I'm staying put for a while

From Auckland, New Zealand, comes word that John Bougen and his cousin, James Irving, are back home. What's so remarkable about that, you ask? Only that they've just finished a trip that took 169 days, during which they boarded 242 flights and stayed overnight in 114 different hotels. By circling the world the equivalent of six times (151,125 miles), they visited all but two of its sovereign countries: Afghanistan and São Tome. The whole thing, a project to raise money for a children's charity, cost them $192,000. And was it worthwhile? "Yes," said Bougen. "They say travel broadens the mind. It exploded mine."

we'll be fine on our own

If South Carolina's new governor has his way, things could become awfully quiet around his official residence in Columbia. Mark Sanford (R) is threatening to close it until June 30 unless private funding is found to cover a $150,000 shortfall in the maintenance budget, for which he blames his Democratic predecessor. Sanford says he, his wife, and four sons would live in the private quarters, making do without the mansion's 11-person staff. That's still an improvement for Sanford, who often slept on a futon in his office during three terms in Congress.

Quote of the Day

'It may be one of the top five in our recorded history.'

- Lora Rakowski, a highways official in Maryland, of the major storm that buried Eastern states under more than two feet of snow during the Presidents' Day weekend.

How 'Best Picture' nominees are doing at the box office

The countdown to the Academy Awards is on, following last week's announcement of nominees. "Chicago," which is up for the most awards, is regarded by some Oscar-philes as an early favorite for best picture when Hollywood's top honors are presented March 23. A nomination also can boost ticket sales. The five contenders for Best Picture, how many overall nominations each received, and their respective box-office tallies to date (in millions):

"Chicago," 13 $64 million
"Gangs of New York," 10 $70
"The Hours," 9 $22
"The Pianist," 7 $9
"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," 6 $321
- Associated Press

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