Monday, February 28, 2011

28 FEB 11: And This One Is Gone

Sunday was another gorgeous day in Columbus! The high temperature was 77 degrees F., perfect weather for.... uhhhh.... for playing three hockey games indoors. It's simply too hot out there, and you could get sweaty.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: The Director of the Columbus Sports Council admitted to your blog Sunday four consecutive years of bad weather cost South Commons the Leadoff Classic softball tournament. The event is moving to Florida next year, after spending this year on "hiatus." Shouldn't a college sports event really have a sabbatical?

While Columbus news reporters weren't looking, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association decided to move its Leadoff Classic out of town. A three-year agreement with Clearwater, Florida was announced in mid-November. But local officials apparently kept it quiet - as if Zeph Baker would have displayed home run prowess to win the mayoral runoff.

My first thought over the weekend when I discovered the Leadoff Classic was gone was "Rec-Gate." But Herbert Greene with the Columbus Sports Council told me the Parks and Recreation scandal was NOT a factor. A seven-year contract ran out, and the last four years were filled with bad weather. I knew South Commons stadiums needed retractable roofs.

Herbert Greene admitted the 24 softball teams attending the Leadoff Classic brought a lot of money to Columbus. But he says the National Fastpitch Coaches Association is working on bringing another tournament to South Commons in the next couple of years. Maybe it will happen after tornado season, and be called the "Cleanup Classic."

Herbert Greene tried to put the best picture on things - saying the South Commons softball fields are being upgraded for the first time since 1996. It will be ready for events such as the "Black Softball Conference" around Labor Day, with 205 teams. And imagine if they all bring drum lines to march on the fields between innings....

The loss of the Leadoff Classic may be considered by some a death blow to the dream of Columbus being a softball capital. But Herbert Greene says college softball is still a prize worth pursuing, because of all the money teams bring to the city. And they aren't even the ones playing in Golden Park.

Herbert Greene added Golden Park will host not one, but four major baseball tournaments in the months ahead. One will be a national championship of "club sports." If the Columbus Woodbats decide sometime this spring to play in that division, they could be a strong favorite - as the Bud Light billboard is still there waiting for them.

Speaking of club sports, that brings us to the event Herbert Greene hosted over the weekend. He hopes to have attendance numbers today from the Southeastern Conference hockey tournament, which Arkansas won Sunday with a 5-2 felling of Florida. Razorback fans probably celebrated by shouting, "Woooo! Puck! Sooey!"

(The host college of Auburn wound up sixth in the tournament. The Tigers lost a Sunday morning consolation game to Mississippi 14-6 - as if half the team wanted to be at a church service instead.)

But the S.E.C. hockey tournament had challenges of its own. Herbert Greene admitted to me the new ice rink next to the Columbus Civic Center missed the deadline of being ready for this past weekend. In fact, it won't be finished for six more weeks. If they try to claim cold weather delayed construction of a hockey rink....

As a result, Herbert Greene says first-round games in the S.E.C. hockey tournament had to be moved to metro Atlanta and Birmingham. They couldn't even be played in Columbus, because the building was booked Friday night for a country music concert. You'd think Carrie Underwood's wedding to a major league hockey player could have helped work things out....

But Herbert Greene says the S.E.C. hockey commissioner seems pleased with how the weekend in Columbus went. Greene told me the commissioner plans to recommend the tournament return to Columbus for at least two more years. So the event will have a chance to build a local following - if Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift kindly will cooperate.

Let's quickly skate through other weekend headlines....

+ The third annual bed race to benefit Valley Interfaith Promise attracted at least 600 people downtown. VIP's Victor Feliciano tells me Hinson Galleries had the fastest bed, perhaps because the business recruited Brookstone High School football players for its team. Next year, they may be replaced by former JD Kinder's and Georgia Freight employees.

+ Ground was broken for the new Carver High School. WTVM reported it will be a "green" school. I think that means it's energy efficient -- because I can't imagine Carver graduates would accept a swap of team colors with Spencer.

+ The ribbon was cut to officially open the Russell County Sheriff's Department precinct in Hurtsboro. Sheriff Heath Taylor says he's looking for reserve deputies to serve across the county - and I somehow have the suspicion ex-Constable Robert Schweiger is applying to be one of them. The fact that he's not too reserved in his opinions could hurt him, but....

+ Instant Message to Anne Hathaway: Loved you (for the most part). Couldn't stand him. Did someone order you to co-host the Oscars with a robot?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.17 per gallon at Fuel Tech, Fifth and Veterans Parkway.... FREE short stack of pancakes (sort of) with a donation to Children's Miracle Network Tuesday at IHOP.... and thousands of people rooting for a big rainstorm, to stop more pollen from coming out....

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 918 (- 68, 6.9%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

27 FEB 11: Of Ice and Water

Saturday was a gorgeous day in Columbus - 75 degrees F. with low humidity. I tried to take advantage of it with a sunset run, and things were going well for awhile. But then, either a bit of pollen or a developing cold made my lungs feel like a 1990s rock band - the Violent Phlegms.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: Other fun activities have readers writing us this weekend. We start with a comment about the Columbus Civic Center and the new ice rink next door....

Richard are you surprised that Dale retired early? That place downtown is a JOKE! They should have had a Director to oversee the New Ice Rink before they built it. That is something that should have been handled a long time ago. Just like them not Having a New Parks and Rec Director in place by now. They have two VERY qualified people already in place to assume the two roles, Tommy Groce could handle the Parks side and Brian Giffen the New Ice Rink. How much more CR*P do the Citizens of Columbus have to put up with? Sure lets allow MR. CITY MANAGER handle everything and we will have another Parks and Rec Problem! Its Amazing to me that the Citizens of this GREAT City continues to stay quite. And yes, I Know that I no longer live in Columbus, But I am still on a hill looking in!!

Charles Lawhon

I live near the Civic Center, but that doesn't mean I walk inside to talk to the management. They might kick me out, anyway - remembering I was the one who revealed Fiesta Columbus quietly went away.

For those who don't know: Tommy Groce currently is Athletic Program Manager with the Columbus Parks Department. Brian Griffin oversees the aquatics program -- so he'd have to resist the temptation to add a diving board over the new skating rink.

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson has said about 260 people applied to be the next Columbus Parks and Recreation Director. The plan was to cut the field to a final three this week. The only fitting next step from there is to hold a competition like the old "Superstars" - with the finalists doing everything from bowling to a 100-yard dash.

But keep one economic point in mind about this long search. Every day there's no Parks Director, the city saves money in not having to fund that position. I'd call it a modified hiring freeze - but the new ice rink hasn't officially opened yet.

The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department had another public embarrassment this past week. WRBL revealed a staff member was fired, after a child with a condition similar to autism walked away from a winter camp event at Britt David Park. So I was glad to receive this e-mail, to confirm the department still has staff members left.

Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer reported former Parks Director Tony Adams and the two other suspects in the "Rec-Gate" case could have a trial date set this coming week. Prosecutors have a set a deadline of 12:00 noon Thursday for striking a plea bargain -- as if the defense attorneys have used up all their time outs.

Meanwhile, the Columbus Civic Center is being used this weekend for the Southeastern Conference college hockey tournament. Alabama and Georgia lost semifinal games Saturday night, so they'll play for third place today while Arkansas faces Florida for the title. Arkansas outplayed Georgia 9-3 - and I guess it makes sense for Razorbacks to do well on sharp skates.

But this is inside stuff. Our next reader wants to get out and head for the river -- but:

You watch and see, there will be tons of people that are shocked that the course on the river is only suitable for kayaking due to the short run. The continuing P/R references to Whitewater Rafting on the part of the project leaders as well as the Ledger reporters are simply irresponsible.

This is a stunning suggestion -- that people crying "raft" are giving people the shaft.

"Ready 2 Raft 2012" promoters say they're preparing the Chattahoochee River to become "the longest urban whitewater course in the world," at 2.5 miles long. For some people, this may seem short - since the "Whitewater case" during the Clinton administration lasted several years.

