Offbeat

Offbeat

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 Shopping malls won’t be the only retailers doing brisk business this weekend.  

The Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries have a combined jackpot of about $300 million.   

Andi Brancato is the Michigan Lottery’s spokeswoman.   She says big jackpots usually draw in people who don’t normally buy lottery tickets.   And Brancato says that’s good news to Michigan’s eleven thousand lottery retailers. 

Flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

A newspaper reports a tiger cub exhibit has closed at a Grand Rapids mall after public complaints and a planned protest. The Grand Rapids Press reported Friday that mall officials canceled the touring display that allows shoppers to play with and be photographed with the cubs for a price.

Sarah Hale tells the newspaper she had planned a protest for Saturday against the exhibit but called it off.

Yarn bombers have been "bombing" all across the country.

They knit their creations around trees, parking meters, light poles, and statues.

In Cincinnati, an entire city bus was "yarn-bombed" (see the slideshow above for a picture of that "bombing").

But along South Ashley Street in Ann Arbor recently, yarn has been put to a different kind of use.

A "yarn giver" has been leaving items for people to discover - or perhaps there are multiple "yarn givers."

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson recently spotted several parking signs draped with scarves.

The note attached to each scarf read "If you are cold take this."

When we came back to take a picture, one scarf was left.

And more than scarves are being left. Last month, my wife found a hat on a fence post along S. Ashley St.

Thinking someone lost it, she took a closer look to discover a note that read "FREE! Handmade wool and alpaca hat for YOU!" (photo in the slideshow).

The discovery totally lifted her spirit, and reminded her of the goodness in people.

Small gestures, either from "yarn-givers" or "layaway-payers," can be especially helpful in a world dominated by news of recession, conflict, and controversy.

travelwisconsin.com

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism started using a mitten image to represent the shape of its state.

Michiganders took umbrage. In their mind, there is only one true "Mitten State."

Now, tourism officials in both states are working to convert the light-hearted flap over mittens into a donation drive.

More from the Associated Press:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Tourism officials in Wisconsin and Michigan are trying to parlay their recent dust-up over mittens into a donation drive.

The two states' tourism departments got into a good-natured battle last week over whose state has the better claim to looking like a mitten. Now the states are trying to capitalize on the publicity with the Great Lakes Mitten Campaign, an effort to collect mittens for charities.

Wisconsin officials are urging people to drop off mittens at state travel centers around the state and participating chambers of commerce through Jan. 15. The mittens then will be donated to local charities.

Michigan officials, meanwhile, are asking people to donate mittens directly to their favorite charities.

jimmiehomeschoolmom's / Creative Commons

Strangers have paid off more than 30 layaway bills at a Kmart near Grand Rapids in the last week.

Dan Veenstra has been working there for more than 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.  “In the past we’ve had people come in that want to pay on somebody’s layaway - it’s usually a friend or neighbor or a family member. But it’s never been strangers like this,” Veenstra said.

Cascades Humane Society in Jackson, Mich. offers pet food and supplies to families who are having financial difficulties. The pet food pantry helps families keep their pets and reduces the number of animals in need of new homes.

As part of our What’s Working series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley speaks with Debra Carmody, executive director of Cascades Humane Society, about the pet food pantry program. 

Sixty-two percent of US households have at least one pet. Yearly pet care costs can range from $500 to $800—an expense that might be out of reach for families that are forced to downsize. “When you see people coming to our agency and they have to relinquish their pets, it’s heartbreaking,” Carmody says. 

screen grab from YouTube video

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is sticking to his Michigan roots, at least in his choice of campaign song.

Romney has chosen "Born Free" by Detroit-area rocker Kid Rock to serve as the theme music for his bid for the Republican nomination.

While a post on Kid Rock's website seems to give at least tacit approval to Romney's use of the song, things don't always go so smoothly for candidates when choosing their soundtracks.

