Friday, December 31, 2010

31 DEC 10: Knowledge Shall Be Increased

A magazine article I read last summer said the world's total amount of knowledge is doubling every two to three years. And amazingly, this was before Wikileaks began revealing all those classified government documents.

I'm not sure my personal storehouse of knowledge doubled. But as we've done for several years, it's time to list 25 things I did NOT know a year ago. Some of these items could be news to you, too....

1. Columbus city employees can ask you to "voluntarily close" your business. And with all the new police officers, it's probably a good idea to agree to it.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: We now can confirm Golden Corral on Manchester Expressway was asked by a city health inspector to "voluntarily close" 7 December. The first report we had of a "drainage problem" was wrong - it was more like a dead roach problem.

Your blog obtained a copy of the 7 December inspection report on Golden Corral Thursday, after making an Open Records Request. Why did it show a score of 55? Well, the phrase "dead roach" appears in it twice - and even worse, the inspector "observed live roaches on floor in customer self-service buffet area." Those were NOT chopped black olives rolling around down there....

The claim by a Golden Corral employee of a boiler problem [14 Dec] actually may be true, as the inspector noted water in the dishwasher didn't meet a minimum of 140 degrees F. But the report says that problem was "corrected on-site." There was no reason to shut down for that. A lack of bathroom signs reminding employees to wash their hands may have been.

The 7 December inspection found Golden Corral out of compliance in ten different areas -- from insects to a lack of hand washing. There even was a penalty for not having a "person in charge present, demonstrates knowledge, and performs duties." This tells me no Fort Benning soldiers were hired after Military Appreciation Night.

The good news is that Golden Corral's latest inspection shows a score of 94. It was taken one day after the shutdown, and no roaches were noticed at all. But there was still an unsealed "open bag of sugar" - and this was during the first December cold wave, when there shouldn't have been a rush for sweet tea.

2. The Muscogee County court system has prepared for base realignment by hiring more staff members. I thought we were getting new military families - not tens of thousands of criminals.

Columbus Councilor Skip Henderson told WTVM Thursday not only are more court assistants being hired, but Chief Judge John Allen wants another judge position approved for the Chattahoochee Circuit. This strikes me more as a reaction to the 100 new police officers than BRAC - unless they suspect transfers are smuggling gold bars out of Fort Knox.

3. Peachtree Mall still has a game room. Only these days, the enemy warships you can destroy are much larger.

My recent walking around the mall has introduced me to Elite Zone - a business where you can sit in comfortable chairs and play video games on large flat-screen TV's. It's quite a change from game rooms of the 1990s, which made you stand to play Ms. Pac-Man. If you still prefer that approach, there's always Chuck E. Cheese.

The prices at Elite Zone also are a big step above old game rooms. One recent Sunday video tournament had a 15-dollar entry fee. I guess that beats having pockets weighed down by 20 quarters.

But I have to admit some of the video games and tournaments at Elite Zone have me baffled. For instance, I thought "Halo Reach" was something you did at a church service....

4. Grapefruit juice mixed with salt can relieve a sore or ticklish throat. I'm now waiting for Wendy's to promote this as "Vitamin C-Salt."

You'll never guess who taught me this health trick - Phenix City Councilor Jimmy Wetzel. I called him a few weeks ago about city business, and happened to catch him with his cell phone at a Wal-Mart store. Wetzel told me he was shopping for grapefruit juice for his throat. Now the Phenix City School Board may go out and buy every bottle in town.

5. If you don't smile, you're committing a sin. I may test your holiness level in 2011 by stepping on your toes.

I learned about this sin at a worship service in September. The pastor explained giving is the "flip side" of the Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not steal." And he said people expect you to give them smiles -- thus you're sinning if you don't. So when I die, I hope the funeral director bends my lips properly. My eternal destiny could depend on it.

OK, enough of the long explanations - let's finish this list of things I didn't know:

6. "Knocking and dragging" is a way to get voters to the polls in a mayoral runoff. It is NOT how you clean a computer mouse.

7. Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the home of the Insurance Hall of Fame.-- yet so far, no one from the Amos family has been inducted. Doesn't the invention of an Aflac duck count for anything?

8. Georgia is "the Saudi Arabia of pine trees." If Roy Barnes had won the Governor's race, Stewart County residents might have been squeezing pine sap to make gasoline.

9. The Columbus State University mascot is named Cody. By comparison, the official C.S.U. punching bag this past year was President Timothy Mescon.

10. Lake Martin is a "Treasured Alabama Lake." Now that Governor Bob Riley has given it that trial, the days of country music concerts on the water probably are over.

11. Georgia allows students to take physical education classes online. Push the scanner cord into the USB hole. Pull it out. Push, pull, push, pull....

12. The Alabama Farmers Federation isn't afraid to hold a convention in downtown Columbus. But you get the feeling they never expected the new Auburn Arena to be finished this year.

13. Incoming Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is entitled to a state car with a driver. The way Governor-Elect Robert Bentley is talking, he may turn that down and ride a bicycle to work.

14. A "cat head" in the South refers to a biscuit. In the North, it refers to the president of an industrial machinery company.

15. Johnny Carino's restaurant is considered part of Peachtree Mall, even though it's not attached. So far, the mall managers don't seem desperate enough to do the same thing with Best Buy.

16. Auburn University spends $27.9 million per year on its football team. But remember, not one penny of that was spent to bring in Cam Newton.

17. The "True Oldies Channel" WRCG radio tried for several months this year actually began in 2004 . So take that, you skeptics - it really WAS a true oldie.

18. Paul Olson doesn't like me very much. Olson chased me out of his Election Night party so quickly, he must have concluded I didn't jog that day.

19. Investigators in Alabama are permitted to lie, in the course of solving crimes. Russell County Sheriff-Elect Heath Taylor said so on the evening news. But then again, are we sure he was telling the truth?

20. Baseball no longer is the U.S. national pastime. Since "Dancing With the Stars" had higher TV ratings than this year's World Series, the new national pastime is ballroom dancing.

21. Muscogee County School Superintendent Susan Andrews dreams of running a produce stand someday. Thanks to that child nutrition bill President Obama signed the other day, her dream could be closer to reality than ever.

22. If you're driving and get caught in a rainstorm, you'll see better if you wear sunglasses. This was passed along to me by e-mail, and it seemed to work when I tried it - but when it's raining, fewer people can focus on how suave I look.

23. Atlanta has a rap music star named Waka Flocka Flame. He arrived about 30 years late, to keep the hockey team from moving to Calgary.

24. The most popular defense attorneys in Columbus are Stacy Jackson and Frank Martin. They show up on the TV news so often that I'm wondering if Gary Bruce has any clients.

25. The most boring day of the last century was a Sunday -- 11 April 1954. Thankfully, I wasn't alive back then to endure that.

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of 2010! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 761 (+ 29, 4.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

30 DEC 10: Choose to Achoo

Have you eaten well during December? Maybe a little TOO well? I know I have, because my body is telling me so. Not around the waist, but higher than that. And I'm not going to get into details about chocolate rotting away my teeth....

The problem is in my respiratory system. It's been stuffy for a few days. Not heavily, but enough that I know something isn't right. Call it congestion on the level of Manchester Expressway in December, but not quite inside Peachtree Mall.

"You eat a cold," I heard a minister in Oklahoma say years ago. In other words, you shouldn't "feed a cold" to make it disappear. You fed it to yourself in the first place. So get a head start on 2011, and start consuming nothing but liquids now....

But seriously: the minister explained changes in your eating habits can cause a cold -- for instance, if your diet is too rich during a vacation. The only thing I've added in recent days is a large bag of M&M's in "Christmas colors," which was marked down 50 percent. If McDonald's can be sued by parents over Happy Meals, can I sue Walgreens for tempting me to be sick?

Chocolate candy, sandwich cookies and corn chips in my snack stash probably took a toll on me. And the recent cold nights haven't helped, as sleeping has been a challenge. My heater fires up at about 61 degrees F. -- and I've kept it that low so far, so Atmos Energy executives can't throw too big a shareholders meeting.

As a result of all this, my voice isn't quite as loud when I see football teams score touchdowns on TV. But my body amazingly compensates for that -- because my sneezes seem to be a bit louder and more powerful.

I hope what I have is nothing worse than a cold. East Alabama Medical Center reported Wednesday it's seeing more flu cases than normal for December - more than 80 documented patients, with 13 admissions. I suppose viruses can spread very rapidly at Toomer's Corner after football games....

East Alabama Medical Center is putting restrictions on visitor hours until this wave of the flu has, uh, flown. We don't need friends and relatives making patients more sick than they already are. After all, some hospitals already have infection problems for accomplishing that.

