Sunday, July 31, 2005


So, you may be asking, what have I bought during the Georgia tax-free holiday weekend? Well -- I told my landlord my rent was tax-free. It took him a minute to figure out that joke....

Always looking for ways to save seven or eight cents on the dollar, I traveled to Columbus Park Crossing to see what tax-free bargains were available. My trip found not all business owners are smiling this weekend - and some of them actually live in Columbus.

After visiting the landlord's office, we went to a bread store on Weems Road. Bread in particular and food in general are NOT tax-free. So your children may go back to school starving, but their notebooks will look nice.

Then we reached Columbus Park Crossing -- or as Men's Warehouse calls it in a commercial, "Columbus Park." A thunderstorm was moving in as we arrived, so we might have been safer parking than doing any crossing.

Old Navy was busy on this afternoon, but not as crowded as I've sometimes seen it. When there's no doubled-back checkout line blocking your view of beach games on the rack, it's light.

I tend to shop for "needs" more than "wants" on a trip like this, and Old Navy didn't have the tax-free clothing I needed. There were running shorts, but not in the colors I need to balance out my wardrobe. If I don't find inexpensive gold shorts soon, the pair I have may become transparent.

(Yes, I have a "rainbow" collection of running shorts. That way, you can't accuse me of color discrimination.)

Down the sidewalk at Sears, the turnout was moderate. The colors of shorts still didn't match my needs. And as I went up the escalator to check the second floor, the power went out for several seconds. I thought I'd already had enough exercise for one day....

Sears used to sell Apple iMac computers on Macon Road - but no tax-free computers could be found anywhere in the new store. It was almost as if those colorful computers had morphed into decorator washers and dryers.

With thunder rumbling and a light rain falling, I walked on to "hh gregg" - and was amazed by how empty the store was at about 5:00 p.m. Stereos, refrigerators and flat-screen TV sets are NOT tax-free. And the movie theatres separating this store from Sears might as well be the Continental Divide.

"I thought you sold computers," I said to a salesperson at hh gregg.

"We used to," he answered, "but there wasn't any money in it." Have they become too low-priced for this store to sell? That'll teach them to mark down microwave ovens to $35 during last year's grand opening.

With the rain falling harder, I didn't have an umbrella with me. But I didn't bother to buy one on sale near the door at hh gregg -- because who knows how much they might have cost....

I scampered back to Sears, as a couple of other people scampered through the rain in the opposite direction. Where is the Columbus Park Crossing shuttle carts at a time like this? Where is a METRA bus, which could make some fast money on rainy days at this complex?

After a bit of shelter at Sears, I moved closer to my car my walking into A.C. Moore. Not even this art supply filled with seemingly tax-free school supply items had a big late afternoon crowd. Maybe the presence of Halloween items on sale in late July repulsed some people.

Even closer to the rain-soaked car, I stopped inside a shoe store. "Can I help you with anything?" asked an attendant at the relatively quiet store.

"You can get the rain to stop," I suggested. Sadly, this young woman was not a certified meteorologist.

My four-pair shoe collection (dress, running, court, slippers) is in good shape right now, so I decided not to buy any tax-free shoes. At last I raced back to my car, having bought a grand total of nothing. Well, there was a day-old cinnamon roll from back at the bread store - so I drove across town and back to spend 28 cents.

So going into the final day of tax-free shopping, I've bought nothing tax-free at all. Places I presumed would have colorful shorts and computers on sale do not. Maybe the "Big Yard Sale" over on Broadway will have them today - as if the person living there would charge sales tax, anyway.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The indirect source of Saturday's entry about Fred Phelps and his touring picketers wants to set something straight:


How are things? I hope all is well. I just wanted to clarify a comment attributed to me on your blog. I did not suggest WRCG's listeners do anything. My comment to Robbie Watson was something along the lines of: people who disagree with Rev. Phelps fall into one of two categories. Either they want to ignore him so he doesn't get any more attention than they feel he deserves... or they want to give him a lot of attention to expose what they consider to be his crazy beliefs.

That's pretty much how it went. Sorry if I caused any confusion or chaos... just wanted to make sure we got that right.

Have a great weekend,


That's Blaine Stewart of WRBL. After what happened with Bill Madison and Port Columbus, I should know better than to trust the things people say on TalkLine - even the hosts.

Normally I'd do a quick wrap-up of weekend news at this point - but instead, we have a quick wrap-up of a strange weekend at the church I attend:

+ A presiding elder gave a message declaring some people are so stubborn about their religious beliefs, "you could blow up a case of dynamite under them and they wouldn't change." This man lives in Chambers County, and apparently didn't hear about the Bill Madison fuss.

+ The Pastor stated during his sermon that major TV evening newscasts "parrot the New York Times." Yet for some reason, those newscasts all found something else to cover on the evening of September 11, 2001....

(The Pastor said he tried an experiment with Friday night's news. He turned to all three newscasts, and they all had "the shuttle" - then they all had London terrorism. Only problem: all the networks led with London, not the space shuttle.)

+ A man claimed after the service the space shuttle Discovery cooled off our hot weather. His wife told him the temperature always seems to change after a rocket launch. Considering the shuttle went over the Atlantic Ocean during liftoff, that smoke at the launch pad must be dreadful....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll have to postpone that letter from Mr. Z until later in the week. It's coming, really....)

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find this humorous, serious, or a little of both - but from time to time, we offer things to reflect upon as we keep the seventh-day Sabbath.)

The idea actually came secondhand Friday - as Robbie Watson of WRCG's TalkLine quoted WRBL news anchor Blaine Stewart. Why doesn't everyone simply ignore the picket line Fred Phelps is planning in Opelika? For starters, this is surprising - to hear a journalist openly suggest one side of an issue not be covered.

We mentioned Friday picketers from Topeka, Kansas plan a protest at the funeral of Sgt. Christopher Taylor, an Opelika soldier who was killed in Iraq. A news release claims God punished him because college students attacked their church. Isn't this an incredibly indirect way to kill those students?

But back to Blaine Stewart's suggestion: should we simply ignore the picketers from Topeka, so they'll go away? That may sound logical at first, but consider some things....

+ The news media ignored Bill Madison's hearse with its protest messages - and now he heads the Columbus NAACP.

+ Politicians accused each other of ignoring al-Qaeda - and look at what happened simply this month in London.

+ You could ignore the pain in your prostate - but if it's cancer, it could eventually kill you.

Truly in some areas, ignorance is NOT bliss. Ask any guy who's tried to find his way in a strange town without a map....

It seems to me the proper way to approach the Topeka picketers is to, well, approach them. But the homosexual community should NOT be the group doing it. The Christian community should - and with an open Bible, because the picketers actually might pay attention to that.

It's good to hear Opelika ministers are displeased with the planned picketers from Topeka. There are some good questions they should ask the demonstrators when.... hey, you can't spell that word without DEMON, can you?

But anyway: here are some questions the Westboro Baptist protesters could be asked:

+ With all the protests you do, including 15 every Sunday in Topeka alone - when you do have a church service?

+ Why do you thank God for the London bombings, when a poll released Friday showed only six percent of British MUSLIMS considered them justified?

+ You want all homosexual people executed right now? Then what sort of wimp was Jesus, when He forgave an adulterous woman in John 8??

+ If you're as ultraconservative as you sound, why are you taking antiwar stands which could get you backed by Al Gore's new TV channel?

+ If "God hates Spain" and "God hates Sweden" as your web site claims, are there any countries God likes? And why don't you move there?

To be fair: I think Westboro Baptist Church has some biblically sound points. But they get lost in a stack of fiery news releases and loud extreme language. If this church has a cafeteria, I presume the only salad dressing is "vinegar and oil" - because it certainly doesn't offer "honey mustard" in public.

Oh yes, before I forget: don't think you can live ignorant of God. He was smart enough to make you -- and if He ignored you, eventually you'd go away. Forever. I'm thankful something much smarter is planned ahead....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 29, 2005


Thursday's "quote of the day" prize goes to Muscogee County Library Board chairman Tom Wade: "Our library is here to promote books and critical thinking and dialogue...." Well, the proposed Albert Paley sculpture accomplished most of that - as a lot of people spoke critically of it.

The Muscogee County Library Board voted Thursday to abandon the "Transformation" project. The board won't even seek private donations to put Albert Paley's sculpture in front of the Columbus Public Library. Sometimes the greatest transformation can occur in the human will....

The Library Board decided if Columbus Council won't approve the $250,000 for "Transformation," and so many members of the public don't like it, it was better simply to give up on the sculpture. So when does Albert Paley plan to put it on eBay?

Library Board Chairman Tom Wade said a sculpture in front of the library should promote "community," but "Transformation" became "a symbol of unhealthy controversy." He may be missing something here. Some people consider the library building ITSELF a symbol of controversy.

