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17 posts from December 2013

LANSING ICE STORM: Watch and share this video of Board of Water & Light communications director

We watched the "ice storm" meeting on television from our living room.

I watched for more than three hours last night as Lansing-area citizens recounted how they felt the Board of Water & Light left them down in last week's brutal ice storm.  Most of the complaints centered around really botched communications.

At last night's Lansing City Council meeting, BW&L communications director Steve Serkaian was asked by MSU Journalism Prof. Bonnie Bucqueroux about the communications plan that his boss had promised to distribute the next day.  It never materialized.  In this video, Prof. Bucqueroux asked about the plan in a very respectful way.

Check Serkaian's response.  How would you grade it?  On a pass-fail basis, what would you give him?  Is it time for a new communication leader at the board along with a total revamping of policy and practice?


LANSING ICE STORM: Older people, how's your blood pressure?


How's your blood pressure?
This is my blood pressure using the machine at Meijers on West Saginaw in Lansing.


My wife and I did some grocery shopping yesterday at the Meijers on West Saginaw, across from the Lansing Mall to replace what we lost because of last week's ice storm.  While passing their blood pressure machine in the pharmacy area, I took my blood pressure.  I was moderately concerned that it would be elevated.  

However, it was very normal and in the healthy range.  I don't take any meds for it, but I do take an assortment of eyedrops for chronic open angle glaucoma.  

What's your opinion?  Do these store blood pressure machines give an accurate reading?

Getting ready for 2014 with Hillsong's "I Surrender"

I'm not sure what challenges this next year will bring, but I'm sure there will be some.  I know that I need to stay focused.  For me, it's a constant effort to keep my needle on true north.  I don't want to forget where my strength and my purpose come from.

This song from Australia's Hillsong Church seems to be right on the mark.  I need to keep it on the top tier of my playlist.  I know that my heart can get off-center.  The words of this song can help me refind it.


Live-blogging tonight's Lansing City Council Special meeting on Board of Water & Light Ice Storm Response

Were you affected by the ice storm that hit the Lansing-area and other Mid-Michigan communities?  The Lansing City Council is holding a special meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. to listen to those affected and to provide a platform for the Lansing Board of Water and Light and City Hall to explain their troubled response.  

I will be live-blogging what happens.  I will share my questions as it happens and I invite yours.  It starts in about an hour-and-a-half.  Here's a link to the streamed broadcast of the meeting:

LANSING ICE STORM: How many of you didn't get to use your Christmas napkins?

We are putting these away until this summer.

Just a simple question:  How many of you in the Lansing ice storm area got to use your Christmas napkins this year?  My wife found a pack of our special napkins for that special dinner with our special kids-our son and his wife--who were here visiting for four days. 

 Lauren and Justin
My son Justin and my daughter-in-law Lauren

They flew in from Las Vegas where they live after flying through Minneapolis and then here.  They were greeting at Capital City Airport by a semlance of normalcy and then saw a darkened and damaged city when leaving.  Before getting to our cold house, we took them to the Dispatch Tavern on Old Lansing Road for a late supper.


Rather than a warm bedroom, they slept on the floor of the living room on top of  a pad made with blankets with a layer of quilts on top of them.  The next two nights were a blur of motels in Jackson and Ionia.  More restaurants. We had an exchange of gifts in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve Day.

But we missed the big dinner at our home.  It was just too cold.  Ever since the kids were little, we had special Christmas napkins.  Not this year.  The pack is unopened.  Maybe we will have a redo this summer with another Christmas celebration when everybody is home.


I am a radically-flawed person

This is me in my office chair.

As I get ready to celebrate 68 years of life next year, I have been doing an inventory of my past six decades plus and I have come to some conclusions.  I see more clearly that I am a radically-flawed person and that I can't do anything about it.

This flawed nature has affected every part of my life.  I knew this before, but I have been slow in understanding what this has meant for me and where I have put my priorities.  With way more life behind me than ahead, I see this more clearly than ever.

What's the answer?  I have been saved from myself and next year, I want God's help to reflect back to others the love I have been given.

The video below if from my church and its service yesterday.  It's the whole service.  Check the sermon which is a clear explanation of where my hope comes from.  I just want to share it with others who looking.   To get to the start of the service, move the slider beyond the first six minutes of slides.

LANSING ICE STORM: Eight days later traffic light on West Grand River Ave. near I-96 still out

My wife and I took this picture of the traffic light on West Grand River Avenue just outside of Lansing and just off of I-96 when we got done with lunch at Denny's Restaurant.  It's still not functional after the ice storm which hit eight days ago.  

It should be noted that this is a major thoroughfare for semi-truck and for travelers on the interstate.  This is just a FYI for those in charge of repairing storm damage.  It has to be a hazard for the travelling public.  Check the picture which was taken about 2 p.m. this afternoon with my iPhone.

Lights out at the traffic signal.
This is the traffic light right at the intersection of I-96 and West Grand River Avenue.

LANSING ICE STORM: How would you grade BW&L General Manager Peter Lark's response to question?

Video can be a real gift to anyone trying to get a sense of a public official's response to a question or circumstance.  Take this short video of how Board of Water & Light General Manager Peter Lark responded to a question about whether the utility had an emergency plan for responding to ice storms.

As a customer, do you feel more confident that they had it under control and that they had a plan in place to respond to a severe ice storm?  He promised that such a plan would be shared.  Has anybody seen it?  

Check Mayor Virg Bernero's sideline response about ending the news conference because of blunt and direct questions.  Was his response appropriate?  How would he and Lark rate as a listener in your mind?  Excellent?  Adequate?  Inadequate?  

Thanks to MSU Journalism Prof Bonnie Bucqueroux for the video and for Todd Heywood in asking the question.  Here's the video:

LANSING ICE STORM: How would you grade Lansing Board of Water and Light transparency?

Do you feel that the Lansing Board of Water & Light has been sufficiently open during its response to the mid-Michigan ice storm which we are recovering from right now?

The perception of many, including myself, is that our local utility suffers from a transparency problem.   Their guarded comments and poor communication has led people to believe that they are getting sub-par treatment in getting their power turned back on.

How do you change  that?  You build real trust by being completely transparent.  That means being open and honest when things are not positive and where expectations have not been met and where mis-judgements have been made.

On my social media blog which I use for testing and for recording what I've learned, I link to a company that practices those values.  They are open about everything.  It's  Check it out.  Can local units of government be encouraged or strongly nudged to follow similar values?  Is it worth a try?

Click here to learn more about

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LANSING ICE STORM: Local politicians need to learn from former Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker

Corey booker
This is the Twitter homepage for Cory Booker.

Several years ago, the city of Newark, New Jersey got hit by a crippling snow storm.  Residents got slammed and their immediate needs were great.  That's when I started following Cory Booker, it's mayor who was out in the streets helping people and then tweeting about it.

He tweeted about his continual activity in the streets where he helped push out cars and in the neighborhoods where he delivered groceries to senior citizens and disposable diapers to new moms.  

My son Justin and I both nodded that this mayor set a real example that deserve to be followed.  We both said he might be a good presidential possibility considering his attitude for service.  His selfless attitude really stuck with me.

His main tool for communicating where he was and what he was doing was Twitter.  It wove everybody together.  

This raises the question about Mayor Virg Bernero and the Lansing City Council and how they interacted with residents and how they helped.  

Did any of them serve like Cory Booker?  Did any of you see them in the neighborhoods?  Should they have been out there in the field and visible to the people they work for?  Do they know how to use Twitter?  Do they understand what it is and its potential for weaving a community together?

LANSING ICE STORM: Taking a page from the reaction of Gov. Chris Christie and Hurricane Sandy

Remember Hurricane Sandy last year along part of the Atlantic Coast that hit the state of New Jersey particularly hard?  That was brutal.  Lots of people either lost their homes or were chased out of them for an extended period of time.

Chris christie
Gov. Chris Christie

Bring in New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie who is brash, outspoken and can be perceived as being very self-righteous.  He was on the frontlines of officials going into neighborhoods, listening to people, encouraging them, giving answers and pointing people in directions for help.

When President Obama came to the area, Gov. Christie was right by his side and introduced him to the people and their experiences.

Now fast forward to Lansing and what happened this past week and there was no evidence of Gov. Rick Snyder providing leadership to people affected by a very dramatic and brutal storm where people are still being affected.

Does anybody who lived through the last week feel like he should have been there in a show of support for Lansing and the nearby area?  Snyder's staff may respond that the situation wasn't serious enough.  Just ask the people who lived through it and those who are still without power.

I would like to hear Snyder talk honestly and transparently about his apparent lack of public response.  Anybody else feel the same way?

LANSING ICE STORM: My neighbor Gary Valdez and his son deserve to be in Hall of Fame

This is our neighbor Gary bringing his generator to our house.

It was late on Christmas afternoon and we were back checking on our house when our neighbor from across the street came over to offer his generator.  His power had just come on and ours was still out.  We waited for an hour or more and then accepted the offer.

He and his son Nick came over, hooked it up to our furnace, showed us how to connect the fridge and a couple of lights.  They seemed happy to do it.  They asked about three, four more times if there was anything else they could help with.

After the furance went on, as a result of the generator, my family and I felt a renewed sense of hope.  We could feel warmth and we had a light and the fridge was back on.  We knew that we could travel the balance of waiting out the lack of power.

In a few hours, we saw workers' lights in the backyard.  Our son ran out and caught up with them as they moved from yard to yard and then it happened.  The electricity came back on.  

My wife who is a very low key person opened up the front door and hollered that we had light.  It was an exciting moment.  My eyes and my heart were opened up just a little further.

Gary Valdez has always been there and helps however he can.  I've seen and experienced it throughout our 15 years here.

He and his son need to be recognized as hometown heroes.  The Lansing City Council needs to call them out with a special resolution like they've done for so many others.

"Gary and Nick, thank-you."  You guys are special and I just thought it needed to be recognized.

