Sunday, June 24, 2012


Ones upon a thyme
In a furry tail close by
Lived a poor boy named Jack
He lived with his mother & father somewhere in the nowhere of Inchoate
His parents were adze-makers, that is, they made adzes don’t you know
His mother & father were so busy they sent Jack outdoors to play
His only toys were some rocks and a couple of broken adzes
His only companion was a crow named Bossy, whom he loved dearly
The only trick Bossy knew was how to foul Jack’s hand as he held her

Since they sold no adzes that day (nor any day for quite some thyme)
There was no food for supper
“Jack,” sighed his harried mother, “We are so hungry we might have to eat  crow”
“Oh, no harried mother,” exclaimed Jack, “Not my only friend Bossy”
“Well, then,” fretted the harried mother, “Tomorrow you must sell Bossy at the fair”
With that they ate Jack’s rocks and went to their thread-bare little beds

The next day was very gloomy, not uncommon for Inchoate, and Jack set out for the fair
There he met an out-of-work vaudeville actor dressed in a rumpled tuxedo and top hat
“What have you there, my fine lad?” asked the actor
“This is a very fine crow and my only friend, Bossy,” responded Jack politely, as he had been taught
“Let me have a look,” replied the actor, carefully perusing the bovine-named bird
“I’ll tell you what, lad, I will trade you this very fine walking stick for the bird,” offered the actor
“My name is Jack, sir, not Lad as I am not a dog,” corrected the boy
“Jack it is, then, how about a swap?” cajoled the actor
“It doesn’t seem right to me, exchanging my Bossy for a mere stick,” frowned Jack
“Ah, lad, err, Jack, this is not an ordinary stick, of course not: it is magic!” murmured the actor
“Magic?” and with that the deed was done and done

“Harried mother, harried mother, look what I have brought home from the fair,” exclaimed Jack
But his harried mother was not happy with her son’s exchange
She was even less happy after Jack had told his whole adventure
“A has-been actor,” sobbed Jack’s harried mother
“Why have you acquired an English accent, harried mother?” puzzled the boy
“Heavens, what ever do you mean?” returned the harried mother
“You just said ‘bean’ instead of ‘bin’,” explained the boy
“ ‘Bean’ it is, then,” the harried mother cried, grabbing the stick and throwing it out the window
They ate a bit of left-over adze soup and trooped off to their thread-bare humble beds
Little did they ken what happened through the chill gloomy night
For the stick thrown out the window had stuck upright in the garden soil and was transmogrified

As dawn the rosy fingered scratched the eastern slate of cold gray sky sad Jack suddenly awoke
His harried mother had just let out a squawk, no, more a squeal, a loud moan, a startled yelp
“Come at once harried husband, gentle Jack,” she cried
She continued, “Look out the window, what thing is this that blocks our view?”
No stick stuck there, but a mighty wooden column as wide across as a tree trunk
And round it wound a spiral staircase in sinusoidal grace
“Wow,” mouthed Jack and his harried father silently
Out they ran and were more amazed, for the shaft reached up, up, and away into the clouds
“I shall climb the stairs harried mother, harried father, and find out whither it goes,” stated Jack
“Not without breakfast and getting dressed, young man,” chided the harried mother

Up, up, up, ever higher, Jack scampered through and beyond the clouds
The days drifted by unrelentingly, swiftly flew the arrow of time
The somewhat less harried mother lost track, had it been three days or seven?
The somewhat less harried father gave up making adzes, since they were waste deep in unsold merchandise
He began building a kiln with which he would fire clay
She began coiling clay into lovely pottery
It had, on the whole, become quite agreeable
But no, down the stairs Jack came
And as he stepped off the last rung, the spiral staircase and column vanished utterly, whoosh!

“Oh, not-so harried mother,” gushed Jack, “Wait till I tell you my tale
“There was a land covered with snow way above the clouds,
“And the actor was there, but he wasn’t an actor at all, but a retired baseball player from San Francisco
“He hitched a sleigh to two magical horses, and let me steer
“So we could fly above the snowy fields and look though the clouds, I even saw you and the house
“He then gave Bossy back to me, but changed”
Here Bossy fouled Jack’s hand, but behold, the bibbits were pure gold, becoming bibelots!
The once-again harried mother looked keenly at the golden droppings
“Let me get this straight,” probed the less harried mother
“You sleighed a Giant and took his bird that lays golden poop?”
“Yes, mother,” proclaimed Jack, “So now you can devote all your time to making pottery!”

