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35 posts from July 2007

The birth of our deck in the backyard

DeckWe needed a new place to drink coffee, eat lunch and write blog posts, so a friend is building a small deck in our backyard.

Decks can add a special quality to daily living allowing us to spend more recreational time in our own yard.  It will be the latest in a series of improvement to our house built in the sixties.

There will be a key transition for one member of our family, our aging Beagle, Snoopy.  She's a creature of habit who is used to going in and out of the house one way. 

Since we've moved in we have made some pretty solid improvements to our home, including a new furnace, new room, new windows.

As our friend builds the deck, the weather goes into the early August heat. It could slow things down.

Lansing City Council candidates need to explain southside business development efforts

LogansquareNext week will be the primary election for four Lansing(MI) City Council positions. 

For the southside of Lansing, this is a key election.  Voters will be choosing city leaders who will play a key role in deciding its future.

This part of town seems to be suffering from the brunt of community perceptions that it's a lost cause populated by poor blacks and other minorities who have little hope for the future.

The perception barely touches the reality.  Sure, there are low income people here.  But, it's a middle-income area populated by a diverse group of  people.

It's suffering from a lack of attention, both in the neighborhoods and along its business strips.  Economic development seems centered around dollar stores, fast food, and that seems to be it.

Note the photo to the left of the southside's Logan Square.  It used to be a hotbed of shopping and economic activity.  It has deteriorated into an almost nothingness which further adds to the image of the area.  This is where the City Council and the selection of its members enters the picture.

Two positions will be filled by voters in the whole city and two by voters in the wards, including the southside. 

The two main candidates for the southside, incumbent Bill Matt and challenger A'Lynne Robinson have both said they will be strong advocates for business development in our area.  And, they leave it at that. No specifics.  The city of Lansing has an economic development agency.

Continue reading "Lansing City Council candidates need to explain southside business development efforts" »

Retirement to refirement: Live-blogging the trimming of the shrubs in Lansing, MI

I sitting on my front porch with my iBook in my lap using my new broadband service from Comcast.

Shrubs_3 I am trying to live blog the trimming of the shrubs in the front of my house.  Why?  For a couple of reasons; I'm not big into yard work and I'm even less into do-it-yourself stuff.  I've done the yard stuff and a little home maintenance, but I'm not very confident or competent.

TrimmerMy shrubs need trimming.  I have two tools for the job.  One is an electric hedge trimmer that's got to be at least 35 years old. My mother had use it way back when.  This Black & Decker tool seems to have dulled, but I'm trying to use it. I also have a pair of manual hedge trimmers from Sears.

I know hedges or shrubs--aren't they the same--are important to the appearance of a house and untrimmed,they look terrible.

I've run out of excuses. How long can I keep these old tools going?  I'll report back with pictures.

Outsourcing in Michigan--was Gov. Granholm for it or against it during the last gubernatorial campaign?

Gov. Granholm booted a bunch of state work out of Michigan and gave it to a firm in the state of Maine.  Nick at Right Michigan has all the details. She's giving away to another state information technology work that our state it so desperately wants.

Remember when Granholm frothed at the mouth about Dick Devos when she saw that his company was selling Teddy Bears made in China? 

Democrats were in a constant state of ridicule about Devos. 

Granholm must have forgot she was against outsourcing of Michigan work to other states.

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Michigan cities looking at consolidating services to save money

Michigan's cities are struggling to pay the bills for vital services, let alone anything that might not be absolutely necessary.  Some are right at the edge of the fiscal cliff not knowing where more money will come from.

The Detroit Free Press has two part series of stories where specific situations are written about in the suburbs ringing the city of Detroit. 

This could be coming to your city and those around you. 

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My Monday at the MI Secretary of State's office getting a new drivers license

My experience at the branch office of the MI Secretary of State this morning:  does it mean that here's a state agency that knows how to get the job done for the people?

I went there expecting that my patience would get tried to the max.  To get a replacement for my lost drivers license, I went to a fairly good-sized SOS office on the westside of Lansing, the State Capital City near where I live.

