Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 FEB 10: Bus Stops

It's a big weekend for buses in the Columbus area. Several of them are in South Commons, and crossing the downtown area. But a single bus attracted a big crowd Saturday in Pine Mountain Valley -- because people wanted that bus to move away. If you didn't know better, you'd think SOA Watch was protesting nine months early.

Saturday marked the big reveal of the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" house for Greenville High School football coach Jeremy Williams. He'll soon need a wheelchair due to Lou Gehrig's Disease. His son already is in a wheelchair, due to a birth defect. So the construction team really wanted more than a bus to move and roll....

The week-long project to build a new house for Jeremy Williams became a big all-star event. Members of the Columbus Cottonmouths showed up one day - but I'm not sure they did any work. After all, "boarding" for hockey players normally is a penalty.

The football community rallied around Jeremy Williams and his family. WTVM spotted Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman at the construction project during the week. A little hammer-swinging might improve his throwing motion as much as Tim Tebow's coaches.

(Former Georgia wide receiver Hines Ward also stopped by the construction site. But the long-time Pittsburgh Steeler seemed to show up a little late to add steel beams to the structure.)

Some people who attended Saturday's reveal spotted Sandra Bullock in the crowd. Perhaps she was there because Jeremy Williams attended the University of Memphis, where her movie "The Blind Side" was inspired. I can't believe Bullock was there lobbying the crowd for Oscar votes.

Yet the big construction project utilized plenty of rank-and-file volunteers as well. A call went out during the week for wallpaper hangers -- apparently to prove the Pine Mountain community sticks together, no matter what.

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" even organized a blood drive near the construction site. But here's what I don't understand - why doesn't this show ever go back to experts from the original "Extreme Makeover?" Would it insult the Williams family to insist someone also needs plastic surgery?

Saturday night's news didn't show very much of the Williams's new home, and didn't go inside at all. If I recall correctly from other projects, much of that is kept secret until the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" episode airs this spring. So you might not know in time if the St. Jude Dream Home is better.

Even though the new home is built, efforts to help the Williams family may not be over yet. Fund-raising was in progress Friday to buy the family a wheelchair-accessible van and pay off the home mortgage. You mean there's a mortgage to pay off on the old house? That house isn't "upside down" - it's more like belly-up.

As for the buses in Columbus: they're moving college softball teams around during the annual Leadoff Classic. For a change, it appears the tournament will end today with NO rain -- and not even a repeat of last year's snowstorm. Let's all hope a foul ball doesn't hit the wrong sprinkler head.

The Leadoff Classic brings together 23 college softball teams from across the country. Alabama, Auburn and Georgia Tech are there. But Georgia is hosting its own "Softball Classic" - the second of three weekend tournaments in a row being played in Athens. The visiting schools obviously do not realize Columbus is several degrees warmer at this time of year.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Not even a humor blogger can please everybody. Friday's entry brought an example of that....

Your comment wondering if the Columbus Black History Museum has displays of housing projects was disgusting.

I'm sorry if that offended anyone -- but the museum on Eighth Street happens to include post cards displaying lynchings from years gone by. This past week's burglar apparently did NOT take any of them. And strange as it may sound, a series of photos from the Booker T. Washington Apartments might show how times have improved.

To be fair: I doubt the Columbus Museum on Wynnton Road has a display about local housing projects, either. One current exhibit includes records of African-American residents during the Civil War - including Columbus voter rolls. Do you think people complained in the 1860's about needing 48 voting precincts?

And our new New Delhi correspondent can't stop talking TSYS:

Hi Richard,

Infonox is a TSYS subsidiary in India. So is Card Tech. Both are on a hiring spree as a little bit of reasearch will show so easily.

rgds/Veeresh Malik

Mr. Malik's latest e-mail included links to three Infonox job postings for positions in India -- but all of them were posted last November. Do you think the person who's supposed to keep track of such things was shown the door last week, for not doing the job well?

But we're not The Blog of India - even though India is one of my favorite salsa singers. So let's go on to other headlines from a busy weekend:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer announced Executive Editor Ben Holden will leave in April, for a position at the University of Nevada. Somewhere at the Government Center, supporters of District Attorney Julia Slater celebrated their second big win in four months.

+ WTVM visited Booth's Corner Café in downtown Phenix City, and revealed it almost closed last year. For some reason, this was blamed on the bad economy -- and NOT on the good-looking Russell County Government Center, where so many regular customers moved.

+ Kia marked the grand opening of its West Point plant, even though production has been underway for three months. I don't quite understand this. You roll out 2010 model cars in 2009 - and then you celebrate a 2009 milestone two months into 2010?!

+ Valley Interfaith Promise held its second annual bed race on 14th Street. The event raised thousands of dollars to help homeless people - and if there's any justice, the beds should find a good home at local shelters.

+ Columbus State University submitted millions of dollars in budget cuts, to meet a rushed state deadline. It's a wonder men's basketball coach Doug Branson was allowed to wait until after Saturday's final game to announce his resignation.

(Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel says the state should cut 7,800 jobs to balance its budget. She should have told Governor Sonny Perdue about this when she resigned as Secretary of State - because Perdue wouldn't have bothered replacing her.)

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) ended with Auburn's men lashing Louisiana State 74-59. Auburn is now 14-15 on the year - with Coach Jeff Lebo motivating his team by noting it's only a half-game worse than North Carolina.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths came from two goals down in the third period to knock off Knoxville 3-2. Poor Mike Vee - the Cottonmouths announcer started the third period on WRCG by welcoming fans back to the Civic Center, when the team was playing a road game. Maybe the Southern League needed an Olympic break, too....

+ Phenix City Central pressed Prattville in high school baseball 10-2. I know this because several Central players and coaches strolled into the downtown KFC after the game, while I waited for dinner. They probably had half-innings shorter than their wait for chicken at the buffet.

+ A statue of boxing champion Joe Louis was unveiled outside the Chambers County Courthouse, in his home town of LaFayette. I'm convinced boxers in Louis's era were in much better condition than today's fighters. Why, the other day I watched ESPN Classic - and Sugar Ray Robinson won two world championships in one hour.

(The statue of Joe Louis is eight feet tall, made of bronze and set on a base of granite. Some Chambers County residents probably want to put a man eight feet underground in bronze with a granite marker right now. But that's enough about the Noah White trial....)

+ Instant Message to former Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff: OK, you're endorsing Josh McKoon for State Senate. But I'd be a little more impressed about that endorsement if McKoon actually had some opposition right now.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

26 FEB 10: Businesses Behaving Badly

It's one thing for a supermarket to put milk on sale. It's another thing when the store violates Georgia law in the process. I found an example of that in Columbus Thursday - but no one gave me one of those new Sumter County storm sirens, to alert everyone to the problem.

Piggly Wiggly stores have gallons of milk marked down to $2.48 this weekend. But at the South Lumpkin Road store Thursday, there was a problem. Several containers of skim milk on the shelf were past their expiration dates -- not by one day, but five. It was almost like the staff was waiting for the color to change from white to dingy yellow.

The Piggly Wiggly milk was marked with 2/20/10 expiration dates on 2/25/10 -- reminding me of what I heard a church pastor say years ago: "The scum rises to the top...."

Georgia law used to ban the sale of expired milk. If state Department of Agriculture inspectors found some in stores, the store could be fined. But I haven't heard of any stores getting busted for expired milk in recent years -- which would be an udder embarrassment.

At least Piggly Wiggly's one-percent milk was on sale at the same price, with much later expiration dates. I accepted that small step up - preferring a little fat to a drink that's flat.

That supermarket discovery was one of several cases Thursday where Columbus businesses made news for the wrong reasons. The Ledger-Enquirer reported a former Aflac sales director was sentenced to two years in federal prison, because he didn't file income tax returns. Huh - you mean the duck doesn't do that for you, too?

Prosecutors in southwest Missouri say Ronald Kirkland skipped filing income tax forms for two years, while he earned close to four million dollars. He may have been hoping for Aflac to start selling insurance in the Cayman Islands.

And then there's the continuing mystery involving a branch of TSYS. We've heard twice more in recent days from a former employee in New Delhi, who's made a series of claims and accusations. Here's the latest e-mail, which required us to do further fact-checking....

Hi, I don't know what your TSYS update for Thursday is going to be about, but here's what I have, and I need reconfirmations rapidly because of the reasons listed below. In addition, the "management" page on TSYS' website just does not seem to load anything, so maybe there are more heads-a-rolling there too?

What a mess. And to think it all started with a requisition to me in India, to make an over-payment on an insurance premium, which I refused to do.

Veeresh Malik


Malik added items posted on his blog, which note Robert Philbin no longer is President of the TSYS Acquiring Solutions branch in Arizona. But a message board set up to discuss the branch indicates Philbin's contract simply expired. There may not even be a big Conan O'Brian-sized payoff.

Veeresh Malik seems prepared to take legal action in India against several TSYS executives in Arizona, if necessary. An earlier message to us (which we're excerpting) may explain why:

I say this openly:- the day the finance and insurance people at TSYS in Phoenix and then in Columbus instructed me to make inflated payments to their insurance people, and the same day when I refused, I decided I wanted to quit, and my future was sealed, I knew too much. And now the rest of the world agrees. A good company with many good people going to seed because of a few bad apples, to mix metaphors.

Wow - this blog constitutes the "rest of the world"? No wonder we received a compliment this week from the play-by-play voice of the Atlanta Hawks.

It must be noted that TSYS began a company-wide job cut this week. A spokesman told the Ledger-Enquirer 400 jobs would be eliminated worldwide, but no names were listed. But on a hidden online biography we found of Robert Philbin, perhaps he lost his job by losing a "Skins Game."

At least a TSYS spokesman talked with the newspaper - because our message requesting information again brought no response Thursday. I'm not sure that spokesman would be able to comment on Robert Philbin's status, anyway. At corporations, things of that nature are much too personnel.

Lest you think all is wrong with local businesses: Aflac executives rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. Well, let's correct that - the bell never rang. Instead the Aflac duck quacked over and over. Is this what Paul Amos does, when he has trouble getting to sleep?

And today marks the official grand opening of the Kia plant in West Point. Trouble is, I've heard a local church pastor complain in recent weeks ALL U.S. manufacturing jobs have left the country for Asia. So it's too bad none of the Kia jobs are in manufacturing - as hundreds of workers apparently trade sandwiches in the food court.

E-MAIL UPDATE: After all these years, there's still some "Southern-speak" I don't know. Thursday's trip down Georgia Highway 85 made that clear....

Cat Heads is one of many names in the south used to describe biscuits..So,the name Cat Heads is a perfect name for a buffet..The name fits right in with "pot liquor" meaning the water left after cooking greens. Hoe cakes which are pieces of cornbread..This name came for working in sandy cotton fields using a hoe to chop out the weeds..The hoe blade would be clean from the friction with the sand,corn meal mixed up and a fire built..The mix would be poured on the blade held over the fire to cook..

So that explains the restaurant in Waverly Hall. But these days, "pot liquor" sounds like what happens when someone spills a bottle of beer onto the middle of a poker table.

We will avoid any cheap gratuitous jokes about hoes -- and move on instead to other Thursday headlines:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported a Domino's Pizza driver was robbed during a delivery. Someone took not only money, but the order of chicken wings in his hand. Talk about a silly criminal! This is one time when stolen money doesn't have to be coated in red dye - hot sauce will work as well.

+ WTVM reported someone broke into the Columbus Black History Museum on Eighth Street and stole a keyboard. Hmmmm - I need to visit this museum and see if it has displays celebrating Columbus housing projects.

+ Georgia's men's basketball team lost valiantly to Vanderbilt 96-94. The Bulldogs missed two late free throws which could have won the game in regulation - then had to miss one on purpose with 0.9 seconds left in overtime, to try a desperation shot. At Fort Benning, I think they'd say this proves the price of a free throw is NOT free.

+ Instant Message to WTVM: I saw it, but I couldn't believe it. You had to settle for telephone updates from the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" house -- three times? Wasn't there at least one electrician at the site, who could stop for two minutes and plug in your satellite dish?

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 403 (+ 15, 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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Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 FEB 10: Take the Long Way Home

"How do you go home - by 85?" Several people asked me that question in metro Atlanta Wednesday. Thankfully, none of them were beggars looking to hitch a ride....

Most Columbus residents probably would answer that question by saying yes - you take Interstate 85 to Interstate 185. But there really are two ways to answer that. There's also Georgia Highway 85, which begins at the State Farmers Market in Forest Park. Too bad the Columbus Farmers Market at the other end is now mainly an antique shop.

Have you ever taken the other "85" from metro Atlanta to Columbus? I decided to try it Wednesday evening, to see if I've missed anything all these years -and if the state highway might be faster than the interstate. It turned out to be slower. But at least that matched some of the towns I passed.

"COLUMBUS 94" says a sign along Georgia 85 near Riverdale City Hall. You almost have to look for that green sign to spot it, because the four-lane road is busy with cars and businesses. After a late and successful poker night in Riverdale last week, I'd say the phrase "main drag" only applies there at 12:00 midnight - when the road is empty enough for a drag race.

Afternoon rush hour is busy on Georgia 85 through Riverdale, and the flow improves only a little as you head south to Fayetteville. "Big box" stores of all sorts have opened in recent years, as Fayette County's population has boomed. Yet there's still on-street parallel parking along Georgia 85 downtown - if you want to park more dangerously than at HiFi Buys and Home Depot.

Fayetteville's best gas price Wednesday evening was $2.55 a gallon - only four cents lower than the best price I found in Columbus. Between those cities, gasoline is about ten cents more expensive. But somehow, I suspect the store clerks are more likely to have Southern drawls.

Georgia 85 narrows from four lanes to two, south of Fayetteville. If you've wondered where "metro Atlanta" ends, I think that change marks one of the boundary points....

Jones Hill is a marked unincorporated place in southern Fayette County. Why it's even marked is a mystery to me, since I saw no homes or businesses - and even when you pass Jones Hill heading south, it's downhill from there.

The next town on Georgia 85 is Senoia - but before you get there, a beautiful waterfall surprises you on the west side of the highway. If this waterfall was in Chattanooga, there would be billboards promoting it for at least 50 miles.

I drove past Senoia to the Meriwether County town of Gay, Georgia. This town actually has a traffic light - but unlike the recent controversy in Augusta, there's amazingly still no talk of holding a "Gay Pride" parade.

The geography on Georgia 85 becomes a bit more obscure from there....

+ I decided against turning toward Imlac - even though that community sounds like the most unlikely hockey hotbed in the Southeast.

+ I drove over Pappy Creek - but I never saw a Momma Creek, so maybe she was busy fixin' dinner.

+ Woodbury confused me for a couple of reasons. An "Alternate 85" road branches off the main highway there. And a town that far out of the way simply should NOT have an Ingles supermarket.

The biggest city between metro Atlanta and Columbus on Georgia 85 is Manchester. If it has a real McDonald's restaurant in the distance AND a downtown area which seems to fill a city block, that's big....

A highway sign south of Manchester pointed me toward Pine Mountain. I resisted the temptation to turn, in an attempt to find the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" project - even though TV floodlights probably would have made it easy to track down.

I came across a highway work project on Georgia 85 at the Harris County line, after turning toward Waverly Hall. It appears the road simply is being repaved. Georgia Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith still doesn't seem to have enough clout to widen the road to four lanes all the way to Manchester.

Baseball players were practicing under the lights, when I reached Waverly Hall. But I didn't know the town had a buffet restaurant called Cat Heads. With a name like that, I'd rather settle for Boar's Head meats at a Columbus supermarket.

Waverly Hall also has a corner store named "B&R&R." Is that another mistake by an area sign maker? Or was an extra R added because it's been so cold this winter?

Georgia 85 widens to four lanes, three miles north of the Muscogee-Harris County line. I was able to race home from there - a journey which took about 20 minutes longer than Interstate 85 would have been. So I was right when I told Wednesday's questioners I took the "scenic route." Maybe someday, more than about five miles will be marked "Scenic Byway."

E-MAIL UPDATE: After returning from metro Atlanta, we found quite a surprise in our InBox....


For all of the mentions….Keep up the good work….

Steve Holman

Voice of the Hawks

Uh-oh - he found out about us [10 Feb/14 Jan]. I didn't listen to Wednesday night's Atlanta win over Minnesota, to see if Holman described this blog the way he describes Hawks players getting fouled -- as "whacked and hacked."

We promised a TSYS update today as well. But we need to hold that for 24 hours, because of late-arriving information we need to confirm. So let's get caught up on news items we've missed from the past few days:

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington announced two finalists for the new position of Crime Prevention Director. Dozens of residents nearly fainted when they realized neither finalist had "Myers" in his name.

+ State Senator Seth Harp told an Atlanta TV station the Georgia budget dilemma is similar to the "Great Depression." Harp is receiving so much TV time in interviews that his campaign fund for Georgia Insurance Commissioner is becoming a leading economic indicator.

+ Georgia education officials proposed a shorter school year, to help balance the state budget. There are creative ways to make this work. Require grade-school children to stay home and watch GPB one day a week - while high school students watch ESPN to work on becoming high-paid sports stars.

+ Ground was broken for a new ice-skating rink next to the Columbus Civic Center. I can't wait for the entertainment there to begin. You know, with the motocross bicycle riders flying over giant mounds of dirt....

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Columbus State sweep a women's and men's doubleheader over Georgia Southwestern. The C.S.U. women had "Think Pink Night" -- but for some reason, Trista from "The Bachelortette" failed to appear at halftime for a motivational speech.

+ WRBL showed Carver spanking Spencer 15-1, in a high school baseball game played at Golden Park. So where was the big crowd of graduates, hob-nobbing in the stands? Is this match-up only hip and cool when the marching bands perform?

+ Instant Message to "By Faith Taxi Services" of College Park: I guess your name is supposed to reassure me. But I think it applies to any taxi ride ever taken by a tourist in a strange city.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 388 (+ 19, 5.1%)

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, February 23, 2010

23 FEB 10: Two By Two, Buy Two

Happy National Pancake Day to you. International House of Pancakes restaurants are serving FREE short stacks today, in exchange for donations to the Children's Miracle Network. Fund-raising events couldn't come more syrupy than this....

BLOGGER BEGGARS #1-2 (of 2010): As I whacked a racquetball for exercise at Benning Park over the weekend, two boys seeking freebies passed my court. They were on bicycles, but NOT wearing backpacks - so they could have carried only so many cans of beer.

"Do you have any water?" one of the boys asked me.

"Is the recreation center not open?" I answered. On this Sunday afternoon, apparently not. That idea didn't even interest them - as if someone there would ask to use their bikes.

"We'll go to the fire station," one of the boys said. The fire station next to the Frank Chester Recreation Center had only one door partially open -- and besides, doesn't it normally use water from hydrants?

As the boys checked the fire station, I remembered I brought a 20-ounce bottle of water with me to the racquetball court. I also thought of the classic advice: "I was thirsty, and you gave me drink." Pointing them to more abundant sources might be considered a cop out.

After a couple of minutes, the boys rolled their bicycles to the side of the racquetball court and asked for water again. I'm not sure if the fire station was vacant because a crew was working a fire -- or if the firefighters are following the lead of Burger King and charging ten cents a cup.

I picked up the bottle of water and walked outside the court fence to offer it to the boys. Then I had to explain it was for them to drink. I only take one bottle at a time - much as I take only one racket. Some young people over the years have presumed I carry three or four in the trunk, waiting for total strangers to show up for a game.

Both boys sipped a little water. Then one asked for the lid, to take the bottle with them. I probably should have allowed that, since I have several others in the refrigerator at home. But I explained, "I fill the bottles with tap water. It's how I recycle." The mayor of San Francisco should consider that, instead of demanding an outright water bottle ban -- since the water works probably could use the money.

So the boys took turns finishing the bottle of water. But in the process, their need changed. "We need two dollars for soda, so we can get home." The temperature tops 60 degrees F. for two days, and some people think summer has come early....

The boys tried to convince me they'd been on a long bike ride, and needed a cold beverage. "We went all the way over to the flea market." I guess they meant Flea Market City on Victory Drive, about one mile from Benning Park. But they didn't say anything about having to pedal home to Harris County.

Regular blog readers know I try to avoid handing money to beggars. So I offered a compromise. "I have juice boxes in my car...." inside the "beggar bags" I've kept in the trunk for more than a year, waiting for these occasions. The current flavor is "wild cherry," in honor of wild demands for help.

The boys accepted the juice box offer, so I walked to the car and pulled two juice boxes out of the two beggar bags in the trunk. "I keep food and drink in here for occasions like this...."

"You have food in them?!" Me and my big mouth....

"But you didn't ask for that! You asked for something to drink," I quickly responded. The boys took that exactly as I meant it. I also wasn't going to put their bikes in my trunk, and give the boys a free ride home.

The boys accepted juice boxes, thanked me and went on their way. But I marveled a bit, as I returned to the racquetball court. They didn't look old enough to be teenagers, yet they tried to raise the stakes every bit as much as a middle-aged beggar might. Did they learn this method from their parents? Or do memories of Baker Village still linger in young minds?

-> We keep walking into poker rooms on road trips, and walking out with a smile. Read about the latest case at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: A blog reader apparently has been thinking about our Saturday topic, while driving downtown....

Hello Richard. I was traveling along Veteran's Parkway last evening in the direction of The Civic Center and was puzzled by a sign that read, "Begin Road Construction." Does that mean that progress has begun for road improvement or does a former Prime Minister of Israel have family in the road construction business? Just askin'.

As for the picture of Jesus on the door of a Columbus business possibly being used as a scare tactic, it reminds me of the burglar that broke into the elderly lady's home and was searching around for items to steal when the home's tenant suddenly told him, "Jesus is watching you." He paid no attention to her and continued to unload the silverware drawer when again the little old lady says, "Jesus is watching you." Somewhat perturbed by this he snapped back, "Look lady, I am not worried about whether Jesus is watching me and if he is here, then where is he?" She pointed to the corner behind the robber where a very large Doberman was quietly staring at the thief and the lady said, "Get him Jesus!"

I heard a similar story about that dog years ago, from Atlanta jazz radio host H. Johnson. And we mentioned the Veterans Parkway Streetscape work two months ago [18 Dec 09] -- with median work starting in some blocks. If the sign said, "Start Road Construction," I fear a few people still would pull over and get shovels out of their trunks.

And a future Columbus Council candidate mentioned here Sunday would like to offer a correction:

Whoops. Sorry Richard. Sorry Red. Bad wording. I meant to say Consolidation. Thanks and Have a Great Weekend.

Jeremy S Hobbs

So we're all clear: Red McDaniel has NOT served on Columbus Council since reconstruction. I think that milestone only applies to Juvenile Court Judge Aaron Cohn.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our next scheduled post will come Thursday, and is scheduled to include a TSYS update.)

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.


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, February 21, 2010

21 FEB 10: There Goes the Judge

The busy season is starting in my little corner of the world. I'm home from one road trip, but getting ready to make another. And Serious Spring Cleaning began Saturday night, with a quality hour in the bathtub. Please note this did NOT mean I took a Saturday night tub bath. The Formula 409 was for the tiles, not my toenails.

A little spring cleaning is coming to the upper floors at the Government Center as well. While I was away, Judge Robert Johnston suddenly announced his resignation on grounds of ill health. Part of me can't blame him - because I'm growing a little sick of all the Carlton Gary updates myself.

But the Ledger-Enquirer dug deeper, and discovered Judge Robert Johnson resigned in the middle of an investigation. The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission happened to have someone in Columbus. You always wondered how they chose the judges for the Miss Georgia pageant, didn't you?

But anyway: Judge Robert Johnston confessed to the newspaper he was interviewed during the week by a judicial investigator. But he couldn't remember if he announced the resignation during that meeting, or at another point during the day. If the judge can't remember the exact moment, maybe the claim of health problems actually has some merit to it.

It's not clear exactly why the Judicial Qualifications Commission was checking Judge Robert Johnston. Anyone can file a complaint with the state online. But I'm not sure if district judges can get away with the kinds of one-line insults Judge Judy and Joe Brown do on TV.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission received 376 complaints last fiscal year. But only 44 were found worthy of going onto a commission docket - which tells me more than 80 percent of the time, the crackpot is in front of the gavel and not behind it.

(We should note the Vice-Chair of the commission last fiscal year was Muscogee County Judge John Allen. Could it be that even judges sometimes need friends in high places?)

Your blog has been told numerous complaints have been filed with the state against Judge Douglas Pullen. They included two eye-popping cases we covered here last fall [14 Oct 09/15 Nov 09]. Yet Pullen remains on the bench -- and if veterans activist Jim Rhodes isn't complaining about him, maybe he hasn't done anything wrong.

But I digress: Judge Robert Johnston will leave office 15 March, leaving the choice of a temporary replacement to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. That's started a quiet guessing game about who will be given the seat. And no, my recent road trip was NOT for taking short courses at Emory Law School.

A source who wants to be kept anonymous tells your blog three Republican names have surfaced, which could be appointed by Georgia's Republican Governor....

+ Ron Mullins's interest was confirmed Saturday night by the Ledger-Enquirer's web site. Mullins will give up his State Senate campaign against Josh McKoon, explaining he's been on the "short list" of Superior Court candidates twice before. Mullins needs to remember another famous Republican. Robert Dole resigned from the U.S. Senate early, and still lost a Presidential race.

(Mullins explained he's returning about $100,000 in campaign contributions. In a related note, Josh McKoon will give up about 200 pages of accusations he was prepared to use in attack ads.)

+ But attorney Bill Rumer was given the "heavy favorite" label by our source. Governor Perdue named him to the state Public Defenders Standards Council in 2007. And he does his job so quietly, I've heard no nasty Rumers about him.

+ Former mayor Bob Poydasheff reportedly is interested as well. This at last explains why he's kept his law office directly across Second Avenue from the Government Center.

There was one name missing from our source's list, which I considered a surprise. Wouldn't former District Attorney Gray Conger be a likely candidate for this seat? He's been linked romantically with another Muscogee County Judge. And Conger has so much in common with Governor Perdue - since both converted from the Democratic Party several years ago.

The newspaper noted the timing of Governor Perdue's appointment could be very interesting. An appointment by 2 May would put Robert Johnston's judgeship on the November ballot. Otherwise, it would wait until the 2012 general election - and give Republicans a lot more time to stop Mark Shelnutt from running, by spreading new rumors.

-> "Big Monday" means poker as well as Kansas basketball these days. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Talbotton Road closed Saturday night, with the most fitting outcome possible. Six people voted for including a center median on the street. Six people voted against it. So yes, the median debate is split right down the middle.

Columbus road crews clearly are preparing to do something on Talbotton Road. The western section of the street had a fresh coat of asphalt when I drove on it Saturday. I also saw tentative marks for two lanes of traffic, plus a turn lane. This obviously assumes "rails to trails" bike riders will have too much trouble climbing the hill from Veterans Parkway.

The only comment we received during our hideously non-scientific survey came from the man who suggested it - the founder of the Better Way Foundation:

That's exactly what we are looking for is a Better Way. We totally agree that something must be done to Talbotton Road. We listened to those business owners who pleaded with us to not go through with this, we even heard one person say he would have to close down shop and couldn't afford to re locate. We have to look at safety issues for several hundred children that live within Ashley Station.

Do we want a newer better road? Absolutely. But is this current plan feasible? We don't think so, especially at a cost of $20 Million per mile for 2.1 miles. We're not saying we don't want anything done and to scrap the whole job, we simply want them to look at it again and possibly come up with a Better Way or a more feasible plan that doesn't cost so much to taxpayers and business owners.

Jeremy S Hobbs

From what I saw this weekend, a "better road" already is on the way. All crews have to do for Ashley Station children is keep the large orange temporary fencing up, once the road is widened.

By the way, Jeremy Hobbs has posted a video declaring he plans to run again for Columbus Council in 2012. But did I hear Hobbs right - that Councilor Red McDaniel has been in Columbus since "reconstruction?!" I know McDaniel is up in years, but that's about twice as high as I thought.

We'll hold one other e-mail for another day, and make a quick check of other items we've missed in the last few days:

+ A Saturday afternoon drive downtown found workers fixing the roof of Ruth Ann's restaurant. Two months after the fire, managers hope to reopen by next weekend -- but hopefully you'll understand if the menu does NOT include fajitas.

+ Crews prepared to begin a one-week "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" project today, somewhere in the Columbus area. The timing of this puzzles me. Have the college students who do spring break Habitat for Humanity projects been told to stay home this year?

+ Gasoline prices jumped 15 cents a gallon across Columbus, to about $2.59 a gallon. It almost makes you long for another snowstorm, to shut down driving all over again.

+ Tony Snow of the Gateway car dealership downtown told WTVM he's "resigned" the Lincoln-Mercury franchise, and now only sells new Mitsubishis. Does this explain why Randy "Cohhhh-lumbus" Lajoie moved to Legacy Chevrolet? Maybe he still dreams of dating that Mercury spokesmodel.

+ Christian musicians Jeremy Camp and David Crowder headlined a two-night worship rally at the Columbus Civic Center called "Vision 2010." For some strange reason, this event was NOT sponsored by any local eye doctors.

+ A University of Wisconsin study concluded Quitman County is the least healthy county in Georgia. From what I saw on the news last year, residents get most of their exercise by marching to the county courthouse to protest drug busts.

+ The Georgia Legislature began a two-week recess, while lawmakers try to work out a compromise state budget. Governor Perdue's proposal for a tax on hospitals isn't going over well. After all, insurance companies tripled the cost of most medical procedures already.

+ A surprising column by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker contended Black History Month has become "obsolete," and so has the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Why do I have a feeling the Columbus Times will NOT reprint that column -- since the same logic could apply to that newspaper?

+ A zebra ran away from the Ringling Brothers' circus at Atlanta's Philips Arena, and was captured on the Downtown Connector. Some passing drivers presumed they saw referees on the run from upset college basketball fans.

(The best name for a sports bar I've ever seen was at a midtown Atlanta hotel. You might have to think about "The Blind Zebra" for a minute....)

+ Roundball Saturday night (tm) found Auburn's men outlasting Arkansas 92-83. Tay Waller made seven three-point shots for Auburn - which makes me wonder why the radio broadcast doesn't have a sponsored "Tay Trey of the Day."

+ Instant Message to Taylor Academy: I'm glad you're teaching children from pre-Kindergarten to sixth grade. But I think you're missing a wider audience - like the grown-ups who painted your billboard to say you're located on "Buena VISA Road."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The alternate-day schedule returns this week. Look for our next posts Tuesday and Thursday.)

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 369 (+ 1, 0.3%)

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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Saturday, February 20, 2010

20 FEB 10: Because He Said So

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

Look around Columbus long enough, and you'll discover all sorts of curious things. The Ledger-Enquirer found someone playing an accordion outside last week, during SnowJam 2010. You'd think the woman would have made more money offering to shovel sidewalks....

Then there's this unusual sight, on the front door of a Columbus business. The picture next to a "no public restrooms" sign presumably is Jesus. There are many ways for passers-by to take this. For instance: if you sit on the stool without permission, will the light bulb "flare up" and scorch you?

The picture of Jesus was put on the door of a South Lumpkin Road coin laundry several months ago, in conjunction with a revival meeting of some kind. But when the campaign ended, the picture remained. Perhaps it's there to scare burglars away, or at least to make them think twice. Yet I'm not sure Bibles in back seats have reduced the number of auto thefts.

Several thoughts come to mind when I see this on the door. First of all, I don't consider the picture of Jesus realistic. The Bible quotes the apostle Paul as saying if a man has long hair, "it is a disgrace to him...." In 2010, long hair earns Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers a shampoo endorsement contract.

For another thing: would Jesus really deprive a needy person of using a coin laundry's restroom? After all, Matthew 11 in the Bible quotes Jesus as saying, "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I WILL give you rest."

But let's say the point of the picture really is to scare off burglars. Are YOU scared of Jesus? After all, Revelation 19 says He's coming back to Earth someday with the ability "to strike down the nations." Despite what the President of Iran says, I personally think Jesus is far more likely to do that.

Revelation indicates the second coming of Christ will be a bloody and deadly time. But those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord will survive, and reign with Him for 1,000 years. Here's hoping you take that step of acceptance, if you haven't already. Don't make Jesus a scary picture on a door - make him your rest and comfort for a wonderful future.

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.


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, February 18, 2010

18 FEB 10: Throwback Thursday

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Because of a busy schedule and a necessary road trip, our regular blog format is changing for a few days. Today we continue our "Ten Years' Laughter" series, with items written for a national audience on in 2000. And our next scheduled post will appear Saturday.)

8 FEB 00: A survey shows students at the University of South Alabama support alcohol use in campus dorms and fraternities by those older than 21. Supporters of this idea call it the "drink your age" policy. Hmm. Is that one OUNCE for each year old? One CAN??

A gospel musical has been promoted in our town called "God Don't Like Ugly." Ads for this production appeared during The Jerry Springer Show! Do you think that's on purpose?!?!

9 FEB 00: AMF plans to ban smoking at all its U.S. bowling centers. What will smokers do now? Head to "back alleys" - and bowl there?

This move could spark a boycott by weekend bowlers. What's the fun in heading to the lanes, if you can't have a "Lucky Strike?"

An interesting new study from the Mayo Clinic finds people who think optimistically live as much as 19 percent LONGER than people who think pessimistically. You know what this will mean. The optimists will smile. The pessimists will grumble, "I KNEW I was going to die early!"

10 FEB 00: Those politicians in Washington will find anything to argue about. Right now, it's who should be House CHAPLAIN! According to , Majority Leader Dick Armey wants a Presbyterian. House Democrats say the top choice, a Catholic, is being ignored. They don't dare say "passed over." That might make Jewish voters upset....

Perhaps the best way to settle this is to have both preachers give a sermon to the House. The one whose message makes the most Republicans hug Democrats (or vice versa) gets the job!

11 FEB 00: A big model train show is coming to our town's National Guard Armory this weekend. But we think all moral, upright citizens should AVOID it. After all, would YOU want to be seen these days associating with "H-O models?"

Meanwhile, rumors are rolling of a [John] Rocker trade. Various reports have him leaving Atlanta, and going to Seattle or Tampa Bay. Wouldn't Rocker fit in better with the Chicago WHITE Sox?

The Georgia Libertarian Party argues that if Rocker IS found to be mentally ill, he should receive government disability checks! (True) Now THIS is a great idea. Dennis Rodman might never need to play basketball again....

14 FEB 00: Don't talk about hugging at the Reform Party.... A weekend conference in Nashville was closer to MUGGING. Party executives hollered, argued, and nearly had a fistfight. How nice to see former wrestler Jesse Ventura has made such an impact....

(The yelling was SO LOUD that it pinned Ross Perot's ears back!)

15 FEB 00: During a Monday drive, we noticed a sign by the road encouraging us to make RESERVATIONS for Valentine's Night. Only problem: the sign was outside a SHONEY'S Restaurant....

1> If you were planning a romantic night for your sweetheart, would YOU take her to Shoney's?

2> Is this the sort of place you'd think of, for taking dinner reservations? What's next - assigned seating at Captain D's?

16 FEB 00: A curious bill about children is being studied in Georgia's state legislature. It would allow new mothers to abandon their babies for three days after birth, WITHOUT penalty! We understand there's opposition to this idea - from USED CAR dealers. They fear THEY'LL be next....

Under the bill, the babies could be left legally at places such as fire stations. Well, this COULD save some money. Turn those high-pressure hoses on a cloth diaper - and it'll be clean in no time!

17 FEB 00: Vice President Gore went to Southwest Georgia Wednesday, and toured tornado-torn towns.... It happens that Georgia is one of the states with the next round of Democratic primaries, on March 7. You don't think Mr. Gore would dare to claim he invented the disaster area?!

Meanwhile, the women's college softball team in our town doesn't want to be known as a softball team anymore! They want the game to be known as "Fast-pitch!" This name-changing could work in other places:

+ "Soft money" - call those campaign contributions "FAST BUCKS!"

+ "Software" - with our computer, some of it deserves the name "Fast-Freeze!"

+ "Soft drink" - how about "Fast-Burps"?!

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.


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, February 16, 2010

16 FEB 10: Split Down the Middle

Am I the only one who's noticing more potholes than ever on Columbus streets these days? It's likely due to all the rain, combined with our unusually cold winter. But thankfully, city officials are NOT playing by NASCAR rules - else dozens of streets might be closed.

We're focusing on one well-traveled Columbus road today. A topic posted by Jeremy Hobbs at Intown Columbus over the weekend was passed on to us....

As you may or may not be aware, I sit on the MPO Transportation Citizens Advisory Committee. And at our past meeting we discussed the expansion on Talbotton Rd into a Four Lane with a center median.

There is a lot of information that must be considered, but due to overwhelming distaste amongst business owners on the road, which is a spectrum between doctors and Joe the Plumbers this would significantly impact their business by adding a center median. We are talking millions of dollars because of poor planning for today. Twenty years ago when this plan was put into action it seemed like a good idea. But today the area itself has changed and its needs have therefore changed as well.

We do not feel this is ideal. We believe that we can put a center lane (turning lane) in and not only save the city and state millions of dollars, but help ensure these businesses succeed. Currently as is for 2.1 miles of expansion, it will cost us $20 Million per mile. This includes land acquisition and right of way, plus construction. As you can see below the trends chart shows the overall traffic growth to the area does not warrant this type of massive and area damaging expansion.

I worked for Crown Petroleum years ago and when the city of Columbus put a center median on Manchester Expressway, because people couldn't turn in closer and had to go down to hospital to do a U turn, it literally cost that Crown over 100,000 gallons every month. We must be careful in what we do when planning our roads, because one mistake can cost a business its existence.

I am putting this letter out to hear your input? What do you think we should do with Talbotton Rd?

First of all, I'm a bit surprised by this topic. The man in charge of the "Better Way Foundation" seemingly does NOT think a trafficway is a better way.

I travel up and down Talbotton Road practically every weekend, when I drive to worship services. It extends from Veterans Parkway past the ruins of the Jordan Mill, and eventually becomes Warm Springs Road. Then it becomes Gentian Boulevard. Then it becomes Milgen Road. This street has more names than "South 106.1" FM.

The trend chart linked above indicates Talbotton Road handles about 12,000 vehicles per day. That computes to about nine cars and trucks every minute. So there ought to be sufficient time for drivers to make left turns -- even the older drivers who might drive in a center lane simply to keep clear of the curbs.

It's a bit surprising to me that traffic on the western section of Talbotton Road did NOT decline after the Three Arts Theatre went out of business and was bulldozed. Many of the people who attended Columbus Symphony concerts apparently still needed to drive down that road to get medical checks.

Talbotton Road indeed has plenty of medical offices on either side. The only big-name businesses are the Buck Ice headquarters and a Veri Best Donut stand. Who knows how many married couples have driven by that intersection, and quarreled about where to stop.

The biggest change along Talbotton Road in recent months is the development of the "Rails to Trails" path. Sad to say, it appears to have better pavement right now than sections of the road used by cars....

When Ashley Station was built to replace the Peabody Apartments, it seemed to be constructed with a wider Talbotton Road in mind. The apartment buildings are a good distance from the street. This not only allowed for greenspace and growth, but probably reduced the potential for drive-by shootings.

But center medians have become normal in many other area road projects. The latest Veterans Parkway "Streetscape" construction will add trees to the middle of the road through downtown -- and in the process require several restaurants to install taller signs, so drivers on both sides can find them.

I also think the quality of a business or service can overcome any median in the middle of the road. B. Merrill's was successful on Manchester Expressway for years, before opening a Northside restaurant. And shouldn't St. Francis Hospital be fighting to stay in business, instead of planning an expansion?

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION allows you to offer Jeremy Hobbs some input on this topic. Should Talbotton Road be widened to four lanes, and include a center median? Or would so many drivers make U-turns that Center Pharmacy would see an increase in requests for dizziness pills?

-> "Big Monday" means poker as well as Kansas basketball for us these days. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Monday travel topic inspired a reader to share more stories - and we're assuming these are personal....

I took a group of high school girls to Europe..In the London airport one saw Elizabeth Taylor.Thinking I was standing beside her she grabbed what she thought was my hand and said,"There is Elizabeth Taylor,isn't she beautiful."..This deep male voice said,"I think she is also."..The hand belonged to Richard Burton...

Same trip coming back it was a rough flight..One of the girls,a senior said,"Next time I go to Europe I'm going on my car."..I wonder if she ever graduated..

Walking through the airport in D.C. with deaf students I said ,"We should go to the museum and see the dinasour." One kid reading my lips said,"Dinah Shore,where?"

A friend was driving at night headed for out west..In Arkansas in the early hours of the morning she pulled in a truck stop to go to the bathroom..She left sleeping in the back seat an older teen and a 5 yr old..She got back in the car and drove off..About 30 miles down the road she glances in the back seat and no 5 yr old..Panic sets in as she goes the 30 miles back to the stop..She rushes in the kid is behind the counter with the cashier..The cashier says ,"I knew you would be back."

The first remembrance reminds me of a classic "Carnack the Great" moment when Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show. The answer was "Richard Daley." Open the envelope and the question was, "What does Liz Taylor miss?"

We have one other message, which comes right from the middle of Columbus....


Did you happen to see the statements attributed to Dr. Mescon in Campus Life, CSU's school newspaper?

When commenting on why a group of 45 candidates for the Dean of College of Letters and Science were summarily dismissed, Dr. Mescon, according to Jon Ingram, stated they were all "older white males who looked like me and one older white woman" and that he felt that was unacceptable.

I guess he wants to be the only old, white person at CSU, no?

If I were Dean Stokes, I'd be headed down to the EEOC office and the Board of Regents with this article.



This message came with the 26 January article attached. But it also mentions the faculty of Columbus State University's College of Letters and Sciences wanted the search for a Dean to end -- and President Timothy Mescon rejected that, too. The man who once partnered with Newt Gingrich is practicing the "party of no" philosophy.

Dr. Timothy Mescon explained to the C.S.U. newspaper his goal is "academic excellence" -- even when it comes to selecting college Deans. But the issue for faculty is the concept of "Shared Governance" in university decisions. We all know how well that concept is working in Washington these days, don't we?

There seems to be a rift developing between the Columbus State President and the campus faculty. The campus newspaper currently has an article about a faculty survey, which found large numbers don't think Timothy Mescon seeks input from them on important changes. Well, Mescon's background IS in business - where stockholders are expected simply to rubber-stamp everything.

(By the way, the Columbus State University newspaper is called the Saber. "Campus Life" is merely one of the sections. I don't think the "Rear End" page was created as a slap at the current administration....)

Thanks to everyone who writes us - and now we'll write a little more about the Presidents' Day weekend:

+ Forecasts of a second phase in SNOWJAM 2010 turned out to be inaccurate, when only rain fell on Columbus Monday morning. The first round was easy - but this time, children had to freeze the rain themselves before having snowball fights.

+ Columbus Police reported a woman was arrested on Wade Street for selling alcohol without a license. Officers claim they found 700 cans of beer in a home, along with little cups. This woman clearly forgot one key element for this sort of business in Columbus -- the bridal gowns.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Columbus had a decline in several major crimes in 2009. This clearly reflects the dozens of added police officers on our streets. Why, I saw one Monday night in the parking lot of a Burger King - obviously ensuring customers didn't have it their way too much.

+ Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama held a town hall meeting in Phenix City. From what I saw on TV, there was no "Tea Party" outrage over Shelby's alleged love of pork-barrel spending. But then again, people in Phenix City are too busy pointing fingers at each other over spending on softballs.

+ Columbus Regional announced a first-of-its-kind cholesterol screening program. It will be offered through local doctors, not fire stations -- which I think means the Medical Center has decided NOT to support Councilor Jerry Barnes for re-election.

+ The evening news reported a Georgia House committee will debate a bill imposing 75-dollar fines if drivers are too slow in passing lanes. First they go after "super-speeders," and now it's super-sluggards....

+ Instant Message to Target: I'm sorry, you lose. When you only mark the Valentine's chocolate down 30 percent instead of 50, I'm moving on to a better store. Walgreens apparently is more desperate to clear the shelves to stock Easter baskets.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll be on an "alternate day" schedule for the most part, for the next week or so. Look for our next posts Thursday and Saturday.)

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 368 (+ 12, 3.4%)

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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Monday, February 15, 2010

15 Feb 10: Called for Traveling

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We're taking a break for Presidents' Day, in the wake of that.... uh.... fast-paced Daytona 500. We thank reader Larry Waldrup for offering today's entry.)

Below are what are supposed to be true stories about travel. Lord help them. Please!

+ I had someone ask for an aisle seats so that his or her hair wouldn't get messed up by being near the window.

+ A client called in inquiring about a package to Hawaii. After going over all the cost info, she asked, "Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?"

+ I got a call from a woman who wanted to go to Capetown. I started to explain the length of the flight and the passport information when she interrupted me with "I'm not trying to make you look stupid, but Capetown is in Massachusetts."

Without trying to make her look like the stupid one, I calmly explained, "Cape Cod is in Massachusetts, Capetown is in Africa." Her response ... click.

+ A man called, furious about a Florida package we did. I asked what was wrong with the vacation in Orlando. He said he was expecting an ocean-view room. I tried to explain that is not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. He replied, "Don't lie to me. I looked on the map and Florida is a very thin state."

+ I got a call from a man who asked, "Is it possible to see England from Canada?" I said, "No." He said "But they look so close on the map."

+ Another man called and asked if he could rent a car in Dallas. When I pulled up the reservation, I noticed he had a 1-hour lay over in Dallas. When I asked him why he wanted to rent a car, he said, "I heard Dallas was a big airport, and I need a car to drive between the gates to save time."

+ A nice lady just called. She needed to know how it was possible that her flight from Detroit left at 8:20am and got into Chicago at 8:33am. I tried to explain that Michigan was an hour ahead of Illinois, but she could not understand the concept of time zones. Finally I told her the plane went very fast, and she bought that!

+ A woman called and asked, "Do airlines put your physical description on your bag so they know whose luggage belongs to who?"

I said, "No, why do you ask?"

She replied, "Well, when I checked in with the airline, they put a tag on my luggage that said FAT, and I'm overweight, is there any connection?" After putting her on hold for a minute while I "looked into it" (I was actually laughing) I came back and explained the city code for Fresno is FAT, and that the airline was just putting a destination tag on her luggage.

+ I just got off the phone with a man who asked, "How do I know which plane to get on?" I asked him what exactly he meant, which he replied, "I was told my flight number is 823, but none of these planes have numbers on them."

+ A woman called and said, "I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola on one of those computer planes." I asked if she meant to fly to Pensacola on a commuter plane. She said, "Yeah, whatever."

+ A businessman called and had a question about the documents he needed in order to fly to China. After a lengthy discussion about passports, I reminded him he needed a visa. "Oh no I don't, I've been to China many times and never had to have one of those." I double checked and sure enough, his stay required a visa. When I told him this he said, "Look, I've been to China four times and every time they have accepted my American Express."

+ A woman called to make reservations, "I want to go from Chicago to Hippopotamus, New York."

The agent was at a loss for words. Finally, the agent: "Are you sure that's the name of the town?"

"Yes, what flights do you have?" replied the customer.

After some searching, the agent came back with, "I'm sorry, ma'am, I've looked up every airport code in the country and can't find a Hippopotamus anywhere."

The customer retorted, "Oh don't be silly. Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!"

The agent scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, "You don't mean Buffalo, do you?"

"That's it! I knew it was a big animal!"

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 356 (- 27, 7.0%)

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.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

14 FEB 10: Shut This City Down?

Columbus lived up to one of its nicknames Saturday. Dripping snow from roofs certainly made it look like a "Fountain City"....

But you needed a freezer and quick action to collect some snow, and fulfill "What Progress Has Preserved."

SNOWJAM 2010 marked the closest I've come to bringing the extra-large snow shovel out of my closet in Columbus. The sidewalk outside my door had a light coating of ice late Friday afternoon. But if I didn't slip anywhere on my trip, the shovel doesn't need my winter gloves' grip.

How much snow fell during SnowJam 2010? I determined that late Friday afternoon by pulling out the Official Blog Snow Measuring Device. And I'd like to thank Columbus Fire/EMS for handing out free rulers at public events....

The Official Blog Snow Measuring Device measured two inches in my corner of the Historic District. WRBL found three inches outside McClung Memorial Stadium. And employees at the Buck Ice plant probably never noticed anything unusual.

The church I attend canceled the weekend worship service Friday afternoon - even though the service wasn't scheduled until Saturday afternoon. By that time, most of the snow had melted and the streets appeared dry. Maybe next weekend's sermon should be about unwavering faith....

I only had one necessary trip to take during SnowJam 2010. Peachtree Mall went ahead with a two-day promotion, offering ten-dollar gift cards to its Club members. Mall merchants couldn't afford to be closed by snow or ice - not when there was plenty of "diamond ice" to sell for today.

A few people were in line at mall opening time, picking up gift cards before the weather turned bad. A couple of them had a scheduled day off from Muscogee County Schools - and they didn't really need to receive phone calls before sunrise, telling them they could sleep in.

Two women told me the first notification from Muscogee County Schools of an off day came at 6:00 a.m. Friday. Then a follow-up call came at 7:40 a.m. Yet the "Winter Break" day was scheduled months ago - so this was one time when they really wanted to be Dis-Connect-ED.

The wait was about 25 minutes to claim my gift card -- but I didn't spend it right away. Instead I speed-walked two laps around Peachtree Mall, then headed home. My kitchen had enough bread and milk to get by. But I was a little disappointed to find Golden Donuts was NOT giving away two-for-one donuts, because it actually was staying open.

The snow was stronger as I drove home, but not sticking to anything. The buildup started during the afternoon - at least in terms of snow on the roof and the lawn. I didn't want to be part of any traffic buildups from crashing drivers.

METRA apparently was concerned about a SnowJam 2010 traffic jam as well. It suspended bus service Friday at 3:30 p.m. - even though most buses travel so slowly that a sideways skid would teach all the wild drivers to be careful.

WRBL reported Columbus Airport canceled all Friday flights due to SnowJam 2010. But then, "all" meant three departures and four arrivals. That's barely enough passengers to put on a snowball fight to clear the tarmac.

The Columbus Cottonmouths were hundreds of miles away from home, yet still had to endure SnowJam 2010. Coach Jerome Bechard told the WRCG pre-game show Saturday night the bus ride through snow from Knoxville to Fayetteville, North Carolina was safe, except things were "a bit hairy around Winston-Salem." Too many NASCAR wanna-bes, I assume....

Yet not everyone panicked and canceled activities for SnowJam 2010. A Liberty Theatre performer tells me Friday night's premiere of "Words" went on as scheduled, and had an audience. It helps when your theatre is in a neighborhood with no hills for skidding.

SnowJam 2010 created this interesting site at the west end of South Commons -- with snow falling around budding trees. The trees apparently listened to the global warming scientists, even if the clouds didn't....

WTVM's noon news warned viewers to have a three-day supply of provisions ready for snowy weather. Three days - in Columbus?! That might make sense for deer hunters in the woods, but not for ordinary residents.

Despite Saturday's big melt, Columbus now has had measurable snow two winters in a row - and the Saturday night forecast warned more flurries are possible Monday morning. Get that new South Commons ice rink built, and we might be ready to bid for the Winter Olympics.

E-MAIL UPDATE: I wonder if it ever snows in New Delhi, India. Here's why I ask....

TSYS tells its employees to shut down facebook group!!!

rgds/Veeresh Malik

Veeresh attached what appears to be an internal e-mail, saying the TSYS "Head Office" is banning the operation of any social networking sites using the corporate name. Yet a Facebook search Saturday night found at least five of them. The TSYS Europe group is described as "just for fun -- totally pointless." I assume the members compete to gain the most animals in Farmville.

But what is this I see on Facebook - a "TSYS Worldwide Social Group" with a contact person named Veeresh Malik? His "Horn Please" blog is aptly named. We're about ready to sound the final horn, and stop him from attempting future self-promotions here.

-> Our effort to "spread the word" at the poker table has some opposition. See what we mean at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: A change indeed occurred in Columbus FM radio Saturday - but so far the change is small. WSTH-FM returned to the nickname "South 106.1," giving up "Rooster 106." I don't know if the last song before the change was, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody/The old gray goose is dead."

The music on South 106.1 was still country Saturday night. But in a hint more changes are coming, the WSTH web site removed all the blogs of its on-air staff. At least you still can click on "photos" and see Rob Carter get assaulted by a dog -- as if dogs know real guys don't wear pink Snuggies.

We'll keep checking for updates, as The South 106 rises again. Now for other things that happened while you marveled at the snow....

+ PMB Broadcasting confirmed what we reported Friday - the rock band ZZ Top will perform at the Columbus Civic Center. The concert will be 5 May, as in Cinco de Mayo. So this could mean the old Fiesta Columbus is morphing into Tex-Mex week.

+ Alabama anti-gambling task force Commander John Tyson declared Victoryland may have more than 20,000 gaming machines. A Victoryland attorney responded that estimate is too high -- but he stopped short of setting an "over-under" line for news reporters covering the story.

+ The MARTA service in Atlanta announced it would change the name of its "yellow" rail line to "gold." An Asian-American ethnic community living along that line complained about the name. In related news, the NAACP may boycott the next meteorologist who refers to snow as "white stuff."

(Hmmmm - does this explain why we've never heard about sales of YellaWood in China?)

+ Columbus native Frank Thomas retired from baseball. By that, I mean he made an official announcement - since all 30 major league teams actually retired Thomas last season, by not putting him on their rosters.

(The Chicago White Sox plan to retire Frank Thomas's number 35 - but the ceremony won't be until late August. All it could take are a few key injuries for Thomas to become the baseball equivalent of Brett Favre.)

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) saw Mississippi State's men mangle Auburn 85-75 in overtime. The Tigers scored only one point in the five-minute extra period. Coach Jeff Lebo should have reminded the team it's called O-T, as in offense.

+ Instant Message to Burger King on Buena Vista Road: Talk about a surprise! I walked inside during the dinner hour Saturday evening, and there was no wait at all for my food. Maybe if you had a special Valentine's Day menu....

SCHEDULED THIS WEEK: A guest blogger for President's Day.... and e-mail about a local college president....

This blog had more than 55,000 unique visitors in 2009! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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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, February 12, 2010

12 FEB 10: Off the Roost?

As the late Paul Harvey might have said, you know what the big local news today is. But when we find breaking news, we want to break it first. We might need duct tape to repair it later, but we want to break it first....

An alert blog reader tipped us off Thursday to a potentially big confession by a Columbus radio manager. A major change could come this weekend:

Richard - saw this posted on an online radio community, pretty interesting....

The "this" is a claim that WSTH-FM will move away from country music Saturday or Sunday, after 22 years. The station known in recent years as "Rooster 106" may have decided to chicken out.

The man who posted this statement is a former DJ at WSTH's arch rival, WKCN-FM "Kissin' 99.3." So I'll assume his history lesson is accurate, and the country music stations have been competing for 18 years. Columbus radio listeners apparently have decided they'd rather be kissed than henpecked....

I remember WSTH changing its nickname from "South 106" to "Rooster 106" several years ago. I don't remember anything else changing when that happened -- but the Rooster years were marked by the departure of Bear O'Brian. He reemerged triumphantly at WKCN, and the Bear has been feasting on the Rooster ever since.

The most recent Columbus radio ratings indicated Kissin' 99.3 had twice the listeners of Rooster 106. In fact, that long-term trend has made me wonder if WSTH was the top contender to change formats -- because Roosters can lay eggs for only so long.

(Perhaps it's only fitting that a format change come at Chinese New Year - since the next "year of the rooster" doesn't occur until 2017.)

We told a blog focus group Thursday night about this reported change at Rooster 106. One woman said it didn't seem to make much sense, considering "Columbus has only two country stations." She assumes most people in town prefer country music - which tells me her circle of friends stops short of the local housing projects.

We left a message with WSTH Thursday, to confirm the report of a format change. It was not returned, perhaps because Rooster 106 is in the middle of its annual fundraising drive for St. Jude Children's Hospital. Some radio stations would have also dropped hints about becoming a station member, to receive a free tote bag when you pledge.

The online admission by a Clear Channel manager stunned a manager at PMB Broadcasting, which owns WKCN. But he was reluctant to comment on it publicly, and actually seemed a bit suspicious about it. Radio stations sometimes pull stunts to throw their competition off the track - somehow forgetting they're confusing their listeners in the process.

The Rooster 106 web site gave no hint of a format change Thursday night. But it's curious that morning host Alan Quin is nowhere to be found, and a search for his name turned up practically a blank screen. I hope the Chick-Fil-A cows aren't holding him for ransom.

While we were scanning the Columbus radio dial, we learned some other things....

+ NASCAR races such as Thursday's "Duels at Daytona" have moved from WKCN to WRCG. A PMB Broadcasting manager explained it's due to the news/talk station's new FM simulcast. Well, OK - but I think Tim McGraw is performed at Sunday's Daytona 500, not Clark Howard.

+ Longtime Columbus radio voice Val McGinness has left PMB, and openly is wondering if age discrimination is behind it. But he has a web site where you can hear highlights from his career. Why he hasn't done a commercial for Guinness ale, I have no idea.

+ I'm hearing the "major concert news" being promised by "95.3 the Ride" today is a ZZ Top show at the Columbus Civic Center. The band's web site doesn't mention that - but does mention several recent concerts in Canada. It must have sounded weird to be introduced as Zed-Zed Top.

SNOWJAM 2010: By the time you read this, the snow may be falling in Columbus. Forecasters expect two to four inches of.... well, WTVM's Kurt Schmitz called it "white stuff" a couple of times Thursday. Some women might misunderstand that as padding for a bra.

(Oh, did you notice our special title? My years in journalism have taught me you simply MUST have that sort of label, for a big news event like this. In fact, I'm taking a chance with this one - because the Winter Olympics already may have it trademarked.)

Columbus Public Services workers mixed salt with sand Thursday, to spread on major roads during SnowJam 2010. One key road they'll monitor is Macon Road. Drivers could slide downhill from Forest Road to Cross Country Plaza - and I get the feeling one-third of them actually are looking forward to trying that.

Some people are calling Muscogee County Superintendent Susan Andrews a genius, for making this a scheduled school off day several months ago. But I doubt any of those people are teachers -- because Thursday's "Winter Break" by any other name is still an unpaid furlough day.

But some people were annoyed with Phenix City Superintendent Larry DiChiara Thursday - because he hopes to have a half-day of class, instead of canceling school completely. He may be the biggest believer in "global warming" in Russell County.

I made my own preparations for SnowJam 2010 Thursday - pulling this winter hat out of my drawer. It has the logo of a bank in my hometown. This tells you how old the hat is - from way back when banks gave you gifts for a deposit, instead of trying to charge a handling fee.

A couple of guys who seemed drunk people wanted to play with this hat, during my Thursday night poker game. One even asked for the ball on top. I explained the entire hat was attached together - and if I get trapped in a snowbank today, that fluffy ball could be a rescue signal.

Did you notice this big snowstorm is reaching Columbus on the day the Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver? WLTZ couldn't have planned this any better. Perhaps Calvin Floyd will take the next step, and set up a luge run from Front Avenue to the Riverwalk.

Let's see what else happened Thursday, while people prepared for SnowJam 2010:

+ Columbus Council candidate Nathan Suber used a WRBL interview to offer an apology to public safety employees. Suber may have lost his Council seat in 2006 for suggesting public safety workers leave, if they don't like their jobs. Suber was reminded those workers outnumber him - and they didn't like HIS job.

+ The National Black Farmers Association held a rally at the Columbus Civic Center. Members hope to be paid settlement money, from a case against the federal government. Shouldn't they have held this meeting at the old State Farmers' Market - to gain a little money from selling peanuts and pecans to each other?

+ A new skin care salon opened on Macon Road, offering a special for "eyebrow waxing." OK, I'll admit it - I'm a guy, and I don't understand this. Is this how women recycle melted wax from scented candles?

+ Aflac unveiled a new commercial, showing the duck going downhill on a snowboard. The ad features NASCAR driver Carl Edwards - which makes me wonder why Aflac doesn't illustrate the need for insurance by showing his crash into the fence at Talladega last year.

+ Columbus State University students celebrated homecoming week with a parade of golf carts. This is how you can tell which students are members of fraternities - or at least have memberships at Maple Ridge Golf Club.

+ Phenix City Central's girls advanced in the Alabama basketball playoffs by entrapping Enterprise 60-36. WRBL showed the location of this game as "Red Devil Palace" - which simply confirms what critics of the school system have said privately about it for two years.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our blogging may be sporadic over the next couple of weeks, due to necessary road trips.)

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, advertise to our readers, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 418 (+ 11, 2.7%)

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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