For the odds, here's Jiminy the Greek 

According to a New York Times dispatch, Chinese promoters once again staged their national "cricket-fight" championship matches in Beijing in October, despite fears from within their ranks that illegal gambling is ruining a "sport" that has endured for 1,000 years. Thousands of men descend on farms in the Shandong province each summer, seeking crickets whose physique and character will enable them to endure the rough matches, which are held inside 8-inch plastic containers. A match ends when one contestant tries to flee or is tossed around hopelessly by the other.

Cold, hard facts

The University of Surrey (Guildford, England) announced in October that it was adding to its curriculum in service-sector management by appointing a professor of airline food. A Surrey official said the school intended to beef up its graduate and undergraduate course offerings in in-flight catering, and told The Guardian newspaper that the professor would be appointed from either the field of gastronomy (the study of how food is served) or food science (which concentrates on such issues as freshness).

Let your fingers do the talking

All in the month of August: Angry at reporters' questions about a rumored gun incident, Janet Woods, the acting principal of Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pa., allegedly displayed a middle finger and told camera operators to "Shoot this!" In Chiang Mai, Thailand, Kamol Kaewmora, 50, was arrested and charged with shooting to death the 41-year-old German motorcyclist who had made the same gesture at him. And both a state court in Lancaster County, Pa., and a federal court in Fayetteville, Ark., dismissed criminal charges against people who had given the finger; the Arkansas judge ruled that the defendant's right to flip the bird at a state trooper was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Generation gap

Joseph Pileggi, 69, filed a lawsuit in Akron, Ohio, in July, seeking monetary damages over his 1997 marriage to Carli Buchanan, 61. Pileggi claims that he intended to marry not Buchanan, but her mother, Ducile Palermo, 83, who is his longtime girlfriend. He claimed that he did not realize until May 1999 that the "wrong" woman's name was on their marriage license. Buchanan, however, insists that Pileggi consummated the marriage with her on their wedding night.

Shocking pink

In July, Newcastle, England, body piercer Lorna Larson accidentally hit a vein while working on the tongue of Gemma Danielson, 18. By the time Danielson got to a hospital, she had lost four pints of blood. Said Danielson, "[Doctors] said they had never seen anything like it." Larson was mortified: "That's the last tongue I do," she vowed.

Picture worth a thousand seeds

In August, Davidson, N.C., police officer Scott Searcy asked to search a woman's car for drugs, basing his legally required "reasonable suspicion" solely on the copy of the weekly newspaper Creative Loafing he spied on her front seat. The paper's cover story on local drug enforcement was illustrated by a photo of a marijuana plant. Said Assistant Chief Butch Parker, "[Searcy] thinks he had reasonable suspicion and we do, too." (The woman consented to the search, and nothing illegal was found.)

Take a powder

In July, Rev. Nelson W. Koscheski, a delegate from Dallas to the national Episcopal convention in Denver, was seen scattering salt under the tables of openly gay and lesbian delegates. According to some authorities, tossing the salt is a symbolic gesture to rid the premises of Satan. After some participants expressed outrage, Rev. Koscheski resigned as a delegate.

Plush to judgment

After taking her claim all the way to state judge Paul Treyz in June, Lisa Alger of Roy, Wash., finally earned a dismissal of one of the municipal citations that had been leveled against her for housing an unlicensed cat named Patches. The reason for the dismissal: Patches is a stuffed animal. The local Humane Society monitors violations of licensing law by knocking on doors and asking kids the names of their pets, so it can cross-check the information against license lists. When Alger's 7-year-old son mentioned the highly regarded "Patches," and the Humane Society found no license for the animal, Alger was written up without further investigation.

And no sharing, please

Due to budget cuts, prison guards employed by the Nova Scotia government had their "privilege" of free meals in inmates' dining rooms taken away in July. The guards must now pay $2.50 to receive a prison meal. And Brazilian multimillionaire Jair Coelho, 68, was arrested in August and locked up before trial; he had made a fortune supplying nearly inedible food to the country's jails, but the government proved that he has secured the contracts through bribery. Now an inmate, he is thus eating his own food.

Going in style

In August, the style and etiquette columnist for The Times of London was found dead -- and clad only in a shirt -- beneath his fourth-floor apartment window. But colleagues said the suicide scenario was too tacky for the man. Noted one friend, "[H]e'd have wanted to be really dressed appropriately." The coroner's comment: "It would be likely that he would write a letter to explain, and no doubt on the Smythson's notepaper that was found in the [apartment]."

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