Library Board member and First Baptist Church Pastor Jimmy Elder said the library should promote "unity and education." So it's a bit like a church should be - only with all that wrong literature in favor of pagan gods.

The Ledger-Enquirer noted the other day the cost of "Transformation" actually would be more than $250,000. There would be extra costs for things such as installation. There's another lesson for the Library Board - order your next sculpture through .

The Library Board's vote doesn't settle the "Transformation" debate completely. There's still a contract signed by Albert Paley and the board. It appears attorneys will have to haggle over that. The lawyers for the artist probably will wear bright suits, and perhaps bow ties.

Library Board attorney Neal Callahan admits the next move in this matter is up to Albert Paley - but Paley has NOT responded to several recent calls. We'd all better hope he's not building a matching slingshot, to go with that sculpture.

Hopefully the Library Board has learned a valuable lesson, from the fuss over "Transformation." In fact, I doubt you'll even see any marathons of "Transformers" cartoons at the library anytime soon....

But if you think the Library Board is filled with big spenders, you should pick up the free brochure in the rotunda which tells all about the building. It reveals the library has limestone tiles from Portugal - because getting them from Alabama would have cost $750,000 more! That should appeal to the Georgia elitist in many Columbus natives.

The Columbus Public Library opened in January, and was built with city sales tax money. But have you noticed there's absolutely no mention of it in the new "City of Columbus Annual Report?" It mentions the Muscogee County Prison, but not the library! Is the city trying to increase prison attendance as well?

Last year's city report had Mayor Bob Poydasheff praising Ritmo Latino Inc. for its "sharp new office," newspaper and radio station. One year later the paper and station are gone, the office has moved to a nightclub and founder Jose Ricci awaits federal trial. So perhaps the library was left out of this year's report for a reason....

To be fair: the focus of this year's annual city report is safety and security. So the numbers about the Columbus Civic Center which appeared last year are absent as well. The less embarrassment about the Riverdragons' attendance, the better.

One page where you can make comparisons in the city report is the budget. For fiscal year 2005 which just ended, spending on public safety went up 2.2 percent -- but spending on criminal justice was down about three percent. So let's stop grumbling about the police, and ask District Attorney Gray Conger what's in his evidence room.

Now for other facts and figures we found on Thursday....

+ TV news message boards suggested Jessica Clark is the anchor who's leaving WRBL, reportedly to return to Florida. If that's true, there's one lingering question - does she get to keep that "Everybody Has a Story" dartboard?

+ Controversial Kansas preacher Fred Phelps announced he'll have picketers outside the upcoming funeral for an Opelika soldier, who died in Iraq. Will someone please inform this pastor that soldier was MARRIED - to a woman?

(Fred Phelps has decided Sergeant Christopher Taylor is in "the other place" with other U.S. soldiers from Iraq, because God is punishing the U.S. for college students trying to blow up his Topeka, Kansas church. But based on his thinking, shouldn't the ultraconservative Taliban have prevailed in Afghanistan?)

+ The Associated Press reported Atlanta's airport will lose some security screeners, in a federal reorganization. The Transportation Security Administration claims that reflects travel patterns. C'mon now - when did the Columbus Airport become a hip place to catch a flight?

+ Columbus Water Works admitted there's a sewage spill in the Cargo Drive area, affecting two creeks. One of them is Bull Creek - but I'll leave it to the (ahem) potty-mouthed bloggers to finish the obvious punch line which starts with "Bull."

+ The Georgia sales tax holiday began. Items of clothing which cost less than 100 dollars can be purchased tax-free through Sunday. At Parisian, I think this means you can buy a pair of socks.

+ A Georgia Senate committee held a hearing on whether to limit the interest rates of car title pawns. Pawn shop owners claimed they'd be unable to make a profit with a limit of 60 percent. [True/GPB Radio] Who really owns these pawn shops, oil companies?

+ Colonial University Village in Auburn hosted a fund-raising luau for East Alabama schools. NOW we understand why Tommy Tuberville was named a head coach in the Hula Bowl....

+ The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer unveiled its first blog. It's written by sportswriter Christa Turner, and is called "TurnerLoose." Well, that's just what Uptown Columbus needs to improve its image - an openly loose woman on Broadway.

(Be honest now - wouldn't you expect a blog named "TurnerLoose" to be written by Ted?)

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: After the space shuttle launched, you put it all over page one Wednesday. When NASA announced the grounding of future shuttle flights and declared "we were wrong," it didn't even make page one Thursday.
The critics who say you're pro-government might just be right.

BIG PREDICTION: When the next radio ratings report comes out in a few days, expect K-92.7 FM to make a big gain. Radios throughout my neighborhood switched to that station after its dial position changed - perhaps because these people are more into beer than Edgar Champagne.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: What Mr. Z sent me in the mail, after those phone calls....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 28, 2005


Turn north at Macon Road and University Drive, and you'll see one. Drive east on Milgen Road from the post office to Cooper Creek Park and you'll see another one. They're billboards with nothing but a phone number - and after calling it, I'm pleased to report it is NOT a kinky sex line.

The billboards have a "GREAT" sign below the phone number - and that led to some curious speculation the other day. A man suggested to me the last four digits 6661 combined with "GREAT" could be a sign of the Biblical "mark of the beast." Maybe they threw in that extra one as a Satanic delusion....

I hadn't seen these billboards until this man mentioned them. While I'm familiar with the 666 symbolism and "Babylon the Great" in the book of Revelation, I was skeptical about this suggestion. Take that sign near Cooper Creek Park. Three 6's can win you a five-set tennis match.

Always anxious to stop the rumors and get to the truth of the matter, your blog called the phone number on the GREAT billboards Wednesday. It's a number for suburban Atlanta - where people think they're great compared with Columbus, just because they have Kohl's and Fuddrucker's.

"Great Outdoor Advertising," said a young woman who answered the phone. Religious cults always prey on the young, you know....

I presented the speculation I'd heard about the mark of the beast -- and the woman's answer was: "Of course not." Denial is often the first step in the overcoming process.

Your blog pressed the issue: "Where did Great Outdoor Advertising get its name?" The woman answering the phone didn't know -- so maybe the founder was a big fan of Tony the Tiger.

So there you have it - Great Outdoor Advertising denies it's involved with the end-time Babylon the Great, which some say will rise in Europe and conquer the U.S. But as my pastor would point out, do you expect the devil to come up to you and admit he's the devil?

Yet upon further review, there are good reasons to reject the speculation about Great Outdoor Advertising being the mark of the beast:

+ The phone number on the billboards actually has five 6's in a row, not three. The only time that seems to have deep meaning is when you're playing Yahtzee.

+ The book of Revelation talks about the mark of the beast appearing on hands and foreheads. One of these billboards would have to fall on you, to make this happen literally.

+ I've heard other theories from local people about what the mark of the beast is. Someone in Seale told me a couple of years ago about a letter-for-number formula, which made New York equal 666 [29 Aug 03]. But come to think of it, so does "cherry pied" - so there's a dessert for Christians to avoid.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Wednesday's Instant Message about cooling shelters brought this response - and read it all carefully, or you'll miss something:

Hi Richard (or do you prefer Mr. Burkard?),

You mean to tell me that there are actually people here in Columbus that DON'T use the new library as a cooling shelter in the sweltering summer heat? That sounds kind of fishy to me, because every time I've been in there, which I have to admit is pretty frequently, the library has been full of people socializing in the popular materials room and the check out line rivals that of the DMV! But who am I to complain, where else can you get free entertainment, stay cool and pay outrageous prices for a snack?

A long time blog reader,

Jennifer M.

IMPORTANT: This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons with low self-esteem, no sense of humor or irrational religious beliefs. If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorized (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social fauxpas. No animals were harmed in the transmission of this email, although the mutt next door is living on borrowed time, let me tell you.

Maybe I should include Jennifer's disclaimer in everything I post. I try to avoid harming animals with this blog - and even use my mouse as little as necessary.

Library officials have kept count, and they say circulation is up since the new library opened on Macon Road. And as cool as it is inside, the air circulation is way up as well.

One crowd at the Columbus Public Library Wednesday was invited by the Literary Alliance. Volunteers put labels on new dictionaries, which will be given to third-graders entering school. So why did they need labels? Because one of the words inside is "evolution?"

The free entertainment at the Columbus Public Library includes several series of movies. For instance, tonight there's "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" - a movie in the "teen classics" series. Who could have guessed the words "Bill and Ted" would ever appear with the word "classic" in the same sentence?

(And those "outrageous prices" for snacks - well, look on the bright side. The popcorn special for 75 cents a bag probably beats paying three or four dollars for a Carmike Cinema cup.)

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Speaking of libraries, a young man used a phone at a branch library Wednesday - apparently to talk to a parent:

"Guess what?.... I owe 67 dollars, 83 cents.... Well, I could return the Malcolm X book...."

(To which the librarian may have muttered under her breath: "By any means necessary....")

Now for some other items from the last couple of days....

+ Which Columbus TV station apparently is about to make an anchor switch? The staff openly is talking about it online - so either those people are in line for promotions, or they're looking for any job tip you can give them.

+ Former East Alabama TV reporter Amanda Croker surfaced on WCGT TV-16. She was a fill-in anchor on the small Atlanta-based "American News Network." You'd think this network would want an anchor named Ann....

+ A Fort Benning parachute team jumped into Benning Park, at a special day for children at the nearby Baker Village Apartments. Hopefully the youngsters won't get wrong ideas from this - and "jump" total strangers after dark.

+ The heat index in Columbus soared above 100 degrees F. again. I knew it was bad when I opened my refrigerator door, and cockroaches rushed to get inside. [True!]

(WRBL reported the Columbus air quality level still registers as "good," despite all the recent haze. The station can expect a phone call today from the attorneys for Continental Carbon.)

+ The Alabama legislature finished a special session, by giving Governor Riley practically everything he wanted. Why lawmakers didn't vote to override next year's election and extend his term four more years, I have no idea....

(With tougher rules on sex offenders approved, Attorney General Troy King took off his electronic ankle bracelet Wednesday. I wonder if there's any way to measure how much stinkier his left foot is - since that bracelet in a bracelet could be dangerous.)

+ Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama appeared on public television's "Tavis Smiley Show." He defended Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, calling him several times someone who will "use restraint." If it's one thing we don't need, it's a Supreme Court justice who won't buckle his seat belt.

+ Instant Message to whomever cleans off the Riverwalk: It hasn't rained much in the last few days. I think you can remove those two big sand piles at 11th Street - or is a beach volleyball tournament coming to town?

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: This week wasn't the first time we noticed funny things at the Columbus Department of Motor Vehicles office. Here's some of what we wrote about our last visit, in the LaughLine of 6 Aug 01:

The driver's license office in town is a high-tech place. You take a number up-front - then three numbers are displayed electronically on a board, with a computer "voice" calling them out. We almost expected to walk out of there with a couple of suitcases from a flight....

After our number was called, the woman at the counter asked us a quick series of questions. Did we want to remain an organ donor? (Yes, we did.) Did we want to donate a dollar to research blindness? (No, we didn't.) It left us wondering if she expected us to crash before we got home.

Then came the moment of truth: the driver's license photo! As we stood in line, we became a bit annoyed - because the office didn't put any mirrors in the hallway, to make sure you look good. These pictures must be a sick inside joke....

Before the photo was taken, we had to put our name on an electronic sheet so our signature would appear on the license. But our hand somehow kept touching the sheet, which crushed our name on the screen! People who drink and drive should note this - because this gives you one more thing to forget, and give you away.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 27, 2005


I loaded my bag Tuesday with all sorts of things - a checkbook, my birth certificate, the official blog camera and more. Several important stops awaited me, including two at opposite corners of Columbus. People who think this is a small town never have driven from Psalmond Road to the Government Center on a weekday.

The first errand of the day took me up Wynn Hill. I'm sad to report they've removed the Chick-fil-A cows from the billboard at Wynnton and Buena Vista. They've been replaced by "Duke and the Doctor" - so the AFLAC duck has an even more tempting target.

After a banking transaction, it was on to the Columbus Department of Motor Vehicles office - the one located on Macon Road near Lynch Road, at the northeast edge of town. It's the closest I've ever been to Talbot County. And based on the grumbling about the school board, I'm not sure I ever want to step inside.

I've never quite understood why the Department of Motor Vehicles office is so far out in the Columbus countryside. In fact, a recent community assessment noted a lack of bus service to the D.M.V. hinders some low-income people. But then again, the staff IS encouraging people to drive - and spend money with them for the privilege.

It was about 1:15 p.m. when I arrived at the D.M.V.S. In most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles is shortened to the D.M.V. In Georgia the staff adds an S to their shirts - but I'm not sure any of the visitors consider them Supermen.

It was time to renew my driver's license at the D.M.V. - and I made special preparations. For starters, I shaved before I left home. My last license picture showed me with a moustache - and single women didn't seem impressed when I showed them either option.

I'd received a notice in the mail about drivers' licenses back in May, but somehow I misplaced it. The Georgia rules for renewals changed July 1, to "improve customer service." Since when in 2005 does ending the acceptance of checks and credit cards improve customer service?

Thankfully I withdrew $25 at the bank, so I could pay for a new five-year drivers' license. But first I had to deal with the crowd of people at the office. Either many of them took a long lunch hour, or the northeast corner of Columbus needs an air-conditioned recreation center badly.

The crowds apparently grow so big that people's waiting room slip numbers are broadcast outside the building. Travelers driving down Macon Road might mistakenly think the D.M.V. is Columbus's idea of a theme park.

Inside the D.M.V. building, you'll find framed pictures of Governor Sonny Perdue and Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Taylor's picture is autographed from 1999. Perdue's is not - so maybe he's writing off Muscogee County in next year's race as well.

At first it appeared all would go smoothly. After only a few minutes in line I was given number A050. A few minutes later my number was called to step to another window. If only the Georgia lottery worked this smoothly....

Little had changed for my drivers' license since my last D.M.V. trip four years ago. The name and address were the same, but my weight actually dropped a little from 2001. It pays to skip breakfast when you go to this office.

"Organ donor?" asked the man behind window 4.

"Yes," I answered -- but then clarified. "Not right now, though."

"You're keeping them in your body?" the man asked. OK, call me selfish....

"Do you want to donate a dollar, to research blindness?" I turned down the offer - because baseball managers still would argue umpires have that problem.

I offered the staff my birth certificate, but was told that wasn't necessary. It's been discussed as an added drivers' license requirement, for security reasons. Imagine the staff members laughing over cute footprints, at the end of a long day.

But then came a moment of confusion. The man apparently told me quietly to wait out in the lobby "and they'll call you." I thought he said to wait next to the man in blue, standing not far away. That was a big mistake, as I didn't sit down for an hour - and they apparently don't offer disability discounts.

There wouldn't have been much in the way of entertainment in the lobby. A TV monitor which showed Turner Broadcasting channels four years ago was missing Tuesday. It was either bring your own magazine (I didn't), or see if the crowd topped the attendance at Riverdragons games.

So I presumed my name was coming up soon, and joined a line at the east edge of the D.M.V. work area. All walks of life show up there for drivers' licenses. I saw a Fort Benning soldier, mothers with their children, a man in a wheelchair with only half his left leg - and someone wearing a Yale T-shirt who HAD to be a Brookstone student.

The trouble came went I reached the front of the line for picture-taking - and several people behind me were called by name, while I was not. The courteous side of me stood quietly and waited. Other people might have threatened a discrimination lawsuit on the spot.

Boomer 95.3 FM was playing oldies while I waited in line. They played "Stand By Me" -- but people kept walking past me for picture-taking, anyway.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, I moved away from the line and went down into a crouch. Maybe the D.M.V. staff recognized my name from this blog, and put me on a "watch list" or something....

But then a staff member came to the lobby door and explained everything. She called my name, along with a woman in the same situation - and NOW it was time to get in line for a drivers' license. It's a good thing they don't make drivers take hearing tests.

"Are you Richard?" asked the woman behind counter 2 as I approached the front of the line a second time. I nodded. "Finally?!" Her words, not mine....

Before the picture came the fingerprint scans, of my left and right index finger. For some reason, there's a snack machine in the D.M.V. lobby - so people could walk to this counter with corn chip grease on their hands and totally throw off police.

You also have to sign an autograph, which becomes part of the drivers' license. But I fouled it up twice, because my little finger kept moving the piece of paper out of line. No sticky fingers in this climate-controlled office....

At last came the big moment - the snapshot for my drivers' license. I made sure I smiled for the camera. But I stopped short of a goofy grin, because a cashier at a store might laugh so hard she'd mistakenly charge me more.

There was one last wait of a couple of minutes while the license was prepared in the D.M.V. machinery. A man receiving his license before mine left saying, "See you later." Yeah, right - let's make an appointment now, and "do it again in 2010."

It took about 75 minutes from the time I arrived to receive my new drivers' license. Maybe I should show up at mid-morning, or late in the day. Maybe next time I should renew my license online -- but I'd probably have to take my own picture, and how much messier would that be?