One thing I admittedly have NOT done is what Dee Armstrong recommended on WLTZ Wednesday night -- drinking eight glasses of water a day, to clean out my body. In the heat of August, I probably drank more than that every day. Now the chilled water bottles are a bit like baseball teams -- in their "off-season," with no concern about a proper rotation until April.

Do you think there's a big conspiracy behind all this - my sickness and the Lee County flu outbreak? Some people have Medical Savings Accounts through their jobs. If they don't use up all that money for health-related items by Friday, it disappears - and organizers of health care reform will thank you for every dollar which doesn't add to the federal deficit.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Someone in Hurtsboro apparently was convicted by one of our topics last weekend. Now former Constable Robert Schweiger has a confession to make....

Sir Richard:

I really enjoyed your "Saturday Special. I expect all of us adults have been on both ends of the untruths involving the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, The Easter Rabbit, and the Stork. Those incredable tales we were led to believe as tots, were deemed harmless "white" lies. But, they were lies nevertheless. It was usually left to older siblings to reveal the honest to God truth.

Thus the seed was planted - and truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth even as a sworn oath has become nothing but a hollow mockery anywhere - especially in a court of law.

I plead guilty to using the untruths (white lies?) as a parent and grandparent but even then I found that I wasn't clever enough to be a proficient liar. Taking a lesson from those experiences. I've made it a practice to tell the truth - no matter how painful it may be.

I've also made it a practice to check every fact thoroughly; before demeaning or praising anyone. I do present myself as authority on the dismal situation in "Hurt'sboro - but you can take any public statement I make as well founded. I KNOW OF WHAT I SPEAK!

Yes, Sir Richard, It's time to face the truth. There is no Santa Claus or any goose that lays golden eggs and there's no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow Your point was well taken.

Perhaps those in "Hurt'sboro's Town Hall will also have read your thesis on falsehoods, and be enlightened. Hopefully, they will acknowledge the facts before them and - accept the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth which lies before them and can be well documented.

He may not believe in pots of gold anymore -- but have you noticed Friday night's Mega Millions jackpot is above $230 million?

A lack of money begins our check of Wednesday's other headlines....

+ GPB Radio reported Georgia will finish second in the U.S. for bank closures in 2010, with 21. As long as none of them had "Synovus" attached to their names, local investors will sleep well.

+ WXTX checked plans in downtown Columbus for New Year's parties Friday night, and interviewed the manager of Scruffy Murphy's. The manager of that "Irish pub" is Monita Alcantara - which makes almost as much sense as a man named O'Higgins having a key role in South American history.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Auburn's men escaping Georgia Southern 88-84 in overtime. The Tigers blew a 29-point first-half lead - and plenty of nervous fans had visions of the Oregon football team bouncing in their brains.

+ Alabama's football players received their gift for playing in Saturday's bowl game in Orlando - a $500 gift card to Best Buy. This seems like a smart thing to give. It's hard to sell that for a profit -- even though Ohio State players might try to do it.

+ Instant Message to Kirkland Memorial Baptist Church on Lynridge Drive: Did I hear this right? You're having a special service Friday night to "pray in" the new year - and then you're serving collards and black-eyed peas for "good luck" after midnight?! Are you doing the second because you don't think the first will work?

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: November began with a much-ballyhooed election, both in Columbus and around the region. Some may have been surprised when November ended with another election - this one after many bellyaches.

Teresa Tomlinson made history by winning the Columbus Mayor's race. City officials announced Thursday next week's inauguration will be televised live on CCG-TV. Then it probably will be replayed for a week, so Tomlinson can have all her campaign supporters over for dinner and a screening.

A new Alabama State Senator took his oath of office three times during November - at fast-food restaurants. Tom Whatley may have known something we didn't know, because the legislature approved ethics bills at a fast-food clip.

One Columbus restaurant made a national late-night talk show in November -- for women fighting in a Waffle House parking lot. After thinking this over, maybe Waffle House should stage fights on a regular basis. Their waffle are a bit like pro wrestling rings - squares in a circle.

On top of that, a Phenix City couple received a November makeover compliments of Oprah Winfrey. But they had to feel a bit disappointed, when Winfrey didn't fly them to Australia for it.

The National Infantry Museum hosted its first marathon in November. Then outgoing director Jerry White was sued on grounds of sexual abuse - so he'll have his own legal marathon to go through during 2011.

Sports fans buzzed in November about the undefeated season of Auburn University football - and questions of wrongdoing involving quarterback Cam Newton. At least he didn't sell that bottle of "Cammy Cam Juice" to CBS's Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.

That brings us to December, with the local news year winding down. Part of me wants to say not much has happened in Columbus. But then I'm reminded of that survey declaring Columbus the least-smart city in Georgia....

December has brought us the arrival of Cinnabon, the departure of Shoney's and the continued temporary closing of Krispy Kreme due to a fire. What does it say about Columbus tastes when the only one which sold balanced meals went bust?

People have talked in December about Mike Gaymon's "white tablecloth" admission, as well as accusations of "slave labor" rules at Callaway Gardens. Since next year marks 150 years since the Civil War began, I wonder if the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce will dare to have a masquerade party at Robin Lake....

COMING THIS WEEKEND: We're making our lists, and spell-checking them at least once....

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 732 (+ 21, 3.09%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

29 DEC 10: One Out of Five

If you want a reality check first thing in the morning, there's nothing like waking up to someone talking about homelessness. While you're in bed. In a home with heat - even if you have to spend a few shivering moments verifying it

BLOGGER BEGGAR #7: A radio interview about Columbus homelessness Tuesday reminded me of a recent racquetball workout in Benning Park. As I whacked the ball, a group of five young people walked by. I'm not calling it a "gang" because none of them carried a can of spray paint.

"Can I have a dollar to get something to drink?" a young man in the group asked.

I could do better than that. I happened to take a bottle of water to the court -- a much more effective way to share liquid assets.

I hurried to courtside, grabbed the bottle and ran outside the fence to the group of five. I somehow don't think the young people expected this. But if they expected me to give one member of the group a dollar, they were wrong. After all, I've received plenty of e-mails here about local inequality.

As the young man drank from my water bottle, others in the group suddenly had questions. I went outside to exercise, and a news conference broke out....

"Do you play here often?" one person asked. Maybe once or twice a week.

"Are you a firefighter?" a young woman asked. I stood across the driveway from a fire station -- but no. A firefighter probably would have pointed the group toward a hydrant.

"Why are you talking so fast?" Because the woman asked her question before I could finish answering the first one. At least that explanation allowed me to slow the pace down.

But the questioning wasn't over. "Can I have a dollar to get something to eat?" asked the young man who originally asked for water. Next time I need to bring a bottle with one of those fruit flavors.

Everyone stood by my car at this point, so regular blog readers probably know what happened next. I opened my trunk and gave the young man a "beggar bag" - a paper sack with a can of chicken Vienna sausage and a juice pouch inside. Another man in the group couldn't believe I'd thought ahead for this. But he didn't think to ask for one himself.

"Anything else?" I dared to ask the five young people. This opened myself to potential trouble. After all, one of them might have asked for a dollar to buy a used car.

The five young people had no other questions or requests, so they walked on toward Benning Drive -- and as they walked away, a thought occurred to me. Only one of the five asked for food or water. And he didn't share the water with the other four. The can of Vienna sausages might have been another story - especially quibbling over the two extras inside.

Why did only one of the five young people ask me for help? Had the other four befriended him as a stranger? Was he a spokesman for the group? Or were the other four well-off, leaving me as the only one who cared enough to share something?

As it happens, Shana Young with the Columbus State University Cunningham Center also has noticed a one-in-five trend. She told WDAK's "Viewpoint" Tuesday 20 percent of the homeless people in Columbus are "chronic homeless" - in a long-term situation due to addictions or a criminal record. But then again, aren't we all a little "addicted" to food and water?

Shana Young says in most cities, ten percent of the homeless people are "chronic homeless" - and they use 50 percent of a city's resources to fight homelessness. Columbus has double that percentage. So I'm a little surprised hundreds of other people haven't been moved to the Civic Center lobby to spend the last few nights.

Shana Young noted homeless people in Columbus have a hard time getting the assistance they need, because services are scattered across a wide area. I discovered that seven years ago, when I tried to help a man get an evening stay at The Salvation Army [18-19 Dec 03]. He wound up sleeping on my living room floor - perhaps with better food, but no hymn singing.

Shana Young led the effort to develop a ten-year plan for ending homelessness citywide. Columbus Council approved $50,000 this month to start the process. But with changing Council members and mayors with different agendas, it's hard to say if the goal will be reached by 2020 -- especially since nice potential downtown housing is about to become work space for starving Springer Opera House actors.

