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21 posts from July 2011

Wall Street Journal raises question about conservatives giving next year's election to Obama

Just got this from Mike Allen's Politico newsletter which quotes the Wall Street Journal about whether conservative Republicans in Washington, D.C. are giving next year's election to President Obama. There's a time to compromise and this seems to be it for conservatives.  Here's the Wall Street Journal excerpt:

--WSJ lead editorial, "The GOP's Reality Test: Republicans who oppose Boehner's debt deal are playing into Obama's hands": "[T]hanks to the President's overreaching on taxes, Mr. Boehner now has the GOP positioned in sight of a political and policy victory. If his plan or something close to it becomes law, Democrats will have conceded more spending cuts than they thought possible, and without getting the GOP to raise taxes and without being able to blame Republicans for a debt-limit crackup or economic damage. If conservatives defeat the Boehner plan, they'll not only undermine their House majority. They'll go far to re-electing Mr. Obama and making the entitlement state that much harder to reform."

Are standardized tests turning Michigan public school teachers into cheaters?

One out of three public school educators report pressure from bosses, parents or others to change grades, and nearly 30% say pressure to cheat on standardized tests is a problem at their school, according to a voluntary Free Press survey of Michigan educators.

At schools that don't meet federal standards, the tension is higher: About 50% say pressure to change grades is an issue, and 46% say pressure to cheat on the tests is a problem.


This story in today's Detroit Free Press about how Michigan's public school teachers are getting pressure to help their students cheat on standardized tests is worth talking about around the dinner table tonight.  Pressure for teachers and classrooms to reach the right numbers from the test results is growing and is hinged to schools staying open.  This is worth reading.  

Apples may be bright spot for Michigan economy this fall

Yields for apples and other fruit in Michigan are on pace to exceed last year. The apple crop in Michigan, the third-largest U.S. producer, is projected at 25 million bushels — about the same as the record high set in 1995.

Apples alone translate to $800 million worth of economic impact in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In Michigan, you take good economic news wherever you can find it and this morning that comes with the state's apple crop along with other fruits.  Check this morning's story in the Detroit News about what's expected.

I would recommend the movie "Life In Day" but not for everybody

Last night we went to a special screening of the movie "Life In A Day" at Celebration Cinema.  When we found that the usual ticket price was almost doubled, we almost picked something else.  I'm glad we didn't.

What we saw was shot by ordinary people around the world about what took place in their lives on July 24, 2010.  It was produced by the famous movie producer Ridley Scott and was done in concert with YouTube. 

The result was an amazing look into the lives of ordinary people from one end of the world to the other as provided by themselves through small HD video camera.  Just think about the concept.  What are ordinary people doing right now in South America, Russia, Spain, the United States, Canada.  It's like walking through your neighborhood at night, seeing the lights on in individual houses and apartments and wondering what each family was doing.

The editing for this film did an incredible job which included people shooting video of themselves also answering three questions: what was in their pockets, what do you fear and what do you love. 

We left the theater feeling a little more connected with the world and its people around us. Some people may not get it.  Nothing is blown up.  No crime, drugs or sex.  It's like going to YouTube and spending and hour-and-a-half watching home-grown videos strung together, but in a very slick way.


Check this interview of a family that shot video a few days after the young mom had surgery to deal with breast cancer. They tell about their experience.

Super-wife and I are going to see "Life In A Day" movie tonight

I'm excited about going to see the "Life In A Day" movie tonight with super-wife and here's why:

It's a video montage of the world taken by ordinary people going about their daily lives.  And it's put together by some amazing film producers who are accomplished at telling stories using film.

I had not heard of it until I saw the promo on  It reminds me of old Life magazines where still photographers from around the world would shoot pictures that would then be edited to tell a story.

I'm hooked to homegrown YouTube video bits watching those taken by others and by myself.  I've taken almost 1,000 video clips and love watching my favorite 300 of my now one-year-old grandson.   

Is Michigan's Republican leader Saul Anuzis thinking right about raising the federal debt limit?

Today's going to be a big day on the national level with the efforts to find agreement on raising the federal debt limit and cutting federal spending.  Michigan Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis shared this quote in his weekly e-newsletter which I received this morning:

“Raising the Debt Ceiling is kind of like increasing Blood Alcohol Levels to Solve Drunk Driving.”

Re-examining the blogs I read on a regular basis

Blogs i read I have found that the number of blogs that I read on a consistent basis has been dwindling over the past year.  I can't explain it.  Of course, I'm loyal in reading the blogs of my family members, my son, my son-in-law and my daughter-in-law. 

