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27 posts from August 2008

Getting ready for super-daughter's wedding to Adam

Justin and I got fitted for our tuxes today at the Lansing Mall.  The excitement for the October wedding is starting to build as we enter the countdown phase to the October 4 launch for super-daughter and her fiance, Adam Jones.

The tux fitting was accompanied by  coffee at Biggby's, a stop at Best Buy, lunch at Chipolte's and a stop at the AT&T Mobile Phone store.


Revisiting my post about the Mackinac Center and its views about teachers

Two days ago I wrote a post about a barbeque hosted in Lansing by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Jack McHugh. 

It was supposed to be a chance to socialize with other bloggers from around the state, eat some good food and hear an education researcher from Arkansas. 

When the researcher was introduced by our host, I heard Jack put down teachers and I heard those at the party cheer what he had to say.  Being there with my wife, a third grade teacher, I was embarrassed.  I am a conservative who believes in individual freedom and the free market.  But . . . I've seen up close and personal how my wife has agonized over each and every student to see that they reach their individual learning potential.

Since I wrote that post I've had a chance to talk to a Mackinac Center staffer and I'd like to share my observations gained from this conversation:

Continue reading "Revisiting my post about the Mackinac Center and its views about teachers" »


IMPORTANT: Averill Woods neighborhood meets on gang problems tomorrow night

Do you live in Lansing (MI) or the nearby area?

Then you should be interested in tomorrow night's meeting of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association where Lansing Police Department officers who work on tracking local gang problems will talk about recent challenges on the city's southwest side.

This is an extremely important meeting to keep neighborhood residents informed about what's happening where we live and how we can help their efforts.

Meeting details are on my neighborhood blog--Southwest Lansing (MI) and my neighborhood.
  Invite your neighbors to come with you.

You can also read the report from Melissa Quon-Huber, a neighborhood association leader,
about her discussions with Lansing police and others about this past summer.



Averillwoods Neighborhood Blog

My wife gave this Mackinac Center education expert a piece of her mind

It was a barbeque sponsored by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy of Midland, MI where classroom teachers were mocked and degraded and with the gusto usually reserved for a Michigan State-University of Michigan football game.

This is the one Mackinac Center function where I invited my wife.  I wanted her to meet persons who I had worked with in the past, blogged with and whose free market focus I agreed with.  The guest of honor was a young education researcher who had earlier in the day presented to a group of legislators and legislative staffers.

When I invited "super-wife" I thought she'd enjoy it being a third grade teacher who was nearing retirement from the classroom.  Little did I know.

The guest of honor--Marc Holley from Arkansas-- was introduced by the host for the barbeque who warmed the predominantly male crowd into a screed against teachers.  As they ate their burgers and drank whatever, the host shouted out about the lazy, inept and incompetent teachers in Michigan and everybody cheered.

The anti-teacher venom continued and the cheering got louder.

Then the guest of honor started talking for a few minutes.  Check out his Teacher Quality Primer where he talks about reforming and improving teachers.

Continue reading "My wife gave this Mackinac Center education expert a piece of her mind" »


We've switched from drapes in our living room to Levalor vertical blinds

This is not earth-shaking, but we dumped our drapes in our living room for Levalor's vertical blinds.

Somehow we got in the crosshairs of our traverse rod holding our drapes.  We couldn't restring it and we couldn't get a new one to operate the way it should.  The drapes just didn't hang right.  So, we decided to change.

When we took our coupon to the local J.C. Pennys, we had a very helpful clerk and we had lots of choices.  For less than $300 we had custom vertical blinds.

Installation of the brackets was patience-producing and the valance still seems to be a challenge, but we'll get it.

Here's a photo record of our last steps in getting them installed:

Dumping drapes for vertical blinds in our living room


Ken Alexander and I spent a lot of time together in a variety of prisons

Yup, I've been in prison and it was Ken Alexander's fault.

Over a period of 15 years, I was in and out of Michigan's prison system, the last place I ever thought I'd spend time.

