It’s a tough town.

So the deal Wednesday was, the local public-radio station was hosting an event around the one-year anniversary of Detroit’s exit from Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. All the members of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative — comprised of several nonprofit news outlets in Southeast Michigan, including the one I work for — participated. My colleagues Mike and Chastity were drafted to sit on panels, and I was asked to do one of three one-on-one onstage interviews. The governor, the mayor and the bankruptcy judge were all set to appear. I drew the judge. The event was live streamed and was promised for broadcast later.

This sounds like classic public broadcasting, doesn’t it? Earnest public-affairs programming, done before a live audience in a university setting? Very eat-your-vegetables. Something you might want a hit of espresso beforehand, so you stay awake.

You must live in Minneapolis, then. This is Detroit.

I got there way early for the run-through, and so didn’t realize protesters were gathering outside as the crowd arrived. Back in the green room we were talking about stories and assignments and love-your-shoes and this-is-the-first-time-I’ve-seen-you-in-a-tie stuff. The show started, the introductions of the funders and participants and all the polite-applause material went by, and then it was time for Gov. Rick Snyder and Jenn White, the host of “All Things Considered” on Michigan Radio, one-on-one onstage.

We were watching on the live stream in the green room. The booing carried over the mics. Hmm. OK.

The interview commenced, and it got louder. It became evident it wasn’t just the usual boo-hiss stuff, but people standing up in the audience and shouting angrily. I walked out and stood in the wings after Jenn addressed the audience, asking for respect. (To no avail.)

I guess I should pause here to explain that opinions on the Detroit bankruptcy vary widely here. I had lunch Wednesday with a lawyer and engineer, two smart guys, suburbanites, and I asked what they thought I should ask Judge Steven Rhodes about. Silence. The lawyer spoke.

“We owe that man such a debt,” he said. “I don’t know if we can calculate the good he’s done for this city.”

This is a common opinion among the business community, the establishment, the people who are generally middle class, and swaths of the population itself. The night the trial was finally gaveled to a close, I was out with friends at a bar, and one insisted we all drink a toast, because baby, the debt is shed, the skies are blue and Detroit is coming back, leaner and stronger and damn it’s really gonna happen this time.

This is a simplistic view. Even the city’s biggest boosters admit the way back will be far more difficult, that the city’s future is brighter but still uncertain. But you get the idea.

Among the protesters, not so much. Generally speaking, these would be the lefties who despise the governor on general principles and specific ones, who think the whole Chapter 9 proceeding was a scheme to rob and rape the city, strip its assets for the benefit of the ruling class, upend democracy, punish the poor and tilt the playing field even further to the benefit of the wealthy and empowered. Some of these beliefs rest on shaky contentions, but there is a case to be made on this side, too.

(For the best, unbiased overview of the reasons Detroit failed financially, one that won’t require you to read three books, I recommend “How Detroit Went Broke,” the Detroit Free Press project from two years ago. Take you 30 minutes to read. Worth your time, if you care about this issue.)

So that’s where we are, a year later. There is much positive news from the city itself. It actually has a budget surplus. Street lights are coming back on, more buses are on the street, trash is being picked up — all good. The schools are a mess, blight is confounding and jobs are still by and large outside the city — all bad. Pensioners had to swallow a smaller hit to their monthly checks and a big hit to their health care — also bad. And for the best overview of the past year, I recommend Next Chapter Detroit’s four-part series that ran in the last month.

The governor’s interview ended. I’m not sure how Jenn got through it, because the yelling and catcalling continued throughout.

The next group was a panel. One member, the head of the city’s pensioners’ association, announced she wasn’t going to say much, because of the audience’s disrespect. They kept yelling. The MC tried to calm the crowd, but didn’t do much good.

Then it was our turn. The first two minutes of the allotted eight went pretty well, but about the time I started getting countdown cues from the floor director, the yelling started. My strategy was to stay focused on the judge; it’s been my experience that when you’re mic’d, even loud yelling in the background comes across, on the air, as a clamor way off in the distance. But it kept getting louder and louder, like this:

(I think that’s me barking QUIET in the last second or two.)

And then it went like this:

And I guess this is how I’ll remember it:


Bitch on wheels.

After the end of the interview dissolved in chaos, the mayor announced he was pulling out and the event was cut short after an hour. Just another night talkin’ public affairs.

And you thought public broadcasting was boring.

So that was Wednesday. Now we slide into the weekend, into the penultimate Christmas week. Everything reaches a crescendo on Friday, and then I can relax a bit. So not much today, links-wise. What do we have here?

More evidence that Ted Cruz has few friends.

How terror fuels a rightward shift, or, in other words, how terrorism does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

This is fantastic: A short scene from “Downton Abbey,” done by the original actors, with American accents.

A good weekend, all. I might actually sleep late.

Posted at 12:23 am in Detroit life |

97 responses to “It’s a tough town.”

  1. beb said on December 11, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I’m surprised that a year on emotions still ride so high. Or perhaps not. As someone ready to retire the amount lost due to the bankruptcy remains a sore point. When going to a fixed income ever the lost of a small amount looms large. And I feel the cuts were a lot deeper than you characterize them.

    It’s a shame the mayor bailed because of the three Interviewees, I felt he has done the most to make Detroit work. The Governor, on the other hand, but his cuts to revenue sharing has done the most damage to not just Detroit, but cities across the state.

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  2. alex said on December 11, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Wanting to watch the videos but my computer’s acting as if it’s on dial-up internet. Driving me bonkers!

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  3. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 11, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Sounds like my Board of Zoning and Building Appeals meeting last night. I only had forty in the audience, and only let myself say the words “Order, order please” but it never got to “I will have to clear this room in order to complete the hearing if you do not be quiet” which has only happened once in eight years, but I don’t have a good feeling for next month when we complete this one.

