IdeaBlog

 
 
07/20/2017
 
449 DAYS
 

When Bill Freehan squeezed Tim McCarver’s pop up in his big catcher’s mitt, the Detroit Tiger’s catcher prepared himself for the celebratory leap into his arms by pitcher Mickey Lolich. The whole sporting world was ready to leap, too. The Tigers had just defeated McCarver’s St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, capping a furious comeback after being down three games to one in the best of seven series. Celebratory? Comeback? Those words transcended beyond the sporting world for Detroit fans and citizens.

The words spoke of the mood among Detroiters a year after the city was torn apart by the summer riot of 1967. Coincidentally, 1967 was the same year I began my four-year “career” at Detroit Redford High School. When Detroit was burning I was preparing to move into the high school stage of my academic career. It was already an anxious time for me, compounded by the racial tensions of the city.

But the one moment of ecstasy as the Tigers became world champions of baseball seemed like enough to wipe away all of the angst and despair of a racially torn city. The worst race riot in Detroit history had ended 449 days earlier and yet it seemed like an eternity to me and a bunch of high school football players.

The rioting had spread to various streets of the city and although the danger was at least ten miles away, my father took extra precautions. This man, who probably hadn’t fired a gun, let alone own one since his service during World War II, went out to the local big box store at the time, probably Montgomery Ward, and bought a 12-gauge shotgun. This modest, peace loving man was driven to a fear of having to protect his home and family from any would-be rioters. Fortunately, he never had to use it and never even fired it.

In the meantime, I was going through rigorous summer football drills as I prepared to play for the freshman football team. I really had no racial bias even though I came from a predominantly White neighborhood and junior high school. There were a scattering of Blacks at Redford in 1967 but it remained mostly White. I didn’t have any Black friends at the time but only because I never saw any in the normal course of my life. As I integrated into high school life I also integrated into new friendships with several Black athletes. At the time I did not recall any problems that resulted from the riots less than two months earlier. But believe me, the tension in the city existed.

Although my recollection is somewhat foggy about the many events during the 449 days between the riot and the World Series championship, I do not recall any serious racial problems that directly affected me. But I was reluctant to freely travel around Detroit anywhere past the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Greenfield Road, which seemed to be a line of delineation that divided the “affected” Detroiters and “unaffected” Detroiters of the riot. It was less than five miles from my Rosedale Park home. At that time, before the freeways, Grand River Avenue was the main route from the west side of the Detroit area to downtown Detroit. In the riot torn areas, it was not the place to be in 1967.

So here I was in 1968, a sophomore playing varsity football for Redford High School. I use the word “playing” loosely as I was a third stringer who had very little playing time. But I was a jock and proud of my inclusion to the team. Unlike today, not everyone made the team who tried out. I made it. So did three of my friends, Dave, Ron, and Robert. Dave was White. Ron and Robert were Black. But we didn’t see colors. We saw teammates. And we had a damn good team, always playing in the city championship game. I don’t remember if we ever had conversations about the riot although I’m sure it came up from time to time. We just wanted to play football.

We were practicing on the day of the seventh game of the World Series. In those days the games were played during the day so we couldn’t go home and watch it at night. We didn’t have access to any radios, TVs, or phones. We were all hoping for a win but had to wait and get information from anyone who happened to be listening to the game near the practice field and who would update us. When the word came that the Tigers were champs, we were just finishing practice. The whooping and celebrating began.

I don’t remember if I told my parents I was going out to celebrate with some friends but it didn’t matter. I was going to celebrate a possible once-in-a-lifetime event. Ron, Robert, and I hopped into Dave’s 1964 Chevy and took off down Grand River Avenue, which coincidently, was the street that ran along the front of Redford High School. We began heading east toward downtown, not even thinking about what had happened there a year earlier. There we were, four teenagers – two Whites and two Blacks – acting like silly little kids amongst the throng of Detroiters who were out in the streets by the hundreds and thousands.

But they weren’t throwing bottles, looting stores, starting fires, or shooting guns. They were celebrating what a handful of baseball players had done and something that all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men couldn’t do: unite a racially divided city. I probably drank too much of the beer that flowed from people’s cans as they lined the intersections along Grand River Avenue. But I think I could have been excused for my indiscretions. I was celebrating a championship and a city that had made a great comeback, if only for a brief 449 days.

It’s funny how a sporting event can bring such joy and unity to people who would otherwise ignore or avoid each other because of the color of their skin. Thanks Tigers.

 


07/05/2017

Don't Fall Victim to Social Media's Destructive Behavior

First of all, I’m not big on clichés or political correctness. I’m also not big on sheep mentality. That is, following what is trending and copying it. I am also not a fan of chic dialect, using words that were little used in the past for what they were intended for and words that didn’t exist in the English language ten years ago. In other words, I am not a follower nor a trend setter, although emulating me wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I’d rather be original while being non-descript.

