Sunday, June 25, 2006

for 26 JUN 06: TWO OUTS

The first hint of trouble came around 4:30 p.m. Sunday. I began to hear a bit of static during the Netherlands-Portugal World Cup soccer game -- and I was listening to "Viva 1460 AM," not one of those ham radios being operated near the airport.

The sky was growing dark to the north as well, so I walked to the car and made sure the windows were rolled up. You know that old saying - leave an open crack, drive with a wet back.

The signs of a storm turned into reality around 5:00 p.m., as a major downpour began in my neighborhood. It included some fierce lightning - including one stroke so close it set off a neighbor's newly installed alarm system. The burglars are going to have to be VERY fast to get around that thing....

As a large-scale waterfall fell on my complex, I turned on the television. Not really to check for storm watches and warnings - but to watch the new "Intercontinental Poker Championship" on CBS. Yes sir, it's become known as the "Tiffany Network" for a reason.

No storm watches or warnings were on any TV station's screens - but at about 5:10 p.m., my power went out. I joined about 4,800 Columbus customers in the dark. And it was the second outage for me in four days due to a thunderstorm. About the only thing failing more often these days is the Atlanta baseball bullpen.

It's at times like these when I realize how dependant I've become on my computer -- and remember, I didn't buy a laptop two weeks ago. So I couldn't blog. I couldn't go online to check for storm warnings. But at least I couldn't get an electric shock, and have my obituary say, "He died holding a mouse."

But there were other "offline" things available to do, so I started working on them. The first step was to put leftovers in the natural gas oven and heat them for dinner - yes, in a home with no air conditioning. I opened the front door for fresh air from the storm. And thankfully, it usually doesn't rain hot water.

The power outage allowed me to sort through a stack of junk mail. Yes, I said "sort through" it. It's called white paper recycling....

At 5:30 p.m., Columbus Emergency Management sounded a warning alarm - 30 minutes after the storm began. I briefly considered kneeling under the desk, a bit like we were taught to do during grade school. But I decided to wait for another noise. You know, the "freight train" sound people talk about just before the tornado hits.

The leftover rice with hamburger meat was heated and ready a bit after 6:00 p.m. With still no working electricity, I suppose I could have enjoyed a candlelight dinner. But I didn't think of that - and there was enough light coming through the kitchen window that I didn't have to prop a flashlight on my plate.

"ALL! CLEAR!" announced the warning siren from South Commons around 6:15 p.m. The rain was almost completely stopped by now - and I was surprised to learn later the total rainfall was only about one inch. It seemed strong enough to refill West Point Lake, and satisfy Governor Perdue.

The power still was out with dinner eaten - but with the all clear signal and no more thunder, it seemed safe to make a couple of phone calls. The first one went to Georgia Power, where all its customer service representatives were busy. On this Sunday evening, the two of them might have gone to a fast-food restaurant for dinner.

Following the phone pad instructions from the computer operator, I learned the power would be back on by 7:30 p.m. This was earlier than Thursday night, and the repair crews beat that deadline by more than 90 minutes. All that practice with Hurricane Katrina must make things easier around here.

After placing another call to reserve a motel room for a fall vacation, I sat at my desk and worked on one of those "consumer panel" mail surveys. It wanted to know about all the car advertising I had heard or seen in the last three months. As much television news as I watch, it's really become a blur....

In the middle of that survey, the lights came back on. It was 6:45 p.m., but my two clock radios showed the time as around 6:55. I don't know how they gain time when the power is out. Maybe it's a preprogrammed thing, to make sure people aren't late for work.

Apparently no one was hurt by the Sunday thunderstorm, and everything seemed to settle down once the power was back on. But don't these storms show Georgia is wrong to ban outdoor watering during the middle of the day? After all, how else could we produce those pop-up showers?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION was closed blindly before Sunday afternoon's storm -- and it wound up in a tie: 50 percent for keeping our rotating colors, 50 percent against it (6-6). So we'll act like Don Siegelman, and declare this hung jury a personal victory and repudiation.

Two years ago the vote was strongly in favor of keeping the colors. Now it's a 50-50 split - and to be honest, I'm wondering if the timing of the poll to match "Atlanta Gay Pride Weekend" made a difference.

One supporter of the colors noted the changes keep his web browser from displaying "done" in the lower left corner of the screen. "Isn't this a metaphor for how your blog is never 'done'?" he asked. That's an interesting thought - or maybe it's a subtle hint that I need to post more than once a day.

But a critic of the changing colors called them "EXTREMELY annoying and almost as bad as having a horrible midi embedded into your site." Hmmmm -- what song do you suggest? Maybe "Columbus Stockade Blues?"

This opponent brought up a good idea, which I'll examine when time permits -- syndicating the blog, through a tool such as RSS. But when I was young, I learned to be very careful to avoid syndicates. Robert Stack kept breaking them up on "The Untouchables."

Now let's pound out some Instant Messages, without any annoying smiley faces which could upset people as well....

+ To the Columbus Times: Thanks for pointing out Peachtree Mall has NO fire code attendance limit, and only the individual stores do. Now I'm pretty sure Macy's did NOT close first after Family Day in the Park -- since it sells Sean John clothes.

+ To people living on Clearwater Court: The man flying his U.S. flag upside down tells me it's because he was racially harassed at a Spectrum station Saturday, and Columbus Police don't seem interested in doing anything about it. But if I understood him correctly, he also called 911 recently about an e-mail scam.

+ To the Columbus Parks Department: Thank you! The Benning Park racquetball courts look much better, with the weeds trimmed and new paint covering the chipped parts of the walls. But did you have to use that leftover green paint to cover up the park entrance sign?

+ To TBS sportscaster Don Sutton: no, Atlanta pitcher Chuck James did NOT attend "Chattahoochee Valley JUNIOR College." It's a COMMUNITY College! Way to make Phenix City feel second-class, guy....

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