-> The winning number for us in poker Monday night was four. Find out why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of finding something to eat, someone may be on the warpath against a Columbus restaurant....

Rumor has it that Golden Corral in Columbus will close for what they are saying "Remodeling" for several weeks after the first of the year,,

Wondering if anything has to do with the seriously low score from the health department a few weeks ago?

"That is false," a woman who answered the phone at Golden Corral told me Tuesday. The woman wouldn't tell me her name -- which shows you one difference between this restaurant and the ones which openly name their chefs.

But a check of Columbus Health Department records shows part of this e-mail is accurate. Golden Corral had inspection scores of 63 and 55 in recent weeks - improving to 94 only on a third check. When your food safety score is lower than high school basketball teams score, that isn't good.

The "unsatisfactory" score of 55 came 7 December, around the time Golden Corral was closed half-a-day. We were told that shutdown was due to a boiler problem [14 Dec] -- but now I wonder if it was the manager who blew a stack.

The news buffet Tuesday didn't offer much to chew on, but here goes....

+ Columbus tied a record, with a morning low of 23 degrees F. So how many of you have done what I used to do on these cold mornings and nights? There's no better time to clean out the freezer for defrosting.

+ The two new Muscogee County School Board members took the oath of office. Mark Cantrell told WTVM it was the biggest day of his life, besides his wedding day. This had to disappoint all those winners of St. Jude Dream Homes....

+ Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr announced what apparently is the biggest drug bust of the year. A WRBL reporter said there was so much marijuana displayed at the news conference that "the smell was unmistakable...." Hmmmm - how would she know that, exactly?

+ WTVM began a search for the heckler who welcomed Coach Gene Chizik to Auburn University two years ago, booing him and yelling: "Five and 19! Five and 19!" I'm more interested in knowing if those numbers are displayed on the sidelines, in signals to Cam Newton.

+ The University of Georgia athletic director revealed the Bulldog football team will play Ohio State - but not until 2020. Is it going to take THAT long to replace Mark Richt, and regain the respect of high school athletes?

+ Instant Message to everyone spreading bogus morbid rumors about the health of Aretha Franklin: C'mon, folks - R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: The heat remained in Columbus during September - and in ways other than the temperature. Wayne Anthony went after Teresa Tomlinson's husband. An anonymous blogger started going after Tomlinson. And complaining critics came to this blog, as if Goodwill Industries executives were running for something.

Rep. Sanford Bishop was embarrassed in September by word he steered Congressional Black Caucus scholarships to his relatives. But looking back, it could have been worse. A "Sanford" in South Carolina might have diverted that money to women in Argentina.

Attorney Mark Shelnutt was arrested in September, less than a year after he was cleared in a federal trial. Yet no candidate ever brought up his donation to Teresa Tomlinson's campaign for mayor - and I don't think anyone checked to see if Shelnutt helped interview Tomlinson's office staff.

The star entertainment attraction in Columbus during September was rap artist Gucci Mane. I'm still waiting for the Civic Center to balance things out, and host a comeback concert by Tiffany.

Columbus radio had another shakeup in September, when "Boomer 95.3" was restored to its old position on the FM dial. Of course, that may have prompted fans of the old format to mutter, "Flip my Ride."

Then came October, and the election-year stretch run. Rep. Sanford Bishop handed out a $6.2 million check in Columbus -- while Wayne Anthony demanded to see every six-dollar check MidTown Inc. ever issued.

October saw signs of economic growth in the area. The Kia plant added a second shift, Columbus Technical College opened a new health sciences center, the Springer Opera House announced expansion plans - but printing counterfeit 20-dollar bills in a Columbus motel might have been a step too far.

But the "Phenix Pheud" continued in October, with the school Superintendent answering rather personal accusations by the mayor and city council. I'm still waiting for the District Attorney to announce which side was to blame for that sinkhole near the Phenix City Shoney's.

One overlooked trend in October was the rise of Islam in Columbus. The main library had "Come Meet a Muslim" night. The mayor proclaimed a special day for a mosque. But Fort Benning still hasn't launched the Middle Eastern Institute for Security Cooperation.

A new football tradition began at Fort Benning in October, with Third Brigade soldiers playing Columbus State in the Doughboy Classic. Who could have imagined a few weeks later, the alleged "dough boy" would be Auburn quarterback Cam Newton?

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 711 (+ 27, 3.9%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

28 DEC 10: The Bottle and the Badge

It's admittedly not a regular place for me to eat. But I've never had a problem with the menu at Steak 'n Shake. The burgers are a bit pricey, and I usually drink sodas instead of milk shakes. But I must say the year-end special "egg nog milk shake" sounds even stranger than Dunkin Donuts offering donuts made of gingerbread.

But those fancy milk shakes apparently weren't good enough for one customer early Monday. Columbus Police say a man was arrested after taking a bottle of Crown Royal inside Steak 'n Shake, and mixing alcoholic drinks for himself and his friends. I'm not sure why added "shots" of cherry and chocolate in your cola wouldn't be jolting enough.

It wasn't exactly a smuggled bottle of alcohol which put this group in trouble with the law. Police claim someone in the group started telling racist jokes in a loud voice. Either the person already was drunk, or he somehow thought he could be an opening act for Dave Chappelle.

Police say at some point, someone in the group threatened to wait for a Steak 'n Shake manager in the parking lot. That was considered a threat - so apparently the restaurant's drive-through service is well above average.

The incident reached the police blotter when the Steak 'n Shake manager threatened to call officers. That's when Joshua Welch reportedly pulled out a badge and claimed to be a Russell County Sheriff's Deputy. Columbus Police say that was a lie, because Welch was terminated from the reserve deputy program two years ago. If he was drunk, you know what that would mean - Welch's gripe was juiced.

Russell County Sheriff's officers say Joshua Welch never turned in his reserve deputy badge in 2008. Police say he boasted to the Steak 'n Shake manager: "I'll stack my badge against theirs." Considering Columbus now has about 100 extra police officers, a "stack" of one badge won't get you far.

Columbus Police told WRBL Joshua Welch was carrying several public safety scanners, because he actually is a volunteer firefighter. They make it sound like Welch was ready to fight almost anything -- including the restaurant staff.

Joshua Welch was arrested on charges of impersonating an officer. While the Monday evening newscasts focused on him, the Ledger-Enquirer website noted one other arrest. Blake Gunter is charged with misdemeanor assault - and he's a real Muscogee County Sheriff's officer. Did he try to prevent Welch's arrest? Or was this like an old-fashioned "piling on" penalty in football?

All this happened around 4:00 in the morning at Steak 'n Shake. Restaurants like this one with 24-hour service must see some strange customers in the hours before dawn. Intoxicated diners probably went there to "shoot the bull" long before Red Bull was added to the drink menu.

-> The winning number for us in poker Monday night was four. Find out why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers opened an "attended donation center" in Auburn Monday. Take that, you critics! What we may have here is simply a shift of resources - and who knows how many people will want to turn in University of Oregon mementos over the next couple of weeks.

Another retail development tops the rest of Monday's headlines....

+ J.D. Kinders Furniture on Manchester Expressway began a "going out of business" sale. Remember the Kinders commercial we mentioned in October, featuring the man wearing a poncho and big hat? [15 Oct] He sang during another furniture store's final sale years ago - and now he might as well be a fat lady.

+ Incoming State Senator Josh McKoon reported the Georgia General Assembly will work without a "cost of living" pay raise for the third year in a row. Legislators make about $17,000 per year - and with no raise, Republicans may have to pool their income to get a satellite TV subscription for watching Fox News Channel.

+ Delta Air Lines canceled about 700 flights from the Atlanta airport, due to the massive snowstorm in the Northeast. If Columbus had a 20-inch snowfall the way New York did, the Columbus Cottonmouths could have organized their version of a "Winter Classic."

+ The Shaw Classic in high school basketball began, with Tallassee topping Spencer in men's play 72-68. As for the.... hey, wait a minute! What's Tallassee doing in a tournament for Columbus-area teams? Did high schools in Montgomery decide this team was too good?

+ An unusual Atlanta football doubleheader found Air Force shooting down Georgia Tech 14-7 in the Independence Bowl, then New Orleans winning in the N.F.L. 17-14. So teams named the "Falcons" wound up going one for two - and Wes Durham would have been "down in the dauber" no matter which game he called.

(Wes Durham did the Georgia Tech radio broadcast in Shreveport, Louisiana, while the Atlanta Falcons had to find a substitute. But I'm not sure why he had to choose at all. Jorge Cantor once did play-by-play for dozens of World Cup soccer games from a studio in Miami.)

