papal app: What's a 21st-century man of the cloth to do when he has to run errands but doesn't want to miss history in the making?

There's an app for that.

The Rev. Robert Rien wanted to stay on top of breaking news as cardinals in Rome gathered last week to choose a new pope, but he couldn't put his busy life on hold to do it.

So St. Ignatius of Antioch's priest turned to his iPhone -- the first smartphone he has owned -- to install the first application he has ever downloaded.

"I thought, 'Isn't that neat?' " the 65-year-old Rien said of the online advertisement he'd spotted a few days earlier for "Pope Alarm," an alert system whose catchphrase is, "When the smoke goes up, you'll know what's going down."

So when the cardinals began voting, Rien received a text message each time smoke began pouring from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel.

Once, twice, a notification tone sounded, signaling the smoke was black.

And then about 11 a.m. Wednesday, Rien's phone went off again while he was on the road, this time with the words "White Smoke" appearing on the screen.

He rushed back to the rectory and turned on the TV just in time to see the curtains part on a balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and hear the announcement for himself.

"I work to be as informed as I possibly can (be)," Rien said later. "How many more times in my life am I going to be part of a historic event?"


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Horsing AROUND: Doug Stewart said you would not believe the things he has seen while pursuing his mission reaching out to the homeless in Central Contra Costa County. But almost two weeks after the fact, he can't believe what he saw on Interstate 680 in Pacheco.

"I'm coming off 680, and, look out. There are two horses," he said. "I could've killed one of them. Got to say, that's one thing I've never seen."

Indeed, the story of the two horses wandering onto the Pacheco Boulevard offramp at 2:20 a.m. generated media attention because of how unusual it was. But until now, the person who helped the California Highway Patrol escort the horses from the offramp has kept his perspective under wraps.

"I about hit one of them," he said. "The horse would've won that battle. Seriously, we were going about 75 mph, and I have a Chevy Suburban, so I feel confident I would've survived. But it would not have been pretty."

Stewart maneuvered his car to get behind the horses and called dispatch, which already was sending help. He then used a rope toggle to help escort the horses off the highway and into a patch of grass near Las Juntas Elementary School at Pacheco Boulevard and Arthur Road.

From there, Contra Costa County Animal Services took over and transported the horses to a veterinarian, where they were given a clean bill of health.

"They were walking real gingerly, so I think being on the road hurt their hooves. Otherwise, they seemed to be fine," Stewart said. "I guess you never know what you'll see."

What's in a name?: Sometimes a generic term is not so generic. That was the experience of one reader when a headline on this newspaper's website, "East Bay tire firm makes list of top tax delinquent taxpayers in California," triggered a Google alert.

The story was about a tire company by the name of Tirebusters in unincorporated Contra Costa County that made it onto the State Board of Equalization's list of the Top 500 sales and use tax delinquencies, with more than $2 million owed.

"You can imagine my alarm upon reading the headline of this article as it popped into my inbox this morning," the marketing manager of East Bay Tire, based in Fairfield, said in an email. "Would it be possible to change the headline? I can assure you, East Bay Tire Co. is not delinquent in any taxes and is a reputable employer."

The Eye communicated the request to an editor, who obliged by changing the geographic reference in the headline to "Rodeo," the community listed on state records as the tax-delinquent Tirebusters' headquarters.

East Bay Tire, according to the company website, is "a fourth-generation, family-owned tire wholesaler, exporter and commercial tire dealer" with locations in Fairfield, Fresno, Benicia, Sacramento, Pittsburg and Honolulu -- but not Rodeo.

And how did a company based in Solano County get the moniker East Bay Tire? The company started in Oakland in 1946 and moved to Fairfield in the 1990s, the manager said.

A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY PRESENT: Gloria Martin has undoubtedly celebrated her first 75 birthdays in many fun ways and received many amazing gifts, but The Eye was there to see why her 76th was uniquely special.

Martin spent her birthday being recognized as Antioch's Citizen of the Year for lifetime achievement.

Though nervously thanking family and friends in her speech during the March 10 gala at the Lone Tree Golf Event Center, she cracked a joke that made many in the ballroom laugh.

"I want to thank my children for always helping ... of course I make them help."

Staff writers Rowena Coetsee, Rick Hurd, Tom Lochner and Paul Burgarino contributed to this column.