Walking into the office, I had all my necessary documentation plus a PDA filled with reading material and with the capability to send e-mail. 

It was a pleasant surprise to discover how organized the office was for an agency that serves a diverse set of motor vehicle needs.  I'm sure it can get much more crowded and that patrons can do more to show their impatience.  Even the clerk who wait on me was very pleasant and helpful.

Does this mean that the perception that government agencies are not efficient and don't work well for the people doesn't apply to the Michigan Secretary of State's office.  I was impressed.

Then when I got home I got a voice mail that my missing wallet with my drivers license was found.  Guess I have two now. 

Murder of Lansing's 75-year-old neighborhood activist Ruth Hallman requires reflection

I've been trying to process the murder of an elderly 75-year-old neighborhood activist and leader in Michigan's Capitol City.  Ruth Hallman was beaten after her home was broken into during broad daylight and died later at the hospital.

She was leader of a neighborhood association that dealt with what was happening in a residential area just west of the State Capitol complex. 


Continue reading "Murder of Lansing's 75-year-old neighborhood activist Ruth Hallman requires reflection" »

My mom: She should be an encouragement to all single-moms

My mom who died 11 years ago would have been 98 years old today.

I've written about her in this blog several times before and how her life is a testimony to all single-moms struggling through the challenges of raising a child with very little income and help.  She was born with an incredibly strong will that would never allow her to give up under any circumstances.

In the mid-forties, my father disappeared and never came back.  He never called, never wrote or never made any attempt to contact us.

Our family was me and my mother.  To her love was a verb and not a feeling.  She always loved me unconditionally and her commitment to me was never in question.

I'm sixty and I've had a happy life.  I know that even with the cuts and bruises of life that I've picked up along the way, that my mother's love was poured into the foundation of who I am.  And her love was a reflection of the love she felt from Jesus Christ.

I can't imagine the joy she must feel now being in heaven and in the presence of her Savior and her source of real life, Jesus.

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Blogosphere: Pray for Ruth Hallman, 76, leader who led neighborhood cleanup in Lansing, MI

I don't know Ruth Hallman, the 76 year-old woman, who was beaten in her own home in a neighborhood just north of here yesterday.

But, I've certainly heard about her successful efforts to clean-up an inner-city neighborhood that's just west of Michigan's State Capitol Building.  It had become a way-station for drug dealers and drug houses. 

It took one strong-minded old-woman to lead the charge to reclaim the neighborhood that many had given up on.  She didn't and she took on the bad guys.

She's president of the Genesee Neighborhood Association and she's the mom of Lansing City Council member Carol Wood who is also one strong and committed lady.

The blogosphere is big and it doesn't know geographical boundaries.  Please pray for Ms. Hallman.  She's in critical condition.  The perpetrator has not been caught.

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Life in Lansing (MI) : Going to my first neighborhood association meeting at Averill Woods

Does your neighborhood have an association? 

Ours does--Averill Woods Neighborhood Association--and so do many of the neighborhoods here in Michigan's Capital City--Lansing.  We went to our first meeting last night of the association in the area where we have lived for the past eight years.

It was held under the overhang at a neighborhood school--Averill Woods Elementary--with maybe 30 people attending.  This included a local school board member, two city council members, three police officers, including the command officer for our area, and representatives from other neighborhoods.

There were two main items on the agenda for discussion:  Construction of a cellphone tower by Alltel in the neighborhood and crime and rowdyness at the Averill School playground and parking lot during the summer, especially late in the evening.

The cellphone issue revolved around aesthetics for the neighborhood and the potential for kids to climb the unguarded tower.

The most troublesome issue revolved around use of the schools playground by teenagers who smoke dope, drink, have sex, urinate in public and just generally act rowdy.  There were also comments about use of the school parking lot as a gathering spot for more kids who were disturbing nearby neighbors.

I think the meeting was helpful and my wife and I will go back again, I'm sure.  It was grassroots at its best.  Too bad there weren't more people there.

