From the e-mails, voice mails and other sources:
FANCY FOOTWEAR — When fire raged through the Stanislaus County Honor Farm and destroyed two of the four barracks in June, inmates were hustled out to safety and left their belongings behind.
Because they technically are or were wards of Stanislaus County, the inmates could file claims with the county to replace their lost or destroyed possessions.
Inmates are allowed to bring prescription eyewear, hearing aides or personal shoes that are recorded as personal property. To prevent theft among thieves, or using their shoes as trade bait for other items, shoes aren't supposed to be the really expensive brands.
So what single item drew the most claims? Footwear.
Deputy County Counsel Dean Wright sifted through the list and found that Nike Air Jordans are the sneaker of choice among the criminal crowd, with 10 claims ranging from $130 to $180 in value. Next came three pairs of Vans at $30 to $80, two for Adidas at $70 each and two for K-SWISS at $65 and $70.
The K-SWISS shoes are interesting, if only because Norteño gang members have adopted the logo and apply a different meaning to it: Kill Scraps When I See Scraps. Scraps is a derogatory term for rival Sureño bangers in Norteño gangspeak.
Last but not least among the shoes: one pair of New Balance at $75. And there's a 25 percent chance those shoes were made in the United States.
The most expensive claims were for eyeglasses, including a pair of Guccis for $400, and for a pair of Red Wing boots at $250.
Capt. Bill Duncan, who heads the Sheriff Department's custodial division, said the majority of the inmates made reasonable claims.
"They tend to be cooperative when it's something accidental like that," Duncan said, referring to the fire apparently caused by a faulty restroom exhaust fan. "If it had been a preplanned riot, then we'd have gotten lots of crazy claims."
TICKET TO FRUSTRATION — In November 2008, Carolyn McMillen of Coulterville went to the California State University, Stanislaus, campus to attend an evening informational session with her granddaughter, Jessica McMillen, who was preparing to go to Mexico to study. Jessica, then a freshman, admits she didn't understand the campus parking regulations when she told her grandma to park in the dorm lot.
When Carolyn McMillen returned to her car, she found a parking ticket under the wiper blade. Jessica, feeling bad, went to the school's public safety office and paid the $20 fine. Thinking it was resolved, she later threw away the receipt.
Months later, her grandfather received a notice telling him he owed the school $90 for an unpaid ticket — $90? For a $20 ticket? Bob McMillen went to the school and said he was told the public safety folks only keep records of such transactions for six months.
Frustrated, he paid it and thought the issue was resolved. When he went to the Turlock DMV office in April to register his wife's Thunderbird, the ticket was still on the books. But the DMV people were able to straighten it out, and gave him a receipt to prove it.
Again, he thought it was resolved. No such luck.
On June 29, McMillen received yet another notice stating the ticket was still unpaid. It noted the correct citation number, make, model and license plate. A day later, he received one more notice, this time oddly addressed to "AAA" at his home address. Same $90 fine and same wording in the letter. Except that the citation and license numbers were different, and it was for a brown Acura he doesn't even own.
Campus security officials didn't respond when I called.
WORLD TRAVELER — In 1999, Cleo Petersen fulfilled a lifelong ambition by taking a trip to Antarctica.
"I'd been to every other continent except that one," the 90-year-old Turlock woman said, having made previous trips to Asia, Europe, the Americas (of course) and Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands.
A widow, she went alone to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and met her 100-plus shipmates for the Antarctica voyage. They boarded a Russian icebreaker — not exactly "The Love Boat" — and steamed through the turbulent Straight of Magellan.
"The wildest waters I've ever seen," she said. Then, it was on to Antarctica, where they were ferried each day in "little orange boats" from the ship to various stops along the continent.
One day, she didn't get off a beach fast enough, and a large wave swamped her.
"It ruined both of my cameras," she said.
She became friends with a group of other passengers that included two people from California and one each from Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri and Japan. They decided to meet every other year for a reunion, last year's being at her home in Turlock.
This year, they're breaking their biennial tradition by having another reunion in Oklahoma.
"I won't make it, though," Petersen said. "I can't go. I'm using a walker now, and its too hard, dealing with the airports and things."
She'll be with them in spirit, at least. And the gentleman from Japan promised to send her a CD with photos from the gathering.
Her days of long-distance travel might be over, but the memories of her trips around the globe are only a reminiscence away.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2383.