Monday, October 31, 2005


It's October 31, and you know what that means. Your office pool can begin, for when WGSY "Sunny 100 FM" will start playing nothing but Christmas music.

A Christmas attitude already seems to be taking over parts of Columbus, even before Halloween. In fact, I was a bit surprised when I jogged past the downtown "Spooktacular" over the weekend - because no one wore a Santa Claus costume.

The blending of holidays has been going on in Columbus for several years. Once again over the weekend, the Trade Center hosted "Christmas Made in the South" - in late October. But come to think of it, they had that "Deer Expo" in the middle of summer.

The creeping advance of Christmas moved to the Riverwalk this year. Holiday wreaths were up in the downtown Columbus section Friday. Unless they're up for football quarterbacks to hold passing drills....

Some news reports claim major retailers are starting Christmas holiday promotions early this year. Well, not really. I remember one year in the 1990's when the Macy's store in downtown Atlanta brought out the pine trees less than a week after Labor Day. Greenery and greenbacks must somehow be connected.

(Then there was my Hawaiian vacation in 1988 - where the only shopping mall on the island of Kauai had a Christmas tree up on October 3. But then, they can't really display changing autumn leaves there....)

Some people might not mind Christmas crowding out Halloween -- especially if they consider Halloween a day for celebrating the devil. But the local churches holding alternative "Fall Festivals" tonight probably won't stoop to singing carols on the sidewalk.

Which reminds me: why is it that the Columbus area has two high schools with "devil" nicknames -- Columbus High and Phenix City Central? This is supposed to be SUCH a Bible-loving city, after all. Were the public schools full of left-wing atheists even before Madalyn Murray O'Hair came along?

I'm tempted to borrow from the classics here, and declare "a plague on both your houses." While we shouldn't honor the devil, there's no solid proof that Jesus was born December 25. It's all enough to make me wish Lonnie Jackson held his Veteran's Day celebration every October 31, instead.

Keeping with a long personal custom, I'll get out of the house before the trick-or-treat crowd shows up for Halloween. After all, enough beggars looking for free food cross my path the rest of the year - and they're homeless grownups.

(Did you hear the National Public Radio commentary two weeks ago from Detroit? People in a low-income neighborhood there cross a street into a wealthy neighborhood for Halloween handouts -- people of ALL ages. It only shows how the day subtly reinforces socialism.)

The challenge is to find a place which is NOT celebrating Halloween. Columbus State University has an event in its gym. Local libraries tend to have costume parties, as do malls. Some years, I've actually gone to work and cleaned out computer files for free to escape it all.

There's only one redeeming thing for me about holidays such as Halloween - and longtime blog readers already know what that is. Come Tuesday, chocolate will be on sale in stores for half-price. Sweets are much sweeter when there's more money in your bank account....

Now a quick review of other things we noticed, on a Sunday when the sun set early for some strange reason:

+ The first Hindu temple in Columbus held its grand opening. Apparently no Christian groups in this "Bible Belt" city protested this - but they might have a secret weapon. The "Strength Team" arrives at Cascade Hills Church this week, and they can knock that temple down with a few blows.

+ The "Morning of Praise" telecast from Fourth Street Baptist Church showed Pastor J.H. Flakes declaring "Columbus is not healed" - and suggesting it's because his members don't attend Wednesday night prayer meetings. There, you see? At least one African-American minister DOES blame his own....

+ The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance held a fund-raising concert at the Civic Center, for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The alliance finally may be moving on from the Kenneth Walker case - at least until the civil trial starts.

+ Russell County High School baseball coach Tony Rasmus confessed to the Ledger-Enquirer he used steroids while in junior college two decades ago. But Rasmus says he does NOT let his children use them - and perhaps just as notably, Rasmus did not announce he's now a homosexual.

+ Carl Edwards won the NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In fact, he won both Nextel Cup races there this year - and what's more amazing, he did it with different sponsor logos on his hood. [True!]

(The race Carl Edwards won Sunday was the "Bass Pro Shops - MBNA 500." You almost expected to see a TV fishing host put a credit card on a hook, and throw it in a lake.)

+ Instant Message to the owner of the Chevron station along U.S. 280 in Cusseta: Your gas price is still ten cents higher than the Liberty station one mile north. How many desperate drivers from Albany still are getting suckered by you?

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, October 30, 2005


They're known locally as the "Beach Police" - but I didn't realize that until my latest vacation. When two cruisers from the Panama City Beach, Florida force surround your car, you tend to notice the logos on the side a bit better.

Was I ever surprised when two "Beach Police" officers came upon my car in a shopping center parking lot a couple of weeks ago. It was especially surprising, considering I was at least a half-block away from the beach....

But here's the biggest surprise: I was surrounded while doing nothing more than listening to the radio. I arrived extra-early at my church denomination's convention for a morning seminar, so I parked in the shopping center lot and listened to Christian radio for 30 minutes. Maybe that was the problem - I wasn't on the beach, like a good tourist.

I was supposed to park at the shopping center, because the church convention took place at a resort complex across the street with limited parking. That's curious enough in itself - because the convention is supposed to picture the knowledge of God being opened to all, and yet it's inside a gated community.

But anyway: two Beach Police officers pulled up as I hopped out of the car. "Are you all right?" one asked, suggesting some people were concerned about me. No, I hadn't stayed out drinking all night at any beach clubs....

I wore a shirt and tie, with a sportcoat to put on at the seminar and a briefcase for my Bible and notebook. But the Beach Police asked for my drivers' license, and did a records check on me. I decided this was no time to offer them my CD.

So what caused this unexpected run-in with the law? I didn't grasp it until a police officer explained. My car was parked facing a Vision Bank office, and the staff apparently feared I was planning a robbery. If they had heard my radio.... well, no. The criminal in "Pulp Fiction" quoted Bible verses, didn't he?

The police check found no outstanding warrants against me. In fact, I was relieved to learn I wasn't on some Columbus Police "watch list" for some of the jokes I've written here....

"Our apologies for the inconvenience," one officer said after the license check and a short chat.

"Send my apologies to the bank," I replied, "because I didn't mean to scare anybody." Next time I rent a car for vacation, I'll be sure to ask for one which isn't black.

There were other memorable moments during my trip to Panama City Beach. One was the restaurant server who told me she knows Columbus well, from trips to the Woodruff Farm soccer complex. I assume she's a goalie, because she served dinner with her hands.

(The server's name was Maite, at a bayside restaurant called "Hooks." If she works there long enough, I suppose she'll be promoted to First Maite....)

The weather was wonderful during most of our ten days at Panama City Beach. But the "red tide" algae made it hard to breathe for a couple of days. I'd rather be around the Crimson Tide than the red tide any day.

One restaurant's menu noted as of last year, 37 different condominium towers were under construction along the Gulf of Mexico in Panama City Beach. Some of them seem to be 20 stories tall or higher - and they're slowly turning the "Redneck Riviera" into the world's tallest seawall.

People must be interested in those high-rise Gulf Coast condominiums. I saw one ad offering a large condo for $950,000. After this year's hurricanes, can't you buy several city blocks of New Orleans for that price?

(Perhaps this explains why a coin laundry near Panama City Beach's city hall charges $1.75 to use standard washers. I hereby forgive my usual laundromat for raising its price earlier this month to one dollar.)

Several small motels, restaurants and condo complexes are holding out so far - but the difference along the beach is noticeable from my first trip to the Panama City area four years ago. Ten years from now, the big attraction there might be tightrope walkers between the high-rises.

We must also alert Midland residents -- Panama City Beach has a big Wal-Mart Super-Center in the middle of it. It has for years - yet all those small shops offering tattoos, waffles and beachwear find a way to stay open.

So how was the church convention? All in all, it was OK. But it had some curious moments:

+ I was invited to five separate activities - but only two of them actually happened. One man from Mississippi promised to cook burgers and hot dogs at the condo complex where I stayed. But when he tried to explain why it's OK to be drunk if you don't harm anybody, I became skeptical of his invitation -- and sure enough....

+ In another case, I was invited to a "potluck dinner" at the fourth floor of a tower - but after knocking on the door and ringing the bell several times, no one answered. That big bag of potato chips was tasty driving home.

+ A message board for singles outside the main meeting hall had only two index cards on it at one point - and both of them were blank.

UPDATE: We've now posted pictures from Panama City Beach for you - and now let's look at weekend events here at home:

+ People across the area returned to standard time, by setting their clocks back. I have to be careful doing this - because if I set them back too far, they'll fall off the table.

+ The Convention and Visitors Bureau marked "Columbus on My Mind Day." For some reason, no candidates for Georgia state offices were noticed in the crowd.

+ The price of gasoline in downtown Columbus dropped again, to a low of $2.25 a gallon. Yet someone told me the price was $2.09 a gallon in southwest Missouri about a week ago. I assume that was for gas, and not Ozark moonshine....

+ The "Chattahoochee Chronicle" reported judges are accusing the Chattahoochee County Sheriff of "pocketing" dozens of arrest warrants. Well, this IS a unique way to avoid having an overcrowded jail.

+ Habitat for Humanity announced it will open an Atlanta office, but keep its headquarters in Americus. No one's asking the obvious question here - will part of the Americus office be torn down, and used as building materials in Atlanta?