And that my dears, is how Jack’s mother went from being harried to being a potter

Thursday, June 21, 2012


 The most amazing aspect of Mom Chip’s life is that she is indeed, alive. We can only estimate that in Chipmunk years, she exceeds 98 of ours. We have seen Willow often, in the last few weeks. We will address Willow’s state another time (she has lost her left earlobe and has various other scars). Mom looks stouter, more matronly, than before, and has lost more than an inch of tail. Worst, perhaps, her left eye is now completely closed, and her right may have a cataract (we are looking into the coverage we have on that with our ophthalmologist, Dr. Sullivan).

 What is truly amazing is her mental map of the back yard. She knows how to get to water and food by following the shadowy guidance of her memory. We watch her move, through a maze of touch, smell, and partial eyesight to gather her needs for the day. When she reaches a certain spot by the drain pipe, she turns left and bounds like a yearling to the ground feeder. When her cheeks are full she reverses the process.

Today was most special. We witnessed her learning ability! We set out a row of peanuts, the first at the entrance to the palace and leading to two pails of seeds turned on their sides and full of seeds. She has, as far as we know, never encountered peanuts before. She left the palace and found the one on her doorstep. Without hesitation, she took it down into the bowels of the palace. She rose to find a second, much larger, peanut. She ran immediately into a problem: she had grasped it in the middle of her jaws. When she approached the entrance of the palace the peanut was TOO LARGE! She pushed, and jammed, until it disappeared.

 From that peanut on, she held it parallel to her jaws! She had no problems getting the remaining nuts into the palace.

She appreciated the peanuts. As a consequence, she left with us a copy of a most important document, The Chipmunks’ Rules of Acquisition.* These are the most sacrosanct rules that keep order (to some degree) in the chipmunk world. It starts with a preamble and than elucidates their greed, uh, creed.

The Chipmunks’ Rules of Acquisition

Whereas wealth is measured in that which grows, a seed is defined as a unit of wealth. This shall include: sunflower seeds (oilers, stripes, whatever), corn, cantaloupe, peanut (there are court cases holding these are not technically seeds, but will await the new election for decision), … (here there are several hundred other seeds mentioned, not germane to our discussion), we, chipmunks, through all our variations and subspecies, claim all as ours. The following rules provide guidance to the young and a reference when there is a controversy between two or more of our kind.

* Similarity to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition is purely intentional.

  1. Any seed unclaimed is yours.
  2. There is no such thing as “Too many seeds.”
  3. If another chipmunk is distracted, take its seeds.
  4. You’ve got cheeks: fill them.
  5. If your cheeks can’t hold another seed, take at least two more seeds.
  6. Winter is long; don’t let the seeds get short.
  7. Collect seeds every day you can; you will need them sooner than you think.
  8. Don’t name a chipmunk as the executor of your will.
  9. Seed insurance is a certain fraud.
  10. Don’t hide all your seeds in one cache.
  11. Keep your seeds dry and your caches a secret.
  12. Always assume the other chipmunk is as sneaky as you are about seeds.
  13.  Plant a seed today, and you will soon have a whole pod (chipmunks are farmers).
  14. No cache of seeds is so big it can’t hold five more seeds.
  15. A seed in the cheek is worth two under a bush.
  16. Hold your in-laws to the dowry of seeds promised before the wedding.
  17. Never be a lender of seeds; it is however okay to borrow them.
  18. The death of a chipmunk is a sad occasion; finding its seed cache is gladsome.
  19. The Autumn Equinox marks when you must really tend to your seed cache.
  20. The chipmunk that dies with the most seeds wins.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tell Governor Snyder to Veto Bills that Harm Voting Rights

From the League of Women Voters

Bills that create barriers to voting passed the Michigan Legislature last week and await the Governor's action.  The measures – SB 751, SB 754, SB 803, and HB 5061 – expand photo identification requirements for voters, impose certification and Secretary of State (SOS) approved training on third-party voter registration agencies, and require affirmation of citizenship on ballot applications.
These new requirements are completely unnecessary and will create barriers to voting.  The bills have been promoted as improvements to election integrity.  However, Michigan's election system is sound and there is no evidence of problems – particularly voter fraud and registration fraud – that these measures are intended to address.
Expanded photo ID requirements will make it more difficult for some people to vote.  An estimated 10 percent of voting-age Americans lacks the required type of ID.  This law hits elderly, minority, low-income, and youth voters hardest since they are more likely to lack photo ID and the time and expense of obtaining it can be prohibitive.  Michigan already has voter identification methods that work very well and meet federal standards.
Mandatory, SOS-approved training is a roadbloack for civic organizations that want to help citizens join the voting rolls.  Trained League volunteers provide an opportunity for people to register at a convenient location, such as their school, library or community center.  Additional training by the SOS office is unnecessary.
The right to vote, along with full and fair representation, is the most basic of political rights.  Measures that restrict the exercise of that right should be carefully evaluated for their benefit to election integrity.  These bills fail that test.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You are a walking village

Source: “The Ultimate Social Network,” Jennifer Ackerman, Scientific American, June 2012, pages 36-43.

  Even after taking a shower, there are trillions of one-cell organisms on and in your body, over six pounds for a typical adult. And it is a good thing.

  Bacterial cells outnumber human cells ten to one. Over the past ten years scientists have begun to understand where they come from and what they do. The human DNA has between twenty and twenty-five thousand genes.  Microbes have over three million. This allows many variations. Some of these include genes that encode for beneficial compounds that the body cannot produce. Other bacteria train the body not to overreact to outside threats. And some microbes bring disease, decay and death.

  In the womb the fetus is fairly sterile of bacteria, encountering the first while passive through the birth canal. The environment provides the rest, and no two people end up with the same cluster of bacteria (commensals, from the Latin for “sharing a table”, also called our microbiome). Even identical twins have differing commensals.

  The inadvertent overuse of antibiotics and sterilization may destroy beneficial microbes. “Our individual fates, health and perhaps even our actions may have much more to do with the variation in the genes found in our microbiome than in our own genes.” Even beneficial microbes can cause us harm if they end up in the wrong place, in the blood for example.

  Much more study, now in progress, will determine tests for the presence or absence of important microbes in various parts of the body, and what remedies will alter the microbome to help the patient cope with many health problems. “Teasing apart cause and effect can be difficult.”

  It seems that the idea of a sterile environment is one to avoid. Everything in moderation, even cleanliness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

US families now worth less

  According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of American families decreased 40% between 2007 and 2010 (Source: US Watch, Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2012, page A5). This is the lowest level since 1992.

    “Families’ median net worth, the difference between their assets and their liabilities, fell to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007.” The major elements of assets are home, furnishings, automobiles, real estates, stocks, and bonds (and funds with such elements). Liabilities consist primarily of mortgages, car payments, household bills and credit card purchases. This was the largest decline since the Survey of Consumer Finances began tracking this statistic in 1989.

   “Median family income also fell in this period. The wealthiest 10% by net value saw median income fall 1.4%; the poorest 25%, by 3.7%. For the families in between, median income declined by a range of 7.7% and 13.6%.

  What this means to those of us in mid Michigan, is that the rich felt little, if any pain, the poor felt the most pain, and the rest felt moderate pain. Remember, however, that during this time more families were slipping from the middle class to the poor because of the indifferent actions of large banks and international corporations.

  The entire world has cascaded into a downward tumble, because we exist in a global market. Everything is connected to everything else. The rich have nothing to gain by helping us; they will prosper regardless.

  We will need a strong central government to steer us through these desperate times. The ship of state is gigantic and awkward in troubled waters. Keep her on course through cooperation and not through stalemate.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sen. Emmons secures $50,000 for CMU's CALL program

LANSING: Sen. Judy Emmons announced Wednesday that she was successful in securing $50,000 in state funding for a Central Michigan University initiative that aids in diagnosis and instructional planning for young children with low-incidence disabilities.

