Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrities popping up all over Ann Arbor

Looks like somebody has been abusing their printer privileges. What started off as just a single Jim Carrey has quickly morphed into this:

NYE Rundown

Gentle Reader, are you still trying to cobble together some last minute New Years Eve plans? Don't worry, here is a brief and non-comprehensive list of things happening tonight straight from the Damn Arbor Hive Mind.

The Puck Drops Here--Main St.--Free
A giant NYE street party complete with a Puck Drop. I think that means the Henrik Zetterberg and Dion Phaneuf will actually be doing the face-off for tomorrow's game early. THere will also be live music from hometown hero, Michelle Chamuel, and DJs spinning tunes to keep you rocking till the wee hours.

Tacopocalypse: NYE Bang!--Bind Pig--$7
The Bang! but with bubbly and a taco eating contest. I don't see how that could end badly. But if you want to dance your ass off, this might be the party for you.

Procedes from this awesome party go to benefit 826 Michigan. Tonight local rockers Chit Chat and Frontier Ruckus are playing.

A quite bar that isn't doing anything special where you can just post up with your friends and have a semi quite evening and maybe eat a hamburger--somewhere--free
I have been cautioned not to ruin our NYE plans by telling everyone and their mom about how nice a quiet NYE at Oscar Tango can be. So I wont. But if you can decipher my code, and want to stop by and say hi, feel free.

Well there you have it Gentle Reader. There are a ton more options available for your NYE pleasure that I didn't write up including dinners at Vinology and ABC. You can even rent out your own booth at The Last Word, if they are not already sold out. So what are your plans? Are you going to check out the madness that is The Puck Drops Here?

Monday, December 30, 2013

SLICE Ann Arbor: new blog for the new year

Has one of Rich Retyi's predictions for 2014 come true already? Is SLICE the rising new media player he predicted? Regardless of whether this is the media empire of which Rich foretold, I am happy to have a new fish in the pond with us. From their website:

SLICE Ann Arbor is a weekly arts and culture blog featuring slice-of-life interviews with people making a creative mark in and around town. Meet the artists, chefs, designers, musicians, actors, playwrights, architects, producers, curators, photographers, dancers, filmmakers, and authors—and find out how they got their start, what’s important to them, and why they do what they do.
Sounds pretty cool. One of their first articles is an interview with Heather Anne Leavitt, of Sweet Heather Anne's. Sounds like things are going pretty well for her.

H/T: Mary Morgan

The Canadians are coming

In the coming days, thousands of Canadians will descend upon Ann Arbor from their icy burrows in the north. If I were a smart entrepreneur, I open up a pop-up poutinerie.

10 Predictions for Ann Arbor in 2014

Last year around this time, I put made 10 bold predictions for 2013 for the Ann Arbor News Dot Com. They weren’t great great guesses, nor true or very clever, but I did nail a few (the world conqueringness of Biercamp, the rolling unstoppable domination of Tim Horton’s) and a few of my predictions are still alive and well (you’ve had your last Blimpy Burger—sorry guys). But last year was amateur hour. I didn’t tap into any of the dark forces at my disposal. This year, I’m tapping into some really powerful juju to bring you predictions from the other side—fresh with brimstone, hover shoes and all that other futuristic junk I’ve seen on the other side.

10 Predictions for Ann Arbor in 2014—Now with 20% More Power of Cthulhu

#1: Ann Arbor’s Next Mayor Will Hold Office for One Term
Mayor Hieftje will step down in 2014 leaving his seat vacant for a pack of well-heeled jackals who are probably all pretty decent human beings when it comes down to it. But like the classic Cinderella ballad, Ann Arbor will miss Hieftje a lot more than they think they will. The next mayor will take office amid some booming times in Ann Arbor and be trounced when they seek reelection—maybe by a puppet regime or maybe by a tanned, rested and ready Hieftje. That’s for another predictions column.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Damn Arbor Guide to Mittenfest VIII

Mittenfest returns to Woodruff's tonight for its eighth year and, if you haven't been before, it's well worth stopping by. The fest runs five straight nights (12/27-12/31), it features a stellar lineup of local indie rock and folk talent, and it all benefits the excellent work done at 826michigan. Here's a quick guide to the must-see acts for each night of the fest.

12/27: Check the Ill Itches' set at 8:00pm for some great Detroit garage rock (or just the clever name).

12/28: Also from Detroit, Mexican Knives tore up their set at Dally In the Alley this year and it seems unlikely they'll go any easier on Woodruff's when they take the stage at 9:30pm. Also check A2 promoter extraordinaire Shelley Salant with her solo act, Shells, kicking things off at 7:15pm.

