Tuesday, January 31, 2006


First a logjam on Manchester Expressway in the morning, then a big wreck on Interstate 185 in the afternoon - OK, who invited all the Atlanta drivers to come down to Columbus Monday for a convention?

Some Columbus drivers may have felt like they were in a big city Monday. It began during morning rush hour, when the traffic lights went out at Armour Road and Manchester Expressway. Add some morning fog, and this tricky intersection might as well have been in the middle of Rome - only with SUV's instead of midget cars.

The traffic lights went out at Armour Road and Manchester Expressway when a school bus went out of control, and hit a transformer at Willy's Wings. If you want your wings hot, this is NOT the way to accomplish it....

At least all the other drivers were careful on Manchester Expressway -- but I'm told the mess backed up westbound traffic to Peachtree Mall. And to make matters worse, none of the drivers knew the exact time when the mall's coffee shop opened.

The Columbus city traffic engineering department turned into traffic reporters -- urging drivers to use Gentian Boulevard or Warm Springs Road as alternate routes. Why did Clear Channel Radio drop its traffic updates, anyway? Was Kohl's tired of advertising in a city where it doesn't have a store yet?

The intersection of Armour Road and Manchester Expressway finally was cleared for traffic around 10:30 a.m. The school bus driver had no passengers, and received only minor injuries. And when countless other Columbus drivers reached work, they wrote down a "Plan B and C."

Then came mid-afternoon - and a hailstorm hit parts of Columbus. A friend of mine says she wondered to herself, "Why is the rain so noisy?" The answer - it was a lot more solid.

Not long after pea-sized hail fell, a chain-reaction wreck developed on Interstate 185 near Manchester Expressway. Six separate collisions occurred involving 11 cars - prompting some guys to say, "Woo-hoo! Only 20 more days until the Daytona 500!"

The good news is that traffic improvements are on the way this year, in parts of Columbus. The bad news is that none of it will occur in the areas of Monday's big wrecks -- so find another route, before the insurance companies find out and raise your rates.

Interstate 185 will undergo a widening this year - but in the area between St. Mary's Road and Victory Drive. Those Hummer drivers heading to and from Fort Benning need every extra foot they can get....

When the widening process on I-185 ends in a few years, a curve between Victory Drive and St. Mary's Road will be straightened -- the one with a sign claiming if lights flash overhead, you're going too fast. I've NEVER seen these lights turned off! So maybe the city knows how Columbus residents really drive....

Another widening project planned for this year will turn Warm Springs Road from two lanes to four, between Hilton Avenue and the Doctors Hospital area. This will mean a wider road past Buck Ice - so you could wind up with ice that's been touched by human car exhaust.

If you asked me what part of Columbus is most in need of widening, I'd propose Veterans Parkway between Airport Thruway and J.R. Allen Parkway. It's a big growth area, with Columbus Park Crossing as a hub -- but the city of Cataula should pay half the cost, since its residents may benefit most.

Now let's slow down to explore other issues from Monday:

+ The trials of "S.O.A. Watch" trespassers began in U.S. federal court. Supporters of the 32 suspects staged a march with crosses downtown - which puts to shame the children of St. Luke School, who never carry crosses when they have Easter parades.

+ Speaking of marches, what's this I'm hearing about plans to protest the Starship store on Veterans Parkway? Apparently some people are upset about the "adult items" on sale there. Why they aren't starting up the road at the Cat Walk Lounge, I have no idea....

+ "One Columbus" began a series of seminars on your constitutional rights. Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL the series is designed to show the things we all have in common. This is probably also the point of the "Trim Down Columbus" campaign, to lose thousands of pounds....

+ A study released by Emory University in Atlanta found most political speeches are motivated by emotion, as opposed reasoning. So if you've resisted donating to this blog, think of all the poor and starving children in Haiti I could help if you gave.

+ Instant Message to WRBL's Creshon Saunders: OK, so a Shaw High School student was "yelling verbal threats." But how else do you expect someone to yell a threat? I mean, other than typing e-mails in all-uppercase?

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Monday, January 30, 2006


The news left me shocked - simply SHOCKED! Former President Jimmy Carter is making wine in Sumter County?! The people who were questioning whether he's really a Southern Baptist MUST be ready to kick him out now....

Jimmy Carter disclosed his wine-making hobby on "CBS News Sunday Morning," as a reporter visited the former President's home in Plains. Please do not confuse this with Mr. Carter's famous speech about a "national malaise" - which was whine-making.

Former President Carter is into oil as well as wine. He started doing oil paintings, for a cover for one of his books - and now they sell for as much as $250,000. Which means, of course, it's very unlikely any resident of Plains owns one....

CBS News even went into Jimmy Carter's wood workshop. He still has the workshop his Cabinet bought for him as a Presidential "going-away gift." If he used it to make voodoo dolls of Republicans, they apparently haven't worked.

An armoire made by the former President will go up for auction next month, with the proceeds benefitting the Carter Center in Atlanta. Can you see a Republican buying this, filling it with dirty laundry, and taking it on campaign tours?

Former President Carter also is promoting his 20th book, a bestseller called "Our Endangered Values." He makes a good point with that title - because I read over the weekend the dollar's value is dropping, while gold prices jump.

Jimmy Carter says Vice President Cheney has been "somewhat careless with the truth" when it comes to events in Iraq. But he told CBS he's been careful NOT to criticize President Bush. Mr. Carter may be saving that for a church dinner, one of these years....

The former President spent part of this past week in the Palestinian Authority, monitoring the historic election there. He declared the vote "completely honest, completely fair, without violence" - then hopefully left before the angry Fatah fighters started shooting up buildings.

Jimmy Carter has a son considering a political career. He said he has NOT talked with Jack Carter about running for the U.S. Senate in Nevada. The name recognition certainly wouldn't hurt - since Jack Carter used to be a headline stand-up comic in Las Vegas casinos.

Can you believe this month marks 25 years since Jimmy Carter left the Presidency? After all these years, he says he has "total confidence in this nation and its people." Please notice he did NOT say he has total confidence in the Republican administration....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We were ready to move on from this issue, but a message in Sunday's InBox indicated we should not:


Whatever happened to the request for being able to post comments on your blog [13 Jan]. Did I miss the follow up blog?


Hippity Hop

No you didn't, Hippity. Why, you didn't Hop over it at all....

It turns out no one has asked us to add comments to this blog, beyond the e-mailer who asked about it. We've had five e-mails in that time (we're holding one until next weekend) - including Mr./Ms. Hop's. But maybe if we add more Hops, things will be tastier here.

Now for other short hops from Sunday, the 145th anniversary of the founding of the state of Kansas:

+ Callaway Gardens completed a "Chocolate Lovers Weekend." But people who attended may have gone home disappointed - because the mayor of New Orleans didn't show up to demonstrate how chocolate is made.

+ A report on highway patrol pay revealed 15-year veterans of the Georgia State Patrol earn an average $13,000 less than officers in North Carolina. This comparison seems misleading to me. For one thing, North Carolina troopers have a lot more wanna-be stock car racers to chase.

+ Former Auburn basketball coach Cliff Ellis appeared as an analyst on an Atlantic Coast Conference telecast. Ellis called actions in the Miami-Florida State game "dumb" several times. Who knows what he has to say about Auburn Interim President Ed Richardson....

(WLTZ showed two Atlantic Coast Conference basketball games, instead of the opening weekend of arena football on NBC. Apparently the new Chattahoochee Valley Vipers aren't advertising on this station.)

+ One Way Deliverance church on Martin Luther King Boulevard held its annual "family, friends, neighbors and loved ones day." It's nice to see the enemies have a Sunday all to themselves....

(Did you see the videotape of the One Way Deliverance service? A woman was singing in the center aisle, and quickly spun around twice as she did. If you didn't know better, you might have guessed a Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy showed up with an arrest warrant.)

+ Instant Message to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Ellerslie: I watched part of your televised service Sunday - and if you can only afford choir robes for the women, perhaps you should start an on-air fund-raising drive.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006


Car buffs probably already know this, but I didn't notice it until Saturday night - that some Columbus Police cars do NOT have hubcaps. I suppose the regular squad cars do without, so the D.A.R.E car and the undercover drug agents can look sharp.

As three Columbus Police officers dined at a Wynnton Road restaurant, I was parked near their squad car - and that's when I noticed it lacked hubcaps. Hopefully no one walked up and swiped them, while they were inside....

Someone pointed out to me later that hubcaps aren't really a necessity for police cars - and she may have a good point. The first city budget projections for fiscal 2007 show a big shortfall, which could mean more big personnel cuts. Can the squad cars do without taillights, too?

Reports over the last few days indicate Columbus Police may have to cut five desk positions, to balance the city budget. There's an easy way to handle this, of course. Have officers shoot some suspects, then put them on desk jobs during internal investigations.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley also suggests ten police officer positions be "unfunded." They'd be filled only if recruits are ready to take them. This sounds familiar for some strange.... oh yes. Alabama's basketball team has only seven scholarship players right now.

All Columbus city departments would be hacked by the budget ax to some extent. The fire department would lose five "non-firefighter" positions - which apparently means a couple more potluck dinners at the stations every week.

But has too much been cut from public safety already? A caller to WRCG's "TalkLine" claimed Friday when the St. Mary's Road fire company went out on a recent call, someone burglarized the station while everyone was gone. Whoever needed a 40-foot ladder for house painting should give it back....

Your blog has confirmed through another source that the St. Mary's Road firehouse robbery actually happened. Firefighters don't like to admit it, but crews often leave stations unlocked when they're out on calls. Maybe the answer is more fire dogs - like pit bulls.

A tight city budget apparently means there's no "house keeper" to lock up fire stations, when crews are out fighting fires. But perhaps we should ask if there needs to be one. After all, anxious shoppers lock their cars at 5:00 a.m. for sales on the day after Thanksgiving.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley is warning department heads to prepare for 150 position cuts, because Columbus has a nine-million dollar city budget deficit. And some of us thought a city sales tax on three-dollar-a-gallon gasoline would take care of that....

You may recall Columbus city government cut more than 100 positions last year as well. But City Manager Isaiah Hugley told the Ledger-Enquirer the end result was only two layoffs of people. Some vacant positions were trimmed, some people transferred to new jobs -- and if all else fails, there's an AFLAC job fair.

The biggest cuts this time may come in the city parks department, where 30 positions could be cut. Last year's cuts left at least two youth football fields unused, and without goal posts. Another cut this year, and it may come down to which house in the neighborhood has the biggest backyard.

City officials emphasize all this chatting about cutting is preliminary. A lot can change between now and the first city budget hearing in June. For one thing, City Manager Isaiah Hugley could win the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.

Even with talk of staff cuts, Mayor Bob Poydasheff says he hopes to find a way to increase base salaries for police officers. He realizes that way, he can increase something else - base support for a second term.

In all of the stories about a tight city budget, nothing was mentioned about that one-percent "split sales tax" proposal - the one which the school board has endorsed. Remember that bandwagon? Maybe it's stuck in the dirt on Broadway, amid the Streetscape construction.

BLOG UPDATE: The Friday night news went back to The Wash Company on Talbotton Road, and updated a story you saw first here [18 Dec 05]. The dryer times are being trimmed again, and now a quarter gets you only six minutes of drying. If I want six minutes of hot air, I'll go to an oratory contest for free.

The Wash Company blames the reduced drying time on higher natural gas prices. But hasn't Atmos Energy promised the prices will go down in February? Doesn't this mean customers should get a different sort of "daylight savings time" come spring?

I have my own sneaky way of saving quarters at the coin laundry dryers. If you saw a car this weekend with three pairs of socks and a pair of jeans in the rear window facing the sun, you found it....

Now for other items from a warm and sunny weekend:

+ The Columbus Symphony Orchestra presented a "salute to Fort Benning" concert, to welcome home the Third Brigade. I was unable to attend this - so did they play that classic rock song, "I fought the law and the law won?"

+ Across the street, the Springer Opera House began a production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." I don't want to give away the plot - but I'll say only this: they didn't sign a pre-nuptial agreement.

+ Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiChiara announced a new environmental science center will be created, and named after late assistant Jeff Adams. He stopped short of naming a department on statistical probability after a former Superintendent, who enjoyed gambling in Biloxi....

+ Georgia's largest school bus maker "Bluebird" filed plans to enter bankruptcy. The demand for busing in the South simply isn't as strong as it used to be.

+ The "Real Time" telecast from Cascade Hills Church featured Pastor Bill Purvis admitting he was baptized with a busload of Alabama prison inmates. Come to think of it, this pastor doesn't wear many striped shirts....

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths edged Florida, to sweep a three-game home stand. It was "Legends Night" at the Civic Center - complete with two former players pretending to get in a fight. Well, if that's the only thing that makes you legendary around here....

+ Auburn edged Georgia in men's basketball 66-65. Unlike football, this "rivalry game" had plenty of empty seats at Beard-Eaves Coliseum. Can someone persuade the football players to take up basketball in the winter -- simply to give tough fouls?

(Somebody's got to ask it: is coach Jeff Lebo's job safe, with so many seats at Auburn home games empty? He hasn't drawn a loyal following to match Cliff Ellis's "Cliff Dwellers" - and isn't even doing commercials for Jeff-y Lube.)

+ Instant Message to Golden Corral: So it's "Carver's Sunday," huh? When is the day for Northside High? And Hardaway? And Shaw?

COMING THIS WEEK: An area school marks a big anniversary....

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Friday, January 27, 2006


(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.)

Ask some of my co-workers, and they'd describe me as a conservative guy. Ask enough people at the church I attend, and some probably would describe me as dangerously liberal. For one thing, I don't own any guns -- so at this time of year, I spell it "dear hunting" and look for single women.

I've been reminded at church over the last couple of weeks of how liberal some of "the brethren" consider me to be. Two weekends ago, I was Worship Leader on the weekend of Martin Luther King Day. At least, most churches call it that. We say "Song Leader" -- as if a Higher Power really is in charge.

The Worship Leader starts the service, with a few remarks and a couple of hymns. I mentioned the approaching M.L.K holiday, noted it was also the 20th anniversary of the death of our denomination's founder - and said both men showed bravery and courage. I didn't mention the two never met, and only one staged protest marches.

I never named either Martin Luther King, Jr. or the denomination's founder - but the passing reference was too much for at least one church member. That member didn't come to me about it, even though the Bible says you should "go to your brother." Maybe he thought I was a "bro" instead - and he didn't consider that good.

Someone else brought up that member's anger, as I walked into a discussion at church last weekend. "There he goes, praising that n*****r," the member was quoted as saying. Given my congregation's background, the only African-American man he might have accepted was Colin Powell.

Thankfully, the other people in the discussion were on my side on this topic. They said some members "need to grow up," instead of holding prejudice against Martin Luther King 38 years after his death. But then again, my Pastor declared during the service that the Roman Catholics never disfellowshipped Adolf Hitler.

Other members of the denomination I attend also object to Martin Luther King's glorified legacy. One has a blog in Tampa, and wrote the other day about all sorts of faults Dr. King had. It's a good thing King was never nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court....

I'm well aware Martin Luther King had flaws. But I'm also well aware that I do as well. Your e-mails of correction remind me of that. And thankfully, I have yet to be called before Oprah Winfrey for a televised public lecture.

Call me naive, but I try to examine both the positive and negative traits of people -- and learn from both of them. That goes for Dr. King, my denomination's founder, and even my parents. The latter explains why I don't smoke, don't swear - and don't hide a handgun under the front seat of my car.

By the way, I wonder if the church critics of Martin Luther King checked the denomination's web site - and noted almost nothing was posted on January 16. The denomination's home office showed some respect, and took M.L.K. Day off. And that office is in a city which didn't even have a pro basketball game.

COMING SUNDAY: The budget dance begins again.... or who robbed the firehouse?....

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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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.


It's a rare day when we have a blog sequel - and this one really isn't. Call this title a reminder of why you should recycle....

We actually have two access issues today, neither of them about cable television. First there's Fort Benning -- where officials confirmed Thursday they will NOT reopen the access point at St. Mary's Road. If you even try to enter there, the controlled burners may come after you.

Concrete barriers were set up at the St. Mary's Road access point to Fort Benning after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Now they're apparently there to stay. And if Fort Benning could stack several of them on top of each other, we might have a new racquetball court in town.