  CMU's Central Assessment Lending Library (CALL) program provides tests, rating scales and instructional materials appropriate for use with children from birth through age 8 who have low-incidence disabilities, including those with autism or hearing, motor, visual or severe cognitive impairments.

 "This program provides important services to meet the unique needs of children with certain disabilities, including an extensive library of up-to-date tests designed specifically for these children," said Emmons, R-Sheridan. "The CALL program is one of many CMU programs that provide a great service to K-12 school districts throughout MichiganI worked to secure this funding for the initiative because of its positive impact on our most vulnerable citizens. 

 "The program is also cost-efficient. For a relatively small investment, this program can make an enormous difference in a child's life and academic success." 

 The CALL program is a supplement to psychoeducational assessment services and instruction provided by all Michigan school districts. It also offers consultation on planning assessments and interpreting results. Areas addressed include: cognitive, behavior and emotional development; early academic and social skills; and family assessment.

 Funding for the program was included in the state's higher education budget approved by the Senate on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sari Khoury Retrospective

Art Reach of Mid Michigan is exhibiting a wonderful retrospective of the work of local artist, Professor Sari Khoury (1941-1997) in the Gallery, 111 East Broadway, Mt. Pleasant, from June 1 through 30, 2012. Gallery hours are: Monday-Friday, 10 am to 5:30 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Please join us at an Artist Reception, June 7, at Art Reach on Broadway, 5-6:30 pm.

Michigan Republican war on women

League of Women Voters:

The attack on women’s health is alive and well in Michigan. This Thursday, the Michigan House Health Policy Committee is considering legislation which, if passed, would result in the biggest assault on women’s health in our state’s history!

House Bills 5711, 5712, and 5713 represent a sweeping and unprecedented attack on women’s reproductive health. It is vague, poorly drafted, and will have incredibly serious ramifications for women’s access to health care services. It is being rushed through with only a week from introduction to committee and will require a strong response from YOU to ensure defeat. Michigan women need your help today! Take a stand today and tell your representative to treat women with the respect they deserve!

The legislation includes but is not limited to:

•  Back Door Abortion Ban

The intention of this legislation is to completely shut down all abortion providers by instituting targeted, harmful, and medically unnecessary regulation on health centers that provide abortion services. Supporters of these regulations are political organizations who believe that all abortion care should be illegal, no exceptions. This is an attempt to shut down all abortion providers in the state in a backdoor attempt to ban abortion. If these attacks succeed, women will pay the price. They will pay with their rights, their health, and their lives.

•  Attack on Doctors

This legislation is an outright attack on physician’s ability to practice medicine. Under these bills, doctors would be forced to go against their best medical knowledge when providing services to patients. It allows medicine to be dictated by politics, not by science.

Furthermore, the legislation singles out doctors that perform abortion care. It is filled with many aspects that violate standard obstetric practice, interfere with the doctor-patient relationship ans are dangerous to women’s health. It puts increased liability on physicians and sends the message that politicians, not doctors, know what is best for women.

•  Jeopardizes Women’s Health

Included in this legislation is a restrictive ban seeking to limit access to abortion services. The ban goes against the ruling of Roe v. Wade. Moreover, it does NOT include an exemption for rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or health of the woman, and it leaves women in an emergency situation in peril.

Make no mistake—this legislation is about politics. When women do not have access to abortion services, it doesn’t go away. Women still have abortions—just less safe abortions. Making abortion a crime puts women’s lives and health at great risk. Politically motivated legislation that makes it more difficult for health centers to provide high-quality health care only makes it harder for women and couples to access critical reproductive health care services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception, STD prevention and treatment, and continued access to safe and compassionate abortion care.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chelsea Chipmunk’s Father’s Day Gift

 Chelsea Chipmunk was the prettiest of her sisters and better mannered than any of her brothers, and that is a fact. Her sparkling eyes and glossy fur made her father proud. They all lived with Mom Chip in the Palace in the crawl space beneath the family room of Those Who Lived Above.