    Sometimes the public is ticked off, and sometimes they have reasons. What frustrates me is when they’re angry about something we can’t help, when there’s a matter on the table we can help with, but only if people stop yelling at each other. Occasionally, you can help them see that, but when folks come in the room set to be angry, it’s hard to walk them back from that edge. They entered ready to jump, and that’s what they’re gonna do.

    I do love that picture, though. Heh.

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  4. Kim said on December 11, 2015 at 8:36 am

    With shoes like those, Nance, you’d think the audience would’ve just STFU and listened.

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  5. nancy said on December 11, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Beb, I’m not surprised. The non-police and fire retirees took a five percent cut to their monthly check, but basically lost their health care. That’s enormous, for an older person.

    As for the shoes? Damn right. You don’t find mid-heels that great every day.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 11, 2015 at 9:15 am

    So, does that put them on standard Medicare, and they lost supplemental that they have to pay for now, or is it a shift from an entirely private plan to Medicare? And if the latter, I’m assuming that means they have new or higher co-pays, but maybe more problematically, many of them have to change doctors? I’ve been hearing indirectly about many in my congregation having to change doctors, and sometimes the person affected doesn’t know enough to tell me what happened other than that their doc’s office called to say they have to find a new provider . . . so I’m trying to figure this stuff out.

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  7. Jeff Borden said on December 11, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Regarding your reference to Cruz and nativist politics, I must recommend the story in this week’s New Yorker about the so-called Freedom Caucus, the 40 or so hard right jackaloons who seem perfectly at peace with destroying the very idea of governance and couldn’t care less about the United States defaulting on its debt. The smugness they exhibit in their own rectitude would gag a maggot. And, folks, they are only going to become more powerful. Regardless of who the GOP nominates –even from a brokered convention– the damage done by Trump and the lesser lights is real and long-standing. As Charles P. Pierce has predicted, the next election may be the most leprous in our history.

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  8. alex said on December 11, 2015 at 10:00 am

    In local coverage of yesterday’s Ben Carson rally, one woman was quoted saying she waited 18 hours in line to see Sarah Palin so she didn’t mind waiting just six to see Carson. And another rube said he likes Carson because Carson’s a “moderate.”

    These fall short of the best comment ever, which was reported when Palin came to town for a book signing. They interviewed a guy who had just spent the night in a big box parking lot who boasted “I’ve never read a book in my entire life but I’m gonna read this one.”

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  9. Julie Robinson said on December 11, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Heels AND pantyhose. Impressive!

    Actually, I am such a wimp that I would have found it terrifying. Large unruly crowds, I guess that’s a phobia of some kind or another.

    Everyone showed up at my holiday party last night so it was a relief to know none of these dear friends are Carson supporters. Even though I know a couple of them skew right.

    What a week it’s been, what with trying to help my sister negotiate a disability retirement from a rehab center, hold my mom’s hand as she worries, regular job, home, and caregiver duties, and oh yes, Christmas is coming so there are five gazillion special events and parties to go to. Here’s hoping for a good result from the ortho guy today; after five weeks sis might get to put weight on her leg. Or alternately, go under the knife. Oy veh.

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  10. brian stouder said on December 11, 2015 at 10:15 am

    1. Nomination for thread-win: Alex!

    2. What Jeff B said

    3. Rooting for a good result for Julie’s sis

    4. The Proprietress looks absolutely righteous in that action photo!

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  11. Bitter Scribe said on December 11, 2015 at 10:33 am

    I detest hecklers and shouters, whether it’s at a political rally, a journalistic forum, or even a nightclub where a comic is performing. I don’t care how righteous you think you and your cause are, the people didn’t come there to hear you. If you think you’re so damn important, go hold your own event, where you can say whatever you want, and invite whoever you think will want to listen.

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  12. Charlotte said on December 11, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Jeff B — interesting about the doctors. When I was managing my mom’s affairs, Medicare + Plan B was like a dream come true. She’d spent nearly a decade uninsured/uninsurable, including two surgeries that essentially bankrupted her — and suddenly with Medicare she could see anyone she wanted, any time. We never had issues with anyone not taking Medicare, including several neurologists after her (totally not alcohol-related) head injury. Plan D, the drug plan is a different issue — total nightmare and clearly a boondoggle giveaway to the pharmaceutical companies. I don’t think Montana folks have too much trouble either, but then again, we only have 2 hospital chains and everyone pretty much takes everything (except dermatologists, but well…).

    The Downton clip is FABULOUS! As is that picture of Nancy shushing the crowd. Go Nance!

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  13. Judybusy said on December 11, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Wow, what a crowd. Not like Minneapolis–or maybe so. Things have really been heating up here with the cops’ killing of a black man and the BLM protests, white racists shooting into the encampment, and some of the cops being jackasses about that.

    Julie, best wishes for your sister.

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  14. Deborah said on December 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I agree, the shoes are fabulous (and the legs too).

    I’m waiting for the post office to open, got here at 8:30 but found out this branch doesn’t open until 9:30. I’ve got a bunch of packages and so do others waiting too.

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  15. Dorothy said on December 11, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I’m so pissed I didn’t mention your shoes when I read this (in my insomniac state) at 4:00 this morning. AND I would have been the first one to comment! They are supremely FINE shoes!

    A co-worker gave her notice that she wants to retire two days ago, and I think part of the reason I could not sleep at 4:00 was because I’m already fretting about how much additional work is going to be given to me while they advertise to fill her job. I already feel quite loaded up with work so the extra stress is likely to have a severely negative impact on my usually sunny disposition. I’m getting too old for this crap.