Michigan Radio has put together a list of controversies, disputes, and gaffes related to campaign songs:

  1. In what might be deemed a classic of campaign song missteps, Bruce Springsteen was none too happy when Ronald Reagan praised "Born in the U.S.A" during his 1984 campaign, as told by CNN.
  2. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone reported that Republican primary contender Michelle Bachmann drew the ire of Tom Petty for using his song "American Girl" to tout her patriotism and her position as the only woman in the Republican field.
  3. Apparently, Bachmann didn't learn anything from President George W. Bush who was scolded by Petty back in 2000 for using "I Won't Back Down" without permission.
  4. A post from mentalfloss.com reports that in 2008, John McCain had a heap of campaign song troubles, receiving cease and desist requests from John Mellencamp, Boston, Foo Fighters, and Jackson Browne in response to his use of their songs.
  5. McCain's running-mate Sarah Palin also took heat for using "Barracuda" by Heart as her intro music at the Republican National Convention. As Rolling Stone reports, a press release from the band said the song was written as "a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women" and that the band found "irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
  6. In a more creative, but no less artist-angering effort, Bob Dole rewrote the lyrics to the 1960's Sam & Dave hit "Soul Man,"  to create the eponymous "Dole Man," before being threatened by the song's rights-holders (again from mentalfloss.com)
  7. Not to be accused of partisanship, however, Sam Moore of the above mentioned duo took issue with Barack Obama's use of the group's song "Hold On, I'm Comin.'" As Mother Jones reports, Moore was nonplussed by the politicization of a song about "gettin girls."
  8. While not technically a campaign song per se, Herman Cain became the punch-line of more than a few jokes (many of them made by the Daily Show's John Stewart) for quoting the theme song of the Pokemon movie during his speeches.
  9. If the above stories show that misuse of music by political candidates is an increasingly-common occurrence, then at least, as the Washington Post reports, Charlie Christ had the decency to record a video apology to David Byrne of the Talking Heads for his unauthorized use of the song "Road to Nowhere."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Michigan to Wisconsin: Hands off our mitten image

Dec 7, 2011
travelwisconsin.com

In a fight over mittens, the gloves have come off.

Michigan and Wisconsin are tussling over which state can rightly lay claim to using mittens in their public-relations and tourism campaigns.

Michiganders, who have long nicknamed the state’s lower peninsula “The Mitten,” for its similar shape to a hand, have taken good-natured umbrage to a new campaign launched by Wisconsin’s Department of Tourism, which uses a knit-brown mitten to represent the shape of the state.

Wisconsin began using the new image in tourism campaigns on Dec. 1, and tells the Detroit Free Press it follows up on an earlier seasonal campaign that used an image of a leaf shaped like the state in the fall. A Wisconsin Department of Tourism spokesperson tells the newspaper that people in Wisconsin consider their state mitten-shaped as well.

Dave Lorenz, who manages public relations for the state of Michigan, tells the Free Press that, “We understand their mitten envy. But there is only one mitten state, only one Great Lakes state.”

user Andrew 94 / Flickr

We here at Michigan Radio know that nothing conjures the holiday spirit quite like numerical data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bureau recently released a set of seasonaly-inspired  facts and figures.

Here are some numbers from their list:

  • Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,117); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,481); Santa Claus, Ga. (165); Noel, Mo. (1,832); and — if you know about reindeer — the village of Rudolph, Wis. (439) and Dasher, Ga. (912). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,590) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss. (7,699) and Mount Holly, N.C. (13,656).
  • $27.2 billion---Retail sales by the nation’s department stores in December 2010. This represented a 44 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $18.8 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.
  • 21,891---The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2009. These businesses, which employed 320,721 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts
  • $983 million---The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2011. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($79.7 million worth) during the same period.
  • 88---Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2009. California led the nation with 15 locations.
  • 50 percent---Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2010. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.
  • $1.5 billion---The value of product shipments of candles in 2009 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.
  • More than 312 million---The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Priestmangoode

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in Michigan for high speed higher speed rail.

