Friday, September 30, 2005

30 SEP 05: GAS. UP. NOW.

Well, well - could it be Georgia's Governor knew what he was doing all along? Some Columbus gas stations are reporting spot shortages, even before today's expected rush to fill up and save money. If your tank's already full, may I suggest spending the afternoon touring Phenix City....

Thursday's evening news reported all offshore oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico now are shut down. That could mean less gas at area stations for a while -- and that "bumper car" stunt I had to use last weekend could become popular across Columbus.

The lowest-priced gas stations in Columbus sold regular unleaded at $2.69 a gallon Monday. When I checked around South Commons Thursday night, the price was $2.99 - and at that price, you don't even get a ride wristband discount to the Greater Columbus Fair.

We've warned you that the Georgia fuel tax suspension ends tonight. Prices went down 15 cents a gallon right after it began early in the month. Now the state's revenue commissioner says prices should NOT go up right away this weekend. What political office does HE plan to go after next year?

The Georgia revenue commissioner explains fuel taxes should NOT be imposed on gas purchased while taxes were suspended. Trouble is, we expected just the opposite four weeks ago - a price cut on gas purchased when fuel taxes were on. So please don't deny drivers their right to panic....

The Georgia revenue department advises gas stations can increase prices on fuel they buy next week, once the tax suspension ends. But if refineries in the Gulf of Mexico are closed, where will stations get that gas? Can managers hold an oil "drill-in" outside the state Capitol?

So given the current low gas price of $2.99 a gallon, we can safely guess the price will stand at $3.15 or higher a week from now. We'll know prices are bad if Summit stations suddenly change their names to "Valley."

Governor Sonny Perdue estimates the fuel tax suspension during September cost the state of Georgia 75 million dollars. We would go farther - and estimate his call to close schools for two days cost him 75,000 votes next year.

(Some of us are tempted to say the call to close schools also cost a life. But who really knows why that Shaw High School student was riding around Columbus at 1:45 a.m....)

E-MAIL UPDATE: They couldn't "Ask Mr. Foster," so they ask us:

You blogged about Reggie Foster from Sunny 100 last year. I'm guessing that station has changed format.

Do you know where she went? I ask because you seem to be all knowing about Columbus.

Thanks for the help.

Greg Hoffman

Thanks for the nice words, Greg - but believe me, I am NOT "all knowing" about Columbus. If I was, I'd know where all the single women are....

But anyway: Reggie Foster's name happened to come up the other day around some friends of mine. I'm told she had her baby, then moved to North Carolina. Apparently she couldn't work out a deal to do commercials for The Growing Room.

You don't have to give up on Reggie Foster completely. We searched online Thursday night, and found another one on the radio. In fact, he's a priest on Vatican Radio -- with a show called "The Latin Lover." We would have guessed Marc Anthony would host a program like this....

By the way, I don't think WGSY "Sunny 100" has changed its format at all. At least, I haven't heard anyone talk about making a big switch -- or even changing to "Totally 90's Weekends" instead of 80's.

Now other items big and small, as the end of September draws near:

+ The Greater Columbus Fair had a special night for hurricane survivors, letting them in the gate and on the rides free. Hopefully everyone else understood this -- and especially understood why few people wanted to ride the "Tornado."

+ An Opelika business owner told WRBL about an interesting survey conducted in Auburn last year. It showed 75 percent of Auburn University students didn't know Opelika exists! I guess geography isn't a popular major anymore....

(Instant Message to Jay Leno: If this gives you an idea for an Auburn version of "Jaywalking," I want at least a guest appearance on your show.)

+ Professional golf writers visited the Robert Trent Jones "Grand National" course in Lee County. The British writers must have been puzzled by this name - and asked each other where the horses and steeplechase track were.

+ A check of our blog hosting service showed Thursday's post was number 777. So where's my free roll of quarters to play games at Victoryland?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging may diminish over the next couple of weeks, as we prepare for a fall vacation.)

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.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


"Coca-Cola Museum?" a total stranger asked me as I walked on the Chattahoochee Promenade the other day. I'm always willing to help people find their way, but this question threw me. Does the Columbus Museum have Coca-Cola - and is it kept in a refrigerated display case?

"It's probably over on Broadway, between Seventh and Ninth," I told the man. All that came to mind was a historic marker noting Dr. John Pemberton's preliminary work on the drink in Columbus. But in terms of souvenirs there, it's really more like a Coca-Cola Zero.

This wasn't quite the answer the visitor expected. He thought for a moment, then said: "The space science museum." Aha, now this was clearer. He was looking for a center, not a museum - and its only connection with Coca-Cola was a big undisclosed advertising deal.

The Chattahoochee Promenade goes right next to the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, so I pointed it out to the visitor. Then the man did something interesting - pulling a plastic tourist map of Columbus out of his rear pocket. Was he testing me? Or was this your typical man refusing to look at a map?

I felt a need to clarify something at that moment. "When you say Coca-Cola Museum, I think of a place displaying Coca-Cola. While Dr. Pemberton did some of his early research on Coke in Columbus, the company's name is on the Space Science Center." I almost wished Moon Family Properties sponsored it instead.

"Gotcha," the visitor replied. But he didn't head for the space science center. Instead he strolled south on the promenade, simply looking at the sights. The man didn't carry a camera, so I don't think he was a suspected terrorist.

"When my current job's over, I'm heading back north," he told me. "It's too d**ned hot down here." There's a possibility for the next one-cent sales tax question - putting retractable roofs over all city parks.

"Of course," he continued, "I may go up there and find it's too d**ned cold." Wherever this man works, I get the feeling he's the number-one adjuster of thermostats.

A short walk south, the visitor spoke up again. "There's another half-a*s amphitheater!" This was the one at Sixth and Front Avenue with old wood benches - the one which would be great at a Boy Scout camp, but Callaway Gardens would have had sponsored and renovated years ago.

Apparently this visitor already had seen the Phenix City Amphitheater during his walking tour - and by saying "another," he wasn't impressed by that one, either. I could have pointed out that at least our area has TWO of them. But don't two "half-a**es" make a whole one?

I chose not to respond to the man's amphitheater comment. I was starting to wonder if he was attempting to provoke a Columbus resident -- or if he was a visiting Harley-Davidson rider who was walking because his motorcycle broke down.

The visitor crossed Sixth Street to continue his walk, and I took a different course down the promenade. The man left me thinking he wasn't too thrilled by what he saw around downtown Columbus. Maybe if some of the Broadway bars could find a way to be open 24 hours a day....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our 22 Sep entry about the planned Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop brought an unusual response - relating to law enforcement:

Here's a link to a site I thought you might find interesting....

At one point in time, the National Fraternal Order of Police spoke out against Ben & Jerry's due to their support of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Ben & Jerry's has since been sold by the original owners that provided that support, so I don't think that the FOP is still boycotting it. Just thought you might find this interesting. Enjoy!!

The link is to a memorial web site for Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer killed (so courts have ruled) by Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981. Backers of Abu-Jamal used to lobby loudly for his freedom. But then September 11th happened - and let's face it, that Islamic name isn't helping his cause these days.

I hadn't heard about any law officer boycott of Ben and Jerry's, relating to the Mumia Abu-Jamal case. Perhaps if the ice cream shop had come out with a "Marshmallow Abu-Jamal" flavor, I would have remembered it.

(Remember, young people: a life of crime only leads to one ice cream flavor - a Rocky Road.)

Now other brief bits from a nice September day:

+ Which Columbus radio station left its listeners puzzled, by NOT doing a daily birthday giveaway? I'm told people were actually calling TV stations to ask what happened - as if TV station employees would admit listening to radio while on the job.

+ Students at Clubview Elementary School donated more than $1,000 to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief. A few Clubview students are evacuees from the Gulf Coast - so why don't the others trust them enough to make a direct donation?

+ Instant Message to the Greater Columbus Fair: Some of us are puzzled by your TV commercial mentioning "exotic animals." Are you really showing a goat there?

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, September 28, 2005


Instant Message to Geena Davis: If you need inspiration for playing the President in your new TV series, you're invited to visit a Russell County Commission meeting. You're not invited by Tillman Pugh, but you're still invited....

Russell County Administrator Leeann Horne-Jordan appeared to win a major victory Tuesday, when the county commission approved a settlement in her big lawsuit. She'll keep her job, receive a big cash payment - and if her attorney had been tougher, she might have won Judge Al Howard's office space.

The Russell County Commission voted 4-3 to approve a settlement in Leeann Horne-Jordan's gender discrimination suit. It's too bad a second vote wasn't taken, on how many members simply wanted to get it over with.

Under the settlement, Russell County will pay $185,000 in damages and fines to Administrator Leeann Horne-Jordan. That may sound like a lot of money - but remember, that wouldn't even buy a house in Russell County for Muscogee County School District officials.

