Monday, September 27, 2010

A rainbow over the mountain town

A gorgeous double rainbow appeared over Mt. Pleasant this evening.
It stretched virtually horizon to horizon. Where was the end of the rainbow?
One Tweet from czach1r: The double rainbow ends at Kelly/Shorts stadium. How FREAKING epic.
Nah - it ended at the state police post. You see that in the photo.
But that's not what Kissy Missy informed me: "The rainbow ends at the sewage treatment plant."

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Jazz Police

For the second time in the past three years, the Mt. Pleasant High School Jazz Band was invited to play at the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
The Oiler jazz band was hot, and among the hottest pieces they played was "The Jazz Police."
High school jazz bands are placed on their own stage near the fountain at Campus Martius on Woodward Avenue where Woodward, Monroe and Michigan Avenue come together. At this gathering place, people on their way to see the "name" acts on the jazz festival bill suddenly stopped, wondering who this hot band was.
Mt. Pleasant? High School? Awesome.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Diary of a Band Dad

This fall, we've got not one, but two bands to follow.
Robert's a senior at Mt. Pleasant High, and he's in his second year as a drum major for the MPHS Marching Band.
And Kat's a freshman at CMU, and she's joined the Chippewa Marching Band as a member of the flag corps.
The Oiler band finished band camp - and if the sound after just a few days of practice is any indication, they're a really tight unit with a great show.
The Marching Chips, meanwhile, are the largest band CMU has ever had, with about 280 members. The pregame show sounds like it always has - and when the CMU Fight Song filled Kelly/Shorts Stadium late Sunday, it darn near made me cry.
Weirdly, both bands' shows feature music from Styx. I'm expecting a lot of that to be stuck in my head the next few months.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The rainbow - a sign?

It can be so very tempting to look at a rainbow at see a sign in the sky. It's part of our makeup.
Of course, the scientific among us will see refraction and angles and say it's merely pish-tosh that such a natural phenomenon would be "a sign."
But if it were ... wow. I came back from a city meeting tonight to see a horizon-to-horizon, stunning, perfect rainbow, perfectly centered over the Morning Sun's plant.
It's been tough there. Over the past 12 years, the paper has weathered the bankruptcy of two different parent corporations. We've seen layoffs. We've seen cutbacks and freezes, but through it all, we've done good journalism and served our communities.
Now, we've got new leadership at the top of the corporation, people who seem to have vision, who aren't afraid to try things.
And there's a sense of optimism inside.
Perhaps it really is a sign.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A sharp, painful contrast

The contrast could not have been more profound.
Today was Robert's final performance at Blue Lake. He was second clarinet in the wind ensemble, the top band at the camp, and we went over to see the concert and pick him up.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, a Mt. Pleasant family was dealing with an unspeakable tragedy.'s Patricia Ecker had confirmed the identity of a young woman killed Friday night or Saturday, and the identity of the suspect - her older brother, who had just gotten out of prison.
Patricia called me and I would act as a rewrite man, putting the story on the Web.
I pulled out my Mac and aircard, and set up shop under a rehearsal pavilion at the fine arts camp. I pulled the suspect's prison mug shot and record from the Michigan Department of Corrections website and put the story together.
I was in the woods. Nothing but trees and beauty surrounded me. The wonderful sound of the camp's symphonic band, whose concert preceded the wind ensemble's, drifted the few hundred yards from the band shell, mixing with the sounds of birds and chipmunks.
All around me was wonder and beauty. On my screen was horror and tragedy. I was almost overwhelmed by the stark, brutal contrast.
At Blue Lake, these young people were growing up with art and music, surrounded by talent and achievement.
Back home, something had gone terribly, awfully wrong.
I posted the story, went to the wind ensemble concert, and turned off my phone. For an hour, at least, I wanted to enjoy my family's talent and achievement, but I remain haunted by the contrast.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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Early morning Survival Flight

