Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Community in wildly varying forms is alive this week. Dizzyingly diverse, discordant and mystifying, I'm confused into inertia. When this happens, I rally by doing research, putting books on hold at the library. This feels like taking action, although I can deceive myself.

My best friend Beckie has been helicoptered to the Cleveland Clinic with hope of reversing the hold her pancreas has on her body's functioning. She's been in hospital for 5 months, struggling to complete the recovery from an aortic dissection. Her brain is fighting off encephilopathy, which the neurologists think can be improved by engagement - by community. In another state, her visitors will be fewer. Community in this instance may be vital. I'm praying the people there will talk with her, engage her brain.

I was surprised by finding my twitter update gadget on this blog full of comments from people I am not following, nor find on my profile at the twitter site. Community in this case is false and unwanted, and google offered only another false community by referring me to their help forums to solve this. Alone, inexperienced, with no answers, help forums feel alienating rather than bonding.

Saturday, during a retreat for women, community was created immediately. Intentional community, where like-spirited people meet in trust and openness. This is a community that heals and elevates energy.

We need to move in the direction of sitting around a campfire, meeting in trust and openness.

Text messaging, twittering, blogging, foruming are not genuine communication. I recently sat next to a woman who works at a Michigan university in the law school. She is figuring out how the school's law graduates can do better at job interviews. What curriculum can cover live person-to-person communication?

Are we clouding the communication channels with useless chatter, and by so doing, losing our genuine ability to communicate?

I made a commitment to myself, and to those attending on Saturday, that I will not be part of the problem, and instead focus on being part of the solution by changing my own behavior. I'll work to communicate by listening rather than ranting, by being involved in community rather than its critic.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Myth of Women's Happiness

Arianna Huffington announced today that Marcus Buckingham will be blogging "What's Happening to Women's Happiness?" In the launch of this in-depth coverage of the "sad, shocking truth" about our declining satisfaction, Buckingham cites two studies - The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, and Aspirations, Attainments and Satisfaction: Life Cycle Differences Between American Women and Men.

The Paradox abstract is conducted by Wharton School of Business Economics professors. The Aspirations abstract is coauthored by a PhD candidate in Sociology (good) and an...economics professor. The abstract focuses on "domain satisfaction." While it has nice charts that depict women are less satisfied now, it also cites the different views held by economists and psychologists on the sources of well-being. Page 18 observes that many economists adopt the view that well-being depends solely on actual life circumstances, and satisfaction can safely be inferred from observing same, which the abstract goes on to dismiss.

The Paradox abstract cites the same Roper-Starch Surveys about "the good life." With declarations for life circumstances and aspirations like "a yard and a lawn" and one or more children, is this the real gauge of happiness for women we want to have blogged? In a series? Now? Paradox also mentions that perhaps women were riding high on the energy of the feminist movement in the 70s, and a decline in happiness index might - just might - be expected.

Both studies admit more study is needed.

A 40-something man who has spent 17 years at Gallup Research will be doing the in-depth look at women's happiness. He will look at the myth of multitasking, the myth of more free time, the myth of a balanced life. Maybe later, the myth of happy women?

I have a glimmer of a notion why some women may not be all that pleased these days, Arianna. That is the real sad, shocking truth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is GM Really the Future for Michigan?

Senator Debbie Stabenow's website lists the recipients of $1,360,680,000 in federal monies for advanced battery, manufacturing and job training funding. The website URL has an extension of "advanced battery funding."

On the list of applicants for this money, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, General Motors will receive $105,900,000 for "Production of high-volume battery packs for GM's Volt." The battery manufacturing assignment has already been given to LG Chem, a Korean company.

While LG Chem will supply the lithium-ion batteries, the packs will be assembled here in a new "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Brownstown Township, MI.

It will create 100 new jobs so far.

Of the partnership arrangements with foreign companies, I wonder how long manufacturing will continue - or expand - in Michigan. Have we commitments entwined in the tax incentives Michigan is offering to locate in our state?

A123 Systems
gets $249m, we can assume to build manufacturing facilities in MI to produce nanotechnology lithium ion batteries, although none of the links on their site are working right now. A Boston Globe story indicates battery alternative-use companies were not awarded reinvestment dollars, but understands that the U.S. automotive industry needs a little refreshing.

In the same package, Johnson Controls, an American company, is getting $299,200,000 for "Production of nickel-cobalt-metal battery cells and packs, as well as production of battery separators (by partner Entek) for hybrid and electric vehicles." Michigan anticipates a Holland, MI plant. Excellent.

GM will also receive $105,900,000 for "Construction of U.S. manufacturing capabilities to produce the second-generation GM global rear-wheel electric drive system."

Is the first generation on the road yet? Or still?

GM will also receive $30,500,000 to "Develop, analyze, and demonstrate up to 5,000 Chevrolet Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREV) - 125 Volt PHEV's to EPRI and utilities and 500 (up to 5000) Volt PHEV's to consumers."

Those are marketing dollars, not reinvestment dollars. GM is still noodling around with a "near-production" test Volt, not scheduled to arrive until the second half of 2010; and probably not until 2011. GM, in abandoning its EV1 program in the 90s, deemed electric cars not a profitable enough niche. Instead of building alternative energy cars, GM decided to put money in fighting CARB legislation, scrapped its electric car program, and crushed the prototypes, except those cars now housed in museums.

Now we're dumping federal dollars and tax incentives into their decision-making skill set.

University of Michigan ($2.5m), Michigan Technological University ($2.98m) and Wayne State University ($5m) receive 3% of the dollars GM will get. Michigan State University is not listed.

Is this enough investment in the real future - education? Are we putting a half-dozen of our eggs in a used basket? Are we supporting a limping GM because the company has demonstrated the best business model, or because we don't know what else to do?

Can Michigan target the actual companies who will lead the way to clean technology? Where are the major players in the world of lithium-ion, nickel-cobalt-metal, and electric hybrid technologies? Are we targeting those innovators? What other applications do these batteries have beyond automotive? What green technology are we pursuing that is not inextricably welded to automotive manufacturing?

I need to look up "nickel-cobalt-metal" batteries. Doesn't sound too green to me. Maybe it's another oxymoronic phrase like "clean coal."

Are we avidly pursuing repurposing the idled manufacturing facilities littering Michigan, irrefutable rusting evidence of the abandonment of a skilled labor force in favor of cheaper manufacturing outside the United States?

We're all keeping our green manufacturing thumbs crossed for the rebirth of the Ford Wixom plant by Clairvoyant Energy and Xtreme Power.

And maybe I just missed the part where there are U.S. reinvestment dollars being awarded for job training funding.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Up North Weekend

The Sweetgrass Writers traveled to the Upper Peninsula last weekend, our first trip as a group, and - for many of us - the first Up North With The Girls excursion.

We had a special time. Friday was Sharon's birthday, and everyone but Rosemary forgot. We stopped at a roadside market, and Geri and Nancy had the owner make a birthday bouquet of sunflowers and cosmos that shared the table with us all weekend.

Friday lunch was shared at the park by the Mackinac Bridge under an azure sky with the sound of water slapping the shore, and bridge traffic humming nearby, while the seagulls squawked without success to be thrown some salmon.

We stopped at Timberdoodle Mercantile in Detour, MI and met Jan Kellis, author of "Bookworms Anonymous: A Non-Traditional Book Club for All Readers" and Jan agreed to swap her book for Chantepleure. "Bookworms Anonymous" stayed on the dining room table, and we picked it up, read, laughed and shared through the weekend.

A new fawn greeted us on the road to the cabin on Drummond Island, standing in the road, wondering what strange blue animal was in its path. We waited until she scampered away, off to enjoy her own weekend in the woods.

Saturday was a perfect late summer day, and we wandered around the Island after breakfast, journaled in the sun at Big Shoal Bay, visited the Old Cabin Gift Shop, walked around and took pictures of Uncle Tom's cabin (my grandmother's brother, Toivo). The cabin was constructed with dovetail joins. No nails involved, and it's still standing.

Nancy hadn't had a grilled meal all summer, so we planned to cook out on Saturday night. What luck that the IGA had seafood and steaks on sale. We dined on T-bones, corn on the cob, and crab legs with melted butter. Sharon brought wine from her niece's Michigan winery. Delicious!

Sunday we took turns driving back home, still laughing, relaxed and glad to have this beautiful State and terrific companions to share Up North Weekends.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vote Locally, Think Globally

I am an independent voter, perhaps as my brother-in-law claims, mostly because there is no Misanthrope Party. In conversation with my surgeon once, I told him I thought I was an anarchist. He asked “do you want the roads maintained?”


“Then you’re a Libertarian,” he observed.

My single precious vote has been cast for all sorts of candidates in the past, including the Green Party, the Socialist party and yes, even Democrats and Republicans.

My choice is simple: I prefer candidates who are not professional politicians, steeped in Washington D.C., smoked in leathery lounges, managed by machines, bankrolled by Big.

My grandparents all were immigrants to the United States of America. My parents are first-generation Americans. My father’s parents were English: my mother’s Finnish. From my paternal side, I got the independence of rural laborers and cemetery caretakers from the Hadrian’s Wall realm of the British Isles; from my maternal side, the Sisu of near-Arctic dwellers who are accustomed to a temperature that can crack stone.

Finns are big people, stoic, quiet. As Marilyn French said, if dominance was only about size and strength, the Finns would rule the world. Northern British Isles people are smaller, quiet as well; although given to whinging in the local pub at the end of the work week. Those who disagree will risk fists, if the subject is dear, the discussion long, the pints flowing.

Fierce, independent, American. I am an independent voter.

And I vote.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pfourth Pfizer Pfine

Pfizer has been fined $2.3 bn for illegally marketing its arthritis and menstrual pain relief drug Bextra for untested, off-prescription purposes.

This is Pfizer's 4th such fine. For this recidivism, $2.3 bn amounts to about three weeks of Pfizer pharmaceutical sales.

Doesn't Pfizer have a drug for learning impairment?

I have to wonder at a pain medicine that covers pre-menopausal and probably post-menopausal women. I'd like to see the clinical trial results for Bextra, and will do some research on that next.

What about heart medications given to women that have not been tested on women? Recent studies of metoprolol tartrate indicate gender-specific differences. Metoprolol was introduced in 1982 with no women included in clinical trials, yet the drug is widely prescribed to women.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now directed by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has studies available for free regarding medical conditions and study findings on a wide array of health topics. Use the resource. You are your medical team leader. Keep informed.

Society for Women's Health Rsearch is working for good health care for women. Yes, there are some decent health care lobbyists.

Good on ya! Justice and Health and Human Services Departments!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Bad Day in History

On our last trip to England, our cousin Charles told us of a Roman coin he found near Maiden Castle. The relic is clearly stamped and readable as minted in the time of Tiberius (Tiberius Caesar Augustus, born Tiberius Claudius Nero (16 Nov., 42 BC – 16 Mar., AD 37).

As we looked at the old coin, I laughed.

Picture a tired Roman soldier, tromping the weary road back to the hill-fort with his companions on payday, ready to enjoy a cool mug and a chat.

Reaching into his pocket, he discovers his coin gone. One rotten day 2000 years ago.