+ Georgia running back Caleb King was kicked off the team for Friday's Liberty Bowl, for academic reasons. Was he trying to follow the example of another famous King? Larry King prided himself on NOT reading the books of authors he interviewed.

+ Instant Message to Troy University football coach Larry Blakeney: Thank you for being such a visionary and pioneer. I mean, you were playing Tuesday night football games years ago -- and tonight the National Football League is trying it.

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: August brought more record-breaking heat in Columbus. Russell County garbage workers called a wildcat strike, because trucks had no air conditioning. And it became SO HOT for Columbus Police that people were arrested in the Parks and Recreation scandal.

Columbus Police opened a new East Precinct in August on Buena Vista Road, in combination with CB&T. Did someone at the bank decide to follow the recent example of the Muscogee County Marshal -- and wait 138 years before naming the precinct after Mayor Wetherington?

The Russell County School Board selected a new superintendent in August. So far, Mike Green hasn't said much publicly - perhaps out of fear he'll get a "recruiting visit" from Jimmy Wetzel.

This blog uncovered a well-hidden legal settlement during August, involving WTVM and former anchor Dee Armstrong. We found it as the TV station wrangled with Mediacom over a retransmission agreement - something that's happening again this week with Direct TV. Fred Ward would have put this fight inside a wrestling ring somehow....

August was a month for new businesses in Columbus. Headquarter Nissan opened in the building which was Rob Doll's dream. A short test drive away, The Fresh Market opened -- with prices which are a food stamp recipient's nightmare.

Military families rejoiced in August, as the Third Brigade returned home to Fort Benning from Iraq. The arrests of those "Craigslist call girls" at Columbus motels around the same time was merely a coincidence - really.

The sports highlight of August was the Columbus Northern All-Stars reaching the Little League World Series. They didn't go all the way, compared with 2006 - setting an example Roy Barnes was to follow in the Georgia Governor's race three months later.

The media prank of the year fooled many people in Columbus during August. A website circulated a fake photo of a shark in the Chattahoochee River. At least it wasn't in one of those new water tanks along River Road....

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 684 (+ 24, 3.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

27 DEC 10: Goodwill Toward None?

Shopping centers in Columbus reportedly were packed Sunday. Some people took advantage of half-price year-end clearances. Others probably had nothing to better to do, with the Atlanta Falcons playing tonight.

We received an e-mail about one group of locally-owned stores the other day -- a group that's become a big issue here this year. But we've edited this message, for reasons which will be explained:

I would like to take this time through your blog, if you are willing, to wish the big wigs and board members at Goodwill of the Southern Rivers a Merry Christmas. With their firing of several managers at the holidays for no reason to save money, they have no doubt made their goal of padding their pockets even more. I was the manager at the Valdosta, Ga store and.... among others we were terminated for no cause. Of course, when it came to talking to the department of labor they lied and told them something totally different. Funny thing is.... won our appeals because.... Goodwill could not provide any prove at all that we had not performed our jobs right. They have yet to replace.... us after months either, even though there are tons of candidates with the economy the way it is. Why you ask?To save money. I can tell you the company is in financial disaster, are bleeding money, and their financials are going down the toilet. They are in a hole so big they can not get out of it, and in fact, they just closed two more stores because of financial problems. The whole company only does about 14 million in sales, yes the whole company, yet they have more people working in corporate and on the board than companies over ten times their side. They are also not suprisingly losing market share in donations becaused people are notcing what is going on. The big wigs are only interested padding their pockets and unlike their company premise they do not care about people. This is proven in their treatment of their own people.

I any event, have a great Christmas, and I am sure you will as you pad your pockets more and neglect the truth and others. Hopefully people will see your true colors and stop supporting you. You have ruined enough lives with your greediness.


Derek Faircloth

Oh dear -- this grieving process seems to be taking a bit longer than usual....

Derek Faircloth also wrote us in November about his dismissal from Goodwill Industries [15 Nov]. Some people would be thankful for their unemployment checks and move on. This man may be ready to slap some executives across the face with it.

But this e-mail raises some questions about Goodwill's operations. I asked Derek Faircloth to name the stores which "just closed." He could name only one - and indeed, the store in Americus closed in mid-October. Managers explained not enough donations were received to maintain the store. And in Americus, some potential donations may have turned into insulation for Habitat for Humanity houses.

What about that "financial disaster"? Goodwill Industries posts the data on its website, so it's easy to review. In the first six months of this year, the nonprofit charity had a net loss of almost two million dollars. Maybe this former manager won't be happy until all the managers are in the career center with him.

Goodwill's financial report shows retail sales in the first half of this year totaled almost six million dollars. The now-departed Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop brought in more than $117,000 -- but it had a net loss of more than $63,000. If selling ice cream leaves you with nothing but a "rocky road," it's time to make a change.

The "net worth" of Goodwill of the Southern Rivers as of 30 June was down almost 15 percent from one year before. There was a big drop in the amount of "long-term investments." I'm not sure at what point in the spring ice cream turns from long-term to short-term....

We left a message at Goodwill Industries last week asking for the company's side of all this. We received no response, but a November news release noted Goodwill met its 2010 goal of placing 2,830 people in jobs. I'm going to assume Derek Faircloth isn't using the Goodwill Success Centers to add to that total.

Oh yes - we edited part of this e-mail because it named another former Goodwill employee. That employee did NOT want to be part of what Derek Faircloth wrote, explaining to us: "I do not share his seemingly deep seated dislike of GWISR." Many current employees apparently don't, either - because I haven't seen any picket signs outside stores.

Perhaps Derek Faircloth wanted to get in one last slap at his old employer, before moving on with his life. Carrying grudges around can be a dangerous thing -- especially in 2010, when your potential next boss knows how to search for your name on Google.

Speaking of an icy condition, let's review the weekend news....

+ The Sunday high temperature in Columbus was only 35 degrees F. It was so cold that snow which fell on Callaway Gardens Saturday didn't melt -- and no one wanted to step outside an organize a "flash mob" snowball fight.

+ WRBL reported at least five flights from Columbus Airport were canceled due to snow in other cities. Atlanta had its first measurable snowfall on 25 December since 1882 - which I think was the last time Republicans lost control of the state legislature.

+ Georgia Tech's football team announced three players will be barred from the first half of today's Independence Bowl, for violating curfew. That old World Football League team wasn't called the "Shreveport Steamer" for nothing, I guess....

+ New Orleans nipped the Atlanta Hawks 93-86, one day before the cities clash in pro football tonight. Hmmm - come to think of it, does Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez want to make a little extra money from February to May?

+ Instant Message to whichever neighbor decided to turn up Christmas music at 4:40 a.m. Saturday morning: Aren't both of you older than I am? And retired? You really can't use the "what did Santa put under the tree" excuse for that at your ages.

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: July was a political month in the Columbus area. Johnny Ford brought Al Sharpton to East Alabama, but lost a State Senate race. Rep. Sanford Bishop brought Shirley Sherrod to Columbus, and he wound up with a narrow win. So why doesn't Sherrod have her own radio talk show yet?

A sobering campaign ad before the Georgia Primary included the mother of Kenneth Walker. Her candidate lost the Democratic race for Attorney General. Then the man Emily Walker opposed then lost in November. I'm not sure if that's earned her tickets to Sam Olens's inauguration next month or not.

It wasn't decided through an election, but William Rumer was named a Superior Court Judge in July. I saw him on WRBL last week wearing a bow tie - which seemed to be passed along to judges with a gavel, but certainly doesn't get as much attention.

One of the strangest criminal cases of the year developed in July, as Columbus Police captured the "Gumball Bandit." Yet somehow, officers still haven't arrested the teenagers who ate food they were supposed to be selling from city park concession stands.

Travel issues made news in July, when Orbitz settled a lawsuit with the city over unpaid taxes. Orbitz may now be the only travel website which realizes Columbus Airport began flights to and from Dallas-Fort Worth.

Travelers visiting Columbus received reassuring news, as the Hyatt Place hotel near J.R. Allen Parkway was named the best Hyatt hotel in the U.S. I can't wait for the statue of Richard Hyatt to be erected there next year....

The River City Report joined the Columbus media mix in July. While I haven't seen proof of it, The Courier reportedly has declared the website racist. That's strange - the only mug shot posted there right now is a white guy.

July also was a month for championship sports in Columbus. The Lions won the Southern Indoor Football League title. The Northern All-Stars won a state Little League baseball title. And Larry Mize won a Champion's Tour golf tournament - hopefully remembering not to offend anyone in Montreal by bringing up the Expos.

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 660 (- 16, 2.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

26 DEC 10: Dressed to the Nines

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The main part of this entry is our second annual "Blog Simulcast," also being posted at On the Flop.)

As I scurried to the car around 8:10 p.m. ET Saturday night, a "wintry mix" was falling -- more snow than rain. The forecasters on TV went back and forth so much on the chance for snow that I'm not sure if they wound up being right or not.

Yet I was undeterred as I drove down U.S. 280 in Phenix City. I remembered the old "over and under" rule from icy winter storms in Atlanta -- slow down at overpasses and underpasses. But where I was going, people were more likely to put "over and under" on the Saturday night pro football game.

I drove to The Red Barn in Phenix City, for its weekly Saturday night heads-up poker tournament. Yes, a bar was open on 25 December. But from what I could see, it was NOT serving spiked egg nog.

"Are you here to play?" the tournament director asked when I walked into the side room of The Red Barn.

"Yes, sir," I said. "It's a day on, not a day off." In terms of winning money, that is. My apologies if that explanation disappoints people looking ahead to Martin Luther King, Junior Day....

"That's a snappy suit you have on," the director added. It was the same suit I'd worn to a worship service during the afternoon, which was followed by a nice dinner with friends. If only my gray tie hadn't been so uncooperative - because the director fixed it for me once, spotted it crooked again and wondered who tied it in the first place.

The side room at The Red Barn was chilly for several people - even though the window "air conditioner" at one end was set to 86 degrees F. There weren't enough warm bodies on hand to improve things. And of course, that meant not as much hot air from trash-talkers.

"It's snowing like h**l out there," the tournament director said after a check outside. Nearly a minute later, he suddenly realized what he had said. "That's an oxymoron, isn't it?" Umm-hmm....

While I sat at a table warming up with solitaire, a man holding a cell phone explained why a female friend couldn't play. "Christmas Day is the one day of the year at Waffle House when all employees are required to work." Even calling out sick could get you fired, he said. Who knows what happens to a manager who didn't order enough frozen hash browns?

(The good news for that female employee is that she already had received $170 in tips on her shift. First prize at Heads-Up Poker Night normally is $60 - and you probably don't have to deal with nearly as much cigarette smoke.)

One woman in the unofficial poker room was playing for the first time, so the tournament director explained the rules - and even played a hand with all the cards face-up. Sometimes I wish all the hands were like that - because my chances would improve substantially.

The Heads-Up tournament director delayed the start of play, hoping more players would show up. But 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, only 11 names were on the list. The usual maximum is 24, so my chances of winning were more than twice as good. If only my play could improve that quickly, after three shutouts in a row....

After the draw for bracket positions, I faced a man I've played on two other Saturday nights. We were 1-1, and he jumped to the lead in a few hands. But I rallied by making three sevens and a "double-up" with Ace-Queen, and it led to this....

BLINDS: 400/800

IN THE POCKET: A-K of diamonds

With the blinds this high (each player starting with 4,000), a hand this good is worth a big move. We go all-in, and our opponent calls. He has 10-4 of diamonds - and a chip count reveals we're exactly even, so we're BOTH all-in for a winner-take-all showdown.

ON THE FLOP: J-9-8 (only the 8 is a diamond)

Uh-oh -- our opponent has a straight draw to win.


That pair gives him the lead, and there's no longer any hope of winning with a nut flush. We need a big card.


It's not big enough, and the man beats us for the second time in a row. It's called "winning a race" in poker -- and it beats drag racing on slick roads.

Thankfully, the Heads-Up tournament is double-elimination. We were now in the losers' bracket -- and while we waited, someone called the tournament director to wish everyone "Merry Christmas."

"Bah humbug," one of the players answered. "It's Christmas night, and I'm playing poker." And unlike my Dad's Christmas night card games, he had to pay for the liquor.

After early matches were finished, we sat down for our second match against a man named Ben. "My name's Richard," Ben said. "My name's really Richard Benjamin."

"Well, I'm Richard Burkard." If my middle name had a W, it would have matched his last name -- and I would have someone for comparing notes about identity theft.

Then came one of the most amazing moments in my four years of playing live poker....

BLINDS: 100/200

IN THE POCKET: 4-9 offsuit

On the very first hand of the match, Ben calls in the small blind. I check the big blind.

ON THE FLOP: 9-9-9

Did I see that right? Yes, I did - quads-come-quick! Hoping to make a big gain, I check. So does Ben.


Not wanting to scare Ben away, I bet a meager-looking minimum 200. "Raise to six," Ben says. I ponder a moment, tempted to go all-in - but instead simply call.


Now it's time to strike. "I'm all-in," I say.

"I have to call," Ben says. "I've got a full house." He shows 7-10.

"Can you beat quads?" I say. Of course he can't - but he's understandably stunned by what just happened. So is the tournament director, whom we both call over to examine the cards. "This was a one-hand knockout," I tell him - a little like another Saturday night match, which put a fighting troupe out of business.

"Awesome two-bet!" a man across the room said to us when he heard about what happened. It's called in poker a "slow play" - but I've never seen it lead to a faster exit.

But one punch doesn't win a poker tournament, even when it's Heads-Up. The next elimination match proved to be the end for us, as several losses led to a forced all-in bet with 5-8 of clubs on the 12th hand. Our opponent had King-Jack, made a full house -- and sent us back to our empty one.

We didn't win the tournament, but at least we improved to winning one match. And for an unexpected consolation prize, we found a buildup of wet snow on our rear windshield to take home and store in the freezer. Columbus now has seen a noticeable snowfall four winters in a row. If only the poker cards fell that attractively all the time....

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: June traditionally is a hot month in Columbus -- but 2010 was exceptionally so. The Parks and Recreation audit debate grew hotter. Someone tried to torch a building next to mine. And it was SO HOT that the Miss Georgia pageant decided contestants could run downtown in their pajamas.

The "Rec-Gate" controversy became so intense that when prison inmates were spotted playing billiards at Comer Auditorium, it was posted online by the Ledger-Enquirer as "Breaking News." Imagine if those inmates had been taking fencing lessons.

But I shouldn't point fingers at the newspaper. After all, the Ledger-Enquirer put your blogger in a June video about Chick-Fil-A's new spicy chicken sandwich. That's the good news, I suppose - but when that video has fewer views on YouTube than this blog receives in a weekday, maybe it's not.

June actually began with the Alabama Primary. The candidate who gained the most national attention didn't make the runoff for Agriculture Commissioner. But Dale Peterson became so famous with his shotgun in campaign commercials that we may have found the eventual replacement for YellaFella.

One local candidate went very high-tech in June, when Josh McKoon introduced a personal "app" for iPhones. McKoon went on to win a State Senate seat, as voters apparently decided he had the right app-titude.

Columbus lost a television station in June, when WLGA quietly faded to black. It was SO QUIET that no one reported on it for three weeks, until this blog did. And it's so quiet that the corporate owner still hasn't removed WLGA from its list of stations.

Local law officers faced some unusual crimes in June. Someone stole a hot water heater from a Columbus day care center. And I still haven't heard who stole several picnic tables from a Russell County park. If they didn't resurface at the local premiere of "Yogi Bear"....

Local sports were as hot as the weather in June. The Columbus Lions humiliated an indoor football opponent 99-0. Former Shaw High School pitcher Edwin Jackson threw a major-league no-hitter. And the Woodbats came back from the dead - only to find Columbus still only loves baseball players younger than age 18.

COMING MONDAY: The most unusual "holiday greeting" you're likely to read this year.... in fact, we've been asked to edit it....

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 676 (+ 20, 3.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

25 DEC 10: What Day is This Again?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following items humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath. And our "year-in-review" special will resume Sunday or Monday.)

The last 48 hours have been rather hectic for me. Laundry to clean. Groceries to buy. Poker games with money to win. My third annual "doughnut double-up" two-for-one special Friday morning at Golden Donuts. Oh yes, and blog writing to do for you. Imagine if I actually still was keeping Christmas....

Part of me wanted to be quiet on this Saturday -- but I feel compelled to respond to several of this past week's e-mails. I'll take the blame for starting this, with a joke last Sunday about a "Jesus birthday cake." Who knows how many families read that and decided on an upgrade from "cookies for Santa."

While adults in one small town accuse each other of lying, I have to ask us all -- do you practice lying at this time of year? If you told children Santa Claus is coming to their home to deliver gifts, you did. If you told them Santa is watching them constantly, you did -- unless you've changed the name of God, and think He's really a fat guy wearing red.

There are the lies we know, and then there are the lies you may not know. I've found evidence from the Bible indicating Jesus kept Hanukkah. But there's NO verse declaring He kept Christmas. The disciples didn't bring Him gifts as a grown-up. And while Jesus turned pots of water into wine, He never dipped into anybody's "wassail bowl."

