Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008

King Me!

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King Me!

One of the world's best-known strategists on the game of checkers passed away in November. Richard Fortman, six-time Illinois state champion, published a seven-volume handbook on rules and tactics in the 1970s and 1980s. Many people new to checkers would be astonished to know that, as in chess, there are masters and grandmasters, and international rankings, and that experts actually study historical opening moves and endgames. Some people even play, move-by-move, via snail-mail. A New York Times obituary noted that Fortman played as many as 100 games simultaneously, and won games blindfolded. Until the end, according to his daughter, Fortman spent "hours each day" playing checkers online.

Least Competent Criminals

(1) According to police, a 49-year-old Leavenworth, Kan., man was hospitalized in November after using a front-end loader to pluck an ATM from the Frontier Community Credit Union. He was hurt when he drove to the edge of a 50-foot embankment and tried to drop the ATM, probably hoping that the fall would break it open. Instead, the man, the loader and the ATM all crashed to the bottom. (2) Nicky Reilly, 22, pleaded guilty in October in Exeter, England, to attempted terrorism for detonating a homemade nail bomb in the Giraffe restaurant. The plan failed when Reilly triggered the bomb in the men's room, intending to take it into the dining area, but then could not unlock the stall door to get out. (His lawyer called him perhaps the "least sophisticated" person ever to be charged with terrorism in Britain.)

A News of the Weird Classic (June 1994)

In Toronto in March 1994, Sajid Rhatti, then 23, and his then 20-year-old wife brawled over whether Katey Sagal, who played Peg Bundy on "Married with Children," was prettier than Christina Applegate, who played her daughter on the television show. First, the wife slashed Rhatti in the groin with a wine bottle as they scuffled. Feeling remorseful, she then dressed his wounds. The couple later sat down to watch a second episode of the show. Moments later, the brawl erupted again, and Rhatti, who suffered a broken arm and shoulder, stabbed his wife in the chest, back and legs before the couple begged neighbors to call an ambulance.

Questionable Judgments

n It seemed like a wise decision by the Toronto Transit Commission in 2006 to curb counterfeiting of its aluminum coins and paper tickets by phasing in larger metal-alloy tokens as substitutes. But earlier this year, when the tokens had completely replaced the lighter coins and paper, the commission realized that the room in which it sorted fares was beginning to crack at the foundations because the tokens weighed about 60 tons more than the pre-2006 aluminum and paper. A commission spokesman told the Toronto Sun in November that engineers were working on a solution.

n In September, Atlanta-area educator Phillippia Faust, working on a federal abstinence-education grant, offered a $10,000 prize to any local, engaged couple who had so far abstained from sex and would continue to do so until the wedding. However, despite the large population of the area, she had no takers. As the deadline approached, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she even considered opening the contest to engaged couples who had had sex but regretted it. Faust eventually had to scrap the contest altogether because of conflicting federal grant rules.

n In November, a judge in Dublin, Ga., sentenced Rico Todriquez Wright, 25, to at least 20 years in prison for the 2006 shooting of Chad Blue. Initially, Blue told police that he didn't know who had shot him. But Blue later heard a song by Wright titled "Hitting Licks for a Living," in which Wright brags, "Chad Blue knows how I shoot." Blue then realized that Wright was the one who shot him that night.

Cultural Diversity

Serbians, who have previously constructed large, reverential public statues of martial-arts actor Bruce Lee and movie characters Tarzan and Rocky Balboa, built one of reggae musician Bob Marley in August in the village of Banatski Sokolac. Also planned was a statue of British singer Samantha Fox, but that project fell through. One Serbian artist who helped to raise money for the Rocky statue told The New York Times, "My generation can't find role models (at home), so we have to look elsewhere."

Latest Religious Messages

The streak for the longest continuous chanting, already noted twice in the Guinness Book of World Records, is still active, according to an August Indo-Asian News Service dispatch from Ahmedabad, India. Clerics at the Shri Bala Hanuman temple started intoning "Shri Ram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram" on Aug. 1, 1964-more than 23 million minutes ago.

© 2008 Chuck Shepherd

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