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On the Lighter Side

Waist makes waste

In the July 2006 edition of “On The Lighter Side,” we gave guys with a little extra weight around the middle something positive to think about. One of the stories cited a study that found that men with a so-called “spare tire” were more likely to survive if they were involved in a car accident.

But, as usual, the fun police were quick to extinguish that glimmer of hope. Based on research conducted at the University of Illinois, overweight individuals might be safer behind the wheel – but they certainly aren’t helping our country’s fuel crisis.

If the research is correct, there’s a direct correlation between Americans’ expanding waistlines and our vehicles’ fuel economy.

The problem has also apparently extended beyond ground transportation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the extra pounds – 10 of them per person, on average, since the
1990s – forced the airline industry to burn an extra 350 million gallons of fuel in the year 2000 alone.

We could’ve sworn the solution to the energy crisis would’ve involved reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Who knew that all we need is some time on the treadmill?


‘I’ll just die if you give me a ticket’

Ever wished you were dead after getting a speeding ticket? Apparently, more than 200 people in Australia took that concept a little too literally.

According to Reuters, a unique quirk on the books in the state of New South Wales allows a person to waive paying a ticket caught on tape by a speed camera if they swear in writing that they were not the person behind the wheel of the car.

So that’s exactly what about 240 people did, and for some reason, they all claimed the person driving their vehicle was one of two people – either a man who had died five years ago, or a man in a nearby city who had nothing to do with the tickets.

Investigators say the sidestepped tickets cost the government about $61,000 in lost revenue. Oddly enough, though, no one is sure exactly how the random assortment of people decided to place blame on these two innocent bystanders.


A big miss-understanding

We’re pretty sure we understand the definition of “sexism” in the English language. Maybe something’s lost in translation in Spanish?

In Fuenlabrada, Spain, City Council members have decided to ban sexism from all street signs and traffic lights, many of which previously only depicted a male stick-figure.

The problem, however, is in their solution. Under the new ordinance, half of all the signs will feature the silhouette of a female – complete with skirt and ponytails, of course.

We’re not sure, but it’s doubtful this was what Gloria Steinem had in mind.


High tech, low excitement

You’ve likely all heard the hubbub surrounding Sony’s new video game system, the PlayStation 3. But what about the PayStation?

To help drum up interest in a toll road being developed in Williamson County, TX, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has created a 10-minute computer-generated virtual tour of what the road will look like when completed.

By tuning into a specific cable channel or requesting a DVD, residents in the area can see on their televisions a first-person video of what it will be like to travel the $238 million roadway – $7 million of which, incidentally, went toward “aesthetic enhancements,” the Austin Business Journal reported.

“Toll roads are new to Central Texas and not everyone is familiar with how they work,” Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the authority, told the Business Journal.

As exciting as watching a computer-generated video of people paying tolls to use a road sounds, we’re hoping this new “virtual tour” concept doesn’t become a hit in other aspects of the transportation industry. What’s next – a 3-D, feature-length film about how to drive across the scales?


Now that’s alternative energy

Here’s a question that should be rhetorical, but isn’t: If it looks like a nuclear power plant, has armed guards out front who will tell you it’s a nuclear power plant, and has a sign on the front gate that clearly states it’s a nuclear power plant, is it a nuclear power plant?

Apparently, not if you’ve been drinking.

At 12:30 in the morning on Oct. 28, a man by the name of Stanislaw Dobrzawski pulled up to a security checkpoint in front of the Exelon Nuclear Power Plant in Joliet, IL, and asked the guards there to fill up his tank, the Suburban Chicago Herald News reported.

After a bit of confusion, the guards realized the man had made two blunders. First, he’d allegedly gotten completely intoxicated and decided to drive his car. And second, he’d somehow mistaken the gigantic nuclear power plant for a gas station.

The guards called the police, and the man was arrested for DUI and disobeying a controlled access restriction – namely, the large sign at the frontage road entrance to the plant that says “Exelon Nuclear Property” and “No Trespassing.”

“Other than being absolutely hammered, we have no idea,” said a Will County Sheriff’s Department official, trying to explain Dobrzawski’s actions.

If police really want to figure out what would possess someone to make such a mistake, they need only look back a few weeks in history. On Oct. 18 – just 10 days before the Dobrzawski incident – another man pulled up to the gate, handed the guard some cash and asked to get through the gate.

Not only is the nuclear plant’s guard shack not a gas station, it’s also not a toll booth.


“On The Lighter Side” is written by Aaron Ladage, staff editor.
He may be reached at