Crime Stoppers offers reward for kidnapping suspect

From the Athens-Clarke County Police Department:
On the Sunday 09-09-07 at approximately 1:00 a.m., a female victim from out of town became separated from her friends while visiting the downtown area of Athens following the UGA/USC football game. The female was approached by a white male in a white passenger van. The suspect offered the female a ride to her friend’s apartment complex in Athens. The female willingly entered the vehicle and the suspect proceeded to drive her to an isolated area outside the city and in another jurisdiction. The female exited the vehicle and fled. The victim then ran to the nearest residence and called 911. We believe that this was an attempted sexual assault based on the suspect’s actions.

The subject was described as a white male, 20-30 years old, 5’8”-5’11”, 150-190 lbs, medium build with short brown hair. He was wearing a baseball cap and a light blue or white polo type shirt. The van was described as a new model GMC or Chevrolet passenger van, white in color, possibly a taxi or work van. The van had a gray interior. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

Anyone having information on this subject or who may have seen this van or even been provided a ride in a van matching this description should contact Det Ben Dickerson (ext. 793) or Det Ivey (ext. 337) at the Athens-Clarke County Police Department at (706)613-3888. If you wish to remain anonymous you may call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (706)613-3342.

Sordid Lives

The buzz is circulating about "Sordid Lives" from University Theatre. You still have another weekend to see it at the University of Georgia's Fine Arts Building. It's called a "black comedy about white trash" that covers themes of coming of age and growing up in Texas. The story involves a family reunion on the occasion of the passing of the family's matriarch -- brought about by some kind of accident while committing adultery in a motel. The singing role of Bitsie Mae Darling is played by Winterville's Wilma. The remaining shows are at 8 p.m. each night through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Visit the official website for more information.


Bags for Bears (Bear Hollow/Zoo)

Bear Hollow Wildlife Trail and ACC Recycling Division are introducing a new community-wide program: Bags for Bears!

Starting October 1, community residents can recycle their plastic grocery bags and wraps at several locations, including the Athens-Clarke County Recycling Center on Hancock Industrial
Way, the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department on College Avenue, Bishop Park, Bear Hollow and Memorial Park as well as Sandy Creek Nature Center.

The materials will be collected, recycled and made into composite, plastic lumber. The goal is 405,000 bags or 6,500 pounds by December 31 st . If the goal is met, Trex, Inc. will donate
their composite, plastic lumber to Bear Hollow for building, playscapes for the bears, bobcats, and otters to play on and enjoy. This is part of an on-going effort to provide physical and
mental stimulation for the resident animals. In addition, it keeps these materials from littering our roadsides and out of our local landfill.

Area schools can get involved and the top five producing schools will
receive special prizes from ACC recycling Division and Bear Hollow. This is a Green School Activity!

Bags for Bears is a unique partnership between Bear Hollow, ACC Leisure Services, ACC Recycling Division and Trex, Inc, a Virginia company that makes lumber from recycled plastic bags from
both home and industrial sources. This is truly an innovative application of their excellent product. Please call Bear Hollow at 706-613-3616 or ACC Recycling Division at 705-613-3512 for
additional information.

Please bring in those bags and participate in this unique event!


1960s Athens and drugs

As you drive down Lumpkin near the track, notice the cement block wall that surrounds the football practice fields. This brick wall was built way back in the day to protect the sanctity and secrecy of the UGA football team practices. Coaches and scouts from other teams would spy on upcoming opponents practices to try and figure out the game plan in advance. So the wall was built.

In its first form, it was a plain cement block (we called it cinder block) wall. As such, the wall was pretty porous. You've no doubt seen a cement block up close, there are little holes, fissures, and the like throughout the block. Well, the wall was no different as it was unpainted.

In a previous post, I had mentioned the drug culture that flourished in Athens back then. Yeah, I know, it still does, but in the 60s that culture was...different. I guess it was more innocent. Most of the drugs other than weed were acid, mescaline, psilocybin, hallucinogenics in other words. College kids in the 60s really thought that this was a mind expanding thing, nothing insidious. It was widely viewed as a part of the educational process I suppose, but more importantly, drug use was counter-culture, another form of protest. And Athens/UGA was all about protest as I had mentioned. So kids dropped green-dot LSD and went to class. Or maybe did a little blotter and hit Legion Field for some tunes. Or maybe the Arch for an anti-Vietnam rally. The Arch has always, as long as I can remember, been a focal point for protest and it gives me a sense of well being that it still is.

There were frequent rallies on campus at various locations. Most of the Vietnam protests tended to be up near the Army ROTC building for obvious reasons. It is still at the same location, so the rallies would be there on Baldwin. The rallies started out being completely peaceful and even respectful. Just a bunch of engaged college kids who felt compelled to voice their disapproval of the war in Vietnam. As such, the campus police stood by and mainly watched. The Athens City Police would be around too, just in case. I attended more than several of these rallies/protests just to see what was happening, to try and understand what was up with this Vietnam thing.

Then Kent State happened. The hippy movement was in full swing before then on a national and a local level, but after Kent State, things changed in tone. The Students for a Democratic Society had gained some momentum during this time, and after Kent State, the SDS took a more activist roll in their protests. In fact, they became violent.

Now, this is just my opinion, and I would be glad to hear other's opinions on this, but here is what I think happened at UGA. The SDS folks and their rhetoric, their anarchistic elements, tended to alienate the true hippies. The real hippies were into peace, drugs, music, and all the other stuff that you are no doubt aware of. So here at UGA, there was a split on campus between the hippies and the freaks, the SDS types. I won't mention the south campus, and usually south Georgia, kids. They were ag types, country boys who looked down their noses at the whole thing going on on north campus. I know, that’s a huge generalization, but I make it to illustrate the divisions on campus. The frat boys and girls didn't count one way or the other in all of this for what that’s worth.

So we have the hippies and the freaks. The freaks got somewhat violent here on campus, I had mentioned the 'firebombing' of the ROTC building, which didn't really amount to much at all. I remember when the thing was thrown, I got on my bike and left quick. Everyone else was headed out too, and I don't even know if the police knew that the place had been 'fire-bombed'. So there was the violent element that was really the polar opposite to what the hippies were about. So they withdrew from the protests and rallies. The real hippies just quit showing up, but they didn't quit their drugs. Not at all. In fact, I think maybe it intensified. More kids were tripping more often, which brings us back to the wall around the football practice field.

Word got around about all those little holes and fissures in the wall. The hippies were drawn to the wall like moths to a light in the summer night. The holes and cracks were thought to contain little worlds, miniature societies. I'd ride my bike down Lumpkin and turn right on Smith Street, it runs parallel to the wall and behind the Hoke Smith Annex building. And there they'd be, sometimes as many as 10 or 12 kids, tripping their heads off, standing with their faces about 2 inches from the wall. Some of them would just stand there in silence. Some would be muttering, some would share what they were 'seeing' in the wall. They saw little creatures, humanoid or otherwise. They would see interactions between these little creations, one group invading another. I know that sounds like so much hyperbole and may be unbelievable, but I saw it on a weekly basis for several months as I recall. It got so bad that the Athletic Association finally painted the damn wall with several thick coats of acrylic paint, dooming, I suppose, all those miniature worlds. And dooming the hippies to go somewhere else to trip.


Three Sisters

Checkhov is good stuff:
The Town & Gown Players' 200-2008 season opens with "Three Sisters," Anton Chekhov's classic tale of the Pozorov family's attempts to juggle spouses and suitors, lovers and rivals, ambitions and dreams in one of the towering dramas of the twentieth century.

Tickets for Three Sisters are $18 ($15 for students, senior citizens and youth), for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shows, and $5 for the Thursday performance. Reservations can be made by calling 208-TOWN (208-8696).

Show dates are Sept. 21-23 & 27-30 - curtain is at 8pm for all shows except Sunday Sept. 23 and 30. The Town and Gown Players are located on Grady Avenue off Prince Avenue. For more information, visit

Free Concerts Sponsored by UGA School of Music (Oct.2-Oct.9)

Oct. 2. 2007. Faculty Chamber Ensembles, Ramsey Concert Hall 8.00 p.m.
Oct. 4. 2007. UGA Symphony Orchestra Concerto Concert, Hodgson Concert Hall, 8.00 p.m.
Oct. 8. 2007. Algirdas Budrys (Clarinet) , Lyle Indegaard(Piano), Kevin Hampton (Piano), Ramsey Concert Hall, 8.00 p.m.
Oct. 9. 2007. UGA Wind Ensemble Concerto Concert Hodgson Hall, 8.00 p.m.

All free...


Useless Pages

This morning I saw that my neighborhood had been littered with phone books from a new publisher. This directory with yellow pages is called the "Southern Pages." I deem it useless because I am not listed. I have had an Athens landline for 22 months, so either I was omitted or the data is very old.

Open meeting on National Bio & Agro-Defense Facility

Public meeting,Thursday, September 20 at 6:00 pm at the Georgia Center.

Thursday, September 20, 2007
6:00 p.m. The University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education
1197 South Lumpkin Street
a.. Onsite registration, sign-up to provide oral comments and view
exhibits: 6:00 p.m.
b.. Meeting: 7:00 p.m.
c.. Formal Comment Period: 8:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Public Comments Are Encouraged During the NEPA Process The
Department of Homeland Security
is committed to open communication
and providing public access to pertinent information about its activities
throughout the National Environmental Policy Act process.

The Department welcomes all comments, both oral and written, during
the scoping period July 31 - September 28, 2007. All comments submitted
this period will be given equal consideration in defining the scope of
the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Environmental Impact Statement.

Submit Comments or Request Materials by:
Include your name, address, organization information (if applicable) and
email address.

a.. Email: nbafprogrammanager@dhs.gov
b.. U.S. Mail:
a.. U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Science and Technology Directorate
James V. Johnson, Mail Stop #2100
245 Murray Lane, SW; Building 410
Washington, DC 20528
c.. Toll-free Fax: 1-866-508-NBAF (6223) toll-free
d.. Toll-free Voice Mail: 1-866-501-NBAF (6223) toll-free

The following issues have been identified for analysis in the NBAF EIS;
list is preliminary and is intendedto facilitate public comment on the
scope of the EIS. Other issues will be identified through public involvement
and interagency coordination.

