Off Limits 

Windfall for a Geek. MTSU grad student Michael Kearney is having a good week. The Murfreesboro native won $100,000 on AOL’s online trivia game show Gold Rush, and he’ll return for a chance at $1 million. One of three finalists in Round 9 of the game, Kearney flew to Atlanta to answer trivia questions, solve puzzles and identify movies by watching sock puppets act out signature scenes. But this may be the least of Kearney’s notoriety. At age 10, he became the Guinness world record holder for “world’s youngest college graduate,” with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama. (At age 18, he was a TA at Vanderbilt.) The distinction led to appearances on talk shows such as Oprah and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. He then spent some time trying to become a game show host in L.A. As for Gold Rush, the online-only game (www.aol.com/goldrush) consists of 12 rounds in which players solve a series of pop culture challenges. The fastest three people in each round are flown to a city to compete for $100,000. A final round features the previous winners and six new contestants who will compete for the $1 million grand prize. In addition to the money, Kearney says he gets to keep the gold bar and ornamental oversized check, which he might bring to a bank and try to cash just for fun. In the meantime, Kearney, 22, who already has two master’s degrees, is working on his doctorate of arts in chemistry. Omitted. Where’s the respect? Back in July, The New York Times ran an incredulous story about how Mule Day had been placed on the Department of Homeland Security’s National Asset Database. Mule Day, held annually in Columbia, Tenn., is a celebration of that trusty and underappreciated beast of burden that helped build a nation. The National Asset database is a list of thousands of events and locations that are possible targets for terrorist attack. The Times expressed horrified surprise (and other papers piled on with derision) when it learned that Mule Day had made the list. Then, last week, the Times gave us the good news that, in fact, “reading might not be dead.” We welcomed this bulletin headline atop a story about book fairs across the country, then read on, patiently waiting to see Tennessee’s Southern Festival of Books, held alternately in Memphis and Nashville, heralded for the great success that it is.  But, alas, no mention. Asses again. The Times, that is.

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