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38 posts from October 2007

Real estate agents are being weeded out of the flock in Michigan

Michigan is not a fun place to live right now.  To get a feel for what's going on in the Great Lakes state, just check out the number of real estate agents who are struggling and who are giving up their licenses. 

In today's Detroit News, the Michigan Association of Realtors reports that it has lost more than 3,500 or 10 percent of its membership in the past year.  Then check the article's stories of individuals with real estate licenses who are struggling and who are leaving the business.

With the uncertain economic conditions in our state can a seller still get a fair price for his or her's home?

Bill Matt is my choice to represent Lansing's southwest side on the city council

I paid attention this year to who was running for the third ward city council seat in the city of Lansing, MI.

When our city council member resigned last spring and left a vacancy on our eight-member governing body for Michigan's capital city, I applied to be interviewed to fill the position.  1778969627_9033e2fa1b_m I made it through the first round of interviews and the first vote.  It was just before the second interviews before the council that I met Bill Matt and A'Lynne Robinson, two other candidates being interviewed in the second round.

I was impressed by both.  I said during my televised second interview with the council that I would be happy with either of them representing my part of the city.  Bill Matt was selected to fill the vacancy.

Since then I have gotten to know him through his blog and through conversations at various functions.  I've seen his character and I've seen what drives him.  He knows that his success on the council and his ability to help our ward depends on his relationships with other council members, the mayor and with city hall officials.

He has also demonstrated to me a willingness to be accessible at most anytime I wanted to talk to him. And he listened.

It's only during the past few weeks that I've gotten to know his opponent, A'Lynne Robinson.  During a coffee shop conversation, I found myself impressed that our ward would have two capable leaders.  She talked about bringing diverse groups of people in our ward together to work on common concerns.  She talked with passion about her love of family and about growing up in our part of the city.

For me, I need to have a history with a candidate to feel comfortable.  And that relationship can be a short one, 1452491445_f611fec532_m but it has to be more than a few conversations just before the election.  I need to be able to "kick their tires" to see if they are real.

I've seen Bill Matt on the job.  I've talked to him on many different occasions.  He seems totally open.  He seems to listen.  That's why I'm voting for him.

But, A'Lynne, don't go away.  You are needed.  For our city and our ward to progress, it's going to take a team effort.  You are an important member of that team.

Living life on a dull, dreary Oct. 23 in central Michigan

It's  early morning and it  looks  like winter is finally  coming  here in  central  Michigan.  Stepping outside to get  the  morning  paper,  it  feels  like  we  are on the edge  of  our seasonal dreariness which can add a degree or two of challenge to everyday life.

What's the antidote to weather where sunshine can be elusive for long periods of time?  I found this answer from a devotion by Dr. Joe Stowell on his Daily Strength section of Radio Bible Class.  He was sitting next to  Billy Graham and asked him what brought him the greatest joy in his worldwide ministry.  Graham answered:

“Joe, by far and away my highest joy has been my fellowship with Jesus! To sense His presence. To hear Him speak to my heart. To have His guidance and wisdom.”

There's my answer to the season of gray we are entering into.    What counts is not the circumstances around me.  It's my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I need to remind myself of that after it gets light outside, light without the s-u-n, but with the S-o-n.

My Ziploc Steam Bag salmon with rosemary garlic turned out great

Okay, here's the report from supper where I used Ziploc's Steam Bag to make almost a pound of salmon.  You stick the food and seasoning in the bag, zip it shut and then put it in the Microwave.  For our salmon, I cooked it for three minutes.


After a minute-and-a-half the bag inflated with steam to the point where the bag blew open with a bang.  Salmon stayed intact.  Bag should have stayed closed.  We had the right side up.  Anybody have suggestions or reaction.

It tasted great.  I loved it and so did my wife.  I will try it again with veggies and probably with chicken. 

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One for the books: I'm making supper tonight with the new Steam Cooking Bags from Ziploc

I never really learned how to cook.  As a single guy, I learned how to use a Microwave oven and learned how to make stuff that didn't require much fixing.  I also knew where the restaurants were and I made use of them.

Since I've been married I've learned how to fire up the various incarnations of grills we've had, but I've made very little on the stove. 

Tonight, I'm just pushing the cooking needle a little.  When we were at Sam's Club, we purchased Ziploc's Steam Cooking Bags.  I will put a seasoned salmon filet in the bag which I will then put in the Microwave where I will cook it for a present period.

In theory, the salmon should be ready after a couple of minutes.  I will try another bag for the fresh veggies, probably asparagus.

If anybody's interested, I will report back.

Michigan politicians could learn from my friend, the cellphone guy

It's not exactly a state-secret that the state of Michigan is having trouble governing itself.  Seriously, state government barely works here.

Our state legislators cannot get a budget approved for this fiscal year, something that should have been done two or three months ago.  It seems like all our lawmakers can do is point their finger at members of the opposite party and say it's their fault.