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  16. Sherri said on December 11, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Love the picture. Don’t make me stop this car!

    Of course, we don’t like hecklers. They’re impolite, loud, messy, disruptive, and annoying. That is the point, after all. However, change is also all of those things, and often needs people like that to provoke change. The surbanites who think the bankruptcy was an unmitigated success may need to be reminded that like many unmitigated successes from their perspective, someone else took the hit to allow it, probably someone who could afford it less.

    But when outcomes favor the less empowered, the powerful don’t heckle, they sue. And lobby the government to change the law. And drag the resolution out as long as possible with procedural attacks. And sue again. And appeal. These guys aren’t loud or impolite, but they can be annoying for a lot longer.

    So, while I don’t enjoy being around hecklers either, I try to remember they may have a purpose, too.

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  17. MichaelG said on December 11, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I really like that dress.

    My retirement comes from three sources. One is my state pension, second is social security and the third is from the VA. In total, I have a comfortable situation. I also have an excellent health plan. Given my situation, if they took away my health plan, I don’t know what would happen. Cat food and Top Ramen for sure.

    Totally agree with Bitter Scribe @11.

    Best for Julie’s sister.

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  18. brian stouder said on December 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I will say that the chairs on that stage look uncomfortable; it appears that you cannot sit back (compelling the occupants to lean forward) – and they look like the sort that when you sit on them, they make a flatulent-sound.


    The local paper was going on about a book on Indiana history that I read sometime in the past year;

    the bicentennial of Indiana’s addition to the union begins today (it was 199 years ago today) – and two things that surprised me in that book (and which I’d have missed on a quiz) were that slavery ever legally existed in Indiana, and that William Henry Harrison was a slaver.

    In fact, he was a pretty detestable guy all around, but we digress (think Donald Trump, only with actual military experience)

    This is (for me) what makes American history endlessly interesting; nothing is ever really new (as Harry Truman says)

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  19. beb said on December 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    The Night Before Christmas from a [sarcastic] 2nd amendment point of view.

    Ben Carson is threatening to boycott the GOP national convention if party elders continue to plot how to exclude Trump. I can’t help think Carson’s threat is the best news GOP elders have gotten this week.

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  20. Jeff Borden said on December 11, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Brian. . .

    I think Indiana has very very dark corners in its past. When I used to lament the racism of the south in front of my dad, he would reply that neighboring Indiana was second only to Mississippi (or Alabama, I forget) in KKK membership. It also hosted many lynchings, some recorded on souvenir postcards. His point was that racist gits were not limited to south of the Mason-Dixon line.

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  21. brian stouder said on December 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Absolutely, and Kokomo (maybe because of the ‘k’s in the name?) in particular

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  22. Dexter said on December 11, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Cops, Firemen, many city agencies don’t allow folks to work until 65 to get Medicare. You lose city health, you are fucked. I retired at age 53 with the UAW pension I worked 30 years for. When I turned 62, I was forced onto SS and my pension was cut by whatever SS paid. This is called “not cutting a fat hog in the ass”. About age 55, the union and company seemed to throw all union retirees under the bus. My wife’s and my surgical procedures suddenly became a real hot issue with us, as this horrible shitty UMR policy our union saddled us with paid amounts such as $.08 and $.10 and $.39 on $1,500 claims. I am decidedly not kidding you. I sat up many nights trying to make our finances work. Gone were restaurant nights and god-forbid any sporting events. An old friend called me yesterday as I was thinking about all this and I blurted out “I’d never tell anyone to take any sort of early retirement unless he had at least a couple million socked away in some sort of assets.” And of course I laughed at that stupid thought, cuz in my circles ain’t nobody got no money saved back.
    I remember the first time reality set in…five years into retirement I had to have a colonoscopy. $800 out of pocket for me.
    Things are so much better now…we’re both past 65, we have Medicare and supplements to cover the other 20%, and I am in the VA Healthcare System. That colonoscopy I had last month? $0 out of pocket and they paid me $89 to drive to Ann Arbor. Easy street, man, EASY street.
    When I read about the problems the retirees of the Detroit city agencies departments, my heart ached for them. I done been down a similar road. Late Friday afternoon now…time for a few beers at the watering hole…for you maybe. Some Mikesells “groovy” style potato chips and a diet cola for this cat. 🙂

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  23. Charlotte said on December 11, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Yup Dexter — I mean, my mother was irresponsible, but her boss surreptitiously stopped paying her health insurance, and then she just couldn’t get any, for ANY amount of money. And at 30K a year, she couldn’t pay her hospital bills. The minute she got on SS I told them all to go to hell (little known fact, bill collectors can’t collect from you if your only income is SS). Three years into Obamcare, and everyone has forgotten what really being screwed by the insurance companies looked like.

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  24. David C. said on December 11, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    What a difference an imaginary line and an election that reflected the will of the people makes.

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  25. Dexter said on December 11, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Charlotte, sorry your mom had to go through all that. I had two uncles who worked at Warner Gear/Warner Motive. A private industrialist bought the business and cast all the retirees to the wind. Luckily for them, my cousin worked her entire career in HR , in the factory where I worked, and had become an expert in healthcare…she found them affordable policies and they were OK. I assume most didn’t have that kind of advocate fighting for them, and just went down the drainhole so to speak.

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  26. alex said on December 11, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Well, you know, those Canadians… they take those cheap pharmaceutical drugs that weren’t approved by the FDA. They love living dangerously. 😉

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  27. Bitter Scribe said on December 11, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Dexter: I’m jealous. I have United Healthcare insurance through work and my colonoscopy cost me $1,000 out of pocket.

