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Links to Last 10 Talks

Bill Merrill

Chris Carey

Jim Ottaviani

Dante Chinni

Robb Johnston

Nick Prueher

Steve Bean

Devon Persing

Gareth Morgan

Brian Kerr

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January 2009 -- Present Archive

permanent link 21 September 2010

(How to Avoid Seattle Freeze: Wear a Hat)

Seattle has claimed another one of Ann Arbor's "young professionals." Departing Ann Arbor, headed west in late July was Brian Kerr. This time it's Devon Persing who's leaving Tree Town for The Emerald City--no kidding, apparently some residents of the two cities actually call them that.

Why? Maybe because precious stones are as plentiful in Seattle as Ann Arbor's leaves are in the autumn--that is, really plentiful. Or maybe it's because trees are as plentiful in Ann Arbor as precious stones are in Seattle. To figure out which city nickname came first would require some kind of historical research--you know, the kind of thing only a librarian or information scientist might be able to pull off.

And what do you know, Kerr and Persing are both graduates of the University of Michigan's School of Information. But they are, of course, very different people. Most strikingly different--to me, anyway--is that while Kerr favors a headgear-less look, even in freezing weather, Persing will put on a hat, even when it's not that cold, just to make a favorable impression. [To those who read every word I write, I'm known to be a huge supporter of hats in cold weather.]

On the totter, Persing and I talked about where she got the hat she wore during her ride--she knit it herself. And it emerged during her Talk that knitting for Persing is a mostly solitary activity.

Solitary activity has been analyzed as contributing to a phenomenon that has been labeled "The Seattle Freeze." It's not weather related. Rather, it refers to the idea that Seattleites on the whole are superficially nice and polite, but basically won't ever invite you into their homes.

That prompts the question: Is Persing going to make things even "colder" in Seattle once she moves there--what with all that solitary knitting of hats? Will people in Ann Arbor be on average a little warmer, now that Persing is heading off to Seattle to create web templates for LexBlog? The short answer is: Of course not. For a longer answer, read Devon Persing's Talk.

permanent link 8 September 2010

(Authorship in News, Science, Totter Riding )

The Dec. 11, 2009 edition of the scientific journal Molecular Cell includes an article called "Optimizing Protein Stability In Vivo." It's a paper co-authored by nine people. The first two names on the list of nine authors are Linda Foit and Gareth Morgan. The paper combines expertise in genetics and chemistry, reflected in the specific strengths of Foit and Morgan, who are two young scientists working in James Bardwell's lab at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Michigan.

Foit's name might already be familiar to Ann Arbor Chronicle readers in connection with what might be called a "unsuccessful physics experiment" near downtown Ann Arbor--an attempt to achieve greater residential density with a project called The Moravian. Foit addressed the city council in support of the project.

Morgan's name is certainly familiar to our readers, but he's no relation to the publisher of The Chronicle, Mary Morgan. Gareth Morgan was visiting Ann Arbor from England for a two-week span recently and will return to Michigan in October for around a month to continue his collaboration with the Bardwell lab.

The fact that Gareth and Linda's contribution to the paper was equal is made clear through the last of seven footnotes on the author line:

7 These authors contributed equally to this work.

The collaborative nature of modern science was one of the topics that Gareth and I talked about on the teeter totter last Saturday afternoon, just before the University of Michigan football team started its season against the University of Connecticut Huskies.

We also touched on the issue of health and safety culture in U.S. labs compared to British facilities, and the role that game-playing might play in the future of science. For details, read all of Gareth's Talk. By way of preparation, it might be worth thinking about where it's easier to drink a cup of coffee--a U.S. lab or a British lab.

I took the occasion of Gareth's explanation of the credit conventions for a scientific paper as a chance to reflect very briefly on how the allocation of credit is indicated in other lines of work, including journalism.

Distribution of Credit in Teeter Tottering

In my specialty--teeter tottering--the activity is inherently a collaborative effort between at least two people, one on each end. So it's natural that the world record for teeter-tottering is credited to two people--Brandi Carbee Petz and Natalie Svenvold. They established the initial Guinness World Record for teeter tottering back in 2003, tottering for 75 hours. Yes, Petz and Svenvold would make excellent guests for Teeter Talk.

Responding to an invitation to participate in Teeter Talk, Petz wrote in a 2006 email: "... I have not set a single cheek on a teeter totter since crawling off the one after 75 hours, and now I will avoid tottering again until it is in your backyard." Petz lives in Washington state, where she coaches track and field at Western Washington University, so a visit to Ann Arbor just to ride the teeter totter seems somewhat unlikely--still, there's a possibility that serendipitous travel could land Petz onto my backyard teeter totter.

While teeter tottering is, in fact, at least a two-person endeavor, the convention of Teeter Talk as a publication is to list just the riders on the other end of the board from me. It's just implicit that I was one of the people on the teeter tottering board, so I don't require an additional credit in that sense.

Distribution of Credit in Movies

I can't tell from its promotional trailer if a recent movie documenting the assault on Petz and Svenvold's teeter tottering record was successful. The movie's title is "A Tale of Two Totters." The director, Andy Lorimer, wrote to me that he hopes to submit "Two Totters" to the Ann Arbor Film Festival. But that festival focuses on experimental films, and I don't know if Lorimer's movie fits that classification. If it's not accepted by the film festival this next year, I think it's worth trying to figure out some other way to give that "Two Totters" an Ann Arbor screening.

Movies, of course, have their own way of acknowledging contributions to the monumental effort reflected in the finished frames projected on the screen: opening and closing credits. Few movie-watchers will sit through the endless scroll of closing credits that list out names they do not recognize and describe tasks they do not understand--best boys, grips and the like. What do those people care about having their name listed?

For independent films, those kinds of credits are actually part of the motivation for some people to invest their time and effort in the movie's production. Those credits document a contribution of effort, time and energy to the project, and that documentation itself can help a person establish a credential for doing that kind of work.

And that way of acknowledging and distributing credit can even partly underpin a general approach to getting projects done. Last summer, Bill Tozier presented as a topic of one of the brown bag discussions at the Workantile Exchange something called "The 'Independent Film Model' for Project-Driven Businesses." From the description introducing that brown bag discussion:

... which is inspired by independent film production companies but intended for projects that are not necessarily films. The business structure is different from most entrepreneurial models, since the goal is not to start a long-lived business or get a job, but to get a project done as an ad hoc group, distribute credit and revenue, and move on past "distribution" as a group of independent collaborators with no long-term affiliation.

I think the absence of a longer-lived business entity that ties collaborators together on a project at least partly accounts for the more explicit acknowledgment of a person's contribution to those kinds of projects.

For the kinds of projects associated with a business entity, or some other kind of longer-lasting affiliation, many contributions are simply taken as background assumptions that need not be explicitly stated. In a given Teeter Talk, which is by now a relatively long-lived endeavor, the background assumption is that I was one of the riders.

Distribution of Credit in Journalism, Science

Instead of a teeter tottering interview website, let's consider a news publication--like The Ann Arbor Chronicle--as an example of a longer-lasting, business-type entity under which a vast number of projects are organized and completed. We give them names like articles, stories, columns, or pieces.

Unlike the practice in the scientific community, a news publication will typically acknowledge only a single author--we call them bylines--for a given article. Others who may have contributed in small ways aren't singled out for credit--or blame. For example, in my guise as a lowly editor, I am not allocated a byline just for changing some of the words so that they convey coherent meaning, or adding relevant factual context the author might not have known about. Nor are are editor folk allocated any explicit credit for having had the idea in the first place to devote some resources to following an issue and writing about it.

In that regard, the field of journalism seems to differ slightly from scientific fields. Take the paper that was first-authored by Gareth Morgan and Linda Foit. Listed as the last two authors out of nine are Sheena E. Radford and James C.A. Bardwell. The last position in the author listings designates the principal investigators--footnotes with contact information accompany Radford and Bardwell's names, but not other authors'. It is Radford and Bardwell's program of research that Morgan and Foit were executing in that paper, so Radford and Bardwell get author credit for that.

The Chronicle has a kind of "program of research" as well, but we don't call it that. We'll typically refer to "editorial direction." The editor doesn't get credit for that direction or the actual editorial work on every single occasion an article is published in The Chronicle. For example, when I asked Hayley Byrnes to write a profile of city planning commissioner and environmental commissioner Kirk Westphal, she turned in a piece and I edited it, and it then was published in The Chronicle with Byrnes' byline--no byline for me.

Even though I conceived of the occasional "Know Your" profile series, and specifically thought it would be a good idea now to include Westphal in it, gave Byrnes the assignment to write the piece, changed many of Byrne's original words, and added some of my own, my name is not associated specifically with that article. Instead, I'm indicated elsewhere in the publication as its editor.