Does that make sense? It does to me and that is all that matters.

I could throw out the usual lines for a person my age – I’m 63. These lines might include “when I was a child” or “back in the old days” or “my parents always told me.” Frankly, I had a normal childhood by most standards and I can’t remember a significant thing that my mother or father said that has stuck with me over my lifetime. They were normal too. When I hear someone say, “My father sat me down and taught me…” or “My mother always said…”, I tend to believe they are making these things up to impress other people. If I was there to witness the actual words I’d think differently. But I wasn’t.

Did I also mention that I am cynical and doubtful? Well, I am.

So where is all of this text leading to and why should you continue to read about most things that are absolutely of no use to you in your everyday life and even less interesting? I don’t know. Maybe you’ll enjoy my perspectives and attach some relevance to them. Or maybe you can identify with some things I am saying and I can catch you shaking your head in agreement as you chuckle to my diatribes. Whatever the case, please read on.

The subject of my ire is social media. Before beginning, I offer this disclaimer. I have been an active contributor to Facebook for several years and a very infrequent Tweeter. So I have been infected by this malicious and life changing bug. But I have not deterred from my beliefs. I simply use social media to whimsically entertain other people who have chosen not to unfollow me. To them I say “thank you” and carry on. My witticisms are designed to be original and shareable.

Back to the subject. I believe there are three types of social media. Type one is to inform; type two is to entertain; and type three is to destroy. I’ll spend most of my time discussing type three.

Type one, inform, consists of newsworthy events from an unbiased news source (which is very rare and may not even exist), personal or business advertisements or event announcement, and personal communications between small or large groups of “friends.” I don’t have too many issues with this type. Social media has done a commendable and at times remarkable job to connect or reconnect people; and to bring breaking news that is life-changing to many people. It is also a very effective tool for marketing a business or event in an efficient, cost-effective way to a large audience. It is, in my opinion, the greatest marketing tool that exists today.

Type two, entertain, consists of many different things. But boiled down to a common denominator, entertainment consists of people sharing moments that range from amusing to disastrous, i.e. amusing animal or baby human tricks to music videos and movie trailers or to car accidents and natural disasters. While many of these events qualify as news and thus are informative, the intent of the person who posts these updates is usually for entertainment value. If they inform along the way, so be it. Entertainment also consists of musings from people like me who would like to get a reaction from others, whether it is laughter or shock. And believe me, my mantra is the former and not the latter.

Type three, destroy, is damaging and dangerous. These type can include inform and entertain but with one big exception – the end result is destruction. A snippet of type three can completely destroy personal and business reputations, families, friendships, religious and political groups, long-held beliefs, national security, and so much more. Just ask the businessperson who gets a negative comment about their products or services in an online rant. Or ask the person who was filmed in a private moment and subjected to a “viral” expose when splashed all over social media. The power to inform and entertain is also the power to destroy.

Look at all of the stories, photos, and video clips from extremist political groups, designed to influence (notice that I didn’t say inform) others to their way of thinking, be it passive, conservative, liberal, radical, or violent. “News sources” are nothing more than fronts to spew venom, lies, and twisted logic. Frankly, if everyone shared my view of “news” there might be less tension and anxiety as a result of destructive posts. My code is not “Seeing is believing.” Rather, it is “Live witnessing is believing.” If it didn’t happen right in front of my eyes, I doubt that it happened at all – or at least in the narrative that is being presented. That’s also why I don’t believe in reality TV. It should be described as “scripted and staged.”

Before I get to my final point and summation, there is one social media trait that is the raspberry seed in my tooth (how do you like that throwback reference?). That is, people who love to see their name repeated and adored by their own use of hollow words. “Thoughts and prayers” is the easiest way to gain sympathy and stardom in social media. While the words themselves are not bad, the intent of using them when commenting on someone else’s misfortunes is bad – and disingenuous. I cringe whenever I see them. If sincerity is important, why is it so important for everyone else to know how sincere you are? Send the grieving person a private message or stop patting yourself on the back for letting everyone know how compassionate you are. Or aren’t.

Okay, rant over. All of this brings me to my final point – one which sums up my feelings about social media and its effect on everyone’s lives. That is, take it with a grain of salt. Don’t believe what others say unless you absolutely trust them. And don’t pass on shared updates unless you believe them unequivocally to be true and honest.

Don’t be a sheep. Be a sheep herder. Don’t be molded. Break the mold. Social media’s destructive nature will always feed on weak minds, which means that destruction will never end. Grow a brain, be original, and be like me. Modestly speaking, the world would be a lot better place.

Now get back to entertaining me.

 

NEXT installment: How To Completely Ruin Your Life With One Keystroke


 04/13/2017

 

Which Contractor Do You Choose Based on a Coupon?

I always look forward to the Valpak coupons that come in the mail, once a month. You know the ones, dozens of colorful, enticing marketing pieces for local businesses who want to sell you a wide range of products and services. I find them very useful and timely – especially when I am on the verge of making a buying decision.

