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20 posts from June 2008

Is my Uncle Ron right about Ron Paul as a candidate for President?

My Uncle Ron and I have been talking about politics since I was a very young teenager.  It's been a staple of our relationship.  I remember when I was sixteen-years-old and recruited him and many of my moms 12 brothers and sisters to be delegates to the Republican county convention.

He's a retired businessman and when I visited him in northern Michigan about a week ago, he said he was thinking about giving serious support to Ron Paul for the presidential nomination.  Sitting next to each other on the couch, I nodded and then said, I didn't think U.S. Rep. Paul was grounded in reality.

I watched this YouTube video of Ron Paul speaking on the floor of the U.S. House and I was jolted back into reality.  High gas prices are coming from inflation driven by all the money spent on Iraq and then he sounds the warning about how the U.S. is laying the groundwork for invading Iran.

Is voting for Ron Paul a wasted vote? 

From either the Republican or Democratic point of view is he seeing the issues the correct way?

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Michigan's Meijers stores need to take a lesson from this German supermarket

Have you tried the new self-serve checkout lanes at the Meijers stores in Michigan?  They have two types, one when you buy a few items and one when you buy more.

Doing the job of a Meijers checkout person can be hard, frustrating work.  Take all the times that the scanner malfunctions with the computer and you have to wave your arms for assistance.  Then take the times when you buy a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine and everything stops until the store employee comes to see if you're underage. 

This supermarket in Germany
has the answer, maybe.  You use your mobile phone as a personal shopping assistant.  You scan each item with your phone and then use the phone to check out.  Looks pretty pain free with minimal frustration.

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Okay, fess up about how you read online

Bloggers, including me, can get carried away with using too many words in a post.  And we can forget about the importance of doing certain things to encourage readers to get the point of what I right.

Check out Michael Agger who writes in Slate
about how he revisits the work of web usability pioneer Jakob Nielsen who describes most web readers as information foragers. 

How do you read what's on the web?  Word for word or do you skim?

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I need to learn about petition drive by Michigan Democrats to change state government

I've caught bits and pieces about the eight-page petition of changes that Michigan Democrats want to make to our state government.  I've tried to ignore with hopes that it would go away, but it's not.  So, can anybody point to an online version of the petition.

I know that Nick at Right Michigan has been covering the petition with a variety of posts.  Does he have links to these posts aggregated in one spot?  What else do I need to read to get up to speed about what appears to be some very dangerous possibilities?

In this post, Nick describes one proposal in the petition.
  Reapportioning Michigan legislative districts would be taken out of the hands of the legislature and given to a nine member panel.  If the panel can't decide, then it's decided by a coin flip. 

Anybody got background about how all this came together?

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Are Michigan's standards for high school graduates too tough?

I remember when the Michigan Legislature toughened the requirements for high school graduation.  I don't remember what they are, but they supposedly raised the bar a whole lot higher.  Does anybody have a link leading to a description of this new level?

Michigan lawmakers are looking to take some of the starch out of the changes. 
They've looked at struggles state students are having with algebra requirements among other things.

What's the experience with this new level of expectation for high school students?

As the August primary elections and the November general approaches, I'm anxious to learn more.

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What's it going to take to fix Detroit Public Schools?

Everybody in Michigan, from Houghton-Hancock to St. Joseph should be asking why Detroit Public Schools are failing?

Read today's story in the Detroit Free Press about Detroit schools
superintendent Dr. Connie Calloway and your heart has to hurt for the city's school-age children and their parents.  From news accounts, it seems like the city's school system is in a death spiral that it can't pull out of.

The story says:

Calloway inherited a district with the country's worst enrollment drop, decreasing per-pupil funding and the lowest graduation rate among big-city districts. She was brought to town to make sweeping change.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue.  It's a kid issue.  They need to have hope for the future.  A good education is a big part of that.

What's the answer?

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A giant in the lives of kids in the Bay City (MI) area steps down as principal of a historic Lutheran school

I got to know Brian Young, the recently-retired principle of Immanuel Lutheran School in Bay City, through my wife who was his third grade teacher for several years.  We became acquainted at various faculty functions and a handful of dinners around his kitchen table. Brian Young retirement luncheon Brian Young retirement luncheon 

At his retirement luncheon last Sunday, June 22, I heard all the well-earned "goo and gush" about how great a man he was as a co-worker and boss.  I regret that I haven't talked much to Brian in the past 20 years, but my guess is that he was uncomfortable with the acclamation.

