Phil in the Blank A column by Phil Custodio

Stories of figures clad in black prowling local neighborhoods may have been embellished a bit as it spread from neighbor to neighbor, as might have happened in the story ‘Be aware of prowlers? on page 1, but one thing is certain.
As weather warms up with the coming of spring, people looking for easy pickings will be out taking what they can, mostly from unlocked vehicles.
Reports from victims will start to fill the basket at the local sheriff’s substation in the coming weeks.
Report after report will document the loss of purses, laptop computers, GPS units, loose change, sunglasses, paperwork and other items, taken from cars, pickups, and SUVs, almost all parked unlocked in driveways, parking lots, and along the street.
When arrests are made, thieves turn out to be local teens or people in their 20s, often familiar to deputies due to lengthy criminal records. They take advantage of targets of opportunity, which they find while walking through the area trying car doors to see if any are unlocked.
The scarier ones try doors to houses, and take advantage of open garage doors, too.
But they’re more organized, too, members of out-of-town groups with names like the Felony Lane Gang.
Keep those doors locked. But even with doors locked, it’s best not to keep items out in the open, where they can be seen from outside, because also commonly reported are smashed car windows.
A video from last summer shows how quick thieves can be. Video of a parking lot on Sashabaw Road shows partners in crime backing into a parking space next to a car, the passenger leaning out, smashing the window with a spring-loaded punch and grabbing a purse in one smooth, practiced motion.
Of course, 911 is the number to call if you see people sneaking around a neighborhood or around cars.
But call the police for things that seem suspicious too, like folks out there selling magazines without a permit. That would seem to be a good cover for things more nefarious. The sheriff’s non-emergency line is 248-858-4911.

Residents and city officials have been trading several interesting emails and letters about the proposed expansion to city hall.
They’ve also been exchanging their views face to face at city council and other government meetings. Public comments are indulged quite a bit, but since the meetings are run by city officials and representatives, some folks feel their thoughts aren’t getting through.
Residents and officials will have another chance to talk at the town hall meeting at the fire hall on Feb. 2. It’s Independence Township property, so perhaps it can be considered neutral territory.
The last meeting at the fire hall, about parking in the city, was sparsely attended, but maybe this one will be more crowded.
It’s an election year, and four seats on the council are up for a vote in November, including the mayor. If folks want to make a change, this is the time to do it. Those who support the council and the city hall project should go to make those views known too.
I saw the new movie ?13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi? last week.
I was impressed with it. I read it was supposed to make me mad, and it did inspire some righteous indignation.
At one point, one of the characters says something like, ‘POTUS (president of the United States) is being briefed on this RIGHT NOW.? This should be the point where things start to get done, but that’s not what this story is about, unfortunately.
It had a bomb-point-of-view shot I thought was kind of weird, but it’s a Michael Bay movie so I think it was required.
One thing I liked about the film is one of the lead actors, John Krasinski, plays one of the soldiers, Jack Da Silva. The actor also plays mild mannered paper salesman Jim Halpert in the television comedy ‘The Office.?
I couldn’t help but see lovable Jim in the 13 Hours performance, as if the television character took a wrong turn while returning from lunch at Chili’s.
I also now see the super elite soldier he is in 13 Hours in his Office character as I binge the series on Netflix.

I have a soft spot for this time of year, with its opportunity for New Year’s resolutions and new beginnings.
It was a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in 2013 that kicked off a year-long weight-loss drive resulting in the way I look at the moment.
It still happens that someone who hasn’t seen me in a while will be surprised by how I look. I appreciate those sentiments, which help keep this thing going.
Because from everything I’ve ever read or heard, keeping weight off is the hard part. Like how the landing is the hard part of falling off a cliff? Sort of like that.
I can see how relapses happen. I’m filled with billions of starved, shrunken fat cells, each and every one crying out to be refilled. I listen to them all, even if I try not to. I have a recurring dream where I look in the mirror and see I’m fat again, and I’m like, ‘what happened??
I’m heading down that road already, especially with the recent holiday feasts.
But with the new year I’m remembering how to turn it back around.
Stay out of the middle aisles of the grocery store. No more apple pies, even if they’re on clearance. More fruits and vegetables.
Turn down free food, which is surprisingly available especially during the holidays. I still have to work on that one. Realize the futility of eating a lot, which only makes me want to eat more. When I eat some junk food, my body is like, ‘that was great. So what’s next.? So there’s no point in trying to satisfy it.
And keep running. I’m running from the 265-pound me of just a few years ago. He’s not that fast, but awfully relentless. Running’s not enough to burn off everything I’d like to eat, which is quite a bit, but it burns a lot and helps in lots of other ways.
Clarkston’s Wolfpack running group, which I’ve become a fan of over the past few years, is a huge benefit. I run farther and faster with them on Saturdays than I would on my own.
They gave me the ‘Most Erratic Attendance by a Male? for 2015. Apparently, I’ve only been going to newsworthy running events lately.
So I might have to bump up my work with them this year. They’re all newsworthy anyway.

The federal government giveth, the federal government taketh away.
That’s what I was thinking while looking at pictures the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office sent of workers loading up its M113 armored personnel carrier, to be returned to Washington.
I used to enjoy seeing the thing at parades though town. It reminded me of my time in the service. I never had to ride around in them, but they were around.
It was taken away due to a civil rights issue, according to President Barack Obama, whose Executive Order 13688 strips away military vehicles and other surplus equipment from police all over the country.
Ferguson, Missouri, is pretty far away and Clarkston hasn’t had to deal with the police shootings and racial riots of that and other areas, but this is a way we get to feel some effects from it.
The executive order stems from that and other similar incidents lately, and is a response to the militarization of the police ? the president thinks police equipped with military hardware are too eager to use it on the people during riots or whatever.
Maybe he’d have a point if local cops were hitting the streets with belt-fed machine guns and hand grenades.
But it’s sad the same reasoning applies to the M113, an armored box with tracks, no gun turret, firing ports, or other weaponry.
It wasn’t even that great a combat vehicle in its day. It has aluminum armor. An iconic image from the Vietnam War is of soldiers riding on top of the tracked vehicles, because that was less dangerous than being inside if it hit a mine.
That’s not the way vehicles like this are supposed to be used.
It would be fine protection, however, against the rifles and pipe bombs so far used by criminals, mental cases, and terrorists.
Deputies could drive it onto an active-shooter scene, picking up victims under fire. Now they’ll either have to wait until the shooting stops, or head out there in their cars.

When I first started covering Clarkston City Council meetings a couple months ago, one thing I had to get used to was the voices in back of my head.
Actually behind my head. The voices of the folks sitting behind me.
There’s lots of audience participation at city council, planning commission, and other meetings of the City of the Village of Clarkston.
I previously covered Clarkston School Board meetings, where audience members would make their views known by clapping or, sometimes, booing what board members were saying, and stepping up to say their piece during the public comment parts of the meeting.
Public comments are just the beginning for Clarkston city audience members. During the council’s old and new business discussions, residents chime in with comments for and against what council members have to say, all the time (almost).
That’s fine with me. City residents are the ones who will have to pay for whatever plan the council approves to expand city hall and DPW garages, as well as legal expenses and possibly settlements in lawsuits against the city, so their voices deserve to be heard.
More pieces of free speech have been delivered to the Clarkston News office recently ? an anonymous reader has been creating bootleg Dilbert cartoons titled ‘The World according to Cory,? with new dialogue substituted for Dilbert creator Scott Adams? original jokes.
Cory Johnston has been one of the more vocal critics of the city council, and the strips poke fun at him, as well as myself and Don Rush.
Cory is the Pointy Haired Boss in the strips, always with instructions for the newspaper staff, namely me and Don.
I get to be Wally, a Dilbert character with a bald head, glasses, and a lackadaisical attitude, perpetually carrying a coffee cup. The Phil version is kind of mouthy, and also seems to incessantly talk about his running.
I have no idea where the reader got that idea from.
Some of them are posted on the Clarkston News? Facebook page, if you want to see them.

This year, the weather was the nicest yet for the Clarkston State Bank Back Roads Half Marathon. Blue skies and bright sun warmed up the brisk Sunday morning nicely.
That sort of weather’s going to spoil me, especially if it returns to normal for the season next year, with the usual gray skies and bitterly cold winds.
Perhaps that’s how a November road race should be run. I was a bit off last year’s pace, when it was much colder.
That, and I didn’t train as much with the Wolfpack running club, running up and down the backroads off Holcomb Road.
Still, I finished in 1:52;31, an 8:36 minute mile pace. It wasn’t long ago such a thing would not have been possible for me. So next year I’ll get myself up earlier, Saturdays, to run with the pack.
I spent more time in Independence Oaks County Park for my training this year, so I was more familiar with the course. I can almost run it without signs and volunteers waving me in the right direction.
It’s a challenging course. Those lakeside trail hills are intense, especially the ones in the last couple miles. If I were hiking, I’d pick up a stick to walk up those hills.
With the race over, that means it’s time for Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The year goes by really fast when it gets to the holiday season.
Before then, though, American Legion Post 63, 8047 Ortonville Road, is hosting a Veterans Day Lunch, sponsored by Clarkston Mason’s Cedar Lodge #60, 11 a.m., Friday, Nov. 13.
Lunch is free for vets, and $6 for family members.
Call for reservations at 248-625-8231.
Clarkston Junior High School students usually serve the lunch, and they’ll also continue their tradition of honoring a veteran with a stone tile in their Jenna Beno memorial courtyard at the school.
They do a good job bringing veterans to the school to talk to students. For many years they’d invite World War II veterans in to talk about their experiences in Europe, Pacific, and on the homefront.
That won’t be possible much longer, unfortunately.

One thing Back to the Future Part II got right in its predictions of the year 2015 is the nostalgia for the 1980s.
There’s no new Jaws movie coming out, but there is a new Star Wars flick soon to hit theaters.
Like most people I talk to, I’m cautiously optimistic about the Force awakening after all these years, since 1983 when the Jedi returned.
The new stormtroopers look cool. One is in chrome, wears a cape, and is a woman (maybe some of the stormtroopers have always been women).
According to the new trailer, the Jedi have become something of a legend in the years since Luke, Han, Leia, and friends blew up two Death Stars and overthrew the Empire.
But the legends are all true, an aging Han Solo tells this newest entry’s hero.
Luke seems to have been laying low, more like Yoda than Mace Windu. That makes sense, since Yoda is who Luke spent time training with.
The whole thing highlights how the creators balled up 30 years of Expanded Universe Star Wars and threw it in the trash. That was for the best.
The EU lost me when they killed off Chewbacca, and that was many years ago. Since then, all those authors created a galaxy of neverending war over so many story lines of novels, comics, and video games.
If the Expanded Universe storyline was applied to World War II, the Allies would have found themselves fighting the Nazis again, after defeating them in 1945. Then they would have fought invaders from outer space. Then Audie Murphy’s son would have turned evil, taken over the Nazi empire, and murdered his aunt.
It’s better this way. Chewbacca is alive and looks really good, based on his appearance in the movie trailers.
The years after a successful revolution are supposed to be pretty boring. I remember back in the 80s, there was a TV miniseries on George Washington. It was awesome, climaxing with victory in the American Revolution.
They made a followup. It was full of the politics of building a new nation, so was pretty boring. It wasn’t until 1812 that a new war story could be told.

With the start of October this week comes the beginning of the holiday season, for me at least.
That means many opportunities for community service to help everyone enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.
Planning is well underway for Clarkston Rotary Club’s Shoes for Kids project.
I volunteered for it last year at Oakland Woods Baptist Church on Maybee Road, helping to distribute donated pairs of shoes and boots to families in need. A good experience, the two hours went by very quickly.
This year it’s set for Dec. 12. About 20-30 volunteers are needed the day before, Dec. 11, from 5-8:30 p.m. to set up all the inventory at the church.
About 165 volunteers are needed on Saturday, Dec. 12, in two-hour shifts beginning at 9 a.m. until the last child leaves, about 4 p.m.
Then volunteers are needed to repack remaining inventory, clean the church, and get it ready for Sunday church services. During the day, food and drinks will be made available for volunteers.
Rotarians and friends will be out and about on Dec. 4-5 for the Rotary Goodfellows newspaper drive. About 185 volunteers are needed to distribute the newspapers, which are traditionally prepared by Don Rush here at The Clarkston News.
The volunteers will be collecting at local Clarkston intersections and will be provided with street signs, orange barrels, orange vests, hand warmers, and Santa Hats, if wanted. During the day, hot food and drinks will be provided to volunteers. All donations go to Shoes for Kids. Volunteers can sign up on-line at and
Call Joel or Mindy DeLong at 248-625-9741 or e-mail for more information.
Before that, though, is the Clarkston State Bank Backroads Half Marathon, which I’m all signed up for.
Training is going well, with several runs a week including a 10-miler (each week). As October rolls around I’ll add some miles in Independence Oaks County Park, which should help since that’s where the race will take place on Nov. 8.

School’s back in session and Labor Day is already in the rearview mirror, which has meant one thing to me over the past few years — time to train for the Back Roads half marathon.
This doesn’t mean as much as it has in the past. In 2011, I signed up for the first Brooksie Way half marathon and started training for the September event. But then I ran/walked the 10-mile Crim race in Flint in August, a month before, and took a break because I was so worn out.
Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t ended that break when it came time for the Brooksie Way a few weeks later. That one hurt, even though I walked most of the way.
None of that sort of thing this year. I’ve been good at keeping up with the running. The year started with a fifty-kilometer run/walk in the snow and ice of February, just for fun. It was organized by Jennifer Krausman and the Wolfpack running club here in Clarkston.
I did well at the Angels Place Race in May, finishing the 10K route in a personal-best time of 50:34.4, an 8:09 minute/mile pace. That was good enough to earn me a medal for second place in my age/gender category.
I finished with another personal best in the Crim this year. I finished the 10-mile course in Flint in 1:24:23, an 8:26 minute/mile pace.
I didn’t take a break after the Crim this year. Jennifer had another idea for the Wolfpack — join in a half-marathon-length training run in Rochester the week after the Flint event.
She and most others in the group ran/walked this one, too ? interval training. I ran it, though.
There was a squad of runners from a local high school training along with us. Nearing the end, one of them gave me some encouragement, telling me to “keep my head up.” Probably some standard cross-country, track tip coaches yell at their runners a lot.
I never ran track in high school so that was kind of cool.
Half marathons may be becoming too routine for me, which means only one thing. It’s time to go for the real thing.
I might have said that before, but I might mean it this time.

I’m back on the city beat at The Clarkston News, covering City Council, Planning Commission, etc.
Big issues of the day, of course, include just how many restaurants downtown can handle. Parking was scheduled to be a topic for this week’s City Council meeting.
City ordinances require new businesses to provide parking spots based on use, number of employees and customers, square footage, and other factors.
But downtown features an deferment zone, in which businesses can pay a fee instead of provide parking.
Private parking lots downtown complicate things a bit. They shouldn’t be taken from granted by fellow business owners nor the city.
Early printing due to the monthly Independence Township Times prevents me from including what went on Monday night in this week’s paper. Check out or our page on Facebook to see what happened.
Another downtown issue brought up a lot is downtown pedestrian safety. It can be risky to cross M-15 downtown, especially on the north side at Clarkston Road.
I run a couple times a week through the area and almost always go through that intersection. More than once I found myself sharing M-15 with a car making a left turn from Clarkston Road, despite the white ‘walk? light shining the driver in the face.
Council member Mike Sabol brought up another downtown pedestrian safety issue. Bikers are supposed to walk their bicycles on sidewalks on downtown Main Street.
The words ‘walk bike? are painted several times on the sidewalks. I have seen them, but I thought that referred to the uses for the sidewalk ? walk or ride your bike.
What it means is what it says, you’re supposed to walk your bike.
That makes sense. Maybe I just have a problem with words that mean both noun and verb.
Like the word, ‘gift.?
I remember when the word ‘gift? wasn’t a verb. Now I guess it is, as in ‘I gifted you this new couch.?

I was alive in the ?60s, having been
born in June of 1969, but I was of course
too young to appreciate the culture of
the times. So I wasn’t expecting to spend
more than 15-20 minutes at Magic Bus?
Concert in the Park last Friday.
That would have been enough time to
get pictures for the paper of folks in their
colorfully tie-dyed T-shirts, peace symbol
necklaces, and headbands, along
with a few of the band,
then grab a hot dog and
skate out before everyone
else clogs up traffic
(worse than usual).
I had the pictures I
needed when I realized,
‘Hey, this music is
great!? And the crowd
was into it. I don’t think
I’ve seen a Magic Bus crowd in Clarkston
before. Very impressive.
Powerful vocals and guitar, keyboard,
and percussion work from the band, Mark
Harrington, Dave Mielke, Steve Carie,
Steve Richards, Mike Bruner, and Melissa
They looked the part, and conjured
up the Woodstock spirit of CCR, Janis
Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and the others,
blowing out the electrical system
more than a few times but not giving up ?
they were not to be kept down by The
I felt the Age of Aquarius, too. Actually,
each age on the Zodiac lasts about
2,150 years so it will be Aquarius? for quite
some time, but in the sense of the ?60s, I
was right there with everyone there who
lived through it.
Peace and love! Sounds good to me.
I’ll be looking for some tie dye of my own
before their show next year. I’ve actually
made one before, though I don’t think I
have it anymore.
I see quite a bit of the ?60s in the
present, with the war overseas, racial strife
in the big cities, even movies and TV. Iron
Man, Captain America, Daredevil, all
those stories originated in the ?60s. They
just changed a few things, like Afghanistan
instead of Vietnam, 70 years on ice
for Cap instead of 20.
So I stayed for the duration of that
Concert in the Park, until after 9 p.m. when
music had to stop.
That’s what happened the week before,
too, at Kari Lynch’s country music
concert. It will probably be the case this
Friday, too, with the classic rock of Bar
None. Classic rock usually means the
?80s. I actually lived through those years.

Independence Township’s Fourth of July Independence Fest in Clintonwood Park includes a Veterans Ceremony and Military Museum for the fifth year in a row. I’ve enjoyed taking part ? helping to organize and participating in this part of the festivities. Vets display their uniforms, photos, medals, and other memorabilia for people to check out.
The new addition to the senior center, constructed over the past few months, looks like a go for the military museum. It’s set to move from its former location in the Carriage House.
I’ll be there, along with Vietnam, Korea, and hopefully World War II and more recent veterans.
I’ll be representing Desert Storm vets, wearing my old desert camouflage BDUs and displaying stuff from my time in the U.S. Army in the late 1980s, early ?90s ? photo albums, uniforms, books and magazines on Soviet military equipment of the 1980s, maps of southern Iraq, etc.
I wore those chocolate-chip fatigues for the first time since 1991 at last year’s festival, which was a pipe-dream of mine after gaining lots and lots of weight after leaving the service. I got rid of those extra pounds a couple years ago and kept it off for at least another year.
All vets are invited to participate in the celebration, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It will also include a ceremony with flag raising, 21-gun salute, and recognition for vets.
The whole weekend looks like lots of fun, with the Fourth of July parade through downtown at 10 a.m., and craft show, petting zoo, live music, and fireworks at the park after that.
The Concert in the Park has country singer Kari Lynch scheduled for the Friday before, on July 3. And a Toby Keith Tribute band is scheduled to play at the vets celebration at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth.
I can appreciate that. I was stationed at Fort Campbell in southwest Kentucky, an hour away from Nashville, Tenn. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, I had no particular exposure to country music. But a visit or two to Opryland showed the appeal, especially the stars of the time, folks like Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, and Trisha Yearwood.
Kari looks to be more like the country stars of the 21st century, like Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. That’s fine. I like them too.

Not too long ago I decided to tag along with reporter Andrea Beaudoin down to Clarkston City Hall to see City Manager Carol Eberhardt.
The questions we had weren’t difficult.
We had a list of 13 phone calls from the city attorney to the city manager, mayor, and city clerk on the attorney’s monthly invoice for services, for the month of March.
All labeled, ‘miscellaneous,? they were billed for $47.15 each for a total of $617.50.
I also asked about phone calls between the attorney and the sheriff’s department.
I took notes of the city manager’s responses.
‘I have no idea what they are,? she said about the attorney’s calls to the sheriff’s department and district court. ‘I have zero role in that.?
Regarding the miscellaneous calls, seven of which were to her ? ‘who knows,? she told us. I wrote down ‘who knows? twice. She said it a lot.
That gave me a sinking feeling.
Like the feeling I had when I read the selling points for Proposal 1. If approved, all the new road work would be under warrantee, proponents said.
That meant no one bothered with warranties on past and current road work.
In both cases, my warm-and-fuzzy feeling that folks in charge know what they’re doing was severely compromised.
The city manager does a great job promoting the city ? she has a Facebook page called ‘Positively Clarkston? ? but she’s not required to know anything about what the attorney is doing?
A check of the Clarkston City Charter shows this isn’t the case.
The charter lists 15 responsibilities of the city manager. None of them mention promotion of the city. They do include supervising and coordinating the work of administrative officers and departments of the city, which includes the city attorney.
Maybe a few hundred dollars in attorney billings don’t make much difference in a budget of several hundred thousands.
But the city is considering expanding city hall, maybe spending more than a half million on it. The city needs someone who’s an expert on this sort of thing. One who at least knows what’s going on.

Last year about this time, folks all over the country were starting to dump ice water over their heads.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge success, raising $115 million and awareness of ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”
I didn’t take part myself. I had characters in a webcomic I make do it for me, then challenged other web comic creators to ice their characters as well. Turned out well. It’s still up at my comic, Living Room Wars.
This year, a Michigan man is hoping to harness at least some of that energy for another cause.
Brian Avila started the 22 Pushup Challenge. Instead of a bucket of ice, participants do 22 pushups within 22 hours.
The number chosen is heart breaking. That’s how many veterans, suffering from post traumatic stress and other mental illnesses, are said to commit suicide every day. They say one active duty service member a day also take their lives.
Those are horrifying statistics, which are expected to grow as more service men and women return from the battlefields overseas.
If doing some pushups can help raise awareness of this problem even a little, it would be the least I can do. It should be posted on The Clarkston News Facebook page by the time this comes out.
The pushup challenge is just one idea. The non-profit group Stop Soldier Suicide has several listed on their website,
They also posted some warning signs, including feeling you don’t belong or are a burden; significant relationship, financial, medical, or work related problems; current or pending disciplinary or legal action; substance abuse; problems with a major life transition, such as retirement, discharge, divorce; loss of fellow service member or veteran; and isolating yourself from friends and family.
Symptoms of post traumatic stress include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety in crowds, avoidance of reminders, insomnia, startled by loud noises, paranoia, trouble concentrating, and increased irritability and anger.
If you notice a problem, don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t leave the person alone. Call 911 or their Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 to speak with a trained professional right away.

It’s good to see people back outside on the sidewalks and safety paths, running, walking their dogs, biking, etc.
The junior and senior high school track kids are back out there. When they first showed up a couple weeks ago, I managed to pass a lot of them on my afternoon run. But they’re already outpacing me.
It’s been an interesting winter of outdoor running. I wanted to avoid taking a couple months off, like I did last year.
In that I was successful, but I fell into culverts twice, when they were covered in the white stuff.
So I liked how the snow just up and vanished over a couple days of above-freezing temperatures. Good riddance.
With no formal race events in the snow and ice, I expected a quiet season, just running in the cold to keep in shape.
Clarkston’s Wolfpack running club threw that for a loop. They meet every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. no matter what. Sleeping in Saturday mornings is now mostly a thing of the past for me.
They also had that 50K Celebration earlier this month, which they trained for over most of the winter.
I joined them a couple times Saturday mornings at Indian Springs. They met even earlier for that, at 7 a.m. The park is very dark at that time of morning in February. The first time I ran with the group, I found them only because of the little lights they put on their hats and jackets.
Club members would talk about how they were training, but I was a bit confused since I looked all around the internet but could find no menton of a local 50K event. But anyway, my thought was, ‘oh, training for a 50K? How interesting! Good luck to you!?
I showed up at the event on March 7 expecting to show my support for the group by joining them for one, maybe two 10-mile circuits. I got caught up in the spirit, though. They had race bibs made up, each lettered for the event by hand. And also lots of cookies and snacks. I ended up sticking with them and finishing the whole 31-mile course.
Then they had an after-event celebration at Buckshots, with medals, cake, all kinds of stuff. They know how to do these things right.