What struck me this time around was the number of coupons from roofing contractors. To be clear, I am not in the market for a new roof or shingles, but I am always interested in pursuing a good story and making people think. So I decided that choosing a roofing contractor from the available fodder might make for interesting reading.

The Valpak envelope contained six coupons. I’d like to describe each and ask the readers to draw their conclusions/choices from this list. Judging from each offer and without knowing much about the companies, which one would you call for an estimate and which one would you avoid. If any? One note: I did see that none of these companies offered free products, like a flat screen TV, with each order. Free, to me, is an immediate red flag.

Here goes, verbatim:

  • Kroll Construction – Up to $1000 off roofing
  • Tittle Brothers Construction - $1000 of complete roofing
  • Oak Roofing – Free estimate and fair honest price that does not include thousands of dollars to cover $1000 or $500 coupons or free TVs
  • Roofing Depot LLC – Prices start as low as $5,000 for complete roofing system
  • Roof One - $500 off any complete roofing job over $2000
  • Mr. Roof – Lowest roof price ever; $17.49 per 10 sq. ft., 20 sq. minimum

What is encouraging – in my opinion – is that none of these companies quoted a firm price in their ad, although Mr. Roof gives a “per” price and “some restrictions apply.” Oak Roofing is playing on honesty and reputation. Kroll, Tittle & Roof One offer discount pricing while Roofing Depot goes directly to a homeowner’s budget.

These are interesting and diverse approaches to selling a roofing job. So which one catches your eye? For me, it’s the honest approach. I’d call Oak Roofing first, Roofing Depot second, and “pic ‘em” third. And frankly, none of them turn me off.

What say you? Please e-mail me your choice(s) and why; or PM me on Facebook.

Thanks!


 

 

01/13/2017

 

 Looking for a Special Needs Child? You Might Need a Mirror

Today I was looking at life on both sides of the fence.

On one side are perhaps the most special of all people – special needs children. I have worked with them for the past six years as a school bus monitor. “My kids” have ranged from mildly challenged to more advanced in need of special 24/7 attention. Some are autistic, some lacking basic motor skills, others with downs syndrome, and still others mentally unable to process thoughts and ideas that we “normal” people take for granted. Some can walk on their own and others need mechanical assistance. In all cases, these children are in need of some type of intervention and assistance in order to integrate into what we call “normal” lifestyles.

What strikes me about special needs children is that, through their own eyes, they probably think that they are normal, healthy young people who just happen to have many adult friends like myself. They appear to be happy and content with their lives and circumstances. For all intents and purposes, they need nothing more than a smile, a gentle touch, a high five, or a hug. They want little in return – especially pity – and always give more joy than they receive.

On the other side of the fence are the “normal” people – many of whom are called takers rather than givers. These are the people – adults to be more specific – who take to the social media pages with axes to grind against just about anybody and anything. These are the people who get offended easily by almost everything and are happy to boast about their positions as victims of “unjust” character assassinations.

I have the unique view upon my ledge made up of many Facebook friends, the vast majority I have never met. I thought it would be fun and entertaining to hear about other people from their own words. It might be a way to expand my world – which I hold pretty close to the vest. What I have gotten instead has been an endless parade of daily updates from people who appear to be genuinely miserable and who want everyone else to know about it. The attention they seek is like an addiction and it is appearing to get worse each day.

And so I really have to ask myself as I teeter on the fence: which is the real “special needs” group?


 

12/20/2016

 

 

Popular Baby Names 50 Years Apart -- No Crossovers

 

Fifty years ago in 1966, the most common names for boys and girls were reflective of the times. Some were simple and followed years of the same trend while others were trending at the time and eventually faded away. Some were biblical and some were "hip." But none compare with the most popular names of 2016. Most if not all of the latest popular names are trendy and "chic" and will likely flame out sooner than their predecessors in 1966. Check out the list and if you don't agree, drop me a line.

Girls

2016                                    1966

1             Sophia                  Lisa

2             Emma                   Kimberley

3             Olivia                    Mary

4             Ava                       Michelle

5             Mia                       Karen

6             Isabella                Susan

7             Riley                     Patricia

8             Aria                       Angela

9             Zoe                       Tammy

10           Charlotte             Jennifer

 

Boys

2016                                    1966

1             Jackson                Michael

2             Aiden                    David

3             Lucas                    James

4             Liam                     John

5             Noah                    Robert

6             Ethan                    William

7             Mason                  Mark

8             Caden                   Richard

9             Oliver                   Jeffrey

10           Elijah                    Thomas


 

 
09/14/2016
 
 
 
Respect the Flag
 

My late father served our country during World War II in the U.S. Coast Guard aboard the cutter, U.S.S. Annapolis. The mission of the crew was to patrol the west coast and seek out and sink enemy Japanese submarines. In fact, his crew recorded one sinking during their late-war mission. The sheer magnitude of the dangers facing the crew every day is beyond my comprehension. At any moment they could come under attack from an often unseen and unheard enemy with greater firepower.

The crew put their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of the United States from danger, ensuring the peace and sanctity of everyday life – freedoms that our military has fought for since the early days of independence. Many, many people have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. For their actions, there can never be enough expression of gratitude and thankfulness. For their efforts, most have been paid minimal wages and have lived in deplorable, harsh environments, not to mention being thousands of miles from loved ones and friends. The emotional and mental toll on our brave defenders and their loved ones were equal to the physical tolls, too. In short, defending our country has often been a torturous and thankless job.

Now fast forward to 2016. The sanctity of our present day and former freedom fighters has been stepped on, trodden, and disrespected by people who have no idea what our flag and history stand for. People who live in the comfort of million dollar homes, earning million dollar salaries, and being adorned by millions of “fans” have taken disrespect to a new level. Professional athletes are using their national podiums to cast aspersions on the symbols that represent the greatest country on Earth. Shame on them and on the people who continue to support them.

I will be the first person to defend their right to free speech and I will also be the first person to condemn the avenues they choose to exercise that freedom. There is no doubt that many things are wrong with the United States right now, from questionable government philosophies, politicians, corrupt police departments, racism, religious persecution, etc.  But there needs to be better ways to speak out than disrespecting the very good things this country stands for.

If you agree, great. If you disagree, that’s okay too. My Dad would probably have felt the same way too.

 
07/15/2016
 
The deck at Lost Oaks in Gladwin
 
Michigan, MY Michigan!
 

Being a life-long resident of Michigan, I have developed a strong bias toward my state and the abundant travel opportunities. I don’t speak from a lack of comparison either. I have traveled to 48 out of the 50 U.S. states (Hawaii & Alaska are the exceptions). There are many outstanding places to visit across our great country but I am content to revisit my favorite Michigan spots and explore new ones.

I’ll have to admit, I have not explored the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) in its entirety yet (extreme west and Isle Royale areas). But that area is on my bucket list. In fact, I plan to take the U.P. waterfall tour next year as I make the trek along a route paralleling the path of the Lake Superior shoreline. I probably won’t encounter a lot of local residents as the entire population of the U.P. is slightly over 300,000 or about 19 people per square mile. If you want privacy, we got it in the U.P.

The mitten part of Michigan – also known as the Lower Peninsula – is where I hang out on most Michigan treks. I have several favorite spots – some which I have visited for years – and others more recently. The purpose of this brief travelogue is to point out some of my favorite spots and the roads and waterways around them; and are included in my list below. I hope you enjoy the reading and please feel free to contact me with your favorites. I’d be happy to incorporate your answers into another Michigan travelogue blog. Enjoy!

  • Favorite spot – Harrisville. It’s a very small sleepy town on Lake Huron between Oscoda & Alpena. The area features Harrisville State Park, my favorite Michigan campground that has miles of Lake Huron beach and has a walking/biking path through the Harrisville side streets into town. It features a forest of red cedar trees which keeps mosquitoes away. In July campers can sit on the beach and watch the 4th fireworks over the harbor. Sleepy, quaint, unspoiled. The town also features the best restaurant in the entire Up North if you like fresh perch. Ki Cuylers is a great local restaurant and the craft beers are good & cold. Two other features are the Moderncraft Wine Shop (with free wine tasting) and the local ice cream shops that serve tons of good stuff atop the “one scoop” cones.
  • Favorite U.P. spot – Tahquamenon Falls. Its beauty will take your breath away and there are a lot of hiking trails. You can even “cool off” under the falls, too. And it is a stones through from the quaint (yes that word again) village of Paradise.
  • Favorite lake – Strawberry Lake, Hamburg. My parents had a home there where I lived for a few years. It’s big, all sports, and the Huron River feeds in and out of it, connecting the lake to several in the “chain of lakes.” You can put your boat in at public access areas and spend a day on the water. You can also boat from this lake to Zukey Lake, home of the world famous Zukey Lake Tavern. I chose Strawberry Lake for nostalgic reasons.
  • Favorite road – M-52. This north/south road in mid-Michigan (slightly east) meanders through several communities and is a great way to see “small town Americana” while traveling to Up North. Jump off the freeways and let this two lane road take you back to a slower time. I also like it because the auctioneer I work for outside of Adrian lives on this road and most of our auctions are staged there.
  • Favorite place to drink wine – Old Mission Peninsula. If you love wine and the beauty of massive vineyards surrounded by blue waters, take a trip above Traverse City and stop at as many different vineyards as possible. Oh yes, visit the lighthouse at the northern tip, too.
  • Favorite new place for a burger & beer – Lost Arrow Resort outside of Gladwin. Sit on the porch above the Titabawasee River and enjoy a meal while watching pontoons, speed boats, jet skis, and tubers wizz by. It’s basically in “the middle of nowhere” and has cabins and a motel, too. I’ll be reporting on the accommodations at a later time.