I know of church groups which love to go rafting in Tennessee every summer. The courses there are four to five miles long - so by comparison, the Columbus run would be short. But if you want to extend the fun by launching from Lake Harding, I doubt anyone would mind.

But then again, a short rafting course might have its advantages. When I was young, I wanted to ride on the roller coasters at the amusement park as many times as possible - so whitewater promoters might be able to offer a frequent paddler's discount.

Our last message of the day is landlocked, and almost turned into gridlock:

I wish I knew the name of the teenager who almost T-boned me at the intersection of Veterans and 54St, I would call her mom..She was so distracted by her cell phone she ran the red light and never slowed down as I swerved to get out of her way..Perhaps her driver's license should state no cell phone just like it says must wear glasses..

We certainly don't want a "T-bone" at 54th and Veterans Parkway - especially since Hartz Chicken is on that corner....

But anyway: if that other driver was indeed a teenager, she broke Georgia law if she's younger than 18 and driving with a learner's permit. The only adults banned from driving with a cell phone are school bus drivers. So what do they do if a fight develops on the bus - wave a white flag out the window toward a crossing guard?

We should add all Georgians are barred from "texting while driving." Part of me wishes another section had been added to that new law - to specify the only digits used to send messages are the thumbs. Not the (ahem) middle fingers....

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Did you notice something missing this weekend? We did, and want to know what happened....

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 986 (+ 39, 4.1%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

26 FEB 11: A Friend Without End

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

Sometimes blog-writing can get a bit personal, and even confessional. That may have led to this comment during our last Big Blog Question:

I never see you mention your personal friends. Do you have any?

Talk about a loaded question! It’s a bit like the Oscar nominees trying to make a list of everyone to thank this weekend.

There are many ways I could answer this. For instance, I could say I don’t mention my friends because I don’t want them dragged into any potential blog boycotts….

Other potential answers are also potential minefields, because I’ve discovered the people you think are your friends may not always be. I learned this in the workplace very quickly. Getting told off for calling a female co-worker “dear” will do that.

Someone can be your next-door neighbor, but still not be your friend. I was reminded of that several years ago, when the Metro Narcotics Task Force showed up one apartment away from my front door [1 Jul 08].

In this era of “Facebook friends,” the definition of a friend has morphed a bit. I know of one Columbus restaurant that looks for local residents to befriend online – but so far, dropping my name there hasn’t won me a free meal.

Yet I think Facebook can help reveal who your real friends are. All you have to do is look up people, and ask to be friends with them. If they don’t respond after several months, you probably can take their names out of your online address book as well.

I’d like to think the people in my church congregation are my friends. But sad to say, I’ve learned that sometimes can be misleading as well. Take the man who told me he needed a place to stay for “about a month.” He wound up staying 21 – and still hasn’t repaid several hundred dollars of bills.

I heard a minister say awhile back when you’re in the last stages of life, you can count your closest friends on one hand. Since I’m not at that stage yet, I don’t think it’s fair to make a “bucket list” of those friends and potential pallbearers right now. But come to think of it, I guess that IS partly why people write wills.

So “friends” can let you down, and might not really be your friends at all. That’s why I rely on the greatest friend anyone can have. And his name is…. wow, suddenly I sound like I’m selling toothpaste or a political candidate….

But anyway: that friend is named Jesus. And I’m talking about the Son of God here – not that other “Jesus” who has a Columbus landscaping service.

Jesus is the friend who matters most because He’s the only one who can get me beyond this physical life into eternal life. The book of Revelation talks about Him coming again, with a resurrection of believers. The Bible promises those believers new bodies -- and I suspect the obesity problem will become a moot point then.

Jesus puts one big condition on being friends with Him. John 15 says you have to do whatever Jesus commands you – and His top commandment is to love one another. The way you express love probably determines what sort of friend you are. But isn’t my romantic life a completely different topic?

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 947 (- 151, 13.8%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

25 FEB 11: Man, the Lifeboats

Thursday's high temperature in Columbus was 77 degrees F. - a perfect day for getting outside and having fun. Unless, of course, the early start of pollen season has you staying inside and having phlegm....

The top outdoor activity on many minds Thursday seemed to be whitewater rafting. It was the hot topic at the annual meeting of Uptown Columbus Inc. It came up at an evening community meeting with the mayor in Bibb City. And based on what the national news showed, it might even bring Prince William and Kate Middleton to Columbus for a visit.

Uptown Columbus hopes for a windfall from the new whitewater rafting course on the Chattahoochee River. It's scheduled to open next year around Labor Day - and some people can't wait for the dams near downtown to be blown up this July, during the first-ever Thunder IN the Hooch.

The whitewater rafting course was promoted at Thursday's Uptown Columbus meeting by Joe Jacobi of USA Canoe/Kayak. Jacobi is an Olympic gold medalist, who was dubbed by one canoeing magazine the "Paddler of the Century." And you thought they only gave that award to elementary school principals.

. Richard Bishop of Uptown Columbus Inc. told WLTZ if all goes well, construction on the rafting course will begin this summer. This puts us in a bit of a quandary. Do we root for lower river levels, to move the project along faster - even if it means another drought turns everyone's lawn brown again?

Richard Bishop estimates the whitewater course will lead to 700 new local jobs. Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WXTX Thursday night she hopes some of the jobs will develop in the Bibb City neighborhood. Of course, this depends on how many lemonade stands the city will allow along the Riverwalk at 38th Street.

The whitewater project now has its own website and Facebook page. The "Ready 2 Raft" project has been given the name "River City Rush" - so please don't put that name on speeding cars along Manchester Expressway.

Promoters also promise with the downtown dams such as The Eagle and Phenix removed, the Chattahoochee River will become "a fisherman's paradise." But that's the very concern some people have. They've expressed concern fishing will be restricted, to put rafters first. We don't want a fishing hook ripping a blow-up pontoon boat, you know.

Yet Columbus has plenty of other prime spots for fishing, away from the whitewater rafting course. This week's news of a 61-pound catfish in Uchee Creek should be evidence of that - even if the conspiracy theorists think it's also evidence of Fort Benning soldiers conducting some kind of uranium test,

In fact, several weeks ago I took a morning run on the Riverwalk to the area of RoadAmerica - and at a landing where I turn around, I saw one man with three fishing poles set up. "Isn't that cheating a little?" I asked in an attempt at humor.

"Why don't you just keep running?" the man answered. Since he could have launched a line my way, that's exactly what I did.

-> We've had a very good week in online poker. So did Thursday night's local game go well? Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader titled this message, "So help me...."

my son told me the other day that a friend of one of his Facebook friends suggested that they drag the tree poisoning guy out into the street at Toomer's Corner and STONE HIM TO DEATH so that everyone could see how serious an offense this incident really is. Really?

At Auburn University, this seems a bit extreme. At the University of California, it might be considered an inspiring way to take an environmental stand.

The new attorney for the alleged "Al from Dadeville" talked with reporters about the case Thursday. Glennon Threatt of Birmingham says he'll attempt to make Harvey Updyke "look human." Updyke may need every photo from his Texas State Patrol days he can find -- especially if he handed teddy bears to children.

Glennon Threatt has a reputation for taking big-name clients in Alabama. He was the attorney for Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford last year - in a trial that ended with Langford convicted of every count and forfeiting his office. Why didn't Harvey Updyke try calling Mikki Beth Stiller instead?

Glennon Threatt said next week's preliminary hearing for Harvey Updyke has been postponed to mid-April. He explained it was scheduled for the same day as Courtney Lockhart's sentencing -- and the last thing Lee County needs is head-to-head competition between the two trials of the century.

Now let's see what else was blooming in the Thursday warmth....

+ WTVM reported the number of traffic citations issued by Columbus Police more than doubled last year, to nearly 10,500. So now you see how the crime rate is going down - because criminals are driving too fast making their getaways.

+ New Census Bureau numbers confirmed Phenix City has no "majority" race. The 2010 count found 48.7 percent of the population is Caucasian, 46.6 percent is African-American - and the 2.2 percent claiming "two or more races" will become the target of every talk show host on the radio dial.

