Friday, September 30, 2011

Fiberglass Maul Handle: Replaced. Victory is Mine.

Okay. I replaced my fiberglass maul handle this evening. It was pretty simple.

I used a thin bladed hacksaw to cut the broken fiberglass handle off just below the maul. Then I used a hammer and a chisel to push the epoxy and the rest of the fiberglass out of the eye. I had to chisel around the inside a bit to remove stuck pieces of epoxy and plastic.

But that was pretty much all there was to it. It took no more than 10 minutes.

I liked my fiberglass handle so much I got a new one, and besides a fiberglass handle is just $1 more than a wooden one. I can't wait for the new epoxy to set so I can start working my way through the piles of wood in our yard again.

It's getting cold at night, so we're firing up the wood burning fireplace insert again. I'm sitting in front of the fireplace right now. My three year old has positioned large plastic animals on the coffee table so they can watch the flickering orange flame.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In 24 Hours, 600 Muskegon Families Will be "Encouraged" to Go Homeless

In 24 hours, 600 Muskegon families will have nothing. No safety net. No state help. No way to pay for utilities, or rent, or clothing, or toiletries, or diapers for their children. Nothing.

Some brilliant new law concocted by our conservative State legislature to slash the eligibility time for cash assistance and make it retroactive, maybe just to punch the children of single mothers in the gut a few more times. POW, POW, POW.

The theory goes like this:

The goal of ending cash assistance, state officials said, is to encourage people receiving cash assistance to get jobs and prevent dependence on government.

Got that?

The GOAL of ending cash assistance NOW at THIS TIME, RIGHT NOW, the reason it HAD to be done RIGHT NOW was to "encourage" people.

To "encourage" them!

Th "encourage" them to "get jobs".

Just like that. "Go on, now..." says Snyder " can do it. YOU can DO it! Go on now! FLY, my pretties, be FREE!"

This law "encourages" people to find jobs.

You know, like how punching somebody in the jaw "encourages" them to see a dentist.

Of course...he's sort of "encouraging" these individuals, mostly single mothers with multiple children, to march out into a jobs field where even highly educated, experienced workers with tons of free time and no children have been having trouble finding work for years....a jobs market that has U6 unemployment numbers of 20%.

What I'm trying to say here is, maybe NOW isn't exactly the best time to "encourage" people by tossing them and their children into the streets.

Andrew Stone, employment and training manager at Michigan Works in Muskegon and Oceana counties, said the job search agency will hold nine weeks of workshops in October and November about the basics of finding and keeping a job.

“Are there enough jobs out there to absorb those people now? I can just bluntly tell you no,” Stone said.

On the bright side, this move is saving the state $65 million dollars. And just in time for that new flat tax on Michigan businesses and blow a 2 billion dollar hole in the Michigan budget.

Catholic Charities of West Michigan President and CEO Deborah Nykamp said a few people get into a cycle of dependence on government assistance, but children are likely to suffer when their families run out of benefits. About one in five Michigan children live in poverty, she said.

“I never thought I would see poverty like this in my lifetime,” she said. “Kids raised in poverty are less likely to be successful. You're going to see a bigger gap between the haves and have-nots.”

Please Help a Muskegon Community Garden win $500 and National Attention

A local, Musekgon community garden in a poor to low income neighborhood is currently coming in a close 3rd place to win $500 and some national attention from a write up in Mother Earth News...and all we need is a measly couple dozen more votes to push us over the edge to FIRST place.

Please take 45 seconds to vote in the Fabulous Food Garden contest. Create an account, skip all the account setup screens with the button on the lower left as you log in, and then vote for Love Community Garden!

I don't want to get down on the other gardens currently ahead of Love Community Garden. They're fine veggie gardens. But they're not producing fresh fruits and vegetables to poor communities, or providing fresh vegetables for home bound seniors.

For the people and by the people in downtown Muskegon, Michigan. We deliver food to home bound seniors while also having 12 families who grow all natural food for home use.

The organizer, Morning Bear, holds summer programs for area children to teach them how to garden and grow their own food. They hold community concerts there, and community art projects, and offer a gathering space for people who want to organize around something important for the community.

Love Community Garden is quite an accomplishment. It was started on an empty lot owned by a local church, and the community pitched in to create a rain barrel watering system, a community made pergola, a relaxing place to sit and smell wild flowers, or pick raspberries and strawberries, and blackberries. It's a learning center, and a place of peace and respite, and source of nourishment, and a gathering place for the community.

What could $500 do for this community garden? It could continue enriching the neighborhood where it grows.

You wanna see a ray of hopefulness? A thing of beauty? A world where people come together to make their tiny corner of the world the best place they can?

This is it. THIS is it.

Plus...whenever I need advice on my own organic garden, I know I can go down to Love Community Garden in the summer and Morning Bear will be there to give me some great advice.

Please take just a minute to vote for Love Community Garden in Muskegon, folks.



If you already voted yesterday You're allowed to vote again each day until the end of October! And it's much easier the 2nd time.