· Land use plans, policies, and controls
· Visual resources
· Air quality
· Acoustic (noise) environment
· Geology and soil characteristics
· Water resources, including surface and groundwater, floodplains and
wetlands, and water use and quality;
· Plants and animals, and their habitats, including federally listed
threatened or endangered species and their critical habitats, wetlands and
· Cultural resources, including historic and prehistoric resources and
traditional cultural properties encompassing Native American or culturally
important sites
· Human health and safety (involving both members of the public and
laboratory workers)
· Socioeconomic effects that may be related to the new construction and
facility operations
· Public infrastructure, including utilities and local transportation
· Waste management practices and activities including the handling,
collection, treatment, and disposal of research wastes
· Compliance with all applicable federal, tribal, state, and local statutes
and regulations and with international agreements, and required
environmental permits, consultations and notifications



More info here:



Classic Center, Athens, GA - Be Impressed

Classic Center, Athens, GA - Be Impressed: "RIVAL Entertainment Presents… THE SMASHING PUMPKINS w /Explosions in the Sky Wed. November 7, 2007 6:30pm Doors/7:30pm Show Tickets go on-sale Saturday, September 22 at 10:00am. For tickets you can go online to www.tickets.com or www.classiccenter.com. You can also call The Classic Center Theater Box Office at 706.357.4444."


Let them clean up downtown

Many of the folks arrested for things like underage possession of alcohol and public urination are getting the chance to help clean up downtown while keeping their criminal records clean. I attended a forum on Sunday with Judge Kay Giese of the Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court, and she shared some information about the pretrial diversion program used by the Solicitor General's office. She explained that there is a community service component in this program through which some defendants are allowed to avoid prosecution if they successfully complete it. Some are asked to work with the Solid Waste Department to pick up trash downtown, and some are asked to work with the Athens Downtown Development Authority to hose down the parking deck or sidewalks.

She also said that those defendants who are asked to write essays often benefit from their reflection and discovery in the process -- which is interesting because I have always been skeptical about a punishment normally used for classroom peccadillos to allow someone to get out of criminal charges. The essays supposedly help some college students realize the importance of getting their book on instead of boozing up.

Judge Geise also reported that about 10% do not complete the pretrial diversion. I did not know the number was so high, and I have been mystified at those who are too busy to return a phone call or come to town and figure out how to take advantage of the rare opportunity to avoid prosecution by going to an alcohol class and doing a little community service.

Beauty and the Beast play OYP Sept. 21-23

Oconee Youth Playhouse, a local non-profit theater organization, is partnering with The Classic Center to present the popular Disney musical "Beauty and the Beast" at the Classic Center Theatre in downtown Athens. Shows are Sept. 21-23 (8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. on

University of Georgia students Joseph Hitchcock and Margot Hancock head a cast of more than 100 talented local young people. Broadway-caliber sets, costumes and special effects will help re-create the magic of the original stage version, the 6th longest-running show in Broadway history.

Tickets are available from The Classic Center box office (706-357-4444) or online at www.ClassicCenter.com. "Beauty and the Beast" is the first production in The Classic Center's new Community Series.


Car Show in Madison County - Oct. 6

The Madison County Takedown Club will be sponsoring the 2nd Annual MC Takedown Club Car Show on Saturday, October 6 from 1 - 4 in front of the Madison County Middle School Gym and the Holman Autry Band in Concert on the Madison County High School Raider Field. Registration for the car show is $25 and begins at noon. The award presentation will be at 4. There will be awards for the top 10 overall. The top 10 cars will be moved into the concert area and spectators will vote on a spectator's choice. All makes and models, classic to contemporary, cars, trucks & motorcycles are invited. There will be a 50/50 drawing, door prizes, and t-shirts.

The concert begins at 6:00 p.m., gates open at 5. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the gate. Advance tickets can be purchased at Madison County High School, Madison County Middle School, The Buzz, or Zeb's BBQ.

All proceeds benefit the Madison County High School Wrestling Team.

Adopt a cat -- AAHS in terrible need

Many of you have read or heard about the 40 or so odd abandoned house cats found in a house on Lavender Rd in Athens. Apparently, the owner had left town for a while(?) leaving the cats to more or less fend for themselves. The Athens Humane Society has treated, rehabilitated, and now has some of them ready for adoption. AAHS is offering a reduced adoption rate (1$) for these cats.

However, given the overwhelming burden on the Humane Society (they stopped accepting rescues for a while, except emergency situations), these cats are facing a grim fate and only have a few days left. If you know of anyone who would be interested in adopting a cat, please do remind them of the AAHS shelter.

Here is a blurb with more info:

Change their Luck for a Buck! AAHS is now accepting adoption applications for the nearly 40 cats rescued from an abandoned home last week. Visit our website for complete information on adopting one of these special pets for only $1. Some of the more 'fraidy' cats are also looking for homes as well-maintained barn cats. Learn more! Thanks to the many special donors and foster parents who are making placement of these animals possible.


