Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Well, well - so much for the Columbus city budget cuts being "tentative." A director at a senior center revealed Monday she's been told she'll be out of a job June 30. The budget plan may be in pencil, but the pink slips apparently are in indelible ink.

Barbara Key of the Gallops Senior Center has been a Columbus city employee 30 years. She says she felt "slapped in the face" to be told she'll be let go in June - since after all, without "seniority" she wouldn't have a job in the first place.

The proposed layoff of two staff members at the Gallops Senior Center on 15th Street brought out a big crowd for a Monday meeting. Either that, or they planned to hold a big "Dancing With the Stars after-party" right after it....

Some regular visitors to Gallops Senior Center expressed concern the cut of two staff members could reduce the number of weekly dances. Right now there are dances three days a week - which I think means they do the "paso triple."

Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams tried to explain the city's budget situation to the Gallops audience. He admitted not only could two jobs be cut, but the senior center's swimming pool might be closed. Apparently it would cost too much to covert it to a sauna or hot tub.

You may not have realized the Gallops Senior Center has a swimming pool. Parks Director Tony Adams says not enough people use it - which I hope doesn't mean Alzheimer's Disease is a growing problem among the membership.

(Couldn't the city leave the Gallops swimming pool open, and allow the public at large to use it? The 70-something regulars might learn to like Kanje West rap music.)

City officials say the swimming pool at Gallops Senior Center costs $54 per person per day to operate. If user fees actually were charged to the older swimmers, you might find some very unusual swimsuit wearers on METRA buses in July.

Columbus city officials take a big political risk, if they make any cuts to places such as Gallops Senior Center. Studies show older people are much more likely to vote. And if they don't have very long memories, they know how to write down names of people they don't like.

Lest newcomers get the wrong idea - just because it's called the Gallops Senior Center does NOT mean you can go horseback riding there. The center is located near downtown Columbus. And the only time most residents seem to care about horses is when Callaway Gardens has the steeplechase.

Now let's ride off into the sunset, with other notes from Monday's news:

+ CORRECTED: Which Talbot County man reportedly changed the locks on his home, to kick out his wife - and the man is 90 years old? After all these years, you'd think he could stomach one burnt casserole....

+ A Korean newspaper reported Troup County has emerged as the top contender for a new Kia car assembly plant. The Mayor of West Point reportedly had a great idea for clinching the deal -- but the city name East Point already was taken.

+ Radio's "Duke and the Doctor" returned to Columbus, and reported on a recent week in Israel. They said they witnessed a wand which somehow can remove cellulite. You can see their next infomercial coming, all the way from the Tel Aviv airport....

(I'm impressed that Duke and the Doctor did a week of radio shows from Israel. Some Columbus radio stations have trouble doing any live reports from east of Interstate 185.)

+ Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers told the Phenix City Rotary Club he supports a 45-day review, before control of several U.S. ports is sold to Dubai Ports World. Apparently he disagrees with President Bush, who's singing like Frank Sinatra - "Dubai Dubai Do...."

+ A University of South Alabama survey found Roy Moore would beat Don Siegelman, if the two squared off for Governor in November. The pollsters did NOT ask how many voters would flee the state at the thought of having to make this choice.

+ Brookstone knocked off Northside 3-1 on the opening day of boys' high school soccer season. Brookstone was spurred by two goals from Andrew Cartlidge - so this is one time when I guess you'd want Cartlidge on a tear....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported one of the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers coaches was punched during Sunday's opening-night win. Anything which makes indoor football feel like hockey is bound to attract more fans.

(Isn't the Vipers coaching staff asking for something like this? The team web site says you can arrange to have someone "punk'd" at a home game.)

+ Instant Message to the man who wore an "Akademiks" outfit inside the KFC in downtown Phenix City: Talk about setting a fashion trend! I don't think I've ever seen someone wear plaid shoes before....

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Monday, February 27, 2006


Sunday night marked the regular-season premiere of a new sports team in Columbus: indoor football's Chattahoochee Valley Vipers. They prepared for the game by practicing outdoors, at McClung Memorial Stadium - so hopefully none of the players has claustrophobia.

The Chattahoochee Valley Vipers play in an "indoor football" league, while the old Columbus Wardogs played in an "arena football" league. I'm not sure what the difference is -- but I used to play indoor football in the living room, and my mother disapproved of it.

From the highlights I saw Sunday night, the Vipers' opening game was a bit behind the Wardogs' premiere several years ago. For one thing, the end zone boards actually have blank empty spaces for advertising....

Was it just me, or did the Vipers logo in the end zones look like it was spray-painted on top of what the Wardogs used to have? This team apparently is so low-budget that it can't afford a can of paint for a base coat.

The home uniform of the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers reminds me of Grambling -- mostly black, with red numbers and golden-yellow helmets. But somehow, I doubt the Vipers will follow Grambling's example and keep the same head coach for decades.

And how about that football the Vipers use? It's actually red, white and blue. It's a bit like the old American Basketball Association -- or maybe something on sale at Toys R Us....

Another area blog complained a few weeks ago the Chattahoochee Valley Vipers were hurting themselves, by a lack of promotion. I've since been told the team never even contacted at least one TV sports department about its preseason scrimmage at the Civic Center. We can't be "on your side" if we don't know you exist.

The Chattahoochee Valley Vipers were victorious on opening night, edging Daytona Beach 48-46. But since no one really knows this league, it could have been a bit like Auburn bringing in Ball State.

Small-scale football can be funny to watch on TV. Earlier Sunday, NBC showed an Arena Football game with the "world champion" Colorado Crush. Aw c'mon - world champion?! Isn't this like calling Tony Stewart the world champion of NASCAR?

Meanwhile, the biggest sports event of the weekend in Columbus was washed away by the rain. The college softball "Leadoff Classic" was canceled Sunday morning, even though the sun was out. Apparently the grounds crew lost its sponsorship deal with The Sandman....

I could understand the Leadoff Classic not having any games Saturday. But were the fields at South Commons THAT unplayable Sunday? Couldn't they have found some jackets from high school football teams to cover the infields?

After all, Auburn was able to play a home baseball doubleheader Sunday against Elon. It's a shame if Auburn University can afford a tarp for the infield, while the Columbus Parks Department cannot - and I don't recall Auburn students approving any one-cent sales tax.

While many softball teams loaded their buses and left Columbus Sunday, the Michigan team stayed in town and had practice at South Commons. After all, back home the softballs probably would be lost in the snow on the ground.

It turns out it's spring break time at the University of Michigan, so the Wolverine softball players are on an extended road trip. They play at Georgia today, then face Troy and Auburn Tuesday. These young women will be so busy, they may not even have time to visit a mall.

(Then again, maybe that's the plan. If this college softball team has any off days in this area, the players might get recruited to build Habitat for Humanity houses.)

Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins says Columbus ranks among her favorite places to visit. That's nice to hear - but hold on a second. Was she part of the S.O.A. Watch crowd last November?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our weekend check of the InBox brought a comment about clothing:

Have you seen the new dress code passed by MCSD board? No hoodies next year..Does this mean they are going to open a school store for kids to shop in next year? Where can you find enough zipper front ,none hooded sweat shirts for kids in Columbus to wear? I agree with Mary Sue,sort of a dumb decision..Hark,this is a first for me to agree with Mary Sue..

No, I was unaware of the Muscogee County School Board cracking down on "hoodies." But if they're going to go after hoodlum rappers, it only makes sense....

I haven't really analyzed the dress code approved by the Muscogee County School Board last week. Blame it on the fact that I don't have any children in local schools - and the fact that I'm still old-fashioned enough to actually wear a suit to church.

The Muscogee County School District web site apparently hasn't posted the new dress code, so I couldn't review it Sunday. But one online news report indicates middle school students will be barred from wearing shorts to school next year. That way, boys' legs will be picked on only in physical education class.

The new district-wide dress code also will bar high school girls from wearing short skirts. They'll have to save such outfits for when they get home, and watch videos on B.E.T.

