Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thinking in Pictures

The Penny W. Stamp Distinguished Speaker program invited Temple Grandin to Ann Arbor last Thursday, September 9, 2010. Dr. Grandin has become world famous for her work with cows-cattle retaining systems. She is the first autistic woman to give a voice “from the inside.” The presentation has sponsored by the Art School, and was nominally focused on thinking in pictures. I could see the young art students looking puzzled-wondering why they had to go to a lecture and look at cows.

Temple spoke very clearly on how she, as a high functioning Asperger, or “Aspie,” perceives the world as a series of images that she stores, like icons, in categories.

I have always been fascinated by how my mind works. I see pictures in sequence, numbers in color and music in three dimensions. However, I cannot remember the names in a Periodic table or the words in a simple prayer unless I sing it. Autism is a spectrum disorder and Temple's work lets us know more about ourselves, as well as her.

Here is a link to her website:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When I grow up I want to be a...

When I grow up I want to be a Microsoft Presenter: I have always thought it would be cool to be the Microsoft Evangelist: the star who walks on the stage and demonstrates incredibly rich software. I got my wish!

On April 29th, I introduced Microsoft Office 2010. We partnered with Mott Community College for the official Microsoft Office 2010 Sneak Peek. We used Microsoft Office for what it does best: communicate. The merges included mail labels as well as email blasts. I did the digital wizardry. Doris Stromer, Site manager, served lunch for all of our guests.

As a Microsoft Presenter, you can access the marketing and branded materials for your event. The PowerPoint animations are quite astounding. Someone had a lot of time on their hands and they were very creative….

I showed a few steps in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The demonstrations went well.

Microsoft Office 2010 is the one. The force is strong in this one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My Town Monday: Field Trip "Up North"

Recently, I took a trip "up north." In Michigan, this usually refers to upper parts of the Lower Peninsula (the fingers) or even to the Upper Peninsula.

My trip was a little of both. Originally, the trip up north included one of the few North/ South routes-- first US 127 or US 23. Today, most people take I-75-- the only limited access freeway heading to points up north.

I took I-75 part of the way, but since it primarily cuts through the center of the state, it's certainly not the scenic drive. So, I got off I-75 and stayed with US-23 which still runs it's old route to and along the coast of Michigan, the shore of Lake Huron. (The pointer finger of the mitten. No, I never get tired of references to my state being mitten-shaped.)

This meant that along the way, starting about Tawas, I got glimpses and full views of the large expanse of blue or gray (depending on the current color of the sky) that is Lake Huron. Luckily, while the weather was overcast most of the morning, by our arrival in Tawas, the sky was clearing. The lake reflected the blue, deepening the color of blue as the sky became less cloudy.

The first stop was in Tawas.

Then we went across the bay to the East Tawas Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the end of March is kind really "off-season" for such places. It wasn't closed, per se. It was "self-service." Yeah. We could walk around and take some pictures of the lighthouse and the point.

I read that the point often washes away during the harsh conditions of winter, only to be rebuilt again the following months.

Later, further up the coast, we stopped at a scenic overlook.

And later still, along the shore of Grand Lake. This lake is shortly inland from Lake Huron. It creates the area known as Presque Isle-- which means "Almost an Island." As you can see from the map, the area is barely connected to the mainland. The big white area on the top and right side of the map is Lake Huron...

Grand Lake

Then, we made our way past the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced Mackinaw) and into the Upper Peninsula.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 3

The remaining two corners of Brighton's Main Street/ Grand River Intersection are harder to track the history of.

On the South-east corner, across Main Street from where the Eastern House Hotel stood, there is currently a two story jewelry store. (The building itself looks too expensive for someone like me...) I missed my chances to get the last shots of the former building when it was torn down a few years ago.

Before the jewelry store, for a good many years-- back into the 60s or 70s if I'm not mistaken-- this corner was home to Cap'n Corky's (sp?). It was a liquor store-- probably what we call a Party Store around here. The terminology matches what my students use to define a party: not a party without alcohol. Anyway, with the opening of the CVS, as well as a good many other chain stores in the vicinity, it appears that the Cap'n Corky store couldn't really keep up. Add to that the ever-present problem in the downtown: parking.

The store closed. And-- I wish I'd had time to stop and take pix-- the construction crews gutted the buildings. I believe only the two walls that abut the neighboring buildings were left standing. Then they added the second story, the new front facade, and all the fanciness.

I have to wonder how long the jewelry store will last in this economy... especially since a long time local favorite is about two doors down. Or will locals go for the "brand name" over the locally owned and operated place. (Sadly, I'm voting for people to go with "brand name" over local. It's happening in so many other places. But I wish it wasn't so.)

Going back through history, all I can find is that this corner was home to Brighton's Foundry for a while. Though, there's some indication that the foundry was actually not right on the corner. Other records indicate that some part of the time, this corner was a private residence. It's a little mind boggling for me to think of people living in houses on Grand River... in my life time, Grand River has always been the main business drag through Brighton. Only when you get out WAY past the edge of Brighton's business stretch are there houses.