+ WXTX "News at Ten" weekend anchor Elizabeth White revealed she became married last Saturday. But for some reason, no videotape was shown of the ceremony. Katie Couric would never let that happen....

+ Columbus State University's women's soccer team lashed Lander 3-0. In only its second season, C.S.U. tied for first place in the Peach Belt Conference. So how many Cougar players are on Mia Hamm's e-mail list?

+ Instant Message to Captain D's on the 280 Bypass in Phenix City: How COULD you? Your sign is promoting "all you can eat battered fish" - during Domestic Violence Awareness Month?!?!

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© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 28, 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.)

It was totally unexpected, and I never could have planned it. But on the vacation which just ended, I came face-to-face with Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is blonde. Tomorrow appears to be about 22 to 25 years old. And Tomorrow serves dinner at a nice restaurant in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Who could have guessed Tomorrow would be at a place called the Saltwater Grill? But there she was, a server with "Tomorrow" on her name badge. I'm not sure I'd want to hire someone named Tomorrow to work at a restaurant - because customers might fear that's when their food is coming.

"I have to ask," I said at dinnertime to Tomorrow, "and I'm sure many have asked it...."

"Late baby." Yup, she's been asked that question - so often that people like me don't even have to ask.

(In a way, it's reassuring to know Tomorrow took her name from being born late. She could have been named after that old Abbott and Costello baseball routine.)

I asked Tomorrow if she has brothers and sisters. The answer: one sister. "Her name is Summer." Too bad she wasn't named Yesterday - because she would have made a fortune appearing at Beatles nostalgia shows, or maybe with Hilary Duff.

"Back then, Summer wasn't that common a name," Tomorrow admitted. But then along came swimmer Summer Sanders - who as I vaguely recall had an entire Olympic Games named after her.

Tomorrow came across as a happy young woman - but I imagine she's had to hear the same tired jokes about her name, over and over....

+ Why isn't she invited to parties? Because Tomorrow never comes.

+ Why isn't she working at Disneyland? After all, it has a Tomorrow-land.

+ Where does Tomorrow go to meet new friends? To a Procrastinators' Club.

Yet here's the amazing thing: I went to Panama City Beach to focus on tomorrow - only with a small T. The church denomination I attend held a convention called the Feast of Tabernacles, celebrating 1,000 years of Jesus ruling over the Kingdom of God on earth. That's more than 350,000 tomorrows - and I wouldn't mind if they were all blonde.

When I walked into that restaurant, I had no guarantee I'd see Tomorrow. (The server, I mean....)

But come to think of it, none of us are guaranteed to see tomorrow - as in the calendar. Have you thought about what might happen to you, beyond today? What would occur for you next? Are you sure you'd be happy about it? Or are you concerned your "tomorrow" might be something like a grill?

It's certainly worth carefully considering -- not only for your property and possessions, but for your existence. I believe the end of this life is NOT the end of it all. That's why I'm glad I met that restaurant server -- so as Fleetwood Mac would sing, I "don't stop thinking about Tomorrow."

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Let's start with the number-one joke of Thursday, which I heard from a variety of people. They wished someone would pay THEM $35,000 NOT to make a sculpture for the Columbus Public Library....

The Muscogee County Library Board approved a proposed settlement Thursday, over that planned Albert Paley sculpture on Macon Road. Paley would be paid $35,000 - meaning when it's all said and done, his "Transformation" turned into a pile of cash.

The proposed $35,000 settlement puts the cost of Albert Paley's "Transformation" at about $1,000 a foot in height. Before you declare this price outrageous, stop and think. Think about the pro basketball players coming to Columbus tonight, who are paid at least 10 times as much per foot.

After all, the original agreement was to pay Albert Paley $250,000 for the Transformation sculpture. But Columbus Council objected -- since that money could be better spent to pay 25 new police officers.

The Library Board voted 14-2 for the proposed settlement with Albert Paley. I'm not sure which two members voted no. Maybe they're the two remaining people in Columbus who actually think "Transformation" would look good outside the library.

Library Board attorney Neal Callahan explained without a settlement, the sculpture dispute probably would go to trial - with Columbus city government, the Muscogee County School District and construction company all involved. So many lawyers would be around a table that it might as well be a poker showdown.

Library Board Chairman Dr. Tom Wade said the $35,000 "Paley payoff" will come not from tax money, but from several anonymous donors. Wouldn't you like to see those donors have their tax returns audited? "Your Honor, I donated that money so an artist wouldn't do anything weird...."

But Library Board member Brinkley Pound expressed concern about the anonymous donations - saying they won't improve the board's local image. No one seemed to say that, when mystery donors kept Reading Recovery programs going in schools.

Dr. Tom Wade said he still hopes some sort of artwork can be placed in front of the Columbus Public Library. Some people might argue the most fitting display would be a gold-plated tall stack of dollar bills.

By the way, former President Jimmy Carter will be at the Columbus Public Safety in late November. He'll sign copies of his new book - and where better than a building with an inflated budget, like he used to have in Washington?

E-MAIL UPDATE: We sent an Instant Message to local baseball star Frank Thomas a couple of days ago - but someone else responded to it:

Hmmmmm, maybe Frank could land in ATL with old AU Alumnus Tim Hudson. F. T. got his ring tonight, [Wednesday] so he can move on now. Interestingly enough though, Frank would have to beat out the young dude playng backup roles for ATL at 1B - Mr. Franco! With Franco being somewhere between 40 and 60 years of age, Frankie could have a shot!

Roll Tide Roll,


We should note Frank Thomas was injured much of the season, as his Chicago White Sox won the World Series. So if he comes to Atlanta and shares time with Julio Franco, don't be surprised to find a park bench next to first base at Turner Field.

Now let's put our Sox away for awhile, and check other headlines from Thursday:

+ The Columbus Health Department announced it's out of flu shots, and won't have any more for several weeks. What's going on here? This happened before any TV newscaster told people there's a shortage, and it's time to panic.

+ Columbus gas prices dropped below $2.35 a gallon, to their lowest levels since early August. If this trend lasts, someone might ask the Hurricane Katrina evacuees to go home to New Orleans and start all this over again.

+ The evening news revealed a draft report on Columbus city pay recommends an $8,000 raise for some maintenance workers. If any group knows how to put the screws to city officials, this group should....

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley spoke at an economic conference in Eufaula - but I'm told he refused to answer any questions about the indictment of reelection opponent Don Siegelman. He'll let Roy Moore do the Christian honors, and declare Mr. Siegelman a sinner.

+ WRBL reporter Chris Sweigart reported by phone from Iraq - and openly wished he'd taken a jacket, for cool autumn nights near Baghdad. Why the U.S. Army doesn't have spare flak jackets to give him, I have no idea....

+ NASCAR driver Greg Biffle visited Fort Benning. The driver of the "Army National Guard" car did some shooting with soldiers - but for some reason, he didn't modify the rear spoilers on any tanks so they could drive faster.

+ Eufaula High School completed a perfect 10-0 football season, by winning 21-7 over Montgomery "Jeff Davis." This is how you can tell which side lost the Civil War. No one dares Booker T. Washington High School "Bookie."

+ Brookstone's softball game lost to Trion 1-0 during the state tournament at South Commons. Brookstone still can win the Class A title by advancing through the loser's bracket - so the slogan now is if at first you don't succeed, Trion, Trion

+ Instant Message to whomever left an Alabama Crimson Tide car flag attached to a power pole on Fourth Street: I've give you a little credit. At least the flag is pointing west, TOWARD Alabama....

COMING THIS WEEKEND: A Gulf Coast vacation wrap-up.... including why I was suddenly surrounded by two police cars....

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, October 27, 2005


Auburn University's football coach found himself playing some defense Wednesday. This was surprising, because some alumni might want him to start place-kicking instead.

ESPN Radio personalities let Tommy Tuberville have it, because he told a luncheon the network has too much power over who plays for college football's national championship. I wondered who told Auburn to put Louisiana-Monroe on the schedule this season....

Tommy Tuberville apparently criticized one ESPN analyst in particular. The Auburn coach said former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz is lobbying for a Southern California-Texas championship game, after he "couldn't win a game in our conference." Well, at least Holtz beat Southern Cal a couple of times - while Tuberville hasn't.

ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook declared Tommy Tuberville was "out of line" for criticizing Lou Holtz. Either it's because Holtz won a national title at Notre Dame, is considered a college football legend - or Cook wanted Tuberville to criticize Terry Bowden first.

Tommy Tuberville explained his comments on ESPN Radio's "Dan Patrick Show." He said many personalities there are his friends, but warned people wearing microphones can sway voters in football polls. Aw c'mon, coach! We all know news reporters never do that in political campaigns....

Tommy Tuberville went on to say college football announcers should not push for particular teams, since there's no playoff to determine a champion. Hopefully Larry Munson got the message, and he'll be neutral this weekend when Georgia faces Florida.

Tommy Tuberville admitted there may be "lazy voters" among college football coaches, who don't follow the top teams and can be swayed by sports announcers. Maybe there's an overlooked answer for this. The "Alabama Graduates for Truth" should buy TV time to run attack ads.

(That's the curious thing about this whole controversy. Auburn has two losses, and is out of the running for a national title - so is Tommy Tuberville saying all this to do a weird "psych job" on the Alabama and Georgia coaches?)

