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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30 - Lisa's Musings (on the Last Day of June) and Every Day Life

A little of this and that, on the last day of June.

I knew this would be a tough month for me with the one-year anniversary of my dad's death on June 14, then exactly two weeks later, what would have been his 89th birthday.

But I did it and celebrated another type of milestone along the way -- the one-year anniversary of my new job as the reporter for the A2 Journal, which everyone in town calls the Allmendinger Journal. Thanks, folks or that and all the wonderful kudos you've sent my way.

It's been quite a ride, and I'm ever thankful that I'm still a player in the ever-changing newspaper game.

So, moving onto to funnier things ... my regular UPS driver picked the perfect week to go on vacation, and his replacement driver is getting really tired of showing up at my house.

'Tis the season for all kinds of cat products to appear on my doorstep from companies vying for PR in my holiday issue. For the last few weeks I've been requesting samples of everything from cat collars and jewelry to cat trees and enclosures. So far, not a single company has turned me down.

So, it's been like Christmas around here, three times a day, as the USPS, UPS and FedEx arrive with these products. And the best is yet to come.

Did I mention I don't own a cat?

Onto the weather. I can think of much worse things than mowing on June 30 in a sweatshirt. I mean, how wonderful have the last two days been weather-wise? After all the scary and destructive storms we've had of late, these last days of June are my idea of perfect.

Upcoming fun stuff. I got a really cool invitation today via e-mail. Next week, I'll have an opportunity with other media types, to visit the studios of several artists who will sell their work at the upcoming Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

Did I mention I also get to travel to these studios in a trolley? How many times have you ridden a trolley in downtown Ann Arbor?

I'm also excited for July 1 because my intern makes her first appearance in the newsroom. And have I got a story-packed month for her. Welcome Taryn Meyer, you are going to be a really busy intern. And on her first day, she'll get to meet and greet everyone because there's a July 4 party at the office tomorrow.

My very own intern ... yippee. Now, I won't be borrowing everyone else's quite as often. Because there have been four more bodies to assign stories to, I've actually worked an almost normal amount of hours the last couple of weeks, and it's been really, really nice.

On second thought ...

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 29 _ Lisa's Musings (on saying good-bye to a canine friend) and Every Day Life

Why is it so darn hard to say good-bye to a beloved pet?

Even if we believe, as I do, that all my pets are at the Rainbow Bridge waiting patiently for me.

Even though I firmly believe that whatever disease that took them from me will be gone and they'll be healthy and happy and ready to once again surround me with their special kind of canine love when we meet again.

It's still devastating.

And those super special pets in our lives -- they just never live long enough. And anyone who is honest about it will tell you that although they've loved all of their pets, there's one that stands out.

No, I didn't lose a pet, but my friend, Pamm, did. And she called me to tell me about her dog, Skye's, passing last night. I cried with her and for a special furry friend that had spent some time here watching NASCAR races with Pamm and me.

Skye didn't have a fancy pedigree or a bunch of titles, but that didn't make her any less of a once-in-a-lifetime pet. In fact, when Pamm brought her home, Skye had been to several foster homes and temporary homes.

Then she found her perfect permanent home with a terrific owner.

And now she's gone, and I know just how hard it is to cope with the overriding sadness of losing that dog of a lifetime.

But Skye did her best to make their last days together the best her failing body could muster. Two days before she died, the two of them had returned from a vacation Up North together.

Skye, 12, had been having some health issues recently, and Pamm did everything possible to ease her discomfort.

Sunday, they watched the NASCAR race together as they had for many, many races over many, many years. But the pooch's body was failing and her robust appetite had dwindled to nibbles.

Monday, Pamm bid Skye good-bye and headed to work. When she came home, Pamm found her dear, dear Skye in the same sleeping spot where she'd been that morning.

She waited until Pamm headed out the door to find her way to the Rainbow Bridge where she'll be waiting patiently until they meet again.

Perhaps that belief is the only way to get through the grief of losing a pet -- especially one that's shared so many years, tears, and cheers with their owners during their lifetimes.

Until we meet again, Skye, I'll include this poem (and flower) for your mom.

"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together."

-Author unknown.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28 - Lisa's Musings on (Cat Day) and Every Day Life

In addition to finishing off stories for this Thursday's issue of A2 Journal, today was also "Cat Day".

What's Cat Day, you ask? It's when all the stories and photos for the next issue of I Love Cats magazine are due to my designer, who lives in Wisconsin.

In case you were unaware, I've been the editor of I Love Cats for 21 years now, and while other cat magazines have ceased publication, this little magazine keeps chugging along. Year after year.

But, truth be told, it's actually two weeks past Cat Day. I've been so busy with stories and photos and videos for A2 Journal, that I blew up my original cat magazine deadline. Then had to beg for an extension.

My designer agreed. Maybe because I actually took my own cover photo for the September-October issue. It's only the second time in the history of the magazine that I've attempted this task.