More My Town Monday!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 2

Across Grand River from the Eastern House Hotel once stood a grocery store.

Some time later, the building was torn down and a new store opened. Eventually it was the Brighton Drugs store. Later, in 1937, had bought the Brighton Drug store with Baldwin. For some time it was Leland and Baldwin Drugs. Then, Leland bought out Baldwin and renamed it Leland Drugs.

Leland had the second floor of the building removed and large shop windows installed. Leland's Drug Store became the first building in Livingston County to boast a Frigid-aire air conditioning unit. I believe this distinction came in the 1930s.

Tracing the history of a rather unremarkable set of businesses on this corner is quite difficult. The next information I have is that during the 1980s and 90s various eating establishments were attempted on that corner. One of the problems with that corner-- at least in this modern era-- is that parking is limited and not terribly convenient. There is a lot across Grand River, a few parallel parking spots, and another lot about a block away. These are not far or difficult, however, this is Livingston County, not Ann Arbor. Here, people don't like to walk any farther than necessary. (See in Ann Arbor, you don't drive. You find a place to park, and walk the several blocks. That's just "How it is.")

But, in the early 1990s, this corner of Brighton opened a new eatery. A place called Lu and Carl's that has thrived. Thrived to the point where, in summer months, they have seating on the sidewalk. Like, right alongside Grand River where one can breathe in the lovely aroma of car exhaust and listen to the rumble of hundreds of cars rolling up to and eventually through the traffic light. (Um, you couldn't pay me to eat on the sidewalk of Grand River, but anyway.) My never-humble theory as to why Lu and Carl's has thrived while other restaurants did not is slightly cynical: Lu and Carl's is the first eatery on that location to have a liquor license.

My Town Monday

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton's Four Corners, part 1

Main Street in Brighton intersects Grand River and forms a well-known and ever-changing intersection. This set of posts will look at the every changing buildings.

Today, a CVS sits on the corner, set back from Grand River with the parking lot in front. A Murray's Auto Parts store and a Sushi Zen share the location.

But a hundred and fifty years ago, this location-- on the Northeast corner of the intersection-- was the spot where the Eastern House (or Hotel) sat. The Western House sits by the railroad tracks on the other end of the down town-- all three blocks of downtown. Eastern House sat along the Grand River Trail, where the stagecoaches and wagons traveled, even before their was a railroad.

The hotel was constructed in 1850, the same year that Grand River was made into planked toll road. When built, the hotel was called the Brighton House. It was sold in 1892 and became known as the Eastern House.

Anyway, the Eastern House was more than just a hotel. For many years, it was one of the gathering places in Brighton. It was two stories, plus a basement. A sign out front (hard to make out in the photos) says it's 48 miles to Lansing and 40 to Detroit. Livingston County is the midway between Michigan's biggest city and it's capital.

The hotel building burnt down New Year's Day, 1926.

And something else sprouted in the spot.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Town Monday: From Farm to Suburb

Once upon a time, much of South East Lower Michigan was trees. Shortly after that, it was farm fields and small towns. This image shoes the little town of Hamburg. Today, Hamburg itself is still a little town. But it is surrounded by suburbia (or at least a version of suburbia.) Strip malls and subdivisions have replaced nearly all the farm fields in this little area.

This aerial view is from about the 1930s. The number 3 marks the historic church in down town Hamburg. (Still there.) The main street of Hamburg runs along in front of that street (connects #2 and 3). Follow it northerly (to the left side of the photo) through the line of trees and around the corner. The road goes off into farm fields.

By contrast, this image was poached from Google Maps. All developed—well, except the little town of Hamburg. The pink dot is downtown Hamburg.

Interestingly enough, Hamburg was platted to be a much larger town.

But it never really grew, despite having two rail road lines and two train depots. It just never became more than a little farm town.

The Mill Pond (and the Mill) are gone from Hamburg. All that’s left are two streets, and a few houses. Even the little grocery store left (though a new one may be/ have gone in.) Hard for a local little store to compete with one of those big chain stores.

It’s interesting to track the changes over time. Sometimes I wonder what Hamburg was like, once upon a time, before it was just a bedroom community tucked away off the main road.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Town Monday: Brighton Mall... including the answer to a riddle

The Brighton Mall is nestled in the corner of Grand River and I-96. Built in the 1970s, it was, once upon a time, a "real" mall, with the shops opening on the inside and you had to walk from store to store instead of the strip-mall (or "open air" malls) of today where people really and truly do drive from one store to another. Sorry. Moving on…

The Brighton Mall was anchored by K-Mart, which had its own entrance. It was also home for many years to the Little Professor Bookstore, a locally owned bookstore. Over time, including by the time I became a resident in the area, there wasn't much to the Brighton Mall. Eventually, it was redeveloped into a Strip Mall. It's now got only a couple big-box stores.

The K-Mart is now a Sears Essential, which is neither a K-Mart or a Sears and I've never found it much good for shopping.(The low number of customers in that stores seems to indicate others share my opinion of this concept. Especially when it's an hour drive, tops, to a real Sears store out in Novi. Distracted again. Anyway, other stores include Marshall's, Jo-Ann Fabrics and a sporting goods store. Two other strip

malls have been added, including one that has Best Buy and PetsMart.

One of the interesting features of the Brighton Mall, though, is that it's below grade. To enter the Mall from Grand River, there is a rather significant ramp. Here's a shot with Panera Bread showing just how high Grand River is over the Mall parking lot. Curious. Not something I ever really though much about. It was just How Things Were. Until one day, while I was reading through some local history snippets, I found the reason why.

During the 1960s and early 70s when I-96 was being constructed, the road crews came through Brighton. Since Grand River was (and is) a major thoroughfare, of course the decision was made to build an overpass so I-96 would go over top Grand River. Well, that's an awful lot of dirt to pile up. Can you guess where this is going?

>Yeah, the man who owned the farm there sold the DIRT to the state for construction of the I-96 overpass. They dug it out and left something of a hole in the ground. Well, this hole in the ground did not prevent the soon after sale of the LAND to a company interested in building a mall alongside the new entrance/ exit ramps on I-96.

These sort of stories are exactly why I LOVE local history.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Town Monday: Pokemon City Championships in Brighton

Every winter, there are city championships for players of the Pokemon Trading Card Game. (If you don't know what it is, ask your kids. They'll know.) This year, Brighton was able to hold a city championship tournament-- one of 9 in the Michigan/ Indiana area.

As a Pokemon Trading Card Game player, I travel-- with the Hubby-- to as many of the Michigan/ Indiana Tournaments as I can manage. And I have to say, the five minute commute around the "block" to the Brighton City Championships was my favorite commute yet. Beats even the 45 minute drive to Okemos and certainly better than the 2 hour drive to Angola, Indiana (just south of the Indiana/ Michigan border off I-69).

The local paper almost covered the event in a sad little paragraph.

One might notice how crowded the room was. And it was packed. There were about 34 "big kids" as I call us... you know, the kids who are over 16 or so and still play Pokemon. I'm one of those. (I don't even have the excuse of "my kids play" like some of the other players who figured they'd play while the little ones battle it out.) And 16 of the medium sized kids. And about 12 of the little kids. That adds up to 62. We'll kind of overlook the fact that the room capacity was 62-- after all the half-pint kids only count as half a person, right? No? Well... um. Turn out was good at least, meaning there's a good chance there will be another tournament or so held in Brighton.

Oh, how did I fare in the competition? I made Top Cut-- meaning I was in the Top 8 players at the end of battling cards all day. (Though it was some uncanny luck and the fact that another player dropped at the last minute that put me in that spot.)

Yeah, that's me in the black sweater. Nice pic...

Since the library closed, we scooted over to Mancino's Pizza and Grinders. (OMG, Yum!) There, the Top Cut finished battling out. And this is where I lost. Badly. As I expected since I have played my opponent before and nothing changed in our games since the last time this player whooped me.

Brighton Library is a nice place to play, I must admit. Though, apparently, whoever designed the building is a dumbass. The room we are in is connected by ventilation directly to the quiet study carrols. (Yeah-- 62 players in a small space, it's gonna be noisy. Plus, word is one could have yoga in that room and it would seem loud to the other end of the ventilation.) And the hallway outside our room ends in a coupula by the door, which echoes all sounds, such as those spilling from the room and the players who head out in the hall after ending their current round. I'm surprised the lady who organized it isn't banned from the library for life.

Good fun, though. Next tournament-- Michigan State Tournament in Okemos. (And one of the nicethings about the Pokemon game is that you can go to every tournament even if you didn't place or even play at all in the previous one. For some of us, we just go to play for fun, even if we don't do well. (Well, I prefer to win more than I lose, but will take a spot on Team 50/50.)

Pics compliments of Missy (and her husband), one of the Poke-judges and a Poke-mom.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

My Town Monday: Dark and Cold

Short post since I'm mired in grading.

It's about this time of year that people start turning off and taking down their Christmas lights. It's "too late" to leave them up.

But I wish they would.

Fine, fine, take down Santa and the creepy reindeer skeletons. But leave up the little lights. At least in places like Livingston County, Michigan.

See, it's January here. The sun rises about 8am and sets by 5pm. Yeah. The sun only works a 9 hour day this time of year.

So, seeing those little twinkles of white or colored lights is rather nice in the middle of the afternoon when it's already dark out. It provides a little bit of cheery light to contrast the cold, gray/white snow and the bare trees and the gray cloudy skies.

Who decided, anyway, that Christmas ends so early? It's okay to start Christmas festivities a month before the actual event, but less than two weeks afterward, one can be hated by the neighbors for continuing to have their lights on?

It's cold and dark. We really should be hibernating. Since we can't, how about leaving some cheery little lights on, to ward off the winter blues.

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