A Fort Benning spokesman told WRBL the barriers at St. Mary's Road would be removed only for two reasons. One would be if an emergency required someone to be rushed off post for medical treatment -- but of course, a well-timed train on Buena Vista Road would get in the way of that.

The second reason for removing the concrete barriers at St. Mary's Road would be if Columbus needed to make a mass evacuation. For example, if the weather forecast calls for an inch of snow....

Some people who live on St. Mary's Road are NOT pleased by Fort Benning's decision. They're concerned about having only one way to go when they leave their homes. Now they know how visitors to Riverfest feel, around 4th and Broadway.

On top of that, Columbus Council recently approved the construction of about 300 new homes along St. Mary's Road. Maybe this will finally convince a local radio station to bring back traffic reports....

Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland visited Columbus this week, and said alternative access roads are being planned for people on St. Mary's Road. For instance, there could be an entrance to Fort Benning on Cusseta Road - which could be exactly what some car thieves have been waiting for.

At another corner of Columbus, a meeting was held late Thursday on moving the "Streetscape" project to the 1000 block of Broadway. Business owners are quite concerned about this construction work - since this is a block of Broadway which people actually like to visit.

Some of us saw this concern coming months ago, when Streetscape work started. The 1000 block of Broadway has become a bustling spot after dark, with clubs and restaurants -- and now the city plans to rip it up?! What Peachtree Mall manager is over this project, anyway?

An executive with Freeman and Associates told WRBL the Streetscape work between 10th and 11th on Broadway will be done in quadrants, starting this spring. And some of the work may be done on weekends, so downtown loft residents won't need any Fountain City Coffee to wake up on Saturday mornings.

Buddy Nelms of The Loft said special promotions might be needed in the spring, to keep visitors coming to his nightclub during the Streetscape work. For instance, he could bring in the loudest rock bands on the planet to drown out the noise.

One possibility under discussion for the 1000 block of Broadway is to open public access to an alleyway, so customers can park and enter nightspots. Apparently the late-night drunks who use the alley for bathroom breaks will need to move up a block or two....

Contractors admit the Streetscape work might mean the end for some businesses in the 1000 block of Broadway. Hopefully the city won't tear apart an area finally making progress after all these years. But don't be surprised if "Club Oxygen" hands out actual oxygen masks, for handling the dust.

Now let's get to work on other items we unearthed on Thursday:

+ The day's mail brought me an offer to try Netflix free for a month. One page had a list of "new releases" - in November. If this is how fast the DVD service works, there had better not be any late fees.

+ WXTX "News at Ten" reported investigators from Aruba plan to visit Auburn University, to interview classmates of Natalee Holloway. Holloway planned to enroll at the University of Alabama - but c'mon, folks! The flag teams can't possibly be THAT competitive.

(One tabloid I saw Thursday claimed Natalee Holloway became a "sex slave." If they can't find her body, how do we know that? Have all the young men in Aruba added extra notches to their belts?)

+ Third Brigade Major Steve Warren told WRCG's "TalkLine" after serving in Iraq, the "tolerance for silliness and frivolity" by returning soldiers has gone down. So much for the theory that this blog would gain new readers....

(Steve Warren also noted soldiers returning to Fort Benning from Iraq have to be reminded to stay in their own lanes when they drive. I think ALL drivers need to be reminded of this - especially the speeders on Interstate 185.)

+ Atmos Energy announced its cost of obtaining natural gas will drop 24 percent in February. Hooray - now if the weather forecasters will stop showing us those maps of Canada, and claiming a cold wave is coming in a couple of weeks....

+ Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox officially launched her campaign for Governor. She criticized state officials for not traveling to Detroit, to appeal for saving the Ford Hapeville plant. Maybe they're so used to taking from lobbyists that they don't know how to give back.

(Of course, you could turn this argument the other way. If Cathy Cox can do commercials about investment scams, why hasn't she done ads urging people to visit their Southern Ford Dealers?)

+ A state office building near the Georgia Capitol was named after the late Senator Paul Coverdell. Governor Sonny Perdue said he'd never heard anyone have anything bad to say about Coverdell. Apparently he never watched the Michael Coles attack ads several years ago....

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths held off Huntsville 4-2, in a game marred by five game-stopping fights. It was "C.S.U. Night" at the Civic Center, but "WWE Smackdown Night" would have been more appropriate.

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College split a basketball doubleheader with the Faulkner State Sun Chiefs. The Sun Chiefs?! It sounds like what you call the board of a solar paneling company.

+ Instant Message to the Krystal near 55th and Veterans Parkway: About your sign outside: "TRY OUR NEW BREAKFEAST. IT BRAIN FOOD" - whoever puts those letters up must not have eaten it.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006


The Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs issued fines against several gas stations Wednesday, for price gouging during last August's "panic at the pump." The only things these stations should be "jacking up" are cars with flat tires.

The most notorious example of price gouging in Columbus was among those punished by the state. A B.P. station on Buena Vista Road charged five dollars a gallon at the height of the panic - and seven dollars a gallon for high-octane. That was a day when "premium unleaded" truly lived up to its name.

The Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs fined the owners of the "B.P. on B.V." $2,000 for its five-dollar gas price. Huh - ONLY $2,000? This station could pay that off, with about 20 SUV drivers getting fill-ups.

It turns out the fine against Triple Star Fuels is in the midrange of what the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs is issuing. Gas stations are being fined anywhere from $500 to $4,000. What did the top-end stations do - refuse to provide free car washes?

(An Albany convenience store also was fined $2,000 - "Homerun Foods #1." The managers tried for a home run, but wound up striking out.)

The Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs has received about 3,000 complaints in recent months about gas price-gouging. But at this point, only 66 stations have been charged with violations -- so apparently a five-cent overnight increase does NOT count.

The lowest gas price we've found in Columbus this week has been $2.21 a gallon, at the Dolly Madison bakery on Victory Drive. I think I've finally figured out how this place has such low prices. It doesn't sell tobacco, so it saves money on cleaning supplies.

While the state of Georgia issues fines for gas-gouging, oil companies continue to make a lot of money. ConocoPhillips announced Wednesday its 2005 profits went up 66 percent from the year before. I've wondered for years where the name "Phillips 66" came from....

Meanwhile, Georgia's Governor signed a bill Wednesday to confirm a three-month break on natural gas and propane sales taxes. Democrats in the legislature accused Sonny Perdue of taking only a short-term approach to high energy prices - and they have a good point. The tax breaks would end just in time for gas grill season.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We told you Tuesday about the lack of public access cable channels for local groups in the Columbus area. We've now heard from a fellow blogger in central Ohio, who's found a similar dilemma:

None up here either. The company that operated them went defunct a couple years ago. Tough to pay the bills when your service is free. I understand the desire to start low cost but every time I ever browsed through cable access there was usually some nut or a puppet show. Not sure that's really the venue to be on.

Hey, wait a minute here -- what do you have against puppet shows? When I was young, I was cuckoo for "Kukla and Ollie" instead of Cocoa Puffs....

(Hmmmm - "some nut" on public access cable?! Maybe this guy saw Jerry Laquire on WCGT after all.)

Now for other things we thought about Wednesday....

+ An afternoon trip down Victory Drive found several trees trying to bud near the Dolly Madison bakery. January has been so warm that I join these trees, in dreaming of an early spring - and rooting for the winter clearance sale on corduroy jeans.

+ The late news reported Advance Fast Tax on Second Avenue has reopened, 11 months after a police raid found methamphetamines inside. The report left one big unanswered question - does that tax office still have tanning beds?

(Some people living near Advance Fast Tax are upset about the reopening, saying it makes the neighborhood unsafe after dark. It's next to a convenience store, down the street from Valley Rescue Mission -- yet a tax office makes things unsafe?! Maybe its refund checks simply are too big....)

+ WRBL presented its first live report from inside the Opelika-Auburn News. But reporter Chris Sweigart sat quietly for about ten seconds, clearly due to a long delay in the audio. Hopefully they'll find replacements for the tin cans and string in coming days....

+ The Georgia House gave final approval to a "Voter ID" bill. Rep. DuBose Porter accused Republicans of rushing it through the legislature, to rig this year's election. The G.O.P. should listen to him - because Democrats rushed through a new state flag a few years ago, and they've lost seats ever since.