With almost a half-a-billion dollars of cuts needing to be made by the end of the month, Michigan citizens seem relatively apathetic about what could happen to programs that many rely on.  And more budget acrimony is promised for the new fiscal year.

While eating our breakfast last week at a local restaurant, my friend, a local cellphone store manager, expressed his displeasure with the lack of action at our state capitol.  I really think that he would like to get involved by pressing his representatives in the legislature.

But, he stressed that he doesn't know which side and who to believe.  There's so much political trash-talking going on that the average citizen has no way to sift out the truth.  There's little to rely on other than your internal prejudice.

That's not good.

When people don't trust their government and those who are supposed to represent them, then we have a serious problem.  Do others feel like my friend?

Starting a new week: Trying to get a better ROI from going to church

I did go to church this morning.  It would be interesting to see what notes God made in my file about my church attendance for today. 

What should I expect from going to church and what should be expected from me?

Now if one of my pastors reads this,  they'll probably shake their head and raise their eyebrows and go on with their day.  I'm not young anymore and I've been going to church all of my life.  I'm a 61-year-old member of the first class of babyboomers. I should know the answers to those two questions by now.

I was born and raised in a Lutheran Church in a small-city in almost northern Michigan.  I was baptized as a baby and I went to a Lutheran day school for eight years.  I was confirmed and haven't missed too many Sundays since.  I went because that's what you did.

I was always told that church was a place to worship God.  You sing songs, listen to a sermon, pray and talk to other believers on the way into church and on the way out.  There were the occasional church dinners and there was always a Christmas program every year.  That seemed to be pretty much it.

Continue reading "Starting a new week: Trying to get a better ROI from going to church" »

Michigan had the same problems in 1962 when Mitt Romney's dad was governor

Time's archive of stories is amazing.  Take this story from October of 1962 about the political campaign between George Romney, Mitt's dad and John Swainson.  Describing Michigan's problems back then, it sounds just like it could be applied to today.  Wow.  I'm amazed.  I vaguely remember that.  I was a sophomore in high school.

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Movie "Final Season" was seen by eight people at Lansing (MI) theater

Super-wife and I just got back from seeing the new movie "Final Season" at a local movieplex where we sat with eight others to see a really great story about high school baseball in Iowa.

The movie was based on a real life story in Norway, Iowa, a town with 500 people who formed a community around their high school baseball team.  After winning the state championship for 19 straight years, the bonehead school board decided to merge the school with a larger one farther away.  This would end the baseball program. 

With one last season to go and with the iconic legend of a coach fired, a newby coach was hired.  The new guy was a disciple of the old guy.   You can guess the rest of the story.

It showed a side of small town America during the 1970s and 80s that many are too young to remember.  Life was saturated with values and character. 

Was life better than?  Hmmm, I don't know, even though it seems that way.

It's worth seeing.  You can take your kids and relax with them watching it.

Could answer to Michigan's treasury shortfall rest with taxing toilet paper?

Michigan's state budget is a mess.  There's not even close to enough revenue to pay the bills for programs and institutions.  From today's Lansing State Journal, here's a solution I found in the Letters To The Editor:

Tax toilet paper

So as I'm sitting here, chuckling about our Legislature's little problem (the deficit), a solution pops into my head: Michigan should tax toilet paper.

A 5 percent tax on each and every toilet paper sale would generate a ton of money to help solve our deficit.

Why not? Every citizen will be helping out with each flush. It doesn't discriminate - well, perhaps against those with chronic diarrhea.

Just think about it, Michiganders. One wipe at a time. We can flush away Michigan's deficit.

Truston Sempf

Think about it.  Everybody uses it, rich, middle-class and poor.  Nickel a roll across the board.  Sounds like something the Michigan Legislature should consider.  Anybody agree?

Government is failing Michigan with the result that the state's going to hell

Nolan Finley, the snarky columnist from the Detroit News,  makes a point about what's not happening in Michigan.  He says our state's leaders have failed the state and that our state is headed for an economic hell.

He points to a retired newspaper publisher in the state, Phil Power, who has had enough too.  Power says it's time for citizens to jump in and take over the reins of government.  He has started a new group that's holding meetings around the state listening to citizens talk about how that can be done.

Check out the website for his Center For Michigan. Is he on the right path?

My friend, Lauren Hager, is close to making a decision about running for state senator from the Port Huron (MI) area

I didn't know what to expect when I first met Lauren Hager from Port Huron (MI) at a lunch in a family-style restaurant in Davison, just east of Flint.  He and his wife Carol and my wife and I were meeting to get to know each other better and to talk about a possible job if he won his election for state representative.

This was in 1998.  After walking into the restaurant and meeting them, I felt an immediate connection.  He was campaigning for a state house seat that would put him in the first class of term-limited legislators in Michigan.  He was a retired special education teacher, a member of the Port Huron City Council and he had a strong desire to participate in legislative decision-making.

Even though I liked him, my skepticism was aroused by his lack of a political resume' that would allow him to be effective in the halls of state government.  Like other term-limited legislators elected that year, he had only a vague idea of the job, how it was done and what he wanted to do.