As for Auburn itself, Tommy Tuberville admitted kicker John Vaughn has taken "all kinds of abuse" for missing five field goals against Louisiana State. But the coach added he "doesn't listen to that kind of stuff." Apparently Tuberville delegates that to assistant coaches, who have told him about it.

Once the interview was over, Dan Patrick dismissed the accusations of network favorite-playing. He declared ESPN "doesn't even get the national title game." Huh?! Doesn't ESPN have control over most ABC Sports programming now? Not to mention ESPN establishing the Fort Worth Bowl a few years ago.... [True!]

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley released a draft report Wednesday on city employee pay. This is NOT the final document. So remember, this could be like a movie trailer -- where all the juicy scenes lure you in, then they're finally left in the garbage.

The draft report by University of Georgia researchers says new Columbus police officers with Associates' degrees should be earning about $30,000 a year. Right now they earn about $25,000. I can see it now: the Fraternal Order of Police "5-K Run."

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says it would cost more than ten million dollars to implement everything in the draft report on city employee pay. Now we almost wonder if he asked for too small a raise several months ago - because eliminating his salary wouldn't cover all of this.

The City Manager reminded Columbus residents higher city employee pay will NOT happen overnight. Well, no - I think the current wait is closer to 1,001 nights....

As the clock runs out for writing, let's check other notes from a "White Sox World Series Winner" Wednesday (as the Chicago announcers called it):

+ Columbus Airport Commission member Don Cook told WRBL United Airlines is interested in beginning local service. If flights actually start from Columbus to United's main airport in Chicago, we want Frank Thomas's picture on the planes.

+ The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $118,000 fine against the Golden Foundry east of downtown, for unsafe working conditions. Imagine what OSHA might do, if inspectors discover the outside of the foundry isn't golden.

(Golden Foundry has 15 days to respond to the proposed OSHA fine - so we'll see if managers claim the accusations are unfoundried.)

+ Muscogee County School District administrators attended a seminar on "Understanding Poverty." Was this special guest speaker really necessary? After all, some teachers claim they're living IN poverty now.

+ WRBL's evening news interviewed a poultry farmer named Billy Gilley. I'd sing a song of Billy Gilley, but you might find it simply silly -- and I don't want to be called hillbilly....

+ Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was indicted on racketeering charges, for the second time in two years. Can the prosecutors arrange a trade - with Siegelman going to Texas, in exchange for Tom DeLay?

+ Instant Message to the Atlanta Hawks: Are you kidding? I mean, with those commercials claiming Friday's appearance in Columbus is a "preseason battle for the ages"?! [CORRECTED] If it doesn't count, will anyone remember it even ONE age from now??

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, October 26, 2005

26 OCT 05: I-M HOME

We returned home easily and safely from our Florida vacation Tuesday night. And we returned early enough that we can catch up on a few Instant Messages while we unpack:

+ To the Columbus Fire Department: What do you mean, the Jordan Mills fire Sunday night "raised some red flags?" First of all, Buck Ice across the street has flown an official Confederate flag for years....

+ To Lance Foods: Thank you for stepping in to buy Tom's Foods - but we hope you'll understand if Columbus residents don't seem too thrilled about it. A marriage of Lance and Tom doesn't go over well in a Bible Belt city.

+ To all drivers in Eufaula: Our sympathies. Panama City's best gas price Tuesday evening was $2.38 and dropping. So was Columbus's price. When the best your city offers is around $2.59, it's time to shop around for some better pipelines.

+ To CBS News reporter Sharyn Alfonsi: After reviewing your report on Fort Benning military children online, how DID you find your way here? You claimed you came down "I-96" from South Carolina, but I don't think that's possible.

+ To all Columbus meteorologists: Did you dare to do what we saw one Panama City station do - show a picture of the hurricane with Wilma Flintstone's head sticking out from it?

+ To anyone who may remember former Columbus TV reporter Angela Melvin: We found her in Panama City, co-hosting a morning newscast. But she needs to tell her co-workers you don't spell "football" with one L -- over and over again.

+ To WEAM-AM: What a pleasant surprise -- you're actually broadcasting World Series games! The Clear Channel radio stations never seemed to think they mattered.

+ To Frank Thomas: What are you thinking, as you watch the Chicago White Sox march toward a World Series title while you're on the disabled list? Would you like to join fellow Phenix Citian Tim Hudson in Atlanta next year?

+ To former Auburn kicker David Duval: After what happened last Saturday night, please come home. All is forgiven.

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.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Two homes are about to be blessed," says the envelope on my desk. "Yours first! Then it must go to another dear friend." I think I've heard of these things before - and somehow I've survived not passing on chain letters.

This letter, though, is different in many ways. For one thing, a short prayer to Jesus is written on the back of it -- asking that "the one whose hands open this letter" receive "the desires of their heart." I appreciate their concern. But a main desire of my heart married a building contractor on the West Coast nine years ago....

I'm familiar with this letter, based on its address. "Saint Matthew's Churches" in Tulsa, Oklahoma sends mailings like this all the time. If you reply in faith, somehow a "blessing" is bound to come your way. And of course, if you include a contribution, a blessing is bound to head THEIR way.

The mailings from St. Matthew's Churches are suspicious, though -- sometimes without even opening the envelope. For instance, the letter on my desk shows the ministry's zip code as 74121. But the other side shows it's "mailed from zip code 52641." Somehow it isn't blessed quite enough to have a connection with "90210."

Another feature of the St. Matthew's Church mailings is the little trinket or gimmick inside. Over the years, they've sent me all sorts of things:
+ A gold-laminated number seven. Too bad my apartment number never has matched this.
+ A key ring with a green plastic cross attached. Amazing - I didn't even have to go to the church carnival to win it.
+ A tiny vial of "holy water." Just the right size, I suppose, for watering your mustard seed so it will grow....

There's a phrase in the world of ministries for these little trinkets, and it's not very polite. They're called "Jesus junk." For the believers who like to say, "God doesn't make any junk" -- I agree with you. But God doesn't make these things, men do.

Oh yes, did I mention this letter is from Tulsa - the same city Oral Roberts has called home for so long? As far as I know, the ministries are NOT related. But my mother stopped listening to Oral Roberts after she was offered vials of anointing oil in exchange for a donation. I think it was because she tended to cook with shortening.

So what's inside the latest letter from Tulsa? As I write this, I'm opening the envelope - and it's an ANOINTED PRAYER RUG! Well, that's what it SAYS it is. Others might dismiss it as a 17-by-11 inch folded sheet of paper.

"God's holy blessing power is in the enclosed anointed prayer rug we are loaning you to use!!!" So says a letter accompanying the rug - but wait a minute. You're only LOANING it?! Over the weekend the church I attend mailed me a 120-page booklet on Jesus - and they're letting me have it for free.

Believe it or not, I'm supposed to pray on the "anointed prayer rug" for whatever I need - then leave it overnight in my Bible at Philippians 4:19, then mail it back to Tulsa the next day. The letter explains there's "another family that's in need of a blessing." And I get the feeling this ministry is in need of reducing copying costs.

Hasn't this church in Tulsa ever heard of the Internet? Thanks to computers, Well, I was able to share MOST of it. This rug of blessings from God is bigger than my scanner....

A testimony letter with the "prayer rug" has the story of one woman who prayed with only $50 to last until pay day. Somehow (the letter doesn't say how), now "$46,888.20 has me out of debt." Don't you wonder which horses she bet on?

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, October 23, 2005

BLOG CORRECTION: The NBC-38 show at 6:00 a.m. is "Rise N' Shine," of course. Our apologies for the error.

We're still on vacation -- and suddenly the diskette we're using to post Classic Blog items while we're away doesn't want to work. We'll try at a different library Monday, if we're able. Otherwise, we'll see you again Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday, October 21, 2005


With Matt Young apparently out of WRCG's way after today, we've heard from his TalkLine co-host:

Richard! You do make me laugh. My job is secure, for now. You know the old saying though, Nobody is indispensable and nothing could be more true in this business. I'm not really at liberty to disclose a lot of information today but I can tell you that Talkline will run from 7AM to 10 AM beginning this Monday. Stay tuned. Your friend, Robbie Watson

At least the government wonks and extremists still have ONE place to go at 6:00 a.m. -- and we hope Calvin Floyd on NBC-38's "Coffee Break" has someone screening his calls....

More when we return next week....

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, October 19, 2005


Your WRCG "Wake-Up Call" is being cancelled. TalkLine survives -- but for how long?

The co-host tells all here.

More on this when we return from vacation.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The following phone call is fictional. But it's based on a real-life ethical puzzle I recently faced....)

"My phone number is 1-800 D-R L-A-U-R-A. Richard, welcome to the program."

"Hi, thanks for taking my call. I...."

"Wait. Are you your kids' mom?"

"Well - uhhh - no, I'm not."

"Well, why AREN'T you, then?"

"Because for one thing, I don't have any children."

"Oh. Go ahead."

"Thank you. My moral dilemma is about...."

"First of all, how many of my books have you read?"

"Uhhhh - none of them, but...."

"Then what you calling ME for? My books are at libraries. You can check them out for free, if you're one of those cheapskate singles."

"How did you know I was single?"

"How did I KNOW? It's my job. I'm the host. I'm Dr. Laura, as in 1-800 D-R L-A-U-R-A! People expect me to know these things."

"Oh, I see...."

"So the first thing you need to do is check out my books on dating and marriage,
then - you don't sound Jewish. Are you?"

