Among offbeat and zany stories from the year just about to end are the following..................."Enjoy"
- The bad news for a group of employees in a Canadian technology company was that the firm was closing down and laying them off. The good news, received the same day, was that 10 of them had jointly won the equivalent of 7.1 million dollars in the state lottery.
- Faced with a school ban on boys wearing short rather than long trousers in hot weather, a 12-year-old British pupil registered his protest by showing up in a skirt.
- A woman in Sicily who had put off paying a three-year-old parking fine got a shock when she opened a letter telling her it had shot up to 32,000 euros, including interest. An absent-minded official had typed in the date of the violation as '208', rather than '2008', and the computer had done the rest.
- Following a trend set by Knut, a cuddly polar bear cub, and Paul, an octopus that was touted for predicting World Football Cup results, a German zoo promoted Heidi, the cross-eyed opossum. Alas, the squint-eyed marsupial died in the course of the year, but not before her photo had drawn millions of laughs on the Internet.
- Also in Germany, an enterprising cow named Yvonne escaped from a herd about to be slaughtered and spent three months evading both the police and the media in the southern region of Bavaria. When caught, she was given refuge in an animal sanctuary.
- A French government minister got his fingers in a twist while using the micro-message Internet site Twitter both for personal and public missives. "When I get home, I'm going to bed, exhausted. With you?" Eric Besson tweeted - in a message received by his 14,000 online "followers".
- Fans of the local football team in the southwestern French town of Dax were bemused when their website was attacked by hackers sending them vengeful messages in German. The protesters had mistaken it for the official site of Germany's main stock market index, the DAX.
- At a press conference during a visit to Chile, Czech President Vaclav Claus could not resist an elegant pen that was lying on the table in front of him. A video showing him slipping the instrument into his jacket became a viral hit on the Internet.
- British power stations recorded one of their biggest surges in energy demand ever just as live TV coverage of the country's royal wedding was drawing to a close. Engineers attributed the excess to around a million people putting on their electric kettles at the same time to make tea.
- The central Asian nation of Uzbekistan organised a key university entrance exam for all students on a single day. Just as the event began, the country's five mobile phone operators shut down all text-messaging services, citing "urgent maintenance" but in fact nipping in the bud any possibility for students to use them to cheat.
- Radio listeners in Israel heard their foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, being interviewed from the comfort of his home. As the interview ended, they clearly heard the sound of his toilet flushing.
- A poverty-stricken 75-year-old woman in the Caucasian republic of Georgia cut off all Internet access in both her home country and neighbouring Armenia when she inadvertently sliced through a cable while foraging for scrap metal.
- A huge electronic counter set up in London's Trafalgar Square to provide a 500-day countdown to the start of the city's Olympic Games not only stopped functioning, but started going backwards.
- A young girl in Australia who used an Internet site to issue an open invitation to her 16th birthday party had to cancel it after 200 000 people said they were coming.
- A Dutchman who drove his expensive sports car at almost 300 kilometers (180 miles) an hour on a Belgian highway was caught because he couldn't resist putting a film of the exploit, along with pictures of the speedometer and commentary on the type of car, on the video sharing web site "YouTube".
- A 36-year-old woman in Italy filed for divorce just a month after getting married. The reason: her new husband had insisted on bringing his mother along on their honeymoon.
- Chinese TV viewers thought there was something familiar about a sequence on the news supposedly showing the country's warplanes going through their paces. And there was: it turned out that the footage was from the hit US film 'Top Gun'.
- A group of white doves released from the Vatican during a sermon by Pope Benedict XVI refused to play their roles as symbols of peace. Rather than soaring up into the air, they simply flew straight back in through the window.
- A man arrested for credit card fraud in South Korea was found to have kept a detailed diary of a long career of burglaries, containing the addresses of houses he had broken into and details of what he had taken. His home also contained many of the stolen items.
- Students attending a class on human sexuality in a Chicago university found themselves watching a real life demonstration involving a naked man and woman and an electric vibrator.
- The organisers of an arts festival in Australia were red-faced when a huge helium-filled balloon sculpture representing clouds was torn from its moorings and soared off into the sky.
- Attendees at a United Nations meeting were bemused to hear the foreign minister of India waxing lyrical about Portuguese-speaking countries. It was only after speaking for three minutes that he realised his text had got mixed up with that of his Portuguese opposite number.