Armed with my new drivers' license, the next step was to renew my car tag -- and you have to drive to the Government Center to do that in person. Why aren't these things in one centralized location? Certainly Bill Heard Chevrolet would volunteer, to offer true "one-stop shopping."

The crowd wasn't nearly as bad for a car tag - stretching two lengths across the office at the Government Center. This place actually had working television, and showed CNBC's "Closing Bell." Come to think of it, is there a reason why the city Government Access Channel never seems to be on there?

A little boy ran back and forth across the open space near the tag windows. It turned out someone in an army uniform allowed his child to do that - someone perhaps dreaming of doing the very same thing to celebrate being discharged.

The line of people at the tag office included one rather familiar face - Bill Bell from the "Energy Savers" commercials. So THIS is where he hides to avoid summer service calls....

The wait was only about 15 minutes to reach the tag window - and I laid it all out for the woman behind the counter. "I have my insurance. I have my application. I have my new drivers' license - you're the first person to see it. I have my Kroger-Plus card, if that'll get me a discount...."

"You just made my day," the woman behind the window said with a laugh when I showed her the Kroger discount card. "I wish we had them here." I always carry that card, because in the past I forgot it on some trips to Opelika. Without that card, you might as well shop the gourmet aisles at Publix.

"I forgot, we don't have Kroger here," I said continuing my routine. "But I have a Winn-Dixie card." Maybe that's why the tag office has a "dealer window" - so you can negotiate these things.

It wound up taking 30 minutes longer than expected for this doubleheader - but at least the car paperwork is now completed for awhile. Now if I can figure out why the car's air conditioner doesn't want to spit out cool air until after 8:00 p.m. right now....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have blog readers all over the place - maybe even in Tennessee:

Mr. Blog,

I have got to say I used to be an avid reader of your blog. Mainly because I worked at WRBL. But I've been up in Nashville for a year and a half now. Just thought I would pass my blog link to you... Enjoy!

You've got a hot blog...needs more mustard though.


Thank you, Stephen - I think. Wait long enough, and you might find the blog color scheme changes to mustard yellow.

"The News from Nashville" feels suspiciously like this blog -- with a humorous look at events in Tennessee's capital. But if it doesn't posting the weekly guest lineup for the Grand Ole Opry, can you REALLY call it "News" from Nashville?

Now let's check the news from Columbus (and other places) on Tuesday:

+ Deputy City Manager Richard Bishop announced he's resigning to become President of Uptown Columbus Inc. Good for him - now he'll get to hear business owners on Broadway complain about "Streetscapes" construction every day.

(Richard Bishop has worked with the Columbus city government 31 years. Now he'll try to promote the clubs and restaurants of Broadway - so I guess we can score this as "Night Takes Bishop.")

+ Two Columbus police officers were cleared of wrongdoing, in the beanbag killing of a man in April. But one question remains unanswered - do they get promoted to Tasers or not?

+ The Muscogee County School District announced five grade schools will open two weeks late next month, due to construction. One of them is River Road Elementary - where after the weather of the last several weeks, I wouldn't be surprised if they're putting the school a few feet higher.

+ The Columbus "heat index" was 100 degrees F. - at 10:00 p.m.! If it stays this hot, I'm going to take a bag of popcorn to my car and see if it pops.

+ The Atlanta Falcons opened training camp with pads, in the heat of Flowery Branch. For all the Home Depot resources Arthur Blank has, you'd think the team owner could built a dome over the practice field.

(The Falcons took special care with their top player in the heat - constantly checking Michael Vick, to make sure he wasn't melting.)

+ Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville was named head coach of the East team for next January's Hula Bowl. This is a major step for Tuberville - as he's daring to leave the mainland, while Bobby Lowder is still an Auburn Trustee.

+ Instant Message to everyone wondering why Columbus doesn't open a "cooling shelter" from the heat: The city just built a big $50 million shelter especially for you. It's called the Columbus Public Library.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Why, I'm glad you asked that question. To borrow from the late Johnny Carson, the last few days have been SO HOT....

+ Columbus pools reportedly were EMPTY Monday! Youngsters were indoors playing video games like never before.

+ People are walking into convenience stores, and asking why water doesn't come in 20-ounce chilled cans the way beer does.

+ The staff at "Sunny 100" FM is lobbying the weather service, to make sure the temperature isn't really that high.

+ Home construction crews in Columbus are taking so many breaks, people driving by think everyone smokes.

+ People are calling the Valley Rescue Mission and saying, "Fan Club?! I want an air conditioner!"

+ The Warm Springs City Council may change the town name to "Mild Springs," so tourists keep coming.

+ Buck Ice is making 30 tons of ice a day - yet employees are more tempted than ever to touch it with their human hands.

+ Record numbers of people called TV meteorologists to ask which book comes with a "heat index."

+ People at the Gallops Senior Center are simply moseying.

+ Some customers at the Fourth Avenue Car Wash asked to walk through the wash, behind their cars.

+ Atlanta still felt it had to live up to the "Hot-lanta" image. Did you see that massive late-night fire at Atlantic Station?

+ Drunks downtown aren't simply "drying out" outdoors - they're starting to shrivel a bit.

+ Brewster's Ice Cream may stage a "scientific experiment," to see which flavor melts fastest.

+ WCGT's Jerry Laquire considered doing his "Final Edition" show topless - but then realized he might lose the few viewers he has.

+ Someone in Phenix City government started doodling a new city logo - with a "phenix" coming out of a microwave oven.

+ A cement truck in Columbus overheated Monday - and the wrecker driver was asked to bring a chisel.

+ Columbus Water Works is thinking about coming out with a challenger to "Callaway Blue" bottled water. If only it can improve on the name "Chattahoochee Brown...."

+ Some people bought bread at bread stores - only to drive home and find it was toast.

+ Phenix City State Senator Lesley Vance proposed a resolution encouraging all Alabamians to avoid steam rooms, as well as Aruba.

+ Willy's Wings may change its "hot" flavor to read "25 degrees above regular."

+ A few people backed out of Monday night's "Critical Mass" bicycle ride downtown, because their bikes aren't air-conditioned.

+ WRBL's Jessica Clark went out to prove "Everybody Has a Story" - and wished in addition to a phone book, dart, dartboard and camera, she'd brought a water jug as well.

+ The AFL-CIO had a meltdown Monday -- and it met in Chicago.

BLOG CORRECTION: Sometimes we get our letters confused - and a reader of Monday's entry noticed:

Mr. Burkard,

I know how you news media types are sticklers for making every effort to verify the facts of your stories before you report them. And I am sure you exercised that effort in putting together the facts for your recent blog concerning the new law regarding obscuring automobile license plates. However it is highly probably that your reference papers got 'shooshed' around on your desk during your haste to put together this blog. Perhaps when you were glancing down for reference to the profession of Ellen Cameron's husband you looked into the wrong pile.

Dr. Cameron is an 'Orthodontist', not a chiropractor.

I know this because they are both close friends of mine.....


We thank Bubba for setting the record straight -- and we wonder why he didn't mention Ellen Cameron's new law about plastic covers on car tags on his blog before we did.

I saw "P.C." in the phone book for Ellen Cameron's husband, and mistakenly thought it meant a chiropractic practitioner. I didn't consider the "D.M.D." before the P.C. Hopefully that isn't shorthand for the doctor being demanding.

And how did Bubba know I was "shooshing" at my desk? If anything, that verb refers to my eyes rolling around as I finish a blog entry half-awake after midnight.

E-MAIL UPDATE: While we're at the InBox, we received a reply to Monday's Instant Message - but not from our original target:

Hi Richard,

I was wondering the same about the change of calls on channel 66. Someone else contacted them about it, and here is their response:

Thanks for your interest in WLGA! Actually the call letters, WLGA, don't "stand" for anything in particular. From time to time we may use slogans that coincide with the letters, but there is nothing official that they stand for.

I think this represents the first step toward remaking the station, with the new Columbus office and a new transmission tower under construction. After all the changes, WLGA will have a signal stronger than either WXTX or WLTZ.


Thanks for the update, Thomas. I suppose the old call letters WSWS stood for something - but why brag in Opelika that you're Swiss?

(The old call letters actually were a problem, especially online - because the initials WSWS stand for a society of Socialists. That might work in New York or San Francisco, but not in East Alabama.)

Your blog called WLGA Monday, and was told its new tower with a stronger signal should be ready in October. The staff believes the tower near Cusseta came crashing down earlier this year due to strong winds, NOT vandalism. So for once, Chattahoochee County dropouts are off the hook.

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Who is Ellen Cameron, and how did she gain so much clout with the Georgia General Assembly? The Columbus woman has a new state law nicknamed after her - and thankfully, she didn't have to be kidnapped or tortured to do it.