That's just the way it's done. There are several good reasons why the pattern and practice of news publications is to leave editors' contributions unacknowledged. For one thing, career advancement of editors does not depend on a count of bylined articles in the way that it does for reporters. So editors aren't necessarily clamoring for their names to be tacked onto the articles they edit.

What possible positive effect would it have to add "Editorial direction and writing consultation provided by [NAME]" to every news article? One effect might be to provide readers with an assurance that someone is actually minding the store--besides the reporters, who we assume are trying the best they can, but might fall short despite their best efforts.

But an assurance to readers that someone is actually minding the store has historically come from the masthead of the publication itself. It's implicit that any news publication employs someone else besides the reporter--an editor--who looks at everything before it's published. Readers are supposed to take that on faith.

In the same way, the readers of Molecular Cell take it on faith that there are people who verified the merit of the papers that appear in that scientific journal--peer reviewers. The reviewers of each paper are not listed anywhere in the papers themselves. Readers simply make the fair assumption that each paper was reviewed and properly vetted.

As traditional news organizations try to compete in the mass online marketplace of news and information, one way they could try to differentiate themselves from the work of "mere amateurs" is to give explicit credit to the work of editors with every article. But I'm skeptical that tactic would be an effective way to distinguish a publication's quality in the online marketplace.

What if there's no perceptible difference in the quality between material that's posted unedited online by just some guy--as compared to the articles of journalists who do the work for a living and who've had actual editorial assistance? If that difference is not already apparent to a mass market readers, then an extra editor's byline isn't going to help those readers understand that its quality is any better.

So for now, The Chronicle will be sticking with the traditional byline--with the implicit understanding that each article is carefully edited before publication.

As for Teeter Talks, I'd like to take the occasion to thank the 179 people who've taken a ride over the past five years, dating back to the first talk with Rene Greff on a wintery day in December 2005. Like the paper co-authored by Linda Foit and Gareth Morgan, alums of the totter have contributed equally to the Teeter Talk effort--and they all deserve some explicit credit for that. If a book is ever published, then this is what the title page should look like:

"Teeter Talk," a story, in reverse chronological order, by Gareth Morgan, Brian Kerr, Metta Lansdale, Scott Rosencrans, Brian Tolle, Caryn Simon, Shawn McDonald, Brenda Bentley, Ariane Carr, Zachary Branigan, Christopher Taylor, Fred Posner, Kay Yourist, John Floyd, Bridget Weise Knyal, Jameson Tamblyn, Neal Kelley, Dawn Lovejoy, Elizabeth Parkinson, Carsten Hohnke, David Lowenschuss, Charity Nebbe, Stewart Nelson, Jennifer Hackett, Patti Smith, Jeremy Keck, Jeremy Nettles, Jeff Gaynor, Paul Cousins, Colleen Zimmerman, Linda Diane Feldt, Gary Salton, Dan Jacobs, Jeremy Lopatin, Julia Lipman, Andrew Sell, Sara S., Dave Lewis, Bruce Fields, Debra Power, Debbie T., Stephen Smith, Kate Bosher, Charlie Partridge, John Roos, Mary Rasmussen, Alpha Omega Newberry IV, Richard Murphy, Rob Goodspeed, Greg Sobran, Brian Ruppert, Steve Edwards, Chicken Keeper, Debra Schanilec, Cindy Overmyer, Matt Naud, Trevor Staples, Michael Paul, Lucy Ament, The Andersons, Barbara Brodsky, Burrill Strong, John Weise, Laura Rubin, David Wahlberg, Edward Vielmetti, Brooklyn Revue, Mark Lincoln Braun (Mr. B), Bryant Stuckey, Doug Selby, Al Sjoerdsma, Kyle Campbell, Amanda Edmonds, Strange Fruit, Chris Buhalis, Richard Wickboldt, Chris Zias, Russ Collins, Peter Beal, Kris Talley, Derek Mehraban, William J. Clinton, Peter Sparling, Will Stewart, Arrah and the Ferns, Patrick Cardiff, Mark Bialek, Royer Held, Matt Callow, Coco Newton, Shannon Brines, Gina Pensiero, Pete J., Liza Wallis, Diane Ratkovich, Peter Thomason, Iden Baghdadchi, Lou Rosenfeld, Bob Droppleman, Charlie Slick, Josh Funk, Nyima Funk, Zach London, Jimmy Raggett, Aimee Smith, Matt Greff, Dale Winling, Tracy Artley, Steve Kunselman, Doug Husak, John Hieftje, Paul Schreiber, Tom Wall, Melinda Uerling, Nancy Shore, Brandon Wiard, Lisa Dugdale, Geoff Eley, Annie Palmer, Dave Sharp, Eileen Spring, Todd Leopold, Matt Erard, Brandon Zwagerman, Matt Lassiter, Sam Vail, Dave DeVarti, Chris Bathgate, Chris Fici, Mark Ouimet, The Boyds, Tom Crawford, Alan Henes, Neil Cleary, Doug Kelbaugh, Scott TenBrink, Barnett Jones, John Roberts, Shelly Smith, Khurum Sheikh, Chris Pawlicki, Jesse Levine, Patrick Elkins, Sam Nadon-Nichols, Dennis Rymarz, Jim Roll, Karl Pohrt, Scott Schnaars, Josie Parker, David Collins, Erica Briggs, Ed Shaffran, T. Casey Brennan, Andy Bichlbaum, Ingrid Sheldon, B.J. Enright, Jeremy Linden, Gaia Kile, Laura (Ypsi-Dixit), Alan Pagliere, Stephen Rapundalo, Alicia Wise, Leigh Greden, Eli Cooper, Joan Lowenstein, Dustin Krcatovich, Adam de Angeli, Todd Plesco, Larry Kestenbaum, Susan Pollay, Chris Easthope, Brandt Coultas, Henry Herskovitz, Rebekah Warren, Tom Bourque, Conan Smith, Dan Izzo, Steve Glauberman, Rene Greff.