12/29: Half of one of Detroit's greatest rap acts, Passalacqua, Bryan Lackner does his solo thing as Mister at 11:45pm. Follow it up with Ypsi indie rockers Bad Indians at 12:40am.

12/30: Triple threat tonight: Great Ypsi garage (Congress at 9:30pm)! Irresistible Detroit pop (Kickstand Band at 11:45pm)! And long-lived Ann Arbor indie legends Saturday Looks Good To Me closing things out at 12:40am.

12/31: Chit Chat plays at 10:15pm with the best garage rock in A2. Great Detroit rap from Cold Men Young at 11pm, and Frontier Ruckus (12:40am) always brings a folky good time. And who even knows what the 11:45pm mystery act will bring to ring in 2014?

Mittenfest runs through Tuesday. With eight bands for a $10 cover per night, it's money well spent.

FOIA Friday: meeting agendas, board packets, and meeting minutes

One of my favorite ways to avoid filing a FOIA request is to ask for the thick sets of documents that are typically prepared before and after a public meeting.

A few days before a meeting, city staff are busy preparing the materials that members of the board or commission are to review to prepare them for that meeting. You too can see these documents, which are available for the asking. Sometimes they are posted to the city web site or to Legistar; other times, they are not posted, but if you request a copy from the clerk the query will be forwarded to the right person who can get you the same materials that board members have in time for the meeting.

What would you want all of this for? Well, for one thing, it comes back quickly: you can typically get board packets by request within a day or two of them being prepared and before the board meets. This is in contrast to FOIA queries that can take weeks to process.  In addition, the board packets often contain details that can be useful for making future FOIA requests or informal requests to board members or to staff. There's a window of time where you the interested citizen have room to assert yourself as a participant in the process, and where your close reading of board packets can give you the information you need to try to influence a decision.

Once the meeting has happened, there's a wait for official minutes to be approved. Typically, though not always, these are approved at the next meeting of the board. If you're eager to get those minutes before they are approved, you can request the draft minutes of the board, and under the Michigan Open Meetings Act these draft minutes must be ready within eight business days.

Asking for meeting minutes and board packets is perhaps the gentlest way of being an interested participant in the municipal process. Generally, these are things that should already be prepared and ready, and in many cases the documents you are looking for are designed to be published widely. I've never been charged a fee for meeting information and the records never come back redacted.

(Illustration: minutes from the January 3, 1916 Ann Arbor City Council regarding the maintenance of sidewalks. From the Council Minutes archives at the Ann Arbor District Library.)

Edward Vielmetti writes the FOIA Friday column for Damn Arbor and is the author of The No-Nonsense Guide to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A visit from the Normal Park Fox

I was doing some post holiday tidying around noon today when I noticed a flash of red in my periphery. I looked into my side yard and was greeted by the Normal Park Fox. I was super excited because this is only the second time I've seen a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in the greater Ypsi-Arbor area.

Unfortunately, in the 10 seconds it took me to grab my phone, the fox had made it pretty far down my block, so these pictures aren't the best.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Happy holidays, gentle readers. We here at Damn Arbor just want to wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve, Gentle Readers


Hidden Christmas Tree

I saw these trees on the corner of Baldwin and Cambridge. I like how they brought out the traditional shape of Christmas Trees from more chaotically shaped white pine trees.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Krampus, in Photos and a Vine

Saturday's Krampus Ball was pretty awesome. The addition of the a torch-lit march to the afterparty at Woodruff's was pretty awesome.

As you would expect from a Krampus themed ball, there were lots of dancing and some pretty great costumes.

Racists Want Money

Look! I am citing mlive.com!
So I am writing from an airport but I have to as my dear friend Cid sent me this article with some disbelief, and so I am getting ready to go to England. And getting slightly angry at America.

Jennifer Gratz, the Abigail Fisher of the 90's, is back in the headlines today. She was headlining a young libertarians event and the group was denied money because they are a political group hosting a political figure. Jenny G didn't like this because other groups she saw as "political," receive funding and at the beginning of the weekend, a lawsuit was brought up against the University. 

Now, I know a racist. I mean, my cousin is a racist. Some of my closest friends do racist things. I can speak on the subject, right? To set things straight, I don't think the majority of white people are racist. I think that we benefit from the privilege that our whiteness brings us, and are often ignorant to the repercussions of this. I think that we do racist things and often become defensive as opposed to open minded when confronted. I think most white people can quote "I have a dream" while not being aware that when MLK wrote from a Birmingham jail that the white moderate, not the white radical racists, were the greatest hinderance to racial equality. He couldn't get behind the people who saw the problem, but didn't agree with the means needed to fix it. White people are all about equality until we realize it's going to involve us relinquishing some of the privledge we aquired when our ancestors slaughtered other races, enslaved others, and set the "norm" as white.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Do not 
be distracted when Jennifer Gratz talks, tags her tweets or writes about equality. She does not want equality. If she was seeking that she would be also looking to reform a justice system that incarcerates black males at a disproportionate rate to crimes committed by all races. If she was seeking equality she would be trying to create some funding equity in public schools so some schools don't have to struggle to close the achievement gap and can support student learning. 

