I’ll sort it all out — next year

This is the time of year when the weather is lousy, and I’m pretty much a prisoner in my own house. This is the perfect time, I think, to tackle those projects I haven’t had time to start.

I have several to choose from. I could organize all of the photos that have been pitched into a cardboard box up in the attic. Several years ago, I bought photo albums for each of my children, wanting to fill them with pictures of them growing up and their families. The albums are somewhere around the house. But I don’t know where. And to get to the photos would require climbing two flights of stairs.

Puppet masters

Four 10- and 11-year-olds sit in a circle, so close their knees practically touch. Giggling and wiggling, they raise their arms high over their heads, reaching and stretching their knobby arms, making faces to accompany what they call a “Frankenstein stretch.”

After counting to 20, they lower their arms, gratefully. Next, they make a steeple with their hands, bending back their fingers and making sure each joint feels the burn.

Planners narrow options for I-70

The Improve I-70 Advisory Group on Thursday narrowed down the number of plans it is considering using to overhaul the state’s busiest interstate.

When the committee met in November, three different types of road proposals were on the table. Since that meeting, the proposal has been consolidated into one road plan with different options at seven intersections.

State Farm to close 14 offices

State Farm Insurance may be staying in Columbia, but the company is closing it doors in other areas of Missouri.

As part of the company’s consolidation plan announced Wednesday, Missouri will lose 14 of its 17 claims offices, including one in Columbia. The three remaining offices will become larger field operation centers located in St. Louis, Springfield and Independence.

Seven layers, and still cold

Three pairs of socks, long underwear, sweatshirts, flannel, coveralls, boots, knit hats and multiple pairs of gloves: Those guys who work construction sure know how to dress.

As this week’s temperatures remain below February’s mean — 33.7 degrees, according to the National Weather Service — those who work outdoors have to pile it on to stay warm.

MU Registration revisions revealed

MU students who want to register to learn next semester will have to learn to register.

MU sent a campuswide e-mail Thursday saying that a longer registration period, new course numbers and an online course catalog will affect registration beginning Feb. 26 — the start of early registration for this year’s summer and fall semesters.

Stephens looking for local art talent

A Missouri artist likely will be chosen to create artwork for Stephens Lake Park, the city’s Standing Committee on Public Art has decided.

The committee chose to restrict the search to Missouri artists because of funding for the project, which is financed by the city’s Percent for Art program.

Dreams of space

Paul Mahoney never had elaborate childhood fantasies about being an astronaut. He never made space costumes out of tin foil or brought supposed moon rocks to show and tell.

Nevertheless, today Mahoney is one of 35 people, culled from a pool of 16,000, in line to become an astronaut.

Bill aims at law on open records

JEFFERSON CITY — A Senate committee backed a bill Thursday that could make it more affordable for people to access public records but more costly for government employees who violate the state’s Sunshine Law.

Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, said her legislation will “stiffen” the law on open records and meetings, although the committee’s version does not go as far as she initially proposed.

On a slippery slope

Although Thursday’s mix of wintry weather created hassles for some Columbia residents, Art Gerhard saw the day as an opportunity to take a day off of work to spend time with his children.

Gerhard’s two children, Jake, 6, and Bretta, 10, woke up this morning, like many other Columbia students, to the news that snowy weather had canceled classes at Ridgeway Elementary and other Columbia Public Schools.

Floyd: Strengthen K-12 to help colleges

More than 100 members of the community braved the elements Thursday evening to hear UM system President Elson Floyd speak on education’s role in the black community.

The Black Business Students Association and the dean’s office of the College of Business sponsored the event.

Chance at ‘Dream Job’ thrills student

An MU student has landed himself the ultimate journalistic opportunity: a top-12 spot on ESPN’s reality TV show, “Dream Job.”

Mike Hall, 21, will begin competing later this month for a one-year, on-air contract with ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Holden vows to veto Senate bill on union fees

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Republicans passed legislation Thursday to block the collection of union negotiating fees from state employees who aren’t union members. But Democratic Gov. Bob Holden promised a veto.

The political showdown marked the latest development in a battle stemming from Holden’s June 2001 executive order granting collective bargaining rights to thousands of state employees.

Columbia considers ways to boost business growth

State Farm Insurance is staying in Columbia, but that doesn’t mean the city’s future business growth is being ignored.

At Thursday night’s work session, the City Council heard a proposal for an incentive package to lure business growth to Columbia.

MU psychologist helps select NASA candidates

MU psychologist Daniel Orme was asked down to Johnson Space Center to evaluate prospective astronauts four years ago, but he had to decline due to a scheduling conflict.

When NASA called him again last July, he jumped at the opportunity and headed down to Houston in September and then again in November.

Your Voices

Ranjith and Mihiri Udawatta have lived and worked in Columbia for more than a decade but until Tuesday had never voted in a presidential election.

Like 300 good neighbors

After almost a year of speculation about its future here, State Farm Insurance Co. announced Wednesday the transfer of roughly 300 jobs to Columbia from its Monroe, La., facility.

As part of a companywide consolidation, State Farm will move roughly 300 claims and underwriting jobs to its Columbia operations center at 4700 S. Providence Road. At least 200 more jobs will move from Monroe to Tulsa, Okla.

Monroe, Tulsa prepare for consolidation

While Columbia celebrates the prospect of 300 new jobs, city officials in Monroe, La., are trying to come to grips with State Farm Insurance Co.’s decision to close its operations center in the northeastern Louisiana city.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said his community is “shocked” and “devastated” by Wednesday’s announcement, which will dissolve more than 1,100 jobs in the region and move at least 500 of them to Columbia and Tulsa, Okla.

Many icy sidewalks remain

For exercise, Ed McDaniels walks twice a day in his south-side neighborhood off of Katy Lane. Lately, though, his routine has called for more than simply trotting along with Sammie, his Doberman pinscher. With winter weather hitting Columbia, every journey outside presents a challenge.

“Look at that,” McDaniels said, pointing to an ice-covered sidewalk on Misty Glen where Sammie was losing her footing. “If you are walking at night and don’t see that, you’re gone,” he said.

UM may get $190 million in trade for SMS rename

Southwest Missouri State University will get its desired name change only if legislators in both the Missouri House and Senate approve a $190.4-million bond for the University of Missouri system.

The Springfield school wants to change its name to Missouri State University to attract better students and faculty and private funding. Opponents in the UM system fear the change would take money and prestige from its four campuses.