(The 2010 Census also shows Lee County was among Alabama's fastest-growing counties in the last decade, and now has 140,000 people. But Barbour County's population declined to about 27,500 -- and the closing of the Eufaula Taco Bell could make matters simply worse.)

+ Florida flew past Georgia in men's college basketball 71-62. This could hurt the Bulldogs' chances of making the NCAA tournament - but it could make the team more close-NIT.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Are there some people I've neglected to mention here? One reader seems to think so....

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,098 (+ 29, 2.7%)

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

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

24 FEB 11: What's the Big Idea?

The cold winter weather admittedly put me out of running practice for a while. I made it more than three miles non-stop on a Saturday night in mid-January. But that now seems almost as isolated as the leader of Libya....

As I jogged down Broadway Wednesday evening, I passed a man who was (to put it politely) on the wide-bodied side. At least he was outside walking on a lovely evening, so that was good. And he appeared to carry a Subway sandwich, so maybe he's hired "Jared" as a consultant.

Many campaigns have been conducted in Columbus to get people to lose weight. But the latest one is the most aggressive and controversial. Billboards and TV ads offer blunt messages against child obesity -- such as: "Stop sugarcoating it, Columbus." Yet Krispy Kreme dared to reopen this week, anyway....

The ad campaign makes valid points about the issue. Georgia has the second highest childhood obesity rate of any U.S. state. And in Columbus, more than 30 percent of adults are considered obese. Maybe we shouldn't mention that so much - because visitors might think Columbus children waddle around simply because they love the Aflac duck so much.

But a local TV talk show host thinks some of the advertising goes too far. Pam Willis-Hovey told WLTZ one billboard crosses the line by warning, "Stocky, chubby, chunky are still fat." You simply won't build "Unity with Pam" with that sort of language....

Pam Willis-Hovey is concerned the billboard with those adjectives will hurt the self-esteem of overweight children, and could encourage other youngsters to bully them. But there's another way to look at this. Wouldn't the overweight child have a physical advantage in a wrestling match?

But the local co-host of radio's "Duke and the Doctor" says she supports the anti-obesity billboards. That's really not surprising, since Dr. Jan McBarron runs the Georgia Bariatrics weight loss clinic. Every pound you lose there means a slightly heavier purse for her.

Dr. Jan McBarron told WRBL the campaign is a "wake-up call," especially for parents. She says parents are to blame for obese children every bit as much as the child. Maybe every mother should threaten to send youngsters to bed "without their supper" - then actually do it.

The ad campaign is the work of a two-year-old agency called the Georgia Children's Health Alliance. It has backing from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, as well as Blue Cross and Blue Shield - but the way some people are reacting, the alliance director might need a literal blue shield for protection.

Ron Frieson says the billboards and TV ads are doing their jobs - getting people talking about child obesity. I'd call it an "in-your-face" approach, but the alliance really is aimed more at the stomachs....

Ron Frieson hints as the ad campaign continues, paid child actors shown in the billboards will take steps to lose weight. So don't be surprised if Jillian Michaels comes to town to announce a new series called "The Littlest Loser."

While many people in Columbus are talking about the billboards and TV ads, several businesses with a stake in the obesity issue are noticeably silent so far. There's no comment from the Keebler plant on "Hollow Tree Way" near Victory Drive -- not even pointing out how small and slim the cartoon elves seem to be.

And what happens if a lot of people take this campaign to heart? If childhood obesity in Georgia drops substantially, the University of Georgia football team may have trouble along the offensive line for years to come....

-> We've had a very good week so far in online poker. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION changed Wednesday night, and now is based on the recent editorial by WTVM's Lee Brantley. Should the Iron Bowl football game be suspended for a while, after the Toomer's Corner tree poisoning? Or is his suggestion simply so much tree fertilizer?

Our question about the tree poisoning itself had a lopsided outcome - as nine out of 11 voters say whoever did it should be sentenced to prison. Some of the comments were quite emotional, including one we admittedly edited because it was loaded with profanity. Simply because it's a college sports rivalry does NOT mean every fan passed advanced English classes.

"This guy needs to be committed -- not imprisoned!!" wrote one voter during our lamentably nonscientific poll. But who is setting an example for Harvey Updyke along these lines? Three different attorneys have refused to commit themselves to represent him....

Another voter suggested a possible sentence: "What if the courts could require him to take a poison that would make him suffer a slow painful death much like the poison he willingly used on the oaks?" That commenter went on to suggest I give the injection - which would be plenty of trouble, since I don't even look at the needles stuck in me for blood donations.

Back at the big rivalry, Auburn and Alabama played an ugly game on Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm). The Crimson Tide men came from 15 points down to win at the wire 51-49 -- so if Auburn Coach Tony Barbee told his players to "win one for the trees," it didn't quite work.

Some of the poll comments were aimed more in my direction. We'll dodge hold those for another day, and check the Wednesday news....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported accused steak-stealer Jerry Mobley has a criminal record, which includes several shoplifting convictions. So no one can accuse this man of having chicken fingers....

+ Columbus Water Works admitted about 15,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into Upatoi Creek, and from there into the Chattahoochee River. Maybe Earth Services LLC offered to build a landfill on the wrong side of the state line.

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson told WRBL the travel websites which have refused to list Columbus motels are "foreign corporations." Uh-oh - as we Southerners say, them's fightin' words. But I guess it explains why Orbitz spells its name in an unusual way.

+ Alabama state officials announced an immediate ban on canned drinks which combine alcohol with caffeine. That means Four Loko is now Four-bidden -- and don't you dare combine that drink with bath salts to make a margarita.

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,069 (+ 24, 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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23 FEB 11: Fish and Foul

Thanks to the Ledger-Enquirer's "Breaking News" section, I discovered Tuesday was National Margarita Day. But I absolutely was NOT prepared for this. I don't even own any Jimmy Buffett albums.

But as we all know, humans cannot live by margaritas alone. A few might think they can after a long Wednesday night at El Vaquero, but I'm not counting them....

Two curious items from the meat department made local news Tuesday. We'll start with the bad news - as Columbus Police reported a man was caught shoplifting steaks, by hiding them in his pants. It's not quite the "meat dress" Lady Gaga wore at an awards show last year, but it's close.

Police say Jerry Mobley was spotted outside the Cross Country Plaza Publix store taking New York Strip steaks out of his pants, from around his waist. He reportedly only stole steaks - even though he probably could have had legs of lamb as well.

Officers told the newspaper in addition to the three steaks around the waist, Jerry Mobley had eight rib eye steaks in a bag -- and he reportedly admitted two of them came from Winn-Dixie. Well, that supermarket DOES claim to have "The Beef People." It probably has a beef with people stealing beef, too.

At least Jerry Mobley was arrested peacefully. Longtime Columbus residents may recall a 1998 meat-napping case, when a suspect was chased down and sat upon by Piggly Wiggly employees. The suspect died, and a Rainbow/PUSH boycott of Piggly Wiggly stores followed [13 Jan 04]. If The Courier had been around back then, the boycott still might be going today.

It's not clear whether Jerry Mobley was allowed to post bond, after his arrest for shoplifting steaks. But rest assured - if Mobley is guilty, the courts are ready to meat out justice against him.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a big fish tale Tuesday. A Fort Benning soldier went to Uchee Creek, and caught a 61-pound catfish! Why, that's almost big enough to put on a "Stop Childhood Obesity" billboard.

Capt. Shane Smith told WTVM it took him ten minutes to reel in the giant catfish. It might have taken the average angler twice as long - but once again, those Fort Benning conditioning programs pay off.

This turned out to be Shane Smith's second big catch in two weeks. He says he hooked a 30-pound fish from Uchee Creek last week. Hmmmm - did someone open a secret landfill in Phenix City, without getting anyone's approval?

Believe it or not, Shane Smith threw the 61-pound blue catfish back in the creek after posing for pictures. I can think of a few local churches which could have turned that fish into dozens of new converts at "Sportsman's Suppers."

