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23 posts from February 2009

What does Jesus mean to MI Senate staffer Jeff Cobb?

I was having coffee with an old friend at Biggby's in downtown Lansing, MI with the State Capitol building just out the front door. As part of catching up, our conversation circled around to the social media. I told him about Flip video and to demonstrate it I took this video where I asked one important question. He's the chief of staff to State Senator Gerald VanWoerkom from Muskegon. We talked about how this tiny video camera can be used in legislative and political situations.

Are we nuts for buying a new car?

This afternoon we go to the dealership to pick up our new car?

There's part of me that's really excited and another part says that our reasoning got fogged over from all the curry that "superwife" had in a dish we ate.  The economy is tanking and the auto industry is evaporating and we are buying a new car.

We needed a new vehicle.  We have a nine-year-old Malibu that's still going somewhat strong and a 15-year-old Chevy Lumina that might be nearing its end.  The Lumina is a leftover from when our kids were in college and each needed a car.  It has a lot of history from lots of driving.  Now its time to move on. 

What are we getting?

A Honda Civic built in Indiana.  At one time I would have felt guilty about buying a foreign car.  Our new car probably has as much domestic content as any of the Chevy's we've owned.

Our Honda dealership, Capital Honda in Okemos, has a reputation for impecable service.  We will find out.

I have to admit that we seemed to be the only customers in the dealer showroom the day we bought it which seemed strange.  Stayed tuned for a picture or two later.

Did you catch our son Justin when he was on live tv from Miami yesterday?

Many of you know that Justin travels around the country a lot for his job.  He attends web conferences and meets with web developers for his company, Clearspring.

What about the live television?  It was live web video and he used his iPhone as the camera to show about 12 viewers his hotel room in Miami where he was participating in Bar Camp Miami and then the Future of Web Apps conference.

Check out the video he took yesterday after arriving in his hotel room.  Nice digs.  But think of the applications it has for all kinds of uses.

Report on attending church service online at

So, Wes what did you think about worshipping with others at the web campus for New Spring Church in Anderson, SC?  I had written in a post this morning that super-wife and I opted to stay home after a snow storm yesterday.

Some reaction:
  • I liked the introduction by the web campus pastor.  He "set the table" for what to expect and was very welcoming and tried to make the experience as natural as possible given that we started out at the kitchen table and then moved to our couch.
  • The music was a good age check for us.  It was very Gen X and Y which means that it was very "rocky", but the words were shown on the left side of the monitor which made it easier.
  • The sound level seemed very low and it wasn't our computer because others were commenting about it.
  • The interaction was neat, but distracting at times.  The continuous and rolling comments contained a social comfort, but also showed good reaction and discussion to the music and the sermon.
  • The sermon by Perry Noble was about everyday realities of marriage.  He covered key points that were relevant and important, but he was long.  I didn't hear any Gospel. 
I'm glad we tried it out and I would be tempted to do it again.  I'm sure that it was a hit with a wide-range of folks, but I'd bet they were pretty young.

Worshipping with others at the web campus of New Spring Church

My reading list for this afternoon in Lansing, MI

We will soon go to our first online church service, so I want to make myself a reminder about what I still want to read today.  If you're in Lansing or in Michigan, you might find the links useful.  Do you have any to share:

  • Legacy of I-496 that cuts through our town:  The Lansing State Journal today reports about a freeway that cuts through the center of our city.  It displaced many city people who according to coffeeshop anecdotes never recovered.  I'm anxious to read it.  Does anybody have any stories to share about this or about other highways built through their town?
UPDATE:  This is a good story about how the construction of a freeway through Lansing that cut the city in half.  It decimated an established African-American neighborhood leaving scars that survive to this day.  However, it's all history and doesn't look at the racial climate in the city today or the prospects for the future.  To be useful, I feel that both parts are necessary.
  • How will Michigan handle stimulus cash:  Peter Luke from Booth newspapers has a column about this federal money pot which will come to the state.  Our state budget seems to be cut every year.  What will happen with this new money.  Luke has reputation of being independent.  Should be interesting to see his take.
UPDATE:  Luke's column outlines the challenge confronting the Michigan Legislature with billions of dollars coming to the state in federal stimulus funds.  Whereas, the past few years have been centered around tight budgets, now they will have billions for a whole shopping lists of projects and ideas.  How will they fare in making these decisions?  Stay tuned.

Has anybody attended a church service at the New Spring Web Campus?

