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HONEY, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE

Say this much for Dave Pearson: He knows how to make a big impression on his wife, Linda. For example, the Leek, England, truck driver spent $4,015 for her birthday present last month. So, did he buy a diamond jewelry ensemble? No. Her present was a 33-foot-long, 30-ton cement mixer "for cruising around on a Sunday afternoon." Pearson found the prize in a salvage yard. Most of the money went to restoring it to its original glory.

WHO BROUGHT THE CRACKERS?

If you're keeping score at home, the makers of the world's largest cheese apparently have broken their own record. In the Dutch city of Alkmaar last weekend, they presented their new triumph, a 3-foot-high, 1,250-pound wheel of Gouda. It took 1,100 gallons of milk to make and is 224 pounds heavier than the previous champ. Of course, it's a candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Fastest-growing US counties are almost all in the West

Of the US's 10 fastest-growing counties, five are in California, new Census Bureau statistics show. Among them is Los Angeles County, which, at 9 million, is already the most-populous. Two other top gainers are in Texas. The 10 fastest-growing counties, with estimated increases – in numbers and percentage – in the 18 months before July 1, 2001:

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1. Maricopa, Ariz. 122,649 (4.0%)

2. Los Angeles 118,156 (1.2)

3. Riverside, Calif. 90,501 (5.9)

4. Clark, Nev. 88,888 (6.5)

5. Harris, Texas 60,011 (1.8)

6. San Bernardino, Calif. 56,803 (3.3)

7. Collin, Texas 49,728 (10.1)

8. San Diego 48,986 (1.7)

9. Broward, Fla. 45,542 (2.8)

10. Sacramento, Calif. 45,271 (3.7)

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