I hadn't heard about "Ellen's Law" until Sunday - a new law in Georgia banning anything which obscures your license plate. So you drivers with a big "Auburn" covering the word Georgia on your tag either should change your allegiance, or move to east Alabama where you belong.

Ellen Cameron is the wife of a Columbus chiropractor. [INCORRECT: SEE 26 JUL ENTRY] She explained Sunday the couple became annoyed at drivers with plastic-covered license plates running stop lights and speeding. You wonder if they mark down tag numbers and contact police. I tend to point like a basketball referee calling a foul.

(Come to think of it, shouldn't chiropractors know better than to let these things become a pain in their necks?)

Ellen Cameron also noticed a trend in store and bank robberies - where police often admitted getaway vehicles had obscured license plates. But aren't law officers guilty of the same sort of behavior? They use unmarked police cars in undercover operations all the time.

Ellen Cameron decided something needed to be done, so she contacted State Senator Seth Harp. He introduced a bill to ban plastic covers on license plates - and Harp apparently did it so quietly, it never was noticed by two big lobbying groups: the auto detailing companies and the makers of Baggies.

In fact, Ellen Cameron says law enforcement groups backed her proposal. With that support, "Ellen's Law" passed the Georgia Senate unanimously and was signed by Governor Sonny Perdue. I'm tempted to say this was as easy as taking candy from a baby -- but Cameron may be working on a bill against that, too.

Ellen's Law actually was signed in May and took effect July 1, yet for some reason it hardly received any news coverage. Ellen Cameron apparently tried to spread the word about the bill, but only small papers in the Columbus area paid her any attention for weeks. It was either her news, or yet another extension service article on how to buy produce.

Ellen's Law is an amazing example of how one person can have an impact on our government, and affect possibly thousands of people across the state. Some would say that's what makes our country great. Of course, people with plastic covers on their car tags would say Ellen Cameron should do this only with chiropractic patients.

I can hear critics of Ellen's Law now, calling this yet another erosion of privacy rights. I hope those people are just as understanding if people burglarize their homes - instead of demanding their remove their ski masks first.

Meanwhile, Alabama's legislature is still in a special session. Did you hear about the House resolution Phenix City's Lesley Vance sponsored, encouraging residents NOT to travel to Aruba? Fox News Channel probably made up that loss of revenue, by sending so many people there to find Natalee Holloway.

(Another web site mentioned Lesley Vance's resolution over the weekend -- and estimated the economic loss to Aruba in the "tens of dollars." For one thing, well-educated people in Mountain Brook actually know where that island is....)

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for your new word of the day. Apparently we misunderstood what a reader wrote 16 July regarding various forms of religion:


Also, there is a difference between pantheisim and panentheism, though it is not vital to the conversation. Panentheism usually espouses the views of a personal GOD and monotheism, though when viewed through modern Judaeo-Christian conceptualizations of GOD, it is atheistic.

Pantheism incorporates many more views, usually, with polytheism as an essential aspect.

Both are contrary to Scriptural teachings.

Is your blog writer, "AR," Adrian Robinson, the murderer who beheaded the saintly sister?


No, Deb, AR does NOT stand for Adrian Robinson. If someone even lets him have Internet access behind bars, he's probably too busy playing bloody games to compose e-mails with any thought at all.

Now let's catch up on some leftover news items from the last few days....

+ Columbus leaders held a meeting on the coming addition of thousands of soldiers to Fort Benning. Mayor Bob Poydasheff likened it to "a LaGrange coming to Columbus." Of course, LaGrange once actually did that - but now Newnan has better stores, and it's closer.

+ Columbus Public Library officials said participation in the summer reading program has jumped dramatically in the last four years. Does the new library building get the credit for that? Or are the prices at Barnes and Noble simply too expensive?

+ Instant Message to TV-66: I'm still trying to figure out your new call letters. Does WLGA stand for "We Love Georgia and Alabama?" Or are you giving up on that Columbus office, and moving your studio to LaGrange?

COMING THIS WEEK: Looking for the "mark of the beast" near the main post office....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 24, 2005


The phone rang at 7:15 a.m. Saturday as I slept. What could this call be? A family member with a dire emergency? A telemarketer calling from the Philippines, offering discount gutters?

Well, no. The caller was someone I never would have guessed - a man I'm calling Mr. Z. I'm calling him this because his phone call robbed me of several....

Mr. Z knew me by first name, because we'd chatted months ago. His real name was on an internal Columbus Police memo which was leaked to "IsOurCitySafe" last winter, then spread by e-mail all over town. I dared to call Mr. Z about the memo -- while I'm guessing almost everyone else chose to click "delete."

Mr. Z indicated months ago he was going to let the memo matter pass, on guidance from his attorney. But Saturday he called me with a new issue. Apparently he called 911 about an animal control matter at his residence, and was told NOT to call police anymore. Well, the police department DOES close for weekends now....

"You're supposed to call 311 for animal control," I half-sleepily told Mr. Z. Admittedly that might not be accurate, but the city annual report does show that's the "police non-emergency" number. Whether the size of the dog on the porch makes it an emergency is probably a judgment call.

Mr. Z didn't know about 311 vs. 911, but this opened the floodgate for him to pour out his thoughts on all sorts of things. This self-proclaimed "conservative Christian Republican" says he's faced all sorts of difficulties in recent years. Before you jump to conclusions - no, this is NOT Dylan Glenn.

Mr. Z believes he's facing racism in his neighborhood. For one thing, he claims drivers turn around in his driveway at an intersection while not turning around at any others, firing insults as they do. Come to think of it, a good fence with a gate at the street could stop that....

Mr. Z played me two voice mail messages from his "minister" sister, in which a female voice called him "a devil." The time code on one of the messages was about 6:55 a.m., so this woman might not like early wake-up calls, either.

(Mr. Z says people call him a "crazy N****r," yet I tried to point out his sister was calling him something worse -- and longtime local residents know devils tend to be either blue or red.)

"I'm not crazy, Richard.... I'm not a lunatic," Mr. Z assured me several times. Yet his words kept bouncing from issue to issue, almost by the sentence - as if either his medicine for ADHD ran out, or he was in a contest with a child on a trampoline.

Mr. Z told me all his seemingly-random thoughts actually tied together - and maybe you can tell me how, because I'm stumped:

+ This former military man said the September 11th attacks were due to "American arrogance." Shame on us for telling the Taliban not to blow up giant Buddhas.

+ The recent London bombings are "a white-black issue." Ooh boy -- are people from Pakistan really either one?

+ He doesn't bother with civil rights groups, because one is "taking on a black school board" in Talbot County. That's puzzled me, too - but maybe Ed DuBose is trying to demonstrate racial equality.

+ Bill Clinton and his supporters left "trash at the Lincoln Memorial" on New Year's Eve once. After four-and-a-half years, some people still won't let the former President go.

+ He brought up the daytime drama "One Life to Live." "Do you think the Killing Club Killer is doing it for racial reasons?" I asked twice - and he backed down, perhaps stunned that I actually knew a plot line.

So what does Mr. Z do for a living? He says he runs a recording business for Christian artists. Without my asking, he proceeded to read me several lines of his business plan - which states all artists must disavow "non-medicinal alcohol." I was too groggy to ask him about Jesus turning water into wine.

At one point Mr. Z asked me to read II John 10 from the Bible. I had to go get one from another room, because I don't have a Bible next to my bed. I'm a bit strange, because I prefer to read it when I'm fully awake and alert.

(He had me read this only because the King James Version has the words "God speed." This surprised Mr. Z, who thought that phrase really came from the 1962 John Glenn space flight -- way back when the U.S. HAD space flights.)

"God is not the author of confusion," Mr. Z told me several times - yet sadly, his rambling comments seemed that way to me. So he offered to mail me a "chronological order" of events in his life, dating back to at least 1995. Then all I'll have to do is persuade A&E to do a "Biography" show about him.

Mr. Z ended the one-sided conversation at 8:52 a.m. - 97 minutes after I picked up the phone. So when I went to church in the afternoon, the pastor's 50-minute sermon seemed downright wimpy by comparison....

But Mr. Z wasn't finished. He called me again at 11:55 a.m. "I'm going to the post office right now," he assured me. At least he communicates with me - but I told him a couple of times I didn't serve in the military.

I figured Mr. Z would call one more time before the day was over - and sure enough, the phone rang again at 7:33 Saturday night. "I put the letter in the mail today," he reported.

"Thank you for continuing live coverage of this developing story," I replied - a response which even brought a laugh out of him.

"Don't forget," I continued, "Columbus doesn't have Sunday mail delivery - so I won't get your letter tomorrow."

"Take care, Richard...."

"I'm just saying you won't need to call me tomorrow, because I won't have your letter yet."