"Why, no...."

"Then you need to find a good synagogue, one where they preach against homosexuality...."

"But I keep Yom Kippur with fasting now."

"Oh. Well, I guess that's close enough. Now what else do you need?"

"OK. My moral dilemma stems from a party I went to the other night...."

"Annnnnd.... how many women did you canoodle?"


"Canoodling. How many?"

"I don't think I canoodled. I didn't even touch the pasta salad."

"C'mon now! You went to a party. You're single. You have a moral dilemma. Why couldn't you keep your pants on in the first place?"

"But they WERE on - all night."

"SURE they were. I think she should keep the baby to term...."

"WHAT baby?"

"The one you're calling about, that developed at the party. Just because you got
drunk and can't remember it -- you know, I don't tolerate lying callers on this broadcast."

"But I did NOT get drunk! All I had was diet cola! And I never got beyond a handshake with anybody there!"

"Well, I guess I'll play along with you. So you're at a party, and what happened?"

"Yes, I'm at the party - and one of my bosses comes over and leaves me an envelope."

"So? They were discreet about how they fired you. Did you want them to take the mike and announce it?"

"No wait, I was NOT fired!"

"You're going to be, if you keep canoodling women at parties, aren't you?"

"But I said I - I can't even find 'canoodling' in the dictionary!"

"You realize denial IS the first step in the grieving process."

"Yes, I know that, but...."

"And where did you learn that? Admit it -- from listening to ME, right?"

"No, I heard that from a minister on a religious telecast."

"Oh. So if he preached it, you should be doing it."


"Grieving. You should have said 'excuse me' at the party politely, gone to the bathroom or to your car or something, and dealt with your grief over getting fired in private."

"But the envelope was NOT about my getting fired!"

"Then what WAS it about? You're being VERY difficult about this!"

"Me?!? Oh well - in this envelope, there was a gift certificate for groceries at Piggly Wiggly."

"Oh, so THAT'S what you're calling about. Well, I'd imagine they sell things other than pork at Piggly Wiggly."

"I know they do - or at least they used to."

"So what's the dilemma? If you feel guilty, buy some food and donate it to starving children in Africa."

"That's not quite it, Dr. Laura. You see, for more than five years I've boycotted Piggly Wiggly stores."

"And why did you do that? Do you really think that'll get them to stop selling pork?"

"It's not about the pork. In 1998, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition here in town declared a boycott of Piggly Wiggly - and I've been abiding by it."

"They did that? I didn't see that mentioned on Fox News Channel. Why did they do that?"

"Because several employees chased down a shoplifter outside a store, sat on him while they waited for police -- and he died."

"They're boycotting Piggly Wiggly because of THAT?"

"Yes - and Rainbow/PUSH never has announced an end to the boycott, so I don't want to offend anyone by shopping there."

"Do they still have picket signs up outside the stores, after all this time?"

"Well, that's the thing. No, they don't. I never see Rainbow/PUSH out protesting anywhere. But they never said it was over."

"Then instead of calling me, you ought to be calling them."

"Call THEM?"

"Why not? Ask if they're still boycotting Piggly Wiggly - and if they're not, rat on 'em. You've got a blog. Do it!"

"But if they are - wait a minute. You know I have a blog?!?"

"I know these things, remember? And I know you've taken up all my time for this hour. Now go take on the day."

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, October 16, 2005


Columbus is supposed to be a "Bible Belt, family values" place. Yet one of the best-known pro-family programs on religious radio has just been kicked off the air in this city -- and in this case, it's fair to say it was "Bible Belted."

James Dobson's half-hour "Focus on the Family" program has been dropped by WYFK-FM, the Bible Broadcasting Network station in Columbus. BBN officials announced Friday they "terminated" the broadcast - no doubt keeping in mind the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."

BBN President Lowell Davey explained the network dropped Focus on the Family because the program was turning too political. When James Dobson gets a call from Karl Rove about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and it's NOT about her child-rearing skills, that's a problem.

The BBN President explained his network's stations are licensed as noncommercial, and they could lose licenses if they air overtly political programs. Yet BBN brags about providing its air time free of charge - so couldn't a Democrat like Jimmy Carter do shows to balance things out?

(Overt politics doesn't seem to stop other noncommercial stations from.... no, wait. National Public Radio calls those things news programs.)

The Bible Broadcasting Network was presenting backup, non-political programs on days when Focus on the Family had political themes. But Lowell Davey claims the Focus staff declared a couple of weeks ago this would no longer be allowed. It was a typical fundamentalist religious message - "right" or wrong.

The strange thing is, Bible Broadcasting Network stations are about as button-down conservative as they come. President Lowell Davey openly opposes contemporary Christian music, and almost any song with a drumbeat. I wouldn't be surprised if BBN boycotts Eveready batteries, because of that bunny.

Yet Lowell Davey said BBN believes the church should NOT try to change the world through politics. That may come as a shock to a number of Columbus ministers - like Jimmy Elder on the Library Board, Joseph Roberson on the School Board, William Howell of Rainbow/PUSH....

Before I moved to Columbus, I was able to pick up the half-hour "Focus on the Family" on various Atlanta radio stations five times a day. Now the program isn't airing in this city at all, while a show called "Love, Lust and Lies" is on FM radio every afternoon. Isn't progress wonderful?

If you're a James Dobson supporter, the news is not all bad. While Bible Broadcasting kicked his half-hour broadcast off the air, his non-political family commentaries still air early every morning on WRCG - assuming, of course, anyone can hear WRCG's signal in the early morning anymore.

(C'mon, Archway Broadcasting - couldn't you simulcast Saturday night's Georgia-Vanderbilt football game on both WRCG and "Boomer 95.3" FM? I've heard cell phone calls from Stewart County more clearly than that game....)

James Dobson's non-political TV commentaries also still appear every morning on NBC-38. Put him together with Al Fleming, and I'm starting to seriously wonder about gardener P. Allen Smith.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Thursday mention of a bearded man outside Columbus Water Works apparently led to this message:

Dear Richie: I've thought many times of writing you about a small thing that happened to me recently. I was approached by a woman who asked if I could help her. I was walking across a parking lot, holding my six-year-old son with one hand, and clutching my purse with the other hand. In that second of time, I felt that I couldn't let go of my child's hand and I didn't want to open my purse for the woman's inspection, so I veered away from her, child in tow, and said "No" over my shoulder. When we reached the curb, my son looked up at me and asked why I wouldn't help the woman. I looked at him and then I looked at the woman who was walking away. I yelled at her back and asked what she wanted. She turned her head toward me and said "never mind" and she kept walking away. Her face was red. Truthfully, she looked fairly respectable, if a little bedraggled. I was ashamed of the way I had treated the woman, but I was also ashamed of my own fearfulness.

I have become fearful because, last year, a young man walked up behind me while I was fumbling with my keys, trying to unlock the front door to my house. He spoke very pleasantly to me and then he snatched my purse off my arm and ran with it. At the time, I was shocked by what he did, but I was grateful that he didn't try to get into my house. It scared me enough so that I have since become hypervigilant about steering clear of strangers. I used to give a little money to any beggar who asked, but now I don't slow down and I usually don't speak.

So, is my now-automatic knee-jerk rejection of all requests for help unreasonable? And what kind of man do I want my son to become? Do I want him to be like me, barking "No" at any stranger asking for help? Or do I want him to stop and listen and risk getting hurt? It's just not in me to expose my child to any risk where I can avoid it, but I don't want him to be hard-hearted, either. What would you do?

Love & kisses, M

In the first case you mentioned, I see no problem with putting your child's safety first. What if that woman had asked to borrow your son, instead of a dollar?

I'd guess many people do what M is doing -- either they try to avoid beggars, or turn them down cold. But after finding myself in the beggar's role when my car broke down a few weeks ago [26 Sep], I'd be disappointed. As the late Johnnie Cochran might say: If I can prove I'm hurt, don't treat me like dirt.

I've heard several ministers say love is risky, and showing love for others means hurt will happen. That's true in helping strangers, as well as romance - although admittedly I've had much more experience recently with the former than the latter.

And if your son learned to bark "no" at strangers, do you realize what could happen? He could have a great future as a Columbus police officer....

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: What would YOU do, if you were in M's situation? Send us your thoughts, and we'll post them after we return from vacation.)

Now other items of interest, before we hit the road for the Gulf Coast:

+ Which local sportscaster told me the other day "the fix is in," after I predicted the Angels would win the American League Championship Series? After four games and several disputed calls, this person appears more correct than ever.

+ My usual Saturday morning stroll in the Historic District found a five-kilometer race in progress. When a car goes south in the northbound lane of Broadway, either it's leading runners down a road course - or someone drank too much the night before at Bonehead's.

(The five-kilometer "Preservation Race" occurred not far from the annual "Help the Hooch" cleanup project along the Chattahoochee River. I assume the runners were the ones who didn't want to get their clothing dirty planting trees.)

+ An inside source I tend to trust reports construction on the new T.G.I. Fridays restaurant is three weeks behind schedule. Are the crews taking this name a bit too seriously?

+ WRBL news anchor Blaine Stewart revealed online he's lost 80 pounds since moving to Columbus four years ago. I'll assume he's accomplished this through proper diet and exercise - though I can't help wondering if his station's pay is so low that he's starving.