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A look at effects of Hurricane Katrina on senior citizens two years later

I just spotted this package of stories, including video, from the AARP, about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on senior citizens.  It looks very engaging and informative.  I will read it later today.  It's worth passing on to others, I believe. 

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Don't get too happy about Ford's running a profit in the second quarter

When I saw the news story about Ford running a profit for the second-quarter, I was momentarily so happy that I almost put another scoop of Crasins on my oatmeal.

Living here in the heart of Michigan, the drumbeat from the auto industry has sounded more like a death knell.  In Lansing a few years ago, GM's Oldsmobile brand was king.  Everybody drove them and just about everybody in the middle class could afford them.

Now Oldsmobile is gone.  It's like the repo man came in and stripped the town of any evidence that Lansing was the home of Olds.  There's at least a generation of kids who couldn't tell a Olds 98 from a Toyota Camry.

That's why I was elated about Ford's news that it ran a $750 million profit for the April-June quarter.  Granted there were special items to pump up the results, but on an operating basis, there was still a $258 million profit.

Today's news story says that Ford still has lower sales in the United States and that the profit reflected activity overseas. I guess today's news is not necessarily an omen of good things from Ford.  Hopefully, it's pointing in a positive direction.

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My morning routine upset: Radio Bible Class site not working with Firefox, Flock or Safari

I have my routine in the morning and for the past couple of days it has been upset by not being able to do my number one item on my list--reading and listening to the devotion in Radio Bible Class' Our Daily Bread devotional.

When I use Firefox or the Flock browsers with my Apple iBook, the RBC page is askew.  It's formatting is completely gone.  And when I use Safari, I get the formatting, but I can't play the audio.

I was able to read it in Safari, but being able to listen and read at the same time seems to bring the point of the devotion home a little stronger for me.

Anybody else have the same problem? 

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Michigan's Spencer Abraham to be national Fred Thompson chairman

Michigan has a favorite son--Spencer Abraham-- who will be one of the heads of Fred Thompson's campaign to win the Republican nomination for President next year. 

Question:  Is this a shrewd move on the part of Thompson or is it a sign that he's not to be taken seriously?

Why do I ask?  Abraham gave away his seat in the U.S. Senate to incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Here's what Tennesseans For Thompson said on their blog:

Meanwhile, new campaign manager Enright

will be joined by a new National Campaign chairman, former Michigan Senator and Energy Secretary Spence Abraham. Tom Collamore will remain a senior adviser to the campaign, as will Mark Corallo and several other unofficial Thompson campaign staffers.


Time magazine on who dies in Harry Potter

From the July 23, 2007 Time magazine:

"Harry Potter lives in a world free of any religion or spirituality of any kind.  He lives surrounded by ghosts but has no one to pray to, even if he were so incluned, which he isn't."

"What does Harry have instead of God?  Rowling's answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry's power comes from love.  This charming notion represents a cultural sea change.  In the new millenium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion."

In Michigan, is the will of the people stronger than the MI Restaurant Association on smoking ban

In Michigan and just about every other place, people are tired of smokers and their smoking in public places.

That's why the Michigan House of Representatives took a first step in banning smoking in public just about anywhere when it reported House Bills 4163 and 4816 from committee.  It's expected to be passed by the Democratic-controlled chamber.

But, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop says the smoking prohibition is dead on his side of the State Capitol.  His argument is that the state shouldn't put any additional controls on business.  The Michigan Restaurant Association is fighting the change, of course.

The question:  Can the will of the people in Michigan override the restaurants and the Republican Senate and pass a bill that everybody knows will improve health for just about everybody?

The harm of secondhand smoke is well-documented.  And it's known that non-smokers can suffer just as much as smokers when they are exposed to it.  The public health costs are phenomenal. 

How many e-mails, how many phone calls, how many letters would it take to get Michigan's State Senators to see that this is what the people want.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue.  It's a breathing issue.  Smoke interferes with that.

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Lansing (MI) radio listeners owe it to themselves to check out amLansing with Walt Sorg

At the (Lansing, MI) community meeting last night, it was standing room only and I had to wiggle into a small space against the gym wall when Walt Sorg tapped me on the shoulder.  It was great seeing an old friend who goes back at least three decades.

The meeting was called to get community feedback about a neighborhood block party that grew beyond a manageable size.  It had the potential to get ugly and turn into a racial confrontation between the police and the folks at the party.  More than 50 police officers were called, along with K-9 units.

To discuss what just about happened at the block party and to talk about changes the city made to the process to get a block party permit, the community spoke out at the meeting.  It was positive and it was open.  Young and old, black and white shared their concerns and their versions of what happened and they did it with respect.

Walt was there to gather information for his new morning talk show on WILS radio, 1320 am on the local radio dial.  He's new to the mid-Michigan radio talk show line-up. 

He brings a breath of fresh air, actually a tank of fresh air, to the local media scene.  Walt could have limbaughed it and used his program as a way to polarize the community.  It would be an easy way to gain regular listeners.  But, he didn't.

Walt Sorg is a former reporter at the Michigan State Capitol.  He's reported for local radio stations and Detroit television. 

His heart beats for people and for those who may have drawn one too many short straws.

I will definitely be listening.  I hope he has podcasts of his show and I hope he continues blogging.

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At Lansing (MI) southside community meeting, there's good dialogue about block party

For Lansing (MI) city officials, the test will come in the days ahead to see if they were serious in their apologies to southside residents for their reaction to a block party that drew around 1,000 people to the Churchill Downs neighborhood.

Tonight, I went to a community meeting for the neighborhood called by Mayor Virg Bernero and City Police Chief Mark Alley.  It was impressive to hear the more than 150 people, both black and white, young and older crowd the Wainwright School gymnasium.  It was barely standing room.

City officials described how the block party was approved and how the process was incomplete through a lack of proper questions and monitoring on their end.  The lack of control and accountability resulted in an effort to throw a party for neighborhood kids turn into potential crowd situation where police was neighboring communities were called.  K-9 units were called and brought out.

At tonight's meeting, everybody talked and seemed to do it with respect for each other.  I left after standing for more than an hour. 

It seemed to be a positive meeting, but there was tension in the air.  For those over 50, there was the memory of racial tensions in Detroit exactly 40 years ago that escalated into a riot that scarred more than one generation.

Wasn't it touched off by police raiding a blind pig in the city of Detroit? 

I enjoy living in the southside.  It's a diverse community.  We live with African Americans, Vietnamese, Hispanics and others.  And, it works. But, to keep it working, people need to continue talking and listening.

I hope the days a head prove that city hall was doing more than damage control.  The neighborhoods deserve as much attention as the downtown.

Lansing City Council member Bill Matt blogs about city response to southside block party

In our part of Michigan's State Capital City, there was a huge block party over the weekend.  It had the potential to get out of control.  Somebody dropped the ball.  The city?  Party organizers?  The Lansing Police Department?

Lansing City Council member Bill Matt who represents the area provides his perspective in his blog.

He recognizes the potential for the city's reaction to the party to polarize different groups in that part of the city.  He's inviting input.  He seems to be the kind of guy who listens.

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Are Lansing (MI) neighborhoods suffering from a lack of attention under Mayor Bernero and City Council?

I didn't know about the "block party" just south of us in our southwest Lansing (MI) neighborhood until this morning when I read the Lansing State Journal. 

The story tells about how a block party organizer got the city to rubber stamp his permit and how the part grew beyond a manageable size.  The Lansing Police Department apparently appeared in full force, including canine units.

Bits and pieces of how the party was apparently mismanaged and how the city reacted are starting to dribble out.

Mayor Virg Bernero and Police Chief Mark Alley apparently have gone door-to-door to apologize.

From my limited neighborhood perspective, it seems like the Mayor's focus since he took office has been downtown and its revitalization.  He and his subordinates seem to put much of their emphasis on attracting the young and high income crowd. 

And those of us who already live here are being ignored.

I hope I'm wrong and if I'm right I hope it starts to change.

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