"Take care, Richard!" Some people can give it a lot, but can't take it very much.

If there's anything worth mentioning from Mr. Z's letter - well, he'll probably call first to get my impressions of it. So if he reads this blog, this could be the last surprise he receives for awhile....

BLOG UPDATE: The Georgia NAACP Chairman came to Columbus Saturday to provide an update on the Kenneth Walker case. He spoke at the front door of the Public Safety Center - and since it's now closed on weekends, African-American people are safe to hang out there on Saturday all they wish.

Walter Butler said his state NAACP office has been "in contact with the Attorney General's office" about the Kenneth Walker case. Yet after 19 months, this group apparently still hasn't met with Thurbert Baker. Either Baker is dodging the issue, or he's out building one giant reelection campaign fund.

Walter Butler told reporters Columbus officials haven't done enough to bring the city together after the Kenneth Walker shooting. He claimed the city is "sitting idly by" -- perhaps not realizing when you don't have health insurance, you let your body heal itself naturally by doing very little.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of the NAACP, Bill Madison's comments on WRCG this past week [19 Jul] brought a message this weekend:

I am so disappointed you beat me to the "Could there really be a 'Best of Talkline' show". Of course not. Another reason not to tape the show...if no one tapes it there is no evidence for a law suit if one of the hosts slandered someone (it could happen).


Now hold on a minute - isn't Justin a bit confused here? Robbie Watson and Matt Young co-host "TalkLine." Don Imus and Bill O'Reilly were kicked off WRCG months ago.

Now let's turn down the radio, and send a pile of Instant Messages....

+ To Columbus Police Detective Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick: It's been three months now. Isn't it about time you gave the WXTX "To Serve and Protect Award" back to Officer Rosalyn Hall?

+ To the Mediterranean Café on Airport Thruway: Aw c'mon - commercials with a REGGAE singer?! Since when was Jamaica considered a Mediterranean country?

+ To WHAL Radio: Who decided your collection of "inspirational" gospel music should have the Doug Moreland song "Baja Holiday" - with a line about being "drunk in Mexico?" This makes two times I've heard strange songs like this on your station....

+ To Cascade Hills Church Pastor Bill Purvis: If "the first of the week is set aside for worship" as you said on NBC-38 this weekend - well, why did you add a Saturday evening service? Isn't that the SEVENTH day of the week?

+ To the church congregation I attend: How do you do it? How do you always seem to know which baked dessert I bring for the potluck dinner -- and avoid it?

+ To the Columbus Catfish: It HAD to be humbling Saturday night, huh? Next door at the Civic Center, it was "Denim and Diamonds" -- while Golden Park had no denim and one baseball diamond.

+ To the person who left 58 pennies on one of the Benning Park handball/racquetball courts: Thank you. Does this make me a professional?

BLOG BAFFLER: Today's blog title is borrowed from an old song by WHICH singer? First correct response to the blog wins a prize!

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 22, 2005

for 23 JUL 05: SNAILS ON RAILS (a poem)

Hear the whistle tooter make his warning noise.

If you are a driver, sometimes it annoys.

It comes from the freight train, rolling down the track.

For those in a hurry, it could set them back.

Freight trains block the roadway several times a day.

People on Tenth Avenue look for other ways.

Then the whistle tooter, closer his sound draws.

Going toward the center where they write city laws -

Traveling on the Parkway, you must stop and pause.

Will it be a small train - only a few cars?

Will it be a long one, blocking us for hours?

I could race the freight train, down Ninth Street downtown -

But when we reached Front Avenue, I'd have to back down.

Some fear that ol' freight train downtown could cause harm.

People seeking terror could spark great alarm.

But those who see a small town say it shows our charm --

And after all, another train crosses Woodruff Farm.

Mister Whistle Tooter, when will you go away?

Go toot on Buena Vista Road, and block them half the day!

So listen for the tooting, should you come to town.

You might find trains will stop you, with cars of rusty brown.

To go around the problem, a tunnel's on 11th.

But still we long for others - like on Avenue Seventh.

Or park your car on Veterans, and watch the line go by.

This isn't coastal Brunswick, with bridges in the sky.

This has been "free verse," because you didn't pay for it. To make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip 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.


Is it just me, or has the rainy weather produced a bumper crop of blogs? This note reached us this week:

While I would never admit that your blog inspired me to get in on the game, I have included a link from mine to yours. Keep up the great work.

That's the nice thing about blogs, you know - no admission is required.

This note came from Harris County, where a former TV journalist has launched a blog called "Hoppin' Thoughts." Sonja Heinze went from WRBL to the public relations area of Columbus Regional Medical Center. She left there a few months ago -- making me wonder if we should predict a departure date for Amy Giuliano at St. Francis.

Don't let the name Hoppin' Thoughts fool you. Sonja Heinze has a big drawing of a bunny on her blog, but it's not about rabbits. Her few entries so far consist of jumping around to various topics - sort of like a Chinese buffet, only everything is spelled correctly.

Sonja Heinze reveals her recent work history on her blog -- and about her current effort to find work in Amarillo, Texas. I'm not sure why she's so attracted to Amarillo. Given what that word means in Spanish, everyone in that city is "yellow."

(Besides, Amarillo sits in the "Texas panhandle" - and who would want to be around more panhandlers, after living in Columbus?)

"Moody, sarcastic" is how Sonja Heinze describes herself on her blog - and it certainly describes her most recent post on Tuesday. In it, she lists eight "reasons I hate Columbus." Maybe her next P.R. job should be in LaGrange....

What, you say your mouse isn't working today?! I'll be glad to share some of Sonja Heinze's reasons why she hates Columbus:

+ "Poorly designed roads." Aw, c'mon! We beat Atlanta - since in most parts of Columbus, you actually can drive around the block.

+ "Pathetically low level of education." At least Warehouse Transmission corrected its commercial, after spelling its address "Martin LUTHOR King Boulevard" for several days.

+ "Inability of town to rally around and support a sports team." If we're not careful, Shaw High School might threaten to move its home football games to Valdosta.

+ "Absurd women who shop at Bradley Park Publix who think they're better than everyone else." What do you want them to do - shop with the cheapskates up the road at Winn-Dixie?

But wait, there's more! Sonja Heinze goes on to complain, "Southern hospitality is a myth." Well, she should talk! I appreciate her link to my blog - but she hasn't invited me by for sweet tea yet..

While waiting for a job to open in Texas, Sonja Heinze is working for the Harris County Journal. That's meant covering what her blog calls "the intellectually-challenged Harris County Board of Commissioners." Maybe the University of Phoenix should have put its office in Hamilton....

Here's hoping Sonja Heinze finds that long-awaited job in Amarillo -- though I suspect some people reading this will be more than happy to roll the moving van up to her door this weekend.

And as we head toward that weekend, let's check other interesting things from Thursday:

+ The Columbus Catfish issued a news release denying rumors the team might move to Jackson, Tennessee. Well, that's a refreshing change -- after those posters of Pigeon Forge were on the Golden Park box-office window throughout last off-season. [True!]

(The news release reveals the Catfish are close to signing a three-year contract with the city, to play at Golden Park. Hopefully the team won't demand anything unnecessary and silly - like more grandstand seats.)

+ Executives from BellSouth's Atlanta office visited the Columbus Museum, to examine a new exhibit honoring local businesses. No doubt they were amazed - because they can't even get mentioned at Atlanta's High Museum without paying some money.

(Hey, that gives me an idea! Let's put a wonderful alternative to the Transformation sculpture in front of the Public Library -- something that's a historic relic, yet potentially quite functional. It's called a phone booth.)

+ The Eufaula Tribune reported someone posted notes on the doors of three major churches, warning: "I am going to destroy and wipe out the white nation." So far, Bill Madison has NOT been declared a "person of interest" in this case....

+ The Alabama House and Senate approved bills to stop the use of "eminent domain" by local governments. We mention this only for one reason -- because other bloggers consider you strange if you don't mention this topic.

(Meanwhile, the Alabama House voted for mandatory castration of convicted sex offenders whose victims are younger than 12. Or as Home Box Office might call it, "The REAL Sopranos....")

+ University of Alabama President Robert Witt confirmed his wife Anne has moved out, and the couple will divorce. Shame on all of you who are wondering if Mike DuBose called, and asked for her new address.

+ Instant Message to William Calley, wherever in Columbus you are: Did you shed a tear over the funeral of General William Westmoreland Thursday? Or do you plan to track down his grave in South Carolina, and stomp on it a few times?

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 21, 2005


It appeared Wednesday would pass with no rain in Columbus - but in my neighborhood, that all changed around 7:30 Wednesday night. A strong thunderstorm came and seemed to park right above the Historic District. It was almost as if Bill Madison found some dynamite to blow up after all....