It’s almost spring, which means it’s time to start planning the fifth annual Veterans Celebration at Independence Fest at Clintonwood Park. I’m on the planning committee for the annual Fourth of July event.
The celebration is a chance to recognize veterans for their service, and see some of the memorabilia they brought back from overseas.
All veterans are invited to participate in the memorabilia museum. Last year’s displays ranged from World War II to the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Call Barbara Rollin 248-625-8231 for more info.
Spring also means losing an hour this weekend, due to Daylight Savings Time. There doesn’t seem to have been much time since we gained that hour last fall.
But it’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to make, because it means the cold and ice will soon go away for awhile.
I’m looking forward to safety paths reopening on M-15 north of the highway, for running. They have been snowed over for months. Also the paths along Clarkston Road leading to Clintonwood Park, as well as Sashabaw Road .
Paths dug into the snow by a few walkers don’t cut it, and many spots have been kept pristine.
Still, the snow’s been a lot less than last year. I’ve kept up a four-mile circuit from downtown around the high school with just a bit of snowshoeing.
I’m looking forward to running with the Wolf Pack and Cubbies group Saturday mornings without worrying about frostbite. It means an extra trip to Clarkston on the weekend, but I can’t stay away. They are some great people.
Jennifer Krausman, whose husband Ken Krausman passed away last September, gave me some of Ken’s running gear this week ? she wanted it to be used by someone who appreciates Clarkston running.
This is an unbelievably generous gesture and a huge honor. Ken ran marathons, and was also a leader of the club, always encouraging fellow runners and making sure everyone felt welcome.
He’s a major reason I’m in shape enough to make use of it. Now the least I can do to say thank you is help carry on Ken’s legacy of fellowship on the roads and running trails.

While conducting research for some upcoming stories about the scourge of heroin and other drugs even in Clarkston, I’ve spoken recently with local counselor and therapist Jim Evans.
We talked about how drug abuse starts small and progresses through a series of stages, from occasional use to life-consuming addiction.
The process he described rings true, and applies to more than that.
For me, it’s the food thing, not legal or illegal drugs (fortunately).
This month starts my third year on the chow wagon, after losing a whole bunch of weight with dieting and exercise. Now I’m like a recovering alcoholic who can’t keep booze in the house and hope to stay on the wagon, except it’s cookies instead of beer.
I’ve gotten into other things instead of eating, which also follow the stages of addiction to a certain extent.
Like running.
I started jogging casually, just a little bit. Then, as I got into it more, I met others who were into it more than me. They started encouraging greater participation. Then I started running with a more serious crowd, calling themselves the ‘Wolf Pack? and stuff.
‘You gotta get some running shoes, man,? I was told.
‘Hey, we’re meeting in the park later for some sweet running. You gotta be there,? another said.
‘Hey, there’s some Flying Rhinos in our territory. Let’s get em!?
Actually, no one talks like that in the running community around here, but it was pretty close (except the Flying Rhinos thing ? runners and bikers coexist quite peacefully).
And running in the park is pretty sweet. A group trains at Indian Springs Metro Park early Saturdays sometimes, and I joined them a couple weeks ago.
I was up ahead of the group a bit when I noticed three deer, all does, to my left. They wanted to get to my right without getting too close, so I ended up running with them for awhile. The next lap I ran into another group of five (or the previous group with two extra).
I ended up interval running/walking 16 miles that morning, even though I didn’t plan to.
Peer pressure, y’know.

My face is covered in ice in my column photo here.
This is an obvious sign of how this winter has been warmer so far this year.
See, last year at this time there was several feet of snow accumulated on the sidewalks of the Clarkston area, keeping me from my jogs through town for almost three months.
This year, so far, snow fall has been much more reasonable. And people have been good about keeping sidewalks shoveled, safety path plows have been hard at work, and/or snowmobilers have been out packing down at least a tread’s worth of path through the few inches of snow we have had.
Therefore, my running has stayed on schedule. It’s still gotten cold, though. Hence the ice on my face.
Things have been much warmer at school board meetings lately.
The superintendent’s evaluation has divided the school board more than ever, and teachers and parents have been attending board meetings over the past year, making their views heard regarding the treatment of the school chief by the trustees.
I can’t sit too far back in the crowd. If I do, I find it hard to hear what board members are saying due to applause when someone says something in favor of the superintendent, as well as gasps and sometimes jeers from the audience when they don’t.
I get it, emotion boils over from a sincere desire to support a superintendent whose leadership has been inspirational and well appreciated.
But it’s not necessary. For one thing, it’s not a good example for students who may be in the audience or watching on the Independence TV website.
School board members are the community’s elected representatives and are entitled to a certain level of respect, even if they don’t show it themselves. Especially if they don’t ? that would be the best example.
And the superintendent seems to know what he’s doing. Managing the release of evaluation information in the face of a FOIA request, sending his letter requesting reconsideration of his evaluation after the new school board gets sworn in ? well played, sir!
So everyone should just chill. Like me in my picture here.

I’m ready for 2015. To me, and probably lots of folks who grew up in the 1980s, this year is officially ‘the future? ? as defined by our foremost authority on time and space, ‘Back to the Future.?
It took longer to get here from 1985 than it would have using a flux-capacitor equipped Delorean at 88 mph.
But we’re here. That’s good news for meme makers, who have been making prints and posters announcing we’ve arrived at the Back-to-the-Future future for years now. Doc Brown programmed his time machine to go 30 years into the past, then 30 years into the future, no more, no less.
Math still persists as a problem here in the future.
Looking around, it’s clear there are no flying cars, highways in the air, holographic projectors, or hoverboards, all things portrayed in ‘Back to the Future II.?
Inventors have been busy working on other things instead. Computers are certainly of the future.
My family had a Radio Shack TRS-80 back in 1985, among the latest in home computing. It used a cassette tape recorder for memory storage. It came with about four KB of RAM. My old thumb drive I use for work can hold two GB of info, about 500,000 times as much.
The cell phone I carry in my pocket can handle two million times as much as the old Radio Shack machine (if these numbers are incorrect, please refer back to the math thing).
Cassette tapes back then could hold maybe 20 songs. Soon devices will be able to hold all the songs ever made.
Cable television was the latest in entertainment back in 1985. I don’t even have cable anymore, because I’ve found it to be obsolete. I stream Youtube and Netflix wirelessly (cablelessly?) through my Wii into my laptop computer and television at the same time.
What the movie got right is how people use the technology we have.
In the film, a high-tech, 3D, fully immersive holographic system was used to advertise the latest ‘Jaws? movie.
Now, lots of the internet is used to create “memes” and other, frivolous things.
At least the Back to the Future memes now feature the correct year. And usually Doc Brown, dumbfounded by the way 2015 is actually turning out.

After three weeks in my living room, my Christmas tree is looking a little bare in its lower half.
Only a few ornaments are still hanging on down there. They’re the lucky ones, survivors of a near constant onslaught by my younger cat, Lizzie.
She climbs into the tree, even though it’s artificial and the branches are thin metal rods. The bottom branches droop now. Turns out they’re not designed to hold the weight of a full grown cat.
Shiny or dull, round or spiky, it doesn’t matter. That cat wants the ornaments out of the tree and on the floor where she can play with them.
My TV entertainment center, on the other hand, is very well decorated for the Christmas season. That’s where I put the casualties after Lizzie the cat takes them out, on the top shelf where she can’t reach them.
Still, the tree will endure through the season even if every ornament is taken down by their furry nemesis. And they might ? she’s started climbing to the second shelf of the entertainment center and can now reach the middle part of the tree.
So to is the Christmas season itself under attack. Not by cute furry animals, but by the horrific murders, crime, and cruelty towards others around the world.
But there are ways the season shines on. I saw it at Shoes for Kids last weekend, where I pulled a shift helping to move shoes from the stacks to the kids. I was one of many volunteers giving up part of their weekend to help out local kids in need.
The new Depot Park bridge has been put in place, a gift to the community from Bart and Diane Clark. Just in time for Christmas! They should name the town after them (I saw that one on Facebook).
My Christmas tree will shine on despite efforts against it. So will the spirit of the season if we let it.

Christmas season is in full swing, a bit later for me because I spent Thanksgiving with family in Alabama.
But my Christmas tree is up now, to the delight of my cats, particularly the younger one, Lizzie. It’s one big cat toy to her, and also a piece of the outdoors brought inside, even though it’s artificial.
I caught her napping in the branches the other day, even though the thin metal boughs aren’t designed to hold full grown cats. She didn’t mind that at all, though.
She’s actually settled down from last year ? only one ornament destroyed so far.
Clarkston Rotary’s Shoes for Kids program is coming up, after a busy weekend raising funds during their Goodfellows newspaper drive downtown.
They’ve been calling for volunteers for the annual program, distributing winter boots, shoes, and other items to kids in need in the Clarkston community.
I signed up for a shoe-runner shift. It will be my first time helping out at the event, at which hundreds of kids are expected, so I figured I should be able to run shoes around without much trouble.
They probably still need volunteers. Check
I figure regular running season is over for the year.
The weather’s been holding out longer than last year, so I’ll keep up a training schedule around town, but it’s time for something new.
I’ve been interested in the theater for years. I like plays and movies, but my only experience with them is watching from the audience.
I think it’s time to change that. I’ve thought for a while that if Clarkston Village Players ever produced anything about my speed, I might audition for something.
They’re staging ‘A Few Good Men,? with speaking and nonspeaking roles, ages up to 50 years old. A story set on a military base with lots of drama ? that’s about as much my speed as it gets.
I could be one of those men, preferably one of those non-speaking fellows, but I’ll see what I can get.

Independence Oaks County Park up on Sashabaw Road has some seriously scenic trails and board walks. Next time I’m there, I hope to be able to slow down and take in the sights.
No time for that last Sunday. I was there running as fast as I could with hundreds of others as part of the Clarkston State Bank Back Roads Half Marathon.
Quite a few other folks were out there with us as we pounded down those boardwalks amidst the headwaters of the Clinton River.
They were walking ? strolling, actually ? arm in arm, accompanied by their dogs, enjoying the briskly cold morning and the peaceful park atmosphere. Some of them didn’t seem to know why we were there.
I envied them.
But I was happy with my time. I finished in 1:49:25, an 8.22/mile pace. Last year’s was 2:12:55.
I’ll try and include the park in next year’s training, so the steep hills don’t catch me off guard the way they did this year. Those things are not kind to leg muscles worn out from a dozen miles of running.
I won’t be able to match the route exactly, though. Looking at the race-course map and even after having run it, I still wouldn’t know where to turn.
River Loop, Spring Lake Loop, Lakeshore Loop, twice around the lake, in and out of park gates. I’d still be out there trying to finish if not for all the wonderful volunteers waving their arms, telling me where to go.
For now, though, it’s time to consider how to keep up my running despite the snow. I’m still hoping Clarkston City Council works something out to shovel sidewalks when snow gets deep.
Or I could just join a gym.
My Movember mustache is almost fully grown. The cancer-awareness, no-shave effort gave me an excuse to grow it, an effort that takes a couple weeks for me. And its for a good cause, and all that.
I might keep it even when Movember is done.

I received the final email for the Clarkston State Bank Back Roads Half Marathon, Monday night ? less than a week until the race.
Hoo boy. It’s go time. Can’t back out now.
Actually, I can. The email helpfully explains you can switch from the half to the 10K at the Saturday packet pickup. Not that I will, but I guess it’s good to have options.
Over 800 are signed up for the 13-ish mile run, along with the 10K, at Independence Oaks this Sunday.
My training has gone well, excluding a couple bumps along the way.
I like the email’s race etiquette tips, no doubt born from years of experience on the road. Runners individually are awesome, but group hundreds together and there’s a bit of mob mentality that can take hold.
‘Please be mindful and do not run three across on the trails/roads, especially if there is oncoming vehicular traffic. There are portions of the trail that would suggest you stay single file and to the right unless you are passing, on the left.?
I’ve seen this before, runners side by side, blocking the road. I usually take that opportunity to catch my breath before threading my way through. And good idea, watching out for traffic.
‘Line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk the event. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back of the race pack. Just because you arrived early does not mean you should be at the front of the starting line!?
Yes. At the Crim race last August, slower runners were like an obstacle course to maneuver through.
‘Be respectful of residents? property and use the port-a-potties at the start line and on the route rather than private yards.?
Yikes! Yes, we should not behave like dogs off the leash.
‘Emergency vehicles have the right-of-way at all times. The police and traffic control volunteers have YOUR safety in mind, and deserve to be treated respectfully by runners and spectators alike.?
My mind wanders far and wide while running, but hopefully I’ll notice emergency vehicles. Hit those lights and sirens, though!
Anyway, race time is at 9:30 a.m., Sunday, in and around the park. Hope to see you there!

With winter rapidly approaching, Clarkston City Council is debating how to make sure city sidewalks are cleared of snow.
Ideas so far include enforcing a city ordinance requiring residents to clear their sidewalks, charging $65 to everyone for the city to do it, or just having the city do it without charge.
As one who works downtown, I hope they can work something out so someone clears sidewalks when the snow comes down.
Lots of folks like to walk through town. The Stones are a regular sight on Main Street and White Lake Road across from Deer Lake as I commute into work, amongst many others.
For myself, I have to keep up my running during the winter months. The snow piles kept me off the road for more almost three months earlier this year, and it took months to get to where I was the year before.
The Wolf Pack runners, who I train with on occasion, say Independence Oaks park trails stay open, snow or no snow, so I’ll probably try that this year.
Running in the parks isn’t a bad idea no matter what.
Fewer cars.
I’ve been good about training runs in town on Saturdays for the upcoming Back Roads Half Marathon.
Last weekend, I reached the parking lot entrance onto Waldon Road at Sashabaw. A minivan was looking to enter Waldon Road and I slowed down to see if he would stop, which he did because cars were coming in both directions.
But when I crossed in front of him, I discovered he was looking left to watch traffic and decided to go for a gap ? I was in the gap. He hit me, but not very hard.
I kept going, because I had several miles to go until I could stop. The adrenaline boost lasted until I was well onto Clarkston Road, though, which was nice.
That’s one reason the Wolf Pack running club members like to run in a pack. I skipped the group run that morning because I figured participation would be sparse because of the Detroit Marathon and I wanted to sleep in.
That’ll teach me.

October already. This year went fast.
Today pretty much starts the holiday season slide to New Year’s. Oakland County Sportsmen’s Club should be bringing back their Terror of Townsend Forest soon. I’m looking forward to that. Maybe I’ll try to get more behind-the-scenes views especially of their more elaborate setups.
Then, comes Halloween itself, with Friendly Forest in Clintonwood Park and trick-or-treating in downtown neighborhoods.
Thanksgiving always seems to follow quickly behind that, with Christmas and New Year’s in its wake.
In addition to all that, for me, it’s final crunch time for training on the track. Clarkston’s Back Roads Half Marathon is coming up in a month, and it’s my longest race of the year.
I’m in a better position than last year, when I maxed out at 10 miles in my training, just a bit short of the 13.2 mile course.
This year, with the help of the Clarkston Wolf Pack running club, training runs top 12 miles so far.
And those guys run farther, if I want more help.
I’ve been meeting with the Wolf Pack for a number of weekends this year. Saturday mornings in downtown Clarkston are interesting. Runners gather in the parking lot on the north side of Depot Road, bicyclists in the south side parking lot, all preparing for an 8 a.m. start. Sometimes I feel we should start whistling and performing choreographed dance routines. But then the 8 o’clock hour hits and they pedal on their way while we make our way on foot.
I’ve also shared a bit in the loss of long-time Wolf Pack runner Ken Krausman, who passed away suddenly last month.
Ken was there whenever I showed up to join the Wolf Pack on a Saturday run. My first impression of him was something like, ‘Man, that guy has skinny legs.? Later, it was, ‘Man, that guy is fast,? as he quickly receded into the distance.
He’d come back, though, to talk to runners and spread encouragement. That was a common refrain as runners gathered the last couple Saturdays to pay tribute to their friend. He will be missed.

My Crim run went well. My goal was to finish the 10-mile race, Aug. 23 up in Flint, within 1.30:00. I crossed the finish with a time of 1:27:01, an 8.42 minute/mile pace.
My previous best was 2:02:09, in 2000. The race is completely different at those paces. It’s much more crowded, keeping up with a faster crowd.
It was good to not be passed by the guy dribbling 3-4 basketballs at the same time. I have been passed by thousands of folks, but that one hurts. If you can’t go faster than a multi-basketball-dribbling runner, you need to train more.
Streets next to water stops weren’t yet covered in discarded cups. Neighborhoods that took forever at my previous pace zipped by.
During mile eight, I was puzzled by the appearance of Miller Road. It seemed to be moving. Turns out it was full of the thousands of people who would previously have already finished by the time I got there.
And at the finish line, no huge crowd lined up at the pizza and beer tent.
I can almost see the appeal for marathons ? 10-mile runs are too short at any decent pace (almost). There’s still a why-don’t-we-just-stop phase I have to push through on just about any run of any length, but it doesn’t last long.
Now I’m training for the Back Roads Half Marathon in November. I was running 10 miles just about every Thursday for the past few months, in addition to other, shorter runs.
Now I have to step that up. I have to check if you need a permit to enter on foot Independence Oaks County Park, which is where the race will be set this year, like you do if you’re in a vehicle. If you don’t, that would be a good place to stretch things out.
And the Clarkston High School running teams run out that way, by Clintonwood Park to Sashabaw Road. They’re good for motivation, waving while going past.
Sometimes they try to highfive me but I usually miss it because I fumble with my cell phone/music player.
Another big reason I like to run is next weekend’s Taste of Clarkston. From Andiamo’s to Wendy’s, I’ll be sampling the entrees and desserts.
Sunday’s a run day, too, which helps.

It was nice to read in the paper about local kids training with the Crim folks from Flint.
Maybe I’ll see some of them this weekend at the race. I’ve been training for the Crim for months now. It’s a great course, with hills, long straightaways, and lots of enthusiastic supporters, some offering beer.
My training’s been good, too, not like before, when I’d barely work up to four miles the weekend before the race.
I’ve completed four Crim 10-mile races so far, the last one about 10 years ago. I never quite managed to actually run them, though. The farthest I got was just past the five-mile mark, the Bradley hills, before I would give up and start to walk.
This time, for my fifth, I’m ready. I hit 10 miles in training runs in early July, and been pushing it a bit farther ever since.
So if all goes well, I should be able to post a significantly better time this year, like at least half an hour’s improvement, with no walking, not even on the hills of Bradley.
I won’t be taking much of a break after that, either. That’s when training for the Back Roads Half Marathon starts. The route for the second annual run up in Independence Oaks County Park is close to where I turn around during my longer runs. There are hills up there, too, but I’m getting used to them.
I’ve become quite spoiled with the sidewalks and safety paths throughout the Clarkston area. I live up in Flint Township, where I have to run on the street the whole way, relying on lighter traffic on weekend mornings to reduce the risk.
Here, I can run the entire way without having to share the road with cars, except when I have to cross the street.
And for max safety, I can use the Clarkston Junior High track. I went up there for a run a couple weeks ago ? 30 laps, which gets pretty tedious.
As I ramp up my training-run distances, I’ll start coming down to Clarkston on Saturday mornings more, to run with the fleet-footed Wolf Pack club members. I ran with them last weekend, and was almost able to pretty much keep up with the guys in the lead.
They run in the street, but there’s safety in numbers, I guess.

This week’s letter to the editor regarding the incident at the Fourth of July parade is interesting. I was at Clintonwood Park getting ready for the veterans’ activities during the parade so I missed it.
Something about the out-of-control booer, cool and witty retort by the parade marcher, and mass approval of the crowd seemed vulnerable to exaggeration.
In this age of social media, however, it was easy to check. Post it on Facebook and see what the Internet had to say. With thousands in attendance at the parade and 2,808 ‘Likes? on the Clarkston News page, there was an excellent chance at least someone would be able to corroborate the account. Three were able to do so.
‘This really happened,? posted Roxanne Rollison. ‘The gentleman was standing right next to me and my family! At first I thought he knew those in the parade and was ‘heckling? them! And while I agree that Obamacare is TERRIBLE for our country, his behavior (and the timing) was very inappropriate!!?
‘I heard it too, so disappointing,? agreed Stacey Cronin Frankovich. ‘The adults should be able to model appropriate behavior in front of children. The Clarkston 4th of July parade has been a tradition for my family for years and I would hate to think it can be ruined by ignorant, small minded people.?
Candidate Phillip Reid was in the parade when it happened.
‘I was walking in the parade with the North Oakland Democratic Club and can attest that it happened,? Reid posted.
Obamacare and other national issues are hugely important in people’s lives, but there were many reasons not to boo, including the parade was a time for celebration and kids were there.
It was also out of place. Checking out Phil’s photos from the parade on Facebook, they marched with lots of red white and blue and candidate banners. No “yay Obamacare” banners that I could see.
And it was counterproductive. The Democrats won that particular encounter with a single cool retort.
Freedom of Speech is our right and one of the main reasons people were marching that day. But silence is also powerful. I’ve seen entire crowds go dead quiet before, to signal disapproval. It would be hard to argue with that.

In what has become a tradition at Independence Township’s Fourth of July festival in Clintonwood Park, veterans are invited to share photos, mementos, uniforms, and other items from their time in service.
I’ll be there at the Carriage House with my bucket of stuff from my service in the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War back in 1991.
I have quite a spread, with photo albums, uniforms, books and magazines detailing Soviet military equipment from the 1980s, maps of southern Iraq, camouflage paint packed into green metal cylinders that look like something dangerous even though they’re not, and various other items.
This is my third or fourth year doing this ? I haven’t been to Clarkston’s Fourth of July parade in quite some time. I’ve heard it’s quite nice.
My display in the park will hopefully be among many others, from World War II to more recent conflicts in the Middle East. They’ll also have vintage military vehicles for people to look at, and maybe the radio controlled airplane folks will return with their miniature warplanes.
There will be one difference at my table, though.
In previous years, some of the Vietnam, Korea, and even World War II veterans would show up wearing their old uniforms. This was something I couldn’t do, not since the early 90s. I kept them, though, and would use them when I try to lose some weight to see how far I needed to go.
I never quite got close enough to fit back into them, though, until last year. I finally stuck with a diet and exercise plan long enough to get back into army shape, so I’ll be wearing my chocolate-chip-cookie-dough pattern desert camouflage uniform.
It’s not the first time I’ve had them on in public recently. I’ve been wearing them at the comic and anime conventions I’ve been heading to lately. I had noticed younger folks wearing military duds at these things, for things like GI Joe and other characters, and figured, hey, I have that stuff. I’ll make it a bit more official at the Fourth of July event, with my rank tabs back on where they’re supposed to be.

After a good Memorial Day weekend, I’m ready for summer to start, hot weather and all.
Spring was a good preseason for my running this year. I ran in the Chuck Keegan Race for the Kids? 5K in April and Angel’s Place Race’s 10K a couple weeks ago.
Both were kind of chilly, but my times were good for me. At least I think so for the 5K, because I didn’t keep a time on that one. The 10K, though, I finished in about 55 minutes, just under a nine-minute-mile pace. This is about a minute-per-mile improvement over my performance in the Back Roads Half Marathon last November.
Now starts summer training in the heat. I got a taste of that last week, with its sunny afternoons. Keep them coming ? I got a new running belt for that, with two water bottles attached and a pouch about the right size for my phone. I do love gearing up for stuff.
I also caught a Memorial Day weekend movie blockbuster ? ‘X-Men, Days of Future Past.? I read the original comic back in 1981, courtesy of my brother’s collection. I may have even asked permission to read that one.
Images from the comic story stuck with me ever since, though many didn’t make it into the movie. A city bus pulled by a team of horses in dystopian New York City. Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, lying bare on the ground after getting zapped by a sentinel. A silhouette of Storm, impaled by a spike thrown by a sentinel. The original comic is set in 2013, ‘the future? at the time of publication, so far off for an 11-year-old in 1981 I couldn’t even imagine it. The actual future has no superpowered mutants flying around, but also no giant purple robots blasting everything in sight.
Of course, I remembered the reason for Memorial Day with the American Legion Post 63 and everyone else at the parade and ceremony in Lakeview Cemetery.
I was impressed with the Clarkston Junior High School students, reading their essays and reciting the Gettysburg Address.
The teachers there do a great job with their history lessons, with this as well as inviting World War II veterans every year to speak to students.