(But then again, maybe Shane Smith threw the catfish back because he'd read the Biblical rules on "clean and unclean" fish. The rules admittedly can be confusing -- because "pig fish" is considered clean, while meat from pigs certainly isn't.)

Since we're having a food fair, we should note the Eufaula Tribune's report Tuesday that the city has lost its Taco Bell restaurant. The managers have only themselves to blame. If you're near a popular lake, you simply have to add fish tacos to the menu.

-> We had a heartbreaking moment at the poker table one night last week. Read it and weep at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The winner and still champion of Recorder's Court is Judge Michael Cielinski. Columbus Council voted 9-1 Tuesday night to grant him another term. Somewhere in Columbus, Julius Hunter vowed to avoid breaking the law at all costs - so he doesn't appear before Cielinski facing charges.

Judge Michael Cielinski has told WRBL he'll retire after one more term on Recorder's Court. Councilor Jerry Barnes didn't want to wait - proposing attorney Kyle Fischer replace him. But Barnes wound up as all alone as someone taking a diabetes test at a fire station.

Some people thought it was time for Judge Michael Cielinski to leave Recorder's Court, because he tends to have a tough attitude in court. If that's the wrong approach, why has it made Judge Judy a millionaire?

A pending court case tops our check of other Tuesday news....

+ Two more court-appointed attorneys asked to be excused from representing alleged "Al from Dadeville" Harvey Updyke. One of the attorneys happened to be married to the dean of the Auburn University Journalism School. He obviously didn't want his strategy announced live at Toomer's Corner by Elizabeth White, with angry students standing around.

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced a cost-cutting plan to preserve the HOPE scholarship program from possible bankruptcy. But it wasn't quite what I expected. The logo in front of Deal during the announcement made me think the European Union was taking it over.

(Deal's proposal will provide full-ride HOPE scholarships only to high school students with a 3.7 grade point average and high pre-college test scores. They'll be called "Zell Miller Scholars" - so don't be surprised if they go back and forth on their choice of majors.)

+ Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced an immediate ban on sales of two chemicals labeled "bath salts." Some people apparently use them for an addictive high similar to methamphetamine. If Strange expands this crackdown to Mr. Bubble, that will be the last straw for me.

+ Instant Message to Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi: Before you become that martyr you promised to be Tuesday, could you resolve a couple of questions for me? Once and for all, how do you spell your name? And if you're really that all-powerful, why are you a Colonel instead of a General?

Back there in 2010, more than 54,700 unique folks showed up right here at The Blog of Columbus! Now if you want to advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or just comment 'bout somethin', do write me - but be advised, I may post your e-mail and offer a reply to it righ'cheer.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,045 (+ 35, 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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

22 FEB 11: Hunter's Run Detour

The Government Center was open on President's Day. All in all, that may have been a good thing. Fewer people noticed the embarrassing political firestorm that needed to be put out.

City Attorney Clifton Fay announced former Columbus Councilor Julius Hunter is disqualified from becoming a Recorder's Court Judge this year. If Hunter really liked city government that much, he should have run harder in the runoff last fall.

The city attorney said Julius Hunter cannot become a Recorder's Court Judge because the Columbus City Charter's ethics code requires former city officials to wait one year before holding "any compensated appointive office in the government." So?! If Hunter wants to serve for free, that saves money in the mayor's budget....

(Do you realize what that ethics code also means? Jim Wetherington can't become a Columbus police officer again until the start of 2012.)

But this was no ordinary disqualification decision, for a couple of reasons. Some people suspect Clifton Fay acted only because a Ledger-Enquirer reader named "Housewife" brought up the ethics code over the weekend in an online comment. I wondered where the author of "The Truth About Teresa" went....

(People can post anonymously to the newspaper's website, so we don't know who "Housewife" is -- but in this case, I seriously doubt it's Rep. Carolyn Hugley.)

So we may have a Columbus first - a city appointment being stopped by an ordinary citizen using the power of the Internet. A pre-emptive move now saves a lengthy police department investigation later.

But there's a second strange twist to this story, which another Ledger-Enquirer comment mentioned Monday. Julius Hunter is a member of the Columbus Charter Review Commission - and he chairs a subcommittee studying the legislative branch. Apparently he's been so busy examining Article III that he hasn't bothered reading that appendix with the code of ethics.

This blog was first to report two weeks ago that Julius Hunter had applied to become Recorder's Court Judge. Little did we know how much political intrigue was behind that move. I've seen reports claiming some Councilors wanted Hunter to replace Chief Judge Michael Cielinski. It now appears the pro-Hunter group shot itself in the foot....

Monday's disqualification leaves six candidates for Columbus Council to consider tonight for four Recorder's Court positions. WRBL reported Monday night the two remaining "outside" candidates have arrests on their records from the 1980s and 90's. No wonder the mayor talked on inauguration day about seeking expertise from people with "youthful transgressions." No one else has applied.

BLOG CORRECTION: We mentioned Sunday "John Boy and Billy" from WVRK-FM appeared at the RiverCenter. Now someone who bought a ticket informs me the hosts were NOT there - only members of the supporting cast, with some guest comics. Now this show seems like a slap in the face. Isn't Columbus redneck enough to get these big stars?

-> We had a heartbreaking moment at the poker table last week. Read it and weep at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The alleged "Al from Dadeville" reportedly has fled his home, in the wake of his arrest for the poisoning at Toomer's Corner. WTVM reported Monday Herman Updyke is living "in his car by a creek" - and is NOT talking to reporters on the advice of his attorney. Updyke could have used that advice about six weeks ago....

Meanwhile, experts began removing dirt from around the Toomer's Corner trees Monday. Then two protective tents were set up at the base of the trees. It's only a matter of time before Auburn University students sneak into those tents -- hoping to be first to roll the trees after they're declared healed.

Let's see what other dirt we dug up over the holiday weekend....

+ The Monday high temperature in Columbus was a near-record 78 degrees F. It was perfect for a twilight run on the Riverwalk - and as I jogged home, I noticed two geese flying north overhead. Of course, one immediate thought came to mind. It was just like NASCAR racing at Daytona.

+ Columbus Police reported officers caught a man playing loud music outside Peachtree Mall - and he turned out to be an illegal immigrant. Tip of the day for new arrivals in Columbus: set at least one car radio button on a country music radio station.

+ Confessed "Bubblegum Bandit" Trevor Love was sentenced to four years in prison and 16 more on probation. He's the man who broke into several Columbus businesses last year to steal gumball machines. But one big question remains - where did all the gum go? Some self-storage business in Columbus may have the stickiest locker in the state.

+ The planned reopening of Krispy Kreme on Veterans Parkway was delayed one more day, and visitors had to settle for one free doughnut each. Do you think Nathan Suber forgot Monday was the Black History Month breakfast downtown?

+ Former President Jimmy Carter told students in Plains he expects an end to royal dictatorships in the Middle East and Persian Gulf over the next ten years. If that means more Irans like what Mr. Carter faced in 1979, I'm not sure that's a good thing.

+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported John Oxendine spent his last day as Georgia Insurance Commissioner assigning licenses to himself, for selling insurance. Those State Farm agents must really be "like a good neighbor" - so good that Oxendine didn't want to lose touch with them.

+ The high school baseball season began, with Hardaway handling Smiths Station 8-6. The Smiths players looked like they were wearing T-shirts instead of traditional uniforms. I don't think even Jordan High School cuts costs for baseball that much.

+ Instant Message to Legacy Chevrolet: Thanks -- but I don't think I'll apply for your spokesperson opening. I can say "COHHH-lumbus" like the sales manager, but I'm nowhere near as cute at Emanuel Jones's daughter.

Back there in 2010, more than 54,700 unique folks showed up right here at The Blog of Columbus! Now if you want to advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or just comment 'bout somethin', do write me - but be advised, I may post your e-mail and offer a reply to it righ'cheer.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,010 (+ 21, 2.1%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

21 FEB 11: Welcome South, Brother

Well, hey there! Here's a-wishin' you a happy President's Day, first of all. I know some of you Georgians still don't really want to claim Jimmy Carter as a President, but that's all up to you....