So this double-witching hour takes place six times a year, and for the last several issues, it's like I'm cat jinxed. Or something.

Every time I clear a day to work on the magazine, a storm seems to come through. I'm pretty anal about storms and working on my laptop. The two don't mix. Ever. I don't talk on the phone during a storm, either. In fact, I run around and unplug a whole lotta stuff -- even through I have surge protectors all over the place.

For the last couple of months, the storms have been so bad that I've actually been weathering a majority of them hunkered down in the basement.

And, if it's not a storm, my stupid Internet connection decides to go ka-pooey. This has been happening a lot more frequently than in the past, too. So I'm not very happy with SBC or ATT these days, either.

Not sure why this keeps happening because it takes place in both good weather and bad. Bottomline: it's really, really annoying. And it's killing my Cat Day productivity.

But anyway, my friend/copy editor/proofreader Becca arrived today to read all the copy I'd finished late, late, late last night. (Thanks, Mother Nature and ATT.)

Although I used to be able to pay her, budget cuts have curtained, (cat-tailed?) that, so I look for other creative ways to say thank you for being my second set of eyes.

Today, she worked for food -- a roast beef sandwich, angle food cake and raspberries. Oh, and lamb for her two dogs, Tiger and Mardi Gras.

And because I have such a small budget, putting together each issue takes a lot longer than it used to. I couldn't figure out why; but then Becca reminded me that I'm writing a vast majority of it, instead of copy editing other people's cat stories.

As a result, what I could do in a day or two now takes me a week or two.

Then Mama nature likes to stick her nose into the mix and it takes a month. Or two. Working in little chunks.

And, I still have to layout the whole issue, make the corrections to the typos in the stories and figure out if I have enough copy to fill its 40 pages.

So Cat Day will turn into Cat Night.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

June 27 - Lisa's Musings (on fun with farm animals) and Every Day Life

I went on a special tour and spent my Sunday morning having fun with farm animals at Back Forty Acres in Sylvan Township.

It was pigs and turkeys and goats and sheep and chickens and rabbits and turkeys -- oh my.

I was literally in hog heaven spending time the Doll Family's Tamworth pigs -- especially Humphrey and Delbert, the two boar hogs. Put a horn on Humphrey and he looks like a rhino. Seriously. He is a BIG pig. With large teeth, too. But cute, cute, cute. I cooed at him like he was a baby.

Then there were the young ones ... oh my red oink-oink, they were too precious for words.

Larry and Kevin Doll took two hours of their day to take me from pasture to pasture, hike around part of the 180 acres explaining each flavor of animal as we went. Thank you both for answering all my questions.

I learned about other Heritage breeds like Silver Appleyard ducks, for instance.

The Dolls specialize in meat, poultry and eggs on a farm that was begun by their great, great grandparents in 1864.

Duck and chicken eggs abound, and some even come in pink and blue.

You'll have to wait for the story to find out the full story. But that won't happen for a couple weeks.

So, I hope you enjoy the photographic tour of the farm animals.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

June 26 - Lisa's Musings (on a plentiful bounty) and Every Day Life

Never let it be said that my friend, Nancy and I don't support local farmers. Here's the haul from today's trip to both the Ann Arbor and Chelsea farmers' markets.

Some of the produce, of course, is from our share of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Our Family Farm of Manchester.

The rest was purchased from a number of different farmers.

Not pictured are the blueberry scones. They were consumed before the photos were taken.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25 - Lisa's Musings (on trying to do the right thing) And Every Day Life

Here's a little word to the wise for people who are trying to do the right thing and, well, possibly making themselves sick in the process.

According to a recent study, reusable grocery bags can serve as a breeding ground for dangerous food-borne bacteria and pose a serious risk to public health.

This according to a joint food safety report issued by researchers at the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University.

Researchers randomly tested reusable grocery bags carried by shoppers in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, and Tucson and found consumers were almost completely unaware of the need to regularly wash their bags.

And, although it's interesting info, I think the study was a knee-jerk reaction to a possible ban on plastic bags in the LA-area.

So, really, how many times have you washed your cloth shopping bags?

Maybe it's just out west but, the findings suggest a serious threat to public health, especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half the bags sampled.

Humm ... those plastic ones I always feel slightly guilty about requesting -- well, they're looking better and better to me. Besides, I reuse them for small garbage can liners.

So, 97 percent of those interviewed said they never washed or bleached their reusable bags. And, that would include me, had I been interviewed. Who woudda thought to do this?

The good news is washing the reusable bags kills nearly all bacteria that accumulate in them, according to the study.

So, here are some tips for their use since lots of you want to do your part to be green.

1. Wash your reusable bags after each use. (So that means you need to have a whole bunch of them, so there are always clean ones and you're not doing wash all the time)

2. Separate raw foods from other food products. (And don't forget to tell the nice people who pack your groceries at the store before they get to work.)

