Offbeat

Seeking Change
10:16 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Creating a place to live alongside nature

Environmental Protection Agency

As part of our weekly series, "Seeking Change," we're meeting with people who are trying to create positive change in the communities in which they live. Planners of the Manitou Arbor Ecovillage want their residential community to be a place where people live harmoniously with each other, and with nature. It’s a planned village near Kalamazoo. Ginny Jones is the founder of the ecovillage.  She’s also an environmental studies professor at Western Michigan University.

Offbeat
4:01 pm
Sat February 25, 2012

Michigan's roads - A sign of Spring

There’s another sign that winter never really came to Michigan this year.   And it can be found along the state’s roads.

Every year in preparation for the Spring thaw, county road commissions impose weight restrictions on trucks to reduce wear on roadbeds made brittle by winter’s cold.     But not this year.

About two/thirds of Michigan road commissions haven’t imposed restrictions, and most probably won’t, because freezing winter weather never materialized.    

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Your Story
12:24 pm
Fri February 24, 2012

Your Story: If you love Michigan, give stuff away for free

Kedron Rhodes displaying some of the Michigan-centric designs he's giving away each day in February.
photo courtesy of Kedron Rhodes

A lot of people like where they live, but there are also people like Kedron Rhodes-who love, love, love, where they live.

The 34 year-old professional designer lives outside of Grand Rapids.

He just can't think of enough ways to show his appreciation for Michigan. But he's trying. One of his ideas is to run a design challenge of sorts. 

Each day in February, Rhodes is making a new graphic design and posting it online.

Anyone can download the designs and use them as they see fit.

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Offbeat
7:59 am
Fri February 24, 2012

Michigan lawmakers take the plunge... polar plunge, that is

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley takes the polar plunge yesterday outside the Capitol building to raise money for Special Olympics Michigan
Photo courtesy of the Governor's office

Almost 30 Michigan lawmakers jumped into a cold pool yesterday outside of the state's Capitol building. They raised some $20,000 for Special Olympics Michigan. "Proceeds from these plunges help support year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 20,670 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan," the Special Olympics Michigan website explains.

After Lt. Governor Brian Calley jumped into the chilly waters  yesterday afternoon, Governor Snyder (@onetoughnerd) tweeted: Who knew @briancalley had such mad hops?

And, just in case you want to see it to believe it, the Michigan Information and Research Service posted this video of many of the lawmakers (many dressed in costumes) taking the plunge:

Offbeat
11:34 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Garrison Keillor sticks a big “Obama” sign on the lawn of Lake Wobegon

 “Well it’s been a quiet a week in my hometown…”

Fans of A Prairie Home Companion will recognize those words as the opening to Garrison Keillor’s weekly monologue about the fictional town of Lake Wobegon. But this week the real life of Garrison Keillor was probably more exciting than the tales from “the little town that time forgot,” because this week, Garrison Keillor hosted a fundraising event for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

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Seeking Change
11:41 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Rescuing dogs in Detroit

Courtesy of Detroit Dog Rescue

As we continue our Seeking Change series, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley spoke with Daniel "Hush" Carlisle, co-founder of Detroit Dog Rescue (DDR). The former hip-hop artist and producer drives through the streets of Detroit looking for stray dogs, which are then vetted, housed, boarded, and fostered before beginning the adoption process.

How do these dogs get into this situation? Carlisle told us:

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Offbeat
3:46 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Creating a sense of place

A view of Detroit's Campus Martius Park
(campusmartius.org)

Michigan’s realtors say communities need to rethink how they design and use public spaces.    They say it could affect Michigan’s future economic growth.

It’s a concept called ‘placemaking’.     The idea is to make public spaces, like small parks, into places people want to be that become magnets for business investment.

Detroit’s Campus Martius  is cited as an example of how this has been done well.

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Sweet-smelling bribes
3:55 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Sometimes you get an I-Pad...sometimes you don't.

I think it’s no secret that reporters get unsolicited gifts in the mail or at posh press events from time to time.