A blog reader in Ohio posted a challenging Biblical analysis of this issue Friday. It makes several good points -- especially about seeking truth. Jesus called Himself "the truth" in John 14. Would someone called Truth appreciate a celebration covered with lies? Maybe this is why Jesus never ran for political office....

Some people say Jesus really was born in the fall. Others point to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," which originally had this line: "In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea." Those lilies come out in spring, not December -- and the song was written long before FTD was some sort of texting abbreviation.

(I could make an even more blatantly emotional appeal to Columbus residents here - and point out Alabama was the first state to declare Christmas a holiday. Do you really want to follow that state's example?)

Plenty of Christians would contend they went to services Friday night and today to worship Jesus. Well, I'm doing the same thing - but under a different understanding. I celebrate Jesus as the one who said in Mark 2 He was "the Lord of the Sabbath." If He ever pinned dollar bills on His robe and called Himself "birthday boy," I've never found it.

So what's my point of all this? We all should take some time to examine why we do the things we do - especially traditions we think are pleasing to God. Let the Bible be your guide, and you could discover people have been lying to you. You may even find Lucy knew something when she told Charlie Brown about Christmas: "It's run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know."

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 656 (- 56, 7.9%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

24 DEC 10: Going Postal

You see what day of the year it is. And I'm sure you know what it means. The clock is ticking for many people in the Columbus area. Only a few hours remain -- and then fireworks commercials will be back on TV for a week.

Post offices in the Columbus area are on a half-day schedule today. They were wise not to do that earlier in the week, when people rushed to put gifts and packages in the mail. So many customers showed up that you'd think a "Black Monday" would have occurred - with the Postal Service finally getting out of debt for the year.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I stopped keeping Christmas years ago. Yet I needed to put oversized work-related items in the mail this week, so I wound up at Columbus post offices three days in a row. It could have been worse, though - as some people have had their pictures on display at post offices for months.

Monday was supposedly the busiest mailing day of the year. I heard the news reports about that, but hoped a late-afternoon stop at the downtown post office would mean a shorter trip. What I found convinced me I don't think "outside the box" enough - or too many others did.

I opened the door at the downtown post office around 4:00 p.m., and found the longest line I'd ever seen there. I should have known I was in trouble when I saw one smart man in line reading a book....

The downtown post office is inside the federal courthouse -- and the postal line almost extended to the metal detector for checking courthouse visitors. A few more customers with big boxes, and I could have told you who's giving the nicest gifts this year.

"S**t! I need a pen!" a woman standing near the line declared. She had to fill out Postal Service forms to mail large boxes to someone in Afghanistan. Call me a profiler if you must, but I think the boxes were for a husband serving in the military. But I don't know the smell of nitroglycerin, if they were intended for someone in al-Qaeda.

That woman didn't have a pen - but I always have one in my little business case, so I lent it to her. As she filled out the forms, she discovered something I thought I'd already noticed. The address on the boxes had Afghanistan misspelled. What was that news story this week about potential soldiers not meeting Army standards?

The woman filled out the forms in a few minutes -- but the wait for me to reach the Postal Service counter was close to 30 minutes. Only two women were behind the counter helping customers Monday afternoon. It's hard to believe all the other qualified workers were gobbled up by Best Buy....

(So how many concerned customers went to Columbus post offices last Friday - fearful the shift of mail processing to Macon would make their gifts late? I've only had one bill arrive in the mail a bit late. And the payment to Columbus Water Works is still only one credit card swipe away.)

The next afternoon found me at the downtown post office a few minutes earlier -- and the line was only half as long. I joined the line at the threshold for the post office entrance, and stunned a woman in front of me when I mentioned Monday's wait. I was stunned in return to see a woman kick boxes of mail forward with high heels.

Tuesday's wait was only about 15 minutes - but when I discovered I'd need to make a Wednesday postal trip as well, I changed my strategy. I went to the midtown branch near Wynnton Elementary School. No, Teresa Tomlinson was NOT there thanking her adoring voters....

The parking lot at the midtown branch was relatively empty - but the line inside the post office was still lengthy. Only one woman worked behind a counter at 2:00 p.m. What do the managers at Burger King know that the Postal Service doesn't?

I stood behind two women with big items to mail. One was a long white Postal Service-approved tube, addressed to the San Francisco area. A Los Angeles address would have been more fitting - because I think that's where teenagers came up with the line about being "tubular."

I didn't realize the Postal Service weighs mail tubes by standing them on one end. The rolling process must wait until the tubes are put on trucks....

The wait for service in midtown was only about ten minutes. But of course, this was after the recommended deadline for mailing holiday packages. Customers either were spending more money for overnight or priority mail - or they're playing by Toyotathon rules, with the "holiday" extending until the first Monday of January.

By the way, the Postal Service still is looking for a place to move the downtown branch. Bars on Broadway are simply too successful these days....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on the Columbus Chamber of Commerce President ended Thursday night -- and 12 out of 13 voters say Mike Gaymon should NOT be ousted for putting on that white tablecloth to scare an employee. For a change, there was no last-minute rush of Zeph Baker employees to affect the outcome.

One voter in our atrociously nonscientific poll wrote civil rights activists "not only stretched but excessively emphasized" what was merely a "silly joke." But the comment went on to scold Mike Gaymon for a "cavalier attitude without a shred of compassion" toward low-income people. The Chamber of Commerce certainly doesn't prorate its membership fees.

Another voter suggested Mike Gaymon offer "at least an apology" for what he did two years ago, because it "wasn't done in good humor." Do we know that for sure? It's hard to see someone's face when it's covered by a tablecloth.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: If you've been waiting for the other side of the Hurtsboro story, it reached us Thursday via the city clerk....

Mr. Richard

First, MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and your family...

God Bless you for ALL the DRAMA you have to hear!

I want to apologize to everyone who reads our favorite citizen of Hurtsboro's blog..

You do realize that Every human being, company and city is hurting right now.. some more than others.. but we just are fortunate for our few citizens who have nothing better to do with their time then to try and start drama. I have honestly never heared of such!

Mr. Richard, it is common sense that when you spread gossip, especially that we don't have security or payroll not paid, you just allow the corrupt world to come knock on our doors, and me having a little girl at home, i don't apprieciate it.

Yes sir, payroll became difficult, but with God, and his will, things will get better. All things can happen through Jesus Christ who strengthens us!

I will pray for Mr. Schweiger and his health, and that he may find a happy place within himself, and that he to will become closer to knowing the Lord.

Well I have a lot of cooking to do for the wonderful holiday, and I hope you ALL have a Wonderful Christmas!! I can't wait to share the story with my little girl. Let her blow out the candles for Jesus's birthday.


Kimberly Key

(Not From Town Hall, This is My Personal Message)!

Some of this e-mail deserves comment in a Saturday post, and if time permits today we'll prepare one. But one person's "gossip" is another person's news -- and if a government of any size can't meet its payroll, isn't that a news item? Even Columbus Police might have complained about Mayor Jim Wetherington, if that happened.

Besides, the "gossip" about Hurtsboro not meeting the payroll for nine employees (including Kimberly Key) was confirmed to The Citizen of East Alabama last week by a Town Councilor. I'm not sure how that lets "the corrupt world" in -- unless she's talking about Auburn Bank foreclosing on the Town Hall.

We're still holding one other e-mail for fact-checking. So let's review a limited news summary from Thursday:

+ Gasoline prices jumped ten cents a gallon in parts of Columbus, as the national average went above three dollars. It looks like Safety Cab can expect a record number of calls over the next few days....

+ Auburn Police told WRBL they arrested a burglary suspect inside a house -- and caught Jerome Fields cooking ground beef in the kitchen. In this case, a criminal may have been caught red-meat-handed.

+ Georgia Tech disqualified four football players from next week's Independence Bowl, because they didn't make high enough grades. Wow, that has to be a disappointment - missing out on a free trip to Shreveport, Louisiana.

+ Instant Message to former mayor Bob Poydasheff: You may have won the Columbus "quote of the year" prize Thursday night on WRBL. I've never heard any former mayor declare, "I don't run around telling people I'm a heterosexual."

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: May marked the start of the Columbus scandal of the year - based on the Parks and Recreation Department audit. It still isn't fully resolved, of course. The big issue in 2011 may be whether a grand jury decides to put Jim Wetherington on trial along with Tony Adams.

The focus on parks extended beyond "Rec-Gate," as razor blades were found taped to playground equipment at Lakebottom Park. I've seen a few skateboarders downtown lately who could use those....

A curious crime crackdown occurred in May, as Norfolk Southern went after people walking or sleeping along Columbus railroad lines. You steer them away from crack, then run them off the track -- and who knows how many homeless people won't be coming back.