Super-wife and I decided to stay home this morning and not go to church.  Whoops.New spring web   Did I say not go to church?  We are trying to hold a new person house church where we attend the New Spring Church Web Campus.  The Anderson, SC church has purposefully designed a web church where attenders can be volunteers and be interactive with an online service.  There's an online pastor.

Has anybody out there tried church on the web? 

Have you tried New Springs version?

Snow and sun on a Sunday morning in February 2009 Lansing, MI

Just came in from blowing snow after a storm yesterday and last night here in mid-Michigan.  The storm wasn't a beast like we've gotten in the past, but it seems to have slowed things down.  I praise God for my Sears two-stage snow blower.  It makes me feel like I have more power against the white stuff.  It improves my attitude.  And the sun continues to get brighter.  That's what it looks like.  Here are some pics: The sun shines in Lansing, MI There was virtually no wind outside and the temp is almost 30 which makes snow blowing even more enjoyable. Taking a picture while blowing snow

Did you know these facts about the southside of the city of Lansing (MI)?

Lansing's southside has a perception problem.  How do you view the southside?  Desirable or undesirable3284900993_f2345564fb_m place to live?

Check this outh from the Feb. 2009 edition of SouthLansing.Org, published by the South Lansing Community Development Association:

  • South Lansing encompasses almost 60 percent of the city's real estate.  The majorirty of property, income and business taxes are gnerated south of I-496. 
  • From 2000 to 2007, while other parts of Lansing saw population decline, the southside actually grew.  Median household income also grew.  Quality of life indicators, like education levels, home values and, yes, crime statistic, are on par with every other part of the city.

You can read the whole newsletter by going to the group's website where you can download this and past issues.

Video #9--Lansing City Assessor explains lowers assessments, higher taxes

If you live inside the city of Lansing (MI) or most other areas of our state, you've probably seen your property assessment lose significant value, while your tax bills continue to increase.  Why is that?  Lansing City Assessor Maria Irish explains the reasons for this and shares other property tax issues in this video.

She was part of the Third Ward's "Second Saturday" where Council-member A'Lynne Robinson joins her constituents to listen and share information and concerns.

Video #8--Have Lansing (MI) City Council "regulars" run amuck with their name-calling, lack of respect?

Tune into Lansing's (MI) Comcast Channel 12 on Monday night to watch the Lansing City Council meeting you will usually hear an extended period of public comment.  Many of the commenters--also known as regulars--use their three minutes on live television to make extreme charges, call city officials names and generally show a lack of respect for anybody on the council, in city government or to the mayor.

From last Saturday's Third Ward "Second Saturday" meeting with Council-member A'Lynne Robinson, here are comments from citizens about the issue and from Council-member Kathie Dunbar.  This video was taken with a small Flip video camera.  I invite you to leave your reaction on this post.

Video #7: Lansing (MI) City Council-member Kathie Dunbar talks about getting more citizens involved

At the city of Lansing's (MI) Third Ward "Second Saturday" meeting last week, City Council-member Kathie Dunbar, an at-large member, shared her efforts to get more citizen involvement in their weekly and other meetings.  You are invited to leave your comments on this blog to her ideas.  This video was taken with a small Flip video camera:

Good teachers produce students who score well on state tests, right?

Merit pay for teachers is being touted in Michigan and other places as the way to get good teachers for our kids. 

The thinking seems to be that teachers who have students who score well on state tests should get more pay.  These teachers, according to this school of thought, are better than others and, as a result should get paid more.

Hmm . . . is that true?  In this morning's Detroit Free Press, the reporters writes about three Michigan school districts experimenting with this approach and with no results to report yet. 

And, President Barak Obama has included money in the federal stimulus package for districts to try merit pay.  Apparently, his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tried this approach when he was head of the Chicago Public Schools.

Teachers:  What do parents need to know about this approach?  Do numbers tell the tale about whether you're successful with your students?  Are their other factors involved?  What are they?

  What role do you play in your child's education?  How significant is your role in whether they succeed in school or not?

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Video #6: Should applause be allowed during public comments at the Lansing City Council?

The Lansing (MI) City Council this year is enforcing its Rule 19 which regulates decorum including the reaction of audience members in the council meeting audiences. Regular commenters at council meetings have been sharply critical of efforts to stop applause during the public comment period. At today's "Second Saturday" meeting, Third Ward City Council-member A'Lynne Robinson asked her constituents for their reaction. This video includes a major portion of that discussion:

Lansing (MI) City Council-member A'Lynne Robinson listens and shares with Third Ward

This morning was the time when Lansing's southside residents huddle with their city council member, A'Lynne Robinson, where she listens and shares about issues at city hall and in the third ward. 