I could list many other favorite places but the list is too long. But here is a hint: take time to visit Mackinac Island and get caught up in the “touristy things.”

See you Up North!



 

 
12/16/2015
 
 
 

Facebook By My Definition

Facebook. The word itself is probably used in as many conversations as any other word in the English language. Funny, it’s still not recognized in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The Computer Desktop Encyclopedia defines Facebook as “The most popular social networking site. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, the site is free to members and derives its revenue from ads. The name comes from the paper document with names and faces issued to college freshmen to help them get acquainted with each other.” Source: http://www.yourdictionary.com/facebook#VV3IQ3RyeLKja0v5.99

Okay, that is the “formal” definition. Now I’d like to add mine.

First of all, there are some good things about Facebook. Seriously. It is a good source for what people are talking about, i.e. current social issues. I have learned about topics I never knew existed, many which I could give a hoot about. But just learning about these issues is entertaining. And that is what Facebook is all about to me – entertainment.

Which comes to my second point. Entertainment to me means something that is not to be taken seriously. I take nothing I see on Facebook seriously. Thus my third point.

I don’t take anyone that I have “friended” on Facebook seriously. The exception would be my immediate family and very few close friends or extended family. I have over 3600 friends. Most I don’t even know and at this point in my Facebook career, I don’t even care if they are my friends. My logic for friending so many strangers was that I might need them someday to market myself. After all, I am a creative writer and thinker, two things that are sadly lacking in today’s world. I am in demand.

Here is my rant portion.

Before I joined Facebook I never knew there were so many miserable and depressed people. I am not kidding. Every day my updates are filled with complaints about life from hundreds of active updaters. People will bitch about everything because they know they have an audience and would like others to share in their misery. In fact, I believe that Facebook has created a new class of miserable and depressed people – those who have to listen to the losers who happened to be their “friends” or are a “friend of a friend.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook has caused some people to launch themselves out of windows.

And then there is just the plain silliness of Facebook. This sad condition revolves around people whose gullibility and loneliness contribute to massive quantities of “reposts” and “shares” of totally meaningless information. Many of these updates contain hoaxes, prejudicial or racist commentary, hate spews, photoshopped pics with offensive captions, etc.

Lastly, many people treat Facebook like Twitter. Sort of a “what I am doing now.” I don’t give a turd about your inability to sleep, what you are eating, the poopy smell on your furniture, how much you drank last night, how many days you have been sick, the new color of your hair, the temperature outside your car as shown on your instrument panel, etc. I just don’t care. I don’t take you or Facebook seriously.

So if after reading this you want to “unfriend” me – go for it. Because I honestly believe some of you would like me to jump out of a window and I might – if you keep updating me with your depressing pontifications. That’s a real word. Look it up on Wikipedia, another great source for information.

But don’t get me started on that entertainment venue.


 

 
11/18/2015
 
 
 
Too Bad a Sporting Event Can't Cure Social Ills -- This One Did
 
The date was Thursday, October 10, 1968. The Detroit Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series. It was a great moment in time for many reasons. Perhaps the most important one was that for one day, the entire city of Detroit came together to celebrate and unite as one fan base.
 
That's pretty remarkable considering that the previous summer of 1967, during five days in July, Detroit suffered through one of the worst riots in history where 43 people died and almost 1,200 were injured; and the city was clearly divided along racial lines. Race relations between blacks and whites took a long and lasting hit. Distrust and disdain were racial keywords.
 
I know, I was there. While the riots consumed a lot of personal and business property in the city, our Detroit neighborhood was spared any damage as we lived several miles from the disturbances. That didn't stop my father from going out and buying a shotgun. He was prepared to defend our home if there were future riots.
 
I was also playing high school football on the day the Tigers won the World Series. My Detroit Redford team was just finishing practice as we got the news that our beloved baseball team were world champions. Almost immediately four of us hopped into Dave Tiderington's car (he is in Row 3, 5th from left). I was in the front seat with Dave. I am in Row 5, 5th from left. In the back seat were the only two black players on our team, Rick Solomon (Row 2, 2nd from right and Rohn Baker (Row 2, end). We weren't thinking about black or white -- we were thinking about partying.
 
We drove down Grand River Avenue, the main hub into downtown Detroit where buildings burned the previous year and people died. On this day, everyone became friends. We were honking horns, hanging out of the car windows, and swigging beers that people on street corners were sharing with these four under-aged football jocks. We forgot all about the problems that engulfed Detroit. We celebrated a sport -- one in which we we all on the "same side."
 
Wouldn't it be great if we could all be on the same "world team" for just one day?
 
