March 04, 2017

Don't Buy Anything From SharkNinja

SharkNinja Class Action Law Suit

So in the Christmas of 2015, we received the Ninja Coffee Bar for Christmas. It worked really well for most of 2016, but suddenly in November 2016, it quit making full pots of coffee. It would make a quarter pot or so. I contacted customer service and they sent me some descaling solution and a set of directions to follow in order to descale the unit. I followed the directions and low-and-behold, it worked. Basically, you spend 65 minutes cleaning your coffee machine. Now, I've had a few different coffee makers in my time, but nothing ever needed cleaning like this.

The other day, it was right back to the same old problem. So, I knew how to solve the situation: just buy some descaling solution and spend 65 minutes working on the machine. Well, three tries later and it's still not putting out more than a small amount of water.

So I called SharkNinja customer service and requested help again. And, NOTHING. Sorry, your warranty expired in November. I explained that it was doing the same thing it was in November, but it didn't seem like it could be fixed. I informed the person I was talking to of my concern and he insisted there was nothing they can do — the warranty expired in December and I stated that the cleaning solution had solved the problem in November. I reiterated, in as nice a voice as possible, that this device should not be showing the same problem three months later. He could do nothing and there was no supervisor available to talk to. I asked for a call back and was told that someone would call Saturday or Monday.

The call came this morning and — again — there was nothing they could do. The warranty expired in December. And even though it's showing the same problem as before, I stated that the "fix" worked in November. Remember, these new machines were touted as the best coffee machine you can get. They didn't even call them coffee pots anymore. I believe that the lemon law allows for replacements after the warranty expires.

"Sir, we will send you a new unit at a 40% discount ..."

"Why would I want to pay additional money for a device that I'm not even sure works correctly?"

"Sir, that's the offer we can make ..."

JUNK. I'm sure we're not the only ones experiencing this problem and it will probably come to fruition eventually.

March 01, 2017

The Piano Man and the Little Bastard

"Come on, baby, make it hurts so good"

I've been a John Mellencamp fan long enough to remember when they called him John Cougar. I first became a JM fan when I heard the song "Hurts So Good" after it had been a hit for several months. I was 10 or so. At the time I was also a fan of Billy Joel. These two recording artists entered my life at a young age — and I've stuck with them through all of these years.
Photo borrowed from MTV.COM. 

As has been written ad nauseam, Billy Joel hasn't recorded a new pop/rock album since 1993's RIVER OF DREAMS. You could tell by the lyrics and music on that LP that something was amiss in Joel's life and times. He concluded the recording with "Famous Last Words," which is actually quite a good tune. You didn't really wonder then, though, that those might actually be … famous last words. Joel has proven the rumor true, however, that artists make their cash from touring. Amazingly, it's been almost 25 years since he released a new disk, and he still sells out Madison Square Garden in New York City EVERY SINGLE MONTH.

It would be a dream come true if Billy would get the boys from the original band together again and record a new album, something along the lines of RETURN TO 52ND STREET. The album wouldn't even have to sound anything like that classic '78 platter ‚ except the musicians would be the same. It would be one of the best sellers in history. 25 years without a new album and suddenly get back with the Lords of 52nd Street and put out a new platter — a rocker if there ever was one! Even if Billy makes a ton from touring, he'd never have to tour again after releasing this "comeback" album with the boys in the original band, the follow-up tour, and the live album that would be released after every single show on the tour.

Similarly, if Mellencamp would get the rest of the original band back together (he still tours with a couple of the guys) and put out a monster LP called COUGAR or something crazy like that, he'd never have to work again. His rock band in the '80s might have been the best band going at the time. If not his, then Billy's original band that began to fade about 1986 or so, had to be. John Mellencamp had a celebrated falling out with his band after he game them each A MILLION DOLLARS. One of his band members was allegedly offended and said something to the extent of, "that's all!" The boys in the band kind of went their own way afterward.

Amazingly, both Joel and Mellencamp had incredible drummers who set the pace for their music. Joel had the incredible Liberty Devitto and Mellencamp had the phenomenal Kenny Aranoff. I always bought both artists LPs the day they arrived in stores — and still do. Well, not Joel, I suppose (but I would). As you can still tell, I love me some nostalgia. In all reality, these artists are not going to get back together with anyone. They love their craft and enjoy the work. JM has a new album coming out called SAD CLOWNS & HILLBILLIES and the songs that have been released already sound pretty good.

