Going wireless in the heart of Africa

In the trading center of Makindye, a 10-minute drive south of downtown Kampala, Uganda, Godfrey Mukasa is doing business. The 22-year-old civil engineering student sells prepaid phone cards and used cell phones from a sidewalk kiosk. His small timber shack is painted yellow and blue, the colors of MTN Uganda, the country’s leading wireless operator.

On a good night, Mukasa returns to his parents’ house at 10:30 p.m. with a profit of 15,000 Uganda shillings — roughly $7.50. The average citizen earns less than $1 a day, according to World Bank statistics.

Thornbrook citizens voice fire concerns

When Beth Winton’s son lay on the pool deck turning blue two years ago, Winton would have loved to receive help from a city of Columbia fire station three miles away.

But Thornbrook, her subdivision, receives service from Boone County Fire Protection District. At the time, the closest county station was 5.3 miles away. It took about 11 minutes for a truck to arrive, and a neighbor saved Winton’s 4½ -year-old child.

Mending a marred mosaic

Almost two years and three months ago, the Tiger Spot mosaic on MU’s campus was unveiled during Homecoming to a crowd of students, faculty and alumni beneath a shining sun. Now, in the midst of winter and daily below-freezing temperatures, work has stopped on the donation by local artist Paul Jackson.

Lewis and Clark on One Read’s list

This year marks the bicentennial of the beginning of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore America’s newly acquired Western territory. An account of that journey is under consideration for Columbia’s next One Read program.

“Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose is one of 10 books under review by a panel of 14 volunteers for the 2004 program, which begins in September. The One Read program is one in which community members all read the same book and discuss it in various forums. The adult-oriented program, which started in Seattle and gained national notice in Chicago, has taken off in cities around the country.

Ragtag becomes nonprofit

Ragtag Cinemacafe, Columbia’s independent theater where you can sit on a sofa and have dinner while watching a movie, now operates as a nonprofit organization.

Charlotte Overby, a member of Ragtag’s seven-person governing board, said becoming a nonprofit organization means Ragtag won’t pay taxes on ticket sales and equipment. It also allows the theater to accept tax-deductible donations.

Disappearing signs

They’re green and white and read all over.

Street signs from Aaron Drive to Zinnia Drive tell Columbia residents where they are, but increasingly those signs are disappearing. Last year, about 1,800 street signs were replaced by the Traffic Division of the city’s Public Works Department. And at $150 a pop, the costs to taxpayers are adding up — to about $270,000 in 2003.

Unions get best work conditions

As I listened to a young woman complain about her job as she waited ahead of me in the check-out line at the grocery store, I was wondering how long it would be before the labor union movement would become popular again. I kept quiet while she went on and on about low wages and unsafe working conditions. I’ve learned over the past few years that bringing up suggestions about how things came to be the way they are is not a subject people particularly want to hear about. Folks don’t really want to hear about how we, as a society, sometimes threw the dishes out with the dishwater. A lot of them are convinced that everything is better than it has ever been, and they are not willing to compromise on the subject.

According to some, of course, the only labor union they ever heard about was the Teamsters Union and the antics of Jimmy Hoffa. And as far as many employers are concerned, the less people hear about organized labor, the better they like it. Who needs a pension, right, now that they can have a 401K and a profit-sharing plan? Actually, a lot of people do because it takes a lot of money to survive retirement. Workers usually find these things out the hard way.

A friendly forecast

On Saturday, when it was cold enough to see your breath, 14-year-old Tommy Hendricks and his 10-year-old brother, Kenny, were assigned the task of deflating a 6-foot Christmas teddy bear. They had to shake off the ice and snow.

But as Sunday topped out at 56 degrees, a barefoot Tommy helped his brother and father, Scott, wrap up the red and white rope lights that had lined their Hidden Creek Road driveway during the holidays.

Physics, entomology spared

MU’s undergraduate physics program and its entomology department are off the hook. A campus program viability audit committee decided they are strong and should be maintained, MU officials said Friday.

The two departments were among were among the six programs and two departments selected for review by a UM system task force.

Merger, finances, consolidation seen as issues for UM in 2004

When MU Chancellor Richard Wallace announced his retirement last July, University of Missouri system President Elson Floyd said the university was entering a year of transition. The transition included a series of changes and decisions in both administration and academics, most of which should see a resolution in 2004.

The year ended in turmoil as the university was shaken by the Ricky Clemons scandal. On tapes released in December by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, the former MU basketball player talks to Floyd’s wife, Carmento Floyd, and Amy Stewart, the wife of MU associate athletics director Ed Stewart. The conversations contained racial remarks that sparked controversy about the Floyds’ and Stewarts’ relationships with Clemons.

Final push for 3 Boone legislators

JEFFERSON CITY — This could be the final year in Missouri’s Capitol for three Columbia-area legislators, and their circumstances are hardly conducive for going out with a bang.

Boone County’s senator and two of its representatives, who are scheduled to be ousted by term limits, find themselves in the minority party and with limited power to push their legislation to the top of the legislative agenda.

Walnut shells used for power

After rolling out a wind-powered renewable energy option in July called Renewable Choice, Boone Electric and its parent cooperative have switched from buying wind power to burning low-sulfur coal mixed with walnut shells.

Associated Electric Cooperative, which serves Boone Electric, bought about 3,000 tons of landfill-bound walnut shells and is using them to produce about 3.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity at the Chamois power plant, along the Missouri River about 30 miles east of Jefferson City.

Treating timber

The familiar green, treated lumber that is used to build decks, fences and playground equipment will become less familiar in 2004.

In February of 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the wood treatment industry had voluntarily decided to gradually discontinue its production of chromated copper arsenate in residential products by Dec. 31, 2003.

City fire captain retires

For the first time in two decades, Columbia Fire Department Capt. Colin Tegerdine will spend most nights at home. Tegerdine, 44, completed his final 24-hour shift at the fire station at 2 this morning. No longer will he spend 56 hours per week eating, sleeping and waiting for the next fire call.

“You don’t do something for 20 years and then just walk away,” Tegerdine said at a retirement reception Friday. “It’s tough.”

Japanese look to I-70 plan for Tokyo project

Japanese officials have recognized the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Interstate 70 public involvement efforts as among the nation’s best and plan to emulate it in their future transportation projects.

Three high-ranking Japanese transportation officials visited Missouri transportation officials and members of the Improve I-70 Advisory Group on Friday at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center to discuss future transportation projects in Japan.

Knowing the world earns spot in bee

“Urdu is an official language of a Muslim country that was once part of British India. Name this country.” The correct answer, as 13-year-old Brandon Reddick of Columbia knew, is Pakistan. The West Junior High eighth-grader credits knowing it to his friendship with Sagar Vengurleter of India, whom Brandon has known since preschool. On Friday, Brandon won at the school level of the National Geographic Bee. It was one of 16 competitions held, or to be held, at schools throughout Columbia and sponsored by the Golden K Kiwanis Club. “Being able to answer the last question was pretty cool,” he ...

Horse back on her feet after icy plunge

Wayne Westcott has no idea why or how his horse Ruby got stuck in a freezing pond on his farm north of Columbia. He says Ruby never seemed to like hanging around the pond before.

“I guess she did last night,” Jim Norden, who works for Westcott, said Friday. He found her late Thursday afternoon.

Soaking up the experience

A lack of swimsuits did not deter Seora and Pyeora Seok and Sally Cha of Columbia during the Sixth Annual Kayak Festival at Hickman Pool on Saturday — the girls jumped in with their clothes on.

They were among the more than three dozen children and adults who got a feel for kayaking and canoeing under the watchful eye of local experts.

Paradise or pit?

Mahogany doors, marble partitions and tiles, nickel plated fixtures and vaulted ceilings. The Missouri legislature approved $3 million for these renovations to the Capitol’s bathrooms.

The funds for the renovation already had been allocated before the state began to experience budget problems. In 2001, $2 million was budgeted for the bathrooms, and the other $900,000 was spent last year to complete the job. Renovation work on the bathrooms continues.

No reprieve in ‘whupping’ aftermath

The New Year has been here for two weeks, and my house is a disaster area. The decorations are still up, I haven’t had time to take the two duplicate gifts back — let alone shop the sales. And it’s all because this year we decided to leave town right after Christmas to go to the Independence Bowl.

For those of you who didn’t read last week’s column, it was a miserable trip. Not only was I feeling puny, I somehow managed to flood the entire coach (my husband has decided it’s my fault because I was the last one to use the toilet.) Then, to top it off, we lost the football game. Had we played someone with class it wouldn’t have been so bad, but we played the pigs from Arkansas. Their fans outnumbered us three to one, and I must say they were a rowdy group.