Early Memorial Day morning, I heard the clatter of a helicopter over the house.
This isn't unusual - we live just a little more than a mile from Central Michigan Community Hospital and helicopter ambulances fly in and out of the hospital on a regular basis.
The early-morning flight, however, was unusual, and I didn't immediately recognize the markings on this air ambulance.
I know St. Mary's FlightCare, Covenant LifeNet and Spectrum Aero Med, but I couldn't place this one. I finished loading's Memorial Day edition, then drove over to take a look.
It turned out to be a University of Michigan Survival Flight helicopter, done in maize and blue (talk about branding), and it didn't spend a lot of time on the ground.
I don't know anything about the patient who was being transferred to Ann Arbor at dawn on a holiday or why they were being sent there. I do know that helicopter flights aren't taken lightly.
I've had the opportunity to ride a helicopter ambulance twice: once as an observer (I love my job), and once as a patient. I'm pretty sure that flight 12 years ago saved, if not my life, my ability to function.
But a helicopter ride in a fully staffed air ambulance isn't cheap. It's tough to get an average price for a helicopter ambulance flight, but I've seen cost estimates anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000. A 2007 British study put the average cost at ₤6,000, or about $8,700.
No one - no one - faced with the potential loss of a loved one's life does this calculation: "Well, that helicopter will cost $9,000, plus the cost of the hospital stay ... We can get a nice funeral done for about $6,000 ... Let's just keep Mom here and not tell her."
A generation ago, there might not have been any other option but to start picking out Mom's casket. Options are better now.
The question is how it's paid for.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Behind the scenes on "The Daily"'s daily Webcast, "The Daily," went on location to downtown Mt. Pleasant for Memorial Day. Sue Field and I were at Jimmy John's before the Memorial Day parade.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last day of high school

I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this - today was Katherine's last day of high school.
Seniors, of course, get out before the rest of the student body, and graduation is set for next weekend. Classes are over.
She's still taking her college class - she's got one more week of JRN 202 at Central.
Graduation, orientation, imagination ... a lot on her mind.
And she's at the Wheatland Traditional Arts Festival tonight with That One Kid.
Life is so about to change.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From another world

A truly awesome Web video from

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Beautiful Saturday

The temperature is in the mid-40s.
I'm looking at a pile of snow at least 4 feet high.
Yet my neighbor is wearing shorts, and people are exclaiming about how warm and wonderful the weather is.
. . . I think we've lived in Michigan far too long.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On being stupid

Ever notice that the only people who ever say, "I am so stupid" are usually really bright people who had a lapse in judgment? The truly stupid never even realize it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

SFMAWG seeks SwC

Short, Fat, Middle-Aged White Guy seeks Spinster with Cat.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a weekend newspaper planning session when I noted that an upcoming Sunday newspaper would come out on Valentine's Day.
"We should do something," I said.
"How about online dating?" someone chimed in, and everyone looked at me. They knew I'd met Kissy Missy online.
"A first-person story!" the editor said. They'd all heard the story, and now, I'd get a chance to tell it to the whole world.
It also seemed like a good opportunity for a video - and it was.
Apparently, this adventure was too good to keep. On Wednesday, Central Michigan Life, the student paper at CMU, did its own version of our story as its Campus Vibe front.
When you've got a great story, people want to tell it.
Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetheart.

Monday, January 4, 2010

City deer

Well, they're certainly here.
These deer aren't dumb. I was traveling along West Campus Drive this afternoon, and I spotted this little feller calmly nibbling at what was under the snow.
It's perfect habitat for adaptable critters. There's plenty of food - evergreens, shrubs, ornamental fruit trees, even a few oaks. There's lots of cover - this guy and at least one other were well-concealed most of the time in the brush along the Great Lakes Central Railroad tracks that run through campus.
The Chippewa River is just a few blocks away. Traffic isn't particularly heavy, except when classes change.
And no one's out to hunt them.
It's deer Eden.