- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Lucky strike
White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice revealed to a jam-packed National Prayer Breakfast yesterday how God tracked her down during her brief college hiatus from the church.
Rather than attending church services one Sunday morning, Miss Rice was pushing a grocery cart down a supermarket's aisle when she was approached by a total stranger. The man commented to her that his small black Baptist church was in need of a pianist.
"Do you by any chance play the piano?" he asked.
"My goodness," Miss Rice thought to herself, "God has a long reach right into the spice aisle of the Lucky Supermarket."
From that point on, Miss Rice was the church's piano player. And yes, she acknowledged yesterday, the congregation had difficulty singing on key.

Clinton time
"A blast-from-the-past factoid: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) entered the ballroom at 8:20 a.m., about 20 minutes after the event started."
One sentence of Newsday correspondent Ken Fireman's White House pool report for yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast, attended by 56 senators and 241 congressmen.

Glimpse of heaven
This column has obtained one of Space Shuttle Columbia pilot William C. McCool's final e-mails from space, given to us by one of his former Navy aviator buddies who asks not to be identified:
"PS
As I write, we just experienced a sunset over the Pacific, just [west] of Chile. I'm sitting on the flight deck in the CDR seat (front right) with a view of the Earth moving gracefully by. Sunsets and sunrises from space come every 45 minutes, and last only about 30 seconds, but the colors are stunning. In a single view, I see looking out at the edge of the Earth red at the horizon line, blending to orange, then yellow; followed by a thin white line, then light blue, gradually turning to dark blue, then various gradually darker shades of gray, then black with a million stars above. It's breath-taking."
Cmdr. McCool in 1983 graduated second in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy. He went on to receive a master of science degree in computer science from the University of Maryland, and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.
Greatly admired in the naval flight community, the young pilot was first assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 129 at Whidbey Island, Wash., for initial EA-6B Prowler training. His first operational tour was with Tactical Squadron 133, deployed twice aboard the USS Coral Sea to the Mediterranean.
In 1989, he was selected for Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School (TPS), and upon graduation worked as a test pilot in the Flight Systems Department of Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station, south of Washington along the Potomac River.
Cmdr. McCool logged more than 2,800 hours of flight time in 24 aircraft and more than 400 carrier landings before being selected by NASA and reporting to Johnson Space Center in August 1996.
He was 16 minutes from completing his greatest 16-day mission when tragedy struck.

Beer and beans
Belated happy-birthday greetings to former President Ronald Reagan, born on Feb. 6, 1911. Nobody celebrated the Gipper's 92nd birthday yesterday like patrons of Baltimore's historic Ropewalk Tavern, which held its annual Reagan Birthday Bash.
The birthday party's gotten so popular that it's covered by newspapers and TV stations alike. It's even been recognized on the floor of Congress. Yesterday, in addition to the beer, jelly beans a favorite treat of Mr. Reagan's were served.

Queen's diet
"Salmon and Diet Coke, please."
Or at least that's what Miss America 2003 Erika Harold ordered for her dinner at Signature's restaurant just below Capitol Hill on Pennsylvania Avenue, where less-figure-minded members of her party of 12 feasted on sushi, smoked pork chops and cashew-crusted chicken.

Paybacks
Addressing the 59th annual Congressional Dinner of the Washington Press Club Foundation Wednesday night, Sen. John "Media Darling" McCain, Arizona Republican, saw fit to bestow nicknames on two new Democratic presidential aspirants, who also happened to be named John.
As for the Massachusetts Democrat who married into the Heinz ketchup fortune, he should now be referred to as Sen. John "57 Varieties" Kerry, while Sen. John "Pretty Boy" Edwards of North Carolina is a name that speaks for itself.

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