it's too big for my finger

Ah, such a romantic scene: A young man drops to one knee, reaches into a pocket, and offers a small jewelry box to his intended. A diamond ring? In Japan, at least, the answer may be ... no. Results of a survey by the Tokyo research institute Jewelry Data Bank show the percentage of fiancées given engagement rings has dropped between 1995 and today from 85 percent to 60 percent, as the average price has risen into the $2,100 range. Thus, when the young woman opens that jewelry box, she may well find a brand-name (but practical and far less expensive) ... wristwatch.

Flight of fancy

Speaking of romantic gestures, an Indian military pilot caused a stir with a special-delivery mission. Guests at the Nachna Hotel in Jaisalmer, near the tense border with Pakistan, were terrified when a French-built Alouette helicopter gunship thundered in, dropped a big, yellow box on the roof, and flew off. The payload? A birthday gift addressed to a female guest. "We'll be talking to him about his love pangs," a defense ministry source told Agence France-Presse.

Western cities dominate list of the 'best connected'

Despite the current economic slump, cities with a well-developed Internet infrastructure will have the best chance of growth over the next few years, says Morton O'Kelly, a geography professor at Ohio State University and coauthor of a study on Internet use and web access for the journal "Environment and Planning B." There's been a shift West in this regard since a 1997 survey, O'Kelly adds. The top 10 best-connected cities, according to the study:

1. Chicago
2. Washington
3. Dallas
4. Atlanta
5. New York
6. San Francisco
7. Los Angeles
8. Denver
9. Seattle
10. Houston
– Agence France-Presse

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