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  28. Deborah said on December 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I am so glad I’m on Medicare now, before I turned 65 and after I retired I had a super expensive and high deductible insurance. I put off most medical issues which were thankfully minor, until I became eligible. As I’ve said here before I an so thankful for the ACA, allowing Littlebird to have affordable healthcare. I just hope a republican doesn’t get elected president so we can keep it that way.

    Got all of my packages mailed this morning and then hung up our collection of silver snowflakes over the fireplace. Lordy but that was hard to get everything just right. Then I walked to the local bookstore to get my copy of “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson that I ordered that finally came in. Then LB and I went to Whole a Foods which recently opened a pub, on Fridays they have “a buck a shuck” deal for delicious oysters. I ordered a dozen and LB only ate 2 so I had the rest to myself along with a good local brew. We came home and started a cozy fire. A good day all in all.

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  29. Dexter said on December 11, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Deborah…in 1978 I went to St. Louis for the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four at the old Checkerdome. I met up with some friends at the old hotel…seems like it was on Kingshighway…was it the Chase Park Plaza or something like that?…anyway, it had a nice bar and a restaurant, and also an oyster bar. It was an upscale joint, and the oyster bar was free, if you can believe it. As long as the shuckmaster knew you were buying drinks, have at it. I think I ate 32 raw iced oysters and drank the juice before I decided I was starting to look the bit of a hog. Damn tasty oysters. I also like a gopopd buttery gumbo that’s just packed with oysters. Well, time to eat my turnip greens now. 🙂

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  30. Sherri said on December 11, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    In my annoyance at the racism exhibited by Scalia in oral arguments in Fisher, I forgot to point out that he wasn’t alone on the Court. Chief Justice Roberts, who believes that racism is something that happened long, long ago and no longer exists, also chimed in with his disbelief that a minority student could bring a unique perspective to a physics class, showing he knows little about either minority students or physics.

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  31. Dexter said on December 11, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Bitter Scribe: That seems like a deal like I had. Sorry for your loss…from your pocketbook.
    Wow, when I started worked as a lab tech in an aluminum factory in 1972, we had BC/BS of Indiana. I remember my co-worker in the lab had to have surgery, and when she came back to work she mentioned she had to pay fifty cents for the entire works, doctor, hospital, nurse care, meds, everything…the half-buck was for the TV rental. About that time my ex-wife had to have some complex surgery , removing breast lumps. It turned out fine, no cancer, total recovery, and my cost was absolute zero. Then it all went to hell after Nixon’s…yes, THAT Nixon’s call for universal health care single payer policies was trashed by the goddamned politicians.

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  32. Deborah said on December 11, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Dexter, I lived in the Chase Park Plaza from 1988 until about 1998. It had been a hotel and then turned into an apartment building now it’s high end condos and still a small part is a hotel. I lived on the 21st floor with Little Bird as a single mom and then we moved into a 3 bedroom unit with my now husband on the 8th floor. It was a great old art deco building, I loved it. It got renovated at some point and became unaffordable, so we moved. That was my first high rise living experience. I felt like Katherine Hepburn in “The Desk Set” which is still one of my all time favorite movies, especially during the holidays.

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  33. Sherri said on December 11, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    This is why I hate Facebook and refuse to have an account:

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  34. Hattie said on December 11, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Well, you can’t say that life is boring in Detroit!

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  35. Dexter said on December 12, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Thanks for the update, Deborah. I did not know the story of the modern Chase Park Plaza. Before I went there, I only knew of it as the hotel where all the Major league Baseball teams stayed…and where Harry Caray allegedly was boning a Busch wife…maybe it was old Augie Busch’s wife, helifino. Caray always laughed off the charges, but who knows? (Caray was basically run out of town over the scandal because, of course, the Busch family owns the Cardinals. Harry then went to Oakland for the year of 1970, coincidentally the year I was out there and could pick up Harry on a transistor radio. In 1971, Harry, having referred to Oakland as “might as well be in Siberia” was hired by the Chicago White Sox until the lure of huge $$s got him to settle in as the Cubs radio guy, where he became a beloved iconic hero to everybody.)

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  36. alex said on December 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Sherri, I was a bit perplexed by Roberts’ remarks too. Obviously it didn’t occur to him that had Ben Carson become a physicist instead of a neurosurgeon he could have become a science denier in an entirely different field.

    And if a sophist twit like Scalia can be a product of Harvard, it should be open to anyone lacking intellectual depth regardless of race.

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  37. Julie Robinson said on December 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Sherri, I share your concerns about privacy but here’s a couple of great things that have happened from facebook sharing: frames made from the last barn on my great-grandparents property and some priceless photos.

    The farm isn’t in the family anymore, and on a trip home we noticed how the barn was falling down and snapped some pictures. Just a couple of weeks later a friend posted a picture of it from her son-in-law, who tears down buildings and re-purposes the old wood. Soon we’ll have the pictures of the barn, framed in their own wood.

    Then yesterday I got a box full of pictures from another friend, who posted when his wife’s uncle died. I never met his wife, but her uncle was married to my aunt, who sadly died a couple of years later from cancer. They thought we’d like to have some of the wedding pictures, and also included some other wedding pictures he had, just because they had my Dad’s name as photographer.

    The other wedding was that of another aunt and uncle. I know almost everyone in both sets of photos, and I was flower girl for both couples. So, I’m loving the connections I’ve been able to make on facebook.

    And good news from my sister, she can put weight on her leg now and doesn’t need surgery, just lots more physical therapy. Thanks for all your kind thoughts!