But what about others?  In my Google Reader, I find myself going to the blog of our Wild Birds Unlimited store almost everyday.  And I follow some on the Wall Street Journal  subscription site.

Here locally there are few blogs about mid-Michigan news or Lansing City Hall news.  And the political blogs in our state reek of partisanship and I find most of them have a blah-blah-blah sort of quality.  Church blogs in our area seem non-existent and so that leaves me to look outside the area.

On the homepage of this blog, I have in the right margin a heading for blogs I read.  I'm redoing this and I'll be sliding candidates in and out.  I'll read them for a bit and make a decision on whether they're worth sharing with you.

What blogs do you read on a regular basis?  Do you have any you would like to share?

What's the punishment for drunk-driving in your area?

More than how much a driver has had to drink or the courtroom skills of his or her lawyer, what most decides the punishment a driver gets for drunken driving in metro Detroit is where he or she gets busted.


Check out this Detroit Free Press story about the differences in sentencing for drunken driving in the Detroit metro area. Some judges give jail time for first offenders, while many don't. It seems to depend on where the driver is caught.

In your area, does it seem like drunken driving gets less media attention than in the past?

In the past, it seems like it dominated news stories. Is this a function of less local news coverage? Is drunken driving decreasing in Michigan and other states or just receiving less attention from news media?

I'm trying to make peace with the new Weight Watchers Points Plus program

Obesity can be an ugly word, especially when it's tacked onto a description of yourself.  I know, because Weight I've been there and I'm trying to shed that word as part of my personal description. 

As a member of the first class of baby-boomers who turn 65 this years, I am coming face-to-face with the importance of staying healthy.  As a glaucoma patient, I've gotten to know the pharmacists at the neighborhood Walgreens well enough.  I don't need to give them any more business.

That's where Weight Watchers Online and their new Points Plus Program comes in.  Three years ago super-wife and I fully engaged in the old version of the program.  I started with the scales getting mighty close to 240.  I got it down to a few pounds under 200 and then the new Points Plus program started.

That threw me into a weight loss tail spin.  I was totally familiar with the old program and I knew exactly what and how much I could eat to stay satisfied and maintain my weight.  The new program changed everything.  The stuff that helped me maintain and keep me satisfied jumped dramatically in point value while I could eat all the fruit I wanted for zero points. 

I gained about six plus pounds.  But I knew I couldn't afford to go back to my old weight. 

I'm trying to re-engage in the new program.  I dug out my old Exacto knife and tried to carve out my attitude about the changes.  I've ruthlessly recorded everything I've eaten.  The results?  Check the photo.  It's coming.  Now I just have to keep it going.

Any other baby-boomers experiencing similar challenges?  I know I'm not alone regardless of the program or the effort.


Josh McDowell speaks tonight on why most young people have abandoned the church

Josh mcdowell Josh McDowell is 71-years-old and a Christian-speaker to young people and tonight, he's speaking at the Billy Graham Center-the Cove-about why 80 percent of our youth have abandoned the church.  Tonight at 7:15 p.m., you can watch him tell why by clicking on this link to be live-streamed to his presentation.  He said in an interview: 

Q: You and Sean will be teaching at The Cove in mid-July on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith.” What will be the take-away value of your seminar?

A: Young people are alarmingly walking away from the church in droves. Probably 80 percent.

I believe by accident we not only discovered why, but historically we’ve discovered the answer. We can’t take credit for this, it was by accident—because one man, 1,900 years ago, had the solution.

What Sean and I will do is paint historically what the answer is, and every parent and grandparent at the seminar will sit up and say, “This is what we’ve got to pass on to our children and grandkids.”

Are you, your family, friends, neighbors part of the long-term unemployed in Michigan?

Living in the heart of mid-Michigan, I know there must be plenty of long-term unemployed, people who have been out of work for more than a year.  They've tried to get a job, but it's dragged on and they are now treading water in trying to find a new job.

What makes me ask is this video from the online version of the Wall Street Journal where there's a discussion about how this group of unemployed workers is growing.  For talk about Michigan, go to the 1:53 point of the video.  The point is made that auto companies and their suppliers are calling back to work first those who were last laid-off and not those who have been out the longest.

How are the long-term unemployed coping?  Are they?  What are their prospects?  The news media seems to have forgotten them.


Here's the wedding sermon from our backyard sermon when we renewed our vows last night

A NOTE:  Please read my post about our ceremony and view a video by clicking here.

