Here's a good reason to get a broadband Internet connection: It just might help you avoid a $2,500 telephone bill.
That dial-up disaster is what Mark Walters of Springfield, N.J., found in the mail six weeks ago, according to The Associated Press.
His 18-year-old daughter, Elissa, a college student, returned home on Christmas break in December, powered up a new laptop and called an America Online number in the 973 area code — the Walters' home area.
Elissa figured it was a free call carried by the family's local carrier, Verizon Communications, so she left the computer on.
And a few weeks later ...
You've got mail ... in the form of a $2,500 long-distance phone bill.
"The bottom line is it's a toll call," said Qwest spokesman Skip Thurman.
Mark Walters begged for a break, and at one point was told that Qwest might reduce the bill to $100. Walters said even $500 would be fair — enough to teach Elissa a lesson without bankrupting her.
But last week, another Qwest representative named Bob said that wouldn't happen.
"He said he denied the request for reduction because the calls emanated from our home," Walters said. "I said, 'Bob, it took you guys six weeks to come up with that? I'm not denying that. I'm not saying a stranger made the calls. It's a mistake.'
"He said, 'Well, sir, that's your responsibility.'"
On Monday, however, Thurman announced that the situation had been resolved with a fairly happy ending: Walters is being charged just $375.
"We work on unique issues like this from time to time and when we do, we stay on them until the customer is satisfied," Thurman said.
A Japanese junior high school teacher couldn't watch a porn movie at home, so he brought it to school. Big mistake.
The unnamed 46-year-old teacher rented the video on the night of Feb. 26, but didn't want his family to find out, reports the Manaichi Daily News.
So he went in early to work the next day and watched about 10 minutes of it on a VCR in the science room. Then he went to class, forgetting to take out the tape.
A group of science students turned on the VCR later in the day and got a big surprise.
The libidinous instructor was forced to take a one-month pay cut.
"I would have been in big trouble if I was caught watching the video at home," he told officials from the Osaka (search) Prefectural Board of Education.
Buffy, Willow and Faith have nothing on Toma Petre's relatives.
The undead-dispatching heroines of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" never did anything like pull a body out of a grave, tear out its heart, burn the removed organ and then drink the ashes.
But that's what the Romanian man's family did when they suspected he had become a vampire after his death, reports Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Now the locals of Marotinu de Sus, just south of Transylvania (search), are upset that police are investigating Petre's disinterment.
"What did we do?" asked Flora Marinescu, Petre's sister. "If they're right, he was already dead. If we're right, we killed a vampire and saved three lives. ... Is that so wrong?"
"The investigation is ongoing, and we expect to file charges later," the regional police chief noted dryly, adding that disturbing the peace of the dead could result in a three-year stint in jail.
Villagers are quick to defend the Petre clan, pointing out that vampires, or strigoi, are real and mainly prey on their own family members.
"They'd be all right if you could set them after your enemies," explained one shepherd. "But they only kill loved ones. I can understand why, but they have to be stopped."
An elderly man was more practical.
"The heart of a vampire, while you burn it, will squeak like a mouse and try to escape," he said. "It's best to take a wooden stake and pin it to the pan, so it won't get away."
Norway is fighting a war against dog droppings — and one town's children are on the front lines.
The day care center in the town of Skistua (search) has mobilized to scoop up the countless piles of poo-poo that reveal themselves as winter snows retreat, reports the Aftenposten newspaper.
"Pick up your dog doo, or the poop police will get you," shouted the kids, dressed for battle with plastic bags over their little hands.
The Skistua day care center is competing to win money in a nationwide environmental campaign launched last week. The day care centers with the ten best projects will win about $700 each.
"We want to put up stands with bags for dog droppings around the center, and the children will pick up dog excrement and garbage," said the center's director. "If we win, we will put up compost bins."
DERRY, N.H. — An expired link from a New Hampshire school district's Web site has been removed after a town official clicked on it and landed at a porn site.
The site originally provided information about "Save Our Schools," a committee created by residents who supported new school construction. The advocacy group didn't renew its ownership of the domain name after the town voted in March 2003 to expand its middle school and build a new elementary school, leaving the domain name available for a pornography company to scoop up.
"It's embarrassing, but inadvertent," Superintendent John Moody said.
Tracy Graham, a district technology coordinator, agreed.
"It's a very common occurrence," she said. "[Porn companies] go to places that seem innocent enough ... What happened is not a security breach. There was no mucking with our site."
The site's new opening page does not include pornographic material; it warns, however, that further passage on the site will indeed include explicit content. It also notes that the domain name is for sale.
"If you're not constantly checking link beyond link beyond link, this could happen," Graham said. "Or even just [one] link. That could happen to every Web site."
PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) — It's been a slippery ride on Coachella Valley (search) roadways. Hundreds of caterpillars inundated desert roadways last week and many of the three-inch critters were crushed by cars and trucks, creating a gooey mess in traffic lanes.
"When they start to cross the roads, that means they're in search of more food to eat," said Kurt Leuschner, professor of natural resources at College of the Desert.
The timing of the caterpillars' arrival this year wasn't unusual, but the large numbers were. Leuschner said wet weather and the wildflower bloom apparently increased the caterpillar numbers.
"The caterpillars are out in force," said Cameron Barrows, director of the Coachella Valley Preserve.
One girl tried to help the caterpillars, directing them to the sidewalk instead of the street.
"I get a stick and pick them up so they can't get squished by the cars," 9-year-old Marina Padilla said.
Her father couldn't seem to avoid them while driving.
"I ran over one and she [Marina] actually got mad at me," Miguel Padilla said. "You don't want to run them over, but there's no choice."
Others kids in the Riverside County desert, about 125 miles southeast of Los Angeles, weren't too distressed.
"They're annoying and fun to squish," said Chloe Morittz, 12.
Compiled by Foxnews.com's Paul Wagenseil.
Got a good "Out There" story in your hometown? We'd like to know about it. Send an e-mail, with a Web link (we need to authenticate these things), to email@example.com.