My wife and I attended with about 20 others in the meeting room at the Lansing Fire Department Station #6 at Pleasant Grove and Jolly Avenues. 

The meeting lasted for more than two hours and included information about a wide-variety of topics.  I recorded video of the meetings using my Flip video camera.  I'm uploading the video in several different segments over this afternoon and this evening.

In the first video, Council-member Robinson provides background about the monthly-meetings, has around-the table introductions and then comments about the morning's agenda of topics.

In video #2, Council-member Carol Woods discusses an incident at last Monday night's Lansing City Council meeting where a member of the audience was arrested.  She also talked about security inside the city council chambers during meetings and about the issue of turning off live cable coverage of the incident. 

In video #3, City Council-member Woods talks about the process the city of Lansing has to set priorities for use of federal stimulus monies.

In video #4, there's a comment period for third warders. First comment is about sound quality of recorded city council meetings on the city cable channel.

In this video #5, Lansing City Council regular commenters and others talk about issues on their mind including a controversy between the mayor and the council over the city-owned golf courses and plowing of city streets:

Roman Catholics can shorten their time in purgatory for a contribution to the church

I can't believe this, but it's in the New York Times . . . the Roman Catholic church has brought back indulgences where you can shorten your time in purgatory, the time before your eternal fate is decided.

The Protestant Reformation was brought about by this practice which Martin Luther shined the light on and caused a split in the Roman Catholic Church between the Catholics and the Protestants.

Do people actually believe that kicking in a few extra bucks will make a difference in your purgatory time in the afterlife?

Anybody see these at their church?

Have you bought one for yourself?  Someone else?

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Watching Dr. Phil's show about young women and drugs leaves me with questions about Lansing (MI)

"Super-wife" and I just watched Dr. Phil's show today about young women who are wasting their lives with drug habits.

His guests on today's show look like they come from normal middle-class families.  They don't fit the stereotype of the young person addicted to whatever. 

I know there are people in our area--mid-Michigan--who struggle with drugs.  But, people don't like to talk about it.  Families struggling with a child who deals with addiction are from my experience left to fend for themselves, I think.

How do you find the depth of the problem for a specific area?

Are affected parties being given help?

What role should the church play?  Are there any churches who dive into the task of helping those who need it?

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How does George Bush or Barack Obama compare to Abe Lincoln as president?

For most people, it seems like Abe Lincoln has set the baseline for what it takes to be a good president.  How would George Bush and Barack Obama compare?  What criteria would you use in measuring them?

Rex Hammock of "Rex Blog" has a post
recognizing Lincoln's 200th birthday next Monday along with a pretty impressive collection of links providing information about the former president. 

What made Lincoln so great in the eyes of Americans?  Was it because he took us through the Civil War and was responsible for leadership that led to the freeing of the slaves?  What else?

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Do Republicans stand better chance of winning by imitating the Democrats?

The Republican party in this country is getting closer and closer to being a carbon copy of the Democrats.  Some in the GOP find that an attractive possibility.

I don't and I don't know what to do about it. 

My mother and most of my aunts and uncles have been Republicans because the party stood for a clear set of principles that were centered on well defined boundaries for the involvement of government in our lives.  They were a poor farm family of 12 brothers and sisters from the Thumb of Michigan which took responsibilities for themselves and each other.

The Republican party and its historic platforms fit their life view and they didn't apologize for it.  Now fast forward to today and to tomorrow's vote in the U.S. Senate where Republicans will vote for the biggest spending bill in U.S. history.

The Democrats are trying to bluff the Republicans into becoming coming carbon copies of them and it seems to be working.

Columnist Thomas Sowell makes the point
about the Republican and their response to the stimulus proposa in the Detroit News this morning:

Within 24 hours, however, Republicans in the Senate came out with a plan to have the government fix mortgage interest rates at 4 percent -- and use taxpayers' money to cover the losses that lenders would otherwise sustain.

Government intervention in the housing markets has been at the heart of the boom and bust that has led to a huge economic downturn.

It was the government that pushed for abandoning traditional standards for making mortgage loans and got borrowers and lenders way out on a limb -- and set off economic shock waves when the limb broke.
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