The settlement also calls for Russell County's Administrator to be rehired for four more years, at $65,000 per year. I'm waiting for the outrage over this to start - especially since Russell County High School's baseball coach probably makes less than this.

(It must be nice to have a secure four-year contract. I'm not sure any of the journalists who cover Leeann Horne-Jordan even have two-year deals.)

The settlement also requires Russell County to update certain policies. It wasn't clear Tuesday night exactly what policies these are - but I'm going to assume the phrase, "Fetch me a cup of coffee, toots" won't be allowed anymore.

The final settlement for Administrator Leeann Horne-Jordan will be worked out in negotiations over the next 21 days. So there's still time for her attorney to haggle - to get every extra dollar HE can keep.

Leeann Horne-Jordan's attorney said a settlement was long overdue, and should have been worked out 18 months ago. Yes, but this is Russell County - where the last momentous event to happen quickly was the shutdown of Phenix City's hospital.

This approved settlement doesn't close the legal books completely. Leeann Horne-Jordan also is suing former Russell County Commissioner Tillman Pugh - and she's doing about as well with Pugh, as Pugh is finding the guys who mugged him outside Wal-Mart.

(One lingering question I have is whether Tillman Pugh committed gender discrimination against Leeann Horne-Jordan - or whether he simply cracked too many "dumb blonde" jokes around her.)

This settlement appears to firmly establish Leeann Horne-Jordan as the most powerful woman in Columbus area government. She took on the "good ol' boys" and prevailed. And with the money she's receiving, she won't even have to think about signing endorsement deals with Phenix City salons.

Now for other quick topics from Tuesday:

+ Columbus Council received a briefing on plans to redevelop the midtown area. Ed Burdeshaw of Midtown Columbus told WRBL he wants to eliminate the idea that Macon Road is the city's north-south dividing line. Some of us thought it had moved to Manchester Expressway already....

+ Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams admitted recreation centers were opened for extra hours, while schools were closed the past two days. It may be easy to conserve school bus energy - but the energy of a nine-year-old is a very different matter.

+ Russell County authorities searched for four men who stole automated teller machines from convenience stores in Seale and Hatchechubbee. The suspects no doubt have been busy the last two days - since they have to go through 10,000 four-digit codes to find one that works.

+ Opelika closed its hurricane shelter, about a month after it opened. Isn't this occurring a little too soon? New Orleans residents might drive home, see the mess that city's in and decide to come back.

+ The Greater Columbus Fair opened in South Commons - as commercials appeared on TV warning this will be the "final weekend." Excuse me?! It seems to me this will be the ONLY weekend....

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, September 27, 2005


More than 100 children gathered at the Columbus Public Library Monday. They couldn't go to school. Their parents had no other place to put them. And with the high humidity, it was like early-June all over again.

Dozens of parents rushed their children to public libraries, because Georgia's Governor called for a two-day closing of public schools to conserve fuel. So many went to the main library on Macon Road that its "CLOG" meant something other than its information blog.

Library director Claudya Muller described the offer to take children as a "last resort" for parents with emergency cases. We really should consider the entire library system this way. Countless authors will starve if you simply check out their books for free.

But some parents were left frustrated at local libraries - because they refused to take any children younger than seven. Library policy requires all young children to be accompanied by a parent. You'd think some teachers sitting idle could have stepped in, to make extra money....

The frustration may continue today, as Columbus libraries are imposing a limit of 40 children each. Remember, parents - that's still 38 more than some convenience stores allow inside at one time.

Why the tighter limit today? As it happens, children's librarians in Columbus are going out of town for a conference! Given what Governor Perdue did, they'd better be car pooling....

At least one local mother called Governor Sonny Perdue's call to suspend school "stupid." She noted such an action was NOT taken when Hurricane Katrina landed. She may have a point - why not extend the fuel tax holiday another month, through my upcoming vacation?

Some parents were so upset with Governor Perdue that they went to the state Capitol building in Atlanta with their children, and staged a "teach-in." Now hold on a minute! If you're outside the building, isn't this a teach-OUT?

One Atlanta mother said the education of Georgia's children should NOT be sacrificed, to conserve fuel. Maybe instead, we should make this truly memorable - and leave schools open, but require all children to walk. Years from now they could brag: "I walked to school on snow days in September."

Chuck-E-Cheese's at Cross Country Plaza brought in extra staff members Monday - but there wasn't that big an increase in the number of children there during the afternoon. They expected an extra-large, and parents only delivered a medium.

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" checked Atlanta area malls, and found some filled with mothers and their children. You don't think the Governor was persuaded to make his announcement by Gap Kids, do you?!?!

Yet Governor Perdue received support from a high place Monday. President Bush praised him for taking a precaution, and urged all U.S. drivers to use less gas. C'mon, NASCAR - tell the drivers not racing for the Nextel Cup to stay off the track. Dale WHO?!

Governor Sonny Perdue even was complimented on ABC's "World News Tonight" by the president of the "Environmental Trust Fund." It's yet another reason why some Republicans are skeptical about his conversion level....

While Muscogee County schools are closed for two days, Columbus State University remains open. Hopefully some scientist there is working on developing a less expensive fuel. Some of us would settle for hamsters on a treadmill.

The timing of the two-day school shutdown would have been perfect for the Greater Columbus Fair, under its old schedule. But it isn't opening until this evening. Why not open at noon? Can't the Exchange Club find enough foot-long hot dogs for the extra crowd?

BLOG UPDATE: My humble Honda is working again - and the problem was something I never could have guessed. The service experts told me Monday oil leaked from my distributor, damaging it and my ignition system. So the gas stations aren't the only ones getting burned by distributors....

The service expert said distributor oil leaks are a "common problem" for Honda Civics and Accords. So why did my engine die so suddenly, and without warning? Are my "idiot lights" so idiotic that they won't come on when you need them?

My Honda needed a tune-up, a new distributor, new ignition lines and more. The total cost - welllll, let's just say it was several hundred dollars. It was enough to make that Piccadilly Cafeteria man asking for 15 or 20 dollars look like a cheapskate.

With that problem hopefully fixed, let's address other Monday items:

+ A Columbus Police official told WRBL even though local crime statistics are up, the city remains safe. This reminded me that we've had no "Is Our City Safe" e-mails in a long time. We DO hope Wade Sheridan wasn't kidnapped by a city official.

+ Troy Public Radio broadcast the business news program "Marketplace," as it does each evening - but for some reason, it played a program from four weeks ago! What a relief to know the levees in New Orleans held after all....

+ Instant Message to "The Kaos Blog" of Bibb City: Our condolences to you over the death of Don Adams. Without his TV comedy "Get Smart" years ago, your blog might be spelled properly with a "ch."

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, September 26, 2005


The car started well. It went up the hill fine. But at the corner of Shepard Drive and Murray Street Sunday, my humble Honda decided it had enough. It suddenly stopped running, as if I'd insulted it by calling its mother a Yugo.

The battery wasn't the problem. It whirred and whirred when I cranked the ignition. For some reason, no fuel was going through. Did those low-priced Summit stations buy gas from somebody on a street corner, wearing a trenchcoat?

Since I was at the top of a hill, I was able to coast down Murray Street to Martin Luther King Boulevard. A Chevron station is on that corner - but it's a convenience store with no repair area. In fact, there aren't many working gas pumps -- so the lines there later this week will be extra-long.

My Honda rolled to a stop at one of the entryways on M.L.K. -- and I kept trying to start the car, but to no avail. It seemed the fuel pump was dead. But my owner's manual says it might simply be the fuse for that pump. When it comes to car repair, it's not just fuses for me -- it's CON-fuses.

"Do you gentlemen know anything about cars?" I asked two men walking by. They did a little, they said. Borrowing a wrench from my trunk, one man proceeded to whack my battery poles at least a dozen times. Thankfully, the battery kept cranking after that - even if nothing else happened.

"How's it going?" asked another passerby walking toward Chevron.

That answer was easy: "It's not going."

As I waited for help, I went inside Chevron and bought a soda. The attendant on duty offered me a dollar in change, so I could use the pay phone to call for help.

"Does the pay phone have a phone book?" I asked.

"No." Nor did the attendant inside. Why don't they hand out those "mini-books" in all corners of town?

Realizing Chevron couldn't fix my car, I came up with a plan. A former roommate of mine had me push his ailing car with MY car at times, to get to repair shops. Perhaps it was his Nigerian upbringing -- where people with tow ropes might be considered suspects for insurrection.

(Come to think of it, haven't you wondered how "bumper cars" at amusement parks were invented? The first one probably had broken-down Model T's.)

