This just in!

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Ann Arbor's City Council has been accused in the past of holding secret deliberations, with decisions made the day before the meeting or in smoke-filled bars after the meetings. Well, now we've got proof - we know what goes on in these secret backroom discussions.

I've just received evidence from an anonymous source, smuggled out of Ann Arbor and across the Carpenter DMZ no doubt at great personal risk. The attached note gives the sense that the source was perhaps tortured to the point of madness in recovering this footage:

on this disk is what you need to post because you are the very good blogger and the world whole of it must see...for everyone who are read the blog of common monk flower so it is important you complete the mission as you are the choice out of many others like mark mayfred and arbor dates did not receive it, so you must do it the only one.

"Live feeding" on NPR

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WUOM runs a "summer documentary series" Tuesdays at 9; last night, I think, was the first I've caught. The topic was "zoos", and it was amazing.

The middle segment, "Dead or Alive", covered the topic of what to feed predators at the zoo. A lion, after all, really isn't designed for eating kibble - the very essence of lion-ness is chasing down a gazelle, tearing it apart, and chowing down. In what may be the zookeeper's version of the Slow Food movement, therefore, some zoos have started, periodically, serving whole animals to the predators. (Not live ones, mind you - the zoos feel that the American spectator still has some boundaries) - but dead whole calves, for example. Our very own Toledo Zoo is the site of the story, and one visitor comments to the reporter's tape recorder, "Wow, I have never seen a lion in the zoo move so fast!"

Still my kind of robber baron

The Ann Arbor News notes that Bello Vino gets a significant share of its vegetables, fruit, and lamb from the owner's local farm:

At the busy Bello Vino food market in the Plymouth Road Mall, customers are used to getting fresh, locally grown produce much of the year. They just may not know how local.

About 4.5 miles from the store, Bello Vino owner Louis Ferris has turned 85 acres of his 107-acre estate in Superior Township into a farming operation that includes a 1-acre-plus vegetable garden, an orchard with peach, pear, apple, cherry and plum trees, 750 blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, strawberries, a 2,100-square-foot greenhouse, eight bee hives and a flock of 128 breeding ewes to produce lambs.

Happy Closingday!

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Yesterday was Cara's birthday, which means that today must be Houseone's closingday! Yes, as of about 4pm today, we will have been calling up our parents with panicked questions about various pieces of the house flooding, shorting, or falling apart for one whole year.

Thank you, parents, for raising us to think that living in a constant-work-in-progress house was a fine idea (which I still think it is); thank you, Riversiders and YpsiVotes kids, for taking up some of the social slack of our not living with a dozen housemates anymore; and thank you, Ypsi in general, for being an awesome place to live.

CMF hates spam

So, you've probably already noticed that you have to create an account and log in in order to leave comments. That's so the site doesn't get totally jammed with spam.

Then you've probably noticed that your first comments don't show up right away. That's because spambots can create accounts too, so I screen comments for spam - once I know an account is a non-spammer, I click my "known human" box to let you comment unscreenedly.

If you've already gone through all that, you shouldn't notice any difference in the mechanism, but I've added a captcha - new user creation and comments by users not-yet-known-human now require answering a simple math problem. That's so that I don't have to delete 20 pending comments from the spam account of the day every day.

Model Y - Creating an alternative narrative

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For as long as I've been paying attention, Ypsilanti residents have had some significant discontent with its coverage in the local news. Many complain that Ypsi is to the Ann Arbor News what Detroit is to the national media - that place you go when you're out of fodder for your "if it bleeds, it leads" doctrine. (I don't know if I necessarily see it, but I haven't been paying attention to the News' Ypsi coverage for the 30 years that some have.) The Ypsilanti Courier, meanwhile, has long been maligned, with the criticism stepping up recently when Heritage Newspapers closed the Ypsi office and moved the paper to Belleville.