Continue reading "My friend, Lauren Hager, is close to making a decision about running for state senator from the Port Huron (MI) area" »

My life in Michigan today: Myth or reality; does taking vitamin c help get rid of a cold?

It has almost become a reflex to reach for the vitamin c bottle when I get cold symptoms.  Adding to the joy of living in the stressed state of Michigan, I have a head cold.

By almost reflex, I reached for the vitamin c on the top shelf in our kitchen where we keep it with a collection of other vitamins.  Each tablet, according to the label,  contains 500 mg of vitamin c.  For the past two days, I have been taking 2 tablets every four hours. 

I'm not sure I'm feeling any difference.

I Googled vitamin c to learn more  about what it's supposed to do.  It seems like the answers are on the ends  of the continuum. 

Natural health proponent Gary Null wrote this pretty clear and strongly positive explanation of vitamin c benefits.

Is he right or is he wrong?

Is it time for me to redirect my babyboomer habit of reaching to this everytime I feel a cold coming?

Minnesota National Guardsmen who served in Iraq miss GI Bill education benefits by one day

A friend who belongs to the Michigan National Guard sent me this link about how these Minnesota National Guardsman served the longest deployment of the Iraq War.  Their 22 months in the combat zone had orders for one day short of qualifying them for the GI Bill to pay for education expenses.

The story describes what had to be an intentional move to disqualify them from the benefits as an injustice.  They were screwed.

Whoever wrote those orders in the Pentagon needs to be brought before a U.S. Congress oversight committee to be held accountable.  How many other units have experienced the same thing?   This needs to be done quickly and in addition, to an explanation about how it happened, there needs to be an apology from the U.S. Department of Defense.

My daughter's church in Indianapolis celebrates National Porn Sunday

First email I opened this morning was from my daughter to tell me that her church was on two Indianapolis stations yesterday.  Reason:  It was one of 200 churches in the country celebrating National Porn Sunday sponsored by XXX Church. 

Check out the story with video from WISH TV8 in Indy.

Think your church could handle National Porn Sunday?  Is there are need to talk about the subject at your church?  My church?

State government will face serious budget problems for next decade, according expert

The Michigan Legislature may have passed two of the biggest tax increases in the state's history, but, it will continue to have more expenses than tax revenues for the next decade.

In a story in this morning's Detroit Free Press, Tom Clay of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan says:

  • State expenses will outpace revenues by roughly 5% each year, creating a $6-billion annual shortfall in the state's general fund by 2017.

The growing costs come from the state's prison system, health and retiree benefits.  Check the more than 100 reader comments at the end of the story.

The solution to our political problems here in Michigan and elsewhere

My wife and I went to the Eastwood Town Center Mall on the northside of Lansing and while there we stopped at Starbucks and drank our coffee on the tables outside.  I forgot about the bonus on each cup where a pithy quote is printed.

The quote on my cup contained the answer to Michigan's rocky political situation and to our city's situation where the mayor and the council get snarky with each other.  It all revolves around listening.  This listening exercise is suggested on the quote from the cup:

Important quote on Starbucks cup

Using Twitter to help me stay accountable with my daily walk

For about 12 years, I was a jogger.  I really enjoyed it and it helped me keep my waistline down.  Since then, my waistline has expanded and the meniscus in my knees has gotten pretty beaten up.  So, I'm trying to walk everyday.Twitterwalk

I now take a new friend on my walk, my new iPod Nano that was released a couple of weeks ago that my son, Justin, gave me as a gift.  I have loaded my iPod with podcasts, including audio and video and with music. 

Here's the Twitter part:  When I get done, I send a message on Twitter to my son that, hey, I've done the walk and share what I've listened to.

Today, I listened again to James McDonald of Walk In The Word.  His daily podcast is 23 minutes.  I can time myself by how much of his message I listen to.  Today it was from his Pour It On Me Now sermon series.  Then I listened to music from the organe Wow worship CD.  It was great.  It put a pop in my step and it exercised my soul too. 

I would recommend both the iPod and using Twitter.

You judge: Did Gov. Granholm promise during campaign to not put sales tax on services?

Just about everybody knows that Michigan has extended its six percent sales tax to a long list of services.  The question is did Michigan's Gov. Jennifer Granholm promise not to do that during her last campaign.  You decide from the YouTube video of one of the debates during the campaign:

From the National Center for Fathering: 5 Needs of Daughters

For guys:  got a daughter?

The National Center for Fathering publishes 5 Needs of Daughters.  This is for every guy with a daughter.  It shows how you as dad can plug into your daughter's life in five meaningful ways.

This is really good stuff and rather than try to summarize it in a post, I would highly recommend clicking on it and printing it out. 

I have a fondness for the National Center for Fathering.  Their founder, Ken Canfield, wrote a book, the Heart of a Father, that has really been pivotal in helping me understand the role that my father played in my life and using that to build my own fathering skills.

If you go to their website, be sure to sign up for their free weekly newsletter.