All I had to do was find another driver to push my car to a Firestone shop a couple of miles away. But that would NOT prove to be easy -- in part because M.L.K. isn't that busy a road on Sunday, and in part because many in that neighborhood
are more likely to know the inside of a METRA bus.

I asked several drivers who stopped at Chevron if they could give me a bumper-car push to the Firestone shop downtown. The responses were wide-ranging, but mostly negative:

+ "H**l no!" one woman said loudly -- only seconds after one of her passengers gave me a hopeful thumbs-up. Perhaps they didn't know each other....

+ A few were afraid the pushing might damage their bumpers. These drivers must have seen how weak SUV's fare in crash tests.

+ One woman suggested I call Firestone and ask for a push. "It's a free call at pay phones," she declared. That was news to me - and so was the news I gave back to her: the pay phone voice asked me to deposit a dollar.

At one point two guys walked to my car, and I explained my situation. A man wearing a Piccadilly Cafeteria name badge then said: "How much are you payin'? Fifteen?? Twenty???" It's that sort of giving spirit which is attracting hurricane evacuees to Columbus.

(I didn't have 15 or 20 dollars on me, so he was out of my price range. If I asked him if he took credit cards, I suspected he might take it -- but simply not give it back.)

A couple of people DID seem interested in helping me. A man driving a Chevy Tracker at first said no, apparently on the advice of his mother riding with him -- then said he could come back and help after they went for something to eat. Do THAT many Columbus restaurants close at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays?

Then there was the man parked at an apartment building across the street. When I asked if he could help, he said: "Give me a minute." He finally came out an hour later. That's "Sunday in the South" timing, you know - a whole lot slower.

He carefully backed up his car with a Russell County tag, leaving me to wonder if he'd turn around and leave. But then the man came up behind me, and the "bumper cars" game began. I never once thought of telling him to "take my car and shove it."

The roads from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Firestone downtown are relatively flat, which made the pushing easy. The only close call came at Tenth Street and Sixth Avenue, when a driver decided to turn left in front of us without signaling. At least he was close to police headquarters, in case we collided....

The streets around downtown thankfully aren't too busy on Sunday, and we pushed our way into the Firestone parking lot without really slowing down anyone. We both exited their cars, and I gave the Russell Countian six of the nine dollars in my wallet to thank him. And here's the strange thing - he never asked for a dime.

The other man checked his front bumper, and thought there might be a scratch mark on it from the pushing. "Look on it as a sign of a good deed," I suggested to him. It's like that old car commercial, you know - scratch marks give it character. In this case, GOOD character....

As I write this, I'm still not sure what the exact problem is with my car. Firestone was doing diagnostic work late Sunday, so any repairs will wait for sometime today. In the meantime, I've learned several lessons from Sunday:

+ Carry some sort of phone book in your car - even if you don't have a cell phone, as I don't. At least it will provide extra weight in the trunk, for icy winter days.

+ That old phrase, "give and it shall be given to you" - it's true, but you have to sort through the people on the take first.

+ Sometimes, a pushy driver can be a wonderful blessing.

+ Instant Message to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue: There, you see? I did my part for fuel savings.

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


All it took was 4.293 gallons. That filled my gas tank to the absolute top Friday morning, when the posted price was $2.60 a gallon. Then came the afternoon, when prices jumped 20 cents in most of Columbus - and I felt for once like an absolute genius.

The situation Friday morning was quite a case of deja vu. The price of gas in Columbus was lower than it had been in weeks. A hurricane was approaching the Gulf Coast. Newscasts warned of refineries in the storm's path. It was Katrina all over again -- so this time I was better prepared, much like FEMA.

By filling my tank Friday, I not only missed price hikes related to Hurricane Rita. I won't have to buy gas in a few days, when the REAL rush will come. When Georgia brings back fuel taxes next Saturday, many pumps may have no fuel TO tax.

It was the 3:00 p.m. hour Friday when many Columbus gas stations hiked their prices by 20 cents a gallon. Now THAT'S the way to make all those visiting Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders feel welcome! I'm surprised they didn't drive rings around some high-priced stations, to shut them down.

(To all the visiting Harley riders: please don't think the gas stations are picking on you. They like to hike prices when the S.O.A. Watch protesters show up in November, too.)

A short gas price war developed in downtown Columbus Saturday afternoon. Spectrum stores on Veterans Parkway were at $2.82 a gallon, while the Summit at 15th Street was at $2.69. Do you think the Summit manager was on the phone, calling the Georgia price gouging line?

When I drove back downtown late Saturday afternoon, all the stations in the neighborhood of 15th and Veterans Parkway were down to $2.69. That'll teach those greedy Spectrums! And we thank the Summit owners for being close friends of Venezuela's President.

Georgia's Governor showed his concern about gas prices jumping from Hurricane Rita. Sonny Perdue asked all public schools to close for two days, to save on fuel. Trouble is, almost all other businesses are staying open - so won't parents spend more on fuel, driving children to other locations?

I'd already heard from one upset middle school parent, about Muscogee County suspending field trips and activities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her child's practice for volleyball matches was going to waste, he complained. But look at it optimistically - Kerri Walsh and Misty May have to retire sooner or later.

Governor Sonny Perdue responded to Hurricane Katrina by waiving fuel taxes for a month, and he looked like a populist. Now he wants public schools to close for two days - and except for stay-at-home moms, the governor may look to parents like a human panic button.

Many public schools in Columbus and west Georgia will close Monday and Tuesday, in response to the Governor's request. But Brookstone School plans to stay open - since families with students enrolled there have so much money that they don't have to worry about gas prices.

Four Muscogee County public libraries are offering to help parents Monday and Tuesday. They'll open an hour early, and take in children for a day of activities. The main library's café will be busy today stocking up on slices of cake and brownies.

It's curious that public libraries are offering to intervene like this -- since several branches have signs telling parents libraries are NOT for drop-off babysitting. Has attendance by children dropped that much? Or will the branches simply set up TV sets to show Nickelodeon all day?

As it happened, the main Columbus Public Library was evacuated Saturday afternoon due to a bomb threat. Police told WRBL the caller sounded "like a child." So maybe it was a youthful prank - and not Albert Paley disguising his voice.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION wants to know if you think Governor Sonny Perdue made the right call, by asking public schools to close for two days. Was he wise, considering where Hurricane Rita landed? Did he panic? And should parents receive reimbursement, for suddenly turning into "bus drivers?"

BLOG UPDATE: The new TransWestern Publishing phone book landed on my porch Saturday evening - and you can guess which name I looked up first. You may be saddened to learn "Joe Blow" is NOT in the white pages this year. So I guess this means he decided to "Blow town."

Now for other items from a busy first weekend of autumn:

+ The Columbus Urban League sponsored a "Do the Right Thing" celebration for young people at Cascade Hills Church. If any mostly-white church turned down this event, of course, it would have been doing the WRONG thing.

+ WRBL reporter Susannah Avery revealed she's the daughter of Patsy Avery, of "Miss Patsy's Playhouse" fame. I'm not sure she should have let this secret out. Now politicians will try to lead her like a puppet on a string.

+ The all-female country music group "Cowboy Crush" performed at the Phenix City Amphitheater. I'm wondering why the football teams at Dallas or Oklahoma State didn't take this name first....

+ The Muscogee County Humane Society sponsored a benefit pro wrestling night at the Bradley Theatre. Yet fans had to be a bit disappointed, when no wrestling bear came out.

+ Virginia Tech trampled Georgia Tech in college football 51-7. This was supposed to be a "barn-burner" - but for these "Tech" schools, it wasn't even a Bunsen burner.

+ Instant Message to Burger King on Buena Vista Road: Do you know you have a staff member who likes to hide his left arm under his shirt, as he takes orders? Did he get a job there under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

COMING SOON: Why a man on the Riverwalk told me: "You're a crazy man. You're insane".... and you can decide whether or not he's right....

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, September 23, 2005

for 24 SEP 05: T.B.S.

(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.)

I worked for more than 11 years at one section of T.B.S. in Atlanta -- Turner Broadcasting System. Yes, I met Ted Turner a couple of times. I even saw him with Jane Fonda -- and one time, even with their dogs in a hallway. But that's another story....

In fact, I worked at the Techwood Drive "mansion" near Georgia Tech when I began in 1984. This allowed me the privilege of occasionally sharing a Thursday night commissary line with pro wrestling manager Jimmy Hart - who somehow was never as loud-mouthed there as he was on TV.

But over those years, I developed another meaning for those letters - one which was brought home to me anew this past week. T.B.S. can mean "Trials Build Strength."

The trials in Atlanta could be numerous -- from two years on an overnight shift, to roommates who ran up big bills they couldn't pay, to romantic opportunities which didn't pan out. But I believed in something Ted Turner really doesn't think he hast: a God who could help me through them, and teach me lessons from them.