3. Don't use your grocery bags to carry other stuff like books, magazines or clothing. (So now you can label them ala Martha Stewart.)

4. Store them somewhere cool and not in your car. Good luck with that. I'll probably forget to have them with me because by storing them in my van, they are always there with those higher temperatures promoting the growth of bacteria in them.

I'll feel a lot less guilty asking for plastic at Polly's tomorrow.

Especially since I have a health study to back up my non-green choice.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24 - Lisa's Musings (on camp) and Every Day Life

When I was a kid, I wasn't a very good camper.

I went to girl scout camp, which included learning how to tie knots, sleeping in a tent, singing around a campfire, telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows.

I couldn't wait to get home.

Although marshmallows do taste better when on the end of a stick and turned over a fire, that was about the only thing I liked about camp life.

Even as a youngster, I enjoyed my heat and air conditioning and sleeping with walls separating me from nature.

Then there was an equestrian camp taught by some big name trainers. And even though they were very prestigious horse people, I didn't like them much.

I hated living in a cabin for a week with a bunch of kids I didn't know. And although there were no tents at horse camp, it was still pretty awful. As an only child, I was used to having my own room and lots of time alone. At camp, I literally had to escape into the forest to have any time to myself.

After spending a lot of money to send me to this camp, I finally convinced my parents that I wasn't a very good camper and there was no point spending a small fortune to send me somewhere that wasn't much fun.

Many, many years later, my friend Becca and I decided it would be fun to go to dog camp. At night, we slept in a pretty nice hotel, and during the day our dogs got to play in a whole bunch of different kinds of performance events.

The problem was, for the most part, the people running the camp knew less than we did about the performance disciplines they were teaching. So, with a few exceptions, we didn't learn a whole lot. And we weren't very good joiners at night when all the campers got together to play games and do whatever adult campers do.

We headed elsewhere for dinner and drinks and pretty much stuck to ourselves. En route home we vowed to never go to camp again.

But with the kids out of school, I've been going to different camps to do stories. So far, I've been to a little kid's camp where they learn about the Huron River and cool river stuff.

Today, I went to Cloverbud 4-H Camp where the kids have planted flowers, made necklaces out of cereal, tie-dyed T-shirts, made picture frames -- the list goes on. Plus, they've tasted tropical fruit, learned weather and electrical safety precautions as well as first aid.

These are cool camps. Day camps. Camps that weren't around when I was a kid.

And I'm enjoying experiencing them vicariously.

I've always been a pretty good non-camper.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Results from our recent polls

When do you start getting interested in the Primary Election?
Never: 36 percent
July, closer to the election: 23 percent
Just days prior to the election: 21 percent
After petitions have been filed: 21 percent

What qualities do you look for in a political leader?

Independent thinker: 55 percent
Rapport with 'regular folks': 17 percent
Experience: 17 percent
Agent of change: 10 percent

How did you spend Memorial Day?
Did nothing in particular: 51 percent
Attended community Memorial Day events: 21 percent
Attended a family picnic: 20 percent
Spent time at the pool or lake: 7 percent

What do you do about child care in the summer?
Family members: 40 percent
Summer camps: 32 percent
Daycare facility: 20 percent
Babysitters: 8 percent

What do you really do when there's a tornado warning?
Cautiously wait and see: 49 percent
Take cover in the basement: 31 percent
Ignore it: 11 percent
Take cover in a room without windows: 8 percent


June 23 - Lisa's Musings (about exercise) and Every Day Life

It's been said that things like exercise are best done with a buddy.

You know, an exercise buddy. Someone who will make you feel guilty if you don't get your rump up and moving because you're letting down a friend. Well, I've resisted this part of the diet chain for just about long enough.

A few weeks ago, well actually, when I went to that huge dog show in Illinois, I decided that by the time the U.S. National show for Tollers rolled around, I'd be in much better shape.

I think it was because it was really, really hot at that show and I felt, well, really, really bad. Fat. Uncomfortable. Miserable. But what was even worse. Ryan, dear, dear Ryan, was in even worse shape. Especially when compared to all the other lean, mean, hunting machine, really active Tollers.

Ryan and I have a lot in common. Neither of us are the go-hike-a-mountain, forge-a-wide-stream, climb-a-rock-wall type. We prefer our adventures to include a stroll, a gentle swim, and a lot of standing still gazing.

Meanwhile, Driver is the typical Toller. He leaps and runs just for fun. He never saunters toward anything. It's a full-tilt, life's-meant-to-be-lived-in-the-fast lane kind of existence.

And, quite frankly, neither Ryan nor I understand it.

Sure, we appreciate it, but we just don't get why anything should be done at such break-neck speed. Ya miss the little stuff that way when you're whirling toward everything so quickly.

Doesn't everyone say we should take the time to smell the roses? Driver doesn't see the roses, he's racing by them so fast. I'm sure they look like a petaled blur.

