Sweet mystery of life? What do Korean soup mix, British meat sauce, Australian meringue, and Japanese furikake seasoning have in common? Until last May, these products were stopped at the docks and off-limits to Americans in an effort to protect domestic sugar producers from foreign competition. The Department of Agriculture admits it went too far with its bittersweet regulation. For example, the nation's biggest importers of Korean food products had 230,000 packages of noodles with soup base locked up in a California warehouse. The soup base is less than half of one percent sugar. "If we'd separated the noodles from the little package of soup base and brought them in separately, we'd have no problem," says a spokesman for the company. After receiving hundreds of sour letters from specialty gourmet shops around the country, President Reagan finally lifted the strict quotas—but not sugar protection itself.

Watch the bouncing sex offenders. The police chief of Santa Monica, California bought Weston J. Hill a ticket to Miami following Hill's conviction, in retaliation for a Florida judge's shipping a prostitute to his city. But Hill was soon arrested for exposing himself in public, so Florida shipped him back to Santa Monica. You can't really blame Santa Monica officials. They felt that California owed Florida one because a Fort Lauderdale judge in 1982 gave Melanie King, who'd been arrested 47 times for prostitution, a choice between prison or a one-way ticket to California. Miss King went to California and was soon arrested on charges of prostitution. Both states now promise to keep their own sex offenders. Talk about being bicoastal.

For years, the owners of beachfront lots in Oxnard, California, have been seeking permits to build on them. For years, they've been turned down by the city and state because the lots have been badly eroded and the main road is often flooded by high tides. Now, the city and state are suing the landowners so that the public can use the vacant lots, arguing that because the lots have remained vacant and have been used by the public all these years, the public now has a right to use them in perpetuity. You see, the government kept the lots vacant and now plans to claim the lots for the public because they're vacant. Catch-22 is an understatement.

The owners of the Upper Crust bakery in Salt Lake City are in a stupor over state liquor bureaucrats who don't appreciate the punch packed in their mocha bourbon cake. Selling the cakes, which contain three tablespoons of bourbon, violates Utah liquor laws. Owner Stewart Jacobson, who sold the cakes for three years without complaint, says he'll boil the liquor out to appease the state. "What happens if we use vanilla extract in our cakes?" he asks. The extract, containing 40 percent alcohol, is not regulated by state liquor laws. Another vanilla cupcake, my good man, and make it a double!

The cradle-to-grave "security" provided by Sweden's welfare state makes for a very open society. So open, in fact, that almost every resident's taxable income is public information. The curious Swede who wants to know what a neighbor grossed last year can buy a copy of Taxeringskalender, a regional directory listing every Swede who earned more than $15,000 a year. Let's hope the tax "reformers" in Washington don't hear about this one.

A judge in Paulsboro, New Jersey, presented an interesting choice to the parents of two hooky-prone boys. Either spend 273 days in jail because of their sons' truancy or have them declared "incorrigible" and let the state teach the kids the value of an education. The parents opted for prison, and kindly Judge David Keyko released them after a week, saying they'd learned their lesson. The boys, 13 and 14, stayed in foster homes while Mom and Dad learned all about compulsory education. The parents claimed they brought their boys to school each day, but the slightly-built youngsters would cut out because they were routinely assaulted by other students. Keyko told the parents the kids had brought the assaults on themselves because they have "wise mouths." No one will accuse Keyko of that.