That’s especially true for reporters on the auto beat. 

A bunch of auto beat reporters a couple years ago (not me) got I-Pads in the mail.   I’m pretty sure they were returned due to their various employers’ ethics policies.   No one has owned up to keeping one!

Not all the gifts are that obvious in their attempt to curry favor.

And some are flat-out hilarious.

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Seeking Change
10:54 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Honoring veterans of American wars

Jeffs4653 Flickr

Every Monday, we're checking in with people who are  trying to do what they think is needed to improve life for people in Michigan. This morning we speak with Sean Tracy. He’s a truck driver and World War II buff, and he’s working to show gratitude to the nation’s veterans—especially World War II vets. He builds models of the planes or ships the veterans served on while they were on active duty and gives them as gifts to the vets he finds.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

Human Trafficking
5:37 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Survivor of sex trafficking tells her story

Screenshot from Gracehaven's video.

Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.

Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.

Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.

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Human Trafficking
5:50 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Helping victims of human trafficking

user: isabel bolinn / flickr

We continue our series on human trafficking.

Identifying victims of this crime can be difficult. But as Amy Allen tells us, there are signs we can watch out for.

Allen is a victim and witness specialist from Homeland Security Investigations. She is stationed in Michigan and travels locally and abroad to help victims of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking
4:54 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Human trafficking, modern-day slavery

UM Law School's Human Trafficking Clinic.

Human trafficking is a growing crime in Michigan, and the U.S.

At its most basic level, even identifying victims of this crime can be difficult.

In the first of our three part series we’ll look at the challenge of providing assistance to victims.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Elizabeth Campbell, Staff Attorney at the University of Michigan Law School’s Human Trafficking Clinic.

Campbell says there are mostly two categories of human trafficking.

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Offbeat
2:34 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Lessons on life and compost at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival

A woman shares her cattail mat weaving skills at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival.
Nell Gable

Long ago, before iPads and Wifi, it wasn’t “cool” or trendy to know how to do things such as mend your own clothes, can fruit or turn old food into compost—it was imperative. And just as valuable as the skills themselves, were the people from whom you learned them.

Now, face-to-face social interaction is often limited to the times when we look up from whatever screen we’re lost in while we wait for the next text message or email to arrive.

Some people in Ann Arbor are hoping to break this cycle by regaining valuable yet forgotten skills and reclaiming community bonds.

The movement takes shape in the form of the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival. According to the festival website, "reskilling" is all about sharing often abandoned skills for “resilient, low-energy living,” in a face-to-face community setting.

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Seeking Change
8:28 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Trying to curb human trafficking

ThomasWanhoff Flickr

Each Monday, as part of our "Seeking Change" series, we’re checking in with someone who’s trying to improve life for people in Michigan. I spoke this morning with Andy Sopher about a particularly difficult subject: sex trafficking of kids. Sopher is with Wedgewood Christian Services in Grand Rapids and is behind a new project aimed at curbing trafficking of youngsters.

Offbeat
4:02 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Taking water recreation to new heights, introducing the 'Dolphinator'

Every summer, it seems there's some new water recreation device on the Great Lakes, I wonder if we'll see the "Dolphinator" anytime soon.

That's not what the inventor, Franky Zapata, calls it, that's what Robert Krulwich calls it on his blog "Krulwich Wonders":

I'm looking at this thing and thinking it should be renamed "The Dolphinator," because this is about as close as a human is ever going to get to flying in and out of the air and sea as dolphins do. In fact, it beats the dolphins.

Have a look:

I can't wait to spot one in action on the Lakes. I don't know how hard it would be to get your hands on one (Mr. Zapata's online store is down at the moment). But Krulwich writes that the "Dolphinator" (as it is now known here at Michigan Radio), costs $6,441.

And riding it is a snap... according Zapata:

"...the Flyboard is very intuitive : it’s like learning to walk. Find your balance and you will become Flying Man or Dolphin Man! Between 2 and 20 minutes are needed to learn with an instructor and 20 minutes/ 1 hour without." 