+ The Georgia House also approved a bill declaring every February 6 "Ronald Reagan Day." Several lawmakers asked why there should be a day for him, when there isn't one for former President Jimmy Carter. Someone should have quietly told these lawmakers Mr. Carter isn't dead yet.

+ Columbus State University split a basketball doubleheader with Georgia College and State University. Several Columbus Cottonmouths attended the games - but they had to be frustrated by what they saw. After all, you can't even hand-check someone in college basketball.

+ Georgia was jolted in men's basketball 81-52 by Louisiana State. L.S.U. led 50-19 at the half - and a few fans in Baton Rouge wondered if the Atlanta Hawks had shown up by mistake.

+ Instant Message to the driver who passed me with the license tag "KRIDDER": Do you plan to change that tag, if the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer gets a new owner?

FREE VERSE: The Ohio blog we mentioned above noted the other day that a suspected terrorism leader released a tape, in which he recites poetry. If that man can do it, so can I:

There once was a man named Usama,

Who seemed to like Barack Obama.

He tried to attack,

But the U.S. pushed back -

With soldiers based in Alabama.

It's called "free verse" because you didn't pay for it! To make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


A move is underway which could make large Columbus stores more difficult to find. But it's only fitting, in the home area of Fort Benning and camouflage green uniforms....

The Columbus Planning Department has been working with local agencies and developers on new rules for so-called "big box" stores. These are stores the size of a Wal-Mart, a shopping center the size of Columbus Park Crossing - and maybe cars the size of a modified "stretch limo" Hummer.

City Planning Director Rick Jones apparently is concerned because there aren't many trees around Columbus Park Crossing. There's one obvious way to change this - have the staff at A.C. Moore put bouquets of silk flowers all over the parking lot.

So an ordinance is in the works to set rules for the land around future giant stores, including plenty of trees. It's modeled after the code in Tallahassee, Florida - which may not be a good thing, because Florida State football players may have tried to use those trees to hide their shoplifting.

A preliminary version of this ordinance not only would require trees in the parking lots of "big box" stores, but clearly marked pedestrian walkways. The ones pictured in Tallahassee looked nice and wide - perfect for skateboarders to practice some moves.

The outside design proposal also would require bicycle racks. Yeah, right - like people go to Best Buy or H.H. Gregg on bicycles, to pick up washers and flat-screen televisions.

New large retail stores also would have to show some variety in their building design - and use "appropriate materials." I'm not sure what that means - but I suspect Action Buildings won't like this very much.

The proposal even sets rules for what happens if a large retail business closes. Or as they're calling it at Winn-Dixie -- phase two.

The preliminary ordinance would require large businesses to maintain their parking lots and landscaping after they close. And boarded-up windows would NOT be allowed -- since they certainly didn't work in New Orleans.

City Planning Director Rick Jones says the point of this proposal is to make sure Columbus has retail rules that are "protecting the community." People in Midland probably wish they went farther - to allow bicycles and pedestrians around the new Wal-Mart SuperCenter, but no cars.

The "big box" proposal may have its inspiration in the recent redesign of "The Landings" shopping center along Airport Thruway. A lot more green space has been added, nicer storefronts have gone up -- and the move of that Applebee's restaurant about 500 yards was a stroke of genius.

Now let's store all this in the trunk to guard against theft, and check other headlines from a busy Tuesday:

+ The Georgia Senate approved an amended "Voter ID" bill. Columbus Democrat Ed Harbison opposed the bill, saying restrictive rules of identification will result in "voter constriction." Republicans would argue the alternative is fraud at the polls - and people attempting voter construction.

+ A Georgia House committee approved a bill allowing courthouses to display "historical documents." The Ten Commandments would have to be included with the Declaration of Independence and the Mayflower Compact. Obviously Ed DuBose hasn't heard about this, because the Emancipation Proclamation is missing.

+ Then Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue attended the annual meeting of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He said Chambers of Commerce create prosperity, while governments do not. Uh-oh - what tax cut does he plan to take back?

+ Alabama gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore announced he'll help lead the committee for a state constitutional amendment, to ban same-sex marriages. In another shocking development, Auburn University decided to have classes.

+ Banker Aiford Hardin, Jr. announced he'll run for Russell County Probate Judge. Hardin told WRBL he started campaigning "right after my last campaign" six years ago. Apparently things aren't going well - because he couldn't even afford a lectern, for his outdoor announcement.

(Aiford Hardin says he is NOT running for Probate Judge because of all the controversy surrounding incumbent Al Howard. So apparently they agree on one thing: the Probate Judge's office is fine right where it is.)

+ The Russell County Commission approved a tax plan for Industrial Warehouse Services of Cottonton. The business plans to double its space for housing paper products -- once again proving the forecasters of a "paperless society" in the computer age were complete idiots.

+ Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin told WRCG's "TalkLine" the annexation of Ladonia is a "good scenario." Let's see him say that to the people who fled there to avoid city taxes....

+ The Georgia Lottery awarded its second big prize in LaGrange in five weeks - as teacher Jon Powell had a million-dollar scratch-off ticket. I'm waiting for Don Siegelman to declare this a "border town" conspiracy, and call again for a state lottery in Alabama.

(Jon Powell says he wants to use the lottery winnings to pay for college for his two children. Yet a daughter said she wants to go to the University of Georgia. Why doesn't she save her parents some money, and get her grades up for a HOPE scholarship?)

+ WRBL visited the Lumpkin Library, and found things much more peaceful from a year ago. For one thing, people who enter with drooping pants now are barred from the building for the day. How they're supposed to check out books about shopping for belts, I have no idea.

+ The jailed twins from Georgia who were approved for "American Idol" spoke out on Atlanta radio. One of them said you can't be a real American Idol "unless you've struggled, unless you've been in poverty, unless you've been abused...."
[True/WVEE-FM] I think this is also required to be a Democratic political candidate.

(Based on this definition, it appears American Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood should give up their titles. Why, this show isn't about singing -- it's about whether their parents qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit.)

+ Kentucky kept Auburn winless in Southeastern Conference men's basketball, 71-62. Auburn broadcaster Rod Bramblett openly called the home crowd "disappointing," and Kentucky announcers noted it was small. So? When do they expect the football team to focus on their studies?

(It probably didn't help that Auburn played a home game at 6:00 p.m. CT on a Tuesday night. Suppertime is an important Alabama tradition - and tailgating outside Beard-Eaves Coliseum simply isn't cool.)

+ Instant Message to Russell County Emergency Management Director Chance Corbett: I'm updating my will - and I hope you'll understand if I don't mention you. After all, I've been told for years: "Leave nothing to Chance."

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 5926 (+ 160, 2.8%)

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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


When you're given a church project and you're unable to accomplish it, the feeling can be downright discouraging. After all, the Bible says believers can do "all things through Christ" - but it doesn't add any fine print saying, "unless everybody else says no."

The latest project I've been given involves cable television systems in the Columbus area. The denomination I attend wants to put a new weekly telecast on "public access" channels. In religious terms, this is called "wise stewardship." In the business world, this might be called "cheapskate."

The Pastor of our congregation knows I have a television background, so he asked me to call local cable companies and see if our program could go on public access. This is different from "Government Access" - where the only religion occurs when someone gives an invocation at council meetings.

But I had bad news for the pastor last weekend. I'd already made several calls - and discovered NO cable companies in Columbus or Phenix City offer public access channels. Perhaps that's not surprising, since several companies provide little "public access" to human phone operators.

Once upon a time and perhaps under a different owner, Cable TV of East Alabama had a channel offering local news and information. But I was told no public access channel is available now. Why would they tear THAT down to redevelop downtown?

The Columbus cable systems are no better. You won't find a public access channel at NO-logy - oops, I mean Knology....

Charter Communications controls cable systems not only in Columbus, but also Auburn-Opelika and LaGrange. A check with their mystery main office Monday revealed they only have public access channels in South Carolina. Maybe that state has more loudmouths than we do around here.

The cable system in Eufaula also lacks a public access channel. It's the same story at MediaCom in Columbus -- where I guess the staff is too busy working on silly satellite TV jokes, for that comedy club in the commercials.

