Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heat Wave

After the death of Marilyn Monroe in August, 1962, one of the Detroit radio stations had a contest.  They asked listeners to name the movies she had appeared in with the winner receiving movie tickets and an album of her songs.  Well, I won the contest. 

This would be a snap today because we would all 'google' Marilyn Monroe movies and there they would be.  I seem to remember listing around 25 of them.  I had a huge collection of movie star magazines and directories and I went through them to find what I needed.

The LP I received (that's a long-playing vinyl record for you youngsters) had the song "Heat Wave" on it from "There's No Business Like Show Business".  I listened to that album so many times I can still sing along with every song.

I found myself singing the song in the car today.  I also began to wonder what was the hottest summer in Michigan after seeing today's papers.  I found some information at the National Weather Service.

In the summer of 1953 my family moved into my aunt's home in Detroit while she and her husband went off to Italy to visit relatives.  A girl down the block from her had polio and we were all told that we had to stay indoors.  I am guessing that the summer of 1953 would have been the one when us children were told that running under the sprinklers would cause polio.  No A/C in those days.  I spent a lot of the time in my aunt's basement.

For some reason I do not remember the hot summer of 1964, but I sure do remember 1988.  It was my first election.  All I had was an August primary.  I will never forget standing at the polls on election day.  It was unbearable.  It was the hottest August 2 ever recorded in Michigan.  A hot 100 degrees.

According to the National Weather Service, 1995 was the hottest summer ever.  I really don't have much recollection of that year.  I must have been working too hard. 

So, it will be interesting to see where this year registers when it is all over.  My outdoor thermometer is predicting rain.  HAH!  I've seen that before.  I am sure it rained somewhere recently, just not here.  Maybe I should start singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside".  The power of positive thinking.

Update:  http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/will-2010-be-warmest-year-on-record-globally/19639863

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

With all the really important things to worry about, we also have the use of marijuana for chronic pain.  Looking at the pictures in today's paper of the people arrested , I wonder what type of chronic pain they are suffering from.  I have been dealing with a shoulder injury since May, 2009, but I would not consider getting high to make the pain less.  Tylenol and therapy will work just fine.

When I was in Montana on the vacation from H---, I read an article in the local paper about problems with Montana's law.  I wish I could find it on the web because it said that something like 25% of people under 40 in some Montana town are using medical marijuana.  I did Google 'Montana + marijuana' and found several interesting articles, including those that talk about efforts to change their current law.  One article from a Dakota paper, pointed out several informative details about Montana's law.

So, what I am thinking is that Montana is our fourth largest state, yet has less than one million residents.  So how about we fix up their law and let everyone with chronic pain, and the need to use medical marijuana, move to Montana.  Just a thought.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nostalgia

I am not much of a pack-rat, but occasionally I have stashed stuff away that proves memorable.  While cleaning out my closet this morning, I found a poster from the American Cancer Society Great American Lock-up from March, 1993.  No, I do clean more than once every 20 years, but I keep putting this back in there.

The first year I remember being part of this ACS event was 1992.  The Township Clerk and I were led away in hand-cuffs from our offices and taken to someplace in Novi.  Imagine the looks we got from drivers on the way.  Two women in fur coats sitting in the back of a police car.  I can only imagine what they thought. 

There are eighteen photos of 'suspects' on the poster I have.  What is really clever is the charge against each of us.  I am charged with paying my taxes late.  Our Township Supervisor, who was known for her apple pies, was charged with an unlawful desire to bake them.

There is the private investigator charged with 'ogling', the doctor charged with 'impersonating a golfer', and a local mayor charged with ' being an honest politician.'  But my favorite, with apologies to my friends, is the attorney charged with 'impersonating a human being'.  You have to wonder who thought that one up.

Now I just have to bring myself to throw this out.  Am I sure my family doesn't want to chuckle over this when I am gone?

Beautiful Music

Without question, the thing I would miss most if I moved away from the Detroit area, that exists inside the City itself, would be the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  Yes, I enjoy the Detroit Institute of Arts, but the symphony keeps me coming back week after week.

My original subscription series was for the Thursday night Pops, but often I found that its was 'pops' I was not really interested in hearing.  And then I would exchange my tickets. 

When I had meetings in Lansing on Friday morning for my MGFOA committee, I had to leave at intermission to get home and get enough sleep to make the drive, especially during the winter which necessitated an earlier departure time.  So, I switched to Friday nights and also to the classical series.

I have loved every minute of it (with the exception of two pieces that were truly painful to hear).  I have seen Lang Lang, YoYo Ma, John Williams, and Hillary Hahn, to name a few.  I have gained an appreciation of both the cello and the violin, which never had much appeal to me before hearing them in a concert hall.

For the upcoming season, I switched my tickets to Sunday afternoon.  I figured I did not need to deal with driving in bad weather at night, when it was just as easy to go during the day.

And now I sit here and read the details of a season that may not be.  I understand both sides.  I was both a union president and a member of management in my two different careers.  Both sides have difficult decisions to make.  Management cannot keep hemorrhaging cash.  Especially cash it does not have.  Musicians, as do all workers, do not want to give up salary and benefits.  There has to be a middle ground.

If musicians are right and they can make more elsewhere, and therefore leave Detroit, the quality of the orchestra may well decline.  If that happens, more folks will put their money elsewhere and the company will further decline.  What is clear is that the company cannot continue as it has done in the past.  The money is just not there.

Sound like a vicious circle?  It is.  I hope they reach an agreement, but I may well be spending my Sunday afternoons at home with a good book and a bunch of CDs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making the 'Best Dressed' List

Back in the early 90's, our local newspaper, now defunct, did a story on what the Township Board members wore to a meeting.  Really, on the society page.  I do not make this stuff up.  I wondered at the time who really thought this was newsworthy.

Well, I guess I was just out of touch.  It seems to be important in decision making.

According to an online survey by Huffington Post, our Governor ranks among the most stylish female politicians.  OK.  Some folks like this survey stuff and even I participate on occasion. 

But the most astonishing thing about the survey indicates the following:

1. 55% believe that style is as important as substance in the success of a politician.  And,

2. 40% would choose the better dressed candidate.

Is it any wonder we find ourselves in the economic and political mess we are experiencing?  But this is not new.

Growing up in a Democratic family, I remember classmates from Republican families, ridiculing Adlai Stevenson.  An egghead they called him, though I guess the term today is 'nerd' and that is 'in'.  And what was wrong with being smart, I wondered?  Why was I teased for having good grades?

I am sure charisma had as much to do with Kennedy defeating Nixon as did political party and policy.  And such a nice family.  As though we were going to have tea with them.

I will never forget the person who told me that they voted for me in an election because I had a nice smile.  That, and four bucks, will get me a latte at Caribou.  Or tea.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Learning to be in the Minority

During my more than twenty years in public office, I went through two periods of being in the minority, when I wondered why I bothered showing up for board meetings.  Well, the reason was simple: State law required that I attend all meetings.  When necessary, I made my minority comments, voted my conscience and went on with my full-time duties as Treasurer.  Sometimes, I just acquiesced because I didn't need to make enemies.

Sitting here watching the Township of West Bloomfield Board meeting, I am trying to understand why two certain members of this Board find the need to show how much they disagree with the majority at every meeting.  They make motions knowing they have no chance of being passed.  What's more, the motions are sometimes just 'stupid'.  And not just motions, but ask 'stupid' questions.  Do you really believe that sending an informational email to everyone violates the Open Meetings Act?

I try not to watch or show up, but at what point do I have to either move out of town, unplug the TV, or stop reading the newspapers?   I find myself yelling at the TV, mostly at Trustee Kaplan.

TIME OUT

OK.  I had to leave my home to go to the meeting.  I got up and spoke to correct the misstatements about how the Board has operated for the last 50 years.  When I was done, I went out in the hall where I then heard the Supervisor inform the public that she was not interested in listening to former officials.  HELLO???  I pay your salary.  I AM YOUR BOSS.

I am not sure who is giving lessons in arrogance at the township, but they must have gotten a package deal.

I had truly believed that things could not get worse.  Guess I was wrong.

The Old Alma Mater

Wayne State University was in the headlines today for not graduating enough minority students.  Actually, I find it interesting that we still track graduation rates by race.  But that is not the point of this blog today.  Rather, it is about graduates actually performing as though they went to college.

Just recently someone said to me that if a certain person graduated from the University of Michigan with not one, but two, degrees, then they were very disappointed in the university.  They said the standards must have really declined to allow that to happen as the woman was a complete 'ditz'.

This is nothing new.  I am sure each of us knows someone that we cannot believe actually made it through college.  Of course, we must also remember that not everyone is an A or even a B student.  You can graduate with Cs and spend many years doing it.  When my youngest was at Wayne, he commented once that he did not know how some students even got admitted.

When I was teaching at Detroit General (Receiving) Hospital, we used to have multiple choice and essay exams for our medical technology students.  I taught clinical enzymology and I wanted to make sure that students could actually explain to me what test results really meant.  One of my students wrote so poorly that it took three of us to decifer what she was saying.  She was only one of several students over the years who had trouble passing the English essay that Wayne required for graduation.  It was not long before the lab staff decided to switch to all multiple choice exams.  From what I see on many blogs, command of the English language, in terms of writing at least, is deplorable.

Way back when I started college in 1964, I was told by my counselor that only 25% of my entering class would graduate.  We had 40 students that year.  Four years later, only 13 of us graduated with our BS degrees in Medical Technology.  After several more years it seemed the University decided the curriculum was too difficult and they changed the program to make it easier.  Wow, now we can graduate more students and send them off into the work force.  Think about that next time you have to have lab work done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Things you see on the internet

I do not usually spend a lot of time just surfing the internet.  But while checking my email this afternoon, an ad caught my eye.  It is an advertisement for how to grow long, lush hair.  Supposedly an Asian secret.  The model is blonde.  How many blonde Asians do you know?

It got me to wondering what else is out there in recent news, as I'm sure we've all seen some pretty crazy stuff in the news.  So, in about ten minutes, I found this:

Two homeless dogs got married in the Ukraine:  Homeless dogs Lelya, left, and Hatiko pose during their wedding ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Aug.6, 2010. The ceremony was organized by Ukraine's first ever dogs' wedding agency to attract public attention toward homeless animals.  Even I can't make this stuff up.

Then there is the guy who has been training two cocks to do what?  The picture shows two cocks fighting for a ball during a soccer match in Shenyang, northeast China. The "referee", Zhang Lijun, has been training the birds since 2007.

Not to be outdone by foreign countries, a Nebraska cable TV network ponied up $266,500 for Roy Rogers' stuffed and mounted horse, Trigger, at an auction at Christie's in New York City on July 14.

All of this gives new meaning to 'slow news day'. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leave it to the Italians

If there is one thing I learned while growing up in an Italian family, it is that Italians love to argue.  Of course, my mother's family spoke a variant of the Venetian dialect, so arguing in Italian meant doing it within the family, else you had to argue in English.  But I digress.

They could argue about anything.  The classic one is 'who is really an Italian?'  Northern Italians love this one insisting that folks south of Rome are not real Italians.  Who makes spaghetti sauce correctly?  Do you sweeten the sauce or not?  This subject is very important.  Name a topic and they can find an argument in it.   

I got into an argument with an uncle over the name of a cathedral in Florence.  Was it Santo Maria del Fiore or Santa Maria Novella?  We were both right since we were both talking about different cathedrals, but that didn't stop the banter.

The men in the family, some living in the states and some living in Canada, spent their time arguing about who had the better hockey team, Detroit or Toronto.  Important stuff.

So, it came as no surprise this morning to come across a story from the Associated Press regarding Michelangelo's David.  Seems the City of Rome thinks they should have the statue.  OMG, I can hear my family now.  They would be siding with the Florentines, of course, and start insisting that those Romans are not true Italians.  They don't even speak the same language.

Frankly, sightseeing in Florence, or even Venice, is way more pleasant than navigating Rome.  But whereas you can pretty much walk all over Florence and Venice, it is a little more difficult in Rome. We got into a car fender-bender there and the Romans are pretty good at arguing too.

And so the argument about possession of a tourist attraction has started.  Well, I guess it is way better than arguing about guns at an art show.  Somehow I never saw Wyatt Earp as the artsy-crafty kinda guy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Knowing When to Leave

Last Friday I attended my last meeting of the Legislative Committee for the Michigan Government Finance Officers Association where I presided as the Chairperson.  I know that all of us know when it is time to leave and last year I was pleased to have someone ask to take over the chairmanship this coming year. 

I have been on the committee since 1994.  One of my first accomplishments was the rewriting of the state investment act which became a new law in 1996.  From there it was writing new laws for investing money to prefund retiree health care, allowing electronic transactions, and participating in the re-write of the state Municipal Finance Act and the Uniform Accounting and Budgeting Act.  It has been a great experience.

After serving as Vice-chair for several years I took over the Chairmanship of the Committee in 2001.  But it turned out that most of our committee successes were behind us.  Say 'thank you' to term limits.  It became harder to build relationships with legislators who would sponsor bills.  It meant more days spent waiting for a hearing than actual action on a bill.

We spent a lot of time Friday discussing where we have been on our committee and where we hope to go in the coming year.  I will present an update at our September Conference and then retire to a seat as one of the 'old-timers' on the committee.  It has been a wonderful run, but now it is time to let someone else set the pace.  It's all about knowing when to leave.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you Don't Want to see It in the Headlines...

A long time ago, before everyone had email, I learned a very valuable lesson, i.e. 'If you don't want to see it in the newspaper headlines, or anywhere else for that matter, don't say it in front of anyone and never put it in writing.'

This advice came in handy when someone put in a Freedom of Information Act request at the Township for all memos sent between the Clerk and myself on a certain matter.  Memos?  She works down the hall from me.  Why would I send a memo, when I can pick up a phone or walk to her office?  There was nothing to give the person, to their dismay.

Now, folks email and text and place their information in blogs and on Facebook.  Much of it is stuff that is better kept out of the public purview.  So, it is probably no surprise to anyone that today's Detroit newspapers are again talking about racy messages between public officials.

Back in 1969, the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted the travel slogan, 'Virginia is for Lovers'.  Hah!  Bet Detroit could give them a real run for their money on that one!

P.S.  The Commonwealth of Virginia has nothing what so ever to do with the title of this blog. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Insubordination? or Arrogance?

The following comments that I will quote were made by the West Bloomfield Chief of Police at the Tuesday Board meeting in regard to a request from the Personnel Committee, at a previous meeting, for a department plan when the Chief was requesting four new officers:

"I didn't have a plan, why should I change it.  I have a good department running right now. Why should I change it?  Because you people want me to change it?  I won't change it for you...It's my viewpoints that are counting here... If you back out of this Mrs. O'Shaunessy, I will be very disappointed with you... I will be extremely upset..."

I am pretty sure that if I was an 'at-will' employee at any other municipality or company, I would find myself on the street the next morning.  Just who is running West Bloomfield?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stealth Meetings

Way back on May 25th I wrote about the August Primary election.  I did so in response to a Township Trustee saying that the Library did not want to be accused of holding a 'stealth election'.  Excuuuuse me???  I gave him a piece of my mind about ones duty to vote and that this was a regularly scheduled election. 

Today, August 10th, the West Bloomfield Township Board will hold a meeting at 12:15PM to approve language for a millage INCREASE.  Talk about stealth!  A neighbor asked me last night why there was no Board meeting on TV.  I explained about today's meeting.  They asked if it was being televised and I said I honestly did not know, but that I have a medical appointment and will miss it either way.  Now, how much more 'stealth' can you get?

The Board has already split on asking for an increase and I again find myself siding with the minority who did not vote to place this on the ballot.  Why you ask?  Well, how about some contract concessions from the Public Safety unions?  It is well known that I had been asking for concessions but getting nowhere during my stay in office. 

The fact is (supported by the audit reports) that the cost of public safety exceeds the tax revenue taken in.  Not just the public safety millage revenue, but ALL property tax revenue.  In 2009, tax revenue was $27,904,288.  The cost of Public Safety was $30,364,311.  This has gone on for as long as I can remember.  It is why I supported a dedicated millage for public safety ONLY, with NO general fund revenue supporting the departments.  Here is your budget, live with it.

West Bloomfield Trustees need to figure out where to make cuts.  The unions need to cooperate and modify some of their benefits.  All other employees at Town Hall and Water & Sewer have sacrificed.  Until I see that happen, I cannot support any increased millage.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Very Uncommon Response

I have met many business owners over the years who have just amazed me with their lack of 'people skills'.  When I was on the Board of the local Chamber of Commerce, I used to wonder how some of the people I met were able to run a business.  They look like geniuses, considering what I experienced yesterday.

If you read my blog a few weeks ago about my latest trip out west, you will know that there was a lot to dislike about it.  I've been asked if it was planned by Chevy Chase, was a remake of 'Trains, Planes, and Automobiles', or was it free?

After communicating with the company owner and receiving no response to my 'snail mail' letter, I sent him an email with the letter attached.  Now, let me say that I had heard from the head of the sales department who sent a refund for the lodging at Glacier Park.  His letter said, and I quote, '...while there may have been a worse solution, I have no idea what could have been worse.'  I also received a letter from Glacier Park Inc. with an apology.

Now come emails yesterday from the tour company owner with the following message:

You are clearly overwrought and may benefit from moderation. I find a certain type of person writes nasty letters immediately, generally the ones that also complain about having no friends that wish to travel with them. You sound very much like someone who would not be happy anywhere.

After berating me and telling me how grateful I should be, he continues with, 'I find polite rather than unpleasant letters tend to work better but I understand that everyone has their own unique style.'

As this is supposed to be a G-rated blog, you will just have to imagine my response.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Making the Meaning Clear

Does anyone bother checking 'online' headlines?  This one is posted this morning:

Episcopal Bishop Reinstated Despite Sex Abuse Failure 

I stared at this for several seconds before linking to the story to try to understand what the headline meant.  Did the Bishop not know how to commit sexual abuse?  Obviously not what the title meant.  Then again, maybe the author was doing that intentionally to get people to link to the story.  Guess what?  It worked.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Going too Far for Green

I have been complaining to friends for some time that the quality of toilet paper (TP) in public restrooms in this country is deteriorating.  Laugh if you must, but this can be an uncomfortable problem for some.

As background:  Back in the 60's when a friend and I left for a 'European 'tour' of three months, we each packed three rolls of TP in our one and only suitcase.  It was well worth it.  Most European TP was dreadful if not sometimes 'non-existent'.  Once, in Spain, we had to pay for TP at a public restroom.  Our worst disaster of the trip was forgetting to pack a half-used roll of TP when we departed a hotel in Majorca.  European TP was so bad that we brought home samples to show our friends.

Several years ago my doctor told me that my skin irritation was probably due to an allergy to TP.  Sure enough, they had changed suppliers at work.  I started bringing in my own TP until they agreed to buy stuff I could use in my private bathroom that was not allergenic.

Since that time, I have noticed that TP is getting thinner and thinner and rougher and rougher.  Then, this week, I received my latest copy of National Wildlife magazine.  There on page 16 is an article titled 'Why Soft Paper is Rough on Forests'.  The article points out that Europeans are happy to use rough sandpaper TP because it is better for the forests and that Americans should do the same. 

I think not.  How about, in the name of saving trees, we stop printing so many magazines, stop sending out so many requests for donations in the mail, (including unsolicited calendars, address labels, and greeting cards) and just publish everything on the internet.  Just leave my sensitive skin alone.