I ask in this way in an effort to be legible to those fluent in modern means of communications. I’m slowly entering the world of Twitter, which is usually a sign this particular internet platform is on its way out. Hashtags, I’ve learned,  are a way to sort tweets , although many seem to use it just for emphasis or to make a pithy statement. #behindthe times
Like in the example provided above,  I really have no interest in what others may have tweeted in regards to  what this world is coming to. It’s just another way to express my thoughts. #alternatives-r-good
There was a lot of thought expression at last week’s school board meeting. Board members’ live tweets reflected their thoughts almost as they were having them. #streamofconsciousness
We’re still looking into whether this violates the state Open Meetings Act. It seems to violate the spirit of the law,  at least, of keeping everything out in the open to everyone involved during open meetings. #lawyerup
To fix this, how about a live twitter feed on meeting room monitors, like they have on live television shows? People at home could tweet in their thoughts live, as discussions occur. Board members could have Twitter,  Facebook, emails, and whatever social media is popular right now up on their laptops during meetings to keep track of this stuff. #sarc
Hashtags may become obsolete soon anyway. Tags, using the “@” symbol, are getting that way. People use this symbol to direct their tweet, post or whatever to others on the internet. #technology marcheson
But on one recent Twitter postings of mine in honor of May the Fourth (be with you) – a picture of a stormtrooper and Boba Fett poses with children at McLaren Clarkston from a recent cancer survivor’s day  – I received a thank-you response from a cancer survivor’s group.  #yayStarWars
I didn’t send the tweet to them – Twitter did that automatically. And when posting photos, Facebook automatically  scans faces, figures out who the people in them are, asks if you want to tag them,  and then asks if you want to let those people know you tagged them. #technologyisgettingwaytoosmart

With warmer weather finally here, I decided it was time to shed the liner in my coat.
I bought my new-for-me jacket during the dead of winter at Clarkston’s Salvation Army on Sashabaw Road.
Over the past year, I’ve gone to that store many, many times to replace every article of clothing I have, as I’ve lost weight ? minus the undergarments. Those I bought new.
When I unzipped and unbuttoned the liner out of the coat, I found the liner was actually also a coat. A light jacket, perfect for spring weather.
Bonus! I love the Clarkston Salvation Army! Folks here get rid of some really nice stuff. I’ve picked up designer clothes, a blazer, jeans, slacks, shorts for a fraction of what it would have cost new.
Even with the warmer weather, I’ve found snow and ice stubbornly sticking to the sidewalk in a few spots on Clarkston Road. It should all be gone by now, though, a thought that fills this would-be runner with joy. Those crusty piles of dirt and melting snow and ice smell pretty bad. Hopefully, the rain we’ve received and will get through this spring will wash that away quickly.
I’m all registered for the Angel’s Place Race in May, which will be here really soon. I signed up for the 10K run. After a couple weeks back on the road, I’m comfortable with my four-mile route from downtown around Clarkston High School, with some slipping and sliding on the Clarkston Road sidewalk ice.
I count that as cross training.
The Back Roads Half Marathon this November has a new location this year, moving out of downtown to Independence Oaks County Park, up on Sashabaw Road.
So that probably means no running up and down the hills in the neighborhood up around Deer Lake.
It’s still plenty hilly up around Sashabaw north of Clarkston Road, though, something organizers are probably happy with. Don’t want to make it any easier!
I ran up there a couple times last year as part of my half-marathon training ? downtown up to the park and back is about 10 miles. Actually, those hills make the hills around Deer Lake look like speedbumps.

The first day of spring is Thursday and I can hardly wait.
This winter has been tough on one who recently acquired a taste for running outdoors on sidewalks not covered in banks of snow several feet deep.
I remember last year, heading out in the middle of February with no problem besides my spectacularly poor physical condition. The track at Clarkston High School was cold and windy, but free of the white stuff. I’ve forgotten what that thing looks like, it’s been covered in snow for so long.
Snowy sidewalks and tracks are less of an excuse than I thought, though. I happened to mention it to Kathy Noble at the school board meeting and she was unimpressed. That doesn’t wash, she in essence said, giving me a face her students are probably familiar with when they try something similar in her classroom at Bailey Lake.
I could have run at Indian Springs park, apparently. I’ll keep that in mind for later in the year, when the snow returns.
Anyway, my running career has recommenced after a two-and-a-half month break. Lots of backtracking, with snow blocking Waldon Road from Main Street, White Lake Road in front of the Cemetery, Miller Road, Clarkston Road, and many other places.
My pace isn’t too bad, despite the occasional snowshoeing.
There shouldn’t be anymore of that starting this week, with temperatures warming into the 40s and 50s lately. The snowbanks and piles seemed so permanent, but I will be happy to see them gone.
So training can begin for this year’s races. I’m still in decent shape, working out with weights and stuff at home almost every day.
I’m looking at the Angel Place Race in Clarkston later this spring, the Crim 10-miler in Flint in August. I’m looking forward to that one. If all goes well, it would be the first time I would complete it at a running pace the whole way through.
Then it’s back to Clarkston for the second annual Back Roads Half Marathon. I checked, they already have it scheduled. It’s set for Nov. 9.

When I go to the movies, it’s to escape the world in which I live and work. Catching a 3D screening of ‘The Lego Movie,? however, left me with a sense of deja vu.
That feeling was strongest the third or fourth time the plastic minifigs broke out into their hit song ‘Everything is Awesome!?
‘Everything is awesome!? they’d sing. ‘Everything is cool when you’re part of a team! Everything is awesome! When you’re living the dream.?
That could be the theme song for some local leaders nowadays.
It’s the attitude of Clarkston’s embattled city manager, especially with her Positively Clarkston campaign, something she launched when she became manager. It’s also a regular refrain from people stopping by the newsroom.
‘Why are you so negative,? we’ve been asked. ‘You should report on everything positive in Clarkston.?
That we do, of course, but not enough for folks like this.
This view was also shared by a former Clarkston Schools superintendent a few years ago. We, the school district and newspaper, should be team, I was told. Report good news to attract people to Clarkston, increase home sales, more school funding, tax revenue, etc.
‘Everything is better when we stick together,? as the song goes. ‘Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let’s party forever! We’re the same, I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re all working in harmony!?
It’s all enticing stuff, as is all good propaganda. But in the movie, the song is used as a tool of the state, to distract ordinary people from what’s really happening behind the scenes. No spoilers about the movie, but it’s more than is immediately apparent.
Same here in Clarkston. None of us got into the business to sing about how awesome everything is. For one thing, it would be really boring, to write as well as to read.
Fortunately, Sunshine Week is on its way. After the January and February we’ve had, my hope is actual sunshine that week, March 16-22, but I’ll take the shining light of government transparency.

With a stage production like ‘Peter Pan,? Clarkston drama students will be sure to put their best British-type accents to use ? Captain Hook’s evil threats just wouldn’t sound the same otherwise.
I’ve been getting my fill of British accents myself, as my journey into entertainment free of cable television continues.
I’ve enjoyed lots of Japanese anime shows of all sorts on Netflix, ported through my trusty though increasingly outdated Wii , as well as Youtube and some others.
But now it’s England’s turn, namely, ‘Dr. Who.? With just a sampling of episodes from throughout the sci-fi show’s dozens of seasons, I’m not prepared to call myself a Whovian yet, but there I am getting.
Some are rather odd and offputting, but the structure is altogether brilliant. Whenever an actor playing Dr. Who wants to or has to leave and a new actor fills the role, they just write in a scene where the good doctor regenerates his form.
Perhaps the same can be said of James Bond, with his ever changing visages.
Amongst my favorite parts is the fact that everyone and everything in the shows I’ve seen so far has a British accent.
Ancient Aztec warriors? British accent. Evil gamesmaster from outer space? The Queen’s speech. Cyborg mutant Daleks bent on eradication of all inferior lifeforms? Heavy Cockney accent.
I thought Daleks were rather silly, designed in the 60s in the shape of a large trashbin with a toilet plunger for an arm, but they’re actually rather formidable.
When they screech their catchphrase I shrink in horror, even though it sounds like they’re saying ‘Ex-stair-me-night!? Not for the faint of heart, they are, for they put into practice their philosophy with many a death ray.
And Wendy Padbury’s Zo? Heriot, a young 21st century astrophysicist found on a rotating space station and who served as companion to the second doctor from 1968 to 1969, is absolutely charming.
Sadly, the supply of episodes on Netflix is quite limited. Alas, to the DVDs I must wander!

With all the talk of ‘polar vortexes? and almost record breaking snow and ice, I felt the need to check out Roland Emmerich’s movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow.? The disaster movie, in which global warming launches an ice age attack on the United States, is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year.
It was a big hit, though beat by ‘Shrek 2? in the box office. I didn’t rewatch it, but saw it on television a few years ago and reviewed its plot online.
It’s described as lousy science at best, and propaganda at worst, but it sure hit a chord with me this week.
This is the actual ‘day after tomorrow.? See, the biggest part of the storm was on Monday. Tuesday was its tomorrow, and today, Wednesday, is the day after that.
No tidal waves through New York City, super-cold air stalking people through libraries like an Al Gore-approved avenging angel, or badly animated wolves to run from, but I did see sheets of rink quality ice on I-75 as I was trying to drive on it.
That was bad enough. What was worse was the ice road rage that went with it. People want to drive fast and get mad at sensible folks who go slower. Not so much at me, because I camp out in the right lane. But anyone who lingers left of that had better be going at least as fast as the vehicle behind or they get tailgated, even in snow and ice.
No one has particularly good traction in this stuff. I’ve seen plenty of cars and trucks spin out or almost spin out right in front of me.
And it was also Blue Monday this past week, the most depressing day of the year (so they say). Yes, as I was trundling down the highway as braver/stupider drivers zipped by, I was depressed.
Also, no running until this clears up. I was doing so well with it, too, heading out there twice a week even through December. It was fine with 2-3 inches of snow. Half a foot of snow last week in places was starting to slow me down. Two to three feet on the sidewalks, though, that’s about enough to put a temporary hold on things.
This is going to be a long winter.

Last weekend’s snowstorm did a thorough job on the roads, covering it with snow and ice and slowing traffic down to a crawl.
Just in time for my trip out of town. I took it slow. I learned that lesson the hard way a few years ago, spinning out my car and totaling it during a late-season show fall on I-69.
Many also need to learn from experience, based on all the cars and trucks zipping past me in a barely discernible left lane.
Some of them got that lesson. I passed at least seven cars and trucks in the ditch or crunched up against a light pole.
Some of them still had the drivers in them, sitting there with nothing to do but contemplate the magnitude of their error, watching drivers go by safely, without spinning out into the snow bank.
Clarkston Board of Education is considering a resolution against open carrying guns in school, an understandable if mostly pointless exercise in paperwork.
It’s not lockdown-because-of-a-gun-shaped-poptart pointlessness, but it’s getting close. It would be non-binding since state law prevails. It would make their opinion known to lawmakers, however.
What I find unfortunate is the low opinion some of the board members have of gun owners.
Based on what they’ve said, they’re a bunch of ignorant wannabe heroes, barely qualified to be allowed to even own guns, let alone successfully defend anyone with them.
Seeking only minimum training, citizen gun owners would be hopelessly outmatched by any perp who comes by to cause mayhem, and they’d have their guns taken and used against them, they seem to think.
Anyway, my hope is decisions on this and similar issues are made not so much on feelings but on rational thought. Lots of parents and volunteers have these concealed-carry permits and are responsible. I think it would be a good thing for kids to learn that guns aren’t just good when wielded by representatives of the government, but by regular citizens as well.

I have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2013, the year I decided to get myself in decent shape for some reason.
Folks here at the office say I should have made some sort of campaign out of my weight loss (85 pounds so far!), with before and after pictures, stories, and such.
I didn’t expect much of it to happen, though, over the last year. It started as a New Year’s resolution. Eat less, get in shape, blah blah blah.
But I kept with it. Thanks to everyone who provided encouragement and positive comments!
I somehow became a runner, too, rather than the jog-walker I had been in previous weight-loss endeavors.
I ran the whole race in the Clarkston State Bank Half Marathon, with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, and some seconds. I’m thankful to all the folks cheering us on, and fellow runners, especially one who was moving to pass me on the final stretch up Washington Street. She made me go faster, letting me come in a few seconds under 2:13, which in turn lets me cite the 2:12 time.
This is a great improvement on previous performances. It’s more than an hour faster than my time in the 2008 Brooksie Way, and the pace is about 50 percent faster than any of the 10-mile Crim races I completed.
I’m also thankful for the Wolfpack running club, who let me train with them a couple times. That paid off big. When I got to the Dark Lake neighborhood hills near the end of the race, I was ready for them ? others weren’t, I noticed.
I’m still running, which is also a first for me. I usually take a break from any kind of running after a big race, through the winter, into spring, sometimes into summer before I’d even consider hitting the track again.
It’s a bit cold, but the Army taught me how to deal with that. Below freezing? Wear your track suit, hat and gloves and you’ll be alright.
The half marathon isn’t Clarkston’s only running event, of course. Angel Place Race is set for the spring. I covered it before, but never took part. I plan to this time. Which event, the 5K or 10K? Ten, of course!

With four days until Clarkston State Bank Back Roads Half Marathon, my training is over.
I probably should have got in some more. My goal is to finish safely, with a secondary goal of maintaining a technically running pace the entire time.
This won’t be easy, especially up and down the hills of the Deer Lake neighborhood. I’ve been up there twice on training runs but neither were the correct route. It winds around pretty good up there! But I’ve seen enough to know the downhills can be more difficult for me, especially when my knees start to get sore.
It’s been about five months of mostly solid training, starting with a couple laps around the Clarkston Junior High School track in March, which seemed like plenty at the time.
My farthest run was from the office in downtown Clarkston around Clarkston High School up to the entrance to Independence Oaks County Park, around Mill Pond to St. Dan’s, and back ? around 10 miles. This would equal 40 laps around that track. That would be difficult to count.
It’s also a Crim run ? the 10-mile race up in Flint every August. I’ve finished a few of those, but have never been able to run more than half of that.
I cut my weekend short a day last weekend in Detroit in part to get in one more weekend training run. I was at Youmacon, the annual anime convention in the Renaissance Center and Cobo Hall.
I dressed as a zombie on Friday ? seemed appropriate with Halloween and all ? and a space marine on Saturday.
I found myself on the other side of the news camera, Saturday ? a Detroit News photographer snapped a picture of me in my Voyage Trekkers? Marine outfit.
Maybe it was my custom-built raygun, made from a toy bazooka and PVC pipe, about four-feet long and wired with LED lights. I should still be on their website photo album for Youmacon, surrounded by dozens of cartoon, movie and video game heroes and villains, Homestuck Trolls, and other characters.
As the weather gets cold, I’ve found it harder to stay warm. Last year, I kept my house at 60 degrees ? I put on a sweatshirt and the cats grew extra fur. This year, two sweatshirts aren’t enough. The one good thing about extra weight is it keeps you warm.

As the fog rolled in Saturday morning, I found myself on a deserted road with no clear idea which way to go.
A parked SUV came into view, with a ‘Clarkston Dance Team? decal in the back window.
This was a problem. I had run by a suspiciously similar looking vehicle about 10 minutes earlier.
A typical training run for me.
I had showed up at Clarkston’s Depot Park not-so-bright and early, 7:45 a.m., for training with some local runners.
We were there to prepare for the upcoming Backroads Half Marathon in November.
I’m signed up for the half marathon, but figured I’d run the 10K course for now. I started out fine, hitting the road with the others, without the scream of protest from my body I had become used to after a long stretch of no exercise.
When I start running again after a long break, I can’t go much more than a quarter of a mile without having to slow to a walk, hopelessly out of breath. Now I have pretty much all the breath I need. It’s the muscles in my legs that tend to slow me down ? they start to get leaden after about seven miles now.
The group ran faster than me, but not by much. I kept them in sight the entire time. I managed to keep pace with one lady. She probably had a slower pace than normal for her, though, with her being pregnant and all.
So I was deep into the Deerhill subdivision part of the course, off Holcomb Road. With no map.
It’s like a kilometer of road – how lost can one get?
It’s built into a hill, so my strategy was running uphill when going into the neighborhood, and downhill to exit.
This proved an unreliable strategy as I came to a T-intersection with both ways heading uphill. And the fog rolling in didn’t help.
Running past the dance team SUV meant only one thing. I was running in circles. No way out! I slowed to a walk.
But then a fellow half-marathoner materialized out of the fog. He wasn’t lost. Just take a right where I had taken a left, up the gravel road, and down the street running down the hill along Deer Lake.
Next time I’ll bring the map.

With a month and a half until the Clarkston State Bank Back Roads Half Marathon, it’s crunch time for training.
I’ve been pretty good about it, running twice a week most of the time since May. My courses have been the longest I’ve ever tried during training ? from downtown Clarkston down Waldon to Sashabaw, to Maybee Road past Birdland back to Main Street.
Still less than half a half marathon, but my speed is getting better. Needs more work, though.
Dr. Rod Rock, Clarkston schools superintendent, mentioned he saw me training. But he used the word ‘walking,? even though I’m still in the ‘running? phase when I go by the school administration offices on Clarkston Road.
I might need to pick up my pace a bit.
I saw on Facebook, Clarkston Wolfpack Running Club is going to start practice runs for the half marathon and 10K next Saturday, Oct. 5, 8 a.m. in Depot Park.
This sounds like they’re starting off with the whole 13-point-whatever run up to the northern border of Independence Township and back.
This is a bit ahead of schedule for me. My plan was to train as much as I can to just barely finish the course on race day. Not practice the whole thing to improve my final time like a real athlete would.
I’ll be there, though.
The club’s official practice run will be on Oct. 26. I’ll be as ready as I’m going to be by then.
Principal Gary Kaul can be seen on the front page doing his best Great Gatsby impression with the unsuspecting help of LEAD teacher Amy Quayle.
I like the faces of some of the students watching from the stands. They have the same what-is-this-I’m-looking-at expression I’ve seen before when Gary springs into action.
They had it a while ago when the principal dressed up as The Batman and went for a walk around Clarkston High School during lunch.
I imagine these aren’t the only times this has happened. The man saved the lives of students under his care on more than one occasion, also. I hope students appreciate him and all the other super-heroish teachers and staff in the district.

Students, teachers, and parents head into a new school year with information from Michigan Department of Education that Clarkston Community Schools ranks an ‘orange.?
This is a bad rank. Only a ‘red? is worse. The state went with colors this year to make the data more ‘understandable,? they said ? from danger ‘red? to goodness ‘green.?
But it’s a system where, for instance, Clarkston High School can score ‘greens? in Mathematics, Reading, Social Studies, Writing, and Attendance Rate categories, yet still score an overall ‘red,? with only 39 out of 64 points earned.
Where were the points lost? Well, going deeper into the data shows the school scored 0/10 points in the ‘Bottom 30 percent? student group, 4/10 in ‘Economically Disadvantaged,? and 1/10 in ‘Students with Disabilities.? But Clarkston High School scores 10/10 for ‘All Students.? I understand whatever confusion might be felt about these things.
With most Michigan schools placing near the scarlet side of the spectrum, this means schools in our state are terrible at educating kids, legislators in the statehouse want to bust teacher-union chops, or both.
Whatever, I suppose there’s always room for improvement. Whether the state has the right to meddle in local education, that issue was decided 20 years ago with Proposal A.
Taste of Clarkston is Sept. 15. Too late for this year but maybe for next, all those fast food workers going on strike for $15/hour wages should get together to open their own restaurant.
Then they can make sure everybody gets at least $15, and the public gets at-least-$15/hour food and service. Everyone wins!
I wouldn’t eat there, because I’m out of the fast food eating business. But if they had a booth at a Taste of Clarkston, maybe I’d try it out just to see what a $15/hour burger tasted like.
Anyway, Taste of Clarkston is a great time for downtown, filled as it is with crowds of hungry folks looking to sample the best local restaurants have to offer.
Hopefully the weather and the barbecue ribs hold out!

My training for the Back Roads Half Marathon continues. I’m running twice a week, up to four miles each. This includes Wednesday runs in Clarkston after work, starting at the office at 5 S. Main Street about 4:30 p.m., if anyone would like to join in.
I’ve been taking advantage of Clarkston’s safety paths and sidewalks up around the high school and down Main Street to Dixie Highway. Soon to be added are the paths around St. Dan’s and Calvary Lutheran.
This is just one part of an overall strategy to lose weight, following in the healthkicks of fellow Clarkston Newsians Wendi Reardon, sports writer, and my office manager, Rose Mary Frazer.
I’ve yo-yoed in weight all my life, up after discharging from the army, down while a student at Ohio State, up near graduation, down while reporting for the Flushing Observer up in Genesee County, up after that, and a couple downs and ups since then.
The downward parts are becoming way more difficult. It used to be I could run weight off, but when I tried that last year, it was pretty disastrous.
Gravity, it’s not just a suggestion, it’s the law! I carried too much weight to run, and because I didn’t run, I carried too much weight. Vicious circle.
So now this time I lost weight almost entirely through dieting, starting after the holidays. Then, after losing about 30 pounds, I hit the track again. Big difference. And then there’s the motivation thing. Losing weight isn’t a physical endeavor ? that part is easy, eat less and exercise.
For me at least, it’s all mental and personal. Nothing anyone could have said would have made me lose weight. The opposite, actually, until I flipped that switch. Now, nothing anyone can say can make me gain it back, for now, at least.
So there’s the half marathon, in which I hope to do better than my last one, the first Brooksie Way. If I run more than half of it, I’d be well on my way.
My army years also play a part ? I’m trying to fit back into the uniforms I last wore in 1991, and last fit into several years before the turn of the century. Veterans from World War II, Vietnam, etc. wear their uniforms at the Independence Day festival at Clintonwood Park every year.
Maybe next year I can as well!

Ninety degree heat with high humidity ? my least favorite weather ever and there’s been lots of it lately. It’s Michigan though, so it won’t last. I’m not one of those who wish for weather like this in the bone numbing cold of February, though. I like the cold.
The blockbuster movies of summer 2013 haven’t been nearly as hot. Box office has been sagging for a reason.
Star Trek into Darkness? Pretty good, but they gave me a remake with a twist when I wanted something new.
Man of Steel? Good, but another remake.
Lone Ranger? Hopeless. Didn’t even see it. Needless to say but I will anyway ? another remake.
World War Z? It would have been better if it stuck more to the book. So we get termite-like fast zombies instead of the Battle of Yonkers, U.S. Army versus 2 million shamblers. The army lost.
It also turned its nose up at the idea of a rebuilt army of average joe soldiers in blue (camo doesn’t work on zombies) forming up in squares to take down hordes of the undead with semiauto rifles and sharpened spades.
Pacific Rim was good, with giant robots fighting giant monsters. Still, I was nagged by the idea that being smaller than your enemy can be considered an advantage, like David vs. Goliath. So they could have put the new weapons they designed for the robots on fighters, helicopters, and tanks. Or just nuke the breach whenever a monster showed up.
Speaking of robots, the signature summer event of Clarkston for me is coming up this weekend. Team RUSH is hitting Deer Lake to put their engineering skills to the test. We get to watch them and maybe take a dip in the water.
The Clarkston High School robotics group has been taking a break from designing increasingly intelligent machines to design and build boats out of cardboard and duck tape.
Did they put too much emphasis on a fancy design or decoration? Did they put on enough sealant, early enough for it to dry?
The lake will let them know.

Summer’s in full swing, with an expanded Fourth of July festival in Clarkston and Independence Township, and Oakland County Fair in Springfield Township all ready to start.
Hopefully the weather holds out for tomorrow’s Independence Day festivities. Folks have being working hard to plan days of events, starting with the parade through downtown at 10 a.m. and continuing with entertainment, fireworks, and a carnival in Clintonwood Park.
Rides and everything are planned, which is new.
I’ll be at the park probably today and tomorrow, helping to set up veteran-recognition events. I’ll have some memorabilia from my time in the army, set up in the military museum in Carriage House.
I still can’t fit into those uniforms, but I’m getting closer. I’ll have to clean up my jump boots, though. Folks commented on them last time. Didn’t think I’d be dinged for my boots 20 years after signing my discharge papers, but I was.
The memorabilia should all be interesting ? many Clarkston-area residents served in the Armed Forces and will be bringing photos, uniforms, gear, and other items they kept after mustering out, up to and including restored military vehicles.
Michigan Civil War re-enactors will also be on hand, which is great, with the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg this summer.
I’ll be leading the Pledge of Allegiance to start a Veteran’s Celebration at 12:30 p.m., which I’m looking forward to.
The county fair is also kicking off this week. The Ervin family, who I talked to for my fair story this week, promised a behind-the-scenes look at the 4-H operations there ? I’ll probably take them up on it.
Clarkston State Bank’s Back Roads Half Marathon isn’t until Nov. 10, but it counts as a summer activity because it will take that long to train for it.
This is a new event, starting in Depot Park, winding through the depressingly hilly back roads of Clarkston and Independence Township up to Oakhill Road, then ending right in the parking lot of The Clarkston News.
I ran/walked a half marathon a few years ago, the first Brooksie Way race, so I’m about ready for another one.

The crowds of euphoric children frolicking throughout downtown Clarkston last Friday meant only one thing.
School was out for summer. I hope all those kids enjoy it. I remember summer vacation lasting a long time, with visits to relatives in Canada and Minnesota, along with days and days tramping about through the woods.
All that was before I hit my teens. There were no more than eight summers like that. Summers in high school were cut short by band camp, then a job at McDonalds, then finally shipping off to U.S. Army basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey.
Ever since then, summers have been just another season. So enjoy your summers while you can! You get eight of them, at most. Yes, ‘youth is wasted on the young,? as said George Bernard Shaw.
One thing that hasn’t changed about this time of year is Father’s Day. It’s coming up on Sunday.
I’ll let my 11-year-old self tell a my-dad-and-me story, courtesy of an elementary-school journal entry dated Sept. 29, 1980:
‘Friday we went to Best Products to get an Empire Strikes Back snowspeeder, but they didn’t have it, and we went to the Golden Lamb (a restaurant), then to a football game. Our team, Carroll, lost. The next day I went to a Rosary soccer game, we were creamed, 7-1. And my dad brought me home and I found out he got me a snowspeeder while I was at the soccer game.?
Obviously, I thought it was noteworthy, but since my sixth-grade self then went on to other things, not especially groundshaking that he would do that. What else would he do with his time, I must have thought.
Looking at it now, though, it means he must have noticed my disappointment and went out of his way to make it better. After all, we had just been to the store so he had no reason to go back, and my birthday and Christmas were both months away.
I still have that snowspeeder. I have a blog and it’s featured in it from time to time. Might be worth something on ebay but I’ll never sell it.
Happy Father’s Day!

