Wednesday, June 30, 2010

30 JUN 10: Discounted Yes, Free No

Columbus AT&T stores had long lines Tuesday, as people bought the new Apple "iPhone 4." The next upgrade of that ought to be really confusing - as people will think an "iPhone 5" should be a discount plan at T-Mobile.

Some people probably drove a good distance to shop for the iPhone 4 - but how far would you drive for something free? I sacrificed a half-day the other day, and drove from Columbus to Auburn. Before some of you get wrong ideas - no, I was NOT rummaging around Tommy Tuberville's former house.

The drive to Auburn offered me a free lunch, a free MP3 player and a chance to win a free Dell laptop computer. All I had to do was sit through a 90-minute presentation called an "Internet Marketing Conference" -- and for all I knew, I might learn why eBay has a few more daily visitors than my blog.

Perhaps you were mailed an invitation to this Internet Marketing Conference. Enough people received it that an evening presentation at a Columbus hotel quickly became full -- so that's why I drove to Auburn for it. And if the lunch wasn't filling enough, grazing in the aisles at Kroger afterward could compensate.

To be honest, I'd sat through this 90-minute presentation before -- and even blogged about it before [30 Jul 03]. But the Internet has changed to some extent over the last seven years, so there might be something new. Why, in 2003 many people would have guessed "Linked In" referred to an Alabama chain gang.

The goal of the conference is to get people to reserve their own website through an all-purpose Internet company. The company hosts the site, provides consultation with business development - but the big issue now is getting sites to the top of list on search engines. To borrow from an old song, it don't mean a thing if you're not first on Bing.

The conference presenter named Matt admitted up-front to the audience: "It takes time to make money." In Auburn, he could get away with saying this. In Columbus, he would have been directed to any convenience store selling lottery tickets.

But I almost felt like crawling under the table when Matt talked about people attending the conference merely for free food and music players. He said those people were there "for the wrong reasons." I guess that means I should want a steady online income, instead of settling for consolation prizes.

The conference gave me a couple of helpful web-related pointers, which are.... well, I'd say they're too wonky to mention or joke about here. But I might also give away some secrets, which will make Dick McMichael's blog pass me once and for all.

After the 90-minute presentation was over and while the conference team tried to encourage enrolling with a $30 discount rate, the Auburn hotel's staff served lunch. I received a chicken salad sandwich, a little potato salad and a cookie on a plastic plate. Somehow I think children getting free lunches during summer break had more nourishment.

(At least the hotel staff offered real silverware and glasses for sweet tea, to go with lunch. But aren't stainless steel forks on plastic plates the modern equivalent of wearing a red shirt with green slacks? Unless it's December, or you're touring Mexico?)

As for the free MP3 player - I don't have it yet. Matt the presenter explained his company doesn't ship a box full of prizes to conference sites anymore, because they arrive days in advance and could be stolen. I'm not sure why criminals do that. These aren't iPods, after all - more like you-Cheapskates.

I have to send a mail-order form to obtain my MP3 player. But at least the conference organizers are picking up the shipping and handling charges -- and I hope they'll mail the player in a discreet box, so would-be thieves mistake it for a box of checks.

It's almost the "blog days" of summer here, because not much news thrilled me Tuesday....

+ Qualifying continued for nonpartisan races in Georgia. Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan currently has no opposition -- and the official state filing list shows he also has no address. It's a shame when public officials are so busy that they practically live at the Government Center.

+ A conference on updating Georgia's high school astronomy curriculum concluded at the Space Science Center. The new material had better not mention UFO's - because the way Roy Barnes sounds in his commercials, he'll ban any mention of that if he's elected Governor.

+ The Carmike 15 theatres at Columbus Park Crossing had a midnight screening of the new "Twilight" movie, called "Eclipse." Does this premiere have anything to do with the "Black Stars" of Ghana eliminating the U.S. soccer team from the World Cup last weekend?

+ Thursday's free Jimmy Buffett concert along the Alabama Gulf coast was postponed ten days. Hurricane Alex is hundreds of miles away, yet there's concern waves could ruin a stage set up on the beach. You'd think some sticky tar balls could hold the wood in place....

+ Instant Message to Wok N Roll on U.S. 280 in south Opelika: I'm glad you finally replaced the sign that had "restaurant" misspelled. Now you need someone to fix it again - because I really don't think Monday's high temperature was 111 degrees F.

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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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

29 JUN 10: Boxes and Boxcutters

The Monday morning run started earlier than usual - a little before 8:00 a.m. ET. Getting on the Riverwalk when the summer temperature is only 75 degrees F. may have helped me run a little farther. It's either that, or my new running shoes somehow are strengthening my lungs.

Monday's course was a round-trip from Golden Park to the area of Port Columbus. Not many people were out on the Riverwalk at that hour, reminding me of a complaint years ago by then-TV reporter John Lyles. He claimed the city spent more money on the Riverwalk than the traffic justified. What would he say now -- as more people walk near the Chattahoochee River than kayak in it?

The run was uneventful for me, until I watched the Monday night news on WLTZ. Then I learned someone was robbed Sunday morning, apparently on the very section of the Riverwalk I'd been running. I make it a point NOT to carry any money with me when I run - since for one thing, no Gatorade vending machines have been set up outside.

Columbus Police reported a 74-year-old woman surrendered a white gold necklace, when someone stopped her on the Riverwalk with a boxcutter. If the U.S. Supreme Court isn't going to do anything about gun possession, maybe boxcutter regulations should be next....

One blog reader has asked if I felt unsafe jogging on the Riverwalk, especially after dark. Stray dogs actually have been more of an issue for me than potential criminals. Perhaps it's because potential criminals see me running and presume I'll escape them - as opposed to the dogs, which don't care and probably are much faster.

But Sunday's robbery adds to a list of cases raising questions about pedestrian or jogger safety. A woman was attacked at sunrise several weeks ago, while walking at Lakebottom Park. And last fall, we noted a man walking by himself on the Riverwalk wearing a "state prisoner" jacket [27 Oct 09]. I never heard an explanation about that. Based on recent events, he might have been heading to a game of billiards.

The WLTZ report showed a wooden bridge connecting sections of the Riverwalk, between South Commons and Port Columbus. That bridge was closed for renovation last year - and I was disappointed when it re-opened, because it still had no lighting. Sometimes I shake my keys when jogging on it after dark. Who knows how many people thought I was one of those Port Columbus ghosts.

It's nice to know police plan to have a special "beat" on the Riverwalk. But let's face it - they can't be everywhere all the time. So robberies like the one on Sunday still can happen, and criminals can get away before alleged victims can contact an officer. Especially if the robbers demand your iPhone....

It occurred to me Monday night that the Riverwalk lacks one big crime prevention tool. Why not do what Columbus State University did -- and install call boxes for contacting 911? They could be attached to the light poles already there, at half-mile or one-mile intervals. But of course, last year's rains remind me they'd also need to be waterproof.

A glowing call box could summon police to dangerous situations faster. It might even serve as a crime deterrent - as long as they're firmly secured, so people with passing boxcutters can't cut any cords.

-> Monday night marked our best poker showing in several months. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Remember the problems with some Columbus natural gas bills earlier this year [24 Mar]? A reader offered this update Monday....

I just had the nicest young man repair my Atmos meter..There are some good people still there..He said they were still working on correcting the mess the meter reader made when he made up gas usage numbers... Loved the humor in Monday's political candidates who qualified for campaigns..Gave me a good Monday morning laugh...

Since summer tends to be the "off-season" for natural gas usage, Atmos Energy can get the bills right -- and even scare a few more customers into enrolling in the Budget Billing Plan.

Columbus remains a one-option city, when it comes to natural gas service. Atlanta residents can choose from several companies - yet none of them have gone after the "Extreme Makeover" fans, by offering natural gas in designer colors.

Let's see what other good and bad news took place Monday:

+ Qualifying week began from Columbus city offices. The Ledger-Enquirer reported Benny Parker will challenge District 3 Councilor Julius Hunter. Parker could gain a lot of votes by promising to bring in a big-name restaurant - you know, a Benny-hana.

+ A drive through Phenix City revealed the former CharBroil restaurant soon will become a Loco's Grill and Pub. That's nice - but I think Brewster's Ice Cream next door still will have less expensive desserts.

