Thursday, January 07, 2010

7 JAN 10: Ice Ice Baby?

As of Wednesday night, I was two-thirds ready. First I filled the gas tank. Then I bought not one, but two loaves of bread. The daring side of me is hoping the milk can last, until the storm passes by....

The Columbus area braced for wintry weather Wednesday. But it's not clear exactly what will fall on us today. Forecasters on TV talked about rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow - enough to give new meaning to MMA: mixed meteorological arts.

(By the way, we're taking proposed rules for a Kurt Schmitz Drinking Game. Rule one: when he says "cold one" on the air, everyone takes a drink....)

Trouble is, parts of Columbus have icy roads even when there's no cloud in the sky. City officials say they're getting 10 to 12 calls per night about ice on streets. If crews would leave those patches alone, youth hockey players could get in some practice before school.

The biggest ice patch in Columbus Wednesday morning was on 12th Street downtown. WTVM reported a water main broke in the cold, near the federal courthouse. You'd think Columbus Water Works would prepare for this, and send warm water through the lines all night.

Russell County officials had a meeting Wednesday, to prepare for a response to wintry weather. I'm assuming the old courthouse with the leaking roof has been apportioned two snow shovels.

Even before the storm arrives, the cold weather has been a hot topic across the area. The low temperature in Columbus Wednesday was 20 degrees F. Yet at my house, it's the perfect time of year to eat ice cream - because it's unlikely to melt at your desk.

I'm trying to be a tough manly man when it comes to the cold. The setting on my heater remains unchanged since Thanksgiving Day, when I turned on the pilot light for the winter. I also close the doors to rooms I'm not using -- and this week, that means chilled water is waiting by my computer right after breakfast.

Another area blogger has claimed needy people run short on money for heating bills mainly because their thermostats are set much too high. So I'm paying attention to that, and keeping the heater setting low. My atomic clock showed a living room temperature Wednesday morning of 59 degrees. These are the mornings when I should toast my bread in the oven broiler, not the toaster.

(I opened the computer room door to find a reading of 50 degrees. But that's OK - I can rub my hands on the warm DSL modem, which I usually don't shut off overnight.)

I'm also wearing a T-shirt under my pajamas when I sleep. But I was seriously shivering before sunrise Wednesday, even with four layers of bedding on my bed. If the temperature hadn't climbed above 40 degrees Wednesday, I might have knuckled under and finally bought a Snuggie.

As it happens, I saw a man at the gas station later in the day wearing a hooded sweatshirt. On the front it said, "SOUTH POLE" - and I was almost ready to hold him responsible for the cold wave.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Wednesday interview with the director of Gallops Senior Center left the person who complained about "city-sponsored" gambling unpersuaded....

When you have a city of Columbus employee, a Senior Center Manager, spending all day long while on the city payroll on a bus and in the Victoryland Gambling Casino in Shorter, AL that it is not city sponsored? Do these seniors really need a Sr. Center Manager to baby-sit them? Are you kidding me? You only have to be 50 to join the Senior Centers.

Well, actually the passengers DO need that. Mary Ann Johnson explained to me it's a liability issue. If someone hits the jackpot at Victoryland and has a heart attack from shock, senior center staff members are trained in using defibrillators and CPR to assist them. I assume a "deal-with-it" tip is optional.

This probably won't settle the debate over.... hey, wait a minute! Did you say anyone over 50 can join the Columbus Senior Centers? That means I've been eligible for more than a year! Maybe I should plunk down a quarter to play bingo one of these days -- especially when the poker playing falls into a slump.

-> There's a new downtown nightspot for playing weekly live poker. Read our thoughts about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <--

BIG BLOG BOWL BLOWOUT: The day of destiny has come for Alabama football fans. Either the Crimson Tide wins the Bowl Championship Series title tonight, or the fans will have to eat crow. Well, in this case maybe Longhorn beef.