However, there's something to be said about this because Driver is in great shape, while Ryan and I have some serious work to do.

So, I vowed that we'd both be in much better shape by the time the end of September rolled around when we head to The National.

And that's how Ryan and I became exercise buddies.

In addition to me actually using the professional gym I have in my home, he and I have been walking, really moving, around the property. No stopping to sniff every 15 steps. No digging at mole hills. No lifting his leg on every tall thing he sees. Nope, we've been exercising.

And he's been on a very strict diet. I do not want to be embarrassed to take him out of the crate where people can see him when I'm at The National. Besides, his breeder will be there and she'd kill me if she saw how fat he'd become.

So far, I see an improvement in both of us.

There's a reason why dogs are man's (and woman's) best friend.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22 - Lisa's Musings (on fawns) and every day life

I thought this would be the first year that I didn't have a fawn (or three) born on my property. I hadn't seen any and I'd gone out to the usual birthing area to check a half dozen or so times.

Then Saturday afternoon when I was out mowing, I spooked one.

So, Lisa's baby deer refuge streak is still alive.

And just now, I watched the little one practice running -- in this case laps around a grove of autumn olive in the middle of the back of my property.

It's such a cute little snot. Racing around figuring out how to turn corners with its tiny legs.

Mom just strolled by -- so perhaps she told the little one to go get a little exercise. Not sure.

But that little fawn was sure having fun. Like a little child running around ... just because.

I love seeing these little fawns -- until they grow up and start chewing on stuff. Then they aren't so cute any more. And I admit it, I begin to root for the local hunters. The problem is, these hunters are a picky bunch and they leave the does alone -- hoping that they'll produce more bucks because that's what they really want.

A Trophy Buck with a Big Rack.

But until then, I'll try not to scare the little cutie like I did Saturday. First I spooked it from its napping spot in the tall grass while mowing paths, The little deer bolted for the woods.

I must have gotten too close to its new hiding spot because it blasted past me and headed for the thicket of autumn olive. Problem with that spot was, I kept riding by, and the fawn would look at me with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look and shake.

I felt kinda bad about it but I was determined to finish mowing the back.

Like the barn swallows, this human trumps small woodland critters.

I pay the mortgage; I've earned the right to mow the lawn.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21 - Lisa's Musings (on avoidance behavior) and Every Day Life

It's one of those Mondays.

I'm headed to Ann Arbor for a city council meeting with something like eight public hearings (and people who attend council meetings in Ann Arbor like to be heard) followed by an 11-page agenda.

Of course, the best stuff is near the end of the 11 pages, but there are a bunch of other items that I think readers will be interested in reading about so, I'm afraid I'll be there for the duration.

And, if I'm home before 2 a.m., I'll be pleased.

And surprised.

As I told my editor, it's going to be a long night and I've packed my sleeping bag, pillow and provisions. Well, the provisions, anyway. I have all kinds of snacks to keep me awake during the proceedings.

And, like having a dentist's appointment, I've done everything possible to try and keep my mind off of the night ahead. But I can't do it any longer.

I've eaten. The dogs have eaten and I'm off for an exciting night in the council chambers. On those uncomfortable benches that kill my back. And my butt.

I keep threatening to buy a seat cushion like U-M football fans. The problem is I'll happily tough it out for a football game.

A council meeting? Not so much.

Plus, I'm missing "The Bachelorette."

Maybe I'll be surprised and get home early enough to watch it on the DVR.

Yup, trying to think positively.

But I think it's a matter of having a rich fantasy life, and I hear it's more prevalent on the first day of summer.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

June 20 - Lisa's Musings (on the AA Sunday Artist Market) and Every Day Life

I spent part of my day at the Sunday Artist's Market in Ann Arbor. What a delightful group of artists and an amazing array of media. These photos are only a small slice of what's there.

Plus, many of the artists do their thing while they're in their booths, which makes it really cool.

If you haven't visited this market, you should. These artists and their creations are amazing! And, it's a great place to find the perfect gift in any price range.

From purses to paintings, ceramics to dolls and jewelry, these artists are at 315 Detroit St. from April through December.

There are toys and textiles, mosaics and wood crafts, furniture and photography ... the list goes on and on. And each week, there are new artists, so there's always something different.

It's like a little art fair every week. Oh, and did I mention the free parking?

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

June 19 - Lisa's Musings ( on yard sales) and Every Day Life

You've heard the saying I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out?

Well, I went out on a story about yard sales and, yup, you guessed it, I came home with something.

And, it wasn't just any something, it was a really huge something. Look at the size of this dog crate.

I know, you're probably thinking, yeah, so, you have two dogs, which is true, but I have medium-sized dogs. A small pony could be happy in this crate.

And my dogs have plenty of crates.

