Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Travel by couch surfing
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Travel by couch surfing

Erin Crowell - January 3rd, 2011
Travel by CouchSurfing: Save a penny, restore your trust in humanity
By Erin Crowell
“Most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting.”
– Robert Thomas Allen
When he was young, Jesse Coots heard the story about his grandparents leaving the farmhouse back porch light on every evening.
“For travelers,” Coots said, “so they knew they had a place to stay overnight.”
He recalls stories from his father about the hand-dug well and how there was always a ladle there for thirsty passersby.
“We’ve lost that,” Coots said reflectively, now 33 and living in his grandparent’s 1826-built farmhouse in upstate New York. “Everyone’s afraid nowadays.”
In 2007, Coots continued his family’s tradition of inviting travelers a place to stay by joining CouchSurfing.org, a worldwide community that connects nomads with their hosts.
“We’ve hosted quite a few people from five different countries including Germany, Russia and France… and from five or six states,” he said.
Coots, along with his wife Jolene, have opened their home to complete strangers.
For free.

I found the Coots family when I joined CouchSurfing (CS) this past October while looking for lodging options along my route to the East Coast. I had recalled vaguely hearing the term “couch surfing” in passing, so I Googled the phrase and came up with the website.
CouchSurfing.org was established in 2003 by Casey Fenton, along with a handful of think-tank professionals including software, graphic and interface designers. Since its launch in 2004, CouchSurfing has skyrocketed from a community with 17 weekly signups to over 15,000.
The website boasts 2.4 million worldwide users in over 245 territories and countries, with a representation of 334 languages. Most surfers are from Europe, representing over half of the CS population.
How does it work?
Let’s say you’re headed on vacation to a place you’ve never visited. Perhaps the idea of exploring that place sounds daunting and intimidating. Maybe you just need a place to stay for a night or two.
CouchSurfing.org allows you to connect with a network of hosts in that area who have opened their homes to travelers. You begin your search wide, starting with the continent. From there, you choose the country, region/state and finally the city.
Hosts are listed on the following page and include a slew of information such as space availability, gender, age, education, CS experience, languages, interests and “mission” – for most, theirs is to learn about other cultures and experiences. For some, it’s simply finding a place to crash for the night. Both “host” and “couchsurfer” are interchangeable, looking for space while out of town and offering theirs when home.
Couch surfing isn’t a new concept. Throughout my childhood attending Catholic mass, I heard the Bible versus of Jesus being welcomed into the homes of complete strangers. Even Hebrews 13:2 advices to “Welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it.”
Hospitality is an ancient practice, but the concept has changed – a narrowing scope that encompasses only the people we know and trust. We invite a friend to stay the night.
But a total stranger? Hospitality is a business, and we charge those we do not know.

Coots and his wife live off a desolate farm county road near Le Roy, New York – somewhere between Buffalo and Rochester. With three little girls—one barely a month old—I was surprised at their willingness to invite me into their home.
“When we first mentioned couch surfing to our friends, some of them weren’t very open to it, telling us they thought it was dangerous,” said Coots. “But, it’s like anything else – you go into it using your best judgment. It’s not like we open our home to just anybody.”
Coots said he checks a surfer’s references upon request, reading first-hand accounts of other hosts and surfers who have come in contact with that person. Plus, a simple profile evaluation can go a long way.
“Once you look at their profile, start communicating through email and read their references, you get an idea of who the person is,” said CouchSurfer Jesse Jason of Traverse City (who, at the time, was expecting a surfer from Ukraine), “unless I was some super smart bad guy who created 30 profiles as references. But, who’s going to take the time to do that?”
Surfers and hosts can also dictate their level of contact with others. For example, one person may just have a yard available for pitching a tent (couch surfing isn’t limited to sofas) while others will share the whole house, including bathroom.

That’s what Sally and Keith Dykhuis of Kalkaska offer to visitors of Northern Michigan.
“When someone’s sharing your space, you really get to know them,” said Sally, “especially when sharing a bathroom. It’s interesting because you get some people who take 20 minute showers and Germans who take three minute showers.”
Dykhuis referred to a couple from Germany who stayed with them over the summer.
“Having them here was probably the highlight, bringing a non-American into our home and seeing their perspective. We talked about everything from economics to politics.”
They showed the couple around the area, taking them on hikes and to popular local destinations.
Surfers can also simply request a place to meet for coffee or a pint.
As the website states, it’s more than just finding free accommodations; it’s about making connections worldwide.
For my time with the Coots Family, we made our connection around the dinner table—also considered a fading tradition—and talked about everything from regional food and haunted homesteads to videogames and hot rods (I learned that Jesse owns a fabrication shop out of his home. A pristine white ’54 GMC truck sits in his shop, which is covered under Hagerty, the Traverse City-based classic auto insurance company).
Surfers at the Coots home stay in a guest room, which is separated from the house by a breezeway. It’s a private space, with a cabin feel – highlighted not just by the cedar walls or the open landscape of fields beyond the sliding door, but the elk head above the bed – and dozens of antlers surrounding it.
Coots is a hunter, so I decided a cherry barbecue sauce from Northern Michigan would suffice as “payment” for my night (a friend sent me off with a baggie of tomatoes grown from her Detroit garden, as well).
“CouchSurfing was created specifically so that everyone can travel the world and partake in cultural exchange,” states the website. “Staying with a host is also always free, and CS terms of use prohibit hosts from charging surfers. Many surfers like to bring their hosts gifts or treat them to a meal as a ‘Thank you,’ but this is not a requirement.”
Bringing a gift is just one suggestion on CS. Others include sending a short request message for surfing and not making your request too early in advance.
Planning my East Coast trip went smoothly, with the execution just as easy. I saw new places, experienced new things, put myself out of my comfort zone and drove over 2,500 miles – with the first miles being the only time I actually felt nervous.
After seeing Niagra Falls, I drove along I-90 in a tremendous downpour. It was getting late and I was getting hungry. With directions in hand, and a GPS on the dash, I exited the expressway and onto the secluded county roads of Le Roy.
I arrived at the Coots’ farm in the dark and pouring rain, my headlights passing over a sign nailed to a wide oak announcing the birth of a baby girl named Souly. I turned into the drive as my lights passed over the yard and white farmhouse until, finally, I saw what I was looking for.
The welcoming glow of the back porch light.
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