It's so hard when young robots grow up and leave home

Seriously though MABEL looks pretty cool. Much cooler than BigDog.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gruß von Krampus!

Krampus greetings everyone! Just a reminder that Krampus is tonight at Corner Brewery. From MarkMaynard.Com:

Entry is free for those of you who are degenerate lowlifes. Everyone else will be asked to make a donation of $2 (or more), which will be given to the FLY Children’s Art Center for their continuing work in the Ypsi public schools. Costumes, as always, are expected. And, if you dare to bring a child, it will be immediately consumed. As is our tradition, in addition to having incredible music to shake our asses to, there will be a special brew. I’ve yet to taste it, but I’m told this year’s concoction is a wheat beer brewed with beets.

...the most courageous among us will take the War on Christmas to the streets, rattling chains, howling like demons, and terrifying the children of Ypsilanti, as we make our way through the City by the light of torches, ending up at Woodruff’s for their annual Krampusdeep celebration.

Sounds like fun. Hope to see you all there.

New hotel proposed for Greyhound Station

Local developer, First Martin Corp., has released drawings for the six story hotel they are proposing for the D1-Zoned parcels that are currently the Greyhound Station and the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Center. For the project they are teaming up with Virginia-based Zivic & Hurdle Architects, Ann Arbor-based Hobbs + Black Associates, and Ann Arbor-based Midwestern Consulting. According to this article on the AnnArbor.News, the developers are in talks with an undisclosed national hotel chain. All in all, I think this is a pretty positive move in terms of development. The proposed 80 ft. building is much smaller than what is allowed under D1 Zoning. I understand, from some conversations with fancy business people, that there is currently a lack of "business class" hotel rooms in Downtown. So hopefully this project will go towards addressing that.

Given the extent to which D1-Zoned parcels are in historic districts, I think it's safe to say that these rare parcels, that are 1) only one or two stories, 2) Zoned D1, and 3) not in historic districts are not long for this world. And I know some people are upset about the prospects of losing the Greyhound Building, because it's a classic example of Art Deco/Streamline Moderne architecture. fortunately, the current plans call to preserve the building's facade. Also, I feel like it's worth noting, that, in it's current state, the building is pretty neglected. Or, at least it has a pretty neglected feel to it. It's amazing that you get half a block off Main Street and you feel like you've walked into another city.

Assorted musings:

I will never cease to be surprised when I hear people decry a proposed six-story building as "out of scale" when that building is situated between two much larger 10-story buildings.

It looks like we're entering into a pretty steady post-recession building period. Time to start speculating on when other under developed parcels will get their own projects. I know a lot of folks have their eyes turned towards the Brown Block, across the street, which is also owned by First Martin.

Ugly Sweater Party tonight at the Blind Pig

Tree Town Sound is hosting a pretty sweet party tonight at the Blind Pig. Check out the facebook page for details.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chris Taylor enters mayoral race

Chris Taylor (D-Ward 3), the tallest person on Ann Arbor City Council has announced plans to run for Mayor in 2014. So far, only Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3) is the only other candidate to pull petitions to run as a replacement for Mayor Hieftje, who is not running this year.

For more on this story, we turn to AnnArbor.News' Ryan J. Stanton.

Fire Station 4 is temporarily closed because of water damage and mold

The Ann Arbor News and reporter Ryan Stanton broke the news this morning that Fire Station 4 has been closed since November 21 because of water damage and mold in the building. The station serves the east and southeast side of town and is located on Huron Parkway near Platt.

After the break, a letter from city administrator Steve Powers sent to members of City Council describing what happened and what plans there are to fix things. From all that I've been able to determine, members of City Council found out about this problem first by reading the News. (This is one reason why we have newspapers.)

Ann Arbor Holga

The Daily Holga posted this beautiful picture of our clock tower. Nothing much more than that.

Strictly platonic

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is some really weird, probably non-platonic stuff that gets posted on the Strictly Platonic section of the local Craigslist. For example:
Willing to puke on a guy? - m4w - 32 (Ypsilanti)

32 white guy here looking for a girl who would be willing to puke on me just for fun, if you would enjoy this please contact me :)

You know what really takes that post to the next level? The smily face emoticon. An then there's this gem:
Do You Want To Move Out? - m4w (Farmington)

Hello ladies. I'm a single white male. I wanted to tell you that I currently live alone. I'm in a 2 bedroom place by myself in Farmington. It's about 30 minutes from downtown AA. There are two pools here for swimming purposes. An indoor pool and an outdoor as well. There is also a tennis court here. Also a small room to run on a treadmill. If you are not happy where you are living I'm looking for a great girl to live with.