Going to the dogs...Grace's Birthday party Sunday

Grace's Birthday Party
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grace's Birthday Party is an annual celebration for dogs and their humans. This year, hundreds of canines and their two-legged companions will dress in their finest western gear and gather at Ashford Manor Bed & Breakfast on Sunday, Sept. 16 to celebrate the ninth annual event. The “wild west” party will raise funds to support the Grace Memorial Foundation at the University of Georgia’s Veterinary Hospital as well as a host of other local animal advocacy organizations. The party will last from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will be held rain or shine.

The event will feature a fun-filled day of doggie games, costumes, contests, refreshments and more – along with some fun stuff for humans too. All dogs attend free, while adult humans pay $15 and children pay $5.



Something was in the air

Something strange was in the air in Athens this past Tuesday. I try and sit on a bench
somewhere on north campus during my lunch break. My office is underground and I really
benefit from the fresh air. I usually have a few crackers to toss to the squirrels during
these times. Anyway, on Tuesday I was sitting on a bench in front of Peabody, watching a
squirrel eating a cracker I had tossed over near a big oak. I became aware of loud voices
and looked over to where a young couple were arguing. I couldn't make out what they were
saying but it obviously wasn't a very pleasant conversation. This went on for several
minutes then they both stomped off in opposite directions.
I didn't think much of that until I was walking back to my office. On the steps of the
Library I heard a young lady telling a young man in a loud tone of voice "No BRIAN, I
haven't been around much. Thats because whenever I am around you BRIAN, I get really
really DEPRESSED!!!"
Well damn, that was coincidental. So I go on into the lobby of the Library and immediately
encountered a couple facing one another. She was in a traditional sari, he was dressed in
a more western style. They were muttering to one another, he turned and walked away and she
looked after him with a look of complete disgust on her face. Well damn again I thought. I
considered calling my wife to make sure we weren't arguing too, but thought better of it.
Maybe it was an after effect of Saturday's football game, maybe it was something else, but
whatever it was, it was something for sure. At least the rest of the week seemed a little
more placid. I didn't hear any more arguments as I sat outside, wondering why in the world
the University Grounds Department chose a home game week to plant more grass seed on North

Serious watering restrictions: $1,000 fine for watering anything

Effective Monday, September 17, 2007, Athens-Clarke County will implement Level Four Drought Restrictions, which prohibit all outdoor water use 7 days a week, 24 hours a day as part of Step E in the ACC Drought/Water Shortage Management Plan. The restrictions affect all residential, commercial, governmental and institutional customers of the ACC Public Utilities Department’s public water supply system and include prohibitions on drip irrigation, car washes, and pressure washing, among other activities.

Violators of the outdoor watering ban may receive a surcharge of $1000.00 added to their water bill and/or termination of water service.

These Step E restrictions also affect commercial and industrial outdoor use of water critical to the conduct of business such as commercial car washes, tree farms, golf courses, and garden supply nurseries. Some commercial and industrial uses are eligible for Special Outdoor Water Use Permits from the Water Conservation Office if plans include reduction strategies.

Further information, including the full Drought/Water Shortage Management Plan (Chapter 5-3 Article 6 of the ACC Code of Ordinances), may be obtained at the Athens-Clarke County Web site at www.athensclarkecounty.com or through the ACC Public Utilities Department (706-613-3470) or ACC Public Utilities Water Conservation Office (706-613-3729). For ideas on how to conserve water at home and in the workplace, visit the State of Georgia’s website at www.conservewatergeorgia.net.

