Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A tale of two stories

Well, today we've skimmed over the news, and we've decided to bring you two stories, both alike in dignity, but very very different from each other in subject matter. In one story, we find two cities in America fighting (well, playfully bickering, at least) over a bizarre record. In the other story, we zoom over to Ulyanovsk, Russia, and their newest holiday.

So let's start out on our own shores. It appears that Houghton, MI, and Bismarck, ND have decided that they need to go toe-to-toe, city-to-city with each other over a world's record. Given that both of these cities are in the northern part of the country (relatively far northern part, to be specific), it should come as no shock that the record they're fighting for is snow-related. Is it for building the world's largest snowman? Could it be for removing the most snowfall with a single plow? How about the most children conceived during a blizzard?

Nope. The record in question is over the most people creating snow angels at one time. The record, initially established by Bismarck in 2002, was shattered by the easily-entertained people of Houghton earlier this year. Well, that just didn't sit right with the entertainment-starved citizens of Bismarck, who have decided that December 26 will be their day to reclaim the title.

A quote from Travis Pierce sums up a lot of our views on this "friendly" competition. "I think it’s great and a really neat opportunity for two cities that are pretty much out in the middle of nowhere to have this kind of competition." That may be part of the issue. Both cities are in the middle of nowhere, where there's little to do other than drink, fall over in the snow, and flail around until a friend can help you up. Which, admittedly, gives both cities a bit of an advantage in the snow angel-building competition.

Moving on from winter recreation to something that's easy (and fun) to do year round. The governor of Ulyanovsk, Russia, issued a decree pertaining to September 12. That decree? Well, to sum up, it breaks down to "Stay home from work and get down with the loving." That's right, according to the proclamation, Sept. 12 was Ulyanovsk's Day of Conception.

In effort to raise the incredibly low Russian birthrate, Ulyanovsk Gov. Sergei Morozov created the national holiday, giving workers a paid vacation if they only went about their, um, business with spouses and/or significant others. But getting paid to skip work and have sex wasn't the only incentive Morozov had in mind. In fact, any couple that gives birth on June 12, which happens to be Russia's national day, could walk away with an infant, plus valuable prizes.

This is the third year of the "competition", with a top prize of an SUV, and it has worked wonders to help turn around the birth rate in Russia. Naturally, each year more participants have entered to receive the bonus time off (and on and off and on and, um...), resulting in more babies. Given that the nation has also given subsidies to couples with multiple children, it's entirely possible that the Russian population will experience a boom.

We almost think that something along similar lines could happen in America, but we see a few problems with the concept. For one, in this country, we know that people would want to verify exactly what the couple was doing at the time, so some sort of monitoring devices may need to be used. Secondly, the people most likely to enter into a contest such as this one are already the ones who have trouble understanding that a uterus and a clown car are vastly diferrent from each other. And third, the top prize of an SUV would need an upgrade, since most of the country already owns at least one, and probably more.

Still, we can't think of many better things to do when given time off of work. It certainly beats making snow angels.

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