My son-in-law, an ordained Wesleyan pastor, led the service in our backyard last night where we renewed our wedding vows. It was GREAT.  His words were right with the focus right where it should be.  I invite you to read what he  shared. 

He said:

Well, here you are, again. Not only is this the third time you have said “I do” to each other, but this is your second 30th wedding anniversary celebration.Vows Who would have thought? You guys have made it. Against all odds, you made it! This is certainly a marriage and occasion worth celebrating multiple times.

!    In reality your friends and family are not at all surprised by this day. Wes, if this were a council meeting, we would call this day to a vote and unanimously vote “aye.” Gladys, if we were your third graders, weʼd all throw our hands up and scream the answer is yes to question “Are you excited for the Thorps?”

!    This day is a culmination of a life already lived together and represents your commitment to each other. Today is not about legal or religious implications, this day is about a man and woman saying, “I still choose you and I want my friends and my family to share in it.”

!    This day is about Krista and Justin, too. Itʼs their day to see their parents say, “regardless of what life may continue to throw at our family, we are going to walk through it together.” They get to see their parents choose each other. Love is about that choice. We all wish it was solely about feeling, but we know that many days we choose to love our spouse because to do anything but that, would forsake the one we love the most.

Continue reading "Here's the wedding sermon from our backyard sermon when we renewed our vows last night" »

We renewed our wedding vows last night in our backyard with our son-in-law officiating and neighbors watching

It just seemed like the right thing to do at a perfect time as my wife and I get more firmly into this stage of life described as being a senior citizen and retired.  We renewed our wedding vows last night in our backyard with our son-in-law as the minister and with the neighbors watching.

We were married 30 years ago and have two grown children and one grandchild.  Being married to my wife has been the best part of my life.  We've faced some major life challenges together and have lived a day-to-day life that has never been boring.

But with me as a member of the first class of baby-boomers and with her being a younger boomer, we know that we have entered a very special and sometimes challenging chapter of life. 

And we want to both celebrate our relationship and to publicly share that we are committed to each other regardless of the circumstances. 

So we decided it was a perfect time to renew our vows.  It was last minute.  But our son-in-law, an ordained pastor and our neighbors watched as we publicly declared that we are in this relationship for the long haul.  Here's a Flip video with our neighbor girl acting as a flower girl.

Also note a computer on a front chair where our son living in Washington, D.C. served as best man.  He was there virtually through the MacBook Air on the chair and with the help of Apple's Face Time App.  He and his wife saw the whole thing.

When will we renew our vows again?  I'm not sure.  Stay tuned.

I'm working on describing my "Aha Moment" for a Mutual of Omaha video

I almost ignored an e-mail from Mutual of Omaha to participate in their Aha Moment Tour where they come to your town and shoot video of you describing an "Aha Moment" in your life.  I've been behind a lot of cameras in my life, but have never felt comfortable in front.

But as soon as I decided to ignore the invitation, one Aha Moment came to mind and then another.

I checked the definition of an "Aha Moment" to see if mine fit.  The company defined such a time this way:

It's a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom - wisdom you can use to change your life.

Both fit that criteria and so I decided to give it a try.  When Mutual of Omaha comes to town next week with their video bus, I'll have a chance to share it.  In a nutshell, it's about my effort as a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in 1946 to find some meaning and purpose in retirement and in the transitions of life that seem to come with it.

Last year my wife and I were invited by some friends to participate in a mission trip to Haiti.  During our every morning power walks, we chewed over the pros and cons of going to a pretty rugged and needy country where there plenty of disease and hunger.  We thought we were beyond the age of real manual labor of hauling debris and working in really hot sun.

We decided not to go.  Nice idea, we thought, but not the right trip for us.  Then one morning when we got back from our walk, we read the back cover of the book "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper about a married couple who retired early and how they were wasting their life and at that moment we changed our minds.  We decided to go.  The trip was a life-changer for both of us.  I'll describe more of that in another post as I work through this.  Here's the portion of the back cover that got our attention:

Dont waste your life


Check this: In Michigan, prescription drug abuse kills more than heroin and cocaine combined

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.


In Michigan, the drugs that are killing more young people and others are found in the medicine chest in the form of prescription drugs, according to this story from today's Detroit Free Press.

Reason for this is their availability, according to the Free Press story.  More prescriptions are being written in Michigan with young people having access to them in their parent's or grandparent's medicine cabinets. 

The stats for our state are amazing and scary.  What's the answer? 

Here's what stands out in my memory of the late Charlie Cain, longtime Detroit News politics reporter


We had just gotten home yesterday and I couldn't believe it yesterday when I did a quick pass-through on Facebook and saw that Charlie Cain, former long time reporter with the Detroit News, had died.  As the former pressroom manager at the State Capitol, I got to know him well.  We worked together, socialized and even took a vacation to Cuba.

