Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Princess is Home

She's 15, and she's unique, just like everyone else.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Blue Lake Bootleg

Katherine has, of course, been back from Blue Lake for a week; Robert went there on Wednesday. It's been a serious time of trying to catch up.

I had the idea for this video while we were watching the SATB Choir in Gershwin Theater last Sunday. Of course, the concept far outreached my then-skills with iMovie and other necessary applications, but I finally got the sound right, the images right and the project at least passable. The director, Mark Webb, is the director of the International Choir and led this year's Session II choir, and he gets to take the applause.

Gilbert and Sullivan live!

More images to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The flames were real ...

Andrew got a taste of the fun part of what his dad does Wednesday. The Michigan Propane Gas Association had scheduled a training session for firefighters in St. Louis, and after I finished my Union Township story and he finished work at Wendy's, we headed down with cameras.

I had the newspaper's video camera and Andrew shot stills. These are his photos.

Cameras and credentials got us excellent access. Andrew's been to fires with me before, and he knows how to stay out of the way.
The heat from these flames was impressive 100 feet away.

There's a reason for long lenses.
More of Andrew's images (with a byline!) on the Sun Insider blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great concentration needed

Sometimes, it takes immense concentration to do TeeVee right.

Sue Turton - Channel 4 News, Oxford, UK.

Friday, July 20, 2007

We were just lucky

Sometimes, it's really hard to separate the personal from the professional. Wednesday afternoon, I watched a thunderstorm suddenly appear as if out of nowhere on the on-line weather radar, and it looked as if it was headed right for Lake Isabella as the cell turned bright red.
In minutes, the police scanner was full of traffic, describing trees down, power lines down, a barn lost its roof. This didn't sound like any ordinary summer thunderstorm, so I called Robert, who was at home, to get his take.
It had been rocking and rolling -- hail, intense wind, and during the call, the power went out. I headed toward Lake Is, and I found devastation.
I wrote the first-day story and the followup for the Morning Sun.

A lot of the damage was in our own neighborhood, the area called The Forest. People described how the rain had fallen so hard they couldn't even see the ends of their decks, hail the size of nickels, and wind -- the wind! Weather Service experts estimated that it was well over 70 mph -- straight-line winds.

Neighbor Wayne Bauer has lived in Lake Isabella for 32 years, and a giant oak tree practically split his simple mobile home in half.

Just a few houses away on Barcelona Drive, a popple toppled -- right into a house.

Three trees hit this home, occupied by a mom, dad and four kids -- including a newborn.

Job One: Clear the blocked streets.

Brush was piled high along the roadsides.

We got lucky -- only some leaves and branches piled up on our back deck.

We lost a couple of trees in our woods, but that's minor. Nothing big hit the house, and the front yard just looked messy.

A few blocks over, a weekend resident from Westland found himself spending his vacation with a chain saw.
Down the street, a garden shed like the one we used to have was tossed around like a toy.

Over on Bundy Drive, a tree expert begins the ticklish job of removing a tree from the roof.

A wooded lot on El Camino Grande isn't quite as wooded as it once was. Notice how the trees have all blown down in pretty much the same direction -- this wasn't a tornado; it was straight-line winds.
Out on Coldwater Road, the winds blew down the north wall of the new shopping center under construction.
The village, through the county, has asked for a disaster declaration. All told, 90 homes -- about one in 10 in the village -- were damaged, and 30 of them just can't be lived in any more.
Power was out for a while, the water system went down while the pumps were out, and Internet service didn't get restored until 11 p.m. Thursday. But it's back, no one got hurt, we're safe, the house is in good shape (and still for sale), and mid-Michigan's firewood suppliers just got a windfall -- literally.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rebel with a Rebel

Annie's ecstatic. Great things happening in the GR part of the family:

1. Matt and Annie have been together a year, and they celebrated with romance, jewelry and an airplane. Wow
2. Matthew has a new job as counter manager of the third-busiest NAPA store in Grand Rapids, and (Drum roll, please)

3. Annie has her motorcycle. It's a 2000 Honda Rebel, described by the manufacturer as an "entry-level cruiser."

Lexie's ready for her leathers and helmet.

Biker chic

Yeah, darlin' go and make it happen/Take the world in a love embrace ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Minden and the milk glass

Minden and München were a little bit under the weather last week. Something got to both of them, and they weren't eating and were just generally listless. But a visit to the Cat Clinic fixed up both of them, and they're back to being their hungry, curious, kittenish selves. Take Wednesday night, for example. Kissy Missy had a glass of milk before going to bed, and the empty glass still was on her desk.

München, left, and Minden discover the almost empty glass and check it out.

Minden likes to get up close and personal. Hmm. Feels like it might be good.

München's got to see what's going on.

Hmmmm. Smells like ... Smells like ....

Oh, yeah!

Get down, baby! Right in there! Yeah! Woo-hoo!

Katherine heads to Blue Lake

Once again, the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp summer shuttle has begun.

