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FREDRICKTOWN — Just three hours as the crow flies from the city of Columbia, the St. Francis River cuts an ancient groove through jumbled granite at the base of the Ozarks’ oldest mountains.

The Saint’s water flows like glistening green ink through a prehistoric gorge, at times becoming a roiling froth as it navigates boulder gardens and spills over rocky ledges, creating crushing rapids and a constant, rhythmic roar.

Spring dreams in the winter of my discontent

I’ve had it with winter! If I have to wear one more black outfit, I think I’ll scream. All of my sweaters are pilled, and I hate wearing a coat, especially one that weighs as much as I do. And I’m tired of wearing socks and cloddy shoes.

I’ve read every book on the best-seller list, and some I wish I hadn’t bothered with. I’ve cleaned closets and rearranged my kitchen; now I want to get out of this house.

Life as an open gallery

A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman,” wrote Wallace Stevens. The Harvard-educated native of Pennsylvania worked as a lawyer and composed poetry in his head as he walked to work at Hartford Accident and Indemnity Insurance. He found poetry and beauty in the birds, trees, sights and sounds of his daily life. Art, poetry and beauty are like a vine with three distinct branches twisted and curled to form a strong living bond. Without them, life would be dull and lifeless. We don’t always take the time to stop and see the beauty and poetry of life, so here’s a chance for you to see the art of our surroundings. Stop and gaze for a while. Think of this as an open gallery. Enjoy.

A sweet twist on Passover Seder

Chocolate milk and an array of chocolate-laden treats were savored Wednesday night by members of MU’s Jewish community at the Hillel Center’s eighth annual celebration of “Chocolate Seder.”

“The best thing about the Chocolate Seder is the ability to celebrate Passover in a different way — a nontraditional way ... (that) makes the observance come to life,” said Cipporah Yaghoubian, an MU senior who was been active in the Hillel Center, the Jewish student center, for four years.

Piano Man

It’s Thursday night at Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant, a little after 6 on one of those surprisingly warm spring days. The pale lights on the gray wall cast a silence that not even screaming red leather seats can break.

Jim Poletti is there to play piano.

Devastated trails

Jack Kirkman jumps back into a Bobcat and starts filling the side of the MKT trail with boulders, adjusting the rocks and piling them to recreate the base of the trail washed out from last weekend’s storm.

“From two to three feet of the side of the trail have been washed away completely,” said Kirkman, the city’s forestry groundskeeper. Some areas had been washed away, others were covered in dirt and debris. Kirkman said the last repair work on the trail would likely be finished over the weekend.

Highsteppers ready to ‘shock’ the competition

In tandem, 40 children, third-graders through seniors, brought their knees up high and kept beats on drums at the Blind Boone Center on Thursday night.

The Mid-Missouri Highsteppers were preparing to compete in the “Making the Planet Rock” drill team competition in Kansas City on Saturday. There will be 11 teams from across the country. Tyrone Raybon, assistant director of the Highsteppers, is confident the team will do well in the competition.

MU student panel discusses diversity

Students gathered Thursday night at MU’s Gaines-Oldham Black Culture Center to discuss diversity and the social climate at MU. The goal was to start an informative dialogue among different student groups.

“A lot of times we hear the administrators, but we don’t actually hear the students themselves speak,” said Travis Gregory of Collegiate 100, which sponsored the event.

Assault charge could result in MU discipline

If Rosemary Ihetu returns to classes at MU, she could get a formal disciplinary hearing before MU’s Student Conduct Committee, which could expel her from school, said Christian Basi, an MU spokesman.

Ihetu was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of assaulting an associate dean in front of the MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing. She was released from Boone County Jail Wednesday evening after posting $20,000 bond, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

McCaskill gaining union vote

State Auditor Claire McCaskill kicked up her campaign for governor a notch this week by announcing her endorsement by one of Missouri’s largest unions.

The endorsement came from the Laborers’ International Union of North America; of which Columbia’s locals 955 and 1274 are members.

2 of 3 hopefuls attend forum

A notable absence was evident at Thursday’s mayoral forum, the last before Tuesday’s election. Mayoral hopefuls John G. Clark and Darwin Hindman discussed several issues, while Arch Brooks, the third candidate, did not attend.

Brooks could not be reached for comment on his absence.

Controlling ADHD with drugs is at the center of attention

Of the approximately 6 million Americans diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, three live in Geoff Lanham’s Columbia home.

Lanham’s son, Jordan, 15, was diagnosed with ADHD seven years ago, after his school suggested that Jordan be evaluated. As a second-grader, Jordan was having a hard time staying on task with an increase in self-regulated activities and desk work.

A game about fun, not winning

In today’s sports world, fan appreciation is not exactly a top priority for professional athletes receiving multi-million dollar salaries.

But, on Saturday at Hickman High School, a group of athletes who never forget about their fans will be appearing. Athletes from 16 central Missouri counties will be competing in the Special Olympics Central Area Spring Games. For some Special Olympic athletes, acknowledging the fans takes priority over finishing the race. David Hood recalls his son Matt’s first track and field race.

Public access board still stalled on details

For much of the Thursday night meeting of the Columbia Cable Television Task Force, there seemed to be a general feeling among the members that the issue of public access programming in Columbia was near completion.

Then task force member Marty Riback spoke up.

MU group collects recyclables

Four college students sit and chat Thursday afternoon among a few pairs of old shoes at the edge of a nearly empty, white semi-truck trailer containing about 50 trash bags filled with used clothing. The girls examine a painted tarp folded in one of the two cardboard boxes next to the trailer, trying to decide if it can be recycled.

In an effort to encourage consumers to recycle old clothing and request products made from used textiles, the Association of Textile and Apparel Management, a student organization at MU, is hosting a clothing drive today through Sunday. The goal is to collect enough textiles to fill the truck to its 18,000-pound capacity.

Hunters spend hours making duck decoys

Sweat pours from the wrinkled brow of Ric Mayer. A painter’s mask covers his mouth and graying beard, but the saturated mask does little to hide his perspiration. He works hunched over the corner of a table, his left arm stabilizing a piece of cork while his right arm moves back and forth shaping his masterpiece.

Mayer isn’t sculpting a Roman god. He’s replicating a duck.

Philips decision to face new vote

The vote approving the annexation and zoning of the Philips farm will have to be redone.

Because of a faulty title, City Counselor Fred Boeckmann said Thursday, the Columbia City Council will have to vote again on an ordinance allowing Elvin Sapp to develop the 489 acres just southeast of the city limits for a mix of homes, offices and businesses. The change means there will be another public hearing on the plans as well.

UM curators vote to raise tuition in 2005

ST. LOUIS — Placing blame primarily on the shoulders of state lawmakers, the UM Board of Curators met Thursday afternoon to approve a tuition raise for 2005 that curators hope will help offset another year of decreasing state aid.

Though the curators said the move — which increases tuition costs by 7.5 percent and allows individual colleges at MU to charge more — was necessary, they also decried the lack of support from state government. The General Assembly has cut $158 million from higher education funding over the past three years.

MU hospital reports record-high profits

ST. LOUIS — In a brief bit of good news at the Thursday UM system Board of Curators meeting, MU Health Care, which oversees University Hospital, reported record revenue collection for March.

The $28 million figure, a record for any single month, represents a dramatic turnaround from just 19 months ago, when consultants from the Hunter Group were brought in to help salvage the financially troubled organization.

Honestlywood

Is there a more overused and utterly meaningless word today than “reality”? Reality used to refer to spontaneous events that were beyond the control of spinmeisters. Now reality’s become the new irony, both figuratively and literally. And reality is far from dead. In fact, it’s being used brilliantly to hawk the most staged and wholly unrealistic situations ever to be presented on the small screen.

This may all seem like harmless voyeuristic fun, but the faux reality being presented on television seems to be gradually seeping into every aspect of American society. Take the recent revelation that the Department of Health and Human Services has been distributing “news” videos anchored by fake reporters to promote the new Medicare prescription drug benefit bill. To paraphrase an idea from our good friend Bill O’Reilly, the reality television craze is helping turn the country into one giant spin zone.

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