Oh - you've noticed somethin' funny about how I'm a-writin' here today? Well, there's a reason for that. And I'm a-fixin' to explain it to you, righ'cheer and now. It's 'cause after all these years, I'm finally, real-life and true, a Georgian. More'n ever before. And I didn't have to pick up one of them old flags sold from stands along the side of the road.

You see, I sat down and figured out some math'matics on this. And as of Sunday, I have lived in the South - and really in this here fine state of Georgia - for half-n my lifetime. Now you understand, that's a loooong time. Longer than a summer Sunday in a small Southern town -- 'specially when you can't buy a bottle of beer at the grocery store.

Now most of y'all know I was born waaaay up yonder there - in a place called Kansas. Contrary to what some you are a-thinkin', most of that state is NOT in black-n-white.

I lived out yonder there in Kansas for years and years - then lived for 'bout three years one state south of there, in Oklahoma. That used to be part of the South, in the ol' Blue-Gray football game o'er there in Montgomery. But if you talked with a drawl in Oklahoma, people would think you're from Texas and keep their distance from you.

It was 'xactly 26 years, three months and nine days ago when I drove Mama's ol' four-door Chevy Celebrity into Georgia for the first time. And that date was 'xactly 26 years, three months and eight days after I was born. Well, that's when they said I was born. Unless they doctored my birth certificate, like they thought I'd become a politician or somethin'.

Now put that all together, and you know what? I've been righ'cheer in Georgia half-n my lifetime. HOOOO-dee-hoo! That's somethin' to celebrate, now isn't it? Trouble is, that there Krispy Kreme doughnut shop they're reopenin' today doesn't serve grits.

And did y'all notice my big milestone just happened to fall on the national holiday of the South? Yup, Sunday was the Daytona 500 stock car race! And that there Aflac driver came close to winnin' the whole thing, didn't he? Even if the racin' looked more like "Dancin' with the Stars" all day long....

But you know, bein' a long-time resident of the fine state of Georgia has some obligations with it. And that gets to why I'm a-writin' here the way I am today. It's because I realize I have to sound and write as Southern as I really am. Otherwise, folks back up yonder will wonder why I don't.

So I've been a-workin' on a proper Southern accent, 'specially in the last year or two. To start off with, that means you say "Hey" instead of "Hi." And you surely don't say "Hello" to folks. I think they start saying that from the Io-way line up north.

And o'er the years, I've learned plenty of other proper Southern stuff. You don't add a pack of sugar to the glass of tea you pick up at the cafeteria. And you don't step on the gas pedal - you mash it. I think you're 'sposed to mash on that there computer mouse, too. But for reasons I can't explain, the Southern websites say "click" on stuff instead.

And 'nother thing I've had to learn is that here in the South, when college football season come 'round again, it's "us" against "them." It's personal-like. I heard ol' Larry Munson talk like that for the first time, and thought the water war was a real-life turf war.

But I have to admit to you, there are some other Southern things I still haven't done yet. I haven't spent any time in the pokey for playin' them gamblin' games. And I haven't risen up early in the mornin' time to go deer huntin' in the fall, neither. I mean, I have an orange outfit -- but the T-shirt says "Oklahoma State" on it, and it gets cold out there 'round five-30 in the a-m.

So if y'all happen upon me somewhere or other, don't be surprised if I start a-talkin' a little like the way I've written this here today. In fact, I may write like this a little more often now. It's all about a-fittin' in. Even if that good Georgia bar-B-Q means nothin' fits like it used to.

Now if y'all will 'scuse me, I need to high-tail it on to other stuff I've gotta do. And it needs to get done lickety-split-like....

Back there in 2010, more than 54,700 unique folks showed up right here at The Blog of Columbus! Now if you want to advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or just comment 'bout somethin', do write me - but be advised, I may post your e-mail and offer a reply to it righ'cheer.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 989 (- 65, 6.2%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

20 FEB 11: Friends and Buds

Columbus had a record high temperature Saturday of 80 degrees F. It was SO WARM that Al Gore decided it was safe to come out of hiding and talk about global warming again.

Trees are starting to bud across Columbus - and trees certainly are on many people's minds this weekend. In fact, a man in the church congregation I attend sells timber for a living. So of course, I reminded them a couple of large oak trees are about to become available in Auburn....

Plans for a "Toomer's Tree Hug" Saturday in Auburn were hindered a bit by the university. Visitors found metal barricades around the two historic oaks, and signs telling people NOT to roll the trees. At least that beat wrapping the area in "crime scene" tape.

Yet hundreds of people gathered at Toomer's Corner to mourn the poisoning of the Auburn landmark. Some put messages on cardboard signs. Others sang Auburn songs. And a few even realized the men's basketball team was playing a game on campus.

Auburn University officials now advise people against rolling Toomer's Corner, because the toilet paper might harm the effort to save the trees. So save the paper for something more important. For instance, Alabama's Governor could order major cuts in higher education funding....

Richard Hyatt's website even noticed a street preacher at Toomer's Corner, trying to quote from the Old Testament. Some cynics think that minister should have read from the book of Romans - a verse about worshiping the creation more than the Creator.

While I can understand the deep feelings some Auburn students and alumni have about Toomer's Corner, some of the things I've seen in recent days have seemed a bit over-the-top. For instance, someone played a cello next to the trees Friday. That Twitter feed claiming to be written by the oak trees is a parody, you know.

Meanwhile, the Al-leged presumed "Al from Dadeville" is free on $50,000 bond. Reporters didn't find Harvey Updyke at his Lake Martin home Saturday. They might have had more success searching fraternity houses in Tuscaloosa.

In what may be his most startling editorial ever, Auburn graduate and WTVM General Manager Lee Brantley called for the Alabama-Auburn football game to be suspended in the wake of the tree poisoning. He apparently fears next November, fans will show up in Auburn for the "Iron Bowl" carrying real irons.

The Iron Bowl game was suspended for several years in the last century, because the rivalry became too intense for Alabama leaders. But when I mentioned Lee Brantley's idea to several people Saturday, they doubted it would happen. All of them said too much money is at stake in modern college football - and I really don't think CBS wants to show Troy-Auburn on Thanksgiving Friday.

A very different event in Columbus Saturday focused on trees. Members of Trees Columbus planted pine seedlings in Lakebottom Park, to mark Georgia Arbor Day. They apparently planted seedlings because there were no trucks to move the trees chopped down along Veterans Parkway downtown.

WRBL's Bob Jeswald promoted Saturday's event during the Friday evening news, by hugging a pine seedling in Lakebottom Park. All the efforts to gain conservative viewers with "Remember When" items about Fort Benning and Ronald Reagan were lost in one fell swoop.

The Sunday Soapbox is silent again this weekend - so let's see what else is making news:

+ The Challenger Space Science Center held an "Astronomy Night," while the Trade Center next door hosted a gun show. What a wonderful opportunity to shoot the moon.

+ WVRK-FM morning stars "John Boy and Billy" appeared in person at the RiverCenter -- and people paid tickets to see them. How many Columbus radio personalities could try that and succeed? Bear O'Brian might draw a crowd if he gives away Piggly Wiggly gift certificates, but otherwise....

(Here's hoping John Boy and Billy did their fans a favor, and sold grilling sauce in the lobby at half-price.)

+ Columbus State split a baseball doubleheader with Barton College. WTVM caught two students in the Ragsdale Field stands wearing costumes -- one dressed as a hot dog, the other a bottle of mustard. I wondered what happened to the Jeff Francoeur fans, after he was traded away from Atlanta.

+ Roundball Saturday Night (tm) saw Alabama's men clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division title by parking Arkansas 69-56. Coach Anthony Grant seems to have rebuilt the program quickly. Now all he has to do is buy a couple of plaid sportcoats, to make the resurrection complete.

SCHEDULED MONDAY: I mark a personal milestone.... but I may have to change the way I write....

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,054 (- 95, 8.3%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

18 FEB 11: Give Me Liberty or....

Three stars have been on the sidewalk along Eighth Avenue since November 2008. There were supposed to be more by now -- and there was even talk of building a museum across the road from them. But in the theatre world, acting involves much more than merely saying good lines.

Today is a deadline day for supporters of the Liberty Theatre. They hope to accumulate 100 letters explaining why it should stay open, amid hints it might close for lack of funds. You know things are bad when Liberty convenience stores won't even sponsor your productions.

While the Springer Opera House and RiverCenter get all sorts of publicity, the Liberty Theatre puts on its own productions aimed at the African-American community. It's also the home of events such as "Summerfest" and a community Kwanzaa celebration -- although so far, no one's developed a "Tuna Kwanzaa" comedy script.

The big recession apparently has reduced attendance at Liberty Theatre performances. A lack of publicity hasn't helped, as the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau calendar doesn't mention any upcoming events there. If "Co-Ed Dodge Ball" at a recreation center can be listed there, the standards can't be that high.

So volunteer supporters of the Liberty Theatre want fans to write letters explaining how valuable and important it is. The letters will be sent to potential celebrity benefactors. And if that doesn't work, lists of paying customers might be taken to The Courier to see which local officials never have been there.

A list of possible celebrity endorsers was given to WTVM. It includes....

+ Ellen DeGeneres. She'll be a lot more interested if the theatre throws dance parties.

+ Tyler Perry. At least he's performed in Columbus in recent years -- but he may have missed the Liberty, while driving down Veterans Parkway to the Civic Center.

+ Oprah Winfrey. Talk about thinking big - a little check from Gayle King probably would be welcome right now.

It will be interesting to see if the 100-letter goal is met - especially since the Liberty Theatre has only 120 Facebook friends. That's another example of poor publicity hurting the cause, as that page mentions a performance of "High School Musical" that's almost two years old. Why, those Springer rip-off artists....

The Liberty Theatre also doesn't seem to have a presence on Twitter, which has a large percentage of African-American users. The staff might not want to be connected to Thursday night's trending topic "RIP Black Folks" - but they say any P.R. beats no P.R.

-> We had a heartbreaking moment at the poker table Thursday night. Read it and weep at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: The man who may be "Al from Dadeville" appeared in Lee County Court Thursday, on charges connected to the poisoning of the Toomer's Corner trees. Harvey Almon Updyke was arrested at his Dadeville home around 1:30 a.m. -- as if authorities feared he'd race to Columbus and do something rash on Veterans Parkway today for Georgia Arbor Day.

WTVM reports Harvey Updyke admitted calling warm Cinnabons Paul Finebaum's radio show in late January. But he denied actually spraying a large dose of herbicide at Toomer's Corner. Updyke may be using a "trash talk" defense - and come to think of it, he does look a little like the head coach of the New York Jets.

Various reports indicate Harvey Updyke is a former Texas State Trooper - and is such a big Alabama fan that he named his children Bear and Crimson. If I ever meet Columbus Police officer J.D. Hawk, I'll have to ask if his parents grew up in Kansas.

Harvey Updyke could face ten years in prison, on charges of first-degree "criminal mischief." Muscogee County parents should remember that - and mention it to their children, if they get restless over President's Day weekend.

But Auburn University is trying to seize on the attention over Toomer's Corner, by selling packages with oak seedlings from the two trees. Promoters even are throwing in a roll of toilet paper! The spirit of Cam Newton's father truly lives on....

(Hmmmm - come to think of it, how many rolls of toilet paper can you make from two large oak trees?)

Meanwhile, all seemed peaceful inside Auburn Arena during Thursday night's basketball showdown with Alabama. The Crimson Tide women won 59-51 - and some people were surprised when there was NO moment of silence before the game for the Toomer's Corner trees.

Other suspicious cases top the review of other Thursday news....

+ LaGrange Police reported Dennis Yi was arrested on charges of growing marijuana in his apartment. So is that last name pronounced "Yi" as in high?

+ WRBL visited a new "Business Center" on Buena Vista Road which claims to sell office supplies - but people were shown sitting at computer screens, playing slot machine games. I'll assume the highest scores win the biggest desks....

+ Georgia Freight on Box Road began a "quitting business" sale, on the heels of a sale to mark the owner's retirement. If he's got to go, the beds and sofas might as well go with him.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported a Bonefish Grill will open in Columbus Park Crossing. The managers will have to be careful with their promotions - and explain to police "Bang Wednesday" is not aimed at promoting gang membership.

+ Georgia Senate leaders announced a bill allowing local votes on Sunday alcohol sales in stores is probably dead for the session. It's a come-from-behind win for the Georgia Christian Coalition - and I'm sure members will celebrate by holding an ice cream social and checkers tournament in an Atlanta park.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,149 (+ 28, 2.5%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

17 FEB 11: Oak As In Choke

It's a rare day when an issue brings "environmentalist wackos" (to borrow from Rush Limbaugh) together with hard-core Southern sports fans. After all, people show up at the Aflac Outdoor Games to watch people saw through trees -- not plant new ones.

But Wednesday was one of those rare days -- as Auburn University announced the two old oak trees at Toomer's Corner seem unlikely to survive, because of chemical poisoning. Police consider it a deliberate act of vandalism. If the culprit simply had spray-painted an X on the trees, it might have been considered practice for the Veterans Parkway Streetscape.

Auburn officials say someone applied large amounts of a herbicide called Spike 80-DF to the two Toomer's trees. The university does NOT use that chemical -- since as we all know, you can't spike in college football.

But there's much more to this case, which makes it even more bizarre. The vandal apparently called Paul Finebaum's sports talk show in late January, and admitted on the air that he poisoned the trees. He implied it was retaliation for someone putting a Cam Newton jersey on the Bear Bryant statue in Tuscaloosa during Iron Bowl week. Oh dear - it's an Alabama variation on that cartoon of Muhammad.

The caller to Paul Finebaum's show identified himself as "Al from Dadeville," and claimed he lives 30 miles from Auburn. After checking a map, I wonder if he's really from the next town down the road -- as there's a large Jackson's Gap in his thinking.

(Instant Message to WLTZ news anchor Nathan O'Leary: The last name is pronounced FINE-baum. It does NOT rhyme with Cinnabon. You really should come visit the Columbus area sometime.)

For all his bragging, Al from Dadeville may have forgotten something when he showed up at Toomer's Corner with his herbicide. Two web-cams are pointed directly at it - one set up by the city of Auburn, the other by the university [6 Jan]. A review of video records could make Al a TV star, to go with his radio appearance.

Paul Finebaum says federal investigators are looking into the Toomer's Corner poisoning case. That could be due to concern about the herbicide causing environmental damage. But Auburn's Police Chief said Wednesday night there's NO concern about the herbicide entering the city water supply - since to my knowledge, downtown Auburn doesn't have micro-breweries.

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson was about the only person NOT saying much about the poisoning case Wednesday night. He said detectives are investigating. He did not say whether they're wearing breathing masks.

Tommy Dawson urged Auburn fans NOT to retaliate for what happened at Toomer's Corner. A big test of that will come tonight, when the Auburn women's basketball team hosts Alabama. It's "All-Orange Night" - so keep the cans of Black Flag at home.

Some Auburn students reacted to the poisoning announcement Wednesday night the only way they knew how. They went to Toomer's Corner and rolled it. I suppose knocking dead leaves off the trees could be compared to chemotherapy....

An online movement also began for a "Toomer's Tree Hug" in Auburn this Saturday. Can't you see the students now -- forming rings around the oak trees, since the trees may not be able to make any more?

But I also read a few online comments suggesting Auburn had payback coming -- and not necessarily for winning the BCS Championship. One claimed college students rolled Toomer's Corner when Alabama football coach Bear Bryant died. Well, maybe they did - but did any dance on Bryant's grave like Nick Fairley after a tackle?

