Heard around the West


Quick, cover your eyes, that statue is naked! To avoid offending the sensibilities of some 2,500 parents and their home- schooled children last year, the Convention Center of Sacramento, Calif., agreed to dress its 7-foot-tall statue of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. Usually, the replica of an ancient work attracts no attention; it has stood outside the center since Greece gave it to Sacramento in 1972. But responding to parents who found the art too nude and too crude, officials at the center scurried around to find appropriate clothes - sized, we'd imagine, XXXL. The first day was a snap, since they donned the powerful one in a toga, reports the Albuquerque Alibi in its roundup of free-speech intrusions. But the next day, parents and kids found Poseidon had been hurriedly dressed for work at the office. The statue was clothed in just socks, tie and a shirt - though we hope the shirttail was long enough to ensure modesty.

Sticking with the subject of averted eyes, a crotch problem has been addressed in plenty of time for the Winter Olympics. The International Skating Union says it's fed up with ice dancers and pair skaters gliding by audiences with legs splayed "a little too long," reports the Salt Lake Tribune. "And there are too many legs spread-eagled at the eye level of judges and TV cameras." So dirty dancers can now expect to see one-tenth of a point deducted from their scores if they persist in "undignified" movements, says the union president. Kyoko Ina, a three-time U.S. pairs champion along with partner John Zimmerman, sees a double standard. While some skaters in tights push the limit, she says, nobody gets offended at the two-man bobsled, and "they're practically on top of each other."

In Pinedale, Wyo., Jerry Tully might be trying to start a gender battle. In a letter to the editor of the Pinedale Roundup, Tully says he was just sitting in his truck listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, when he decided to keep track of who returned shopping carts from the parking lot. And guess what: Females, he found, are "uncaring," while men use this little chore as "a means of exercise to help them stay in shape."

Windpower turbines may be tall and stately, but they're no match for insects. When the big blades that span 150 feet "spin like a giant blender," says Associated Press, bees, butterflies, gnats, locusts and dragonflies splat to their deaths. Then they stick where they've landed in a buggy buildup. That can reduce the efficiency of wind power turbines by as much as 25 percent, according to a new study published in the magazine Nature. Operators can stop the turbines to pressure-wash the blades to remove the puree of dead insects, but "that only compounds the power losses the bugs already caused." Help may be on the way from engineers, who are designing blades both to shed bug-gunk and reduce aerodynamic drag. Some 2,000 megawatts of windpower are coming on line this year, with turbine farms in oil-rich Texas leading the way.

When you're governor of Colorado, what's the big deal about a little marijuana plant found in your back yard? It's not worth much of an investigation, that's for sure. Some tests were made on the plant, with the Denver Botanic Gardens finding it smokable pot and a state patrol technician calling it more like hemp. In any case, no one is asking Gov. Bill Owens if he experimented with "grooming his own grass," as the Denver Post put it. Owens, who lives not at the governor's mansion but in Aurora, is fiercely anti-drug. Dick Wadhams, a spokesman for the Republican governor, said planting a pot plant was probably "a joint effort" by state Democrats to tarnish Owens' squeaky-clean image.

Everybody and his brother has "adopted" a stretch of highway in America. Some 84,000 groups have taken on 158,000 miles to rid them of litter, dead critters and objects too putrid to mention. From the Ku Klux Klan in Missouri to the Practicing Pagans of Salt Lake City, volunteers get their highway sign and cheerfully put in their volunteer time, lugging garbage bags behind them. But not in Sioux Falls, S.D. When the Sioux Empire Gay and Lesbian Coalition applied for two miles of highway to clean up, the state department of transportation ruled that the coalition was an "advocacy group" and therefore ineligible, reports the Los Angeles Times. Now, the coalition has sued the state in federal court, an action that does not sit well with South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow, R. He'd already threatened to end the Adopt-a-Highway program and tear down the state's 1,000 signs if the gay group pushed its claim. Nonetheless, the coalition persisted, arguing in its suit that the state is clearly discriminating, since it already approved road adoptions by obvious advocates such as Republicans, Democrats and animal rightists. The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting the gay rights group; on the other side is the Family Policy Council of Sioux Falls. It worries that a highway sign from homosexuals might promote same-sex marriage.

Seattle, perhaps, is different. Give residents the chance to conserve water, and they'll jump at it. When 26 utility districts announced The Great Toilet Roundup this summer, 3,000 people waited in line for hours to turn in their old water-guzzling models and get a $40 rebate toward a new one. The difference: older-model toilets use 7 gallons per flush compared to just 1.6 gallons for low-flow models. The hours of waiting produced one good joke, reports the Seattle Times: "So many toilets, and nowhere to go."

School bus drivers in East Wenatchee, Wash., are getting trained in cougar safety these days. On the same day a cougar was spotted near a 20-home subdivision, the bus driver mistakenly told students to "run for their homes," reports the Idaho Statesman. Running is a no-no, because it stimulates a predator-prey instinct in cats, says the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. A better defense: Wave your arms, look big and scream.

Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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