If this is your first time voting, here's how to do it
1. Click Sign Up in the upper right
2. Enter your name and login info and click On to the next step...
3. CLICK SKIP THIS STEP for the next three screens.
4. Now return to the contest page.
5. Click the image for Love Community Garden.
6. Click the large Vote Here image found below the image gallery for Love Community Garden.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let's make it easy for hardworking Americans to at least create FOOD

Big's just another form of tyranny.


I said it.

My family, we survive through small business. Not just my nuclear family. But my parents. And my grand parents on both sides.

Heck, my mother's grandfather lived through the Depression by baking bread and making candies and selling it and doing anything he could to get by. My tiny grandmother was told by old man Meijer that he would buy up any bread she could bring him. And so they brought him all they could. Of course, now Meijer is among the largest supermarket chains in the US.

My mother's grandfather was also farmer in south central Michigan. She has memories of visiting him in his home with no electricity, and pulling up potatoes and other foods from his garden to make dinner.

It's the small independence that makes for freedom. The ability to maintain our own means of production for food and the necessities of life.

And though our conservative pals would like us to believe that Government is making us dependent, they conveniently leave out the insidious creeping of big companies into our lives. They control the means of production. They establish monopolies and cartels that lock out smaller competitors, that lock out new ideas, and become the only show in town for low wage jobs where workers an interchangeable component, neither able to excel nor innovate within the workplace. Where a worker can be scrapped and replaced for any excuse.

What on earth am I prattling on about?

I don't know.

It's late. And it's been a pretty long walk of a lead in to talking about a new Farm Bill.

Nationally, nearly 27,000 midsized independent family farms have been driven out of business over the past five years, and the ones who have survived are being squeezed by a market that gives preferential treatment to big agribusinesses. The 2008 farm bill included some new reforms to protect small and medium-sized farmers who raise cattle, hogs, and chickens, but those reforms are being blocked by the handful of large processing companies that dominate the meat and poultry industries. Food & Watch and our allies are asking Senator Stabenow as Chair of the Agriculture Committee to stand up for Michigan’s small farm owners, consumers and the environment and support Fair Farm Rules.

It's the "Those Reforms are Being Blocked" thing that gets my goat. Somehow our leadership ("somehow", no doubt, being $$$$$$$$$$$$$$) is considering caving in to pressure from large farms to weaken the farm bill and make it HOSTILE to the independent farmers.

As if we want to dissuade more people from entering into agriculture. As if we want to make it harder for people, desperate to feed their families and make a go of it here, to get their hands dirty and create the American Dream from the very soil under our feet.

You really cannot get more hard working, honest, salt of the earth, hard core American bootstrapper than being an independent farmer for the love of all that's good.

Let's make it as easy as possible for hard working people to at least create FOOD. Contact your State Senator and tell them to stand up for small farmers. Especially if you're in the Michigan area, talk to Senator Stabenow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cutting Firewood Fast

This guy is just too awesome. If you're into heating your home with wood and cutting your own fuel, YouTube handle great789 has tips and tricks to slice up firewood nice and fast.

He's clearly cutting up pine, which is a pretty simple wood to cut and split, but the ideas are sound.

As Unemployment Climbs Again, Michigan's Assistance Programs are Eviscerated

It's a beautiful day. Little drizzly, little overcast, slight fog, but warm. It's a lazy, relaxing early autumn. There's a cricket chirping outside the open window.

It's the time of year again when I get to feel sanctimonious about the deals I get on apples at the farmer's market. Yesterday I picked up a half bushel of macintosh apples for $6 - crisp and sweet with a little tart. I tend to go for the apple seconds with minor blemishes. Dark spots.

I should not be looking at unemployment figures today.

Non-farm jobs in Muskegon are at the same levels they were at in 1995 -- 16 years ago. U3 unemployment is Muskegon is back to the 12% range again. I was feeling pretty good earlier this year and late last year. We were backing away from the near 16% unemployment mark we were at in January 2010. In April 2011, at 10.1% unemployment, it looked like we might actually drop below double digit unemployment for the first time in 30 months.

Now we're on to month 34, and seeing a rise in the unemployment level again.

Except now, instead of seeing more help for those struggling to get by, we're seeing Lansing and DC stripping help for people. Michigan's unemployment benefits have been slashed from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, even as people are well into their third year of unemployment. The State level heating assistance fund for individuals is nearly empty and the state has not moved to fund it.

A pittance of cash assistance for those most in need has been retroactively slashed to 48 months, leaving 11,000 of Michigan's poorest citizens without a means to get by with necessities like housing, clothing, utilities, toiletries starting within the week.

And even as food banks are running empty, the state of Michigan is making food assistance more restrictive and raising the eligibility standards.

Michigan has slashed child tax credits for families, removed primary residence tax credits that benefitted the middle class, and are now taxing pensions for those who held up their part of the worker contract.

As our economy moves in the wrong direction, our programs to help low income people and the rising number of people dropping out of the Middle Class do too.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest businesses continue to see their taxes cut...and as most of the housing market tanks, luxury housing sales continue to climb.

This time, 15% unemployment is going to hurt a lot more.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Something is wrong with this animal.

What is wrong with this animal?