WXTX suggested Wednesday night was the last time Toomer's Corner will be rolled - but not so fast. A similar historic oak tree was poisoned in Texas years ago. But a concerted effort allowed part of it to survive today -- including big donations from Ross Perot. If ever there was a time for "YellaFella" Jimmy Rane to ride to the rescue, it's now.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION asks you what should be done with the person who poisoned the two Toomer's trees. Should that attacker be imprisoned for his actions? That happened after a man poisoned that oak tree in Texas. And it admittedly would be more humane than hanging the attacker from Toomer's tallest branch.

Despite Wednesday's stunning news, the Auburn men's basketball team bravely took the floor for Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm). The Tigers were mauled at Mississippi 90-59, incurring their worst loss of the season. If the team came home from that to see Toomer's Corner rolled, they might have concluded fellow students are the sick ones.

-> We played a new kind of online poker last weekend -- and liked it a lot. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: It's also a rare day when someone comments on the "endorsement" messages normally found near the top of each post....

Sir Richard:

If it's good enough for "Buster" it's A-OK with me! - R.J. Schweiger

That's the former Constable of Hurtsboro commenting on a current Russell County Assistant District Attorney. Who says this blog is against law and order?

Let's check the good, bad and ugly of other Wednesday news....

+ Muscogee County Sheriff's Officers arrested 18 suspects, after a crackdown on illegal drugs and prostitution in the Bibb City area. Hmmmm - we finally may have an explanation for the "Might As Well" sign on Second Avenue. Maybe it was set up by hookers, as a hint to men.

+ Rigdon Road Elementary School hosted a program to help high school students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Parents may have been encouraged to keep contributing to Georgia's official fund for free college education - otherwise known as the state lottery.

+ Fort Benning announced a recall of contaminated ground beef, sold at its commissary. The evening newscasts did NOT say whether this is connected to the stomach virus which spread through a basic training unit. But meals of ground turkey might inspire some soldiers to prepare for future mission in northern Iraq.

+ WRBL reported Columbus Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson is down to nine semifinalists for Parks and Recreation Director, from more than 250 applications. The mayor said a Parks Director's top objective should be to spend tax money for the benefit of everyone, as opposed to having "the best basketball team." Outside politics, she has a great future running the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,121 (+ 34, 3.1%)

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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

16 FEB 11: Passing the Bucks

It all depends on your perspective, I guess. If some leaders appoint committees to study big issues, it's called "delegating authority." Other leaders who do the same thing get accused of "dodging responsibility." And if parents assign big tasks to their children, it gets the nice title of "character building."

This contrast came to my mind after examining the latest announcement from the new Columbus Mayor. Teresa Pike Tomlinson announced three new commissions which will study economic matters. The fact that none of the commission members will be paid to serve should tell you how serious the economic situation is.

The group which is likely to get the most attention is the Mayor's Revenue Review Commission. In Phenix City, this would be called an accounting firm - and brought in from at least 80 miles away.

A statement from Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson says the MRRC "will review any and all municipal revenue streams...." You knew someone would find a way to tax the whitewater rafting project, didn't you?

The mayor already has dropped hints about changes she'd like to see in those "revenue streams." She's mentioned adjustments in the occupation tax, and campaigned on the idea of putting a "sunset" on the property tax freeze. But the MRRC also will review sales taxes - so we could see a proposal for "LOST two in a row."

At least one other member of the Mayor's Revenue Review Commission already has suggestions on the record. Pete Robinson told a civic club in January Columbus should consider a "consumption tax" - which seems like a sales tax, but makes occasional cookie-bingers such as I feel very guilty.

Pete Robinson also dared in that speech to suggest Columbus impose a city income tax. And this man is listed on the MRRC as an "advisor to Governor Deal"? He sounds more like a man who would organize an October fly-around of Democrats....

If you think Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson is a Democrat, how do you explain her choice of a Chair for the Mayor's Revenue Review Commission? It's former State Senator Seth Harp -- who's trying to become Muscogee Party Republican Chair. Don't be surprised if he proposes doubling alcohol taxes on Sundays.

Indeed, that's the genius behind the appointments to the MRRC. It's a mix of people from all sides of the political spectrum. If they can reach consensus on any kind of tax increase, it would be hard to defeat in a voter referendum. Mayor Tomlinson simply will mention the "big elephant in the room" - and bring Seth Harp with her.

Compare this commission's assignment to what former Mayor Jim Wetherington did. He proposed a "streets and safety" sales tax on his own, without needing a group of bobble-heads yes men outside counselors to suggest it. Wetherington was more of a "lone wolf" police officer than we may have realized.

One thing strikes me as missing in the Mayor's Revenue Review Commission. It has three attorneys, three "business owners" and the Chamber of Commerce President - but no ordinary rank-and-file workers who might face the biggest challenge in paying new taxes. Of course, those people also would have the biggest problem attending afternoon meetings at the River Club.

The statement from the mayor's office says private citizens "volunteered to serve" on the MRRC, as well as two other commissions. That's nice -- but did I miss the announcement that volunteers were wanted for these groups in the first place? Do that many local movers and shakers really watch CCG-TV in the middle of the night?

Teresa Pike Tomlinson also named members Tuesday to a Mayor's Real Estate Investment Initiative Commission. Considering the possible acronym there, it says a lot about the market nationwide in recent years - it REIIC's.

The third commission announced Tuesday is the Mayor's Neighborhood Stabilization and Improvement Commission. Its goal is to enhance neighborhoods and "fight blight." So which part of town should be next to have trees chopped down along the roadside, while new ones are planted in the middle of the street?

-> We played a new kind of online poker this past weekend -- and liked it a lot. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: The barber shop hunt we mentioned Tuesday led one reader to offer suggestions....

For reference you might try Holt's in the Rothschild building on 1st ave in the 1200 block. Although Mr Holt is dead I believe his son still runs the shop. Holt used to cut my hair for 2 bits back in the sixties when he worked in the rear of Melcalf's Department Store. Also Wynnton Barbershop which strangely is not in Wynnton but rather is located behind B. Merrills on Veterans parkway.

The owner of Wynnton Barber probably had a difficult economic decision to make. He traded volume work close to Fort Benning for potentially big tips from "old money" in north Columbus and Harris County.

Let's face it -- you probably don't read barber shop reviews every day. So I should note I was NOT compensated for what I wrote about Victory Barber Shop. Some "mommy blogs" occasionally receive new products from companies to try out and review. I haven't even been heard from NICE, FRIENDLY Columbus car dealers tempting me with SPACIOUS SHINY 2011 sedans.

Enough of the hint-dropping - let's get Tuesday's news on the record....

+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer someone passed a counterfeit 20-dollar bill at Kendrick High School. If Usher's picture is on the bill, be suspicious....

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced an expansion at Pratt & Whitney, which will bring almost 200 new jobs to Columbus. This may be one time when "fly-by-night" workers will receive special favor.

+ Columbus Regional Health Care President Larry Sanders announced plans to retire. If you ran St. Francis Hospital, would you acknowledge this? Would you reserve a parking spot for Sanders near the front of the emergency room, because you doubt his old employer will?

+ Cici's Pizza on Auburn Avenue announced the addition of a drive-through lane. Hmmmm - drive-through pizza? Don't you normally have to wait 15 or 20 minutes after ordering one of.... oh wait. That's about how long you have to wait in the drive-through lanes of Krystal and Captain D's now.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,087 (+ 34, 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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

15 FEB 11: A Bunch of Cut-Ups

A stylist? For men's hair?! That sounds so wrong to my ears becoming increasingly surrounded by gray. I grew up with the old-fashioned barber. The man who had comic books along with hunting magazines above the chairs, charged $2.50 for a haircut - and who didn't stare at you afterward for not leaving a tip.

But those old-fashioned barbers are becoming old hat. My usual choice recently closed his shop in the Oakland Park neighborhood, apparently going into retirement. One business owner told me the barber had heart trouble - which is surprising, since one of those electric tools might double as a defibrillator.