08/24/2015
 
 
 
Special Needs Kids are SPECIAL
 

I don’t get a chance to interview myself very often so when I do I consider it a real treat and joy; perhaps the highlights of my journalistic career. My Q&A with myself this time involves my role as a bus aide for special needs kids.

Question: What makes a special needs child ‘special’?

John: That’s a tough question to answer. Each child is unique and has their own set of “needs” as we define them. I would have to say that their disabilities are what other “normal” people help them with and their interactions to other people and situations make them special. I think special is a perfect way to describe them – because they are.

Question: Should we treat special needs children differently?

John: Not really, only if they have 24/7 health issues. Otherwise, they want to be treated like anyone else. Treat them with love, respect, kindness and most of all, have fun with them. Special needs children don’t see themselves as any different from other kids and why not? They are generally very happy, healthy, and easy to communicate with. They don’t know they are different so why should we treat them different? Just love them.

Question: How has working with special needs children affected you?

John: Profoundly. I no longer fret or worry about the little nagging things that occur every day. I sometimes don’t worry about the bigger things, too. That’s because I look at these children and their families and see the challenges they face every day and I ask myself, “what do I have to complain about?” This job has humbled me in every way and made me appreciate the families of each child even more. They – and the special needs children – are my heroes.

Question: Going forward, how do you see the future of the care for special needs children?

John: Well, being far removed from the professionals who treat and teach these children, I can only imagine that the future is bright because of technology. These kids are becoming much more mobile and are able to communicate better. I believe people are better trained to work with special needs children and the general public, through many venues, is learning more about these kids and are better able to understand how to communicate with them. We are becoming more sensitive to their needs are less selfish about our own – I believe.

(By the way, the interviewer and interviewee are one and the same and work as a Bus Aide for Special Needs Children, employed by Durham School Services and operating in the Northville Public School system.)


 11/26/2014

 
 
 

‘Twas the night before Black Thursday

And all through the village,

The shoppers were ready,

There were store aisles to pillage.

 

And I, with my Baileys

All snug in my cave,

Not tempted to give in

To the swelling human wave.

 

I Googled from afar

To see the throngs of clowns

Who ventured into the abyss

Of sales and markdowns.

 

And I chuckled at the thought

Of being tortured and maimed.

Shoppers beat each other senseless.

Now aren’t they ashamed?

 

Then I glanced at an ad

From the overstuffed mail.

There’s a 50 inch flat screen

At an unbelievable sale.

 

I hemmed and I hawed,

Do I dare take the chance?

Do I leave my abode

And join the price-frenzy dance?

 

Do I give my meager wage

To feed the big corporate greed?

“Hell no!” I said.

“I have mouths to feed!”

 

So I took another sip

Of my delicious spiked cocoa.

This year I’ll stay home

Because people are loco.


 

 
11/02/2014
 

 

 

This Facebook status update from Thomas E. Clark Plumbing & Heating of Silver Springs, Maryland in late October, 2014 is so good that I didn't edit it (except for one typo). The graphic (above) accompanied the update. SPREAD the WORD. CO KILLS!

VERY DISTURBING DISCOVERY YESTERDAY!!!!
On a service call to a new customer, one of our CERTIFIED COMBUSTION ANALYSTS found this very dangerous, potentially fatal situation. A very old gas fired, hot water boiler and a 10 year old water heater are venting into a common chimney. This is a very common arrangement in the DC Metro Area. Look closely at the attached drawing. 
This chimney has obviously been condensing for a long time which caused the deterioration of the chimney's terra cotta liner. The terra cotta liner & mortar broke off and filled up the chimney and blocked the boiler vent penetration.
There's no telling how long Carbon Monoxide (CO) has been dumping into this home. The lady of the house got PARKINSON'S DISEASE approx. six years ago and the man of the house has been in & out of the hospital with kidney and other organ issues. He also seemed very confused and had trouble remembering what was just said to him.
We don't know if their recent medical issues are related to CO Poisoning, Now that CO is no longer spilling into their home, we hope for a reversal in their symptoms. Research indicates that there is a 50% chance that Parkinsonian symptoms will reverse once the CO is out of their system. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
With the amount of CO spilling into the home, this couple is LUCKY TO BE ALIVE. We post this not to scare you, but rather to give you some valuable insight on the potential hazards and effects of CO poisoning.
Whether it is with our company or not, PLEASE HAVE YOUR GAS HEATING & GAS WATER HEATER CHECKED ANNUALLY!!!! Doing so could save your life.



 

08/30/2014

 
 
Rather than write about -- please "view" my latest blog:
 
 
03/16/2014
 

Now that the Big Ten basketball season is over and arch rivals Michigan and Michigan State have won the Big Ten title and Big Ten tournament, respectively, it is time to explore what this rivalry really is. And I should know, I am a Spartan alum and a confessed green & white “slappy.” I have an in-family rivalry with my older sister, a U-M grad. I get it.

