Friday, November 21, 1997

School board looks at long-range planning

Published in the Columbia Missourian

The Columbia Board of Education's work session Thursday morning moved the district forward in a number of important tasks: facilities planning, a technology initiative; and an audit committee.

The board will hold a public forum in January on the long-range facilities plan. The date for the meeting will be set at the board's December meeting.

Currently, the long-range plan eliminates the junior high school level in Columbia. Eighth-graders will be moved to middle schools and ninth-graders will be moved to high schools.

Kim Harding, Gentry Middle School principal, said a committee of middle school principals will convene next week with parents and district administration officials to examine the plan further. Because the committee has not met yet, the direction the discussion will take is unclear. However, the district concern about classroom space is almost sure to surface.

Under the plan, Smithton Middle School, which has about 940 students, would add an eighth-grade population of nearly 400.

Smithton Principal Wanda Brown-Cox is concerned about the number of trailers at her school and others in the district. She wants the students to have enough space, no matter what school they attend.

"I think it's a district concern more than a Smithton concern," she said.

The board continues to seek input from the public on the plan.

"We hope to encourage attendance from both students and other members of the community," said Harris Cooper, board president. "We want to make sure all the folks who will be affected by the plan have the opportunity to speak with us about it."

In other business:
The district administration got the go-ahead to apply for a five-year, $7.5 million competitive technology grant.

Board member Elton Fay asked board members to consider information that discussed the creation of audit committees.

Tuesday, November 18, 1997

Old theater experiences occupy special place in memory

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Old theaters just won't die. Memories of one-screen movie houses stay around forever, it seems, in our minds and hearts.

Smiley Herrin was a ticket taker in the 1930s at the Hall Theater at 100 S. Ninth St. That job and playing with the university band paid his way through college.

Going to the movies now different, he said.

Sometimes he doesn't even see a ticket taker in the theater. "A lot of them aren't around anymore," he said.

Herrin remembers two specific differences between the Hall and cinemas today: segregation and a lack of air conditioning.

Thirty seats up next to the projection booth were the only place black moviegoers were allowed to sit, Herrin said.

The air-conditioning system was hand-built to add comfort to the theater, which was constructed without one. Homer Woods, the theater's manager, set up the system. Large fans blew air over ice and out into the theater through vents beside the orchestra pit.

"It was a home-made outfit but it worked pretty good," Herrin said.

The theater had three shows a day, Herrin said. There was a matinee and two showings at night. Eventually the theater added a show at midnight on Saturdays.

Herrin's favorite film from those days was a Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald film in the mid-1920s.

Highlights from Columbia's theater history:
1915: Construction on the Hall Theater began. It opened at 100 S. Ninth St. the following year.

From 1971 to 1978, it was used by the University Singers. In 1993, developer Max Gillard moved his Bermuda Gold jewelry store to the site. The following year, the Saint Louis Bread Co. opened in the same location.

1921: The future Uptown Theater - then called The Cozy - opened at 1010 E. Broadway. It was closed in 1986 to make room for office space.

1926: The Varsity Theater opened at 17 N. Ninth St. After closing in 1978, in 1988 it was open for five and a half months as the Comic Book Club. In 1990, the Blue Note moved to the site from its original location on Business Loop 70 East.

1928: The Missouri Theatre opened with the future Bob Hope on stage beside the future Radio City Rockettes. In 1978, the theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1988, it opened as the home of the Missouri Symphony Society.

1966: The Cinema Theater opened as the most modern theater in Columbia.

1967: The Forum Theater opened as a single-screen theater. In 1992, it was expanded to include eight screens.

1972: The Campus Twin opened at 1102 E. Broadway. In 1994, the theater began showing specialty and art films. A permit was granted for the construction of the Jerry Lewis Theater. The following year, Lewis withdrew his association with the theater. It was renamed the Biscayne III. Under new management in 1976, the theater focused on family movies. In 1992 the emphasis changed again, as it opened as a cut-rate theater.

1985: Construction began on the Mall 4 Theatres, which opened late in the year.

Monday, November 10, 1997

Don't trash it: Halloween's over, but your pumpkin can still be useful

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Halloween is over, and your candy's almost gone. The pumpkin on your front step is turning black and starting to cave in. It's time to get rid of it before it gets really gross.

There are a few things you can do with it.

You can put it in the garbage and have the city trash collectors take it to the landfill. There it will sit, buried under more trash, far from the air it needs to decompose.

It could take 50 years - maybe more - before the pumpkin decays. Until then, it will occupy space in the landfill.

But pumpkins have a lot to offer the world. They have all kinds of nutrients to give to plants in your house and garden. You have a choice of things to do with the pumpkins.

"You can compost your pumpkin really easily," said Tina Hubbs, city recycling volunteer. A compost is a mixture of things considered to be trash that can be turned into fertilizer.

There are three options for composting here in Columbia.

First there's a yard compost. You can build a bin out of newspaper, sticks and string. In your yard bin, you can compost food, yard waste and pumpkins! It's very easy, not messy at all, and you can even do some of it yourself, if an adult helps.

You also can use a worm composter. This uses worms to help break down the waste. They east the food and organic waste you put in the bin, turning it into useful fertilizer. Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the chunks into the worm bin.

The last option you have is to use the city's composting facility. Every house has clear plastic bags for yard and garden waste. You can put your pumpkin in there, too, and it will be composted at the city's central compost pile.

When the pumpkin has finished turning into compost, you can use it for lots of things. If you have a garden, you can spread the compost there to make it healthier. If you have house plants, you can mix the compost with soil to make a rich potting soil. You can also spread it on your lawn to help it grow.

There is more than one way to explore things to do with compost.

For example, pile up a bunch of leaves in your yard. Your parents will appreciate the help, and when you're done, you can jump in them!

After you've had your fun jumping in the leaf pile, put your old pumpkin at the bottom of it and cover it with leaves.

When spring rolls around uncover the pumpkin and see what it looks like. What happened to it over the winter?

If you want to learn more about composting, the city runs composting workshops throughout the year to teach you how. There are demonstration sites at Oakland Junior High School and the Community Garden on North Ninth Street.

Of course, besides pumpkins, you can compost food and yard waste as well. Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of trash your family generates, and you can help the environment by keeping useful stuff - such as pumpkins - out of landfills.

Sunday, November 2, 1997

Parents get more than money from annual event

Published in the Columbia Missourian

At 5:30 a.m. the sun is rising over the fields. Clouds obscure the horizon at the edge of a brightening sky.

Clouds fill the kitchen, too, as Two Mile Prairie Elementary School's pancake griddle heats up, throwing smoke into the air.

"Okay, higher math here. 45 servings," says principal Jack Jensen, as he dips a measure cup into a two-pound can of ground coffee.

Volunteers are busy preparing for an onslaught of hungry humans, all trooping in for the school's PTA fund-raising event. Some volunteers supervise the 10-gallon Hobart mixer beating pancake batter into readiness. Others tear into cases of Jimmy Dean pork sausage, setting them in trays for the waiting broiler.

6:15 a.m. The griddle is way too hot, and it smokes as the volunteer chefs struggle to gain control of the temperature.

"Well, I burned the first batch," says first-shift chef Tom Thurston.

"That's to season the griddle, isn't it?" Jensen says, laughing.

With the griddle burning-hot, Thurston shuts the flames off.

"I can cook for at least an hour on this," he says.

Even before the sun made its appearance, the bright-eyed adults had set up 14 tables, with eight chairs at each, in the school gym. They follow one of the eight rules of eating, posted on the wall: "No more than eight to a table." They hope that the guests will obey rule seven: "Eat your own food."

For $2.50, guests get all the pancakes and sausage they can eat, fresh from the Two Mile Prairie kitchen.

The volunteers - among them a small-business owner, an MU administrator, and a homemaker - are armed with four gallons of pancake syrup, 40 pounds of pancake mix and more than 250 sausage patties.

By 6:30 a.m. there are enough volunteers on hand to have some waiting around for things to do. In 90 minutes the doors will open and the eating will begin.

"We had a steady stream of people from 8:00 to about 9:30," Jensen said.

10:00 a.m. The big rush is over. Everyone has lost count of everything.

"I know we've served a lot of pancakes," Jensen said, shaking his head.

What were neat stacks of plates, napkins and forks are now small piles of lonely place-settings.