Rivermaya Auditions featuring Joe Guerzo


5 Points gas station -- repost

In the 1960s, there were two gas stations in 5 Points. One was the Standard Oil Station, which is now Jittery Joes. The other station was the Gulf Station, which is where the Golden Pantry is located now. Both were full service stations which was the norm for that era. Both stations had two service bays with lifts and overhead doors that could be closed and locked at night.
The Gulf station stayed open 24 hours a day. There was an older guy that worked the night shift named Loyal. It was pronounced Lowell though. Loyal was a fixture in 5 Points, you could count on seeing him there at night. He worked from about 10 PM until about 6 AM or so. As 12 or 13 year old kid, I'd sneak out of my parent's house in the middle of the night and walk up to 5 Points to visit with Loyal. He'd let me pump gas sometimes. I could not count the times that I saw carloads of Athens High School kids (now Clarke Central) come in there to buy 2 dollars of gas so they could continue cruising Athens. Lots of kids would be at the Varsity drive in, that was a popular gathering spot for AHS kids and for kids from surrounding counties. The drive in area was the lot that is between the Varsity and the Dairy Queen. Most Friday and Saturday nights, you'd have to cruise through there many times to get an empty spot. So kids would cruise between the Varsity and the Pick and Pay shoe store parking lot on Broad, another popular spot. They'd drive into 5 Points to get the gas needed for that cruising. Many times, there'd be beer involved and I would watch as a carload full of high school kids would pull into the Gulf station, raising hell, making noise, generally driving too fast. At these times, I'd pump that gas or Loyal would, but Loyal would get the driver of the car to come into the office to pay. Loyal would make the driver drink a cup of coffee and tell stories about kids getting killed in wrecks driving drunk. Many times, that carload of kids would leave the station in a much quieter and safer manner than the manner that they drove in.
At the time, I didn't think much of that one way or the other, but as I got older, I thought about that and I wonder to this day how many lives Loyal saved over the years? He did that just out of the goodness of his own heart and his caring for the kids of Athens. Loyal would tell me stories of driving a truck for a living, which he had done in a previous job. He told me about driving a wrecker truck, which is where he saw all the carnage and wrecks caused by high spirited and drunk teen drivers. Depending on how much gas I had pumped on a given Friday or Saturday night, Loyal would pay me 2 or 3 dollars, which I would promptly spend over at the Waffle House which was a fairly new business at that time. I'd have some breakfast, then walk back down Millege Circle to my parents house, sneak back in, and sleep until 1 PM or so. I don't think my parents know to this day that I spent the better part of two years of weekend nights pumping gas in 5 Points.
Loyal was killed several years after this time, he was reported to be walking down the train track over near Winterville at night. He had been drinking and didn't hear the train coming or didn't care, no one will ever know. But the train hit him going almost full speed and knocked him 20 yards or so off into the weeds that bordered the tracks. I heard after the fact that his funeral was well attended by a lot of young adults from the area, many of whom no doubt had him to thank for their safe passage through Athens High School and those wild weekend nights.


History and Genealogy Events for Sept 18-22

Tuesday September 18, 2- 4:30 pm Getting Started With Genealogy, in the Heritage Room (Athens Public Library). Bring a sweater or light jacket (as the Heritage Room is known to be chilly) and bring pencil and paper to take notes. A packet of handouts will be provided. No registration required. For more information call 706 613-3650 Ext. 350.

Saturday September 22 – Clarke-Oconee Genealogical Society, 20th Anniversary Celebration (Athens Public Library). John Philip Colletta will be the featured luncheon speaker “Searching for Ancestors, A Yankee Boy Stumbles into the Deep South”. Cost of luncheon is $25.00 per person. Luncheon begins with reception and registration at 11:30 am. Cash bar. There will be lots of fun commemorating 20 years of genealogy collection in our area. Dr Colletta is a dynamic and knowledgeable speaker and author who has taught at the National Archives for over 20 years and appeared on television.

In addition, Dr. Colletta will present “How to Assemble and Write a Narrative Family History.” A seminar consisting of 2 lectures – check in at 8:30 am. The first lecture 9:00-10:00 am, will focus on “Your Family History as a Reliable Document.” Then, after a 30-minute break, the second lecture 10:30 – 11:30 am will focus on “Your Family History as a Readable Story.” These lectures should be useful to all levels of researchers who plan to compile their research into something others can use and enjoy. The cost for the morning seminar is $15.00 per person for COGS members and $25.00 per person for Non-members. You may register for just the luncheon, just the seminar or both. Dr. Colletta will have on hand his books for sale. He will be happy to sign them; you can bring your own copies to have signed or buy copies there for a gift. For more information on Dr. Colletta, go to http://www.genealogyjohn.com

Registration is required and the deadline is Tuesday September 18 or until full. Registration forms are available at libraries in the Athens Regional Library System and online at the Clarke-Oconee Genealogical Society Website http://www.rootsweb.com/~gacogs. Your check is your receipt.

The event will be at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education at 1197 S. Lumpkin Street, Athens, Georgia.
For more information call 706 613-3650 Ext. 352


moonshine arts magazine

Although this is not specifically Athens related, several current (or former) Athens residents are writing for this new publication. We are still looking for a few more creative writers/poets to round out the issues. Additionally, we are seeking a film reviewer to start in October's issue; someone to review regional, indie, or arts related films. Drop me a line at georgiawebgurl@gmail.com for more info.

moonshine is an arts magazine with a focus on Southern U.S. arts: literary, visual, performance, etc.




On public transportation and information design

Adrian's recent post on frustrations with Athens Transit really hit a nerve with me as well.

See, I have certain neurological issues which affect my perception of things and make it dangerous for me to drive or bike independently, so I'm pretty much dependent on transit, walking, and the occasional car pool to get anywhere in this town.

And in my opinion, Athens Transit could really benefit from hiring someone with skills in usability design.

Usability is a very important concept to me. I'm a computer programmer, and...well, have you ever had to deal with computer programs that were so utterly unintuitive that they were a complete pain to use? (UGA students, I need only mention one word: OASIS. All the counter-intuitiveness of an IBM 3270 terminal, made even less user-friendly by sticking a fake GUI on top.) There's a whole field within computer science that's known as human-computer interaction, dealing with how to design an interface that actually makes sense to a typical user and not just to the programmer.

And most of Athens Transit's information, it seems, is designed primarily for the 'programmer,' not the 'user'— that is, it's far more meaningful and useful to those who run the bus system or who drive the routes than it is to anyone who actually rides the bus.

