Archive for April, 2009

Chelsea: Art

On “Connective Lens – The life of a small-town photographer,” Burrill Strong has documented in photographs the installation of some public art in Chelsea. [Source]


Pre-census address verifier guy verifying addresses with the GPS. Told him to log my address and come back later for extended chat if he wants.

UM: Medical Advice

The New York Times publishes a “Cases” column by Peter Ubel, director of UM’s Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences, who explores “the moral imperatives of medical practice.” Ubel writes: “Medical decisions these days are increasingly recognized as being more than simply medical, with the right choice depending in part on the patient’s preferences. Should a middle-age woman with mildly elevated cholesterol take a statin, for example? That depends on whether she thinks the pill’s benefits outweigh its burdens, burdens that only she can judge: costs, possible side effects and the inconvenience of taking medications.” [Source]

Seventh near Sunnyside

11:20 a.m. Guy walking down the street wearing a medical mask over his mouth and nose. Has swine flu panic arrived in Ann Arbor?

Fourth & Huron

Guy repairing sidewalk next to Embassy Hotel. Wet concrete … tempting.

A2: Ann Arbor Gold

The Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce now plans to use its own funds to reimburse people who purchased Ann Arbor Gold certificates. Earlier this year, the company that administers the program, CertifiChecks, filed for bankruptcy. “(B)eginning on May 1, 2009 at 9 am and ending at 5 pm, Eastern time, on July 15, 2009, the Chamber will redeem the face amount of CertifiChecks certificates that bear the ‘Ann Arbor Gold’ logo and an issue date of February 26, 2008 through February 26, 2009. Subject to the same restrictions, the Chamber will also redeem CertifiChecks Ann Arbor Gold certificates from merchants who received them as payment from customers at any time after February 26, 2008 that were not accepted for … [Full Story]

UM: Business Journalism

Reuters reports on a panel discussion at the recent annual meeting of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. The panel, which looked at whether financial journalists blew coverage of the global financial meltdown, included UM business professor Greg Miller. Says Miller: “There are no longer just investment bankers doing everything today. Everyone’s a specialist. No one banker could explain the entire process of how securitization worked. So it’s asking an awful lot of journalists to break it down and explain when bankers don’t know.” [Source]

Planning Commission: Project Meets Code

At its regular meeting on April 21, Ann Arbor’s planning commission voted 6-3 to recommend to city council that it approve the City Place project proposed along Fifth Avenue. It was the fourth time that developer Alex de Parry had brought the project before the planning commission. The first proposal was a conditional rezoning, while the second two proposals were planned unit developments – which are also rezoning proposals. The proposal sent to city council on Tuesday night did not require any changes or variances from the property’s current R4C zoning – it’s thus what’s commonly referred to as a “by right” project.

No one in the room on Tuesday seemed particularly fond of the project, from neighbors to planning commissioners. Even the developer emphasized that it was not his preferred project to build. If planning commissioners were unenthused about the project, why did a majority of them vote for it? Conversely, if it’s a “by right” project, how could three commissioners vote against it, instead of following Tony Derezinski, city council’s representative to the commission, who stated flatly: “I feel constrained to follow the law.”

On Tuesday evening, commissioner Eric Mahler couched the answer to the first of these questions in terms of chickens – the kind that come home to roost. As for the second question, the legal basis of dissenting commissioners could be playfully paraphrased as this: All those chickens that come home to roost will have no place to park their cars. [Full Story]

A2: Huron River Rescue

The Poor Mojo Newswire reports that Kevin Karr, principal at King Elementary in Ann Arbor, was providing live coverage via Twitter of the rescue of a girl who was stranded in the Huron River on Sunday. [Source]

Eighth & Washington

Fuzzy pink glove, decorated to look like a lamb, on a stick stuck onto a signpost, waving at passers-by.

A2: Food

Writing on Gastronomical Three, Maria reports (among several other things) that Hollander’s Kitchen and Home is open in Kerrytown, in the former Everyday Cook space on the second floor: “The arrangement tilts toward abundance rather the elegant minimalism of Everyday Cook, and while not as easy on the eye as that store, it’s probably more likely you’ll find the, say, candy thermometer you’re looking for. A quick survey of the prices looks like things run a couple of percentage points higher than you might get at the big box stores, but I’m so grateful to have another source for kitchen supplies somewhere I can get to on foot that you won’t find me complaining.” [Source]

Column: Limited Edition

Bill Lockyer, California State Treasurer, says that Winston T. Lee of Lafayette, Calif. owes his department $9,940,513.49 representing unfiled state income tax returns since 2002. One wonders, since both Bill and Winston agree that the returns were not filed, how Bill determined the delinquent income tax amount so precisely? At least you would think he could have rounded down on the 49 cents. (Google “California Delinquent Taxes.”)

“Not so,” Mr. Lee tells CNN on tax day. The assessment seemingly was set high enough in hopes of encouraging Mr. Lee to file his past-due returns and pay the correct tax with interest and penalties. “Won’t happen,” further retorts Mr. Lee. “I feel badly about the whole thing but I just can’t bring myself to figure out the complexities of the California income tax forms. I hope they will call me and we can agree on some number and I’ll just pay it.”

If Mr. Lee, a businessman with a few rental properties, is confused by the California returns, he is most fortunate not to be doing business in Michigan. The governor’s new Michigan Business Tax, with its mind-numbing complexities and inequities, sets the gold standard for costly tax attorneys and CPAs. Likely the governor’s  State Treasurer has already realized – or soon will – the significant free give-a-ways, tax credits, and subsidies that will be needed to get any prospective new business to buy into the MBT mess, a tax adopted at 2 in the morning by a sleep-deprived (brain dead?) legislature surrounded by dozens of well-paid and wide awake lobbyists. [Full Story]

A2: Business

The Capital, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, reports that Mike Gibbons is opening two new restaurants there: The Chop House, and Real Seafood Co. Gibbons is a partner with Ann Arbor-based Main Street Ventures, with restaurants of the same names in downtown Ann Arbor. In Annapolis, he’s opening the restaurants in the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, a complex which his brother, Brian Gibbons, is developing. [Source]

A2: Jail Twitter

On a Twitter account dedicated to chronicling his past experience at the Washtenaw County jail, an anonymous former resident of the “Hogback Hilton” writes, “I will not yet reveal my identity nor my alleged crime. I will say that I was 42 years old when I served my time and had never been in jail.“   [Editorial note: The  story is just four episodes along, but if maintained, could become an archive of one person's experience at the facility.   It'd be a welcome relief from new Twitter accounts dedicated to yelling at people to follow some links.] [Source]

Let Them View Cake

A sign in front of Cake Nouveau on South Fourth.

A sign in front of Cake Nouveau on South Fourth.

In our travels through downtown Ann Arbor this week, we saw a cupcake-shaped sign outside Cake Nouveau on Fourth Avenue, urging passers-by to cheer for Courtney Clark on Food Network this Sunday. Being the curious sort, we popped inside to see what there was to cheer.

Turns out it’s been a busy week for the owner of Cake Nouveau. On Wednesday, Clark appeared on ABC’s The View, one of three bakers who made birthday cakes for co-host Sherry Shepherd. (Shepherd picked Clark’s cake as her favorite.)

And on Sunday, Clark will be a finalist on Food Network’s Last Cake Standing – the winner of that competition gets a $50,000 prize. Sarah Mayfield, who works in the shop, told us the Food Network show had been taped in January. They know the outcome, of course, but are sworn to secrecy. [Full Story]

A2 to Detroit: Rail Commute

Writing on the Great Lakes Law blog, Noah Hall reports: “Today is the last day of our semester at Wayne Law, so it’s now official – I commuted to Detroit from Ann Arbor for the entire semester without driving a car.” In the blog posting, Hall describes how he managed the commute from Ann Arbor to Detroit by Amtrak, which entailed judicious overnighting in Detroit.  [Source]

Maynard, Thayer

Ice cream truck making rounds – couldn’t figure out the song.

Third & Washington

Daffodils in full bloom at the Y. Time to go see Susan Skarsgard’s Imagine/Align installation of 20,000 daffodils at the Arb!

Arthur Conan Doyle Collection Unveiled

Books opened in case for display.

"The Sign of the Four" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is included in the collection in multiple forms.

On Monday, April 27, University of Michigan libraries will open an exhibit from a special collection of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “Clues Beyond Sherlock Holmes: The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at Michigan.” UM will hold an opening reception May 17.

When The Chronicle dropped by on Thursday before the Monday opening, Kathryn Beam and Kate Hutchens, curators of the exhibit, were nailing down the final details of the material to be shown on the seventh floor of Hatcher Library. Most of the glass display cases were already filled with books, many of them resting on custom-crafted cradles, to allow a glimpse inside the volumes. A shop-vac attested to the work in progress. Later in the day, some of the conservationists were to arrive to work on the wall-mounted glass cases.

Where did the material in the university’s Conan Doyle collection come from, and what occasioned the exhibit? [Full Story]

Singing in the Lane

Elizabeth Tidd

Elizabeth Tidd saddled up at the Fourth Avenue parking structure after attending the first organizational meeting for an Ann Arbor Bike Choir.

The idea crystallized for Susan Zielinski 16 years ago, when she was was riding her bike through traffic in Toronto, trying to keep Beethoven’s ninth symphony in her mind as the incessant traffic noises threatened to drive it out.

“What I need,” she thought, “is 20 people riding with me, singing in four-part harmony to drown out the sound of the traffic.”

To humor her, a handful of her friends planned what they thought would be a one-time bike chorale performance during Toronto’s bike week. They called themselves Song Cycles – the Choir on Bikes.

CBC radio called for an interview before they’d even had a rehearsal, and minor celebrity ensued.

Zielinski moved to Ann Arbor three years ago to work on a sustainable transportation project at the University of Michigan, and with the help of Michigan Peaceworks executive director Laura Russello, she’s once again at the hub of a burgeoning bike choir. [Full Story]

A2: Finnish Choir

The Freep reports that the Finnish-American Singers of Michigan, directed by Henry Naasko of Ann Arbor, is looking for new members. “Auditioning – or great vocal talent – is not required. A love for sweet bread, coffee, companionship and singing in a chorus is.” The 30-year-old group practices at the Finnish Cultural Center in Farmington Hills, and will hold its annual spring concert there on Sunday, April 26 at 2 p.m. [Source]

UM: Swine Flu

A San Francisco Chronicle article on the Mexican swine flu quotes UM epidemiology professor Arnold Monto: “We’ve seen swine influenza in humans over the past several years, and in most cases, it’s come from direct pig contact. This seems to be different. I think we need to be careful and not apprehensive, but certainly paying attention to new developments as they proceed.” [Source]

Mack Pool Could Close Earlier Than Expected

intern with Leslie Science Center

Casey Dewar, an intern with Leslie Science & Nature Center, was one of many who showed up to support funding for that nonprofit. Backers of the Ann Arbor Senior Center and Mack Pool also spoke to the Park Advisory Commission in support of funding.

After hearing more than two dozen people speak to defend three city-funded facilities facing cuts, the Ann Arbor Park Advisory Commission passed a resolution recommending that Mack Pool be closed earlier than proposed by city staff, and that the city use those savings to restore funding to the Leslie Science & Nature Center. PAC also is recommending a task force be formed to look at funding options for the Ann Arbor Senior Center, which the city has proposed closing permanently on July 1, 2010.

PAC will send its recommendation to city council, which in May will make the final decisions about what areas to cut in order to balance its budget.

Many of the speakers at PAC’s Tuesday afternoon meeting were passionate about the value of the places they supported, and some told poignant stories about how the Ann Arbor Senior Center, Mack Pool or Leslie Science Center touched their lives. We’ll start our report with a summary of those comments. [Full Story]

UM: Teacher Evaluations

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that an online course evaluation system at UM has failed. ”The tool remained broken as of Friday afternoon, but university spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham was unable to shed any light on what brought it down. ‘I can tell you that a large number of people are working on the problem,’ Ms. Cunningham said.” [Source]

AATA, CEO Candidate Start Talks

AATA Board meeting (April 22, 2009): In their deliberations Wednesday evening, the AATA board assessed CEO candidate Michael Ford’s interview responses as “mushy” and not as “crisp” as they’d ideally prefer, with board chair David Nacht describing Ford’s communicative style as “modern management parlance.”

word cloud of Michael Ford's interview

Word cloud based on interview questions and answers from Michael Ford’s third interview. The cloud was generated by (Image links to higher resolution file.)

So often was the word “crisp” invoked that Thomas Partridge, who spoke at the conclusion of the meeting during public commentary, gave one of his standard talking points a little extra flourish: He asked the board to articulate a vision for expanded countywide service “in the same crisp language” that they expected from their next CEO.

In fact, it appears that the next CEO of the AATA will be Michael Ford. The board looked past a lack of crispness in his interview answers and voted unanimously to make him an offer and enter into negotiations. Assuming the two sides can reach an agreement, Ford might be able to take over the reigns of the AATA relatively quickly. Ford operates his own consulting firm, MG Ford Consulting, and there would be no coordination with a current employer to consider.

In other business, the board (i) heard a report from their auditor (who was roundly lambasted by board chair Nacht), (ii) got an update from their own financial staff (AATA is on course to keep its current year’s budget balanced), (iii) passed a resolution to charge the full cost of service for its purchase-of-service (POS) contracts, thus increasing the cost to municipalities like Ypsilanti by roughly 30% by 2012, and (iv) gave support only in concept for Ann Arbor’s Transportation Plan Update. [Full Story]

EMU: Commencement

Bob Eccles of WEMU 89.1-FM interviews Richard Smith, chairman of Newsweek magazine and the speaker at Eastern Michigan University’s commencement on Sunday, about the future of the news industry. [Source]

A2: Spaghetti Dinner

The Ann Arbor Police Department is holding a spaghetti dinner on Saturday, April 25 to raise funds for the family of Jason Zogaib, a police officer who died earlier this year from a rare form of leukemia. The event will be held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and runs from 1-7 p.m. at the church, 3109 Scio Church Road. [Source]