Today at a conference at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt, MI, I had a chance to introduce Ken who gave his testimony to more than 50 clergy and lay activists who gathered to hear about ministering to prisoners and their families.

I first met Ken in 1971 when he caught the attention of police in his Detroit-area community for his high school miscues.  Our paths next crossed in 1986 at a Bible study in another part of the state. 

Between our first and second meetings, he spent half a decade in prison.  Inside prison, he changed.  In 1988, we started a journey of prison ministry where he shared his story and we shared the story and the grace of Jesus Christ.  I took this video of his testimony today with my Flip video camera: 


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Our neighborhood leader talks about T-Mobile's decision to not build Lansing (MI) cell tower

Here's the details about T-Mobile backing down from the federal lawsuit to build a cell tower in Lansing's Averill Woods neighborhood.  Melissa Quon-Huber, leader of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association, sent out this e-mail earlier this afternoon:

That’s right!  Put on your dancing shoes, Lansing!!  We’ve got reason to celebrate.
 
We just got word from our 3rd Ward City Council Representative, A’Lynne Robinson, that T-Mobile has decided to drop it’s lawsuit against the city of Lansing!!!
 
After a thoughtful review, T-Mobile representatives determined that this site in our neighborhood wasn’t the best location after all.
 
I want to thank everyone who worked so hard on this issue!
 
Thank you to the Mayor’s and his staff, the City Attorney’s office, and our entire City Council who worked hand in hand as a team with neighbors to see this through.
 
I especially want to thank Brigham Smith and his staff for their tremendous work and to A’Lynne Robinson for her fabulous communication with her constituents on this issue.
 
Thank you to the many neighbors and associations from across the city that supported our efforts to help T-Mobile be a better neighbor. You made a difference by your efforts. 
 
I especially want to recognize the contributions of the cell tower subcommittee Ann Kostin-McGill, Wes Thorp, Mike Flaga, Ken Jones, and Patricia Beck. Their leadership on this issue was based on the recognition that this issue not only affected our neighborhood, but the entire city. Their service was a testament to their investment in all of Lansing and its future.
 
Thank you to Grandhaven Manor for their understanding and support of neighbors in trying to reach a shared goal. I know this decision represents a loss of potential revenue for them and we want to recognize them for being a great neighbor throughout this process.
 
And a BIG thanks to T-Mobile for being willing to consider the interests of their customers, current and future. You have truly been a good neighbor.
 
 
I am confident that we’ll be able to move forward with a positive relationship with T-Mobile and our other telecommunications providers as we jointly seek to build a better Lansing -- One that is technology-forward and in a very thoughtful way.
 
Kudos to everyone!
 
Melissa S. Quon Huber, Ph.D.
Averill Woods Neighborhood Association
 

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Southwest Lansing (MI) moms take on T-Mobile cell tower plans and win for a second time

For the past several weeks, I tried to condition myself to having a 125-foot monopole cell tower as a neighbor just down the block.  While our neighbors were asking T-Mobile to work with them to make the tower less visible, the company kept trying to bully its way into this residential areas in southwest Lansing.

After the city council voted down T-Mobile's request for a special use permit to build the tower, the company sued in federal court to get its way.

Today, T-Mobile announced that it was not going to build the tower. 

It was a major victory for the Averill Woods neighborhood on the southwest side of Michigan's State Capital City.  Our area is a neatly-kept middle-class, diverse area where the livability quotient is very high.

How did the neighborhood keep T-Mobile from building a tall cell tower that would have dramatically shifted the residential flavor of the area?  Here's what I see that made a difference:

  • A small group of young moms who worked diligently to research, make contacts and bird dog the tower proposal from first proposal to today's announcement.  They include neighborhood leader Melissa Quon-Huber, City Council Member A'Lynne Robinson who represents our ward and Ann Kostin McGill.
  • Their energies and their desire to maintain the residential character of the neighborhood fueled a synergy that kept the issue in front of city officials and other decision-makers.
  • Neighbors who were willing to get involved and who were willing to present rational arguments before the city council and its various committees.
  • A functional city government that's led by a city council that listens to motivated constituents; a mayor who lent the cachet and support of his office to the neighborhood.
  • Use of web 2.0 and social media, a blog and special Facebook page and a Yahoo Group, to recruit and inform.
I feel better tonight about our city government and about our city.  It does work, but it's not always pretty and it's usually frustrating.