There's something WRONG with it.

Just LOOK at it. The bigheard carp.

Look at that thing.

Something's wrong with it.

I mean, just look at it.

Ain't natural.

Portraits of Wall Street - A Photostudy of Three Emotions

Somehow, somewhere, some lucky bastards with senior positions at various news agencies are New York Stock Exchange photographer, and they are the ones who take pictures of the stock brokers each day to sum up the day's or week's stock successes/faulures/non-issues.

It's always some dude with monitors in the background expressing emotion. Like so:

Here's the Happy Wall Street Guy to show that the stock market went up. You can see how he's smiling because he made more money that day.


Here's the sad Wall Street guy. You can tell how he has a sad emotion because he lost money. His hands are clasped over his mouth in horror. He probably lost a lot of money.


Okay, here's cautious Wall Street. They didn't MAKE much more than a couple million bucks apiece, but they didn't lose money either. All in all, a so-so kind of day.


And there you have it. The three emotions of Wall Street. Now it's going to bug you because you'll see these images all the damn time and they'll start to look stupid.

Gov. Granholm Talks National Energy and Manufacturing Policy on Daily Show

It must be challenging to see what's going on and not have anybody listen. Governor Granholm was on Jon Stewart last night, telling America what the future held for the rest of the nation because Michigan has lived it already.

Nobody makes a clearer case for getting our act together and setting a Nationally guided energy and manufacturing policy than Granholm.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Other 98%" Movement - It's on Facebook, Now. The Big Time!

Well, everybody knows it's not a Popular Movement until it's on Facebook, right? That's why I'm happy to find this site and facebook page called The Other 98%.

That 98%, by the way, is Americans who make under $250,000 per year. Are you one? If so, you may want to add your voice.

It's pretty simple, really. Many of us feel that Washington has only the interests of the high wage earners at heart. This isn't about taking away. This isn't about punishment. Most folks with money worked hard for it and deserve it.

But they don't deserve greater representation in DC.

This is about getting a proportional amount of attention paid to our issues and concerns.

Bloggers and many individuals at the grass roots level have been talking for a long time about the growing disparity between the attention DC gives to those with a lot of cash vs. the attention DC gives to the rest of us. It's awesome to start to see this important observation start to gain traction and get more notice.

When folks look around and suddenly start comparing notes and realizing they all feel the same way...that's when a real movement starts.

The Other 98% is a grassroots network of concerned citizens fed up with the status quo in Washington. We seek practical solutions to the many challenges facing America. We stand against the bankers, CEOs and lobbyists who have hijacked our democracy to serve themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Our Mission: We need a massive new movement to kick corporate lobbyists out of DC, hold our elected officials accountable, and fix our democracy to make Washington work for the other 98% of us.

Re-magic-ing my Wood Chopping Maul

It's time to get a new maul handle. It's almost October already and I've had a couple large piles of wood hanging around on the side of our yard for most of the summer. That it's not chopped and stacked is one part "because it was too hot", one part "because I've been lazy" and one part "because my maul handle is cracking."

It's a fiber glass core maul handle. I used to use exclusively wooden handles, and blew through those pretty quickly. When I first started using the fiber glass core, it felt like a magic artifact one might get in some role playing game like Dungeons and Dragons. You know, like a +1 short sword or a magic mace that has +3 damage against orcs. But in this case it was a magic maul with +2 damage against oak and beech wood.

POW! POP! I could feel the maul doing the work for me.

It felt mystical. I could crack through a pile of wood in a half hour and my hands didn't have that jolted tingly sensation.

But I overshot the wood with the maul once in a while, here and there, like ya do and the handle landed square on the wood with tremendous force. Each time I did that I felt the core crack just a bit. Now there's a lump emerging from the plastic side where the fiberglass is buckling, and I can see splits in end of the fiberglass rod. At this point it would do as much good to punch the wood with my fists for all the good it's doing. The handle has just enough bounce and give now to make the maul more or less worthless.

Now I'm confronted with the task of removing the maul handle.

With wood, I'd just start a fire in the fire pit and toss the maul in and let the fire do the work (by the way, this is apparently terrible idea since there can be air pockets in the steel that could expand and cause a bit of flak...or that's what I hear...somehow it seems unlikely...but there it is). Then when the maul cooled I'd put in the new wooden handle.

With fiberglass, I'm not quite sure what to do. The handle is held in with a resin or epoxy. Probably best not to burn it. I'm thinking I may take a thin hack saw to the handle and chisel the rest of the handle out of the steel maul end.

I like the continuity of keeping my maul end and it seems wasteful to toss it and replace it when I could just change up the handle for the dozenth time.

We'll see how it works. Can't wait to get back to having a magical maul again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Peach is a Moment

A peach is a moment in time. It's can't be stopped, or hurried, or held in stasis. A peach, a ripe peach, is just a moment.

The past few weeks have been high peach season in West Michigan. The farmer's market has full, round peaches overflowing in pint and peck and half bushel baskets. Pinkish ones, small orange ones, pale, nearly white fuzzy ones.

I buy small quantities of peaches. Only as many as we can reasonably consume in a short time.

