"Ma'am, please don't walk on the artifact!"

The Detroit News discusses the Sanilac Petroglyphs, which 8 Viking Kittens visited last summer. I'll again recommend them to anybody who wants a quick road trip. When I went to NM/AZ/UT with the UMich geology department, we saw some really famous petroglyphs that everybody fawns over. I can't remember which park or monument they were in, but I don't really care, because Sanilac's are far more impressive.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy!

(That's the sound of my laptop coming back from AppleCare fixed, four days after I reported it broken.)

Thank you, Chelsea, for that hard-hitting analysis

From the Chelsea Standard, Study: Residents value parkland:

According to an unscientific study by the Committee for Chelsea Parks, local residents value parks and natural areas near their homes and a majority wants more of them.

Ah, volunteer studies...

Why, iBookone, why?!

My screen has died for the third time. Just sitting there reading, and, poof. Gone. Still backlit, but no image. Close lid - no sleepy-sleepy for the laptop. Hard reboot. No image, no backlight. Looks like exactly the same problem I've had twice before - something with the hinge wiring. I think I need to ask them if they'll give me a new computer (worth a try) for the third instance of the same problem, lest it happen again, a fourth time, six months out of AppleCare.

More UCC cheerleading

As a longtime agnostic/apathetic, I have to say that I'm increasingly pleased that the denomination I was raised in was United Church of Christ. This is old news that I'm picking up from Rob, but it's worth mention for any who didn't see it the first time. The UCC put out a press release back in January that starts out reading like an Onion article, but is quite sincere, and bluntly critical of James Dobson and Focus on the Family, SpongeBob Welcomed By UCC

CLEVELAND -- Joining the animated fray, the United Church of Christ today (Jan. 24) said that Jesus' message of extravagant welcome extends to all, including SpongeBob Squarepants - the cartoon character that has come under fire for allegedly holding hands with a starfish.

"Absolutely, the UCC extends an unequivocal welcome to SpongeBob," the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said, only partly in jest. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

For that matter, Thomas explained, the 1.3-million-member church, if given the opportunity, would warmly receive Barney, Big Bird, Tinky-Winky, Clifford the Big Red Dog or, for that matter, any who have experienced the Christian message as a harsh word of judgment rather than Jesus' offering of grace.
. . .
Thomas said, on the contrary, it is Dobson who is crossing the moral line for sending the mistaken message that Christians do not value tolerance and diversity as important religious values.

"While Dobson's silly accusation makes headlines, it's also one more concrete example of how religion is misused over and over to promote intolerance over inclusion," Thomas said. "This is why we believe it is so important that the UCC speak the Gospel in an accent not often heard in our culture, because far too many experience the cross only as judgment, never as embrace."

Can I get a 'hell ye. . .' Oh. That's probably inappropriate, isn't it?

Welcome to the neighborhood, kid.

Ed V. linked to his neighbor (and therefore mine, since I now live a whopping two blocks from Ed!) Clan's new blog. The first post is either the result of a misunderstanding of the nature (ha) and impact of invasive species, or else an attempt to be clever. Either way, it earns a big fat flame from this sector - and, since Xanga doesn't allow comments from folks without Xanga accounts, it's going here. Here's what I meant to leave there:

I find it interestng that you characterize removal of invasive species as walking into a wilderness and tearing stuff up. Of course, your assertions are questionable much earlier than that, when you try to define invasive species as simply being quite well adapted. Both of these views omit human agency in the presence of the invasive species - and some of the other things you say seem to indicate that you're aware of this. Are you being disingenuous for a purpose, or just for fun?

An invasive species is not simply one that has managed to get a leg up - and keep getting a leg up - but one that is introduced. You give a small amount of grudging credit to the folks who prefix "invasive species" with "non-native", but such a construction is redundant - the words are synonymous and interchangeable; if there's any meaningful difference, it's that "invasive" is more often applied to the species that are somewhat advanced in their rampaging across the landscape. Invasive species have been brought by humans to an area from the place in which they evolved - meaning that the invasive is not just a plant that's gotten lucky in the evolutionary lottery, but one that is totally outside the evolutionary context of the new place. Invasives are generally not nearly so prominant in their native habitat because other species (of plants, animals, insects, microbes) have co-evolved with them and control them. Because of the role of humans in transferring them, you cannot, by definition, walk into a wilderness and start pulling up invasives. The presence of invasive species indicates that it is no longer a wilderness, any more than your average cornfield is.

I agree, of course, with your point that humans seem quite happy with a number of the organisms they've transplanted - but that's not a reason to say that nobody should be complaining about any invasives. I think the implication runs in the other direction.

-Murph.

P.S. Welcome to blogland.

(As a side note, Clan promises to be good reading. His first three posts are on invasive species, zoning and brownfield remediation, and local roadblocks to regional planning.)

Localized wedding registries?

My will-be-my-sister-in-law-in-a-month-and-a-half was commenting / complaining to me recently about how wedding registries have become fantastically Big Box-centric - how she could go to a local caterer, local dressmaker, etc, but that Bed, Bath & Beyond and Amazon have 1 million times the convenience advantage over independant stores when it comes to making a wedding registry.

Since Cara and I just got home from getting a wedding shower present at BB&B, with all of the attendant psychic trauma that I get from big box strip mall shopping (and whiny whiny righteous righteous whine), I figured I'd like to see whether there's any local alternative. So, of course, this nerdboy looks first to teh intarweb, which is probably mistake #1 when trying to find such a beast - though, in order for a localized wedding registry to work, I think that it has to be online searchable and online orderable: it has to be just as convenient for one's relatives across the country as ordering something off of Amazon.