A background sheet for the religious telecast says cable companies provide public access channels "as partial compensation to communities for their use of public rights-of-way." Not in this area, they don't - except for channels for local government and schools. In other words, happy politicians come first.

Perhaps this explains why several low-power commercial TV stations exist around the area. WCGT TV-16 has acted like public access cable at times over the years, with talk shows hosted by Miriam/Eve Tidwell and Jerry Laquire. And of course, that's how Mike Gaymon of the Chamber of Commerce sprang into radio work.

Now that TV-16 is owned by Tampa's Christian Television Network, most of the local talk shows have disappeared. One exception is "Unity" on Sunday afternoons, perhaps because it has commercial sponsors - and probably because unlike Jerry Laquire, host Pam Willis-Hovey tends not to call anyone names.

While a few Columbus churches show weekend services on TV-16, they probably have to pay for that privilege. The congregation I attend is looking for free TV time - and admittedly, we're a little hesitant about trying to get that attention by calling for the assassination of world leaders.

Perhaps if enough members of the public speak up, public access cable channels will appear. But then again, maybe the Internet age is making these channels outdated. The denomination I attend puts its new telecast online - although it's much harder for guys with TV remote controls to find.

Now YOU have full public access to the Monday news headlines:

+ Congratulations to Columbus State men's basketball coach Herbert Greene, who won his 500th college game! The Cougars conquered South Carolina-Upstate 94-89. So where are the rumors about drafting HIM to run for Mayor - since he's won a lot more than Bob Poydasheff?

(Columbus State's leading scorer was a sickly Ron Robinson. Coach Herbert Greene admitted on WDAK at one point, Robinson vomited on the bench - perhaps thinking he was playing South Carolina-Upchuck.)

+ Columbus Airport manager Mark Oropeza confirmed he's negotiating with United Airlines, to start daily direct flights to Washington's Dulles Airport. How many lobbying trips does AFLAC have to make?

+ Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiSciara told WRBL Alabama students are at a disadvantage compared with other states, because they're in class only 175 days a year. Aw, c'mon - simply tell the teachers to speak a little faster every day.

+ Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller announced a new police task force will focus on cleaning up drug dealing. The first target area is within a couple of blocks of police headquarters - which makes you wonder why the officers didn't simply park down the street, and start working on the walk toward the building.

+ Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison declared he opposes Georgia's "Voter I-D" bill, because it's immoral and isn't "in line with the Bible." Maybe I'm missing something here - but where in the Bible does it say people voted for leaders? At all??

+ Former Georgia Governor Zell Miller pulled another "zig-zag" - appearing at an anti-abortion rally in Atlanta, and repudiating his years of support for abortion rights. This man doesn't need a statue outside the state capitol. He should have a weather vane, turning back and forth.

(Zell Miller explained he changed his mind about abortion after he saw ultrasound images of his great-grandchild. Imagine if he saw pictures of bums, who spent all their money on lottery tickets....)

+ Ford announced it will close its Hapeville plant near the Atlanta airport, as part of a major downsizing. Only a couple of years ago, Ford was considering whether to build a new plant in Meriwether County. People in West Point had better not sell their property until the Kia plant has its grand opening.

(Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue told reporters there's "nothing wrong" with Ford employees, the plant or the entire state. It's nice to see he remains hopeful about Hapeville....)

+ In the weather, the morning low in Columbus was 57 degrees F. It was warm enough that for the first time, I took a morning jog outside. I did fine until the rain started falling -- and my body asked what in the world I was doing running outside at 8:30 a.m. in late January.

+ Back in basketball, the Atlanta Hawks handled Indiana 104-94. What a relief this must have been - to see the Hawks score 23 more points than Kobe Bryant had the night before.

+ Georgia basketball player Mike Mercer was named Southeastern Conference freshman of the week. He has a great sports trivia name - as another Mike Mercer was the kicker for Kansas City in Super Bowl I. This was way back, when three-point field goals only happened in football.

+ Instant Message to the man I saw on Fourth Street wearing an Atlanta Falcons replica jersey with Steve Bartkowski's name on it: Are you setting a trend here - suggesting the Michael Vick era is over already?

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.

© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2006


As of Sunday evening, my Yahoo "bulk mail" file had 5,586 messages in it. At this point, I believe I've heard from every Nigerian and Liberian con artist at least four times.

SPAM-A-RAMA: I used to go through my Yahoo bulk mail and clean out the spam which didn't interest me. But I've become so busy that I don't even bother anymore. Since Yahoo deletes messages there after 30 days, it's become to me like a stock market average. The Bulk Index is at 5,586, and trading is moderate.

Sometimes spam e-mails can be good for a laugh - and you don't even have to open them. The computer-generated titles of spam messages can be somewhere between illogical and strange. But then again, some of the big words could help children prepare for a school spelling bee.

Here are some REAL titles of spam e-mails I've received in the last few months - and my thoughts about them:


That's a misleading accusation. When I walk to convenience stores, I buy cookies or soda -- and sometimes corn chips.


If I fell into that giant new aquarium in Atlanta, that actually could happen.


I can't be Howie anymore. Hungry Howie's on Manchester Expressway closed a couple of years ago.


Aw, c'mon - how in the world can you clean someone from Saudi Arabia with pasta? You can't even (ahem) conduct a colonoscopy with that.


Why Taco Bell is resorting to e-mail advertising, I have no idea.


My hypothesis is that Michael in Atlanta is smarter than Marcus at Virginia Tech.


Wasn't this a candy commercial years ago? "There are lots of marble Rollos in a roll for you - if you don't care 'bout what you chew...."


On the top bunk of the bed, I suppose - since cream supposedly rises to the top.


No, I did NOT send this message to myself after a run in July....


Talk about a case of mistaken identity! I've never even dated Anne Hathaway.


Who WOULD want to do one? Well, besides the registered sex offenders....


Amazingly, this was NOT written by a critic of Columbus Council.


What is this supposed to mean? Is someone going to shout across Providence Canyon in Spanish?


I think this describes a little girl being told to clean her room.


Well, why not? A little nepotism always helps in winning government contracts.


Sometimes prayers can be like that....

Let's delete all these e-mails now, and check real events from Sunday:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a record-tying 76 degrees F. Fort Benning recorded 79, while Atlanta was stuck in the 50's. And so many people think these places are just the opposite -- at least when it comes to their ways of thinking.

+ The Temple Shearith synagogue held its first Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial service. Excuse me for asking a strange question -- but did the nonviolent approach promoted by Dr. King stop the Nazi holocaust?

+ "Miss Georgia" Monica Pang finished second at the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. She shouldn't give up hope, though -- as maybe some weirdo will post naked photos of Miss Oklahoma online.

+ "Dateline NBC" reported health inspectors went to a Save-A-Lot grocery store in Eatonton, Georgia recently, and found more than 100 expired products. So? Maybe this is how they make the prices so low - by leaving out the preservatives.

+ Pittsburgh and Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XL. The Steelers' offensive coordinator is former Falcon running back Ken Whisenhunt, while the Seahawks' center is former Falcon Robbie Tobeck - so they both seem to know the road to a Super Bowl leads away from Atlanta.

+ Instant Message to the man I saw outside Fourth Street Baptist Church wearing a bright pastel orange top hat and a pinstriped suit: I know Tennessee beat Florida in college basketball on Saturday, but you could have been a bit more modest
about 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.

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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


The big "Monster Truck Tour" completed a two-night stand at the Columbus Civic Center Saturday night. Hopefully none of the trucks got loose, the way those bulls did last weekend - because Columbus Police cars wouldn't stand a chance....

My dad drove 18-wheelers around greater Kansas City for decades. My big brother still does, making regular runs up the interstate to St. Joseph, Missouri. Yet I was NOT drawn to the Monster Truck tour. If the trucks aren't carrying stacks of dog food or 55-gallon drums of oil, what's the point?

Instead, I was drawn this weekend to a different sort of vehicle. My mailbox recently had an enticing offer to try out a new Volkswagen Passat. It wasn't enticing because my present car is 12 years old. It was because it offered something almost as valuable -- a 50-dollar gas card.