Columbus Council voted in May to move its meetings to the proposed Citizens Service Center in MidTown. It was almost as if Councilors knew Teresa Tomlinson would beat Wayne Anthony to become mayor.

This blog made several curious discoveries in May about a Georgia House member from Columbus. Rep. Richard Smith lives in an Atlanta apartment during the legislative session. He pays rent for an expensive apartment in Cobb County. And he has a neighbor with the same exact name next door - who probably has taken all the angry calls from Tea Party members he can handle.

Muscogee County schools held their first "Signing Day for Scholars" in May. The brightest math students were awarded immediate internships, to help Superintendent Susan Andrews cut the district budget.

One school building met its demise in May, when the old Baker High School caught fire. Looking back over the year, a lot more people seemed more interested in saving and reopening Ruth Ann's Restaurant.

The Phenix City Council voted in May to remove the top leaders of the school board. But a Russell County judge blocked that several months later - and some people think the Superintendent will use winter break to research how to recall City Council members.

Sports was a month for sports champions in our area. Columbus and Glenwood won state baseball titles. Brookstone and Columbus captured golf titles. But I need help with one other detail - did any title belts change hands when WWE wrestlers were at the Civic Center?

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 712 (+ 18, 2.6%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

23 DEC 10: Working 2 the End

He officially has 11 more days in office. But Wednesday marked the second unofficial end of Jim Wetherington's term as mayor of Columbus. He apparently won't be in the Government Center office anymore - as in true law enforcement style, he enjoys time off for good behavior.

Richard Hyatt's website reports Jim Wetherington was in the mayor's office Wednesday by 8:00 a.m. If he didn't call out sick on his final work day, is he really a "man of the people?"

Jim Wetherington was given a nice final-day memory Wednesday. He joined in a ribbon-cutting at the new Fire Station #2 on 33rd Street. The station will not be put to use for a couple of weeks - so this clearly seemed timed to honor the outgoing mayor. But no one made him look silly, by putting a fire hat on his head.

The ceremony at Fire Station #2 was fitting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was built with money from the "streets and safety" Local Option Sales Tax. That's the tax Mayor Wetherington persuaded voters to approve -- but you don't hear anyone bragging about hiring new firefighters, do you?

The event also was fitting because it was a flashback to one of Mayor Jim Wetherington's big dilemmas - what to do about Fire Chief Jeff Meyer, after a series of missteps. Wetherington declared Meyer "salvageable," while civil rights activists didn't seem to think he deserved to manage a salvage yard.

But the outgoing mayor probably would want me to focus on the new building. Fire Station #2 will replace one on 28th Street that's been in use since 1948. So yes, it appears we can say is the number-two number two.

Fire Chief Jeff Meyer says the current Station 2 is SO OLD that it only has one restroom. But then again, it was built during a time when no one envisioned female firefighters. The only women in firehouses were posters of Dorothy Lamour and Betty Grable.

The new Station Two will have multiple restrooms and showers. And Chief Jeff Meyer adds it will have central air conditioning and heating, while the old station does not. It almost makes you wonder if anyone ever installed a smoke detector in the old building.

But back to the mayor: Jim Wetherington reportedly will leave public office by undergoing knee replacement surgery. He injured it playing softball -- since I can't think of any "knee-jerk reactions" as mayor which could be to blame.

After the surgery is completed, Jim Wetherington will retire to his home in Green Island Hills. As I reviewed the Blog Archives Wednesday night, I was reminded of the fuss this past year over police patrols in Green Island Hills and radar checks on River Road. Will history repeat itself with our new mayor - with Wynnton Road becoming a drag strip before school starts?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: This message was titled "Perfectly Named Product." And no, it's not about this blog....

Please recall the scene in "Dr. Strangelove..." when Keenan Wynn shot open the Coca-Cola vending machine so Peer Sellers could make a pay phone call. He warned Sellers that if he was lying about the situation, Wynn would "Report (him) to the Coca-Cola company!" Well, I am here to report ON the Coca-Cola company.

The past couple of days, I have tried to buy Coke Zero in 2-Liter bottles, as they are on sale this week in the two stores at which I usually shop for groceries. There was none to be found. I talked to a manager at the second place tonight. He informed me that he had called the distributor and was told there was zero Coke Zero in the warehouse. So, zero folks in Columbus can take advantage of the special on Zero. It may be available in other sizes/packages, though.

I must say, this is eerily reminiscent of the Christmas crazes for toys that were intentionally made scarce by the toy company, thus creating scads of free media and demand. What would the famous Coke Santa say about this?!

Anyway, I have got to say that Coke Zero is the most aptly named product to come down the pike (or not) as I can recall. It is the ultimate no-calorie, non-food, ever!

I personally prefer Coke Zero to Diet Coke, because it has a lot more flavor. But if you're pinching pennies, head to Publix -- as its store-brand two-liter sodas are on sale for 50 cents through Friday. Diet cherry cola certainly beats fattening egg nog.

Another e-mail must be held, until I can do a fact-check on it. So let's check some other Wednesday news....

+ The high temperature in Columbus reached 70 degrees F. It's not lasting long, as a cold front moved through in the evening. But I was able to run outside during the morning without bundling up - then make my friends and relatives in Northern states very jealous.

+ Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley presented a $16,000 check to the District Attorney's office. WRBL explained the D.A. gets ten percent of all money seized in gambling machine busts. OK - so which church gets the first tithe?

+ Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones revealed to WTVM he's made a wager on the Bowl Championship Series title game with a sheriff in Eugene, Oregon - a bet of pecans versus salmon. I'm not really concerned about Jones losing this bet. I'm more concerned about John Tyson doing one more anti-gambling sweep, and arresting him.

+ The man behind the extravagant Ludy's Christmas light display admitted he needs personal donations, because his roof has become damaged from putting up more lights every year. Should I feel sorry for him or not? Can't he barter a deal, to swap 2,000 lights with a repair company?

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found Georgia Tech's men sagging at Siena 62-57. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt returned to his old stomping ground - and if things don't improve in conference play, Hewitt may be stomping back there to be a radio announcer.

+ Instant Message to all area schoolchildren: You may have heard the weather forecast predicting possible snow flurries. I can promise you now, school will NOT be called off - because the flurries are expected Saturday night or Sunday morning.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Angel noodle soup at Old Siam restaurant downtown.... "Coastal Nocturne" on GPB Radio from 12:00 midnight-5:00 a.m. ET (free of Christmas music).... and allowing ten extra minutes to find a parking place at Peachtree Mall....

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: April was a month of honor and dishonor in Columbus. Columbus State University faculty gave President Timothy Mescon a "no confidence" vote. Mark Shelnutt was voted a "best all-around" attorney. So why was Shelnutt arrested a second time, while Mescon still has his job?

The pollen count soared in the Columbus area in April, while WRBL noted the azaleas at Callaway Gardens bloomed three weeks later than usual. Isn't this amazing? Even the flowers had to take furlough days....

Fort Benning's generals surprised some people in April, by announcing they want to acquire 82,000 more acres of land. Did Teresa Tomlinson miss that announcement? This could solve the problem of all that underutilized land in Columbus South.

We had a blog exclusive in April, by covering the annual TSYS shareholders meeting. We went there in the wake of several e-mails by a whistle-blower in New Delhi. But that man's anti-TSYS blog has disappeared, replaced by one dealing with India's merchant navy. Join the navy, and you might escape the slander suits.

Plans were announced in April to develop a whitewater rafting course in the Chattahoochee River by 2012. I can't wait to see the Aflac duck take the first ride in it....

The big business news in April involved the Jay Auto Group buying Columbus Motor Company. Jay's becoming so dominant in the Columbus car market that I'm wondering if Gil is one of his cousins.

Phenix City's big stories in April included Kris Kennedy becoming the first female fire chief, and the City Council approving two new buildings at Garrett-Harrison Stadium. Hopefully the school board has learned its lesson, for not naming one of those buildings after Mayor Sonny Coulter.

The list of big-name celebrity visitors in April included Taylor Swift at Auburn University, Jerry Seinfeld at the RiverCenter and Steve Harvey at Fort Benning. Only Harvey returned to the area for a second appearance later in the year - but then again, he had a new game show to promote.

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 694 (+ 22, 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

22 DEC 10: Valles of Decision

"I am NOT Oprah Winfrey," the man told me during lunch Tuesday. "Oprah is a legend!" That's true. She's also female, and seems to have a few more pounds compared to this man....

Yet James Valles and Oprah Winfrey have a few things in common. Both are on television. Valles is from Chicago, where Winfrey lives. And Valles is about to head in a direction Winfrey might do - as he puts it, to help "people discover their best lives every day." If you want to take weekends off in doing that, you'll have to take that up with him.