For that, we'll get trains that can travel 110 m.p.h. for much of the Detroit to Chicago trip.

A modest boost in speed is about as much as we can ask for given the state of our infrastructure (over the summer, some passenger trains in Michigan were ordered to travel at 25 m.p.h. because of the sorry state of the tracks).

One drawback to train travel is the number of stops along the way. Detroit to Chicago has stops in Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo, Michigan.

What if the train could just slow down around those stops?

Behold the "Moving Platforms" concept from Paul Priestman of the English design group Priestmangoode (bob head while watching):

O.k. - this pie-in-the-sky idea has been around for awhile. New Scientist magazine writes that they first featured an article about a similar idea in 1969.

Priestman told CNN that its valuable to throw off the chains and think big:

While Priestman admits that it will be some time before his vision could be implemented, he says the time has come to rethink how we travel.

"This idea is a far-future thought but wouldn't it be brilliant to just re-evaluate and just re-think the whole process?" he says.

But why not dream big?

Meet George Jetson while you think about it:

Vincent Duffy

I always enjoy the holiday related updates I get from friends and relatives at this time of year. Some send old fashioned Christmas cards, others send elaborate newsletters highlighting the successes (usually) of each family member from the previous year, and still others just send a quick email or Facebook post to say they’re thinking about me.

It’s also the time of year when I’m frequently accused by listeners of being a soldier in the war against Christmas.

(photo by Jason Roland) / fleetgod-snowice.blogspot.com

Michigan is getting its first significant snowfall of the year this evening. If you live in southwest Michigan, you may notice the snowplow in front of you is moving slower than you’re used to.  

When a snow plow is dumping salt on icy roads, state Transportation officials refer to it as "Bounce & Scatter".   

As the salt hits the road, faster truck speeds mean more salt tends to bounce and scatter, much of it landing off the road. 

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa says to reduce the scatter salt trucks in nine southwest counties will slow from 35 to 25 miles per hour this winter. The hope is slower speed will save money by using less salt.  

But Schirripa admits the slower speeds could put the trucks at greater risk of being rear-ended by inattentive motorists.   

“If we find out after a season, or a few weeks of it, the crash rate is simply too high, that safety is too much of a factor, the (pilot) program may in fact be dropped," says Schirripa.  

If the slower salt truck pilot program is successful, it may eventually expand to the rest of the state.

While the Detroit-based rock duo the White Stripes officially broke up early this year, they are still providing inspiration and encouragement to Michigan students, including some from Flint's Michigan School for the Deaf.

According to the Flint Journal, D-Pan (Deaf Professional Artists Network), an Oakland County-based nonprofit, is working to give deaf students the ability to enjoy music and one of the organization's recent projects was to create a music video set to the White Stripes “We’re Going to be Friends” featuring students signing the song's lyrics.

As the Journal reports, the White Stripes were not directly involved with the project, but some D-Pan supporters were personally acquainted with the band, who not only gave D-Pan their blessing  to use the song, but also gave the project a shout out on their website.

Check out the video below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Every year the Michigan Humanities Council invites Michiganders to participate in a statewide initiative, the Great Michigan Read. This year’s selection, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, explores a crucial moment in the northern Civil Rights movement—the events leading to the trial of African American physician Ossian Sweet and his family.

On September 9th, 1925 Dr. Sweet and his wife Gladys moved into their new home, crossing the color line into an all-white neighborhood on the east side of Detroit.

Two days later, a crowd of whites gathered in the street to drive the family away. Dr. Sweet and 10 others chose to stay, armed and barricaded inside the house, to defend against the mob. Tensions reached their limit and someone fired into the crowd. Two whites were shot and killed, and the 11 people inside the Sweet home were charged with first degree murder.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice.