All I had to do was test drive a new Passat, get a business card from a Volkswagen dealer, mail in a form and receive a 50-dollar gas card. Yet I admittedly had a bit of trepidation about this. Would the dealer play "hardball" with me, to make me buy a car? Would the salesman know my credit score, simply by looking at me?

Carl Gregory Volkswagen is located just north of the J.R. Allen Parkway, a bit east of Veterans Parkway, and toward the end of what might be called Carl Gregory Boulevard. The street is filled with car dealers - and there's still open green space, in case Hummer ever decides to have a Columbus location.

If you want to test drive a car, Friday morning is a great time to do it. No traffic bothered me at all on Carl Gregory Boulevard, and no other customers were in sight at the Volkswagen dealer. But then again, the sales team had nothing else to do but sequester me all day....

"That's the first one of those I've seen," said Miles the salesman inside Carl Gregory Volkswagen. I received the Passat gas card offer weeks ago, but this was new to him. Maybe all the other southside residents who received it need METRA bus service to reach that part of tow -- assuming there is some.

(By the way, isn't Miles a great name for a car salesman? I wonder if he'd have to change his name to Kilometers in Canada....)

Miles was puzzled by the offer I'd handed him. "Do you need me to stamp your card?" he asked twice. Nope, a business card and a test drive were what I needed. But he seemed reluctant about the test drive part. It was almost as if he suspected something was up - like the test would go to Cataula, and leave him there.

After taking the offer to a mystery manager I never saw, Miles went to another room and picked up the key to a Passat. It's a key unlike anything I've ever seen - as you simply push it in to start the car. The only "cranking" you do on this model is to turn up the stereo.

Miles took the wheel for the first part of the test drive, and asked some questions like he was trying to figure me out. What do I drive now? A 1994 Honda. Would you be trading it in? Yes, I'd have to -- and I said this before noticing the Passat's $29,000 sticker price.

The one-lap test drive began with Miles turning right onto Veterans Parkway - and he powered the six-speed automatic transmission from 0 to 60 in only a few seconds. Thankfully, no police officer was around to remind him the speed limit is only around 40.

The card from Volkswagen noted the 2006 Passat 2.0T has 120 "not-so-standard features." I checked a few from the passenger's seat, such as the sunroof and completely built-in stereo. And I especially admired the "one-liter bottle holders" in each door - since my car's "cup holders" barely handle 12-ounce cans.

Miles turned the Passat into the parking lot of Marvin's Market for my turn behind the wheel. We both noted how empty Marvin's was, especially for a Friday. Has the upcoming Wal-Mart SuperCenter scared this business away already?

Miles had set the driver's seat with plenty of leg room - space I did NOT need, since I'm not that tall. So instead of relaxing behind the wheel, I sat up as if I was about to start a NASCAR race.

The speaker in the driver's side door of the Passat was covered with bright blue masking tape. Miles explained the person doing "detailing" on the car hadn't quite finished his job. I could relate to this, as in 1990 I bought a car without a working gas gauge. The first tank was quite a guessing game....

We drove north on Veterans Parkway to Williams Road, but I did NOT do the 0-to-60 thing Miles did. I'm a true weirdo when it comes to Columbus driving - as I actually think the speed limit signs mean what they say.

Turning onto Williams Road, Miles showed me how the "Tiptronic" shift option of the Passat works. Even though the car has an automatic transmission, I can override it and use manual gears. How he did this from the passenger's side, I'm not quite sure - but I'd want to know, if I'm ever carjacked.

Another unusual feature of the Passat is an electronic dashboard with a timing mechanism. You can figure out how many minutes it will take to drive from one place to another. In Columbus, this might be helpful. In accident-prone and gridlock-filled Atlanta, this would be ridiculous.

Williams Road winds into Moon Road, and Moon Road took us to the J.R. Allen Parkway so I could try a bit of highway driving. The entrance to the freeway in the Passat was quiet and smooth. Sometimes with my old Honda, the engine's noise mixes with me saying, "I think I can...."

The quick test-drive was over in less than 15 minutes - and to tell the truth, the Passat was a pleasure to drive. On top of that, Miles was a mild-mannered man to deal with. He was anything but a high-pressure salesman. In fact, when I first saw him I almost thought he was the parts department manager.

Miles read me correctly on one point: I really was there for the 50-dollar gas card, not a contract for a $29,000 Volkswagen Passat. We left shaking hands, and I promised to keep him in mind when the time came to buy my next car. But I did NOT tell him a "blogger on a budget" doesn't need much more than a Beetle.

Now let's take a spin around the area, for headlines from a truly springlike weekend:

+ The annual "march for life" abortion protest was held outside the Government Center. You have to admire these protesters' tenacity - because no one on Columbus Council has called for a local abortion ban in years.

(The "Chattahoochee Valley United for Life" activities included a Saturday night concert at the Trade Center. The headline act was a group called "Ezekiel's Eye." Well, I assume it's a group - since there's no listing for it under optometrists.)

+ "One Baby Place" at Doctor's Hospital marked its tenth anniversary. So is it old enough now to have a sibling named Two?

+ The Muscogee County "Junior Marshals" meeting held a kickoff program inside the Government Center. It's nice to see former Marshal Ken Suddeth's old honorary badges are being recycled....

(Deputy marshal Wilbert Williams says the Junior Marshals' program will include competitions, to reduce delinquency by promoting work as teams. C'mon now - these youngsters can watch "Survivor" every week and learn something different.)

+ The racketeering trial of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was scheduled for early May. The Siegelman campaign is pleased by this, because the trial should end before the primary in June. But really now - is THIS how you want to build name recognition for a candidate before an election?

+ CBS's "48 Hours Mystery" focused on the case of Atlanta college student Shannon Melendi. Butch Hinton was convicted of killing Melendi in 1994, even though her body never has been found and there's no real crime scene. This could mark the beginning of the end for those "CSI" shows....

+ The "Northland Neighbors" newspaper reported about 700 people joined me at the RiverCenter opera January 11. So the Bill Heard Theatre was only 35-percent full -- yet the Mozart Opera Theater is coming back next year. This is obviously NOT the National Football League....

+ Auburn marked 100 years of college basketball, by losing at home to Arkansas 68-52. WRBL claimed the Tigers would wear "throwback uniforms," but they certainly didn't look that way to me. And it absolutely didn't look that way, on the Auburn dance team.

(The basketball centennial included a "legends game," and an appearance by Charles Barkley. And the Auburn fans continued a long tradition of their own - as there were all sorts of empty seats in the upper sections.)

+ Columbus High School won a Georgia state wrestling title in its division. So who do the wrestlers get to face, when "WWE SmackDown" comes to town?

+ Instant Message to WKZJ "K 92.7": You didn't play many Lou Rawls songs after he died. You didn't play many Wilson Pickett songs after he died. Do you really want me to turn off your station, and play that Time-Life "Soul Ballads" collection all day?

COMING SOON: The thing I said which made someone utter a racial slur.... at church....

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.

© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 20, 2006

for 21 JAN 06: FINGER FOOD

(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.)

Before we begin, we send sympathies to a fellow area blogger, Chuck at Redneckin. He's lost a close relative in east Alabama in recent days. He put it better than we could: "Uncle NoPass has passed."

"His pointing and yelling and gesticulating thing at the line." That was how Atlanta sports columnist Mark Bradley described quarterback Peyton Manning's play-calling this past week. And I thought he was making sure the Indianapolis Colts moved toward the correct end zone.

But a different sort of finger-pointing was Bradley's focus. "Look in the mirror, Manning," was his title - saying the Indianapolis quarterback should NOT blame a weak offensive line for last weekend's playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Instead, Manning should blame himself. After all, his loss should prove finger-pointers don't win.

Yet hold on a minute here. By chastising Peyton Manning for finger-pointing, isn't Mark Bradley doing some finger-pointing of his own? He's done it for decades in Atlanta. In fact, I sometimes wish a sports team would name HIM head coach -- since he's such a genius at these things.

It's easy for newspaper columnists to point fingers. So can politicians, radio talk show hosts -- and yes, even bloggers. That's why I try to be careful and check myself, before I post comments on other people and things. To borrow a phrase: if you're going to blog the blog, you should also jog the jog.

Have YOU looked in the mirror lately? And I'm talking about more than making sure you didn't miss a spot while shaving....