+ Instant Message to the staff of AFLAC: Do you plan to "adopt a duck" for that fund-raising race next weekend? Or are you entering your own?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're going on vacation for several days -- but we'll be filing "Classic Blog" items for you to enjoy as we're able, while we are away. Regular entries should resume around October 27.)

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, October 14, 2005


Did you know there's a list of hotels and motels where some U.S. government employees HAVE to stay when they travel? It's compiled by your friends at the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- so next time there's a disaster, you'll know where to go to complain late at night.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog has discovered the FEMA list of approved housing for U.S. government travelers has a surprising name on it - the Center City Motel in Phenix City. Given this motel's reputation, you're tempted to ask if it was listed first when Bill Clinton was President.

The Center City Motel on Opelika Road is the one Russell County prosecutors want to close, for alleged drug-dealing and prostitution. Yet it's on a FEMA list of approved places for U.S. government travelers to stay. And as many people from New Orleans would tell you: with friends like FEMA, who need enemies?

How did the Center City Motel make FEMA's list? Because it's considered a "fire-safe motel." If you've driven by it, I'm not sure if you'd agree - unless you happened to see a couple of wide-open doors on the second floor....

Did FEMA check the Center City Motel, before putting it on the "fire-safe list" for government employees? I'm not really sure. Any motel owner can register at the web site of FEMA's "U.S. Fire Administration" branch. If your home shows up on the list next week, I guess the answer will be no.

Our online check of the FEMA fire-safe list found six Phenix City motels listed. But it's interesting to note only one of them is designated as having a fire sprinkler system. At the rest, you may have to hurry outside to the ice machine....

(Yes, this list of approved motels for U.S. government travelers is online. And if we know where it is, we fear those spies from the Philippines probably know as well....)

As for Columbus, 24 motels are listed on the FEMA fire-safe list. You may be reassured to know only one of them is on Victory Drive - and none of them are also on the Fort Benning off-limits list.

We came upon this list of fire-safe motels because this is Fire Prevention Week. Alabama officials are especially concerned this year about people leaving burning candles unattended. So please, do NOT answer the phone while someone in your family brings out a birthday cake.

Alabama ranks sixth-highest among U.S. states in the rate of fire deaths. Georgia ranks 12th. The Columbus Fire Department tries to lower this number, by offering free smoke detectors to those in need. But with heating prices expected to jump this winter, maybe they should offer free fire barrels as well.

While we were browsing online this week, we also found an interesting new Brookings Institution report. It shows nine percent of Columbus residents have no access to a car -- not far below the percentage in New Orleans. Next time we have days of heavy rain, go to a METRA station and charge 50 cents a rider.

Now for other short hops from Thursday:

+ Many Jews and some Christians marked the Biblical Day of Atonement. The Pastor of our congregation used his sermon to reveal he's finally seen the movie "The Passion of the Christ." After about 18 months, apparently it's at last safe to watch.

(Our Pastor was neutral about the Mel Gibson movie last year, but his comments suggested he was against church members watching it. I'm not sure what made him change his mind - because I doubt he was waiting for the book version to come out.)

+ A group of Russian medical professionals toured The Medical Center's Perinatal Center. The Russians hope to upgrade their own center - before all the babies get adopted by U.S. couples and moved here.

+ Traffic on Hamilton Road was slowed when a water main broke. There was so much water that potential dinners at Rose Hill Seafood wanted to make a run for it....

+ Groome Transportation assured the evening news it will NOT raise prices for its Atlanta airport shuttles, despite high gas costs. That's because ridership is up in recent weeks. Be sure you take an iPod, so you don't have to hear the boring blabbermouth sitting next to you.

+ Instant Message to the Chevron at 13th and Veterans Parkway: What's going on here? Your posted gas price is $2.75, while Spectrum and Summit a block away are at $2.80?? Should I assume the state nailed you for price gouging several weeks ago?

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, October 12, 2005


The man was skinny, had a long gray beard and carried a rolled-up umbrella. He was standing on the sidewalk more than he was walking down it And since he didn't hold a sign pointing me to a furniture sale, I could guess what sort of person he was....

Another clue to what the man was doing Tuesday afternoon was where he stood - along Veterans Parkway, outside Columbus Water Works. He was across the street from a 14th Street Spectrum store which has become a haven for beggars. At least he was near a place where he wouldn't dehydrate.

I saw this man as I pulled into the Columbus Water Works parking lot. I stop and park now to pay my water bill, because I use a credit card and waiting in drive-through lanes wastes expensive gasoline. Water and petroleum really don't mix, anyway....

Another man got out of his car just ahead of me, and he entered Columbus Water Works toward the middle of the parking lot. I took the same course, admittedly to avoid contact with the man on the sidewalk. I had a busy schedule, after all -- and not that padded a wallet.

It didn't take long to pay the water bill -- but as I stepped outside and walked toward the car, it happened. "Good afternoon, sir. Excuse me for bothering you...." No, those weren't my words. The man on the sidewalk wasn't aggressive enough to block my parking spot.

"Could you spare me some change, so I can get something to eat?"

"Let's go," I said and pointed him toward McDonald's. My late mother would say that restaurant is "catty-corner" from Columbus Water Works, at 14th and Veterans Parkway. Don't ask me which direction "doggy-corner" is.

"You seem to be in a hurry," said the bearded man walking behind me toward the intersection. I have a history of walking quickly - and when someone is trying to wrestle for the money in my wallet, speed could make a big difference.

I explained I had other things to do, which the beggar seemed to understand. But after we crossed 14th Street with the green light, I waited for the light to change before crossing Veterans - and the bearded man did not.

"We wait for the GREEN light here, sir," I said loudly as the man started across. Well, at least ten percent of us do.

The bearded man listened to me, thankfully. He returned to the curb just before a driver made a right turn in front of us. Of course, if you were begging total strangers for food, how valuable would YOU consider your life to be?

"You talked about my being in a hurry -- and now we have to wait," I explained to the man. They say patience has its limits, but sometimes impatience should have some as well....

The beggar suggested the light across Veterans Parkway takes a long time to change -- but as soon as he finished saying that, it did. We crossed with care, and walked into McDonald's. The time was about 4:00 p.m. -- which meant no food lines, perfect for the impatient side of both of us.

"A couple of double cheeseburgers would do me just fine," said the beggar. Trouble was, I didn't see them anywhere on the McDonald's board. Do you think the staff saw a "regular" customer coming, and wanted to send a message?

Another bit of trouble faced me at the cash register. McDonald's wasn't taking credit cards on this day, because of technical problems. I'd have to show my full hand -- well, I mean wallet.

"They're 99 cents," the McDonald's employee assured me about the double cheeseburgers. With that cleared up, the three dollars in my wallet could pay for the beggar's early dinner. But first:

"How much change do you have?" Since we were in a joint venture, I wanted him to share the sacrifice.

The bearded man reached into his pants pockets, and pulled out a total of nine cents. The man clearly was having a bad begging day -- but then again, he DID happen upon me....

His nine cents and my $2.05 bought the man two double cheeseburgers, and I walked out. But unlike previous encounters with beggars, this time I wondered if I'd done the right thing. Last weekend, my pastor said some giving can merely feed other people's bad habits. Well, eating IS a habit - but it beats the alternative.

The pastor went farther, and said we should say NO to people's requests for help instead of "wanting to be liked." Was I trying to win a friend by buying a beggar food -- and was that wrong? It's not like we exchanged phone numbers. Besides, this beggar might not even have a phone.

We'll leave those points for you to ponder, as we wrap up some highlights from Wednesday:

+ Talbot County issued an advisory to boil water - and some people complained they weren't told of the risk for two days. In fact, a home day care operator said a county commissioner next door to her never mentioned it! Maybe he was worried the woman might pull out a pistol.

(County commissioners only issued an advisory about boiling water to local newspapers - when Georgia rules require radio and TV stations to be informed as well. But then again, the alert might have been drowned out by all those loud car commercials.)

+ WRBL's Blaine Stewart read a news story about the Columbus Civic Center ice rink - and when the videotape never appeared, he drew an on-the-spot illustration of how the ice is prepared. It's about time they brought back the game show "Win, Lose or Draw...."

+ Instant Message to Rhodes Furniture: If you had shown that singing guy wearing a poncho in TV commercials months ago, you might not be holding a bankruptcy sale now.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're posting extra-early because of the Biblical Day of Atonement, which Jews mark as Yom Kippur. A happy holy day to all who are keeping 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.


Well, well! Is Wal-Mart actually trying to accommodate upset residents of Midland? Or is the company switching from using a steamroller to get its way - and moving into a smaller hybrid car?

Wal-Mart asked Columbus Council Tuesday for a two-month delay in its rezoning request, for a SuperCenter on Gateway Road. This pushes the question back until mid-December - when Columbus Wal-Marts will be so crowded with shoppers that the need will be obvious.

A Wal-Mart spokesman explained in the wake of last week's public hearing in Midland, the company wanted to reexamine traffic issues with the proposed store. Hmmmm - how much wider does the J.R. Allen Parkway have to be?

Wal-Mart critic Linda Harp says traffic would need to be improved around a new SuperCenter. She told reporters it's not safe turning onto the J.R. Allen Parkway now. I know what Harp means - but if mills keep closing, that ought to change....