I enjoy creating a disturbance with U-M slappies on social media – exchanging barbs and insults. The rivalry often brings out the best – and worst – in avid fans of both teams. But do these fans actually “hate” the opposing schools? In some cases, fans have professed their dislike using words like “hate” or “sucks.” That seems to be a little drastic.

From my perspective, I have a great deal of respect for great athletic talent. And U-M has had a lot of that. Guys like Anthony Carter, Charles Woodson, Cazzie Russell, and Chris Webber have been some of the very best at their positions. And I really loved coach Bo Schembechler. He WAS U-M. I have no animosity toward these greats just because they bled maize and blue.

Athletic prowess is not the real reason the rivalry is as strong as it is. Fan behavior is.

Fans thrive on “getting in the face” of rival fans, sometimes sparking verbal abuse and physical violence. I don’t condone that type of behavior. But extreme “fandom” is really the spark that lights the rivalry fires. And if a U-M fan challenges my Spartans in social media like Facebook, I feel compelled to defend my school. Who wouldn’t? If the challenge is based on fact and is constructive, I welcome it. If a U-M fan simply says “MSU blows,” I laugh. It is lame and useless.

I bet I can walk into a crowded room of U-M fans and get along well with most of them, telling stories and reminiscing about all of the greats who have donned each uniform. After all, we are all passionate fans who love our respective schools. I can have a great conversation with a rival and shake his or her hand as a sign of respect. It’s the non-sensical slappy that I have little patience with.

So the next time you see my post on Facebook, slamming U-M and praising MSU, it’s an attempt to exchange some fun insults – nothing more. Believe it or not, some of my best friends and family members are U-M fans.

So let the rivalry continue!


 02/17/2014

 
What Defines the Best?
 
 
 
 
I recently ran a VERY unscientific poll about the best drug store chains in metro Detroit. The most obvious choices included CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreen's. I think the total responses came to 14. CVS was the runaway winner because there are so many of them around and in almost every neighborhood. My personal choice is CVS because it has the "dimestore feel" to it. It seems that there is a little bit of everything available.
 
But does that make CVS better? Not necessarily.
 
The success of a store is often dependent on the management and how well it trains the staff. I've been in different CVS stores and none of them are run the same way. Some have friendly, personable employees who greet each customer and others have indifferent employees. Some stores look good with clean uncluttered aisles while others are trashy and claustrophobic. I know some of the managers because one of my part-time jobs is a magazine vendor servicing four CVS stores. None of them are alike.
 
The point is, convenience and location do not necessarily make a retail chain better. Good management does. And if you don't like the service at your local drug store, don't leave without letting management know. It may make a difference in the future.
 
If you've got a favorite, tell me who it is and why. Thanks.
 

 
11/08/2013
 
The "Affordable Health Care Act" Quagmire
 
 
 

I was informed by my employer (one of several part-time jobs I have and the one that I get my health insurance through) that my current plan falls below the minimum requirements of the new Affordable Health Care Act and that I would have to find a new health insurance plan on my own. Hmmm, didn’t Obama say I could keep my existing plan if I wanted? Hmmm. Anyway, regardless of the circumstances, it was time for me to do my homework and sign up for a new health plan.

I was one of probably millions of Americans who waited while the government scrambled to fix the troublesome HealthCare.gov website. I heard about the woes and wherefores of the beleaguered website so I decided to wait. But I didn’t want to wait too long as I needed to plan the future of my family’s health care. So I embarked on the journey. Believe me, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It took about an hour to register my family for the program and to see if I qualified for any reduced or free benefits. I did not. Too bad, since my household income is substantially less than it was prior to 2010 when I held my last full-time job with pretty good benefits.

Alas, this is not a sob story but rather, a reality check.

The website lists five types of plans, ranging from “Catastrophic” (nice name, eh) which covers less than 60% of health costs to “Platinum” which covers 90% of costs. My current “bare minimum” plan (my words) at least covers 50% of my costs and is half the price of catastrophic coverage. Did someone say “affordable?” The difference in cost from the lowest priced plan to the highest is roughly $1,000. I was given a choice of 62 plans from nine different providers.

I have not taken the next step yet to contact any of these providers for more details. When I do, my first question will center around the deductible costs. I’m almost afraid to ask.

So as I head into a world of uncertainty I have made the following observations:

  • The new law uses the word “affordable” but it is anything but in my case. It is costlier and may not cover pre-existing conditions and may have very high deductibles.
  • I was not given the choice of keeping my existing plan and if I choose not to be covered by any plan, I will have to pay a fine which could surge into the thousands of dollars.
  • The new website is a still a work in progress and may not be totally secure (I’ll let you know if someone steals my identity).
  • If my employer wants to give me money to buy my own plan, it would put me into a higher income bracket resulting in higher taxes; and less subsidies from the government to offset the cost of a new insurance plan.
  • I may have to find a new primary care physician who would accept my new insurance plan.
  • Freedom to choose comes at a higher cost.