So, I actually didn't really need a crate this large, but Banjo, my friend Nancy's dog did. And when he travels to the dog shows with my dogs -- she has to load her crate into my van and well, the kind she has really doesn't fit all that well in my van.

Especially when we go on long road trips, which we're planning to do in September when we head to my breed's big national specialty in Minnesota.

So now Banjo has a proper crate that's already packed in my van at a quarter of the price of a new one.

And, he's already checked it out and deemed it comfy.

So, if you haven't gone to a garage or yard sale lately, 'tis the season.

Ya never know what you might find for yourself. A friend. Or even a friend's dog. At a very reasonable price.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18 - Lisa's Musings (on honoring veterans) And Every Day Life

I went to a special tree planting ceremony in Chelsea this morning.

The city planted a weeping cherry at Vet's Park after receiving an Arbor Day minigrant from the Department of Natural Resources. And next spring, it will have pink blossoms.

While there, I looked at the names on the bricks in front of the new veteran's memorial at the park and decided that my father's name should be on one of those bricks.

He has a bench in Allmendinger Park and the family has a brick in The Big House, but I think it would be nice to have something here -- closer to home -- a place he loved to visit.

My dad really liked Chelsea and I think it would be fitting to honor him in the city's Veterans Park.

So tomorrow, en route home from the farmer's market, I plan to stop and really study what other people have done to honor their loved ones. And come up with something special.

Then next week, I'll fill out a form at the city offices, plunk down the $100 for a large brick and have it inscribed.

I'll let you know when it's in place.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 17 - Lisa's Musings (on transplant surgeons) and Every Day Life

Tuesday night, I had the true honor of meeting several U-M transplant surgeons, and I've included some photos so you can see their faces.

For an evening, these dedicated docs traded in their surgical scrubs for specially-made server scrubs to benefit the U-M Transplant Center. They spent the night as servers at Zingerman's Roadhouse to give back to the community.

I expected them to be rather stuffy, guarded and well, not so friendly. That'll teach me to lump all surgeons in one basket. These guys were so much fun and were so down to earth. They had such terrific senses of humor. But above all, I was touched by their dedication to the transplant center and the patients and families that are in need of their services.

These docs are in medicine for all the right reasons. They realize that they've got a tough, tough job because by the time they see their patients, they are very, very sick.

But the love and dedication these docs had for what they do was truly humbling. When I asked them what they'd like people to know about transplant surgery, they were quite candid. More people need to donate their organs.

I hope that you'll listen to the video I did at to hear what they had to say about the transplant center in their own words.

I know you'll be as moved as I was, and I hope you'll pull out your driver's license and show your personal support for these docs and the people who desperately need your organs when you no longer do.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June 16 - Lisa's Musings (on barn swallows) and Every Day Life

Must be bird week.

After meeting Killdeer yesterday, tonight while I was mowing, I was dive-bombed by barn swallows.

Now, I do know a little about these birds because when I was a kid, my mom allowed a couple families of them to nest in our garage. So I could see a family of birds grow up.

The garage also housed two family cars. That then had to have their hoods covered with plastic sheets to protect them from the barn swallow poop.

Never let it be said that barn swallows EVER poop in their nests. But it's fine to say they poop a lot. As in piles and piles of it. Most of the time in the same place. So mommy barn swallow must have turned tail in the same direction at all times.

My dad tried to convince my mom after the first year that perhaps now that I'd seen the miracle of barn swallow life that we should start closing the garage door again. To be bird-free.

But, I think she felt sorry for them because there were like four families of them and year after year, we left the garage door open all spring and summer -- or until they flew away for the year.

The barn swallows always had easy in and easy out access to their nests.

And the cars were covered with plastic tarps that had to be constantly washed -- and guess who had to do it? For allowance money, of course.

But let me tell you, after a few years, it wasn't cute anymore, I started hating these pooping feathered beasts and I voted with my dad to let the birds find another nesting place. Each of us got more than one "good luck" charm on our heads, and I think when they nailed my mom one too many times, she eventually came over to our thinking.

But back to being dive-bombed by the ones around here. It started with one very angry barn swallow that would not give up swooping around, down and right at me while I was mowing the front yard. After the first couple of passes at me, I started looking carefully for a nest in the grass.

Now, my grass wasn't THAT long, but I thought perhaps in the week since I'd last mowed it, that perhaps they'd built a nest. But because of my past history with these birds, I kinda thought they liked higher places.

I looked and I looked while bobbing and weaving the constant attacks. It was like being in my personal version of Hitchcock's "The Birds."

And then suddenly, it gave up and flew away. I thought OK, I'm no longer a threat or had mowed passed the target area.

Not so, the barn swallow got reinforcements -- four of them. So for the last 15 minutes of my mowing I was dodging not one, but five, barn swallows. Gez oh Pete.

They were swooping so close I could have whacked them with my arm, that's if I weren't holding onto the steering wheel for dear life, going as fast as I could to get the heck done.

