Archive for March, 2010

Fort Benning’s Command Sergeant Major Change of Responsibility Ceremonies Accents Army Tradition

March 30, 2010

Command Sergeant Major James C. Hardy and Major General Michael Ferriter, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning'

As I sat in the audience at Ridgway Hall,  I reflected that the Army may get the latest high-tech equipment and learn how to use it, but the Army remains the Army.  Tradition counts. It counts a lot. The Change of Responsibility Ceremony for the outgoing and incoming U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Command Sergeant Majors was timeless.  It was the same combination of flags, music, speeches, and salutes that have marked military ceremonies for a very long time.  It still resonates with me.  Having been a child during World War Two, when patriotism was the highest I have ever seen it,  I get emotional when I hear the band play “The Army Goes Rolling Long,”  which was first “Caisson Song,” then “The U.S. Field Artillery,” before it was “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”  The Ground Forces Band from Fort McPherson played it at the ceremony, and, involuntarily, I was moved.  The fact that I was an Army bandsman many years ago might also have something to do with it.   

During the Ceremony, tribute was paid to outgoing Fort Benning CSM Earl L. Rice, who goes to Fort Bragg to become CSM there, and incoming CSM James C. Hardy, both with very impressive service records including many combat medals.  Their wives were also honored with presentations of bouquets.   

A Command Sergeant Major is the top ranked enlisted man on an Army post.  He deals not only with the noncommissioned officer corps, but directly with the commanding general. The relationship between a command sergeant major and commanding general was crystalized during Maj. Gen. Ferriter’s speech.  He said more than once, when he came up with some cockeyed idea to be implemented, his CSM had said, “Let’s talk,” and after their private  conversation, he wisely dropped the idea.  He told other stories that exemplified the relationship between a commanding general and his command sergeant major.   

After Maj. Gen. Ferrita spoke, both of the Command Sergeant Majors spoke.   The thing that stood out with both of them is their concern for their soldiers and their own families.   They are Rangers. They are Airborne.  They are battle tested.  They are also loving family men.  It came across that, along with their own families,  they are very dedicated to their fellow soldiers, the Army, and their country.   

The Ground Forces Band came from Fort McPherson in the Atlanta area to play for the ceremony

 
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Is Paper for Communicating on the Way Out?

March 29, 2010

It is obvious to me that paper used for communicating is on the way out, but not everyone agrees.

Bobbi Newman, Digital Branch Manager, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries

  Bobbi L. Newman, Digital Branch Manager of Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, is one of those who doesn’t.  Though her job is to provide digital services for the library system, she doesn’t think e-books will edge out paper as the primary medium for storing and disseminating knowledge. 

She does admit, though, that “we will see more of it, but still there are a lot of problems with e-books. For one thing, you can’t pick up an e-book, read it and give it to the Friends of the Library bookstore, or pass it along to someone else.”  Toward the end of our conversation she did say that no one really knows how the media model will change in the future.

Are these on the way out?

While the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries system has about 220 computers for public use, including some laptops, there are no e-readers available. 

Amazon's Kindle e-reader

The library only has two each of Amazon’s Kindle,    Sony’s Reader, AT&T’s Netbook (which is really a small laptop computer), and Apple’s iTouch. Apple’s  iPad, the reader that some call a big iPhone (it’s not, because it won’t be a phone), is not available yet, and Newman isn’t sure about buying even a couple of them because of the library’s budget crunch.  None of the readers they do have is in circulation. It hasn’t been decided yet on how they will be used.

Now, as far as being able to check-out a digital book for your own computer or e-reader, you definitely can.  Over 3,000 titles are available for you to download.  She says about 20 a day are checked out.   These include all types of books, including some new novels. For instance, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol is available online. To learn how to download online books just go to this website and watch the video.

What if the library had thousands of e-readers to loan to patrons?  Would that cause a big shift to e-books? My guess is it would, but that’s just my guess. Sure, people over age 40 resist giving up paper books. They are conditioned to paper books.  They don’t want to read books from a computer screen.  That includes me.  However, it seems to me that young folks have less of a problem reading from computer screens. Besides, the new e-reader screens look more like paper. You don’t get the computer screen backlit effect. Also, you can “turn the pages” by moving a finger across the screen.

Offices are going paperless more and more.  Magazines and newspapers are going paperless more and more. It’s happening.  There will probably always be a niche for paper, but it will grow smaller and smaller, I believe.  I know this has to be unnerving for those who manufacture and sell paper, but change is an inevitable part of life.  There will still be plenty of uses for paper. I don’t forsee anything electronic replacing toilet paper for instance.  And neccessity may inspire paper manufacturers to find new ways of using paper.

Senatorial Candidate Josh McKoon’s Solutions to the State Budget Crisis

March 26, 2010
With attorney Ron Mullins out of the Georgia Senate District 29 race, Josh McKoon, former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party, could be the replacement for Sen. Seth Harp, who is running for Georgia Insurance Commissioner, but who is still a state senator and has to deal with the budget crisis at the state capitol. Feeling that the crisis will continue if Josh takes Seth’s seat in the Senate, I decided to find out where he stands on the issue. The online interview follows:

1. How do you feel about cutting $300 million for Georgia’s universities and colleges?

Candidate Josh McKoon and the man he could replace in the Georgia Senate, Sen. Seth Harp (Photo was supplied by the McKoon campaign)

No one feels good about reducing funding for our institutions of higher education or K-12 education for that matter. It does appear that the additional reductions that were being discussed will be less than originally anticipated. It is going to be important as we go forward to continue to make education a top priority in building future budgets.

2. Are there other cuts that could be made instead of draconian cuts in the education budget?

Education needs to be at the top of our budget priority list. I’m not sitting around the table at the budget meetings, so it is difficult to second guess what additional cuts might be made at this time. I do believe that if we start with the proposition that we are going to focus funding on core functions of government instead of personal pork projects that we can identify more money for education.

3. How about the water and transportation problems? They are still very much with us.

We must improve our bargaining position in the water discussions. I plan on working with Republicans statewide to make sure our region has a seat at that table. We also can improve our bargaining position by moving aggressively on conservation measures, increasing our capacity through permitting of new state reservoirs and research of additional ways to bring new capacity online, such as desalination.

Transportation as an issue involves two primary problems, governance and funding. We are in a much better position on the governance side after the adoption of legislation last year to streamline operations at GDOT as well as the welcome move of bringing one of the most experienced legislators on transportation issues, Vance Smith, into the Department as the Commissioner. I have proposed increasing funding for GDOT by adopting legislation that would require revenue generated by the unit tax on motor fuel to be spent on DOT Project List items instead of being put into general appropriation where the revenues may be used for personal pork projects.

4. Would you support a tax hike of some sort?

I am a fiscal conservative. I believe trying to tax your way out of problems causes more problems. We need to focus our spending only on core functions of government and if we prioritize in that fashion we will identify more tax dollars for education, transportation and infrastructure.

5.Is the legislature to blame for not being better prepared to handle this budget crisis? Surely they had to see this coming.

In hindsight, one can always identify other things that could have been done to prepare for a crisis. Unfortunately our legislators did not have the benefit of that hindsight prior to the budget crisis. This is the worst economic slide since the Great Depression. No one could have predicted the extent and nature of these economic conditions. I think it is far more valuable for one seeking to set public policy to focus on the future and how we get out of this mess. Focusing on the core functions of government reduces the need to impose tax liabilities to our citizens. This allows the introduction of tax incentives to stimulate economic activity and get things moving again in the right direction.

6. Are there any statesmen left in the Georgia legislature?

Senator Seth Harp for one. Seth has done a great job of serving our district and I am proud to have his support. Yes I believe there are many good men and women working hard to improve public policy in Georgia.

Duke Miller, Retired Aflac Executive, Pledges $50,000 to Schwob School of Music

March 24, 2010

THE GIFT IS IN MEMORY OF LOIS E. MILLER

By Greg Muraski

COLUMBUS, Ga.  (CSU news release) – The Lois E. and R. Duke Miller Family Foundation, Inc. has made a five-year, $50,000 pledge to Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music in memory of Lois E. Miller, a longtime supporter of the school.

The money will allow deserving music students to travel to prestigious music competitions throughout the world. The first two Miller Family Scholars, violin performance major Jing Yang and vocal performance major Coraine Tate, recently traveled to New Mexico for the National Competition of Music Teachers National Association. Yang and Tate both placed second in their respective divisions.

Fred Cohen, Director fo the Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University

“Our students have traditionally fared very well at music competitions,” said Schwob School of Music Director Fred Cohen. “Their success validates for others the teaching and performance excellence of the Schwob school, and spreads the reputation of Columbus State University far beyond the Chattahoochee Valley.”

The Miller Family Foundation pledge also will help by providing private funds for use in national and international advertising.
    
“The Lois E. and R. Duke Miller Foundation, Inc. felt that the Schwob School of Music’s many great accomplishments demonstrate the school’s proven ability to excel as a center of musical excellence,” said R. Duke Miller, chairman of the Patrons of Music Society Steering Committee. “We are excited about the future of the school and want to do all in our power to encourage students of great promise to come to the Schwob School of Music and achieve outstanding careers. We hope others will join us in making gifts of support available to the Schwob School so it can continue to shine as a nationally recognized music institution.”

Miller, a retired Aflac executive, came to Columbus in 1979 with his wife Lois. Both loved music and became involved with the Schwob school. He has served as a volunteer for community organizations, including the American Cancer Society (Chairman, Board of Directors), Westville 1850 Village, the Columbus International Relations Commission and the Lois E. and R. Duke Miller Charitable Foundation, Inc.

He has also served as a board member of First Presbyterian Church, the Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum, Spring Harbor Residents Council and Children’s Tree House.

The Millers and their children all enjoyed singing, playing and performing in plays and musical shows. Lois Miller was involved for years with the Schwob School of Music Patrons Steering Committee before her death last July 1.

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Contact: Fred Cohen, 706-649-7244 or e-mail: cohen_alfred@colstate.edu

Chattahoochee Valley Regional Libraries System Gets a New Bookmobile

March 22, 2010

In about a year,  the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Libraries  will have a new $285,000 bookmobile, thanks to a grant from the John F. and James L. Knight Foundation.  It takes about a year to custom build a bookmobile.  CVRL Marketing Coordinator Linda Hyles tells me that it will serve Chattahoochee, Stewart, and Marian Counties,  which are getting no bookmobile service at the this time. This means money that had been budgeted for that bookmobile before the grant was made can be used to renovate the one that is now serving Muscogee County. 

CVRL Bookmobile now in service (Courtesy: CVRL)

The new bookmobile will have six computer stations and a satellite dish to connect them to the Internet.

This is a correction of yesterday’s post that said Muscogee County has no bookmobile service at this time.  It does.  Stewart, Marian, and Chattahoochee counties are the ones that have no service.

Building Columbus’ “Taj Mahal”

March 15, 2010

“TO AN EXTENT, ARCHITECTURE DEFINES YOUR CITY.” 

– Sudhir Patel,  Hecht Burdeshaw Architects, Inc.  

Sudhir Patel, in front of the main entrance to the MCSD Public Education Center building, for which he was the principal architect

 “They just don’t build them like they use to” is not an empty cliché.  They don’t, according to the principal architect in designing the new Muscogee County School District administration building. Sudhir V. Patel of Hecht Burdeshaw Architects, Inc. says the Muscogee County Public Education Center building should last many decades with proper care and maintenance. His architecturally favorite Columbus building, the downtown United States Post Office and Federal Court building, has already lasted 75 years.   

Downtown Columbus U.S. Post Office and Court House

But, they don’t build them that way any more.  The main reason given is cost. He says, “You cannot duplicate the details and workmanship back then with what you have today.  It’s certainly not getting better, although we have advanced from a technological standpoint, but, you know, we have lost the skills we used to have.”   

Downtown Post Office detail showing a train and airplane, one of the panels depicting the six modes of transportation delivering the mail. The other four are by foot, horseback, stagecoach, and boat.

While the post office’s architecture inspired Patel when he was designing the new building, he says he wouldn’t have just copied it, even if he had the budget. He would have given it a modern interpretation, just as he did with the Neo-classical design of the new administration building.  In order to give the rich appearance of the building, he used  materials that mimic the costlier ones. For instance, Cast stone, a concrete product, that is similar in appearance or character of the natural stone which was used for the façade of the post office. Both school board Chair Philip Schley and Superintendent Susan Andrews are pleased with the results, saying the building looks like one of the Washington D.C. buildings.   

MCSD Public Education Center panorama as seen from Macon Road, Columbus, GA

Patel is proud of the new administration building and says he has received nothing but compliments about it. He said, “You will always have a few out of the bunch saying it’s not worth it.” But, he said, the building “not only reflects the school district, but the people at large, what we are about.”  He said that architecture, to an extent, “defines your city. It defines your people. It gives a totally different perspective from a business standpoint, from the newcomer’s standpoint.”   

Patel has answers for critics who complained that the building would be too opulent, unnecessarily expensive, and that we don’t need a Taj Mahal.  We certainly didn’t get one. That 17th century Indian mausoleum is made entirely of marble.  The only marble in the administration building are some flecks in the terrazzo flooring of the lobby.  Asked if it’s a bargain, he said, “Absolutely,” He went on to say, “Discounting the site, the building came in less than $150 a square foot.  Rich does not necessarily mean expensive”  

 He laughed about the Taj Mahal comparison, saying, “I am probably the only architect in Columbus who has ever been to the Taj Mahal.”  Patel grew up in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and was educated both in India and the US and has a Masters Degree in Architecture. When he came to Columbus for his job interview, he said he fell in love with the city after seeing the Riverwalk area. He pointed out that he is more fortunate than the architects that built the Taj Mahal. The legend says that the king, Shah Jehan, deemed that no one else should ever copy the masterpiece, so he had the master craftsman’s and Architect’s hands cut off..”  

11th Street Y.M.C.A., the only all-marble Y.M.C.A. facade in the United States

He says the closest thing to the Taj Mahal in Columbus is the old 11th Street YMCA.  Its façade is the only all-marble one in Columbus. The First Presbyterian Church owns it now. The church leases it, and the 1953 building attached to it, to the YMCA until it moves into its new building. Pastor Dr. Charles Hasty says, “Tests show the 1903 building is still structurally sound. The church plans to renovate it on the inside and use it again, perhaps, for one thing, as a center for Columbus State University Presbyterian students.” However, he believes, it would be cheaper to build a new building than renovate the 1953 building attached to it.  Asked if he had considered replacing the 1903 building, he said, with a smile in his voice, “No! Both Janice Biggers and Virginia Peebles are members of my congregation. They would raise a big fuss.”  Both of them are retired presidents of the Historic Columbus Foundation.   

St. Luke Church Elementary School, formerly 11th Street Elementary School, formerly Columbus High School, built in 1898, 11th Street, Columbus, GA

In downtown Columbus, the only one of those late 19th and early 20th century schools still used as a school is the first Columbus High School that became 11th Street Elementary, which is now a St. Luke United Methodist Church elementary school.. School Board member John Wells admits “they were built like forts, but they don’t meet today’s needs.”  He adds, when defending the rebuilding of Rigdon elementary and Carver High, that the new versions will meet the needs of today.  “I know that some say we should preserve buildings for history’s sake, but that isn’t our business. Others can buy those buildings and preserve them.”  As we have seen, some have.     

  

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The National Teacher of the Year, a Former Police Officer, Comes to Columbus

March 12, 2010

CSU to Host 2009 National Teacher of the Year  

Anthony Mullen, National Teacher of the Year (Photo: courtesy Columbus State University)

COLUMBUS, Ga. (CSU News Release) – The reigning national teacher of the year — a former cop who has mentored troubled teens in both careers — will share his story and professional insight Tuesday and Wednesday, March 16-17 with Columbus State University education majors and professors.

Anthony Mullen, a Greenwich, Conn., special education teacher, also will visit and speak to educators in the Musocogee County and Fort Benning school systems.

Hosted by Columbus State University’s College of Education and Health Professions, Mullen will discuss school dropout issues, the primary topic of his message during his yearlong national tour that began last June.

The former Long Island police captain will give a speech to CSU student teachers and education faculty during a 7:30-9:30 a.m. breakfast in the Cunningham Center’s Blanchard Hall. He will remain in Blanchard Hall to answer CSU student questions in a 9:30-10:15 a.m. forum that’s also open to the media.

Mullen, of Greenwich’s Arch School, an alternative education program, works in a highly structured environment with students who have severe emotional disabilities.

“I teach these young adults because they are the most complex population to educate and therefore challenge my abilities as an educator,” he says.

Mullen often worked with troubled teens during his 20 years in law enforcement before completing his master’s degree in elementary education and special education and becoming a teacher in 2001. “I actively sought teaching positions that included the job description ‘working with students with severe behavioral or emotional problems’” he said. “I knew that my biography and work experience would provide me the empathy and skills necessary to help such young people.”

Following his activities with CSU, Mullen will attend a luncheon at the Fort Benning Officers Club with Fort Benning teachers of the year (12:45-1:45 p.m. Tuesday), speak at Faith Middle School to teachers and leadership personnel (2:15-3:15 p.m. Tuesday), attend the Muscogee County School District Teacher of the Year Breakfast at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center (7:30-9:30 a.m. Wednesday) and attend the Rotary Club of Columbus’ luncheon, also at the trade center on Wednesday.

The National Teacher of Year award is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Mullen has been visiting educators nationwide since June 1, fulfilling his duties as the national spokesperson for education. For more information on Mullen and the National Teacher of the Year Award, go to http://www.ccsso.org/Projects/national_teacher_of_the_year/.

GA Attorney General Candidate Still Has to Deal with State Budget Crisis

March 8, 2010

AS THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE RECONVENES TODAY, THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN THE STATE IS AT STAKE, WHICH MEANS THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA IS AT STAKE.

Rep. Rob Teilhet, Cobb County, GA, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

I was interested in what Cobb County Rep. Rob Teilhet had to say about his bid to become Georgia’s next attorney general, but I was just as interested to what he said to me before his talk to Muscogee County Democrats, because we discussed the financial disaster facing public education, Medicaid, and other state services.

These are issues he still must deal with because he still represents the people of his area of Cobb County, and, actually, he and all legislators represent all Georgians.  The problem, he says, is that the proposed budget is about $20 billion dollars,  about $2 billion more than revenues will provide, so something has to give.

The legislature can cut the education budget even more, including $300 million for higher education, which will mean teacher layoffs,  fewer courses being offered, and larger class sizes for the teachers that remain. There is talk that the elementary and high school year will be shortened from 170 to 160 days.

Rep. Teilhet tells me that the legislature is considering cutting state Medicaid payments by 17  percent.  He says if that happens, some hospitals will probably close, especially the smaller ones in rural areas.

It appears that, even though it’s a hard thing to do, taxes are going to have to be raised, I suggested.  He agreed, pointing out that a bed tax for hospitals could keep the Medicaid program at its current level. That’s what Governor Perdue is suggesting. A $1 cigarette tax is something that Georgians appear to be willing to support he said.  That would raise $400 million, enough to prevent destroying higher education.

Now, back to the reason he came to Columbus, to get local Democrats to support his bid for the attorney general job.  He promises to be tough on crime –  it seems candidates for attorney general always promise that – and tough on those who prey on the state’s consumers.  He also wants a stronger ethics law. I pointed out that’s a legislative matter. He said that the attorney general can also recommend legislation  to the General Assembly.  He also said that, as attorney general, he would prosecute violators of that law.

For Great Music You Don’t Have to Go Anywhere Else

March 5, 2010

YOU CAN GET IT RIGHT HERE IN COLUMBUS, GA

It is amazing that a city the size of Columbus has such an abundance of quality, live, sophisticated music available.  No, I am not talking about the stuff you hear on American Idol. That is anything but sophisticated.  Most of it , to me, is primal noise. I am talking about classical music by the great composers,  standards from the “American song book,”  jazz that requires expert musicianship, the kind played by the Columbus State University Jazz Ensemble, and the kind you get at the Columbus Jazz Society’s monthly sessions.  Not only is it available in Columbus, it is available in quanity as well as quality. 

Charlie Chaplin as "The Tramp"

If I had to pick the most entertaining of all of the movies, plays, and concerts of the past 12 months, it would be the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s City Lights performance on Valentine’s Day.

The audience at the Bill Heard Theater roared in laughter at the antics of the great silent movie comedian Charlie Chaplin, and it marveled at the score that Chaplin wrote being beautifully played by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.  Just before the movie started, CSO Conductor George Del Gobbo introduced it by calling Chaplin a genius.  I agree. He was.  It was a night to remember. I hope the symphony will continue with more novel nights.  Maybe it will help increase audience size.  The Bill Heard Theater had a lot of empty seats for that special presentation.  It’s a problem all over the country.  The audience for symphony concerts has been in decline for a number of years. That, to me, is a shame.  I love the sound of a live 60 to 80 piece symphony orchestra.  As good as audio technology has become, it still can’t replace the live sound of a fine orchestra, and we do have a fine orchestra in Columbus.

We’ll get another chance to enjoy it tomorrow night, March 6, 2010, at the Bill Heard Theater when the Hamman Sisters play Ravel, Poulenc, and Debussy ina program called “French Impressions.”  See you there.

It’s Live. Most of It is Free. It’s Incredibly Outstanding.

March 5, 2010

Adam Kirkpatric, lyric tenor, and Russell Young, pianist, performing in Legacy Hall, Columbus, GA. Legacy Hall is a show in itself.

 As I listened to Adam Kirkpatric, a lyric tenor who teaches at Kennesaw State University,  singing some of the great arias in Legacy Hall at the River Center, thoughts of Pavorati,  Caruso, and Mario Lanza surfaced.  He was that good,  nailing the really high note at the end of “La donna e mobile” just like they did.  For a reminder, you can hear Mario Lanza hitting that note by going to this website.

I was disappointed with the size of the audience, but the event didn’t get a lot of promotion, and the Schwob School of Music has so many concerts and recitals that it’s understandable that they are not all going to attract big audiences.  The CSU Philharmonic and Wind Ensemble, along with the Jazz Band, seem to attract the largest audiences outside of the really big yearly program  in the Bill Heard Theater that features all departments of the School of Music.

But, for people who really like top flight “serious” music, it is wonderful to have the choices available for free admission that the Schwob offers.  I went to an incredibly impressive piano concert  recently that featured five students playing the music of Chopin and Schumann.  It was stunning to see and hear those young people conquering those highly complicated and demanding selections written by those great composers.

If you like live performances of some of the world’s greatest music, just check out the Schwob School of Music website for event listings and come on down and fill those empty seats. The pleasure will be two-fold: you will enjoy the music, and you’ll give the performers a boost, especially when you join everyone else in giving them a standing ovation at the end.  The faculty and students at Schwob are truly outstanding performers.