Archive for March, 2010

UM: Medical Research

The New York Times reports on efforts to grow tissue-engineered bones in research labs, and includes a description of work done by Scott Hollister, a UM professor and co-founder of Tissue Regeneration Systems. Hollister is working on creating bones of a jaw joint, using the human body as the incubator. “The scaffold for the new bone, designed from a CT scan and printed directly using a laser system, is filled with cells from bone marrow or fat that are taken from the patient to prevent immune-system reactions. ‘Then we will let the patient’s body naturally heal and reconstruct the tissue as the implant is resorbed by the body,’ he said.” [Source]

William & Thompson

Three guys walking down Thompson, two of them carrying large paintings with skulls.

Baker Commons

Man in suit/hat standing in front of Baker Commons patiently holding huge American flag on big pole.

UM: Sports

Writing in the Wall Street Journal with the headline “Hey, Michigan Won Something!” Darren Everson looks at UM’s struggling football and basketball programs, and notes the one bright spot: the men’s hockey team, which clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament. The column quotes UM’s new athletic director, David Brandon: “We’re just not good at losing, and I hope we never get good at it. We’ve been blessed to have programs that are always competitive, so as we go through this down cycle, we don’t like it.” [Source]

TN: Dog Worries

In a recent Chronicle piece on a county committee that oversees a bond sold to build the Humane Society shelter, we cited Michigan’s Dog Law of 1919, which states that dogs can be killed who are seen “worrying livestock.” What does that antiquated phrase mean? From Chattanooga comes this video that could help, by analogy, answer that question. It illustrates what it means for a dog to worry a police patrol cruiser.  [Source]

Column: Book Fare

Book cover "Wearing Nothing But a Smile"

Book cover of Steve Amick's "Nothing But a Smile."

Score another Michigan literary honor for Ann Arbor dirty-book writer Steve Amick.

Two novels. Two appearances on the annual listing of Michigan Notable Books. And two small-town Michigan libraries that canceled an appearance by Amick when somebody had a chance to actually take a look at the book.

“Nothing But a Smile,” which came out in paperback (Anchor, $15) last month, was chosen by the Michigan Public Library of Michigan as a 2010 notable book. It’s a charming 1940s story about Sal, the owner of a struggling Detroit Chicago photography shop, who comes up with idea of staging – and posing for – girlie pictures to pay the bills until her husband comes home from the war. While it is, in a sense, about soft-core porn and its, ah, uses, “Nothing But a Smile” comes off “decent and true” – which is also how Amick’s hero, Wink, describes his war buddy’s wife.

“It’s an old-fashioned, sweet book,” says the author, “but … yeah, people have sex. That’s how we got here.”

“Smile” also features an Ann Arbor-related plot twist – one that turned out to have an ironic, real-life parallel. [Full Story]

A2: Stolen Bike

A ladies frame Schwinn Breeze has been  reported  to Ann Arbor police as stolen from the Division & William neighborhood. It’s black with white lettering, equipped with fenders, baskets, and a bell. Any information on the bike, including how to make arrangements for its return, can be directed to Cathie at 734.997.7155. This [photo] is not the bike in question, but is an example of what a Schwinn Breeze looks like.

A2: Google Fiber

The author of the Emerging Technologies Librarian blog shares some thoughts on Ann Arbor’s attempt to be selected for the Google Fiber initiative: “I think Google made a small error in their promotional material for this competition by highlighting fast download times for movies. Yes, that is a great hook for getting people interested, but I don’t think Google really wants to hear about how every community in the US wants faster access to movies and entertainment. Unfortunately, once folk got that in their minds, some of them got stuck there. So let go of the fluff, and think about what really matters, and how to use better tech to provide better service, be a better community, to do good.” … [Full Story]

Burns Park Elementary

Sign on wall stating total number of minutes that students have spent reading this month: 337,446.

Chelsea: Arts

On the ArtWorks blog, National Endowment for the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman writes about his recent trip to Michigan, including a stop in Chelsea, which he called a “poster child” for the arts: “The Purple Rose Theatre is the center of that – it’s the theater that was founded by actor and playwright Jeff Daniels. It’s been a big part of the local economy, and there’s now a first-class restaurant there, and there’re some upscale stores. This is really a great example of what we mean when we say ‘Art works.’ It can work in small towns as well as in big cities. And you really see how this works in a rural community when you see what’s happening in … [Full Story]

A2: Chinese Scholar

The New York Times reports that Cui Weiping, a prominent Chinese scholar who had been scheduled to attend a conference sponsored by the Association for Asian Studies in Ann Arbor, has been forbidden to travel to the United States. Cui said she’s being punished for her commentary on human rights and free speech: “It really doesn’t make sense to do this [ban her from traveling]. In fact, it’s stupid. Everyone at the conference knows I’ve been forbidden from attending. This is just hurting China’s national image.” [Source]