Memorial Day hits close to home for Clarkston this year.
Memories of local soldier Joseph A. Miracle are still way too fresh. He died in 2007 after being wounded in Afghanistan.
Students at Clarkston Junior High School are honoring the memory of fellow Clarkstonite Jenna Beno, who died recently from injuries suffered while serving in Iraq. She was 24, way too young for a Memorial Day remembrance.
The junior high students are dedicating their courtyard stone garden to her, 11 a.m., Thursday, May 23, at the school, 6595 Waldon Road.
The teachers and administration folks at the junior high are doing great work with their students, connecting them with the people behind the history being taught.
They invite World War II veterans every year for some first-hand history, an opportunity soon to fade as we head deeper into the 21st century.
That’s why Memorial Day is so important ? veterans, as well as everyone else, become a memory much too quickly.
I remember when the World War I generation of veterans were still around, speaking to students, going to veterans? events, marching in parades. It wasn’t that long ago. But by the late 1990s, they were gone.
Memorial Day was established with World War I veterans in mind, but has since been expanded to include all vets, before and after.
Veterans of the Civil War and before lie in Lakeview Cemetery, where American Legion Post 63 will host a ceremony this Monday.
I visited the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg last week, on the way to Virginia for my nephew’s college graduation.
My folks hired a battlefield guide, who pointed out some of the memorials placed by Michigan regiments.
They were all over that pivotal Civil War battlefield, with monuments recognizing Michiganders? sacrifice in the Wheat Field, Peach Orchard, the rocky slopes of Little Round Top, as well as the center of the line, helping to repel Pickett’s Charge.
I’ll remember all of them this Monday, while covering the parade and ceremony. Then summer can officially start.

So it’s May already.
That means it’s time for the second graders in Clarkston to start getting ready for their annual visit through downtown Clarkston to learn about some local history.
Other grade schoolers are looking forward to fun in the sun in their schools? outdoor exercise events, field days, and whatnot.
Seniors who are about to graduate at Clarkston, Renaissance, Everest, and the other local high schools are preparing to walk down the aisles in their robes (the Wolves are probably stockpiling beach balls and other inflatables) as well as whatever else they have planned for the rest of their lives.
For Clarkston Board of Education and administration, May means crunching numbers for the next school year’s budget.
Things are different this time, compared to what I’ve seen the last few years.
Previously, they’d work out the plan, and if money coming from the state or feds wouldn’t cover it, they’d pull the difference out of the district’s fund balance, its savings account.
That’s not happening this time.
Those savings are about tapped out. So now they must ensure spending doesn’t exceed income, or else the state sends someone to do it for them
Now that it has come down to this, decisions should be easier, or at least clearer.
No more consideration of whether the district can weather a few more years, depending on the fund-balance cushion while hoping for economic improvements.
That ship has sailed.
Funding is at 2005 levels, as explained by Deputy Superintendent Shawn Ryan at the public hearing last week. So it would make sense to reset as many expenditures at 2005 levels as well.
Many saw this coming for years, probably for decades. When pensions and retirement plans were negotiated, I’m sure someone looked at employment and retirement rates, factoring in mortality rates, and calculated about when legacy costs would overwhelm the ability of taxpayers to support them.
Right about now, it would probably have been.

With spring break 2013 in the history books, we’re already in the final push towards summer and, for kids and their parents, the end of another school year.
Time flies.
I started here at The Clarkston News in September 2006. The kids who were seniors at Clarkston High School that year are now about 24 years old. Getting jobs, starting families, and hopefully staying out of trouble.
The kids who graduated when I first started newspaper reporting in 1996, a bunch of Raiders up at Flushing High School, are in their mid 30s. Their families and jobs are well underway, I imagine, though to me they’re still bright eyed teenagers planning their college careers.
Weather’s finally warming up, and that means it’s time for me to hit the track. I use the one at Clarkston Junior High School. The walk to and fro from the downtown office makes a good warm up and cool down.
Yes, taking the lead from reporter Wendi Reardon, I’ve decided to give the weight-loss thing another try.
My previous strategy was to control weight pretty much through exercise alone. Then I stopped exercising ? whoops.
So this time I’m adding portion control to the mix. I didn’t particularly want to go that route. Stop eating food? If I could do that, wouldn’t I already be doing it?
If Michigan got some sort of New York City Mayor Bloomberg, passing laws banning large drinks and/or fatty food, I’d stuff my face with it ? ‘You can’t tell me what to do (snarf snarf snarf)!?
That would have showed him.
Arriving at my own conclusion is better. Things started slowly. I asked my doctor about surgery, belly bands or what not. His response, in so many words, was ‘No, don’t do that. It’s stupid.? OK, that was a bad idea.
So I was like, okay fine, stop eating so much. Turns out it’s fairly effective so far, though I’m just getting started. Pizza in the office ? I’m not going to turn that down.
But it’s getting there. The grocery store is now filled with stuff I can’t eat, which makes shopping easier.
I suppose it’s always been that way.

Ignore whatever white stuff may linger outside. The sun is finished with its trip south and is finally heading back this way.
Today is the first day of spring.
I keep my house cold in an effort to save a bit on utilities, so I’m looking forward to some warmth in the place.
Clarkston Optimists had a good winter season with their ice rink in Depot Park. It had actual ice this year, with skaters and everything, instead of a slushy pond like they had last year. But it’s time to put that thing away.
Our annual Progress edition is in this week’s paper. Published about this time every year, it’s an annual milestone ? holidays, New Year’s predictions, then Progress.
Things seem to be looking up, hopefully. Last week’s paper had something I haven’t seen in a while ? a subdivision development story. Those were common a few years ago, now not so much.
Winter went fast. I think I only had to shovel my driveway twice the whole season. My next door neighbor clears it with his Jeep plow if the snow gets deep. He’s a good neighbor.
I’m still paranoid about driving in snow and ice. It feels as if my back wheels are going to slide out from under me at any moment. That’s because they did about this time two years ago during a spring snowfall, when I spun out on I-69 and totalled my car.
As usual, it feels like Christmas just ended and now it’s time for Easter.
Hopefully this year’s Easter will be a bit less stressful than the last one. I returned from Easter services, the late one on Saturday night, to find my cat with a gash in his side. He was the victim of some inter-cat violence of some sort.
I took him to the animal emergency room. It cost a bit and he’s old, but I decided not to have my cat put down on Easter morning. It took a bunch of stitches and a few weeks of healing, all in the cone of shame, but he got better and has been fine the whole rest of the year.
And now with the snow going or gone, I suppose I’ll have to do something about those leaves I left on the lawn last fall. Didn’t get around to raking them at the time. And then there’s the whole ‘spring cleaning? thing.
Why do I like spring, again?

The issue of Clarkston-area public access TV continues. Independence Township and Clarkston school officials are working to create a combined community cable operation, based out of the high school.
I’m glad to see the township and schools working together and it would be nice to have local programming on local cable. And there’s the money. Cable subscribers fork over about $200,000 a year in PEG fees for public access programming.
Ideally, there would be another option to explore ? to examine whether people need or want PEG programming at all.
To me, public access is like Wayne’s World. Mike Myers created that for Saturday Night Live to reflect the reality of the 1990s ? public access television was the only way to get your show out to the public.
Now with YouTube and the rest of the internet, it isn’t. That’s where current school programming goes now anyway. A new public access channel would only add to that.
Eliminating PEG fees altogether should be an option, but it’s not. Local government depends on them, so they’re not going anywhere. If the township doesn’t get them, the state would be more than happy to claim them for itself.
There are other options, though – maybe. I dropped cable last year, surviving on Netflix and the internet. My internet bill doesn’t include PEG charges, though they could be hidden, I suppose.
I haven’t missed it that much.
I stream Netflix’s ‘watch instantly? stuff onto my television through my Wii, along with YouTube and other Internet stuff if I want. Newer televisions don’t need a Wii or anything else to watch the internet ? wireless antennas are included.
I still watch too much TV, since now there’s so much on there I want to watch. Anime is my thing nowadays. Those Japanese cartoonists tell some compelling stories, let me tell you.
And it’s remarkably accessible. A small group of hardworking voice actors down in Texas dub tons of those shows into English, and they tour heavily to promote them.
The voice actor playing the main character in Fullmetal Alchemist showed up in Alma for a convention a couple weeks ago. I got his autograph.

The time had arrived at last. I always knew it was possible, and now it had.
I was on the other side of the notepad. Tables were turned. The shoe was on the other foot, or feet.
I was faced by a panel of journalists with a list of questions.
I braced for the first one: How did you become interested in writing?
Excellent question, I thought.
‘Well,? I said, ‘when I was in the army I found I liked to write, so then when I went to college I looked at everything you could do with writing and decided to? um??
?’in? the? army,? wrote the student journalist in her notepad.
She’ll get faster. She has years of note-taking practice ahead of her. For me, high school was when it really kicked into gear.
I still have history, English literature, science, etc. notebooks filled with scribbles that look a lot like they do now. Some words trail off into an indistinct scrawl as I dozed off. I don’t do that as much now.
I’m assuming students still take notes in high school, not using some sort of I-pad app to record, transcribe, print and deliver their notes for them.
So for those Bailey Lake Elementary students, working on their first newsletter, I was their first victim, er, interview subject. They needed advice on their endeavor and thought I fit the bill.
“You write newspapers too,” they told me.
I gave them what I could.
Write about what you and your readers are interested in. Grab the reader with the first paragraph. Write that first paragraph last.
Some other advice: Don’t stare at a blank screen or notepad. Just write something ? even if it’s “something” written over and over.
I hope they succeed.
There will always be a need for reporters, or bloggers, or whatever they’re called, to put people in the hot seat and ask questions that need asking.
Though by the time these students are my age, they could probably send their I-drones out to interview people on three-dimensional video for simultaneous display through subscribers? cranial implants.

I was a bit surprised with an email I received recently regarding the upcoming Legislative Lunch at this year’s Michigan Press Association annual convention.
‘Like many industries in Michigan, the Michigan Press Association has to keep strong relations in Lansing to avoid having our business legislated OUT of business. Public notice, open government and higher taxes are just a few of the items on our legislative agenda,? it said.
But I guess can understand the association’s concern with being legislated out of business, even though it’s protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
It’s fashionable to dismiss the Constitution these days. It’s old, obsolete, inapplicable to today’s world.
The Second Amendment is also in danger of being legislated away.
Using tragedy as a springboard, the federal government is diving head first into gun control, like in 1994, but bigger.
Are they considering all the consequences, even and especially the unintended ones? Probably not, unless they intended for people to empty gun stores in a record-breaking buying frenzy.
If they succeed beyond all expectations and eliminate private gun ownership in the country, they expect it to become like England or Japan, with gun deaths measured in the dozens.
We would probably become more like Mexico, with citizens unarmed and helpless while criminals run around with belt-fed machine guns and RPGs.
Perhaps not coincidentally, my favorite movie of 2012 and pick for Best Picture Oscar is Les Miserables.
When the Broadway production on which the film was based opened in 1985, some liked to imagine a modern barricade against the Reagan administration.
The situation is more equal opportunity now. Folks on the left and right can imagine themselves waving that big red flag of revolution, either against Wall Street or the government.
Of course, the student revolutionaries in the movie and the rebellion on which they were based didn’t last long. It’s hard to get the people to rise up, now matter how just one’s cause or how cool the music.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I had a good one, spending time with family and friends.
The Christmas party here at the newspaper was fun. Publisher Jim Sherman Jr. generously hosts the entire newspaper group for lunch in Oxford, followed by our annual White Elephant gift exchange.
I look forward to that albino pachyderm every year ? it’s where all the gifts are piled up and everyone gets a turn to pick one out, or you can take a gift that has already been selected. Then that person, usually in a foul mood after having been stolen from, gets another choice.
Quality of the gifts vary widely and each gift can be ‘stolen? up to three times, so there’s always some strategy going into it. Some of us bring great gifts ? I had my eye on a bottle of scotch this year. Others bring the most worthless stuff they can scrape together on the way out the door to the party.
We happily regift items, sometimes from last year’s White Elephant, wrap up old books, DVDs, candles, anything else we want to get out of the house.
One year, I got an old lunchbox ? an old shop type for adults, not something cool like an old Six-Million-Dollar-Man one, or something.
So it was with bitter disappointment but not surprise when it was my turn, and I found myself with a old bottle of glue, open box of old hinges, and some other worthless hardware.
I had chalked it up to another lame White Elephant gift and was looking around to see where old hardware was stashed in the office when ClarkstonTV host Jill Mitchell gave me a clue. Why don’t you check it out more closely, she whispered.
Turns out, there was a little map well hidden in an open box of outdoor furniture replacement inserts with instructions to look under the desk in the shredder room. After finding out where the shredder room was, I found the real present ? a strawberry liquor gift set.
That was more like it; a good White Elephant at last! And I found it too late for anyone to steal it!
It was also the publisher’s gift, which was new, or at least I don’t remember him participating before.
Surprisingly whimsical, too.

Clarkston Junior High parents had a decision to make last weekend, whether to send their kids to school on Monday despite a bomb threat scrawled on a bathroom stall.
They knew the threat was almost certainly fake, a prank and/or a call for help.
There’s almost no way a junior high student would have the ability or desire to do something like that. There was almost no possibility of a bomb going off.
Still, that ‘almost? is enough to cause some considerations when kids are involved.
Administration handled it well, by keeping classes in session after precautions including searches by bomb-sniffing dogs and bookbag check of all students. The kids weren’t thrilled to have their items gone through, but they were calm and in reasonably good spirits.
I hope whoever is responsible is found, not for punishment, but to give them some help.
The counselors at the junior high look to be up to the job. They were there, digging through backpacks, putting their safety on the line for the sake of the kids in their care.
There was lots of interest in the topic on the News? Facebook page ? dozens of folks weighed in, many to praise administration for the precautions. Some expressed concerns information wasn’t shared far enough, though. Junior high parents were emailed and called directly, and information was e-blasted through, but only those who subscribe to that service got that email.
What do you think? Should the information have been shared through direct emails and calls district wide, or is it better to keep the information contained just to the school involved?
Some think it should be, that it shouldn’t even be in the newspaper that much to prevent copycats. I disagree with that one. People aren’t protected by limiting information.
If the Mayans are right, this will be my last column, because the world is due to end. It almost certainly won’t. Just in case, good luck to everyone in whatever new world the Mayans have in mind for us.

There’s some new life for Star Wars, courtesy of the mouse. Disney bought Star Wars from creator George Lucas, and around the world fans of all ages wonder what it will mean for their beloved franchise.
Star Wars is a good fit in the Disney universe, filled as it is with swashbuckling heroes, pirates, and princesses.
Han Solo and Long John Silver, they’d understand each other. The troops at Echo Base would be able to relate to “Davy Crockett at the Alamo.”
And Princess Leia would be a great addition to the Disney Princess line up. Gunning down two stormtroopers after taking a blaster bolt to the shoulder ? she could teach those ladies something about self reliance.
I’m glad Star Wars is still popular with kids today, but surprised by it. When I was their age, I wasn’t playing with Howdy Doody or Lone Ranger stuff. I was playing Star Wars.
But they’ve kept it fresh, with the prequels and everything.
I love the video making the rounds nowadays of the returning veteran, Justin Whyte, out in Kansas at his 5-year-old son Aiden’s Star Wars-themed birthday party.
Justin dressed up as Darth Vader, removing his helmet to surprise his son with his return ? he wasn’t supposed to be home until Christmas.
Behind that story is the incredible sacrifice of all veterans. For Justin and so many other young service men and women, it means missing out of their children’s childhood.
The Clarkston area does a great job honoring local vets. The local American Legion posts, Independence Township, local schools, churches, community groups, they all work together to support veterans and their families.
Clarkston Junior High kids helping out at the township’s Veterans Day luncheon was nice, seeing the young teens talking to the veterans. I hope they found it interesting. All those shoot-em-up video games popular now ? these guys actually did that stuff.
The job’s not finished yet in Afghanistan and it will never be over for many returning veterans. Their wars are real, and they need us to not forget them.

The presidential debates have been interesting this year.
I’ve enjoyed watching President Obama and Gov. Romney go at it during their three debates, even if I had lots of work I had to get to.
Lots of strategizing go into those things, with the candidates and their teams going over every conceivable scenario. Do they work that hard when preparing for meetings with world leaders and legislators? I hope so.
Then there’s watching the commentators discuss winners and losers, points, and zingers. Romney seemed to have mostly left the zinger game behind at Monday’s debate, much to commentators? disappointment, probably. After that, I like checking out what the Saturday Night Live guys come up with.
The World Wide Web being what it is, I can also check out what the animators at Next Media Animation make of the debates, over in Taiwan.
They use computer animation to tell the news. Mitt Romney pummeling the president with oversize boxing gloves, making his head spin, for the first debate. Their video covering the 2012 American League Championship Series, with actual (animated) tigers bounding onto the diamond and mauling a Yankees pitcher down to his skeleton. That’s the sort of thing they do.
Those aren’t the only debates available to watch, though.
Locally, the League of Women Voters hosted a debate featuring candidates for Independence Township trustee, for broadcast on public access Independence TV.
There are Republicans and Democrats in this year’s race, so it wasn’t decided in last August’s primary for a change.
The candidates came up with some new ideas, reports Mary Keck, who asked some of the questions in the debate.
I hosted my own debate/discussion on for Clarkston School Board candidates. Being a newspaper guy, I brought up the school board’s communications policy, as presented by that lawyer back in February. Interesting discussion on that and other issues.

Maybe O.J. Simpson didn’t do it.
I know the standard narrative from 20 years ago. Nicole Brown Simpson and her boyfriend Ron Goldman were murdered by someone armed with a knife. O.J. was the prime suspect.
Who else could have done it? Who else would have wanted to? And why else would he lead police in that low-speed pursuit in the white SUV?
Then he went to trial and got acquitted due to the skills of some slick defense attorneys.
And there was the whole looking-for-the-real-killers thing for years after the trial, mostly with O.J. on the golf course.
Finally, justice was done when he was convicted and imprisoned for leading an armed gang to steal his own sports memorabilia for some reason. Ah, karma works its magic, I thought for a moment before moving onto something else.
All this, of course, is based on what I saw on television about it over the years. That’s one of the points of Norm Pardo’s infamous movie, ‘Unpromotable.?
It’s a good point.
The jury, the one group of people who got all the information presented by both sides in an orderly fashion, voted to acquit.
They examined all the evidence. I sort of noticed a story packaged by others with their own agendas. That’s why we have a jury system instead of relying on the mob like in a Frankenstein movie.
Another Norm point ? why would he steal his own memorabilia? O.J. memorabilia is by definition something with his signature on it. So he can make all he wants just by signing stuff.
After a long hot summer, the cooler temperatures this autumn are very welcome. I like being able to go upstairs in my house without feeling like it’s a sauna.
The leaves are turning their beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. The trees looked great as I was walking through the Renaissance Festival during their final weekend. I like the late dates over the early ones ? August gets pretty hot!
But then the leaves will soon fall from the trees and I’ll have to pick them all up and move them to the back.
Stupid leaves.

There are a lot of ballot initiatives to vote on this November, including five proposed amendments to the Michigan constitution.
Times have changed. Two of the proposals are to strengthen unions ? partially unionizing home healthcare workers and making collective bargaining a right. Having these measures in the cradle of the union movement doesn’t bode well for our unionized brothers and sisters.
A third is to require voters to approve any new bridge or tunnel to Canada, which seems awfully specific for a constitutional amendment. Fourth, require a 2/3 majority in the state house or statewide vote to increase taxes.
The last one is to mandate renewable energy in Michigan, 25 percent by 2025 ? ?25 by 25.?
It’s catchy, with “25” in there twice. It’ll create 74,000-94,000 jobs to Michigan, supporters say.
What would be nice is if there were some way to hold whoever came up with those numbers to account. Something like, if it creates fewer jobs, if it only creates 73,999 jobs, go to prison until 2025. They can call it something like, “if the numbers don’t jive, you go to prison until 2025,” or something.
Independent Tea Party Patriots host a Ballot Proposal Educational Meeting this evening, 6:30 p.m., at Fountains Golf and Banquet Center, 6060 Maybee Road, which I’ll be checking out.
Manny Lopez, managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, will present information ? check
I’ll check other sources, too.
Eleven years after Sept. 11, 2001, New York’s doing pretty good building the Freedom Tower complex, and they finally got the museum open. Stories are still coming out about the attacks.
Apparently a man wrote a note while trapped high in the World Trade Center, and it finally reached his family. He wrote ?84th floor, West Office, 12 people trapped ? it just changes everything.?
It did change everything.

The campaign season is over, but only for the moment.
Unlike 2008, the August primary didn’t settle things completely. In that race, all the candidates in Independence and Springfield townships were Republican, so the primary election was pretty much it ? the winners ran unopposed in November.
This year, three Democrats are in the race for Independence Township trustee, providing a choice in November.
Future candidates should take note of what the primary candidates said about their campaigns. The positive approach seemed to work better than the negative, extremely negative, and negative/conspiratorial ones. And I like the idea of Barb Pallotta’s political signs making a difference because they were pink.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum stopped by the area for a speaking engagement last week, and I covered it. Now there’s a man who was brutalized by negative campaigning.
His political opponents have destroyed his name, not his “good name,” but his actual name, on the internet. It’s an impressive display of online power, but I don’t see it as persuasive to anyone who doesn’t share their views.
Clarkston’s School board seats are also up for a vote in November. I can think of 35,000 reasons why people should pay attention to that race.
Each reason is a dollar, as in the $35,000 in taxpayers’ money the Board of Education spent to try to convince taxpayers to let them spend $20 million more in taxpayers’ money.
We’ll be bringing that up in our coverage of that race. What did incumbents learn from the school bond drive, what would challengers do differently, that sort of thing.
The traffic signals on Sashabaw Road aren’t up for a vote, but they should be. The road commission’s reasons for not activating the crossing signs at Bow Pointe, listed in last week’s paper, were strange.
Drivers wouldn’t be able to handle the light being active at some times and flashing at others? They think we’re that mindless? The new township board should look into that.

Yes, for anyone who asks, it is hot enough for me out there.
The weather’s warmer this summer than I care to remember, and it’s holding on a lot longer too.
Temperatures were in the 90s this month, so for my vacation over the Fourth of July holiday, of course I went to Alabama to visit family, where the temperatures were a bit warmer, in the hundreds.
That might be for the best, though. It was forecast to top 100 degrees even up north here in Michigan this week, so I might as well get used to it.
Soul-crushing heat aside, this is the time for outdoor fun, a time sorely missed when winter comes around.
All too soon it will be time for the kids to go back to school, campaign season for the November election to heat up, and temperatures to finally cool down.
But for now, kids are enjoying summer camps all over the place, basketball, volleyball, writers, inventors, SCAMP, something for everyone.
We have one more Concert in the Park this Friday, Backyard Jam this weekend, and Concours in the Park and Team RUSH’s annual Regatta at Deer Lake next weekend.
The RUSH event’s a lot of fun.
The high schoolers design and build cardboard boats and race them around the lake until they sink. This year, I’d design a boat with holes in the bottom, to get in the water faster.
I have to miss it this time around because I’ll be down south again, though not too far. It’s my 25th high school reunion in Dayton, Ohio. I haven’t been to one of those since my fifth reunion in 1992.
Social media changes the whole reunion thing. In 1992, I hadn’t seen or heard from classmates in years, so it was a big deal to see what everyone was up to. Now, I can log onto the Internet and find out what they had for breakfast, what their kids had for breakfast, and their lunch plans too.
Everyone’s on Facebook now, talking about what they’re going to talk about at the reunion.
I’ll be sure to make it to the Backyard Jam this weekend, though. I hear there’s going to be a dunk tank there. Might have to volunteer for that.

This year’s Clarkston history tour walks seemed to go well for the local second graders.
Each May, students spend a day in downtown Clarkston, touring buildings, listening to bakers, bankers, and other business folks, and learning about the local history.
I take part in it, schedule permitting. I had to skip the Tuesday tours because that’s when I’m in Oxford putting the paper together. Monday’s not so good, either.
But for the other days of the week, I had a little presentation on the history of the 5 S. Main Street building (used to be known as the Walters Building) and The Clarkston News (founded in 1929).
I show them a couple examples from the newspaper archives. One of them, from Aug. 18, 1939, featured the front-page story ‘Fire destroys Clarkston landmark.?
The Clarkston News building didn’t always have an open wall on its north side, inviting controversial mural projects. It used to be covered by neighboring buildings, one of which was the original Rudy’s market.
That summer day in 1939, those buildings caught fire and burned to the ground. The kids liked that story ? it made quite an impression on their young minds.
Several drawings in their thank-you notes depict the blaze with huge swathes of orange, red, and other bright colors, very imaginative because the original photos were of course in black and white.
‘I’m sorry it burned down,? wrote Francis, a second grader from Andersonville Elementary.
‘Half of the building (burned) ? it was sad,? wrote classmate Justin.
‘I loved that the general store was burnt,? Tony said.
I read from the story that authorities were investigating the blaze. I didn’t bother to look for follow-up stories, though. I probably should have.
‘I learned there was a fire and the police are still trying to figure out what caused the fire,? Madison wrote.
Yes, at least some of the students believe investigators are still trying to solve the horribly destructive fire of 1939.
I’ll see if I can find that information for next year’s presentations.

When I was growing up, World War II veterans were young, younger than Vietnam War veterans are nowadays.
The principal of my elementary school was a veteran ? he’d tell us stories of combat in the Pacific.
World War I vets were still marching in uniform in parades and coming out to school to talk to us.
Those veterans of the Great War have been gone for years now, and only the youngest World War II veterans are still around.
But not for much longer.
There aren’t many weeks when at least one WWII veteran isn’t listed in the obituary page. This week’s edition has two, Mr. Thomas Doney and Mr. Arnold Johnson.
Last week’s paper included Mr. George Thompson, who passed away on May 13 at the age of 93.
I remember seeing George around a lot, at Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day events, presentations to students at Clarkston Junior High and other schools, and other places.
For the veterans events, he’d wear his 1940s issue uniform and bring a case full of memorabilia he gathered while fighting Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater. He loved to show photos he took of native women in their tropical island attire.
Sitting in his foxhole in the middle of the jungle in the Philippines, could he have ever imagined he would survive the war, raise a family, and live well into the 21st century?
Probably not. A few years ago, he told me he wondered why he stayed alive when so many others didn’t. He carried a Browning Automatic Rifle, a prime target for Japanese snipers, and took part in major battles.
“The Good Lord looked after me ? I always thought there must be a reason,? he said at the time.
With more than 50 descendants so far, there were lots.
This Memorial Day, I’m going to remember and honor George, Thomas, Arnold, and their fellow veterans from World War II, Joseph Miracle, who died in action in Afghanistan five years ago, and all other veterans.
Where would we be without them?

Michigan’s school-funding scheme is unfair. I’ve heard it again and again, especially over the past few months as folks spoke for and against the proposed $20 million school bond.
Clarkston Community Schools is amongst the lowest funded in Oakland County, a byproduct of Proposal A. Approaching the 20th anniversary of that school-funding reform law, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
With two decades under its belt, it should have been dealt with long ago.
School officials lobby state legislators and call on residents to make their views known to their elected representatives. But then they complain they aren’t listened to. Those rascally Republicans and all that.
If they haven’t already, they should also seek redress in the third branch of government, the courts. Proposal A locked in funding levels at 1994 levels, so if a district got a lot then, they get a lot now. It was supposed to somehow equalize over time, but it hasn’t.
Sounds like a decent case to me. Any lawyers out there who can take it on?
Support or not for the Clarkston bond proposal, the technology they have in mind is impressive.
One thing I find odd is the idea to provide each student with an iPad or some other device, even though many of them have one at home. They were the hot Christmas present last year, I’m told.
Planners considered that, and debated a program to allow privately owned tablets in the classroom, supplemented with school-owned devices as needed. That would have saved some money. However, it was rejected in favor of a plan to provide devices to everyone, in part so students without would not feel bad.
If the proposal succeeds or fails, I think they should reconsider. The plan calls for updates every five years. It’s safe to assume whatever device they pick will be superceded by newer, faster, better ones before then.
Would teachers prohibit students who have newer devices from bringing them to class?
It’s not like kids don’t know some people have better stuff than others. They can see cars and what people wear. This could be an opportunity to teach them how to deal with it.

An Easter lesson for me this year ? cat claws are sharp!
I didn’t have the pleasure of learning this lesson myself. That went to my cat Henry at the claws of fellow cat, Crawford.
I was babysitting Crawford while my ex was on vacation. The two of them don’t get along as well as they used to, putting on some sort of dominance display for the benefit of my two girl cats, I suppose.
I thought they wouldn’t seriously injure each other. Cat’s coats are pretty thick, and they did grew up together, after all.
But I was wrong.
I came home from Easter Vigil services to find Henry lethargic in bed. Checking on him, I found a three-inch gash in his side.
It wasn’t bleeding, but it had more the look of raw meat. I should have rushed him to the vet immediately, but I didn’t.
Maybe it wasn’t too serious, I thought. Maybe I can take care of this myself. I found myself inventorying whatever medical supplies I had on hand.
I’ve had a little bit of medic training in the Army. I had some bandages and antiseptic cream, and some clippers to trim away his fur. I got him in the tub and ran some water on it, then realized it was far beyond whatever I could do about it.
So 3 a.m., Easter morning, I was at the animal emergency room getting my cat stitched up.
It took a bit of haggling with the vet for me to get things going. The doctor ran up a bill of procedures almost reaching $1,000, a bit too much to spend on an old kitty, I thought.
But the vet knocked off a few x-rays and blood work, shaving more than $300 off the bill, and, with my ex offering to pay half, I gave the go ahead to save my cat’s life.
I have an old dog cage for his convalescence, with his stitches, two drain tubes and a cone of shame ? oh, he loves that.
He doesn’t like his medicine, so I put it in his food ? at least he’s getting wet catfood, a bit of a treat in my household.
He’s in his twilight years, but I didn’t want his end to be at the hands of his brother cat on Easter.

That groundhog didn’t know what he was talking about. Spring is here, along with warmer temperatures, sun, and plenty of good, lifegiving rain to make things green (hopefully it’s not snowing as this goes to print).
I opened my windows at home after many months and the cats were filled with joy.
Here at the Clarkston News, the new year doesn’t really start for me until about now. Close on the heels of the holiday season is Progress season ? assignments start to flow for our annual business review, followed by interviews, writing, and back-and-forth proofing with clients, along with regular production of the paper.
This year’s Progress section was much bigger than last year’s, a good and welcome sign. The 70 businesses featured in the special section all have stories to tell.
Of the ones I wrote, Allied Construction sticks out. They’ve been in business for more than 30 years, building all over the Clarkston area.
They weathered the economic slump of the past decade and are actually expanding, hiring about 20 new employees and building an addition to their building in Springfield Township.
Spring also means Clarkston community activities go into overdrive.
Clarkston Farmers Market is busy getting ready for their new location, on the lawn of Clarkston schools’ Community Education Building on Waldon Road.
Concerts in the Park season is set in Depot Park, kicking off on June 15 with Gemini’s family tunes; then Stardusters Big Band and swing, June 22; Bugs Beddow playing classic rock, June 29; Magic Bus taking on the 70’s, July 6; Legend the Band’s 50’s and 60’s hits, July 13; and Orquesta Ritmo, heating up the park with their Latin Salsa songs, July 20.
Also green is this Saturday ? Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Percolating through the Internet, on Google, Youtube, and whatnot, is a video from the old Muppet Show featuring the Swedish Chef, Beeker, and Animal singing ‘Oh Danny Boy.?
Sure, they’re not the most coherent characters in the bunch and they don’t know the words, but they put their little furry hearts and souls into that song.

MEAP scores are in ? check them out on page 5A.
Putting them together for the paper was a chore. This is not a back-to-basics endeavor. With all the different scales and percentages all over the place, you need a high score in the MEAP math test to figure out the results of the MEAP math test, along with all the others.
What an over-engineered mess.
Also confusing are the categories ? Advanced, Proficient, Partially Proficient, and Not Proficient.
Based on my calculations, a third grader has to score 336 out of 427 points to be considered ‘Proficient? in math. If the score is between 322-335, the student is ‘Partially Proficient.?
So to be proficient, one must get 78.7 percent of the answers correct, a high D or low C when I went to school. And this is with the new, tougher standards. Last year, a third-grade student just needed to get 300 out of 427 points, 70.3 percent, to be considered proficient.
Who in the adult, working world is considered ‘proficient? if they know less than 80 percent of their job?
I’m still working on the school board’s free speech issue.
Their lawyer spoke to the board at their last meeting, schooling them on policies restricting what they can say in public. They’re not supposed to say anything without an official disclaimer saying any and all things said are personal opinion, not reflecting the board, etc. etc.
Then I listened to board Treasurer Steve Hyer on WJR’s podcast, broadcast live five days after that meeting. I didn’t hear a disclaimer during the entire interview, even though the host twice specifically identified Hyer as a member of the school board.
During the school board meeting, board members argued the bylaws are not as restrictive as presented by the attorney. Hyer wasn’t one of them, though. According to the Clarkston News story on the issue, he actually made the motion that each board member comply with the policy.
I’m still awaiting comment, but I can see the policy isn’t as clear as school administrators or lawyers might think it is. District bylaws shouldn’t trump the U.S. Constitution ? that’s clear.

Hitting regular rotation on TV lately is the movie ?2012,? depicting the end of the world due to mutating death rays from the sun.
I went to see it in the theater in 2009. In a stroke of divine comedy, the end-of-the-world movie ended early due to a power outage caused by the weather. It wasn’t 10 minutes from the credits ? the ark was in danger of colliding with Mt. Everest because the engines wouldn’t start. I got a free pass to another showing, but I never went back. I got to see the ending on TV and saw I didn’t miss much.
The film was produced in 2008, so producers had to project into the future a bit. This was most obvious regarding technology ? the main character’s cell phone had a ring that was hopelessly outdated here in actual 2012. No one in the film carried I-phones or I-pads, or anything resembling them. Four years into the future, filmmakers had no idea they were coming.
That’s the nature of technology today. Today’s computers are obsolete tomorrow.
So that’s one of my concerns with the proposed school technology bond. If approved by voters in May, it would collect $20 million, half earmarked for wireless Internet, handheld, mobile information devices, and other technology.
As the election draws closer, we’ll discuss with Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock specific plans to deal with how quickly they’ll all become obsolete.
Good job to our deputies at Independence Township substation for nabbing a couple burglary suspects.
I was a bit dismayed to read George Grimes? rap sheet ? multiple convictions for home invasion, along with a felony fireams conviction.
That man should not have been out on the street, free to prey on local residents, allegedly. With sentences of 3-20 years, he should have been in prison at least until 2026.
More prison space is needed. To free up some funds, I’d start with reducing the per-prisoner expenses by cutting comfort items.
Then we can think about illegal drugs. Most if not all of the break-ins included in the weekly Public Safety page are to fund drug addictions.

So Clarkston voters will decide whether the school district can take out a new $20 million loan.
I’m sure district officials have wonderful uses in mind for the money.
I assume, then, that the “perfect storm” affecting school finances is finally over. This analogy has been used for years to describe government budget problems ? a combination of increasing employee retirement and benefit costs, decreasing funding from the state, and lower tax revenues due to a slumping economy, etc.
Because no one would advocate taking on more debt in the midst of a floundering economy.
I’m not sure this is the best idea. I agree children are our future and we should do everything we can for them.
I have to say this because people might assume I’m not.
For example, I wouldn’t have thought, with me being a veteran and all the stories about veterans I’ve written over the years, anyone would think I was anything but pro-veteran. But I was wrong!
So, again just to be clear, I am pro-children ? just as I’m sure everyone who has or might speak out against the bond are.
Because the question remains, is this something the Clarkston community can do? Can we afford it?
Why does the school district need $20 million for technology and to fix parking lots? What happened to the district’s maintenance budget?
Is it going to be used to buy technology products? How many students don’t have all the products they need already?
If the district wants to teach students something useful, how about teaching them how to program, how to code, HTML so they can design their own websites.
Students certainly don’t have to be taught how to use high-tech products. They’re designed to be easy to use. Check out what’s posted on Facebook and Twitter and it’s clear absolute morons have no problem with using these devices.
Why does the election have to be in May? That’s $35,000 right there. Why the rush? Would a six-month delay make that much of a difference?
Besides the lower voter turnout a May election would bring?

After all these years, I still love the Peanuts holiday specials.
Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, Linus explaining the real reason for the season, the Christmas party dancing.
Charlie Brown’s impromptu Thanksgiving feast. I sometimes prepare dinner like that.
Charlie Brown’s scissors impaired Halloween ghost costume. He got a rock while trick-or-treating, which made him sad.
For Clarkston, rocks are much more welcome this Christmas.
Kid Rock brought some extra national exposure to Clarkston, stopping by the Union and Woodshop to film a segment for Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”
The troops get out of Iraq for Christmas this year. Whether they won or not can be discussed later. Now let’s just be happy they’re home, or on the way.
Tom Stone and his group Clarkston Cares for Military Families group work to make it easier for local troops and their families as they readjust back to civilian life.
Clarkston Community Schools also has Dr. Rod Rock.
For myself, I got the Christmas tree up on time, right after Thanksgiving. The cats only brought it down once so far. This is an improvement. My oldest cat Henry gnawed on it a bit, but probably just for old times sake. He did that a lot when he was a kitten but is now more than 14 years old.
The office Christmas party was fun. What went on there will not be reported in these pages, which is for the best. I got a barbecue set in the White Elephant gift exchange, which was nice.
Clarkston High School basketball players will stay busy during Christmas break. The Wolves hit the court on Thursday, Dec. 22 ? Boys Basketball hosts a triple-header vs. Troy Athens, freshman game, 4 p.m.; JV, 5:30 p.m.; Varsity, approximately 7 p.m.
On Monday, Jan. 2, Girls Basketball hosts their triple-header vs. Troy Athens, freshman, 4 p.m.; JV, 5:30 p.m., Varsity, about 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, Boys Basketball hosts Lake Orion, JV, 5:30 p.m., Varsity, about 7 p.m.
Fill the stands and Merry Christmas!

Christmas season is here. How did that happen? Now I have to get my Christmas tree and decorations up. If I procrastinate, the season will pass and it will be time for New Year’s.
Thanksgiving went by quickly. My brother and his family drove from Virginia to spend the holiday with me and my parents up in Davison.
Those watching my update show at saw some of them. I invited the kids to sing a Thanksgiving song ? they know lots of them.
Helen, Annie, Mary, Paul, and Tommy took me up on it. James, Liz, and David Jr. were busy doing other stuff (my brother has a big family).
It’s in the ‘daily update? slot, so it won’t be there long, but check them out if you want to.
In a few short weeks the political season gets into full swing. It’s already started for many ? check out Michael Tynan’s guest viewpoint on page 22.
It’s a presidential election year. President Obama, will he stay or go? Who will the Republicans put up against the incumbent?
But it’s big locally too, with the entire Independence and Springfield township boards all up for a vote.
Some guidelines for candidates:
No promises on candidate stories. If you’re running, you are not entitled to a story in the Clarkston News. What you may be entitled to is inclusion in our special election coverage pages or a special section, with candidate responses to a set of questions and issues.
We’ll also have one or more moderated debates for the website.
Feature stories are possible. Residents deciding to throw their hats into the political process make interesting stories.
I wouldn’t try to time a feature story on yourself or your candidate for maximum impact, or anything like that. This has been a Republican dominated area for a while, so these elections have been determined in the primary in August. As the election gets closer, less space and time will be available.
So my advice is to file as soon as you can. It’s an important job so think long and hard but make up your mind already.

I received a list of ‘free stuff to honor veterans? from Clarkston Cares for Military Families.
This sort of thing seems fairly recent. Hopefully, it’s welcome to veterans, especially all the new vets of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Outback Steakhouse offers free Bloomin? Onions and Cokes this whole week.
On Veterans’ Day itself, Friday, Nov. 11:
Free meals at Applebee’s, Chili’s, Hooters and Texas Roadhouse; free doughnut at participating Krispy Kremes for active-duty, retirees, and veterans; and free six-inch sub at participating Subway franchises to military veterans.
T.G.I. Friday’s offers buy one get one free, Nov 11-14, at participating locations for anyone with an old or current military ID. National Park Service waives entrance fees during Veteran’s Day weekend, Nov. 11-13. McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants offers free lunch or dinner, Nov 13; and Golden Corral, free meal, Nov. 14.
I like all this stuff. For some, it may just be a marketing idea, but I’m sure most sincerely want to do something to show their appreciation. If your business is serving food, what else can you do but offer a free meal?
Clarkston Cares for Military Families also wants to know what everyone else is willing and able to do for vets as they return from Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s a good question. For me, I’ll do what I can to make their voices heard and stories told. Local veterans groups help, but if you know a Clarkston veteran who has an interesting story to tell, which is all of them, let me know at 248-625-3370 or
Veterans participating in the Occupy movements get a lot of attention, and they should. Occupy’s executive officer of the week, or whatever they use for leadership, certainly make it known whenever a veteran in their ranks gets injured.
There, they have a point. What veterans do and say should be important.
If Occupy Wall Street, Oakland, and whatever knows enough to put veterans front and center, everyone else can do at least the same.

Smart warriors the world over turn their opponents’ tactics against them.
So it is with admiration that I watch Clarkston school officials and advocates use yellow-journalism methods against Dawn Schaller and the Clarkston News regarding Freedom of Information Act requests.
They ask, what’s the real story behind the News and Dawn Schaller? What are your real motivations? What did you know and when did you know it?
I get it ? that’s what we’re doing, so how does it feel, tabloid boy?
What’s sad about these charges and countercharges is it’s all unnecessary.
The Freedom of Information Act requires school districts and other official bodies to provide information, but it includes plenty of information controls, too. The school district isn’t as helpless as the superintendent and others seem to think.
It allows the district to charge for actual costs for labor, search, examination, review, and deletion and separation of exempt from nonexempt information.
When calculating labor, the district can’t charge more than the lowest hourly rate, but the law goes on to say that rate applies to the “lowest paid public body employee capable of retrieving the information necessary to comply with a request under this act.”
This means the lowest paid central office employee, not the lowest paid employee overall.
Also, as Cory Johnston points out in his letter on page 20A, the law allows the district to make reasonable rules to “prevent excessive and unreasonable interference with the discharge of its functions.”
If that’s the case, make the rules. People will probably argue about whether they’re reasonable, but that would be better than arguing why a newspaper would want information on the local school district.
Now’s certainly not the time for less scrutiny of any government body, including the school district.
The School Board is considering a new program to teach Spanish in preschool-fifth grade, costing up to $750,000. And, after borrowing millions to wire the district for the Internet, it very may well look to borrow millions more for wireless Internet.
These and other stories need more questions and answers, not less.

It rained last Friday, Saturday, and Monday, but Sunday was nice and sunny. The food gods smiled down on this year’s Taste of Clarkston.
The crowd was big and so were the flavors. The event is designed so folks get one sample, eat it, get another sample, eat that one, repeat as necessary.
I got some braised ribs, chicken taco, and a Coke, but all at the same time.
They don’t have trays at the Taste of Clarkston ? not very environmentally friendly, cost would be high, and clean up would be long.
Certainly no one would want a tray to be kicked up by a truck tire as it heads up M-15, sending it spinning through the air and …
Anyway, I fumbled a bit and dropped a rib on the street.
Did I eat that rib? Yes. Yes I did.
That rib cost good money, it tasted really good, and if there’s one thing I learned while in the service, it’s that a little dirt never hurt anything.
For folks like me who don’t go to any of the Clarkston schools or house anyone who does, the Taste kicks off the fall season.
Publish the Taste pictures and then it’s October, the start of the holiday season.
Friendly Forest at Clintonwood Park Halloween, Clarkston Expo and then it’s Thanksgiving. Take time off for a good dinner, recover from the turkey coma and then it’s time to give and receive Christmas gifts.
Then right after that: election season 2012 kicks off.
It’s a big one this year. The boards of trustees for both Independence and Springfield are up for votes.
Is it too early to call this four-year term a “wild ride?” Neither board got through unscathed. Independence Township clerk and Springfield Township supervisor resigned and had to be replaced. Independence Township’s supervisor has been sick for half a year.
In 2008, a group of candidates got together to form a slate, all running together for Independence Township Board. Voters broke it up, electing only part of it, and they’ve been grinding through the shards ever since.
If this happens next year, we should package it all up as a reality show and sell it to MTV.

This is a good week for the Neighborhood Security Seminar, planned for tomorrow by Citizens Cable Committee.
Murders are rare in the Clarkston area, but we had one just last Saturday.
It’s a particularly tragic and pointless one, too, involving a guy stalking a co-worker, hiding in her bedroom, grabbing her, and then shooting her parents when they run to help, killing her mother. Then he shot and killed himself.
The man was reportedly serving a community-service sentence for marijuana. Perhaps more care is needed when dealing with these people, both by the court system and those who come in contact with them in the community.
Domestic-violence-type cases like this might be a bit outside the scope of the security seminar, but some principles still apply. Stronger locks may have helped keep the stalker out. An alarm might have alerted the residents sooner.
Going through the stack of police reports every week for the Public Safety column, too many residents are still leaving computers, purses, and other valuable out in the cars and trucks, which are sometimes left unlocked, too.
As those reports as well as Saturday’s murder shows, bad people are out and about in our community. Don’t make it easier for them.
Domestic abuse cases are also common, though only show up in the paper when arrests are made. In one of the cases, the victim didn’t even want to press charges but the police made the arrest anyway. Those in that situation might want to reconsider that, considering the lengths to which some are demonstrably willing to go.
It’s also the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Not that door locks and alarms can stop a terrorist bomb or suicide attack, but the goal of neighborhood watch applies.
Watch out for each other. Get to know your neighbors. That might come in handy in coming years if the economy continues to deteriorate.
The seminar starts at 7 p.m., Sept. 8, at Independence Township Hall, 6483 Waldon Center Drive.

The tractor situation in Independence Township reminds me of ‘Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan.?
In the movie, Khan stole a machine called the Genesis Device and in the process stranded Admiral Kirk and crew in the middle of an asteroid. In response, Kirk tries to goad his mortal enemy (Khan) into beaming down so they could have a fistfight, or something.
‘You’ve managed to kill everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep … missing … the target,? Kirk says, with typical William Shatner overacting.
The Genesis Device wasn’t what Khan was all worked up about. What he wanted was to get Kirk, his nemesis.
Likewise, in Independence Township, it’s not about the tractor. It’s about some trustees versus Supervisor Dave Wagner, to expose corruption they see in his administration. Back in April, the township board launched an investigation into the location of the parks and rec vehicle. The supervisor reportedly took it without permission and gave it back to the to the person who originally donated it.
The investigation continues. Last week’s story ‘Tractor digs up trouble for resident? describes how employees at least checked out a resident’s tractor on his property without permission, at most moved it off the property for investigation, then moved it back (it wasn’t the right tractor).
They’re figuratively shooting at Wagner, and hitting other people. It’s not disintegrating phaser fire, but it still needs to stop.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration found 30,000 college students getting food stamps, and cut them off, saving about $75 million.
These students are young, no disabilities, no children, some had plenty of assets ? just going to school full time so money’s tight.
Lots of dire predictions about the cut. There are no jobs! They can’t study while they’re hungry! But most will probably take the change in stride, in a well-it-was-good-while-it-lasted sort of way.
Others might learn how to solve their own problems, and wean themselves from government dependency while they’re still young and able. That might do them some good. Won’t do us any harm either.

Digging through the archives for Mrs. Jean Saile’s obituary story last week took me back to the 1970’s.
I was a youngster, born in 1969, so no ‘Dazed and Confused? type memories for me. Mostly ‘Star Wars? and the Bicentennial fun.
Jean was editor of the Clarkston News from 1971-1977, a time of transition for the paper. Jim Sherman Sr. bought it in 1970. They established much of the format still used today, including the tabloid size, photo and story layout, and ‘Jim’s Jottings.?
I was too young to remember President Nixon and his troubles, but I do remember President Ford.
At the time, my parents had a Ford station wagon. I probably figured there was some kind of connection, but maybe not ? I remember thinking the vehicle was called a ‘Fork.?
The 70s is a long time ago in newspaper technology. No computers, Internet, cell phones, digital cameras, just manually operated everything.
Jean and her reporters would pound out their stories on typewriters, then send the copy to Oxford where typesetters would retype them into newspaper columns, ready for plating.
For pictures, they would use cameras with film, probably rolled in-house from film bought in bulk. They would send used canisters to Oxford where technicians would develop them in a darkroom. They would then send negatives or contact sheets back to Clarkston where reporters would look at them through an eye loop, select photos they want, and send them back to Oxford. Photo technicians would then make prints out of those choices.
She’d go to Oxford on Tuesdays, and lay out copy and prints, wielding razor blades and hot wax, probably with the help of more technicians.
Now, the work of about a dozen technicians retyping copy, processing film, making prints, laying out pages, all with chemicals, hot wax, and razor blades, I can do on my laptop computer sitting on my couch at home watching television.
It may not be the moon colonies, flying cars, and robots people back then expected us to have by now, but it’s still pretty amazing.

I’m looking forward to the Fourth of July Parade in Clarkston and Independence Township Festival of Fun, especially this year.
The whole thing was on the edge of cancellation due to budget and other reasons. That would have been sad, what with ‘Independence? in this place’s name.
But people have pulled through, as I have come to expect. My first few months here at The Clarkston News, I got a call to help a local family buy Christmas presents for their little girl, and put something about it the paper.
Donations filled the office, a local businessman volunteered to be Santa ? I was very impressed.
That community spirit came through again for the Fourth, with community groups, churches, and volunteers working together to organize and run the parade and festival activities.
I got into it myself. I helped out with planning the Veterans Celebration at the Independence Township Festival of Fun and Fireworks. I’m listed under ‘public relations? in the program, which is cool.
A Military Museum will be set up in Carriage House, including radio-controlled miniature military planes, photos, uniforms and memorabilia from past wars. My stuff from the First Gulf War will be there along with items from World War II, Cold War, all the stuff local veterans have in their storage bins. None of my uniforms still fit, except maybe the hat and boots.
I’m hoping for some color pages coming up ? fireworks would look pretty good in them. Fireworks photos seem pointless in black and white, which is why I haven’t attended them in previous years. We publish lots of parade and festival photos instead.
I’ll be there this year, though, especially with the new location.
Speaking of spiders (see page 7A), my cat Gypsy, a Springfield Township native, has declared war on my basement spiders.
She hates them. One night, she brought five of them upstairs in her mouth for me to kill, one at a time, one after the other.
I’d market her out as an exterminator except she’s afraid of strangers and hides when they come around.

Good turnout at the American Legion Post 63’s Memorial Day ceremony at Lakeview Cemetery ? it was nice and sunny for a change.
Excellent work by organizers and participants. I liked the flyover by two A-10 jet fighters. I suppose they had a route, to ‘hit? as many Memorial Day ceremonies as possible. They probably planned it like a combat mission.
Veterans and their families and friends appreciate local ceremonies. It’s a time to remember those who gave their lives for America, and also those who didn’t.
Serving in the armed forces is a sacrifice, in war and peace.
I served seven months in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in 1990-1991. The First Gulf War was short, just about four days. The four months of nothing leading up to it were a bit tedious, though, as were the three months of nothing after it.
My nephew spent seven months in Iraq in 2009. Those seven months seemed to go much faster.
Nice to see some history on the History Channel.
It’s Civil War Week on the History Channel. All of it’s “history” programs have a Civil War theme ? Pawn Stars are haggling over Civil War relics, American Pickers are digging through collectors’ piles of Civil War stuff. I suppose the Ice Road Truckers will be hauling some stuff through Dixieland, or something.
Speaking of the Civil War, how about the Independence Township Board?
The latest flap is about a reference to Supervisor Dave Wagner in last week’s ‘Building director suspended 60 days…? story, talking to the labor attorney about a bonus given to the building director.
According to the supervisor, the attorney said there was no obligation for the building director to pay the money back, and doing so would admit guilt. Trustees said the attorney denied saying such a thing. Lots of disappointment going around, in the supervisor for saying it and the Clarkston News for printing it.
Looking at the attorney’s email, it’s not clear to me what he said ? it’s one of those, I-didn’t-say-it-but-if-I-did-I-meant-something-else kind of thing. And he had no comment when we finally did give him a call, so no help there.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden seemed a topic ripe for localization, so I emailed 15 elected officials in Clarkston, Independence and Springfield townships, and Clarkston schools for their thoughts.
They must have been busy or something. I got one response, from Clarkston City Manager Dennis Ritter.
“Being a Vietnam veteran, I know this is a HUGE morale lift for our brave troops,” Ritter wrote. “They’ll be more motivated than ever before. Bin Laden being taken out only further reaffirms the importance, significance and purpose of their mission on behalf of this great country. 9-11 is still fresh in our minds and to that, there’s an old saying: ‘What goes around comes around, it may not be tomorrow, next month or even next year, but it comes around!'”
I think President Obama did a great job getting this job done, and seemed to learn a lot from it.
Watching all these folks fill the streets, chanting ‘USA, USA,? singing the national anthem, waving the flag had to have made an impact on the president.
After a lifetime filled with people who frown on jingoistic American nationalism, he finally got a taste of good old-fashioned patriotism, with him at the lead of it, and perhaps thought, ‘oh, that’s what it’s all about.?
Tragedies didn’t do it. His success with getting the health care bill passed into law didn’t do it. Even his inauguration wasn’t the same thing.
Maybe he now gets it, why George W. had a swagger when he walked up to the podium to speak. Why Americans buy big cars and trucks, and own so many guns. Why Americans think they’re so darn special.
The president’s become a different person over the past two years.
“Close Guantanamo? What was I thinking,” he might ask. “Where would I put all the terrorists?”
“Bring all the troops home? But then how would we deal with our enemies?”
“Did I call harsh interrogation methods ‘torture?’ That’s how I got Osama!”
To paraphrase his wife, I think for the first time in his life, he is proud to be an American. To that I say, better late than never.

I wanted a quick picture to go with the story on 90 N. Main Street, so I stopped by to get one.
The place’s sole tenant, Dave Savage, was doing a photo shoot. The building owner let me in to see the insides, and all the restoration work that has gone on in there. Impressive stuff.
I remember heading over there while it was Independence Township Hall, full of counters, desks, cubicle dividers, and paperwork.
Looking at it now, I can see the Community Center of decades past.
Over the top floor is what must be a stage, suspended over the staircase leading up to it, so the sound of the band could fill the huge open space where folks would sit or dance, I suppose.
Who’d design something like that nowadays?
It would be great if it were so used again. The acoustics, seating, amenities, and just about everything else wouldn’t be as good as a brand new concert hall, as proposed to be built down in Depot Park, but it would have one heck of a nostalgia value.
Isn’t that what Clarkston’s supposed to be about?
Lots of fun activities planned this spring and summer. Clartucky race, with a leaderboard and everything? Awesome.
Adventure racing sounds fun too. No GPS allowed? Hope racers are up to it, or else we’ll be hearing the Oakland County sheriff’s helicopters as they search for folks who get lost.
I’ve joined the world of satellite radio, with XM service in my new car.
My subscription doesn’t include it, but listed amongst the hundreds of channels is the Playboy Channel.
On the radio.
Playboy magazine? That’s a great idea, all visual and stuff.
Playboy TV makes sense too ? adding motion to the visuals, and sound too.
Playboy on the radio? Wait, what? No visuals, just sound.
I’m sure they talk about lots of ‘adult? topics and probably go into Howard Stern territory, but the image I get is somebody reading the articles, describing the pictures, etc.

With a name like Independence Township, this place had better be able to field an Independence Day Parade. What else are we going to do on the Fourth of July? If we can’t, we ought to just change it.
Community groups have been stepping forward a lot recently, helping out or taking over Friendly Forest, Deer Lake Beach, Fourth of July in Clintonwood Park, and other activities.
That’s great ? government can’t support these things, what with falling property taxes, crappy economy, and everything.
So if residents want these things, they’re getting out there and making it happen.
Whichever community group steps forward this time, I’ll help out with planning, attending meetings, showing up at 6 a.m., July 4, to place traffic cones, hand out ice cream cones, or whatever else is needed.
Get the American Legion, floats, fire trucks, police cars, marching bands, civic groups ? maybe not so many politicians.
I’m getting the feeling this spring may be a bit busier than before.
President Ronald Reagan bombed Libya 25 years ago this year.
What better time for President Obama (O-bomb-a?) to repeat it? He’s been trying to emulate the previous president for a while. It’s also 210 years since the start of the Barbary Wars, when Tripoli was again bombed by America.
We commemorate milestones to lots of other wars this year.
It’s 255 years since the start of the French and Indian War; 235 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; 175 years since the start of the War of Texas Independence; and 165 years since the start of the Mexican American War.
A big one this year is the 150-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War, but it’s also 70 years since the start of World War II, for the United States, at least, and 20 years since the start of the First Gulf War, against Iraq ? I was in that one. Also, of course, 10 years since 9/11 and the start of the War on Terror with the invasion of Afghanistan.
Two of these are still going on (if you count Iraq as one big one). Guess we can add Libya to the list.

Appointment of Independence Township’s new clerk should not have been this hard.
Township Board appointed a blue-ribbon selection committee specifically to screen out unqualified candidates. The township board lauded all three finalists, praising the committee’s good job.
So when it came to appointing a new clerk, it should have just been a matter of who made the motion first. Whoever it was for, Joan Patterson, Joan McCrary, or Barbra Pallotta, should have then been approved ? how can you vote against a candidate you’re on record as saying is qualified to be clerk?
It turned out board members considered some candidates more qualified than others, holding firm, voting repeatedly against candidates they didn’t like over the course of three meetings, before breaking the deadlock last week.
Government budget problems at federal, state, and local levels reminds me of a Ponzi scheme, but a quick Wikipedia check shows it probably isn’t.
Ponzis require a central schemer, like Bernie Madoff. Government budget problems have been going on too long for that.
It’s not a bubble either, another type of scam ? that’s what caused the real estate and foreclosure mess. Bubbles can be based on the ‘greater fool? theory, though, each fool relying on a bigger fool to keep things going, which may be onto something.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul? That’s what union protestors in Wisconsin are asking for. Just raise taxes.
Pyramid scheme sounds close, relying on an unrealistically high rate of return and a steady flow of new money to pay previous investors.
With the growing number of government retirees and less money to pay for new employees, it’s getting a bit top heavy ? inverted pyramid scheme?
I apologize to Mary Hubble and her family and friends for last week’s blunder, putting her in the embezzlement story. Her name was in archived stories on the subject, got mixed into my brain, and popped out in the exact wrong place.
Lots of people want me to fall on my sword for this, including my boss. I’ll do better next time, if I’m still here.

This edition marks our second color Clarkston News, with twice as many color pages as last month.
Valentine’s Day theme this month, with flowers aplenty on the front and a mushy feature on the Garavaglias (the middle ‘G? is silent) inside. I love the colors ? red, green, pink, purples of the flowers, snowboarders? green and purple jackets, red wet suits of the ice divers.
Next month’s looks to feature a lot of green. Any St. Patrick’s or other ideas, contact me at 248-625-3370 or email
Favorite Super Bowl commercial: a driver narrowly misses a beaver, which shows its appreciation months later by cutting down a tree, preventing him from driving onto a washed out bridge, saving his life. Warms my heart to see a beaver showing proper gratitude.
Weirdest Super Bowl commercial: increasingly fantastic beings fight over a car, from corrupt policeman to supervillain to god of the sea to aliens, and finally via space warp to the ancient Aztecs. Apparently all the Aztecs? human sacrifice worked ? they got themselves a new car, appearing at the top of the temple pyramid, down the blood soaked steps past the pile of bodies just off screen.
Least favorite commercial (though not from the Super Bowl): airline passenger complains of a sore back, stewardess offers him aspirin, he says he’s not having a heart attack ? his back hurts. This means the aspirin company’s recent heart-attack?-use-our-pills ad campaign was so successful people forgot aspirin is supposed to relieve pain.
As presidential campaigning for 2012 starts, I think we should ask candidates if they like this country. If they answer something like, “well, I like what it could be,” or “if it became what I want it to be, then I’d like it,” we should kick them to the curb. They should run for president of a country they like. There are lots of countries that aren’t like us. They should run in one of those countries.
They should also ask them to pronounce the word ‘Taliban.? If it comes out ‘Tolly-bon,? to the curb they go. If a leader can’t be trusted not to concede their own language to the enemy, what can they be trusted with?

It would be a shame if freedom becomes another casualty in Jared Loughner’s massacre at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s Congress on Your Corner event in Arizona.
Left-wingers want to tie right-wing politicians and talkers to the tragedy, blaming their programs and speeches for creating a climate of hate. If they get their way, no more war- or violence-based metaphors ? because there are crazy people out their who take it literally.
Have they considered how limits they impose on opponents eventually apply to themselves as well? What goes around, comes around (is this a war metaphor? It might be some kind of boomerang thing).
Sports metaphors are OK so far. No word yet on sports metaphors based on war. Presumably, something like ‘the campaign plans to blitz the district? would need clarification, ‘blitz? as in football or World War II.
Would I be able to say it makes my blood boil to think we’re one crazed killer away from losing basic human rights to free speech? (I’m using “boiling blood” as a figure of speech meaning angry. I would die long before my blood reached boiling temperature.)
How about saying Arizona Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, blaming right-wingers and his own state for provoking the attack, should be run out on a rail? (I don’t really want him put on a rail and carried out of town, something that apparently happened in colonial times. It’s another figure of speech.)
No more fighting city hall, holding the line, blasting one’s opponent, sword of freedom, chinks in armor, shooting in the dark.
Certainly no more crosshair-filled maps, like that used by political campaigns in every election ever. Sarah Palin got in trouble with lefties for her target map this time, because it included Rep. Giffords.
They say she secretly wanted them shot. No way. Crosshairs were placed through the country’s middle, on vulnerable districts, to show ones they thought they could win in November’s election.
A real right-winger hit list would have crosshairs clustered on the east and west coasts. Just sayin? (an expression used to absolve one of any responsibility for what one just said, or wrote).

This has been a crazy year.
The year 2010 was the year the status quo no longer held. Chickens came home to roost. People tasted their own medicine. Elvis left the building.
Early this year, school administration announced it had to make $13 million in cuts. This, after 2009 with all its spending, raises for all, fancy new technology programs, all kinds of stuff. This led to…
Al Roberts, the esteemed former superintendent. The veil was off, wheels off the wagon. A few weeks of media scrutiny and the good doctor called it quits, though taking as much taxpayer money with him as he could. I check up on him occasionally. Superintendent of a school district near Chicago, he’s trying to sell a $75 million bond referendum, threatening $6 million in cuts if it fails.
More resilient was Independence Township Supervisor Dave Wagner, surviving a year-long recall effort against him. Not surviving, though…
Clarkston Police, falling victim to budget cuts. City officials offered to save it, provided residents agree to a tax increase. They declined. Also facing the axe, actually a paint roller with a really long extension…
Main Street mural, on the north side of the Clarkston News building. Whatever the reason ? negative public opinion, missed deadlines, vandals ? its time was up, and a project in its fourth year was erased in less than an hour.
There were many more cuts ? parks and recreation, public comment at Independence Township meetings, school and government staff ? but there was good news in 2010 too.
Clarkston Optimists took it upon themselves to rescue Friendly Forest, an earlier victim of township budget cuts. They made a profit, too.
Community service isn’t just a sentencing option here ? kids and adults do them all year long, helping out families at home and abroad, troops overseas, all without government help.
The Clarkston News stepped into the technology age, with online programs on, and our own page on Facebook. My show, Phil in the Blank, has been on for months now, from a half-hour inaugeral show where I go over every page of the newspaper, to the leaner 8-10 minutes now.

Driving to Depot Park Saturday evening for a bullying-awareness, candlelight vigil, I wasn’t sure what I would find.
Maybe no one would be there. Maybe Steve Hyer, president of Clarkston School Board, was right when he suggested bullying wasn’t an issue in Clarkston. The school board had passed a policy against it, after all.
But a small crowd of people, mostly students from Clarkston High School, waited in the cold darkness as I walked up.
During the vigil, several shared their own stories to go along with the one I wrote about last week. At least for some, bullying is an issue, and a serious one.
A reader commented on the issue on our Facebook page, describing Mr. Hyer’s comments in last week’s paper (‘We have not been informed of an increase in bullying…?) as a ‘Jedi mind trick,? as in, ‘you don’t need to see any information on bullying. This isn’t the issue you’re looking for.?
That would make me the hapless, weak-willed stormtrooper. My line was supposed to be, ‘This isn’t the issue I’m looking for. Move along. Move along.?
The lack of response from school officials was disappointing. I wanted to hear what they were facing and how they dealt with it. Instead, the response reminded me of the don’t-talk-about-anything-negative-that-might-hurt-home-sales approach of the former school administration.
The district has a policy … no kidding. I wanted to know what was happening in the trenches, the hallways of the junior high and middle school especially, where kids are especially vulnerable to becoming and being victimized by bullies, with the raging hormones and all that.
Instead, it falls to a ninth-grade student to respond on the serious issue of bullying, as included on page 7A.
The student’s letter this week seems to contradict the story last week. This could mean one is lying, but in this case, I don’t think so. Both are telling the truth, from their point of view. Sticking with Star Wars? Obi Wan Kenobi, ‘many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.?

As I get older, the relentless march of time becomes more noticeable.
In grade school, World War I veterans were the old guys in the American Legion and VFW halls, World War II and Korean War vets were the guys in charge, while Vietnam vets were just getting involved in the veterans groups.
World War II vets were young. One of my elementary school principals fought in the Pacific Theater. He told us war stories, too. They had trouble with snipers hiding in the treetops on an island somewhere, so they machine gunned the treetops. All of them. Sometimes coconuts fell out of the trees. Sometimes Japanese soldiers fell out of them, he told us.
Now, World War I vets are almost entirely gone. Wiki lists three still alive, all 109 years old.
The World War II generation is fading fast. They’re no longer working as principals, or anything else.
That’s why I like Veterans Day events and Clarkston Junior High School’s Remembrance project so much. They provide a chance to listen to veterans before it’s too late.
Reading Trevor Keisor’s story on the planned combined performing arts center, I see just about everyone involved is gung-ho for the project.
I’m not so sure.
A lot of Clarkston’s charm is its preserved history. I work in part of that ? 5 S. Main Street is more than 100 years old. Henry Ford himself commissioned many houses and buildings on Main Street.
I see the Depot Theater as key to that, as well as the house used by Clarkston Music Conservatory. Now these buildings are set to be replaced by a fancy new, three story Clarkston Center for the Performing Arts.
If Clarkston does need a ‘proper and modern entertainment facility,? what about the one at Clarkston High School? That’s plenty proper and modern.
I expected a quick holiday season and so far, with Halloween a couple weeks in the past and Thanksgiving next week, it has been. I’ve had better years, but there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

Election season is down to the wire, with six days until Election Day.
One of the stranger episodes this past year: Kande Ngalamulume’s brief candidacy. He kicked off his run against the formidable Mike Rogers for his seat in the U.S. Congress this past May, right in front of the Clarkston News building.
‘You’ll be seeing a lot of me,? Ngalamulume promised.
Turns out, not so much. He dropped out a few weeks later, leaving local Democrats scrambling to find a candidate to put on the ballot.
In August, the City of the Village of Clarkston forgot it was a city and mistakenly published the ‘village? deadline for filing to run for city council.
Tough luck for candidates seeking to run, even though they were pushing it to the last week to register. Kudos to the three who stepped up as write-in candidates, though.
There’s been lots of attention on national issues, with local Tea Party folks helping to lead a Republican counterattack against Democratic victories of 2008. Sarah Palin stopped by Independence Township, and at least two local Tea groups hosted several gatherings.
Kevin Chase’s Independence Tea Party Patriots group attracts hundreds of people to its rallies. Not so many for Carl Knaus? group, but he has his own song, ‘Freedom,? which he sings.
Information’s our business, and business is good this election season. We have input from the candidates throughout this edition, as well as in previous editions. Readers have shared their voting preferences with letters to the editor, and our’s are here in our editorial.
That’s not all.
All five candidates for Clarkston City Council stopped by Friday morning for a debate/discussion panel for
Studio space was limited, so the candidates are set up like contestants for The Family Feud game show. The black-and-white, sepia tone it ended up with in post production also gives it an old-timey look.
But we covered a wide range of issues in the hour-long, question-and-answer panel. Check it out!

My first news panel discussion is sealed and delivered, uploaded to the Internet.
Thanks to Cory Johnston and Michael Sabol for coming in last Thursday and providing thoughtful commentary on an important issue for Clarkston residents ? whether your city should stay a city or not.
Both saw problems with the current city budget system and had good points for their different solutions.
For Cory, the system is broken and needs to be changed, before it can even begin to be fixed. Michael still has faith residents can come together and make changes on their own.
Getting people involved ? aye, there’s the rub (the lead I wrote for the cityhood discussion story put Hamlet on my mind).
It’s not easy to get involved with local government when you’re busy with family and work.
This I know.
I live in Flint Township. I have no idea who my township supervisor is, what my millage rate is, or what local issues are hot or even lukewarm.
For that, I partially blame my local newspapers. There used to be a set of community papers around Flint, covering surrounding townships and cities. I wrote for one of them, back in the day.
They would cover local issues and details the daily couldn’t. Things like how much the supervisor spent on her new office suite.
Those papers are a shell of their former selves. I find that I miss that.
So I take to heart Mike’s call for more budget and police details in The Clarkston News. That’s what we’re for.
We got a decent number of MPA awards this year, but there’ll be no resting on our laurels.
Time to get to work.
This Clarkston411 discussion is the first of many, hopefully one every few weeks.
I have ideas of what to cover next, but if you’d like to suggest some, or volunteer to take part, call me at 248-625-3370 or email

Sept. 11 fell on a Saturday this year, which made possible a whole day of 9/11. MSNBC ran coverage of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington D.C., Shanksville, as they happened nine years ago. The History Channel cleared its entire day’s schedule for it.
It seemed to bring to a head the “Ground Zero Mosque” and “burn a Koran day” issues, at least for now.
I don’t agree with what the Koran burners did. I respect Muslims and their religion. I even went to war to defend them. I have a Saudi Arabian Liberation of Kuwait Medal to prove it.
One argument against it was annoying, that it ‘puts our troops at risk.? It’s saying our troops are like hostages, to be killed whenever the terrorists want, instead of heavily armed soldiers trained and experienced in killing them back if they try anything.
But someone buying a Koran and burning to send a message is the sort of thing we do here. Freedom of speech. The whole ‘I disagree with what you say, but will defend to my death your right to say it? thing.
It exposed how people really feel about freedom of expression. When President Obama preaches about tolerance and freedom of religion when discussing the New York City Mosque, the next logical question is, do you also support the Koran burners? right to free speech?
Well, no.
So kudos for not letting folks off the hook, holding their feet to the fire. In the end, it didn’t even require burning the book to make the point, although some did.
Speaking of freedom of expression, it occurs to us that squashing a debate on whether Clarkston should be dissolved or not ? isn’t.
What kind of American pressures other Americans not to have a discussion, in America, on any issue, no matter how ‘premature.?
So we’ll do it. We have a studio with microphones, cameras, lights, and everything. Watch for details next week.

For the past four years, the “blank” in “Phil in the Blank” referred to this space in the newspaper. I’m the editor in charge of laying out the newspaper, and when it’s my turn to write the column, this spot is blank until I fill it.
Now it means something else ? a blank spot on (in?) the World Wide Web. I have my own show at
I am a rank amateur at this stuff, of course. My first episode a couple weeks ago, my teeth were so clenched I looked like I was trying ventriloquism. I wouldn’t blame viewers for looking for my puppet.
It’s something I’ve always done when I’m nervous. I remember in elementary school choir practice, the director telling me, through clenched teeth so I knew what it looked like, that I needed to open my mouth more.
But as I describe it in the program, Phil in the Blank show is a behind-the-scenes look at the week’s paper, like a director’s commentary ? when you get the paper, cue me up and let me blather on about it as you read.
Find out how I got pictures of the RUSH Regatta last weekend at Deer Lake. I was in the lake. I wore my swimsuit and waded out until the water was up to my tummy. Unfortunately, I kept saying I was ON the lake, making it sound like I was in a boat. No, I was IN the lake.
Also, see what I really think about township officials and the value of a pull quote. (Stop saying how the board needs someone else’s experts because it makes you sound like you don’t know how to hire your own experts.)
Check out why I’m very conscientious about getting Clarkston’s obituaries in the paper in a timely manner. (A fellow said he would come out and beat me up if I didn’t, like he used to do in the war with guys who didn’t do their job.)
This week, you’ll likely hear me talk about me writing about the web program, as well as some strange similarities between one of the superintendent candidates and a certain former Clarkston superintendent.
I should be getting over my clenched-jaw problem. If I do, maybe I’ll make my choir director proud and sing something.

With the new school year approaching, Clarkston’s search for a new superintendent is heating up.
For an example of how not to do it, how about Oak Park Elementary District 97, outside Chicago? They recently wrapped up their superintendent search, ending up with Clarkston Schools? ex, Al Roberts.
According to local news reports, they hosted public meetings to gather input from residents in April, but when it came down to interviewing candidates in mid June, the flow of information ceased. The local press knew the school board narrowed candidates down to five on June 7, then three on June 10, and finally one, Roberts, on June 18.
But they were denied names at every step, where specifically candidates were from, anything they might have used to do any sort of independent check on them.
‘He’s a he, white, from out of state and already a superintendent,? reported the Wednesday Journal, June 18. On June 22, he was still being called ‘D97’s mystery superintendent.?
The Journal quoted their school board president, June 8, ‘people will not put their name in to just express interest if that’s going to be made public because it may undermine them at their current district. We don’t want to discourage a perfectly good candidate with an existing contract from applying.?
Aside from the complete lack of respect for the public’s right to know their public schools’ business, Roberts submitted his retirement to Clarkston School Board on May 24.
He had no existing contract, and nothing left to undermine in his current district. Why couldn’t they release at least his name?
How about not doing it that way here in Clarkston’s search? Doing it their way ? the “Chicago way”? ? denied local press the chance to do their job and check into candidates themselves.
Those who want to come to Clarkston to take over school administration should be willing and eager to engage the entire community, not just the school board, in their application.
They shouldn’t have to be treated like such delicate, little flowers.

This year’s vacation went fast.
My family gets together every couple years for a week, renting a big house or cabins on the shores of some lake.
We’ve been to the Upper Peninsula, foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and the plains of Colorado.
We didn’t go that far this year, just up to Port Sanilac on Lake Huron.
It seemed like we arrived, settled in, and bam, it was time to move out again.
I did manage to take the older nieces and nephew to the midnight premier of ‘Twilight: Eclipse? at the movie house in Sandusky.
It wasn’t too bad. Couple decent decapitations.
I liked the small-town theater. It had a piano at the front. When the movie started, an employee had to come running down to the screen to pull the curtain open by hand.
We doubted the area’s ability to come up with enough fans to fill it, but we were wrong. The line stretched around the parking lot. It was so full, theater employees came out and set up a bunch of folding chairs.
The rest of the week zipped by, with dips in the lake, grilled burgers, several rounds of Golf (the card game), and lots of conversations ? common topic, ‘how’s work??
I told them about what I do.
Interviews, photographs, writing, layout. Shining some light on the shenanigans of public officials. Covering day camps, community groups, local talent at concerts in the park.
‘Sounds fun,? they told me.
It is, too. For my brothers, work includes lots of computer-related copyright law and some sort of military supply stuff. For my nephew James, a Marine reservist, work meant a deployment to Iraq.
I can grab a hot dog, soda, and $3 bowl of ice cream, sit on the grass in the sun, listen to music, take some pictures, and call it work.
If my job’s boring, I’m not doing it right.

Right at the beginning of Clarkston’s search for a new superintendent, and some signs are less than encouraging.
Reporter Wendi Reardon sent an e-mail to school board members asking about the timeline for the search, and what they want in a superintendent.
These aren’t difficult questions. I, for one, would look for a slavish devotion to education, open communication, and common sense, with a can-do, no-whining attitude.
I expected our e-mail box to be filled with trustees’ insightful responses. What we received was one e-mail from board President Steve Hyer.
And it seemed a bit testy.
“You were at the meeting when we discussed this,” he wrote.
Wendi brought up the possiblity of sharing the job search with Waterford School District to save costs, which is also looking for a superintendent. Hyer dismissed it.
“The Board of Education expressed great interest in being very serious about this process to find the right individual for Clarkston,” he said. “We want to make this a long term appointment and not a quick fix. We are confident the process we will be firming up will be an excellent process yielding excellent results in providing us with a superintendent that can innovatively lead us into the future.”
This is not a good sign.
Too much about “process.” And don’t voters elect the school board to “lead us into the future?”
This response, and the lack of others, indicates trustees are holding their cards close. A debate is coming over what kind of chief administrator Clarkston gets next ? one exactly the same, or something new.
In a discussion on the Clarkston News’ Facebook page, a commentator pointed out Austin Intermediate School District spent $192,000 on a superintendent search (“Holey buckets!” we replied). They paid a search fee of $42,000, but then an additional $150,000 in legal fees to fight open record lawsuits associated with the hire of our new superintendent.
All school business should be public, open for all to see. The search for a new superintendent should be that and more.

Tea Party groups are organizing locally, a sign of some local residents? ire with national politics.
Seeking a symbol to rally behind against the Obama administration’s nationalization efforts, they went with tea ? the whole Boston Tea Party theme.
Their political opponents heard that and immediately thought of sex, and a way to call the Tea Party folks a vulgarism on national TV.
The response has been as galvanizing as anything the Tea Partiers can do. But I agree tea as a symbol of resistance hasn’t held up over the years.
As a beverage, tea is weak, and it’s British. Coffee would have been better, but opponents took that already as sort of an anti-Tea Party symbol.
How about whiskey? It’s made of good, American corn. It’s strong and powerful. It has American history behind it, with it’s own rebellion.
Issues behind the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s even sound familiar, including taxes, federal power over citizens, and inadequate protection of the western frontier.
They’d have to work on the ending though. The original Whiskey Rebellion fizzled, ending with a show of force by the government and about 20 people arrested, all later acquitted.
Emperor Palpatine plunging into the depths of the second Death Star.
The eye of Sauron toppled from his perch atop the tower of Barad Dur.
The White Witch getting the business end of Aslan’s teeth.
Voldemort rebounding yet another death spell off Harry Potter, this time with more permanent results.
The Wicked Witch of the West melting into a puddle of goo.
These scenes have been on my mind this past week, probably inappropriately so, along with cheering rebels, Middle Earthers, talking animals, wizards and witches, and Winkies.
The superintendent is (figuratively) dead! Long live the superintendent (once the school board decides who that is)!

One of my favorite shows lately is “Clean House,” a cable home-renovation reality show.
The hosts find cluttered houses whose owners are just shy of psychologically impaired (those who are go to the program “Hoarders”), convince them to sell all their stuff in a yard sale, or as much as they’ll part with, then use the proceeds to fund redecoration and renovation projects, to the owners? screams of pleasure (usually).
Very formulaic but great fun.
They’re running their “Messiest House in America” series through spring and summer. Being television, though, the “winner” was chosen and worked over weeks ago. They had their yard sale in Lansing, Ill., this past April, and I drove down to see what they had to offer.
I negotiated with one of the family members for a radio-controlled Humvee ? I offered $5, he wanted $15, we settled on $10 ? and a like-new coffee maker for the office, for $4.
I even got it autographed by one of the hosts, Matt, the “Go to guy.” My hands were full of Humvee and coffee maker, so I just asked him to sign it.
The Clarkston News office is finishing up its own renovation makeover. Workers installed a brand new wall, creating office space for the Clarkston 411 internet television studio. We rearranged all the desks so we’re not spread out as much. We kept the couch, though.
I don’t think we were that particularly cluttered, though we have some issues. We hung onto a box of toys for years, long after whoever brought them up there left for greener pastures.
The studio is almost up and running. Us newspaper folks lost our view of Main Street, but the windows should look good for the cameras.
There’s some info in today’s paper about upcoming programming, but stayed tuned for some open house info, too. Folks are already signing up to be interviewed by Clarkston 411. Come up and see what changes we’ve made.
Anyone want a school superintendent who thinks the ‘first and foremost? purpose of the district should be to educate students? If you do, send me an email to

Given the chance to publicly respond to a persistent critic, Clarkston schools Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts took the high road.
Speaking at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, he conceded that, yes, discretionary spending could use some trimming especially in these tough economic times, praised FOIAing parents for their concern and hard work, and welcomed any and all extra scrutiny.
I wish (really).
Instead, of course, the superintendent threatened with legal action anyone who dares to ‘malign? him and the school district (terms he seems to use synonymously).
What kind of leader responds so defensively to honest criticism? I see no financial or otherwise nefarious gain for parents in the situation. They’ve spent hours so far at this, and are at or approaching the stage where they’re paying hundreds of dollars to see documents residents of other districts see for free.
I hope Clarkston’s crusading parents continue looking into things that concern them. We certainly will.
We set up a Clarkston News page on Facebook ? check us out if you’re on there.
It’s a good way to see what people are thinking about what’s in the paper, share opinions on issues and events, commiserate about the bad reffing at football semi finals, or check in on the area for Clarkston expatriates.
Current resident Ralph Chambers checks in regularly, as did Brad Monastiere, a former sports editor, 1996-99. Jon R Sampson II, resident from 1970-1991, checked in ? ‘I had my ugly mug grace it’s cover more than a few times when I lived in Michigan,? he wrote.
Chris Smith, 1977 Clarkston grad, used to work at Rudy’s.
Also stopping by have been Joe Garavaglia, Brenda Garten Bautista, and Jeanee Taylor, 1966 graduate of Clarkston High: ‘Lived on Main Street for 38 years, remembering Taylor’s 5 & 10, Wertman’s Hardware, Rudy, who would give all children candy when he saw them in his store, and Ivan Rouse, at the Clarkston Conservatory of Music. Happy Memories.?

Of all the issues regarding Clarkston Community Schools, the quality of its teachers and students is not one of them.
I say this because I’ve received calls and letters from parents and students in the International Baccalaureate program, defending it from what they see are attacks on the kids and instructors.
That’s not what was intended. I know they work hard and what they are learning should help them as they graduate and go to college ? I’ve seen it and wrote about it.
The question is not the value of the IB program, and other new programs purchased or expanded in the past couple years. It’s whether the school district can afford them.
With cuts employees have had to take, such as for bus drivers and custodians, it’s clear it can’t.
It would be great if the district could pay for all of it. Then people could argue about programs based on merit. But if the money’s not there, merit should become moot. Who else buys things they can’t afford, justifying it by explaining how great it is?
The district is at the point where gains in one program means cuts in another, a zero-sum game.
Some consider calling Dr. Roberts out on his trip to Italy, as I did three weeks ago, a low blow, a personal attack, beneath the standards of respectable journalism. Perhaps it was, but to me it’s an illustration of a deterioration in school leadership at a time when it needs it the most.
A couple years ago, Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts refused pay raises because the district needed to make budget cuts. That’s leading from the front.
Last year, he took the pay raise.
This year, he took the vacation.
In all the coverage of this year’s school budget problems, Dr. Roberts has contributed little, allowing others to speak for him.
Yes, this is all a case of woulda-coulda-shoulda. But this is where the vision thing should have come into play, and people have the right to examine whether the district has that anymore.

School employees were making hundreds of signs last week, preparing to march in the streets to protest proposed layoffs and budget cuts.
Parents worried over how their children would get to school if bus service was cut, and who would be roaming the hallways if services were privatized.
Amidst all this, the calls came quickly and anonymously.
“Didn’t know if you heard. The superintendent is in Italy!”
We hadn’t heard that, but a quick email confirmed it. Superintendent Dr. Al Roberts and his wife were on vacation for the week, celebrating their 40th anniversary.
“As a school superintendent, there is never a good time to be away; but I suspect most people would understand taking some time to celebrate such an event,” said Dr. Roberts in his email. “That being said, I left specific directions for the administrative team; and I was in touch by both phone and e mail. Today (Sunday), I am in the office reviewing the week’s work. Dave Reschke joined me to provide me with a verbal update.”
More emails to school board members for their opinion: no big deal.
“I am glad Dr. Roberts has passion for his family and his wife and to plan such a trip for their 40th wedding anniversary,” emailed board President Steve Hyer. “There is never a good time for such an absence. Our budget development process is a cycle that runs all year. I am glad that our educational leader in this district values his family and I am glad he brings that same passion to work every day and advocates on behalf of our children.”
I agree, there is no good time for a superintendent to take a vacation, and I congratulate the Roberts on their milestone.
However, some times are better than others. Christmas break wasn’t long ago, and summer is coming up. Now, in the midst of district-changing decisions, not so much.
Some of the school board members have been practically begging for more complete information since January, when they were surprised by the size of proposed cuts.
The sheer enormity of the information gaps is becoming clear.
More anonymous callers said the costs of International Baccalaureate and Fast ForWord have been grossly underreported. Instead of tens of thousands, they have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each so far, despite being new, in effect for about a year.
I called a source of my own and he said he’s seen it and will send a copy. If this is true, that means the boatload of other rumors flying around about these new programs have a good chance of being true as well.
I am amazed and appalled so much cloak and dagger seems to be needed to get complete information out of the schools. I learned some of this sort of thing at Ft. Huachuca when I was in the Army during the Cold War. I didn’t think I would need it in Clarkston, Mich.
What kind of leadership allows this sort of environment to persist? Perhaps the type that leaves for Italy for a week during a crisis.

Clarkston school district comes up with its list of budget cuts about this time every year, usually a Powerpoint slide or two. This year ? a full 20 slides, filled with 124 cuts, reductions, and other ideas.
Some were probably easy. Cutting the Handwriting without Tears program, saving $20,623? A bad title, at least, implying that without it, Clarkston teachers teach handwriting by making their students cry.
Talent development ($180,000). In Clarkston? The district has the pick of the litter. Reduce CHS parking lot attendant to half time ($12,500) ? the parking lot is quiet at least that much time.
Other must have been devastating.
Fifty teachers and about 70 support staff and administrators ? an almost literal decimation of the school district’s human resources. Adults would be in definite shortage if not for the additional possibility of a closed school, to help concentrate those who are left.
It looks like just about every department ponied up big time.
Up to $128,600 cut from sports, if all proposed cuts go through. Transportation, up to $2 million, though that would mean most bus service would go. About $60,000 from personnel. Business department, $38,500. Reduce communications department, $5,600? You can do better than that. Combine communications and human relations? Better.
If all this comes to pass, and it’s not just someone’s game (which it may be, according to some in the know), kids will need lots of help.
Teachers? swamped by enlarged classes? Parents and other volunteers can adjust their schedules to help out in the classroom.
No more bus service (up to $2 million)? Set up a carpool to get the students to class safely.
Police service cut ($85,000)? Put together a volunteer patrol program. Check everyone out, issue some badges or vests, get walkie-talkies from Walmart, and patrol your children’s schools.
There’s no reason a community like Clarkston should have a substandard school system just because government’s not there to pay for it anymore.
That’s something we should all get used to.

As the ‘editor? in ‘letters to the editor,? it is my responsibility to verify identity of writers, as well as, you know, edit their letters.
We have a stable of regulars, who’s email or postal address labels and generally consistent viewpoints make verification easier. If I were to receive a letter from a ‘Mike Clark? nominating Neil Wallace for Clarkston Citizen of the Year, or ‘Henry Woloson? creating a I-heart-Dave-Wagner fan club, I’d be making some verification calls. Probably get a story written on it too.
For everyone else, our policy is to get letter writers’ phone number, and then actually call that number to get verbal verification.
I’ve never had someone say, ‘Why no, I didn’t send any such letter,? but it’s possible.
The closest I’ve seen is folks sending the same letter to me, Oakland Press, Detroit News, and others, perhaps to increase readership, or just for a better chance of getting published somewhere.
I frown on such practices, but sometimes end up printing them, especially if space is available.
In cases where retaliation is plausible ? school whistleblowers are big on this, where kids can be affected ? we’ll publish letters anonymously. We still want to know who the letter writer really is, though. Generally, letters are more convincing with your name on it.
Either way, there’s not much reason to fake your way onto the News’ letters to the editor page. It’s our mission to serve as a sounding board for the community, after all. We want to publish people’s opinions and views.
But I also know some people don’t need much reason to do anything.
A whole series of editors all over the country, and even overseas, found this out the hard way recently, publishing almost identical letters from an alleged ‘Ellie Light.?
The letter-writing project, written in support of President Obama, seems a lot like a practical joke ? Ellie Light, as in L.E. Light, or LEL, or Laughing Extremely Loud, a variation on LOL.
Why else would she (he) send all the letters using the same name? How hard would it have been to make up a new name for each newspaper?

With the new decade upon us (or close enough at least), how about some predictions:
? Frustrated by a lack of progress on important Independence Township matters, Trustee Neil Wallace calls for bi-daily meetings of the Township Board. Meetings still go on past 1 a.m.
? Realizing limiting information to a community including many of its own graduates insults everyone’s intelligence, Clarkston Community Schools decides to post its entire financial record on the internet and launches a district-wide ‘Everyone shares their ideas with everyone else? campaign.
? After having repaid their debt to society, the downtown Clarkston graffitists return to help finish the 5 South Main St. mural, this time putting clothes on their art figures. Artist Michelle Tynan is thrilled with their work.
? Hearing this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display planned for Clintonwood Park consists of one guy holding a sparkler, due to budget cuts, residents organize a road trip to Tennessee to get some decent aerials and rockets, along the way figuring out depending on government to celebrate political independence makes no sense.
? In the face of record cold snaps in southern states, climatologists debunk global warming, but are shocked to discover something much worse ? Anthropomorphic Climate Reversal, where the equator freezes and the poles become sweltering tropics. Al Gore writes a new book.
? Director James Cameron announces a sequel to his hit film ‘Avatar,? in which humans return with bigger guns and rout Jake and the Na’Vi, whose coalition had since dissolved back into tribalism. A third film, completing the trilogy, is also planned, in which the Pandorans, having been placed on reservations across the planet, open a series of Floating Mountain and Tree of Life casinos, soaking humanity for all its worth.

In the face of losing five deputies in Independence Township, Trustee Neil Wallace’s idea to spend more of the township’s fund balance makes sense.
I see the need for police services every week, thumbing through police reports at Independence Township substation.
A pile 2-3 inches thick, every week, of thefts, burglaries, fights, drunk driving, etc., etc., etc., along with almost another inch of traffic-accident reports, and more from Springfield Township and the City of the Village of Clarkston.
One of the stated purposes of a fund balance, the township’s ‘savings account,? its ‘rainy day fund,? is to be a reserve in case of emergencies. With five officers representing 16.7 percent of the township’s entire police force, this qualifies.
No amount of police can guarantee personal safety of everyone in the township. Residents need to take responsibility for their own security by at least locking all their doors and not leaving valuables outside in cars and trucks.
But police is still a core function of government, along with fire and public works.
Residents will probably be asked to approve a higher police millage next year, to make up for lost tax revenues from lower property values. People don’t have much extra to give, courtesy of an economy driving properties down and crime up.
So clearly this is not the time to be holding on to extra funds. It also seems slightly shady, almost like creating a fund shortage, resulting in fewer police, resulting in a need for, surprise, higher taxes.
Even if voters turn down a millage increase, whatever funds are left township-wide should go to police service ? maybe not even the sheriff’s department if it’s too expensive. Form posses, like in the old days.
Residents are already looking out for each other. Reports show how they call deputies when they see something suspicious. They’ll even follow crooks, reporting to police on the way.
Keep it up. That may be the way of the future.

There are many new veterans to honor this Veterans? Day.
I don’t see them as either victims to be coddled or deranged timebombs requiring treatment. I see them as what this country needs to get us out of our financial, healthcare, environmental, etc. messes.
I see that in the Nov. 5 shootings at Ft. Hood ? amongst the soldiers under fire, not the Al Qaeda infiltrator pulling the trigger.
Talk about the ability to handle pressure. News reports show they responded quickly and heroically, saving many lives. They’ve been attacked before, sometimes by infiltrators wearing friendly uniforms.
Their lack of weapons was a problem ? yelling combat advice to responding police officers had to suffice.
I also see there’s at least one thing worse than electing a president who promised to end America’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s electing a president who breaks promises to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whatever good will President Obama managed to build with Al Qaeda, not such a great idea to start with, will backfire twice as hard if they see betrayal. The shooting, along with the suspected terror cell rounded up recently in Dearborn, seems to show that.
The final lesson I see: there are no secure rear areas for U.S. troops. That has to make it hard for our troops as they train and when they return from overseas duty.
Clarkston has no military base nearby, but we have plenty of reservists living in the area with their families.
A local group, Clarkston Cares for Military Families, has formed to help them out with whatever they need, when they need it, food, transportation, rent, or counseling services they may require.
The next meeting of the group, of which I am a part, is Wednesday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m. at St. Dan’s church.
Give me a call at 248-625-3370 or Tom Stone at 248-625-8193 for more information.

The mournful moan of the infected, stumbling toward the living en masse with no desire except to ease their pain and spread their infection.
Zombies. Lots of them. They walk the earth at Haunted Fountains, Terror in Townsend Forest, and local haunted houses, and fill movie and television screens this Halloween season.
I like the zombie genre, snapping up various “Resident Evil” video games and movies. I even rented “Dawn of the Dead,” the 1978 version, this past weekend. Being 9 years old at the time, there was no way I was going to see it when it came out. The special effects seem primitive now, but man, certain scenes stick with you.
More recent films like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland” play the whole walking-dead thing for laughs, but they’re still post-apocalyptic tales of humanity being driven to extinction by zombie hordes.
The whole swine flu, H1N1 story brings all this to mind, not the tragic cases where it leads to pnemonia and death, but the millions of cases where people suffer with the flu for a few days and recover.
Here in Clarkston, dozens of sixth graders are coming down with the flu, infected at a camping trip last week. Most will probably turn out to be seasonal flu, but at least some are H1N1 ? none are serious cases so far.
I wasn’t there, but it sounds like one of those horror movies, infection spreading unrelentingly without mercy from camper to camper. Then they come home and spread it amongst their family and friends.
The way it spreads is certainly horror-movie gross ? an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing a small cloud of virus-laden droplets to be inhaled by new, healthy victims.
Even seasonal flu leaves its victim feeling like a George-Romero zombie, oozing, poorly dressed, shambling about, moaning with pain, vaguely remembering a time when life was happy, spreading infection amongst the healthy.
Zombie costumes for Halloween aren’t difficult. Some old clothes and stage makeup would do it.
Flu zombie is even easier ? bathrobe and a box of tissue.
Ooh, scary.

Taste of Clarkston was just as tasty as always, and pretty lucky, too ? rain on Saturday, rain on Monday, but sunny on Sunday.
Even a rainy Taste is pretty good, but sun and dry weather makes it easier to spend some time outside enjoying the best food and drinks local restaurants have to offer.
I couldn’t sample more than a few, a small percentage of what’s available. But almost as good were the aromas wafting from each booth, especially the spicy stuff. You can smell all you want and not get too full, and it was free, too!
After making my selections, a pulled pork sandwich, cheesecake brownie, deep fried Twinkie, and a Pepsi, I happened to sit right next to two Crittenton doctors who were there enjoying their own taste.
I learned fried Twinkie is about the unhealthiest thing you can eat. It’s really delicious though, with its soft yellow cake a nice contrast with the crisp fried batter.
I don’t intend to eat another anytime soon, perhaps not until next year’s Taste. It’s probably a good thing I had already finished my strip of chocolate-covered bacon.
Kudos to U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers for taking time out of his busy day to stop by the Clarkston News offices for some coffee and a chat.
I met Mr. Rogers when he was first running for office in 2000, when working for a weekly newspaper in Genesee County. It’s good to see he still gets out into the community and meets with a community newspaper after eight years in the national politics of Washington D.C.
Of course, you don’t have to be a congressman to rate a visit to our newsroom. All are welcome, except maybe on Mondays when we’re busy putting pages together, or Tuesday mornings when we’re in Oxford putting them on the servers.
How about monthly coffee times with us upstairs, 5 S. Main Street? I’ll work out some details and set it up.

The phrase ‘teachable moment? used to be just for parents and teachers, but now it’s mainstream, thanks to the president.
In school, a teachable moment would be like a bee buzzing into the classroom, and teacher takes the opportunity to talk about bees, instead of freaking out along with students.
For teachers, they’re targets of opportunity. They teach kids about something they’re interested in, when they’re interested in it, even if it’s a diversion from the regular lesson plan.
For President Obama, diversion seems the most important part.
When he commented on a case involving a white police officer and African-American homeowner, he told us the officer acted stupidly. Criticized for making the situation worse, piping up without knowing all the facts, he deftly turned it around, calling it a teachable moment.
It’s the perfect anti-mea culpa. He didn’t stick his foot in his mouth. Not only is he without fault, he did something good, teaching us a valuable lesson.
He did us all a favor.
Depending on how enlightened the school, teachers tell students when to talk, walk, play, eat, use the restroom, and where to be at all times. But no matter. Mr. Obama is our teacher as well as president. We should take the hint and learn.
Inappropriate joke at work? It’s a teachable moment, boss ? sexism sure is still a problem, isn’t it.
Approved government spending without knowing where it’s going, like Independence Township Board, backtracking on $40,000 for the new township hall ?
It’s a teachable moment ? always read the fine print. You are welcome.
A pay raise for the school superintendent every year for the next three years in the face of increasing costs and declining revenue?
Teachable moment. For those who think Dr. Al Roberts is doing a great job, it’s the need to pay for the best. For others, a wake up call to keep a closer eye on the Board of Education.

Visiting my hometown of Dayton, Ohio, this past weekend, we stopped at the Air Force Museum. Space travel is heavily represented there, with old Gemini and Apollo rocket capsules on display. It’s the birthplace of aviation, with the Wright brothers and all that.
Right next to the spaceflight display at the museum is an enormous room filled with ballistic nuclear missiles. They used the same technology, both developed from Nazi V2 rockets of World War II.
I remember a newspaper article about how Dayton was targeted with hundreds of Soviet nuclear warheads, because of nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Clarkston probably had a fair number of missiles pointed at or close to it too ? lots of GM plants around.
Absolute destruction. That was the possibility faced by everyone in those days, up through the 1980s as I remember it.
Nowadays, we have a Global War on Terror, which, depending on politics, is a palpable threat or a scam by some to get rich. We also have Global Warming, which, depending on politics, is a palpable threat or a scam by some to get rich.
This leaves us with no one to focus on except each other, and do we ever. Township trustees duel to see who can out-investigate the others. Clarkston residents go after a local artist over a painting on a wall.
Many are old enough to know better. Researching old Clarkston News for Peeking in the Past, I learned local volunteers used to man an observation post, keeping an eye out for invading Soviet bombers.
I imagine it would be hard to squabble over political fiefdoms when living with the possibility of nuclear annihilation. That’s the bright side of 50 years of Cold War nuclear standoff.
We still face real threats. GM retirees, property owners, government budgets are all taking hits. We have Flint to the north, Detroit to the south.
We still have lots of reasons to band together. Or we can show we don’t need nukes to destroy our town.

National news doesn’t often appear in The Clarkston News ? you won’t find in these pages how many missiles North Korea launch into the Sea of Japan or how bankrupt California is.
The information is of interest to Clarkston residents, and everyone else in this country, but it doesn’t fit into our niche ? local news, local people.
There are exceptions, though. Chrysler’s decision to drop our local dealership slams home the whole federal private-sector bailout fiasco.
GM is next, which will bring more problems. This is a huge punch in the gut. As Sherry Regiani points out on this page, local dealerships, Chuck Fortinberry especially, provide critical support to the community.
They’re primary purpose is to sell cars, of course, but as local business owners and residents, they help their neighbors as much as they can. They see them every day when they’re out and about. Their kids go to our schools.
This should answer those who ever shook their heads at big business’ mistakes and asked, why doesn’t the government do something about it.
The answer: because it’s full of politicians and politics inevitably enters the picture.
Nationally, those who oppose President Obama’s policies aren’t taking to the streets to wave signs and play rock music. They’re buying up gun stores? stocks of weapons and ammunition.
A few have turned to violence, ambushing police officers and shooting soldiers. Hopefully local discourse doesn’t become so extreme, but some signs aren’t encouraging.
A lady stopped in the office a couple weeks ago, describing an argument she had with strangers in a shop across the street, one loud and raucous enough the police were called.
Officials on Independence Township Board sound and look like they’re about to throw down on each other sometimes during their meetings.
If we fail to keep our discourse civil, we could end up with civil war. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Clarkston community activist Tom Stone (he loves being called things like that) has a new mission. Reading news reports of increasing suicides and psychological trauma among returning veterans, he is networking with folks all over the community, looking for ideas on how to help.
‘No soldier returns from a war without some scars: some of these are physical and some are psychological or emotional,? Stone wrote in his email. ‘Whatever their challenges, and those faced by their families, they all need our support.?
My ideas, also shared by other members of the network, include welcome-home articles in the paper. I’ve done a few about local soldiers overseas, but not many featuring them when they get back.
One of Stone’s respondents had a disturbing point to make about that idea: ‘Just to let you know, that is frowned upon to some degree by the military. In fact family members (me) were all told before the guys left that if we are ever contacted to not speak to anyone and contact their public relations guy. I think that is a contributing factor as to why there are not more personal stories. It is a great way to bring things to public notice though.?
This is sad. I suppose the military might be sensitive to media contact with troops without official oversight. Some national news coverage has been more than unfair to our soldiers and Marines.
But as the local community newspaper, we’re not interested in exposing war crimes of the Bush administration or leaking classified information in a quest for a Pulitzer.
We just want to let people here at home know a little about what service members have been through, recognizing their sacrifice and hard work.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for a long time, and, with the new administration, may or may not be winding down. If you are or know someone who is a local returning veteran, let us know.
We want to put you in the paper, not because you’re a big war hero, but because people care to know. And if seeing your story helps out another veteran who sees it, so much the better.

A submarine sandwich has taken up station on the north-side pitch of the roof on Rudy’s Market. We can see it from the south-facing windows of our newsroom. We noticed it a couple weeks ago. Nobody knows how it got there.
Perhaps utility workers on our roof, breaking for lunch, some sort of food fight, a combatant ducking a whole submarine sandwich aimed for his head, watching it sail past, landing with a thud on the roof next door?
A petulant teenager taking the sandwich offered by a parent, scornfully lobbing it up onto the roof?
An ultralight pilot, or perhaps a balloonist, taking a midair lunchbreak, fumbling his sandwich, dooming himself to a hungry flight as he watches his uneaten entr’e drop to Rudy’s roof?
However it got there, it seems likely it will be there for a while. It has already endured rain, high wind, and snow. The rain dries, winds fade, and snow melts, but the sandwich is still there. It’s starting to look pretty ragged, but seems in no hurry to dissolve, and no birds or squirrels have come forward to eat it. No one in the office seems eager to volunteer, either.
For a picture of the sandwich, in full color, check
I learn many things while collecting police reports each week for the Public Safety page. Just about anything can be classified as ‘drug paraphernalia? if used to prepare illegal narcotics: plastic spoons, steel wool, even plastic bags.
Another thing: a driver spinning out on snow and ice into a vehicle or ditch can be ticketed. They were going ‘too fast for conditions.?
There’s no mathematical formula to determine how fast that is. Speed limit doesn’t matter. It’s a subjective matter. If you slide across two lanes of highway with two or more complete rotations, that’s an indication your speed is a bit on the high side for conditions.
My New Year’s resolution last year was to train for and complete a half marathon, which I achieved, at great pain to my feet.
This year, given the economy and change we can believe in, a resolution just to stay healthy and happy seems challenge enough.

I got a call the other day from a student working on some kind of paper. She wanted information about Clarkston, and what better source than the editor of the local community newspaper.
I gave the easy answers.
Clarkston is a city, a small, bedroom community in Independence Township northwest of Detroit, with a historic downtown and lots of lakes.
But she was looking for more. For one thing, when she said ‘Clarkston,? she meant the Clarkston area, which widens the scope quite a bit. She was also looking for something deeper, what it really is, insights into the community.
I didn’t have them.
From my short two years so far as editor, I see some view Clarkston as a shining beacon, an example of small-town community so selfless that people carry extra shirts in their cars because they keep giving the ones they’re wearing to those less fortunate.
We’ve written lots of stories about individuals and groups reflecting that ideal ? just this past weekend, Clarkstonites filled the Knights of Columbus Hall many times over, all to help a local girl get her memory back.
Others believe such niceties are an illusion, a thin veneer barely covering a festering heap of corruption, deceit, racism, and scandal.
We’ve covered that, too.
In my opinion, Clarkston’s a good place, which I told the student. I couldn’t clearly explain why, besides some of the examples written about in the paper.
What do you think? How would you answer?
What is Clarkston?
Is it a good place? Is it good for everybody ? kids, seniors, rich, poor? How do you know?
Send me a letter at 5 S. Main St., or e-mail Give me a call, 248-625-3370. Stop by to visit. Tell me the real story. With the paper’s production schedule, my best times to talk are Wednesdays and Thursdays.
I might want to use what you tell me in a story, maybe a series. Or it can just be for my information.

About 3,000 people participated in the Brooksie Way half marathon last week, me among them. It was a New Year’s resolution of mine, one I actually kept.
It wasn’t easy.
That nightmare where you walk into class for finals suddenly realizing you forgot to study ? it was like that. My training started fairly well in April through summer, but fell off into September. All of a sudden, the race was next week and I hadn’t trained much in almost a month.
I wouldn’t recommend going for a 13-mile jog/walk without getting at least your feet in condition.
Still, I managed to run a couple miles, walk most of the rest, and slog my way to the finish line in about 3 ? hours. I got a nifty finisher’s medal, of which I am very proud.
Organizers did a great job. Loved the route. Everyone got a really cool runner’s shirt. Volunteers and supporters lining the street were awesome. Many cheered racers by name ? reading them off their bibs. They’d call out, ‘Let’s hear it for Phil! Go Phil!?
That helped a lot.
First and last miles seemed longest. Between them, though, I was able to appreciate the moment, being out in the nice weather with a few thousand fellow athletes, cheered on by race fans.
That’s why I like these things. Even the slowest amateur in the bunch takes on in open competition Olympic medal winners, professional athletes, best of the best. They’re finished, showered, changed, and on a flight to their next competition before I get to the halfway mark, but that’s not something you can do in football or baseball.
Organized by the Crim folks of Flint, I’m hoping the Brooksie Way expands like the Crim into a full day of activities, with various walks and runs starting throughout the morning and a party tent with lots of food and drink.
Part of the fun, for me at least, is basking in the glory of the moment with fellow athletes, medal around my neck like a conquering Olympian.

Trevor Keiser walked into the newsroom last week after a resupply trip to Rudy’s with a bottle of soda bearing Sen. Barrack Obama’s name and face.
The store carries a line of Obama soda, with Sen. John McCain soda to go along with it. Apparently, sales of Obama ale were outpacing McCain cola. I went over there and cast my own vote, for McCain, so it wouldn’t be a complete runaway.
Examination of the bottles showed they were both manufactured and shipped by the same company, with identical ingredients and labeling. Only the name and photo were different.
Hmmm, completely identical in origins, substance, and effect, the only difference being the label applied to the front.
This may say something profound about our presidential election this year. Or maybe it’s just soda.
Readers have noticed some tweaking of the Public Safety page ? instead of a bunch of short entries, we’ve been printing fewer, longer pieces.
The paper started printing police reports about in the 1980s. Really not much difference ? petty thieves stealing tools, mail, bicycles, shooting things with BB guns, etc. The main purpose of the page has always been to inform residents about the kinds of things keeping police busy in their neighborhoods.
At least one reader would like it run as before, listing as many incidents as possible. The new format looks better, however, and provides more detail on sometimes bizarre cases.
Either way, a comprehensive listing would be impossible. The stack of reports at just the Independence Township sheriff substation is at least a couple inches thick each week.
What’s your preference? Let me know at
Along those lines, I’m set for a short stay in jail myself, Thursday, Sept. 18. Someone tipped off the Muscular Dystrophy Association, so they’re throwing me in MDA Lockup until I raise my bail.
They do good work, helping kids with muscular dystrophy. I’ll be incarcerated at Outback Steakhouse on Dixie Highway at about 10 a.m. Come on out, or call MDA at 248-474-0235.

Cory Johnston, member of Clarkston City Council, was ‘very dismayed? by our endorsements a couple weeks ago (‘Endorsements limited choice,? Aug. 6).
He gave his views as a regular reader and occasional contributor, but, as a newspaper editor, I still find his comments chilling.
I’m chilled the timing of a newspaper’s own opinions in its own opinion pages would concern a government official. Not by his view of what the opinion page is for ? a free exchange of ideas, I agree ? but how he thinks we’re not doing it.
By my quick count, we published 37 letters to the editor specifically about the 2008 primary election, starting in May with most in July. Twelve were published July 16 over five pages, an excessive amount given our limited space.
His criticism of our stand against the six-candidate slate for change is also confusing. He argued our opposition to all of them limited diversity on the board.
But the slate wasn’t about diversity. The point of the slate was to gain a township-board majority of those who agree on hiring a professional manager, transfering power from the board to that person. All for one and one for all ? that’s how they campaigned, and that’s how we issued our endorsement.
Our opposition was based on democracy.
There are very good reasons for a manager. He or she could be much better educated and qualified to run government than those elected by the masses.
Voters don’t do multiple interviews or nation-wide searches. Sometimes the first time they see candidates? names is in the voting booth. But that’s our system.
To get rid of a manager, voters would have to elect a majority to the board who agreed, who would then have to actually do it. This is clearly a step down on the democracy scale.
It came down to whether we thought benefits outweighed that step. In our view, it didn’t.
Mr. Johnston saw none of this.
He saw our endorsements as an attack on diversity. Governments pass laws enforcing diversity.
Anyone have a sweater?

I was in the Clarkston Union getting some Mac and Cheese last Wednesday when I noticed the number ?1987? up behind the bar.
‘That’s odd,? I thought, ‘why is my high school graduation date up on the bar??
The number is there, of course, for convenience of bar patrons. If you were born in that year, you’re allowed to drink alcoholic beverages, being 21 years of age.
That means I’m old, or nearly so, 21 years having passed since I graduated high school at the age of 18 ? one more year until I’m 40.
Nothing makes me feel more old than music ? not the tunes as much as how they are delivered.
I liked cassette tapes and loved CDs, but I don’t get the whole downloading thing, iPods and MP3 players filled with thousands of songs.
I borrow my wife’s iPod when I cut the grass. It’s filled with music from our CD collection.
If I like a band or singer enough to buy their music, I want the whole album, not just one or two hits. How do you pick just one or two songs out of albums like U2’s ‘Joshua Tree,? Genesis? ‘Duke,? Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run,? and ignore the rest?
I read some opinions Americans should spend this year’s Independence Day in quiet humility, reflecting on the evils of the United States, especially since George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001.
I was happy to see thousands disregarding such advice at Clarkston’s parade and Independence Township’s celebration at Clintonwood Park, enjoying the sights and sounds underneath perfect weather.
Certainly not everyone agrees with Bush, but they’re sensible enough to stick up for and celebrate their own country on its birthday despite what’s going on politically.
I see everyone in the Clarkston area got themselves through the Fourth of July without serious injury, perhaps after reading our editorial a couple weeks ago warning against the abuse of illegal fireworks.
You are welcome.

The consultant issue in Independence Township, the one fueling these viewpoint pages for about a month, went away (‘Consultant’s recommendations back in play,? page 3A, March 19).
It was never an issue to start with. A motion was never made. Therefore, a vote was never made. So no change was ever made. Like an annulment, it’s as if it never happened at all.
Round after round of attack and counter attack didn’t happen. The competence of township leaders, community activists, and this newspaper itself (well, me, anyway) were never called into question.
This is a classic approach to solving problems. All kinds of folks get out of legal trouble based on technicalities. I know from watching 18 years of Law and Order.
Agree or disagree, Neil Wallace deserves kudos for getting this whole thing rolling. If not for his efforts, the original decision may well have stood, due to lack of publicity.
Having people who give a rip about how things are going locally is a major strength for a community, something for which this area should be proud.
Also valuable is the responsiveness of local government. Disagree with a decision by city, township, or school officials? Bring it up next time you see one of them in the supermarket, church, or ballgame.
I see on the police page someone stole about $20,000 in equipment from the McLaren worksite. That cheeses me off. What a way to welcome McLaren to the Clarkston area.
I hope these people are caught and the property returned. If they’re injured in the scuffle, they can be treated at the McLaren hospital when it’s finished.
Coming in to work Monday morning, I drove by a family taking a walk through Depot Park. They were wearing hats, gloves, and heavy coats, and walking carefully to avoid the snow and ice.
Happy Spring Break!

Lots of responses to stories and letters lately.
Most is just the kind of viewpoints and counterviewpoints we requested a few weeks ago, when we were experiencing a drought of opinions of any sort.
Along with this has come some challenges, however.
Tom Stone and Neil Wallace wrote to challenge local government, the City of Clarkston and Independence Township respectively.
They have led to responses and complaints in writing and over the phone ? a few share space on these pages.
A few responses to the responses:
Tom Stone is a prolific writer to these viewpoint pages, but ‘barrage? may be overstating it. He wrote a letter Feb. 6, then another Feb. 20 in response to responses about him. Before that he wrote roughly one a month.
The ‘be more selective? advice was also applied to Wallace’s letter.
In it, Wallace charges Sam Moraco, chairman of the Planning Commission, with violating the Open Meetings Act, a fairly serious charge for public officials.
This claim was based on an e-mails forwarded to Wallace by Larry Rosso, another member of the commission. Rosso wrote he was concerned with a letter Moraco sent to David Belcher, director of Independence Township’s Facilities Maintenance Department.
The chairman wanted to inform Belcher of a format change in reports provided by the township planning consultant. He wrote the letter from the commission’s point of view, such as ‘the commission would like to see.?
Rosso sent Belcher an email about his concern about the letter being based on phone discussions with other commission members, violating the Open Meetings Act.
Moraco said his letter to Belcher was not worded correctly, which let to misunderstandings snowballing through township government.
All this should have been included in last week’s story and/or letter to the editor. That is wasn’t is a failure on our part to provide information readers need.
Publishing letter writers? rumors, as we did with Wallace as well as Tom Stone, is less defensible.
Americans should be free to say whatever they want about public officials without consequence, but that has limits, though not clearcut.
Saying ‘Politician A is a crook? may be libel, especially if untrue.
‘I heard a rumor Politician A is a crook?: sloppy journalism, and may still be libel.
‘In my opinion, Politician A is a crook?: protected political speech.
So, no more rumors will be printed in the paper. Keep them coming, though, and we’ll look into them to see what’s up.

In the news lately have been efforts at the state level to fight global warming. Impatient with Bush and the federal government, states are forming coalitions to cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions.
Michigan is right in there among them.
Apparently, we use too much coal and release too much CO2. Hopefully, state leaders are considering why we might use so much, before making decisions.
It’s not that we hate polar bears and want to melt glaciers. It’s cold outside, and we burn stuff to keep warm. Many residents need big, powerful cars and trucks just to get around.
I recently spent some time trying to get to an assignment in some of Independence Township’s more hilly, pavement- and plow-free roadways. I got stuck trying to drive up a hill. My Saturn couldn’t do it. I backed up, turned around, and went the other way, hoping there wasn’t another hill there too ? I’d probably still be there if there was.
People who live there own lots of SUVs and four-by-fours, and they need them. If the government’s not careful, it could end up making much of the state uninhabitable for half the year.
If they’re looking for something to do, how about the recycling business, particularly of used buildings.
When new businesses come in, they almost always want to build something. A new building would better meet their individual needs and specifications, but it’s such a waste to cut down a bunch of trees, dig up all the grass, pave it all over and put something up while lots of buildings are already available.
Both Farmer Jacks are sitting empty, along with a bunch of units in their strip malls. Treasure, Gifts & Beyond has been empty for a while, although something should be moving in there soon ? same with Max Broock. The saddest empty building, to me, is the Clarkston Mills Mall.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it sounded like a great place to shop. In The Clarkston News of the late ?70s and ?80s are ads for steak and seafood restaurants, jewelers, gift shops, and salons.
Now the mall is occupied by Sadows, and some business and legal professionals.
Besides whatever economic forces impacted the mall, local vandalism didn’t help. In the June 17, 1981, Clarkston News is the report, ‘vandals wreak havoc in Clarkston.?
Sounding like something out of a Mad Max movie, teenagers brought an ‘onslaught of thievery, vandalism, and pranks? down on the merchants of the Clarkston Mills Mall that summer.
The report describes ‘bands of junior high students who verbally abuse store owners and apparently take a perverse delight in destruction.?
Drugs, profane language, peeing in the elevator, trashing bathrooms, setting off false alarms, racing bicycles from one end of the mall to the other ? what was going on with these kids?
Those teens would now have kids of their own, about their age in 1981. I wonder how they feel about having spoiled what must have been a great downtown asset. I hope they teach their kids not to do what they did when they were their age.

The new year is here, time for some resolutions and predictions.
First prediction: road construction returns to Sashabaw Road.
I wasn’t working for the paper at the time, but I remember the last time Sashabaw was ripped up for widening and other work, a few years ago.
It wasn’t pretty.
Phase one of the McLaren Health Care Village is set for completion in 2009, so if they want to finish all the work they want done to support even more traffic, they better get started soon.
This despite negotiations about Sashabaw improvements and funding between Independence Township and Oakland County, approaching their third year.
Projects have been steadily whittled from the Sashabaw Corridor Improvement Authority plan. When all is said and done, I predict (#2) it will pay for approximately half a tank of gasoline for a lawn tractor to mow the grass in front of the developing medical facility.
Prediction three: students and parents will be confused as they switch from two semesters to three trimesters at the junior and senior high schools.
Most classes will be two trimesters, leaving the third trimester for an elective, unless it’s an AP class, which are three trimesters long, or a music class, which can be three trimesters, unless you have to have an elective, in which case it can be two trimesters long.
Good luck with that.
Prediction four: dozens of Clarkston teachers will be laid off in April, but most will be rehired by August.
This happens every year due to state law and employee contracts. I’m sure it does wonders for affected teachers? mental well being, and by extension that of their students.
Under resolutions: the health thing, of course.
The Crim Festival of Races, a big thing up in Flint where I live, is expanding into Oakland County this year, with the Brooksie Way Half Marathon.
Named after the late Brooks Stuart Patterson, son of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, the race will be about 13 miles long.
I will take part.
Oh yes, I will participate. I can do it. I learned distance run/walk techniques in the Army, where marches would be up to 15 miles long.
I ‘ran? (mostly walked) four Crim 10-mile races in Flint, all within the past 10 years.
The half-marathon is set for the fall, so I should be ready if I start training soon, like next week. I figure the best time and place to do that would be here, in Clarkston, after work.
No running me over, or pointing and laughing, please.

People receive many wonderful things at the annual Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce Expo at Clarkston High School: giveaways, information, prizes, snacks, coupons.
I got a cat.
Advanced Pet Care brought along some kittens from a shelter for adoption. Looking for a new cat for a while now, I stopped for a look and asked to pick up a brown-and-gray domestic long hair. She interviews well for the job ? she purred and licked my hand.
I picked the name ‘Flurry,? like the McDonalds ice cream treat. My wife, Theresa, who just watched ‘The Wizard of Oz,? thought ‘Emma? would be a good name, to go along with Henry, one of our other cats (like Dorothy’s Uncle Henry and Auntie Em). She goes by ‘Emma Flurry Custodio,? mostly ‘Emma,? unless she’s running around like a wild kitty.
Emma is not the first cat from Clarkston to join my household. About four years ago, Theresa was a ‘purple person? at Bordine’s. A stray cat had a litter of kittens under the porch of their info booth ? my wife caught two of them.
We adopted one out and kept the other. His name is Crawford, named after Michael Crawford, Broadway actor famous for playing the Phantom of the Opera, who wears a mask on one side of his face, similar to our cat’s face markings.
Even though a fellow Clarkstonite, Crawford has been slow to warm up to Emma. Henry is old enough ? he’s about 10 ? to have seen just about everything. When she showed up, he just looked at her and shrugged. She follows him around, learning all his bad habits, like scratching furniture. Sara our dog likes cats, so she’s not a problem.
Crawford’s coming around. They share an enthusiasm for soft cat food and eat well together at meal time. The weather’s getting cold, too, which encourages cuddling.
I came home from a late Monday night last week to find everyone still up. The furnace had kicked itself off, so Theresa, Sara, Henry, Crawford , and Emma were all huddled up in a single lump of blankets and fur next to a space heater.
Check for a picture of Crawford and Emma.

Why are film makers writing Americans into the ‘villain? roles of their war movies?
Americans murder a squad mate in ‘Valley of Elah.? Americans ship off an innocent man to be tortured in ‘Rendition.? Americans torture and murder innocent Iraqis in ‘Redacted.? Amer-icans practically enslave a Marine in ‘Stop Loss.?
This isn’t new. The Vietnam War movie ‘Platoon? had an American villain, Sgt. Barnes. Vietcong and North Vietnamese soldiers were incidental, almost a force of nature. ‘Apocalypse: Now?? American. ‘Full Metal Jacket?? American.
They waited a decade or two, though. No such patience now.
‘Lions for Lambs,? opening this weekend, looks preachy, with Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise spending lots of time just talking.
That’s too bad, because the film seems to include one story that should be told, the fight for Takur Ghar, Robert’s Ridge, during Operation Anaconda in 2002. Rangers and special forces fought Al Qaeda and Taliban soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan, the highest battlefield ever in American military history.
War movies are best when they just tell the story. ‘Saving Private Ryan,? ‘Blackhawk Down,? ‘We Were Soldiers,? ‘The Patriot,? ‘Band of Brothers,? ‘Letters from Iwo Jima? ? they’re not ‘pro-war? or ‘anti-war,? just ‘war.? The story should be allowed to speak for itself.
There are plenty of stories that should be told about what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan: Takur Ghar, Fallujah, Baghdad, all the events the History Channel is trying to cover.
I don’t want to be preached at by a bunch of Hollywood folks, especially about war in a time of war. If Americans are the bad guys, who are supposed to be the good guys? Al Qaeda? The Iranian Revolutionary Guard?
Maybe if the Democrats get voted back into office, we’ll finally get some movies about the heroics our troops are performing over there.

Coming home after a long day at work, walking in the door, it was immediately obvious something was wrong. Sara the dog looked guilty, lying there with her head between her paws, gazing up at me with her big brown eyes.
It was soon clear where her guilt lay. On the floor next to the couch was clear evidence: a foil bag, ripped into many small pieces, no sign of the cat treats it held that morning.
Getting ready for work, I had given a treat to my cat Crawford as a reward for putting up with a couple eye drops ? the vet prescribed them to deal with an eye infection. Then I put the bag up on a book shelf, way out of reach of my medium sized dog.
Not out of reach of Crawford or my other cat, Henry, though. They probably found them right away. The foil bag was strong enough to keep them out, but not Sara.
One of them, probably Crawford, jumped up there, grabbed the bag and dropped it to the floor, where Sara ripped it open. Then presumably all shared in the bounty.
The lesson: teamwork.
If two cats and a dog can get past their physical and cultural differences, why not people?
My generation has taken over, at least in Hollywood.
Film and TV producers are busy making new versions of the movies, television shows, and comic books we enjoyed as children in the 1970s and early 1980s.
On someone’s backburner if not in actual production are Magnum P.I., GI Joe, Speed Racer, Star Blazers, Robotech ? or if not, they should be. Already here are Transformers, Battlestar Galactica, X-Men, Spider-Man, Halloween.
Now there’s the Bionic Women on TV. That’s great, as long as they remember to include Venus Death Probe and alien robot sasquatch.