Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal

Welcome to Inside the Newsroom @ A2 Journal, a blog written by the newspaper's staff at A2 Journal, a new, weekly, community newspaper covering Ann Arbor. This blog is a place for members of the newspaper's staff to write their thoughts, observations, opinions and other informative pieces they put together while covering the rich history, interesting people, institutions and traditions that make Ann Arbor such a unique community.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dec. 31 -- Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

Of the 365 days in a year, Dec. 31 is my least favorite.

And unfortunately, this one has been no different from the last several years.

First off, my alarm clock mysteriously sounded at 6:15 a.m. Which would have been fine, I could have gone back to sleep -- EXCEPT my dogs thought I'd actually set it, and therefore, I needed to be awake.

Ever helpful, they licked my face, tromped all over me; whatever they could do to make sure I got up.

Gee, thanks, guys. Now this day will last even longer.

First up, a trip to Saline for an editorial meeting en route to which I broke Reporter's Rule No. 2: Always, always bring your camera with you. Even if you're going to the post office or grocery store.

(If you remember, Reporter's Rule No. 1: Always have at least a 1/2 tank of gas. I broke that one on Christmas, and it almost came back to bite me.)

So there, along M-52, before the I94 exit, was a corn trailer in a ditch, one tire off its axle, bright yellow contents spilled on a resident's front yard.

It would have made a great photo, all that yellow corn on the newly fallen snow, and served as a reminder to people that even through Chelsea is called a city, it's still a small town, and the surrounding townships are still active farming communities.

Opportunity lost.

This meeting was followed by a service call from Dish Network, scheduled for between noon-5 p.m. So, I zoom back from Saline, get home by 12:05 and notice the extra tire tracks in my driveway as I turn up it.

Please, please, let it have been a UPS or FedEx delivery ... nope, nothing at the door.


What self-respecting repair person EVER arrives before the appointed time? Apparently, the nice guy from Dish Network who called my home phone, when I specifically left my cell phone with the sales person as the primary number.

Plus, I had actually remembered to leave it on.


I called him back and he was able to swing by here after his next appointment.


He upgrades the dish on my roof "to code," whatever that means, installs the pretty black DVR, calls in all the secret codes to program it and begins to show me how it works.

Problem is, it doesn't.

Apparently, the hard drive is defective.

But, he calls a fellow tech who happens in the area and ... we're back in business.

Four-plus hours after he originally arrived, I am with DVR.

So, while you enjoy New Year's Eve with family, friends and bubbly, I'll be figuring out how to use my new DVR, my new air card and my cell phone.

Out with the old low-tech me, in with the new (semi) high-tech version.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mexican Hojalata Folk Art at AA Library

The Ann Arbor Downtown Library hosted a Mexican Hojalata Folk art program today.
Read the story and see more photos in A2 Journal on Jan. 7.

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Dec. 30 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

If you've been following my daily blog, you've probably noticed my new posts usually appear at night.

Part of that is because it's a way to decide which of the many things that happened that day deserve mention.

Plus, I'm not much of a morning person -- so it usually takes me until noon or so to get my creative juices going.

I don't call myself the Queen of Late Night because it's cute.

Since I have a bunch of stuff to do this afternoon, important things like covering little kids making Mexican art at the Downtown Ann Arbor Library, a going away party for a colleague, and last but not least, a hair appointment, I thought I'd file this early.

Since I haven't gone anywhere yet, I'd thought I'd share some of the "news" from PR Web, a newswire I'm sent every day with company tidbits from all over the globe.

I'm not sure how I got on this list, but I probably subscribed a long time ago and just never got around to opting out. So, for the most part, I just delete it without opening it.

Today, I decided to see what was there.

Fifty-five items.

They ranged in topic from the perfect jewelry for New Year's Eve to free on-demand dog training; an allergy-free food recipe contest sponsored by a Website called allergies and me, to the hottest new get-away in Sri Lanka.

Harvard University has a new state-of-the-art modular child care center and, should you be so included, there's a Scandinavian Film Festival taking place in Beverly Hills in early January.

There were a bunch of Web sites devoted to alcohol education, recovery and support, followed by a company that's accountable for 80 percent of San Francisco's New Year's party scene.

Dorrance Publishing has a new reference book about snakes and on-line publisher Ektimis, has just released "The Top Ten Laws of Respect at Home - A Family Guide."

A lack of flowers at funerals may hinder grieving process, some TV channel I've never heard of is launching 24/7 broadcasting in Spanish.

Oh wait, here's one for football fans -- The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl is "highly anticipated by national sports outlets." I guess the ones with Cotton, Rose, and Sugar in the name aren't all that this year.

A Canadian company seeks to solve unemployment and save small businesses in the USA -- sure hope they are successful -- and there's a new portal for Russian-speaking Americans in Los Angeles.

I won't bore you with everything from all nine pages I printed out, but, it seems to me that I'm not missing much by ignoring this e-mail every day.

When I get home, I'll figure how to opt out.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dec. 29 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

My eye started twitching the moment my feet hit the wood floor this morning.

I knew today was going to be a stressful one, but I didn't expect such an immediate reaction.

No, I didn't have a doctor's or dentist's appointment, this was even worse -- my laptop had an appointment with an IT guru for repairs.

Every time I've had work done on one of my computers, it's ended badly. No matter how well-intentioned or knowledgeable the person appeared to be.

And when a computer is the life blood of what pays the mortgage and feeds the dogs, allowing someone else's paws to mess with its innards, is very, very scary.

I'd planned to just get a new laptop -- but after interviewing the owner of a new business called Core Components on Washtenaw, I liked the guy, and decided to let him hunt for a new one for me and in the meantime, have him repair this one.

I'm pretty tough on a keyboard and most of the letters were illegible, plus, I'd totaled the touch pad.

Despite trying and hating three popular antivirus programs, the owner of Core Components introduced me to a new one I'd never heard of -- it's called ESET NOD32.

When he sang its praises, I decided along with the repairs, I'd give it a try.

He cleaned out all those stupid programs that come in the computer and that no one ever uses, and added some memory as well.

I couldn't watch as he worked, so I headed up the road to the Arborland Borders (again -- see previous blogs on Dec. 24-25), eye twitching all day.

It didn't stop on the way home, either.

I held my breath as I plugged her back in and VROOOMMMM -- the difference was amazing.

Everything worked, and it's like I have a brand new laptop. Maybe I don't need a new one, after all.

And miracle of miracles, as soon as I discovered that the laptop worked even better than it had this morning, I realized that my eye stopped twitching as mysteriously as it began.

Amazing how stress manifests itself, huh?

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Results of Online Polls

If you follow our online polls and are wondering the final results, here they are for the last five weeks. Weeks prior are on previous blogs.

Have you scaled back your holiday shopping by
50 percent or less (59 percent agreed)
None (19 percent agreed)
25 percent or less (15 percent agreed)
10 percent or less (7 percent agreed)
73 votes cast

Which types of Web sites do you frequent the most
News (66 percent)
Sports (18 percent)
Entertainment (8 percent)
Shopping (8 percent)
65 votes cast

What do you like to watch on television
Dramas (34 percent)
News (29 percent)
Reality Shows (20 percent)
Sitcoms (18 percent)
80 votes cast

What are you thankful for

Family and friends (57 percent)
Employment (30 percent)
Good health (11 percent)
Community (2 percent)
44 votes cast

What's your Christmas wish
Cure for cancer (37 percent)
Healthy and happiness (27 percent)
World peace (24 percent)
End to poverty (13 percent)
63 votes cast


Monday, December 28, 2009

Dec. 28 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

Today was all about birds of prey.

Magnificent creatures, with gazes that sure made me glad I wasn't a mouse.

Apparently, most of these birds have super vision powers that allow them to see mouse pee on the ground. It aides them in zeroing in on where these small rodents are hiding.

Then the birds perch somewhere nearby and wait. Until an unsuspecting mouse decides to take a stroll.

Swoosh and snatch.

The little varmints never knew what hit them as these predators use their powerful and sharp talons to take their lunch, or perhaps dinner, as a to go order.

(A note here to Michelle, my editor, who may be reading. She's a real friend of rabbits. So, here's a head's up: you might want to skip the next paragraph.)

I've watched it happen here in real time. Usually, it's a rabbit, though. And although I know it's a dog-eat-dog world out there in nature, the screaming that goes with a suddenly airborne rabbit isn't a pleasant sound.

In fact, I've watched a hawk at work in the oak tree next to my dining room window. He, or she, don't remember which, was toying with a chipmunk. The chipper, sensing danger, looks for the best escape route to one of the many holes that he, (or she), and friends have dug around the perimeter of my house.

Chipmunk starts down tree headed for closest hole; hawk's eyes are locked onto its prey.

Chipmunk zips to other side of tree where hawk is visible; hawk readjusts gaze and position.

The dance continues.

Chipmunk moves, hawk readjusts scopes.

Chipmunk gets restless, skitters down tree.

Hawk poises, with wide-eyed intent, ready to flap wings.

Chipmunk retreats.

It's classic fight or flight.

Finally, the chipmunk makes a dash for it. Hawk swoops in, talons open.

A near miss.

Score one for the chipmunk, and the hawk heads off to another hunting ground.

At the Ann Arbor Downtown Kiwanis Club today, Francie Krawcke brought three visitors: an American Kestrel, a Great Horned Owl and a Red-tailed Hawk for a presentation to the members. The trio were rescued and rehabilitated but their injuries rendered them unable to fend for themselves in the wild.

However, they can be viewed at the Leslie Science Center and can travel anywhere for group educational activities by contacting Krawcke at the science center.

And, all three, she says, can be found in the wild in the Ann Arbor School District area.

"Seeing them in the wild is so much more impressive," she says.

Sure is.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dec. 27 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

Last Sunday, I put the preliminary stages of my Great Diet of 2010 into motion.

Officially, this seemingly trite New Year's resolution doesn't begin until, uh, Jan 1, but since I've never dieted before, I thought I'd at least get a preview of what I was getting myself into.

So, a week ago, I started writing down every morsel that crossed my lips, and in doing so, accidentally began my diet. Something about the black and white of listing everything I ate stopped me from my incessant snacking. A habit I had developed without even realizing it.

Before last Sunday, I'd never been a big fan of breakfast, so it would be 1 p.m. or so before I'd eat something, but once I got started eating, I was on a roll. Or more aptly, part of an avalanche.

I'd eat between writing stories.

While writing stories.

While driving.

At meetings.

Pretty much whenever I felt like it. And, apparently, according to my incessantly complaining stomach, I've been doing this for a long time.

Which, in retrospect, is precisely how this extra 20, OK, probably 25 pounds, has been added to my body.

So since last Sunday, even with my stomach growling mercilessly, the guilt factor of writing down a between-meal snack, or 20, overcame the desire to stuff them into my mouth.

So far, anyway.

I've made it into a game. Current grumbling. Am I really hungry or this is my stomach, (so used to having food in it all the time,) trying to trick me into eating submission?

This hungry feeling thing, I've decided, is a mind over food. There is certainly plenty of poundage to prove I am not starving to death by cutting calories.

I've also discovered the importance of eating something for breakfast. Yeah, yeah, I know, eat like a king at breakfast, a queen at lunch and a pauper at dinner. Or something like that.

So as the days have rolled on -- without the extra rations the night before -- let me tell you, I wouldn't make it to 1 p.m. without eating something sooner.

I may be fat, but I'm not stupid.

I also decided that I'd try to eat between 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day, which meant I had to begin reading labels.

Holy Guacamole, Batman ... one lousy piece of whole wheat bread is 120 calories ... I might as well eat white bread ... smile. This calorie-counting thing was quite the eye opener.

To me, at least.

But I LOVE those little 100 calorie packages of stuff. Yeah, I know, it would be cheaper to look at the back of the package, count out a serving and be done with it, but, for now, I'll stick to the single-serving sizes that don't make me think.

When I become more of a pro at this diet thing, I'm sure I'll get the hang of do-it-yourself calorie counting, but until then, I'm good with the nice people who have done some of the work for me.

On the upside of this Great Diet of 2010, everything I put in my mouth is carefully chosen and food has never tasted so good. It's like my taste buds have been reborn.

That toasted slice of wheat bread (I found one that's only 70 calories in the store Saturday) with a little bit of peanut butter on it?

Man, that hit the spot for breakfast this morning; I swear, peanut butter never tasted so good.

So, half the battle is underway; next up, the exercise part to balance the equation.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dec. 26 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

My plan to relax and read a warm and fuzzy book on Christmas was thwarted by the shrill beeping of a fire pager.

I'd just filled a plate with ham and yams; leftovers from Christmas Eve.

But when a mutual aid call came in for a structure fire in downtown Dexter, Christmas or not, I immediately went into reporter mode.

Alert editor, then out the door, camera and notebook in hand. Heart pounding.

Before I began my new gig covering Ann Arbor for A2 Journal, I covered Dexter for the Ann Arbor News, and before that, for the Dexter Leader. I know the town and the people; it's one of my favorite places on this side of the county.

And about 10 miles from my house.

I charged out the door, started the van, then remembered I had no gas.

You'd think after almost 30 years as a reporter, I'd know better.

Reporter's Rule No. 1: Always have at least a 1/2 tank of gas -- ya never know when you'll need to go cover something in the middle of the night, when no gas stations are open.

And, in fact, I'd tried to fill up on Christmas Eve, but the local station closed early and since I was supposed to be off on Christmas, I figured I'd just get gas on Saturday.

This of course, set one of Murphy's laws into effect.

I knew I should have turned around and driven to one of the other stations in town that was open, but I didn't.

So, there I was on Christmas Day with no gas stations open in town and not enough gas to get to Dexter.

I turned off the van and came back inside to a ringing phone. It was friend calling to wish me a Merry Christmas.

When I told her what was going on, she suggested I check the gas can for my lawn tractor.

Bingo. A full 5 gallons.

A quick fill-up and I was back in business.

Although one business was destroyed and several others were smoke damaged, no one was hurt. A tenant who lived above the business was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, treated and released.

There were more than 30 firefighters there. They, too, left their families on Christmas, but I bet their Christmas dinners, or some semblance thereof, was waiting for them when they got back home.

Unlike mine.

Remember that full plate I left on the dining room table to go cover the fire?

The plate I came home to was licked clean. And two very guilty-looking dogs greeted me at the door.

I'd also broken Dog Owner's Rule No. 1: Never leave a full plate unattended.

Yesterday was a perfect example of what happens when you break the rules. Even innocently.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dec. 25 - Lisa's Musings on Every Day Life

Christmas morning. Rain and muddy paw prints when I was hoping for snow.

My two dogs, Ryan and Driver, spent about 10 minutes dismantling their Christmas presents. Both not-so-tiny reindeer were previously purchased at post-holiday prices last year.

Ryan, the older and larger one with the brown reindeer, is a master at removing anything that squeaks from a toy. I probably should just quit wasting my money buying him toys. But he gets so much pleasure from dismantling them; it's one of his true pleasures in life.

He doesn't have many.

Driver, on the other hand, the one with the white reindeer, savors his toys. Well, until Ryan's done destroying his, and sees that younger brother's is still intact. Then he uses a couple of plans to get the other toy, which can include, but are not limited to, wrestling and distraction techniques.

This morning, distraction seemed appropriate, and it went something like this. Jump up, run to the picture window, barking loudly. In dog-speak, I think this means 'Hey, Driver, there's something really good outside. You don't want to miss it.'

At some point, Driver will smarten up and realize when he's being played and bring his toy with him to check it out. This morning, he left the toy unattended. Bad choice.

But Driver's just a pup, 10 months old, and he already runs circles around Ryan in the brain's department when it comes to things like retrieving and agility. Eventually, he'll figure it out.

He'll go look of course, but he'll start carrying his toy with him.

As for my Christmas? As mentioned yesterday, I pretty much blew to bits my plan not to spend any money on Christmas. That'll teach me not to go to a store like Borders where I am not capable of just saying no.

Since people are already reading this new daily blog, I've had several ask what I bought myself. I promised them an answer today.

So, shamefully, here's the list (with some self-delusional justifications for each.)

"The Christmas List," by Richard Paul Evans, which I'll have finished by late afternoon. I'm already 87 pages into this very sweet 350-page book about a guy whose obit mistakenly appears in the paper and he finds out just what his supposed friends really think of him. Ironically, he reads the comments posted on the newspaper's Web site. How's that for fitting?

What can I say? It's Christmas. One must read a sweet story that you know will have a happy ending one day out of the year, right?

"Return to the Hundred Acre Wood," by David Benedictus, in the tradition of A.A. Milne.

I'm a sucker for Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, so what's not to get excited about when presented with a new take on his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood?

Plus, I plan to draw a few pictures in crayon when I'd done. They'll go on the 'frig as promised in a column earlier this year.

And yes, I'll share my attempts at being an artist.

"The Calorie King's Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter," in preparation for the Great Diet of 2010, which you'll read about in the paper on Dec. 31. Perhaps even sooner, if you can convince my editor to put the story online under the opinion section.

So, if you're chomping at the bit to know about this adventure sooner, e-mail Michelle at and bug her to post it asap.

"The Old Farmer's 2010 Almanac," and companion calendar.

It's a family tradition. And a handy guide when it comes to fun gardening trivia. Some farmers tell me they still follow some of its advice. I look at it as a trusty resource for when to plant what in my garden.

I figure it will come in handy in 2010 as part of a personal quest to be a bit more self-sustaining by growing some of my own food. That's if the deer and rabbit fail to figure out how to work around this year's new fencing. Then, there's always the Ann Arbor and Chelsea farmer's markets to frequent.

And last, but certainly not least, "U is for Undertow," by Susan Grafton. I've read all the other letters, I certainly can't stop now. It would be unAmerican. Or something.

So as the noon hour descends, it's time for some leftover Christmas Eve ham and yams and a quiet afternoon of reading.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dec. 24 -- Lisa's Musings from Every Day Life

"'Twas the night before Christmas ..."

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote the poem in 1822.

Did you know that prior to the publication of his work in "The New York Sentinel" on Dec. 23, 1823, St. Nicholas had not been associated with a sleigh or reindeer?

Apparently, the popular poem was originally published anonymously, and it was not until 1844 that Moore showed his hand in a book of published poetry.

I wonder if his estate is still getting royalties?

I decided to head out today to pick up copies of the A2 Journal and noted that the roads were rather empty, which immediately got me into the Christmas spirit.

And, since I've never braved any shopping centers on Christmas Eve, I decided this year was as good as any to see for myself.

So I headed to Borders. The one off Ann-Arbor Saline Road. And by golly, it was filled with holiday shoppers. As I suspected, there were lots of men. Some alone. Some with kids. Many with cell phones in hand asking about specific titles.

Since I was happily there for my personal amusement, it was kinda fun watching all that frenetic energy, frequent watch checking and wild-eyed terror as people realized the hours were ticking ever closer to Christmas morning.

In fact, I observed one teen check the time and comment to a friend, "T-minus 10 hours and counting ..."

That's the thing about being a reporter for almost 30 years, although most of your mind is focused on one thing (in this case, trashing my promise not to spend any money at Christmas and choosing not one, but several Christmas gifts for myself), you hear a lot of other conversations going on around you.

(Read my Dec. 23 blog for one instance.)

But I digress...

"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except my two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, hoping to catch mouse."

And, jumping ahead here because I'm certain you can recite most of this popular poem by heart:

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lisa's Dec. 23 Musings on Every Day Life

Welcome to the newest feature for A2 Journal.

Every day, I'll be posting a new snippet that I hope will provoke thought, amusement and on occasion, a laugh.

Today's installment falls in the 'What Were They Thinking?' category.

The week before Christmas while shopping at an unnamed store in Arborland, I overheard two employees, standing around and leaning on a clothing rack. They were talking rather loudly, so it wasn't like I was eavesdropping.

The gist of their conversation was just how stupid their customers were.

As I stood there trying to decide between several items, with about $100 of merchandise draped across my arms, it got even better. The conversation turned to the company and how moronic they thought their coworkers and bosses were.

Now I realize that working in retail doesn't pay all that well; that shifts worked around Christmas can be brutal.

But with the state of Michigan's economy, I guess they didn't consider themselves lucky to have jobs.

It goes without saying I'm a big fan of First Amendment rights, and that everyone is entitled to their opinions. But, there's a time and a place for everything.

This was neither.

The more I heard, the less I wanted to support a store with such surly employees.

There are lots and lots of stores in Ann Arbor where I can spend my money, so this "stupid" customer rehung the items I'd selected, and walked out of the store without spending a penny.

It was the first, and last time, I'll set foot in that store.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Skating with Frosty at Veterans Ice Arena

Skating with Frosty was a popular activity on Dec. 20 at Veterans Ice Arena.

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Sledding at Vet's Park

Sledders made the most of the small amount of snow that fell by sledding at Vet's Park on Dec. 20.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas 2009

Here's a Christmas idea that Ann Arbor residents can appreciate. A recycled, reused and repurposed Christmas.
In 2009, I decided to begin celebrating the season again after a several year hiatus, but I didn't want to spend any money to do it.
First, there's gingerbread cookies.
Then, my tree, er, branch, came from my property; the stand is a recycled plastic jug. The pine cone decorations came attached to the branch, while the popcorn was strung with care (and supervision from my puppy) from a tin I'd been given as a gift.
There are bows and handmade ornaments, too.
The result is pretty cute, I think. But you be the judge.
Now, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturdays in December are for Christmas-y events

Zoomed around from holiday festivity to holiday festivity Saturday. Here are some scenes from my travels. Christmas party at Downtown Home and Garden, pottery sale at the Ann Arbor Pottery Guild, 4-H Tree sale at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds.
Not pictured, but also attended, the annual Dexter Historical Society bazaar and free tile making at Motawi Tile. Busy, busy Saturday.

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