The apartment has air conditioning, heat, stove oven, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, toaster, couches, 31" inch tv, cable tv, internet, fully furnished, washer and dryer in the building, dining table and chairs.

Email me if interested. You would not have to ppaaayyy anything. Photos of the apartment are below. I'm a single white male. I'm 5'10, brown hair, brown eyes, 170. Put want to move in the subject line so I know you are real.

The emphasis on the extra creepy part of that post is mine. My old pal Rosmarie Canard says she's seen several posts like this over the years on the local Craigslist. I just found a more recent version with the lines "Do you need to move out? Are you in a bad living situation? Want to get out of your parent's house?" Seems like the guy is trying to get vulnerable women to live with him. Hopefully we won't see a Lifetime movie about this next year. Merry Christmas everyone.

FOIA Friday: The Dangerous Buildings List

FOIA Friday is a weekly feature by Edward Vielmetti about public records. This week's document is Ann Arbor's "Dangerous Buildings" list, and some reasons why you might approach any public record with a degree of suspicion.

I asked for (and received promptly) a copy of the City of Ann Arbor's "Dangerous Buildings" list, after having this list mentioned and as part of my preparation for this week's Building Board of Appeals meeting. The list is not long, but it has some elements which should make it a good stopping off point for future FOIA requests. I've put a copy of the file on a2docs; download or view this version to follow along with the analysis. For reference you'll also want to go back to the Building Board of Appeals preview from this week.

A dangerous building? Perhaps, but not on the list.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dark Horse Brewing Co - 4 Elf Party

Dark Horse Brewing Co - 4 ELF PARTY from Rhino Media Productions on Vimeo.

I don't exactly know what Dark Horse's annual 4 Elf Party is, but I do know I'm sad I didn't go this year. It looks like a lot of fun. I'll definitely have to try to make it out to Marshall next December for it.

Mapping median income

WNYC has a pretty cool map of the US that codes census tracts by median income. There's a pretty big difference between Barton Hills (Census Tract 4031) with a median household income of $155,250 and Census Tract 4022 in Northeast Ann Arbor where the median household income is only $17,520.

Still time to tweet JSTORSupport for free coffee

Gentle readers, there is still time to tweet your favorite JSTOR article to @JSOTRSupport. I did it last week and was rewarded with a hot cocoa and some lovely balloons. I also got to meet JSTORQuinn and JSTORRyan. They are pretty cool people. If you are a UMICH affiliated person and in Ann Arbor, you have until tomorrow to tweet them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hand map of Detroit

Another gem from Detroitography. What a great way to show the location of places in Detroit in relation to the city's main spoke roads. From the post:

This hand based map of Detroit comes from the Field Notes I, Discussion Paper No. 1 by William Bunge. The Detroit Geographical Expedition needed a way to help orient its “field members,” typically students, many from “out of town.” This example comes from a checker cab taxi driver names Lee in 1968. Supposedly in the 1960s this was taught to school children and people in the streets would use it to give directions. I think this needs to come back because it works so well with fingers as the main arteries in Detroit. Perhaps it would make more sense to have the pinky finger be Michigan Avenue and say that Fort St. follows along the river just like Jefferson Ave? Where is that six-fingered man when you need him?

Best local Christmas songs: Christmas in Washtenaw County

Watch Christmas in Washtenaw: music video from the Postmaster Generals in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Gentle reader, are you looking to add some local holiday music to your winter season? Look no further than the Postmaster Generals' soon-to-be classic Christmas in Washtenaw County. From the video description:

This music video melds a baton-twirling routine, high school prom decorations, and a labrador retriever into an oddly touching celebration of the Christmas spirit.
You can check out more of the Postmaster Generals' work here.

Building Board of Appeals preview for Thursday, 19 December 2013

We all know you want to go to more public meetings, but don't find the time because you don't know what's on the agenda.

Here's a rundown of the agenda items for the Building Board of Appeals, which is holding hearings on the demolition of seven separate dangerous and run-down properties around town. The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, 19 December 2013 in Council Chambers, second floor of Ann Arbor City Hall. This summary is pulled from the meeting agenda and from the 60 page BBA board packet, with reporting from the Ann Arbor News, AnnArbor.com, and the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Map follows, along with parcel descriptions.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Google This!

Huff Post

Google released its own top ten lists, and the University of Michigan is the #6 most Googled University.  I don't see this as a bad thing. We beat OSU (for those who care, they came in 8th). To think of it another way- if we were the top ten list for "most searched people", University of Phoenix would be Miley, we would be Rihanna, and OSU would be Selena Gomez. I like our Rihanna status.

