Thursday, February 27, 2003


Since Columbus isn't that big a city, the newsroom phones aren't bombarded with calls at all hours of the night. But even
a few calls can make the night memorable - especially when one man refers to himself as "the crazy man on the corner."

I'll get to that man - but let's take the events of the last overnight shift in order:

+ 10:30 p.m.: I arrive at the newsroom, and try to contact someone with the Auburn Peace Project to respond to President
Bush's "vision" speech on Iraq. The calls bring no response - so perhaps members needed to sleep, after spending all day bombarding Congress with phone calls.

+ 11:02 p.m.: "Cory" calls, asking for the evening reporter - a woman who's out on a story. He never leaves a message
with me, because I'm simply not sexy enough for his pick-up lines.

+ 11:15 p.m.: During the 11:00 p.m. news, a concerned caller says she thought the Female Anchor said "2000" in a news
story - when she should have said "2004." A check of the script showed this wording: "March of next year." The thing is, this anchor isn't even a women's libber - much less a women's ad libber.

I tell the caller I can't review the tape of the newscast until it's over at 11:35 - and she says it's really not an important
issue. So why do these people call TV stations late at night? Are they THAT lonely?

+ 11:45 p.m.: The woman calls back to hear the aircheck of the newscast - and it turns out our Female Anchor DID say 2004. The caller hadn't heard the "four" before. Hopefully she doesn't work at a fast-food restaurant.

+ 12:15 a.m.: A man calls asking for the regular morning producer - for about the ninth weeknight in a row. He never leaves a message, when I mention she's away. These bill collectors obviously don't want to give themselves away.

+ 4:30 a.m.: ABC mistakenly sends the wrong news feed to our station - revealing Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" has died. I decide to add an "obituary" package on his life to the morning newscast. To do this, I take out a report on Robert Blake. Though I felt sad at the time, after thinking about it I feel QUITE uplifted.

+ 5:25 a.m.: I break the news to our Morning Videographer that Mr. Rogers is dead. He asks, "Was he changing shoes
and had a stroke?"

+ 5:52 a.m.:That self-declared crazy man calls, and starts a rambling speech. It starts with a comment that "psy-ops will
not be enough to win this war." We have to go in physically and do the job, he says. Why this caller thinks I'm a commander at Fort Benning, I have no idea....

(OOPS! I'm out of time, and will have to finish this man's conversation the next time I post. Stay tuned....)

Wednesday, February 26, 2003


I slept well during the day today - but I heard several noisy reminders that spring is near. For one thing, there was the ceremonial first firing of the Weed-Wacker outside my window.

But that's not all - an occasional rattling could be heard, seemingly inside the walls of the apartment. In a way, I didn't mind this. If it happened throughout the night, burglars might think it's a ghost and be scared away.

I got up once or twice and banged on the bathroom wall - and the noise stopped for awhile. This led me to think the cockroaches along the baseboards had hit a record size.

Only after 4:00 p.m. did I discover what the noise was -- when a bird emerged from an aluminum pipe just above my water heater. Apparently the bird flew into the top end, and became stuck for hours. How do I stop this - by putting a "scare-cat" on the roof?

The disoriented bird flew around the apartment for a moment, then settled on the window sill in the computer room. I went to the front door, opened it and tried to lure the bird in that direction with whistling. That strategy didn't work - which I should have realized, since it doesn't work with single women, either.

After a couple of minutes, I carefully walked into the computer room - wearing a hat, on the theory the bird might see my bald spot and think it's a car....

My window screen in the computer room is VERY loose - and by pushing it out, the bird took the hint and flew off. I couldn't keep the bird. For one thing, my lease has a "no pets" clause. For another thing, all my plastic storage boxes are full of keepsakes.

(Imagine if I still had the cat I gave away to the Humane Society, before moving to Columbus. My spring cleaning would have been moved up a couple of weeks.)

Getting caught up on some items in the local and regional news recently:

+ Proctor and Gamble announced a $2 million grant to Tuskegee University - its biggest gift ever to a "historically black" college. We presume no Crest "Teeth Whitening Strips" were on display at the ceremony.

+ Phenix City's School Board discussed how to move from appointed to elected board members. One member warned if the entire U.S. Senate was voted out of office, the country would be in chaos. It makes you wonder how the U.S. survived between 1792 and 1800, when the first Senate met.

+ Columbus State University's basketball teams had "Fan Appreciation Night" - with FREE admission! If only they'd promoted the free offer as much as they promoted an auction last week, with a comedian I'd never heard of....

(There's one comforting thought about C.S.U. have free admission to basketball games. If no one shows up, the teams can't leave town the way the baseball RedStixx did.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


As I drove home from work this morning (still on the overnight shift), I waited for the light to change at 10th Avenue and Wynnton Road. I was first in line, and heard a horn honk twice behind me. At that point, I had several choices:

A> Wave - since people in the South are SO friendly.

B> Point to the red light in front of me - because some people in the South can be SO unaware.

C> Violate the red light to get out of the way - because some drivers in the South love to pretend they're on NASCAR teams.

D> Find a weapon and use it - since President Bush HAS authorized pre-emptive strikes.

I ignored the first honk, only half-awake and aware. The second time, I waved looking through my rear-view mirror. As I did, I discovered my light had changed to green - and I raced through the intersection. Sometimes you can prevent fiery road rage.

The driver behind me was in a white pick-up. As it happened, he followed my path through the 11th Street tunnel, leading to downtown Columbus. For those of you from other cities, it's like the Holland Tunnel in New York - except the politicians here haven't heard about charging tolls.

The pick-up driver happened to follow my line one block down 6th Avenue, 10th Street, then south on Veterans Parkway. I was not nervous through all of this. If he'd followed me into the driveway, then tried to sell me jewelry dirt-cheap, I would have been.

I waited for another light at 9th and Veterans Parkway - and I heard another honk. It was that pick-up driver, who had pulled up alongside. Now my guess was that the man was lost - but did he really expect to get out of my car back there, and hold up everybody?

In some other cities, I would have ignored the driver to my left so as not to be provocative. But I took a took a change and rolled down the window to hear him say: "That was my friend driving a semi I was honking at back there." Ohhhhh. Then who was he honking at, just before talking to me?

This is what annoys me about serial horn-honkers - and the man drove away before I thought to mention it. Car horns have no speech pattern, to help identify their meanings. If you wave in response, the honker may respond with (ahem) a few fewer fingers.

Speaking of repetition, I received a phone call this evening offering me a new MBNA Platinum Visa Card - for the second night in a row! I turned it down again. But if this keeps up, I may start saying yes - to build the most unusual deck of playing cards in the world.

Monday night the credit card telemarketer was male. Tonight it was a female. She asked questions about the cards I have now, while the man kept adding point after point about why the MBNA card was SO superior. That "Mars and Venus" stuff even applies in boiler rooms.

The female telemarketer didn't quite get it at first, though. She wanted to read me the long, boring "fine print" about the card that the man did 23 1/2 hours before. As I explained to her: If my vital statistics haven't changed since last night, why should I assume your rules have?

WAR UPDATE: North Korea still has not responded to my declaration of war against it. (11 Jan) But the military fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, hours before South Korea inaugurated a new President. This must be the North's idea of a fireworks celebration.

Saturday, February 22, 2003


I was on the audio desk at church today, and oversaw the most one-sided sermon I've ever
heard. The speaker's message was so short, it needed only one side of the cassette.

It marked the end of a humbling week for me. It started with my working an all-nighter at the TV station from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning - for the third time in four weeks. I know the news isn't supposed to stop, but can't the employees stop once in awhile?

Our overnight producer was sick and sounded that way on Super Bowl Sunday. She had a
miscarriage on Pro Bowl Sunday. And on Daytona Sunday, her husband came to the station to report her mother had a heart attack. We'd like to ask all major sports events to move to Friday nights for the rest of the year.

The humbling experiences at the TV station continued when a fire was reported in town during the 11:00 p.m. news. I heard on the police scanner one person was being treated for smoke inhalation, told the 11:00 p.m. producer - and the anchors went on to promise more details at 6:00 a.m. It turned out to be a minor case, and the photographer at the scene didn't bother to shoot the fire. It's hard to have an "all-new" morning show when the staff considers things the "same old same old."

The photographer let me have it when he saw the fire was in the morning show, to fulfill the
anchors' promise to the viewers. He accused me of making up something "fictitious" -- which may prove he has better news judgment, but does NOT prove he's psychic.

I told the photographer I'd heard on the scanner one person was injured. He said no, the
scanner call said "smoke inhalation." So remember, if you're ever overcome by smoke in a fire -- you're not injured. You may not even be hurt.

As the week went on, I realized I'm still officially a freelance "temp" at the TV station, and
should have deferred to the full-time photographer. Your ego and your brain may both be in your head, but you can't let one get ahead of the other.

I was SO READY to defer to the photographer that I offered Friday morning to let him veto
power over stories in the newscast. (We're the only two people in the news department late at night.) He declined, saying that wasn't necessary. I'm posting this information in case he complains about stories six months from now....

Our TV station staff had other humbling moments during the week. For instance, for awhile
our fancy new radar system was showing the rain BACKWARDS -- in a mirror image of what really was there. So for several hours it was "Triple FLIP Doppler."

Driving around town today, I saw other things that should be humbling to whoever created

+ A hotel at 13rd and Veterans Parkway has a sign on the roof saying, "Heritage Inn of
AMERCIA." America is misspelled! Aren't we glad the Bush administration is renewing interest in patriotism and civics?

+ A motel on Warm Springs Road has a sign offering a "welcome SPECILA." This is an
Italian family reunion I've never heard of before....

+ A church on Second Avenue invites you to a Sunday afternoon "Usher's Fellowship." I'm
not sure why Usher is skipping the Grammy Awards for this....

Sunday, February 16, 2003


We had a chili supper at church after our afternoon service today. Early in the week, the forecast was perfect for this - rain all day, and temperatures in the 50's. We wound up with a high around 75, no rain - and a few of us wondering if a picnic was more appropriate.

My contribution to the chili supper was a two-liter bottle of diet cola and a - uh, well - a container of brownies. What DO you call a long, rectangular, sealable thing from Tupperware?

I also offered to the congregation a short presentation on my TV station's new "Triple Doppler 9." I've already posted one suggested name I had for it (8 Feb) - but tonight I had other names which were (ahem) rejected by the management:

+ We could have had a paint or construction company sponsor it - and call it Triple Dauber 9.

+ We could have signed an Atlanta record company to promote it - as Triple Hip-Hopp-ler 9.

+ We could have worked out a deal with the Medical Center - but we would have had to call it Crippled Doppler 9.

+ We might have arranged a tie-in with an environmental group - and called it Triple Poplar 9.

+ We could have arranged for three big pro wrestlers to install the radar atop the Government Center - to have Triple Grappler 9.

+ We might have promoted the radar at a Columbus Riverdragons basketball game - to have Triple Dribbler 9.

+ We even could have arranged to have the radar sponsored by a hair salon - to offer Dippity-Doo Doppler 9.

After the chili supper was over, it was on to Target as quickly as we could. After all, it's the day after Valentine's Day - and all the "holiday chocolate" is half-price. The early bird gets the Hershey's Hugs.

Our last stop was a supermarket for bread and milk - and we left noticing the early edition of the Sunday Atlanta newspaper. A front-page article says former Governor Roy Barnes spent about 80 percent of the Georgia "emergency fund" within two weeks after the November election. We all know what the emergency was - a Republican was about to become Governor.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


I am thankful to blog tonight, after my phone line was down all day. I've yet to hear exactly what went wrong - but my TV station's new Doppler radar IS only a few blocks away. Hmmmm....

I called the phone company at the office, to report my loss of service. But when I dialed 611, a very short tone was followed by nothing but silence. If you're listening for my complaint, please be polite enough to let me know.

I wound up posting the loss of service at BellSouth's web site. The phone company e-mailed me back, revealing service was out in an entire area. Apparently everybody else in my neighborhood has cell phones, because no one called the TV station to complain about it.

What disturbed me about the reply message was that BellSouth promised to have the outage fixed by "Thursday at 8:00 p.m." A FOUR-DAY phone outage, in the heart of a mid-sized city?! Did they hire all their repair workers from Puerto Rico or something?

(At least the problem was fixed in ONE day, not four. It pays to live in the Historic District - with a growing number of law offices in it.)

Our TV station began a week-long blood drive today - and I was so provoked, that I raced to the Red Cross to give blood after producing the 5:00 p.m. news. I was even more provoked by The Boss allowing me to give blood without clocking out.

Bad sign #1 about the blood drive: I walked into the donation room, and was greeted by a big guy in a white jacket saying in an amazingly dropout-sounding voice: "I'm new here, so I'm learning everything...."

Bad sign #2 about the blood drive: I stepped out for a moment to use the restroom before beginning the donation process - and found a sign reminding me to flush the toilet after I was through.

To be fair: everything went smoothly with my blood donation. Well, so far it has. At least the Red Cross hasn't sent out an ambulance, just in case....

My TV station set up the week-long blood drive because of serious problems with the Georgia blood supply in recent weeks. Dozens of donations had to be quarantined and possibly discarded, because some kind of white substance became mixed with the blood. If this was orange juice, I might dismiss it as added calcium.

The mysterious substance was analyzed last week - but for some strange reason, the Red Cross has yet to reveal what that white substance was. It's only a matter of time before Jesse Jackson gets suspicious about this....

(At least this provides a refreshing change of pace for my TV newsroom. Usually when we talk about "white stuff," we mean snow.)

Sunday, February 09, 2003


Tonight's walk at The Mall was a slow one - two laps in about 26:38. That's the problem with being a one-mall town. All the fast walkers like me get mixed in with the slowpokes who actually are shopping.

The Christian store at The Mall is in the final days of its "going out of business" sale. I stopped and looked at the small number of items left on the shelves -- but I resisted the urge to ask which employees failed to pray for customers.

No, I did NOT buy anything at the Christian store -- even though everything was marked down at least 35 percent. This is a theological dilemma for me. Either I buy something I don't need, and help my neighbor survive - or I DON'T buy something, thinking God will appreciate my lack of possessions.

The Georgia state high school cheerleading convention has been in town the last couple of days -- and I'm told The Mall was filled with cheerleaders Friday. My work schedule has been simply TOO oppressive lately....

(But then again, I'm getting to the age where The Mall's security guards might have seen me around those cheerleaders, and pulled me into an office for questioning.)

It's a bit strange for me to believe high school cheerleaders have championship tournaments now. Some of us can remember when their biggest competition was getting to date the starting quarterback.

Not far from The Mall, US Airways made its last flight from Columbus Metro Airport today - and it had only TWO passengers on it! It almost makes me wonder why they're stopping service....

US Airways's pullaway leaves Columbus as a one-airline town - and that airline only flies to Atlanta, 100 miles away. You could drive from Hartsfield Airport to Columbus in the time it takes to change planes and face all the security checks.

Getting caught up on some loose change from the last few days:

+ My TV station called a news conference Thursday to announce its fancy new Doppler radar system - and people who were there tell me the only "news media" to show up was ONE newspaper columnist. Well, at least our station had EXCLUSIVE video of the event at 11:00 p.m.

Local car dealer Bill Heard reportedly was there, too - since Chevrolet is sponsoring the radar. Heard already has a concert hall and a major road in town named after him. If this becomes the "Bill Heard Radar" instead of Doppler Radar, this will be the last straw.

Our radar system is called "Triple Doppler Nine." I was hoping Baskin-Robbins would sponsor it - so we'd have "Triple Dip Doppler" instead.

+ The new management of the leading news/talk radio station in town dropped the hammer Thursday. The local news-and-chat show in the early morning was replaced by "Imus in the Morning" from New York. Is it just me, or does Imus mumble about as badly as Ozzy Osbourne?

When I moved to Columbus six years ago, Don Imus was on a different radio station -- and his ratings were low, while the news-talk station did well. Now remarkably, the roles are reversed! Imus's old station is news-talk in the morning, Imus is on that other station -- and to everyone's delight, Howard Stern still can't be heard at all.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003


Today is a big day in our area - "National Signing Day" for high school football players. This event is even more interesting in the age of home computers - because you can place bets on how many of the players can write legible signatures.

Our TV station talked not only to the football players signing college commitments, but their parents. Several moms and dads said they were thrilled for this day to come - probably because they don't have to worry about coming up with the cost of a college scholarship.

(Here's my question, though: if they call it "National Signing Day," how come the TV stations never go to schools for the deaf?)

I puzzle at how several agencies are able to rate which colleges have the best recruiting classes. Do they base this on players' speed? Their team records in high school? Or something more important than any of that - which players have the highest G.P.A., so they'll stay eligible?

E-MAIL UPDATE! One of our nieces wrote us with a follow-up to her husband being held up at gunpoint (1 Feb):

We are having the police patrol our apartment more often and basically just being more aware of our surroundings. The paper did get into trouble though, from the police department and the press association of Kansas. So hopefully no one will have to go through this again.

I hope not, either. Maybe now I should gently tell my niece that her husband's address probably is in the phone book already.

I checked the web site of this newspaper, however, and the crime report is still posted there in its entirety. When I read it, though, it wasn't the address of my niece that surprised me. Since when has she been married to a guy who works in a liquor store?!?!

Saturday, February 01, 2003


What happened with the shuttle Columbia today was the capstone of a wild week for me. I might never have heard the news until church in the afternoon - except I happened upon one of my station's reporters outside a downtown restaurant. She told me, "Everyone's being called in." I was NOT - so perhaps for once they misplaced my phone number.

I drove by the Space Science Center in town twice, looking for signs of a Columbia memorial. Only when I jogged by it after dark did I see any trace - a poster on the ticket booth window, with a few flowers left on the counter. Coca-Cola didn't even bother to take down its sign, so it could be called the "Challenger Space Science Center" again.

I drove to church around 1:30 p.m., and was surprised by all the flags still at full-staff. It was that way outside the downtown post office and fire station. Have we become so scared of the government that we have to wait for orders about such things?

I happened to be Worship Leader at church, and changed the first couple of songs to be more introspective and comfort-seeking. Somehow a song called, "Hallelujah, Praise God's Name" didn't seem quite right to start things off on this day.

(You could tell it was a different day at church. I walked in to hear Peter Jennings's voice on a TV set at the side of the hall. Most weeks, the only time Jennings would come up is if the Pastor bashed him for being a biased liberal.)

I couldn't help thinking about the Israeli astronaut on the Columbia mission. He told reporters before launch he'd honor Israel by keeping the Sabbath during the flight - but on the first weekend, he admitted he became so busy with experiments he forgot the Sabbath. [True/A.P. 18 Jan] I predict I'll hear about him from at least six Sabbath-keeping preachers in the next year.

Another marvel of the day was that my Pastor was AWAY from church today - just as he was the Saturday after Operation Desert Storm began in 1991, and the Saturday after 9/11/01. If he knows something big is coming, he should at least share the gift of prophecy with everybody else.

Am I the only one who was surprised by how life did NOT stop for the shuttle disintegration?

+ TV networks went back to regular programming tonight -- unlike 17 years ago, when Challenger exploded and all commercials were cancelled. The economy MUST be in bad shape.

+ College sports teams in town had their scheduled games -- and the OTHER television station, which did a 6:00 p.m. sportscast, somehow forgot to ask the coaches why they played.

+ That unnamed other station spent its final moments at 6:00 p.m. in "happy talk" with the meteorologist about his Friday birthday. "Are you old enough for the seniors' discount at Shoney's?" one news anchor asked. Maybe that guy should buy food for the mourning Space Science Center staff instead.

+ I stopped by MY television station for a few minutes - and the only caller demanded we investigate how much the city spends to keep an "eternal flame" for veterans lit downtown. Some folks stop mourning VERY quickly.

Oh yes -- I almost forgot to mention the "wild week" I've had. It's been so busy I haven't had time to post it all: For one thing, I was fingerprinted at police headquarters Thursday by an F.B.I. agent.. Before you ask - no, I have NOT had an affair with Laci Peterson's husband.

The reason for the fingerprinting was because of a threatening letter our TV station received, which I happened to open. The F.B.I. has asked me NOT to disclose the details of the letter - but I'll only say this: the way it was worded, the shuttle Columbia could have been a target.

So what else have you missed, that I have not?

+ I had a flat tire Friday -- and couldn't figure out how to use the new hydraulic jack I bought last year for emergencies like this. Couldn't Kmart at least paint the "release valve" in a different color, so I can find it?

+ The husband of one of my nieces was held up at gunpoint at his workplace -- and for some reason, the daily newspaper printed his home address the next day. I hope the reporter is planning to stake out the house, to make the citizen's arrest personally.

+ I was offered an opportunity to do commercials for an ad agency in San Antonio - IF I e-mailed the office an M-P-3 track. Trouble is, the recorder I downloaded from records in every format EXCEPT M-P-3! Maybe that web site should be called EMPTY-3 instead.