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32 posts from November 2006

Michigan weather, from golf to snow blowers in one day

More on what's coming weather-wise in Michigan's lower peninsula from a Detroit News story.  A big storm in heading our way.

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This is the winter storm that's heading for mid-Michigan

West-Michigan's Wood TV8 describes the winter storm heading our way in the central part of our state.

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Importance of fathers to their kids by Josh McDowell on Focus on the Family

Too get ready for an anticipated snow storm in mid-Michigan, I'm going to head out to the grocery store and get our snow blower out.  But, sometime today, I will listen to this broadcast on the Vital Role of Fathering from Focus on the Family.  Josh McDowell address the role that fathers play in relationship to their kids.

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Does renaming of Michigan State Capitol Christmas tree show Republican-Democrat difference?

The lighted tree on the front lawn of the Michigan State Capitol has been officially renamed a Christmas tree.  It had been a Holiday tree.

This story from Lansing's WILX TV says this changed happened at the initiative of Republican lawmakers.  Why just Republicans?  Does this show a difference between them and the Democrats?

If the Democrats are so afraid of not being politically-correct, why don't they move to eliminate the celebration of the "Holidays" completely?  If they are going to call it a Holiday tree, what holidays are they talking about?

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Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life organization shuts down

It's seems like just about everybody either has heard of or has a copy of the Purpose Driven Life book by Pastor Rick Warren.  It served as the basis for a special 40 day church program around the country.  The Purpose Driven Life organization is shutting down.

The program had 160 employees at one time and was the talk of the church circuit just about everywhere.  When I went to Mali in West Africa earlier this year, even the pastors over there wanted to read it.

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ABC television network prohibits "God Gives Hope" ads in NYC Times Square

Timessquare_161In his blog, Bible Belt Blogger, religion reporter Frank Lockwood tells how Disney-owned ABC television broke its contract with Assemblies of God for its Super Sign above NYC's Times Square to advertise the message, "God Gives Hope." Seems that the message is too religious for the television network.

Walt Disney must be spinning in his grave.

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Still unanswered questions about state of Michigan's involvement in life and death of Ricky Holland

Ricky Holland's parents--Tim and Lisa--are getting settled in their prison cells after being convicted of his brutal death.  The seven-year-old from Williamston, Michigan died a death that's usually reserved for victims of a genocide.

Now life moves on for the citizens of mid-Michigan who have been closely watching this case as it moved from being the case of a missing child to that of a brutal and horrendous murder.

But important questions still linger about the state of Michigan's child protection apparatus and how well it's working to protect kids who are at-risk for abuse and neglect.

Our state has an elaborate set of laws to investigate and protect kids in these situations and there are sanctions for child protection workers who don't do their jobs.  We also have the Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman to insure that the state is doing its job.

But during the preliminary examination and trial for the Hollands, there were only hints about the state's involvement or lack of it in the life of Ricky.  The media coverage suggested that state foster care workers may have neglected visits to Ricky and his family over an extended period of time.

But, there has been nothing else.

  • Does the public have a right to know whether its at-risk kids are being protected from dangerous parents and care-providers?
  • Is it fair to ask whether the state is doing its job to protect these kids?
  • How effective is the Michigan children's ombudsman in showing the weak spots in the state's safety net?
  • What role should the Michigan Legislature play in providing oversight of the Department of Human Service's child protection workers?

These are uncomfortable questions, both for those asking them and those answering.  But, they should be put out there, right?

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YouTube could be history in the state of Michigan because of the state's HB 6456

This morning Google has a full-page ad on the back cover of the Lansing State Journal about a bill being considered in the Michigan Legislature, HB 6456. 

The headline for the ad states:  What's The Best Way To Protect Michigan Consumer and TV Competition?

The bill according to the story purports to promote TV competition and choice.

And, then there's a paragraph about how the bill as written gives big phone and cable TV monopolies the power to control what you can see and do on the Internet.  And that without changes, these companies will be able to block services like YouTube in favor of services they control. 

Readers are urged to call their state senators to amend this House passed bill.  But, it doesn't say any more about the offending parts of the amended bill.

Now, I've worked in a good many legislative offices in our state and I've fielded a couple of tons of calls from constituents responding to ads like this.

They are responding in a knee jerk fashion to an ad that got their attention.  But, they don't know anything about the legislation or what needs to be changed.

Whatever lobbying firm at Michigan's State Capitol was hired by Google needs to advise them to be more specific.

Yeah, I don't want state lawmakers to mess with my ability to get YouTube.  But, Google, the information giant, needs to provide more information.

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This morning I thought I might be getting stuck-up at McDonalds on MLK in Lansing, MI

I dropped my wife off at work early this morning and stopped at McDonalds on MLK in Lansing, Michigan.  Being a senior citizen in training, I can get coffee pretty cheap.

I got the coffee and a USA Today and sat down in a booth.  I buzzed through a story about declining Medicaid costs in the states when this young black guy wearing a rag sat down next to me in my booth.

To provide some context, Lansing is not the deep south where racial attitudes have an edge, but here in Michigan's Capital City there is a wall between the races that nobody seems to want to cross.  It's like the Green Zone in Baghdad.  People move in an out of each other's space, but they don't have more than perfunctory talk.  They don't get too friendly.

My self-invited seatmate could see my surprise by his unannounced visit.  I had to make a quick decision about how to react.

From what I could see, nobody was with him.  He kept his hands out of his pocket and his breath smelled from possibly alcohol.  He was incredibly soft-spoken and hearing him was made difficult by a recent ringing in my left ear.

He introduced himself with his first name and I gave him mine.  He said he wasn't hitting me up for money.  He just wanted to talk to somebody.

So, I listened.  He has four kids, one being a daughter who was recently born.  He can't find a job and he says he has applications in a variety of places.  He had been in jail a couple of times for minor stuff and he was hungry.  And, all this time, he was nodding off saying that he was really tired.

I only had 70 cents in my pocket, but I gave it to him.  I wish I had more. 

Race relations in this mid-Michigan city are so up tight that it's unfortunate that we couldn't have talked more comfortably.  Contemporary reality is that armed robberies are alive and well.  And, I felt intimidated when this guy sat down without asking and, of course, he fit the perceived profile of many who hold people up.

Yeah, I would like to see this racial wall torn down.  But, how do you do it.  Nobody seems to care.  Not the politicians.  Not the clergy or their churches.  Then, why should I care?  But, I do because I know it's the right thing.

I told him I had to go and I got up and started to leave.  I told him to not give up.  He says he prays at night.  I said don't stop praying.  Do it all day long.  That's what I do.

As an older white guy, could I have done anything different?

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Seven-year-old Maddie Trudel of St. Clair, MI, leaves a powerful legacy after dying of cancer

Cancer is an ugly word for anybody told by a doctor that "you have cancer."  It was for seven-year-old Maddie Trudel of St. Clair, Michigan who died yesterday from a cancer that quickly spread through her young body.

The Detroit Free Press today writes an obituary about her that demonstrates how fragile life can be for the young.  The online version of the Free Press also has a link to an audio-visual telling of her story by her dad with a slide show of pictures taken by the paper.

Paul Trudel, who lost his wife a couple years earlier, faced his daughters death head on.  He was totally honest with her and with himself.  He talks about his faith in God.

I am coming off a great weekend with our two kids.  They are healthy young adults who have graduated from college and have good jobs.  You bet I'm thankful.

And, I know that life's circumstance can turn on a dime.

As move beyond being 60 years old, death is becoming more of a reality in my own life and its making me think more of the next life which I know is real.

I hope the Detroit Free Press keeps this story online for a while, before it pulls it off. 

It should be read by everybody.  We are all going to face death.

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Worshipping God by the Securities and Exchange Commission in D.C.

For Thanksgiving, we went to a worship service, yesterday, at Ebenezer's Coffeehouse just down the street from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.  That's where the National Community Church has one of its three locations.

We are here for the Thanksgiving weekend to visit our son, Justin, the Undercover Geek. Our daughter, Krista, also flew in for a family get-together. 

Even though this is the first morning where we have seen the sun, I am really, really thankful for this visit.  I really needed a whole family fix.  I admit that I'm addicted to my kids.  They are, indeed, great adults and have started their individual lives away from the nest, but it's still wonderful to see them.

Since arriving Wednesday morning, I can say that I've been struck by:

  • Public transportation that seems to really work.  We have taken the Metro subway many times during the past couple of days.  We caught the Metro at Reagan Airport and with our bags we rode to Justin's apartment.  It was a piece of cake.
  • Costs are incredible.  You can't be poor in the D.C. area and survive.  On Wednesday night, we went to a Whole Foods Supermarket in Arlington, Virginia where the prices seemed to be 25 percent higher than Meijers back in Michigan.  Apartments rents are a couple galaxies beyond sky high.N

  • The importance of National Symbols.  After we met Justin at the Fire Hook Coffeehouse, across from the Library of Congress, we walked to Union Station where we ate supper.  Of course, it was raining hard the whole walk.

We walked down a street, forget the name, where we looked down a sidestreet and saw the dome of the U.S. Capitol.  It was inspiring.  Last night, we saw the Washington Monument all lit up and again, I felt real pride in my nation.

  • The U.S. Holacaust Museum.  I'd been there once before.  Again, I was reminded of what can happen when leaders run amuck.  On the way out, we saw an outdoor movie projected on the walls of the building about the genocide in Darfur.

For Thanksgiving dinner, Justin cooked in his apartment.  Wow.  He loves to cook and he does it well.  We had chicken breasts, little read potatoes, salad, wine and even pomegranite seeds to garnish everything. 

Today, we are going to check out the bargains at the Pentagon City Mall and then we'll go back downtown.  Yeah, we do have some pictures.  I will try to put them up later.

My church--Our Savior, Lansing--on You Tube for its 50th anniversary

This is a neat little video--10 minutes--on You Tube  showing how our church--Our Savior-Lansing--is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.  It's a neat visual depiction of the past, present and future.

My Thanksgiving list: An ongoing list of what I'm thankful for

I have a whole lot to be thankful for.  With Thanksgiving Day, just around the corner, I know I need to be reminded of that.  Here's a list that I will try to keep adding to as the week develops:

  • Jesus Christ:  I know I've struggled with my faith in God.  It's hard to believe in somebody you can't see, you can't listen to their voice and who was involved in creating everything, while you can talk to him anytime you want and he'll listen.  But, I believe.  I know he exists.
  • My wife:  She has a heart that can love unconditionally.  She has shown that to me time and time again.  I know that she's just reflecting the love she feels from Jesus.  I know she's a gift to me from God.
  • My kids:  They have added meaning and purpose to my life in a way that I never knew before.  Again, they are gifts from God. 
  • My family:  Because of my background, I never thought I'd ever be part of a functional family.  But, I have been.  It's an experience and a feeling that cannot be duplicated by anything else.  I fervently pray that my kids can experience the meaning and the purpose that comes from having their own families.
  • Birds:  I hear their noise everytime I take our beagle Snoopy for a walk.  I try to listen for their distinct and separte chirps.  They take me back to Genesis and the creation story.
I will have more as we move closer to celebrating Thanksgiving with our son, Justin, in Arlington, Virginia.  Our daughter, Krista, will also be there.

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Pray for Michigan as it deals with $173 million state budget deficit

Michigan's state budget will likely be out of whack by more than $173 million at the end of this year, according to state legislative budget forecasters.

Will legislators and the governor be able to set down their partisan cudgels and take a deep look at our state budget?  So far, all of them have been whiny, partisan finger-pointers.

Our state's voters need to demand better behavior.  If the legislature can't deliver a good product, then voters should consider making the legislature part-time and perhaps unicameral.  Why have two houses, the House and the Senate, when legislative performance equals that of half a house.

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Counting down towards two full years as a retiree from first class of baby boomers

In January, it will two full years of retirement from my regular day job as a staffer in the Michigan Legislature.

In the next couple weeks, I hope to use my posts to help sort out where I've been the past two years and where I want to go.  I'm not talking about traveling.  I'm talking about where I want to focus my energies.

One thing I've noticed is that my interest in politics has cooled dramatically.  A major contributor could be the ugliness of the past campaign. 

I vividly remember the first time I visited the State Capitol building and gazing in wonder at the chambers for the House of Representatives and the Senate.  I knew I wanted to work there.  And for most of my adult life, I did in a variety of jobs.

My passion was to be part of an effort to make this world a better place to live.  Looking back, I can see that laws and government can do little to change and positively affect human behavior.  There's part of me that misses it.  But, political parties has made democracy a battle for empty labels and not for principle and positive purpose. 

I think I've shed the part of my identity where so much of my life revolved around politics.  I can now just be myself. 

Don't take me wrong, I'm still interested and very concerned.  But, my perspective is that of a private citizen.  I have either found or rediscovered other interests.  More about that later.

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Michigan families left behind by Iraq war duty highlighted in Detroit Free Press video

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, check out these Detroit Free Press videos about these Michigan families left to deal with daily life by family members serving in Iraq.

This little look into their fractured lives provides a compelling glimpse into how they cope with the dangers of having a loved one involved in an unpopular war.

To access these videos scroll to the bottom of the page for the links.  And, then get ready for a heart tug and a few tears.
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Ford CEO Alan Mulally provides detailed observations about his company

This morning's Detroit Free Press includes a detailed interview with new Ford CEO Alan Mulally where his observations about the company are listed with many specifics.  This guy is just as important to the future of Michigan as the governor.  I will read the whole thing when I get back from the mall with my wife.

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Insomnia: My friend e-mailed me some understanding about dealing with it

Recently, I might sleep an hour and then wake-up and not go back to sleep.  By the time the clock radio goes off with sounds of our local Family Life Radio station--99.7--I feel pretty ragged.

Last few nights where this has happened, I've tried to pray myself to sleep.  It didn't produce much sleep, but it did result in me praying for two very distinct and very important groups of people: 

  1. Members of my church and their families--I tried to methodically pray for everybody I saw in the latest church service, moving from the front of the church to the back.  This includes the pastors, ushers, elders and members and their families.
  2. Members of the U.S. Congress, both the House and the Senate--I am familiar with many of their names and I know they all have staff people.  Plus, I know that they will be facing challenges this next year that will greatly affect the future of this country.
I told a friend about my insomnia and about these all night prayer sessions and I told him that I prayed for him and his family.  He then e-mailed me this verse from Psalm 119: 148-149 that helps me understand that my not being able to sleep could be heaven-sent:

Perhaps, God had a reason for me staying awake and these verses showed that.  However, last night I took two Tylenol Sleep pills.  I woke up this morning at 7 a.m.  Thank-you God for your Word and thank-you for friends who share your Word.

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