This is a man who dedicated himself to the education of children at his grades K-8 school located in a city that serves as  a gateway to Michigan's "Up North." 

This is a person who for more than 30 years got to school by 6 a.m. and stayed well past the end of the school day.  He impressed me as a true servant.  He salted school steps and sidewalks.  He wasn't afraid to use a broom nor did he back away from a need where he could help.

In addition, he was affirming of everybody and was able to see through a person and find their positive attributes and let them know he saw them. 

I bet his satisfaction comes from a quiet recognition that God has used as a tool to share the hope that Jesus Christ has to offer everybody, kids, their parents and anybody else he came across.  This sharing didn't come from preaching but from living out his life where he put others ahead of himself.

I'm glad we went to the lunch.  This guy has left a real legacy with his own children, his students and their parents. I hope that we have a chance to become reacquainted and catch up.    

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Just what Michigan needs, two more casinos--one in Port Huron and another in Romulus

The growth industry in Michigan seems to be gambling and the construction of casinos.

Take the proposal in the U.S. Congress to build so-called Indian casinos in the cities of Port Huron and Romulus.  It will be considered this week in the House and it looks like it could pass.

In a story this morning, the Detroit Free Press says that each casino would create 3,000 jobs.  There's no discussion about the negatives, including the principle of whether gambling is right or wrong. 

Look at Michigan's economy and how the state's residents are struggling just to pay for everyday living expenses.  Then look at all the casinos we have now.

One wonders if its the Indians pushing this expansion of gaming in the Great Lakes state or if it's the white man exploiting them again.

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Remember huge neighborhood-wide garage sales in Lansing's Averill Woods and Lewton Rich

Look for some great bargains and good times tomorrow in southwest Lansing's Averill Woods and Lewton Rich neighborhoods.

Starting time is 8 a.m. and will last til 3 p.m.  For a flyer and for more details look at Melissa's comments on this post.

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My "Wes Thorp Video Two Minutes"--Check it out

I'm trying to live intentionally as taught and described by Dr. Randy Carlson.  At times, I've felt like a deer stuck in the headlights of a car.  I'm a member of the first class of baby-boomers who were born in 1946.  That means I'm a senior citizen in training.

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An occasion worth celebrating: Today's our 27th wedding anniversary

Twenty-seven years ago today, super-wife and I got married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bay City, MI.  Sharing life with Gladys has been and continues to be the best thing I've ever done. 

Throughout the day today, as we get ready for a garage sale tomorrow, I want to compile a bulleted list of my memories from that day and from almost 30-years of marriage.  Here goes:

  1. When I was fired from my job as pressroom manager at the State Capitol:  Somehow I got in the crosshairs of the political gods as got fired about 20 years ago from my position as the conduit between the news media and the legislature and the rest of state government.  After I was told, I knew that she was grocery shopping at the Meijers on Lake Lansing Road.  I went there and found her and our two very young kids.  She could tell what happened from the look on my face.  She never lost her smile and never lost her confidence in me.  She just wanted to know what I wanted for supper.  Wow,  that made me feel good.  I never forgot that.
  2. Drinking wine and eating a McDonalds burger on our wedding day:  On our wedding night, we stayed at Bay Valley Inn in Bay City.  Because of a big convention at the hotel room service was amazingly slow.  So, we got in the car went through a McDonalds drive-through, went back to the hotel and feasted on the burgers and a bottle of wine given to me by my best man, Les Begick.
  3. The text for our wedding sermon:  Pastor Les Tyvela who performed our wedding ceremony used the text we requested for our wedding homily.  Romans 1:10 tells about how Paul wanted to visit the Romans to support them in their faith.  That was our mutual goal and that's what the pastor talked about.
  4. Our wedding reception:  We got married in the morning and our wedding reception was a brunch at the old Michigan Haus on the outskirts of Bay City.  There was plenty of kielbasa, potato salad and like items.  I remember lots of people in a place that at one time was a classy restaurant and watering hole for the area.
  5. Honeymooning in Acapulco: We were given two weeks in a timeshare condo just south of Acapulco.  But because of air traffic controllers who were threatening to strike we weren't sure about when we would get there or when we would get back.  O'Hare Airport was wall-to-wall people who were anxious about being stranded.
  6. Our wedding processional, Jesus Loves Me-This I Know:  In Bay City, Gladys taught with a teacher who was also the church organist.  He agreed to play for our wedding.  He offered to write a special processional.  I asked if he could include the kid's song, "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know."  The organist, Don Sandor, did.  The song has special meaning to me and it was extra special when he played it at our wedding service.
  7. Krista holds on to her pants:  I remember shopping for groceries one time with Gladys and Krista who was small enough to easily sit in the cart.  I remember she wanted to go check out another part of the store.  I told her to "hang on to your pants."  She did it, literally.  With her little hands, she grabbed on to her pants.  Fun memory.
  8. Barely a toddler, Justin tosses his socks:  In our old house, we had a small circular kitchen table.  It was pretty cozy and when we sat down, I'd quite often take off my socks and toss them under the table.  One day, Justin toddled from the front room into the kitchen and pitched his socks under the table.  We smiled and we knew who he got that from.  Another good memory.
  9. Long conversations over Char House pancakes--Before we were married and on Saturday's when I went home to Bay City, we'd usually have breakfast at the Char House on Tuscola where they would make great pancakes.  We would talk about everything and time would fly by.  We both drank lots of coffee.  I still enjoy breakfasts with Gladys and time still flies by.
  10. Yeah, there's still more---
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My Friday--June 20, 2008--online reading list; starting with gold rush in Bola Vista Brazil