Case in point: Figure out which route goes to the Classic City High School (240 Mitchell Bridge Road) using only Athens Transit's web site in under 5 minutes. (I bring up this location specifically because, as it is a non-traditional high school, some of its students may very well be dependent upon transit to get there.)


Difficult, wasn't it?

First of all, some streets, such as the particular sliver of Mitchell Bridge covered by the bus system, are on routes that aren't immediately obvious from the route name alone.

Compound that with the fact that there is no system map showing how the routes intersect, and...well, it turns out to be quite a crapshoot.

Of course, it's even worse if it turns out that the place you need to get to isn't even covered by Athens Transit. I remember being shocked when I first found out that, because the bus system doesn't have authority to go over the Clarke/Oconee county line, none of the big-box stores on Epps Bridge are actually covered by a bus route whatsoever. But at least I figured this out when Athens Transit did have a system map a few years ago, badly designed as it might have been. How exactly is someone supposed to figure out that no buses run to a given part of town now without looking over every single one of the 18 route maps, other than breaking down and calling Athens Transit on the phone?

Worse yet, some of the information from Athens Transit is Just Plain Wrong. One such case that I discovered a couple weeks ago was the route map for Route 14. The whole section of East Campus Road between Carlton and Hooper is not even covered by the route; why, then, is it white like the parts that are on the route, rather than gray like the other intersecting streets shown for context? That's got to be particularly confusing to new Athenians, especially given that "East Campus" is even part of the route name!

And don't even get me started on the recent changes to route 6, route 20, and the Saturday version of route 25. I came back from visiting my family this summer to find out that weekend 25 doesn't even run west of the bridge on College Station anymore— which is a bit troublesome, since that's where I live. (Did they not get any input from people living in the Riverbend/East Campus area?) And of course, this change wasn't made clear at all on the site. There's only a time table that's...rather difficult to make sense of, honestly, as well as a link to a Word document (?!) textually explaining all three of the aforementioned routes in the same file (with no indication of what specifically changed from the older version, naturally). And matters are made only more confusing by the fact that route 6 and 20 were changed for weekdays, but not for nights and weekends, while again, this distinction is made about as clear as mud on the site.

And this, of course, is completely ignoring the fact that routes have to be further altered on football game days to avoid campus traffic— and of course, there's nothing about those changes on the web site whatsoever that I can find. Surely someone had to anticipate that a rider might expect route 5 to go by the Georgia Center or route 20 by Rutherford Hall? I know I expected that, given that there's nothing to the contrary on any information provided by Athens Transit, save for a few random signs inside buses that I saw last year but that I don't even recall having seen this year.

At least there's one bit of good news in the horizon: from what I read in Flagpole, Athens Transit will soon be partnering with Google Maps to provide transit directions via Google's trip-planning service. They're not there yet, but I anxiously await this addition; hopefully they won't screw it up as badly as everything I've mentioned above...

Frustration with The Bus

Why are people slow to switch to public transportation? Probably partly because agencies like Athens Transit do a poor job of staying consistent and communicating with their potential ridership. If you can't figure out how to find a bus, you probably won't ride one. I found the Saturday timetable for Route 20 online -- but it says nothing about how the route is slightly different on Saturdays. So I just stood outside for 25 minutes for nothing. And then their phone number to ask questions isn't on the website either. (It's 706 613-3430 in case you need to know.)

Update: The guides for routes 6 and 20 have NO MAPS, either in print or online. Thanks, Athens Transit, for ruining my Saturday.


Harry's at Five Points (reposted)