The two-month delay pleased opponents of the Wal-Mart store, but only a little. Some openly admit they don't want a SuperCenter built in Midland at all. So why aren't Harris or Talbot County commissioners offering to take it from them - along with all that tax revenue?

Opponents of the Midland Wal-Mart also are concerned about all the trucks which would stop there, potentially 24 hours a day. This doesn't seem to prevent people from staying at motels along the side of interstate highways....

By comparison, the most vocal supporter of a Midland Wal-Mart is annoyed by the two-month delay. Jim "The Cat in the Hat" Rhodes called the whole thing "asinine" - which almost makes you want to ask how much Wal-Mart stock he owns.

Jim Rhodes says he wants a Wal-Mart Super-Center in Columbus because he wants to spend his tax money there, not in Phenix City. With words like those, every Democratic candidate in Georgia will call him for endorsements.

Maybe opponents of the Midland Wal-Mart could learn something from a man down the highway in Talbot County. Officials there claim Larry Bartlett intimidated crews working on a new bridge, by carrying a pistol in his yard -- and we all know how much Wal-Mart respects gun owners' rights.

Talbot County Commissioner Vernon Allen claimed Tuesday workers felt threatened on Waverly Hall Road, because of Larry Bartlett and his pistol. If they feel shaken, imagine what could happen if S.O.A. Watch protesters hold a march there next month.

But wife Kathy Bartlett said Tuesday the whole thing was blown out of proportion by Commissioner Vernon Allen. She explained her husband carries a pistol around his yard to shoot snakes. And the difference between snakes in the grass and government employees is - well, for some people there's no difference at all....

Kathy Bartlett says her husband also was upset last weekend, because bridge workers bulldozed trash onto their property. Hmmmm, there's an idea. Can we give the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper a "concealed carry" permit?

The Bartletts apparently also disapproved of a trailer set up at the Waverly Hall Road bridge project. Talbot County officials explain it's there to give workers a break - so apparently there are NO plans to sell it to 11 or 12 Central American immigrants.

Larry and Kathy Bartlett admit they know a new bridge is needed on Waverly Hall Road. But they deny they're using a pistol to stop the work, and keep traffic past their home to a minimum. There's a better way to keep traffic down, of course - by setting up a toll booth.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION (speaking of sanity) closed Tuesday. The people have spoken, and they say I acted at least a bit insanely when I faced two dog-walkers on the Riverwalk [4 Oct]. No one left any comments - so apparently you're leaving that to my psychiatrist.

Half the voters said my actions with a loose dog were insane. Another 25 percent decided they were "a little" insane (4-2-2) -- and I probably DID go too far by offering to let a man check my pants. Especially since he wasn't wearing a police uniform....

(By the way, to the 25 percent of you who said I was not insane - do you by chance own cats?)

The good news for all of you is that I accept your advice. I hereby choose to change, and move away from insanity. If only other people accused of insanity did this - then no one would be worried about West Central Regional Hospital closing.

It turns out my church pastor agrees with the majority - though he stopped short of calling me insane. He gave a recent sermon about walking in faith, and NOT in fear. The strange thing is that this pastor opposed the series "Fear Factor," and suggested the contestants were foolish and greedy.

There's an unusual P.S. to the story of the dogs on the Riverwalk. Two days after that incident, I jogged in the Historic District and came upon two more dogs on leashes. These dogs were smaller than the earlier ones, so my worst concern was an amputated foot....

Having learned my lesson from two nights before, I hesitated only a moment before jogging on by the man walking his dogs - AND I apologized to him for being rude by hesitating. That man said I wasn't rude at all. But then again, that man in the Historic District sure looked to me like an elected official from Russell County.

Now for other quick bites (none involving dogs) from Tuesday:

+ A CBS News crew visited Fort Benning, and interviewed children whose parents are serving in Iraq. I'm told one man went to post hoping to meet this crew - but they weren't set up at either the Fort Benning Road or Interstate 185 entrances. Why would the U.S. Army hide and protect such obvious liberals?

+ The evening news revealed Columbus has a city law against leaving a child under age 10 alone in a car, for more than five minutes. This rule guards against many things: heat exhaustion, carjackings, kidnappings - not to mention parents complaining all day about wrong drive-through orders.

+ The Springer Opera House hosted a performance by the Formosan Aboriginal Song and Dance Troupe. Some people heard "aboriginal" and thought they were from Australia. Others may have heard the name, and thought about being Anti-Mosan.

(The Columbus Chamber of Commerce persuaded this troupe from Taiwan to make its only appearance in the Southeast at the Springer Opera House. I never realized Chef Lee had this much clout....)

+ Instant Message to the "Baseball Fan" who wrote about our Tuesday joke on the Atlanta-Houston series: My apologies for confusing you. Mathematical humor can be risky, in an area with low S.A.T. scores.

COMING SOON: Our latest journey into Columbus's hottest "begging zone...."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: A tight time schedule might not allow for a Thursday blog entry. We'll see....)

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, October 11, 2005


Monday was an "in-service day" for most Muscogee County teachers, but for some it was complaint day. They have orders to upgrade their skills in a year -- and to make things worse, they'll still have to face those distracting children five days a week as they do.

Some special education teachers are upset because after 20 or 30 years, suddenly they're no longer considered "highly qualified." But should anyone really be surprised by this? A pro football quarterback would have retired years before....

The special education teachers have to upgrade their skills by next August, because federal law says so. It's part of the "No Child Left Behind Act." Well, it DOES say child - not teacher.

To be considered "highly qualified" come next August, a special education teacher must have an emphasis in one particular subject - such as math or science. In other words, they actually have to be special in SOMETHING.

A few Muscogee County special education teachers are considered "highly qualified" under federal law, even though they haven't taught for long. That's because they had focused study areas in college. Even "elementary education" counts as a focus area -- and if you can focus on fast-moving first-graders, that's skill.

Some special education teachers will have to take online courses, to meet the new standard of being "highly qualified" by next August. So if you visit the Muscogee County School District web site and see a series of annoying pop-up ads, that could be why.

Peggy West with the Muscogee County School District tried to reassure the special education teachers Monday. She admitted the change in standards is difficult, but said it will be good for everyone. For a second, I thought West might be an oil company executive.

But a few special education teachers apparently feel insulted by this change of status. Years of tenure suddenly don't seem to count for anything. Maybe there's another lesson for them in all this - tenure really only counts in college education.

It certainly cannot be easy, to be a special education teacher. You face children with a wide range of disabilities, and help them learn to have skills equivalent to other students. So if these teachers don't get an upgrade, they ought to dominate "The Apprentice."

SPAM-A-RAMA: Monday's e-mail brought a message with the title: "Sweat, do you love me or not?" Amazingly, this was NOT an offer for a new antiperspirant....

The message actually was for a no-name petroleum company's stock, which supposedly is about to gush to big gains. So who decided my name was Sweat? Those puddles I run past on the Riverwalk were put there by sprinklers.

But perhaps the real question here is whether I love sweat or not. I'd lean toward answering no. That's especially true when you shower in the summer, put on a nice dress shirt for church and see it become sweaty by the time you arrive -- and you're actually running your car's air conditioning.

Hoping the heavy sweating is over for a few months, let's check other items from Monday:

+ A source who seems to know tells your blog the Golden Rule Bar-B-Q in Phenix City has closed for good. Really now -- have that many Southerners converted to Blimpie subs, up the road at Wal-Mart?

(This closing simply proves the name of the restaurant was accurate. How much "gold" you earn determines whether or not you rule.)

+ The Columbus Chamber of Commerce announced four companies formerly based in New Orleans will relocate here, and provides about 50 new jobs. One of them is an apparel company - which had better not have the nerve to make any Saints football jerseys.

(Another of the four companies moving here from New Orleans is Dixie Chopper, which claims to make "the world's fastest lawn mower." In my part of Columbus, that'll only matter if someone tries to steal it....)

+ Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff told a TV interviewer to truly have "one Columbus," we need to trust each other. C'mon, Mr. Mayor -- not even some Republicans are buying that phrase from President Bush anymore.

+ A pickup truck exploded outside Carden's Country Café in Phenix City. One of the first people to reach the damage was Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiSciara - perhaps thinking he'd found a new teacher for that NASA-supported program at the Intermediate School.

+ Two dormitories were evacuated at Georgia Tech, after someone modified plastic soda bottles to look like bombs. So was some engineer's big project for the fall semester? Or the work of a frustrated Pepsi distributor, so close to the Coca-Cola tower??

+ Atlanta headed home from the baseball playoffs, after losing an 18-inning classic to Houston. Believe it or not, things could have been worse. They could have counted Sunday's match as two games, and given the Astros a 4-1 series win.

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, October 09, 2005


LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: To mark this holiday named after the city of Columbus - and it WAS, wasn't it? - we offer thoughts about the day which we wrote during our LaughLine era. Have a safe holiday!

9 Oct 00: Today is Columbus Day, and you know that means nowadays. The holiday shopping season at the mall can officially begin.

A grocery chain in town [Piggly Wiggly] began running Xmas-season commercials FRIDAY - complete with greenery-wrapped poles and an announcer saying, "Happy Holidays!" What ARE we supposed to serve for Columbus Day dinner - ham or turkey?

In some places, "Columbus Day" is NOT politically correct. This year for the first time, Alabama is marking "Native American Day" as well! Of course, some corners of Alabama will protest this - because they consider themselves native SOUTHERN.

