Wednesday, March 31, 2010

31 MAR 10: Spring in My Step

When last we met, I reported on the annual Serious Spring Cleaning. That led one reader to respond....

I would do my spring cleaning,but I keep waiting for spring.

Now, now -- it's the last day of March. Some trees are looking spectacular. And it appears the pro baseball season actually will begin this weekend - while pro soccer players were talking for a while about a strike.

The Columbus Civic Center must think it's spring - because it opened "Spring Fling" in the parking lot Tuesday night. The "spring" clearly refers to the season. The "fling" must refer to the carnival rides, sending teenagers in 100 different directions.

After walking and jogging around South Commons over the last couple of days, it appears Spring Fling is a small-scale version of The Greater Columbus Fair. Considering the Ferris wheel wasn't fully set up Tuesday morning, our reader may have a good point - as even the carnival is blooming late.

The Ferris wheel in the middle of the parking lot only had spokes which looked like pinchers or tongs. It didn't have any baskets attached. I assume the baskets were affixed Tuesday night - and filled with fake green grass, since Easter is approaching.

(I drove past some kind of "umbrella" ride Monday, which was parked along the side of Highway 520 in Chattahoochee County. It would be a shame if this ride didn't make it to Spring Fling - because the last 15 months have shown Columbus needs more umbrellas than ever.)

Spring Fling also boasts of the country's only traveling sea lion show. There's no word yet that any Columbus Lions player will jump in the tank with them.

But here's the thing -- signs around South Commons point you to "FIESTA COLUMBUS PARKING." That's a reminder of what Spring Fling used to be. This new event is one month earlier, with no sign of any Mexican or Latin American flavor. Well, unless the old signs are staying up because today is Cesar Chavez Day....

You may recall this blog broke the news that Fiesta Columbus was, uh, "never scheduled" last spring [1 Apr 09]. The official explanation was that costs for things such as fuel had increased for the carnival company. Things must be different this year. That's really no surprise - since carnival rides are known for their ups and downs.

We were told last spring that one factor in the Columbus Civic Center not scheduling a "fiesta" was its small staff. But plenty of events are on the schedule right now. The Cottonmouths have a home playoff game Saturday afternoon. Then there's a "City-Wide Easter service" Sunday morning - and I hope roaming rabbits don't wander into the power generators, and short-circuit rides.

There's another big problem with Spring Fling - its timing. Muscogee County schools are in spring break NEXT week, not this week. Phenix City schools are out the following week, while Russell County's break was two weeks ago. Maybe the Civic Center staff wants every child to play hooky at the same time.

The other sure sign of spring in Columbus also has morphed. Broadway Springfest appears to be gone, replaced by the "Third Annual Frogtown Hollow Bluegrass Jam." First of all, were the first two called Broadway Springfest? And second of all, when did Columbus become Frogtown? Snake City might be closer to it, during hockey season....

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: Television is known for reruns in summer, not the last week of March....

Was the first segment of Saturday's late news on WTVM the exact same as Friday night?

As the news was coming on, there was no video but I heard a grunt and then 'I guess that's what we'll do'. Then the first 3 stories seemed to be the same script and video as Friday night. It was almost like they never unloaded the teleprompter.

Take care

I never watch the Friday late-night newscasts, because of other commitments. I've explained this to co-workers over the years by saying I turn into a pumpkin around sunset....

But I did see last Saturday's 11:00 p.m. news, and it appeared all-new to me. A report on the Will Graham Celebration included one of the Saturday performers. And Kurt Schmitz seemed to have a current forecast - although admittedly sometimes the weather could allow him to copy and paste an old one.

By the way: which WRBL staff member is claiming the station's morning news ratings have doubled in the last year? Does this have anything to do with Cheryl Renee moving to a different time of day on WTVM? Or have viewers grown tired of the same callers making the same complaints over and over on "Rise N Shine?"

Meanwhile, we've waited long enough for an official response to this "snail mail" from a Phenix City regular. So today part of a letter to the city council gets posted:

This Council is doing a wonderful job. However I wanted to communicate via this "sortie" so that the public may be more informed as to the quality of your service....

The Position of Economic Development Director___ I do not see it on your current job listings. What are the requirements With the exception of a degree (B.S., B.A.), are your requiring a post graduate degree? What are you requiring in the way of prior experience in similar positions?....

Thanks for all you do. City enthusiasm has never been higher.

Indeed, the Economic Development Director's job is absent from the Phenix City job listing web page. It's also missing from the Alabama Joblink site. But the Phenix City golf course needs a Marshall - which leads me to ask whatever happened to Ken Suddeth.

The Phenix City Personnel Director never returned our message. But some people are speculating the Economic Development job will go to J.W. Brannen - the man who suggested several weeks ago the City Council was trying to drive his Downtown Redevelopment Authority out of business. It's a bit like schools firing teaching staffs, then rehiring them at half-price.

Now a quick check of news items from the last couple of days....

+ Columbus Police told WLTZ a 19-year-old man was robbed on Lakeshore Road - and three robbers with a gun stole all his clothing. Have the Valley Rescue Mission thrift store prices jumped that much?

+ Columbus city officials announced the winner of the "name the trail" contest. The rails-to-trails path will be named the "Columbus Fall Line Trace." And if runners fall in a wooded area, they could go without a trace for days.

+ WTVM reported the search for a new Superior Court Judge is down to three finalists. Governor Sonny Perdue can choose from Stacy Jackson, Ron Mullins, Bill Rumer - or "none of the above because you're all too expensive."

+ Atlanta edged the New York Yankees in exhibition baseball 9-6. The Yankees showed off Pat Venditte, a relief pitcher who can throw with both hands. Some of us would give our left arm to be ambidextrous like him....

+ Instant Message to Georgia State Rep. Mark Hatfield: Go ahead if you wish, and try to impeach Attorney General Thurbert Baker. You'll only give him more free time to run for Governor -- and a better reason for Democrats to vote for him.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

29 MAR 10: Moving Days

"Broadcast. Eight-track. You're sounding primitive here." That's what a woman told me over lunch the other day, as I talked about my annual Serious Spring Cleaning. I cleaned my dishes, yes - but it's easier when you don't have the kind for satellite radio and TV.

This year's Serious Spring Cleaning officially ended during the noon hour Sunday. Since Columbus city rules forbid me leaving trash at the curb until Tuesday morning, the final bag of trash is now stashed in a can at a city park. I will NOT reveal which one, because I enjoy frustrating potential identity thieves.

Serious Spring Cleaning at my home takes about five weeks, and leaves virtually nothing untouched. A few surprise road trips threatened to disrupt the process this year. One this past week woke me up in the morning, and led to a half-day in the Bainbridge area. Someone in Lumpkin needs to be daring, and put a gas station along U.S. 27.

But anyway: there's an order to Serious Spring Cleaning. It starts in the bathroom, which probably needs cleaning the most. I need to buy one of those "3,000 Flushes" products - because my bowl will need about that long to get the stains out.

My small bathroom was settled quickly, so it was on to the bedroom. It was a busy winter in the bedroom closet, as every sweater and rugby shirt was pulled out due to the cold weather. But sadly, I didn't wear every Kansas sweatshirt my Dad ever gave me - and that could explain the basketball loss to Northern Iowa.

The computer room is usually the most challenging room to clean. Many things pile up around my computer during the course of a year. There are letters from blog readers, checking account statements -- and plastic bottle caps to chew on when an online poker player robs me of a winning hand.

I decided this year to not only clean the piles of stuff around my home, but throw away items I haven't used in years. In the computer room, this meant dumping at least one dozen metal containers with America Online trial discs. They're simply too awkward for keeping track of CD's - and I threw away the discs in other years, because I don't need that many coasters.

A blue foam Jayhawk came very close to getting tossed this year. You're supposed to slip it on your hand, for cheering at games. But the logo has lost a good bit of paint in recent years. It stays in the computer room for sentimental reasons - since a Missouri graduate actually gave me that.

Then came the "living room" -- where I don't really live that much these days. Only of the three chairs in that room receives sitting, and most of that comes when the TV news is on. Walking back and forth from the TV to the blogging computer counts as exercise, you know.