The new district-wide dress code doesn't start until next school year, so Columbus stores have five months to get ready for the change. It probably will take work crews in Bangladesh only a few days to make the adjustment....

By the way: if this is your first time agreeing with School Board President Mary Sue Polleys, mark it carefully - because if she really means it this time and doesn't run for reelection, it could be the ONLY time you agree with her.

COMING THIS WEEK: He's selling a very Columbus product from.... well, somewhere....

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Sunday, February 26, 2006


We may be borrowing a concept from another local blogger, but we have plenty of tasty items to offer today -- catching up on news from this past week:

+ The Muscogee County School District and Columbus Council held another meeting on the split sales tax. One TV station said they're now in agreement. Another station said the idea is postponed for this year. So when in doubt, you form a committee and claim victory.

+ Fort Benning commanders revealed the wave of new soldiers will come to the Columbus area in 2009. Dozens of used car dealers will have to hang on a little while longer.

(Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff calls the effort to get organized for thousands of new soldiers "Operation Preparation." At Martin Army Hospital, would they call it Operation Preparation H?)

+ A Russell County jury found William Crawford NOT guilty of murdering his father-in-law, apparently because he was drunk when he did it. What's the lesson of this for young people? Drink some shots, before firing shots?!

(The logic of this verdict is that drunk people in Alabama can do pretty much anything they please. If Mike Price had realized this a few years ago, he still might be University of Alabama football coach.)

+ WRBL presented a lengthy special report on the Stocking Strangler case. Defense attorney Jack Martin asked why Columbus Police never tape-recorded the confessions of convicted killer Carlton Gary. Maybe police budgets were tight back then as well, and they couldn't afford it.

(Jack Martin suggests detectives with notepads can't be trusted -- and people who are skeptical of the Ledger-Enquirer probably will agree with him.)

+ The Georgia Legislature debated a bill making red clay the official state dirt. I'm surprised no Democrat has tried to put this title on Governor Sonny Perdue.

(So is there any competition for the title of "official state dirt?" Is there a brown dirt lobby in Atlanta, accusing lawmakers of discriminating on the basis of color?)

+ The Georgia House passed a bill requiring parental permission before anyone under 16 gets married. One member dared to ask during the debate how many lawmakers had sex before THEY turned 16. [True/GPB] Now we're almost wishing someone runs against Rep. Calvin Smyre, and asks him that during a debate.

+ The Georgia Senate passed a bill toughening the state rules on dogfighting, but not before adding a section on cockfighting. One Senator claimed some chickens will fight each other without any training. This apparently explains why KFC divides the regular and extra crispy chicken in its barrels.

+ The final Lotto South drawing occurred, as the Georgia Lottery switches to "Win for Life." Instead of winning millions of dollars in a jackpot, you could win $52,000 a year for the rest of your life. Considering the other stuff lottery players tend to buy at convenience stores, this is a major downsizing.

+ Our trip to Valdosta to announce the launch of Power Frisbee found Tifton, Georgia has a Starbucks coffee shop - AND signs along Interstate 75 leading you to it. When Tifton is ahead of Columbus in something like this, I feel a bit embarrassed for my city....

(Tifton also has less expensive gasoline than Columbus. A couple of stations sold regular unleaded for $2.01 - as apparently they didn't want the big crowds a $1.99 price would have brought.)

+ Saturday's rainfall in Columbus was more than two inches, setting a record for the date. Whoever tried to set fire to a church in Marion County at midday was seriously lacking in brains.

+ A group of children put on a dance performance at Peachtree Mall, to mark Heart Month. Dancing truly can stimulate your heart - just ask any guy who's watched Stacey Kiebler on "Dancing With the Stars" the last several weeks.

+ Several Columbus teams qualified for the Georgia high school basketball final four -- the Carver and Spencer boys, along with the Kendrick and Pacelli girls. No sir, we're not missing those Riverdragons one bit....

+ Instant message to Great Championship Wrestling: I don't get it. The referee is looking right at a guy pulling trunks, and he doesn't call it?! Is that legal now? Or are you trying to get a sponsorship deal with an eye doctor?

YOUR EXQUISITELY EXTRAVAGANT LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: On this final day on the Winter Olympics in Italy, we offer several ways the games can be improved in time for Vancouver 2010:

1. Olympic Blind Date. How about Bode Miller with Michelle Kwan - a match made off the podium, and maybe in a bar.

2. Send NBC-38's Al Fleming to the games, to personally tell off athletes like Shani Davis for their bad attitudes.

3. Add a couple more figure skating announcers. Four people in the booth simply wasn't enough for me.

4. Build a speed-skating short track on the infield of East Alabama Motor Speedway. They both have the same level of crazy bumping.

5. Have REAL Olympic curling - with a team from the Southeastern Beauty School.

6. Have hockey "thugs" do short track speed skating between periods. Just think of it: Jerome Bechard, five laps, anything goes....

7. Add the new sport of ice fishing. People around Lake Eufaula can understand that one.

8. Move NASCAR radio announcers to short-track speed skating. NOW we'll see how fast they can call the action in turns one and two.

9. Even better: have Darrell Waltrip cover alpine skiing - so he can say of one U.S. gold medalist: "Liggity Liggity Liggity, boys!"

10. Have Apollo Anton Ono host a Winter Olympic talent contest - and call it "Showtime at the Apollo."

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Friday, February 24, 2006

for 25 FEB 06: THE OTHER "L WORDS"

(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.)

"LOVE IS FOR LOSERS," proclaimed a T-shirt I passed in a Columbus supermarket a few weeks ago. A woman was pushing a cart, and a child was with her - but I think the presence of the child was more likely to keep me from introducing myself to her.

I took a quick check at the back of the woman's T-shirt as I passed by, but I don't recall seeing an explanation for "LOVE IS FOR LOSERS" on the other side. After all, it could be a reference to tennis....

I don't know this for sure, but "LOVE IS FOR LOSERS" struck me as one of those provocative shirts Abercrombie and Fitch might sell. At least this was different from several years ago - because the shirt covered the woman's body.

Why would someone wear a T-shirt declaring love is for losers? There could be many reasons. This woman might be divorced or separated -- which is a status some women seem to celebrate these days. Perhaps it's a new form of women's liberation, to overcome loving a man....

This T-shirt reminded me of a "family dance" I attended 13 years ago in Daytona Beach. It was in the middle of a church convention, and a woman showed up wearing a button saying something like: "happiness is being divorced." For a FAMILY dance, this woman was declaring happiness was something separate.

But another thought crossed my mind when I saw that T-shirt. The Bible says "God is love" - so is the Lord for losers? Don't so many ministers say Jesus gives you victory? And while we're at it, shouldn't they be preaching to some local high school football teams?

Welllll - come to think of it, God IS for losers. I know, because I've felt like one over the years. He's for everyone, really -- and He wants to help turn around losing lives. You might have to lose more things to do that, but drug habits can get pretty expensive.

We've just passed Valentine's Day, and you may have noticed I did NOT post a lengthy entry this year discussing my status as a "hopelessly single guy." I could have called myself a loser at love. But this year, I'm keeping in mind Someone bigger who loves me, anyway - even if He doesn't usually cook my dinner.

As I'm writing this, WFRC-FM is playing a wonderful upbeat song with these words in the refrain: "I cannot fail, Jesus prevails - for where I am, He is with me." Is He with you? Are you going with Him? Or are you still a loser - as in losing your way?

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College softball players from across the country gathered in Columbus Thursday, for today's start of the Leadoff Classic. South Commons will have more fast pitches over the next three days than the Jay Auto Mall has in three weeks.

But I'll skip opening day of the Leadoff Classic, because there's another sport in mind. Today we go to Valdosta, to make the first public announcement of Power Frisbee of Georgia. Before you get the wrong idea: we are NOT attaching motors to frisbees and flying them by remote control.

Power Frisbee is something I've actually dreamed of doing since I was a boy. The idea came from practicing football punting in the backyard -- which didn't last long, because too many balls hooked over the neighbor's fence and landed around their scary dogs.

I threw frisbees in the yard when I was young, too. In fact, one day my older brother threw one that I failed to catch -- and it hit me in the throat! This is why I don't play the team frisbee game known as "guts."

Mix throwing frisbees with kicking footballs back and forth in the yard, and you have a taste of how Power Frisbee works. The official web site (very basic at this point) has a page with a simplified set of rules. It can be played with men or women, singles or doubles - but four-man might be as overcrowded as a bobsled.

(By the way: the Power Frisbee web site has a blog attached. But if you want jokes there, you'll have to write them in the comments section yourself.)

While other men would spend their weekends in the fall hunting for five-point deer, I'd head for football fields and work on three-point Power Frisbee shots. The exercise is nice, the fields are relatively peaceful - but pick the wrong field on the wrong day and the mud can stick to my shoes for days.

As I did Power Frisbee workouts, I dreamed of the game "going big" - with full season schedules and matches around the state. But busy work schedules in Oklahoma and Atlanta kept getting in the way. Oh yes, and I didn't really think of start-up costs....

I hoped to launch Power Frisbee during the "Olympic summer" in 1996, in the wake of my firing. I even had a deal for a stadium which the Atlanta Games wasn't using. But then I took a "one-week" job which turned out to be open-ended and lasting months. Some temporary firms can lead to permanent mistakes.

So I moved to Columbus, and Power Frisbee remained a dream -- until this year. E-mails were sent to recreation commissions and school districts around the state. Some of them have responded positively. A few have turned me down. And sadly, a few may have decided my message was spam and deleted it.

The big announcement about Power Frisbee is occurring in Valdosta because I have to pick up a permission form to use a stadium there in August. It's nothing personal against Columbus -- but the parks department and school district have kept me waiting on a commitment. Maybe it's part of the split sales tax deal....

If all goes as planned, the first Power Frisbee season will begin in August - after local qualifying tournaments this summer. If all does NOT go as planned? Well, does anyone have one-week temporary jobs available?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Wednesday confessional about being fired in 1996 brought a response - but NOT from one of the three women we tried to compliment years ago:

Wow, that CNN story is interesting. Too bad everyone has to get offended anymore and can't simply ignore someone, tell them to get lost or just kick them in the shins if they have no interest. It's hard to believe there was actually a time when people were able to stand up for themselves. Unfortunately the workplace, especially at some companies, mine included, is too hyper sensitive about things. Sometimes I excuse myself from someplace just because I don't even want to be in the same vicinity as something being said lest I end up in front of the sensitivity police. My theory is that one reason for the explosion in blogging is because many people are unable to express themselves in the workplace without fear of retribution.

Ignorance of people is easy to suggest, but not so easy to do in real-life. Look at how concerned some countries are about the President of Iran.

Some workplaces are more "hypersensitive" than others, but I see nothing wrong in being sensitive to the feelings of co-workers. In a competitive market, it's much easier to fight against other companies when you don't turn your own weapons on each other.

Blogging indeed can be an instrument of expression. But some companies have taken action against staff members who spilled secrets or told off their managers on their blogs. And the sexy photos of that Delta Air Lines flight attendant - well, maybe that was "expression" to her, but....

YOUR EXTRAORDINARILY EXEMPLARY LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: It appeared to me Drew and Cheryl wrapped up the title Thursday night with their "western" freestyle dance. Now if.... no wait. Did I turn on the wrong channel?

COMING THIS WEEKEND: We'll heat some "leftovers" -- interesting items we were too busy to mention during the week....

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

for 23 FEB 06: GONE, THE SEED

Big stores such as Wal-Mart are tough to compete against. They can sell all the Christian items they wish - yet they still can make smaller religious store owners feel like the David and Goliath story was a hoax.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog confirmed Wednesday night that the only locally-owned Christian store in Columbus is going out of business. Mustard Seed on Sidney Simons Boulevard began a liquidation sale this week -- but keep in mind, they aren't "freely giving." Items are only 25 percent off.

Mustard Seed has been open in Columbus for 35 years. A big sign just inside the front door admits it no longer can afford to have such a large store -- yet it's closing, instead of downsizing. So much for those Christian weight loss plans....

The sign inside Mustard Seed gives several reasons for the decision to close, all relating to competition:

+ Music web sites such as iTunes. Listeners only want to buy one or two cuts from an album -- which may show how much attention deficit disorder has spread.

+ Mainstream bookstores such as Barnes and Noble selling Christian books. Couldn't Mustard Seed get a license to open a coffee shop?

+ Megastores such as Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. You can buy not only holy Christian books, but hole-y doughnuts.

There's one store which Mustard Seed's sign does NOT mention -- the one which stands to be the big winner from this closing. It's Nashville-based LifeWay, at Columbus Park Crossing. But it's practically next door to Barnes and Noble, so how is IT still open?

If there's a big loser in Mustard Seed's closing, it's local Christian music. I know from personal experience. That store stocked music by Columbus artists -- while LifeWay makes it so difficult that the "camel in the eye of a needle" story comes to mind.

Only a few years ago, Mustard Seed was doing so well that it had a branch store inside Cascade Hills Church. But that relationship didn't last, and now Cascade Hills has a "resource center" which only sells Pastor Bill Purvis's sermons and CD's. If you need a Bible to follow along, too bad....

A few locally-owned Christian stores are still open outside Columbus. There are small shops in Pine Mountain and Hamilton, and The Covenant in Phenix City -- which actually moved its location to be down the street from a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Maybe its owner and Mustard Seed's are different denominations.

It's sad to see Mustard Seed go, and a bit concerning to see the way it happened. Christianity is depicted by a fish symbol - but the fish can be part of a food chain which leaves nothing but giant whales.

COMING FRIDAY: I'm driving to Valdosta to announce something, so I might as well tell you too....

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It was 22 Feb 96. It was a Thursday, and a springlike one at that. It was so mild that I went for a morning jog, before driving to work. I didn't realize I'd have all night to jog when the workday ended -- not to mention the next three months.

This is a noteworthy day for me, because ten years ago today I was fired from CNN Headline News in Atlanta. That started the transition from big-city news writer to smaller-city blogger - and for all the grumbling I heard from Atlanta co-workers, I now know the pay there was a whole lot better.

My career at CNN Headline News lasted a bit more than 11 years, much of that writing news copy. My scripts were read by Lyn Vaughn, Chuck Roberts, Lynne Russell, the late Don Harrison - and as a man at church told me once: "You write what the pretty people read."

For several years, I also was the man behind the "Factoids" which appeared on CNN Headline News every half-hour throughout the day. Even one or two-line bits of information and statistics can cause controversy. When your editor bars any mention of civil rights on Martin Luther King Day, that's tough....

Thursday night would have been one of my Factoid nights, when I stayed late after work to sort through and compile information from the wires. You may have guessed from this I didn't have much of a love life ten years ago, either.

I enjoyed telling friends I worked with some of the most beautiful women in the world at CNN Headline News. At least physically they were - as some of the writers went on to be reporters and anchors in other cities. Of course, they never recommended to the bosses I join them....

So in 1995, I decided to give "honor to whom honor is due." I sent e-mail to two people in the Spanish-language side of CNN, praising their beauty. While one took it as a compliment, the other took it as sexual harassment and reported me. Some news viewers thrive on details -- and let's just say I provided that woman too many.

I returned from a cross-country 1995 vacation to be ordered into mandatory counseling sessions. I received plenty of lectures over eight hours about things which were wrong with me. And unlike some fundamentalist churches, I wasn't asked to leave an offering.

(I should note over the last few years at CNN Headline News, I admittedly had been burning out. My performance reviews were growing more negative, job ratings were weak, and advancement with that channel was no longer possible. But at least they'd added "Windows TV," so I could watch soccer matches at my computer.)

After the eight weeks of counseling ended, I decided to apply for other positions at CNN. I was a finalist to work at the legal show "Burden of Proof" - back when Greta Van Susteren was out to put O.J. Simpson away, instead of teenagers in Aruba.

But I was passed over there for someone with a law degree, and didn't have enough computer knowledge to work at the newly-developing CNN Interactive. I wasn't really into the Internet in 1995-96 - and was content to play backgammon at home with a real board and dice.

On President's Day weekend of 1996, I decided to try one more complimentary message to a female co-worker. I weighed it heavily in my mind, but decided to drive to work on a Saturday night and write it. Perhaps this woman would understand we were entering "Random Acts of Kindness Week." - even if this was premeditated.

I heard nothing from the woman for five days after sending the e-mail - but when I was called to a manager's office at the end of the shift on 22 Feb 96, the answer became clear. "I'm going to have to let you go," he said. That message was the last straw - proving silence can be as deadly as it is golden.

My low performance ratings didn't help my situation. In fact, one supervisor wrote of concern I actually might bring a gun to work one day and unload it on the staff. That person didn't realize I've never owned a gun - and have trouble even shooting basketballs straight.

The manager who broke the bad news had to go fetch my work case from my work space, perhaps fearing I'd cause a scene. After all, some journalists with breaking news simply can't keep it themselves for long....

The manager gave me about 30 minutes to clear out the restroom locker and print out anything vital. I resisted the temptation to send a farewell note on the computer to co-workers. I'd shown up quietly in November 1984, and I would leave the same way. If they wanted an exclusive interview, I was waiting at home.

From what I've been told, it took several days for the CNN Headline News staff to figure out why I was gone. A rush of departures followed in the next several months -- so either co-workers feared I was step one in a series of cutbacks, or more hanky-panky was going on there than I realized.

With a severance check and unemployment upcoming, my firing was the perfect time to take a vacation to see my family. I prepared apology letters at my brother's house, and mailed them to the offices of the three women I'd tried to compliment. That was met with silence, too -- not even autographed pictures for the autobiography.

None of the three beautiful women have contacted me since my termination, and I don't try to contact them anymore. The workplace is quite unlike professional wrestling -- and if you lose two out of three falls there, you don't earn a rematch the next weekend.

I've certainly learned my lessons from the final months at CNN Headline News. I no longer compliment women on their appearance unless they bring up the subject first. I channel my feelings about beauty in other directions now. And I don't dare plan out any random acts of kindness.

E-MAIL UPDATE:> Enough of the true confessions -- let's take a challenge to Tuesday's look at Columbus public safety pay:

I am somewhat dismayed by your several assertions that Columbus cannot afford to pay comparable salaries for police. Columbus/Muscogee certainly could. It's a matter of will.

I honestly believe that the reductions in force we have all haeard about are part and parcel of a greater long-term strategy by the politicians to get the good folks to finally vote out/remove the property tax freeze. Only upon pain of death will the voters give this up. So, mucho hurt must be inflicted to get the folks to act.

The oldest trick in the book is to cut safety (police & fire) to get the folks to accept higher taxation.

Anyway, there is more than enough wealth in the city to afford a fully funded police and fire force. With the coming expansion of Benning, the tax base will increase even further. It is tragically ironic that the good people of Columbus are willing to shell out tens of millions for a book warehouse, but nary a shekel more for protection.

It's always good to hear from a conspiracy theorist - and since Vice President Cheney took the blame for that hunting injury, we can't blame Democrats for that anymore.

Would Columbus city officials actually use public safety personnel in a scheme to end the property tax freeze? I don't recall any law officers making this accusation - and they would know a hostage situation better than anyone.

The rush to build new housing for new Fort Benning personnel actually could bring the city extra tax dollars. But I've heard some newcomers to the area say they commute from as far away as Auburn, because housing costs are lower there. Of course, summertime gas prices haven't kicked in yet....

It happens that Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson went before Columbus Council Tuesday. He said it would be dangerous to cut the police and sheriff's department any further. Maybe Venezuela's President should quit calling President Bush "Mister Danger," and put that title on Isaiah Hugley.

Randy Robertson is concerned that deeper cuts in protective services will turn Columbus into "what progress has destroyed." [True/WTVM] Some people would say that's already happened - for instance, from cars causing global warming.

Later in the day, city and school officials came together to talk more about a proposed "split sales tax." There apparently was no finger-pointing this time about a lack of communication. So who gets the credit for passing around the list, to write down cell phone numbers?

A one-percent Muscogee County School sales tax is scheduled to expire in 2008. A one-percent city sales tax is due to die in 2009. So the two entities are trying to work together for a single tax extension vote - since a home run always beats a double.

A tax plan discussed Tuesday would change the way those two cents of sales tax money are divided. The city would get 1.5 cents, while the school district would get half-a-cent. That'll teach the school board for jumping the gun and approving this idea....

. A resolution on the split sales tax is being prepared, for a possible state constitutional amendment. But the Georgia General Assembly's session is past the halfway mark, and the resolution for this has to be unanimous. It's a good thing callers to WRCG's "TalkLine" aren't in elected office.

YOUR HIGHLY EXALTED LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: At last! Someone from Alabama showed up at the Winter Olympics Tuesday - and it wasn't Bo Bice signing autographs in the Olympic Village.

Alabama native and defending bobsled champion Vonetta Flowers wound up sixth in the two-women competition. She had a new partner in the sled from four years ago - and we hope they didn't have a long debate about who was going to drive.

Now let's pretend it's the tenth end of Olympic curling, and slide a few final Tuesday shot rocks past the hog line:

+ The Muscogee County School Board voted to begin a district-wide dress code next fall. Board member "Fife for Five" Whiteside voted against it, saying it's not his business to decide "how high heels should be." That's OK, sir - you can leave that to Mary Sue Polleys.

(A member of Downtown Elementary School's faculty told WRBL they've found on weekly "dress-down days" when children wear jeans, the number of discipline problems goes up. That's the problem with companies making "pre-washed" jeans -- they simply aren't stiff enough to keep youngsters in line.)

+ Opelika's City Council joined the crowd, by voting for a citywide smoking policy. Smoking will be banned in restaurants come May, as well as in a ten-foot area around doors. Of course, painting the ten-foot circles might make people sick from the fumes....

+ Atlanta-based Waffle House made a major change, announcing all restaurants will start accepting credit cards by the end of March. We'd like to take this opportunity to welcome this chain into the 1990's.

(A source tells your blog the Waffle House near Columbus Park Crossing is accepting credit cards now. Hopefully the staff knows what they are - and some smart-aleck cook doesn't use one to pick his teeth.)

+ Alabama's House voted to make the peach the official state fruit. Trouble is, the blackberry already is Alabama's official state fruit -- so the state would have TWO. Does Alabama really want a reputation as the fruitiest state in the country?

+ Instant Message to Russell County Constable Bob Schweiger: So tell me - what did you tell the Hurtsboro City Council Tuesday night about improving the police department? It apparently wasn't urgent enough to even get WRBL to come back to town.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The House of Mercy and Valley Rescue Mission were filled to capacity Monday night. Blame it on a chilly rain - and people who didn't have the strange perception that homeless shelters throw out everybody to take federal holidays off.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #3 (in 2006): "I'll probably get pneumonia tonight. I get pneumonia all the time," a man I'll call Horatio told me Monday. If only the Columbus Health Department had overnight beds....

Horatio told me he was facing a Monday evening in the cold rain, because he said the Valley Rescue Mission had kicked him out earlier in the day. Those Bible memory tests must be tough....

Horatio talked so quickly that he was hard to follow at times, but he seemed to say the Salvation Army wouldn't let him stay there because he was trying to get Social Security disability checks. The last time I tried to help someone get in there, the "check" they cared about was a criminal background check.

But as the conversation proceeded, Horatio happened to mention that Salvation Army also had objections to a few unpaid traffic tickets he has. This place is so tough, Britney Spears might not be able to stay there with her baby.

In fact, Horatio doesn't even have a current driver's license. He explained a Lee County Sheriff's Office employee promised to work on regaining that for him a couple of weeks ago. But of course, ticket-fixing isn't too fashionable right now in Auburn....

