Arborwiki Industrial History Project

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I apologize for the silence in this venue. My idle interneting time has been otherwise occupied lately with digesting various sources from the Bentley and elsewhere into Arborwiki pages on (mostly Ypsilanti) past local industries.

Check out the Arborwiki Industrial History Project for a fledgling entry point, or pages like Ferrier Machine Works (now the Ypsi food co-op), Louis Z. Foerster (prominent German-Canadian Ypsilanti brewer), or Federal Screw Works (vacant and likely doomed plant in Chelsea) as example pages.

1500 pages of OCR goodness

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*swoon*. (warning: local geekery.)

I've been pleased in the past that UMich's library has a scanned, publicly-accessible version of Charles Chapman's History of Washtenaw County, Michigan : together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships...and biographies of representative citizens. This is a 1,500 page book published in 1881 covering the area's history to that date - a pretty impressive length, when you consider that the white man's history of Washtenaw County, aside from a Jesuit or two, only extended as far back as 1823,

Bike buzz

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Recently, the local police decided to start enforcing the ordinance against bicycle riding on the sidewalks in business districts. As a daily pedestrian in said districts, I'm pretty happy with this - the sidewalks are too narrow and cluttered to allow cyclists to zip down them without threatening pedestrians. Those of us on foot have frequent near misses with cyclists as we step out of doors, come around corners, or are crossing the street and have bicycles go for the curb ramp with no regard for how close it takes them to other people.

I also bike to said business districts on a regular basis, and have to say that biking on the street just isn't that bad. No, not even on Michigan Avenue - traffic is well-behaved enough downtown, especially with the lights breaking up flow, that I'm fairly comfortable in traffic, and I'm far from a hardcore, spandex-and-scary-calves, veteran cyclist.

"Everyone needs underpants"

"Creators-of-all-things-clever Linette Lao and Mark Maynard" get some serious love from the Ann Arbor News' Ypsilanti Community News today: Artists up the ante for Ypsilanti with panty.

I'm hear the picture is good, too, if you have the dead tree version of the free paper. My part of the neighborhood seems to have been totally redlined by the News, ever since we complained about their practice of tossing papers onto the lawn of obviously vacant houses where the past 4 months of papers were still sitting in moldering heaps on the lawn. (Fortunately, Mark's showing an appropriate amount of pride, posting the front-page pic to his site.)

Hipster training continues

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Last night, at long last, I finally saw Great Lakes Myth Society at the Elbow Room, and they were every bit as amazing as Dale has assured me they would be. Fan for life: check. (Not that there was any doubt - a highly talented folk/rock group signing about Michigan? Yeah, sign me up.)

I was also pretty happy with one of their openers, Minor Planets, who present a pretty enjoyable power pop. They need to brush up on their showmanship to truly support a group like GLMS, though. I know the whole shoegazing thing is hip, and half the point of indie rock is that it's safe for geeky introverts (like myself) to get up on stage and play their piece without ever looking at the audience, but, really, kids: you're good at what you do - feel free to get a little more attitude about it.

Happy Closingday!


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.

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.

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.

And if you squint one eye...


Last weekend, I had the always-somewhat-sad experience of wandering around downtown Ann Arbor on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and then coming back to Ypsilanti. Downtown Ypsi looks a little lonely after the throngs near the Diag. Sigh.

But then, yesterday evening, I had the opposite experience. Driving home from the Suburbs Alliance's Regional Redevelopment Summit, I decided to take Michigan Avenue rather than 94. Driving through Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Wayne, Inkster, Canton . . . and then, all of a sudden, you come up the hill over the Huron River bridge, and you're in a real downtown! Wowie!

Show your Statriotism - Wear Mittens and Drink Michigan Beer.

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What better birthday present? Mittenfest, Corner Brewery, December 23.

My list of must-see performers is short, based not on disliking the rest but on my own woeful lack of "cred" (read: having seen them before): Fred Thomas, Chris Bathgate, Canada.

I'll note that "Need Based Paint" continues to be one of the best band names I've heard in quite some time. (Though still well behind "Fuck Yeah and the Rock 'n' Rolls", of course...)

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