7:30 p.m.: I decide to heat a frozen pizza in the microwave oven for dinner. Following the instructions, I let it heat 2 ½ minutes, then "rotate half-turn" before heating another two minutes. Why I'm asked to do this when the plate inside the oven turns all the time, I have no idea.

As I eat the pizza, rain starts to fall - but the sky is still rather bright. Since the TV radar showed rain south of Columbus earlier in the afternoon, I theorize it's one of those short "popcorn showers." Until a few years ago, I thought those only happened as newlyweds ran to their car.

7:40 p.m.: Since I live only a long fly ball away from Golden Park, I tune to WDAK Radio to see if the Columbus Catfish game is still on. Two guys are chatting, one more than normal -- so the answer obviously is no.

I'm not sure who Catfish play-by-play voice Chad Goldberg has as a guest, but Goldberg suggests the man go downstairs and "get us a couple of beers." Goldberg has a great future doing St. Louis Cardinal games -- since the Busch family owns that team.

Chad Goldberg admits a few spots at Golden Park were "thoroughly soaked" by rain during the recent Catfish road trip. That's apparently why Sunday's game was postponed. I thought a new drainage system was installed a couple of years ago to stop this problem - but maybe too many players spit tobacco on the wrong spots.

7:45 p.m.: The rain gets stronger and lightning flashes develop. I've turned the radio dial to WHAL - which probably is unwise, since Chad Goldberg is likely to give you the most complete weather report in town at that moment from his laptop computer.

7:50 p.m.: It not only rains, it pours - and a small pool of water has developed on the vinyl kitchen floor. It's time to get out the mop. And for a change, the water is free....

Regular blog readers will recall my landlord installed a new back door on my apartment early last year. The old back door had a half-inch gap at the bottom, which let in not only rain from storms but cockroaches of all sizes. Maybe that's why my left foot has become so flat -- from stomping so many bugs.

Even with a new back door and a weatherstrip I added to the threshold a few years ago, a little rain still seeps into the kitchen. So for the first time in months, I spend time mopping - and to borrow from a guest on the noon TV news, I'm "Cleaning Like a Man."

7:55 p.m.: Thunder becomes as intense as the rain. I assume the Catfish game is rained out -- with fans trying to protect their free Chuck Tiffany bobblehead dolls from becoming lightning rods.

8:00 p.m.: I turn on TV to see if any storm or flood warnings have been issued - and am a bit surprised to find none. For once, Clear Channel Radio is accurate in ignoring nasty weather.

WHAL sounds like it's ready to go off the air every time lightning flashes - but it stays on the air with gospel praise songs. If you're going to get zapped or drown in a flood, at least you should lean in the right direction....

8:10 p.m.: A peek outside shows a lake forming in the apartment complex courtyard. The landlord's crew cut the grass only two hours before. So its timing was great - but the weeds which could have served as a measuring stick are gone.

At about the same time, flooding is reported in the parking lot of Columbus Regional Medical Center. One witness says water reached as high as some car windows. So it could have been worse - the water could have reached the windows of SUV's.

8:15 p.m.: The thunder and lightning keep roaring -- so I finally decide to turn off my computer. It received more than $150 worth of fine-tuning only last week. Well, the computer keeps freezing nearly every time I disconnect from the Internet -- so maybe it wasn't so fine.

I turn on TV again, and still no warnings are on the screen. Instead, ABC is showing a two-minute commercial for an "Ionic Air Freshener." I almost double-check my calendar, to see if it's really a Saturday night.

8:25 p.m.: With no letup in the lightning and heavy rain, I begin to review my day. Is God sending a message that I sinned in some way during the day? I mean, I don't watch every minute of Jerry Springer - I tune out when the audience asks questions....

I go to the kitchen, and drop to my knees for a prayer of mercy and repentance. Hopefully some of the churches holding Wednesday night services did the same thing -- or did they assume God was punishing everybody who was outside watching baseball?

While I'm in the kitchen, I notice the puddle of water has not returned with the extra rain. Perhaps the gusty wind is blowing the rain in a different direction - or it's a high-quality storm, cleaning all parts of the apartment equally.

8:30 p.m.: Another check outside finds the courtyard now has three small lakes full of rain. But the neighbors who like to fire BB guns have not broken out their fishing poles....

My next-door neighbor is sitting in a chair on his covered front porch with a tall can of Busch beer - and as he's done before during rainstorms, he's howling.

"Dare I ask why?" I say to him. The neighbor throws up his hands as if he's not really sure why. So perhaps he's not drunk -- but with no moon showing through the storm, I'm left convinced he's not a werewolf.

8:35 p.m.: I use the restroom for a moment - but I don't dare wash my hands after I do. The weather experts warn you about getting shocked during a lightning storm through running water. Yet I didn't think of this danger minutes earlier, when I poured myself a glass of soda.

8:50 p.m.: The lightning finally seems to be subsiding, so I return to the restroom to wash my hands. As soon as I step inside, the thunder claps again. Does Mr. Clean have an evil twin or something?

9:00 p.m.: With hardly any lightning left but still plenty of rain, I turn the computer back on. At least the storm has given me a blogging topic - and one a lot more interesting than fewer people buying blue jeans in Columbus.

9:10 p.m.: One more check outside finds the rain practically has stopped, yet the lights are still on at Golden Park. Surely they aren't going to play baseball after this storm - but those automatic timers can be troublesome to turn off.

10:20 p.m.: WXTX News at Ten reveals central Columbus had 2.4 inches of rain from the storm, in only about 90 minutes. Yet parts of North Columbus apparently had nothing -- so for once, the south side has something the wealthy folks don't.

Now that you've had "First Weather," let's get to the Wednesday news:

+ About those blue jeans -- the Swift Galay mill announced it will lay off about 250 employees in early August. But it's not yet clear exactly which employees will be told to go. Now there's an unusual way to promote better job performance....

(If there's any consolation, the remaining mill workers will change from 12-hour shifts to eight-hour shifts. This should give them more time each day with their families -- not to mention more time to train for jobs in other areas.)

+ WRBL's "Top Story" at 6:00 p.m. was how many people they found jaywalking downtown. That settles it for me - let's put up guardrails all over 12th Street and Second Avenue, and not only Cherokee Avenue.

(One of the people WRBL caught jaywalking was an admitted church deacon. "Praise the Lord, I didn't get hit," he said with a bit of a smile on his face -- which is a bit like a spouse abuser thanking God that he's not a bigamist, and outnumbered by other wives.)

+ Instant Message to NBC-38's Al Fleming: If all you can find to comment about is the letters section of the Ledger-Enquirer, may I make a silly-sounding suggestion? Write your own letter back....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


A furor arose Tuesday over a comment the local NAACP President made about Port Columbus. Did Bill Madison call for blowing it up? Did he speak hypothetically about blowing it up? And since the museum has cannons outside, weren't staff members asking for this already?

Bill Madison says he called WRCG's "TalkLine" to comment on the recent destruction of a mill along the Chattahoochee River. Reaves Wrecking tore down the Horace King Corn Mill without city permission. Well, at least Klan members didn't torch it....

Bill Madison wanted to make the point that Reaves Wrecking received too light a punishment for demolishing a historic "black structure." Perhaps he should take that up with the Environmental Court Judge who imposed the sentence - and last time I checked, Alonza Whitaker was a "black man."

(As it happens, Reaves Wrecking is involved with the current demolition of Mockingbird Mobile Home Park. That has plenty of history, too - just ask the firefighters who have spent a lot of time there.)

But then the confusion begins about Bill Madison's words. The NAACP President says he told TalkLine, "IF I wanted to blow up Port Columbus, they would put me in jail...." My pastor likes to call "IF" the biggest two-letter word in the English language - and IF you miss it, it certainly can be.

But TalkLine's co-hosts heard Bill Madison differently. They claim the NAACP President actually threatened to blow up the Civil War Naval Museum -- and they really hoped instead he'd call Port Columbus "da bomb."

Bill Madison's words were especially striking to Matt Young -- because when he's not co-hosting TalkLine, he works at Port Columbus. But then again, he's used to working with damaged material....

Matt Young told reporters Tuesday he waited for Bill Madison to "clarify and quantify" his comment about Port Columbus, but Madison never did. My dictionary says "quantify" relates to a quantity of something -- so perhaps Young wanted to know how many bombs Madison would bring.

Matt Young says a few TalkLine callers actually dialed 911 after hearing Bill Madison's words, and reported him making terroristic threats. We hope those people never watch interviews with GCW wrestlers - or two-thirds of the athletes might be in prison.

