Odd briefs 10/10

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Pumpkin hurling at Wash. Harvest Festival

BURLINGTON, Wash. -- Want to see a pumpkin hurled more than a half mile? A group of friends who are metal fabricators built a 56-foot-tall wooden catapult for this weekend's Harvest Festival. Their goal is to break the world record of 1,145 feet for pumpkin-tossing. "This particular machine was designed not just to beat the world record. We want to decimate it," said Wes Frank, team leader. Frank believes this year's device, officially called a trebuchet, can throw a pumpkin upward of 3,000 feet.

ET, don't bother phoning home in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The search for extraterrestrial life has ended at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The department on Thursday fired a computer programmer who admitted to using a state-owned computer server to process data for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project, run by the University of California at Berkeley. Charles E. Smith, 63, told administrators he didn't think it would be a problem because he ran the program only on weekends and on weekdays between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when the server wasn't being used, according to a disciplinary report. Department director Tom Hayes disagreed. "I understand his desire to search for intelligent life in outer space, because obviously he doesn't find it in the mirror in the morning," Hayes said.

Maggie the elephant will take off pounds sensibly

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Maggie needs to lose some weight, and it isn't easy finding a treadmill to keep up with her 9,000-pound frame. The Alaska Zoo is building what it believes to be the world's first elephant treadmill as part of plans to enrich the life of its only elephant with better accommodation and activities. At 9,120 pounds, Maggie could stand to slim down. Elephant keeper Rob Smith has been taking Maggie on walks around the zoo's 20-acre property after-hours for exercise. Feeding stations will be built so that Maggie will have to stretch for her food. "She won't get any food she doesn't work for," zoo director Tex Edwards said.

-- From wire reports

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