February 14, 2017

"Spring" is in the air

Something great happened today. 

The Tigers started Spring Training.

Spring Training means that we're not long for spring …
Spring Training means that we're not far from the baseball season …
Spring Training means that somebody somewhere is going to come out of nowhere …
Spring Training means that you get a chance to talk to legends every day …
Spring Training means Al Kaline, Jim Leyland, and Alan Trammell …
Spring Training means one on ones with great writers like Lynn Henning …
Spring Training means thinking back to the stories my grandpa would tell …
Spring Training means short road trips to see other teams playing ball …
Spring Training means running into Al Avila by chance …
Spring Training means warm weather …
Spring Training means the annual Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Tigers Dinner …
Spring Training means Miguel Cabrera in camp for the 10th season …
Spring Training means Justin Verlander has been around for a long, long time …
Spring Training means that anything can happen …Spring Training means
Spring Training means that everyone has the same exact record …
Spring Training means that we have our memories of Brennan Boesch coming out of nowhere …
Spring Training means that Torrey Lovullo and Chris Pittaro will never be forgotten …

Check out this video by Lynn Henning —

February 01, 2017

The Piano Man Continues to Ride


"I don't care what you say anymore ... this is my life ..." 
THEN … Cue the jamming piano! 
I have been in a Billy Joel mood lately. It amazes me that he hasn't put out an album of new material (well, rock 'n' roll, that is) since 1993. It's been almost 25 years since he last released a new record. The guy still sells out shows constantly — and he charges a high price for tickets. I haven't seen Billy Joel in concert since, ahem, 1998. So it's been almost 20 years since I've seen him in concert, but the funny thing is that when I last saw him it had been only five years since THE RIVER OF DREAMS had arrived on shelves in August of 1993.

Billy Joel became a favorite of mine in 1978 when I first heard the song "My Life," and subsequently heard the entire album 52nd STREET. As a first grader, it was my favorite record. And I had a few other records and was familiar with my parents' record stash as well.

Anyway, I've been listening to a great deal of Billy Joel lately and even ordered A MATTER OF TRUST: THE BRIDGE TO RUSSIA which was the spiritual sequel to his 1987 concert album recorded in Russia. I don't know why I wasn't interested in it when it came out three years ago, but listening to some stuff including a fan–created eight compact disk set THE ANTHOLOGY, I decided to check it out.

I'm a fan of Billy's oldest and least know material and his latter stuff. I have his material on vinyl, cassette, original CD release, and remastered CD release. I have all of his anthologies, his greatest hits, etc.

I do wish that Billy Joel would put out one more new album.

January 25, 2017

Priority Status


Vanderbilt Area School received a very important phone call last Friday morning. The State of Michigan was in the process of releasing the 2015–2016 School Report Cards at 11 a.m. and the State School Reform Office had an important phone call for VAS. Vanderbilt Area School became a Priority School in 2012, so a plan had to be developed to show how the school would improve its academics. An original plan was submitted to the State, and beginning with the 2012–2013 school year, VAS was a Priority School.

Last year as the school entered its fourth year, rumors persisted that the school would close because of the Priority School status. In fact, the district was told that no school had ever entered its fourth year of Priority status and actually been able to get out of the status. When the student achievement data arrived, the school showed improvement and growth, but the student achievement itself (as well as other intangible factors) was not enough to get the school out of Priority School status.

In September, VAS entered an unprecedented area: fifth year of Priority School status. The school would continue to receive support from the Cheboygan Otsego Presque Isle Educational Service District (COP), based in Indian River. Furthermore, the school would be responsible to report to the School Reform Office and Michigan Department of Education, both located in Lansing. Much additional data and information has to be submitted to both parties to showcase that VAS is working on a plan to improve student achievement data.

Furthermore, the District has worked with Mi-Excel on the Blueprint for Acceleration/Turnaround for the past two years. The belief of Grant Chanler,PhD, who designed the Blueprint, is that in order to sustain improvements in teacher and student performance, we can no longer help one classroom or building at a time. The support the Blueprint provides is to create and install sustainable systems that will impact both teachers and learners, thus student performance.

Vanderbilt officials found out in the fall that they had improved from the third percentile in state performance to the 19th percentile. Rick Heitmeyer, superintendent, had informed key communicators in November that they would be hearing some great news from Vanderbilt soon. It had been expected that the report cards would be released in November, but they were not released until January 20.