An update on the Water Street Commons

Gentle Reader, I don't know if you've been following Mark Maynard's updates on Ypsi's Water Street Commons. TLDR; a group is working on restoring a native prairie on the former brownfield site/abandoned lot on Michigan Ave. at the Huron River. There might also be a free-form art/sculpture area behind the prairie. That second part brings me to my second point, you should check out Art-Hut.org. The website documents some of the art and other activities that are ongoing at Water Street. It even includes an illustration by yours truly:

Sledding in Ann Arbor

Note: This article was first published on Dec. 27th, 2012.

Look out your window. We've got some snow. It's the holidays so you really have no excuse not to go sledding. With that in mind, I am posting some links to some classic articles about sledding in Ann Arbor:

Guide to Ann Arbor: Sled-DANG! In A2 from Damn Arbor's very own Quinn Davis

Sledding on Arborwiki

Guide to the Ann Arbor area's best sledding hills by Ed Vielmetti

I will add this: Huron Hills is probably my favorite sledding spot in the city (see this article on the Chronicle). The Arb is pretty sweet for sledding too. But the frozen hummocks of grass kind of hurt your bum as your sled there. And it's borderline illegal. But really it doesn't matter where you sled, as long as you get out and enjoy yourself.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Krampus comes to Ypsilanti this Saturday

Krampus, the Saint Nicholas' edgier counterpart is coming to Ypsilanti this Saturday. Have you been naughty? If you have, watch out, cause Krampus is going to try to beat you with a branch and take you to his lair (see above). The festivities begin at 8:00 pm at Corner Brewery. Hope to see you there.

'Twas the night before council

Over on the Chronicle, Dave Askins has a great little preview for tonight's City Council Meeting. It's in verse. Pretty great.
‘Twas the night before council, the wee morning hours, Not a creature was stirring, not even Steve Powers,...
Click through to read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Ice Cream Pies from Go!

Some people sign up for Coldstone Creamery emails, and I don't want to shame them, but they should really be looking at Go! Ice Cream for tempting treats. This Thursday, in Ann Arbor and Ypsi, Rob will be delivering Ice Cream Pies that you should order for me. Really, this Christmas forget about your family and friends and buy ice cream for your lovely Damn Arbor writers.

Dearborn Community Playhouse Holiday Pageant

Just in case you are snowed in, here is an SNL sketch that really captures Michigan's community theater scene well.

Glimpse Magazine

Glimpse is a new eMagazine from some students at the Stamps School. At least I think that's what it is. The info page is a little spares. Still it's full of cool stuff like poems, and pictures and recipes. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Help Blimpyburger move into a new spot — donate to their Indiegogo campaign

Image via Blimpyburger's Indiegogo site
Krazy Jim's Blimpyburger has a new Indiegogo campaign up to help raise money for a new location, where they'll use lots of their old furniture and fixtures!):
After 60 successful years serving fresh ground, custom-made hamburgers to a devoted following of fans, we had to shut our doors when the University of Michigan bought the property that Blimpy's sat on. As displaced tenants, we were NOT the recipients of the sale. We are determined to re-open in a new location close-by so that we can continue to serve delicious food and memories to the townies, students, and Michigan sports fans that have dined here for generations. That, dear friend, is where you come in; we need your support to make this dream a reality.
Read on. They're hoping to raise $60,000, which will help defray the costs of construction, contractor and architect fees, kitchen and dining area equipment and design, completing a lease, and purchasing new inventory.

Whether or not you enjoy or even eat burgers, it's a real shame to think of an Ann Arbor with no Blimpyburger. If you're new to Ann Arbor and don't really get it, find a local and ask about it. I'll be contributing and hope you all think about it as well.

Best place to see Christmas Lights?

Gentle readers, can I crowd source something at ya? Where can a fellow go to see the best Christmas Lights in the area? Are there particular houses, street and/or neighborhoods where the lights are outstanding? Above, you can see a terrible picture of the outstanding light display where Jackson and Dexter split from Huron.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where to Get Pappy Van Winkle in Ann Arbor

Pappy Van Winkle is going fast. Here's where to get it in Ann Arbor.
One of the world's rarest bourbon whiskeys is available at a limited number of Ann Arbor establishments, but you better hurry.

A bottle of Pappy Van Winkle retails around $200 and is nearly impossible to get, unless you're Bill Cosby (who's reportedly first on the list each year to receive his Pappy) or a criminal mastermind. It might not be the best reviewed spirit, but it's surely one of the most prized.

Where to Get Pappy Van Winkle in Ann Arbor (as of Thursday, Dec. 12)

The Last Word & Alley Bar
Between the two bars, you can find the Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr along with the Pappy 15yr, 20yr and 23yr. Robbie Schulz was able to procure these prized bottles by building strong relationships with the Buffalo Trace Distillery and also selling "a crap load" of product in the Buffalo Trace family.

Zingerman's Roadhouse
The Roadhouse supply of Pappy Van Winkle is running out fast. Roadhouse manager Carly Bower reports that they have a small amount of Van Winkle Special Reserve 12yr and a few bottles of Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr. "This stuff goes fast!" Bower emailed.

Raven's Club
Reports around town were that Raven's Club had a shipment of Pappy Van Winkle as well, but as of this writing I hadn't heard back from anyone at Raven's. Stop by and ask. You might get lucky.

Who Doesn't Have Pappy
Unless they bought it retail, no Main Street Venture has Pappy for sale. Sorry, Chop Housers.

Got any information on other establishments in Ann Arbor selling Pappy Van Winkle? Leave your tips in the comments and I'll confirm and add to the list.

Ann Arbor is the 4th most walkable city in US

Governing (.com, magazine?) just ranked Ann Arbor the nation's 4th most walkable city with a population of at least 100,000. The ranking is based on the percent of folks who report they walk to work. Keep up the good work folks.

H/T: @getdowntown

Bonnie Jo Campbell reading at Literati tomorrow

Bonnie Jo Campbell is going to be at Literati tomorrow. You guys should totally check it out. She is one of my favorite authors, and she is from Michigan and she is really cool (I met her once IRL so I know). If you have never had a chance to hear her talk, you should really get your behind down to Literati tomorrow at 5pm.

Ann Arbor City Council preview for Monday, 16 December 2013

Here's a preview of what you'll see if you go to the Ann Arbor City Council meeting for Monday, December 16, 2013. Follow along on CTN (Channel 16) online, or if you are on Twitter, look for the hashtag #a2council.

Of note below: a proposal to spend $125,000 in police overtime on traffic enforcement, and a proposal to spend $80,000 to implement a kitchen scraps composting program including giving away 6,000 buckets. Three public hearings are scheduled, including one that will take public comment about a proposed $45,000 fee for developers for each metered parking space that their development removes.

UPDATE Sunday, December 15: last minute addition of a proposal to turn the net proceeds of the Old Y Lot sale over to an affordable housing fund, and the Ann Arbor Chronicle weighs in with a detailed preview.

UPDATE Monday, December 16: extra last minute addition of "Resolution Confirming the Termination of the Memorandum of Understanding Between the City and University Regarding Fuller Road Station" by CM Kunselman.

Photo: Pun Plamondon Addresses Ann Arbor City Council, Ann Arbor News, 1973.

Medora | Indiana, Life and Basketball

Medora is about basketball like UP is about balloons.

Ann Arbor natives Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn co-directed and produced Medora, spending a year with the players, coaches and families of the Medora High School basketball team as they struggled to overcome economic challenges, drug and alcohol issues and navigate what to do after high school—all while in the midst of a depressing streak of losing seasons so bad it earned national attention in The New York Times.

The tiny town of Medora (population 500) and the even tinier Medora High School (72 students and only 33 boys) struggles to compete against much larger consolidated high schools with bigger budgets and more students. Not only does the losing streak weigh on the entire community, but looming budget cuts to the school threaten to close Medora High and destroy the town completely.

It's getting hot in here

USGS has just released their new climate prediction maps. You can see county level predictions for annual or monthly mean maximum temperature, mean minimum temperature, and mean daily precipitation. It even goes down to the county level. Which is pretty awesome. TLDR: mean temperatures in Michigan will be on average about 3.8 C warmer between 2050 and 2074 compared to averages from 1980-2004.

Elementa, a new open access academic journal with U of M connections

Elementa is a new open access journal that published its first issue last week. You can go ahead and read all the articles, because they are open access. Pretty sweet. Additionally sweet is the fact that two of the editors-in-chief are U of M professors. Joel Blum is the Earth and Environmental Science editor and SNRE's very own Don Zak is the ecology editor. I'm pretty excited about this because 1) it strikes a blow against the horrible for-profit academic publishing industry and 2) Don Zak is a great scientist so I'm sure Elementa will grow into something great.

FOIA Friday: Using Legistar to keep track of city meetings

FOIA Friday looks at Ann Arbor city government through the eyes of access to public records. One bit of advice that is easy to give is to never submit a FOIA request if the information that you want is already online. Here are some pro tips on how to search through city documents, including the ones that aren't easy to find, by harnessing the power of the city's Legistar system that records public meetings and the documents that go with them.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The rise and fall of Lisa Frank

"The World of Lisa Frank" - A Short Film from Scott Ross on Vimeo.