In fact, I contemplated quitting, when all five came at me, but I only had a little more to go, and decided I was bigger than they were, they should fear me.

Not the other way around. I was not going to let a bunch of less than 2 pound birds intimidate me.

So, if I missed a few spots, I have a good excuse -- I was under attack.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15 - Lisa's Musings (on killdeer) and Every Day Life

Today was Road Commission meeting day, and it also included some communing with killdeer.

This is only the second time I've spent any time with these quirky little birds; my first meeting was at a dog show in Indiana.

Today, it was on the grounds of the Washtenaw County Road Commission headquarters on Zeeb Road.

Actually, when I saw them, I wasn't sure what kind of bird would hang out in the middle of the driveway, then just skitter away -- not fly -- when I approached.

The moment I drove by, first one bird, then a second one returned to the pavement. So I asked someone if they knew what kind of birds they were.

The answer I got was a killdeer.

I was told that the birds try to lure away onlookers from their nests. So I looked for a nest in the opposite direction of where the birds were trying to take me -- but I didn't see one. I wouldn't have disturbed it, I just thought it might be neat to see what one looked like.

So, after yet another quick meeting (did I mention I really LIKE covering these mid afternoon, very short meetings?) I went back outside to find the killdeer.

I tried to get a photo of them but for all their skittering while I was standing at a distance, when I tried to get too close, they flew away ... guess they figured they couldn't out run me, which I'm quite sure they could.

So when I got home, I looked them up. They are supposed to be a shorebird, according to All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Humm ... there aren't too many shores anywhere near the Road Commission HQ -- at least none that I know about.

Second, they are "graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields and parking lots."


And they run across the ground in spurts -- yup -- "stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they've started up any insect prey."

It's all coming clear to me now.

And as I read further, I learned that they are the least water-inclined of all the shorebirds, which begs the question, then why call them one?

They have a distinctive kill-deer call, according to their description, but I didn't hear it. Plus, they do like muddy lagoons and I think there might be one of those in the back of the Road Commission property.

So today I learned more about upcoming road projects and killdeer.

I just never know what I might find when I set out to cover a story. It's one of the reasons why I love this job so much.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

June 14 - Lisa's Musings (on her dad) and Every Day Life

Two important events took place a year ago on this date.

In addition to it being Flag Day -- another cool holiday where one can glow with pride to be an American and show special respect for our flag -- it's also the one-year anniversary of my hiring at A2 Journal, and the date my dad, Edwin Allmendinger, died.

I thought today would be filled with some tears and perhaps a touch of the blues, but it wasn't. Maybe because it was a muggy and kinda hot day -- one my dad would have enjoyed.

Unlike me, he liked it hot and humid.

Before his hearing went kaput, robbing him of his balance, my dad would have probably been out on the golf course today. Sweatin and swingin and lovin every minute of it.

And when he was done, he'd have headed into the clubhouse for a cold Heineken and a hamburger and maybe he'd have played some cards.

In days gone by, he'd have spent the day in a low key way because that's the manner in which he lived his life once he retired. He was happy at home or roaming around the yard or taking a walk. Nothing fancy.

Had he been here, as had happened in previous years, he'd probably have followed me around my property lopping off branches that were hanging so low they whacked my head as I was on the tractor mowing.

Or, he might have tackled trimming the hedges, another task he did every summer when he came here.

Our running joke was he worked for food.

If I had an assignment during the day, he'd ride along with me.

And, if I was covering a meeting at night, we'd have an early dinner and he'd come along and read a book. I always bought him a new book about U-M sports, because there was always a new one out, and since he couldn't hear what was going on, it gave him something to do.

The elected officials always made a huge fuss over him when he came with me.

My dad especially liked the Saline City Council meetings because there was coffee and sometimes cookies, too. Plus, they usually got over pretty quickly, like the Chelsea meetings.

And, I'd warn him if I thought a meeting would go on forever, so he could chose to stay home. Then repeatedly check his watch ... and he'd sometimes write me a note on my pad to ask how much longer. I think the officials realized this because when he came to visit, it seemed they got down to business pretty quickly.

He'd take Ryan for a walk and pick up twigs that littered my lawn. Although as he got older he couldn't do as much as he had in years past, he did his best to earn his keep when he was here.

I miss that. And him.

And, here come the tears.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 13 - Lisa's Musings (on MIS) and Every Day Life

So, the weather gods were good to the fans at MIS today for the NASCAR race. Not a drop of rain. The humidity wasn't too bad and there was a nice breeze.

It was a great day to be packed into a track for a few hours to watch the boys go round and round and left left.

Only, there was hardly anyone there. Looking around, I'd venture to guess that maybe half the seats were filled. And, I could have stretched out and taken a nap where I was sitting.

Apparently, the state's economy has really taken a bite out of NASCAR attendance at MIS. Or, perhaps, people believed the weather reports. Or maybe it was a combination of both.