permanent link 27 July 2010

(Art Fairs: Accessible from the Teeter Totter)

Nine months have now passed between views of the world from the end of a teeter totter. This most recent view down the board was of Brian Kerr. One way I know Brian is as a downtown pedestrian who strolls hatless down the sidewalk, even in bitterly cold weather, and who must be admonished as you bicycle past: "Put on a hat, it's cold out here!"

The chosen venue of our teeter totter ride was the middle of the intersection of Main and Liberty streets last Saturday morning, the last day of the Ann Arbor art fairs. We compromised our chosen venue somewhat by moving to the edge of the intersection, to accommodate concerns of art fair staff.

It was a small concession to make--we'd already dealt with the disappointment of being denied access to the bottom of the pit being dug for the underground parking garage along Fifth Avenue, just to the northeast. Construction sites can't reasonably be expected to be made accessible to random members of the general public--patrons of the arts, teeter totter riders, wheelchair users, the blind. That makes construction sites somewhat different from websites.

Under the Section 508 amendment of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal agencies are required to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. It's a different piece of legislation from the Americans with Disabilities Act, which just recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. But Section 508 is to websites what the ADA is to buildings--the idea is to make things accessible to disabled people.

Kerr works for a company called Deque, which specializes in helping to make websites work well for hearing- and visually-impaired people.

Here's a simple example. Visually impaired people sometimes use a screen-reader to get information from a website--it's a software program that tries to interpret the page using text-to-speech technology. If there's a picture on a page, say of a guy sitting on teeter totter, then what the screen reader interprets--and what the visually-impaired person hears--is just an indication that there's an image. If the author of the page supplies some description in the "behind the scenes" coding, the visually-impaired person might hear: "Brian Kerr, who is sitting on the end of a teeter totter. The view is down the board."

Like librarian Metta Landsdale, Kerr has a professional interest in making information accessible to people. And like Lou Rosenfeld, Kerr is a product of the master's degree program at the University of Michigan School of Information. And like Brandon Zwagerman, Kerr was one of a group of co-founders of ArborUpdate, a now-defunct local news and discussion website.

But there's something else that Kerr has in common with Landsdale, Rosenfeld and Zwagerman.

When they took their teeter totter rides, they were all leaving Ann Arbor. Landsdale was leaving for Traverse City to take a job directing the public library there. Rosenfeld was leaving for Brooklyn, New York, to start a publishing company. Zwagerman was also leaving for Brooklyn to take a job with an urban planning firm.

Kerr is leaving for Seattle, Washington, to continue to work for Deque--he already works for the company. Deque is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, so the geographic move is not job-related. It's fair to say that the kind of key-pressing that Kerr will continue to do for Deque allows a certain amount of geographic freedom.