This week brought probably my biggest health trial since I moved to Columbus [20 Sep]. I'm thankful first of all to be able to type this entry -- because the blow to my head (really both front and back) could have been hard enough to kill me.
Besides, I have no batting helmets to wear to bed....

I'm also thankful that God is able to heal a weakened body like mine. As a believer in the power of prayer and fasting, I'd scheduled a 24-hour fast for Tuesday night to Wednesday night. I admittedly wasn't sure how long I could go -- but I went ahead, and ended feeling better than when I started. A lack of food improves supermodels' bodies, after all.

To carefully get back to normal, I did some walking at a gym Wednesday evening. Then Thursday morning, I was able to cautiously jog nearly one-and-a-half miles non-stop. I chose not to cross the Dillingham Street Bridge into Phenix City - just to be sure I didn't become seasick.

My health as I write this stands at about 95 percent of normal. My food seems to be digesting and processing normally again. And late Thursday night, I actually dared to do something fellow church members would not - I ate some of my own

(I say I'm "95 percent" of normal because my equilibrium still isn't quite, well, equal. I can feel something in my head spin when I make a sudden turn. So please don't do that juvenile tap-the-other-shoulder trick to me for awhile....)

So I've learned several things since my close call of early Monday. God truly has strengthened me, more and faster than I could have expected. And when friends see my damaged forehead and ask what happened, I learn how many people are NOT regular blog readers.

A deep thanks to all of you who expressed concern about my health this past week. May you learn the T.B.S. principle as well -- only not the way I did early Monday. I wouldn't wish that on one of Jimmy Hart's bad-guy cheating wrestlers....

BLOG CORRECTION: We're now told the FEMA and Red Cross payments we mentioned Friday have gone directly to hurricane evacuees at The Ralston - NOT to the apartment building or its management. So the manager might want to take some of her new friends to Victoryland in that van, too....

COMING SUNDAY: Fuel's out, school's out.... or Panic at the Pump II....

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.


Our text for today comes from page 31 of the Columbus BellSouth white pages. I don't tend to read through every page of the phone book when it comes. As long as my name is spelled correctly, and no one puts an ad next to it calling me an idiot, I'm fine with it....

But recently a friend called my attention to page 31 of the Columbus phone book. In the first column, just above the phone numbers for Bludau's restaurant and Blue Cross - Blue Shield, we found this:

blow joe - 563-0790

Amazing - some "Joe Blow" has a listed phone number! But there's no address, so I suppose even famous names need a little privacy.

The Columbus phone book shows two other people with the last name "Blow." I don't know if they're related to Joe Blow. But thankfully, their parents had enough good sense not to name them Wendy.

A check of the other big local phone book from TransWestern Publishing showed the same listing for Joe Blow. Only in that book, his name is capitalized. So someone at that office must have been paying a LITTLE attention - not a lot, but a little.

So who is Joe Blow, and how did his name get in the Columbus phone book? The investigative reporter in me simply had to know - but I had to be careful. With a last name like that, it could be (ahem) some kinky phone sex line.

But then again, Joe Blow could be a pseudonym for some celebrity living quietly in Columbus. You know, like a member of Hootie and the Blowfish....

At last I summoned the courage to call Joe Blow's phone number -- and I wound up dialing it over and over again. That's because I kept getting a recorded phone company message, about "network difficulties." Thus this guy is truly a Blow-hard.

As we post this, we're still mystified by the Joe Blow phone listing. Did someone at BellSouth put this in as a joke? Was this once a secret number to call, for some kind of drug deal? And whatever happened to Joe's cousin - 1980's rap star Kurtis Blow?

BLOG UPDATE: A spat stemming from Hurricane Katrina blew wide open in Columbus Thursday. It pits the American Red Cross against the manager of "The Ralston" downtown. And no, it has nothing to do with providing Ralston-Purina pet food.

The Ralston's manager drove to the Mississippi coast after the hurricane, and brought back several older people. Now Darlene Van Pelt claims the Red Cross is reluctant to reimburse her for keeping evacuees. We thought VanPelt had a heart -- but now we find she carried a wide-open purse.

Darlene Van Pelt semi-mockingly gave the Red Cross's response to her request for reimbursement: "We didn't send those people to you. They didn't come through our shelter." Isn't it a bit like asking the Muscogee County School Board to cover your home-schooling expenses?

Darlene Van Pelt apparently also went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency about reimbursing The Ralston -- and was told, "The Red Cross is paying." FEMA's already paid enough, you know. Paying $500 a day to park trailers full of bottled water in Columbus, among other things....

It turns out The Ralston has received $2,500 in payments for helping hurricane survivors -- $2,000 from FEMA and $500 from the Red Cross. Perhaps this manager should try to hit a jackpot in more conventional ways, and take her van to Victoryland this weekend.

Now for other "shorts" we're wearing on the first full day of fall:

+ Harley-Davidson riders from across Georgia rolled into Columbus for an annual state rally. Their motorcycles will be so loud over the next few days that Fort Benning will be able to secretly test new high-powered weapons.

+ The new season at the Springer Opera House began with the Broadway musical review "Smokey Joe's Café." If Smokey Bones Barbecue doesn't sponsor this, the restaurant must be in trouble.

+ Civil rights legend Coretta Scott King checked out of an Atlanta hospital, after a month of treatment for a stroke. For some odd reason, her children did not walk out shouting, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, she's free at last!"

+ Friends of Roy Moore announced the former Alabama Chief Justice will declare his 2006 plans on Monday, October 3. Hmmmm - on the first Monday in October?! Which U.S. Supreme Court justice would he like to replace?

+ The Birmingham Post-Herald announced it will publish its final edition today. It's the only afternoon newspaper in the city -- so bloggers there now will need to post items more often.

(The closing of the Post-Herald means Birmingham joins a long list of cities with only one daily newspaper. Television newscasts in that city now will look more alike than ever.)

+ Instant Message to the Marion County, Georgia Jail staff: What's this I'm hearing about your jail being full of brown recluse spiders? How many suspects are confessing to crimes, after seeing them?

SCHEDULED SATURDAY: A new meaning for the abbreviation T.B.S....

Today's topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, make a PayPal 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, September 22, 2005


Ground was broken Wednesday for yet another big-name business in Columbus. The city's first Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop will open around January 1. The big question here, of course, is whether it will open before or after "Festivus."

This Ben and Jerry's will be different in several ways. For one thing, it's being built in partnership with Goodwill Industries - so if the ice cream is expensive, maybe there will be some cheap ties in the corner to make up for it.

Under this "partner-shop," the Ben and Jerry's store will be staffed by young people ages 15 to 21. And we're supposed to believe that's unique?! Aside from a manager, that sounds like almost every other ice cream shop in this country....

Columbus Goodwill Industries leader Jane Nichols explained this ice cream shop will be a "socioeconomic model" for young people to learn work skills. Recalling some of my high school friends who worked at an ice cream shop, it also could be an engineering model - for long-distance scoop flinging.

So where will Ben and Jerry's put its first Columbus ice cream shop? On Veterans Parkway near Adams Farm Road - yes, in North Columbus. Once again, the north side gets all the ice-cold cash....

The location is even more surprising when you consider the background of Ben and Jerry's - two men who have a reputation for social activism and environmental consciousness. Why not help the third-world section of Columbus, and put this shop near Fort Benning Road?

There are other reasons why the location of this Ben and Jerry's seems illogical. Consider the competition -- a Marble Slab Creamery at Columbus Park Crossing, and a Bruster's near Bradley Park Drive. In Columbus South, you have to listen for trucks playing "Turkey in the Straw."

Then there's the obvious political explanation. Liberal Democrats whom Ben and Jerry's backs live on the south side of Columbus. Wealthy conservative Republicans probably will boycott this northside shop from day one -- and tell THEM to "Move On."

Shortly after the groundbreaking ceremony, a public hearing occurred at the Columbus Museum on a plan to revitalize the midtown area. We're talking about a six-square-mile area, between downtown and Interstate 185 -- an area city officials want you to reach as slowly as possible on Cherokee Avenue.

But the boundary line for "Midtown Columbus" seems murky. Wednesday's evening news showed a reporter live on 13th Street near 13th Avenue, and she called that spot midtown. But a couple of blocks away, WRBL's Jeff Donald keeps saying he's downtown -- and he's up a hill to boot.

The group trying to promote midtown Columbus wants to preserve its history, by recreating original "suburbs" from the 1940's and 1950's. But isn't that the way things really are now? Wynnton and North Highland are suburbs of the REAL city of Columbus, which starts around Manchester Expressway.

