Smart talk, Sept. 18 

Careful what you wish for


A note to ASU fans: be sure to root, root, root (or howl, howl, howl) for the Red Wolves this weekend, but – for the sake of a local small business – don't root TOO hard. This season, Jonesboro's Design Shoppe, a strip mall screen printing, embroidery and memorabilia business that specializes in Red Wolves apparel, made an interesting offer: on every Monday following an at-home win by ASU's football team, the store would offer a discount of one percent off all merchandise for every point the team won by.

That would have worked out fine for all involved, had ASU not won their Sept. 6 season opener against Texas Southern by 73 points — an 83-10 rout. The game marked the second-most points scored by ASU's football team in school history, bested only by a 101-point performance turned in against what is now UCA in 1917.

Sheila Hoffman owns The Design Shoppe with her husband, Hoppy. She said the store was pretty much besieged by ASU fans from the moment the doors opened that 73-percent-off Monday, with the line stretching down the block at times. Shoppers scooped up everything in sight, leaving the shelves almost bare. Though new merchandise is now trickling in, she said many customers who have stopped by since the sale have asked if they're going out of business. 

That said, if you think the Hoffmans are bemoaning the ASU blowout, you'd be wrong. Sheila Hoffman and her husband are proud ASU alumni who attend every game they can. Not only is she ecstatic about the big win, she said she and her husband wished the point spread had been even bigger, besting the 101-point record. It would have been great to see the team make history though 101 percent off would have been tough on the business, Hoffman said.


PA leads the pack


The annual list of National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists was released last week and Little Rock's Pulaski Academy supplanted Little Rock Central High, the perennial leader, as the state school with the most semi-finalists. It had 12 (up from two last year), to Central's 10. The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs, a selective admission boarding school, had 11. Fayetteville High School, also a perennial strong performer on this list, also had 10 semi-finalists.

Other top schools: Little Rock Christian, 9; Little Rock Catholic, 7, and Bentonville and Conway, 5 each. The three huge high schools in Springdale and Rogers produced a total of 7 semi-finalists. The Pulaski County School District didn't produce a single semi-finalist. North Little Rock had 2. Other private schools in Pulaski County: 4 at Mount St. Mary Academy and 3 at Episcopal Collegiate School.


Tip the ‘Bottleneck'


Drive the same route long enough, and you'll get to know them well: the spots where traffic consistently grinds to a halt at rush hour, the intersections that seem to have been designed by slightly nearsighted monkeys, those places out there on the highway that any fool can see are just an accident waiting to happen. The good news is now there's someone to complain to.

Metroplan, the transportation planning agency for Central Arkansas, recently launched “Operation Bottleneck.”  Between now and Sept. 30, drivers are invited to tip the agency to traffic bottlenecks or other driver safety concerns in Faulkner, Saline, Lonoke and Pulaski counties.

Though Operation Bottleneck is specifically targeted at identifying spots where traffic backs up at peak hours, people can use the system to inform the agency about and make suggestions on how to improve pretty much anything they think is a traffic safety hazard — from left-turn arrows that aren't bright enough, to bushes that obscure stop signs, to crosswalk markers that don't stay lit long enough.  Information can be submitted to Metroplan through an online questionnaire on their website, by cutting out and mailing in a survey printed in local papers, or at a series of town hall-style meetings to be held in various cities in the four-county area. For more information, visit www.metroplan.org and click on the “Operation Bottleneck” logo.


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