Kerr is somebody I really knew of more than really knew during his time here in Ann Arbor. I kept up with him through the occasional blog post he'd write, a comment he'd leave, or a Tweet he'd send out into the world. That'll continue, I'm guessing.

What I will miss, though, is seeing him walking downtown and collecting a wave from him as I bicycle past. But there'll be bicyclists in Seattle for him to wave at, too.

For the complete conversation with Kerr, read his talk.

permanent link 30 October 2009

(Launched from the Totter to Traverse City)

Longtime Ann Arbor resident Metta Lansdale was recently hired as director of the Traverse Area District Library in Traverse City. Her first day on the job is Nov. 2. I talked to her on the teeter totter just before her move north.

We talked about a range of moving topics--the fact that she's managed to sell her Ann Arbor house, how she found a place to live in Traverse City, her relationship to the Ann Arbor community, plus how she's getting rid of the stuff she doesn't want to move.

And some of that stuff includes books. I was keen to know how a librarian culls her own private collection.

In the mix of talk on the totter, there's some brief discussion of the tools currently being used by a historic district study committee in Ann Arbor. That committee is examining an area in Ann Arbor south of William Street as a possible historic district, and will eventually make a recommendation to the Ann Arbor city council on that matter.

permanent link 25 August 2009

(Job Creation, Argo Dam, Movies, Fighting Crime)

In recent coverage of the Park Advisory Commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported that Scott Rosencrans had just been elected chair by his colleagues on that body.

So despite the fact that he did not prevail in the recent city council Carpenter's Level on a teeter totter Democratic primary election in Ward 5, Rosencrans will continue to serve the Ann Arbor community--by chairing PAC. Among the topics we discussed on the totter was Argo Dam, which was a campaign issue that might have affected how Ward 5 residents voted. Incumbent Mike Anglin was against removing the dam, while Rosencrans supported its removal if the rowing community could be accommodated. Rowers make heavy use of Argo Pond. [See additional Chronicle dam coverage.]

Back in 2004, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality alerted the city of Ann Arbor to problems related to the earthen berm to the east of the dam. That berm separates the mill race--used by canoists to reach a portage around the dam--from the river. A task force and study lasting at least two years culminated in a months-long community dialogue on the future of the dam earlier this year. The city council has made no decision on a dam-in or dam-out solution.

The city recently sent a letter to the MDEQ asking for another extension in the deadline for a decision on how to address problems with the dam's toe drains. And Byron Lane, chief of the dam safety program with the MDEQ, has sent a response.

As I told Rosencrans on the totter, Mary Morgan of The Ann Arbor Chronicle spoke with Lane by phone last week, and got the central highlight from that response letter: MDEQ is giving the city of Ann Arbor an order to close off the mill race. The Chronicle has requested a copy of the letter--both from MDEQ and the city.

Rosencrans' reaction to that order is not the only part of the 1-hour Talk that makes for interesting reading. For example, we also talked a bit about what sort of reading Rosencrans himself is doing these days. And we talked about Rosencrans' background in the movie business--ways to support the movie industry in Michigan and in Ann Arbor specifically. And that ties in to another tottering theme, which Rosencrans says he wishes he'd communicated better during the Ward 5 city council primary campaign: job creation.

From my end of the totter, though, what made me happiest was three separate tales Rosencrans told on the totter of crime fighting--in China, Chicago, and right here in Ann Arbor on Fourth Street.

And Rosencrans even gave me two specfiic suggestions on how to reduce creaking from the totter during rides (it interferes with sound quality and makes transcription a greater challenge). One was to use some plastic bushings on the pivot point. The other was to level up the base. The latter recommendation has already been implemented.

For details, read Scott's Talk.

permanent link 29 July 2009

(Are You Done with That Section?)

Last Thursday, 23 July 2009, The Ann Arbor News published its final edition after nearly 175 years in business. I spent part of that morning talking on the teeter totter with Brian Tolle about what people "hire" newspapers to do -- besides provide them with news and information.

The notion of "hiring" newspapers -- by subscribing to them -- to do a "job" is a way of thinking about products that comes naturally to Tolle. He works in the field of organization development, providing consulting services to technology companies on the people side of the equation.

Tolle has a tolerance, even enthusiasm, for change and innovation. So when pitched the idea of reading a newspaper on a high-tech paper scroll, he did not fall off the teeter totter laughing.