Here's what I'm reading before breakfast, a hot bowl of oatmeal with Craisins on top:

  1. Brazil gold rush--Did you know that there was a gold rush in Bola Vista, Brazil about 40 years ago?  Reading in RBC's Our Daily Bread, I learned that Bola Vista was right on the edge of a big gold field.  It became a boom town until the government saw the environmental damage being done.  Mart DeHaan tells about how God allows the same thing to happen to his people when their attention gets diverted from him.
  2. Planning a wedding with the Internet--My son-in-law elect, Adam Jones, writes about  how he and my daughter, Krista, are using the Internet to plan their October wedding.  Right now, he's in Bosnia and she's in Indy.  They talk everyday using VOIP, allowing them to check sites for everything from their honeymoon to getting a marriage license.  He's doing a great job of keeping everybody informed through his blog--Ironies and Musings from a White Middle Class, 20 Something.
  3. Doctrine of Adoption--My friend, Dave Porter, writes about the Doctrine of Adoption where God takes us as his children.  This is a post worth bookmarking or printing off.  I've never fully absorbed the reality of having God as my father.  I am a father, but I've never had an earthly one that I knew.  Dave's post tells me it's time to rethink that. 
  4. Michigan doesn't trust its legislators--This survey reported in today's Detroit Free Press shows that only 11 percent of those surveyed in the state felt that the legislature was doing a good job.  How sad and it's unlikely to change.  Our state lawmakers are so caught up in power-hungry partisanship and the desire to perpetuate themselves in office that the people they are supposed to serve don't trust them.  How do we change that?
  5. Twitter stream from U.S. Rep. John Culberson --This member of the U.S. Congress from the Houston area microblogs his activities, particularly his time on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.  This is good.  Don't know what Twitter is?  It's time to learn.
Hey, I was wrong about oatmeal today.  We are having a Weight Watcher's version of french toast.  Time to eat breakfast.
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Lansing City Council member briefs her constituents about storm recovery efforts, etc.

Lansing (MI) City Council member A'Lynne Robinson briefed her southside constituents today about recovery efforts from last Sunday's tornado that ripped through the center part of the city.  She also talked about several other items and listened to constituent concerns.

In the blog, Southwest Lansing (MI) and My Neighborhood, I outline news about the recovery efforts in this post and cover other items in this post.

A photo from the meeting (click on this photo for other pics from the briefing):

Council member A'Lynne Robinson leads "Second Saturday"

Is it sad or funny that John McCain has to have his wife get his e-mail?

I know a lot of guys who are around John McCain's age and they need their wives to get their e-mails.  These guys might be able to fix a broken dishwasher or strip down and put back together a stubborn snow mobile, but computers intimidate them.

But, what about presidents?  They are pretty much isolated and depend on their staff to get information.  This means that they are beholden to look at individuals and events through the eyes of somebody else.

The web changes that.  Can't you visualize a president going to Wikipedia?  How about reading blogs?  A president would be able to get more of an unfiltered view of individuals and issues by reading blogs.  Just think about it. 