Horatio explained he's been gaining favor with East Alabama law enforcement by providing drug tips. This followed the discovery last September of a drug lab in his home - as his wife was making "crystal meth" without his knowledge. And let's face it: guys aren't likely to check drain cleaner levels every day.

The meth lab discovery last September led to Horatio being beaten up, "thrown out on railroad tracks" - only then to be kicked out of East Alabama Medical Center. Whether he double-parked there or something else, he didn't say....

Horatio may need all the help from law officers he can get, since he admits spending time in prison about four years ago. He says it was for a crime he didn't commit - which scoffers would say makes him the exact opposite of HealthSouth's Richard Scrushy.

No make his long story short (and he carries photos to support his story), Horatio wanted the world to know about how cruel Columbus homeless shelters wouldn't give him a place to stay. "It just isn't right," he declared. Unless, of course, the shelters say he did something wrong....

Horatio also seemed to want a place to stay for the night -- but he hadn't mentioned one Columbus shelter. What about the House of Mercy? "It's closed," he said. Closed?! Was everyone celebrating the successful Black History Month breakfast?

The problem with Horatio's plea is that it came at mid-afternoon, in the middle of my work day. I told him if he stayed until the end of my shift, he could come home with me to spend the night. After all, my chances of housing players during this weekend's college softball tournament seem very slim.

Horatio had nowhere else to go, because witnesses told me he hung around the outside of the workplace for two-and-a-half hours. But at that point, a manager had enough -- and he went outside to tell Horatio to move on. Unlike many beggars, at least Horatio stayed with a sure thing as long as he could.

Meanwhile, I made a few calls to confirm Horatio's story. Was the House of Mercy closed Monday? "We never close," they said. If you need to stay at a shelter, try knocking on ALL the doors.

What about the Valley Rescue Mission? They keep files on every resident, and the staff told me there was NONE matching Horatio's real name. Maybe "Valley Rescue Mission" is a code name for the county jail these days.

Horatio also had given me a "contact" number, and at least that was accurate. It was the home of his mother -- and several co-workers had wondered why he couldn't stay with her. Don't people realize how annoyed parents are when grown children come home to stay?

Horatio's mother told me she's has an estrangement from him. I didn't ask for more details about it - since this story was strange enough as it was....

The mother confirmed one of the wildest claims Horatio made during my conversation with him. Several years ago, 32 rail cars ran over him - yet after they were backed out, he somehow survived. In India, someone would make sure the Guinness Book of Records was present.

Horatio's mother admits he assisted East Alabama law enforcement in some drug cases. But as she put it: "He got used.... Police will use you up and -- I don't want to go there." Come to think of it, you never see CSI staff members apologizing for their wrong hunches.

The mother explained Horatio is "mentally unstable," due to schizophrenia and a bipolar condition. So if I'd taken him for the night, he might have become so upset with my dinner that he walked out.

Horatio's mother says it's just as well he doesn't get the publicity he seeks. "It might get him hurt," she said, "because he knows too much" - implying too much about law officers. And if they won't take him in for the night, maybe I shouldn't either.

When my day of work was over, I checked outside the building - but Horatio had moved on, nowhere to be found. Maybe he spent Monday night under a bridge somewhere. Maybe he went on to the hospital, for that sure case of pneumonia. Or just maybe he went to a police station, and named some more names.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Did you have President's Day off Monday? It appears a long-missing e-mailer did - because we heard from "IsOurCitySafe" not once, but three times! It's good to have him back from his six-month recruiting trip to find new police officers.

The first message from Wade Sheridan (assuming that's still who "IsOurCitySafe" is) cited figures from a real estate web site:

Columbus, Georgia has a Relocation Crime Lab Index of 133 which is a higher crime rate than the national average

The Relocation Crime Lab Index gives the city's crime rate relative to the national average of all the cities in our database. A value of 100 means that the city is exactly average. A value of 200 means that the city has twice the crime rate as the average city. A value of 50 means that the city has half the crime rate of the average city.

Columbus is a city which loves golf and low scores - but I think even Angela Jerman on the LPGA tour could beat that 133.

A crime summary chart was attached to this e-mail - but I want to jump to another e-mail, which added numbers from another Georgia city:

Macon, Georgia can't keep good, qualified Public Safety Officers either. I wonder if our crime rate is going to get as bad as theirs before our city government does something about the problem?

Here's what came back from the lab:

Columbus, Georgia has a Relocation Crime Lab Index of 133 which is a higher crime rate than the national average

Macon, Georgia has a Relocation Crime Lab Index of 239 which is a higher crime rate than the national average

Annual crime rates per 100,000 people

Crime Category Columbus, Georgia Macon, Georgia

Robberies 178 241

Rapes 12 48

Homicides 10 19

Aggravated Assaults 250 373

Motor Vehicle Thefts 656 1063

Crime Lab Index 133 239

Wow - after the Cottonmouths beat Macon in the hockey playoffs last spring, that team moved out of town. Perhaps it was done to avoid angry criminals attacking the team bus.

The chart indicates Columbus is doing very well in crime-fighting compared with some cities. But this e-mail from Wade Sheridan was titled, "GET OFF OF YOUR B**T AND DO SOMETHING!" Do something besides move to Macon, I guess....

The "Relocation Crime Lab Index" admittedly is unfamiliar to me. Last year your blog analyzed crime data from a far more familiar source, the F.B.I. [7-9 Jun 05] - and it showed a five-year decline in Columbus violent crime of 22.3 percent.
So maybe the city IS "doing something." We're all being more peaceful.

The third e-mail from Wade Sheridan seemed to be an invitation for Columbus Police officers to leave town:

Cobb County Police Department is hiring. Here is an idea of what you will make when you leave the Columbus Police Department under the lateral entry program:

Years of Prior Service:

2 years - $36,408.32

3 years - $37,275.68

4 years - $38,143.04

5 years - $39,010.40

Maybe our writer needs to change his name to "Is Their County Safe...."

But these raw numbers can be a bit deceiving. For one thing, Cobb County is a wealthier area of Georgia. The county can spend more for police, but the cost of living there probably is higher. And don't even get me started on shopping at the Galleria.

A large section of this e-mail appeared to be a welcome letter from the Cobb County Police Department. I'm not posting
that, because you can check that department's own site - but remember: you have to join the Marietta City Police to watch over the famous "Big Chicken."

The fact that Cobb County's Police Department is hiring should tell Wade Sheridan something. The search for law officers is a NATIONAL problem, not a local one. And expecting Columbus to provide police with the pay of bigger cities is like asking the Columbus Catfish to match the New York Yankees' payroll.

YOUR INDUBITABLY INDOMITABLE LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: Ahhh, never mind. Did you notice Kansas is up to #16 in the men's basketball poll? Come on in, Baylor -- come on in.....

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Monday, February 20, 2006


An elected official in Russell County made a bold statement Sunday, declaring Hurtsboro is "turning into a disaster area." Wow, when did THEIR Streetscape project start?

Russell County Constable Bob Schweiger made his comment to WRBL based on a horrifying weekend killing. He says authorities in Hurtsboro could have prevented a mentally unstable man from stabbing his 15-month-old niece over and over. I'm not sure how, short of registering kitchen knives....

Bob Schweiger says Hurtsboro is becoming a "disaster area" because the town lacks a real police department. Yet video of the weekend killing showed a Hurtsboto police car at the scene. Does it rotate among members of the volunteer fire department?

(With all due respect, this town IS named Hurtsboro. If you move there expecting no one ever will be hurt, it's your own fault.)

Constable Bob Schweiger says Hurtsboro relies for law enforcement on "imports," such as the Russell County Sheriff's Department. I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. The Columbus Police Department tries to import new officers from wherever it can find them.

Constable Bob Schweiger says Hurtsboro needs regular police patrols, a police chief and a "regular routine." In a town of about 1,000 people, you'd think almost everything would be a regular routine....

Bob Schweiger says it's time the Hurtsboro City Council took law enforcement seriously. He plans to tell them so at Tuesday's meeting - unless this council does what Talbotton's council did when they heard news reporters were coming, and flee.

