said.

Contacted by the newspaper, the student declined to discuss his Halloween outfit. He said school leaders advised him to keep mum, and that he didn't want to cause any more trouble for himself.

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GAUHATI, India - Monkeys lurking at an ancient Hindu temple in India's northeast have attacked up to 300 children over three weeks, temple officials said.

"They hide in trees and swoop on unsuspecting children loitering about in the temple premises or walking by, clawing them and even sucking a bit of blood," Bani Kumar Sharma, a priest at the Kamakhya temple in Assam state, said Tuesday.

At least 2,000 rhesus monkeys roam in and around the temple, but none had shown aggressive behavior in the past, he said.

"I was returning home from school when a monkey suddenly pounced on me, scratched my head and hand and pushed me to the ground," said Jolly Sharma, a 6-year-old girl.

Monkeys are often found in tens of thousands of temples across India. They are seen as a symbol of Hanuman, the mythical monkey god, and devotees visiting temples often feed them. While occasional attacks by monkeys are not uncommon at temples, the sudden surge in attacks at the Gauhati temple has experts perplexed.

Some say the monkeys may be turning violent because of shrinking living spaces, or because animals once kept as pets might not have been able to adjust to new lives around the temple.

Three monkeys were randomly tranquilized by wildlife officials over the weekend and have been taken to the Gauhati Zoo where they will be examined, said Narayan Mahanta, a wildlife official in Gauhati.