Katherine began Session II at the arts camp in the Muskegon County hill country.
She and I both were up before dawn today as she finished packing for her 12 days surrounded by highly talented people.
She had barely checked in when she began making friends -- that's the way she works, anyway. She also got to wear a red name tag, symbolizing that she's a third-year camper. That immediately led to people wearing white tags to flock to her, asking for help and directions. Katherine was, of course, happy to oblige, walking one very lost and frightened first-year camper to the opening audition.

Of course, the word "international" kept coming up in the girls' conversation. Katherine's trip to Germany and France last summer is something she is justifiably proud of doing.

She freely admits she chose this particular session this summer because the choir will be led by Mark Webb, who led last year's international tour. She just thinks incredibly highly of that instructor.
I can hardly wait for the final concert.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Driving like hell in Luzerne

Traveling back from PBSR, through God's country, we came through the little, Up North town of Luzerne, Mich. In Luzerne is McDeeter's, a bar/hotel ("Rooms: $25.00" reads the sign up front; we didn't check to see if the band is protected by chicken wire). Out front, the good people from McDeeter's offers some advice.
(I won't mention the highly respectful state trooper I met later in the day.)

Back to Paul Bunyan

Back in '95, I took my first troop of Boy Scouts, Midland Troop 798, to summer camp at Paul Bunyan Scout Reservation, far back in the Huron Manistee National Forest between Mio and Rose City. Sunday, Andrew, Robert and the rest of the Scouts of Troop 604 kind of closed that circle when they arrived at PBSR for summer camp.

When that first adventure started, Andrew was 5 and Robert was 2. They've changed a little bit.

For the last dozen years, PBSR has been tied up with this family in one way or another. Troop 604 hasn't gone to
summer camp at PBSR recently, opting instead for places like Lost Lake, Camp Tapico or Camp Rotary.
A lot of my four Eagle Scouts earned many of the badges they needed for Eagle at PBSR, and Andrew's aiming to earn most the badges he still needs there. Robert's also aiming for that, planning to collect enough badges for to earn his Life rank.
I'm encouraged. Back in '95, Skip Bleecker met me at the gate and welcomed me and the troop. This year, as we pulled up, Skip was there again.
PBSR still is as rustic as ever, but there have been improvements. There's now a kitchen sink at Lemonade Springs. No kitchen, but now, at the rustic camp on the north side of camp, at least there's the sink.

Alissa's Birthday Bounce

Katherine's friend Alissa recently turned 16 -- and wanted the ultimate Sweet 16 party! In addition to a ton of pizza, a tubing trip down the beautiful Chippewa and friends and friends and friends, the party featured an inflatable "bounce house." Alissa's boyfriend, Dillon, and her friends Patterson, Andrew and Robert put the thing up out back.

Katherine inspects the bounce house. But it's time to test it ...

Andrew holds the door while Patterson and Dillon fling Alissa.

Happy birthday! Happy Landings!

A nice, friendly game of Fling the Kat.

What goes up must come down ...

... and bounce.

Anyone want to see how well Robert bounces?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Going live

Sometimes, TeeVee is just so entertaining.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fireworks on Plan B? C? D? E?

It's clear that life is what happens when you make other plans.
The original plan was to head to Frankfort for the Fourth of July, enjoy the community, maybe swim in Lake Michigan, and maybe stick around for fireworks over the big lake.
That was before the kittens got sick; it turned out that the problem wasn't hairballs trying to come out. Time for Plan B.
An emergency trip to the vet confirmed that they both had some serious gastrointestinal problems. Kittens can dehydrate very quickly, so the Cat Clinic kept them.
But we decided to head to Frankfort in mid-afternoon; no sense moping around worrying about the kittens, who were in good hands.
After dinner, we thought we'd head to the beach south of Elberta. That was fine, until fog rolled in and the bottom fell out of the sand track. But about 15 half-drunken college-age men and one guy with a four-wheel-drive pickup truck and tow strap got us out of the sand. Thanks, guys.
But the sand was messing with the ABS system. Time again for Plan B (C?).
We thought we'd better find a car wash and get rid of the grit. We saw a sign for a spray-it-yourself car wash; oops. It had been torn down and was being rebuilt. We needed another Plan B (D?).

Asking directions, we learned the nearest other car wash was up the road a ways in Honor. We went through Benzonia and Beulah, quaint little towns, and found the place. The degritting went as planned, but it was getting dark. We decided to just head home, because there was no way to fight the traffic back to Frankfort.
But as we passed through Beulah on the way back, we saw streams of people heading toward Crystal Lake. Fireworks! Perhaps it was time for yet another Plan B (E?).
We parked a few blocks away from Beulah's waterfront park and found a great spot in the park. We had chairs, a solid tripod and the digital camera, and I taught Robert how to shoot fireworks. Together, we took some of the coolest pyrotechnic images ever.

Robert took the sky images here; I took the sparkler image. More will be posted later.
The whole adventure shows the value of planning, preparation, following through and staying the course. Sorta kinda.