But I have a very different question: why does Russell County need a Constable? After checking a dictionary, I assume he serves arrest warrants like the Muscogee County Marshal's office. But a "constable" in Alabama doesn't sound right. This title belongs on a PBS crime drama from Britain.

I've seen Constables on the Russell County election ballots for years - but really now, how many of you can name one? Sunday marked the first time I'd even seen one on television. Maybe that means he's the only elected official who's neutral on moving Probate Judge Al Howard's office.

The accused child killer in Hurtsboro reportedly had a history of violent behavior - so does the Constable share any of the blame for him not being behind bars before Saturday? There must be a reason for the success of that Phenix City bounty hunter.

YOUR UTTERLY TREMENDOUS LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed in the Winter Olympics Sunday. But the ice dancing competition showed me what a WRBL sportscaster meant years ago about being "back in a twizzle." I thought he was talking about candy....

(After watching reality shows over the last few weeks, an evening of ice dancing to Latin rhythms disappointed me - because I expected Stacey Kiebler and Bruce Jenner to come out.)

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.05 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... queen-size sheets for $4.99 at the WestPoint Stevens outlet store on Veterans Parkway.... and probably more President's Day sales than we've had U.S. Presidents....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Server problems over the weekend prevented us from posting the T-shirt entry we promised. We'll hold that for another day.)

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Sunday, February 19, 2006


The Columbus Civic Center was filled with country music fans Saturday night, for a concert by Brad Paisley and Sara Evans. I'd say it was packed to the gills, but Vince Gill didn't perform.

Today's event at the Columbus Civic Center may be a harder sell - two performances of the "Clyde Beatty/Cole Brothers Circus." I say it's a harder sell because you can see circuses in other places for free. For instance, there are occasional Russell County Commission meetings....

The Clyde Beatty Circus is taking an advertising route I never expected. I came home from work Thursday night to find the circus had left a message on my answering machine. I'm not sure how it obtained my phone number - especially since my apartment has a "no-pets" clause in the lease.

The message promoting the circus obviously was pre-recorded, and had a man whose voice sounded like he could be the ringmaster. Either that, or he's between car commercials for a radio station....

Because the message was taped, my answering machine only caught the last few seconds of it. But I wonder how many people will be inspired to go to a circus, based on a hard-selling phone call. Wouldn't a strange-sounding clown be more attention-getting?

(Old, tired riddle of the day: Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny.)

Those of you on the "no-call list" would be amazed by how many telemarketing calls these days are made by computers. I get one all the time offering me a pre-approved credit card. When I can repeat the instructions "please press zero now" word for word, they've called me enough.

(So why haven't I put my name on the no-call list? Because if it wasn't for telemarketer calls, sometimes I'd go days without any calls at all.)

When it comes to in-person telemarketing calls, I probably get more these days from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer than any other business. The operators are disappointed to learn I don't want to subscribe -- and if I absolutely need to read the paper, the library is only a short drive away.

I used to receive lots of calls from long-distance phone companies, but they've practically stopped. One recently offered to lower the "service charge on my local phone bill" - but when I pulled out my bill to look it up, we were disconnected. If that's the high quality long-distance line you have, forget it....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Last Wednesday's item about the property dispute at 13th and Cedar brought this fascinating message about the supposed high bidder at auction, Ted Pierce:

If you met Ted you would think he was one of the nicest, most personable people you had ever met. He is always dressed in an expensive suit, looks very professional and talks a great game. The problem is that he is a "con-man" and "deadbeat". No financial institution would loan him money or even allow him to sign a note due to his credit history. He cannot own property or anything of value in his name due to all the liens and judgements that are recorded against him. I wonder who is behind his interest in the property and what is in it for TEDDY. You can't help but like him though!

Oh dear -- what judge's office is Mr. Pierce seeking in the next election?

I wonder who really sent this message about Ted Pierce. The only address I have is the e-mail name "fearsnot." I don't know why he or she wants me to fear that - unless too much of it gets stuffed in my nose, and I can't breathe....

To the best of my knowledge, I haven't met Ted Pierce. But if he's the "deadbeat" he's alleged to be, how can he afford expensive suits -- much less a nice corner lot in midtown Columbus? Should the lawyer who's speaking for him at Columbus Council meetings expect some checks to bounce?

YOUR OVERWHELMINGLY FIRST-RATE LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed in the Winter Olympics Friday and Saturday. But I'm wondering if the Cottonmouths might have fared better than the U.S. team, and actually beat Latvia.

Now for other notes from a chilly President's Day weekend:

+ Smiths Station city councilors joined everyday citizens in a Saturday trash pickup - part of "M.L.K. Pride" months. I never would have guessed Smiths Station would become one of the Combined Communities of Southeast Columbus.

+ Part of 13th Street in downtown Phenix City was named the "Freddie Hart Parkway," after the singer of the country classic "Easy Lovin'." Now if they would only add another lane of traffic, to allow easy driving....

+ Presidential cousin and fashion model Lauren Bush attended an Auburn University conference on preventing world hunger. Hopefully Bush is doing her part, by making sure Kate Moss eats on a regular basis.

+ A live commercial for Bill Heard Chevrolet featured Phil Carter saying the dealership was "next to Columbus Square Mall." He corrected himself on the spot - but come to think of it, Peachtree Mall would make a very roomy branch library.

+ Police in Birmingham announced the biggest drug bust in Alabama history. Almost one ton of marijuana was seized at what officers called a "routine traffic stop." With that much pot?! What did the driver do - drive his truck too slowly down the interstate?

+ The Chattahoochee Valley Vipers indoor football team played a pre-season game at the Civic Center. Team officials promise to be involved locally, including helping children with their homework. But if players provide the right answers, isn't that illegal procedure?

+ Auburn University retired the basketball jerseys of Chuck and Wesley Person. They HAD to do both together - else one might have filed a missing Person's report.

+ "GCW Hi-Voltage" on WRBL showed professional wrestler "Loverboy" Lee Thomas wearing purple and lace in the ring. This is no way to bring "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" to Columbus.

(I had not watched this Saturday night "wrestling news" program before, and discovered the organization's first name has changed from Georgia to GREAT Championship Wrestling. Great?! A few moments of the action only rated pretty good to me....)

+ Instant Message to the friends who worship with me at church: I think I've finally figured this out. Since you wouldn't even open the box of crackers I brought for Saturday's soup and sandwich dinner, you must believe I need to eat them at home during the week to survive.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our condolences to blogging buddy Nathan Albright of Tampa, on the recent death of his father.)

COMING THIS WEEK: A big anniversary approaches.... but how much of this do I dare reveal?....

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Friday, February 17, 2006


The annual "Tip-a-Snake" fund-raising dinner took place Thursday night at the Columbus Civic Center -- with Columbus Cottonmouths acting as servers, accepting tips for their work. Hopefully none of the diners asked the hockey players if they take checks....

Some news surfaced before the dinner which might have had people giving in a different direction. The Columbus Cottonmouths are willing to put up $200,000 to help build a new ice rink between the Civic Center and Golden Park. They apparently decided global warming is ending the alternative - an annual ice storm.

Only a couple of years ago, Columbus city officials said a "skate park" would be built next to Golden Park. In fact, the ground was cleared and prepared for it - but it still sits untouched today. It hasn't even been claimed by one of those vagabonds selling Confederate flags on weekends.

The dream was to have a place for skateboarders to skate, the Cottonmouths to practice - and perhaps have other things as well. But I started hearing talk about 18 months ago that the city of Columbus wanted extra money for the ice rink. Sales tax money apparently didn't provide enough cold hard cash.

City officials apparently don't think a skate park in South Commons would generate enough money to pay for itself. But Civic Center manager Dale Hester said otherwise Thursday - claiming it could make the city $100,000 per year. Or in the language of the moment, it's about one Frosty for every two residents.

Dale Hester says the Civic Center has to turn down several events a week, because the arena is booked. He contends the skate park could be rented for birthday parties, youth hockey leagues -- and who knows, maybe even a stray pro basketball team which wants to move to Columbus.

But Columbus city officials apparently say the current budget is too tight to operate a skate park. They fear the upkeep will cost more than rentals and events would bring in. For instance, the Civic Center zamboni would burn a lot of fuel going back and forth across the parking lot....

The Columbus Cottonmouths would like a skate park, because they can't always practice at the Civic Center. For instance, there's an indoor football preseason game tonight, a Brad Paisley concert Saturday, a circus on Sunday -- and besides, there will be a ton of peanut shells to clean up.

I didn't realize until Thursday the Cottonmouths have spent almost $35,000 this season to rent other rinks for practice. The obvious question is - WHAT other rinks? At least around Columbus? Does some wealthy executive have a big backyard shed in Harris County?

The rental cost explains why the Cottonmouths are willing to put up the money to operate the skate park next to Golden Park for one year. But will Columbus Council be willing to fulfill its promise, and build it? Or instead, will they offer to fill city swimming pools with bags of Buck Ice?

Someone predicted to me Thursday the skate park will become a reality, because a lot of wealthy Columbus residents have children in youth hockey programs. Of course, that budget decision might upset a lot of police officers - and patrols in the east half suddenly will increase.

YOUR UNCHALLENGED A-PLUS LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed in the Winter Olympics Thursday. Without that skate park, the chances of Columbus getting the winter games are sinking. After all, they can manufacture snow and spread it on Summerville Road for snowboarding.

BLOG UPDATE: A group from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had its protest Thursday, outside the KFC on Macon Road. Oh no - don't tell me the restaurant had THEIR orders wrong, too [6 Feb]....

The PETA protesters handed out fliers outside KFC on Macon Road. In fact, some of them dressed in yellow bikinis to do it. On Macon Road, this is attention-getting -- while on Victory Drive after dark, it probably would blend in with the

PETA claims KFC is cruel in how chickens are slaughtered, for shipment to restaurants. I didn't hear the exact accusation - but you'd think the rotisserie wouldn't be used until after the chicken is dead.

BLOG BAFFLER: We had a couple of correct responses to our question, about the source of Thursday's blog title. Former TV sportscaster Kirsten Olesen was first to e-mail us, knowing it came from "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John -- or as a radio buddy long ago liked to call her, Olivia Neutron Bomb.

Now a quick check of other interesting items from Thursday:

+ The touring "Ebony Fashion Fair" appeared at the Bradley Theater, raising money for the Columbus Urban League. But if Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell aren't there to start a catfight, something's missing for me.

+ Instead, a high temperature of 76 F. allowed me to go running on the Riverwalk after dark - and I topped three miles nonstop for the second night in a row! It's been countless years since I had back-to-back runs like that. So I'm now ready for the desperate single women to begin chasing me....

+ Hurricane survivors at a state park near Eufaula complained federal officials have told them to move by February 28. They're being offered four options in Alabama - which seems strange, because Columbus has several abandoned mobile home parks which could take them perfectly.

+ Barbour County downed Dale County in the Alabama high school girls' basketball playoffs. This had to be a difficult game to play - since some of these girls live right next door to each other.

+ An Atmore, Alabama man was arrested in Pensacola, Florida on bribery charges. Police say Terence Braxton allowed middle students to get out of physical education class if they paid him a dollar. Braxton is free on his own recognizance - although I suspect Krispy Kreme or McDonald's would have posted bond.

+ Instant Message to Auburn University trustee Bobby Lowder: Here's your chance for redemption. This time, fly to Indianapolis instead of Louisville. Get Mike Davis to coach basketball, not football. And quietly bring him down with a signed contract before Jeff Lebo suspects anything....

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A T-shirt about losers.... and a strange way to sell a circus....

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Thursday, February 16, 2006


"Animal Stories, little Tommy!" Those were the famous words of legendary Chicago radio announcer Larry Lujack years ago - introducing real news stories about animals, which tended to have bizarre twists to them. These days, a twist with an animal might bring a protest march.

Your blog has learned "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals" plans a protest of some kind in Columbus today. What sort of stunt will this group pull? Another chicken mascot on crutches outside KFC, like a few years ago? Would PETA dare leave some pigs outside Country's Barbecue?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals tends to be a pro-vegetarian group. But I don't understand why they haven't tried to make serious money out of this -- for instance, by selling PETA bread.

Animals are making news all over the region right now. For instance, Wednesday night's Columbus Crimestoppers report was about a break-in at the Tropical Treasures pet shop on Macon Road. Someone took several animals, but apparently not money. C'mon now - I don't think AFLAC will give up its duck in a trade.

Columbus Police say the burglars entered Tropical Treasures around February 5, and took two Maltese puppies. This was stunning news to me - because I thought back to the old movies, and thought there were only Maltese falcons.

But that's not all - the animal-nappers stole a red tail boa constrictor and a "ball python." That tells me the thieves are NOT Columbus Cottonmouth fans. After all, you play hockey with a puck....

I understand the two snakes are big enough to swallow those two Maltese puppies. So if the thieves didn't take the right pet food in the process, this could become very ugly....

Animal stories can break out in the most unlikely places - such as state legislatures. The Georgia House voted Wednesday to declare an official state "cold water game fish." With a Republican majority, I'm surprised this isn't a Goldwater game fish.

The Georgia House was unanimous in naming the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout the official state cold water game fish. Supporters explained it serves as a perfect environmental warning sign. For instance, if it's flailing around in a dry riverbed, we probably have a drought....

But why be so specific when it comes to the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout? Why does Georgia need its own "cold water game fish?" Is there already a WARM water game fish? How about an official hot oil frying fish, while we're at it?

The nature study in the Georgia House didn't stop there Wednesday. Lawmakers also voted for the creation of a "Georgia Quail Trail." You almost wonder why they didn't declare the quail the state cold weather game bird.

The timing of the Georgia Quail Trail vote was amazing, as it came on the day Vice President Cheney officially took the blame for shooting a Texas attorney during a quail hunt. I've heard all sorts of jokes about that in recent days, and most seem rather callous. Just imagine if it had been a "Fox hunt."

Rep. Robert Ray of Fort Valley couldn't resist bringing up Vice President Cheney during the debate on a Georgia Quail Trail. He asked if there would be an area of protection for politicians. Aw c'mon - surely some towns along the way have military veterans' posts.

And thanks to another local blog, I learned the other day that members of the Alabama legislature want to declare an official state mammal. They want to make it the black bear - which I think is a compromise between the Crimson Tide elephant and the orange tiger.

The other blogger says there really aren't that many black bears in Alabama. I'll take his word for it, because I don't go roaming around the woods trying to find any....

SPAM-A-RAMA: In another amazing case of timing, Wednesday's e-mail included a spam message titled: "RUN A QUAIL." From now on, the Vice President may run FROM them instead.

YOUR INDISPUTABLY AWESOME LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed in the Winter Olympics Wednesday. But someone from Australia won a skiing gold medal - so encourage your children to put on some skis, and slide down the hills at Idle Hour Park.

Now other quick things before I put the blog (and myself) to bed:

+ Two students were arrested at Smiths Station High School for making a drug deal in the commons area. Authorities say there was an exchange of adderall capsules, which are taken for attention deficit disorder. They went on to point out adderall capsules are taken for attention deficit disorder.

(Some students apparently think you can pass tests easier if you take adderall capsules, which are taken for attention deficit disorder. I didn't know these drugs read chapters of textbooks for you....)

+ The "Getting on Top of Life" broadcast on WHAL-AM found Pastor/School Board member Joseph Roberson saying he was once offered a job in Ohio - "but they had no grits up there, no sweet tea up there, no collard greens up there." Someone should tell him at least they have sugar packets for tea.

+ Which Columbus man is saying he should "get props" for keeping an evening TV newscast from completely collapsing? Doesn't he realize newscasts use scripts, while commercials usually use props?

+ Instant Message to WRBL: Really now - are you going to show Leonard Crain of the Better Business Bureau on your newscasts EVERY night? Is he the top contender to replace Phil Scoggins?

BLOG BAFFLER: Today's title is a line from WHAT old pop song? We'd like the name and performer - and we might give you a prize if you're the first to e-mail us with the right answer!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Columbus Council heard a complaint Tuesday from an attorney who claims the city is playing favorites over a corner of land in midtown. Of all the days to be accused of "sweetheart deals," February 14 seemed rather appropriate.

Attorney Neal Callahan says his client had the high bid, in a city auction for land at 13th and Cedar. The city approved a contract, but now City Manager Isaiah Hugley wants to take it back. Could it be possible - TWO Starbucks Coffee shops in Columbus?

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says another man asked to be notified when the plot at 13th and Cedar was up for sale. That apparently never happened before the auction -- which shows city officials are consistent. They didn't notify reporters of committee meetings on the budget, either.

Neal Callahan told WRBL last week his client was contacted by an "influential person" in Columbus, saying he had first rights to the land at 13th and Cedar. The attorney wouldn't name this man at the time - but I figured the Amos family still had unused real estate in Elena Amos's rooftop home.

It now appears this influential person may be downtown attorney John Sheftall. He's the one who asked the city to notify him about the pending property sale. I've lived in Columbus nearly nine years, but this name is new to me. If Sheftall is so influential, I'd expect him to be on the Library Board or something....

It's not clear if John Sheftall wants to develop the land at 13th and Cedar himself, or if he's representing someone else. Who IS O.J. Simpson's attorney, now that Johnnie Cochran is dead?

It's also not clear to me exactly who Neal Callahan is representing. WRBL says Ted Pearce won the auction for the land at 13th and Cedar. Other reports say it's "C&A Family Partnerships" - and Ted Pearce doesn't have a C or A in his initials. Maybe the partnership is expanding beyond the Chattahoochee and Alabama.

But the biggest surprise Tuesday may have been the revelation that Columbus has a city policy, letting you be notified when land you like is about to go up for sale. It's a bit like Outback Steakhouse - only there, there's no guarantee you'll sit in your favorite booth.

Neal Callahan says all city auctions are advertised, so there's no reason to give someone like John Sheftall advance notice of a land sale. But isn't this assuming something? I've been told newspaper readership is going down....

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says the contract for 13th and Cedar gives the city the right to refuse all bids. Attorney Neal Callahan says the contract was approved, and a deal's a deal. Not with this city manager, it's not - else you'd see billboards up promoting a split sales tax already.

Neal Callahan is threatening to take the city to court over the land at 13th and Cedar. He hinted last week the lawsuit could ask for $800,000 in damages. Compared with Kenneth Walker's family, this lawyer is a cheapskate....

YOUR INCREDIBLY TOP-NOTCH LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed at the Winter Olympics Tuesday. Maybe if the city set up poles on the hills along the Riverwalk, so people can try slalom skiing....

BLOG CORRECTION: We said 5 Feb the Auburn-Opelika Airport would have a "fly-in" on the same weekend as "Thunder in the Valley" in Columbus. It turns out the Columbus air show is one week AFTER the Lee County event in March -- so people on the north side of town can hear the thunder approach for days.

Now let's catch up on Tuesday topics of interest:

+ An evening jog downtown found at least four couples out on the Riverwalk. Did they have early romantic dinner reservations at Houlihan's - or were they warming up for late-night Spicy Chix at Krystal?

+ Columbus law officers received training in how to teach children to be safe from crime. The TV reports called it "radKids" -- but it was Valentine's Day, so maybe they meant red.

+ A hearing in Ozark, Alabama focused on Barbour County parents sending their children to Dale County schools. Some parents say they do it for a better education. This may explain why you don't hear reports of Barbour County children going to Russell County.

+ Auburn University faculty members complained about a planned change to their health insurance plans. The premium would go up $20 for anyone who smokes. Well, it could be worse - there could be a surcharge for Georgia and Alabama graduates.

+ LaGrange had its fourth big lottery win in six months, as 70-year-old Marion Williams won the scratch-off "Win for Life" game. It seems like all you have to do is MOVE to LaGrange, to win for life....

+ The Georgia Legislature marked "tourism day," and state Senator Jeff Mullis put on a hat shaped like a barn with the words "See Rock City" on it. [True/GPB] I guess you really can see seven states from there - including a state of silliness.

+ Alabama gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore demanded state Republican chair Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh resign. Moore claims she's biased in favor of incumbent Bob Riley -- which is amazing, because I thought he'd be upset with calling someone "Chairwoman Twinkle."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006


This e-mail reached us a little late for this month, but you might want to mark your calendar for March:

Hi Richard,

We're hoping you help us get the word out about the local Star Wars fan club, Fountain City Force.Net. We meet every 2nd Sunday at the Columbus Library on Macon Rd at 3pm. We also have a 'fun' night out. Activities include: trivia, costuming, games, swaps, collecting, dinners, and many others.

Appreciate it.

Cathy Bowden, City Rep

Fountain City Force.Net


Thanks for the notice, Cathy - but I'm wondering something. Since it's a "Star Wars" club, couldn't you go back and have the January meeting next Sunday? You know, sort of like Episode I....

This blog e-mail is different for several reasons. For one thing, I saw "Fountain City Force" and immediately thought of the Columbus Police Department.

Hey, you know what - why NOT change the name of the Columbus Police to the Fountain City Force? It sounds a lot more hip. And criminals who come down from Atlanta thinking it's related to arena football's Georgia Force will get a big surprise.

The Star Wars fan club is meeting on second Sundays - the same afternoon that Oxbow Meadows has its monthly nature programs. So this sets up a difficult choice: something out of this world, or deep-down in it.

It probably would be interesting to visit the Columbus Library on second Sundays, to see what sort of people belong to the Fountain City Force.Net - and see if all the stereotypes are true:

+ Do they sit in line outside the front door starting at sunrise, to remind them of those long waits for midnight premiere tickets?

+ Do they wave laser swords at the front door - not realizing it opens automatically through another means?

+ Do they take a collection at every meeting - and put money in the Jar Jar?

+ Does anyone go up to the third floor of the library, and pretend to be a "Sky-walker?"

+ Does anyone from a Star TREK fan club show up, and call everyone ripoff artists?

I'm not sure how many members the Fountain City Force.Net has. But does a Star Wars fan club have growth potential, considering no more Star Wars movies are planned? Besides, the Carrie Fisher hairdo really hasn't come back into style in 30 years....

Whether you attend Fountain City Force.Net (don't forget that .net, now) is up to you. But I probably wouldn't feel comfortable there, because I've never watched any of the Star Wars movies - not one of them. I think that makes me even nerdier than the nerds who love R2D2.

Why have I missed the Star Wars phenomenon? Because I'm simply not a fan of science fiction in general. The journalist in me prefers facts. The Midwesterner in me likes things down-to-earth. And the hard-rock image of Jefferson Starship years ago didn't help....

YOUR UNBELIEVABLY SUPERIOR LOCAL BLOG WINTER OLYMPIC COVERAGE: No one from Columbus competed in the Winter Olympics Monday. And I'm concerned about these U.S. gold medals in "half-pipe snowboarding."
Does this encourage tobacco addiction?

Since we can't show Olympic highlights here without getting sued by NBC-38, let's check other news from Monday:

+ The Georgia Senate passed a bill requiring schools to use "biodiesel" fuel for two percent of their vehicles by 2010. How many superintendents heard this news and said: "Biodiesel? Buy a new fleet, probably!"

+ WXTX "News at Ten" tested a new, supposedly romance-improving drink called "Turn On." But some of us really wanted to see Roszell Gadson and Deborah Singer drink it live on the set....

(A different Columbus couple tried "Turn On," but they said their love life did NOT improve after drinking it. So apparently a better name might be "Turn In" -- as in go to sleep for the evening.)

+ Columbus State won in men's basketball over Lander 77-67, in a game WDAK announcer Scott Miller called "lackluster" during the second half. So many fouls were called that it seemed like the referees had a monthly quota to meet.

+ Instant Message to Tires First on Miller Road: Do you do anything second? I never hear you mention that....

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