Cleaning the living room meant cleaning my touchy TV system. In my continuing struggle to tune in broadcast stations (no cable or satellite here), the HDTV was moved out of a corner and returned to a side of the room. If my next-door neighbor can resist sitting on the front porch, I might be able to pick up every Columbus station flawlessly.

The biggest move of the year occurred in the living room. Several months ago my stereo system refused to twirl to stations any more. It became stuck one morning, and now is set permanently to WFRC-FM. The fact that it's on a Christian radio station might make it more acceptable to a rescue mission.

I tried both 3-In-1 Oil and WD-40 on the stuck tuning knob, but the stereo refused to go up or down the dial. So I decided it was time to throw it out or donate it to charity -- but a couple of women stopped me, because the receiver plays eight-track tapes and could be an antique. If only they knew about the machine in the computer room closet, which records eight-tracks.

(Both the stereo and the eight-track recorder were items I inherited from former roommates in Atlanta. When they moved away, they left all sorts of valuable
things behind -- but I'm about to conclude a former roommate in Minnesota really doesn't need his college textbooks anymore.)

I'm giving these women the benefit of the doubt, and keeping the stereo for now. An all-purpose boombox (except for eight-track) serves as my living room "stereo" for now. And I definitely want to keep the speakers, since they work well. One of them worked Sunday to lift up my TV antenna, so I could watch basketball games.

The main event of Serious Spring Cleaning actually is the kitchen -- since I'm part of a church movement which keeps the "Days of Unleavened Bread" beginning tonight. In my life, crumbs of leaven could be anywhere. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream simply is too portable....

With more than a week left for cleaning the kitchen, I had time to get tough this year. In addition to dusting and wiping, I pulled out a small bottle of "Heavy Duty Degreaser" I was given at the grand opening of the new Sam's Club a few years ago. It worked much better than Formula 409 - so I'm assuming it's something like formula #688.

Formula 409 was the cleaner of choice for my microwave oven - but I fear I somehow became overzealous for Serious Spring Cleaning there. After I plugged it back in, a bag of popcorn only popped about halfway full. Is that coat of butter flavor on the walls really necessary after all?

With Serious Spring Cleaning now complete, I can rest for a while -- well, a little. I'm going to need a "Rollback Day" later this week, to put everything away which was moved out of place to finish the cleanup. The "blue bin" from Columbus recycling simply doesn't match the wood-grain stereo cabinet behind it, in the living room.

We'll take a blogging break Tuesday, while I sing at a spring "celebration" in Columbus! You're invited to attend the United Church of God service at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

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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Sunday, March 28, 2010

28 MAR 10: Will and I AM

"Enjoy the concert tonight," a woman told me as I walked toward the coliseum door.

This didn't sound quite right to me. "I'm here for the preaching, too," I answered. After all, the minister's name was on the event -- although I suppose he's really the opening act, for a more important Main Attraction.

This short chat is only one of many things which surprised me about this weekend's "Will Graham Celebration" in Auburn. The sermon from Billy Graham's grandson is being so soft-pedaled, it's almost an afterthought. Billboards promote "music with a message." But then again, the music IS twice as long as the message....

I traveled to Auburn for Friday's opening night of the Will Graham Celebration. Since it was a worship service of sorts at the start of the Sabbath I keep, I wore a sport coat and tie -- and wound up so overdressed, some people probably concluded I was a doomsday prophet seeking the right moment to interrupt everything.

In October 1994, I attended Billy Graham's last crusade in this area - a five-night event at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. I moved to Columbus after Franklin Graham's 1996 event at the Civic Center, so I don't know how trendy that was. But the Will Graham Celebration is so different from 1994 that it's almost as "cutting-edge" as a two-edged sword called the Bible.

A giant TV screen was set up outside Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, with music so loud that it reverberated off Jordan-Hare Stadium on the other side of the parking lot. The TV was there for "overflow" in case the coliseum was full. It was nowhere close to that - not even with sentimental fans who missed Auburn's final home game there.

The 1994 crusade had no giant TV screen outside -- but it had a choir inside, with Cliff Barrows leading hymns. The Will Graham Celebration has nothing like that. Matthew West leads worship songs on a guitar - and fans rush to the floor for the music, long before any minister gives an invitation.

(I'd put a picture of the Will Graham Celebration program here - but that's another change from 1994. No one handed out anything at the door. To take home a souvenir, I either had to go to the floor for a salvation packet -- or spend four dollars for a giant Auburn University soda cup. They didn't even throw in a lid for that price.)

With no program, I have no idea who the celebration emcee was. But he welcomed the crowd estimated at 3,500 to "beautiful Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum." If it really was that beautiful, they wouldn't be replacing it with a new Auburn Arena across the street.

A local minister who serves as Executive Director of the Will Graham Celebration then took the stage. "I want to thank you people," he said several times - proving he didn't take theology courses under Al Sharpton.

Then it was time for Matthew West and his "contemporary Christian" band to lead worship songs. Words were displayed on two giant screens at either side of the stage, so you could sing along. Then a Christian rapper came out - and I wondered why his words weren't displayed as well, because I had trouble understanding him.

The Christian rapper was someone I'd admittedly never heard of, named Tripp Lee. I sat so far from the stage that I couldn't even tell if he wore Triple-E shoes.

The Will Graham Celebration is so high-tech that while Tripp Lee performed, a "crawl" of text messages appeared on the giant screens. I presume they all were sent by people inside the coliseum. And I presume none of them were screened in advance, since a couple praised Alabama's football titles. [True!]

After Tripp Lee rapped "Drivin' With My Top Down" and a video testimony from another mysterious Christian rapper appeared, Will Graham came on-stage. Not wearing a coat and tie, but an Auburn University sport shirt. Do all Auburn pastors do that on Sundays after big football wins?

Will Graham broke the ice with his audience by talking about his first few days in East Alabama. He drank lemonade at Toomer's Corner, and went to Cock of the Walk in Opelika for only his second experience eating catfish. Uh-oh - some believers who follow the "clean meats" chapters of the Bible turned against him right there, as a dangerous liberal.

Will Graham actually is named William Franklin Graham IV - married for 12 years, and a father of three. His son is William Graham V, but Will noted he and his wife have given the child the nickname "Quin" for five. I shudder to think what could happen if Quin ever has a son....

Will Graham gave a 33-minute message much as his grandfather would have given in 1994 -- challenging people to make a decision for Jesus. I didn't agree with every point he made, because some contradicted what I read in the Bible. But strangely, the passage he read never was shown on the giant screens - and the fact I carried a Bible made me the strange one in my section.

Will Graham's invitation brought enough people and counselors down to half-fill the Beard-Eaves Coliseum floor. The wood floor was covered with a brown tarp -- which seemed puzzling, since Auburn is through holding basketball games and gymnastics meets there. Is Auburn High School looking for a new practice site?

(Auburn University must really care about keeping the old look of the coliseum. Signs in the rafters still promote Colonial Bank, and it shut down seven months ago.)

As counselors assisted people making spiritual decisions, the Will Graham Celebration took an "intermission." During that time, the giant screens invited the audience to send a text message to win an iPod Nano or a Flip camera. Once again, times have changed - because in 1994, you might have put an entry slip in a drawing for an autographed Billy Graham book.

The intermission ended two hours after the service began. The 1994 event I attended ended at the two-hour mark with a closing prayer. But in Auburn, the star act of the evening was about to come out -- Diamond Rio. I didn't realize this longtime country band turned Christian last year. That's what happens when Rascal Flatts leaves your record sales the same way....

I left the celebration when Diamond Rio began singing music which sounded secular, not religious. It was the Sabbath for me, after all. For all I knew, my pastor might condemn its lyrics during services the next day.

As I walked to my car, I noticed another change of times. Beggars lined up outside the Georgia Dome in 1994, seeking money or food. At Auburn, there was only a man handing out free Bible studies on the books of Daniel and Revelation. "I'm not a Mormon or a Jehovah's Witness," he assured me. Hmmmm - so he still could be a Seventh-Day Adventist....

I marveled as I drove home, at how different the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association does things now compared with 1994. Clearly this was NOT your mother's "crusade" service. For one thing, the word "crusade" was retired after the 2001 terror attacks to avoid offending Muslims.

At age 50-something, clearly I am NOT the "target audience" of the Will Graham Celebration. The music is aimed at winning over teenagers and young adults, with a format reminiscent of a rock concert. Some other group will have to appeal to baby boomers now - perhaps with a seminar on whether God is for or against health care reform.

But with the push to gain young believers, I see why some old-school ministries grumble about modern preachers. They complain marketing is being emphasized more than Biblical messages. For these critics, the only rap deserves a "bad rap"....

If you'd like to see all this for yourself, the Will Graham Celebration concludes this evening in Auburn. I won't be there, because of a special communion service in the congregation I attend. The bread and wine is free, but only if you're a "baptized member." At Auburn, anyone can drink -- but you'll have to settle for Coca-Cola starting at three dollars a cup.

I'll be singing Tuesday afternoon, at a different sort of spring "celebration" in Columbus! You're invited to attend the United Church of God service at 2:30 p.m. ET at the Woodmen of the World hall on Milgen Road, next door to Lumber Liquidators.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Now for someone in Columbus with her own message, that's apparently even more provocative....

I have always loved the Ledger- but have you seen how it has shrunk lately? They must have real trouble selling papers. I bet more people read your blog than their paper. It is sad that they have fallen on such hard times.

Now, Cutie Sledgehammer is race baiting to sell papers. How did she get so far off-track? Why do they let her print such hateful articles? And, why would I buy a paper which publishes articles that even they probably don't believe. I am not going to pay a paper to harm our community with race baiting.

Controversy has two sides. It may not always sell more papers. It may turn everyone off so much that they, like me, will not stop at one of the little stores, and buy a paper for a while.

The writer apparently is referring to a Saturday column by Kaffie Sledge on health care reform. But the critics I've heard don't bring up the skin color of President Obama. They bring up his heart - which they think is painted red, due to socialism or Communism.

While the Ledger-Enquirer seems to keep streamlining its editions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quietly has resumed Sunday sales in Columbus. There must be some kind of local coupon-clipping club, with more clout than I realized.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: A group of men at a Columbus auto repair shop watches a cable news report on a zoo. "I've never been to Wild Animal Safari," one man says. "It's listed in the Yellow Pages as a zoo."

"I guess that's the only one in this area, isn't it?" another man asks. But the employee behind the counter thinks of another.

"The City Council meeting?!"

Now let's cut through the jungle of news, from the last few days....

+ Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren told WTVM 98 of the promised 100 new police officers now have been hired. I hope the next hire doesn't get hazed by the others - by being called "Agent 99," with a picture of Barbara Feldon in the locker.

+ Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman showed WLTZ his newest crime-fighting tool - a state-of-the-art "rumbler" siren for patrol cars. When the police department hires 98 new officers, other law enforcement agencies will try anything to stay relevant....

(This announcement raises a big question -- why do Marshal's Office patrol cars need sirens in the first place? Doesn't that office focus on delivering warrants and guarding court hearings? Or can the rumbler be programed to send subliminal "Vote for Countryman" messages?)

+ Columbus Police reported someone broke into the Walgreens store on Wynnton Road, and stole $200 worth of cigarettes. Now, now - Georgia's legislature hasn't increased tobacco taxes yet.

+ Fort Benning began a weekend combatives tournament - and WXTX reported Saturday's surprise winner was Cadet Megan Tracy. Yes, a woman defeated all the men! The question now is which political "photo opportunity" she'll take first - to appear with Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi.

+ The Columbus Lions opened the indoor football season by lashing Louisiana 88-32. That'll teach the visitors to give themselves the nickname "Swashbucklers." That sounds more fitting for a team of athletes at the "Gay Games."

+ Your blog ended Saturday night tied for third in the "My Bracket is Money" contest from Piggly Wiggly and Clear Channel Radio. The "Blog of Columbus" NCAA men's basketball bracket is only one point off the lead. Trouble is, I picked Duke to beat Baylor today - and the Will Graham side of me has a very hard time rooting for a team named Blue Devils.

+ Instant Message to the U.S. Census Bureau: If you don't mind, I'll wait until Census Day on Thursday to put my form in the mail. After all, what if I die Tuesday? Then the information "as of April 1" would be all wrong. Not that I'll care, probably....

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The timing of our next post depends on when Serious Spring Cleaning ends. It could occur Monday morning, or might be delayed until the afternoon.)

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: 516 (+ 18, 3.6%)

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© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

for 27 MAR 10: Upside-Down Thinking

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

Some people say it's a good idea to "think outside the box." I joke that when I try to do that, other people stuff me inside the box - and then try to seal it with duct tape.

This time of year offers several cases of outside-the-box thinking. I noticed one this past week at a Columbus Publix store. Instead of simply offering Easter items, the checkout people gave away this book to anyone who asked -- explaining the customs of Passover in English and Hebrew. No, I saw nothing special for marking Cesar Chavez Day next week....

Since Hebrew customarily is read from right to left, the "cover" of the Passover book is on what Westerners would consider the back cover. This is simply one of many issues to be resolved, before we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Notice the plate on the book's cover, showing items eaten in the traditional Passover meal. There's a piece of unleavened bread, some greens and "bitter herbs." Republicans opposed to the health care reform plan probably started early on that last one.

What about three letters in the middle of the plate? I admittedly don't know Hebrew, so they stumped me. But one evening I knelt to pray before my own dinner, at a chair which had that booklet turned upside down....

....and look at what I discovered. When you flip the book over, the word "GOD" appears in English. Now that's a sneaky trick I'm not sure the Israeli Mossad has considered.

The upside-down view of the plate actually makes perfect sense. God should be at the center of the spring holy day season, whether you keep Passover or any other event. If all you think about are eggs, bunnies and a ham dinner -- well, it's like having a football tailgate party when your team has a bye week.

Revelation 4 in the Bible describes a scene in heaven where God is at the center of a worshipful scene. He's not worshiping angels and elders -- it's the other way around. Here's hoping God is the central focus of all your religious activities in the coming days. After all, it's not about matzo - but a Messiah.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We're posting early to clarify something from Friday's blog exclusive. We were trying to joke about the "meddlers" at WGSY-FM -- but the morning host who left "Sunny 100" this past week wants to leave no doubt....

Please make sure it is know that I was NOT referring to advertisers


Ed Bostic

Let's be clear -- that was OUR one-liner, not his. So you're more than welcome to put your company's logo on Ed Bostic's resumes, and sponsor his search for new employment.

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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26 MAR 10: Out in a Blaze of Glory?

The man stood facing an overhead TV set. President Obama was talking about health care reform in Iowa, and the man was talking back to the screen in negative tones. The fact that the President was appearing on Fox News Channel did not appear to faze him in the least.

The manager of the Oakland Park Laundromat on South Lumpkin Road was ready to vent Thursday, and I was the closest person nearby to hear it. I'm thankful to say the manager stopped after a few minutes - while my clothes drier amazingly went 50 minutes on a single quarter.

"They ought to be shot. If I had been there, I'd have shot 'em," the laundry manager said. Only minutes earlier, Fox News had mentioned several attacks on Congressional offices - even at offices of health care reform opponents. The doomsayers who warned me of food riots two years ago may have missed the target.

(Well, wait a minute -- the health care reform act does require nutrition information on restaurant menus and vending machines. Will people start tipping over machines because all the candy bars are sugar-free?)

Moments later, the laundry manager clarified his comment about shooting members of Congress. "Not everybody - just 34 of them." This manager told me he was a Christian, but this isn't quite a tithe of all U.S. House members.

Which 34 House members does this man want to shoot? "The ones who agreed to that backroom deal. And that's unconstitutional." The manager apparently wants every meeting involving Congress to occur in public - apparently not realizing the U.S. Constitution was created in closed-door meetings.

Based on his comments, this laundry manager would shoot Rep. Sanford Bishop - since Bishop admits his final vote was swayed by the executive order barring federal funding of abortions in health care reform. Bishop also says he applied "W.W.J.D." thinking to his vote. The laundry manager has determined that stands for "Working with a jumbled democracy."

"Don't you see how they're taking our freedoms away from us?" the laundry manager asked me.

"Well, I don't have health insurance - so I'll have to buy it...."

"This isn't about health insurance." This man wouldn't even let me meet him two-thirds of the way.

"I'm a Christian," the laundry manager explained. "President Obama is a socialist.... First he banned the day of prayer...."

"The National Day of Prayer?! He banned it?"

"That's what they said on TV." Then you'd think the National Day of Prayer web site would be shut down, or at least mention that action - yet it doesn't. Maybe they unplugged cable TV, because the news was too depressing.

"Watch the news at 5:00 this afternoon...." the manager continued.

"The 'funeral procession for liberty' the Tea Party is putting on?!" I interrupted. "They're having that at the Government Center."

I might as well have told this man California had fallen into the ocean - because for all his knowledge, he didn't seem to know a thing about it.

It quickly became clear this man has at least a deep-seeded distrust of President Obama, and at worst outright hatred. He repeated the claim that the President is not a U.S. citizen - so if Orly Taitz needs new witnesses in federal court, I may have found one.

"So where do you plan to move?" I finally asked the man. I joked to some friends this week I'm so upset with the thought of socialized medicine in the U.S., I might just move to Canada.

"I'm not moving anywhere," the manager answered. "This is my home. I fought for my country, and I'll die for my country." That could be the problem. If he lived in Washington, he might try to take other people with him.

I let the gentleman speak his piece, then said "thank you" and returned to my clothes. While he's certainly entitled to his opinion, should I keep going to a laundromat where the manager openly talks about shooting members of Congress? It's not like he's a 100-percent right-wing extremist. After all, some of the instruction signs on the wall are in Spanish.

As I took my clothing to the car, I told the manager: "Don't get yourself on the police blotter." But then again, it may be too late. Venting to a blog that's read by police officers could be enough....

The laundry manager certainly isn't the only one, uh, annoyed by health care reform. WTVM reported Thursday the act includes a new ten-percent tax on tanning salons. If you want more bronze, you'll have to plunk down more gold.

Georgia's Governor still wants to challenge health care reform in court. Sonny Perdue said Thursday he'll hire several "pro bono" lawyers to pursue a case at no charge. Isn't it nice to see Josh McKoon's work with the Education Park Coalition is getting noticed in Atlanta?

As for that "funeral procession for liberty" - the Columbus Tea Party's downtown demonstration Thursday evening attracted only about a dozen people. The tax day rally outside the Government Center last April had at least 100. Perhaps most of the crowd decided to follow the lead of the liberal political action group - and they've Moved On.

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

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: An alert blog reader and radio listener tipped us off Thursday to a major development on the dial....

This email was forwarded to me through a chain of forwards, the original email says it is from Ed Bostic:

"I have resigned from WGSY - Sunny 100. Those of you that live here will soon hear another syndicated morning show from a guy in Los Angeles you've probably never heard of. Please use this e-mail address to contact me effective today--Ed Bostic"

Bostic spent several years as the Sunny 100 morning host. He outlasted TV news co-hosts Chuck Leonard and Jennifer Serda - but the hairspray of Tammy Terry apparently was too tough.

We tried the e-mail address for Ed Bostic Thursday, asking what led to the resignation. We received this reply, which we're going to assume is legitimately from him:

I've spent 12 years trying to do the best radio show possible. I was told early in my career that you'll never hear about what you do right only what you're doing wrong. I have found that to be pretty accurate. Although the ratings were good and the listeners seemed happy there was always scrutiny and meddling that really wasn't necessary. Changes being mandated by people not involved with the station that make no sense and provide no benefit to the listener. We seem to lose sight of the fact that we are doing this FOR the listeners and not to satisfy the whims of others in the radio profession. Eventually it takes a toll. Professionally and emotionally. I had to choose whether or not to stick it out and continue this way or make a change and try something new. I chose the latter. I love Sunny 100. It was part of who I am. I'll miss it and the friends I've made during my time there. No immediate plans.

Ed Bostic probably is right, when he says radio personalities only hear about their mistakes. The Tea Party movement seems to operate the same way.

But who are these outside meddlers, who aren't involved with Sunny 100? That's not a very nice way to describe radio advertisers....

Ed Bostic's prediction of "another syndicated morning show" on Sunny 100 may be inaccurate. The station's Facebook page indicates the new morning host is Edgar Champagne -- who's been on the air middays at WAGH "Magic 101.3." A double-shot of Champagne before 12:00 noon could be a dangerous thing.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We promised several other items from the InBox. One takes us back to Wednesday's review of a raid by Columbus Police....

I read your article about the Golden Cue. I have appeared before Council and requested a change in the silly alcohol ordinances also. As you may know, you cannot play poker in a restaraunt because contests of skill are not allowed. I guess we'll not be getting a Dave and Buster's any time soon. I was contacted by one of the "Golden Cue 3" and had to convey the bad news that when he posted bond and then did not show up for court he stood convicted. However, they can still work in a restaraunt because you don't need an ABC card to work in a restaraunt. That's right, the bartender at Applebys can be a convicted rapist or murderer but the barback or janitor at the Cue can't forget to renew his card. Makes a lot of sense?

Bill Mason, Attorney

Wow -- if a convicted rapist can work in a restaurant bar, I don't dare order a "bloody mary."

I've heard stories of inmates working in restaurants -- such as Lee County prisoners cooking fast food. If the salt on your fries tastes funny, it might not be salt. It could be an illegal substance.

Now to the current energy mess in Columbus, which we also mentioned Wednesday:

Thanks for the heads up about Atmos natural gas bills..My gas bill jumped up $200 this month...I tried to think how I could have used that much gas..Calling today for a new meter read...Thanks again..

As cold as this past winter was in Columbus, I'm frankly surprised my natural gas bills weren't higher. This month's bill is in the 55-dollar range. Yes, it pays to wear your jogging socks to bed.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: A message we promised about Phenix City government requires us to make follow-up calls. We couldn't do that Thursday, but we'll post that message when we're able.)

One of today's topics was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, 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: 530 (+ 19, 3.7%)

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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Thursday, March 25, 2010

25 MAR 10: Two Baby Places

Columbus Tea Party activists must have been at a loss for words Wednesday night. After all, isn't health care reform supposed to give us fewer medical choices? Yet before long, the hospital options for local expectant mothers will double -- at least until federal regulators get their act together.

St. Francis Hospital President Robert Granger announced Wednesday he's received approval to start an obstetrics and gynecological program. I'm a bit surprised he didn't announce this through a text message -- something like: "OB/GYN OK FTW!"

St. Francis Hospital plans to add five rooms for delivering babies, along with ten "post-partum" beds and a nursery. You can tell we're in 2010 by the fact that the plan has NO waiting room for fathers to pace or light cigars.

But not everyone is smiling about St. Francis's plan to deliver babies. The Ledger-Enquirer's web site reported letters of opposition were filed by The Medical Center and Doctors Hospital - and since they recently merged, I assume they saved money by writing a carbon copy.

(Would it be fair to say the Doctors Hospital and Medical Center executives "cribbed" each other's letters about baby delivery programs?)

Even Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus filed a letter opposing St. Francis's OB/GYN program. I'm not sure why a hospital one hour from Columbus is concerned about this -- unless Phoebe Sumter believes all the Catholic mothers in south Georgia will make the extra drive.

The critics of St. Francis Hospital say a new OB/GYN program isn't needed in Columbus. But President Robert Granger says he's merely providing local competition. So we're looking at a burgeoning battle for baby business -- and we'll see if Columbus hospitals wind up in the red, or merely a girl's pink.

The announcement by St. Francis Hospital is noteworthy for another reason. Georgia has a Department of Community Health which oversees hospitals, and issues "certificates of need." If only someone issued that kind of certificate for legitimate panhandlers....

So when people complain about the "government taking over health care," they might be forgetting something. State governments oversee health care to some extent already -- from what hospitals can offer, to insurance commissioners monitoring health coverage. You'll notice Georgia's Republican Insurance Commissioner has done nothing to stop mandatory auto insurance.

Georgia and Alabama are divided when it comes to the new federal health care act. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker revealed Wednesday he will NOT file suit to challenge the law, because the lawsuit is likely to fail. That decision could mean Baker's campaign for Governor is likely to fail as well....

