At a trade gathering, we were privy to all kinds of comments on overrides, prompted, of course, by the recent proposal calling for retailers to disclose to clients the nature of their override agreements.

"I don't always know what my overrides are going to be," one agent said. "They depend on lift. One time, to reach the next override level, I flew my entire family to Philadelphia."

We heard another agent tell how she offered a chance at a free cruise with air to the first 50 people who dropped by to enter a drawing. "It paid for me to give away a cruise at my expense to make the override," she said. Could this be called "supplyin' demand"?

Crustacean nation

man statueWe were strolling through the old seaport district of St. Augustine, Fla., when we heard a rather unusual putdown. Walking past Colonial-era buildings manufactured out of coquina (an oyster-shell matrix once in vogue for construction here), we spotted several street artists entertaining the crowds.

One performer, a mime painted entirely in silver, was notably intriguing to the kids in the crowd. One child was so wide-eyed he asked his older brother for an explanation. Came the reply, "I guess people who live in seashell houses can get kinda weird."

Tee time in Glasgow

On a sunny afternoon in Glasgow, we were trying to find a good site for a round of golf, a not unreasonable thing to do in the land where the game was invented.

With many courses already booked, this was turning into a major project until a friendly cabdriver recommended a place he knew well. The cabbie was a bit shy in making his recommendation, obviously afraid we would think him too forward, or maybe we would think he was out to grab a big cab fare.

Nevertheless, we trusted his judgment and found, on arrival at the club, that our host -- the friendly driver -- was a former national amateur golf champion in Scotland and a club champion for many years.

As his guests, we paid about $7 each in greens fees; typical fees can be as much as $200 for a round at top Scottish courses. We had already observed that cabdrivers in Glasgow were more cordial than most, but now we are convinced they are the friendliest on the globe.

The sun and the moon

standing stonesWe'll be hearing a lot in the weeks and months to come about the Big Event approaching England's West Country this summer: the two-minute-long disappearance of light during a solar eclipse on the morning of Aug. 11.

The eclipse will make landfall along the coast of the already-legendary Cornwall, demesne of such mysterious figures as druids and warlocks, Arthur and Merlin, and the princes of Wales.

A fascinating report in the New York Times yielded a catalog of mayhem anticipated by regional authorities in light (so to speak) of the event. Up to 1.25 million visitors will descend on Cornwall and Devonshire, four times the usual number of summertime arrivals in the region and more than twice the year-round population of Cornwall.

Bats will be fooled out of their aeries by the dying light, and conservationists and archaeologists are worried about the effects of the crush on flora and on the region's historical artifacts, especially its dolmens and crom-lechs (stone circles and such).

The report quoted one Steve Hartgroves, of the Cornwall County Council, as saying, "We are liaising with the pagan groups to try to assure that, as far as possible, the right kind of things will be going on." Now, who but a government official would be capable of "We are liaising with the pagan groups"?

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