Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank you Mother Nature

For all the years that I have lived in my home, I have set a goal of finishing any garden projects by Memorial Day.  The original May 30th date.  Last year with the spring rains, that did not work out too well.  As a matter of fact, other than cutting down two large bushes in the yard, not much got done. I had a new front porch put in, but since it was contracted out, it doesn't count.

This year I had two projects planned.  The removal of grass in the front yard for a new sitting area and a dry river bed for the back to handle the water from my sump pump.

First, the front yard.  Done a couple of weeks ago, the plantings are now all in.  TADA.


And as an indication of how I spend my time there:


Then there was the back yard problem.  My sump pump runs a lot.  When our foundation was dug in 1972, it sat full of water for several weeks.  When my sons dug a hole to put up their basketball hoop, they hit water at about 2 feet down.  If some state representative wants to pass a law to have the state take ownership of all ground water, I say come get mine.  Please.

I've had way too many problems over the years trying to control the water to even begin to detail them.  My next door neighbor asked me yesterday what was the river I had running down the side of my property over the late winter and spring.  I showed him my new containment method:  the river bed.


The water flows into the bed that we dug and continues out to the property line behind the house.  Everyone is amazed by the volume pumped out.  The robins are having a field day.  They splash around and sit in the shade under the bridge.  I also get to sit, or at least I will now that the projects are done and the rest is the usual yard maintenance. 




Enjoy your summer!



Friday, May 28, 2010

Old Books are Good Books

When I filled out my profile for this blog, I was asked to name my favorite book.  That was a no-brainer for me.  I listed 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand, published in 1957, as my first choice.  Despite being over 1,000 pages long, I've plowed through it twice.  The first time I read it I was in the 1970's.  It was then on my 'to do' list when I finished grad school in the early '90's. 

What brought it to mind today is an article by George Will in the Washington Post.  He reports that between 2000 and 2008, sales of the book averaged 166,000 a year.  Since that time, more than 600,000 copies have sold, with 520,000 selling in 2009, an all-time high.  This is amazing considering that the first year of publication saw only 70,000 sales. (See here for some interesting links about the book.)

While there are some current authors whose works I always enjoy, David Baldacci and Nelson deMille come to mind, I cannot see that many of them will have the impact of an Ayn Rand or J R R Tolkien in the future.  I am not saying that great novelists don't exist anymore, but that more popular novels today are written for the masses.  One day's Costco purchase is the next week's Library used book donation. And I don't believe that many of our bestsellers will stand the tests of time.

That being said, 'Atlas Shrugged' received mostly negative reviews upon publication.  Obviously over the last 50 years, readers have found something enticing about this very long novel.  If you haven't read it, pick it up.  Or if you have read it, re-read it.  I am sure your view of it now that you are older will likely be different than the first go-round. 

And whomever I lent my first two copies of this novel to, I hope you enjoyed the reading.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What do the Young People Think?

Today's local papers are all brimming with details of the sentencing of Detroit's former mayor.  We have opinions from everyone.  Supporters and Detractors.  But what do our young people see and think about all this mess?

When I entered politics in 1988, my three sons were 9, 10, and 11.  Our meetings at that time were tape-delayed.  By 1990, we were on live TV.  With meetings staring at 7:30 PM, they were able to watch before bedtime.  And watch they did.

By this time, we had a newly appointed Supervisor.  The same person who had run in 1988 and lost in the primary election, now had taken office on a 4-1 vote of a seven member board.  (One trustee stayed home and I voted 'present'.  Call it a coward's way of voting 'no' or 'yes', when your vote will not matter.)  The result was a very contentious two years til the next election.

Those who are still around from back then can tell you that it was pretty disgusting television.  Most of the residents thought that the Supervisor was being controlled some members of a group called OUST, which had forced a recall election in 1988.  (This Supervisor was 'ousted' in the 1992 primary.)

At one meeting an employee got up and called the Supervisor a liar.  True on the issue involved, but not quite appropriate.  Another time, items were thrown at the Board table.

I mention all this because once, when I scolded my children for arguing with each other, they quickly responded by reminding me of the behavior on the Township Board.  Oops.  They were absolutely right. 

Again, after eight years of relative calm, the community again had a contentious board from 2001-2008.  I had school teachers tell me that they taped our meetings to show their high school government classes 'how not to act'.  And while I thought things would change with a new administration in 2009, it seems it is even worse (yes, my opinion, deal with it).

But in all of this, young people are seeing adults in political positions of power setting very bad examples of behavior, the least of which is disrespectful disagreement.  The worst of this has to be the misuse of the trust placed in them at the time of their election.  The waste of hard-earned tax dollars.  And yet, some still do not get it.

Is it not surprising that our young people do not trust government to do what they promise?  Government today is 'up close and personal'.  And these future leaders are watching.  Let's make sure we send the right message and express it in our behavior and our words.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Because I Care"

Michiganians will have two elections this year that could well determine whether our state comes up out of its downward spiral or continues declining.  This blog is not about those election decisions.  Rather it is about voting in the elections.

When it comes to asking for millage increases or renewals, politicians start debating who votes in the elections.  They yell that an issue needs to be on the November ballot because more people vote.  They say that turnout is too low in August to ask such important questions, as if determining the final candidates for public office is not as important.

Well, I ask 'Whose fault is that?'  It is not like the August primary ballot has some 'special qualifier' that says only certain voters get to show up - or request an absentee ballot if they are away on vacation. 

I have always felt that it is the really concerned and sincere voters who show up in August.  They are not willing to wait for someone else to decide who their candidates will be in November.  THEY take part in making the decision.  And because they care, they often decide the fate of millages.  So be it.

When I was discussing the West Bloomfield Library millage renewal with a resident, he told me he always votes in primaries.  He said he does it 'Because I care'.

I think it is a great slogan.  Show that you care and VOTE in August.  Maybe you will not cast a vote in every contested race, or vote on every issue presented, but at least exercise your right to make a choice. 

Vote.  Because you care.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Day After - Still LOST

I admit it.  I spent four and one-half hours in front of the TV set watching LOST.  You would think in that amount of time they could have answered ALL the questions.  They did not.  Ergo, I am still Lost.

Some of what was explained was expected.  We had pretty much figured out they these people were dead.  But at what point?  And did that plane crash in the end?  Must have.

But what about the island moving, the polar bear, the Farraday cage phenomenon, etc.?  No mention of it.

Having spent all this time watching it, I now invision myself going back and watching all six seasons over again.  Maybe it will become clearer the second time around.

Several years ago when the movie 'Usual Suspects' came out, one of my sons saw it first.  Then the next might, he and I saw it.  The following night we were back again with another friend, all trying to find the clues that disclosed the ending.  Seemed there were none.  Granted, six hours of my life watching the same movie (which I have probably watched six more times including the Director's Cut) is not quite like six years. 

I already own seasons one and two of LOST.  Guess I'll pony up the money for the other seasons so that when I get snowed in over the winter I can watch LOST.  Snowed in or stuck on an uncharted island.  Take your pick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Over-booked - not just on airlines

Do you ever feel that your life is spinning out of control?  This last week would have been bad enough if I just had to catch up from my trip out of town, but then I booked too much 'stuff' on top of it.

Granted that Monday was a problem since I had to replace a tire and had an unscheduled meeting pop-up in the middle of the day.  I rescheduled a previously scheduled meeting to next Wednesday to make the new meeting, or so I thought.  I was wrong and ended up with a committee meeting in my home on Wednesday  while my lunch meeting guest was sitting alone in a restaurant.  Oh, well.  To complicate Wednesday, my gardener was here to work on the river bed, plus I had an evening meeting to boot.

Thursday is my volunteer day at HFWB.  Then I had to come home to prepare for my committee meeting in Lansing on Friday.  Alas, rushing around meant no formal agenda was sent out by me.  Well, we were brainstorming anyway.  (Someone suggested that the state needs an emergency financial manager.  Seems to be not such a bad idea.)

Friday would not have been so bad if I had set my alarm clock for AM instead of PM.  DUH!  I got there just a few minutes late and, fact is, no one really noticed I was late. 

If a friend had not sent an email late last night saying she was sorry she would miss me at the League of Women Voters luncheon today, I probably would have forgotten to attend.  And to top off my week, one of the committees I volunteer for complained that I am never around when they want me to be.  Well, all I can say is 'tough'.  What part of retirement do they not understand?

So, I am off to a luncheon and a talk by Philip Power from the Center for Michigan.  If you have never visited their site, give it a try.  You may not agree with all their positions, but they do make you think.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lincoln Park, Illinois

Imagine that you and all your neighbors get together and decide to restore a landmark.   Imagine that the cost will exceed two million dollars.   Will you proceed?  You will, if you live in Lincoln Park, Illinois, and the landmark is the 1930's restored Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond.

Partnering with the Chicago Park District, the Friends of Lincoln Park - yes, the same place that has the FREE zoo -  restored this Lily Pool, dating to the 1890's, to incredible beauty.  On a beautiful Friday morning, we toured the Pond and then visited both the Conservatory and the zoo itself, which was packed with young families and school children. 

How wonderful to see the strong sense of community.  The docents in the Pond area were very enthusiastic.  And why not!  See for yourself, though my pictures do not do it justice. 







BTW, I noticed a pair of domestic, not Canadian, geese in the pond along with a Mallard duck family.  When I asked the docent about the Canadian variety, they said that they do not want them anywhere near the area because they are too dirty.  Amen to that.  As far as I am concerned, wildlife, specifically geese and deer, have no more right to roam all over my property and destroy it, than I have to roam all over my neighbor's.   Truth be told, some neighbors do a pretty good job of making their property look a mess all on their own. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You Will Hear More About This

Reader Alert!  As one of the co-chairs of the West Bloomfield Library Campaign to renew the millage, I will be writing more about it in the future.  Suffice it to say that when asked to serve, it was a no-brainer for me.

I love our library.  Frankly, I would not read as much as I do if the library didn't exist.  Really, who can afford to buy all those books even if they shop at Costco?  And remember my 50-page rule.  Nothing like forking over twenty bucks for a novel, only to find out you don't like it.  

Besides, as my property value keeps dropping I pay less in taxes making my use of the library all that more valuable.  If you yourself have not visited either branch, I suggest you do so.  Or visit the website at http://www.wblib.org/.

And if you are a user and love it as much as I do, let me know if you are interested in helping our campaign.  More about that later.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catching up

I have been back in town for 24 hours and have finally unpacked my bags.  I did not say that everything is back in place, just that nothing is left in the suitcases.  Amazing that I can go away for eight days on a plane with a carry-on, but put me in a car for five days and I pack two bags plus whatever I throw on the seat.  (Which made getting the spare out of the trunk a whole lot of fun.)

I spent a good deal of my time today reading the news I missed, either online or in the printed papers.  I refuse to stay connected while vacationing unless there is really something I need to do.  When I was working, I stayed in touch with my staff while in Australia (a bit of a trick since we were on different days and 14 hours apart in time) and while on a cruise during Hurricane Lenny in the Caribbean.  Not so much anymore. 

I used to tell people that since I did not have a red phone next to my bed that the world would revolve just fine without me.  And while old news is still old, I always check to see if I missed anything.  One of the days the Oakland Press did an article about bloggers where I was mentioned.  I have never kept a scrapbook of news clippings, so it will go out with the rest of the papers tomorrow in the recycle bin. 

Apparently I missed the Oakland Press survey on roundabouts.  Well, place me in the 'hate them' column unless it is 2 am and I am all alone in one.  I am still trying to figure out the point of moving drivers through in a non-stop fashion only to have traffic back up further along the way for over one mile as it did today on Maple from Haggerty.  So, when they work, they just create another traffic problem.  You might want to visit the State's website for roundabout information.  While there, take the survey.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Thank You to the Folks Who Help

I intended to get home early this evening and write about my trip to Oak Park, IL for the WrightPlus Weekend.   That will have to be put on hold while I thank the people who offered their help in time of need.

To make a long story short about how it happened, suffice it to say that I had a tire blow-out upon entering the Skyway in Chicago for the trip home.  I pulled over on the emergency ramp and dialed for Roadside Assistance.  Originally being told that someone would be there in 25 minutes, we waited and told three different motorists who stopped that we were 'OK'.

Then we got the call that said, because we were on the ramp, they needed to send someone else and it would be 45 minutes more.  I said I would try to back down the ramp - traffic was extremely light for Chicago.

Once I got down the ramp, I dialed in again to let them know what I did at the same time that a young man on a bicycle said he could go get someone to change the tire from down the street.  I told the operator what was happening and she said if someone got there before the tow truck, just let her know. 

So, the young man left on his bike, another young couple stopped and offered assistance, the young man came back and said the man coming down the street would help, and we started unloading the luggage to get the spare out.

Now, how many young and helpful folks have you ever met in the space of 30 minutes just by chance?  We were pleasantly surprised.  The tire got changed.  We chatted with the young couple who were thinking of moving to St. Joseph or anyplace along the Michigan shoreline.  We were on our way within an hour of the incident occuring.

What could have been an unhappy ending to a wonderful trip turned out to be a reaffirmation of faith and trust in the American public.  Way to go Chicagoans!  Thanks to you all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

'Splain it to me Lucy'

Someone please explain to me why everyone is yelling about teacher retirement health benefits paid by the public being wrong, but as a country we can now encourage employees at companies to retire early and have health benefits from the country until they qualify for Medicare.   
Just asking, because I must be missing something here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yes to One and No to Two

There has been much talk and use of the word 'politician' recently:  Who is one?  Who isn't one?  Is being one like having an incurable disease?  Is talking to one hazardous to your health?  You know what I mean.

I finally decided to look up the Merriam-Webster definition of same.  It is cited thus:

1 : a person experienced in the art or science of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government

2 a : a person engaged in party politics as a profession; b : a person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow usually short-sighted reasons
 
Hmmm.  Looks like maybe we are describing two different people.  Certainly many non-elected people would find themselves in the position of politician by definition 1, though many would refer to them as 'bureaucrats'.  I know many, many highly qualified and dedicated government workers.  I would never refer to them as politicians or bureaucrats.  They are the workers you usually don't read or hear about.
 
I would guess that the majority of people think of 'politician' as the second definition.  And probably have a negative connotation of the word.
 
When asked my profession prior to retiring, I always said 'Treasurer'.  I never told anyone I was elected unless asked.  Several times when I told someone I was elected, they said they were surprised as I seemed to know what I was talking about when it came to financial matters.  (I did say 'negative connotation'.)
 
It is unfortunate that the 'politicians' who fit that second definition are the ones that most people think of when they hear the word.  And those 'politicians' usually have only themselves to blame for the negative view.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Being About Nothing

When I tell anyone I have a blog, the first thing they ask is, 'What is it about?'

If the person is someone I used to work with, they are wondering if I am writing about Township politics.  Hah!  I retired for a reason.  But, I have written several posts about politics (12 at last count), and will again I am sure.

My answer to the query, then, is that this blog is really about nothing in particular.  Think of it as a 'Seinfeld' blog.  I write about whatever 'pops' into my head. 

Sometimes it is about a book I've read, a movie I've seen, or a newspaper article (12 again).  If I write about my family and home (11), I am sure to hear about it.  These areas seem to occupy most of my space and time.  See, no posts about work.  No job. 

It is what retirement is all about.  It has now been eighteen months of pure pleasure.  Oh, I still have my 'committee work' with the Michigan Finance Officers and the Department of Treasury and my volunteering at Henry Ford Hospital and the Library, but I never think of it as 'work' in the sense of a job. 

And while these posts may all be about 'nothing', my life in retirement is really about something very important.  Living.  We all need to learn to do more of it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

A Happy Mother's Day to all women reading today.  I'll be doing what I love today: cooking for my family.

We are having a combination Cinco de Mayo/Mother's Day dinner.  I love Tres Leches cake and this gives me the opportunity to make it and send the leftovers home so I am not tempted to eat it all.  Our main course is chicken burritos, Spanish rice, and guacamole salad.

Whatever you love to do, I hope you are doing it today, Moms.  Have a wonderful day.

I'll be back on my soapbox tomorrow.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cooking 101

I grew up in a family of cooks, really good cooks.  Some had catering businesses and others were cake bakers and decorators (my Mom).  I hated cooking.  Baking I liked, but that was due to my sweet tooth more than the fact that I liked doing the work. 

I did the requisite cooking when I got married.  I've even held every holiday dinner with four exceptions (one time I had food poisoning) that I can think of over the last 35 years or so.  I had a subscription to Gourmet magazine and still use the April 1974 copy when I cook Greek food.  But it has only been in more recent years that I have learned to LOVE cooking. 

I do not know what caused this other than over the years our interests change.  I started going to Sunday morning demonstrations at Williams-Sonoma about five years ago.  I met someone who retired from teaching and enrolled at Schoolcraft College in Culinary Arts.  She suggested that I look into the Continuing Education classes there.  I have enjoyed them immensely and have met some very talented and interesting folks.

Which brings me to my Cooking 101 pet peeve.  If a recipe needs one teaspoon of garlic, why do the authors write one clove?  Is that the large clove or the smaller clove in the head?  Exactly how much chopped onion is in one medium onion?   One green pepper chopped equals?  This all comes from the recipe I have for Chicken Burritos.  The recipe is from 'Bon Appetit' magazine.  I imagine that two people could end up with two different tasting recipes.

And while the different tasting burritos might not matter, messing up measurements in baking are a disaster.  I have to agree with Alton Brown that metric measurements in baking are a whole lot easier to follow when you are weighting ingredients, as I prefer to do.  Much easier to weigh grams than 1/8th of an ounce.  Baking recipes are more precise.  It would be nice if cooking recipes were too. 

Now, back to the kitchen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Roundabouts - Part One

OK.  I could write an entire blog about my experiences in West Bloomfield's roundabouts.  Now that I am retired, I find myself driving through them all the time.  So, we'll do one thing at a time.

Yesterday, I was sitting in an establishment at Farmington and Maple.  I heard a woman say that she liked the roundabouts because you no longer had to stop. 

OK.  I've seen this driver.  The one who comes barreling up to the yield sign and whips right into traffic, despite the fact that they must see other cars waiting to enter.  I guess their hope is that everyone else will stop for them.  The gentleman she was talking to told her that in the roundabout you must hope that the other person knows what to do, especially if you don't. 

That's how I figure it.  One wonders what would happen if all of these people who don't know what 'Yield' means were to drive up to the roundabout at the same time.  YIKES! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meet the Author at the WB Library

I was so impressed with the book 'Annie's Ghosts' that I sent a little note to the author, Steve Luxenburg.  He had mentioned Detroit Receiving (General) Hospital in his book, where I worked from 1967-1977, and had that Detroit connection. 

Last night I received a very nice response to my note.  Steve informed me that he will be speaking in West Bloomfield in a few weeks -- May 13 at the West Bloomfield Library, 7 p.m.

How cool is that?  The library's website has so much information that I never even found the notice. 

If you have never visited the site, I suggest you do so.  One of the features that I really enjoy is the 'Bestseller's Club'.  You must have your library card available so you can log in.  Pick your favorite authors and when new books by them are published, the library will place a hold on it for you and notify you when it is available.  (Unless you like to purchase all your books at Costco.)  It was the library list of new books that first alerted me to 'Annie's Ghosts'.

There is a wealth of information on the site.  While there, consider joining the Friends of the Library.  They are a great organization.  They run the Friendshop in the Main Library where you can buy used books.  If you visit there tonight after 5, stop by and say 'Hi'.  I'll be doing my once a month duty at the shop.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Birds and Butterflies and the Dreaded 'Purple Loosestrife'

One of my 'claims to fame', if there is such a thing, would be ridding West Bloomfield of their Township Flower and Township Bird.  No, I didn't physically get rid of them, I just suggested to the Board that we find new species to identify with.

When I came into office in 1988, the Township Flower was 'Purple Loosestrife'.  It is a highly invasive wetland plant and weren't we trying to save the wetlands?  I kept hearing from everyone that 'It is so pretty'.  Well, it is, but it is everywhere it shouldn't be.

I even received a call from a former official asking me how I could suggest such a thing. Well, at the time in the late 80's, a few states had already outlawed the plant. Once it invades a wetland, good luck to anything else surviving.  You can no longer sell it or bring it into Michigan.

We eventually agreed to name 'Trillium Grandiflorum' as the new Township flower, which was abundant in the township nature preserve.  Check out the photos here.  I have heard that the deer have eaten many of theses plants in recent years.  Guess no one told them the plants were protected.

The other species to get replaced was the Bobolink.  I had lived here since 1972 and had never seen even one.  The idea of replacing this bird with another, as yet unnamed, species caused even more of an uproar.  Must have been a slow news day, for I even heard from the Lansing Journal.  My phone rang off the hook.  'Oh, what a lovely bird.   How could you!'

I would ask the caller if they had actually ever seen one in West Bloomfield.  'Well, no, but they used to be here'.  Well, so were dinosaurs.  I thought of this incident because the latest issue of Defenders Magazine had a 'Speciesspotlight' on the Bobolink.  It says they were at their peak in the horse and buggy era, but their populations have dimished.

Our Township Bird is now the black-capped chickadee.  Yes, common, ordinary, everyday chickadee.  So what is wrong with having a township bird that everyone can see and recognize?

I even had this photo hanging in my office.

Which brings me to the butterflies.  No, we do not have a Township butterfly.  I did, however, see a most unusual specimen in my backyard yesterday.  Not that the butterfly is unusual, I had just never seen the species before.  It is called Vanessa atalanta, a red admiral butterfly.










I was surprised at how close it allowed me to get to it.  So, let me propose, that since there is at least one, that perhaps we have a township butterfly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Getting to Know Jack

Yesterday was a very 'off' day for me.  I injured my shoulder a year ago while cutting down a large bush in my yard.  When traditional medicine could not ease the pain, I opted for the non-traditional (i.e. not covered by any medical insurance).  It has been helping, but digging holes to transplant flowers finally caught up with me this spring and yesterday I opted for the prescription muscle relaxant to ease the pain.

If you have ever taken one, you may have had my experience of being completely 'zoned out'.  I do not do well on any pain medication.

That being the case, I sat myself in front of the TV set and between naps and dozing off, I watched 'You Don't Know Jack'.  (There are many people who think I don't know 'jack' about anything. So be it. I usually feel the same about them.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  But what I really got a kick out of was Jack trying to get rid of the geese at the Morris Lake house where he was living.  He was using an air rifle to scare them away, but it didn't seem to be working.  He had goose poop everywhere.

Last Friday I called Julie Oakes from the DNR to ask some questions about geese.  I live on a private park in my subdivision.  There is a branch of the Rouge River that flows through it.  Once the spring rains are gone, it becomes nothing more than a muddy mess. 

Early this spring four geese showed up.  They were on top of the children's play structure and I think you can imagine what it looks like in that area.  Thank goodness I have no young children playing over there.

I called Julie to get some tips on what can be done.  She suggested that I go online and look for deterrents.  I found a great light that comes on at night to disturb their sleep cycle.  Problem:  It costs $349.99.  Plus shipping.  And the area would need two of them. 

She also suggested that the grass go uncut.  Easy enough.  Geese do not like tall grass.  They like to eat well-mowed greenery.  Online I found that a six-foot wide swath of uncut grass will keep them from your yard. 

I am thinking of placing the deer netting that I used to cover my hydrangeas across the back lot.  That would hopefully keep deer and geese away from the lot, at least from the park side. 

I cannot imagine what a mess will be back there once the eggs hatch and all of them are grazing.  YUCK!

If you Google 'nuisance geese' as Julie suggested, you will find lots of information.