“When I found out that the report cards were going to be released publicly in January, I was glad they were finally coming out,” Heitmeyer said. “I knew we would be rolling out some good news.” Heitmeyer added that he was looking forward to the good news becoming public. The good news Heitmeyer planned to release was that the school had made major gains in student achievement.  However, on Friday, Heitmeyer received a phone call that would make the good news even better — Vanderbilt Area School was being released from Priority Status due to the improved student achievement data.

As of Friday, January 20, 2017, Vanderbilt Area School is no longer a Priority School. The label has been lifted.

“Just because we are no longer a Priority School doesn’t mean we are not going to continue to work on the areas we have been working on within the Blueprint for the past couple of years,“ Heitmeyer said. “We have been working on the belief that we are accelerating student achievement rather than turning student achievement around. That has been our focus for the past several months — acceleration.”

Heitmeyer said the District is hoping to continue its relationship with the ESD as well as with the Michigan Department of Education because the pieces have been put into place, but the puzzle is not yet complete.

“Everyone has worked so hard to improve. The Board of Education, the teachers, the support staff, our custodian and bus driver,” Heitmeyer said. “This has been a true team effort. Without everyone working together and going in the same direction, this wouldn’t be possible. In addition, the support we have received from the COP has been incredible.”

Heitmeyer credited the Board for believing in a new vision that focused on all students, the staff for keeping the faith and continuing forward, and the community for embracing changes that allows the school to succeed.

“I also have to give credit to the kids who believe in what the school is trying to do. Without the students giving their best efforts on the State Testing last spring, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate this success!” Heitmeyer added.

He also said the partnership between the school and the COP  has been incredible. He said that the support of COP ESD Superintendent Mary Vratanina, Director of Learning Services Lori Pearson, and  Coach Cindy Hunt as instrumental in the school’s improvement.

“If all goes well, we will continue to partner with the ESD and finish what we have started. We are out of Priority Status but we want to stay out of Priority Status,” Heitmeyer said. “Getting out is step one. We have more work to do, but now we know what we can do when we work together.”

January 02, 2017

Copperhead Road

I've loved listening to music since I was a youngster. Rocking out has always been a part of my life. I especially enjoy songs that tell stories. Therefore, "Copperhead Road" is one of my all–time favorite songs. The whole journey is outlined in the first part of the song:

"Well my name's John Lee Pettimore Same as my daddy and his daddy before You hardly ever saw Grandaddy down here He only came to town about twice a year He'd buy a hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line Everybody knew that he made moonshine Now the revenue man wanted Grandaddy bad He headed up the holler with everything he had It's before my time but I've been told He never came back from Copperhead Road"
 I've often been amazed at the story telling aspect of the lyrics. You could sum up the first few lines as, "My name is John Lee Pettimore III and my family has a history of making moonshine. The IRS was after my grandfather, but that was way before I was born. My grandfather died in a tragic accident up at the cabin, located down Copperhead Road." The way Steve Earle wrote the lyrics, managed the words, and set the scene is pure wordsmithing. I mean we come to like the downtrodden, white trash protagonist of the song. We even root for him when he decides to try something a little different up in the holler.

December 13, 2016

Ticonderoga Days

There are other quality pencils 

I used to be a Ticonderoga #2 specialist. It was the only pencil I would write with. I first encountered Ticonderogas when I was a little kid. I didn't know there were pencils that existed that might even be better than the original Ticonderoga #2.
Until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of a a Jumbo Grip Faber–Castell or a Blackwing. I watched Dan Pink's Pinkcast where he raved about the Faber–Castell. He even directed the viewer to his favorite pencil site on the web, CW Pencil Enterprise. I later found out there is actually a small pencil boutique store in New York City that is the original CW Pencil. I searched around and, ironically, found Between CW and Pencils, I discovered that a market for quality pencils exists.

As I began my quest for better pencils, I also happened upon a blog that raved about the Blackwing and highlighted what a great pencil it was. I decided I had to give a Blackwing a try but the only place I could find one in Michigan was in Grand Rapids. So one late summer afternoon, Lori and I journeyed to the Urban Center for Contemporary Arts downtown GR and I bought my first couple of Blackwings, plus a Blackwing Longpoint Sharpener.

Suddenly, the days of the Ticonderoga #2 were becoming limited. There's a whole other world of pencils out there that I didn't even know about. I've used some Ticonderogas, Blackwings Golden Bears, and even the Faber–Castell Jumbos. Right now, I'm partial to the Palomino Blackwings and their subscription service.