Reporter James Valles will leave WTVM/WXTX at the end of next week - but he may not be away from local television long. He's joining a new video production company based in Auburn, which plans to offer "lifestyle" reports to TV stations and websites. So Valles may change from the "Wild Wild Web" to making mild mild cheese dip.

We were invited to a farewell luncheon for James Valles Tuesday, where he explained what Primo Multimedia has in mind. One aspect is a daily report for TV stations called "BeSpoke." With a name like that, I'll assume the topics will NOT include grammar lessons.

But Primo Multimedia also could make James Valles a national star. He has a self-named website, which will use his face and voice in everything from television reports to an online newsletter called "Everyday James." Valles may not be Oprah Winfrey, but that title makes him sound like Rachael Ray.

(Oh yes - Valles recommended I use the official Primo Multimedia photo of him, instead of the one I took at a downtown restaurant and showed him. I'll have to work on getting some airbrush software.)

James Valles and Primo Multimedia have all sorts of ideas in mind for coming months. They include a search for undiscovered talent online. Wow -- all I need is a webcam, and I could be the next Justin Bieber.

James Valles may put in some late hours, to get those ideas off the ground. He wanted to be sure I mention he doesn't usually get to bed until 4:00 a.m. So watch for a Valles report on how all-night partying in downtown Auburn can affect your mental health.

Primo Multimedia hopes to build a client base among TV stations in the South. James Valles told me he's come to appreciate "Southern hospitality." Especially compared to his home area of Chicago - where as I recall, the south side tended to be rather bad.

"I could have gone to a TV station in another city...." James Valles said, then jokingly crossed his fingers. Television news jobs aren't easy to find these days. You may have noticed WLTZ still hasn't found the right man to sit alongside Cacky Catlett.

But James Valles continued his thought: "You'll never know how successful you can be until you're willing to take a risk." That's what he's doing by joining a former WTVM co-worker at Primo Multimedia. If it works, he could have a niche in the world of "lifestyle information" alongside Oprah. If not, he'll be in the Valles of despair.

James Valles may not be the only former WTVM reporter planning this sort of venture. Online postings indicate Chauncy Glover plans to launch his own website on 1 January. Glover is a reporter in Jacksonville now - and based on his background, he might start offering gospel choir CD's.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visit "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The count climbs to five messages in eight days -- but this one from Hurtsboro looks like the last one for a while:

Sir Richard:

"Touche!" You not only have a "nose" for news - you also have the eyes of an eagle; or at least, so it seems, as far as my gaffes are concerned.

I went to bed Sunday night thoroughly chastened and sore of heart. The Blogger I rely on to set things straight - had sighed in disgust - when I reached out to him in an hour of need.

But, thanks to "Tim" I think; that the fellow of whom I speak, may take a step back and take another glance at the situation. HOORAY!!

I do admit that I did send my list of questions about the Mayor and Court Clerk to the L/E before it went to you. I had talked one on one with Mr. Joe Kieta (Executive Editor) when he first came on the job. He assigned a reporter to the case, but it has seemed to stall since that time. I was just trying to refresh his memory when I sent the E-mail. SURPRISE - SURPRISE there's been no response.

I think you will be fairly safe, at least on this end, from any repercussions, if you decide to seek answers to the questions I posed'

I can probably save you some time and effort if you will take my advice. Charley Torbert isn't going to give you any information. He is Tapley's Toadie.

As an octogenarian, I'm probably old enough to give you some Grandfatherly advice. Don't even contemplate a "Hurt'sboro Monday. The dozen stalwart readers who reply to your BIG BLOG QUESTION would probably "nix" it. I will keep you posted of anything that's going on in "Hurt'sboro; and when the "Big Bang" occurs - you will be the first to know.

Many Thanks,

R.J. Schweiger

First of all: the Hurtsboro Councilor's name actually is Charlie Tolbert. He still hasn't returned my calls -- nor has the city attorney, who works in Montgomery. It's all a bit like a toy robot Jay Leno showed Tuesday night: it moves "at the speed of silence."

We're still taking your suggestions for our 2010 "Joke of the Year." Our next e-mail offers that, and more:

The joke you made about the Republican symbol changing from the elephant to the dolphin,"FLipper" is the #1 joke of the year..

Those workers at Callaway Gardens should be thankful they have jobs..We are all suffering in this economy .. I love Callaway Gardens and grew up loving to go there.However,it is entertainment and that segment of our lifestyle has certainly taken a hit..So,take the days without pay and the volunteer hours and be thankful when that pay check arrives..THere are many people in Columbus that would swap places with you in a minute.

I'm sure the employees are thankful -- but this week's "slave labor" complaint raises a question. How far do the furloughs have to go, before workers decide they've had enough? And related to that, why hasn't Callaway Gardens offered employees discount coupons to those pricey restaurants?

Thanks to everyone who writes us - and now let's check other topics from "Turkey Tuesday," as a church food giveaway called it....

+ Phenix City officials announced plans for the city's first Kia supply plant. Iljin will begin production in March in the Phenix Industrial Park, hiring more than 100 workers. You wondered why the City Council was on its best behavior recently, didn't you?

+ The first report from the 2010 Census indicated Georgia will gain another Congressional seat, making the total 14. It's now up to the state legislature to redraw district lines - and then it will be up to Sanford Bishop to determine where he has to move to stay in office.

(The Census Bureau claims Chattahoochee County is the fastest-growing county in Georgia. But county officials say that's misleading, because 80 percent of the land and most of the residents are taken by Fort Benning. It's sad when your title of "number one" in something is due in part to terrorist groups overseas.)

+ Pastor Jamie Sanks of The House of God on Flat Rock Road finally climbed down, after nearly a month atop a three-story-high metal building. It's not clear if Sanks met his goal of filling two tractor-trailers with donations for needy people. If he didn't, Sanks may have lost his chance to be the most religious preacher since Oral Roberts.

+ St. Louis lashed the Atlanta Thrashers 4-2. I listened to the Blues broadcast on St. Louis powerhouse station KMOX, and heard the announcers scold Atlanta hockey fans for not supporting their team. The fact that I listened to the game from St. Louis means the announcers should scold Columbus radio stations as well.

+ Auburn University ended a three-game losing streak in men's basketball by downing South Carolina-Upstate 68-54. Imagine if the visitors had traveled down the interstate to face Alabama State. Announcers might have to say, "Upstate's up on State."

(It's a good thing the Tigers won Tuesday night - because otherwise, they might have been put on next season's schedule for the Connecticut women's team.)

+ A federal judge ruled Victoryland owner and accused racketeer Milton McGregor can leave Alabama for three days in January - to watch Auburn play in the Bowl Championship Series title game. I assume McGregor will fly to Arizona via Las Vegas....

+ Instant Message to "Mr. Penny," the man who does pushups at Auburn football games: I'm glad you're going to "the Natty" next month. But I've been meaning to ask - how can you get away with wearing a "God is good" hat while on custodian duty at a grade school? Are you daring Trooper Taylor to file a second lawsuit?

2010 IN REVIEW CON'D: As usual, March brought changing weather in Columbus. In one month, South Commons had a "Spring Fling" - while the heart of town had its own "Fall Line Trace."

March was the month health care reform became the law of the land. Rep. Sanford Bishop dared to vote for it - then proved he's in better political health than a lot of people expected.

The health care law inspired a "funeral procession for liberty" downtown by the Columbus Tea Party - but only about a dozen people showed up. The local Tea Party chapter was so quiet during the November elections that I'm wondering if the members went ahead and buried themselves.

March was the month when the Muscogee County Election Board voted to consolidate precincts. This obviously was a bad idea. I mean, look at how many people Zeph Baker had to drive to the polls on mayoral runoff day.

Columbus Council approved its first Office of Crime Prevention Director in March. Seth Brown still is working on his first big project -- how to keep the state from stealing all the keys to the Crime Lab along U.S. 80.

Columbus radio offered several surprises in late March. Ed Bostic quit WGSY-FM "Sunny 100." Then WRCG dropped all its talk shows, to play "true oldies" music. Since Bostic is now at "Boomer 95.3," does that make HIM a true oldie?

March was a big month for Columbus State University sports. Jonathan Hall won a national championship for shooting the air rifle. The baseball team had a 21-game winning streak. And a "teach-in" to protest cuts in higher education spending attracted nearly as many fans.

Beard-Eaves Coliseum at Auburn University had its final big event in March -- a religious revival called the "Will Graham Celebration." Nine months later, there's an obvious question to be asked. Did Cam Newton come forward during the weekend, and receive a special blessing?

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 672 (+ 25, 3.9%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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