When it comes to newspapers, here's the kind of question Tolle is not likely to ask: Do you want national coverage? Do you prefer lots of pictures and charts? How about captions on the pictures? Should sports be a part of the newspaper coverage? Which of these two fonts do you prefer? How about horoscopes? Would you like editorials?

Instead, Tolle is more likely to begin with: Will you miss getting the newspaper? And if the answer is Yes, he'll then follow up with, Why?

On the totter, Tolle gives two examples of people who will miss their paper. They've hired the newspaper to do a job other than provide news and information.

As usual, the conversation on the totter includes a range of topics, and there is one revelation that will come as a great news to potential future riders who wonder if there's "facilities" available. For details, read Brian's Talk.

permanent link 15 July 2009

(Art of Peace and Nonviolence: A Totter)

During public commentary at a recent city council meeting, Alan Haber (a co-founder of the Students for a Democratic Society) suggested that the city-owned parcel on Ann Arbor's downtown "library lot" be dedicated to a use that celebrates the culture of peace and nonviolence for the children of the world.

ann arbor townie party The occasion of his remarks was consideration by the council of a Request for Proposals (RFP) process for development of the library lot site. The outcome of the council's deliberations was to issue the RFP in mid-August. One condition for the development of the site is that it at least be revenue-neutral. Otherwise put, a proposal that doesn't cost the city any money is okay, even if it doesn't generate revenue for the city.

The public space evisioned by Haber and others would incur some construction costs, and there would be ongoing maintenance costs for any such amenity. So the idea might be easy for some to dismiss as not meeting the most basic of the criteria.

However, if one is inclined to find a way to realize that vision, one approach is to think of that pubic space as art--functional art of the same kind that Herbert Dreiseitl has already been commissioned to design to process storm water for the new municipal center. The designs for that storm water art project will be presented on July 20, and the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission is likely to approve them, as is the city council.

The storm water art would be funded through the city's Percent for Art program, which sets aside 1% of the cost for any municipal capital project for public art, which is administered by AAPAC. Maintenance costs for public art are factored into AAPAC funding. ancient teeter totter in Korean village

A revenue-neutral solution for the library lot could thus emerge as a result of considering the public plaza concept as art. How plausible is that?

One possible parallel is Veterans Memorial Park on Ann Arbor's west side, which is a memorial in the form of a park. And the Wave Field on the University of Michigan's north campus is an example of a public open park-like space that is explicitly intended and recognized as art. It's therefore not unreasonable to consider a public plaza as art.

It would, however, need to be recognizable as "art."

One approach would be to contemplate the installation of some kind of grand teeter totter on the library lot. The teeter totter itself promotes cooperation and understanding. And it's all about balance. So it's not unreasonable to contend that a teeter totter embodies the sort of peace and understanding Haber is talking about.

Plus, children love teeter totters. At Ann Arbor's Townie Party on July 13, I set up Totter 2.0 in a grassy area, and it was immediately swarmed with kids. If you're not convinced by the photo at the top of this entry that kids love a teeter totter, have a look at the whole set of Townie Party teeter tottering photos.

And it's not just the children of Ann Arbor. Alum of the totter, Joan Lowenstein, sent along the second photo from her recent trip to Korea. The ancient teeter totters in the photo are in the village commons. Their use in Korea, as I understand it, is typically in a standing position to bounce people into the air. They're still teeter totters.

To sum up, placement of a grand teeter totter on the library lot as a piece of art could be consistent with dedicating at least part of the space to peace and understanding for the children of the world, and the Percent for Art program could provide a mechanism for funding it.

Such an approach would not necessarily preclude installation of that art in the context of some additional development for the library lot site.

permanent link 7 July 2009

(See-Saw Salve)

I care what things are called. Therefore I do not take lightly the headline written for this introduction to the most recent Teeter Talk--with Caryn Simon. I do not prefer the term "see-saw." In fact I rather dislike it.

It's a teeter totter, not a see-saw, and I want you to remember that.

Given that I have the power to write headlines as I like, why use a term I find odious? Because "see-saw" alliterates with "salve." And I enjoy alliteration more than I dislike the term "see-saw." Why "salve"? Because Caryn teaches a class on salve-making. [First session is July 11. Contact Info here.] Caryn makes salves from scratch, starting with fresh flowers picked on her farm. The morning of our totter ride up on North Territorial Road last week, she made tea from scratch after picking lemon balm from her garden.

