Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

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Random Thoughts

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Why I Love the Dixie Chicks

Random Thoughts George Foster It has nothing to do with spring fever. Also, I have heard enough of the Dixie Chicks to know that these country stars must be talented musicians, but I can’t name one song they have recorded. All three women are easy on the eyes, but good looks alone will never be enough to capture my heart.
I know what you might be thinking, but my affection for them has nothing to do with their famous dislike for President Bush’s policies. I love the Dixie Chicks because they are not afraid to take a stand, whether or not others agree with it.
The Chicks could have just kept their mouths shut and continued to rake in millions of dollars as the hottest country act in the U.S. Instead, before the 2003 Iraq invasion, lead singer Natalie Maines expressed her shame that the President is from her home state of Texas.
Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Immigration Bomb

Random Thoughts Robert Downes If you ever wish to get better acquainted with misery, then take a long bus trip through the Mexican countryside.
Here, you’ll find many small towns distinguished by three things: their ubiquitous Coca-Cola billboards, dusty soccer fields, and homes built of cardboard and corrugated roofs with the hot wind flying in and out that wouldn’t qualify as decent chicken coops in Northern Michigan.
Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ethanol & Northern Michigan

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Ethanol refineries seem to be popping up all over America like, well... like corn a‘ popping. Even Willie Nelson is on the ethanol bandwagon to cook up biodiesel go-juice from crops such as corn, soybeans and switchgrass.
Ethanol has similarities to moonshine. It‘s a high octane alcohol created by the fermentation of sugar or a converted starch (ie. sugar cane, corn...). One acre of corn produces 300 gallons of ethanol. Typically, you mix a 15% solution of ethanol with 85% gasoline to get the optimum fuel ratio. A bonus is that ethanol is a cleaner-burning fuel that‘s easier on the environment, and of course, it takes us a step away from America‘s 66% dependence on foreign oil.
Thursday, May 11, 2006

The culprit for skyrocketing energy costs

Random Thoughts George Foster We should all be outraged. The cost of heating our houses has skyrocketed, gasoline is $3 per gallon and rising, and the U.S. is now dependent on foreign oil for 60% of our energy needs. Someone needs to take the fall for this scandal but who?
How about retail gas stations, oil companies, and others in the oil industry taking some responsibility for a change. Damn those price gougers. My heating bills tripled last winter over what I had ever paid previously. Of course, after remodeling recently, I doubled the size of our house. My wife and I needed four bedrooms and three baths in case family ever visits. To compensate, we do turn off most of our lights at night in order to do our part to save energy.
Thursday, May 4, 2006

Rock of Ages

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Stopped by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last weekend.  What a place. It’s a shrine containing rock‘s holiest of holies: Muddy Waters’ knocked-up old guitars from his South Side of Chicago days, Michael Jackson’s glove from “Billie Jean,” and the six-string beater that Johnny Cash used on his recording sessions at Sun Records back in ’55.  
Then there’s the shattered bass guitar that Paul Simonon of The Clash smashed to bits on the cover of “London Calling.” Mercy!  For someone raised on rock & roll it’s a religious experience, like going to an ancient cathedral and seeing pieces of the True Cross locked in crystal, or the finger bones of saints kept for hundreds of years in silver reliquaries.
It’s strange to think that there’s a six-story museum on the shores of Lake Erie dedicated to a music that hadn’t even been invented when many of us in the Baby Boom generation were born.  Rock & roll got its wings only 50 years ago -- around 1956.
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why the Pistons will lose early

Random Thoughts George Foster “The Detroit Pistons are the best team in basketball and a lock for the NBA championship.”
Recently, words to this effect came from respected basketball legend and TV analyst Bill Walton. Most sports fans in Michigan would have to agree - expectations in these playoffs are very high for the team. Anything less than an NBA championship crown will stain the Detroit Pistons as a failure this year.
All season, the confident, unselfish Pistons have done whatever is necessary to win. They have the distinction of being the only dominant NBA team in memory that doesn’t have a superstar player to bail them out when times are tough. No Michael Jordan to hit the last second championship shots, no Shaquille O’Neil to score at will inside, no Magic Johnson to transform ordinary players around him into stars.
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Scary Stuff for Earth Day

Random Thoughts Robert Downes There have been some scary movies out lately: Slither is about an invasion of alien worms set on eating everything and ever’body on earth -- most unpleasant. And The Hills Have Eyes is about mutant cannibal hillbillies. There are some scary books out too: Stephen King just wrote one about people turning into zombies after using their cellphones.
But this is pale stuff compared to what’s really out there.
If you want something that’ll really curl your toes -- something that’s 1,000 times scarier than an imaginary extraterrestrial bloodsucker in your bathtub -- check out the April 3 issue of Time magazine and its special report on global warming, entitled “Be Worried. Be Very Worried.”
It doesn’t get any scarier than this.
Lord, I got a shiver just thinking about it.
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Land of the Dead

Random Thoughts Robert Downes  There’s nothing like walking through a Northern Michigan graveyard to put you in a reflective mood.
   Here, you’ll find the history of the region written one life at a time on the headstones of those who took their last carriage ride many years ago.  
   The sense of kinship and connection isn’t as heartfelt in a big cemetery.  In Petoskey and Traverse City, you’ll find cities of the dead in the form of large cemeteries planted with the town fathers and mothers.  Today, chances are your local necropolis is haunted by goth teens playing paintball or some role-playing vampire game at night; its avenues tended with scrupulous care by day.  There’s order in the region’s big cemeteries, and a sense that life goes on.
Thursday, April 6, 2006

Is Michigan the new Arkansas

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Have you heard this one yet?  The notion that Michigan is on such a slide that we’re on par with Arkansas, a place generally thought of as the pits.
I’ve always taken great pride in our state, assuming that Michigan was in America’s “Top 10.” Part of this sprang from the fact that my father was a state highway inspector who helped build Michigan’s freeway system in the ‘50s and ‘60s.  It always struck me that our roads were so much better than the disastrous turnpikes of Ohio or Pennsylvania.  Our freeways were concrete proof that our state was better than most.
Then there is our beautiful scenery in the north and along the coasts.  And our huge universities in Ann Arbor and Lansing.  I always assumed that Michigan was ahead of the curve.
Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Ultimate Tax Man

Random Thoughts George Foster You are not alone.
As politicians complicate the tax code more each year, more Americans have a need for professional tax services. If you have lost confidence in preparing your own income taxes, wonder if your tax practitioner is best for you, or like to save money - read on.
As a former tax-man myself, I still choose to hire someone else to prepare mine and am happy for it. Here are considerations for choosing your tax practitioner:
First, spend time comparative shopping. If you have time to look around for the best deal on your favorite melons or laundry detergent, you surely can investigate options on high-quality tax services that might save you thousands in taxes paid.
Thursday, March 23, 2006

You bet your sweet biomass

Random Thoughts Robert Downes     Recently, a local booster of alternative energy told me he was excited about a new project to provide heat for a major development in Traverse City by burning “biomass.“
  “What‘s biomass?“ I asked, thinking it sounded vaguely obscene.
   “It‘s woodchips,“ he replied.
   I had to laugh because it seems it‘s getting harder and harder these days to speak plainly, using raw, descriptive words that say just what you mean.
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unsigned Letters

Random Thoughts Robert Downes We got two terrific letters last week in response to Anne Stanton’s “Rough Justice” story (3/6) on allegations of police brutality.
Unfortunately, one was unsigned and the other writer requested that we not print her name. Poof. Like most newspapers, the Express doesn’t print unsigned letters unless there’s an exceptionally good reason.
Thursday, March 9, 2006

Is the President too Liberal?

Random Thoughts George Foster George W. Bush is a flaming liberal. L-I-B-E-R-A-L. And I am not the only one saying it. More and more respected voices of the conservative establishment are labeling the President with the king of all slurs in their circles – the “L” word.
Fiscal responsibility, toughness on security issues, and strong leadership are at the core of a platform that has twice elected the Bush administration - and the mantra for conservatives everywhere. In recent years, any sign of weakness on these matters earns the deviant an automatic badge: liberal.
Fiscal responsibility. Former Reagan economist, Bruce Bartlett, scorches Bush in his new book, Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. Bartlett even states that the conservatives’ archenemy Bill Clinton employed more conservative principles than the current administration. After all, the Clinton years did come closer to balancing the budget than his immediate predecessors.
Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Big Stuff

Random Thoughts Robert Downes That familiar friend of Northern Michigan is coming around again: Mr. Big Stuff, as in, how big do we allow our beloved, but small, cities to become?
Mr. Big Stuff was last spotted in Petoskey where citizens argued the pros & cons of an $80 million development that would add a half-million square feet of retail, office and housing space downtown. That debate seems to have been resolved with plans for Petoskey Pointe, a building that will look sort of like a five-story wedding cake, housing luxury hotel condos, a restaurant, spa, movie theater, bank and parking structure.
Thursday, February 23, 2006

The brave new world of home remodeling

Random Thoughts George Foster It all began a year ago when my fiancé insisted we have a real kitchen if she was going to move into my house after the wedding.
Never one to restrict her culinary expertise, I promptly agreed. After discussing all possibilities with a builder and architect, one thing led to another. Soon we had plans for a renovated house twice the size of the existing home and ten times the cost of our idea for a new kitchen. Gulp.
When mentioning the decision to undertake a major remodel of my house, friends said, “Get ready for a real ordeal. Or, “Forget about your life being the same for at least a year.”
How difficult would it be, I thought? The crews could work around me and visa versa. It will be fun. Well, because of my fun-filled building project, 2005 was easily the most stressful year of my life. Here are the rules for residential building and renovation I have learned – the hard way: