Monday, January 31, 2005

for 1 FEB 05: P-E-O'D

It had been months since I'd seen the name of Ashley Powell anywhere - the woman who coached Columbus High School to the state girls' basketball finals last year. The single guy in me was especially happy I hadn't seen her name in the "engagements" or "weddings" section of the newspaper.

So imagine my surprise Monday to find Ashley Powell's name in a very unlikely place: the computer of federal court. If you were out of town over the year-end holidays, you may have missed Powell filing a sex discrimination lawsuit against Muscogee County Schools. She probably HAD to do this during winter break, because there are no papers to grade then.

Ashley Powell taught physical education at Eddy Middle School, while coaching basketball at Columbus High. The lawsuit claims Columbus High promised her the next available P-E position, but she was passed over several times for men. At least you can't say this school bases its hiring on looks alone...

In one case, the lawsuit notes a phys-ed opening that occurred when Columbus High's football coach left in 2000. Instead of giving that position to Ashley Powell, the school filled it with a man. Apparently there was no interest in someone who can teach leaping to block field goals.

Ashley Powell goes on to contend while male coaches at Columbus High School had large offices, her "office" was nothing but a storage room. She claims it had no telephone, TV set or computer. Or as some teenagers might say - "Wireless?! Cool!"

Ashley Powell's discrimination suit cites all the trips she had to make between Eddy Middle and Columbus High School. If she's entitled to damages for that, imagine how much all the magnet school students could get.

Ashley Powell is represented in her federal discrimination suit by Atlanta's "Reddy Law Firm." How curious. That's Reddy as in Helen - as in "I Am Woman, hear me roar...."

In a BLOG EXCLUSIVE, we have the Muscogee County School District's official response to Ashley Powell's lawsuit. The document filed in federal court denies any discrimination, and says Powell would have been treated the same way had she been male or female. So they make false promises to ALL employees?!

The Muscogee County School District claims immunity from damages in Ashley Powell's lawsuit. So do two co-defendants,
Columbus High Principal Susan Bryant and Athletic Director James Wamble. About the only person who might have to pay is the Eddy Middle School Principal, for not lending Powell a TV set.

The school district's response also notes other Columbus High coaches have to drive there from other Muscogee County schools. Maybe if those coaches car-pooled in some football players, the head coach's position wouldn't have come open a few years ago.

The Ashley Powell lawsuit demands Muscogee County give her a high school physical education teacher's job with back pay. In the eantime, she's coaching and teaching in Manchester - were hopefully the school district reimburses her gas, so it doesn't wind up in court as well.

E-MAIL UPDATE: For a change, we actually have a "feel-good" letter to the blog:


I just wanted to say thanks for a wonderful web page. I was born and raised in Columbus but I am now in school in Dallas, Texas, and your blog is the only way I am able stay up to date with the goings on in C-Town, oh how I miss Dee Armstrong and Wayne Bennett. The local news out here just doesn't compare to the good times I have had with the WTVM crew. So thanks for being my news source, when I call my parents I can be up to date on the latest happenings. Looking forward to future posts.

Frank B.

You're welcome, Frank - but exactly what sort of "good times" at WTVM are you talking about? Are you aware Patty Pan moved to a station in Charlotte?

It's amazing to learn the "local news" in Dallas doesn't compare to what you can see on TV here. You'd think the Cowboy cheerleaders would need off-season jobs....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: I'm holding this nice e-mail as close to me as I can - because wait until you see the pile of critical e-mails I'll sort through Wednesday....)

Now other notes from the last day of "tsunami tax deduction" season:

+ Former Muscogee County Marshal Ken Suddeth signed a consent agreement, to turn over dozens of items he may have bought with county funds. You'll be thrilled to know Suddeth returned those blue strobe lights from the Marshal's car - so the weekend sale at the pawn shop must be over.

(Ken Suddeth reportedly bought several leather jackets with Marshal's Department money. If he had bought hunting jackets for tracking down poachers, we might understand.)

+ The Habitat for Humanity board fired founder Millard Fuller. I'd say they're putting Fuller out to pasture - but I think Koinonia in Sumter County really is more like a farm...

+ A rally at the Georgia state capitol supported a bill requiring pickup truck drivers to wear seatbelts. I've wondered for years why pickups are exempt from the state seatbelt law. Do the drivers really think they're as "Ram-tough" as their trucks?

+ My beloved Kansas Jayhawks rallied from an eight-point deficit at halftime to mash arch-rival Missouri 73-61. It's just our way of creating jobs - such as the one which could open if Missouri coach Quin Snyder is fired.

+ Instant Message to the man I saw at the St. Luke Ministry Center gym in a coat and tie, holding a cell phone in one hand and a basketball in the other: Drop the phone and you might be a coach. Drop the ball, and I'll believe you're a sports agent.

COMING SOON: How the September 11th attack saved a well-known Columbus man's job....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.


When mail reaches you with a red star on it, it tends to get your attention. One such letter reached my box on Friday, and I opened it. Who knows how many people thought it was an invitation from the Communist Party, and threw it away.

I opened the letter, and it confirmed the end of a transition noted here several months ago. Macy's officially has replaced Rich's at Peachtree Mall. I guess this gives the mall a "New York" feel to it - so I guess before long, you'll be able to buy bags of bagel chips at the cash register.

Before Federated Department Stores merged Rich's and Macy's, I had separate credit cards for both stores during my years in Atlanta. This letter included my new, bright-red Macy's card - a perfect color for what happens to many people's budgets when they use it.

(I plan to keep my last Rich's card as a keepsake. Put that with my old Wards card, and I'm building quite a unique bookmark collection.)

I wondered how complete the transition was, so I spent part of Sunday afternoon looking around Peachtree Mall. The number of men in the mall seemed higher than usual - a sure sign there was an off week before the Super Bowl.

Macy's signs are all around the outside of the store at the west end of Peachtree Mall. But inside, a few holdouts remain - with "Rich's-Macy's" logos above cash registers and on a couple of sale tables. This should inspire some people in Taylor County, to know Southern tradition isn't quite stamped out yet.

The old Rich's store had "Sean John" clothes from "P-Diddy" Combs. The new Macy's has an area with "J-Lo by Jennifer Lopez" clothes. It's just like those old commercials used to say - there's always room for J-Lo.

A tour of Peachtree Mall showed a serious shuffle of stores underway. The card shop is moving close to J.C. Penney's. Yankee Candle is moving farther west. It's almost as if the management made every store owner roll dice, to see how many spaces it should advance.

But if you haven't been to the mall in awhile, you'll notice one big item is gone. The giant old-time carousel in the middle of the Food Court disappeared in the last few weeks. There's a big empty circle surrounding by fencing - and as far as I know, no one has used it yet for high school wrestling or folk dances.

Who could have made off with this large, old-style carousel? No carnival has passed through Columbus in months. There's only one obvious suspect - but how would the mall Santa Claus pull a stunt like that?

To get to the bottom of this, I went to the Peachtree Mall customer service desk. It's moved recently as well - from the Food Court area to the entrance near Wolf Camera. But doesn't this mean FEWER customers will be served?

The woman at the customer service desk confirmed the carousel has gone. "Apparently it didn't make enough money," she guessed. As if a mall carousel needs to match the ridership of planes at Columbus Airport....

As far as the customer service desk "concierge" knows, the carousel will NOT be replaced. So it's the latest giant-sized item to disappear in Columbus - joining the missing signs from atop the AFLAC tower.

What does it say about Columbus when it can't even support an old-fashioned carousel for children to ride at a shopping mall? It's enough to make you wonder if METRA buses are making a profit by making sneaky trips to the wrong parts of town....

SPAM-A-RAMA: We haven't offered this look at our spam e-mail in awhile, but a message this past week was irresistible. The message came with the title "Arson Pizzeria" -- so I thought it might be new information about the recent fire at Cross-Country Plaza.

No, the spam message had nothing to do with arson -- but it did have something to do with pizza. It was very matter-of-fact:

Your night has been confirmed with Janice.

Time: Evening

Location: Her Home within 1 mile of you

Attire: Dress casual, bring swimwear

Expectation(s): Pizza/movie, then the "real" fun...or whatever comes first.

Quote from Janice: "My husband is out of town for the whole week. If the first affair goes over well, let's just say it will be a wild week. Bring your trunks for the hot-tub too. I have all my lingerie ready for this. Can't wait to meet you."

Confirmation: It is up to you to hold your time with Janice. Please confirm within the site to validate your visit. You can get a better look at her body and chat before you head over.

Janice? Janice WHO?? I don't pin my driver's license on the outside of my T-shirt when I going jogging in the neighborhood, so how would she know who I am?

It turns out this deceiving spam offer is one of many I've received lately, offering the opportunity to have a rendezvous with cheating married women. It sounds like these offers are inspired by the TV series "Desperate Housewives" - yet I've had no offers to do an "Extreme Makeover" of my apartment.

A link with this spam promised me the opportunity to check a picture of Janice. I dared to click on it - and wound up with photos of several women in various stages of UN-dress, none of them named Janice. It's so frustrating when web sites like this update their home pages every couple of hours....

The web site noted this was a service exclusively with cheating wives. Men looking to meet single women are advised to go elsewhere -- but I tried that when St. Luke Church started a singles group months ago, and it hasn't met since.

I would have to pay to become a member of this group -- then I'd apparently meet Janice and see her hot tub. But I decided not to do it. For one thing, I don't want to break up anybody's marriage. For another thing, I can go walking around my neighborhood and peer into backyards for hot tubs at no charge.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We mentioned Sunday there were two uniformed Columbus police officers at a Saturday evening church service we attended. That led to this reply:

Dear Mr. Blog Writer,

Did you know that the officers that you spoke of working at that church you visited were working a PART TIME job, one of many that they do work? You sir, are entitled to your opinion.....hopefully you will not have to experience what "is our city safe" is saying the hard way. Then we shall see if the tune to your repertoire changes

So they're only part-timers on duty at a church? Considering this was Cascade Hills, I'd think they'd have the money to pay the police the rest of their salaries....

(I've even more amazed that Cascade Hills Church had police in the foyer. At other congregations in town, the pastor would have cried "racial profiling," ordered the officers to leave, then called a news conference demanding resignations.)

I suppose this is a "half-empty, half-full" area, but I don't mind officers working part-time. To me, part-time beats no time at all. In fact, I've heard of cases where part-timers do better work than full-timers -- but enough about the staff at WRBL.

Of course, I don't want to experience what "Is Our City Safe" is writing about. I actually try to avoid it - for instance, by driving at the speed limit.

And about changing "the tune to your repertoire" - you know, I've been meaning to ask people if they think I should record a second album....

Now before we close, let's heat some quick Sunday leftovers:

+ Meriwether County schools called off Monday classes, apparently because of continuing power outages from the ice storm. So apparently we can't call them ALL-weather schools....

+ The Georgia Force opened the arena football season by edging New Orleans 46-44. The game was played at Atlanta's Philips Arena - which seems strange, since there's a perfectly good indoor stadium for football right next door to it.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ/NBC-38: How many calls did you get at noon Sunday from upset Democrats - the ones expecting a John Kerry interview on "Meet the Press," and instead finding Pat Robertson praising President Bush and Iraq on a special "700 Club?"

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Men's slippers as low as nine dollars at Dillard's.... Mrs. Fields'-style brownies for $1.99 at the Library Café.... but gas for $1.87 a gallon at the 13th and Veterans Parkway Chevron? C'mon....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


"Is it Wednesday? No. Are you over 60? No. Would you like to save money? Yes."

I read the little sign at the Publix checkout aloud to the clerk, answering its questions - then asked: "What does one out of three get me?"

"Nothing," a young man named Caleb replied. Which is why I don't buy lottery tickets at Publix, either.

I went to a Publix store Friday afternoon, but it was NOT to shop in panic-driven preparation for the ice storm. My goal was NOT to buy the news-cliche "bread and milk." For one thing, Publix bread prices are too high for me nowadays....

It was a regular grocery trip to Publix, and everything seemed to be routine. I bought seven bags' full of groceries for about 31 dollars. Nothing gives a single guy away in 2005 quite like saying he did all his grocery shopping for 31 dollars.

But when I drove home and took everything into the kitchen for unloading, I discovered something strange. One bag of groceries was missing! It was the bag which should have had a package of chocolate chip cookies - and depriving me of chocolate chip cookies is a little like stealing a Texas cowboy's horse.

(Two boxes of fruit and cereal bars also were in the missing bag - but as you can tell, I have priorities.)

I've been shortchanged on bags of groceries before. When I lived in suburban Atlanta, I came home from a Kroger with a few missing items. I've never quite been sure if someone walking by my home parking spot reached into the open trunk - or if one of the beggars on Cleveland Avenue decided on a shortcut to asking for food money.

I had some extra time on Friday afternoon, so I hustled to the car and drove back to Publix with my grocery receipt. How could Caleb at the checkout and the grocery bagger make a blunder like this? Do they sneak customers' bags into the break room, because the vending machine prices are too high?

Within 45 minutes of leaving Publix, I was back for redemption. I walked directly to checkout aisle 2, where Caleb was still on duty. He was puzzled by the guy standing with no groceries, between two shoppers with dozens. "And your items end.... where?"

"Right here," I said as I handed the receipt to Caleb. It was all I could do not to begin intense questioning, like a detective on the CSI shows.

"You can take that to the customer service desk, and they'll be happy to help you," Caleb replied. He didn't flinch a bit at my return. If he ever loses his job at Publix, Caleb has a great future as a telemarketer.

An older woman at the Publix customer service desk was very understanding. She saw my marked receipt, allowed me to track down replacement items, and bagged them for me. Either Publix hires some very quality, cordial staff members - or they all belong to some secret religious cult.

The Publix adventure didn't quite end there. As I walked to my car with the "make-up" bag containing cookies and cereal bars, a driver decided to pull an amazing stunt. Let me illustrate with a keyboard drawing:

\ ^ \ This is how the big car should have been pointing the front of his car in the parking stall.

\ ; \ This is how the driver actually pointed the car - in the opposite direction. (Pretend that comma is a giant front bumper.)

The big car then pulled out BETWEEN parked cars, and did a two-thirds circle turn right to drive the way the parking spaces were pointing all along. I thought only Atlanta people pulled "creative driving" tricks like this.

I made it home safely for the weekend, but I'm not sure if I'll go back to Publix for a while. The checkout team misplaced one of my seven bags. Some of the drivers act like they're trying out for professional figure skating. And who knows what might have happened, if I'd asked for a special cut of meat.

BLOG UPDATE: Saturday night found thousands of area residents still without power, in the wake of the ice storm. Hopefully everyone is coping patiently with this - and using the generators they bought last September, to impress their friends when the hurricane came.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter on Psalmond Road for people still without electricity. Hopefully the staff tried to cheer everyone up - by changing the labels on candy bars to say "Psalmond Joy."

Of all the weekends for Tim Hudson to hold his annual baseball camp! The local star had to move Saturday's session indoors at Cascade Hills Church - allowing youngsters the thrill of experiencing how big-leaguers felt playing in Montreal's domed stadium.

If you think the Columbus area had problems with ice, consider what Atlanta faced. Enough ice fell to close every interstate in the city for awhile - something which hardly even happens during a Friday afternoon rush hour.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have two more messages from "IsOurCitySafe," making four in the last couple of weeks. In fact, so many are being sent around Columbus that a more fitting question may be "Is Our In-Box Safe."

Here's the first note of concern we received about Columbus public safety:

This was a response to an email I received about traffic enforcement:

Sorry it took so long to reply. Part-time jobs have been eating up most of my time lately.

I understand your point about traffic control devices in Columbus. I guess I don't see the problems with traffic since I work in the middle of the night and when I do get out, traffic has already died down. I can imagine it is very frustrating

I think the following information will be interesting to you. I was reading the lineup of officers on duty between the hours of 1515hrs and 2345hrs on 1/3/05. In the whole city of Columbus, there were 11 patrol officers answering 911 calls. That is really scary to me considering that between those hours there are more than 200k people in the city.

The only way to solve the problem is for the citizens to stand up to city council and let them know that they are tired of having to wait over an hour for the Police to respond to accident calls. They are tired of having Police officers that can barely read and write responding to calls. They are tired of the city spending all of the tax dollars on making the city pretty and start making it safer. I am sure that you know the path that the New Orleans Police Dept. took in the 1980s. Well, we are following the same path. If things don't get better as far as pay, benefits, and the hiring of quality people, Columbus is going to see more and more Police corruption in the near future.

Happy new year to you sir.

Happy new year? If the recipient of this e-mail lived in Columbus, he might have put his home up for sale and fled to Talbot County by now.

We're obviously at a loss to understand the discussion about "traffic control devices." From what I heard the other night about the newly-widened Macon Road, the best devices might be a set of lights for drag racing.

I didn't know you could "read the lineup of officers on duty" in Columbus. In fact, the thought of doing it never occurred to me - well, except during the Georgia Police and Fire Games.

So on the night of January 3, only 11 Columbus police officers were assigned to handle 911 calls?! Perhaps the department had a plan this writer didn't grasp. That was the night Auburn played in the Sugar Bowl - so most of the force may have been assigned to sports bars.

If people are waiting more than an hour for police to answer accident calls, perhaps it's time to do what bigger cities do. Not hire extra officers - but have a "steer it and clear it" policy. If you can pull the car to the side on your own, do it - then trade punches with the other driver there.

Are you tired of Columbus spending money "making the city pretty?" Then call your councilor this weekend - and tell them to have the Columbus Cycling Club cover all the city parks with bike trails. The club will do it for free, you know....

Some people might need a refresher course on the path New Orleans Police took in the 1980's. In fact, people who only go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras might be surprised the city even HAS a police force.

Message #2 from "IsOurCitySafe" reads as follows:

Did you know that in 1994, between the hours of 315 PM and 1145 PM, there were an average of 45 Police Officers on the street protecting the citizens of Columbus?

Did you know that in 2005, between the hours of 315 PM and 1145 PM, there are an average of 25 Police Officers on the street protecting the citizens of Columbus?

Did you know that out of the 25 or so Police Officers working between the hours of 315 PM and 1145 PM, about 3-4 are officers that have come in on their off days or are working overtime?

Has there been a dramatic decrease in crime in Columbus? No. There has been an increase.

Has there been a decrease in population, therefore we need less Police? No. There has been an increase in population.

When I look at the number of Police Officers on the street now compared to the number on the street just 10 yrs ago, it makes me wonder how many will be on the street protecting the citizens of Columbus when the 18 thousand new soldiers and families arrive in Columbus.

If you have called 911 lately and have seen how long it takes to see a Police Officer, how long do you think its going to take when several more thousand people are calling the Police too?

Call your city councilor and ask them what they plan to do about the situation. I don't know how they can look at themselves in the mirror every morning knowing that Columbus is becoming less and less safe yet they sit back and do nothing to solve the problem.

The e-mail ends with phone numbers of all Columbus Councilors, and links to their biographies on the official city web site. If all the billboards in town haven't motivated Council members to go to unlisted phone numbers, maybe few people care enough to call and complain.

"IsOurCitySafe" won't like reading this - but Saturday night, I saw two of the "25 police officers on the street" in the same place - at a Columbus CHURCH service, in uniform! Maybe Satan worshipers are a bigger threat in Columbus than we realized.

And what will happen when those 18,000 newcomers arrive in Columbus, as Fort Benning adds extra units? Look on the bright side - the pool for recruiting retiring soldiers to the police force will go way up.

(So "several more thousand people" are going to call Columbus police? What does this writer know about these newcomers? Are they all a bunch of spouse-abusers or something?)

I don't know how Columbus Councilors "look at themselves in the mirror every morning," either - but at least Julius Hunter doesn't have to worry much about combing his hair.

Speaking of law enforcement - Instant Message to Ken Suddeth: Did I hear it right? You finally turned in your Marshal's car - but you didn't turn in the blue strobe lights for it?! What sort of parties are you staging at the V.F.W. Hall?

We have one more message today - the latest in an exchange with Michael in Phenix City. We seem to be talking past each other, about gigantic e-mail accounts. What I wrote Friday brought this message to "Dude...."

I wasn't bragging about gmail. I was OFFERING you a free account.

Gmail members are given x number of invites. I can send you an invite, which would allow you to open the account.

OK, so it wasn't brag, it was simply fact. Thank you for the offer, but Yahoo and I go WAY back - to my first Internet e-mail account, around 1996. This was back when "spam" referred to what someone put on a plate to rot, and recorded with a camera for all to see.

I didn't realize Gmail members could send "invitations" to have free accounts. Doesn't this sound a bit like Google is starting a cyber-country club?

It turns out I was "invited" to become part of Gmail months ago. The place where this blog is posted is part of the Google family, and Google wanted bloggers like me to try it out. But I usually post entries around bedtime, when I'm in no mood to explore such things. Maybe if Eva Longoria was promoting it....

COMING THIS WEEK: The next place in Columbus to offer Starbuck's coffee.... and you'll probably never guess where it is....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

29 JAN 05: ICY-YOU

If you can read this in Columbus on a Saturday night, one of two things must be true. Either you have electric power on an icy weekend - or your laptop must have powerful batteries, and you're seriously addicted to the Internet.

The Historic District where I live did NOT lose power today from ice-covered power lines. At least I don't think it did - but I still haven't turned on the TV set, to see if it's set on channel 2 for no good reason.

In cities such as Atlanta, a storm like what we had is called a "wintry mix." I've never liked that term - because it sounds too much like something you should make with Chex cereal.

Online reports indicate more than 36,000 people in thr Columbus area lost power from the storm. From what I was told, parts of northeast Columbus were in the dark this morning. And as of late afternoon, the Green Island Hills neighborhood still lacked power. And you northsiders don't think there's anything good about living on the south side....

The winter weather knocked the two noncommercial religious FM radio stations in Columbus off the air all day. If the managers blame this storm on the devil, they'd better be able to explain how the AM gospel stations kept running.

Based on a late-afternoon drive I took on Veterans Parkway, the "ice line" seemed to be Whitesville Road. North of that intersection, trees still had plenty of ice on them. South of there, you still had to pay for it at convenience stores.

I noticed several broken and fallen limbs on Weems Road and Moon Road - but thankfully, there was nothing blocking traffic. On Moon Road, of course, SUV drivers would have plowed over those limbs without noticing a thing....

Someone told me she spotted a line of electric repair "bucket trucks" on Macon Road - not from Georgia Power, but Mississippi Power. Apparently they've been sent this way to handle damaged lines. But please be patient -- because Mississippi needed 40 years to arrest a suspect in a civil rights case.

(We DO welcome the help from Mississippi - but we don't want to hear of them talk about this assignment with the phrase, "Ivan's revenge.")

An amazing sight could be seen at Moon Road and J.R. Allen Parkway. A man who runs a portable "boiled peanuts" stand near the bridge had it up, like nothing was different. And when I drove by, someone actually had stopped to buy some. It's nice to see I'm not the only person in town who has pity on desperate beggars.

I took this late-afternoon drive because the church I attend called off its afternoon service. The presiding Elder made this call before 9:00 a.m., so people south of Columbus wouldn't start driving this way. Why they didn't offer to take everyone else in and warm us up, I have no idea....

I wound up attending the Cascade Hills Church Saturday evening service. Pastor Bill Purvis revealed the building lost power early Saturday, and left the baptismal pool ice-cold - but a young man went ahead and was baptized anyway. If you're going to make that sort of commitment, you want to remember it every way possible.

Instant Message to Auburn sportscaster Rod Bramblett: After a winter storm like we had today, couldn't you take a one-day break from claiming a team took time out to "ice the shooter?"

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 28, 2005


Why DO they call that park in northeast Columbus Flat Rock Park, anyway? It may have rocks - but if you've driven through it, you know the ground certainly isn't flat.

The ups and downs of Flat Rock Park have gained the interest of the Columbus Cycling Club. It wants to develop a trail inside the park for "mountain biking." Exactly how Pine Mountain would be moved into the park, I'm not really sure....

Columbus Cycling Club President Barry Carswell says there's no "official venue" for mountain biking in this area. I'd never thought about it before - but this IS strange, when you consider this area is so often called "the valley."

Mountain biking apparently is growing in popularity, but the nearest trail for beginning to intermediate bikers reportedly is an hour away from Columbus. So? Pedal there on your bike - and you might build up enough muscles in 60 miles to climb those mountains in record time.

The Columbus Cycling Club wants to clean up current nature trails inside Flat Rock Park, and put markers on them for mountain bikers. Some people use those trails now for hiking and running - so can they add some rear-view mirrors as well, so we know fast bikers are coming?

The Columbus Cycling Club even wants to improve the trails on its own, with the city spending no money at all. But city officials reportedly are concerned about liability issues. That could start some wild rumors - but I really doubt the city would close Flat Rock Park to save money.

I saw all this on the news Thursday night and wondered if the proposed mountain bike trail is misplaced. Why not put it in Harris County - for instance, at Callaway Gardens? Or is the cycling club worried that a biker will fall off and mangle some marigolds?

(Or even better: put the mountain bike trail in F.D.R. State Park -- and in the great tradition of President Franklin Roosevelt, allow motorized wheelchairs to race on it.)

I don't own a bicycle, but the thought of having one has crossed my mind. It would be great for touring the downtowns or exploring the Riverwalks. And I can tell you after years of jogging, they already have a "mountain." Try running up the incline from the Phenix City Amphitheater to Dillingham Street after a couple of miles, and you'll know what I mean.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We invited new blog readers Wednesday to take advantage of our InBox's 250 megs of space. That brought this response from Michael in Phenix City:

Just read the last post on your site about welcoming emails...

Would you like a google gmail address with a free GB of space?

I have trouble with braggers like this - the ones who might say, "My cyberspace is bigger than YOUR cyberspace."

If you haven't kept up with it, there's been a mailbox melee in recent months between Yahoo and Google. The plans for "Gmail" prompted Yahoo to increase its basic InBox from six megabytes to 100 [17 Jul 04] - and recently to 250. If only my landlord was this generous with his apartments....

But anything Yahoo does, Google tries to outdo. I didn't realize its free "Gmail" box was up to one gigabyte, four times what Yahoo offers. So thank you for the offer - but this is sort of a single guy having to choose between a 10-bedroom and 20-bedroom Hollywood mansion.

.It's been a busy week for me, so I'll wrap it up as quickly as I can:

+ Developers of the new National Infantry Museum announced the grounds will include a "World War Two Street." Somewhere in Columbus, Jim Rhodes must be asking what wrong thing he did....

+ The Open Door Community House held a "resource fair" for homeless people, including a guest singer. Someone asked me what the point of the singer was - and I guessed he's inspiring beggars to make some money in karaoke contests.

. + The mother of a Baker Middle School student told WRBL her son was punished for calling up a porn web site on a school computer, even though the school has filters to block such things. But maybe some good can come out of this. That boy may have an advantage toward becoming a sex education teacher someday.

+ Auburn city officials talked about plans for an "Outer Loop" road around the city. It could be a big moneymaker for the city - especially if they can arrange to close it one weekend a year for NASCAR races.

+ Floyd County, Georgia authorities reported someone stole hundreds of pounds of trout from a fish hatchery. Quick, call the local churches - and see if any of them plan a weekend sermon on Jesus "feeding the 5,000."

+ Instant Message to the Eufaula Tribune: I don't care what those critics wrote in your web site comments section. As I single guy, I say you can post photos of teenage girls doing dance moves as long as you wish -- even if they are at a private high school.

COMING SOON: OK, who's the woman with the hot tub?....

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


It's strange enough to see someone driving a used hearse around Columbus It's easy to assume it was a family's compromise choice -- between a sport utility vehicle and a long-bed pickup truck.

But it's even stranger to see someone driving a hearse with writing painted on it. I don't mean professional-looking advertising, as for a business. This is spray-painted writing on the hearse - as if you practice on the car, before you leave a message on the bridge.

Yet there's a man in Columbus who drives such a hearse - one which has had assorted spray-painted messages on it. You may have seen it on Broadway, outside TV stations or at Peachtree Mall. One time it reportedly was ordered off the mall parking lot for being harassing - the way religious people probably feel when they walk by Victoria's Secret.

So who's the person who drives this strange-looking vehicle? Believe it or not, he's the new President of the Columbus NAACP. Bill Madison had the hearse parked outside the chapter office most of the day last week, on Martin Luther King Day. So it's clear he had a day on, not a day off....

Something struck me about Bill Madison's hearse on this holiday. His spray-painted words condemning Synovus and CB&T were covered with black and red spray paint. Madison reportedly claimed for years those businesses did him wrong, with some sort of loan. Maybe he just found out Calvin Smyre is a Synovus executive.

So has Bill Madison finally reached a settlement in his feud with Synovus and CB&T? Or did those companies donate enough money to the recent NAACP banquet?

There's currently only one "issue" on Bill Madison's hearse: the Columbus news media. It's "the big story" according to his hearse -- apparently because no news outlet aired his financial complaints over the last couple of years. Well, maybe I shouldn't say "NO news outlet." Playgrounds magazine loves strange stuff like that....

(And to make matters worse, African-American-owned Davis Broadcasting doesn't really have its own news department -- except, of course, for the rap artists telling you what's REALLY going on.)

A busy schedule the last couple of weeks has kept me from asking Bill Madison about his hearse and all his messages. I'd like to know if the NAACP Board told him to make some changes -- or if he's become part of a very strange corporate cover-up.

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: We've actually seen a car like this before - on a vacation to Jekyll Island. This is from the LaughLine of 26 Oct 00:

As we toured the island, we came upon a strange white car. It was covered with words such as: "Somebody say McDonald's? I waited for a 99-cent cheeseburger, and wound up with a $1,000 hospital stay. I ALMOST DIED!" Sorry to say, we never did stop and chat with the driver - but our first question would have been whether he's ever lost that car in the mall parking lot.

Now let's take our own drive around the town, for news highlights from Wednesday:

+ Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL the city of Columbus will NOT pay former deputy David Glisson's legal bills, in the Kenneth Walker family's civil suit. How COULD the city pay the bills for a former officer -- when it couldn't even afford to buy weapons for the Marshal's office?

+ Columbus city officials revealed they're having second thoughts about widening part of Moon Road from two to four lanes. This probably won't please rush-hour drivers south of J.R. Allen Parkway -- who are tired of a "full Moon" and want to see a new one.

+ Local groups took an early-morning count around town, and determined Columbus has at least 2,000 homeless people. It looks like the college students who come here on spring break will have to build more Habitat for Humanity houses than ever.

+ Shaw High School graduate and former Columbus Wardog Troy Bergeron signed a contract to play with the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League. So he's stepping up to play in what sounds like a ridiculous contradiction -- "major league" arena football.

+ Instant Message to Auburn University sportscaster Rod Bramblett: What did you mean Wednesday night when you said basketball players should ":leave the officiating to the play-by-play guys?" Have you already made career plans, in case Ed Richardson fires you?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Before we get to today's topic: a special greeting to all of you looking us up after we were mentioned on Tuesday night's WXTX "News at Ten!" Free advertising sure beats none at all....

I was tipped off that this blog would be mentioned on "News at Ten" - but the address was read as "Columbus GEORGIA.Blogspot." That's not exactly correct, but brought me quite a surprise. Someone actually claimed that name back in September - someone who hasn't posted anything since the November election. So apparently nothing's happened here since.

But anyway, for our newcomers: The Blog of Columbus is designed to be frequently local and topical, sometimes personal, and almost always funny. If you like what you read here, please visit often and tell others about it. If you don't - well, go ahead and flame me. My InBox now has 250 megs of space.

We tend to have one main topic a day - and Tuesday's big issue seemed to be the Columbus Council talking about banning smoking in "restaurants and all public places." As if a restaurant is NOT a public place? Well, other than a reserved booth at Miriam's Café....

The West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition went to a Columbus Council work session, calling for a public ban on smoking. Doesn't this sound a bit harsh in 2005? Shouldn't we refer to these people as "nicotine challenged?"

Members of the Tobacco Free Action Coalition pointed out about 64 percent of all "Columbus establishments" are now smoke-free. I suppose that would make the other 36 percent ANTI-establishment....

But did you see the list of smoke-free businesses displayed outside the Government Center at a news conference? Some of them are as small as a dentist's office.-- which is a little strange, because smoking there might lead to repeat business in teeth whitening.

The Tobacco-Free Action Coalition wants smoking banned not only in restaurants, but in schools. Now THAT'S an interesting idea. Make the smoking teachers join the rebellious students just outside the back fence....

Columbus Council seems divided on whether to ban smoking in public places. Mimi Woodson called for public meetings on the idea -- and in her district, there are plenty of nightclubs which would be happy to host this.

But Mimi Woodson told WRBL she'd endorse a citywide ban on public smoking if most people in her district want it. If it happens, you know what cigarette smokers will have to do - "pack" it in.

On the other hand, Councilor Nathan Suber said businesses which fear losing business with a smoking ban "should have the guts to do what needs to be done.... on their own." I never realized he agreed so much with President Bush's Iraq policy....

Councilor Red McDaniel said he doubts it's a city responsibility to "dictate private enterprise." On matters such as smoking, he means. He wouldn't dare extend that principle, and call for a ban on business licenses and property taxes.

A manager of the Cannon Brew Pub downtown admitted to WRBL he'd be angry if a smoking ban took effect. He said several customers visit his pub so they can smoke cigars. Do that too much, and someday you could need a designated breather....

Call me a weirdo if you wish, but I've never smoked at all. My mom enjoyed (I guess) Salems for years, and died of a brain aneurysm before turning 60. She smoked by the pack - and sadly, now she's in a box.

I was used to my mother's cigarette smoke when I was young - but the older I get, the more my lungs can spot second-hand cigarette smoke several yards away. This is true for other odors as well. When I jog on the south Riverwalk, it's all I can do not to sprint toward the Dolly Madison bakery for cinnamon rolls.

My car is kept smoke-free - but that lighter built into the dashboard seems awfully lonely at times. I hope it still works, if a carjacker approaches me....

And what about my home? I'd like to call it smoke-free -- but I'm hesitant to go that far. What if I leave the popcorn in my microwave oven too long?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Tuesday thoughts about a Muscogee County Humane Society promotion was met with skepticism by one reader:

You're just kidding about the Humane Society's latest adoption efforts, aren't you? I would hope so. I understand that Columbus is extremely sensitive to race issues and we've had a rough 2 years. But COME ON PEOPLE!! These are animals. They don't see race, they don't know race, and they sure don't discriminate against any race. They Humane Society has simply seen a pattern in it's adoptions of certain colored pets over the years, and they are trying something different to give all of the animals a "fair shake". Do you have a better idea? Let me guess, shave them all and then you won't know WHAT you are getting!! I have been to the Humane Society a number of times to adopt animals, and I have never seen them discriminate, either. Please, quit trying to make the circumstances in Columbus any worse than what they are. This city is NEVER going to heal if we don't focus on the important issues and quit knit-picking over the petty ones. And to answer your question, do white people only adopt non-black pets? No, one of the dogs I have now is black and I adopted her from the Humane Society 2 years ago.

OK, let's clarify something right away. I don't think I ever said the Humane Society's animals were racist. After all, if a Chihuahua can put up with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie....

Hmmmm -- shave all the animals up for adoption? This could be a new reality show on Fox: "Who's Your Doggy?"

My concern is with racist people, not pets -- and I'm pleased this e-mailer adopted a black dog, and is living happily ever after with her. I'll let other "knit-pickers" ask what color is the carpeting in the owner's home.

Yet a friend of mine admitted to me Tuesday she also felt a bit uncomfortable about the Humane Society's "Black Out Adoption Event." I guess I should have pressed the issue further with yet - and see if she avoids playing "Blackout Bingo," too.

Perhaps I'm sensitive to this because of a sermon I heard from a church pastor when I was a teenager. He claimed racial bias had filled all of our culture, citing negative phrases such as "blackball" and "black plague." Come to think of it, have you noticed how "blackboards" are disappearing today - and what color the new slate boards tend to be?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


The very name of it struck me as odd. The Muscogee County Humane Society is having a "Black Out Adoption Event"?! Aren't they looking for suspects in Russell County, who might really do that to an animal?

The news release I saw Monday was no joke: the Muscogee County Humane Society is holding a "Black Out Adoption Event" at PetSmart for the next week - in which all the animals being featured are black. So why hold this now, at the end of January? I thought February was "Black History Month."

Before you click on that "write me" link, consider how Joan Sammond of the Humane Society explains this event. "The majority of our cats and dogs are either black or predominantly black so when you come in to look for a pet, your eye automatically goes to the animal that isn't black." So it's a bit like living in Tuskegee....

(True confession: my father had this same sort of weakness - only it happened every time he watched pro basketball on TV.)

"Our black animals have the most wonderful personalities," Joan Sammond continues, "and they're being overlooked!" This certainly should NOT be happening. If Dr. King was alive, he'd tell us to judge animals by the content of their character - not the color of their fur.

(Oh, by the way - can an animal have a PERSON-ality? Isn't it really more of an animal-ality?)

During the "Black Out Adoption Event," you can pay a reduced fee of $50 to take home a black adult animal. No wait -- that doesn't sound right in 2005. Maybe you can take home an "animal of color...."

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but am I the only one uncomfortable about this Humane Society promotion? Especially considering what Columbus has endured in the last year or so? If dogs are as color-blind as I've read they are, shouldn't we teach humans to be the same way?

Go back to what Joan Sammond said in the Humane Society news release. When a majority of animals are black, your eye "automatically" goes to one that is not -- and that's the one you supposedly adopt. Some folks in Sumter County could take this event to mean we should discriminate against minorities.

So why doesn't this logic of "automatically" going for a different-colored item apply outside pet adoption -- say, to human beings? Well, I guess it did once. If you saw the PBS documentary Monday night on the problems in integrating Southern schools, you might know what I mean....

I'm left wondering how far Joan Sammond's logic goes. Do African-American people only adopt black-furred pets? Do white people only adopt non-black pets? And should we check the folks who adopt parrots, to see if they're really space aliens?

Is there a deep, hidden message about Columbus race relations when large numbers of black animals are left at the Humane Society's kennels, while pets of other colors are adopted? Maybe there are other things in town we should check - such as whether students stay away from Shaw High School, because of home black jerseys.

BLOG UPDATE: Since I brought it up, WRBL reported Monday the attorney for David Glisson has filed a response to that $100 million lawsuit over the death of Kenneth Walker. Richard Hagler apparently earned his legal fees - because the response went beyond, "Ha Ha Ha."

Richard Hagler contends in his court papers David Glisson has legal immunity from the lawsuit by Kenneth Walker's family. He could be right, you know - since for 13 months, Glisson's claimed immunity from talking to almost every Columbus news reporter.

Richard Hagler goes on to claim the city of Columbus should pay David Glisson's legal bills, over the Walker family lawsuit. Considering the city government also is being sued for damages, the next city manager could wind up asking voters to approve a TEN-cent city sales tax.

Now other fast facts (or fiction?) from Monday:

+ Parts of Columbus and Albany had spot power outages at 5:00 a.m. -- apparently because preset thermostats came on during the coldest morning of the winter. This never happens at 5:00 p.m. on 100-degree days in July. Let's start a campaign to donate used blankets to Georgia Power....

+ The Social Security office in Birmingham donated 450 used computers to Lee County Schools, beginning with Beulah and Smiths Station. These should be wonderful in business classes - to figure how quickly a student's start-up will cost in federal taxes.

+ Instant Message to the staff of the new Columbus "Library Café:" Don't be ashamed about charging sales tax. Without a sales tax, you wouldn't even be in that new building.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Any humor I create had part of its inspiration in the work of Johnny Carson, who died Sunday at 79. Our condolences to his family - and in his honor, the jokes shall go on....)

Did you watch the premiere of "Numbers" on CBS Sunday night? I mean the drama - not the "StatTrax" numbers CBS Sports loves to show during football games....

There's reportedly a Columbus connection to the new series "Numbers." And in that connection, there's a strange family story - so strange, I believe I should change some of the names in it. There's a proud mother, a rather embarrassed daughter, and someone trying to create a news story with something other than a march downtown.

I took a close look at the closing credits for "Numbers" for one particular name -- a Production Assistant named "Tea." She moved from Columbus to Hollywood to work in the movie business. At this young point in her career, she might be considered GREEN Tea....

Tea's mother is a woman we'll call Kelly. Late one night last week, Kelly decided to call a local TV station with a story "on her heart" - namely her daughter. I've heard of plenty of parents doing this. One was thrilled merely for his little boy refusing to ride a school bus, because it had no seat belts.

Kelly noted Tea became interested in film production after having a part in the Mel Gibson movie "We Were Soldiers." That part, Kelly said, consisted of standing behind a main character for about five minutes. At least Mom can play the home video, if her daughter doesn't call for a few days....

Kelly says her daughter moved to Atlanta for film production work, then went to Hollywood "on her own." Trouble spot #1: Tea says SEVERAL young adults from Columbus went to Hollywood. So who knows -- we may have the makings of a "Rivertown Brat Pack."

Kelly says her daughter is "living out of a Jeep" and "sleeping on the floor" in Hollywood, while helping the crew of "Numbers." If this series catches on, that could change -- as star Rob Morrow might let her sleep overnight in his star trailer.

Kelly claims as her daughter works in Hollywood, "everyone knows her": as Production Assistant. Some people reportedly even asked Tea to do a screen test. In parts of Southern California, this can be dangerous -- because she might wind up in movies you can buy only at those shops with no windows on Victory Drive.

Kelly wanted the TV station to do a story on Tea's decision to go to Hollywood and try to make it in the movie business. Trouble spot #2: Mom admitted her daughter's "not successful yet." In Columbus, people sometimes aren't even interested in success stories - such as the Riverdragons....

Trouble spot #3: Mother Kelly did NOT want daughter Tea to know she had contacted the TV station to suggest this news story.
Mysterious "unnamed sources" usually only work in Hollywood if someone sees Jennifer Aniston holding a man's hand.

The mom suggested a couple of other people who would share Tea's story, and give her some "cover." I understand the TV station took this information, but decided to wait on it until the next day. After all, Kelly had called after 10:00 p.m. Waking up a grandmother late at night for this might have given her a heart attack.

Trouble spot #4: The afternoon after Kelly called the TV station, daughter Tea called - on her own. She'd apparently been "left a message" to call the station. But the station had yet to call her! Maybe Tea gets her acting skills from a parent who's good at doing different voices....

When Tea found out the TV station had NOT called her, she figured out what was happening. Her mother had made the phone calls, attempting to give her publicity - and she was upset. I personally don't like Tea that's scalding hot like this.

Tea wondered why her mother would call a TV station and hatch a "news story" plot like this. Kelly may have done it out of pride. Perhaps she was feeling a bit lonely. And maybe Mom had misplaced the phone number to Dr. Laura Schlesinger's talk show.

Tea says she'll be coming home to Columbus in a couple of months, for a project benefitting local school arts programs. She'll want news coverage for that - but would rather NOT have any for her Production Assistant work in Hollywood. So I'm sorry, the blog will NOT start a "BED-time Tea" donation campaign.

Trouble Spot #5: About those closing credits of "Numbers" - I never saw Tea's name on the list at the side of the screen. Do you think her efforts to deliver papers and fetch water were cut out of the show? Or does her mom need some numbers of her own -- numbers of people, to keep her under control?

Let's take our Tea-pot off the stove, and consider other weekend items:

+ The Friendship Volunteer Fire Department set fire to a mobile home in Smiths Station, in a training exercise. This department is interested in finding other homes for practice - but please, allow your mother-in-law to move out BEFORE calling the firefighters.

+ The Auburn Horse Arena hosted a two-day auction of wild horses. Yes, these were REAL -- not the sort of "wild horses" people drive at about 90 miles per hour on the freeway.

+ The Atlanta Falcons lost the "National Bowl" (why doesn't the N.F.L. call it that?) to Philadelphia 27-10. It's obvious to me what the Falcons need to do next season. Michael Vick's mom needs to start serving the team Chunky soup.

(For some reason, WDAK aired the national network broadcast of Atlanta-Philadelphia, after presenting the Falcons Radio Network all season. Maybe the management finally decided Wes Durham's slang terms were more than anyone outside Atlanta could understand.)

+ Instant Message to the driver of a green truck with "Psycho Angel" on the rear window: You'll be pleased to know when I saw your truck at Target the other day, I made sure to park three spaces away from you.

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.


The fliers on South Lumpkin Road promote a new radio program called "Voz Del Valle" - Spanish for "Voce of the Valley." This slogan seems so fitting for a city like Columbus - so why has no station used it since I've lived here? Are other stations afraid the city of Valley, Alabama will sue?

Voz del Valle boasts it's on every Saturday morning on WSHE-AM -- and if you can't tell from the name, it broadcasts in Spanish. For you fans of the usual "Southern gospel" music on this station, think of this as even FARTHER south...

Voz del Valle is on the station which used to have "Ritmo Latino Radio." That old name is nowhere on the flier I saw. So when that play "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" comes to town in a couple of weeks, keep the indicted Jose Ricci in mind.

The flier for Voz del Valle shows a photo of host Sherley Castillo - a name I don't recall ever hearing in the Ritmo Latino era. "DJ Morrow" is on a poster for Ritmo Latino BALLROOM instead. I guess the woman who used to do interviews and read the horoscopes does this before the dancing starts.

By the way, the monthly newspaper "La Voz Hispana" seems to have vanished. The only paper I saw at stores on South Lumpkin Road Friday was a Caribbean publication from Atlanta -- and it didn't seem right, because every word of it seemed to be in English.

It will be interesting to see if Voz del Valle expands on the air the way Ritmo Latino Radio did two years ago. "Ritmo" was on all weekend long for awhile, and had big-name advertisers such as Bill Heard Chevrolet and Aflac. But after what happened in recent months, Voz del Valle may do well to get the new El Vaquero restaurant.

Speaking of food and internationalism, the church I attend had that "Italian Dinner" I mentioned the other day on Saturday evening.
I was asked to provide fitting music for the event -- and my pastor was disappointed when the only two Dean Martin songs I had were in English.

Someone in the congregation had a very creative idea for the Italian dinner. They brought a cake decorated to look like a giant plate of spaghetti and meatballs! By comparison, the Italian bread in my basket looked like I'd poured pine pollen on several maps of Long Island.

E-MAIL UPDATE: This was sent to several media outlets around town, so you may have seen this elsewhere:

This is a story you don't hear because I guess it isn't newsworthy:

On 1/19/05, Officer A. McCarty was working off duty at a school in Muscogee County when he was approached by a school official concerning a suspicious individual on the campus. An investigation by Officer McCarty determined that a 14 year old female left the campus and may have been with an unidentified male. Officer McCarty further determined that the juvenile and the suspect had been seen at a hotel in the area. Officer McCarty made and immediate broadcast for the two individuals and, on his own initiative, contacted the Columbus Airport requesting that personnel there be on the look out. A short time later, the two individuals were identified and detained as they were boarding an airplane bound for California. It was later revealed that the suspect was the uncle of the 14 year old female and had taken her from the school, in violation of several court orders. The suspect was charged with Interference with Custody and Criminal Trespass. If not for the quick response by Officer McCarty, this juvenile would have been on her way to California and very possibly never located safely. She was in fact only moments from leaving this jurisdiction. Officer McCarty's actions and quick thinking, in particular taking it upon himself to contact the airport, was the key factor that brought this case to a successful conclusion. Officers like McCarty are a credit to the department and a pleasure to work with.

Do you want Police Officers like Officer A. McCarty providing quality service to this community?

You better contact your city councilors and tell them to pay our Police Officers or else Officers like this will be leaving for better paying Police jobs. They will be replaced with "report takers" who would not have taken the initiative to call the airport and make a broadcast. If you really look at it, it's a life or death decision. This 14 year old girl may have ended up dead if it weren't for a quality Police Officer.

Thank you,


And OUR thanks to - hold on a minute. MayorHater?!?! What about the 60 percent of Columbus voters who turned down the one-cent sales tax, to provide public safety pay hikes? But then again, "60PercentHater" sounds kind of strange....

It could be we haven't heard this story from last Wednesday because local reporters haven't found it in police records yet. Remember, the Fraternal Order of Police DOES warn crime is increasing - so there are so many more reports to examine.

Assuming the writer's report is true (if it's not, please let us know), this is a curious case. Why would an uncle want to take a 14-year-old girl out of school, and take her to California? Hasn't he heard Tiger Woods became married a couple of months ago?

Officer McCarty apparently made the right call by alerting Columbus Airport officers to the suspect. That stupid criminal - thinking he could hide in the "crowd," at an airport which hardly ever has one....

We certainly would want an officer such as "A. McCarty" providing quality service to our community. And I'm sure city officials appreciate the fact that he did this while OFF duty, thus saving overtime pay.

What about the author's warning that police who leave for better salaries will be replaced by "report takers?" MayorHater expressed concern about officers taking reports in a prior e-mail to us [14 Jan]. Are there still "steno pools" somewhere to handle these things?

And what about those officers who go to other cities for more money? To read the Atlanta newspaper's web site, public safety personnel have the same gripe about pay as Columbus officers do. If money doesn't buy happiness for criminals, I doubt it can for police, either....

Now let's see what other things we can find on a midwinter weekend:

+ The forecast of a rainy Saturday never happened in Columbus, which was annoying enough. But which local TV weathercaster told his afternoon audience about this weekend, "not everyone will see the thunder?" I doubt anyone will see thunder at all - because you see lightning and HEAR thunder.

+ WFRC-FM's "Christian Home" broadcast used inauguration day and Friday for a two-day reading of an article - about General Stonewall Jackson! I realize Friday was Jackson's birthday, but is this a subtle statement against our President?

+ O'Reilly Auto Parts opened its first Columbus store on Veterans Parkway. Many people probably were disappointed to find Bill O'Reilly's books were NOT on sale....

+ WRBL checked police reports, and found the number of traffic collisions on Victory Drive went up sharply last year. Was that really because the I-185 entrance to Fort Benning was closed for construction? Or did those women in the "lounges" strip a little faster?

+ Instant Message to Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center: About your "Season's Greetings" sign, which was still up Saturday night - when will "The Season" end? With the Super Bowl in two weeks, Valentine's Day or Presidents Day?

BLOG CORRECTION: The Cottonmouths' fund-raiser game for tsunami survivors actually is NEXT Thursday, the 27th. Our apologies for the mix-up - and now you have extra days to decide if downtown beggars need the money more than Sri Lanka does.

COMING SOON: Who's that man with the strange writing on his.... well, it's not a car....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 21, 2005


The first thing to die was the arrow-right key. It simply stopped working, without any warning or sign of trouble. For those of you who know my religious beliefs - no, I did NOT consider this a sign from God that I'd become too liberal.

But I found I could keep writing this blog for you without a working arrow-right key on my keyboard. There was a bit of adjusting, though - because for a writer like me, that key is quite valuable. I can jump back to the source of my misspellings much faster.

Just when I thought I'd only have to play one key short, things grew worse last weekend. As I used my computer calculator, I discovered the number 2 on the right side of the keyboard had quit working. And the 8. And the "/" key for division. Thankfully all this happened before I started working on my taxes....

This trend was starting to trouble me - and puzzle me as well. My e-Machines keyboard had worked well since the day I brought my PC home on April 30, 1999. Yes, I remember historic dates like that one - especially since I haven't had any romantic dates with women since.

What could be going wrong with my keyboard? I wondered. I'd never made the fatal mistake I made at my workplace once, and spilled soda all over it. Not even the fact that it was diet cola with NutraSweet prevented things from getting sticky....

And it wasn't a matter of spilling food on my keyboard recently, either. I make a regular habit on slow days of turning the board upside down, knocking all the cookie and cracker crumbs out - and I won't get into the human hairball I created once.

For lack of a better explanation, I tentatively decided a bug had taken over my keyboard. Not a computer virus - a cockroach sort of bug. Little ones love to hide under and between keys during summer, you know. Then they jump out, like a computer game space alien daring you to zap it in less than five seconds.

But sadly, the keyboard kept losing keys one at a time. It was a slow, painful death - you know, the sort of death some Republicans wanted to give protesters in Washington during Thursday's inauguration.

The last straw (or is that stroke?) for my computer keyboard came late Monday night as I prepared Tuesday's blog entry. [18 Jan] Remember the "reasons which will be explained later" which stopped me? The keyboard was the main reason. The fact that computer accessory shops tend to be closed at 1:30 a.m. was another one.

My keyboard frustration reached its height when - well, when I couldn't type a word like "height." The H key died, then the G next to it. Imagine if my topic had been the H.H. Gregg store....

(I suppose I could have lived without the G key for awhile - by simply writing the way some Southerners speak. You know, with words such as darlin', shortnin', fixin'....)

So how did I finish Tuesday's entry without a ton of typographical errors? Thankfully, I use WordPerfect for this blog - and it has a feature allowing you to insert "symbols." They range from the standard alphabet to a Spanish "ñ," and even suits in a card deck. What a slow way to play online hearts that would be.

The WordPerfect system also has a "spellcheck," of course. Some younger adults have become so reliant on that feature, they admit they have trouble spelling basic English words anymore -- so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that National Spelling Bee champions look nerdier than ever.

(In the LaughLine era, I used to offer "SpellChuckles" based on actual suggestions computer spellchecks gave me. For instance, my spellcheck doesn't recognize "blog" - and suggests BLOB instead! I've been trying to lose weight, really....)

So Tuesday's blog entry came to you with a little extra effort on my part. I'm tempted to call it "Yankee ingenuity" - but I think I insulted native Southerners once already, with that line about darlin' and fixin'.

I went to bed late Monday night knowing I needed to hustle out Tuesday morning and buy a new keyboard. After all, I've become dependent on my computer for so many things - from writing blogs to keeping Bible study notes. And my vacation last fall marked the first time in years I'd played card games with REAL playing cards.

Torn between a couple of shopping spots, I decided to drive to Target for a new computer keyboard Tuesday morning. I'd never shopped for one before -- and I was struck by a wireless keyboard priced at $40. But what if I typed too many wireless strokes a month? Would I face an overage charge?

I settled on a basic, bargain-priced General Electric keyboard costing less than ten dollars. And I'm glad to report it's working fine so far. There's not even a hidden program that shows me pop-up ads promoting NBC television shows while I'm online.

(But I must admit I have NOT removed the plastic bag cover from my new keyboard yet. Am I asking for trouble here - by tempting myself to eat even more at the computer?)

All in all, I'm thankful my old computer keyboard lasted as long as it did - five years, eight months. And considering one of the "legs" under that keyboard broke off along the way, I don't have to use bottle caps to make things level anymore.

But consider the last two months with my computer. I lost the ability to call up web pages. I bought a new computer CD player to resolve that - then wound up needing my hard drive reformatted. Now I've switched to a new keyboard. The way things are going, that longshot chance for thunderstorms this weekend will make my monitor explode.

Now some quick notes from around the area to wrap up the week:

+ The Columbus Chamber of Commerce presented James Yancey with its annual "Woodruff Award." If an executive from W.C. Bradley had received this, angry workers might have organized a Char-Broil version of the Boston tea party.

+ The Columbus Catfish used the Chamber's annual dinner to announce they're retiring number 44 - in honor of keynote speaker Hank Aaron. So does this mean his Krispy Kreme doughnuts will be on sale at Golden Park this summer? Or can Golden Donuts offer a better bid, to keep the ballpark's name from changing?

+ The Columbus Riverdragons lost their fourth game in a row -- and the official attendance at the Civic Center was 351. Talk about fickle fans! The 12-game winning streak ends, and half of the regular crowd gives up....

(Columbus State drew about nine times as many fans Wednesday, for "pack the house night." The Riverdragons might have to get fans' attention with a "load the moving truck night.")

+ Which local TV weathercaster told his viewers to "plan for a cold one on Sunday?" If they're Atlanta Falcons fans, they're probably planning for at least SIX cold ones - maybe even 12 or 24.

+ Instant Message to the Opelika Arts Council: I'm impressed that you're bringing a symphony orchestra from Moscow to town tonight. But c'mon - a Russian orchestra doing an all-Tchaikovsky program? Is this REALLY promoting diversity, and opposing profiling?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


It's a big day for Washington and the Republican Party, as President Bush begins a second term. It's inauguration day - or, since so many people in this part of the country seem to have trouble with that word, it's "swearing-in time."

How many Columbus Councilors will stop what they're doing, to watch today's inauguration? And how many will say to themselves, "We wish we could run up big deficits, the way he's doing it"?

A first draft came out Wednesday about how Columbus city officials may deal with a 12-million dollar deficit. There's talk of cutting 154 positions in city government - but look on the bright side. State prison inmates could learn all sorts of new skills.

We're told most of the 154 "job cuts" would actually come from city positions currently open, which simply will not be filled. So Alonza Whitaker was named Environmental Court judge on Tuesday, just under the wire....

The city staff cuts also could include 24 open public safety positions. With that big a shortage, maybe we should be thankful the Third Brigade just left Fort Benning for Iraq - as Victory Drive clubs might not need as much patrolling.

Randy Robertson of the Fraternal Order of Police warned cutting 24 public safety positions would persuade criminals Columbus is a "better option" for committing crimes. Really now -- would it? How many criminals go online to check the law officer per person ratio, before robbing a gas station?

Randy Robertson says murders and burglaries went up in Columbus last year because of a lack of law officers. Yet I saw numbers this week showing the rape count in Eufaula quadrupled -- from one to four. Based on Robertson's logic, Eufaula might not have anything besides a police chief.

(And consider Birmingham, which is averaging about one homicide every two days so far in 2005. Is that because of cuts in the police department? Or was the weather simply too warm in early January, so people weren't huddled around space heaters?)

Mayor Bob Poydasheff says public safety will have its staff cut like all other city departments -- but he expressed optimism that the cut will NOT be ten percent. That could make the mayor's office staff work a little harder in the next few weeks....

Given all this talk of personnel cuts, it was surprising to read Wednesday that Columbus Council deadlocked 5-5 on whether to hire an outside company to find a new city manager. Isn't that one place to save money? Or do councilors hope to sucker a big name into taking the job, by convincing him or her we're big spenders?

Let's put down the cutting scissors now, for other items of note from Wednesday:

+ As the inaugural events unfolded in Washington, Alabama Governor Bob Riley hosted a prayer breakfast. By comparison, Roy Moore's wife is doing is hosting a tea on Saturday. It looks like the Governor has the lead in the Campaign 2006 "good works" count....

(Governor Riley told Republicans at the prayer breakfast they should be thankful "they made the right decision." What does that mean - that they didn't dare take on the President in last year's primaries?)

+ WRBL reported the Columbus Public Safety Building will get a new roof, only eight years after it opened. I never realized there was a problem at this building. I mean, the statue of a police officer on the second floor isn't holding an umbrella....

+ Wesley Heights Elementary School staged a "snowy day" for the pre-kindergarten students, with Buck Ice bringing in ice for pseudo-snow. Who knows how many older children saw this - and wished they had called radio and TV stations to ask if classes were cancelled?

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's "Taste" section included a recipe for beer muffins -- which called for "one can (6 oz.) beer." And this great chef lives in Columbus?! That guy must have drunk half the standard 12-ounce can, before writing this recipe down.

(And another thing - if you're putting beer in your muffins and eating them for breakfast, is it simply a sign you're throwing away the day?)

+ The Columbus State men's basketball team edged Clayton State on "pack the house night." More than 3,100 fans attended - enough to require shuttles for fans who parked at Peachtree Mall. The Columbus Riverdragons probably couldn't draw this big a crowd, if they played INSIDE the mall.

+ Instant Message to former Auburn assistant football coach Gene Chizik: What do you mean, "the pinnacle of college coaching" is the University of Texas? Based on the rankings I've seen the last couple of years, don't you mean Southern California?

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: What can you expect on this inauguration day? Let's review some of the things we wrote about President Bush's first inaugural, from the LaughLine issue of 22 Jan 01:

The inauguration is over. The transition is complete. We have a new U.S. President. And all across the country, people now wait and wonder - who will the right-wing radio talk show hosts pick on NOW?

George W. Bush became President on a cold, rainy Washington day - just as Albert Gore said a Bush victory would feel, in one of his last pre-election speeches.... Now we're scared. Maybe Mr. Gore DOES control the weather - and we may have four years of the worst global warming ever.

Mr. Bush made an appeal for national compassion, by drawing from a Bible story: "When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side." Be sure you keep a copy of this speech for the first time you do this, and you're an hour late for work.

(We're NOT supposed to pass by? Isn't this why God invented cell phones - so we can report those problems to police?)

An aide says Ronald and Nancy Reagan watched the inauguration on TV "with fascination." That sounds like a polite way of saying Mr. Reagan didn't recognize anyone he saw.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton rode together in a limousine from the White House to the Capitol for the inaugural ceremony. What do you think they talked about during that ride -- the latest going rate to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom?

One of Mr. Bush's first acts was a directive to block many of the last-minute executive orders Mr. Clinton had issued. Some didn't become official until they were published in the "Federal Register." But of course, Mr. Clinton can get them published in the "New York Times" instead....

One of President Bush's first executive orders proclaimed Sunday a "national day of prayer and thanksgiving." And you thought Bill Clinton's orders were extreme. Mr. Bush didn't give us any warning, so we could go buy turkey and dressing, invite the neighbors....

Inauguration Day ended with the new President and First Lady visiting EIGHT inaugural balls in Washington. The only other thing in Washington that needs that many balls to please everyone is the Washington Wizards basketball team.

One of the inaugural parties the Bushes visited was the "Florida State Ball." The dress code there was formal - white tie and dangling chad.

Washington's "Hard Rock Café" threw an unusual inaugural ball - a casual one for teenagers from visiting school groups. We wonder how many of those teenagers would see a picture of nephew George Prescott Bush, and think he sings with Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony.

The first family welcomed thousands of ordinary citizens Sunday afternoon, at a White House "open house." The President admitted he needed to "brush up on the history" of the house. Lesson one, Mr. Bush: it was NOT named after a man named White.

One pre-inaugural event featured Laura Bush at a salute to U.S. authors. Since she's a Republican, this was a bit surprising. We expected a salute to the publicity agents instead....

George W. Bush's inauguration meant Bill Clinton's departure. Aides say Mr. Clinton stayed up all Friday night at the White House, unable to sleep. Apparently he finally ran out of time, and couldn't figure out a way to pardon himself.

The inauguration brought protests from Washington to Tallahassee. Someone actually threw an egg at the President's limousine, during the inaugural parade! Mister Bush may have to heal a division he never expected -- between the high-fat and high-carbohydrate diet groups.

A high school group from near our town went to the inaugural. They reported protesters blocked their way to the parade route, and burned U.S. flags as they did. Well, it WAS a cold day in Washington - so maybe police banned fire barrels.

The Senate hurredly confirmed seven of President Bush's Cabinet appointments, only hours after he took office. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was approved only two days after his Senate hearing! Does that mean his position is that vital - or really not that important?

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


The Muscogee County School Board received stunning news Tuesday night: the entire district is now on the Georgia Education Department "Needs Improvement" list. Improvement? After those two votes for a one-cent sales tax, and all that construction, we STILL need improvement?

Before now Georgia education officials only put individual schools on the "Needs Improvement" list. Now entire districts are being listed - and Muscogee County is there. Maybe Russell County Judge Al Howard needs to come across the river, and threaten to recall the entire school board.

Schools and districts make the "Needs Improvement" list if they don't meet standards of "average yearly progress." And let's be honest here - Shaw High School didn't advance to the Georgia High School football finals.

The state progress report faults Muscogee County Schools in several areas. For one thing, middle school students didn't make the state standard for writing. If only today's rap stars did their rhymes in complete sentences, to provide some inspiration....

But perhaps the most puzzling note in the progress report is that Muscogee County missed the mark in math and English, among students with disabilities. Columbus may be doing as well with "special education" as it is with guest special prosecutors.

Muscogee County Superintendent John Phillips accepted the "Needs Improvement" report from the state - but he said large school districts with high numbers of disabled students are more likely to be marked down. An old answer comes to my mind for this - but desegregation wasn't popular in the South when it came to RACE.

And to think only a few weeks ago, Dr. John Phillips became a finalist for Georgia School Superintendent of the Year. Now he's overseeing an entire district which needs improvement - and perhaps he can understand how Dan Reeves felt the last couple of seasons, coaching the Atlanta Falcons.

Remember early last year, when the Ledger-Enquirer asked Muscogee County School Board members for their opinions of Dr. John Phillips? About half the members liked the Superintendent's performance, while about half said "no comment." How many now will say the "needs improvement" starts not at the bottom, but the top?

BLOG UPDATE: Not everyone in Columbus was impressed by Jesse Jackson's big civil rights march last weekend. The Friends of David Glisson web site has posted a statement, claiming high-ranking city government workers pressured lower staff members to attend. OK, so how many of Glisson's relatives were pressured to attend THAT march?

The F.O.G. (Friends of Glisson, you know) web master claims Columbus city policy is for employees NOT to participate in political or protest events, such as Jesse Jackson's march. Now this could get interesting - as the city personnel board may have to issue a blanket amnesty, and rehire Glisson with everybody else.

The F.O.G. web site goes on to accuse Columbus police of driving some of the protesters to and from last Saturday's march. If that's true, that IS a bit strange. You'd think a couple of the float drivers in the Unity Parade would have been willing to stick around awhile.

While David Glisson backers have their own site, have you noticed there isn't one for supporters of Kenneth Walker's family? Well, then again maybe they don't need one. They have Kaffie Sledge writing columns for the Ledger-Enquirer....

All this reminds me - Instant Message to Judge Greg Mathis: You have a daily TV show, right? Why don't you persuade Kenneth Walker's widow to take David Glisson to YOUR court? Maybe you could force him to pay for the daughter's dance lessons.

And did I read the Eufaula newspaper correctly - Eufaula's police chief is named Kenneth Walker? All Sheriff Ralph Johnson has to do is hire him as a top assistant. At least his department might feel better....

Meanwhile, a Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy was slightly hurt Tuesday night in a four-car collision on Manchester Expressway. Hopefully civil rights leaders will commend the department today - because that unnamed deputy did NOT jump out with a gun and open fire on somebody.

Now some odds and ends from the last couple of days:

+ Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters wrote a letter to the Ledger-Enquirer, endorsing Mayor Bob Poydasheff for a second term. Already - 18 months before the primary?! Is Roxann Daniel planning to run against him?

+ Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin announced grant money has been received to build a soccer complex at an industrial park. So why build it out there? All sorts of level ground should become available, as downtown car lots close.

+ Two Phenix City residents filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Waffle House. They claim as they waited for food in Cullman, Alabama, a customer screamed at them and declared they were not welcome. [True/AP] So are restaurants going to become like airports -- only with a "watch list" for weirdos to kick out?

+ The Columbus Catfish named Travis Barbery as their new manager. The reason for his hiring should be obvious. The team can make money selling advertising space on his uniform to barber shops.

COMING SOON: Things are missing at the mall, and we want to know why....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.