Got your rakes and air blowers ready for the leaves changing colors in mid-Michigan?


Tree changes color in Lansing
Some Thursday night tree color in my Lansing, Michigan front yard.


The lawn rake and leaf blower standing at attention in my garage are ready for what should be starting shortl--leaves falling from the tree.  In a few days, we will be re-supplying our inventory of leaf bags.

It's part of the fall here in Michigan where a short trip to the supermarket can turn into a visual experience.  And it takes yard work to a whole new level.

How long does it last?  At least until the end of October.  How many leaf bags do you use?  We generally fill twenty or more.

Here's how our mid-Michigan neighborhood looks on March 14, 2014

Our winters the past several years have been comparitively tame, compared to the one we've had this year.  It's the middle of March and here in the State Capital city of Michigan, it's brutally cold and there's lots of snow on the ground.  Here's how it looked this morning from our front door.



This afternoon's power outage in Lansing, Michigan gave me an adrenaline rush that I hadn't asked for


This is my phone being recharged this afternoon.


I was on Facebook this afternoon for a few minutes when I saw the first post  that the Lansing Police Department was scurrying to respond to a power outage in several key areas of the State Capital city.  It read like a repeat of the power outage during Christmas week where many people suffered through more than a week of darkness and cold.

My first reaction was "oh crap, it's happening again."  Without word from the Lansing Board of Water and Light, our local utility, there's no sense of how wide the problem is or how long it will last.  

It's a bad feeling to wonder if our water pipes could take another session of freezing temperatures and whether we could find a place to stay if we lost power.  

My first instinct was to go for my phone and other devices to make sure that they had a charge.  This proved really important a few weeks ago.  Then we went to a coffee shop to find news and to check and send emails.  

Today, while this was happening, word about this flowed through Facebook with friends reporting about what they were experiencing or what they had heard.  That helped.

Apparently, people are having their power restored.  I'm not ready for this to happen again.

There needs to be a full explanation from Mayor Virg Bernero on down to explain to the people what happened and how it can be prevented.  Many might agree that it's time for changes to be made at the top levels of management for those who were decision-makers.  


LANSING ICE STORM: We our six-pack of Samuel Adam Cherry Wheat in the john

Cold beer in our john.
It was so cold in our john during the ice storm that we kept a six-pack cold there.

It's not our practice to keep beer or wine cold in our bathroom.  But during the recent Lansing, Michigan ice storm some how this "Sam Adams" got stuck in my home office here.  It stayed cold during the four days the power was out.  Where did you keep your beer cold during the outage.

We did lose some food from our freezer and our fridge.  We were lucky.  I know many people lost a lot more.  

Check the shower curtain with the world map.  Great way to learn your countries and where they are at.

Would the city of Lansing, Michigan be ready for a major snow blizzard this year?


Snowblowing my driveway during a 2005 snowstorm.
Lansing has gotten major snowstorms like this one in 2005 where mobility was almost impossible.

 My wife raised the question while we were sitting on our couch talking about the recent ice storm in the Lansing and Mid-Michigan area.  We are thankful that we had mobility where we could go to coffeeshops, restaurants and motels.  

We could tend to our house during the day with occasional forays for errands or just to get warm.  But, then we started thinking about what still could come this year--a major snow blizzard where all movement stops and where power could be lost too.  These do happen every few years in our part of the state and if you're not prepared, then you're in trouble.

I raise this question after reading the story about the final release of the Lansing Board of Water & Lights emergency plan.  At first, they said, it didn't exist, then they said it did and refused to release it and now after a lot of pressure, they released it.

After reading this mLive story, I'm concerned about future weather disasters in the city.  The BW&L plan looks like it was put together a few years ago while executives were talking at lunch.  I'm not impressed that they're on the top of their game or even in it.

Are you ready for the next big snowstorm?  Another power outage?  For no mobility either by foot or by car?

I'm not sure the city of Lansing is ready?  Should the questions be asked before it happens?  

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?


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: 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.

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.

Reading the news: Another shooting on Lansing's southside overnight

I just read this story on the website about a shooting on Lansing's southside where an occupant of one vehicle shot into another and wounded a 19-year-old.

It raises lots of questions about the current debate over gun control.  How would tighter laws affect the ownership and use of guns by those who are the street shooters?  They use illegal pistols to shoot in a variety of public settings, day and night.

If one was driving home a little after midnight and was near an event like the above, how would you protect yourself?

Gas is $3.20 per gallon this morning at this Admiral Station on South Waverly

We walked by this gas station on South Waverly Road and West Holmes Road about 9:30 a.m., today and saw the price at $3.20 per gallon.  I don't recall the last time I saw it this low.  Do you remember?  There was not a line at the pumps.  What's causing the change?  This is a picture I took with my iPhone.


Gas prices
Check the price of gas on the sign at this station this morning on South Waverly and West Holmes.

It's 5:15 a.m. and it's raining hard outside here in mid-Michigan


I just opened our front door and saw the rain really coming down here in mid-Michigan with pools of water on our front sidewalk.  In a few minutes, I'll make a basement water check.  Temperature, according to a is supposed to reach the 50s today.  Guess I won't be using my snow blower today.

How is our mild weather affecting the usual Michigander travel to Florida?  When we were there earlier this month, the weather was better than ours, but not much.