UPDATE:  After posting this I came across an article saying that the Newark, NJ Mayor is trying to close a $70 million budget gap by eliminating items like 'toilet paper'.  BYOTP to Jersey.  What next?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Day After the Night Before

I do not know what a 'hangover' feels like, but I imagine it must feel somewhat like I feel this morning.  Or maybe it is just 'old age' catching up with me.  Yesterday was a very long day. 

I was up early to work at my local precinct thanking voters for supporting the West Bloomfield Library.  Since we won almost 85% of the vote, maybe I could have slept in?  Oh well, I always used to joke that I would have plenty of time to sleep when I was dead, but I was much younger then.

Once I left the polls (and thank goodness it was overcast in the morning), it was home to breakfast and a shower.  I had some errands to run before I headed downtown to the WDIV studios for the webcast.  So much for hurrying.  The station was running behind schedule and my interview was one-hour late.  Not a big deal except that I was scheduled to work in the library's Friendshop at 5:30 and I was worried about getting stuck in traffic.  Luckily, I got there right at 5:30.

We were open til 8 and the Library Director, Clara Bohrer, sat with me as we talked to many visitors who came to vote and realized for the first time that we had a used-book shop .  And then it was closing time both for the shop and the polls.

We went over to Town Hall to wait for returns.  The results were being posted on the County site and we were way ahead on the positive side, but we wanted to see the absentee votes.  Tired of being on my feet for so long, I bade everyone a 'good night' around 10 and headed home.  I logged on to the website, but not seeing anything change significantly by 11:30, I called it a night. 

My internal clock woke me up at 6:30 and usually I can function on seven hours sleep, but I think the anxiety of the day before drained all my reserves, for today I feel like I pulled one of those college 'all-night study sessions'.  I am beat!  Thank goodness I have nothing scheduled before four this afternoon.  I think a noon nap is in order.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who supported us.  We have a wonderful facility that you can use seven days a week.  It is not something you pay for in case you need it someday.  If you haven't visited either facility, check it out online, and then visit it in person.  You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Election Day

I was at my precinct polling place this morning at 7:00 AM.  I had already voted 'absentee' thanks to being what is considered a 'senior citizen'.  But I had volunteered to be at the polls to encourage and thank voters for supporting the West Bloomfield Library's request for a millage renewal.

Everyone I spoke to said they were in support of the renewal.  Many said that was the only reason they came to vote, probably not good news to the supporters of candidates at the poll.  Speaking of which:

YELLING at people to vote for your candidate usually turns them off.  YELLING on your cell phone in the parking lot is downright rude.  If you feel you must YELL, go sit in your car and talk.  Just my opinion.

Anyway, this afternoon I will be at WDIV studios for a webcast.  I am scheduled to be on at 2:45 to talk about the library millage.  I am really hoping that all of our supporters show up and vote.  And to those of you who voted 'yes' today, a big 'Thank You'.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"When E. F. Hutton Talks..."

Those of you born before 1970 may remember the marketing slogan of brokerage firm E. F. Hutton:  "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen."  Well, I am no E.F. Hutton.  Much of the time I think no one is listening.  Sometimes I like to think that they did and that I may have influenced a decision.

As an example, last year in May I was sitting next to a Board Member of the Wayne County Airport Authority.  The subject of airport parking came up and I said that I would no longer park in 'Big Blue' now that they had raised the rates.  It was my preferred parking in Winter since it meant that my car would not be buried in snow when I returned to Detroit.  Now, I'd just save the money and take my chances on the weather.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a sign as I exited the airport on June 20th (around midnight) this year that said the rates were being reduced effective the next day.  I do not know how many people have switched, but if I go away this winter, I will definitely consider parking there.

Sometimes it is gratifying just to know that someone else thinks the way you do too.  Earlier this month I blogged about the candidates who are all trying to be more 'pro-life' than the other guy.  Geez.  It is not an issue I vote on unless the candidates agree on everything else I care about and I think is really important.  So, I was happy today to see both the Detroit News and Free Press address this totally unimportant issue (IMHO) on today's editorial pages. 

So, I'll keep talking and blogging and writing and maybe have a difference.  Or maybe not.