My reaction to the "Lansing Ice Storm 13" will be in pieces as my brain thaws out

Starbucks England mug
We are starting to get our routine back and its warm inside.

As my wife and I sat on our couch with hot cups of coffee and with the furnace humming a song in the background, we reflected on the ice storm that we experienced and what it meant to be driven from our home by extreme cold.

Our reaction is breaking off our brains in small pieces, like the ice that coated everything outside our house.  And I'm going to try and put them up for everybody to read and react to.  The experience was difficult and a good chunk of that came from uncertainty about the length of the outage and how it would affect our house.  Our house went down to 34.  The fireplace only heated the space right in front of it.

But, as we sort through this, I keep getting back to one thing.  We got through it.  Nobody got sick, especially our daughter-in-law who has some special health needs right now and the only damage to our house was from a big tree branch that took out a section of fence.

Our credit card bills will be a little bigger and we will have to throw some food out.  We were able to find motels in Jackson and Ionia.  We heard stories from people drinking coffee in the lobby about how they were driven from their small towns.  There were young ones and many who were on the plus side of being senior citizens.

My eyes and my heart was opened by a stint of circumstances.  

What am I trying to say?  We--me, my wife, my son and daughter-in-law from Las Vegas, have a lot to thank God for as we look over our shoulder.  There's a Christian song that sticks in my mind.  It's by Matt Redman and called 10,000 Reasons.  I feel like I saw first-hand many of those reasons during the past several days.

I will write more as I unpack this in my head.  This is the song:


Some notes from living without power in Lansing, Michigan

Plugging in at our Biggby's on Waverly Road in Lansing.

Here are some observations about living without power since early Sunday morning after a major ice storm in Lansing, Michigan:

  • God has watched over us the whole time as we picked-up our son from the local airport who flew in from Las Vegas to celebrate Christmas.  Instead of nice aromas coming from the kitchen, we have spent time in a local coffee shop where we could plug in our devices to send and receive information and to charge batteries.
  • We are thankful for our Horrocks on the westside where they were selling big bags of split logs for less than five bucks, a resonable charge.  We got five bags.
  • Many of the traffic lights are out in the city and somehow drivers are getting through intersections safely.  This was our experience during both day and evening hours.
  • For lunch Sunday and before the kids flew in, we went for lunch to a nearby Burger King, one of the few restaurants that was open.  It was packed.  People seemed to be in a good mood with lots of smiles and plenty of patience.  The BK staff was running like a well-oiled machine.
  • The parking lot at the Capital City Airport Sunday was operating with gates up and with no cost to parkers.  That was nice.
  • Driving around the city has been real heads up with plenty of fallen power lines and many downed trees.  

A big item that seemed to be missing was communication.  There were minimal ways to be connected to the outside world.  However, local coffee shops seemed to have power and they encouraged patrons to warm-up and to use it as a base to connect to the outside world.

Right now, we are anxious to see if our power is on at home.  How will we celebrate Christmas?  Probably by wearing many different layers.

Would you sleep with this Duck Dynasty "Phil Robertson" pillow on your bed?

Would you want a Duck Dynasty pillow for Christmas?

Super-wife and I were shopping for groceries at our local Meijers where you can buy just about anything, in addition to food.  On the way to check-out today, we walked through the aisles to get a new kitchen waste basket.

As we passed through shelves of pillows, that's when I saw this big pillow with the Duck Dynasty guys, including the "daddy duck" Phil Robertson.  He's been the center of controversy that's consumed media attention that's usually reserved for a crisis in the Middle East.

Because of the new attention to these guys and their reality show on A&E, I stopped to look at the pillow.  Take a good look.  Is this something you would put on your bed.  If these guys came to our door, I'd probably have my phone in my hand to call for police help.

I've never watched their show, but now I feel I have to.  Perhaps Robertson will end up becoming a candidate for president for either party.  I need to get up-to-speed.

But there might be another explanation for all the hub bub.  A&E has always been a cable channel on the margins.  This show has been really popular.  With the increased attention to it, the audience has to increase geometrically.  The show can then charge big bucks for its commercials.

Too cynical?  I would have never noticed the pillow before.  Now I took time to look at it and I'll for sure have to watch the show.

How about you?  You going to watch?  Do you already watch it?  Why?

What can I learn from author Shauna Niequist about the way I live my life?

I first heard Shauna Niequist's name in a sermon a few years ago where our pastor quoted from one of her books.  I was intrigued, but didn't explore further who she was until a few weeks ago.  I found her blog, a few of her presentations on YouTube and read excerpts from one of her books.

In this video where she shares during a chapel at her alma mater Westmont College, she talks frankly about her struggles and how God has and is working in her life.  She has a story that kept my attention.

She emphasizes that everybody has a story about their walk with God and how He took their brokenness and made them whole.  These stories need to be shared with others, she adds, to show how God changes people.

There's a lot of digest here.  It would be too easy to say that at age 67, I've learned all I can learn.  But I haven't.  This video made me realize that learning is lifelong.