A2: Google Fiber

Crain’s Detroit Business reports on how Google will be evaluating communities that are interested in its offer to build a high-speed broadband network. Beyond community support, the company will be looking at factors like bureacratic red tape and existing infrastructure. The article quotes Jason Schreiber, president of Lansing-based AriaLink, a direct-to-business fiber network provider: “One of the major challenges to hanging fiber is getting on the poles. Working with DTE and Consumers Energy isn’t necessarily a huge hurdle, but a city that owns its own poles has a tremendous advantage.” [Source]

AATA on Chelsea Bus: Cut Fares, Add Wifi

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (March 24, 2010): The transportation news out of this month’s AATA board meeting was that the twice-daily Chelsea-Ann Arbor express bus service will continue, despite low ridership. It will be moved in-house using AATA buses. The $125 monthly fare will be reduced to $99. Up to now, the pilot program has been operated by Indian Trails.

 Ted Annis public commentary AATA board

Ted Annis distributes copies of his treasurer's report during public commentary at the start of Wednesday's AATA board meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

A representative from Indian Trails addressed the board during public commentary at the start of the meeting, in part to convey disappointment, but primarily to thank board members for the opportunity to work on that private-public partnership.

Public commentary also included remarks from Ted Annis, the board’s treasurer, who signed up for a public comment slot, and used it to deliver his treasurer’s report. The report had not been given a slot on the agenda by the board’s governance committee – after reviewing it, the committee decided it did not fit the parameters of the treasurer’s report specified in the board’s bylaws.

The wrangling over the treasurer’s report thus continued from last month’s board meeting, when fellow board members expressed the view that Annis’ monthly reports, which he has submitted since taking over the treasurership last fall, do not include the material specified in their bylaws. Instead, they said, the reports are effectively the expression of an individual board member’s dissent on board policy.

The board voted to establish a bylaws committee to be chaired by David Nacht to examine the matter in more detail.

Board members also voted to change their meeting venue and day, starting in two months. In May, the board will begin meeting at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library on the third Thursday evening of the month at 6:30 p.m. The library board room location, also used by the Ann Arbor Public Schools and AADL for their board meetings, offers more space for attendees, as well as video recording facilities. [Full Story]

Column: Hunwick Makes the Saves

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s been a dismal year for Michigan fans. The football team and the men’s basketball team both failed to make it to the post-season, and together they lost to Michigan State three times.

The men’s hockey team was supposed to be the saving grace. Entering this season, the Wolverines had made it to the NCAA tournament a record 19-straight seasons. That streak started in 1991, before many of the current players were even born.

The Wolverines were picked to finish first in their league – but they finished seventh, unheard of in Ann Arbor. The only chance they had to keep their streak alive was to win four straight rounds of their conference playoffs. Nothing else could save their season. [Full Story]

“Urban County” Allocates Housing Funds

At their March 23 meeting, members of the Washtenaw Urban County – a consortium of 11 local municipalities that handles federal grants for low-income housing and other projects – approved over $2.6 million in allocations for the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

Margie Teall, Leah Gunn, Mary Jo Callan, Damon Thompson

Mary Jo Callan, director of the Office of Community Development, discusses proposed funding for housing projects at the Washtenaw Urban County meeting on Tuesday. At left are Ann Arbor city councilmember Margie Teall and county commissioner Leah Gunn, who chairs the Urban County executive committee. At right is Damon Thompson, OCD's operations manager. (Photos by the writer.)

The group also had a frank discussion about problems with struggling Gateway Apartments in Ypsilanti Township – the complex is operating at a loss and is putting strains on the nonprofit Avalon Housing, which took over management from the nearly-defunct Washtenaw Affordable Housing Corp.

In addition, Urban County members reallocated federal funds that had previously been earmarked to support a county land bank. The county’s board of commissioners voted to dissolve the land bank earlier this month.

Also approved during Tuesday’s meeting was the draft of an annual plan for July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. The plan outlines projects and a nearly $4 million budget from two federal programs for low-income neighborhoods. Avalon Housing’s Near North apartment complex, the Delonis Center homeless shelter, and an owner-occupied housing rehab program are among the projects being funded.

Staff of the Office of Community Development, a joint county/city of Ann Arbor department which among other things manages the Urban County projects, also reported on efforts to recruit more local governments to join the Urban County. OCD director Mary Jo Callan joked that there were two perception problems in marketing the Urban County: urban and county. [Full Story]

Library Board Adopts Strategic Plan

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (March 15, 2010): At their March meeting, the Ann Arbor District Library board adopted a new strategic plan for the next five years – a process that’s been in the works for several months.