+ Atlanta firefighters safely rescued two window washers, who became stuck outside the 47th floor of a midtown skyscraper. Let's all be thankful none of the firefighters watch that new game show "Downfall."

+ Atlanta whipped Washington 5-0 in major league baseball. Phenix City native Tim Hudson outpitched Washington rookie sensation Stephen Strasberg - but Hudson probably realized things were still like the 1980s at Turner Field, and most of the crowd was NOT there to watch him.

+ Instant Message to The Red Barn on U.S. 280 in Phenix City: Thanks for hosting Monday night poker tournaments. But really now -- NO television screens showing the Strasberg-Hudson baseball battle?! And do that many customers really go to your bar to watch "Antiques Road Show" on GPB?

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: 704 (+ 22, 3.2%)

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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Monday, June 28, 2010

28 JUN 10: Enter and Sign In, Please

After months of planning and positioning, a big week begins in Columbus today. Surely you've noticed all the paving work on Veterans Parkway and downtown streets - all to make sure candidates get to the Elections Office without ruining their cars.

It's time for "qualifying week" for Columbus city elections. Candidates will file for mayor, five city council seats, half of the Muscogee County School Board.... in fact, about the only office you CAN'T seek is an Election Board seat to oversee everybody else.

Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer revealed how much it costs to run for Columbus city office. The qualifying fee for Council is $420. The fee to run for mayor is $1,950. This makes the mayor's office a better value, because you can serve eight times as many people at a 42-percent discount rate.

Unlike other years, many candidates for Columbus city office already have announced their campaigns. But in a stunning shift, Bert Coker has indicated he'll run for the at-large Columbus Council seat - after telling this blog he was running for school board. Coker had better not say anything in his campaign about keeping his promises....

It was November 2008 when Bert Coker told me he'd run for Muscogee County School Board [9 Nov 08], apparently against John Wells. But in late May, Coker filed a "Declaration of Intention" form at the Government Center saying he'd run for Council Post 9 instead. At least Charles Lawhon was polite enough to announce his campaign flip-flop online.

Bert Coker's change means qualifying week will begin with no official challenger for John Wells, where once he seemed to have two. What could have made the difference? Did Wells threaten to bring in some bulls from Pamplona, Spain to run through Columbus streets?

Bert Coker will be part of a crowded campaign for the Council seat Wayne Anthony is surrendering. Election Board records show five candidates plan to run for Post 9 - so it maybe "at large," but the percentages for each contestant may be really small.

The Courier's columnist "Brother Love" raised a good point recently about Post 9 candidate Judy Thomas. If she has campaign signs all over Columbus, why hasn't she resigned her job as the mayor's executive assistant? Besides that, how did a Democrat like Thomas approve "JT" logos which look a little like a Republican elephant?

(This is a case where the "letter of the law" and the spirit of the law are different things. Thomas probably would say she's not officially a candidate until she files the fee. And for all we know, those campaign signs may be posted by off-duty police officers.)

As of now, two Columbus Councilors have no announced opposition. Mimi Woodson is likely to run for another term in District 7. It appears Mike Baker will do the same in District 5 - and do it very quietly, to match his approach to the past four years.

The main event in Columbus, of course, is the race for mayor. In case you've missed some critical developments of recent days....

+ Large billboards for Zeph Baker appeared across the city. Let the record show one of them DOES have his picture on it, north of Manchester Expressway.

+ Teresa Tomlinson was invited to speak at the Junior Marshal program's closing ceremony. Marshal Greg Countryman may be more color-blind than some people think.

+ Paul Olson's website disclosed his wife "at one time was considered one of the best lady bowlers in the state of Georgia...." We certainly don't want a mayor whose wife has a gutter mentality.

This is also a big campaign week in Atlanta. Independent candidates can file papers for statewide offices, from Governor to the General Assembly. So it's a different sort of qualifying week there - or as they might be calling it at Reginald Pugh's house, "last call."

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

BLOG UPDATE: That critical minister we mentioned Saturday might want to pay attention to the wife of the Cascade Hills Church Pastor. This weekend's Bill Purvis telecast on WLTZ featured Debbie Purvis warning: "You don't touch God's anointed." Too bad the e-mail critics of her husband don't sign their names - I can't check the obituary listings for them.

Debbie Purvis admitted husband Bill sometimes receives "constructive criticisms" about his preaching. But she claimed based on the Bible, you correct ministers at your own peril. Wow - do I feel guilty! I went to the Pastor a couple of years ago and noted his Powerpoint presentation referred to Second Thessalonians, when it should have said First.

Speaking of risking a "God-smack," let's see what else caught our attention over the weekend....

+ A severe thunderstorm spread rain across north Columbus. WTVM reported lightning hit a tree, causing a brief fire at a home for sale on 17th Avenue. The real estate agent quickly changed the ad online to include the words, "fixer-upper."

+ Amateur radio buffs concluded a 24-hour exercise at Idle Hour Park in Phenix City. You'd think more people would have this hobby in the rural South - you know, as country hams.

+ Instant Message to whomever set up a fireworks tent on Macon Road in front of Kmart: You know the rules, right? If you sell anything other than sparklers in Georgia, you'll wish those Black Cats never crossed your path....

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: 682 (- 50, 6.8%)

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, June 27, 2010

27 JUN 10: 47 to Nothing

Now this is amazing! Our topic today matches the score of Saturday's Youth Indoor Football League All-Star game. Yet it has nothing to do with Texas's big win over Columbus -- although if digital channel 47 had shown more games like that, it might not have dwindled to nothing this month.

But I should explain: television watching at my house is sporadic in several ways. With no cable or satellite service, it's broadcast-only. What I see depends on "rabbit ears," a long cable coming through the living room wall -- and oh yes, my body. Lean the wrong way while standing in a corner, and the 6:00 p.m. news might disappear.

So when I couldn't pick up one station's broadcast signal over the last few weeks, I didn't think much of it. After all, I lost GPB to "The Big Switch" last year -- and the letters begging me for donations finally seem to have stopped.

But now I know what happened to that missing station. It wasn't my TV set after all. The owners of WLGA-TV quietly took the station off the air three weeks ago. If the Ledger-Enquirer still hasn't done a story on it and no one e-mailed us about it, apparently it's not being missed very much.

WLGA apparently couldn't recover from the loss of The CW Network last year. CW programming is now on WLTZ's 38.2 -- when it isn't interrupted by some critical local program, like the daily Budget Car Sales infomercial during the noon hour.

I never understood why WLGA didn't go after My Network TV's prime-time programming. WXTX shows those programs after midnight, which I know upsets some Friday night wrestling fans. Instead of the entire family watching "WWE Smackdown," the children have to go lie down.

One thing I liked about WLGA in recent months was its telecasts of Southeastern Conference basketball. You could watch the Tennessee Lady Vols blow out an opponent every Sunday, then switch to ABC and watch the Los Angeles Lakers do the same thing.

WLGA tried to survive as an independent station, with everything from prime-time movies and evening game shows to reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show." But in 2010, too many people have cable or satellite TV and can see those things elsewhere. Maybe WLGA needed something different, local and popular - like coverage of Columbus poker tournaments.

Yet the online notice about WLGA's death offers this vague promise: "We anticipate that WLGA-TV will return to normal broadcast operations in the future...." What does that mean? Did some jealous engineer repeat what happened a few years ago, and knock over the station's antenna?

To get to the bottom of this, we made some phone calls Friday. WLGA's local office only has a terse message saying the station is off the air -- then a beep. I left a message, just in case someone checks that box. We'll see if someone calls back from bankruptcy court.

Then I called the headquarters of WLGA's owner. Pappas Telecasting is based in central California - and its latest online "news" item is the switch of WLGA from channel 66 with the station going independent. But of course, all that happened 14 months ago. I hope their stations with actual news departments are more current than that....

The woman who answered the phone at Pappas Telecasting couldn't comment on WLGA. But in a noteworthy sign, she gave me a phone number for an employee of Azteca America - a Spanish-language network, which has a low-power station in Atlanta. A check of the schedule indicates the highlight might be nightly Jerry Springer-style fights, with a different "Dr. Laura."

The Azteca America employee has yet to return our message - but could something be brewing here which I've predicted for years? Will Columbus soon have a full-time Spanish TV station? Could we trade "Access Hollywood" updates on Kate Gosselin for non-stop coverage of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez?

