Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Local Cafe "Delocater"

Since he was a teenager, my son has said that people who frequent Starbucks are "feeding the beast." Even though I knew he was at least partly right about that, I've still managed to get in my 2-3 trips there every week.

Today independent media outlet Media Mouse comments on the Grand Rapids Press and WZZM TV 13 giving "free publicity" to a new Starbucks location in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel downtown. Both media outlets covered the store's opening as "news," and Media Mouse gave a rundown of things the chain has been crticized for.

Which is a really long-winded way of telling you about Delocater. It's a site dedicated to preserving local cafes by pinpointing them side by side with the Starbucks franchises within a five-mile radius of any ZIP code you type in. The idea is that once you become aware of them, you would of course want to take your business to the locally owned cafes. From the "Why Delocate" page:
Currently, independently owned cafés around the world are under aggressive attack; and their numbers have been sharply decreasing for many years. is a means to preserve these local businesses.
Near my house are two Starbucks stores plus a Beaner's franchise. (Delocater concerns itself only with Starbucks, however.) Almost as close are seven independent cafes. One of them, Common Ground, I've blogged about; the other is Beanabox Cafe and I've visited there a few times. Both are great places and unlike Starbucks they have free Wi-fi. So why, again, do I visit the franchises so often? Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gotta wonder

I know, I know. I live in the 'burbs. So why comment about what's going on in the city? Maybe I shouldn't. But when I read a post like this from Local Area Watch, I have to speak up.

Once again the focus is on something DeVos: A look at widening the Michigan Street bridge over Division, presumably to ease traffic -- including near at least three DeVos-related projects downtown. Now let me disclose right here that I work for the house that Rich and Jay built, so I'll make no comments either way about them or their businesses.

But I do take issue with this statement:
One has to raise an eyebrow at a study for routine re-engineering of a thousand-foot stretch of concrete costing three hundred grand. But the City Commission tells us not to worry, because DeVos’s development company will reimburse the City for the study’s cost. ... But who’s going to pay for the new bridge? Especially one that benefits DeVos’s medical towers project on one end and the DeVos Place Convention Center and any new hotel DeVos builds on the Olds Manor site on the other end?

Um excuse me, but since when is there harm in benefitting public places such as these -- venues like a convention center and a much-needed hotel that put $$ in city coffers?

Gotta wonder where reporting ends and axe grinding begins on this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Not a bad idea

Wow, I agree with Grand Rapids Pundit on this issue. That is a first. The subject: an "adopt a bathroom" suggestion for keeping Aberdeen Park's facilities open for Creston tennis players as put to GR's city fathers and subsequently turned down.

I'm sure GR's reasons for not wanting to consider this particular form of alternate funding are all good, all practical, blah blah blah. Not to mention uninventive, unimaginative, and totally without vision.

Grand Rapids Public anything (you name it: schools, parks, pools, transit) can use all the help it can get. And of course the problems are much bigger than a few closed bathrooms in a park. Still, if you adopt no-brainer solutions like this one for for some of these smaller issues, you've then got more time and more energy for taking on the really big things. Why not give it a chance?

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Why employees walk" away from the job

The Hudson Employment Index measures confidence in the employment market by the US workforce. Their recently released report, "Why Employees Walk 2005: Retention Initiatives Report" had some interesting insights as to why you or I might go looking for another job.

Ranking higher than inadquate pay and benefits on the "reasons to go" scale were intangibles such as advancement opportunities and training. According to the report:

... when workers’ needs regarding career advancement, managerial relationship, and training are not being met, they are more likely to look for a new job than when their salary and benefits are poor.

Yep and I believe it. In fact, at a recent employee meeting, top brass acknowledged shortcomings in all three areas. Employee surveys of the last two years have called out as being weaknesses a lack of training and few opportunities for advancement in particular. And for the last two years I have related same in a (management requested) review of my own boss.

The company needs to get a whole lot better at recognizing and leveraging the knowledge and skills of those of us in the "ranks" -- especially the more seasoned among us -- if they hope to keep good talent.

I don't think this is unusual to my employer. Over the last decade as companies have become "leveled" organizationally, they've gained agility and response time, it's true. But it seems to me that a flat organization offers little in the way of opportunity for growth. And when there's no place to go, employees can become stagnant and bored, creativity and innovation suffer, and the best and brightest begin to look for better and brighter places to strut their stuff.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hurricaine remix

Boing Boing points to the Legendary KO's remix of the new Kanye West song "Gold Digger." It's called "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People," and it's in response to the "response" to Hurricaine Katrina:

Hurricaine came thru fucked us up round here
Government actin' like it’s bad luck down here
All I know is that you better bring some trucks round here
Wonder why I got my middle finger up down here
People’s lives on the line you declined any help
Since you takin so much time we survivin’ ourself
Just me an my pets an my kids an my spouse
Trapped in my own house lookin for a way out

Five days in this motherfuckin' attic
Can’t use the cell phone I keep getting static
Dyin' cause they lyin' 'stead of tellin' us the truth
Other day the helicopters got my neighbors off the roof
Screwed 'cause they say they comin' back for us too
That was three days ago I don’t see no rescue ...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

PCUSA in distaster relief

Our interim minister for mission at Westminster Presbyterian, David Baak, suggested ways for individuals and groups to help with the Hurricaine Katrina disaster effort through our denomination, Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA).

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance immediately donated $500,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, collected from all congregations every year at Easter. PDA also has issued an emergency appeal for donations with a goal set at $10 million.

David also told us about volunteer oppportunities coordinated through PDA; specifically, you can

  • Give a financial contribution

  • Organize a work team or become part of one

  • Volunteer your church as a shelter

  • Offer your home to displaced persons

He reminded us we can also volunteer locally with the Red Cross; specifically mentioning their need for phone volunteers.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Paperwork or action?

The Detroit Free Press reports today that area law enforcement officials were headed south to assist aid and rescue efforts despite Michigan's emergency management agency telling them to stay put.

Local law enforcment claims it's taking too long for required paperwork to move through the proper state channels. Instead they have been coordinating directly with local departments in the affected areas. The Freep reports that Oakland County Sherrif Michael Bouchard was headed to New Orleans with 12 Oakland County deputies in three Chevrolet Tahoes and a borrowed motor home. All without official "permission."

"Bureaucracy be damned, we're going to help," Bouchard was quoted as saying. "They can sort out the paperwork later."

State officials protested this circumventing of the rules, citing lack of liability coverage and other challenges that could result from going into the disaster area without all the i's dotted and t's crossed.

I guess I understand the bureaucrats needing to have order; rules are made in everyone's best interest, after all.

Or are they?

While people are doing cya with paperwork, it's already too late for so many in New Orleans.

How much higher will the death toll go? What will be the final extent of this tragedy? The sluggish rescue effort has become a national scandal of huge proportions.

Those like the sherriff and his deputies have the desire and the means to help. Why would the state even think of holding up their efforts for some fucking paperwork? What have we become when process and paperwork are the desired deliverables over content/results/action?


UPSIDE: Michigan-based Meijer sent trucks south with water and food.

DOWNSIDE: A local company is forced to suspend deliveries to businesses in several southern ZIP codes.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Comfortable white northerners

Went to Vitales for drinks with a group of coworkers last night. It was the first of a monthly get-together thing we're trying to get going again after a year-or-so hiatus.

Of course one of the first topics of conversation was Hurricane Katrina and the utter hoplessness she left behind, especially in New Orleans. People were shaking their heads at reports of snipers shooting at rescue workers and at the looting taking place all over the city. But I was disturbed by the comment of one guy in our group -- something to the effect of "all looters should be shot."

I registered a loud protest at this but nobody took me seriously. Maybe I wasn't loud enough. But that was a totally ignorant statement from a privileged white boy. Not that there's an excuse for any of the acts against humanity that are being committed in New Orleans right now: the looting, robbing, shooting, raping, and on and on. But neither is there room for comfortable white northerners to be smugly criticizing something we can't begin to fathom; something we are so far removed from so as to be in another world altogether. None of us in Michigan can even come close to knowing the pain, the loss, the poverty at the basest level. None of us has a thing to say.

Chris Nolan and Tony Pierce also touch on the issue. (Links from Doc Searls)

More: Local indie news outlet MediaMouse offers its take.