Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fracking in Michigan

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking (fraking for all the BSG fans) is a technique for extracting greater volumes of natural gas from reservoirs in shale formations. It involves pumping a high pressure slurry of sand, water and chemicals into horizontal wells. While industry officials claim it can be done with minimal environmental impact, a recent explosion of fracking in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and New York has led to numerous instances of groundwater contamination and other terrible things.

Craig Saunter's well became contaminated after a gas company began fracking near his home in PA

Michigan Radio is running a series on the potential consequences and benefits of expanded fraking in Michigan (Part 1, 2, 3, 4). The Tip of the Mit Watershed Council has a good FAQ covering fraking in the state.

Gasland, a recent film documents the current state of fracking in the US. It does not paint a pretty picture. Maybe fracking isn't Michigan's best option.

Photos via: Shaleshock

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It appears, though, that you're obsessed with this young, gay man.

How does this guy have a job while recent law school graduates struggle to find employment?

Also, how is gender neutral housing, as an option for students, radical?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Red is White

Eric Fishcher has made a map of racial densities in Ann Arbor. "Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people. Data from Census 2000."

Compare with Detroit.



Monday, September 27, 2010

Back in the Kitchen: An introduction

Welcome to Back in the Kitchen, a weekly feature documenting my development from culinary rube to chef de cuisine.

Using primarily ingredients from Sunseed Farm, I--with the help of my gracious housemates--will push beyond my current repertoire, which teeters off around tomato soup and Meijer-brand mac and cheese. A dash of pepper here, a dollop of sour cream there, a twist, a kick, a pirouette; I will become the Alvin Ailey of food, and this linoleum floor will be my stage.

Full disclosure: I was a much worse cook in college, when Ramen with chopped-up carrots pretty much exhausted my gastronomical prowess. Since then, I've learned to put a metal spoon in my mouth while slicing onions so my eyes don't tear up. My potato salad was a hit at our housewarming last year, my garlicky green beans are the only kind Quinn likes to eat, and, for Sunday brunch this week, I mastered poached eggs on my first try.


Unprecedented progress though this is, my Oma, with palpable embarrassment, still shakes her head and wonders, "Do you know how to cook anything at all? Or does Ben still cook everything?"

Excuse me, Oma: I diced those tomatoes. After asking what "dicing" meant.

Nevertheless, always room for improvement, and so forth. So follow me, if you will, as I get Back in the Kitchen, that steamy Hades that we women just can't seem to leave behind, that homey hearth where we eat cheesecakes in the middle of the night.

Let's hope I can stand the heat in here.

Enbridge Energy ready to restart pipeline

A Canada goose bathes in the Kalamazoo River. Photo via Kalamazoo Gazette

Today, Enbridge Energy will start pumping oil through its infamous pipeline 6B. The pipeline that spilled 800,000 gallons of crude into Talmadge Creek on July 25th. The pipeline that Enbridge didn't realize was leaking for over 24 hours. The pipeline that still has over 150 defects in it. Keep in mind, that the same company has had two subsequent breakages since the rupture in pipeline 6B. Flipping great.

The Michigan Messenger has a great timeline of the events and Enbridge's response.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Those great new bike lanes

New bike lanes in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor was recently rated the 14th most bike friendly city in the US and the most bike friendly city in the great state of Michigan. The city has recently spent a quarter of a million dollars improving existing bike lanes and adding 9 new miles of bike as you can see in the map above. Interestingly, these lanes sometimes seem to be less like actual bike lanes and more paintings of bicycles in the middle of major road ways. For example, the new "bike lane" on Main Street is really just a painting of two hat characters (^) above a picture of a bicycle. Not only is there insufficient room for cars to avoid running through these symbols, but they also don't boost your velocity in a Mario Kart-esque way. On other, slightly wider streets, these new lanes seem slightly less ridiculous.

For more information on bikes in Ann Arbor, check out the City's bike page, and this article from

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Much Ado About Stuffing

With the enactment of Ann Arbor's new outdoor porch couch ban, University of Michigan students suddenly find themselves without a place to sit while watching their compatriots play beer pong or cornhole.

The new city ordinance, enacted in response to the burning death of an Eastern Michigan University student, smacks of paternalism and interference in a long-standing "way of life" for students. cites some of the issues arising from this intrusion into student leisure:
Though residents still will be able to use furniture intended for outdoor use on their porches — such as patio-style furniture — some students said it won't be as comfortable.
This is a legitimate grievance.

The above linked article also quotes some of the ironclad logic one student mustered in defense of cushioned outdoor seating:
"I mean, people have other things on the porch, so it's like they're saying they're going to ban porches one day just because it started on a porch," he said. "It just makes no sense."
He's right: it just makes no sense.

Fortunately, with a little ingenuity and elbow grease everyone can get back to sitting as soon as possible. Here are a few ideas for things to sit on with everyday items that you can find around the house (or at least pick up on the cheap).

Number One: The Homemade Bench
1. Two cinderblocks
2. A 2x6 board.

First, place the cinderblocks on your porch. These will be the "feet" of your new "couch." Second, place the board across the cinderblock. Now you can sit on the board. As a bonus, depending on how you oriented the cinderblocks, you can use the holes in them as storage or shelves for miscellaneous outdoor items.

Number Two: A Box
1. A box

First, place the box on the ground. Second, sit. The box is a really versatile piece of furniture because you can also use it as a box. (A milk crate will do in a pinch. You can "borrow" these from outside many gas stations if you go at night.)

Number Three: The Ground

Just sit on the ground, couldn't be easier or cheaper. Just sit right on it! Many primitive cultures have just sat right on the ground in the course of human history.

If these ideas don't appeal or would clash with your outdoor landscaping and design, outdoor furniture can be picked up for reasonable prices on Craigslist. Also, now that summer is winding up many local stores have put their patio furniture on sale, so there are a lot of great deals to be had if you're willing to shell out a few bucks for some brand new city-approved exterior housewares. I think I saw Kroger selling chairs for, like, thirty bucks or something.