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May 14, 2008

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Jefferson, Georgia 30549


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By Mark Beardsley

Kitten Plots Murder, Mayhem All Day Long
In a weak moment, I succumbed to the pleas of Barbara and agreed to allow an “indoor” cat to take up residence with us. Neighbors Mike and Stephanie Nicholson gave us our pick of a litter of seven, and we selected the only male, a beautiful gray and white little thing we named Furby.
Cats are miniature killing machines; kittens are killers in training. What we see as the cute and funny antics of a kitten are practice lethal attacks of whatever prey a kitten can find, and during every waking moment, Furby, who I call “Osama bin Kitty,” is either attacking or plotting to attack.
At less than a pound and a half, Furby is little threat to our health and wellbeing, but its love of climbing up our legs (for a better attack advantage) has left its holes in our skin and our clothing. I shudder to contemplate a panther-size house cat. The kitten spends its day plotting murder, honing its claws on our furniture and strengthening its teeth on the electric cords.
As an indoor cat, its owners aside, Furby won’t get much opportunity for killing, and he’ll be welcome to destroy any crickets, spiders or other wildlife that enters our house. Outdoor cats are among the largest threats to suburban songbirds, hunting them day and night. Nature has turned the tables locally, however, as cats are being stalked by coyotes, which helps control the feral cat population but makes life all the more dangerous for pet cats that stay outdoors.
That had something to do my acquiescence to an indoor cat. I neither wanted my pet to fatten itself on the birds I feed nor to become a hors d’oeuvres for Canis latrans.
Thus, Barbara and I engage in continuous attempts to educate the kitten about the futility of the headlong dash to bite an ankle (meet “Mr. Foot”) or the wisdom of attempting to nip an ear, all of which has improved the cat’s reflexes and balance. Cats really do land on all four feet when you sweep them off the back of the recliner, but they appear to consider it play, not discipline.
Cats, kittens especially, do not respond well to verbal instruction. Nor are they quick to understand cause-and-effect relationships, so when you squirt water in Furby’s face to discourage improper behavior, it might be 10 seconds before the kitten is back gnawing your toes or attacking the exciting tangle of cords behind the computer, whereupon he’ll be just as stunned to get squirted as he was 10 times prior.
If science could harness the energy of kittens and toddlers, $4 gasoline would not be a threat. Two to three times a day, the kitten appears to be on speed, dashing, leaping, tumbling, lunging and skittering sideways in a series of attacks on various toys, furniture and any human appendages that are carelessly unprotected. After an hour of both painful and entertaining mayhem, Furby will climb onto the chair or sofa to cuddle next to one of us for a snooze that could last up to 10 minutes.
Then, he’s cute, calm and sweet — and dreaming about or plotting the next round of kitty murder and mayhem. That’s what kittens do, all day long.
Mark Beardsley is the editor of The Commerce News. Contact him at

Congratulations To The Classes Of 2008
Hundreds of local high school seniors will complete their post-secondary educations in the next couple of weeks. Commerce and Jefferson high schools will hold graduation services Friday; East Jackson and Jackson County high schools will present diplomas a week later on Friday, May 23.
These students have a right to feel pride for their accomplishments, and the community shares their joy. High school graduation is a crucial step in the growth from child to adult. It marks the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another, whether the graduate continues the formal education process in college, joins the work force or enters the military. The 12-13 years of school are the foundation upon which the rest of the graduates’ lives will be built. The graduates have completed the foundation upon which most anything can be built.
Graduation signals that students are ready for more responsibility and freedom. As young adults, they will draw upon the knowledge they’ve acquired thus far in school as they choose the next path in life. Whatever direction they head, they will build upon their high school educations. The Class of 2008 will quickly understand that school may have ended, but learning and education have not — that their education to this point has merely given them the tools with which to navigate the rest of their lives and to learn the new skills and information that will bring further success.
A high school diploma is a key that opens many doors in the future. By itself it is no guarantee of future success, but it signifies that the student has mastered the basic skills necessary to enter a college or technical school, the armed forces or the job market. Congratulations to all of the graduating seniors in the area, and may receipt of that diploma be the beginning of many more successes.

Debate Before Council Misses The Whole Point
Rep. Tommy Benton and Commerce Councilman Bob Sosebee may each think they scored points in their mini-debate at Monday night’s city council meeting, but at least in the matter of Benton’s ability to attract state funds, both missed the point.
Sosebee lamented the fact that Commerce “didn’t get its share” of millions of dollars of pork approved by the General Assembly. Benton argued that he did the best he could.
What they’re talking about is largely “pork,” arbitrary, often questionable funds doled out to keep constituents happy. Local fire departments got funds for thermal imagers this year, and money poured out of the gold dome by the millions, largely, as Benton pointed out, to the districts of the powerful.
The debate should be about limiting that kind of spending, not “getting our share” or trying to get more next time. Local governments may want every handout they can get from the state or federal governments, but citizens concerned about wasteful spending can see it in action with such earmarks.
This kind of discretionary spending has been around as long as the General Assembly, and neither political party has shown a willingness, when it has the power, to do anything about it except increase the amount. When our political leaders argue over whether we’re getting our share it reinforces the notion that politicians want to grab every dollar they can to spend in a frenzy like hungry hogs around a feed bin.
The problem isn’t that we’re not getting our share of discretionary funds. It’s that too much taxpayer money is tossed about for strictly political reasons.

By Zach Mitcham

To Enter The World Of Reading
Some want the easy paperback in one hand. They recline on a sofa with the light-weight novel of romance or murder — or some mixture of the two — transporting them from dull den to detective’s eyes.
Some want only the classics, feeling as though they must sponge up each line of the Western Canon. They gaze only upon what has stood the test of time.
Some seek out the new greats, exploring what upstart writer will carry the spark of a Cormac McCarthy, an Annie Proulx, a Richard Price.
Some want to know about black holes, the fact that time can actually bend, the possibilities of life on other planets. They want to know about the oceans, the oily animals beneath those waves, the volcanoes that spew out the earth’s hot blood. They want to understand tornadoes and poisonous snakes that wade through weeds.
Some want to know what Obama or McCain really think, what the Bush Administration discussed as it prepared for the war in Iraq. We see the daily news, but books offer a more detailed account of how these newsmakers think.
Some want to know what John Adams wrote to his wife, how Napoleon’s men lost their toes, then their lives in the cold of Russia. The realist has little time for fiction, though contemplating the days long gone is an act of imagination, too.
Some want the self-help guide to weight loss, to home improvements, to identifying the trees on their road. Others want technical help for desktop publishing or managing their new hot dog hut.
Some see Curious George ring the fire bell when he wasn’t supposed to, see the pop up books with friendly grizzlies, see the silly hats of Dr. Seuss.
Some want crossword puzzles and word games — pleasant escapes for travel and waiting rooms. Some want a book of jokes. Some want the book of Job.
Some write our books, seeing their names on the shelves. They pour something out from inside, embracing that “negative capability,” the act of plowing forward despite the self doubt, the real potential for failure. Who hasn’t stared at a blank page and felt that powerful nothing staring back? To complete the book, well, that is a journey few make.
But some just feel the weight of the books on their back, waiting for a moment to sling down those shackles and run to freedom, away from school, away from responsibility. Of course, we’ve all felt that at some point, especially at this time of year, when school ends.
But it’s good to come back.
However, some never do. They choose never to notice books at all. They feel it’s a world not worth exploring, not rich with possibility, not related to their own breathing in and out.
Our literacy rates are important, not just so kids can score well on tests and so our community can have a solid work force in years to come. Yes, those things matter, but you want a kid to read, so he or she can enjoy a good part of life and can recognize the value in constant learning — how even an elderly person with a healthy mindset still considers himself a student of sorts.
So it’s encouraging that we have people in our community who try to help youngsters see the value of books. The Rotary Club is trying to do just that right now. We also have plenty of people in our school system working hard each day to drive these points home to kids. And take note of all the hard work the Madison County Library does in trying to encourage local youth to read.
They all should be supported in their efforts.
That beautiful world of words has so much to do with all of us, whether we choose to see it or not. It’s a vast universe and worth taking the time to explore.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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