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Jail-cell upgrade: $90 a night Add to ...

Pay more, get more space

“There are some things money can’t buy – but these days, not many,” says The Atlantic. “Almost everything is up for sale. For example: A prison-cell upgrade: $90 a night. In Santa Ana, Calif., and some other cities, nonviolent offenders can pay for a clean, quiet jail cell, without any non-paying prisoners to disturb them. Access to the carpool lane while driving solo: $8. Minneapolis, San Diego, Houston, Seattle and other cities have sought to ease traffic congestion by letting solo drivers pay to drive in carpool lanes, at rates that vary according to traffic.”

The appeal of cave-dwelling

“Like many peasants from the outskirts of Yanan, China, Ren Shouhua was born in a cave and lived there until he got a job in the city and moved into a concrete-block house,” says the Los Angeles Times. “His progression made sense as he strove to improve his life. But there’s a twist: The 46-year-old Ren plans to move back to a cave when he retires. ‘It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s quiet and safe,’ said Ren, a ruddy-faced man with salt-and-pepper hair who moved to the Shaanxi provincial capital, Xian, in his 20s. ‘When I get old, I’d like to go back to my roots.’ More than 30 million Chinese people live in caves. … The better caves protrude from the [Loess plateau]and are reinforced with brick masonry. Some are connected laterally so a family can have several chambers. Electricity and even running water can be brought in.”

Cat not a jogger

“Police in Lafayette, Colo., have ticketed a man who is accused of tying his cat to a rock after the feline refused to go jogging,” Associated Press reports. “Sergeant Fred Palmer says [the 19-year-old man]brought his cat on a leash to the path around Waneka Lake Park [last]Wednesday, but the cat was unable to keep up. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, witnesses told police that [the man]secured the cat’s leash to a rock while he finished his run. A passerby called police. [The man]was ticketed on suspicion of ‘domestic animal cruel treatment,’ a municipal offence. … The cat wasn’t injured, so it was released to its owner.”

Disney decorating

“Disney-themed merchandise is becoming more popular with [Japanese]adults, as products from handbags and wallets to curtains featuring Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and other trademark figures proliferate in boutiques and other stores,” The Japan Times reports. “… Women’s closets are not the only target of Disney products. An exhibition held in February at Tokyo Big Sight showcased more than 4,000 Disney products from around 100 companies. … Panasonic Corp., a leading electronics maker, has become a pioneer by adopting Disney characters in a variety of household appliances. ‘We can get the whole house done in Disney, from interior fixtures to the kitchen, lighting and exterior walls,’ said Soichiro Ono, an official from Panasonic’s housing system division.”

Spotting a new market

“Don Draper, the main character on the hit TV show Mad Men, is said to have been inspired by a real Madison Avenue ad man: George Lois,” says U.S. National Public Radio. “Lois was a leader in the ‘Creative Revolution’ in advertising during the 1950s. … One of Lois’s clients was the pancake company Aunt Jemima. He began working on their advertising campaign before they made syrup, when they were only known for their pancake mix. … Wondering why the company didn’t have their own syrup, Lois devised a questionnaire about pancakes. It asked consumers which syrup they’d purchased recently, and he included an option to circle ‘Aunt Jemima Syrup,’ a then-non-existent product. ‘Something like 90 per cent of the people or so circled that they had bought Aunt Jemima syrup,’ says Lois. ‘I took that research to the head guys, and I said, ‘I want to talk to you about syrup.’ … Of course, they created the syrup, and they became the leading syrup brand in the world.’ ”

The peril of team spirit

“Fourteen employees at a Florida law firm say they were wrongfully dismissed after coming to work in orange shirts,” reports the Daily Mail. “Janice Doble, 50, says she and a group of colleagues regularly dressed in sun-kissed colours on their Friday paydays so they looked alike when they went out for drinks afterward. But new management at the Deerfield Beach law firm … took the uniform as a sign of protest and sacked the group without notice, she says. Ms. Doble, a former administrative supervisor at the firm, told the Sun Sentinel the group had been wearing orange shirts on their payday for a few months.”

Thought du jour

“We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.”

François duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-80), French author

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