So what did Bill Madison say, and how did he say it? It ought to be easy to settle this - but no. Amazingly, WRCG does NOT record TalkLine. President Bush could call this show and declare Mimi Woodson his secret love child, and you'd never have proof unless you're listening.

It's hard for me to believe WRCG didn't have a tape rolling on TalkLine, to record this comment. The show always was taped when Doug Kellett was host -- even though he didn't put some comments from guests in his newscasts until two days later.

(This may explain why WRCG doesn't have a "Best of TalkLine" show on weekends or holidays. Of course, Democrats would argue there's no "Best of" to put on the air....)

Sadly, I'm unable to play referee here. I didn't hear Bill Madison's call to TalkLine - but WRCG might want to borrow from the ESPN Radio morning show on WEAM-AM, and give him a "Just Shut Up" award.

One thing the evening news overlooked Tuesday is that Bill Madison has his own Saturday morning talk show on WRCG. Will Archway Broadcasting penalize him for what he said Tuesday? Or were the managers too busy listening to "107-Q" to notice?

NAACP President Bill Madison said later he has no regrets about his words on radio. Instead, he claimed "so-called racists" were twisting his comment out of context. The fact that Madison used the word "so-called" already might be considered a retreat.

Bill Madison says he plans to keep "speaking the truth" about issues in Columbus. That sounds good - but from now on, he'd better speak the word IF a little louder....

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus Council gave its answer Tuesday to the Muscogee County Library Board, on that proposed $250,000 sculpture. The vote was 9-1 against funding it - making Wayne Anthony the only person willing to have his name put on the sculpture, after it comes off his Council seat.

Wayne Anthony says Columbus Council should bite the bullet and spend $250,000 on Albert Paley's "Transformation." He explains that beats spending $100,000 for attorneys to break off a contract, and leave the city with nothing. Well, maybe not nothing - they could dig a money pit on the spot of the sculpture....

On the other hand, Councilor Evelyn Turner Pugh said the city should not "bail out" the Library Board. She claimed its signing of a contract for the sculpture goes "against what this Council stands for." What does that mean - laying off library workers instead?

Mayor Bob Poydasheff may have explained Councilor Pugh's point a bit better after the meeting. He said the Library Board did not act properly, by holding a public debate about the sculpture. As if that would have made a difference?! People in Columbus hardly ever show up for public hearings about law enforcement.

Library Board attorney Neal Callahan argued the contract for Transformation is valid, because a deal with the city gives the board freedom to make decisions on "library construction and furnishings." If this 25-foot-tall sculpture really was a furnishing, it would be in the Children's Room as a climbing wall.

In this political game of "Time Bomb," (that WAS a real game, so please don't call 911) the sculpture issue now is back in the Library Board's hands. It could try to negotiate out of the contract with Albert Paley. Or board member Billy Winn could start a "Remember Starving Artists" fund-raising drive in the Ledger-Enquirer.

Speaking of the library, did I hear it right - the Chattahoochee Valley system ordered 130 copies of the new Harry Potter book? Where is the outrage from local pastors? Or at least a matching donation of 130 Bibles?

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Your blog was right again Tuesday night, as President Bush did NOT nominate Roy Moore to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, he nominated federal appeals judge John Roberts - perhaps hoping this will get CBS News reporter John Roberts off the air, to avoid confusion.

(If you were disappointed by the prime-time Presidential announcement, I can understand. I hoped President Bush would bring out three finalists, then open a sealed envelope and declare, "You're hired.")

After those three big events, let's find some smaller things to balance out the diet:

+ Chattahoochee County's School Board decided to postpone the opening of a new high school by ten days. The school will be ready, but part of Georgia Highway 26 near the school may not be -- and we certainly don't want teenagers ruining their detailed cars by driving over the speed limit on a bumpy road.

+ The Columbus Boys and Girls Clubs opened a new "tech center," complete with laptop computers and printers. WXTX "News at Ten" reported youngsters can play games there - so how many copies of "Grand Theft Auto" does it have?

(Remember, young people -- it's better to play FreeCell, than wind up downtown IN one....)

+ The touring "Blues Brothers" performed live at the Columbus Catfish game. They sang "Soul Man." They sang "Sweet Soul Music." And those two white guys never sang a Pat Boone cover version of anything.

+ Instant Message to the Ledger-Enquirer: How about a "Reader's Choice Award" next year for best blog? Every little endorsement helps, you know....

COMING THIS WEEK: The "blogosphere" reaches Harris County.... and the County Commission might not like it....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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, July 19, 2005


A meeting was held on Buena Vista Road Monday night about how to improve security at a Columbus nightclub. A lot was at stake here -- the club's reputation, the lives of customers, and whether Fort Benning soldiers can celebrate graduation from basic training there.

The meeting occurred at Club Antifreeze, where someone was shot in the leg in the parking lot late Saturday night. Maybe there's part of the security answer right there -- block off the parking lot, and make all the customers arrive by METRA bus instead of stretch limos.

WRBL reported the Saturday night trouble began with a fight inside Club Antifreeze -- which in the classic barroom tradition was "taken outside." This is where I thought the old Choctaw Grill on Macon Road had a great idea years ago. They set up a ring for pro wrestlers in the parking lot every so often. [True!]

I'm hearing Club Antifreeze wants off-duty police officers to work there as guards -- but the Columbus Police Department has a policy against working at nightclubs. I suppose this approach protects the force. But visitors must scratch their heads a little, and wonder why so many officers guard church services.

WXTX "News at Ten" reported Club Antifreeze decided to make several changes, in light of the shooting:

+ Ten extra guards will be hired. If David Glisson keeps wearing sunglasses, this could be the break he's been waiting for.

+ Customers no longer can wear tennis shoes. I'm guessing this is designed to slow down getaways.

+ The club won't let customers wear athletic apparel. So much for attracting the upscale crowd from Cooper Creek Tennis Center....

(Then again, maybe this is how the weekend trouble started. Someone said, "My swoosh is bigger than your swoosh.")

By the way, WRBL noted the manager of Club Antifreeze was cited after the shooting for having minors inside his club. Apparently teenagers are expected to hang out at a convenience store across the street on Buena Vista Road - and ask for fake ID's there.

BLOG UPDATE: The wrestling match over the proposed library sculpture goes back before Columbus Council today. The Muscogee County Library Board voted Monday to have the Council vote for or against it in writing. That's what we like to see - community groups working together to promote literacy.

Several Library Board members believe they have a valid contract with Albert Paley for his "Transformation" sculpture. But Columbus Councilors have spoken against how the proposed artwork looks and costs. Maybe if we placed it sideways along Cherokee Avenue, as a partial guardrail....

Did you hear Library Board member and Ledger-Enquirer executive Billy Winn talk about the proposed sculpture? He admitted he "genuinely likes it." OK, then let's change the "Streetscape" design for Broadway. Put the sculpture in front of the newspaper office, string line to the pillar in front of the RiverCenter, and move ski-lift cars back and forth.

The Library Board apparently did NOT talk Monday about looking for private funds to pay for "Transformation." Of course, that could turn into a bidding war - with opponents raising money to ship it to the Chattahoochee River and sink it.

We need to update another item, which we mentioned Monday. The weapon-pointing charge against Columbus Police officer Gregory Diltz actually was dropped on Friday, one day after it was filed. This could mean Diltz is faster than Lightning - officer Larry Lightning, who was charged for a day last year.

Now fast and furious facts from a sizzling Monday:

+ The evening news showed work crews tearing down Mockingbird Mobile Home Park. An agreement was reached with the park owner and a bankruptcy court to begin demolition. Those of you with new cigarette lighters will have to test them somewhere else.

+ Phenix City Police began regular patrols on a new fleet of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Please show some respect for law enforcement - and do NOT call these officers "pigs on Hawgs."

(Police say the motorcycles will save Phenix City money on gas. And if some Hollywood producer decides to do a new version of "Chips," they're ready.)

+ Alabama Attorney General Troy King attached a metal tracking bracelet to his ankle. He plans to wear it throughout the upcoming special legislative session, to show he wants changes in sex offender laws. I hope Martha Stewart contacts King, with the web site where she learned how to take that bracelet off.

+ Pacelli High School held its traditional "Midnight Madness" to kick off football practice. But the football field's lights wouldn't work, so the team practiced in front of fans with their car headlights on. Hopefully Sears was told about this in advance, to record a Diehard battery commercial.

+ Instant Message to the new Columbus blog "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly": It's humbling to know I inspired you to start blogging. But if I did, you need to explain why you tipped off another local blog to your web site first.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.10 a gallon at Citgo on Fifth Street.... boxes of Chips Ahoy cookies for $1 at Walgreens.... and especially for Democrats, it's "Blues Brothers" night at the Catfish game....

Your PayPal donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-minded. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.