Michigan's State Park System

Nov 28, 2011

The Michigan State Park System won the gold medal award this year for the top state park system in the nation. People use the parks for swimming and boating during the summer, and hunting and downhill skiing during the winter, among a host of other activities.  We wanted to find out more about how the parks system affects our lives.  So, as part of our series, "What's Working," we called Ron Olson, the Chief of Parks and Recreation.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

In honor of Thanksgiving... we're revisiting a Michigan farmer who raises heritage turkeys.

Those are turkeys that have a little bit of a wilder history. Some farmers are trying to keep these older turkey breeds from going extinct.

John Harnois has a yard full of turkeys. He says he knows his turkeys so well, he can speak their language.

"The turkeys pip, they bark, they gobble."

These turkeys are mostly males. They're trying to look all big and macho as they strut around in front of the hens. These birds are the Narragansett breed.

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s responsible for his family’s Thanksgiving feast this year. But he says working in the kitchen is a lower priority than another holiday tradition – the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day football game.

“I’m cooking. I’m doing two turkeys. Actually, we’re cooking them on Friday, though, because I’m hoping – the family’s all going to the Lions game. So, go Lions – We’ve got a great chance to beat those Packers,” said Snyder.

That could cost the governor some support in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where many sports fans have regional loyalty to Green Bay.

The governor has predicted the Lions will be in a Super Bowl before he leaves office.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Sometimes we collect some great sound for our stories.

Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams caught this sound of Narragansett turkeys gobbling and barking for her microphone.

Their timing is perfect.

As the farmer described them for Rebecca, they speak up at his disconcerting words. Have a listen:

("They're old time turkeys, much closer to wild. They don't have the broad breasts, so proportionally for eating..." *turkeys gobble in unison here* "...they have more dark meat to white meat.")

So, for your Thanksgiving enjoyment, here's a Narragansett turkey ringtone pulled from this Thanksgiving feature story:

To make the ringtone work, right click and download the MP3 file above.

Once you have it, you can send it to your phone. From WikiHow:

Send the file to your phone. Here are three ways:

1. Email the MP3 file to your phone as an attachment. In just a minute or so, your phone should receive your file. Your phone’s email address is your 10-digit number at your carrier’s email URL.

Example: 5555555555@company.net

AT & T: @mms.att.net

Sprint: @messaging.sprintpcs.com

T-Mobile: @tmomail.net

Verizon: @vzwpix.com or @vtext.com

Send a picture message or text message to your email account if your carrier is not listed. This will give you an address to reply to your phone.

2. Use Bluetooth technology to directly send files from your computer (at a short distance). This only works if you have a phone that is BlueTooth enabled and has the OBEX File Transfer Profile and it is also dependent on what kind of computer system you have.

3. Transfer the file by an USB cable (if applicable to your phone model).

Open the email on your phone, save the sound clip under message options, set it as a ringtone, and enjoy!

Volunteers paint Ann Arbor schools

Nov 21, 2011

Gene Firn is the founder of Paint for Kids, an Ann Arbor-based organization that mobilizes parents and community volunteers to paint schools.

Firn, who teaches a DIY painting class, was looking for practice walls for his students when he learned that the Ann Arbor school system doesn't have a painting department. He thought he could help, so he submitted a proposal.

The concept is simple: an experienced painter supervises parent volunteers as they transform hallways and classrooms over holiday weekends.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Firn, who said that Paint for Kids fulfills the needs of local schools, but also attempts to create a culture of volunteering.

plastanka / Flickr

Upward mobility: the idea that, if you work hard enough, you can climb the class ladder. It's part of the American Dream, right? That you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that you can make a better life for yourself, that your children and grandchildren will have a better life than you do.

But, the fact is, upward mobility in the U.S. is just not that easy. And, it doesn't happen nearly as much as many American believe.

As part of our The Culture of Class series, we spoke to Economics Professor Steven Haider, of Michigan State University, about why the myth of upward mobility exists and why Americans, in particular, are so apt to believe in it.

Inform our coverage: Do you believe in upward mobility?

