Post-Op Transsexual Learns You Can't Save a Bundle If You're a Lady

Carina Bladh loves her new life as a lady. Everything, that is, except her car insurance bill.

The resident of Linköping, Sweden, had a perfect driving record, getting a special bonus for 25 accident-free years, the Local of Sweden reports. But when she registered her Audi A6 in her new name after a sex-change operation in December, her car insurance rates skyrocketed, jumping $170 annually.

"I think it's disgusting," Bladh told the Swedish paper Linköpings Tidning. "It's clearly discrimination. There's no logic to it."

Swedish car insurer Folksam said that rate increase was due to her change in status, likening it to a person moving to a larger town.

"I think this is going to come back to bite them," Bladh said.

Indeed it did. On Thursday, the insurance company reevaluated Bladh's case, lowering her annual premium to the same rate it was when she was a he.

Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is pretty serious about robotics. If the droids are going to fit in, they probably need to learn the Japanese custom of serving tea.

Fortunately, researchers at the University of Tokyo are exploring just that. In a demonstration this week, a humanoid with camera eyes made by Kawada Industries Inc. poured tea from a bottle into a cup.

Then another robot on wheels delivered the cup of tea in an experimental room that has sensors embedded in the floor and sofa as well as cameras on the ceiling, to simulate life with robot technology.

"A human being may be faster, but you'd have to say 'Thank you,"' said University of Tokyo professor Tomomasa Sato. "That's the best part about a robot. You don't have to feel bad about asking it to do things."

Sato believes Japan, a rapidly aging society where more than a fifth of the population is 65 or older, will lead the world in designing robots to care for the elderly, sick and bedridden.

Already, monitoring technologies, such as sensors that automatically turn on lights when people enter a room, are becoming widespread in Japan. The walking, child-size Asimo from Honda Motor Co. greets people at showrooms. NEC Corp. has developed a smaller companion robot-on-wheels called Papero. A seal robot available since 2004 can entertain the elderly and others in need of fuzzy companionship.

Sato says his experimental room is raising awareness about privacy questions that may arise when electronic devices monitor a person's movements down to the smallest detail. On the bright side, the tea-pouring humanoid has been programmed to do the dishes.

You Can't Bring a Man Like Leif Erikson Down

SEATTLE (AP) — Unwanted when it was proposed in the early 1960s, a bronze statue of Leif Erikson on shores of Seattle's Shilshole Bay seems to be exacting revenge.

Crews attempting to relocate the statue have been unable to budge the 17-foot-tall Viking from his pedestal.

"That's one stubborn Scandinavian," remarked Kristine Leander of the Leif Erikson International Foundation.

On Tuesday, workers spent eight hours drilling at the base, pounding on the concrete and tugging with the crane. They found that concrete poured into the statue's hollow legs had attached it securely to the base.

"We didn't want to pull harder. You pull hard enough, it comes apart," said Mike Hascall, co-owner of Artech, the company hired to move the statue to suburban Kent to be refurbished before it is relocated to a new plaza about 200 feet away.

About two dozen people came to watch workers move the statue of the Viking many believe was the first European to reach America, 500 years before Columbus. They went home disappointed after a ceremony scheduled for Tuesday noon was postponed.

The ceremony came off as planned on Wednesday, but the statue didn't.

Leander said workers might be able to move the statue by Thursday.

The local Scandinavian community paid $42,000 for the statue 45 years ago, but the Seattle Parks Department didn't want it, according to a Seattle Times story, "on the grounds it might set a precedent for other ethnic groups."

Three years after the statue was first proposed, the Port of Seattle offered to place it at Shilshole Bay, despite it being called "not distinctive" by a member of the Municipal Arts Commission.

Tyra Banks Misses the Bus

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — "America's Next Top Model" can't strut her stuff on local buses.

Ads for the TV show were removed from the sides of Santa Monica's Big Blue Buses after complaints.

The ads showed host Tyra Banks and the new season's swimsuited contestants posing in front of a waterfall.

Most of the complaints were from people concerned that the city might be endorsing a show they believed was disrespectful to women, said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services in the beach city.

"It's a matter of public taste," she said. "We try to be sensitive to the community."

The ads were up for about two weeks. The bus line is refunding money the CW network paid for the promotion.

A call to a network representative seeking comment was not returned Tuesday.

In recent years, the city has nixed bus ads for the TV show "Nip/Tuck" and the movie "Ten Things I Hate About You."

Seattle Lady / Spends a Wacky Year Sharing / Poems With Neighbors

SEATTLE (AP) — Every Sunday, Amy Allin sets up a small wooden table on the grass at Green Lake, waiting for an opportunity to fulfill her yearlong mission of sharing poetry with other people.

"Poets are on an academic campus and writing for each other. I'm tired of poets who think that reading to one another is enough," she said.

Her table marked with big glass letters spelling out "P-O-E-T" attracts the attention of a dozen or so walkers, joggers and cyclists.

On a recent windy, rainy day, people stopped by to hear a poem, usually written by a poet other than Allin. Some bring their own poems to share with the poet and others drop by with an apple or a plum.

"I talked to about 15 people who otherwise would not have had poetry in their lives," she said.

One person who visited was Russell McDaniel, a Boeing Co. sign maker.

"I've come here quite often to see her. I think she has amazing dedication and perseverance," McDaniel said.

Allin feels poets are just as essential in our society as airplane makers, doctors and farmers, although she feels many have lost sight of the necessity of poetry.

"Artists allow us to see things," she said. "Poetry can make a dull life the most exciting ever. You're no longer just walking down a dim street. Life becomes vivid and so much more worth living."

Allin, who has a master's degree in creative writing from City College of New York, has had her own poetry published in a number of magazines. She keeps a blog of her Green Lake project and invites people to sign up to receive a poem a day via e-mail.

She doesn't own a car and walks four miles each way to Green Lake to sit at her table from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Allin finds ways other than writing poetry to make a living, such as teaching English to immigrants, working at a bookstore and doing industrial landscaping. She currently details boats.

Compiled by's Sara Bonisteel.

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