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  38. beb said on December 12, 2015 at 11:59 am

    People really don’t appreciate what a godsend both medicare and social security are. SS, because you can’t access the money before retirement is the only pension program where you can be sure the money will be when you need it. The same is true of Medicare. But where you can retire at 62 on reduced benefits, there’s no way to get on Medicare before 65. Lowering the age of retirement and medicare to 55 makes sense to me. Increasingly you can’t find a new job at that age and without a job you can’t get health insurance.

    There have been two large and recent studies about health insurance plans with high deductibles (HD). What they found was that when faced with high deductibles people stopped using their health insurance except when they were really sick. Which is what people did before Obamacare. The whole point of the Affordable Care Act was to get people treated when their illnesses with minor and the cost of curing them was small. The argument that when people have ‘skin in the game’ they make better economic choices is not supported by these studies.

    The practical side to this (besides refuting the very concept that health care is a ‘market,’is that Bronze level health care plans are only good for the young who do not expect to get sick. For everyone else Silver plans with higher base payments but lower deductibles are the way to go.

    Another interesting article I’ve read recently was about a plan by someone in DC who wants to build a 1000 tiny homes scattered throughout the city for the homeless. The houses would cost less than $50,000 to build… By tiny he meant 300 sq.ft. which is a 15 by 20 ft. square. Or a 35 ft mobile trailer. He plan would require some zoning variants since DC (IIRC) has a 400 ft minimum size for a private house. I have to wonder about the obsession with single family households, even tiny households. My first job was as a carpenter’s helper, and our first project was an 8 place apartment building. Two stories high and build on a lot about the size of an average urban lot. The rooms were small, not much bigger than a hotel room. But when you’re homeless any room is an improvement. It seems to me that it doesn’t cost that much more to build an 8 apartment building than it does a single family house, the size makes it easier to manage than some skyscraper style public housing. As well as easier to site through the city. But residential zoning tends to restrict construction to single family housing. “Atrois” has written about this from time to time, noting that the laws today would have prevented the development of the cities we have today.

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  39. SusanG said on December 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Nancy, your shoes are fierce.

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  40. Deborah said on December 12, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Beb, you’ve hit on a subject that is of great interest to me. Many municipalities prohibit Granny Flats which are basically small apartments that people can build in their backyards and rent out. Lots of people don’t like this because they think it brings riff raff into their neighborhoods and will lower their property values. But it greatly increases density which I realize is anathema to many, but to live sustainably this is necessary. If you want healthy, vibrant, diverse, walkable places for people to live, people from all walks of life, this will be necessary.

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  41. Suzanne said on December 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Beb, your HD health plan stats don’t really surprise me. If you have to pay for everything out of pocket before you hit that $5,000 or $6,000 deductible, and you don’t have the money for the $120 office visit and the $200 lab work and the expensive meds that may alleviate your issue, you just don’t seek medical help. HSAs are only the answer if you can afford to fund it, but if you don’t have the money to pay the office visit bill, you probably don’t have it to put in an HSA either. And God help you if you try to call around and look for the best deal in medical care! I have friends and relatives who work in medical care and I hear them complain about “those people” who want to know prices because there is just no way they can supply that information. So much for market based health care.

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  42. Sue said on December 12, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Deborah, granny flats or MIL suites/quarters aren’t really a NIMBY thing, it’s basic zoning. You take a single family home and essentially turn it into a duplex and you now have an illegal use that technically makes the property unsaleable. Same with allowing your kid to park a camper in your driveway and run an electric cord into the house for a year or so while he gets his life together. Or building living quarters over the garage for a rental or barter arrangement. It’s an unapproved/unreviewed change of zoning.
    More intensive uses, walkability, etc. are all possible in any community but the codes have to precede the changes, not the other way around.

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  43. Deborah said on December 12, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    Yes agreed, codes have to change. They are changing slowly but surely, they have to because the costs of maintaining the infrastructure of the suburbs are unsustainable. Here’s a link to a blog that makes a lot of sense about a lot of these issues

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  44. Sherri said on December 12, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Sue, I’d argue changing zoning is a NIMBY thing. Single family homeowners don’t like upzoning, because they fear increased traffic, loss of property value, and generally neighborhood decay. Since single family homeowners vote in far greater proportion than anybody else, there’s often little political will to change zoning codes.

    Seattle is experiencing incredible growth, and struggling with ways to deal with it. There have been some proposals to upzone some single family home areas to allow some moderate density, such as MIL suites or duplexes, and you’d have thought the world was ending from the uproar. In Redmond, density in the form of 5 story apartment buildings and micro-apartment buildings has been concentrated in two areas well served by transit and not already zoned for single family housing, and there are still complaints about “changing the character” of Redmond. I’m sorry, Microsoft changed the character of Redmond. Unless you want Microsoft to take its 34000 jobs out of Redmond, we have to deal with the upside and the challenges.

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  45. Sue said on December 12, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Sherri, at least you’re putting the blame where it belongs. Usually it’s the faceless bureaucrats refusing to recognize modern challenges, or the faceless bureaucrats refusing to recognize property owners’ rights. Those faceless bureaucrats just can’t win.
    The latest uproar in my community didn’t have racist undertones for a change. The big concern was that ‘factory workers’ were going to move near single-family and retirement condo developments if an apartment complex was approved. I guarantee some of the homeowners in each development work or worked at some of the factories around here.

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  46. Dexter said on December 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    People still praise Reagan, who said out loud he’d like to see “all the hippies and protesters poisoned” , pushed for basic cutbacks right around the horn, from emptying the mental care facilities (causing great consternation to “regular folks” who just didn’t know what to make of thousands of poor sick people reduced to begging for spare change to put into empty McDonald’s cups and raging raving mad in buses and subway cars) , killed PATCO and intensified the anti-union feelings among even factory joes who envied union wage acquaintances. That time was also the end of SROs. Single Room Occupancy rooms, frequently in old fleabag hotels. I can’t blame Reagan for that phenomenon…that was plain old capitalism called gentrification back then. Monied professionals bought old buildings, kicked out all the welfare families and singles and re-habbed the buildings into high-dollar apartments and condos. I heard that the condemned building in which Ratso and Joe lived in in “Midnight Cowboy” (United Artists, 1969) , is now a condo building with apartments between $8 million and $12 million each. It’s like that in Hell’s Kitchen, and the Upper East Side has always sorta been like that, just now with inflated price tags. The old brownstones in Williamsburg, Brooklyn go for an average of $4million and stretches of Astoria, Queens are also being super-gentrified. The world is changing

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  47. Dexter said on December 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    …not just rehabbing old places, in New York, this kind of thing is everywhere, as Ed Hamilton the journo says, “blocking out the light, stealing the view from The Highline…”

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  48. basset said on December 12, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    The next level past NIMBY is BANANA… Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.

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  49. beb said on December 12, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    A hilarious, NSFW site where pictures of Republican candidates holding guns hve been photoshopped into them holding dildos….

    Basset: thumbs up on your bananas joke.

    Also overheard: Obama’s hair has gotten so white it can now talk back to the police.

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  50. basset said on December 12, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Not a joke, Beb, it’s all too real…

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  51. Dexter said on December 13, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Well, shit, fellas, my neighbor built a McMansion two doors over, blocking out my backyard view of the courthouse, which is always beautifully lighted and appointed with theme deco this time of year. He’s always pissing me off…lately he’s taken to burning huge fires in his yard to burn all sorts of comnstruction waste. And we’re supposed to be a no-burn town. Right. Cops prowl by and see the 30 feet-tall flames and drive on by…and the FD just does not have time, I guess.

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  52. Connie said on December 13, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Feeling rich. Yesterday I received a check in the mail for .30. Cents. Something to do with a settlement re sales tax on ATT data plans from 2005 to 2010. Since I had the same flip phone from 04 to 14, i wonder how I qualified for even this tiny amount.

    I would say it wasn’t worth taking to the bank – who actually goes to the bank in these days of direct deposit – but I just happen to have an appointment at that bank tomorrow.

    I wonder how many little checks like that never get cashed.

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  53. alex said on December 13, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for the gun fondlers, beb! Made my day.

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  54. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Hilarious Beb!

    Woke up this morning with about 8″ of snow on the ground, it’s beautiful, puts me in the holiday mode.

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  55. Sue said on December 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

    And the attitude that, surprisingly, often goes with it, basset: I should be able to do whatever I want with my property.
    And holy gods let’s not forget the primary purpose of local government: to use as a weapon against your neighbor. Don’t tell me what to do with my property but you’d better jump if I think my neighbor has a violation.

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  56. MichaelG said on December 13, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I was looking at today’s TV sports listings. There are four soccer games and one NHL game on TV today. I guess things have changed over the years. I live in Northern California. What do your TV listings show for soccer and hockey?

    It’s windy as hell today. In the forties.

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  57. basset said on December 13, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Exactly, Sue… this is a free country and I don’t need no bureaucrats and outsiders tellin’ me what I can do. Puts me in mind of a comment I saw awhile back about traffic roundabouts… guy didn’t like em, said they were “Communist.”

    70 and moderately windy in Nashville at this moment. That ain’t right.

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  58. beb said on December 13, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    According to an article about ESPN, that one cable channel collects $40 per subscriber per month from cable systems. Even premium channels like HBO and showtime don’t get to charge that much. Coupled with ESPN’s recent loss of 7 million subscribers, the sports channel is in trouble. I guess there is a limit to how much sports someone can watch.

    Basset, when you wrote 70 and moderately windy in Nashville my first thought was this was your age flatulence level. It gave me alaugh, then I realized it was a weather report. It’s about 60 in Detroit, overcast with a chance of rain. I’m told this is El Nino kicking the jetstream north, letting warm southern air creep north.

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  59. basset said on December 13, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Looks like my age and flatulence are at Detroit level today.

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  60. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Actually roundabouts are the safest intersections because people are more hyper aware because you’ve got to watch the cars around you carefully. 4-way stop intersections are the next safest for the same reason. 2 way stops are less safe and the least safe are stop lights, people plow through those like crazy. It’s counterintuitive, I know. I really don’t like roundabouts, which my husband calls rotaries, they make me nervous but that’s what they’re supposed to do, then you won’t plow through them. The Dutch have a traffic strategy in some areas where they rely on traffic calming configurations and everybody sharing the road, bikes, pedestrians and cars. They are supposed to be the safest of all. They have a funny name for these configurations that I can never remember.

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  61. brian stouder said on December 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Well, and – if you completely screw up a round-about, the ensuing crash cannot be as bad as a tee-bone would be, at a traditional intersection.

    A local shopping complex (Jefferson Pointe) has a major WalMart/Kohls/Dicks/Best Buy on one side, and then a whole spate of other stores and restaurants and movie theaters on the other – and the main-drag down the center is a series of perilous 4-way stops all along the way. If anyplace on the county cries out for round-abouts, THAT’S the place…but it’s a private drive, and I suppose it will never be changed (This time of year, that place actually grid-locks, and you cannot get out at all)

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  62. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    It’s called a Woonerf autocorrect wouldn’t let me type woonerf.

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  63. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Little Bird and I just got back from a beautiful walk in the snow, the sun is out but it’s still cold and windy. Without the sun it would be unbearable. I wore my new snow boots that I got on sale at REI, they kept my feet warm and dry, what more can you ask? Well, I guess I can ask that they last.