We'll keep watching those dark spots on the dial - but in the meantime, let's see what's happening this weekend:

+ The Georgia Fraternal Order of Police held a conference in Columbus, and heard from several candidates for Georgia Governor. So which one promised to add Mayor Jim Wetherington to his staff?

+ Chattahoochee Valley Community College President Laurel Blackwell announced she'll retire in January. We hope she'll appreciate it when the proposed speed trap along U.S. 431 is named after her....

+ The "Georgia Highway 27 Association" held a meeting in Columbus. The group wants drivers to pull off the interstate, and appreciate the scenery along U.S. 27 - but please do it on weekends, so Harris County commuters won't be late getting to work in Columbus.

+ The country band Badhorse performed at the Phenix City Amphitheater. But when I jogged by, the crowd was meager compared with Percy Sledge three weeks ago -- so maybe more people would show up if the group was named Good-horse.

+ The Columbus Lions ended the regular season with a 38-20 win over Albany. Forget about the vuvuzela horns in the stands - who designed the Lions' uniforms, so you couldn't figure out their numbers? It almost looked like the "cancer pink" jerseys from several weeks ago faded away at the laundromat.

(The Lions next will have a home playoff game 8 July. That's the night before the Jehovah's Witnesses conference begins at the Civic Center - so I can't wait to see the team hand out "devil dolls" for choking and pounding.)

+ Columbus native Edwin Jackson pitched a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks. One online source indicated Jackson threw 149 pitches. The way major league baseball games go these days, I thought that violated the union contract.

+ Instant Message to Club Oxygen: Wow - you have a parking space reserved on Broadway for the media?! Is Sonya Sorich showing up every night now, to check on contenders for "So You Think You Can Dance"?

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: 732 (+ 14, 1.9%)

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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Saturday, June 26, 2010

26 JUN 10: Guilty As Charged?

(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.)

It may shock some people, but a sad truth is becoming clear in Columbus. No one in city government is perfect. The problem is that people are accusing each other of the imperfections. No one holding public office is daring to admit to errors themselves -- or at least their attorneys haven't recommended it yet.

It's one thing when public servants or attorneys point fingers of blame. But it's unusual when religious leaders do it - especially when they do it directly toward each other. Some pastors are satisfied simply to point at a TV camera during a sermon, and assume all the bad pastors TiVo the good ones.

A curious example of religious finger-pointing came to my attention this week. The leader of a small Christian ministry with an office in Alabama e-mailed the four finalists for President of another church association - basically telling them they need to repent. If this man also has e-mailed the Pope and Iranian ayatollahs, he has yet to announce it.

The two groups came out of the same religious movement, which gained fame on TV and radio for the "World Tomorrow" program years ago. Bill Glover of Living God Ministries claims leaders of the United Church of God are off-base, because they organized a spin-off group through a "rebellion." It's apparently better to wait for a bad boss to fire you, so you can take the unemployment checks....

A series of e-mails from Bill Glover is filled with juicy nuggets of gossip. One religious blog highlighted his claims of sexual seduction among church leaders long deceased, and attempts to buy the silence of someone who knew the truth. If you didn't know better, you might think you're reading the National Enquirer's coverage of Al Gore.

But what struck me more about the e-mails is how Bill Glover challenges the potential church presidents, with nothing short of name-calling. He describes them as "paranoid," and says association ministers use church deacons as "goon squads." When the usher passes the offering basket down your row, he might be paying more attention than you realize.

Bill Glover's e-mails include an amazing dare. He wants United Church of God leaders to meet him personally, for a prayer for God "to powerfully show who is representing Him and His way of doing things." The next time a sinkhole opens in downtown Columbus, it might not be due to old sewer lines after all.

Bill Glover admits he's trying to be like the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, to show the leaders of this other church association their sins. But this approach admittedly appalls me - because in the New Testament, Jesus talks about removing a plank from your own eye before pointing out specks in other people's eyes. Glover seems more ready to use his plank like a two-by-four.

If Bill Glover was accusing church ministers of egregious sins along the lines of Jimmy Swaggart in the 1980s, I might understand it. But he's accusing these leaders of preaching a false gospel or having a wrong form of government. Baptists and United Methodists might exchange trash talk about that on the softball diamond, but otherwise....

I see a lesson from this e-mail assault for everyone involved in the "Rec-Gate" controversy. Are local public officials and attorneys too quick to find fault with each other? Shouldn't we know better than to jump to conclusions? After all, impulsive foul calls almost eliminated the U.S. soccer team from the World Cup.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: Why did something powerful in Columbus suddenly go out of business? We're trying to get some answers....

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: 718 (- 79, 9.9%)

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

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

25 JUN 10: Downtown Flee Market

Columbus State University Police arrested a suspect Thursday in a series of car break-ins downtown. Officers think Eric Mobley lurked around parking garages at the RiverPark campus, stealing iPods and DVD players. .Does this explain why I see some SUV's rolling around town with two or three video screens - none of them checking weather radar?

Whoever has been breaking into cars downtown could help himself to a free and open treasure right now, by driving a few blocks. An apartment complex in the Historic District has no fewer than 20 trash bags filled with items waiting along the curb -- along with objects too large to stuff in bags. It's like a giant yard sale, only without the sale....

A resident at this apartment complex apparently was evicted this week - and in the process, everything in that person's apartment was carted to the curb as garbage. The landlord's crew apparently hasn't heard about the city's "7:00 a.m. rule" for leaving trash on pick-up days. Either that, or it's trying to get all the other residents held in suspicion.

I know from experience that some people tend to roam residential neighborhoods, looking for items left outside as garbage. It's the old phrase, "One person's trash is another person's treasure" -- and I should stop here to thank whomever hauled off a well-worn box spring in suburban Atlanta years ago, after someone gave me a waterbed.

I first noticed the large apartment complex collection Wednesday night, as I stepped outside to head for a poker night. But I walked right by - because if I could win the top prize, I might buy new items instead of collecting used ones. And the new items might be more likely to work and fit. Well, maybe - as I once bought a new car with a gas gauge that didn't work.

But after the morning run Thursday, it was time to do some bargain-hunting. The evicted person apparently was quite a pack-rat, as I found several phone books in boxes at the curb -- apparently stocking up before AT&T stops automatically handing them out.

Free bedding also was available at the curb. I didn't need that, of course -- as my waterbed still works well, and thankfully has never boiled over during summer heat.

A nice silver cosmetics box also was available, complete with make-up inside. But as I told another man looking through the pile, I'm getting to the age where that would only help me a little....

The guy in me had his eye on a couple of other items. I picked up a stack-style stereo system, with twin cassette deck and three CD trays -- and in true guy style, a piece of duct tape was stuck next to a cassette door which refused to shut.

The stereo system lit up, when I plugged it in. But everything else was trouble. One of the CD trays insisted on opening every few seconds. The radio tuner apparently had a knob missing, as it didn't want to tune in stations. And there was no place to plug in speakers, except for a single "subwoofer out" hole. I'm not running a sandwich shop, thank you....

The stereo system was so uncooperative that I gave up, and returned it to the pile at the curb. Maybe someone else could strip it down for parts - perhaps by throwing it against a wall over and over in frustration.

The second system I carried away from the pile was an HP printer-scanner. It lacked any cords, but I have several from other printers I've owned - printers which refused to work after a few uses. When toner ink seems to evaporate from the cartridge while the door is closed in summer, that's trouble....

As I write this, the HP printer is still a work in progress. I'll need to buy an ink cartridge to determine if it works. Trouble is, cartridges start at 12 dollars each - and I read online I have to download the printer's driver. Is HP going to count my pages, and send an e-mail about paper when I'm close to 500?

One person told me by going through the discarded items at the curb, I wasn't far from "dumpster diving." Maybe so - but you never know when something valuable might turn up. And at least there's no risk of getting stuck inside the dumpster, and having a trash truck haul me to the landfill.

BLOG UPDATE: The Tony Adams side continues to press the attack in the "Rec-Gate" review. Now attorney Don Jackson claims Columbus Police are threatening to prosecute uncooperative Parks and Recreation witnesses. Jackson calls that unusual. I'd call it about half the crime dramas ever to appear on television.

Don Jackson told the Ledger-Enquirer Columbus Police has illegally obtained bank records - and the records belong to people "entirely unrelated to the investigation." Is this proves anything, it could show Lifelock isn't a scam after all....

