With our compliments ...

Late last month, as Erin Kappen of Bay City, Mich., was opening her mail, she found a check for $711. Sort of an odd amount, you say. The money was a gift from her employer - a bonus, even though she works only part-time and has been with the company for less than two years. If you haven't guessed, Erin works in a 7-Eleven convenience store, whose operator offers that sum to any woman on the payroll who gives birth to a 7-pound, 11-ounce baby. According to the company's director of marketing, "it has happened several times" in the past 25 years.

How did that get there?

A groundskeeper working in Wrigley Field, home of baseball's Chicago Cubs, recently found a rusted grenade embedded in the turf. It turned out to be hollowed out and harmless. Said a police spokesman: It's a dud - just like the Cubs were.

10-year strides no pie in California's azure sky

Whatever challenges California faces often seem compounded by the state's sheer size and diversity, whether a budget crisis, freeway gridlock, or immigration issues. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has boldly tackled some of the bigger hurdles, but even before he took office this year California was making progress on a number of fronts. In fact, Morgan Quitno Press, which publishes state and city rankings, names California the winner of its first annual Most Improved State Award. The award is based on performance in 12 areas, such as percentage changes in the rate of poverty, incarceration, median household income, and public high school graduation rate. The most improved states and their numerical scores:

1. California 35.33
2. Georgia 34.42
3. Maryland (tie) New Hampshire 32.75
5. Minnesota 32.50
6. New Jersey 30.42
7. Alabama 30.17
8. Texas 29.09
9. Delaware 28.33
10. Nevada 28.17

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