What stands out in my memory about Charlie?

He was a true journalist in the best sense of the word.  He could cover any story about any person and not insert his own opinion.  He covered both sides of a person or issue and then let readers make up their own mind.

That's a real contrast to the practice of journalism today where reporters insert their bias and their opinions into just about everything and don't trust readers or viewers to make up their own mind.

When President Jimmy Carter loosened travel restrictions to Cuba, Charlie and I applied for visas to take a vacation there and got them.  We were among the very first Americans to take advantage of this ability to check out the land of Fidel Castro.  We spent more than a week getting a full flavor of a country that was suffering from an overwhelming lack of development. 

His curiosity as a reporter was in full gear from the time our plane took off in Detroit to the time we came back. We toured everything from Havanna, to Cienfuegos where there was a Russian sub-base to the Bay of Pigs.

As I try to process Charlie's passing, I just hope that somewhere, he put down what he learned from his career where he saw the manifold challenges of reporting during a period when public perception of the profession moved from being a calling to one of disdain. 

Charlie Cain had a non-reporter side.  His two daughters were part of a play group of spouses of state capitol reporter and their kids.  I remember his excitement when he called me right after his first daughter was born. 

Is it inevitable that trouble will invade your life in some way, shape or fashion?

It's still pretty early on Sunday morning and I've pulled out my online Bible and my online copy of Our Daily Bread and I'm trying to connect with God to help me get started off on the right foot.

Written by Joe Stowell, the president of Cornerstone University and former head of Moody Bible Institute, the devotion is about how experiencing trouble is just a part of life.  Stuff happens.  He writes:

Inevitably, trouble will invade our lives: A bad report from a medical test, the betrayal of a trusted friend, a child who rejects us, or a spouse who leaves us. The list of possibilities is long, but there are only two options: forge ahead on our own, or turn to God.

His basis from the Bible is Numbers 13:25–14:9 where the children of Israel finally leave Egypt and get close to the promised land and have their heads turned by giants.  What's the answer?  Look at Numbers 14:9.  God is with us.  It says:

9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

My prayer today:  God give me the grace today to trust you in everything, every circumstance, every challenge, everything.

Check this: Dallas, the old television show, is coming back and will take place in present time

When our kids were little and during the time when they would be in bed by 8 p.m., my wife and I would Dallas take Friday nights as an in-house date night where we would watch the old television series Dallas.  We'd get a small pizza delivered from Dominoes and a bottle of Lambrusco wine.

We would take in all the exploits of J.R. Ewing and his well to-do family.  Watching it became a ritual.  Well, it's coming back to television on TNT with many of the same actors playing their characters in the present time.  We'll be watching.

Can Dallas attact a sizable audience?  Can you bring an old tv show like that back and make a seamless transition to the present day?  What do you think?

LETTER TO MY GRANDSON: Spending the day in Frankenmuth and eating chicken at Zehnders

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dear Xavier,

In a few minutes, I'm going to jump in the shower and you're going to go for your morning nap before we ride over to Frankenmuth to have lunch with my Aunt Aileen and Uncle Ron.  We will eat at a restaurant, Zehnders, famous for its chicken dinners and German food.

Bythemirror2 I just want to write you a short note about this neat little town and the area surrounding it.  Since you are barely one year-old, you might like some reminders of what we did and what we saw and why it might be important to you. 

As your maternal grandfather, this general area of Michigan played an important role in my life.  I grew-up just north of Frankenmuth in Bay City, right on the Saginaw Bay.  This is generally thought of as the jumping-off point to go to the northern part of the state. 

But more important, it was the historical starting point in the state for the church that I grew up in, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  Many people describe it as a German Lutheran Church.  Many people from Germany moved to this country in the 1800s and settled in the Frankenmuth area with some moving away from the location to start other churches.

On the southern end of Frankenmuth, there's a big store called Bronners, started by a Lutheran family and sells nothing but items to help people sell items to help you celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Maybe we can go there today.

The two big restaurants are Zehnders where we are going and the Bavarian Inn across the street.  They both are famous around the state and country.

You'll enjoy meeting my Aunt Aileen and Uncle Ron.  My aunt is 86 and my uncle is 89.  They are extraordinary people who have lots of stories to tell that are worth listening to.

Xavier, I love you.  Always remember, "You are a winner."  And never forget that Jesus loves you.

Grandpa Thorp