Archive for June, 2009

Shaman Drum

Display windows almost empty, shelves sparsely filled, long line at the checkout – final day for Shaman Drum Bookshop. It’s open until 7 p.m. – and then, farewell.

4th near Liberty

Man biking on sidewalk flies over handlebars to avoid possible collision with exiting gallery patron.

A2: Health

The Wall Street Journal explores the notion of art as an aid in healing, and highlights the experience of Ann Arborite Julia Strecher, who used music and creative writing to help recover from a heart transplant as a child: “It was extremely emotionally healing and freeing. It helped me relieve a lot of stress and provided a distraction from pain and depression.” (The online article includes a photo of Strecher taken by local photographer Myra Klarman.) [Source]

FOIA Update: Printed vs. Electronic Records

attempted redaction with magic marker that says out of public discussionattempted redaction with magic marker that says out of public discussion

Example of attempted redaction of printed electronic record with magic marker by the city of Ann Arbor.

As we reported in connection with a recent column analyzing the possible legal and ethical implications of email exchanges among Ann Arbor city councilmembers, The Chronicle requested additional email records from the city.

Our purpose in requesting additional records was to explore more fully the workings of the city council as reflected in emailed communications – and to compare that with the public deliberations at the council table. That public discourse is something we already describe in a fair amount of detail in our meeting reports. [Full Story]

UM: Summer Reading

BusinessWeek provides a summer reading list for MBA-types. The column quotes Erik Gordon, associate director of the Zell-Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at UM’s Ross School of Business: “Reading will make you a better businessperson and a better, happier person. Students don’t want to hear it. They want to know the magical formula that will get them rich tomorrow, but we have a duty to try and convince them.” [Source]

UM: Tuition

Writing on Kicking Ass Ann Arbor, a blog of the UM College Democrats, Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer takes issue with UM’s recent tuition hike. He refutes their rationales for the increase, and concludes: ”In the end, I feel no kindness towards an Administration that so adamantly refuses to stop increasing tuition. The State Legislature is keeping appropriations constant with 2006 and students have been prepared to take out more loans/financial in order to continue paying for the University of Michigan. We the People are weathering the recession, but the University refuses to acknowledge that commitment and acknowledge our realities.” [Source]

In the Business Improvement Zone

Ideas generated from a recent meeting of businesses in the Main Street area

A sampling of the questions and ideas generated from a recent meeting of Main Street businesses, who gathered to discuss the concept of a Business Improvement Zone for that area. (Photo by the writer.)

About a dozen business owners, managers and others from the Main Street area gathered last Thursday morning at Conor O’Neill’s to talk about an idea being floated for that district – a self-taxing entity called a business improvement zone, or BIZ. It’s a way to pay for services – things like snow or litter removal, or flowerbeds – to make the district more attractive and bring more shoppers downtown.

This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered the Main Street BIZ. In April, the Downtown Development Authority awarded $83,270 to the group – spearheaded by Ellie Serras and Ed Shaffran – to help get it going. Since then, Main Street BIZ has hired a consultant – Betsy Jackson of The Urban Agenda – and is holding meetings with stakeholders to pitch the idea and get feedback.

That’s what was happening on Thursday. The meeting was one of three planned so far: Earlier in the week, organizers met with property owners of buildings along a three-block stretch of Main Street, where the district is proposed. And on Tuesday, June 30, they’ve scheduled a similar presentation for residents and others who patronize Main Street area businesses. That meeting starts at 6 p.m., also at Conor O’Neill’s. [Full Story]

Main Street

Outside the Workantile, Mike Bergren, with field operations with the city of Ann Arbor, helping to locate spots for DDA’s wayfinding signs.  Those are the green stencils that say “Sign” that have been appearing on downtown sidewalks.  Bergren says the holes will be augered 48 inches deep – starting after the art fairs. [Photo not of Bergren but of his colleague, whose name I didn't get.]

Old West Side

A sweet older lady and lovely young woman going door-to-door, handing out literature about how to survive the end of the world.

Washtenaw: Health Care

An Eclectablog post on The Daily Kos describes the writer’s experience at a health care fair in Ypsilanti for the local Organizing For America (OFA) National Health Care Day of Service: ”I spent part of the day canvassing the neighborhood, letting people know about our fair and asking them to sign onto President Obama’s Three Principles (more on that in a bit.) I spoke to one young guy who has availed himself of county health coverage program. But he refused to sign onto the Three Principles. Why? Because, he told me: ‘I don’t believe that health care is a right.’” [Source]

Huron River of Data

Big orange buoy floating next to small yellow buoy on Argo Pond in Ann Arbor Michigan

Graph of Huron River water levels on June 18, 2009 when the dam gates were opened. Late on June 19, it started raining hard. (Image links to higher resolution graph. )

Back in mid-June, Paul Christensen, who’s president of the Huron River Fly Fishing Club, gave us a heads up that some fishermen plying their craft in the waters downstream from Argo Dam – himself included – had been surprised the previous morning by a rapid rise then fall of the water levels.

Real time data on river levels and flow rates is available online from the U.S. Geological Survey website, along with archived data and a charting tool. That allowed us to get a visual snapshot of the event as measured by the gauge.

We later headed off to the dam to get a closeup view of the dam’s gates – the incident had been caused by an opening and closing of those gates. But before photographing the gates, we swung by the NEW Center, where the Huron River Watershed Council offices are located, just upstream from the dam. There we touched base with Laura Rubin, executive director of HRWC, to see what she knew about the event.

In the course of that conversation, Rubin suggested that when we went down to take our photos, we look for a new yellow buoy among the familiar line of orange buoys just in front of the dam. More on what the yellow buoy is for, plus an explanation of the gate opening-and-closing event, after the break. We’ll also give an update on where things stand with the future of Argo Dam. [Full Story]

Red Cross Honors Volunteers

Red Cross volunteer Steve Luedders, left, shakes hands with Bill McGill after receiving the Dan Kivel Blackbird award at Wednesday evenings awards ceremony

Red Cross volunteer Steve Luedders, left, shakes hands with board member Bill McGill after receiving the Dan Kivel Blackbird award at Wednesday evening's awards ceremony at Washtenaw Community College. (Photo by Rebecca Friedman.)

When the Washtenaw County chapter of the American Red Cross issued a press release on Thursday stating that its volunteers had responded to a 2 a.m. house fire that morning in Saline, we took special note – just hours before, the chapter had feted volunteers at an annual meeting that The Chronicle attended, where they talked about just this kind of work.

About 150 people came to the event, which for the first time combined the nonprofit’s  awards ceremony with its annual membership meeting – usually the two events are held separately. Though the evening focused on recognizing local Red Cross volunteers, leaders of the organization also spoke of the challenges they face to provide services in the current economy. [Full Story]

UM: Sports Arenas

A New York Times article looks at the glut of sports arenas in NYC, and quotes Mark Rosentraub, a UM professor of sports management: ”Five arenas is not going to work. I don’t think four works, even in a market as large as New York. There’s competition in every direction and there aren’t enough events.” [Source]

Glassblowing Studio Hosts Hot Event

Baron Glassworks owner Annette Baron, left, guides Pam Roselle in making a glass garden ball, while Baron Glassworks employee Jim Fry points out the technique to another visitor preparing to try glassblowing.

Baron Glassworks owner Annette Baron, left foreground, guides Pam Roselle in making a glass "garden ball," while Baron Glassworks employee Jim Fry describes the technique to another visitor preparing to try glassblowing. (Photo by the writer.)

On November 24, 1998, Annette Baron fired up the furnace at her glassblowing studio, Baron Glassworks, on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti – that fire has been burning ever since, and Baron has practiced the art of glassblowing there for over a decade.

That’s what Baron told a crowd of about 25 fellow artists gathered at her studio on June 22. They came for a Creative Connections networking event held by the Arts Alliance, an Ann Arbor area cultural organization. The evening included food and live jazz music – and, of course, glassblowing. [Full Story]

Maynard & Liberty

From under the Michigan Theater canopy I see an open jeep with Queen’s “I want to ride my bi-cy-cle, I want to ride my bike” blaring.  Just ahead an AAPD bicycle-mounted cop pedals along.  I laugh. Driver laughs.

A2: Rob Reiner

Mark Maynard passes along a “pencil paparazzi” drawing by Joe Posch, who spotted the actor and director Rob Reiner at eve restaurant in Kerrytown. Posch writes: ”I was sure it was him when someone from another table (loser sycophant) went up and talked to him and he was super nice to them. His wife and son (or whomever he was with) seemed mildly irritated with the whole thing. Fashionistas will be curious to know that he was wearing light colored khaki pants and an untucked French blue linen button-down shirt, and wore glasses.” [Source]

UM: Auto Industry

In the Washington Post’s Car Culture column, Warren Brown writes about the challenges of making fuel-efficient cars for the U.S. market. He cites a recent study by UM’s Transportation Research Institute as an example of academia perpetuating a myth about consumer demand for such vehicles: “The study and its core argument – that fuel economy is a profitable opportunity in the United States missed by domestic car companies who ignored U.S. consumer demands for better vehicle mileage – constitute rich topsoil for environmentalists who have long made the same claim. But it gets washed away in a market flooded with cheap gasoline, here defined as a gallon of regular unleaded priced below $4.00.” [Source]

Main btw Madison and William

Former Leopold Bros. building is packed with people there for a wedding reception (an assumption based on a table full of gifts wrapped mostly in white, plus what looked like a ring pillow). One lovely decorating touch: Green apples serve as candleholders for white candles placed in the windows.

A2: Shaman Drum

On Because We Said It,  Sarah Zettel writes about the closing of Shaman Drum Bookshop. Describing her experience shopping during the store’s last days (it closes on June 30), she writes: “I won’t say I feel old, but I do feel decidedly strange, like I’m at the estate auction of an old friend rifling through their belongings. There’s something not quite decent about it, but I’m not going to stop, because I cannot shake the feeling that these books are about to evaporate from the world. It’s not true, I know, but if I can never find these books again because Shaman Drum isn’t there to set them out for me, isn’t that the same thing?” [Source]

Ann Arbor Park Gets Movie Stimulus

Tree Trimming to separate canopies

The sycamore trees were trimmed enough to get blue sky separation between the canopies. The tree on the right will be digitally removed in the film. (Photo by the writer.)

On June 18, neighbors of Virginia Park, located just north of W. Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, received a letter from the city. The note from parks and recreation services manager Colin Smith alerted them to the filming of the Rob Reiner movie “Flipped,” to take place towards the end of July. Construction of the set, according to the letter, would begin as early as June 22.

Part of the set construction involved trimming some branches on two of the park’s sycamore trees – a task that was begun the same week as the letter sent from the city.

But the trimming was interrupted, and wasn’t completed until this last Friday morning – under the scrutiny of an Ann Arbor police officer, locations staff from the movie, Craig Hupy (head of systems planning for the city), Kerry Gray (coordinator for urban forestry and natural resources planning), Kay Sicheneder (city forester), plus a half-dozen interested neighbors.

Some of the neighbors were skeptical about the trim job for the sycamore tree, which is slated for movie stardom in a story involving a little girl who’s trying to save a tree. Their interest in the the city’s approach to tree management had been piqued by the recent removal of some street trees in the vicinity. But there was no “trouble” on Friday morning.

The only incident that might qualify as “trouble” had taken place a week prior. [Full Story]


Argo Pond livery is hopping with canoers, swimmers, sunbathers, and bikers.


Framing for partitions visible through the windows of the former Peter Sparling Dance Studio.  Looks as though that space is being subdivided.

UM: Endowment

The Detroit News publishes a collection of letters from readers responding to the possibility that the state will eliminate its Michigan Promise scholarship program. Dave Lehman of Holly, Mich., writes: “The University of Michigan has more than $16 billion in its endowment fund. The university should be forced to give $1.6 billion a year in scholarships to unemployed Michigan citizens until the fund goes broke.” [Source]

Column: Seeds & Stems

Marianne Rzepka

Marianne Rzepka

Cecilia Sauter’s rain garden solved the problem of a wet and mushy side yard at her Ann Arbor home and may have helped her neighbor with water in her house’s foundation. Greg Marker, of Ypsilanti, uses a rain garden to hold runoff from three sump pumps and his house’s gutters, which resolves some water problems with his neighbors who live down the hill from him.

I just wanted to get rid of some lawn.

The thread that ties the three of us together is that we got help from Washtenaw County’s Office of Water Resources Commissioner (formerly the Drain Commissioner), which provided us with rain garden designs and helped us buy the native plants called for by the plans. The county’s program started in 2005, and so far it’s helped set up about 50 rain gardens.  [Full Story]

UM: Senioritis

On U.S. News & World Report’s Paper Trail blog, reporter Jessica Calefati writes about a study that finds medical school students suffer from the same kind of slacker attitude known as “senior-itis” in high school. The post quotes Larry Gruppen, a UM professor of medical education: ”The problem of the fourth year is a pervasive one. When students are interviewing for a residency, it’s important, but schools see it as taking away from students’ educations. It has to be done, but it gets in the way of medical school . . . It all contributes to a widely felt frustration.” [Source]

A2: Same-Sex Marriage reposts a Between The Lines article about the prospect of same-sex marriage being legalized in Michigan. The article quotes state Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-Lyndon Township), who recently announced plans to introduce legislation that would overturn Proposal 2, which bans same-sex marriage. Byrnes is quoted from a speech she gave at the Tree Town Pride festival in Ann Arbor this month: “The attitude is changing. The polls are changing. It is time to bring this matter before the Michigan voters again. You and I all know this is not going to be easy. It’s going to be a fight. But I’m willing to take on that fight for you and with you.” [Source]

Washtenaw & Hill

11:30 p.m. About 15 people out taking pictures by the Rock, which they have just finished painting.