Harry's was a beer joint in Five Points back in the 60s. It was in the location that now hosts the Five Points Bottle Shop. Across Lumpkin, where the Five Points Deli is now located was Hodgsons Pharmacy. Up on the hill behind Harry's, where the new building is going up, was a club with a swimming pool.
But Harry's was the most interesting place in Five Points for us kids. We were told by our parents to stay out of Harry's. It was a beer joint after all. No college students hung out there, back in those days you had to be 21 to drink a beer legally, so Harry's catered to older Athenians. The parking lot was dirt with a little gravel and lots of beer bottle tops pressed down into the dirt over the years. Harry's was owned by, you might have guessed, a nice fellow named Harry. Later on, Harry and his wife would manage a country club out in the south side of Clarke County, Green Hills CC.
One day, three or four of us Five Points kids were riding our bikes and we passed through the parking lot at Harry's. I guess the thrill of at least being in the Harry's parking lot attracted us. We'd ride through there every chance we had, which was at least 5 times a day during the summer. One hot and dry summer day as we rode through the parking lot, Harry himself stepped out of the door and said for us to come in for a minute, he had a Tasmanian Devil to show us. Well now, we were conflicted about this. We had been told by our folks not to go into Harry's. But here was Harry asking us to come in to see a Tasmanian Devil. My conflict lasted about 15 seconds. I got off my bike, leaned it against the wall next to the door, and walked into the joint liked I owned it. So did the other kids.
Boy howdy, that was some sight, seeing 8 or 10 men sitting at a long bar, each one with a beer. The inside was smoky and dark. Beer signs on the wall. Everyone was smoking. There were peanuts in the shell in bowls on the bar. I felt wicked as hell. Harry walked behind the bar and told us kids to pull up a bar stool and he'd get the box that held the Tasmanian Devil. He disappeared into a back room and soon came back out with a wooden and screen box. It was about 4 feet long. 3/4ths of the box was wood. The last 1/4 of it was screen, we called it hardware cloth, but it was a meshed screen with about 1/2 inch mesh. At this end of the box was a door that was latched shut. Harry put the box up on the bar in front of us and told us to sit real still. He told us that the Devil was real shy and very very mean. At this, we began hearing the Devil back there in the darkened back of the box. It was whining and screeching. It sent chills down my back. Harry told us that sometimes it would take several minutes for the Devil to come out into the screened end of the box, but that when it did, we'd all get a good look at it. Well, this must have been one of those times, because nothing much happened other than the whining and screeching got louder and more intense. We were nervous as we could be. This went on for 4 or 5 minutes. Harry kept telling us to be patient, he kept tapping on the top of the box with his hand. His other hand was behind the box, holding it down onto the bar. Harry suggested that one of us move around to the front of the box, the screen end of it, and maybe the Devil would see us and come out. I hopped off my bar stool and moved around to the front of box. The whining and screeching got even louder. Then, to my horror, the latched door fell open and out came the Devil, flying right towards my face. I could hear the screeching at a crescendo by now as I ran my little ass out the front door. Violating Kid Protocol of the day, I left my bike leaning there on the wall as did the other kids. We had one thought in mind and that thought was to get the hell away from the Tasmanian Devil at all costs. I was convinced that I was going to be attacked by that thing. I do remember hearing the men laughing as we ran out of there. I didn't slow down until I was damn near to Highland Avenue. We sat down there on the curb trying to catch our breath and figure out what to do with our bicycles being left there at Harry's. We decided to wait an hour or so, give someone a chance to catch the Tasmanian Devil and get it back in the box. I figured maybe they'd have to call the Fire Department or the Police.
After an hour, we walked back up Millege Circle, cut through the Mathis Aparments lot, and peered over the privet hedge at Harry's and the parking lot. There were our bikes leaning against the wall just like we'd left them. Everything looked normal and quiet. No firetrucks or police cars. We walked up the sidewalk and stood in front of Hodgsons for a time, all the while looking across the street to Harry's. Finally, we decided it was safe, so we crossed the street to retrieve our bikes. Harry met us at the door and told us to come in again, which we were not at all interested in. He said he wanted to show us the trick, so in we went one more time. Harry had the box still on the bar. On top of the box were two tennis balls with a couple of racoon tails attached to them and holding them together as a unit. That was the Tasmanian Devil. Behind the box was a waxed kite string. Harry had put some rosin on his hand and rubbed the string up and down and produced the whining and screeching sound that we thought was the Devil in all its rage. He showed us the hidden latch on top of the box and the spring door which he tripped open. In the back of the box, hidden away in the darkness, was a spring loaded lever which was operated by the same latch.
That was the Tasmanian Devil in its entirety. It damn sure looked like the real deal to us when that door flew open. At least, as much the real deal as any of us kids had ever seen in person, we had no idea what a Tasmanian Devil was, but it was real to us that day. I think back to the work, the effort, the planning, and the implementation of that joke and I am amazed that they came up with that. Of course, back in those days, what else would a group of men do over their beers? There was no TV in Harry's and I suspect the radio only was on during a game. So that was their amusement and I feel privileged now to have been a part of it.

Regulating the doors to bars

So our county commissioners are being criticized for not requiring background checks for bar employees checking the identification of customers at the door. See, e.g., "Editorial: commission erred in dropping background checks," Athens Banner-Herald, 6 Sep. 2007. For such a proposal to even make sense in the first place, door persons would have to actually be required at bars. Since they are not, it is an empty proposal and no criticism for rejecting it is warranted. If you want specialized persons checking IDs at the door, you would first need a law requiring an establishment to even hire such a person. Am I wrong to understand that this is an optional position?

Law school rock rivalry

There is now a rivalry over who is the nation's premier law school rock band -- our own Mikey Mel and the JD's or this other band.


University Theatre at Seney-Stovall Chapel

Improv Athens has planned a night of comedy in the tradition of Whose Line Is It Anyway? -- but with a Bulldog twist in honor of the Saturday UGA game against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Appearing one night only, September 7 at Seney Stovall, the student-run group has planned the performance to raise funds for the renovations of the Fine Arts Building and for the annual graduate ensemble showcase.

Members of Improv Athens have 18 years of combined professional improv experience. They have appeared at the Chicago Improv Festival (Mainstage) and the Bestival Midwestival Improvisational Comedy Festival (sponsored by Bob & Tom). Troupe members have been seen on television in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. One member has even been seen in Maxim magazine!

Tickets for Improv Athens’ Sept. 7 show will be $5 at the door, and the curtain goes up at 8:00 p.m. They will be performing at Seney-Stovall, which is next to the Varsity on Milledge Avenue.
Another student group, the Thalian Blackfriars, will be hosting their 24-Hour Play Competition at the Balcony Theatre of the Fine Arts Building on Sunday, September 9. Participants divide into five teams according to class (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduates) and are given a topic. They then have only 24 hours to write and rehearse a play with a budget of only $20. The audience will vote for best play, best actor, best actress, etc. Admission is free for the public showcase, which will start at 8:00 p.m. September 9.

Next comes Talley’s Folly
, a one-act play by Lanford Wilson, presented by the UGA Graduate Acting Ensemble on Tuesday, September 11, at 8p.m. Set in 1944, Talley’s Folly is a romantic comedy that confronts deeper issues of war and prosperity, racism, and women’s role in the world. All seats will be $5, and tickets will be available at the door the night of the show.


History and Genealogy Events for Sept 6-12

September 2007 History and Genealogy Events (Athens/Atlanta area events)

Thursday, September 6, 7:30 pm, Watkinsville Community Center. Mary Frazier Long of Lawrenceville will present the program at the monthly meeting of the Brig. Gen. T.R.R. Cobb Camp No. 97 Sons of Confederate Veterans. Her topic will be "Lincoln--A Southern View." Mrs. Long is a retired educator, author, and popular public speaker.

Sunday September 9, 2:00 pm – Peachtree Creek: A Natural and Unnatural History of Atlanta’s Watershed lecture by David R. Kaufman . In 1990 David Kaufman decided top explore Peachtree Creek from its headwaters to its confluence with the Chattahoochee River. For 13 years, he paddled the creek, photographed it, and researched its history as Atlanta’s major watershed. The result if Peachtree Creek, a compelling mix of urban travelogiue, local history and a call for conservation.

      Tickets for lecture are $5 for members $10 for non-members
Reservations are required. To make reservations call (404) 814-4150
 Tuesday, September 11, Atlanta History Center 130 west Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
Noon to 1:00 pm Lunch & Learn Lecture:
Protecting Memories: Caring for Family Scrapbooks and Photo Albums.
Tina Mason Seetoo, Conservator at the Georgia Archives

The Lunch & Learn free monthly lecture series began in 1993 as a way to help the public learn more about Georgia’s rich history and culture. Guest speakers cover a variety of topics on the second Tuesday of each month from noon to 1:00 p.m. You are welcome to bring a lunch or snack to eat during the program. Reservations are not needed unless you are bringing a group larger than ten people. For information about Lunch & Learn lectures throughout 2007, please visit our website at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/how_may_we_help_you/LunchAndLearnBrochure2007.pdf.

Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, GA 30260

Directions and a map can be found on our website at www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/where_are_we/default.htm


Recommendations for emergency preparedness at UGA

The report from the University of Georgia's Emergency Preparedness and Communications Committee is now available. The following recommendations have been made:
  • Deploy Enhanced 911 and Reverse 911 at UGA
  • Mandate Participation in UGAAlert
  • Mount an Extensive, Ongoing Emergency Preparedness Initiative
  • Improve Police Recruitment and Retention
  • Continue Campus Security Enhancements: Security System, Doors, Weapons Policy, etc.
  • Implement the Building Safety and Security Representative Program and Require NIMS Training
  • Create a Behavioral Assessment/Intervention Team
  • Install Public Address Systems in New Buildings and Retrofit Others
  • Augment Existing Outdoor Warning Sirens with Voice-Capable Speakers
  • Develop Emergency Preparedness Courses for Students, Staff and New Faculty
  • Support Advanced Training for Police Officers
  • Establish an Emergency Operations Center
  • Install LCD Message Boards in Strategic Locations Across Campus
  • Upgrade Current Cable Television Messaging Capabilities
  • Consider Requirement [for Employees] to Carry and/or Wear Identification Cards
  • Install Cameras at Sanford Stadium
One of the best ideas discussed in the report is raising the pay of UGA police officers. The pay rate is currently substandard, and as a result they provide a lot of substandard service. I also like the idea of electronic signs in strategic locations as long as they would not routinely be used in a distracting manner with non-emergency messages.

I still maintain that the UGA Alert system should be geared toward broadcasting SMS and e-mail messages only rather than calling mobile phones with recorded messages. We all know that emergency situations generate a lot of phone traffic, and adding to the airwaves with recorded messages -- when most everyone has text message capability already -- would be unhelpful. There are already cell sites in town operating close to capacity under everyday conditions. UGA's claim on the UGA Alert website that the system is capable of sending so many messages at once is only considering trunk lines between telco switches and VOIP capacity that may be available, not the limits and vagaries on the airwaves of the eight or so mobile networks on the ground in Athens. Further, we have had a commenter on my previous post about this note that in his experience with such systems the messages get out too slowly and are often wasted on voicemail. What I have done in the system is register my home number and entered my text message e-mail address; I only hope that the e-mails are short enough for me to read an adequate message within 160 characters.

Achim's K-Bob Lounge Singer Commercial