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  64. basset said on December 13, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Complete streets, Deborah – didn’t know the Dutch name for em. The exact opposite of what traffic engineers are trained to do – build for the most efficient flow of motor traffic.

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  65. Connie said on December 13, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Roundabout accidents are mostly scrapes, rather than the t-bones of a standard intersection. The largest roundabout in this upscale metro county is out in front of my office. I go three smaller ones on my 8 mile commute.

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  66. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Yes, what Americans call complete streets are where every mode is separated, where these woonerfs combine everything si that cars (the most damaging) have to slow way down to avoid hitting pedestrians and bicyclists. It is the most safe for everyone, but of course car drivers hate it because they’re so used to having the advantage of every situation. Since I’m a big walker in Chicago and Santa Fe, I can’t tell you how many times cars plow right ahead and make a right or left turn when I have the walk light. They honk at me and they shoot me the bird all the time, I’ve had to jump back many times to keep from being hit. It’s worse in Santa Fe than Chicago. Our society has made drivers feel entitled to the road and it’s scary and dangerous. Something has got to give.

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  67. Dexter said on December 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Berkeley installed road furniture several years ago as a traffic calming solution. The move to get that done was brought up by bicycling action groups. I have driven in Angola , Indiana at times for fifty years. They have a rotary at the main intersection downtown. Never had a problem until a couple months ago when a maniac entered, became disoriented, and very nearly tagged me a good one.
    I also visit Massachusetts every few years and on the Cape and in the towns around and on the cape, rotaries are everywhere, and always, always have been. One sign “Rotary”. No impossible squiggly diagrams on signs which just confuse folks. In Hilliard (Columbus) they have multi-lane rotaries. Talk about a mind fuck the first time you try one of those, damn! I was caught unawares and must have screwed up because I got a good honking. Now as you folks know they’re everywhere. I was surprised to have to go into two rotaries on Geddes Road in Ann Arbor to get the short distance to the hospital. That fucking war zone of Toledo roadways had crude roundabouts with no marking whatsoever, right off I-75. I finally mastered that area, but it took a couple times. What a clusterfuck Toledo can be, man. Vietnam had the best plan, at major intersections , to make a right, each street had a rather long entrance ram p-type approach. When it came time to join the traffic, everybody had to yield to let you in. To go straight or turn left you had to be bold and just worm yourself in there and negotiate a way through. Everybody seemed to have the plan ingrained to their DNA. It was quite a sight.

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  68. Dexter said on December 13, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    See how easy it can be?

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  69. Deborah said on December 13, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    So not si.

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  70. basset said on December 13, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Now for one of those want of a nail deals… got a new iPhone about a week ago and iTunes was too old to sync. My system was too old for new iTunes to work, so I took my 2008 iMac down to the Apple store and got the system upgraded, all the way to 10.8. Everything syncs up, all good till I tried to open a Word file… new system doesn’t accept PowerPC apps. I see Apple has a (new to me) app called Pages which I could get for free if my Mac were only five years newer. Anyone have any suggestions?

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  71. nancy said on December 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Two words, Basset: Google Docs. It’s free, it autosaves, it’s sharable, it exports to .doc format.

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  72. MarkH said on December 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Brian Stouder — if you missed 60 Minutes tonight, go to their page on the CBS website. Charlie Rose does Lewis Hamilton and F1. Fascinating, but reinforces my loss of interest in ’95 after 30 years of avid fandom.

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  73. Dave said on December 13, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    The four lane roundabouts on Union Chapel Road, in northern Allen County, took some getting used to and we didn’t have any problems but I don’t think everyone got it. They aren’t supposed to be passing lanes but people used them as such. They aren’t supposed to be locations to change lanes but that didn’t stop people from doing it, either. When they were first opened up, I read an article that said for traffic going straight through or turning right, to use the outside lane and for those turning left or making a U-turn, to use the inside lane. I looked at Indiana traffic manuals available online and it didn’t really make those distinctions.

    We talked to a mother whose daughter was taking driver’s ed. and she told us that the instructor was telling the students to use the methods I had read about in the newspaper. However, the parents, both Mom and Dad, were saying to use either lane. I told her what I had read in the newspaper and that was how I tried to proceed through all the roundabouts.

    Brian, I hate all those four way stops at Jefferson Pointe, they all seemed like they could lead to disaster.

    Dexter, I didn’t know there were such things as roundabouts or rotaries until we visited New England for the first time in 1979. I didn’t hardly know what to do.

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  74. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 13, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    14 out of 14. Yay me.

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  75. alex said on December 13, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    That Union Chapel roundabout is just one of many they’ve installed recently as suburbia sprawls out ever further and traffic congestion overwhelms the small roads around here. And aggressive drivers do seem to like to use them as opportunities to make everyone else eat their dust.

    Wow, the weather here today far exceeded both my age and flatulence level.

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  76. brian stouder said on December 13, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    MarkH – my fine young son and I caught that 60 Minutes segment, and enjoyed it immensely.

    Formula One is such a strange circus, really. One would think that Ferrari and Mercedes and Renault and Honda (and before them, Ford) would twist F1/Ecclestone’s arm until they treated the United States (and our massive car market) right, while instead they screwed over Indianapolis, and are now screwing over Texas.

    Come to think of it, I suppose that’s the one constant in F1 (screwing over almost everyone, sooner or later)

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  77. basset said on December 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    5 of 14 for me. Guess I can run for office.

    Google Docs? Google? You’re not worried about privacy?

    And will Docs open a Word file?

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  78. MarkH said on December 13, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Like anyone else on this blog would come anywhere close, Jeff? Let’s just say I batted a bit below .500. There were at least four I was fairly certain of, but suspected trick questions. Would have nailed those had I not waffled.

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  79. Dave said on December 14, 2015 at 12:25 am

    4 for 14. Should I be embarrassed?

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  80. Dave said on December 14, 2015 at 12:29 am

    I was thinking about it and realized that the first roundabout I really ever saw is located in the small town of Somerset, in Perry County, OH. Native Phil Sheridan is in the middle of it, astride his horse.

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  81. Jerry said on December 14, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Roundabouts are common over here. For a few months I worked in Milton Keynes which is a designed city rather than growing over time. They claimed then to have 101 roundabouts but only one set of traffic ights.

    If you want to know what “grown up” roundabouts look like try googling “magic roundabout Swindon” which is quite startling the first time you encounter it. There is a link to YouTube but I’ve no idea how to add a link from the iPad.

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  82. Connie said on December 14, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Those small town courthouse traffic circles are not roundabouts, nor is Monument Circle in Indy.

    Roundabout rule: pickyour entry lane based on where you want to exit and DO NOT change lanes while in the roundabout.

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  83. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2015 at 6:56 am

    The Quran is full of surprises. It’s worth getting a basic working knowledge of, as are Luke & Acts. Even if you have no interest in praying five times a day any more than you want to sing hymns on a Sunday!

    Full disclosure: by the time we reach Christmas day, I’m ready to explore my Quaker roots and stop singing for a month. Or speaking . . .

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  84. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Karen Armstrong’s “Islam: A Short History” or “Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time” are good overviews. If there are any Muslims on the feed, I’m happy to defer to their recommendations, but those would be my suggestions as a Christian pastor encouraging understanding and awareness of points of common reference.

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  85. Suzanne said on December 14, 2015 at 7:23 am

    No God but God by Reza Aslan is also very good, especially for understanding some of the radical elements that have grew when backed by Saudi Arabian $$.

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  86. David C. said on December 14, 2015 at 8:21 am

    I can’t tell you how many times cars plow right ahead and make a right or left turn when I have the walk light. They honk at me and they shoot me the bird all the time, I’ve had to jump back many times to keep from being hit.

    I’ve had this too Deborah. To the point I don’t cross at the intersection if I don’t have to. I’ve had enough of being treated as a (potential) meaty speed bump. As a pedestrian and a cyclist, I despise roundabouts. At least here, the crosswalks are too close. I stop for pedestrians as I exit the roundabout and the back of my car is still inside. I really get flipped off then. There have been interviews with traffic engineers in the local paper and they admit the design is terrible for pedestrians, but there is no money to make them more pedestrian friendly.

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  87. Sue said on December 14, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Milton Keynes! The lovely town mentioned in Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens!
    “Note for Americans and other aliens: Milton Keynes is a new city approximately halfway between London and Birmingham. It was built to be modern, efficient, healthy, and, all in all, a pleasant place to live. Many Britons find this amusing.”
    “Neither claimed any responsibility for Milton Keynes, but both reported it as a success.” (referring to angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley)
    I believe it’s near the M25?
    “In fact, very few people on the face of the planet know that the very shape of the M25 forms the sigil *odegra* in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means ‘Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds’.”
    Sounds like a great place to visit.

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  88. Jerry said on December 14, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Sue at 87 – and a great place to leave!

    Seriously, MK itself is a bit soulless but there are beautiful surrounding villages. And the M25 is of course a thing of rare beauty.

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  89. brian stouder said on December 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

    The most beautiful bit of interstate I’ve been down is probably I-68 in western Maryland in the fall (when the colors are up)

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  90. David C. said on December 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    The Woodland Town Council rejected a proposal to rezone a section of land north of town to M2 (manufacturing) from RA (residential/agricultural), essentially denying approval of a solar farm.

    Newly sworn in councilman Cecil Harkey voted against the motion to reject rezoning the land, while council members David Cooper, Ron Lane, and Pat Liverman voted to approve it following public comments against the rezoning.

    Jane Mann said she is a local native and is concerned about the natural vegetation that makes the community beautiful.

    She is a retired Northampton science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the vegetation from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where vegetation is brown and dead because it did not receive enough sunlight.

    Because everyone knows that photovoltaics suck the sunlight like a sponge from miles around so nothing grows and then all the kids leave town. At least it’s fortunate for the town Mrs. Mann is retired.

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  91. brian stouder said on December 14, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Dave – I’m hoping she meant that the shadows cast by the collection cells prevents weeds from growing, or else……ooooo

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  92. Sue said on December 14, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Yes, who?

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  93. Dexter said on December 14, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    brian@89 Yes. The last 20 years or so when I go east and SE to the Carolinas I take I-68 and I never take the damn-stupid beat-up ancient artifact of transpo called the PA Turnpike…I hate that road. Just off I-68 is a tiny burgh called Friendsville. It’s where the Friend family historical society is located. I stop there and my money is no good and they give me another key to the city. Well…actually, the place is so tiny I rarely have even seen any adults milling around outside.
    And…cue Sam Jackson here…”…look at the big brain on Jeff MMO!” he got 14/14 and I was lucky to guess five right. Who memorizes scripture verse? I guess Jeff does.

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  94. Scout said on December 14, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    My dad (83 yrs young) calls roundabouts chicanes.

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  95. alex said on December 14, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    In and around the lanes
    Drivers come out and they STAND THERE


    Feeling giddy.

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  96. Suzanne said on December 14, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Meh. I only got 10/14 on the quiz.

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  97. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 14, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Dexter, it’s my job to memorize useful Bible verses!

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