All this week, we're looking at how social class plays out in our everyday lives. Most folks agree that you can't talk about class purely in terms of income bracket - to do so would be one-dimensional. So, for our series, The Culture of Class, we asked a number of Michigan residents for their take on the word "class" and how it applies to them.

You can take a listen here.

A four-mile section of I-94 in Detroit is among the most congested highways in the nation. That’s according to a new report from Texas A & M University.   

Bill Eisele is a research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute. He says the organization identified 328 choke points in the nation’s urban roadway system. Eisele says the stretch of I-94 in Detroit is a good example of where heavy commuting use often collides with special events downtown.   

“So if Justin Verlander’s on the mound…we’re probably picking that up…that extra traffic downtown…we’re picking up any construction…work zones…all of those things…that occur throughout the year," says Eisele.  

Eisele says encouraging downtown workers to telecommute or shift their schedules is one way to reduce traffic congestion along I-94 in Detroit.  

Michigan had only one roadway on the list.

89 of the 328 congested roadways are in California.

Helping fellow veterans

Nov 15, 2011

Many service members face hardships when they return from active duty.  A program at the University of Michigan puts new vets in touch with other veterans to help guide them through the process of returning to everyday life back at home. Brandon Brogan is the program manager of the Buddy-to-Buddy Volunteer Veteran program. As part of our What's Working series, Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Brogan.

Wikimedia Commons

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported on the find by an attorney from Howell, Jules Fiani.

They report that Fiani found $1,160 in a white envelope outside of a Dairy Queen last May. He turned the found money into police, but when no one claimed it, the police returned it to him.

From the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Although Fiani could keep the money, he said, "It's all going to charitable organizations."

"It's found money and it's the right thing to do," Fiani said. "I wish I had more to give away."

The first $250 is earmarked for the Sheriff's Department's Shop With a Cop program, which pairs underprivileged children in the community with a police officer to shop for Christmas gifts.

"It's been really exciting dropping money off," Fiani said Thursday, noting that so far he's made donations to Make-A-Wish and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Nearly 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Half-a-million people will die of cancer this year. But millions of others are affected by cancer in some way. 

Wives, husbands, children, and friends of cancer patients can also face a crisis when a loved one is diagnosed and treated for cancer. As part of our weekly What's Working series, we spoke with Barb Hiltz, executive director of the Cancer Support Community of greater Ann Arbor. The organization works to help the family and friends of cancer patients.

"1-1-1-1" was not a lucky number for many would-be Michigan lottery players today.  

So many people decided to play today’s date, "11/11,"  in today’s Daily Four game, that Michigan Lottery officials were forced to stop letting people purchase tickets with that combination.    

The Daily Four lottery has a maximum daily payout of $40 million.  At a certain point today,  lottery computers showed if the combination won that the maximum payout would be reached. 

So the system automatically blocked any more tickets from being bought with that combination.  

Australian Broadcasting Company / Flickr

I received an email last week from a listener angry enough to write the most common threat I hear from Michigan Radio listeners, “I will never donate to your station again!”

We hadn’t libeled or defamed this man. We didn’t misquote him or make an error in a story he thought was important. He wasn’t even accusing us of left-or-right wing bias.

Update 3:12PM

Today's Detroit bus shutdown has come to resolution.

From the Associated Press:

Officials say drivers have ended a work stoppage and public buses resumed running following an announcement that Detroit police officers will randomly stop and board city buses in some high-problem areas.

Mayor Dave Bing released the plan at a press conference Friday.

Steve Burt / Flickr

Colder weather means squirrels are looking for indoor homes and places to cache their food. Some are more aggressive in establishing their indoor domiciles than others.

From the Associated Press:

Officials at Consumers Energy are blaming a squirrel for knocking out electrical service to about 10,000 customers yesterday in the Grand Rapids area. The critter managed to get into a piece of equipment at a substation, briefly knocking out power.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor residents were warned about a potential danger lurking around the city today.

These are likely the smaller, softer, and less dangerous versions of true velociraptors.

Be alert today!

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