My friend, Becca and I were in the center grandstands near the entrance to pit road, about 25 rows up. Great seats to see those brakes light up when the driver's hit the commit line for the pits. Close enough to really hear the roar of the engines and high enough up to see what's going on at the back side of the track as well.

And, it was typical Michigan ... whomever got out in front was gone. Not a lot of wrecks, but boy you could feel the thunder as they drove by at 173 mph or so around that wide oval track.

Not that anyone wishes for wrecks or anything while watching a NASCAR race, but, fans do like to see side-by-side racing up front. Or perhaps a little mixing it up between the weasels in the back. And, well, there wasn't a whole lot of that going on, either.

In fact, after 100 laps or so, we were wishing for cautions just so everyone bunched up again. But, there really weren't that many of those, either.

To be honest, it wasn't all that exciting and Becca and I left before the checkered flag. Not that we didn't have a good time, we did, but, we'd had enough of the same three drivers in the front.

We got there early, roamed around, watched some really cool motorcycle trick riders do amazing jumps -- really scary jumps.

We shopped some, ate a little, people watched. All the fun stuff that takes place at a NASCAR race. And, of course, did our part to help the NASCAR economy by buying a few t-shirts.

I bought both a Tony Stewart and a Ryan Newman one -- even bought Ryan, the dog, a new collar with his namesake's name on it.

Which is why his photo is included in this blog. You can't see it, which is a problem with buying fancy collars for a dog with tons of fur on his neck, but Ryan's wearing his new collar. He seems to like it.

So, Denny Hamlin won. Ho hum. I think that's his fifth win of the year. Kurt Busch, who started on the pole was up there, too.

My driver, Tony Stewart, finished a respectable fifth, but he was never a factor. In fact, although he likes MIS according to what he told me in an interview -- as do most of the drivers -- Smoke's never been a huge threat to win there. At least not in the last 10 years.

My cousin, AJ, ended up 11th and I'm not sure where Ryan finished exactly, but it was back in the pack someone.

As an aside, one of the most curious people to watch in the grandstands was a Junior fan. He stood almost the entire time, and as his driver got to turn three, he'd put both arms in the air, with three fingers up on both hands. He'd stay that way through turn four and when Junior went by, he'd wave him on.

This took place lap after lap after lap for a good 100 laps or so. Then, for some reason, he just stopped. Maybe he realized that it wasn't working. Or his beer buzz subsided. I'm not sure, but, he sure seemed to be having fun doing it and even got another Junior fan behind him to join in. For a while, anyway.

It was a great Sunday in Brooklyn spent with fellow NASCAR fans. I hope more of them show up on Aug. 15 for the second race of the season at our local track.

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 12 - Lisa's Musings (on the produce bounty) and Every Day Life

As promised, here's a photo of the CSA bounty from the first share of the CSA from Our Family Farm.

That's Nancy (and Driver) checking out what was included in our first share. Isn't it colorful? And healthy, too. The coolest part was we got to pick our own stuff.

Radishes, onions (that were cut up and put on hot dogs for lunch), mustard greens, greens, carrots, eggs ... it was all very exciting.

And, did I mention there were cherries at the AA Farmer's Market? My strawberries came from the Chelsea Farmer's Market earlier in the morning as well as another loaf of my favorite honey wheat bread. Yum.

The greens will be made into a salad by Nancy who plans to watch the dogs tomorrow while I'm at the race, so I'll be trying them when I get home.

As expected, it was a very good day.

Even if it started early.

Next up, gentleman, start your engines. I'll be at MIS for the NASCAR race tomorrow.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11 -- Lisa's Musings (on the weekend) and Every Day Life

I feel like a little kid at Christmas.

This weekend is going to be such fun, and I can't wait any longer.

I've tried to be good, and think about other things, but it's been very hard and now it's almost here.

Saturday, I get to pick out the first items from my half of a half-share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Our Family Farm of Manchester at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to eat it all, (and might not like ALL the healthy offerings, but I will try them anyway) my friend Nancy and I split a half-share.

For the last few weeks, we've been counting down the days until the first pick-up from Farmer John. I know there will be greens of some sort and radishes and some eggs, but the other items will be a surprise.

And, I'll be setting an alarm because Nancy's planning to get here rather early so we will be one of the first shareholders there to get the best assortment of local produce.

And, that's after a stop at the Chelsea Farmer's Market to pick up strawberries we ordered last week from another local farmer. Last Saturday, we got there too late for his berries and had to buy them from someone else.

Let me tell you -- all strawberries are not created equal. So when you find varieties you like, you want to be sure to get more from the same farmer. The problem is, if they're really good, everyone else wants to do the same thing, so you learn to be creative at getting them, outsmarting everyone else.

And no, I'm not giving away any secrets. I'm not that stupid.

Once I know what I'll be bringing home from the CSA, then I'll plan a menu around it and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Then Sunday ... it will be another early morning because I have tickets to the NASCAR race at MIS. This time, my friend, Becca and I are going.

We'll be heading to Brooklyn bright and early taking the back roads and arriving hours before the race to shop at the souvenir trailers, and the vendors outside the track; the ones with the less expensive stuff that's probably not NASCAR sanctioned, but is fun nonetheless.

And then the race -- that's if the weather cooperates. And right now, it's really, really iffy. My cousin, AJ Allmendinger, is a NASCAR driver. And he's had his ups and downs at this track, but I'll be rooting for him.

I'll also be rooting for Tony Stewart, who's my favorite driver and his teammate Ryan Newman, after whom, my dog Ryan is named. (I'd have named one of my dogs after Tony, but my friends wouldn't let me, so, Ryan it is.)

And, I have photos of Ryan and Ryan -- if I can find them, and I'll post them tomorrow. Along with a visual documentation of my local bounty.

So, bring it on -- I'm ready for the weekend.

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Guest blog: Blogging 101 at the senior center

Editor's note: Char Hanson blogging today in place of Editor Michelle Rogers.
Those of us who have been driving since the automatic transmission was a new wonder in the automoblie world are getting a lot of laughs out of General Motors' decision to get rid of the term "Chevy." Those in command at GM should talk to some of their retired executives. Back in the 1950s and before everyone in the country called it a "Chevy." Everyone except GM that is. Their ads tried very hard to pretend that it was not so. It was "Chevrolet," always, and those who said otherwise were sternly corrected.

I do not remember when it was, but I am guessing that it was sometime in the early to mid-'60s that I was sitting in a Chevy/Chevrolet, looked down at the radio buttons, and saw that they spelled out C_H_E_V_Y. It gave me a good laugh to realize that GM had bowed to the common man and finally acknowledged what the rest of the oountry was saying.

I understand their reasoning that the car is now being sold all over the world and people might not be able to understand how a car could have two names, but I think it is a pretty slim argument. In a wnole lot of the world American movies, music, televison, and therefore the culture are common knowledge, even very popular. It would be a minority of people who are confused by the two names and easy enough for sales people to explain if it ever became an issue in someone's decision about a purchase.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

June 10 - Lisa's Musings (on manners) and Every Day Life

If I were Supreme Ruler of the Universe, I'd pick a day in August and declare it International Mind Your Manners Day.

Why August? Because it's one of those months where there aren't a lot of holidays.

I'd make it an International PAID Holiday for everyone on the planet.

(Sorry about that essential emergency service people, I know you'd still have to work because thugs don't take holidays, people get into accidents, and can't plan when they'll get sick. And, yeah, it's summer, so gas station and hotel people, etc. would be on duty, too, but who works that day would be chosen through a lottery system and would get paid double.)

So, why an International Day of Manners?

Quite frankly, because people have gotten really, really rude and everyone needs to be reminded about common courtesy. While driving. While walking. While biking. While shopping. While dining.

Pretty much while living and breathing.

It would be a day spent being reminded of, participating in, and relearning manners.

A day that honors "Please" and "Thank You."

A day to go over a checklist of what constitutes bad manners -- things like tailgating, flipping off people, looking bored when others are speaking.

And, a day to honor what constitutes good manners. Things like allowing people to get out of parking spaces, spending that extra minute or two to let someone cross the street or turn left in front of you.

No getting angry allowed.

Mind Your Manners Day would include permission to smile at people who approach you on the street and wave at people you don't know just because it's a nice thing to do.

The holiday would include being patient with people who aren't moving as quickly as you'd like them to, or offering help others who look like they could use a hand unloading their cart at the grocery store, or whatever.

Remember when people held doors open for each other?

Feel free to add to the list of kind, good and mannerly behaviors. We can all use reminders once in a while. Even though good manners should be second nature.

And the best part? No need to spend money on presents or spend hours cooking special food. No guilt about who to invite or not invite to the house.

This International Day of Manners would be 24 hours of permission to do nothing in particular except kind things.

This is MY kind of holiday.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 9 - Lisa's Musings (on science) and Every Day Life

Maybe if I’d been introduced to science as a preschooler by Stella, the Lab Rat, I’d have passed statistics and gone to veterinary school.

The cute rodent and I were introduced today at the Glacier Way West Side Cooperative Preschool by her friend, Renee Hult. She was teaching a class called All About Science and introduced the youngsters to the very fashionable rat, who helped her introduce the concept of the four seasons through trees and temperatures.

Indeed, trees serve as a great barometer for the visual difference in spring, summer, fall and winter. Then, Paper Doll Pearl: The Weather Girl, (and readers know how much I love weather) took a turn reinforcing the changes as the children dressed her appropriately for each season.

I couldn’t resist posting these photos from my morning at the preschool.

Cute, eh?

I think Stella would approve.

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