Alabama tangles with Texas for the B.C.S. title in Pasadena, California. And two Russell County High School assistant coaches will see the game for free - after they drove across the country without any tickets. Given the current attitude of the Russell County school board, these coaches may drive back across the country without any jobs.

Former Alabama football star Bob Baumhower donated four tickets to three "Bama Boys," who drove for days with only a dream of getting into the B.C.S. title game. Well, check that - restaurant owner Baumhower would want me to say they traveled on wings and a prayer.

Restaurants and bars across the Columbus area expect big crowds to watch tonight's B.C.S. title tilt. The manager of The Sports Page told WTVM she's ordered "more food and more alcohol." And this is one time when Columbus might want to be thankful we invested in more police officers.

But shoppers at Peachtree Mall might get the impression one store is rooting for Texas to win tonight. A sign outside The Hat Shack shows the Longhorn logo on a couple of caps. No Alabama caps are on the sign - as if the managers are making a strange subtle appeal for Auburn fans.

So what's the deal here? I called The Hat Shack Wednesday night, and was told the sign is part of a promotional campaign for a vendor called "Top of the World." That company is based in Norman, Oklahoma - so now the Texas Longhorn caps make less sense than ever.

An employee at The Hat Shack admitted his store has more Alabama caps in stock, because there are more Crimson Tide fans around Columbus. And Academy Sporting Goods in Opelika-Auburn plans to open for business immediately after tonight's game - either to sell Alabama championship items, or to start a petition drive claiming Cincinnati really should have been Alabama's opponent.

Wednesday night's big bowl game found Central Michigan edging Troy 44-41 in double overtime at the GMAC Bowl. I saw plenty of empty seats in Mobile during the late-night highlights, but Troy fans reportedly had to buy tickets for some members of the marching band. Being willing to haul a tuba up grandstand stairs isn't good enough anymore.

The Troy Radio Network broadcast from Mobile went off the air for awhile in the second quarter. Play-by-play announcer Barry McKnight blamed "infrastructure problems." Somewhere at Mobile City Hall today, a new request for federal stimulus money will be prepared.

Our bowl coverage concludes Friday, with the final showdown. Now let's quickly wrap up other Wednesday headlines - and they need to be wrapped up during this cold wave:

+ Jeremy Hobbs of the Better Way Foundation announced he's been appointed to the city Public Safety Advisory Commission. At last Hobbs has a place to lobby for one of his longtime big issues - putting police officers in the middle of 13th Street during rush hours to direct traffic.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's web site reported a suspicious package was found outside the Government Center. A remote-controlled robot handled it - but it turned out to be a "fanny pack" with gloves inside. A city worker who forgot something because of a milder sunny afternoon now has some explaining to do.

+ Authorities in Mobile announced a white powdery substance mailed in an envelope to Senator Richard Shelby was NOT anthrax. It was something sugary. Shame on the Sugar Bowl for rubbing in the fact that it's part of the Bowl Championship Series.

+ Promoters of a 15 January mixed martial arts card at the Columbus Civic Center held a preview news conference. Brad Pitcher told WLTZ Columbus is considered a hotter city for MMA than Atlanta. I think this is because Atlanta rappers don't bother with an arena and a ring - they'll beat each other up anywhere.

+ WRBL reported Charles Flowers is considering coming out of retirement, to coach the Troup County High School football team. Hasn't Flowers retired at least twice in recent years? Is he trying to go one better than Brett Favre?

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) found the Atlanta Hawks knocking over New Jersey 119-89. Hawks radio announcer Steve Holman noted Nets player Jarvis Hayes lives in Atlanta, and needed special permission to park his car at Philips Arena. Why he didn't rent a limousine to carry his teammates with him, I have no idea.

+ Instant Message to Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren: I caught you in the act the other day. Doing plainclothes "community policing" at Dillard's shows me you're not above the other officers. And carrying a bag from the cosmetics counter with your wife shows me you're not even above her.

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