One man who attended Wednesday night's public hearing says midtown Columbus has a great opportunity for renewal, with thousands of new soldiers moving to Fort Benning. Hey, I've got it! Open a series of tattoo shops, next to the Macon Road Kmart.

Back where we started: Ben and Jerry's ice cream is known for its distinctive names of flavors, such as "Cherry Garcia." So we'd like to offer some local ideas, especially for the Columbus store:

+ Koffee Sledge - with added syrup, chocolate chips, and whatever else it takes to make the ice cream look as black as possible.

+ Sonoma Pointe Mud - A watered-down version of caramel fudge. It cannot be served in a cup.

+ Candy-ice Cooked - Warm chocolate jimmies mixed with vanilla, which has to be perfectly scooped or it's unacceptable.

+ TSYS Pieces - M&M's mixed with chocolate, which you lick off a thin plastic card.

+ Val Mac-with-Guinness - or can you mix beer with ice cream, and have teenagers sell it?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Sometimes our brief notes are too brief for some readers. Take this message about an item we mentioned Tuesday:


I was reading today and found this post most interesting - Muscogee County School Superintendent John Phillips denied claims by school board members that he has a "buddy system" for hiring people.

Would you be able to share more information on this topic? This runs simultaneously with something "someone close to me" has experienced and I'm helping her research. In fact, I wondered why my email to Dr. Phillips received such a quick reply. I had no idea this was a touchy subject with them at the moment.

I'm seriously interested.



Michael's message leaves me wondering what the Superintendent wrote to him. Is Dr. Phillips ruling out the buddy system in swimming classes, too?

As I recall WRBL's story Monday, Muscogee County School Board members Bill Walker and Naomi Buckner raised questions about the hiring of three "instructional specialists." Do you remember when these people were called teachers?

But anyway: two school board members suggested the school district isn't searching widely enough for new employees. That's apparently where the "buddy system" concept developed. Yet here's the thing -- I'm not so sure Superintendent John Phillips has developed that many "buddies" in Columbus in the first place.

Aides to Dr. John Phillips assured WRBL the Muscogee County School District always looks for the most qualified candidates for positions. The fact that sometimes they show up and buy houses before they're introduced to the school board is beside the point.

Now other short (hopefully, not TOO short) items from Wednesday:

+ Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart called on all hurricane evacuees who are sex offenders to register at the courthouse. Some of us have a better idea: evacuate further inland - like to northern Ontario.

+ Cott Beverages stock dropped about four dollars, as the beverage company warned full-year earnings will be lower than expected. What a shame -- "Royal Crown Cola" apparently has become about as unpopular as Britain's royal family.

+ A group of demonstrators marked the "International Day of Peace" by protesting in downtown Auburn. They group opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq, and says we should emphasize negotiation. So when does Usama bin-Laden plan to name his diplomatic team?

+ Allen Elementary School marked "Backpack Awareness Day," as third through fifth-graders had their backpacks weighed. So are the students with the heaviest loads allowed to eat more food at lunch, and become more obese to compensate?

+ Alabama First Lady Patsy Riley visited Auburn's Ogletree Elementary School, to kick off a new program called "Get Caught Reading." If Roy Moore becomes Governor, this will change slightly - to "Get Caught Reading the Ten Commandments."

+ Columbus State's women's soccer team knocked off North Georgia 2-0. The Lady Cougars are now 4-4 on the year - and as they once said on "King of the Hill," a tie in soccer means everybody wins.

+ Instant Message to the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs: What do you mean, "state law" won't let you name which gas stations are accused of price gouging? [True/GPB Radio] How will we know which ones to boycott? Or deep-down, are you an office of BUSINESS affairs?

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, September 21, 2005


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Difficulties with our blogging partner prevented us from posting sooner. Our apologies for the delay.)

Given my health crisis of Monday, an event in Columbus Tuesday was timed perfectly for.... well, hold on a second. Maybe I shouldn't call it a "crisis." Rush Limbaugh claims to be the national arbiter of whether something is a crisis or not, and I haven't called him yet.

But anyway: Tuesday was "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" -- with Valley Healthcare Systems on Benning Drive offering free health screenings. Perhaps I also could obtain free advice on what was ailing me. Only problem: I had no "loved one" to take me -- so I prepared a split personality argument.

1:10 p.m.: I pull into the closest thing I can find to the Valley Healthcare parking lot. It's actually a parking lot for the Baker Village Apartments, since the medical office is one of its buildings. I lock valuables in the trunk - but so I'm not accused of profiling, I do NOT put on The Club.

1:12 p.m.: I walk inside the building, and it's standing room only. Davis Broadcasting promoted this event extensively, and it apparently worked. In fact, two station vans are parked on the grass outside - all the more reason to keep nearby Baker Middle School on lockdown.

I sign the waiting list for the "health fair," as one window calls it, and find a place in the corner to stand for awhile. The special day offers tests for high blood pressure, prostate cancer, the AIDS virus - but sadly for me, not varicose veins.

Other people in the waiting room are filling out multi-page charts, but I presume these are the people with scheduled appointments. A Valley Healthcare brochure explains the office accepts appointments, walk-ins - and even emergency cases. If I collapse on the floor again, hopefully I'll be the latter.

2:30 p.m.: With the waiting room still full and me still standing, someone who's apparently a Davis Broadcasting announcer walks in. He has a cell phone very close to his mouth - so for all I knew, he could be a Baker Village resident planning an evening (ahem) "deal."

"Right now, I'm here in the lobby...." the announcer says to confirm my first guess. Two guys are standing near him, but he chooses to turn away from me and chat briefly with a large man named John.

"What are you here for?"

"Everything." Well, hopefully not the women's cancer screenings....

As the announcer walks away, I tell John he's probably just been on WFXE Foxie-105 FM. "Normally I listen to Hallelujah 1460," he says with a laugh, "or Gospel 100.7." Amazing - I've actually found a second white man in Columbus who listens to these stations.

2:45 p.m.: The 90-minute mark of standing and waiting passes. I tell an older man who's sitting next to me this day was misnamed - it should have been "Take a Loved One and a Chair to the Doctor Day."

3:10 p.m.: On the waiting room television, alleged psychic Sylvia Browne tells Montel Williams she believes the earth has only about 95 years left. I actually start to wonder if I'll get to see a doctor before then.

3:20 p.m.: A wide-eyed young woman walks into the waiting room with a shopping bag full of what she calls "Beanie Babies." She's giving them to little children -- which seems strange to me. In low-income parts of Atlanta, people might have walked in selling videotapes or Rolex watches.

This woman also is with Davis Broadcasting - and in the minutes that follow, she and another woman phone in live reports from Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. The young woman actually talks about getting herself checked. But then she leaves - so maybe she planned to do that at a Victory Drive bar.

3:35 p.m.: A Valley Healthcare staff member asks everyone in the waiting room to gather together and face a TV camera. A man apparently has recorded some of the activity, either for a promotional video or a commercial. I'm not sure it should have the business logo - which looks a bit like someone giving you "the finger."

(The promotion person actually wanted a volunteer to enter a waiting room, for the video. I didn't speak up fast enough - but then again, I would have demanded the screening begin at once.)

"Say thank you, Valley Healthcare," the woman instructs everyone in the waiting room. I step aside into a restroom. Why should I thank you for something you haven't given me yet, and I'm still not sure you will?

4:00 p.m.: The crowd starts to diminish a bit, and after more than two-and-a-half hours I finally can sit in a chair. Well, I could have taken a seat sooner - but women with children were present, and I didn't want any of them telling me off for not showing proper manners.

4:05 p.m.: A Valley Healthcare staff member locks the main entrance, as Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day officially lasted until 4:00. Everyone still inside will be helped, so "we can get home sometime tonight." So much for the brochure's promise of extended Tuesday hours until 7:00.

The waiting room television now is showing "General Hospital." This soap opera does NOT put this business to shame - as only one scene during the one-hour program actually seems to occur inside the hospital.

4:30 p.m.: An older man passes me as he heads for the exit, not knowing it's locked. He arrived around 2:30. "You still waiting?"

"Yeah. More than three hours."

"You must have a problem...." Boy, there are so many ways I could answer that line.

4:32 p.m.: "Is anyone else waiting for service?" a woman asks as she enters the waiting room from the check-in and records area. I politely raise my hand, and tell her my name. "I signed in at 1:12."

"Get out of here!" the woman answers. No, if I've stayed here waiting this long....

"Did you fill out a form?" she asks me. No, I never knew I was supposed to do that -- I merely signed the waiting list. So I fill out two pages of information. Unlike some medical offices, it did NOT ask me to write a short medical biography.

Staff members say they called my first name several times during the 3:00 hour -- but apparently I never heard it. They didn't want to foul up my last name, they explain. But other people got up when "Richards" and "Richardson" were called - so a little mangling could have saved me a lot of time.