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Super-wife and I visit Sleepy Hollow State Park in mid-Michigan on a late August Sunday

What do you do when you purchase an annual permit to get into Michigan's many state parks?

Super-wife and I decided to give it a whirl this afternoon after church and lunch by going to Sleepy Hollow State Park just northeast of Lansing where we live.  We bought the permit when we were in Petoskey on the northwest side of the state late last month.

And the permit is only good til the end of the year.  So with day tickets to get into the park costing $6.00 a car, we've used it three times. 

We picked Sleepy Hollow because it was close and very reachable from where we are at.  We loved it.  There's a nice lake, plenty of trails and a good assortment of flora, fauna and birds.  Weather was perfect.

Here's two pictures.  Click on either one to see the others:

Michigan's Sleepy Hollow State Park in late August Michigan's Lake Ovid at Sleepy Hollow State Park

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My friend, Lance O'Donnell, preaches sermon about moving from dark side of politics to the church

I really enjoy listening to Rev. Lance O'Donnell, my longtime friend from VanWert, Ohio, preach today at my church, Our Savior Lutheran of Lansing (MI), about the details of his transition to full-time ministry.

I got to know him when he worked as a staffer for the Michigan Legislature in his early 20's and as he was trying to sort out his path in life.  He knows what real life looks like and he experienced the grace of God on a very personal level and he talked about that today.

This video was taken with a very small Flip video camera and the sound quality is marginal, but crank up your sound and you can hear him clearly. 

He's almost 40 and he has a passion for his relationship with God, for his wife, his family and his job. 

Right on dude.  Keep looking up and keep listening to where God wants you to go.  Your dad would really be proud.  He would be overwhelmed with the man you are and the legacy that you are leaving.

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Baby-boomers: Why do you go to the church where you attend?

Are you a baby boomer, somebody born between 1946 and the early 1960s?

Do you go to church?  Can you explain to yourself why you go to that church and whether or not it meets your spiritual needs?  Huh, you ask?  What do you mean?

I'm going to be 62 in about two weeks.  I'm reasonably healthy, but I know that I have more time behind me than I do in front of me.  That's why I'm looking carefully at my values and my goals and where I spend my efforts.  I know that I have to make my moves count more now than I did when I was in my twenties or thirties.  I'm running out of time to pursue many more paths.

How do you know if you're going to the right church?

Super-wife and I were born into the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  We both grew up going to church every Sunday and never questioned that.  When life took us away from our home bases, we naturally looked for a church from our own tradition.

When we had kids, we looked for a Lutheran church with a day school.  Now, we are at a natural change point in our lives with our nest being empty and the ability to look at what we want and what we should get from a church.

We both know that doctrine is important and so is teaching.  But what else?

Can anybody else identify with this search borne from entering a new life chapter?

What's your criteria for deciding whether a church is providing what individuals and families need?

Yes, I am using this blog to sort out our steps in this search.  I
will talk about our present and our past churches.  They have all had a positive side.  But where were the gaps?

I will be sharing more about all that.


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Is the promise from off-shore drilling for crude oil like buying a pig in a poke?

I'm confused about how much crude oil this country would reap if it permitted offshore drilling.

You hear political candidates talking about this with some saying that at best offshore drilling would not start producing crude until 2030 or something like that and then the amount would be insignificant.

Then you hear others who say that giving the green light for drilling would start producing oil real soon and in significant quantities. 