The board got a monthly update on the library’s finances, and were briefed on a $50,000 donation from the Friends of the AADL. They also heard a report on a project to digitally archive the program history of the University Musical Society – the first project of its kind in the world, according to AADL director Josie Parker. [Full Story]

A2: Environmental Lawsuit

Writing on the Great Lakes Environmental Law blog, Noah Hall, the non-profit’s former executive director, puts the recent settlement of an environmental  lawsuit filed against the city of Ann Arbor in a broader context: “In agreeing to conduct an environmental study of the impact of adding parking supply on greenhouse gas emissions, Ann Arbor is following the trend of the federal government and other states.  Last month, the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued draft guidance on Consideration of the Effects of Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  The guidance was proposed as part of an effort to modernize implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its environmental review mandate.” [Source]

UM: Health Legislation

Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist and UM health policy researcher, contributes an op-ed column to the New York Times about why the myths associated with the recent health care legislation are so tenacious: “The debate over health care reform, which was marred by false and misleading claims about the plan’s contents, provides a case study in how difficult it is to correct widely held misperceptions. Democrats cite various reasons to think that public understanding of the plan will improve in the aftermath of its enactment, but none of them are particularly persuasive.” [Source]

Maple Village

Man waiting at bus stop juggling 3 blue balls, put them away and switched to juggling 3 white balls.

Beechwood & Huron View

A relatively paunchy racoon – or possibly a cat – slinks down the street, then wedges itself into the storm drain.

UM: Census Ads

UM has posted videos from a contest to increase student participation in Census 2010. First place – which includes a $1,000 prize – was awarded to the UM College Democrats for an ad titled “The Census on Michigan Time.” [Source]

A2: Restaurant Review

Writing on Fare La Scarpetta, Chloe Yelena Miller reviews Sava Restaurant, in the former Zanzibar’s location on South State: “I want Sava Restaurant on State Street in Ann Arbor to be my new favorite restaurant. With the high ceilings, spacious seating arrangement, and menu that includes fresh squeezed juices, potato pancakes and croissants with nutella, it is close. But, it isn’t quite there yet. While the menu is indeed NJ-diner-ish (the ultimate compliment for a breakfast spot), the food isn’t always hot.” [Source]

EMU: Financial Aid

A Washington Post article reports on efforts to press for more federal financial aid to college students. The article quotes Sabrina Ford, a student at Eastern Michigan University: “I’m an independent student. If the Pell grants are cut, I have no idea how I would pay for education. Right now, I rely on myself and the government to assist me.” [Source]

Nickels Arcade

Guy walking on his hands down Nickels Arcade. Bravo.

Packard & State

Packard Pub has a handwritten sign announcing they are opening Friday, March 26 at 11 a.m.

City Settles Lawsuit: Must Conduct Study

On March 15, the Ann Arbor city council voted to direct its city attorney to settle a lawsuit filed in August 2009 over the construction of an underground parking garage on the city-owned Library Lot site along Fifth Avenue. The lawsuit addressed environmental concerns, open meetings and freedom of information issues, as well as nuisance allegations by neighboring property owners.

Now the city of Ann Arbor has settled that lawsuit, accepting a range of requirements under the agreement.

Under terms of the settlement signed on Monday, the city has agreed to comply substantively with a request that one of the plaintiffs – The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center – had originally made over two months before the lawsuit was filed. That request was to conduct a study of environmental impacts associated with construction of the new underground parking structure, which is being built by the Downtown Development Authority.

The lawsuit settlement does not resolve the question of whether city councilmembers committed violations of the Open Meetings Act, when they communicated during their meetings via email about an agenda item related to approval of bonds for the parking structure.

However, the Ann Arbor city council is required by the settlement terms to discuss publicly, at one of their April 2010 meetings, the possibility of establishing a council rule that addresses which email accounts they use to conduct city business. [Full Story]

Ypsi: Bicycle-Powered Movies

Writing on his blog, Mark Maynard issues a call for volunteers to participate in  the next organizational meeting for Cycle Powered Cinema, to be held on April 1  at 6:00 p.m. at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. The idea is to provide pedal-generated electrical power to a movie projector in Riverside Park, so that people can watch movies there off-grid. The project is well enough along to have a list of parts still needed, which include a blocking rectifier diode and a 12v DC Regulator/Converter. [Source]

UM: Health Care

Reporting on possible state challenges to the recently passed federal health care legislation, the Detroit Free Press quotes UM law professor Richard Primus: “Federal law is supreme, and if there is any remaining doubt, it was settled at Appomattox, when Lee surrendered to Grant.” [Source]