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News Quirks 09.28.05 

Curses, Foiled Again Police in Waterbury, Conn., reported that two men were robbing a bank when they abruptly stopped and fled empty-handed. After arresting Delome Small, 37, and John Small, 46, police explained that the brothers had abandoned the robbery attempt because the cash drawers were locked, and Delome Small, who is on probation and required to wear an electronic monitoring device, was worried that waiting for the drawers to be unlocked would take too long. The pair had chosen a bank near where Delome lives with his mother so he could get back quickly before the ankle bracelet alerted his probation officer that he had left home.

The Nose Knows A new Swedish museum opened this summer in the small fishing village of Skeppsmaln to provide a historical, cultural and culinary overview of fermented Baltic herring, or surstroemming. The Surstroemming Museum offers a "sniffing box" for visitors to lift a cork and get a whiff of the pungent fish dish. "This is the only place in the world where herring is eaten this way," Sten Bylin, the museum's project leader, said. "We want to show off our culture."

- The smell of fast food can increase the potential for road rage, according to Britain's Royal Automobile Club, which investigated the impact of smells on driving. Peppermint improves drivers' concentration. Conrad King, the RAC Foundation's consulting psychologist, said that other good odors are cinnamon, lemon and coffee. The smell of fast-food wrappers or fresh bread can cause irritability by making drivers feel hungry and in a hurry to satisfy their appetites. Other dangerous odors are chamomile, jasmine and lavender, which can cause drivers to become drowsy or fall asleep.

- A nasal spray containing oxytocin made young men significantly more trusting and willing to invest money with no assurance of a profit, according to Swiss and U.S. scientists. Their research involved using a synthetic version of the hormone, which is secreted in the brain, to manipulate people's trust. Forty-five percent of the subjects showed "maximal trust," the researchers said while acknowledging that their findings could be abused by con artists or even politicians. "I don't think we currently have such abuses," Ernest Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researchers in the study, said. "However, in the future, it could happen."

Trash Talk Officials in Yokohama, Japan, launched a major recycling effort to reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in incinerators by 30 percent over the next five years. As a result, the city doubled the number of garbage categories to 10 and issued residents a 27-page booklet telling how to sort trash that includes detailed instructions on 518 items. One sock is burnable, for example, but a pair goes into used cloth -- provided that the socks "are not torn, and the left and right sock match," the booklet says. Handkerchiefs go into "used cloth," but only after they have been "washed and dried."

The new rules prompted civic-minded residents to begin patrolling voluntarily for improperly sorted trash, according to The New York Times. One of the most tenacious is Mitsuharu Taniyama, 60, who drives around his ward every morning and evening leaving notices at collection sites: "Mr. So-and-so, your practice of sorting out garbage is wrong. Please correct it." Shizuka Ga, 53, told the paper that after being chided for writing her identification number on her trash bag with a felt-tip pen that was deemed "too thin," she was too embarrassed to take out her trash "and asked my husband to take it to his office."

Another Reason to Stay Online All the Time Two weeks after Apple Computer launched its Japanese iTunes website, it accidentally sold albums all day for just 50 yen each instead of the intended 1500 yen. After Apple fixed the glitch, music journalist Daisuke Tsuda explained that the damage could have been devastating. "Unlike for ordinary merchandise sales, a music download service never runs out of stock," he said. "Potential losses for the company selling the songs could expand without limit."

Standing Up for Sitting Ducks The Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, where gun battles between rival drug gangs have killed more than 115 people this year and more than 40 U.S. citizens have been kidnapped, began offering free bus tours with police escorts to lure U.S. tourists. Three times a week, the tourist board sends charter buses to Laredo, Texas, to pick up visitors from San Antonio for day tours, accompanied by guides and police motorcycle outriders.

He's No Jeffrey Maier After 30 years of going to New York Yankees games, Rob Marchese, 41, finally had a home-run ball come his way. Alex Rodriguez's two-run shot bounced off his wrist. An inning later, Marchese got a second chance when Jason Giambi hit a ball that bounced out of Cleveland right fielder Casey Blake's glove. He couldn't hold on to it, however, and it bounced back onto the field. "My son is going to kill me," Marchese said, "because I'm always telling him to keep his eye on the ball."

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.


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