I can go with my partisan prejudice which runs counter to the liberal Democrat philosophy which seems to encourage high taxes on gas even if it means bringing consumers to their knees. 

Anybody have links on either side that provide more than partisan pablum from a news release?

This morning's Detroit Free Press says:

  • Even if all the offshore areas at issue were opened to oil drilling, the Department of Energy estimates it will be 2030 before any crude starts flowing.
  • If all the likely pools were drained, the yield could be about 18 billion barrels -- a lot of oil, sure, but Americans burn more than 20 million barrels a day, so that's really only about three years worth if consumption continues at present rates
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Quote worth remembering: U.S. Rep. John Dingell uses Oliver Cromwell to tell Detroit mayor to quit

Michigan's U.S. Rep. John Dingell meant Oliver Cromwell's quote from 1653 for Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who's up to his neck in felony charges.  The quote mentioned in today's Detroit Free Press from the longtime congressman:

  • "In my reading of history, I found a comment Oliver Cromwell made as he dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653, and I think it would be good advice for the Mayor now:  'You have sat too long for any good you have been doing late.  Depart, I say . . ."
Voters might want to hang onto that quote as they prepare for the November general election.  They might be able to use it for other officials who have overstayed their welcome.
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Just how corrupt is Detroit city government?

You want to throw-up in disgust when you read this Detroit Free Press story today about how the FBI is investigating the father of the city's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

According to the story where the lead reporter is David Ashenfelter, a Pulitizer prize winner when he was at the Detroit News, the feds are investigating whether Bernard Kilpatrick was "involved in payoff schemes to steer city business  to contractors.  The story said:

" . . .agents are trying to determine whether Bernard Kilpatrick illegally passed along any money to the mayor.

"It's a pure pay-to-play system,"  one lawyer alleged of the process to obtain many contracts in Detroit."

Is city government in Detroit as corrupt as it seems to be or are the feds just piling on because the mayor is in trouble?

There's a Board of Ethics inside Detroit's city government.  Does it have the power to investigate allegations like this?

Where has state government been as these situations have been allowed to develop?  Are local units of government accountable to the state for how they do business?


My almost son-in-law raises question of segregation in church

Why are our churches pretty much segregated by race and by economic groups?

Great question and it's being raised by my soon-to-be son-in-law Adam Jones in a post today where he talks about how he and my favorite daughter are looking at forming a house church in their Indianapolis inner-city neighborhood.

He raises the question of how heaven will be organized.  Will there be a section for whites and one for blacks and another for Asians?  The answer from the Bible is pretty clear, he says.

In this post, he asks about tearing down those walls that separate.  Share your thoughts, experiences and suggestions.

My soon-to-be son-in-law raises question of race and church


Learning about myself from our latest Netflix offering, "Into The Wild"

I'd like to watch "Into the Wild" again, but I probably won't.

Watching it last night, I learned more about myself than I bargained for from my $9 per month subscription to Netflix.  I'm not a heady, literature, watch plays and learn the meaning of life kind of guy.  But, this Sean Penn directed movie helped me learn something about myself that's pretty important, I feel.

The main character is a young college graduate who leaves school with a diploma and a lot of disenchantment born from a two parent family where mom and dad were driven by their careers and their accomplishments and who put minimal value on personal, family relationships.  Their son wasn't buying what they had to offer in their lifestyle.

So, he dropped out and went to a cross country journey that took him to some of the most scenic spots in this country. He left aside money, his car and all the other trappings that come with a so-called successful life.

Continue reading "Learning about myself from our latest Netflix offering, "Into The Wild"" »


Controversial Lansing (MI) city market proposal explained

Lansing's (MI) oft-neglected southside today learned firsthand about a proposal to develop the capital city's riverfront with a new city market, condos and retail establishments.

Developer Pat Gillespie told a meeting of third ward residents about his plans to develop the portion of the city's riverfront surrounding the city market.  The gathering was sponsored by City Council member A'Lynne Robinson.  This video shows Gillespie explaining his proposal to the group: