Archive for May, 2009

Mystery Writers Visit Ann Arbor

Elmore Leonard signs a copy of Road Dogs for Derek and Laura Ortega.

Elmore Leonard, left, signs a copy of "Road Dogs" for Derek and Laura Ortega after Thursday night's panel discussion at the Ann Arbor District Library.

If you own a mystery bookstore, you want to hold an event with Elmore Leonard. That’s what Jamie Agnew, co-owner of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookstore in Ann Arbor, told a crowd at the Ann Arbor District Library downtown Thursday evening, while introducing Leonard. Partnering with the library to bring the famed author to town, Aunt Agatha’s was living the dream.

Leonard – who has written over 40 Western and crime/mystery books since his first was published in the 1950s – sat down for a joint interview with his son Peter Leonard (also a crime writer, with two novels under his belt and a third on the way). Fellow Western and mystery author Loren Estleman acted as the interviewer.

The three writers – all Michigan natives – spoke to more than 200 people in the library’s multipurpose room. Every seat in the audience was taken. People who couldn’t find chairs leaned against the walls, novels by the Leonards and Estleman in their arms for the book signing to follow. [Full Story]

W. Liberty & Ashley

Area under tree outside of Acme Mercantile has been planted with flowers, with a handwritten sign: “Love the Earth.”

W. Liberty & Ashley

Two uniformed Huron Valley Ambulance attendants remove official-looking bicycles equipped with emergency bags from ambulance, don helmets, and ride away.

City Council To Weigh Mixed Advice on Dam

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday nights Environmental Commission. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam.

David Stead, right, reads a resolution he proposed at Thursday night's Environmental Commission meeting. The resolution, which was approved, recommends removing Argo Dam. At left is Margie Teall, a city councilmember who also sits on the Environmental Commission.

At its Thursday night meeting, the Ann Arbor Environmental Commission approved a resolution recommending that the city initiate removal of Argo Dam. It is the opposite advice given by the city’s Park Advisory Commission, which last week on a 5-4 vote recommended keeping the dam. City council will make the final decision, which is expected within the next two months.

At last week’s Park Advisory Commission meeting, 15 people spoke during the public comment period. Supporters of keeping the dam – many of them from local rowing clubs – outnumbered those in favor of removing it. The same number of people spoke at Thursday’s Environmental Commission meeting, but only six of the 15 speakers were in favor of keeping the dam. One of them, Sarah Rampton, explained that most rowers were out of town at a rowing competition in Canada. She said she had stayed behind, missing her daughter’s last regatta, because she felt she needed to advocate for keeping the dam.

But after an hour of public comment and more than two hours of debate, commissioners voted 8-4 to recommend removal of the dam, primarily citing environmental benefits of a free-flowing Huron River. [Full Story]

Barton Dam Park, SE portion

A deer leg placed in the crotch of a tree close to the main path. It took a dog to make the initial find. A bit of a puzzle why someone decided to put it there.

Madison & Ashley

Noon: Long lines to get free hot dogs and 25 cent milkshakes, Buddy Holly impersonator singing, somebody in a cow suit being hugged by little kids, Lucy Ann Lance broadcasting live – all to celebrate Washtenaw Dairy’s 75th!

A2: LED Lights

A New York Times article on the benefits of converting to light emitting diodes or LEDs, quotes Mike Bergren, Ann Arbor’s field-operations manager, who says the $515 cost of installing each light will be paid back in reduced maintenance and electrical costs in four years and four months. The article notes that “in Ann Arbor they have been programmed to perform various useful tricks – to become brighter when someone walks under a light or to flicker outside of a home to guide paramedics to an emergency. And because they do not emit ultraviolet light, they attract no bugs.” [Source]

UM: Scoliosis

An article in the Los Angeles Times looks at new methods of minimally invasive surgery for treating scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. The report describes a procedure used by UM neurosurgeon Frank La Marca that he says is less damaging to the patient, compared to traditional surgeries: ”I see a lot of patients who’ve had big surgeries done. The muscle tissue is horrible, de-vascularized, de-nervated, causing back pain, and what little muscle is left is very fatigued and left in spasm. We can’t do anything for these patients and they are miserable.” [Source]

UM: Solar House

Gar-boretum Gab, the blog of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, reports that UM’s Solar House will be open to the public for the first time at Matthaei on Saturday from 10-2 and Sunday from 12-2. “Faculty from the School of Architecture will be on hand to walk folks around the neato features of the 800 square foot fully functioning house. Can you imagine what it would be like to live there? Come check it out and see!” [Source]

E. University

Glimpsed through a gap in the scraps of ceiling tile being used to block out the front windows of Red Hot Lovers: a pair of burly contractors pulling out fixtures and equipment. The counter and grill are definitely gone, as is the central prep station; grill hood still in place. Tile floor looked cleaner than it has the dozen or more years I’ve lived in Ann Arbor.

A2: Lost Pets

The Humane Society of Huron Valley has launched a lost & found website for pets. Says Deb Kern, HSHV marketing director: ”It is our hope that community members will use this free service and that it will become ‘the place’ people will turn to when they have lost or found a pet.” [Source]

Sunset-Brooks Area

Trash collector picking up A2 carts today though website says it is tomorrow (holiday delay). City phone center says pickup is still tomorrow.

A2: Duck Evacuation

The blog for King Elementary posts an update on its Duck Evacuation Plan. ”As reported yesterday, we’ve got ducks in the courtyard at King School! Thanks to Mrs. Lake and Mrs. Schaffer for trying to evacuate them last evening. Their attempt to help was not successful, however. At this point, we’ve opened the door to the courtyard and have set up boxes on either side to guide our mother duck and her ducklings out to the larger world including water and appropriate food. We’ll update the King School website throughout the day if we experience any success.” A photo of the evacuation plan is posted. [Source]

UM: Public Transit

Michigan Radio reports on the future of public transit in Michigan, and quotes UM urban planning professor Chris Leinberger, who gives the state’s public transit system an F: “So Michigan needs to decide whether we want to become a vibrant, attractive place that young people and new economy businesses are flocking to or whether we keep fighting to keep taxes low and focus on an industrial base.” [Source]

Washtenaw Dairy Turns 75

Washtenaw Dairy Ann Arbor Michigan

Washtenaw Dairy T-shirt with design drawn by Chris Frayne.

On Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Washtenaw Dairy will throw a 75th birthday party for itself.

Jim Smith, president of Washtenaw Dairy, didn’t send out any special invitations to people – everybody’s welcome to come enjoy the free hot dogs, 25-cent milkshakes, and entertainment from “Elvis Presley” and “Buddy Holly.” Not even Bill Martin – president of First Martin Corp. and athletic director of the University of Michigan – got a special invite.

So when Martin dropped by the dairy on Thursday, and a tableful of morning regulars wanted to know if he was coming to the party, Smith wasn’t buying the “Nobody invited me” excuse that Martin was selling. “We don’t send out invitations!” admonished Smith. “Well, you didn’t call!” replied Martin. Martin wound up saying he’d try to attend, asking, “About what time are you guys going to be there?”

The Chronicle didn’t hear anyone take advantage of the obvious opening for a wisecrack: “Are you asking so as to avoid us, or what?”  Missing that chance was a rare exception judged against the hour we spent on Thursday soaking up the atmosphere at the corner of First and Madison on the west side of Ann Arbor.  [Full Story]

7th & Scio Church

5:45 p.m. Traffic light without power as of 5:45 p.m.. Backup on SB Main S of Stadium as well. [Editor's note: Here's a city webpage on signs and signals, with a number to call: 734-994-2818. I left a message under "other" because "streetlight outage" seemed to refer to the lights for illumination, not traffic signals.]

Brooks Street

A complete house teardown in the 1300 block.  It was not the smallest or worst house on the street.  The perennial garden is being protected in the process.

A2: Lawsuit

A post on the Thomas More Law Center’s website reports that a federal judge has allowed a lawsuit filed by the Ann Arbor law firm to proceed against Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board, challenging the AIG bailout. In a statement, the center’s president, Richard Thompson, says: “It is outrageous that AIG has been using taxpayer money to promote Islam and Shariah law, which potentially provides support for terrorist activities aimed at killing Americans. Shariah law is the same law championed by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. It is the same law that prompted the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our soil that killed thousands of innocent Americans. We won this skirmish. But the war to stop … [Full Story]

Tottering or Walking to the River

[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

Book cover of Riverwalks by Brenda Bentley

Book cover of "Riverwalks" by Brenda Bentley.

There’s been an unintended two-month hiatus in tottering. Talking on the totter resumed last week with Brenda Bentley.

I met Brenda around this time of year standing on the Broadway Bridge – the one over the Huron River, not the one over the railroad tracks. I first thought it was last year, but my recollection is hazy.

Through that haze, I think I remember the reason I was hanging out on a bridge that’s not in my neighborhood: I was waiting for Liz Elling to pass through during her swim along the length of the Huron River.

Elling swam around a 100 miles down the Huron in July 2007. So it’s actually been two years since I first met Brenda.

On that occasion, she was taking notes for a book she was writing about walking routes that lead to the river. Consistent with my habit, I invited her to come ride the teeter totter once she completed the book. [Full Story]

Non-Union County Employees Face Pay Cut

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners administrative briefing (May 27, 2009): At Wednesday’s briefing, commissioners heard more details about the county administration’s plan to cut expenses – a plan that will be formally introduced at the board’s June 3 meeting. Also, commissioners appeared to reach consensus on a proposal to cut their own expenses for 2010 and 2011. And a proposed economic development millage was taken off the June 3 agenda.

County administrator Bob Guenzel has proposed that the county’s nearly 300 non-union employees receive pay cuts of 3% and 2% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. In addition, two previously scheduled 1.5% raises in 2010 would be rescinded, and all pay-for-performance incentives would be canceled for 2009 through 2011. Health insurance benefits would also be affected – changes include instituting a $50 medical premium sharing per month, beginning in January 2011.

Guenzel told commissioners that these steps, which require board approval, would save the county roughly $2.3 million. The cuts are part of a broader effort to deal with a projected $26 million deficit over the next two years.  [Full Story]

Hard Times for Street Performer

Brian Woolridge

Brian Woolridge, performing in the alley next to the Michigan Theater.

Since 1995, Brian Woolridge has been dancing in downtown Ann Arbor. But soon, he might pack up his boom box and bags of Michael Jackson CDs and leave the town and the state after 14 years of regularly performing his King-of-Pop moves here.

Ann Arbor residents might know Woolridge as “the Michael Jackson guy.” He’s the one moonwalking in the alley on Liberty Street near the Michigan Theater on weekends. People strolling by wave to him as he spins and slides, Jackson’s vocals echoing against the alley’s graffiti-splashed walls and out onto the street.

But his life isn’t all dance. Woolridge lost his job in September, and he says he hasn’t had much luck looking for work. He’s not sure about his plans for the future, but they may involve leaving Michigan. [Full Story]

Maiden & Fuller

Construction on the northbound lane of Maiden Lane has begun. Northbound AATA Bus #2 detoured to Wall.

A2: Trial

The Freep reports testimony of former Kmart CEO Charles Conaway, who’s on trial at a federal court in Ann Arbor for misleading investors and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Conaway told the court: “I was absolutely honest. If there was anything that I knew was wrong, I would have said it.” [Source]

Argo Dam

Path along the spillway; Dominant Honeysuckle in full bloom, completely ensconcing the path in tiny white blossoms. Making for a very beautiful, albeit muddy, stroll.

N. Fourth and Kingsley

Hot night, Kerrytown Concert House putting on a show with all of its windows open, thus allowing wonderful jazz notes to escape to the delight of all who pass by.

A2: Food

Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings is starting a monthly supper club, from June through September. She writes: “Each dinner is limited to eight people, and will feature a tasting menu designed to highlight seasonal and local foodstuffs. In order to be as flexible and market-driven as possible, I won’t be posting a menu in advance; you’ll just have to trust me.” [Source]

A2: Business

The Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina reports that Edwards Brothers, an Ann Arbor-based book manufacturer, is expanding into a 50,000-square-foot facility in the city of Lillington, N.C. The article quotes CEO John Edwards, who says that in recent years all the company’s growth has come from the Lillington operations, where they employ 283 people. ”We’ve put a lot of resources into our facilities in Harnett County, because we like the community and it has a great workforce.” [Source]