Given his background in the U.S. Senate and in the Navy, you'd think that McCain would be the first guy in line to get a new iPhone.  I'm a little disappointed.  But, I like his straight forward answer.

Check out this video where McCain and other Republican candidates talk about their Mac v. PC preferences and where McCain tips his hand.  Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the link to the video and for raising the issue.

Can a lifer in a Michigan prison become an effective father to his kids?

I thought about the question in the title for this post when I read this Detroit Free Press story by Jeff Gerritt about an inmate at the Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit.  He writes about a 39-year-old inmate father who has a college age son who regards his father as a positive example to be copied.

The son talks with pride about his lifer dad and what he has meant in his life.  The story raises the issue about prison dads and their importance to their kids.

I view the question from a couple of important perspectives.  At the Deerfield Correctional Facility in Ionia, a team of volunteers and myself led a Long Distance Dads program from the National Fatherhood Initiative.  We took groups of inmate dads through a 12-week program exploring fatherhood.

These inmate dad and grandfathers, young and old, black and white, married and unmarried, had a chance in a small group setting to examine their relationship with their own dads and then look at what a good dad looks like.  For many of them, it was a struggle because they had no point of reference.

Continue reading "Can a lifer in a Michigan prison become an effective father to his kids?" »

I cut the umbilical cord of Justin Thorp of Clearspring Technologies, exactly twenty-four years ago today

I remember being in the delivery room at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI when my wife delivered our son, Justin Zachary Thorp at about 2 a.m. on June 10, 1984.  The doctor handed me the forceps and said, "Here, cut his umbilical cord."

Hesitating just a little, Justin_thorp I cut his in utero connection to my wife.  His birth completed our family with one child of each gender. 

Today's his birthday and we have to help him celebrate in abstentia from our home in mid-Michigan to his in Washington, D.C. 

I'm proud of both of our kids, but I feel a special father-son relationship with Justin.   It would be hard to make a list of all the things we've done together, the places we have traveled to, the conversations we've had, the advice we've given back and forth, the political events we've been to and the political work we've done together.

We applied for the Amazing Race to be their first father-son team.  There was the fun of watching the show each week, the fun of filling out the lengthy application, doing the video audition and sending it in.  We didn't get pick, but it was fun doing it together.  I still think we'd make an awesome AR team.

He's become a man of integrity who has carved out his own part of the world and where he has left his mark even at his young age.  His values and his goals are taking him to new challenges. 

If you have the chance, go to his blog, "Drinking Oatmeal Stout", and leave him a birthday greeting.  Also, check out his work blog at Clearspring Technologies in the Washington, D.C. area.

Big storm and tornado gets too close for comfort in Lansing, MI

 Storms have gone through our area for the past three days.  Lots of rain.  Today, we had big winds and what sounded like a tornado behind us.   Television news said one touched down about two to three miles northwest of here along Mount Hope Highway and Canal Road.  Here's my video take of this:

Testing YouTube's Quick Capture in Lansing, Michigan

I'm trying out online video, particularly YouTube's Quick Capture where you can record video directly into YouTube and then embed it in your blog.  I'm using my new MacBook Air with the built-in camera.  I will continue playing with it.  Let me know what you think.  Just be kind.


I sleep with an almost-retired Lutheran school teacher

My wife was born to be a teacher.  I could see that early on in our dating-relationship and I saw it over and over again after our kids were born.  She loves kids and she loves seeing them learn.

After this week, she transitions her teaching career to a different chapter.  She's retiring from her third-grade classroom at Our Savior Lutheran School in Lansing, MI where she's taught for the past eight years.  Before we were married, she taught at a Lutheran school in Bay City and after our kids started school at a local pre-school.

Over the years, I've learned the importance of good teachers in a child's life.  During my ignorant days, I would chide her about not working in a real world environment, while I maintained that I did.  I was wrong big time.

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Each year she constantly carries with her the learning needs of individual students.  She looks for ways to help them over a learning hump or to take advantage of a learning open door. 

She has always seen the potential in every child in her classroom and her nightly work of correcting papers and planning lessons reflected that.

Yesterday, our church, Our Savior Lutheran Church recognized Gladys for her work at the school. 

What will she do next?  Stay tuned.  Here are some pictures.  Click on one of them to take you to the full collection of pictures from her recognition.