A few attempts have been made, or discussed, to provide "better" (more thorough and/or more balanced) news coverage to Ypsi. A year or two ago, a group of local bloggers were discussing the formation of an online news site, "The Ypsilanti Sentinel", but never quite got off the ground. (Oddly, google turns up a note in 2006 Pittsfield Township Historical Commission minutes that "A new newspaper will be starting in Ypsilanti, a daily newspaper called the Ypsilanti Evening Sentinal".) Blogger Steve Pierce went ahead and started videoing meetings and otherwise devoting his YpsiNews to local current events. Finally, word on the street is that a group of old-school Depot Townies have been discussing the formation of a new print paper, to the point of putting together a business plan and starting to raise the $1 million(!) in startup costs. Edit: This new daily publication would be the "Ypsilanti Evening Sentinal" - apparently there are only so many former Ypsi newspaper names worth recycling.

Now, into that simmering brew of alt-media efforts, let's throw in an experienced regional new media powerhouse, shall we? Sure, sounds good.

Spreading the gospel of Jane

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Last fall, I loaned my copy of Jane Jacobs' Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life to a friend. Recently, I commented to him that I kinda wanted it back, as I'd had a hankering to re-read it. He said, "Well, I'd actually kind of like to loan it to somebody else, because I really think she should read it, so maybe I should just buy a new copy for you."

Last night, he told me that, in fact, he already had re-loaned out my copy...and also bought three more to give as Christmas presents. So I suppose that's a pretty successful book loan. And, with my copy gone, maybe I'll take the opportunity to go find a hardcover edition on Amazon and upgrade. Aaaand, done. D, you owe me $10.

I have the feeling I'll be getting good at this

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My project for this wonderful spring morning is repainting a windowsill.

Um, hrmm. Did I say "repaint"? Sorry, I apparently mean "replace". Crap.

Actually, it's not so bad. I've mentioned before that my house has four layers of siding stacked onto it. At some point, this meant the windowsills needed to be extended to stick out past the siding. So the bit in need of replacement is a 2x2 sill extender that was rather poorly grafted onto the existing sill. (Judging by the face of the old sill, my house at one point had green trim instead of white.) I suppose that, if I wanted to do this right/best, I'd take out the piece underneath and put in one single sill, so that I don't have to go through my current process all over again in a few years.

Together, we can pull down the sun!

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A few years ago, city resident Dave Strenski led a project to mount solar panels on the roof of the Ypsilanti Food Co-op (pdf), aided by a $5,000 grant. Now, he's upped the ante a bit with two solar projects: the Co-op is applying for a $50,000 grant to add much more solar capacity, and Dave is aiming for City Hall next.

The south face of City Hall is a four-story blank wall, completely unshaded by trees or buildings (there's a sunken parking lot behind City Hall), and with astonishingly few windows on it. Not only does this southern facade make a tempting target simply for the solar exposure, but it would be an excellent way for Ypsilanti to show off. A solar array on that facade (updated pdf) would be visible to everyone entering town from I-94, 20-30 thousand vehicles daily. Additionally, the City could host an energy meter on its website, showing live and archive information on solar yield.

Register, "Ecocities"

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Creating an Ecocity Zoning Map for any American city:

On an up-to-date map of your town, which will be Map #2, locate the present city, town, and neighborhood centers and draw concentric circles indicating distances from these centers. These will look much like the concentric circles of a target. On about one-fifth to one-third of the land area of the town, in the zones closest to the centers, the density of development should be significantly greater than is the case presently. On about half to three-quarters of the land area of the town, in the zones farthest from the centers and most dependent upon automobiles, there should be much less density of development in the future and, ultimately, only natural or agricultural land uses. The lower the [present] density of the whole town, the smaller should be the percentage in the increasing density area and the larger the percentage in the decreasing density area. Everywhere the mix of uses should become far more complex, even in the restoration areas on the future fringe; all sorts of diverse agriculture and networks and patches of nature corridors and zones can be established in time.

Richard Register, Ecocities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance With Nature, "Chapter 10 - Tools to Fit the Task."