Slim pickings. Closest things I can find (which are still pretty tangential) are the Rainbow Wedding Network, which has a (fairly small) directory of regional queer-friendly wedding services and venues (I find this to be a welcome resource, even if not what I'm looking for right now), and MetaWishList, which allows aggregation of wishlist items from across the web - complete with a bookmarklet and tagging. This is probably on track to what I'm thinking, though it looks like it's currently closer to an Amazon Wish List skin than what I really want. It would be kludgeable, with an "ann arbor" tag, for example, but it would still require a lot of work to find what you want online in order to tag it. Any other resources come to mind? (Who's reading this who's married? Brian . . .)

Getting back to my musing on requirements (Lisa D: here's an (overwhelmingly large) action item for you), the world really needs a service that allows local stores to effortlessly add products for one-stop searching, and allows for registry viewing online (with online ordering and shipping) and viewing / checking off in each of the stores (assuming the stores are wired for it). A single-megastore registry has the advantage of instant locking of items; if all of your friends and family went wandering around town with printed copies of your registry the week before your wedding, you might have issues. (But - oh well. If you're self-righteous enough to want an all-local registry, you can't also expect to whine about the effort of returning duplicate items.) The stores would have to recognize the utility of getting involved, and be willing to handle online requests for gift-wrapping and shipping. (Or, at least, setting aside for pickup during the week after the wedding, and flagging on the registry website that something's waiting.)

Ann Arbor would probably be a good bootstrapping locale for such a thing. The critical mass of yuppie weddings and yuppie, internet-friendly local businesses probably exists here to get the first instance set up. ("Yuppie" here is used as code for "early adopter", and not as an insult.) Between Zingermans, Downtown Home & Garden, Shaman Drum, Henrietta Fahrenheit, and all of the places that are so expensive as to just be totally off my radar, you could probably get the merchants on board, if the infrastructure was there.

Teen Girl Squad lands $100m downtown development for Petaluma

Seen on PLANetizen, a group of seven teenaged girls in Petaluma, CA,

were way bored with nowhere to go. It seemed so obvious to the then-seventh graders: build a new theater within walking distance.

"Nothing's wrong with bowling, but after you do it every Friday night your whole life, it's kind of like, you're over it," said Sarah Marcia, who describes herself as a "positive ball of energy."

They learned the internal workings of the theatre in the next town over, then (how?) landed a meeting with Lucasfilm.

Before he could see their business plan, Gordon Radley, then-president of Lucasfilm, and three other execs were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements.

"It was one of the most professional presentations that my senior staff had every seen. We were just bowled over," Radley said. "We can be pretty tough. We grilled them with all kinds of questions. They knew their stuff. ... These young ladies were not going to be dissuaded."

The girls' business plan included binders filled with data such as projections on ticket sales and concession revenues as well as studies of abandoned buildings that could be leased for a theater.

They were wise enough to pass up the quick fix,

"They never compromised what they wanted," said Petaluma Mayor David Glass, recalling how the teens participated in numerous City Council and planning meetings. "They wanted not just a movie theatre in Petaluma, but one they could walk to."

At one point, a theater chain tried to persuade the girls, with offers of movie passes and posters, to support plans to build a multiplex not within walking distance. The girls rejected that offer.

And allied with a developer who had been wanting to take on a redevelopment project on the edge of downtown, but hadn't been able to find a way to do it that would be both profitable and politically feasible.

White and his investors poured $10 million into the theatre complex, an undertaking that included the restoration of the auto garage to accommodate retail shops, restaurants and small screening rooms as well as a new wing for Boulevard Cinemas' larger theaters. Several shops and restaurants have opened next door.

Plans to build the theater set off a domino effect. White won approval for a seven-block, $100 million redevelopment project that includes housing, retail, office space and a parking garage that will soon have shops and restaurants on the ground floor.

"Without the theater, we never would have taken the risk on the whole project," White said.

The self-dubbed "Superb Seven" are now the toast of Petaluma, and were the stars of Tuesday night's grand opening. As of press time, there was no word on whether special invitee Johnny Depp was going to make it. Quick, somebody recruit those girls to UMich's planning school - we've got a nice certificate program in Real Estate Development waiting for them.

Montana: badass + 1

Senator Max Baucus appears to be somebody I could actually be happy voting for:

In ancient Rome, when the Senate lost its power, the Roman Senate was complicit in the transfer. The emperor did not have to seize all the honors and powers. The Roman Senate, one after another, conferred greater powers on Caesar.
. . .
Mr. President:

This is the way democracy ends;
This is the way democracy ends;
This is the way democracy ends;
Not with a bomb, but a gavel.

Unreasonable fears?

Sometimes I worry that the neighbors might mistake me for a big hippie. For example, when I'm wandering around the back yard, long-haired and bearded, barefoot with my pantlegs rolled up, carrying a hoe, as it begins to rain, and arranging a homebrewing bucket under the garage downspout to catch runoff to save for watering, I really start to wonder.

Now planted: tomatoes, zucchini, basil, lime basil, thai basil, mustard greens, cilantro, parsley, fennel, jalepeno.

Still to plant: the other half of the packet of mustard green seeds, the packet of beet seeds, and the second coming of Kelli's yellow tomatoes that seem to have sprung up when I tried to start zucchini in the seed trays that had failed to germinate tomatoes. Plus anything else that I (or any other Jorviker!) happens to decide they want to plant.

Delivered: Kelli's yellow tomato and yellow pepper seedlings to Kelli. Tomato and zucchini seedlings to Brandon.