It's a PTA fund-raising event, but it's hard to tell. Nobody talks about the PTA. All the conversation is about friendships, communities and neighbors.

"It's almost more of a social event," said Rhonda Smith, a mother of four. Two of her children have now left Two Mile Prairie. The other two are still at the school.

Parents gather with their children, greeting friends and talking about Halloween.

"It's like your own little country store," Smith said. Maybe, but it's a country store with a playground. When they're done eating, the kids take their pancake-and-sausage energy outside.
Ten or so of them play soccer in the November sunshine.

11:00 a.m. Katrina, a new kindergartner, plays on the slide with her brother and sister, who have left Two Mile Prairie for Lange Middle School.

Inside, other children are helping the parents clean up. One wields a mop taller than she is. Another stretches to reach the middle of a table with a sponge.

The grown-ups are washing dishes. Everyone is laughing and smiling.

It was a success. The impressive array of food was enough to sate the appetite of the masses. There was no extra. It's all gone.

Saturday, November 1, 1997

Surfing for federal government resources

Published in IRE Journal

Bruce Maxwell's book describing electronic sources for government information is a treasure trove of access points. The 1998 edition of the guidebook is now available; a companion volume in previous years, How to Access the Government's Electronic Bulletin Boards, will not be updated from its 1997 edition, as the majority of government information moves to the Internet.

The introduction to the Internet is short, a valuable, speedy read. Maxwell discusses the issue of trusting Internet information, warning that it is easier to tamper with computer-based data than data on paper. There is also a brief explanation of how to use his listings, and information about where to start looking for government sites of the Internet. Maxwell also includes a glossary to help explain some of the basic Internet terminology, like "upload," "download," and "home page," to assist Internet neophytes (or "newbies") in feeling more comfortable. In addition, there is an index, a true gift to time-limited researchers everywhere.

The book assumes readers are already able to connect to the Internet, as many journalists are, either at home or at work. Anyone not connected to the Internet will need to find an Internet service provider.

ISPs charge monthly fees for Internet access via modem; many also provide an Email address and space for WorldWide Web pages for subscribers. Each ISP has its own fee structure and offers different services. Friends or co-workers might know of a reputable provider. Such a provider should offer a phone number for technical support.

Further, the number dialed to connect to the Internet should be a local call, to keep phone bills down.

The guts of Maxwell's book is a list of Internet sites which are available via Telnet, FTP, Gopher, or the WorldWide Web. Most web browsers (Netscape Navigator and Microsoft InternetExplorer are the most widely used) can handle FTP, Gopher, and WWW connections. Most ISPs provide a copy of a web browser to new customers.

Telnet connections require a special program called Telnet, available for download at .

I'd advise against using Telnet. It's harder to learn, since all the commands must be typed, rather than clicking around a site. It's also harder to save desired information. Once saved, the files are cluttered with unimportant information, such as menu listings and commands already typed. FTP, Gopher, and Web files are much easier to download and use: they are accessible by clicking on links, and the files downloaded are just raw information, without any other "noise."

"Maxwell's list is only of official government sites, and as such can be expected to offer only officially sanctioned data, sometimes enhanced, for publication in electronic form. For instance, the state-based Public Interest Research Groups have a website at .

Electronic media are always in flux; journalists should not assume Internet sites still exist. The government information on the sites may not be available in electronic form until after it is published on paper; online resources will not necessarily be more timely that paper archives. Further, many offices disclaim responsibility for errors in electronic copy, though those same offices will usually stand by printed materials.

Once found, the location of all information-printed and online-must be recorded for later reference, but Maxwell ignores the topic of citation of sources.

There are varying methods for citing information from online sources. My own view is that more information is better. The point of a citation is, after all, to permit a reader to check research, either for verification or edification. Nothing is more dangerous that unverifiable research.

Citations should at least include an Internet address. I would also include menu choices or search terms within the site, describing not only the location of the information, but also the method the searcher used to locate it.

Because of the constantly changing nature of the online world, Maxwell's book should be considered a guide, not an authoritative text. Further, journalists should be prepared to purchase a new edition each year to keep their references current. Given Murphy's Law, old books will almost certainly be out of date in precisely the area needed most.

How to Access the Federal Government on the Internet By Bruce Maxwell

Published by Congressional Quarterly Washington, D.C