  Her nest was a pile of swamp oak and maple leaves tucked against the far wall of the Palace, where it was cozy on damp, icky days such as today.

  Chipmunk families have long traditions and the children sat and listened to Mom Chip each morning, as she taught them the lessons they needed to know in order to survive. First and perhaps most important was the need to gather and store food for the long, white, frosty winter, often too thick of cloud and too thin of sunshine, and always coming when you didn’t expect it. Chipmunks don’t hibernate in that gloomy part of the year, but sleep a lot, and must eat every day. Snow often blocked the two gates to the Palace, so they needed to store enough to get them through. There never was such a thing as too much food.

  Those Who Lived Above had a daily habit of putting sunflower seeds in a large bird feeder in the backyard. Why they did this Mom could not explain. Perhaps they had so many that the ones in the feeder were defective in some way. Well, for whatever reason, this proved a boon to chipmunks in the neighborhood. The little chippies were taught how to go to the feeder and tuck seeds into their cheek pouches. At first they could only hold five or six seeds, but as they grew, so too did their pouches. Adults could carry two or three dozen seeds with no trouble at all.

  It was nearly summer now, and Father’s Day was just a few days away. Chelsea’s father was on a visit to the faraway place where he had been born, but would be home in time for that fine day. Chelsea thought and thought about what special thing she could give her dear dad, but had not a solitary idea.

  It was time for her to trot to the feeder and fill up on sunflower seeds. Off she went determined to bring back TEN seeds in her bulging pouches, yes she would. When she got to the feeder she could not believe her young eyes. What were those light brown, rumpled, lumpy things? She sniffed them. She didn’t know their names but knew from the wonderful smell that they were nuts. Peanuts! Huge, fragrant, light, and assuredly delicious: just the presents for Chelsea’s father.

   She picked up one and tried to stuff it into her cheek. The nut was so big and her cheek too small, but she opened her mouth wide and in it went. Off she jogged to the Palace, through the west gate, and to her nest. She hid the peanut in the leaves. “Two more,” she thought would make a wonderful gift!

  Back she scampered to the feeder. This time she was determined to take two. She crammed one into her left cheek and bit into the second, holding it in her tiny mouth. Joyfully, off she went.

  Blocking her path to the Palace was Scarlet O’Hairy, a mean tempered, sly, vicious female red squirrel who bullied just about everyone in the back yard. Larger than a chipmunk but smaller that other squirrels, reds have a mean streak wider than the Mississippi, a temper shorter than a millimeter, a memory for slights longer than any TV commercial, and sharp dagger teeth and claws.

  “Well, look at the pretty presents you brought me,” snickered Scarlet, “Give them to me and I won’t bite you.” Poor Chelsea knew it was impolite to talk with your mouth full, so she just sputtered.

  “I wouldn’t hamper the child,” spoke a boisterous voice. It was Blue Jay Dad, cocking his head to glare at Scarlet. Blue jays are not afraid of red squirrels. They are brazen, brash, and colorful characters that come and go as they please, except of course, when there is a Cooper’s hawk in the neighborhood, which means the blue jays are smart as well.

  And so it was that Chelsea Chipmunk collected peanuts for Father’s Day. Her dad was pleased, and quite proud of his little daughter.

Friday, June 1, 2012

League of Women Voters to meet in Washington

Next Friday, League of Women Voters’ leaders from across the country will gather in Washington, DC, for our 50th National Convention! As we prepare for five busy days of discussions and decisions, the issues that concern us in this 2012 presidential election year are foremost in our minds. Witness our Convention theme – Power the Vote: Imagine, Commit, Act!

We launched our Power the Vote initiative earlier this year and are hard at work to ensure all voters are protected and prepared to participate fully in this year’s elections across the nation as you can see below. Also this month, because the flood of money in elections is drowning out deliberate discussion, we began airing new radio ads in Maine and Tennessee to urge U.S. Senators in those states to help close the floodgates. On the clean air front, your comments to the EPA helped surpass the one million mark on its proposed new industrial carbon rule! Read about these issues and much more below to find out what’s been happening in May. And let us know what you’ve been doing by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Elisabeth MacNamara