In the course of her Talk we touched on salve-making, her work as a doula, whether she lives in Ann Arbor or Whitmore Lake, and what led her to lead the kind of life she's living.

In the category of everything-is-connected-to-everything, I would put the following fact: Some of the chickens on Caryn's farm were only one degree separated from the teeter totter prior to her ride. It turns out that some of her chickens are refugees from Peter Beal's place, which he had to abandon a couple of years ago.

On the totter I learned a lot--among other things that a salve is different from a paste. It did not occur to me to ask Caryn if a salve was the same as a tincture. I wish I had. I might have gotten a better headline out of that.

permanent link 4 June 2009

(Tenor Totter)

Of the possible opera singers who could appear on the totter, I figure it's always best to go with the kind that alliterates with the venue: a tenor. But if I ever had occasion to invite a soprano to ride, I suppose carton with pun on deflate her mouse it might be possible to relax my rigid instance on "teeter totter" as the name of the equipment, in order to achieve a "Soprano See-Saw."

But no such accommodation was necessary for Shawn McDonald, who is not a soprano, but a tenor with the Arbor Opera Theater. He's the artistic director for the upcoming production of Die Fledermaus from June 18-21 at the Mendelssohn Theater. The AOT website includes a full schedule of Die Fledermaus events, including specifics of performance times and ticket information.

When I think opera, I think of the movie "Moonstruck"--there's a scene where characters played by Nicholas Cage and Cher go to an opera. The opera in "Moonstruck" is one of those weighty affairs, fraught with desperate emotion and death. Which is not at all what Die Fledermaus is like, based on Shawn's description.

Die Fledermaus is a light, comedic piece, accessible to the whole family--that's what he told me on the totter. From the sound of it, it could work as a "starter opera" for someone who's unfamiliar with the whole genre. Say, for someone like me, who did not recognize the name "Zeffirelli" when Shawn dropped it on the totter. For more on the Zeffirelli connection to AOT's production of Die Fledermaus, as well as what it's like in Ann Arbor to earn your money as a musician--if not as an opera singer, read Shawn McDonald's Talk.

permanent link 28 May 2009

(A Walk to the River)

There's been an unintended two-month hiatus in tottering. Talking on the totter resumed last week with Brenda Bentley. book cover

I met Brenda around this time of year standing on the Broadway Bridge--the one over the Huron River, not the one over the railroad tracks. I first thought it was last year, but my recollection is hazy.

Through that haze, I think I remember the reason I was hanging out on a bridge that's not in my neighborhood: I was waiting for Liz Elling to pass through during her swim along the length of the Huron River.

Elling swam around a 100 miles down the Huron in July 2007. So it's actually been two years since I first met Brenda.

On that occasion, she was taking notes for a book she was writing about walking routes that lead to the river. Consistent with my habit, I invited her to come ride the teeter totter once she completed the book.

wrench The book is done. Last Friday, she took delivery of the first edition of "Riverwalks, Ann Arbor," which was printed by Goetzcraft Printers. We tottered on location where North State tees into Fuller Road, just east of the Gandy Dancer restaurant. It's a place included on one of her riverwalks.

For more on what's in the book, and what the impact of the long tottering hiatus was on the equipment, read Brenda's Talk.

The book can be purchased at Downtown Home & Garden as well as Crazy Wisdom Bookstore. Both stores are located in downtown Ann Arbor.

permanent link 23 March 2009

(Ecology Center Canvasser)

How does someone like Ariane Carr come to be a guest on my backyard teeter totter?

I live in a neighborhood that is frequently targeted by canvassers for various causes. In my youth, I knocked on doors selling subscriptions to the morning newspaper that I delivered (the Courier-Journal out of Louisville, KY), and I have no fond memories of that experience. So I do not envy the task of these mostly 20-something folks wielding clipboards. For several years I've had a long-standing strategy of telling them right up front, I'm not handing over any money, but I'm happy to sign stuff and write stuff. I don't want to waste their time if money is the only way they can use my help.

In the time since I built the teeter totter in my backyard, I have begun offering canvassers a ride on it. Generally, the offer is met with skepticism. But it's not unprecedented that a canvasser has accepted the offer.

Last Wednesday evening, on returning home from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (which I covered for The Ann Arbor Chronicle), Ariane Carr knocked on my door. She was canvassing for the Ecology Center in support of state legislation that would require manufacturers of children's toys to declare what sort of stuff they're putting in them. And she had the gumption to climb aboard the totter.

permanent link 23 February 2009

(Annie Get Your Gun Redux)

Annie Get Your GunA couple of weeks ago, I pointed readers to connections of the totter to the recent Burns Park Players production of Annie Get Your Gun. I missed one of those connections that was fairly dramatic. Apparently, if you take away the 12-foot long board, you take away all the contextual clues I need to recognize someone.

Here's a photo of that totter alum playing the role of Tommy Keeler. His line in the musical should have been "I once rode a teeter totter that was longer than this." That way I would have pegged him instantly as an alum of the totter. Scan through all the complete set of teeter totter portraits to see if you can recognize him yourself, or go straight to his Talk to see who that is.

permanent link 17 February 2009

(Traffic Totter)

roundaboutI first met Zak Branigan outside the UPS store at Westgate shopping center, when I was dropping off a load in the course of my bicycle delivery duties. He'd recognized me by the sign on my bicycle trailer for ArborTeas, which is run by a friend of his, and alum of the totter, Jeremy Lopatin.

Subsequent email correspondence to recruit Zak to ride the totter led him to suggest the middle of a roundabout as a place to teeter totter. With three such junctions recently constructed on North Maple Road, and others planned at Nixon and Plymouth as well as on Geddes and US-23, Ann Arbor area drivers are getting more familiar with these road intersections where traffic flows one-way around a central island. I figured Zak was kidding. He wasn't. It turns out he's something of a roundabout geek.

It's one of the briefer Talks on the Totter, but we were out in the middle of the roundabout for long enough to see people we knew drive by. And Zachary Branigan's Talk also touches briefly on his work with Habitat for Humanity.

permanent link 15 February 2009

(Annie Get Your Totter)

permanent link The Burns Park Players production of "Annie Get Your Gun" over the last two weekends provided a couple of connections to the teeter totter, some more direct than others.

First off was Tom Bourque's portrayal of the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull.

Tom was one of the first people to sit on the totter with me -- way back in 2005.

Next up was Eva Rosenwald's portrayal of Annie. Her connection to the totter is through the last person to ride the totter with me, Christopher Taylor. Eva is married to Chrisopher. This year's show is now over, so you've missed it just as sure as Annie missed her shots in the final shooting match against Frank Butler. But the Burns Park Players will perform again next February with a new production. permanent link

And finally, the young woman who provided some background juggling in the show, is connected to a trio of totter alums, if only through the fact of her juggling: Bruce Fields, Dave Lewis, and Sara S.

I met those guys at last year's juggling festival put on by the Ann Arbor Juggling Arts Club. This year's spring event on 16 May 2009, is approaching faster than you'd think. Details under the previous link.

permanent link

permanent link 8 February 2009

(Taylor on the Totter)

Christopher Taylor, one of two Ann Arbor city council representatives for Ward 3, rode the totter a couple of weeks ago. His conversation is ready to read.

I would highlight the discussion of city-university relations as a topic of broader significance. For details, read Taylor's Talk.

Other topics on the totter included the orange mug he drank from on the occasion, the CTN mugs from his recent appearance on CTN's Conversations, getting stuff done at the individual constituent level, snow removal in Ann Arbor, and how Taylor came to live in Ann Arbor.

With Christopher Taylor's participation in Teeter Talk, the voting block on city council consisting of totter alums has been restored to its peak of 5 (of 11) current members. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that alums of the totter on council represent a coalition of any kind or that they lord their participation in Teeter Talk over other non-tottering councilmembers.

Taylor also joined a select subset of totter alums that is likely tracked by few people other than me. Call them the "Orange Mug Gang," or O.M.G. for short.

permanent link 15 January 2009

(Telephone Totter)

On Tuesday of this week, the totter returned to action after a long period of inactivity. We reprised a theme with some previous history on the totter: real-time parking data. This time around, the live-data feed on parking space availability, which is streamed to the web by Ann Arbor's Downtown development authority, has been piped into a telephone system.

The guy who did that: Fred Posner. He doesn't work for the city of Ann Arbor, the Downtown Development Authority, or Republic Parking. To get a little insight into what led him to undertake such a project, and if you want the number to call, you're going to have to read Fred's Talk. [Here's documentation on how he accomplished the data-to-telephone part].

Apologies for the illegible titles in the video. The whole thing lasts less than a minute, and is, I think, worth suffering through the awful titles.

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