The Cinque Terre national park in Italy is up to here with visitors who, “thinking they are at the seaside,” try hiking the park’s steep mountain trails in flip-flops and fall, get hurt and end up needing rescue. If they get caught in “unsuitable footwear” in the future, according to Patrizio Scarpellini, the park’s chief honcho, they’ll face fines of up to $2,286. (Gearing up.)

Customs officials at Aquino International in Manila were curious about four pieces of luggage left unclaimed by a passenger after a flight from Hong Kong last Sunday, and decided to take a look. The contents turned out to be 1,529 live turtles, which were turned over to the Department of Natural Resources. (Sorry – no soup today.)

This year’s ranking of the “most absurd” college courses is out. To name a few: “Contemporary Knitting” (DePaul), “Critical Approaches to Hip-Hop” (Penn State), “Unsettling Whiteness” (Northwestern), “Anthropology of the Dead [zombies]” (Ohio State), “Marx for Today” (Minnesota), and “Breaking the Law: An Introduction to Social Justice” (Princeton). (Hopefully this doesn’t ruin the day of any parent tuition-payers.)

Truck spills reached a new level last week when the rear doors on a Brinks truck inexplicably swung open on Route 3 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, spilling over $500,000 in cash onto the roadway. There followed several crashes and a chaotic traffic jam with people going nuts trying to capture the wind-blown bills. Most of the money was recovered, but $188,965 is, uh… “missing.” (And will doubtless remain so.)

And a family returning from a funeral service told KTVU-TV in San Francisco that they were the ones who tossed hundreds of dollars in $20 bills from their car onto Route 880 in Hayward to honor the man who had died. Another traffic jam and another mad scramble, but by the time the City of Hayward Police arrived, all the money was gone. (Surprise.)

When Dheeraj Kumar noticed that a pair of diamond earrings were missing from his jewelry store in Patna, India, he suspected one of his employees. But a careful examination of security footage revealed the thief’s identity: a kleptomaniacal rat. According to Kumar, the culprit has yet to divulge its secret hiding place. (“You dirty rat!”)

While touring Iceland recently, Texas grandmother Judith Streng spotted a “throne” of ice on the Jorkulsarlon beach and thought it a perfect setting (sitting?) for a photo. She sat and posed, her son Rod snapped the shot, and… a big wave came in, floating the chunk of ice out to sea with her perched on it. A boater who happened to be nearby rescued her, fortunately. (Oops… where’s grandma?)

Speaking of photos, Wendy Lange, hoping to sell her Vinton, Iowa, home, got a shot of herself almost buried in snow and, to amuse her friends, posted it on Facebook with the caption, “I hate Iowa, please buy my house.” Much to the chagrin of her real estate agent, it went viral. Lange now says she doesn’t really hate Iowa… just its winters. (Sorry Wendy – too little, too late.)

Albert Smith, a cab driver in Tranent, East Lothian, Scotland, said he originally hoped to get three or four years out of the LTI TX1 taxi he bought in 2001, but like the Energizer Bunny, it just keeps on going. Now 17 years and over a million miles down the road, it’s showing no signs of slowing down. And neither is Smith. Even so, he says it may be time to trade the ol’ hack for a more environmentally friendly model. (Not the driver, though.)

Nor the runaway dog that joined the Iditarod dogsled race when Pete Kaiser, in 7th place, and Ryan Redington, in 10th, passed the Finger Lake checkpoint last Sunday. They said the dog ran back and forth between their two teams and kept it up for the entire 30-mile leg. They arranged a plane ride home for the pooped pooch. (Thanks… he needed that.)

Remember – time is a great healer, but a lousy beautician. JEC