Then there was Saturday's Columbus Day parade in Denver, where protesters spilled fake blood in the streets! What puzzles us is that you never hear about protests in the Bahamas - and that's where Columbus really landed.

(We were in another Columbus landing site five years ago this week. Puerto Rico had NO protests, and many workers took October 12 off! If they're not worried, should WE be?)

With so many "alternatives" developing to Columbus Day, we wonder if it's time to change that little rhyme we learned when we were young:

In 14-hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

But now we know better, and now we see - he didn't show much sensitivity!

8 Oct 01: Today is Columbus Day in the U.S. For those of you younger than 20 - NO, Christopher Columbus did NOT create the Discovery Channel.

We live in a city named "Columbus" - but there's NO big celebration to mark Columbus Day. In fact, the local transit system doesn't even call their vehicles "Colum-BUSES."

Our town used to have a downtown music festival over Columbus Day weekend [Uptown Jam] -- but it was called off this year because it's lost money! Apparently it's time to move the celebration to a more appropriate place. Shoppers are parading to the mall for Columbus Day sales, instead.

(There's a great promotional gimmick just waiting to happen here. Why doesn't the "Discover Card" offer extra rebates at Columbus Day sales?)

To be fair, some people are offended by the name "Columbus Day" - and want it named "Native American Day" instead. Isn't it time we united our country, and had a summit meeting to resolve this? Columbus, Indiana would be the perfect place for it....

(So why don't you hear anybody demand the state change its name to "Native-ia?")

11 Oct 02: A holiday weekend is approaching in North America. Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, Columbus Day in the U.S. -- and if our count is correct, the end of the 24th three-day furniture sale so far this year.

New York City has one of the biggest Columbus Day parades, but this year there's controversy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited Lorraine Bracco from "The Sopranos" to appear -- and some Italian-American groups say that show promotes wrong stereotypes. They DO have a point, you know. We doubt most mob bosses see psychiatrists.

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 was a big day in Columbus, as the 70th annual showdown between Tuskegee and Morehouse took place. Tuskegee has the Golden Tigers. Morehouse has the Maroon Tigers. And Auburn fans presume none of the players are good enough to play for THEIR Tigers.

The Tuskegee-Morehouse event is much more than a football game. The activities started Wednesday night with an alumni basketball game at South Girard School in Phenix City. Admission was only two dollars -- and the players probably were as familiar as the Atlanta Hawks coming to Columbus in a couple of weeks.

Then there was the Tuskegee-Morehouse golf tournament Friday. No, I don't think the colleges have golf teams -- this was for the alumni who actually turned their degrees into something productive.

The action moved inside Friday night, with a Tuskegee-Morehouse "battle of the bands and step show." I was unfamiliar with step shows before I moved to the South - and would have guessed they were fashion shows for Payless shoes.

Tuskegee's "Crimson Pipers" were declared the winner of the battle of the bands. I'm not sure who judged this contest or how. Did that band turn back and forth faster than Morehouse's?

Saturday's events began with a Tuskegee-Morehouse parade downtown. I could hear the drummers playing as I took a walk in South Commons -- so it's nice to know the bands had a curfew, and weren't tempted by those Broadway bars.

Then the big crowd gathered at McClung Memorial Stadium. Well, really it gathered OUTSIDE the stadium for pre-game grilling. Hopefully the fans heard about what happened in South Commons last January, and didn't bring any bananas to eat.

The afternoon brought the main event - and for some people, it may not have been the football game. Actor Denzel Washington showed up on the sideline, because his son plays for Morehouse. So if D.J. Washington ever fakes an injury late in a game to stop the clock, we'll know where he learned it.

D.J. Washington wound up with more than 130 yards of offense, but Morehouse still lost to Tuskegee 34-24. The score was 31-0 after three quarters - and the stands became so empty, you might have thought Spencer High School's team showed up.

The "after-party" event for Tuskegee and Morehouse fans was a concert at the Civic Center. Clear Channel Radio declared the main event was the "mega old school" band Cameo. It's not enough to be simply "old school" anymore?! How big are the singers' waistlines?

The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau told WRBL the Tuskegee-Morehouse events bring more than $60,000 to the local economy. About 20,000 people attended the football game - so that computes to only three dollars per person?! Maybe that 20-dollar ticket price was set simply to impress people.

So what about you Confederate flag-wavers around the Columbus area? What are you doing to bring in a football game, to balance Tuskegee-Morehouse or Albany State-Fort Valley State? Can't you come up with enough money to have Brigham Young be one of the "white teams?"

Elsewhere, Georgia's football team remained unbeaten Saturday by topping Tennessee 27-14. Is it just me, or is that Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer's little boy appearing at the end of those new Winn-Dixie commercials?

SPAM-A-RAMA: As if President Bush doesn't have enough to worry about, we received e-mail the other day suggesting he was the anti-Christ! And no, this was NOT from a Christian conservative group upset about his latest Supreme Court nominee....

A "former Polish diplomat" named Slawomir Borowy claims F.B.I. spies had his wife fired from a Sunday-only job at a Washington episcopal church. Her work was "serving coffees and doing emergency cleaning" - so maybe she was snooping around the wrong dumpster.

Slawomir Borowy claims "F.B.I. informants" are on the board of this Washington episcopal church, and had his wife's cleaning firm dismissed without cause -- all this after the F.B.I. "possessed our apartment" a few years ago. This must be Washington's version of a "good ol' boy" network.

(Yet his e-mail also admits the church's attendance is in decline, and the income of members is "lower average." Is the F.B.I. secretly telling Episcopals to turn Baptist?)

But wait, there's more! Slawomir Borowy accuses Republicans involved in the F.B.I. of forcing his family to live in homes of F.B.I. informants, which he likens to slavery. I hear some Columbus people say this same sort of thing - but I don't think The Ralston really is THAT bad.

This e-mail was timed for a visit by Poland's President to the White House this coming week. Slawomir Borowy calls him "atheist and neo-communist." But doesn't this show our "born-again Christian" President is evenhanded -- even if the Muslims who have visited for Ramadan didn't convert?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a follow-up to a Columbus police incident we mentioned here the other day. It comes from TV reporter Ashley Nix:

For the record, WTVM did not say Officer Tracey Giles shot the man...

We said he shot AT the man.


Hopefully that will settle the issue - at least for six months, while Officer Giles sits at a desk doing paperwork during a G.B.I. investigation.

Now for other notes from a very nice holiday weekend:

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced he'll run for a second term. He'll face Roy Moore for the Republican nomination - so watch for Mr. Riley to unveil his 12 Commandments sometime next year.

+ Houston handled Atlanta 7-3 in game three of their baseball divisional series. The Atlanta bullpen has an earned run average of around 15 [true/Fox Sports] - almost as if they're trying to match Jeff Francoeur's age.

(Whoever wins that series will face St. Louis, which eliminated San Diego 7-4 in a game which lasted until after 2:00 a.m. Columbus time. You knew it was a late night when Cardinal radio announcer Mike Shanin read a web site address with a "backlash.")

+ A Loretta Lynn concert at the RiverCenter was called off, because Lynn fell and broke her foot. I'm assuming Sissy Spacek of "Coal Miner's Daughter" fame was too busy to fly in and be a substitute.

+ Instant Message to the Fourth Quarter restaurant near Peachtree Mall: About that musical act "Jaded Soul" you presented this weekend - I didn't know Jade Hindmon had a second job.

COMING MONDAY: A "Blog of Columbus" Day special....

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, October 07, 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.)

A woman knocked at my door one morning this week, and I scared her a bit when I appeared. That'll teach me to take off my T-shirt for the rest of the day at home, after a morning run.

"Do you know if a Nancy Stevens lives here?" the woman asked rather nervously. The name was unfamiliar to me, but I admittedly don't know the names of everyone at my apartment complex.

"I haven't seen her in years, and I was told she might live here." I had the feeling they were related somehow. Yet I didn't know the name -- and to me, snooping in other people's mailboxes is the stuff of "Desperate Housewives."

"She's a blonde woman," the woman said trying again. That seemed to settle the issue -- as I've been the only white resident at this apartment complex for years, and female visitors might be more likely to dye their hair purple.

That marked the second visitor I'd disappointed in a couple of weeks. A few days before, an older woman walked toward my next door neighbor's apartment. "Miss Lola?!" she asked.

The woman apparently hasn't heard the news, so I was the one to break it. "She died back in January. The first week of January." [8 Jan] The visitor walked away looking stunned, and probably torn apart inside. This may have been her annual trip, and I tripped up her plans.

These two cases left me thankful I went to Kansas to see my family this year - but it was my first trip there in three years, due to work commitments and other factors. My youngest niece moved to California during the summer, but I have yet to hear from her. Sometimes bloggers can create guilt clouds, you know....

But I admittedly don't keep in touch as well as I should, with friends from years gone by. I mean to do it after I attend high school reunions - but it's a rare day when I even take advantage of my cheap-level membership to .

If there's a lesson in all of this, I suppose it's that we need to make time to keep in contact with those we care about most -- whether close relatives or old friends. For instance, this blog allows readers to know what's happening in my life. If only my friends remember how to spell my last name, when they Google me....

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.


Today we wish a happy anniversary to a couple we know, but you probably don't. Mr. and Mrs. Simon Spark of San Francisco are marking ten years of marriage. Hopefully the romantic "Sparks" have been flying every day....

We especially mark this day because of Mrs. Spark - Lyanne, the former co-worker with whom I was smitten years ago. Regular blog readers will recall our last dinner together in San Francisco [15 May]. I haven't been west of Kansas since that trip -- so doesn't that prove I'm over her?

Lyanne told me at the dinner that she'd be married in Puerto Rico on October 7, 1995 -- and it happened to be convention time in the church denomination I used to attend. The timing was superb: attend a wedding, then pray for a week for a substitute dream woman.

(Why Puerto Rico? Because Lyanne's family lived there and she grew up there. Simon's family is British, and she flew to New York earlier in the year to meet his parents - presumably somewhere near United Nations headquarters.)

My convention plans quickly changed, from Florida to a site in San Juan. And by overhearing conversations among co-workers who stayed in touch with Lyanne, I figured out the ceremony would occur at a beachfront Hilton hotel. Amazingly, I did all this before the C.S.I. shows started....

But one important thing was missing in my preparation: I never received an invitation to the wedding. The thought DID occur to me that they might not want me there - but as handsome as Simon was, I wasn't going there to provide last-second competition.

Armed with sufficient clues about the time and place of the ceremony, I decided to make an exception to a longstanding personal rule - never go where you're not invited. Come to think of it, I guess I break this rule often. For instance, when I check federal court records....

I put on a suit and tie, and made a short Saturday afternoon drive from my suburban San Juan hotel to the "Condado" district. The signboard of events at the Hilton listed the Spark name. But with no invitation, I chose merely to go to the reserved area and stand outside - sort of like gawkers visiting The Today Show.

After a few minutes standing outside in a hallway watching for any familiar faces, a man in a tuxedo came out of the reserved area. He was sweating hard - which seemed strange, since this Puerto Rican hotel had working air conditioning.

This man was the father of Simon the groom -- and he seemed as anxious as a new soldier in basic training. "What's your name?" he asked me. I told him, and said I was a friend of Lyanne.

"Come on in," he said pleasantly. I guess I should have played San Juan casinos during the trip, because I'd just hit an unexpected jackpot.

It turned out the wedding would be outdoors near a beach, so Simon's father led me into a long corridor serving as a waiting area. I met family members on both sides, along with a few former co-workers. I even enjoyed a strolling trio - playing classical tunes, not Puerto Rican salsa.

But things became more unusual from there. The wedding was scheduled for 4:00 p.m., but Lyanne and her bridesmaids were delayed for some reason. She's a TV news reporter, so she knows how to be on time. She also attended Alabama on a track scholarship -- but this was before the movie "Runaway Bride" came out.

At around 4:30 p.m., a brother of the groom approached me and said in front of several guests: "You realize you were not invited." Yes, I realized that. I silently wondered if he investigated what his dad did -- or noticed I did NOT sneak around, looking for bridal waiting rooms.

Was my presence holding up this wedding? If it did, I've never been told that to this day. But Simon's brother told me I could watch the ceremony, and no more. That was fine with me -- and considering it was outside near a beach, it's something any passing swimmer in a bikini might have done.

(Several days later, I found a small magazine at a San Juan grocery store. It listed many of the details for Simon and Lyanne's wedding, printed days before the ceremony. Maybe she should have been disappointed that a fan club didn't show up.)

It was about 4:45 p.m. when we were ushered into a courtyard with a few rows of folding chairs for the wedding ceremony. I actually sat on what normally is considered the groom's side of the aisle -- the easier for his family to see I would NOT act up.

The sun sets in Puerto Rico around 6:00 p.m. at this time of year, and we started to wonder if the bride would need to carry a flashlight down the aisle. But shortly after 5:00, Lyanne came out smiling. No, I do NOT think this was a case like that journalist told Martha Stewart on The Apprentice: "Fake it until you make it."

One of Lyanne's best friends served as maid of honor, and was supposed to read a chapter from the Bible. But she admitted as the ceremony began she left her paper with the words inside. This woman happened to be Telemundo afternoon host Maria Celeste Arrarás -- and some reporters simply can't survive without a script.

I happened to take a small Bible with me to this ceremony, since it was Sabbath afternoon and I guessed there might be some bit of religion in the ceremony. Come to think of it, is THAT why the wedding was delayed? Did someone think I'd start preaching about the couple "living in sin" for months before they wed?

I thought for a second about passing my Bible down the row, so Maria Celeste Arrarás could read I Corinthians 13. But I was already "on probation" with this group, so I didn't. If someone had noticed my Bible and suggested it, that would have been different -- a reluctant hero, instead of someone trying to save a bride at the altar.

Someone came out after a moment with the paper for Maria Celeste Arrarás to read, and everything went smoothly from there. The couple said vows - and in a different twist, all of us in attendance read a vow of our own to support and uphold the marriage. I've sent anniversary cards on occasion since, but no wilted flowers.

The short ceremony ended near sunset, and as our group walked back inside and down the hotel corridor, I was reminded by the groom's family I could NOT follow them to the reception. Even in Puerto Rico, lightning couldn't strike twice in the same place....

Well, hold on a minute. I stood at the "boundary line" at the end of the corridor, chatting for a moment with a member of the cleaning crew - and who should walk up lagging behind the crowd but the new bride Lyanne, still in her wedding gown.

"Congratulations, my friend," I said quietly with a smile.

"Thanks," she said sounding slightly surprised. Perhaps she was surprised I didn't give her a hug, or even a handshake. It was already clear I should be VERY careful around the merchandise.

I went to dinner in a different place, and drove back to my hotel happy for the newly-married couple. Only a week later, during a Sabbath afternoon prayer near the end of the church convention, did I start to cry - thinking about what might have been. So yes, Auburn football fans, I felt your pain last January....

BLOG CORRECTION: We heard from a couple of you about an item we mentioned Thursday - the latest Columbus police incident. This was a typical message:

FYI, the officer did not shoot the suspect, he shot at the suspect. WTVM made the same incorrect statement on the 6 o'clock news last night, but then corrected it during the story.

Thanks to all of you who set us straight. Yet this raises another question. If an officer merely fires AT someone, he's put on administrative leave - even if he or she doesn't hit anyone? How expensive are those bullets, anyway?

Down the street, Muscogee County Sheriff's officers refused to release details Thursday about the security arrangements during Wednesday's jailbreak. A captain said if security details were revealed, the inmates would know them. Can't the jail staff prevent that? At 12:00 noon there's Dr. Phil, at 6:00 p.m. there's The Simpsons....

BLOG UPDATE: We need to give Columbus gas stations a pat on the back. Prices actually have dropped slightly since the Georgia fuel taxes returned last Saturday. I'd say we should give them credit -- but how many people pay for gasoline with cash anymore?

The low price for regular unleaded around downtown Columbus Thursday was $2.95 - a couple of cents lower than last week. Most dealers still are resisting the urge to put the price of a gallon of gas higher than a gallon of milk.

But I've seen at least one convenience store where diesel fuel prices are much higher than unleaded gas - at $3.28 a gallon. In this city of veterans, it's wonderful to see the German threat from World War II has not been forgotten.

Meanwhile, Georgia's Governor faced new questions Thursday about his call to close public schools last week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the announcement followed a conference call with agriculture leaders - so perhaps he realized starving children can't learn, even if you can drive them to school.

Now for other items of interest from a cloudy Thursday:

+ Wal-Mart presented its arguments for a Midland SuperCenter at a public meeting. One woman opposed to the store said Wal-Marts tend to kill every small business in a "15-mile circumference" around them. Based on this reasoning, the entire north side of Phenix City should be empty - but it's just the opposite.

(Columbus Councilor Gary Allen admitted next week's vote on rezoning land for Wal-Mart will be his most difficult vote in 14 years on the council. Police officers who keep asking for better pay keep getting subtly slapped in the face.)

+ Auburn police officer Tyrone White surrendered to federal authorities. He's accused of fixing traffic tickets to make extra money. But White claims he negotiated tickets, in exchange for criminal information -- which means it actually can pay to know some criminals.

. (Tyrone White claims he's being framed because he's challenged racism inside the Auburn police force. But this argument seems strange - because why would prosecutors try to kick a "White" man off the force?)

+ The evening news showed a group of people in Opelika which has spent more than a year knitting the world's longest scarf. Anyone who knows how can join this group - so it's nice to see they're not knit-picky.

+ North Carolina State edged Georgia Tech in college football 17-14. For some odd reason, WHAL-AM's broadcast included several local commercials for a Saturday-only sale at "Comp USA " Which empty grocery store is that company taking over today?

(Georgia Tech could have won, but kicker Travis Bell missed two short field goals. In fact, he's now missed five in a row. Maybe if he takes a protractor onto the field with him, for those angles....)

+ WRBL's "Restaurant Report Card" revealed Al's Schnitzel Gasthaus on Warm Springs Road was marked down recently, for having an ashtray with cigarette butts in the kitchen. So? Either you want real smoked sausage, or you don't....

+ Instant Message to the Dairy Queen on Macon Road: That poster is accurate, right - about the "Moolatte" being made with "Columbian coffee?" Is it from Columbia, Missouri or Columbia, South Carolina?

COMING THIS WEEKEND: Is President Bush the anti-Christ? One e-mailer says yes....

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.