4:45 p.m.:> At last I enter an exam room for the health screenings to begin. I'm put on the weight scale -- and despite my illness, I officially weigh 201 pounds. The shoes I'm wearing only count for two, I'm told. On my scale at home, they seem to take off five to ten.

I explain to the staff member what I'd been through early Monday, and point to the gash on my forehead. "Put some Neosporin on that," she advises me. I was all set to "ask my doctor" about all those prescription drugs they advertise on TV, but this one I never expected.

"Your blood pressure is good," the staff member assures me after a check. This news may surprise some people - especially the man who calls me with long-winded opinions, which I try to sum up for him in one sentence to save time.

With good blood pressure and blood sugar, I'm pointed toward several exam rooms in the back and told to "stand in line with the guys." Now this feels a bit more comfortable -- a bit like waiting for football tickets.

After a few minutes, the last few people in line are told to head back up front - including me. Did I mention this health clinic is a short drive from Fort Benning?

5:10 p.m.: Back into the original exam room I go. This time a different woman has me fill out an HIV test consent form. I probably could have skipped this test, for one very obvious reason -- but oh yeah, people are tired of my talking about being a 47-year-old virgin.

I share the story of early Monday with this woman as well. "You didn't go to the emergency room?!" she wonders aloud. No, I didn't - perhaps for the same reason I was at Valley Healthcare for these screenings in the first place. It's called thriftiness....

The woman sticks a needle in my arm, and promises to call me with the results. I didn't realize they can figure out prostate cancer as well as HIV with a single needle.

With that, I finally finished - four hours after I began. I can't help wondering if this isn't why some people avoid visiting doctors in the first place. It's not always the cost, or the fear of what doctors might find - it's the time and hassle of going. And apparently the waiting room magazines were boring, because hardly anyone read them.

While I waited patient-ly, other things happened Tuesday:

+ Columbus Council postponed changes on Cherokee Avenue indefinitely. So the street will remain four lanes, with no guardrails - and good-looking girls from Columbus High School are asked NOT to walk on the side near the canal.

(Councilor Gary Allen says the $30,000 proposed to make Cherokee Avenue a three-lane road should be saved, with officers writing more speeding tickets instead. Of course, pulling over drivers in effect would make this a three-lane road anyway....)

+ The Columbus Riverkeeper had a testy meeting with developers of the Sonoma Pointe subdivision near Blackmon Road. He claims the project doesn't have proper walls installed to keep mud from running into creeks. Hey, you know what -- maybe these people WOULD like guardrails.

+ Extra police officers watched Valley High School, amid rumors some sort of violence would erupt during the lunch hour. The trouble never happened - so maybe two male students were talking about watching a show on Spike TV.

+ Organizers of college football's Sugar Bowl confirmed they're considering moving next January's game from New Orleans to Atlanta. Are they kidding? Dixie Crystal Sugar doesn't even sponsor the University of Georgia scoreboard anymore -- and Coca-Cola would want to promote sugar-free drinks, instead.

+ Instant Message to Tim Harris: OK, you're the owner of Captain Tom's Buffet on Macon Road. So why don't you change the name to Captain Tim's? It's only one letter....

SONG OF THE DAY: A long wait at a doctor's office gives the brain plenty of time to stir. The podcasting "Pod Squad" has the results!

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, September 20, 2005


Columbus has had little rain in September, but there's plenty of water around. Monday's evening news reported 45 trailers filled with bottled water are sitting at an industrial park, waiting to go to the hurricane damage zone. It's nice to see they're kept a safe distance away from the looters....

The Federal Emergency Management Agency apparently ordered those 45 trailers full of bottled water. But they're sitting at the Blanchard Industrial Park near Victory Drive, not heading toward the Gulf Coast. Is someone expecting the New Orleans Saints to move a home game to Columbus?

About 300 tractor-trailers filled with bottled water were stationed in Columbus over the weekend, and 45 remained Monday. Hopefully the rest were driven to the damage zone - not stolen by jealous Columbus Water Works employees.

Some drivers say FEMA is paying them $500 a day to sit in Columbus, and wait for the call to head toward the Gulf Coast. Now THIS is the job to have! And since the drivers are near Victory Drive, they can enjoy several table dances a night.

(Can you think of any other jobs in Columbus where people are paid $500 a day to sit around? Well, besides some of the offices at Aflac Tower....)

This isn't the first complaint about how FEMA is handling the response to Hurricane Katrina. One group of firefighters couldn't enter New Orleans for days, because it first needed special "training" in Atlanta. Well, how DO you put out fires coming up through polluted water?

If the Gulf Coast doesn't need those 45 trailers full of bottled water, some people down Victory Drive might. The Benning Park SuperCenter remains a hurricane evacuation shelter -- and restaurants aren't getting any free publicity for providing dinners there anymore.

But the American Red Cross isn't welcome everywhere for sheltering hurricane survivors. DeKalb County, Georgia Chief Executive Vernon Jones told the Red Cross to stop providing assistance there Monday, due to "management issues." You'd think long waiting lines would be tolerated there - especially given Atlanta traffic.

Now let's climb out of the water, and check other items from the last couple of days:

+ Muscogee County School Superintendent John Phillips denied claims by school board members that he has a "buddy system" for hiring people. Well, we haven't HEARD of any other new staff members buying luxurious homes in Ladonia....

+ WCGT "Final Edition" host Jerry Laquire complained Karl Douglass of Columbus South Inc. lives far from the south side, in Green Island Hills. Sure enough, the phone book shows Douglass lives on Millington Road - but hold on. Maybe that's the south side of Green Island.

+ Tymber Boswell of Columbus returned from trying out for "American Idol" in Chicago. Boswell revealed to WXTX "News at Ten" she was NOT selected to go to Hollywood -- which means someone besides Simon Cowell will have to puncture her ego.

+ The Home Box Office movie "Warm Springs" won two Emmy Awards. The film actually was shot in Warm Springs - so where's the "Columbus" movie? Is everyone waiting for William Calley to write his memoirs?

+ The Atlanta Falcons admitted Michael Vick has hamstring trouble, and is questionable for next Sunday's game in Buffalo. The Falcons have two more Monday night games on the schedule - but now ABC may be calling the National Football League to arrange more "Saints fundraisers."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The jokes for today officially have concluded. You're welcome to read on, for first-person notes about a serious challenge we've faced in the last 48 hours.)

BUT SERIOUSLY: I'd pretty much ruled out a blog entry for Monday, because of another late-night project. But then things started happening, and they weren't pretty.

I'd felt an upset stomach late Sunday evening, but blamed it on an unusually stressful work day. As the late project was completed, I also noticed a rumbling below my belly. It was no big deal, I thought - but then my body started providing special effects straight out of a Six Flags ride.

Suddenly I had diarrhea, and was throwing up to boot. Thankfully my bathtub is directly next to the stool, so the heaving went there. Small apartments have their advantages....

Did I not heat my meat for lunch enough? Was that little rash on my left hand the spark of something? I had no idea, but after a few minutes my body calmed down. Yet suddenly my 47-year-old body felt 77.

I slowly shuffled to the corner of my bed, for a weak but lengthy closing prayer. It lasted so long that my legs tingled like they "went to sleep," as my family likes to call it. I braced myself on the edge of the bed to stand up and....

The next thing I remember was hearing a series of strange voices in my head. I opened my eyes, and found myself lying on the floor along the side of the bed. About 30 minutes had passed, and I knew nothing of what happened.

I slowly pulled myself up, went to the bathroom mirror and found a big red spot on my forehead. If I hit the edge of the bed while falling, I never felt it -- yet suddenly I had a bigger mark than Mikhail Gorbachev.

But once I reached the bathroom, the internal pyrotechnics started again -- more heaving, more "running," more hacking. I'm not sure any of my Sunday dinner was left inside me when it was over.

I cleaned up things a bit, and tried again to get to bed. But this time, I took no chances -- grabbing a big plastic bucket and putting it at the bedside. There also was a cool washcloth around my neck, and a water bottle above my bed.
Thankfully, the bottle didn't fall off and bonk me on the head again.

The sleep time was restless, but calm. The throwing up stopped, and the sitting down to use the bathroom like a woman almost did. But when you open your eyes in the morning and the room seems to roll around for a couple of seconds like a carnival ride, things still aren't quite right.

After a morning prayer on my knees, somehow I blacked out again for a few moments. But this time, I wound up sitting on the floor near the bed. Laying low can have advantages, too.

Then came the drama of the day. I took an Advil pill, and had my usual breakfast. But it took a long time for me to swallow two simple slices of toast -- so long that I heard ESPN Radio hosts make the same point about four times.

Thankfully, the breakfast stayed down. The diarrhea was 95-percent stopped Monday night. A sweaty fever I had all night is gone. A two-and-a-half-hour midday rest on my bed worked wonders. And it was about 3:00 p.m. when my sense of humor came back.

(The sweat was really no surprise - nor are the 95-degree temperatures we're having. Rosh Hashanah is still two weeks away - and to borrow a principle I've heard from pastors over the years, it's not fall until God's calendar says it is.)

I played it safe, and heated a can of soup for dinner. My body rumbled slightly, but didn't explode again - so I was well enough during the evening to watch TV and do computer work. But I was only stirred up to about half my normal hormone level, when I saw the gorgeous Sam Ryan on the Monday Night Football sidelines.

It was a scary night, to be sure - with me wondering about everything about whether I had a stroke, to the rash possibly being a sign of West Nile Virus. But at least now I can sing about it, to the tune of "Stars Fell on Alabama":

I fell near Alabama,

And I hit my head so hard -

I wish I'd fell in Alabama, on lard!

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, September 18, 2005


It was one of the biggest dinners of the year in the church congregation I attend. It was so big that a Regional Pastor came down from Atlanta to speak, and I sang just before his sermon. Yet something was left behind this weekend - and I don't mean that series of Christian books.

This was what we call in the church a "potluck dinner." Admittedly that's strange in the first place, because the denomination opposes gambling....

Actually, this wasn't quite an absolute potluck dinner. For one thing, we were asked to sign up for what sort of dish we'd bring. For another thing, no one brought playing cards for after-dinner poker.

I put my name on the sign-up sheet under "desserts." To borrow from Senator Joseph Biden at the Supreme Court confirmation hearing, it's part of the "great kabuki dance" in our congregation. Single guys aren't expected to bring anything fancy - and if we do, we might look suspicious to certain members.

To answer an occasional question I receive - yes, I do know how to cook. For this dessert, it was as simple as following the instructions on the brownie box....

I prepared a brownie mix Friday evening for the weekend dinner - and knowing my cooking skills would be somewhat on trial, I took special care with it. Unlike a couple of weeks before, I watched my timer carefully so they wouldn't burn on the bottom.

The pan came out fine, and I worked around the crusty edges to cut 14 brownies for the church dinner. No, not the 13 of a "baker's dozen." It's two times seven, since our congregation teaches seven is the Biblical number of perfection. Exactly when college football stole the idea for touchdowns, I'm not sure....

The 14 brownies were placed carefully inside a resealable plastic box, sealed and kept overnight for the church dinner. As for the rest of the pan - well, let's just say this: sometimes being a single guy has its sweet advantages.

I took the boxed brownies into the church hall Saturday afternoon, and left them on a table in the back reserved for food. Then it was on to business as usual: setting up the audio, finding someone to start the music for my song - and in the middle of it all, we actually had a church service.

Our guest speaker used to be a pastor in New Orleans, and he openly stated his opinion that the city should NOT be rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. "It's a catastrophe waiting to happen again," he said. So? They're bringing indoor football back to Columbus....

When the service was over, the potluck dinner followed - but I quickly realized there was a problem. Several other people had brought either brownies or similar "cookie bars," and theirs were set out before the service on the "snack table." Slow response didn't work for FEMA, and it wouldn't for me....

My church duties include duplicating tapes of the sermon for a mailing list, and there were ten tapes to do Saturday. As a result, I didn't get in the dinner line until some people were heading back for seconds. One man seemed absolutely baffled when I said it was about putting others ahead of myself.

There was enough food left in the buffet line for a healthful dinner - and I know there was more than enough dessert. How do I know? Because my box of brownies wasn't on the main dessert table, while others had theirs out. It's like playing on the football "taxi squad" all season, and never getting in a game....

Perhaps they were holding my brownies in reserve, I thought as I sat down for dinner. This admittedly was an optimistic view - sort of like that Bible line about "saving the good wine" until later. In fact, that's an idea for next time - tell people I added some wine to the brownies, for flavor.

It was 6:30 p.m. or so when the dinner wound down - and I went to the "dessert table" in the back. Sure enough, my box of brownies sat there untouched. My dating life can have all sorts of parallels....

My name wasn't on the box of brownies, but it was left out of the potluck dinner -- and this wasn't the first time this had happened. So is something giving away my food offering, and leading dinner organizers to leave it in hiding? Should I seal each brownie in plastic wrap, to ensure my hands haven't ruined it?

What happens when I bring brownies to church might be enough to hurt some people's feelings. I'm dealing with it as hopefully as I can. But when my pastor tells me singing is "my gift," maybe he's sending a secondary message: cooking isn't.

(That reminds me: the pastor's wife said my song during the service left "goose bumps on the back of my neck." Sometimes they turn the air conditioning in this hall up a bit too high....)

BLOG UPDATE: Uh-oh - the Columbus man who claimed his copyrighted phrase was stolen [13 Sep] may be wrong. The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail commercial I saw Saturday night said, "For quality and quantity...." NOT "quality leads to quantity." Maybe the local man needs a quality hearing aid - and quantities of batteries.

In other old business: I drove by Burt's Butcher Shop near Peachtree Mall Saturday - and a sign was still posted, demanding the Columbus High School Class of 1995 pay its bill [14 Sep]. I don't understand this. Didn't that class have any well-paid baseball players on it?

And remember the new TV tower that crashed to the ground near Cusseta earlier this year? I'm told the replacement tower for WLGA TV-66 is up and its lights are flashing - but it doesn't look quite as tall as the ones around it. All the better to reflect the TV ratings, I guess....

Now for other items from the last weekend of summer:

+ A nine-hour fund-raising concert for hurricane survivors was staged on the grounds of Knology in Columbus. It was called "Storm Aid" - but if "Farm Aid" helps save farms, do we really want to save hurricanes?

+ The annual Shrine Circus opened at the Columbus Civic Center - which reminded me of a classic joke from a calendar of my youth: "Didya hear about the Shriner who went to the plastic surgeon? He wanted a fez lift."

+ Auburn's football team deflated Ball State 63-3. You knew this game was out of hand when the Tiger basketball team showed up, and asked if it could play the visitors next.

(Meanwhile, my rather surprising Kansas Jayhawks beat Louisiana Tech. They're now 3-0! That's a better record than Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and -- well, OK, Kansas hasn't PLAYED any college of that caliber yet, but....)

+ Instant Message to Atlanta's Fox Theater: Do you HAVE to show commercials already, promoting the "Radio City Christmas Show" in mid-November? I fear WGSY "Sunny 100 FM" will start playing holiday music any day now.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.62 a gallon at Marathon on Warm Springs Road.... two-liter store-brand sodas for 52 cents at Kroger in Auburn-Opelika.... and to avoid my brownies, spend 25 cents for a Little Debbie at convenience stores....

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.

Friday, September 16, 2005

for 17 SEP 05: WHO RULES?

(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.)

There's only one way in, and one way out. The signs outside the Mildred Terry Branch Library make it clear. So when someone's car blocks the only way out, it can cause problems - and when the driver leaves the car running, in that neighborhood he risks grand theft.

That's what I encountered Friday at the Mildred Terry Library. I entered from Seventh Street, parked in the parking lot, used a computer for about 30 minutes - then was blocked from using the only way out by a green idling car. This was one time where an SUV might have been helpful, to roll over curbs and grass to get out.

But I have a humble Honda, so I rolled to the parking lot entrance and decided to wait on the driver of the green car. He entered the library through the back door, while I walk around and go in the front door. So I get more exercise, AND save on gasoline.

I only had to wait about a minute before the driver of the green car came out. He saw me waiting, and pointed to the open entryway from Seventh Street. That lane had crossed my mind. But with my luck, a car would have turned in as I tried to pull out - resulting in a Civic sandwich.

"That's one-way in the other direction," I explained to the driver still blocking the way out to Veterans Parkway.

"But it's open," he said.

"But it's marked as one-way."

"Rules are made to be broken," he said as he closed the door inside his idling green car. He didn't need to recite that philosophy in words -- his car already said it for him.

"No, sir. Rules are made to be obeyed." I doubt the man heard that, because he was closing his green car door -- so I never finished my poem: "That's a rhyme which works every time."

That 15-second conversation revealed a difference in mindset -- one which sets me apart from a lot of other people, and probably sets many Christians apart from the world at large. It's called obedience. President Clinton called it "playing by the rules" -- although we all remember what happened to him....

Many people don't want to be obedient. You see it on talk shows, where people "do something for me" as opposed to their loved ones. You saw it in New Orleans, as people looted stores. And you see it in library driveways - where some people apparently don't mind letting $2.70-a-gallon gas burn for minutes.