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION first asked about Parks Director Tony Adams's future, but now turns in the other direction. Are the attorneys right about Columbus Police being biased in the audit review? Should the review be conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation? Or perhaps the Muscogee County District Attorney - which at least would ensure Adams does NOT face capital punishment.

Let's see what else we can probe from Thursday's news....

+ Your blog confirmed WRBL is searching for a new news director. Christine Tanaka apparently is leaving after four years - and at least she's leaving while the station still has a little news to direct.

+ A car crashed into a pole on Wynnton Road, knocking out power for hundreds of people. Then a Georgia Power repair crew made matters worse, by hitting a natural gas main. If an Atmos Energy crew had panicked and opened a fire hydrant, that would have been the utility trifecta.

+ WRBL showed Chattahoochee River water being diverted through the old Eagle and Phenix Mill's powerhouse. Uptown Columbus leaders say it's part of the process to build the whitewater rafting course -- and we hope the loft space residents can turn up their stereos, to accommodate the extra noise.

(Before some of you write to ask: Richard Bishop of Uptown Columbus has NOT hired midget wrestlers to build the rafting course.)

+ NCR announced it will add 90 more jobs at its Columbus plant. They verified the number by bringing one of those old "National Cash Register" calculators out of a storage closet.

+ Tickets for a free Jimmy Buffett concert along the Alabama coast disappeared in ten minutes -- then were offered on eBay for more than $100. If this is how British Petroleum plans to pay damage claims, the oil company has fouled things up again....

+ The Atlanta Hawks used a draft pick and trade to obtain Xavier's Jordan Crawford - a player who gained fame last summer for dunking a basketball over LeBron James. This could be a stroke of genius for Atlanta. Either James signs with the Hawks this summer, or history will repeat itself.

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: 797 (+ 18, 2.3%)

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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Thursday, June 24, 2010

24 JUN 10: Heal Thyself

So I was reading a religious article Wednesday which suggested God is unhappy when sick people go to doctors, instead of looking to heaven for healing. Uh-oh, I asked myself -- does this work in the other direction? If I go to a supermarket for my food, is God also unhappy? Does He want me to grow a garden and pick up leftover gleanings from farms?

Several local news stories Wednesday seemed to have a common theme - taking charge of your own health. There's really nothing wrong with that. Take charge on your own, and you might not run up a charge account at the hospital....

The first news item came from a meeting of the Columbus Board of Health. Because the Georgia state budget remains tight, the board voted to close the Health Department office one weekday a month for ten months. I can think of a couple of big corporate health fairs which can fill the gap -- if they don't mind moving from Saturday to Friday.

The Columbus Board of Health needed to cut its budget about $200,000 - and members told WTVM it was easier to close the office on Comer Avenue completely ten times. The board could have spread out the furlough days across the calendar year. But news of a "spreading health problem" would have invited panic.

For some Health Department workers not on the Georgia state payroll, this will be their first experience with furlough days. They might discover the time off actually has health benefits - as long as you think about extra exercise helping your lungs, instead of leaving a less padded wallet.

Before the furlough days begin, the Columbus Health Department will offer free confidential tests for the AIDS virus Friday. Did you notice the company which used to make condoms in Eufaula never offered such a service?

Meanwhile, East Alabama Medical Center posted signs Wednesday declaring the entire campus will become "smoke-free" in October. You won't even be able to smoke outside on the grounds - so please keep the tailgate cookouts this fall closer to the Auburn University campus.

Some employees of East Alabama Medical Center admit they're smokers, so the new restrictions will be a challenge. One woman explained she smokes for "stress relief." So which state lawmaker will offer the logical Alabama alternative - installing electronic bingo machines inside hospitals?

Columbus Regional already has a "smoke-free campus" policy. That includes the John B. Amos Cancer Center - where I suppose the no-smoking signs have to be worded carefully, so some patients don't have added guilt trips to go with their treatment.

Then there's the new supermarket which opened Wednesday near the mall in Auburn. Earth Fare specializes in organic foods. Most people in Auburn understand "organic" refers to gardening and food. In most of Columbus, people think "organic" refers to how the music is played at church.

While Whole Foods Markets is a national chain concentrating on big cities such as Atlanta and Birmingham, Earth Fare is a smaller Southeast chain. It has two stores in its headquarters city of Asheville, North Carolina - which I suppose will lead some to conclude to include it's one of the most liberal cities in the state.

Earth Fare follows a "food philosophy" for the items it sells. The rules include NO artificial colors and NO bleached flour. It sounds like they follow the advice, "If it's white, don't eat it" - which I thought was quite revealing when I read it in a Nation of Islam publication.

Columbus shoppers will get something similar to Earth Fare, when The Fresh Market opens on Bradley Park Drive in a few weeks. Its website has an organic section, but doesn't seem to have the strict rules on ingredients. If this chain really cared that much about your quality of health, why is it selling beer?

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes.... well, today it goes to Kurt Cobain. See what we mean at "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Someone has been watching Broadway intently for us recently....

What's on Tap this Weekend in Uptown?

Midget Wrestling (Oxygen Club) and Sexy Lady Lap Dance Contest (The Big City Club).

Uptown Inc must be proud of the improvements in both the quality and sophistication of the entertainments offered in Uptown

Now hold on here -- what do you have against small people? You're sounding almost like a British Petroleum executive.

These unusual events didn't seem to make the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau's online calendar. But it does note the Chamber of Commerce is having an "Eye-Opener Breakfast" at the Trade Center today. Put those two activities on the program, and business owners' eyes REALLY would be open.

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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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

23 JUN 10: Mc-Krystal Mistakes

No, our title today is NOT misspelled. We're not focusing on the controversy involving a top general in Afghanistan. When any U.S. General talks to Rolling Stone magazine, it's simply a recipe for disaster....

My recipe for dinner Tuesday night took me to a fast-food restaurant which admittedly has frustrated me recently. I stopped at Krystal - a place which has shown some funny TV commercials lately. Sonic guys eat Krystals, then Sonic guys are at the Wendy's drive-thru. What's next - guys in cow suits demanding burgers at KFC?

The banner outside Krystal promising $2.99 value meals seemed interesting to me. But when I walked inside, they weren't on the menu board above the register. In fact, there wasn't much on the board at all. A menu which used to stretch halfway across the room now is quite compact - as if it's a subliminal message against obesity.

I stared at the Krystal menu board. And I stared. And stared some more - because the dinner options didn't offer much beyond combo meals. You know, with fries and a drink. I could pour myself a drink at home. And I try to avoid potatoes because of reports the growing process poisons people - not to mention the fact that French fries almost rhymes with oversized.

After a long period of staring, I finally asked the Krystal server how the French fries are cooked. While most major restaurants have abandoned the use of animal fat in their fries, I wasn't sure if Krystal had. Hmmmm - come to think of it, I never did ask about the fat content of the burgers....

A woman in the back checked, and reported a new kind of soybean oil was used now. OK, that eased my guilt cloud a little. "But you still can't order just the sandwich," I told the Krystal crew.

"Yes, you can...." they contended.

"But it's not on the board," I noted -- recalling from other commercials that Burger King is the only place on Earth allowing you to "have it your way."

This is why Krystal has frustrated me on several recent visits. The menu board leaves the impression you can't order sandwiches by themselves anymore. Only one line mentioned "the famous Krystal" by itself -- and you have to buy 24 of them. Leftover burgers aren't quite as easy to reheat as Church's chicken.

The lowest-priced dinner option on the Krystal menu board was a bowl of chili for $1.69. Ordering chili in the heat of late June makes about as much sense as standing in line outside Brewster's Ice Cream on a January night.

Apparently I'm not the only one who's become frustrated with the Krystal menu board. "If you have a computer, let 'em know about it," an employee told me. "We've been complaining for a couple of years." It's sad to say we could start a stink over a sack of six. And it's even tougher to say that five times fast....

I finally knuckled under to the menu board, and ordered B.A. combo meal #10 for $4.89. Then the Krystal staff asked if I wanted cheese on it. For 24 cents more, I felt even more like a big spender.

But all I carried to dinner was a five-dollar bill and a little change. With tax, Krystal combo #10 cost me $5.49. That's when I admittedly showed my age, and made the woman at the register marvel - by mentioning I could remember when Krystals only cost 39 cents.

I wound up paying for dinner at Krystal with a credit card - and to me, that's a shame. This chain used to pride itself on little burgers at low prices. Now it acts like the place where people should get food to go with their Starbucks lattes.

As I waited for combo meal #10, I suddenly remembered something. Where were the $2.99 value meals mentioned outside on the banner? The Krystal counter woman simply pointed TO the counter - and a placard listing three choices there. All I had to do was look down, and my bill would have come down with it.

Oh yes - our title has a "Mc" to go with the Krystal. Am I the only person in Columbus staying away from McDonald's, because of that controversial commercial in France? Well, I did - but after an online check Tuesday night, my personal boycott is over. Of course, that probably means that tempting 69-cent cheeseburger offer will end this week.

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

BLOG UPDATE: The heat in "Rec-Gate" was turned up by both sides Tuesday. Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams added Montgomery attorney Don Jackson to his legal team - making me wonder if they met on one of those basketball road trips.

Don Jackson immediately demanded the review of the Parks Department audit be moved from Columbus Police to a state agency. Jackson told WRBL the police are "not neutral" in this case. How does he know that, if he lives in Montgomery? Has Jackson been told of retired police officers losing bingo games at senior centers?

Don Jackson wants the review moved to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or Attorney General's office, claiming "Rec-Gate" is politically motivated. But Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren reports his office has barely started the review. And the last time I checked, neither Mayor Jim Wetherington nor Tony Adams were running for city office.

I wondered why Tony Adams would go to the trouble of hiring a Montgomery attorney, when he already has Stacey Jackson -- and then it struck me. Maybe Don Jackson's taking over because Stacey Jackson is about to be appointed Superior Court Judge. If Governor Sonny Perdue can remove crime lab money for Columbus, he might shock city leaders again.

Meanwhile, Mayor Jim Wetherington ordered Parks and Recreation employees Tuesday to cooperate with the police review. If teenagers behind concession stands answer hot dog questions by claiming the fifth amendment, we'll know we have a scandal on our hands.

Let's see what else was either meaty or "filler" in Tuesday's news....

+ The Muscogee County Election Board told WTVM only about 1,300 people have taken advantage of early voting so far. The rest of the voters obviously have been waiting for something - and it's about time Seth Harp's Insurance Commissioner yard signs appeared around town.

+ GPB reported the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin will be modified, so it doesn't feel so much like a prison. Detainees won't face pat-down searches. They'll have visitors for more hours a week. And if the accused illegal immigrants are really nice, they'll have a Mariachi night.

+ Miss America 2009 Katie Stam made an appearance at Gold's Gym in Columbus. At least that's the only appearance which was announced. Part of me wonders if Stam made a secret visit to 2009 first runner-up Chasity Hardman, and apologized for costing her a big recording contract.

+ The National Infantry Museum opened a summer youth camp by reenacting a Civil War battle. Once again, Port Columbus is being pinched by the big soldier down the street. Maybe it's time to point one of those naval cannons toward South Lumpkin Road.

+ Instant Message to retired General Sam Wetzel: What do you mean, White House aides are "real jerks?" Did you really tell WRBL the President's staff is to blame for Gen. Stanley McChrystal's mess, because they approved the interview? Isn't that a bit like saying Publix stores are to blame for my obesity, because they sell doughnuts?

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: 758 (+ 28, 3.8%)

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, June 22, 2010

22 JUN 10: Shortfall, Long Summer

Peachtree Mall in Columbus has one. So does downtown Auburn. But Phenix City didn't officially have one, until it was announced Monday at a special city council meeting -- and the trouble is, Phenix City's expensive "Gap" has nothing to do with pricy clothing.

Phenix City Finance Director Stephen Smith reported the city is on track to have a million-dollar budget shortfall. To its credit, the city council did NOT panic at this news - by hurriedly voting to allow fireworks stands inside the city limits for Independence Day.

Stephen Smith cited three main reasons why Phenix City faces a big budget gap....

+ People aren't shopping as much, due to the recession. Someone tried to open a donut shop on 14th Street earlier this year, and it went.... well, down the holes.

+ Columbus business is growing, and Phenix City residents are shopping there. Smith noted Phenix City used to be all alone with a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. Now it's all alone, as a SuperCenter charging state sales tax on groceries.

+ Base realignment families move to Phenix City, then shop at Fort Benning's PX. This may also explain why the next "team" to visit Bama Lanes will be operating bulldozers.

Stephen Smith seems perceptive in his explanation - but he also raises a big question. Don't the second and third excuses contradict the first one? Phenix City residents apparently are shopping, but they're leaving town to do it at a lower cost. And the Lee County Flea Market is simply too far north to annex into the city limits.

If you know where to look, Phenix City has some values. I filled my gas tank there over the weekend, and saved three cents a gallon compared with the lowest price I found in Columbus. There, you see - it pays to be in a state where oil is washing up on beaches.

I even save money on poker nights, when I play in Phenix City. By that, I mean the sodas cost less than at Columbus bars. It still costs every bit as much, when your bluff gets exposed as a sham....

Yet drive around Phenix City, and you'll see plenty of empty storefronts. One prime example is on either side of U.S. 280 north of U.S. 80. Large retail spaces stand vacant, where supermarkets used to be. When The Fresh Market doesn't consider north Phenix City a wealthy suburb of Columbus, that's a bad sign.

This is obviously why Phenix City is trying to relaunch an economic development department. Businesses across the country need to be reminded that Phenix City is one of the 15 largest cities in Alabama. That it has more than $185 million in retail sales each year. And it's big enough now to have two El Vaquero restaurants.

The Phenix City Council has until the end of September to finalize its next budget, and deal with the million-dollar shortfall. But officials promised Monday NO city employees would be laid off. And I'd think Councilors have learned a valuable lesson from Columbus in recent weeks - to avoid changing school times.

Meanwhile, the Muscogee County School Board approved a $262 million budget Monday night. Board members complimented Superintendent Susan Andrews for finding a way to avoid teacher layoffs - even if it means some parents get fired for missing work, under the new school schedule.

BLOG UPDATE: Tim James waved the Republican red flag Monday -- announcing he'll no longer challenge the results of the Alabama Primary for Governor. The recount ended with second-place Robert Bentley ahead of James by more votes than before. If James filed a lawsuit, he really might have embarrassed himself and finished fourth.

Last week we posted an audio clip, purportedly from a recount room somewhere in rural Alabama [17 Jun]. Apparently our post caused some kind of tumult, because we now have (giggle) a second clip of the recount being conducted a second time. If this doesn't work, the county may have to blow up its budget and buy some calculators.

Here's what else had us keeping score, on the first day of summer....

+ The Columbus NAACP announced several retired Muscogee County School employees will sue the district, claiming discrimination in retirement plans. In a curious turn, the NAACP "spokesman" at a news conference was former chapter president Bill Madison. Since Ronnie Reed didn't use Madison in his failed Alabama House campaign, Madison had to let off steam somewhere.

(So where is Columbus NAACP President Marcus Hunter? If something is wrong with him, no one's told me about it. For all I know, he could be with another missing public figure -- holding top-secret negotiations with Fire Chief Jeff Meyer.)

+ The Muscogee County School Board approved a contractor to bulldoze what's left of the old Baker High School. Alumni of the school were allowed onto the grounds last week, to remove keepsakes for an upcoming online auction. If they found a desk with doodles signed by Newt Gingrich, that should be a top seller.

+ Synovus announced Chairman Richard Anthony is taking a medical leave of absence, due to a blood vessel disorder. We hope he gets well soon - along with all the investors who have been depressed lately, due to foreclosed homes and lower stock prices.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported about 400,000 people have visited the National Infantry Museum since its grand opening last June. WLTZ noted there's a new physical training display on the grounds, with pull-up bars - perfect for sightseers who can't walk through the displays fast enough.

+ Our New Miss Georgia Christina McCauley was awarded the keys to a Kia Sorrento, to drive for the next year. Here we have a major difference between the Miss America and Miss U.S.A. organizations. Miss America and its Georgia satellite find nothing wrong with being politically correct.

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: 730 (+ 23, 3.3%)

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

© 2003-10 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

21 JUN 10: H-2.0

It's the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. And just in time for the hottest season, Columbus Water Works is introducing a change in its main product. It's about time Columbus joined the big-name private competition -- and brought out 2010-model new and improved water.

Columbus Water Works officials say beginning today, a little phosphate gradually will be added to the water supply for the next year-and-a-half. It's not supposed to be a large amount, of course -- like slowly adding alcohol to the lemonade jar until you pass out in the backyard.

A Columbus Water Works news release says the purpose of added phosphate is "corrosion control." Remembering what happened last year along River Road, this sounds like a new twist on those TV commercials -- they want you to know the water TANKS are safe.

Columbus Water Works officials told WTVM the other day phosphate already is added to the water supply in Harris County and Phenix City. If their doctors' offices don't have lines stretching out the door, it must be OK.

As Columbus Water Works adds phosphate to the water, some of the chlorine will be removed. That may not have an impact on the water you drink. But the people who make Clorox probably will send the main office a thank-you card today.

If you've read the latest Water Quality Report from Columbus Water Works, you know there isn't much chlorine in the drinking water - less than two parts per million last year. Of course, the number of people who actually have read the Water Quality Report probably could fit in a small meeting room at the Trade Center....

But anyway: the report says chlorine is added by Columbus Water Works "to control microbes." So we may be trading microbe control for corrosion control - but at least the bacteria inside your body will be less likely to rust.

Columbus Water Works officials insist the quality and taste of your drinking water will NOT change because of added phosphate. If you notice a difference, you have two options. Either call the Water Works to complain - or add a little chocolate syrup, like you'd do with sour milk.

I don't know if any Columbus residents raised a fuss years ago, about adding fluoride to the drinking water. It's still an issue in some U.S. cities, where fluoridation was on the ballot only last month. Why Fox News Channel didn't declare the no votes a defeat for President Obama's socialist agenda, I have no idea....

So far, I haven't heard any objections to the Columbus Water Works plan to add phosphate. But one national group warns online there could be a risk to pet fish, as phosphates increase the amount of algae in aquariums. On the other hand, Alge Crumpler was a good receiver for the Atlanta Falcons years ago.

(Maybe this is why Paul Olson missed a Columbus mayoral forum over the weekend. He's planning a dramatic news conference outside the Columbus Water Works office, to declare this an insidious city government plot to ruin his flower shop business.)

Here's hoping Columbus Water Works is careful in adding that phosphate. Remember last year, when the Chattahoochee River turned brown due to high amounts of manganese? [26 Mar 09] We don't need any more excesses in our water - especially at a time of year when we're tempted to drink water to excess, anyway.

Let's see what else we can analyze, as spring turns to summer....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported attorney Stacey Jackson is representing three other Parks Department employees, besides Director Tony Adams. I didn't know some lawyers operated on a "group discount" plan.

+ Columbus Police reported the attendance at "Family Day in the Park" dropped sharply this year, to around 6,000. If that trend continues, Shooters on Milgen Road actually might risk being open next June.

+ An Albany eye doctor told the public radio program "Marketplace" he plans to move to Arkansas, to reduce his costs. He says he's concerned about federal government threats to reduce Medicare payments. Are we sure it isn't due to all the patients with peanut dust in their eyes?

+ Our new Miss Georgia talked with WTVM about winning the title. Christina McCauley revealed after she was crowned Saturday night, she was in meetings with the pageant board until nearly 4:00 a.m. After last year, they REALLY wanted to make sure McCauley wanted to keep the crown.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.46 a gallon at Liberty on 14th Street in Phenix City.... Chips Ahoy cookies two-for-one at Publix.... but 99 cents for ONE taco at Taco Bell? Que mal....

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: 707 (- 46, 6.1%)

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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Sunday, June 20, 2010

20 JUN 10: Big Daddy's Big Dream

Happy Father's Day to you. If you're looking for a political topic tied to this day -- sorry. If I interviewed Jerry "Pops" Barnes for today, Nathan Suber might claim his real birthday falls on Election Eve.

"That's why they call me BIG DADDY!!" is a familiar shout on the Columbus poker circuit. The man who says it after winning a huge hand is big, all right - but he's not really a daddy. It's simply one of his nicknames. He wouldn't tell me his real name when I asked him - so I hope his picture doesn't trigger a Crimestoppers alert.

Buddha (with the towel over his shoulder) is the name this man most commonly uses at poker games. But for Father's Day, we'll call him Big Daddy - as he hopes to bring big-time fame to Columbus in a very different competition. No, he is NOT switching from poker to chess....

Big Daddy has been traveling to Atlanta, training to become a sumo wrestler. His first amateur tournament will be the U.S. Nationals next month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Really now - when someone says "sumo wrestling," don't you automatically think of Wyoming? It must be something for people to do, if they think steer wrestling at rodeos is inhumane.

Big Daddy is getting a late start to sumo wrestling, at age 29. He told me Japanese sumo stars begin training much younger. Maybe so - but they don't have all the hamburger stands and steakhouses we have in the good old U.S.A.

Where Big Daddy could have an advantage in the U.S. Sumo Nationals is in heaviness. He admits he weighs "about 535 pounds," putting him a good 85 pounds above the heaviest U.S. wrestlers. Yes, I know - in almost every other walk of life, "a good 85 pounds" is considered an oxymoron.

Big Daddy says a friend in southern California talked him into trying sumo wrestling. Atlanta sumo master Packie Evans has him practicing moves, along with "weight training on the side." I didn't ask Big Daddy if that meant free weights, or lifting passing strangers.

Packie Evans likes Big Daddy's chances in the U.S. Nationals, as well as the U.S. Sumo Open in August. The open will take place in Anaheim, California, "just blocks from Disneyland" -- but I doubt anyone there will sing, "It's a small world after all."

There may even be females inside the circle at the U.S. Sumo Open. "Even women do sumo now," Big Daddy told me. For them, a "pick-up line" means waiting backstage to toss someone in the next bout.

But Big Daddy admits an endurance contest in the sumo circle could be trouble. "It's not a quick event," he explained - and for him, "two minutes is an eternity." So drivers waiting for traffic lights on Manchester Expressway can relate to him....

Big Daddy thinks his secret to success will come from being "more agile" than the other sumo wrestlers. "I'm good at short bursts," he told me. There's a line for single guys to write down, for the next time they're at a sports bar.

The U.S. sumo tournaments will offer him no more than a first-place trophy. Japan sumo stars make money as professionals -- but Big Daddy says some U.S. wrestlers get offered television deals. This man's easy-going personality would be perfect for commercials or comedies. He even could appear on a Tyler Perry production, because he says the number "fitty" so well.

When Big Daddy isn't playing poker, he makes money as a "carnie" at carnival side shows. If the Ferris wheel gets stuck, I'm sure he's always ready to give it a push.

But as you might guess, sometimes it's not easy being a Big Daddy. He admits to problems with arthritis, along with congenital joint damage. Yet at least he's out and exercising - not stuck in his bedroom, waiting for Jillian Michaels to show up.

We wish Big Daddy well with his summer sumo experiment. He might just become Columbus's next sports champion. And if he doesn't, he could become the worst training nightmare any Fort Benning combatives contestant ever faces.

-> Big Daddy is one of our regular opponents at local poker tables. Follow how we're doing (and more) at our other blog,"On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: At the other end of the scale In quite a change of topic, Miss Southern Heartland won the Miss Georgia pageant at the RiverCenter Saturday night. Christina McCauley didn't win a preliminary event until Friday night. Either that's when judges noticed her big cause is the Children's Miracle Network - or Scott Ressmeyer's motorcycle "posse" came to her rescue.

Christina McCauley defeated 39 other contestants to win the Miss Georgia pageant. She reached the top ten in the last two years - so it appears this time, we don't have to worry about her giving back the crown after 24 hours.

(McCauley advances to the Miss America pageant - where I somehow doubt we'll ever see a contestant display sumo wrestling as her "talent.")

I can't recall any other Miss Georgia having her own website, but Christina McCauley does. From there we learned her "Daddy" writes songs, and she's allergic to flowers. The picture of McCauley in Hawaii with a flower in her hair apparently was taken seconds before she sneezed her hair down across her face.

But Christina McCauley's win means in a way, I lost again. I picked Miss Cherokee Rose to win the Miss Georgia pageant - but Michaela Lackey failed to make the top four. Can I offer her a consolation prize? A free lunch with me? Oh yes, with no boyfriend present?

E-MAIL UPDATE: Friday night marked the first-ever Miss Georgia Pajama Run downtown. Which prompted a reader to ask....

Broadway Booze and Babes!!! So why was last night any different than normal?

Clearly the pajamas are what made the.... hey, wait a minute! Are you telling me pageant contestants were in an environment where alcohol was served? Now that's scandalous....

Let's see what other discoveries are happening this weekend:

+ Three candidates for Columbus Mayor spoke at the Fourth Street Baptist Church "A Call to Talk" meeting. I'd tell you what they said - but I became completely distracted when I saw on WTVM one of the name cards was misspelled "ZETH Baker." How do you get a four-letter first name wrong? Especially at a church, when the speaker is named after a book of the Bible?

+ Robert Bentley claimed a spot in the Alabama Republican runoff for Governor, after a recount showed him still 250 votes ahead of Tim James. Bentley declared his second-place accomplishment with a speech talking about the "sawdust and sweat" of Alabamians who want to work. So why doesn't he hire back his campaign manager?

+ Davis Broadcasting staged its annual "Family Day in the Park" at Cooper Creek Park. The late-night TV newscasts did not show this event - so they apparently took those warnings about heavy congestion on Milgen Road seriously.

+ The Columbus Lions licked Lafayette 58-55, to clinch a home playoff spot. Kickers on both teams booted "unos" during the game - kickoffs going through the uprights. So when will the Lions hand out souvenir Uno card decks, to celebrate this?

+ Instant Message to Tyler, at a Phenix City Taco Bell: I was only testing you. Next time, I'll truly know better - and order my meal in Spanish down the road at El Vaquero.

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: 753 (- 85, 10.1%)

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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Friday, June 18, 2010

18 JUN 10: Environmentalist Whacked

As Georgia political candidates visit Columbus these days, they face a "lab exam" of sorts. What will they do about the plans to close the local state crime lab? Don't they realize our microscopes are every bit as good as the ones in Atlanta? And besides, patrol cars might collide on those tight construction lanes on Interstate 85....

But have you heard about the other state office in Columbus that's closing? I didn't realize until Thursday that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is moving Columbus operations to Macon. I assume the furniture and paperwork will be hauled to Macon on Postal Service trucks.

A news release was issued 1 June, announcing the closing of the Columbus EPD office. While the actual closing date is 1 July, people in this area were told to begin calling the Macon office this week. Calling the Columbus office wasn't easy in the first place, considering it wasn't listed in the white pages.

Perhaps you didn't know the Columbus EPD office is on Gentian Boulevard. It's apparently in the same building as the Columbus State University Cunningham Center. But it's so obscure that if you type in the office address on Google maps, you're pointed to an out-of-position Burger King. [True!]

The Columbus EPD office has served a seven-county area. It's handled licenses and permits involving matters of clean air, clean water and hazardous waste. But this move may force the Keep Columbus Beautiful staff to work a little harder, between garden tours.

(The Georgia EPD website also indicates employees enforce laws on "surface mining." I don't think that happens very much in the Columbus district - unless another sinkhole develops downtown.)

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division estimates office closings in Columbus, Savannah and metro Atlanta will save about $400,000 per year. I know the state budget is tight -- but doesn't a move to Macon send a wrong message? Staff members will have to drive farther from the office to do inspections in Columbus. The air pollution haze here could extend all the way down U.S. 80.

(Of course, there's another way to get around that potential problem. But I'll leave it to the Ledger-Enquirer reporters, to see if EPD employees car-pool on their trips from Macon.)

One weekday for moving the Columbus EPD office to Macon has been lost, because of Georgia's tight budget. Next Friday is a state furlough day -- or as the Columbus staff members might be calling it, a house-hunting holiday.

But where is the outrage about this state office move - especially compared to the concern about the state crime lab? Have Columbus city officials decided a local environmental office is no big deal? Or will it take a few more Columbus Water Works sewage spills, before that approach changes?

-> We're marking an anniversary this week, at local poker tables. Read all about it at our other blog,"On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: The three women who won preliminary events at the Miss Georgia pageant Wednesday night also won preliminaries Thursday night. None of them are the woman I picked to win the title - so Miss Cherokee Rose may have to win the "Miss Georgia Pajama Run" downtown tonight by a wide margin.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Tuesday topic about the trouble with jailbird billiards brought these thoughts....

Richard, Your comment about Muscogee County prison inmates counting ceiling tiles in the Comer auditorium and getting experience to be census workers reminded me of Senator Shelby's (R-AL) letter to the head of the Census Bureau reference a number of Census Bureau enumerators being on the Sexual Predator List. His letter got a lot of airplay on the news but I haven't heard anything about the response, have you? I have worked for the Census Bureau and we were told that thorough background checks were done on us. It sure makes me wonder how thorough the checks were! It reminds me of the time when I looked in my personnel file (on my federal job) and saw that the FBI did a background check on me for my Top Secret Clearance in Columbus, Ohio! By the way, I've never been there but I was born and raised in Columbus, GA!

To be honest, I hadn't heard about this complaint by Richard Shelby at all. It's apparently been covered up by Gulf coast oil, as much as the shorebirds.

An unofficial response to the late-May complaint came through news reports. A blog written in Seattle notes only one Census enumerator was on a sex offender list, and he reportedly used a phony name to get the job. Census officials say they didn't know he failed the background check until he was on the job - so do you want a government that works quickly or not?

That questionable case occurred in New Jersey - but we're going to try to focus on more local stuff here:

+ Columbus Police reported three separate robberies occurred on the same night, outside the Carousel Lounge. Officers think the hold-ups are connected - and I think someone needs to remind the new officers of that old cliche about "always returning to the scene of the crime."

+ The recount of Republican ballots in Lee County concluded, with Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James gaining 15 votes. James could do more to promote his effort to make the July runoff - but he still hasn't persuaded former President Bush to make any personal appearances.

+ Tim Hudson pitched Atlanta to a 3-1 triumph over Tampa Bay. Third baseman Chipper Jones now says he'll announce at the end of the season whether or not he'll retire from baseball. Two big factors are at work here. Jones has a multi-million dollar contract option for 2011 - and the Spanish economy could collapse at any moment.

+ Instant Message to whomever wrote the words, "MATT I LOVE YOU SEXY BEAST" on a pickup truck parked near Ninth and Broadway: You'd better watch your step the next couple of days - because behavior like that could get you disqualified from the Miss Georgia pageant.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: A Father's Day "Daddy" unlike any other in Columbus (guaranteed)....

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: 838 (+ 30, 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, June 17, 2010

17 JUN 10: Vote-Ed 2010

Georgia's Governor announced the name of a new state school superintendent Wednesday. But Brad Bryant is truly a lame duck, as voters will approve his replacement in November and he isn't currently on the ballot. Why, Bryant might not be in office long enough for Roy Barnes to accuse him of doing anything wrong.

With only one month left before the Georgia Primary, many candidates are trying to make education a big issue. That may explain Wednesday's "town hall meeting" at the Columbus Public Library with two state lawmakers. WRBL showed a meeting so small, you'd think the new Muscogee County class schedules already were in effect.

State Representatives Debbie Buckner and Carolyn Hugley called the town hall meeting to let people vent about Georgia's problems with education funding. But the meeting apparently wasn't publicized very well. Last week's Columbus Times didn't mention it -- and that paper had room to mention basketball star Dwyane Wade's messy divorce.

Rep. Debbie Buckner used the meeting to claim the Georgia legislature missed a chance this year to provide one billion dollars for public schools. It was a "point of sale" bill, which she and Carolyn Hugley happened to sponsor with three other local House members. If it never reached a vote in the House, maybe some thought it was a hidden billion-dollar windfall for Columbus.

The point of sale bill doesn't take long to read, and calls on the Georgia Department of Revenue to inform cities and counties quickly about tax collections. I don't understand how faster e-mails and phone calls would give public schools one billion extra dollars -- unless the information would encourage county treasurers to buy a stack of lottery tickets.

Rep. Debbie Buckner suggested faster contact from the Georgia Department of Revenue would reveal which local businesses are NOT registered with the state, so probably owe sales taxes. Aha - now I think I get it! Columbus would have an advantage in going after those businesses, because the 100 new police officers need work to do.

The entire town hall story reminded me of a made-for-TV campaign event - especially considering not many people were in the room with the lawmakers. Perhaps these people will advance to the next step, and be ready should President Obama ever decide to visit Columbus again.

But here's the thing - if this was a Democratic campaign event, it involved two state lawmakers who currently are running unopposed. I've heard no buzz about any Columbus candidates filing in two weeks as independents. Besides, we all remember how well it worked for Zeph Baker in 2008.

Maybe this point-of-sale bill is how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes plans to meet all his campaign promises about education. You know - things like higher teacher pay, with no more furloughs EVER. Barnes certainly hasn't explained how he'll pay for those things. Unless he plans to expand his online campaign store....

Another candidate for Georgia Governor offered a very different idea for funding education Wednesday. Thurbert Baker called for the legalization of electronic bingo games - which could settle the question of what sort of new business to bring to Columbus South. Simply rename it "Victory-Land" Drive....

Thurbert Baker's "BEST Initiative" suggests electronic bingo would provide enough money to expand the Georgia school year. He wants a 200-day school year within a decade, which isn't far from year-round schooling -- and would allow parents more time to spend in front of machines at bingo halls to pay for it all.

As for Alabama, Lee County began recounting votes Wednesday in the Republican Primary for Governor. Your blog has (giggle) come upon an audio clip of the recount process, as it unfolded somewhere in rural Alabama. If this is accurate, they might be better off counting oil-covered birds at Orange Beach....

-> We're marking an anniversary this week, at local poker tables. Read all about it at our other blog,"On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Uh-oh - Miss Cherokee Rose failed to win in Wednesday's first night of preliminaries at the Miss Georgia pageant. Shame on me, for not checking the contestants' names along with their pictures. The swimsuit category was won by a woman named Springer.

Let's see what else grabbed for our attention Wednesday:

+ Columbus Police reported someone broke into Benning Auto Parts on 17th Street, and stole a 500-pound engine used for drag racing. Drivers on J.R. Allen Parkway should be on alert today - as someone may pass even the super-speeders.

+ A group of Teak Drive residents filed suit against the city of Columbus, over last year's watershed flooding. Isn't it interesting that 11th Street downtown reopened Wednesday, with sewer repairs finished in two weeks - yet some people on Teak Drive still have damaged homes after a year?

+ T-Mobile announced it will close its LaGrange return center, and lay off nearly 400 workers. This is what happens when a cell phone company lets you have only a "fave five," while Facebook lets you have all the friends you want.

+ The University of Georgia announced local linebacker Jarvis Jones will NOT play this coming season, as he transfers from Southern California. At least Jones is used to being a redshirt -- since that's the U.S.C. home uniform.

(The Georgia doctors checked Jones's neck and cleared him to play - even though Southern Cal doctors wouldn't let him take part in spring practice. I never realized Southern humidity could have such a healing effect on football players.)

+ Atlanta topped Tampa Bay in baseball 6-2, amid reports veteran third baseman Chipper Jones will retire at the end of the season. Imagine the emotional clubhouse speeches Bobby Cox could give between now and October - urging the team over and over to win one for the Chipper.

+ Instant Message to area Walgreens stores: Talk about a disappointment! Page two of this week's ad shows boxes of Chips Deluxe cookies are on sale for 99 cents - yet FOUR different stores didn't have them in stock! Just because we're in Georgia does NOT mean we only eat Pecan Sandies.

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: 808 (+ 44, 5.8%)

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, June 16, 2010

16 JUN 10: The Right Side of the Tracks

So did I understand the newscasts correctly -- Columbus Council had a meeting Tuesday, and the Parks and Recreation Department barely came up? Perhaps it was like the pause between the 5:00 and 7:00 thunderstorms.

The big topic at Tuesday's Columbus Council meeting turned out to be a familiar downtown building. A proposal was offered to renovate the old Swift Mills plant on Sixth Avenue -- and some Councilors want it approved quickly, before the plant becomes the successor to Baker High School with years of debate and no action.

Developer Ernie Smallman wants to turn the Swift Mills complex into a mixed development. The big headline is that part of the building would become two-bedroom loft apartments. Let's hope the remaining part doesn't continue to be used as it was before - for security training in smoke bombs [27 Jun 08].

But there's an objection to the loft apartment proposal -- not from nearby residents, but from the Norfolk Southern railroad. The railroad notes it still ships freight past the old Swift Mill. Those of us who drive down Fifth Avenue know the "shipping" is sometimes more like crawling.

Norfolk Southern notes engineers are required by law to sound train horns when they approach key streets. The railroad presumes that will annoy people living inside the old Swift Mill -- and I can see that point. I live close to Golden Park, and some truck drivers insist on sounding horns when they drive past on game nights. Loud advertising isn't merely on radio and TV, you know....

But Councilor Red McDaniel says the Swift Mill needs renovation. He told WTVM noise from railroad trains is "a problem all over town." But it's like those horns at World Cup soccer matches - after a while, you get used to them.

Ernie Smallman adds the development plan calls for a parking lot between the apartment building at the Norfolk Southern rail lines. Two rows of cars could serve as a buffer for those train horns - while increasing the chances for collisions, when residents back out at the same time.

This marks the second time in recent weeks that Norfolk Southern has become active in Columbus city business. In May it brought railroad police to town, cracking down on homeless people living along the tracks. At least Norfolk Southern is being consistent -- as it doesn't even want people paying $900 a month to live near the tracks, either.

So what is getting Norfolk Southern so concerned about Columbus? Does it have something to do with the talk about stopping rail shipments on Ninth Street, rolling past the Government Center? Or does the railroad think liberals will move into the lofts, and start leaving tables of leftover food for hobos?

The idea of loft living seems to be gaining a foothold in Columbus. Check the Eagle & Phenix complex along the river, and you'll find a majority of the available units have been sold. But then again, the noisy parties at Broadway nightclubs are a full block away.

It's a good thing those loft apartments have enclosed parking lots, because Columbus Council approved higher parking fines Tuesday. Beginning next month, parking too long downtown will cost you 17 dollars instead of 15. How badly do Columbus State students want that two-dollar special at Taco Bell?

BLOG UPDATE: We said the Parks and Recreation Department "barely" came up Tuesday, because it did. A letter of reply was released, from City Attorney Clifton Fay to Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose. For some reason, there was NO carbon copy for the Columbus NAACP Chapter President - and you'd think Marcus Hunter's one-year probation would be almost over by now.

Clifton Fay's letter reveals Columbus city computer records were checked - and NO city e-mail was sent to Chuck Williams of the Ledger-Enquirer on 17 May. That's the day the Parks and Recreation Department audit went public. OK, that's nice - but were any e-mails sent to Sonya Sorich?

Clifton Fay's letter seems to accept one of Edward DuBose's demands. It says the Columbus Police Chief will keep track of how much police time is spent reviewing the Parks Department audit. Fay promises the total "will be available after expiration of statutory time limits...." I never knew Columbus Blazers basketball games were under a statute of limitations.

-> We're marking an anniversary this week at local poker tables. Read all about it at our other blog,"On the Flop!" <-

BIG PREDICTION: I don't know why the Miss Georgia pageant was moved up one week on the calendar this year. But the preliminaries begin tonight, and I'll dare to guess the winner will be Michaela Lackey. She's entered as "Miss Cherokee Rose" - as opposed to being Miss LaGrange Hydrangea or something.

(No, your blogger was NOT invited to be a Miss Georgia judge this year. Again. Tell the organizers you're a single guy, and they probably fear you'll act like Perez Hilton.)

Let's see what else is worth a mention from Tuesday....

+ Russell County authorities told WTVM six picnic tables were stolen from Austin-Sumbry Park. C'mon, guys - the payoff for recycling aluminum can't be that expensive.

+ Columbus Councilor Jerry "Pops" Barnes confirmed he'll run for re-election. This sets up a rematch with Nathan Suber (along with other candidates) - only this time Barnes has a couple of advantages. He's the incumbent. And he can borrow diabetes test needles from fire stations, to intimidate voters.

+ A recount began in the Alabama Republican Primary for Governor -- with the quick discovery that some ballot boxes in the Birmingham area had broken security seals. I assume all write-in votes for Larry Langford will be discarded....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer quoted Carver High School football coach Dell McGee as saying Jarvis Jones will sign commitment papers to transfer to Georgia. Southern California fans can look at it this way. You lost a lot of wins and a star linebacker. But you gained a live Colorado buffalo stampeding on your field every few years.

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: 764 (+ 38, 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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