Here's what I mean: are you accusing others of mistakes or omissions, when you're guilty of similar behavior in some way? If so, it's time to look closely at yourself and make some changes - since others may quietly be pointing fingers at YOU, and expecting change themselves.

There's a word for the disease of finger-pointing and blame-placing - one adapted as the name of a Christian rock band: "Plankeye." It comes from the New Testament, and it's really not a new problem at all. If you're doing it, ask God for help in overcoming it. It's always better to look in the mirror, and see things clearly.

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.

© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.


"Excuse me," said a young man who sat down next to me at a library computer. The young man had dark black man sticking up straight, as if he might be Don King's grandson.

"I'm not very computer literate," the young man admitted in a quiet library voice. "How do you look up somebody?" I assumed he wanted something basic - and wasn't going to a web site like Facebook to insult a girl wearing nothing but a bikini.

"Whitepages dot-com?" I guessed. I did NOT suggest Google to the young man, because I presumed he was looking for an address or phone number. The wrong name combination at Google might lead him to phony nude pictures of Elizabeth Vargas.

I showed the young man how to type in an Internet address - but his lack of literacy showed again. "Where's the dot?"

"That's a period," I answered. So why haven't these addresses ever been called something like "Whitepages-period-com?" Were the Internet inventors concerned some women might take it as harassment about their femininity?

The young man looked at the Whitepages.com home page for a few seconds, and knew Windows well enough to click off a pop-up ad. Then a woman who seemed to be the man's mother showed up to join him. Two heads are better than one, they say - but they don't make computers with two keyboards to match.

The man and woman were trying to track down someone who supposedly had moved to this area recently. When they asked for my help again, they'd done some sort of search - but came up with a list of 133 Georgia cities, and nothing to click for more details. These Mary Smiths must spread like gypsies....

I didn't know what to say this time, to help the man and woman. We carried on our own computer activities from there. I hope they found the person they wanted - because I'm still too nervous to try a dating web site to do the same thing.

It's been 11 years since I first learned how to use Windows and the Internet, at my old workplace in Atlanta. That seems like a long time - so it was a bit surprising to find a young man who was admittedly computer illiterate. But then again, I've driven cars for 30 years without knowing how to change the oil.

The Chattahoochee Valley library system used to offer free courses, teaching "newbies" about computers. Well, many of the students were up in years -- so I guess they were "old-bies."

But Thursday night, the Columbus Public Library had a different sort of computer class -- on blogging. Since they didn't invite me to be a guest lecturer, did they bring in someone else? Or is this an admission the library's "Clog" doesn't have many readers?

People like the young man I met Thursday are a reminder of why libraries have "public access computers" in the first place. They're very helpful for new users, low-income people who can't afford home computers -- and don't forget the workers on their lunch hours, with serious addictions to online billiards.

As I left the main library, I came across another teaching moment -- only not for me. "Put the sign back," a mother told her toddler on the stairway. No, the giant plaques listing school board members were NOT in danger of toppling....

A closer look at the mother and toddler showed the child had ripped off part of the "watch your step" sign near the bottom of the stairway. Young children clutch and grab things so much, it's a wonder more of them aren't pro hockey players.

Putting back a torn "watch your step" sign seemed to be asking a bit much of this toddler. But the mother did NOT seem to panic in embarrassment, and carry the child out the front door in a rush. That's like football teams taking quick snaps after close calls - much too obviously guilty.

BLOG BLAH BLAH: Now for entry number two, in our search for an official Columbus flavor to rival a "chocolate New Orleans":

BBQ Duck....


Hmmmm - this brings up some good questions. Does AFLAC have a commissary? Does Country's Barbecue serve the food? And is smoked barbecue banned, so people who sell cancer insurance don't look like hypocrites?

Before we get to some special fun Friday features, let's quickly check the Thursday news headlines:

+ The last few military planes flew Third Brigade soldiers out of Iraq, and back to Fort Benning. They were delayed a few days in Kuwait, because flights were suspended after the country's emir died. It's only been 15 years since U.S. forces helped liberate Kuwait -- and already they're rebelling.

+ WRBL reported the Bradley-Turner Foundation will provide a $200,000 grant to keep a local "mental health court" open. Uh-oh - maybe THIS is why I seem to see so many Columbus Police cars when I go outside to run errands.

(So why doesn't daytime TV have a "mental health court?" It would be the perfect place to track former Jerry Springer guests.)

+ The Talbotton City Council suddenly canceled its meeting - reportedly because a TV news crew was coming, to ask questions about monthly tax bills for a volunteer fire department. Some residents say the department doesn't exist. So imagine how many TV news crews will show up when a fire starts....

+ Americus resident and former Attorney General Griffin Bell told the Georgia Public Policy Foundation the state's public education system is badly broken. This compares with local supporters of a split sales tax -- who say it's simply badly BROKE.

+ WXTX "News at Ten" interviewed an East Alabama woman who has a dog specially-trained to help her, when she has epileptic seizures. The dog even can dial 911! Now who will train a dog to work through voice mail lines at a bank?

+ Carolina Panthers kicker John Kasay appeared on a Billy Graham TV special, and confessed he "stepped on people" in his drive to be successful at the University of Georgia. So what? He's a place-kicker - and he probably had to hurt a holder or two during practice.

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: Today marks five years in office for President Bush. He was inaugurated on Saturday, January 20, 2001 - and here's a bit of how we covered it the following Monday, in the 22 Jan 01 LaughLine:

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

George W. Bush became President on a cold, rainy Washington day - just as Albert Gore said a Bush victory would feel, in one of his last pre-election speeches [LaughLine, 7 Nov 00]. Now we're scared. Maybe Mr. Gore DOES control the weather - and we may have four years of the worst global warming ever.

In his inaugural address, the new President called on the country to be "citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects." Our dictionary [Webster's New World] defines citizen as "a native...." Citizen can also be defined as someone who "is entitled to full civil rights." Let's see Mr. Bush say that personally to voters in Palm Beach County.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(And how can you possibly have a "thanksgiving day" on a Sunday when the National Football League is off?)

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

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

Sunday morning found the first family at Washington's National Cathedral for a "unity service." The ministers included Protestant Franklin Graham, Pentecostal Jack Hayford, a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, a newly-named Catholic Cardinal and a Texas Rabbi! Smart move by President Bush - he figures God must listen to ONE of 'em.

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

The furnishings in the Oval Office already have changed. The White House staff put in an off-white carpet over the weekend, and removed a royal blue carpet. We can't wait to see the Drudge Report's expose, checking that blue carpet for (ahem) stains....

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

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

SONG OF THE DAY: The Super Bowl teams will be determined this weekend - and we can't help thinking about one of the Pittsburgh Steeler defensive players. We hear his name, and think of the old folk song "Polly Wolly Doodle":

Oh, I really thought that he held that ball -

I say Polamalu caught it on that day!

And the referee really blew that call -

Because Polamalu took the pass away!

Thanks to Troy, thanks to Troy --

Steelers won at RCA!

He helped stop the Colts, and now Denver's next -

Watch for Polamalu playing on Sunday!

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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Before we start, check your cash stash - and see if you have any two-dollar bills hiding in it. If you do, please do NOT be concerned. We are NOT publishing Leonard Crain's latest scam alert from the Better Business Bureau.

My Pastor recently said during a sermon that the two-dollar bill virtually has disappeared, because no one wants to use it. I don't recall exactly why this came up during a sermon - because he hasn't preached against gambling in a long time.

But the pastor's comment sparked some old thoughts in my mind. I used to ask from time to time for a few two-dollar bills, when I went to the bank on payday. I was doing my part to keep them in circulation - and make sure business money-takers were paying attention on the job.

Inspired by my pastor's words (though he probably wanted me to be inspired by other things), I went to my bank last payday and asked if they had a couple of two-dollar bills. I've learned over the years that not all bank branches have them -- just like not all banks offer any real interest on checking accounts.

The staff in the bank office had a few twos stored away. In fact, they brought me out FIVE of them. It was a perfect opportunity to see what would happen as I passed them around the area. Would people say anything? Would they summon police, and accuse me of being a cheapskate counterfeiter?

So over the last eight days, we've conducted what might be called Blog Experiment 2.00 - and now we share the results, of our passing around two-dollar bills.

2.1: A bread store in Phenix City. There's no reaction at all. It's all simply "bread" to them.

2.2: A main-floor bar at the RiverCenter, between acts of last week's opera. Two dollars buys you a 12-ounce mini-bottle of soda - which means four bucks for 20 ounces at the Georgia Dome actually is a better value.

The man at the bar takes my two, like it's nothing unusual. Maybe he considers me one of those typical eccentric arts spenders.

2.3: A dry cleaning business on South Lumpkin Road. I need quarters for the laundromat next door. The woman behind the counter seemed to pause for a moment -- but from her accent, I think she'd dealt with Euros as well as dollars.

2.4: A Spectrum station on Wynnton Road. The young woman there says nothing - perhaps thinking my two is the bait to distract her, so I can run off with a package of cookies.

2.5: The Library Café, inside the Columbus Public Library. It was nice to see Wednesday the price of brownies here has dropped from two dollars to one -- and the size isn't much smaller, either. Little Debbie slashed its brownies in half a year ago, to the size of about three Scrabble squares.

I offer $2.10 to the man at the counter, and receive only three cents back in change. "I gave you a two-dollar bill," I quietly point out.

"A two?!" the man says rather puzzled. Then again, someone else had to point out I was waiting at the counter for service in the first place.

The man wearing a military veteran cap (no, it's not Jim Rhodes) turns around to double-check the register - and sure enough, there's a two in the drawer. He gives me a one-dollar bill, and everything is settled. The man doesn't apologize, though - he's not one of those wimpy Vietnam vets like John Kerry.

So what does five times two equal -- other than ten? Nothing spectacular, really. We only found one error in handling the unusual bills, and no comments from recipients at all. Maybe businesses see more two-dollar bills than my pastor realizes -- which means maybe more people go to Victoryland than anyone knows.

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of the Columbus Public Library, did you hear about the unusual honor it received? It's been named one of five model library systems in the U.S. - which means not everyone has heard about that fuss with the Albert Paley sculpture.

WRBL reports the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation cited the Chattahoochee Valley library system, in part for all the computers patrons can use. Considering Mr. Gates's company arranged computer donations for many libraries a few years ago, this could be a Microsoft version of the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also praised the Chattahoochee Valley library system for its financial endowment. Members of Columbus Council might argue it's not big enough - because the library board still has to go through the city to approve new statues.

BLOG BLAH BLAH: If New Orleans can be chocolate (or at least that was the mayor's dream for a couple of days), what flavor is Columbus? We're asking for your ideas, and now we have one:

WAVY GRAVY is the flav in Columbus. Walk into a Country's or McDonalds around here-you know what I am talking about.


I'll have to take your word for this one, T. I thought they only poured gravy on the Country's mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving - and McDonald's seems to hold the gravy on its breakfast cinnamon rolls.

Now let's satisfy our appetite for Instant Messages....

+ To the second graders at Glenwood School: OK, I admit - I'm jealous. You've already had a book published?! Can I have the name of your agent?

+ To the man standing downtown on Veterans Parkway, holding a sign: "I'M HUNGRY, CAN YOU HELP?" I didn't count you as a Blogger Beggar, because I was in the left lane. Stand in the median, and we might talk - dangerous though that would be.

+ To Tim Hudson: Why did you say during Wednesday night's Atlanta Hawks broadcast you "haven't decided whether to accept" an invitation to play in the World Baseball Classic? Are you dropping hints that an incentive clause should be added to your contract?

+ To the driver of an Intrigue with the Muscogee County license tag, "THICKS": Are you a Mr. Hicks? A Ms. Hicks? Or the manager of a Hardee's restaurant?

COMING FRIDAY: A song for the N.F.L. Conference Finals.... and one player in particular....

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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© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Columbus area law officers got their men Tuesday. Two escaped murder suspects from Russell County were captured at a Victory Drive motel. In this case, the checkout time was about 10:00 a.m. - and was strictly enforced.

Authorities say a tip from the street led them to the Georgian Motel on Victory Drive - one of those old-fashioned small motels where you wouldn't expect the customers to even leave a tip for the maid.

A manager at the Georgian Motel said a woman in her 50's checked in accused murderers Johnny Jones and Lamar Benton Saturday afternoon, and paid for a three-night stay. So they were about to wear out their welcome Tuesday, anyway -- and even worse, they might have to look for a place at the Baker Village Apartments nearby.

A Russell County Sheriff's officer says Lamar Benton and Johnny Jones surrendered peacefully, when authorities stormed into their motel room. The suspects reportedly had no weapons - but did have pizza and playing cards. The simple pleasures of freedom can be the most satisfying....

The escapees were hurried before a Muscogee County Judge, where they signed papers allowing them to be returned to Alabama. Don't you wonder why they didn't try to fight extradition, and stay in Columbus? After all, the Muscogee County Jail is closer to many more restaurants.

A CNN news crew was waiting for the escapees, when they arrived at the Russell County Jail. If these guys had remained on the loose a few more hours, Nancy Grace may have come down from Atlanta and called them names.

Lamar Benton and Johnny Jones were awaiting trial in separate murder cases. Now they face escape charges as well - and it's really hard to plead "not guilty" when you're caught in a room with maid service.

Lamar Benton and Johnny Jones were kept Tuesday night in solitary confinement areas of the Russell County Jail. They're being kept away from other prisoners - in case the escapees were able to watch "Prison Break" in their motel room, and take notes on it.

Russell County Sheriff Tommy Boswell admits his jail is overcrowded. But he says that was NOT the reason for three accused killers getting out early Saturday. Since guards were overpowered, perhaps the reason lies in an exercise room that's too good.

Sheriff Tommy Boswell says he's making personnel changes, in the wake of the weekend jailbreak. He urged Russell County residents Tuesday to give him confidence to make those changes. Did he mean ONE resident in particular - and why would Probate Judge Al Howard snoop around in this?

One unsettled question from Tuesday's capture is who helped the escapees get a motel room for three days. The woman who paid for the room listed an address near St. Francis Hospital, which turned out to be a business. Hmmmm - it might be an employee who considers the business a bedroom, and sleeps on the job.

While that search continues, at least this story ends with two pieces of good news. For one thing, wanted men are back behind bars. For another thing, David Copperfield could perform his disappearing acts at the RiverCenter Tuesday night without facing police questioning.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION concluded Tuesday night, and found most of you are NOT impressed by the proposed one-percent sales tax for both city and school projects. Six out of seven voters were against it - proving again the only "split" many people like involves bananas and ice cream.

One comment left in our week-long poll suggested Columbus voters won't be willing to approve sales tax questions until the property tax freeze ends. Are THAT many people in the city living in apartments and rental houses? Or is this an aspect of global warming that scientists haven't considered?

"I voted for a one cent sales tax in 1998," wrote another comment-maker in our poll, "and look where it got me." Trouble is, the writer wasn't more specific -- so it might have given her a fuel-efficient car, to commute to Columbus from Harris County.

Even without a split sales tax, Columbus is finding money for projects in other places. A two million dollar state grant was announced Tuesday, to connect two areas of the Riverwalk downtown. This way, joggers like me won't be tempted to climb the steps at 12th Street anymore - and get our sweat all over River Club members.

Now for other news and notes from what one person called a "nasty" Tuesday:

+ Detailed plans were unveiled for the new National Infantry Museum. WRBL reported it will have Georgia's "first IMAX theater outside Atlanta." Obviously this museum's board doesn't have any members from the Space Science Center....

+ Opelika's City Council considered a proposal to ban smoking in most public places. Is this a good idea, in a place which claims to be a railroad town? Those old steamy locomotives might never come back.

+ Randolph-Clay High School set a Georgia record, as the boys' basketball team won its 77th game in a row. Amazing! This streak has lasted longer than Kenny Chesney's marriage to Renee Zellwiger - and now it's gaining on Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson.

+ Instant Message to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: Thanks for making me do some serious thinking. If your city is going to be "chocolate," I think Columbus could be described as a "rocky road."

(BLOG BLAH BLAH: What flavor best describes Columbus, or nearby cities? Let us know - as we may be on to something here.)

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.

© 2003-06 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.