Some people might even say we shouldn't be obedient. They might call for "thinking outside the box." But while there are times and places to do that, the people who promote obedience often find themselves outside other people's boxes - and getting stuffed back in boxes, by people holding duct tape.

Scoffers say blind obedience leads to Nazism or Communism. But it's also at the core of being a Christian -- obeying the law of God. Amazingly, the people who support separation of church and state have NOT yet tried to revoke Bible-based laws against murder and stealing.

Oh yes, by the way: as the green car left the library driveway in front of me, the driver turned right onto Veterans Parkway. It's a divided four-lane road in that block. So why didn't Mr. Rule-Breaker turn left, and take on two lanes of traffic in the wrong direction?

(Then again, maybe I'm guilty of being a judgmental Christian with all of this. The driver of the green car may be allergic to parking lots....)

P.S.: About our title today -- I try to let God rule over me. How would YOU answer that question?

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.


"Whoa! Wait a minute!!" some of you may be saying already. "You actually walk into bars?" Well yes, sometimes I do. Until they build a Burger King or Dunkin Donuts with 20 TV screens for watching sports events....

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT? Yes, I walked into a bar Thursday night -- for the second stop of "Meet the Blogger Week." Things were quiet and the crowd was ordinary inside the Sports Page on Veterans Parkway. In other words, I might as well have been at a Catfish baseball game.

Plenty of seats were open around the centerpiece bar, but I chose my spot carefully. My goal at The Sports Page was to make sure blog-meeters could see me - and watch as many different screens as possible, if the fans became too boring.

I actually showed up a few minutes before the scheduled time of 7:30 p.m., but no "early birds" were there to greet me. Yet I assume the Sports Page expected a big crowd during the night - because why else would they serve me diet cola in a plastic cup?

Then I ordered an appetizer, more than ready to share it with blog readers who might drop by. They were The Sports Page's "Canseco Nachos" - but don't worry: I asked and they do NOT have added steroids.

The Canseco Nachos were a plateful, loaded with chili meat, cheese, chopped onions, sliced jalapeno peppers - and somewhere amid that big pile, I actually pulled out a couple of dozen nacho chips.

The main events on the two big screens at The Sports Page were college football games. Hampton played North Carolina A&T, while Utah was at Texas Christian - so there, you see? This sports bar put a Christian college on, to appeal to teetotalers.

(When I left, Hampton had a 28-0 second-quarter lead - so in TV scoreboard shorthand, on this night the "HAM" got fat.)

It apparently was also a trivia night at The Sports Page. I was able to solve many of the questions on their trivia screens. Trouble is, most bars have "TEAM trivia nights" - when your friends swear they also know it all, and they all have different answers.

High above me at The Sports Page was a reminder of how little has changed here over the years. A giant headline says, "Braves Win N.L. Penant." The fact that this misspelling remains may show the need for a bar spelling bee, instead of a trivia tournament.

So there was a great deal to entertain me - but how many people showed up to meet the blogger? When I left around 8:45, the answer was zero. The high of Tuesday's Kiwanis Club meeting was replaced by a low, which reminded me a bit like I'd eaten too many nachos.

I'm grateful for every blog reader I have, including you. Perhaps this weekend you'll be able to come out and meet me - especially since this time, the food will be free....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for today's abbreviation lesson:


TFPIC [12 Sep] = Tongue Firmly Planted In Cheek.

Signing off in B'ham!


AHA! Which doesn't mean an abbreviation for the American Hospital Association - just an aha.

SPAM-A-RAMA: Hidden at the bottom of a spam e-mail I received Thursday was this sentence: "Chair stop copy round." Well yes, I guess so. Smash a chair on your copier hard enough, and the machinery would stop going around and around.

Now let's wrap up the week by sending a virtual stack of Instant Messages....

+ To countless Columbus churches: What gives? NO special services today, on the "national day of prayer" for hurricane victims?? Do all of you believe God was punishing New Orleans, too???

+ To attorney Joseph Wiley: Did you mean that? You say your nine-year-old go-kart driving client should have negligent homicide charges dropped, because he's too young to understand stop sign laws?! Then why was he driving a go-kart in the first place -- and what's the opposite of GO?

+ To the organizers of an "Escape School" program at the Columbus Public Library: I understand your purpose, to prevent child abductions -- but couldn't you come up with a better name? Some teenagers around here might think you're encouraging them to drop out.

+ To the man who called WRCG's "TalkLine" Thursday and wished Georgia had a "Democratic Governor for a change": For a change?? Isn't that what Georgia had for 130 years, before Sonny Perdue was elected?

+ To WCGT TV-16: Wow - you're showing "Extra" at 6:00 p.m. now! Does this mean you plan another attempt at looking like a regular TV station?

+ To the construction crew building a new taxiway at the Columbus Airport: That's about enough! Put your orange and white checkerboard flags away -- you Tennessee fans....

+ To the Atlanta Hawks: Really now - do you expect a big crowd for your exhibition game at the Civic Center in late October? The Columbus Riverdragons rarely drew big crowds, and they actually won games.

+ To the National Football League: I think I know the real reason why you fined Atlanta's Chad Lavalais $7,500. You heard that Louisiana State sideline reporter a couple of years ago - who called Lavalais "mo' money, mo' money, mo' money." [True!]

+ To Georgia's Department of Economic Development: I don't mind your new state slogan, "Put your dreams in motion." But you shouldn't be revealing secrets of football playbooks this early in the season.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.68 a gallon at Marathon on Airport Thruway.... two 20-ounce store-brand sodas for one dollar at Walgreens.... and someone should make fast money, selling lawn chairs outside Saturday's Storm Aid benefit....

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, September 15, 2005


I pulled into the Columbus Public Library Wednesday afternoon and found two TV news vans parked outside. Either the Library Board was up to something again - or they were seriously double-checking how to pronounce Iraq.

It turns out the Muscogee County Library Board's Art Committee was meeting again. This time, it was considering other ways to spend the $250,000 allocated for Albert Paley's "Transformation" sculpture. And of course, art lovers wouldn't dare invest the money in some stuffy right-wing thing like the stock market.

The Art Committee came up with several ideas for spending the $250,000. Yet one obvious option never was mentioned on the evening news - so this may be the only group in Columbus NOT talking about giving money to hurricane survivors.

One surprising proposal was to use some of the $250,000 for new disabled parking spaces at libraries. Does it cost THAT much money to paint wider stripes in a parking lot?

Another suggestion was to spend some of the $250,000 on library shelving. Now that would be appropriate - tying in perfectly with the shelving of the Albert Paley sculpture idea.

It will be up to the Muscogee County Library Board to make a final decision on how to spend that $250,000. The board's attorneys still are trying to resolve the mess over ordering that sculpture, then backing out. These people don't need "Transformation," they need a transfiguration....

Speaking of libraries: Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer reported Sylvia Bunn will leave as manager of the Mildred Terry branch in a few weeks. She's a nice caring woman with a Caribbean accent - and unlike some suspected bank robbers, I think her accent is real.

Sylvia Bunn has been active in encouraging reading and library use in the downtown area, especially among children. She even received a certificate for her efforts from The New York Times - which shows how different that newspaper is. The Ledger-Enquirer hands out "Reader's Choice Awards" for things like the best burgers....

With no really big thing happening Wednesday, let's sum up a lot of little things:

+ Columbus Police announced the seizure of 500 pounds of marijuana. One of the suspects in custody is named Harold Hill - yes, as in the main character of "The Music Man." He's got trouble, right here in River City! With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pot.

+ Georgia's Consumer Affairs office announced seven Columbus gas stations are under investigation for possible price gouging. Here's hoping they bring the price of a doughnut down below 75 cents once and for all.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer named Tim Chitwood its new Columbus Council reporter. If you didn't think these meetings were humorous before, maybe now you will....

(Both Tim Chitwood and Richard Hyatt had front-page column-like stories in Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer. Is it only a matter of time before they co-anchor a newscast on the newspaper's web site?)

+ Delta Air Lines of Atlanta filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- two days after a spokesperson said no decision had been reached about it. I think it's safe to call that statement "Denial Delta."

(Both Delta and Northwest Airlines filed for bankruptcy, putting four major U.S. carriers under chapter 11. Maybe the Columbus airport shuttle buses should expand their service, and drive all the day to New York and Washington.)

+ Atlanta Falcons defensive back Kevin Mathis injured his knee, and could be lost for the season. This follows Mathis getting ejected from Monday night's game for fighting, before the opening kickoff. Was he Peerless Price's roommate on road trips last season?

+ Instant Message to All-Pro Chevrolet of LaGrange: Thank you for telling me on WRBL that your big "Labor Day Weekend sale" ends September 6 -- during the 11:00 p.m. news of September 14.

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.