Sign me up.

Seeking Change
8:50 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Getting rid of 'business racism'

As we continue our Seeking Change series, Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Alan Headbloom, founder of Headbloom Cross Cultural Communication. The business helps foreign workers learn the nuances of English and American culture to help them get along in the workplace. And, an offshoot of his work is helping businesses tackle racism.

Offbeat
2:46 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Jackson judge removed for misconduct

The Michigan Supreme Court has removed a Jackson judge from the bench for misconduct, which included dismissing his own traffic tickets.     

District Judge James Justin has been on suspension with pay since July of 2010. The judge had been under investigation for ‘fixing’ numerous traffic tickets issued to himself, his wife and members of his staff.  

Judge Justin was also accused of dismissing cases without conducting court hearings.  The Judicial Tenure Commission recommended last fall to remove Justin.  

In its order removing Justin from the bench, the Michigan Supreme Court found the judge routinely “failed to follow the law, apparently believing that it simply did not apply to him.”    

The judge’s attorney admits his client did wrong, but added that he deserved only an unpaid suspension.  Justin has been on the bench since 1976.

Offbeat
9:55 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Revelers use dance moves and "Jazz Hands" to conjure up snow

It's been a mild winter, and, so far, a big disappointment for people who enjoy playing in the snow.

Some people are getting desperate.

Amy Biolchini reports for the Port Huron Times Herald that people in the small city of St. Clair held an informal dance ritual last night commanding "the power of the Finnish God of Snow" to bring down the white stuff.

The town needs snow for its annual "Winter White Out" festival which includes a snowman building contest, a snowball toss, and frozen chicken bowling.

The impromptu dancing seemed to pay off. From the Port Huron Times Herald:

Shimmying and shaking, hooting and hollering, the group of enthusiastic dancers called for "Snow! Snow! Snow!"

As they danced, the flakes actually did appear to increase in intensity -- coating the area in a glittering blanket.

"I can't believe it worked!" Skonieczny said, citing the 0% chance of precipitation in the forecast for the city.

As Biolchini reports, there are no official moves to the snow dance, so the ubiquitous "jazz hands" were employed.

The lack of snow has led to a tough winter season for some businesses in Michigan. Interlochen Public Radio's Peter Payette recently reported for the Environment Report that most ski resorts up north are doing o.k. because they've been able to make snow:

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter.

If there isn't enough snow for the Winter White Out festival, it sounds like they'll still have fun. There are less snow-dependant events like poetry contests, a "dunk tank," and a McDonald's "bun toss."

Seeking Change
6:51 am
Mon January 23, 2012

Seeking to add gay rights to a Holland city ordinance

Rev. Bill Freeman reads from his copy of the U.S. Constitution during a packed public hearing on the proposed changes to the Holland city ordinance last year.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In May of 2010, Pastor Bill Freeman asked the Holland City Council to pass a Gay Rights Ordinance. The city's Human Relations Commission considered the question for nearly a year, and recommended unanimously that the City Council add the words, "sexual orientation and gender identity," to the city's anti-discrimination ordinances.

The City Council voted 5-4 in June of last year against doing so. Pastor Freeman is trying to keep the issue alive. He’s attended every regular City Council meeting since June to ask that the "no" voters change their minds. He also tried to "occupy" city hall on October 19th last year.  He was arrested for trespassing.

As part of our new "Seeking Change" series, we speak to Pastor Freeman about his efforts in Holland.

Offbeat
2:39 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Celebrating mentors in Michigan

 January is Mentoring month in Michigan.   

A special event today at the state capitol honored more than 200 organizations that connect young people with adults willing to mentor them in a variety of fields. 

Lt. Governor Brian Calley spoke during ceremonies in the capitol rotunda about how all people need mentors to guide them.    

“At every important step I ever took," says Calley, "there was always somebody there who took a personal interest in my own success.”  

Calley says mentors can be anyone from parents to co-workers.

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