Over on Jezebel, there's a huge article on the rise and fall of Bloomfield Hills native, Lisa Frank. It's a pretty good long read about the sticker mogul's descent into madness. With sections entitled "Inside the Rainbow Gulag" and "You Mess With the Unicorn, You Get the Horn," you know you want to read it.

Christmas Trees, ranked

It's that time of year again. The days are short, the air is crisp and frats are stealing conifers from university property, and you're probably thinking about getting yourself an ol' tannenbaum. If you're having trouble deciding what type of tree to get, look no further, I've got a handy guide for you here.

First of all, if you want a tree that'll last, I suggest going to a self cut place. Most trees being sold in lots were cut before thanksgiving hand have been shipped here from parts unknown (North Carolina). Often these trees are painted green to look fresher. Gross.

Now, other websites might just give you a ranking like this:

1. The true firs (Genus Abies)
Soft needles that smell of tangerines when crushed. Good needle retention. You can identify firs by the "Four F's:" firs are friendly (needles not sharp); fir needles attach flush tot he branch; fir needles are fragrant (they smell like tangerines!); fir needles are flat in cross section. Firs have good needle retention, so if you get one that has been pre-cut it'll likely keep most of its needles off your floor. Also, due to their great natural color, the firs are unlikely to be painted/died green.

2. Douglas-fir (Genus Pseudotsuga)
In botanical common names the en dash signifies a taxonomically incorrect name. Here it means the DouglasDashfir is not really a fir. But heck, it's pretty close. These guys have pretty good needle retention, but often have a very stout trunk, so you might need a pretty hefty stand.

3. Spruces (Genus Picea)
Sharper needles, retention is not as good. Don't smell as good as the firs and Douglas-firs. Spruces can be identified by the "Four S's:" spruces have sharp needles; spruce needles are square in cross section (some are more diamond shaped); spruces are stinky (they smell piney, but not in a great way); spruces are stubbly (when you remove the needles, small peg-like sterigmata remain on the branches).

4. Pines (Genus Pinus)
Bunched needles. This genus can be a bit of a mixed bag.

5. (tie) Arborvitae/Northern White-Cedar (Genus Thuja)
If you find a small one of these, an ideal specimen, maybe it'll look right. Remember what that dash in the common names kids, the Northern White-Cedar isn't a true cedar (Genus Cedrus).

5. (tie) Juniper/Eastern Redcedar (Genus Juniperus)
These can be OK if they are small and have been pre-trimmed into a proper taper. Upon close inspection, they just wont look quite right.

6. Any other conifer
Even the tamarack or larch (Genus Larix), which loses its needles.

7. Artificial trees
These are literally the worst. Why not just get a custom Fathead of a tree for you wall? Why not a potted palm tree?

Now the above would be a useful list, but it fails to take into account the nuanced differences between species within different genera. Oh, and a note about labeling. In the following list, the first number indicates the overall rank while the letter number combination is its rank within that group of plants. e.g. White fir is ranked sixth overall and the fourth among firs (F4); Serbian spruce is fifth overall and first among the spruces (S1).
1. F1. Nobel Fir--Abies procera
With its short, soft, stiff, dense needles you really can't go wrong here. Great fragrance helps too. Native to the high mountain west.

2. F2. Fraser Fir--Abies fraseri
Slightly longerCan have slightly shorter needles than A. procera. Still an outstanding tree. Native to high mountains in the Appalachian Range. A very, very close second.

3. F3. Balsam Fir--Abies balsamea
Very closely related to A. fraseri. Slightly thinner needles. Sometimes called Canaan fir. Native to northern temperate and boreal forests. Truth be told, all of these three firs are outstanding trees.

Medora screening at the Michigan Theater today

MEDORA OFFICIAL TRAILER from beachside on Vimeo.

Medora, the new documentary by Davy Rothbart and Andrew Cohn, is screening tonight at the Michigan Theater. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the directors. General admission tickets for this 7:00 pm show are $10 ($8 for students). VIP tickets are also available for $25. They include entry to a special reception in the Michigan Theater lobby from 5:30 - 6:30 PM, food, a free drink, priority seating, and a copy of the Medora DVD.

Medora looks like a great documentary. Check out the trailer above and just try not to be moved. It reminds me of when Coach Taylor started coaching the East Dillon Lions. Except Medora is about basketball and real life. You can check out interviews with Davy Rothbart about Medora here and over on MarkMaynard.com. And stay tuned for Rich Retyi's forthcoming review of the movie.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fantasy Detroit Rail Map

You've heard of BART, but now there's DART--Detroit Area Rapid Transit. Well at least there is DART in the imagination of jwcons. It's styled after the DC Metro system. Also, maybe you could inch those imaginary Red and Orange Lines out west to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. I know there are tons of imaginary people here who would love to be able to use commuter rail to get to Detroit. Also, maybe the imaginary people in the Grosse Pointes might want a train into Detroit.

Map by jwcons via Detroitography

Damn Arbor's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

2014 Calendar from Sloe Gin Fizz

Gentle reader, are you having trouble finding gifts for your friends and family? Do you want to make sure the money you spend this season stays in the community? Well, you're in luck, we have worked tirelessly to assemble an outstanding list of locally made gifts.


The Rocket, 122 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti

JSTOR Support

Gentle readers, this just in: a little birdie told me that if you are a U of M student, faculty or librarian and you tweet your favorite article on JSTOR to @JSTORSupport, they'll deliver you a free hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. It's nice to see those cool folks at JSTOR coming out to support the community for finals. I'm sure there are some reasonable caveats, like you probably have to be on or near one of the Ann Arbor Campuses. So if you're reading this from the Biological Station, or Camp Davis, you might be out of luck. Still, this is pretty awesome:

Thanks JSTOR Support!

Birdseye view of old Ypsilanti

Ever wonder what Ypsilanti looked like in 1869? If so, check out this map by A. Ruger from the Big Maps Blog.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

UM Eviction Notices

Tumblr user bilalsohail posted this eviction notice earlier today. According to a viewpoint article by the Michigan Daily, the notice was meant to bring attention to the reality that many Palestinian families faced. As part of this campaign, thousands of students received a notice.

Better Know Your Barkeep | Luke Andrews, The Bar at 327 Braun Court

Luke Andrews—barkeep at The Bar at 327 Braun Court
The boys at The Bar at 327 Braun Court call a bar "The Third Space". There's work, home and then a sanctuary for men and women to go where they can connect with other people, enjoy a cocktail and relax.

Ann Arbor has some of the best third spaces in the world, staffed by professionals with different backgrounds, different temperaments, different skills and different stories. They create the atmosphere that brings people back to Old Town, The Last Word, Raven's Club and the 8-Ball. Many of them have been slinging drinks and listening to stories for years and turnover at many of Ann Arbor's best bars is surprisingly rare. 

It's time to sing about these unsung barkeeps—ask them about their experiences and their craft,  learn a little more about their relationship to their bar. Essentially, to better know our barkeeps. 

This semi-regular feature will pop up on Damn Arbor from time to time giving insight into the people behind the bar and hopefully entertaining, enlightening and doing something else that starts with the letter "e".

One last thing, a nod to Mark Maynard's exit interviews, which I just happen to be modeling in this first installment. Normally I'll interview these people before they leave. Luke is the exception.

PSA: Don't miss puppies in the Library tomorrow

Ok, so technically they are therapy dogs who are there for stress reduction. Nevertheless, if you are feeling a little down, or stressed out, or you're just missing your own pup, come to the Shapiro Library tomorrow from 1-4 pm. More information here.

H/T: @Juliewbee

G-Rap tops Lonely Plant's list of travel destinations for 2014

I can't wait till people start saying Grand Rapids was so much cooler before it became a trendy and played out tourist spot. Still, mad props Grand Rapids and all you Grand Rapidians, for beating places like Yosemite, Boston, and Las Vegas. From the article:

Beach bums, beer lovers, and art enthusiasts agree: there’s a lot to love about western Michigan this year. Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, was voted best beer city in the US by the national Beer Examiner blog in 2012 and 2013, and its beer-tourism revolution rages on. Over 25 craft breweries pour in the area, and events like Cool Brews Hot Eats and the Winter Beer Festival (both in February), and the Summer Craft Beer Festival (August), keep the city festive year-round. Hops aside, the secret about Grand Rapids’ fabulous art scene is getting out. In addition to the impressive blooms and Rodin sculptures in the Frederik Meijer Gardens, and the excellent Grand Rapids Art Museum housed in a cool LEED Gold certified building, Grand Rapids is home to the world’s largest art competition, ArtPrize, in which more than 1700 creatives display their masterpieces.

A mere 30 miles away sprawls Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast, perhaps the USA’s most unexpected beach getaway. Some argue that these shores rival Hawaii’s and Southern California’s. Along 300 miles of seemingly endless beaches lie sugar-white dunes, wineries, antiquing, U-pick orchards and berry farms, cider houses, Hemingway haunts – you can even go surfing. In Michigan! So if you never thought you could head to the Midwest for a Cape Cod-esque beach vacation, think again.

Our (and everyone else’s) top-pick alehouse is rock-n-roll Founders Brewing Company, while the lake’s Oval Beach wins for smoothest sands.

Pretty sweet to see Grand Rapids getting a little national attantion. Congrats you freakishly tall, blond Western Michiganders.