While I buy tomatoes, beets, apples, pears, cauliflower by the half bushel or bushel, I buy peaches by the pint or if pie is to be made, a half peck.

They'll ripen all at once, in the refrigerator, on the counter. No matter what you do, they'll ripen. And all at once. Suddenly the same peach, once ripe, feels heavier, as though it swelled up over night. And it's soft, with a little squeeze to it. It's ripe. And it's sweet. And just the touch of a knife opens it, and somehow the juice is contained, suspeded in the pulp and flesh of the fruit. Open the fruit to soon, and it's hard and flavorless. Too late and the juice falls out before eating it. But at just the right moment, a window in time, the flesh is sweet and full and juicy and flavorful, and the floral scent fills your nose and lingers on your hands.

A ripe peach excites all the senses.

I don't can peaches.

I don't bother.

A canned peach is an approximation of a peach. It's a re-animated body of a peach. It is the vague suggestive flavor of a peach.

A peach can't be held in time.

It doesn't have the loyalty, and durability of an apple, which you can dry or smash into a sauce and put it in the stasis of a can for years and recover a high level of joy. Especially if you're opening a honey crisp apple sauce, which is almost maple-syrup-ish, almost carmalized.

An apple can defy time. An apple will wait for you.

But a peach won't. A peach can't. A peach is more than just flavor, or sweetness. It's texture, scent, the sound of biting into it.

You can't hold it.

You can't put it into stasis to enjoy later.

The summer winds down, and the peaches hang heavy on the trees until they find their ways into piles in baskets at the farmer's market. And for that moment and that season, there is nothing so beautiful as a fresh, ripe peach. Close your eyes and feel it between your teeth as it fills your senses. There's a new chill in the air. And the wind is picking up. Blue days turn to overcast, and fog moves in off the lake each morning. The edges of the trees are red. There's a light, sweet, burning oakwood smell to the air in the evenings as people take the edge off the colder nights.

And then it's gone until next year.

Charity Care Doesn't Cut It

Woohoo! The much touted Conservative vision of charity care at work, folks. If you're a lucky winner, you too can be spared a life of searing dental pain. The old canard about how charities can equally or better handle basic human needs than a Democracy can bugs me.

In Muskegon County, local dentists volunteered their time to help poor and low income individuals with dental care needs. Last year they went on a first come first serve basis. 300 people showed up, bu they were only able to help 150.

This year, they had a lottery instead...meaning if your number was drawn, you got dental care. If not...well...

Last year the dentists set up a free clinic day on a first-come, first-served basis. About 300 people showed up, but the dentists could only help about 125. This year, the partners had a raffle to assign appointments.

These doctors and dentists and the folks helping them are fantastic people. FANTASTIC people. And the work they're doing is incredibly helpful to hundreds of people, sparing hundreds from lives of agony or an inability to eat hard foods.

But as a dream model for providing opportunity for all Americans, to helping Ammericans live healthier, more productive lives, holding a lottery to see who gets to eat solid food this year and who doesn't is pretty pathetic for the richest nation on earth.

This is as good as charity care gets.

I've mentioned another example before...the empty Salvation Army food pantries. After reading that the Salvation Army food pantry was running low and had to limit help to people, I went in with several bags full of food. I was SHOCKED by what I saw. I was directed to a room with rows of empty steel shelves. Far on the end, against the wall, were a few cans of beans.

"Is this everything?" I asked

"Yup. This is EVERYTHING."

This is not a proper or even viable model for feeding people who have no food. The obvious weakness is that a food pantry relies on food donations from a poor community in order to feed a poor community.

Charity care is not a viable model for providing the level of opportunity people need to reach their fullest potential, for providing the best nutrition children need to grow to meet their fullest potential, for helping people deal with intense daily pain that removes them from being productive.

Charity care won't cut it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Michigan Jobs Fair.

Jobs Fair this month in Farmington Michigan, with positions in Holland to Plymouth.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Oakland Community College – Orchard Ridge Campus

27055 Orchard Lake Road

Farmington Hills MI 48334-4579

H Building

Please join us for opening remarks by Earvin “Magic” Johnson at 9:30 a.m.

Audience – experienced professionals seeking work in the Automotive Industry.

Over 100 Positions available between Plymouth, Michigan and Holland, Michigan.

Positions for Plymouth, MI are - Designers, Engineers, Programmers, Technicians

Positions in Holland, MI - Catia Designers, UG Designers, Project Engineers.

Pay rates for these positions are $30-$60/hr based on experience. All positions are contract and have the potential to be longer term and direct hire.

Please bring a copy of your resume along with Government issued identification. Onsite interviews will take place.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Mmm...Just Got Back from a Grand Haven Fish Boil

Went down to Grand Haven for a fish boil. Whole small potatoes and onions and a pile of locally caught salmon all slathered in an unholy amount of butter. It was held right off the charter boat docks off of the Grand Haven boardwalk that leads all along the Grand River down to Lake Michigan.

Boiled fish? Heck yeah. It's a Great Lakes thing, and it's fantastic.

Fish boils are a classic Upper Great Lakes tradition which I believe has its roots in Scandinavian quarters of Wisconsin. The culinary tradition generally revolves around native whitefish or lake trout, but when King Salmon was introduced to control the invasive alewives, King Salmon got added to the menu, too. That particular boom in salmon lead to a fast popularization of fish boils...hell, there were huge fish EVERYWHERE, and easy to catch. People had to do SOMETHING with 'em.

At one point fish boils were just about as common as BBQs in the summer and fall months. Go over to a friends house, bring some fresh caught salmon, boil it in a kettle with potatoes and onions.

Now, I'm sure many of my friends across Lake Michigan from me in Wisconsin would scoff at my notion of salmon fish boils rather than whitefish or lake trout fish boils, but those dudes don't know what they're missing.

Here's a fish boil recipe on the Food Network to try this out yourself. Pay no mind to the massive quantity of salt. That's just to lower the boiling point of the water. I promise, it's not really that salty.

Just Another Convenient Excuse to Strangle America's Manufacturing Belt

Anybody else notice how the GOP's snappy criticism of subsidies and Federal loans dries up when talk turns to Farm and Cotton subsidies?

Oh sure...the GOP talks real tough about cuts to loans and and subsidies on the rare occasion it applies to manufacturing.

Now they're looking to use the East Coast hurricane disaster as a reason to drive a steel girder through the heart of manufacturing states.

House Republicans rolled out their plan to fund disaster relief in Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) district, but at the cost of almost half of remaining loans set aside to help the American auto industry.

Included in their plan for a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30 is a provision to cut $1.5 billion of the $3.4 billion in remaining funds for low-cost loans -- sometimes referred to as "Section 136 loans." The money would be reused to pay for aid to states as they clean up after recent natural disasters like Hurricane Irene and the rare east coast earthquake -- both of which greatly affected Cantor's Virginia district. The cost of disaster assistance is usually added to the budget deficit instead of offset with cuts.

$1.5 billion?

That's it?

You can do better than that.

Say, why don't you guys just march right on down to the Iowa Caucuses and tell those folks what's what with the same dose of disingenuous "economic realism" you can't help yourself but apply to the Manufacturing states. $22.3 billion in farm subsidies over 15 years? In just ONE state? Why...that's picking winners and losers.

Come on, let 'em have it.

Or better yet, go to the NUMBER ONE recipient of Federal Farm subsidies, the libertarian State of Texas who got $24.4 billion in farm subsidies from the evil, evil, evil, evil Gub'ment.

Let's see those brave, hard jaw'd conservative principles at work, guys.

Fact is, the GOP has it in for Michigan and other manufacturing states.

Maybe they recognize that the Great Lakes / Manufacturing region, the birthplace of the Middle Class, is still a threat to whatever bizarro return to British Colonial style aristocracy they pine for.

They just cannot help themselves but to try to beat us down at every possible turn.

Want your damn cuts to fund your hurricane?

Talk to Rick Perry. He's got your cash. Don't look at us, assholes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frozen Peppers and 50 Cent Gallons of Home Made Laundry Detergent

It's been a busy week.

Crazy busy. That's a good thing. I shouldn't complain.

But tonight I'm settling down to preserving some veggies I should have preserved days ago. Got some bell peppers I'm slicing up and freezing. And some tomatoes it's high time to can.

This evening I made some of that home made laundry detergent that's been all over the hippyish, urban farming blogs and posts.

Do not mock me. It's cheap!

And...great for the earth.

But mostly, it's cheap. For about $2 you can make up a ginormous 5 gallon batch of very good, very effective laundry detergent.

It works like this:

1. Shred some Fels Naptha soap, or some castille soap.
2. Little bits at a time dissolve it into a half pan of boiling water. What size? Doesn't matter...something regular sized.
3. Fill a 5 gallon bucket (can be found at Menards or Home Depot) with about 4.5 gallons of HOT water.
4. Pour 1 cup of Borax into the 5 gallon container.
5. Pour 1 cup of Arm and Hammer Super washing soda detergent booster...or something like that.
6. Pour in the dissolved soap.
7. Mix it. Mix it really, really good.
8. Fill containers with the stuff: milk jugs, old detergent bottles, whatever ya got.

NOTE: It's going to gel in a couple of hours after mixing it up. So I like to pour it into containers before it does. Makes the transfer a lot easier. Less messy.

Anyway, the detergent works great. It's about 45 cents per gallon. Use a half cup to a cup per load.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

These are the Jerk Business Owners That Give Business a Bad Name

I'm upset.

I almost injured myself from upset. I was cutting up a green pepper while making some chili and my wife told me something her employee's old boss did that made me SO ANGRY I nearly slammed the knife down right where my other hand was. Damn I'm upset. How on EARTH can people be such assholes and not even flinch, not even have second thoughts.

For the sake of privacy, we'll call the employee "B".

Quick summary: My wife just watched as B's previous employer and staffing agency conspired openly to cheat B out of her last week of pay with a wink and a nod.


Okay...and let's just get this out, this woman is AWESOME. Holy shit. She's in her mid 20s, works her ASS off, smart as a whip, nice, respectful, thoughtful, doesn't take shit and picks up slack. AWESOME. If she wasn't living in a city with nearly 12% unemployment and few job prospects she'd be some friggin' director of something or other by now. But being part of "The Lost Generation" in a high unemployment town during the Great far as we can tell she's been treated like human filth by most of her employers up 'till now.

My wife considers herself LUCKY to have found B, because B has literally paid for herself and made that business hum like a Frank Sinatra tune, free'd up my wife's time to get more done...

1. Last week after much agonizing about it, wife decided to take the leap and offer B full time. She agonized over it because she didn't want to offer full time and not be able to maintain it.

Now I want to make something absolutely wife is pretty egalitarian in how she pays people. She's not taking home much more than B is at this point. And hiring on a new person full time was a bit of a leap of faith.

But she did it.


Because B is THAT AWESOME. Everybody likes her. My wife didn't want to lose her to another biz, and jumpin' geebus on a pogo stick, B freakin' deserves it. She DESERVES a better work experience where she's not treated like shit, especially after years of being under the thumb of a verbally abusive employer who wasn't even her employer since she technically worked for a staffing agency.

She worked for that jackass for years, part time for minimum wage through a staffing agency and was expected to take work home, and work late...did I say PART TIME? She was just PAID part time. She worked her butt off for that guy. Begged for full time for years...but nooooooo...

2. After my wife offered her full time, she put in her two weeks with Mr. Asshole Incorporated and he tried to keep her working there for free, training the new person even after her two weeks were up. And when that didn't work....he called the staffing agency she worked for. The staffing agency he had hired her from.

3. B's boss told B's staffing agency not to bother paying her for the final week...he wanted the honor of doing that himself.

4. The staffing agency called B up and told her they wouldn't be paying her. They told her that their client, her boss, would be paying her.

Never. Gonna. Happen. was just two businesses having an agreement to mutually fuck over some random worker for a pittance. A PITTANCE. Maybe a hundred bucks. An amount that means NOTHING to them. But it means EVERYTHING to the employee. Groceries, gas... know, UltraConservatives should be pissed at these guys, because THESE are the fuckers who give Business Owners a bad name. These are the fuckers who unrepentantly piss on employees and treat them like chattle and give a bad name to entrepreneurs and bosses in general.

Pissed off about regulation? Blame assholes like this who will sleep soundly without any remourse or second thoughts for twisting the knife into the back of a young, industrious worker for nothing. For NOTHING. Just to be a jackwad. Hell...they'll probably sleep BETTER after having ripped one of their workers off.

How the Hell do you DO that?

How the Hell do you cavalierly screw over another human being like that when you have NO NEED to. When there's no gain in it other than sport?

This dude owns several businesses in town and he simply can't help himself from crapping on people, joyfully lording over them the fact that they either work twice the hours under his cruel ways for part time wages, or they're tossed out and another young man or woman, easily taken advantage of, comes along.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Ecological Destruction is Cramping My Style

I'm part of a secret society.

A small band of merry men who get away from their kids and homes once every other week or so and head to a bar to drink and discuss Michigan beers. Do we talk politics? Do we talk sports? Do we talk knitting or Dungeons and Dragons?

Maybe a little of each. But mostly, we talk beer, bullshit, and food. No heavy conversations. And who the hell cares what your political beliefs are, man? We're enjoying a Michigan brew. Nothing you could say could ruin that.

There's been quite a renaissance of beer in Michigan, and two of West Michigan's micro-breweries are now consistently rated among the best microbreweries in America: Founders (in Grand Rapids) and Bell's (in Kalamazoo). But there's breweries all over the darn place, now. And there are several bars in town that have caught on that people like their Michigan beers, so they constantly change out and mix up their offering of Michigan beers, so you know our secret society just HAS to show up and drink beer there when a new beer comes in.

But it's not just beer. It's food.

We love our food.

We order samplers, we share our orders liberally.

Me...I order the same thing almost every time. I order a West Michigan classic. A fried lake perch sandwich.

I've been eating fried lake perch my whole life. Whitlow's Forerunner still has, hands down, the best fried lake perch anywhere. ANYWHERE. And my family used to go there at least once a week after church. And I'd get fried lake perch starting from when I was just a wee boy, on up to adulthood.

Every West Michigan local establishment worth a damn offers fried lake perch from the spooniest greasy spoons on up to the ritziest candle lit steak joints.

Fried lake perch.

It's a way of life. It's the flavor of West Michigan.

And, dammit, it's what I order.

Except for today.

Today I was with my secret society at a fine restaurant that shall go un-named and I ordered a certain appetizer because appetizers were half off: fried perch sliders.

"Fried perch sliders" I said.

And the waitress said "I'm sorry, we don't have those anymore. We don't have any perch."

And I was like "But....but........but............b.....but........but that's what I EAT!"

"I'm sorry. We don't have it on the menu any more."

I kept sputtering "BUT.....why?"

The waitress was apologetic: "The perch we've been getting is so small. And it's not fresh. It's just not good."

"Am I the only one who's pissing and moaning about this?"

The waitress said "Oh no...every night somebody asks about it. It's been a big deal."

So I got some ahi tuna mini tacos. It was terrible.

Once teaming with lake perch, Great Lakes and inland lake populations of lake perch have been dramatically reduced as invasive species start to horn in on the environment...particularly zebra mussels.

Catches have been fewer and smaller...and many places have turned to very expensive farm raised lake perch.

It's just awful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Apple Growers Face Bumper Crop Apple Year With Nobody to Harvest

They're saying the apple harvest this year is going to be monstrous.


In fact, I'm going down to the farmer's market this very morning to see this apple cornucopia for myself. I expect my mind to be blown. I EXPECT it.

Growing conditions in West Michigan, for the third largest apple producing state in America, have been perfect.


Bumper crop. Apples, apples, apples piling up and rolling around everywhere like popcorn bursting from the pan. BOOM. The point is, we're going to have a lot of apples this year.

And boy are the farmer's worried. Apparently state crack downs on immigration have taken a massive, crunchy bite from farmers' ability to harvest crops

Georgia’s new immigration law appears to have contributed to a reduced flow of migrant workers heading to northern parts of the country for fall harvests, Michigan agriculture representatives said. Growers said they haven’t seen as many “drive-ins” — carloads of workers — as they typically see this time of year.

“There are some indications … that the labor isn’t there,” Pat Chase, salesman for Sparta, Mich.-based Jack Brown Produce Inc.


A sufficient supply of migrant labor is critical for Michigan apple growers, whose crop is almost entirely hand-harvested. Unpicked apples deteriorate after reaching peak condition and eventually drop to the ground, costing growers income.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Muskegon Food Pantry Running on Empty

Yes yes, everybody is talking about the president's AAAAAAAWESOME speech tonight.

What can I add to that conversation? Nothin'. Except to say that I'm proud to call Obama the Prez.

No, what I'm going to talk about this fine and balmy evening is something depressing. So sit down. Sit down for a moment.

No matter what you think about the Salvation Army, and if you're some Liberal SOB like me I'm sure you've got some opinions. But no matter what you think about the Salvation Army itself, the substance is that the food pantry in Muskegon is drying up because of surging food demand and faltering donations.

Unless something gives, people who rely on the Salvation Army food pantry may only be able to get food every two months.

Muskegon Salvation Army Capt. Dan Sawka said requests for food assistance have more than doubled compared to last year. The pantry now allows a recipient to get a week's worth of food every 30 days, he said.


From October 2010 to August 2011, the Salvation Army pantry has fielded 2,730 requests for food, Sawka said. In the previous fiscal year, it saw 1,389 cases.
Of this year's cases, about 600 were people or families who had never needed food assistance before. That's an 85 percent increase from last year's first-time users, Sawka said.

The local Salvation Army food pantry has seen food requests DOUBLE since the previous year, from 1300 food requests to 2700 food requests and now they're running so long on food donations that they're on the verge of further limiting the amount of food they give out to each family. Right now a family can go to the Salvation Army once very 30 days. If food donations don't pick up, the Muskegon Salvation Army branch will change their policy so that a family must wait 60 days before they are eligible for another food request.


We're talking FOOD here. We're not talking plasma televisions or gold nuggets. We're not talking Pokemon cards or iPod shuffles. We're talking spaghetti and apple sauce.

One of the most infuriating memes pressed and pressed and pressed and pressed and pressed by the modern day ultraconservatives is that there are some things that the Government should not do. They promote the notion CHARITIES are the ideal method for dealing with entitlements and physical human needs.

Of course that completely ignores that POOR communities have fewer resources, and fewer people making donations...while RICH communities won't actually SEE the need. And besides, there's some stupid celebrity cause made high profile by a movie or TV docudrama and now everybody is donating their cash to help save a brain damaged otter in Seattle. Forget about the food pantry in WhoTheHellCares, Indiana. Maybe if they were more adorable.

This whole notion that charities will be the pathway to helping with physical needs is absurd. West Michigan is packed ear to ear with hyper conservative Christians who love to elect hyperconservatives who talk endlessly about how charitable everybody is and how charities, not Government, will help people.

So you'd think donating to the Salvation Army would be something these dudes did every week like clockwork.

Not so much, as it turns out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I think my wife's way of dealing with politics is better

I'm a multi-tasker. I multi-task. I'm not GREAT at multi-tasking. Or even GOOD, really.

But I do it in spite of myself. For example. This evening I was making lasagna, making sauerkraut, and watching the Republican presidential debates on my laptop which I had conveniently set up where I could watch it while slicing cabbage. The lasagna turned out mediocre (Joy of Cooking recipe). The Republican debate turned out to be entertaining. About a half hour into it my wife stormed into the kitchen with her hands on her hips and her eyes burning with fury...

"FUCK!" she said...or something approximating that, "Didn't we just fucking HAVE an election? Didn't we just DO THIS? Do I have to listen to these assholes talk trash about the HPV vaccinations for another year and a half?!?"

She was mad. She wanted to turn it way down so she couldn't hear it, or just turn it off...preferably the latter.

Not incidentally, this is why my wife doesn't follow politics. She can't stomach it.

She doesn't suffer fools gladly, and a half hour of political debates is about as much as she can possibly put up with if she's REALLY REALLY trying to choke it down to let her husband listen to politics.

It's very possible I just see this stuff as much more entertaining that it really is.

Monday, September 5, 2011

This Law Directly Benefits Low Income Communities

The importance and brilliance ofUS Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Option, signed into law by President Obama last December as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, cannot be overstated.

What does it do?

For one, it directly targets and infuses money into poor neighborhoods.

For another it cuts the bullshit class warfare arguments in a community and just helps EVERY child in a given school more pissing and moaning about why the poorest get free school lunches.

For another-nother, it also does this

A major goal of the program is to eliminate the stigma of receiving a free lunch, said Howard Leikert, supervisor of the state education department’s school nutrition programs.

Okay...not only is this program designed to help children with low income get access to a hot meal during the day, it is explicitly designed...EXPLICITLY DESIGNED to eliminate any stigma of receiving a free lunch in a community.

The program evaluates the economic eligibility of an entire school or district, rather than individual students, and if 40 percent of the school or district’s students qualify for free lunches, all students get them.


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates up to 10,000 schools in the country’s poorest neighborhoods will be able to participate, starting with the 2011-12 school year.

“Families won’t have to complete applications providing detailed information on their income. And schools won’t have to process those applications or have a cashier figure out whether to provide a free or reduced-price meal every time a child goes through the lunch line,” Zoe Neuberger, a senior policy analyst with the Center, wrote in a blog post.

This is direct help for POOR COMMUNITIES.

DIRECTLY targeting poor communities. DIRECTLY reducing financial burden on ALL FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN in poor communities.

The city of Flint, Michigan will be among the first communities in the Nation to receive free lunches for the entire school system.

Last year, 81 percent of Flint students qualified for free lunches, according to Michigan Department of Education data from last fall, the most recent figures available.

Education Department figures show about 41 percent of the state’s (Michigan) 1.57 million students qualify for the meals.

EIGHTY ONE PERCENT of children in FLINT. 81%!

What makes one qualify?

Free and reduced lunch eligibility is set using poverty levels. For example, students from families making at or below 130 percent of the poverty level — $28,665 for a family of four — qualified for free meals last school year.

Families have been getting HAMMERED nationwide.

This law DIRECTLY TARGETS low income FAMILIES and low income, high poverty COMMUNITIES.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Have fun, relax, enjoy nature and Lake Michigan, and for crying out loud don't drown

Hey guys.

Coming to West Michigan for Labor Day Weekend? Maybe going to [cue the echoing voice] THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD, Sleeping Bear Dunes? Maybe chilling at Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon?

Anywhere along the West Michgian lakeshore?

Ahhh...perfect. Relaxing. Excellent beaches, nice food, huge dunes, woodlands and nature

Welcome. Just one thing. Don't drown. Okay? When you swim in the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan, DO NOT DROWN.

Got that?

Don't drown.

I've had it just about up to here with visitors coming to our beatuiful lakeshore and getting killed because of perhaps some bad luck, but also because perhaps they didn't have quite the right level of respect for the Great Lakes.

We lost another one today in Lake Michigan on one of my favorite beach spots just a couple miles from my home. That's horrible. This year has been a huge year for drownings and most of them have been out of state or inland visitors to our beautiful lakeshores. It's fantastic people are finally starting to discover the beauty of the region. Just...for crying out loud. Respect the Laket this weekend, and don't drown.

If there's a red flag...don't swim. If there's a yellow flag...swim with caution. Watch for boats if you swim out far. And...remember...the deeper you get, the colder the water and the more likely it is to be so cold that your muscles cramp or freeze up.

If you're caught in a rup current, DO NOT swim against it. And don't panic. Swim out of it, parallel to the shoreline.

Please be safe and have fun!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Radioactive Fists of Bank Punching Justice

Justice sure does mosey on, though. Years after the fact, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is looking to sue the big banks for issuing misleading mortgages and packaging "crap" investments on purpose. Suing them for tens of billions.

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

Justice does take its sweet, sweet time.

At least GOOD justice

In fact. If you walk down the avenue of cases where a suspect was railroaded into court to appease some visceral, red meat urges of a screaming, angry public, you'll see a road a thousand miles long scattered with bad guys who got off free on sloppy police work and overreaching lawyers, and are now doing whatever it is OJ Simpson is doing.

We sure do hunger for a justice slinging vigilante in Spandex and tights to swoop in and make things better for justice. Somebody with radioactive fists of justice who's going to find the bad men, cut the bureaucratic legal crap, and start beating the justice out of them. Somebody who is going to fix the problem RIGHT NOW.

But that doesn't happen.

The real heros are the tight lipped chiefs who say things like this to the blood thirsty press "Uh...we have a person of interest, and we're monitoring the situation." And they continue to "monitor the situation" for most of a year or two until they have EXACTLY the rock solid evidence they need to lock that bastard up for the rest of his life. A ruthless, deliberative crush.