I was surprised to find the Oakland Park Barber Shop closed the other day - but I needed a haircut badly. And thankfully, I was close to Fort Benning. Has anyone stopped to consider how base realignment should help Columbus barbers? There soon could be a nice "razor row" of homes near Cusseta.

One Oakland Park business owner recommended an alternative for getting a haircut - but I recalled a shop which offered cuts in the six-dollar range. So I drove in search of it, and stopped at Victory Barber Shop on Fort Benning Road. It's a "stand-alone" business between a Circle K store and Torch Hill Road - with plenty of room for paparazzi to interview stars walking out.

The six-dollar price isn't on the Victory Barber Shop sign anymore, but cars filled the parking lot when I showed up in mid-afternoon. In fact, a group of men stood outside the door. One older man waved me into a spot right in front of the door - but a young man behind shook his head no, and used a hand to make a throat-slashing gesture. No, I didn't need a shave....

"How are you doing?" the older man asked as I stepped out of my car.

"I'm confused," I answered. It beat admitting I was fearful - since the scene made me wonder if I'd wandered into a gang initiation. It wouldn't be hard to find sharp scissors, after all.

The older man assured me I should enter Victory Barber Shop, and I did without incident. It quickly became clear this was an African-American barber shop, as I was the only Caucasian man in the building. This was NOT a first for me - but I've concluded African-American barbers struggle with my sort of hair. I'm closer to Jerry Lewis than Jheri-Curl....

"How do you want it cut?" the older barber asked me.

"By you. With scissors." Shame on me - this sort of humor should NOT be tried on your first visit to a barber shop. He could misunderstand, and he's holding all the dangerous tools.

Judge Greg Mathis was on TV as my hair was cut, but the people inside Victory Barber Shop didn't really pay attention to it. A young man in the barber chair next to mine was slouching as if he was sound asleep. So they ARE working the students hard at Spencer High School....

Another young man stood up, complained about something relating to self-respect and walked out the barber shop door. Another person in a chair said out loud what I didn't dare say: "I didn't understand a thing he said."

One other customer entered Victory Barber Shop for service while I was in the chair - but all in all, I felt like I'd walked onto the set of a Tyler Perry comedy. I wasn't really sure what might happen next - perhaps the appearance of an overweight grandmother.

But the barber did reasonable service on what's left of my hair, then charged me ten dollars. I didn't bother pointing out the sign on the wall, which said haircuts cost eight. I paid in cash and went on my way. Next time I'll listen to that business owner in Oakland Park. Ranger Joe's only charges nine dollars, and the presence of soldiers would feel a little safer.

Let's slice our way through some Monday headlines now....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 69 degrees F. It was nice and comfortable for snoozing in the car during the lunch hour - and that's too bad, because that's part of the reason why I was late for a 1:00 p.m. appointment.

+ Columbus Police reported six cars were stolen on a cold morning, because owners walked away while warming them up. So much for the theory that criminals work late hours and sleep in. Instead, the early worm is getting the Firebird.

+ The River City Report revealed former Columbus Councilor Nathan Suber will oversee the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Veterans Parkway, when it reopens next week. Talk about a contrast! Julius Hunter wants to swing a gavel as Recorder's Court Judge, while Suber is happy with a mop and rolling pin.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer website reported St. Luke United Methodist Church Pastor Hal Brady will retire in June. It's not clear if he'll still live in Columbus - or at least close enough to be called as a character witness in Mark Shelnutt's next trial.

+ Former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod sued "Big Government" blogger Andrew Breitbart, over that video clip from a South Georgia NAACP event. She might have a case, if she's claiming defamation of character. But isn't this asking for trouble? Republicans could respond by demanding MSNBC show every speech by Presidential candidates uninterrupted.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ: I'll be looking for the check in the mail. Soon. Blog readers know where you got the idea for that special report on "Columbus Power Couples" [27 Jan]....

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,053 (+ 33, 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.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

14 FEB 11: Have a Loveless Day

During my junior high school years, I took two-hour "Unified Studies" classes every day - a mix of English and social studies. My eighth-grade teacher was named Ms. Loveless. And sometimes she lived up to that name - such as when she implied the U.S. forced the Philippines to make 4 July its independence day.

This day may be the most challenging one of the year for Ms. Loveless, country singer Patti Loveless and others with that last name. After all, there's so much pressure on people to express love for someone special. Hmmm - is that why President Obama is releasing his budget proposal today?

You may think Valentine's Day is a wonderful love-filled idea. But over the years, I've learned better. In fact, I've been taught there are two sides to the story - and if I know what's good for me, I'll steer clear of this day. The critics probably even would applaud me for playing Uno, instead of a poker game with 13 hearts in it.

The critics are in Christian religious groups, who say Valentine's Day has its origins in ancient Roman pagan rituals. If the Romans did it and it's not in the Bible, I shouldn't do it. We apply that logic to lions eating criminals in stadiums, after all....

A few critics go so far as to commend Muslim countries which crack down on Valentine's Day celebrations. In fact, that's one of several areas where Christian and Muslim fundamentalists find common ground. Call for a boycott of restaurants serving barbecued pork, and a major ecumenical movement could be underway.

So today is a day when I'm NOT supposed to be celebrating.... you know, hearts and flowers and that mushy romantic stuff. The way it's presented by some ministers, this is a day to avoid showing love at all. Hopefully Columbus police will understand, if they pull me over for running other drivers off the road.

The Valentine's Day critics stop short of proposing what happens in Cambodia every spring. That country holds a National Day of Hate during May. Of course, some people think Georgia and Alabama also have something like that in the spring - called Confederate Memorial Day.

So how am I supposed to respond to this? For one day, I'm going to try NOT loving anybody. I will be love-less. I'll do the work which needs to be done - but remember, I'm only doing it because I have to do it.

I might be friendly toward people today - but since I'm trying to avoid loving them, I'll put up a front. I'll wear a big fake smile on my face. I might even say "Sir" and "Ma'am" to them - and I know the use of "Ma'am" will offend some women, because they've told me it makes them feel old.

A day without love is even easier for a single guy like me, when you don't have a girlfriend. The money I save by not purchasing flowers will roll over to Tuesday, when the bags of Valentine's chocolate will be on sale at half-price.

So if you happen to pass me today, don't be surprised if I grunt or mumble instead of saying hello. I'm simply doing my good Christian duty. Come Tuesday morning, it will be safe for me to love people again -- even if those people respond by returning what I give them today.

-> We played a new kind of online poker this weekend -- and liked it a lot. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: Television networks are known for reruns - but newspapers?!

Richard,,you have to get a Sat.Ledger..check the obits..the whole pg is a reprint including the date of late Tue..

Whether this happened or not may depend on which edition of the Ledger-Enquirer you have. I checked the Columbus Public Library's Saturday issue Sunday, and noticed no reprinting at all. But then again, wouldn't the people in Tuesday's obituary section still be dead today?

I don't dare dig deeper go any farther into this subject. Instead, let's check the Sunday news....

+ Which area Girl Scout troop went to the Georgia Aquarium for the weekend - and actually slept overnight inside the aquarium building? Talk about giving new meaning to "sleep with the fishes...."

+ Muscogee County School District officials announced what's left of the old Baker High School will be bulldozed today. I drove by it Sunday, and only the front facade remained. I'm a little surprised Baker alumni didn't find a way to haul it off in one piece.

+ Richland Police told WRBL the town's leading drug dealer was arrested, and eight vehicles were seized at his home. In a town the size of Richland, anyone owning eight vehicles is likely to be held in suspicion -- especially if one of them isn't a used pick-up truck.

+ Virginia Tech torpedoed Georgia Tech in men's college basketball 102-77. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt was ejected -- and if this five-game losing streak goes much longer, he'll have the athletic director's permission to keep on walking.

+ Instant Message to "Maroon 5": Ohhhhh. You're a band. I saw that name and the song "Misery" at the Grammy Awards Sunday night, and thought you were the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Final 2010 score: more than 54,700 unique visitors to The Blog of Columbus! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 1,020 (- 49, 4.6%)

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

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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