But Alabama Attorney General Troy King already has filed suit to challenge the federal health care act. I read a question online asking how the state can afford to sue, when schools are facing seven-percent proration. But the answer should be obvious - the attorneys already are on staff, suing everyone they can find about electronic bingo.

As for the Columbus Tea Party: it plans a "funeral procession" around the Government Center this afternoon, beginning on the corner of Rep. Sanford Bishop's office. Members say they'll wear black to mark the "death of liberty" - so we hope Mayor Jim Wetherington doesn't take this as a terroristic threat.

-> We took a long nail to our most recent poker game. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG CORRECTION: After further review, we have concluded Benevolence Pumpkin Road actually is located in northern Randolph County, Georgia - NOT in Stewart County [19 Mar]. Hopefully I'll now feel safe driving on it.

Let's see what other news fruit was produced Wednesday....

+ The Columbus Crime Prevention Board held its first meeting. The chairman is Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon - so look for a news conference explaining how a lower minimum wage will reduce the crime rate.

(Mayor Jim Wetherington told the board new Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown will need an assistant. Uh-oh - the critics who warned of more city bureaucracy could be right. Especially if Brown says he needs a public information officer, while Columbus Police still don't have one.)

+ The Georgia Senate approved a bill allowing people with gun permits to carry their weapons into churches. If this bill becomes law, we'll never again have to worry about a worship service running long.

+ Auburn University named Texas-El Paso's Tony Barbee its new men's basketball coach. He may not be able to guarantee a winning record next season, but it's safe to predict Auburn will have a "Barbee doll" giveaway night.

(Auburn found a new men's basketball coach in two weeks, while Columbus State's search is approaching a full month. This is what happens when one college uses that big-money job search site "The Ladders," while another doesn't.)

+ Auburn began spring football drills. The current leader in the race for starting quarterback is Cam Newton - which brings back memories of a pro hockey goaltender with that name from 40 years ago. Which also shows I had strangely tastes, even when I was in grade school.

+ Instant Message to whomever installs street signs in Phenix City: A "divided highway" sign is one thing. But calling Broad Street next to City Hall a "highway" is a bit of a stretch. A high-priced way, maybe....

SCHEDULED FRIDAY: Your comments on everything from Phenix City government to The Golden Cue....

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: 511 (+ 24, 4.9%)

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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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

24 MAR 10: As Tough as A.B.C.

Alabama can have its debate about electronic bingo, and keep its anti-gambling "commander." Columbus law officers are focusing on another vice right now - alcohol. And in this case, I think the highest-ranking officer is Captain Morgan.

Columbus Council heard an appeal Tuesday evening about a recent vice squad raid. Officers went inside The Golden Cue on Buena Vista Road three weeks ago, and arrested three employees for not carrying "ABC cards." I'm no expert on these things, but I assume this does NOT refer to WTVM business cards.

The Golden Cue was shut down, and the three employees posted bail on that Friday night. But now the employees are considered guilty in the eyes of Columbus city law, because they didn't go to Recorder's Court the following day. They thought they were fine, until they discovered they paid one.

On top of that, the payment of a fine means the three Golden Cue employees are banned for two years from working at any business where alcohol is served. That apparently includes most Columbus restaurants - but I'm not sure if it includes bridal shops.

Golden Cue owner Joyce Wages told Columbus Council the three arrested employees were first offenders, so the two-year ban is too harsh. But a city attorney confirmed that's exactly what the city ordinance requires for not carrying an ABC card. And you thought "carding" only happened at the bar entrance.

Joyce Wages noted one of the arrested employees is a college student with a young child. Now there's an appeal to the emotions. A mother is forced to work in a pool hall, then police stick it to her....

Joyce Wages asked Columbus Council to modify the alcohol ordinance, so it isn't so harsh for first offenders. And in a separate letter, she requested the change "be retroactive back to March 1." If only the NCAA men's basketball tournament could work the same way - so Kansas could beat Northern Iowa this time.

Columbus Council didn't take an immediate vote on Joyce Wages's request - but I suspect she's NOT going to get her way on this. For one thing, the letter in the "public agenda" section is addressed to "Mayor Worthington." He's only been mayor for 38 months -- and some drivers still haven't removed the "Jim Wetherington" bumper stickers from their cars.

(But then again, the Columbus Council agenda for public comments called the business owner "Joyce Wagner" - despite a letter stating otherwise. In Phenix City government, a feud over misspelled names might boil over at a city council work session.)

Are Columbus Police officers being too tough, by going into pool halls and checking for alcohol cards? I actually heard the opposite recently. A man told me about one establishment hosting weekly poker tournaments and claiming to be a restaurant, even though alcohol accounts for a majority of its business. Maybe police are waiting for Yella Fella to stage his own crackdown.

-> We took a long nail to our most recent poker game. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: "Was this your lead story on the noon news?" I asked the woman behind the ice cream counter Tuesday afternoon.

The woman serving ice cream was none other than WTVM's Cheryl Renee. She laughed at the question, then answered: "It was in the A-block." Not quite on a par with health care reform, I suppose.

Cheryl Renee joined several other celebrity ice cream preparers for Tuesday's "Free Cone Day" at Ben & Jerry's near Columbus Park Crossing. The reporters who are used to getting "scoops" had to get them and give them out a lot faster.

I went to Ben & Jerry's at a good time. There was barely a line for free ice cream at 2:00 p.m. I could have turned around and collected a second or third cup. But the afternoon was too sunny to allow for that - and the chocolate fudge brownie scoop I chose was simply too thick and rich to eat in a hurry.

A group of "red hat ladies" stood in front of me, in a short line outside Ben & Jerry's. They seemed a little puzzled when I asked if they chose cherry ice cream, to match their outfits.

Hopefully my conservative friends will NOT consider me a turncoat, for attending Free Cone Day. Ben & Jerry's has a reputation for supporting liberal causes. I actually tried to be a capitalist - only to be told no drinks were being sold with the ice cream. Their loss was Winn-Dixie's gain.

We'll have more to say about freebies another day - but now let's speed through other Tuesday topics:

+ Columbus Police reported a man was robbed before dawn outside the Georgia Motel on Victory Drive. The thief stole a wallet, a cell phone - and a quart of Old English 800 malt liquor. If this criminal is caught, he'll be "behind the eight ball" in more ways than one.

+ Atmos Energy confirmed an employee has been fired for misreading natural gas meters. Some customers received unusually low bills for February, then extra-large bills for March. But this employee was NOT getting a bonus for promoting the "level payment plan."

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop attended the signing of the health care reform act by President Obama. Bishop told THE 5:00 p.m. news he voted for reform because the U.S. is guided by two values: "love and the law." And as we all know, former President Clinton only lived by one of those....

+ Georgia Tech granted permission for men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt to talk with St. John's University of New York. Weighing the value of these two schools is a bit like comparing giant peaches with big apples....

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: 487 (+ 16, 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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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

23 MAR 10: Pure as the Driven Duck

Don't you love the folks at Aflac? Every time the company receives every kind of honor, they issue a news release which seems to get on every evening newscast. It's almost like that auxiliary campus had to be built to hold all the plaques.

Monday's big announcement was that Aflac has been named one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies." If you're going to make a statement like that, you had better pass a fact-check - else you'll have "duck egg" all over the face.

Aflac actually was named one of the World's Most Ethical Companies for the fourth year in a row. If the company's ethics are that strong, it needs to start offering full health insurance and prove House Republicans wrong.

The ethics title was awarded to Aflac by Ethisphere magazine. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. Ethisphere sounds like something Ethiopian runners use to train for the Boston Marathon.

Ethisphere actually is a quarterly publication from a "think tank" which focuses on business ethics and corporate "social responsibility." Uh oh -- Glenn Beck might see that last phrase and call on Aflac employees to flee.

Ethisphere honored three insurance companies as the "World's Most Ethical" this year - not only Aflac, but companies based in Wisconsin and Switzerland. It's hard to believe our "Bible Belt values" somehow made it to places that cold....

But here's the thing - companies nominate themselves for the title "World's Most Ethical." It's not exactly customer-driven, as the Ledger-Enquirer "Readers' Choice" awards are. But then again, the companies aren't trying to be named World's Most Humble.

While companies have to fill out surveys explaining their ethics policies, that's really no guarantee all is well at the top. I couldn't resist checking Ethisphere's first list of the "World's Most Ethical" from 2007 - and find it included Toyota.

Considering Aflac values ethics so highly, it's been surprisingly mute about the antics of the NASCAR driver it sponsors. A corporate statement says it trusts Carl Edwards's intentional crashing of an opponent in Atlanta "was handled appropriately." It calls the wreck simply an "on-track incident" - if it claims adjusters are still trying to determine if Aflac really has to pay damages.

The title of "World's Most Ethical" was given to Aflac less than a month after it was named a "Most Admired Company" by Fortune magazine. With titles this lofty, corporate executives might want to consider taking over Beacon Seminary.

Amazingly, a check of the Ethisphere home page Monday night found a featured essay by Aflac Chair Dan Amos. Trouble was, he wrote it 14 months ago - and he praises a "Say on Pay" vote by shareholders which hasn't been repeated in three years. Is Amos up for re-election next spring?

Hoping you have an ethical and enjoyable day, let's see what else made news Monday....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a not-so-nifty 50 degrees F. That was a record low for the day - giving coffee shop owners hope of one more week with big profits, before spring comes.

+ The Josh McKoon campaign released a list of public officials who have endorsed his State Senate campaign. The most surprising name on the list to me is Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr. Undercover officers must have informed him no Democrats are running for this seat.

+ Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal finally resigned - a resignation delayed two weeks so he could vote against health care reform. As tense as that vote was, he probably left office with a raw Deal....

(WRBL's late news showed Deal now is seeking the "Republication Nomination" for Governor. Republication domination has yet to spread across the nation - but Republication in this location is a different operation.)

+ Alabama Attorney General Troy King fired anti-gambling task force commander John Tyson. Then Tyson announced he won't leave office, and has the support of Governor Bob Riley. If all these Republicans had been in Washington over the weekend, the winning margin for health care reform wouldn't have been close.

+ WTVM showed the Columbus State University women's soccer team preparing for a trip to England. Each player's luggage has a 50-pound limit - and that's probably what their spending limit should be as well.

+ Fired Auburn men's basketball coach Jeff Lebo was hired by East Carolina. Lebo was out of work nine days - so thousands of unemployed workers now want him to post his cover letter online, so they can copy it.

+ Instant Message to the Over the Mountain Touchdown Club of Birmingham: Wow - you finally named Nick Saban the college football coach of the year? In late March?! Were you waiting to see how well Alabama started spring drills?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: FREE pastries with a beverage until 10:30 a.m. at Starbucks.... FREE ice cream cones from 12:00 noon - 8:00 p.m. at Ben & Jerry's.... and FREE warning messages to both companies about obesity from Michelle Obama....

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: 471 (+ 17, 3.7%)

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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Monday, March 22, 2010

22 MAR 10: Color Coding

"How are you doing?" the woman asked at the checkout of a well-known local department store.

"Well, I feel a little guilty," I admitted. If someone from "The Biggest Loser" had been with me, I would have felt very guilty - because the issue involved a box of chocolate candy.

This box of M&M's was on a "30-percent off" shelf at the department store. But the marked price actually was 75 percent off. In other words, they were practically giving away chocolate - as if Michelle Obama was about to walk inside for an anti-obesity speech.

But do you see what's different about this box of M&M's? It's one of those specialty boxes, where all the candies are the same color. There's no rainbow of colors here - especially none of the green ones, which somehow have become female in recent years based on the TV commercials.

Wal-Mart SuperCenters tend to sell the one-color M&M boxes. On a vacation in Panama City Beach last year, I passed those boxes as a couple of other men looked over the candy shelves. "You can tell we're still in the South," I told them. "They've segregated the M&M's by color."

I've admittedly avoided the one-color boxes of chocolates since M&M's introduced them several years ago. The main reason is because they tend to be marked at a higher price. There's true symbolism there - as segregated "academies" for children in Alabama and Mississippi tend to cost more money as well.

But this was a different department store, selling eight ounces of black M&M's for less than a basic small bag costs at the supermarket checkout. So I decided to put my wallet ahead of subtle civil rights statements, and bought a $2.69 box of chocolates for only 66 cents. Don't worry - I put them out of their misery in only three days.

Yet as I said, I felt a little guilt about this purchase - and I told the woman behind the checkout counter so. I mentioned it's a shame that M&M's has to resort to seeming discrimination of this nature. The woman laughed a bit at my explanation - which I think means she doesn't attend "One Columbus" meetings.

Am I being too hypersensitive about all this? After all, there are times of the year when people are expected to display certain particular colors. This past week was one example, with St. Patrick's Day. Yet the church movement I attend frowns on marking that day - so I intentionally did NOT wear green. But I wasn't an extremist, by refusing to carry dollar bills.

People have questioned me at times over the years, about how I eat regular rainbow-colored M&M's. When blue was a new color, I set those candies aside and ate them last. It was really an effort to count how many were in the bag - and NOT some kind of protest against Smurfs.

But admittedly, some big "holiday" bags of M&M's receive special treatment. If the purple ones are chomped first after Easter, it's merely because a loyal Kansas graduate doesn't want to be reminded of anything relating to Kansas State.

I do NOT intend to make a habit of buying those specialty one-color boxes. But even that discount purchase reminded me of the classic words of Forrest Gump. Life truly is like a box of chocolates - except they sometimes reveal more about your life than you might care to admit.

-> We took a long nail to our most recent poker game. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The Texan who wrote us Sunday about a "Star Trek" fan association conference adds a little more....

Mr. Burkard:

Thank you for posting my letter to your blog. I apologize for bring rude if I was...I was not intending to give my letter such a tone.

Anyway, yes, Columbus does have the Sputnik Bar (which I think the building has been there since the Eisenhower administration, which is fitting) and the CC Space Science Center, which a group of us did take in a mission there last week. I was very impressed with the facility and give Columbus credit for such a fascinating place to visit.

Now, to STARFLEET/Star Trek. Yes, I know that the original series debuted in 1966. I did not mean to predate that with my comment about Columbus still "living like it's 1955". STARFLEET has members on chapters in a lot of communities, and its fans follow every and anything Star Trek related. I was making emphasis about the name STARFLEET being all caps as that it is the name of the organization to which we belong, whereas Starfleet/Star Fleet is usually a reference to the actual organization in the series/movies. No offense was intended on either was an honest mistake. Also, if the folks in Zone 2 (Alabama) of Region 2 want, I suppose that a Summit/convention could be held in Enterprise, Alabama. Would not be a problem to schedule one there. Makes logical sense to me.

Columbus has finally evolved and moved into the 21st century, yet still has problems like any other city large or small. I visited Country's on Broad, Dinglewood (the scrambled dogs are still just as tasty as I remember) and other Columbus area businesses, and I was impressed to find that Southern hospitality has made a return. Much has indeed changed: the old Jordan/Cartersville Spinning plant had burned (my late mother, grandmother and aunt all worked there), Jordan High has been remodeled/renovated, but is still very much recognizable, and Veteran's Parkway above 54TH street has grown tremendously; lots of new business growth!

All in all, Columbus has made great strides in not only preserving its past ("What Progress Has Preserved"), but is looking to a brighter future. TSYS dominates the Uptown landscape, and technology and education seem to be Columbus' new employment leaders. I really feel that Columbus is on the right track to improving the lifestyle of its citizens, and I hope for only the best.

In conclusion, I did make it home to San Antonio safely early this morning. To be fair, I give Tim Chitwood grief occasionally, but I promised him that I would no longer write anything derogatory about or toward Columbus.

Thanks for your post. I will keep up as need be. Please feel free to respond/comment appropriately, as you see fit.


Steven Gordon

What do you know - a visitor who actually thinks the latest official city slogan makes sense. The talk of blowing up dams for a kayaking course had me wondering if the Columbus Chamber of Commerce forgot about it.

Now for good, bad and ugly from the first Sunday of spring....

+ An afternoon storm dropped heavy rain on Columbus, and what appeared to be grain-sized hail on my car. At least, I assume that's what those white specks on the windshield were -- although I suppose the storm could have blown some termites across the river from Phenix City.

+ Dick McMichael's blog reported the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Libraries System will renovate its "bookmobile," to add six computer stations and a satellite dish. All it needs is a coffee-making machine, and you could have Starbucks on wheels.

+ Oxbow Meadows held a demonstration of organic farming. This is a good idea, since Columbus will have its own Fresh Market later this year - and Lewis-Jones won't have all the high-priced produce to itself anymore.

+ Georgia Tech was eliminated from the NCAA men's basketball tournament by Ohio State 75-66. This is really a double slap. That other "Columbus" moves on to the regional -- while Yellow Jacket radio broadcasts still are shunned by the Columbus a mere 100 miles away.

+ Instant Message to Taco Bell on Victory Drive: Did I see it right Sunday morning -- two traffic officers in your driveway? Are shrimp tacos really attracting that big a crowd?

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: 436 (- 19, 4.2%)

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, March 21, 2010

21 MAR 10: Days of Chaos

Compared with last March, the worship service I attended this weekend wasn't quite as noisy. It's not like the pastor didn't try. He had the congregation say "Good afternoon" twice, because it was the first day of Spring.

The noise in the distance during the worship service was due to planes flying overhead for "Thunder in the Valley." In other years, our meeting place was directly in the flight line - and it sometimes sounded like the devil was in the cockpit, planning a kamikaze strike on our hall.

The Thunder in the Valley air show attracts big crowds, and sounds like a lot of fun. But this year's theme doesn't sound to me: "Extreme Chaos." Do you really want chaos at an air show - much less the extreme kind? I've seen video of such things, and it sometimes brings an unscheduled performance by fire departments.

Imagine if "extreme chaos" had broken out Thursday, when Mayor Jim Wetherington took a practice flight. The thought of 100 rookie police officers racing to Columbus Airport would have left drivers nervous across the city....

(With Jim Wetherington leaving office, shouldn't the candidates for mayor be required to take stunt flights? We need to know which one can be calm in the middle of a crisis.)

And imagine if extreme chaos had occurred Friday morning. WCGQ-FM invited "Greg T." from the Elvis Duran morning show to fly in a stunt plane. Columbus Airport was on the air from Philadelphia to Miami to Des Moines - and a moment of chaos might have chased even Atlantic Southeast Airlines away.

To be fair: the theme for Thunder in the Valley apparently resulted from the appearance of performers from "Team Chaos Air Shows." They include not only stunt pilots, but a man who drives "the world's fastest jet truck." In Columbus, such super-speeders run the risk of extra fines....

Even though reviewers say Team Chaos "mitigates risks" with its shows, it simply doesn't seem fitting to me to promote Thunder in the Valley with words like that. But then, I realize the promise of chaos might inspire some people to head to Columbus Airport - you know, the ones who missed that NASCAR crash Carl Edwards caused in Atlanta two weeks ago.

There's probably only one celebrity at Thunder in the Valley who has vivid memories of chaos. Sad to say, it's the 89-year-old man who helped drop the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 - and he was able to fly away from that chaos.

For some visitors to Thunder in the Valley, "extreme chaos" may have described the search for a parking spot. A free shuttle service was set up from the Columbus Public Library. Or you could park at the Airport Thruway Wal-Mart for five dollars - unable even to get an oil change while you were at the air show.

The promoters of Thunder in the Valley tried to attract a crowd from far and wide. I saw discount passes on soda bottles this past week, at a supermarket in Albany. At least the "extreme chaos" didn't stretch to discounts inviting people to drink beer while driving up Highway 520.

A different sort of chaos struck me Saturday night - and it left this Kansas graduate simply stunned. I'll simply link you to a reenactment of what happened when I turned on the television at sundown. Some call it "March madness." I'm more inclined to call it maddening....

-> We took a long nail to our most recent poker game. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of taking off - one small comment about a convention sent a reader into orbit....

Mr. Burkard:

You posted to your blog [15 Mar]:

+ About 80 people attended the regional "StarFleet" convention in Columbus. It's an organization for fans of "Star Trek" - so this group must have grown tired of meeting in Enterprise, Alabama.

It's STARFLEET, as in ALL SHOUTING, not StarFleet as you typed.

Up until I saw this comment, I had newfound respect for Columbusites. Apparently, some of you are still living like it's 1959...

Apparently, you and most other people in the Columbus area still treat Trek fans as geeks who live in their parents' basements looking at porn all the time. NOT TRUE! I myself am an educator and part-time DJ who met his friends and his current wife in STARFLEET, and I enjoy every minute with them!

As far as I know, we have never met in Enterprise, AL. We do have meetings in our cities all over STARFLEET and the regions. I myself live in Region 3, San Antonio, Texas. You have probably received (and posted) my emails. I have had issues with Columbus in the past, and put them to rest with this past visit. I will not allow your attitudes to alter my new views of Columbus, as you are only one person. I invite you to go to and check out our organization. hen check out the STARFLEET Region 2 website at and see for yourself.

But if we decide to have a STARFLEET Region 2 meeting to discuss futures in cotton, then Enterprise would be, as Mr. Spock would say, a logical choice.

From the city of San Antonip (via Pensacola, Florida),

Steven Gordon

Well, excuse me! I didn't realize you had to shout to be a member of Sta.... well, this group. Don't they plan to make futuristic spacecraft with mufflers, to keep down the noise?

And what's this stuff about 1959? "Star Trek" didn't premiere on TV until 1966. Besides, Columbus has added a Space Science Center to go with the Sputnik Bar....

According to the SFI web site, this fan organization had its roots in a group called the "USS Enterprise." I've never watched "Star Trek," but even I know that was the name of the original starship. So why not have a meeting in Enterprise, Alabama? Or for that matter, follow William Shatner's career and have a conference sponsored by the Mike Slocumb law firm.

So how does a comment about Enterprise, Alabama turn into a personal attack on the background of Star Trek fans? Not once did I hear anyone accuse the convention delegates of having pointy ears.

With apologies for causing any offense and disorder in the cosmos, we'll move on to other weekend headlines:

+ Congressman Sanford Bishop told GPB he'll vote for the health care reform bill in the House today. Bishop admits he'd be cursed either way, but decided to vote "on the side of right." That's funny - most of the right-wingers I've heard are against the bill.

(Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue issued a statement urging Sanford Bishop to vote no, explaining it will delay the state's recovery from recession. Perdue really should blame the state legislature for that - because it's refusing to pay for attorneys to challenge the reform bill in court.)

+ A citywide town hall meeting on teenage bullying was held at the Trade Center. Hopefully the organizers were sensitive in every part of this - and refused to serve a "nice Hawaiian Punch" for refreshments.

+ Columbus Regional held an event promoting family health. The hospital's blog says one seminar involved "rescuing your children" from addictive habits - such as texting. If texting requires a rescue, Columbus State University will be overrun with psychologists next week.

(Let the record show I do NOT engage in texting. When it comes to devices like that, I'm all thumbs.)

+ Instant Message to Jeremy Hobbs: I'm sorry to hear you're reducing hours at the Better Way Foundation this week to cut costs. But look on the bright side -- now you'll have more hours per week to run for Columbus Council.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: A great discount price, but a product with some misgivings....

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, March 19, 2010

19 MAR 10: Univ-Economics

What happened at Columbus State University Thursday was nothing short of confusing. They held a "teach-in" - yet they set up chairs on the lawn and held it outdoors?!

The outdoor teach-in next to the C.S.U. clock tower was the latest demonstration against proposed cuts in higher education funding. Faculty members were invited to explain what the cuts would mean for them and their departments. But if there was no chalkboard set up to illustrate the points, was it really teaching?

One hour of the teach-in was reserved for Columbus State students to speak their minds about the proposed budget cuts. It was billed as "open mic" time - and unlike Open Mic Nights at The Loft, C.S.U. music students actually could be on stage without fear of being heckled.

But there was one small problem with the teach-in. The video I saw on WTVM showed a lot of empty chairs -- and let's be honest: most college students will skip a teaching experience on a nice day if they can.

Yet Columbus State's Counseling Center Director claims there's no real apathy on the issue of college funding. Dr. Dan Rose says the Georgia Board of Regents isn't asking for cuts as large as before. Hmmmm - that might explain why the crowd wasn't as large as organizers expected.

The impact of potential state budget cuts is evident on the front page of this week's Saber, the Columbus State student newspaper. It shows a cougar mascot in a guillotine, with the sub-headline: "What that mean for you." Apparently the staff already is cutting letters from sentences....

An article inside the Saber provides details of what kinds of cuts Columbus State administrators are proposing. An estimated $258,000 would be saved by chopping the travel budget in half. Some of the coupons in credit card bills for discount car rentals finally might be used.

The Saber claims a 50-percent cut in C.S.U.'s travel budget will hurt because annoyed faculty members will leave, while "research productivity" will be lost. Huh?! If they're not traveling as much, won't they have MORE time at home to work on research? Or are faculty members in other states that much smarter?

Another proposed budget cut would save Columbus State $558,000 by reducing programs which do not involve earning degrees. The Saber claims that will bring a "loss of community and donor support." But maybe the idea is for private donations to pick up the slack. If the city of Columbus can pay for a crime lab, a few hours on preparing "classy cakes" should be easy.

The Saber contends "important outreach programs" will be lost if the budget for them is cut. Yet I don't hear anyone calling for the complete closure of the Space Science Center or Oxbow Meadows. You simply might have to wait a little longer between rattlesnake shows.

The Columbus State teach-in happened to occur on "Columbus Day" at the Georgia General Assembly. Chamber of Commerce delegates lobbied at the state capitol for university funding. President Mike Gaymon told WRBL another issue was the practice of having local sales tax revenue pass through Atlanta. If every airline flight does, why not all the sales tax money?

The teach-in wasn't the only protest event in Columbus Thursday. Another "Tea Party" rally was held downtown against health care reform - except the protesters came to Columbus from Coweta County. If the reform bill passes, higher costs might keep them from making bus trips to Hughston Clinic anymore.

I drove by the Tea Party protest late in the day, and noticed one of the signs said simply: "Vote No!" Part of me wanted to yell back that I'm not a U.S. House member, so I don't have a vote.

-> We took a long nail to our Thursday night poker game. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus Councilor Skip Henderson ended months of questions Thursday, by telling the Ledger-Enquirer he will NOT run for mayor. Henderson said simply the "time is not right." Maybe he's concerned too many people will avoid Columbus when cynics say "Skip Town."

Let's skip lightly through other Thursday headlines....

+ Testimony in Recorder's Court suggested a woman ordered her son to burn down River Road Pharmacy, as she prepared to move her mobile home to a Native American reservation. If herbal potions in South Dakota are that much better, maybe she should quit getting angry and sell them here.

+ The Georgia Senate voted unanimously to ban texting while driving. Such abbreviated messages should wait for a proper time and place - such as vanity license plates.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths clinched a playoff spot by knocking off Knoxville 7-5. Trouble is, the Snakes are the sixth seed in a seven-team league. It'll be strange for Coach Jerome Bechard to motivate his players with Ohio University basketball highlights.

+ In a stunning surprise, WRBL presented a live newscast after the evening NCAA basketball games - at 1:00 a.m. ET. In years gone by, "News 3" would have sent everyone home early and shown an infomercial. So viewers should thank Teresa Whitaker for dipping into her savings to pay for this.

+ Instant Message to anyone living on Benevolence Pumpkin Road in Stewart County: Do you really live up to that name? Will you offer me a free pumpkin if I stop by? Or do you throw them at me if my car makes too much noise?

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: 464 (+ 21, 4.7%)

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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Thursday, March 18, 2010

18 MAR 10: Water World

Wednesday was a rainy day in Columbus. Again. How many trees do we need to plant around the area to qualify for "rain forest" status?

If we're going to have all this water, we might as well turn it to our advantage. And the Columbus Chamber of Commerce is preparing to do exactly that. WRBL reported Wednesday night the chamber is preparing to announce the development of whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River. Some of us thought this already was water under the 13th Street Bridge.

Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gaymon said the money has been secured for whitewater rafting construction. But an official announcement about the project won't come until May or June. I'm not sure why Gaymon is waiting -- since I've never heard of someone water skiing from the back of a kayak.

Turning the Chattahoochee River downtown into a whitewater rafting zone will cost about $23 million. Mike Gaymon admits more money would be nice, to develop a two-mike kayak course. Hopefully the developers would build something that can double as a skateboard park during a drought.

The Army Corps of Engineers is promising money for the whitewater rafting area. Mike Gaymon says other funds are coming from "the private sector." Hmmmm - which companies lead the U.S. in paddle production?

Mike Gaymon says groundbreaking for the whitewater rafting project should occur early next year. Some people might ask how ground would be broken for something in the middle of the Chattahoochee -- but those people apparently haven't heard of the teenagers getting stuck on rocks when the river rises.

(There's also the matter of blowing up dams across the river, which once were helpful for mills. So many mills have closed in the Columbus area that they've become, well, a "dam shame.")

Mike Gaymon declared Columbus would be the largest city in the world with a whitewater rafting course. I think there's a good reason for that - most people enjoy kayaking with open-air nature around them, instead of buildings marked Synovus and Russell County Government.

But if all this whitewater talk sounds familiar, it should. People have talked for years about turning the Chattahoochee River into a rafting area - but nothing has been done to make it happen. In fact, mouths sometimes ran as fast as the river's water....

A smaller-scale construction project involving water already is underway in Columbus. WTVM showed work Wednesday on improving the Double Churches swimming pool. Soon it will stretch 25 yards from end to end, allowing people to swim laps -- for instance, as punishment for horseplay around the lifeguard.

Workers at the construction site say the pool renovation project is ahead of schedule, despite all the bad weather this winter. In fact, they might be hoping for more rain to fall - to fill the pool in a natural and organic way.

If that's not enough, the main office of Columbus Water Works will have a display today on preventing leaks. It's a main event of "Fix a Leak Week" -- and the water works is showing a lot of chutzpah to celebrate this week, after that big tank rupture last spring.

Columbus Water Works claims leaks cause the average U.S. home to waste 11,000 gallons of water per year. Wow - I get enough pain over spaghetti boxes specifying four quarts of water per pound now, instead of there.

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

E-MAIL UPDATE: We had fun with the phrase "frigid conditions" Tuesday, in describing a Columbus State softball game. The sportscaster who used that phrase would like to explain....

When you grow up in South Florida , 50 degrees and windy is frigid! Also I figured the dog wearing a sweatshirt was enough for me to proclaim cold conditions, haha. Thanks for watching!

Stuart Webber

Sports Director

WRBL-TV (News 3)

You'd think some company would sell special clothing, especially for the rare Florida cold snaps -- something like thermal-insulated walking shorts.

The Columbus State baseball team certainly isn't frigid right now. The Cougars stormed past Stillman 12-1 Wednesday, and now have won 21 consecutive games. They'd better declare blackjack right now, because a win this weekend would put them over the limit.

Let's circle the bases of other Wednesday news....

+ Columbus Police told WTVM someone broke a window at Lake Oliver Marina, and stole $100 worth of snacks and candy. The burglar must have left disappointed -- because all he had to do was sell a single "100 Grand" bar on eBay at face value to get rich quick.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's web site revealed Aflac President Paul Amos II is buying the Green Island mansion of Bill Heard Jr. It's a home with nine bathrooms [7 Jan 09] - so that duck has no more excuses for leaving a mess on the carpet.

+ Phenix City and West Point staged St. Patrick's Day parades. I assume a new tradition began in West Point this year - with a procession of green Kia Sorrentos.

+ The Georgia Senate voted to allow government-sanctioned street racing. The races would have to be publicized at least 30 days in advance - so all the teenagers in the neighborhood have plenty of time to practice jackrabbit starts in their driveways.

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) concluded for the season, as Troy lost to Mississippi 84-65 in the National Invitational Tournament. Troy recently broke ground for a new basketball arena on the main campus - so now you know why the downtown Phenix City campus site is being ignored.

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: 443 (+ 15, 3.5%)

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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