So in the end, I am getting it in the end. And for those of you that know, it’s called BOHICA. Message me if you’d like the definition. And good luck.


 
05/12/2013
 
Who Said Magazines Were Dead?
 
 
As a part-time magazine vendor it is my job to change magazine inventory in several retail stores every week including CVS, Busch's, and K-Mart. Each store has its own distinct clientele, which can dictate what type of magazines each store sells. But one thing is universal -- the print media has suffered in the loss of subscribers and advertisers.
 
The mood is not dire, however. There are still a lot of magazine sales through point-of-purchase. That is, consumers who buy from a local brick-and-mortar retail store on a regular basis or on impulse. That's why most retail stores still feature magazine racks at check-out counters and/or on "mainline" displays (a dedicated area for magazine sales). And what makes the impulse to buy a magazine so strong is often its price point. For example, the magazine displayed in the graphic above -- Woman's World -- sells for $1.79 a copy at the point of purchase. I think that is a great bargain, especially for people who don't have a lot of time to read and can't justify spending non-budgeted money on reading material.
 
The company I work for -- Source Interlink -- sponsors an idea program that encourages employees to submit ideas that would help increase magazine sales. I came up with one recently and wanted to brag it up a bit -- and ask your feedback. I would like to see my company develop a special floor display featuring 4-6 magazines that sell for $3.00 or less. We sell several titles that fit that category and most are among our best sellers. So why not play up a good thing? If my company likes my idea the best it could mean a cool $2,500 bonus. And isn't it fitting that an idea like this would come from the "IdeaPerson?"
 
What do you think? Visit the company website at http://www.sourceinterlink.com/ if you'd like to know more about them and the products/services.

 
03/24/2013
 
Smart Phone Apps -- How Many and Favorites
 
 

How many apps do you have on your smart phone? And which are your favorites? I asked those questions at a recent online poll I created at Linkedin.com. A total of 99 people responded and added some very useful comments. Maybe you use some of the apps they like or have your own favorite (and if you do, e-mail me and I’ll add to the list below.)

Carolyn Hoffman said that she uses news and weather apps the most. “For news it’s more local news but I do keep CNN too,” she said. “For weather it's any free app I can find. I like WeatherBug the best, but I have separate apps from local TV stations.”

Reginald Prior added, “I mainly use them for my small business from accepting credit cards from my clients (because hardly no one carries cash anymore) to sending out communications from my mailing list using mailchimp among many other things.”

Shelley Jeltema is not big on apps. She said, “Given the power of smartphones and access to the Internet there is no real need for apps. Companies should be focusing on web service offerings that can serve any platform rather than spend money building for multiple platforms.”

Alicia Bradshaw admitted she is “totally uncool” and added, “I have only a language translation app on my phone – no music, no shopping. I have data security concerns – driven by current media – that make me reluctant to add apps to my phone.”

Here is breakdown of the question and multiple choice answers:

“How many smart phone 'apps' do you have and which one(s) do you use the most?” Below are the five choices, total votes, and percentage of total.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->1-16 – 35 (35%)

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->17-32 – 28 (28%)

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->33-48 – 17 (17%)

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->49-64 – 6 (6%)

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->65 & above – 13 (13%)

Most of the respondents don't like to use multiple sliding screens on their smart phones, with 63% having 32 or fewer apps. Here is a list of apps that respondents commented on as their favorites:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->eBay

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->AutoCAD WS

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->RealCalc

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Nexia

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Words With Friends

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->ESPN

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Temple Run 2

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Pandora

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Dictionary.com

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Eventbrite

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Co-op ATM locator

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Linkedin

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Public Radio

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Worldmate

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->NHL Game Center

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Headquake

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Camera+

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Nest

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Waze

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Seat Guru

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Bible

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Bubble Level

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Flashlight

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Drop Box

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Facebook

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->One Note

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Timer

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->RTMS

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Viber

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Messages

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Drudge Report

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Fox News

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Fly Delta

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Find Friends

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Alarm Clock

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->iTunes

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Barcode Scanner

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Twitter

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->WRMobile

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->USA Today

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->ESC

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Waze

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Gas Buddy

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->RTFM

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->iHeartRadio

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Live 365

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Solar

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Swackett

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->YouTube

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Instagram

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Kindle

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->BirdLog

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Shazam

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Flipboard

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->aCalendar

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->R-value

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Runners Pace Calc

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->LogMyTraining

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Square

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Google Chrome

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Tapatalk

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Fandango

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->IMDB

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Rickers

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Audible

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Foursquare

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Mailbox

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Tempo

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Flipboard

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Zite

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->iRealb

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Boggle

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->1Password

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->HVAC Marketing Toolbox

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Yelp

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->OnStar

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->mOffice

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->SkyDrive

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->OneNote

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Flixter

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Goodreads

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Pages Manager

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->GoTo Meeting

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->PayPal

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Job Time Tracker

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif