Turtle Watching: Life in the Slow Lane

Face of a painted turtleThere are a number of advantages to living the life of a country squire–or that of an unemployed, soon-to-be divorced man living in the woods of mid-Michigan. One advantage is seeing a slice of life not available to those in the big city. An example is the painted turtle I spotted ambling across my yard Sunday, June 26 in search of a nesting site.

I have seen turtles on my property before (snappers for the most part), and have even seen turtles laying eggs, but until this recent Sunday I never had the opportunity or time to watch the entire process.

I spotted the turtle when I chanced to glance out the window while vacuuming a back bedroom. The turtle, about 6-inches long, was moving at a pretty good clip–maybe 30-feet per minute–across a sandy slope on my property about 50- yards from a pond where I presume the amphibian had emerged. As I watched, she moved in a zig-zag pattern, stopping every once in a while to dig for a few seconds with its front claws before moving on. Occasionally, she would even stay long enough in a spot to dig a shallow hole before deciding, for whatever reason, to move on.

The turtle was on high alert the entire time, sometimes stopping to raise her head high as if sniffing the air  or because she spotted some movement that might signal a predator.

Finally, after 15-minutes of searching, the turtle started to dig in an area of sand found between a few sparse patches of grass and a dandelion. She started with her front claws and switched to the back claws after getting a depression started. The turtle worked quickly tossing dirt hither and yon as she worked. This went on for another 10-minutes before she stopped Painted turtle laying eggsand lowered her backside into the hole and became relatively still.

Once the turtle started laying her eggs, I took my camera and walked out to her to take a photo. Her head turned to watch me with a look that almost seemed to be disapproval. I snapped a couple of photos and walked back inside. After a while, I became bored and went back to vacuuming, peering out the window periodically to see if she had moved.

After 45-minutes, the turtle began to move in earnest, kicking with her back legs but this time replacing the sand instead of ejecting it. I crept back outside and attempted to sneak up behind her, even going so far as to crawl on my belly to film the process. She spotted me right off (I make for a big target), and although she paused for a few moments she went back to burying the eggs as I filmed away.

When satisfied the job was complete and the eggs safe, she began to  amble in the direction of the pond. It was at that point I intervened and picked her up. I measured and  photographed her and even put the date on her bottom shell (plastron) using indelible marker before taking her to the pond and depositing her at its edge where she immediately dove into the water and disappeared.

I went back to the nesting site. The mother-to-be had done a great job or covering the burial site. In fact, had I not marked it when I picked her up to transport her to the pond, I would not have found it. However, the raccoons would have. And they seem to love turtle eggs because every year I find turtle eggshells scattered along the same slope this turtle used. (The above photo shows the remains of eggs along with a quarter used for scale.) To prevent the coons from getting to the eggs, I covered the site with a BBQ grate I will leave a for a couple of weeks, hoping by then the scent of turtle and eggs is gone and the site can remain inviolate until the turtles hatch. According to a couple of websites I reviewed that should happen in two- to three-months.

Ttime will tell whether the turtle will become a mother, although she will never know. Apparently what I saw is as far as the turtle maternal instinct goes. The babes will be on their own when they are born. Maybe I will be vacuuming and get to see them crawl forth. I hope so. That would be pretty cool. Maybe I can be turtle taxi and take them in the pond like I did with their mom.

Categories: ecology, Harrison, Home life, Life, Michigan, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Highlights from a Cross-County Trip

I enjoy planning trips. I like to know where I’m going, what I am going to see and where I will stay. Most of the time that’s because I have a limited amount of time and what to use it to see and do the maximum amount of stuff. Except on my most recent cross-country trip. Although I did have a schedule I kept if flexible so I could make detours and slow my pace. As a result I was able to enjoy several experiences that I had not expected. Here are the top six in random order:

1) Oklahoma City National Memorial: I decided to make a stop in Oak City to see this site. I did not expect much but found it a wonderful and deeply moving. The reflecting pool down once what was a street; the chairs,visual reminders of those–adult and children–who lost their lives; the scarred buildings showing signs of the blast; and the Survivor Tree, a giant Elm that withstood the attack, help make up the memorial.

2) National Civil Rights Museum: Although the museum near downtown Memphis was closed by the time we arrived in early evening, the time of day made the site of shooting of Martin Luther King all that more moving. I never realized how close the rooming house where James Earl Ray was staying. I need to go back and visit the museum.

3) Field of Dreams movie site: I was driving through Iowa down Route 20 in my way to Galena, Illinois when I saw a sign near Dyersville, stating that the site of the 1989 movie was only three miles away. I had to go. I’ve always loved the movie, not as a baseball movie but because of the relationship aspect (even though I had a good relationship with my dad). It’s the only sports movie I believe men can get teary-eyed at, although outright crying is prohibited. Anyway, I got to stand on the field and sit in the bleachers. The site still attracts some 50,000 people a year a woman at the souvenir state said when asked, most of whom come in mid-summer when the corn is high. Sadly there wasn’t any corn when I was there in early May. Even sadder was the fact a school was playing KICKBALL on that sacred field.

4) Custer State Park: Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, this huge (71,000 acre) park has much to offer including a free-ranging herd of bison, wonderful scenery and great drives. I spent only a few hours there, some of it surrounded by bison. One of the drives I made had a series of narrow tunnels carved through the granite. The drive might be a nightmare in mid-summer when tourists pack the roads but it was clear sailing in May when I was there.

5) Hot Springs National Park: I had heard about this park and city but it meant little to me. However, I was passing near the city so decided to stop in. What a fascinating place. Small city with huge hotels and spectacular bathhouses. I didn’t know much about the history of the bathhouses or just how popular (and important) these hot baths were and the number of visitors who would come to take in the waters. Now,tourists can still take a bath,  enjoy the amazing architecture, shops or walk the streets popping in and out of old bathhouses.

6) Red River Gorge Scenic Byway: This is a 42-mile drive in eastern Kentucky down narrow winding roads. You really need to two people on this trip: One to drive and one to enjoy the scenery. Luckily, there were few people the weekday morning I made this drive after spending the night in Natural Bridge State Park (another keeper).  The scenery in the Red River Gorge is gorgeous with numerous stone arches, sandstone cliffs, ravines and unusual geological formations. There are large number of “pull-offs and hiking trails.

The above all come highly recommended. Sadly, although I did allow myself time to see the site, both planned and unplanned, I did not always allow enough time. In many spots, I could have spent a week. I guess that just means I’ll have to return. Someday, once I get a job and money.

Categories: Life, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts on a Cross-County Tour

Self portrait shadowI never figured I’d go camping again. When I figured this, I was in my early-50’s, married with a home in Livonia and a cabin nestled in the woods of mid-Michigan, so there was little reason for me to do so.

But then I also never figured I’d lose my job, get divorced and have surgery go awry, all in a short time and all of which left me lonely and depressed in said mid-Michigan cabin during a particularly cold, dark and wet spring.

That’s why I decided to go camping. More than that, to take an around the U.S. tour, a kind of a “bucket list” trip if you will. I had plenty of time since I didn’t have a job.  I also needed time to let my right eye heal since it was still swollen and 3/4 shut from surgery done in early March to remove some benign growths from inside the eye socket. Importantly, I needed to figure out what to do with my life and where I should do it. Finding a job in Michigan, even with a Master’s degree in Business is a tough challenge, especially given my age.

So on April 16, 2011, I set out on a trip with my ForMy trailer. It's called a Combi-Campd Freestyle and Combi-Camp trailer that would eventually cover 8,147 miles and 20 states over a period of 37 days. And it was wonderful.

I was  able to see and do things that many people never get to do because their  busy lives spent working or raising a family precludes them from going, or because  health issues or finances prevent it later on in life. May is a wonderful time to travel  because few people are on the roads. The sunbirds have left Florida and families are not yet hitting the highway in their campers and motorhomes. That allowed me to stay in campgrounds that were nearly empty and hike and bike trails in solitude.

Some of the trip I planned out in advance, like staying with friends and family (in North Dakota, Florida, Tennessee, Utah and Illinois),  and driving along the northern section of the Gulf of Mexico, visiting Chaco Canyon, the Black Hills, Badlands, Wall Drugs and the Corn Palace. One destination, Yellowstone, I sadly canceled because of snow and frigid temps there, but places I stumbled upon more than made up for what I lost by not seeing Old Faithful.

Here are my top five destinations I had planned to see and was glad I did.

Chaco Canyon Campground1) Chaco Canyon in  New Mexico. Thirty-seven miles of the highway, this secluded national park was once a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area–unlike anything before or since. Camping is rustic and on the site of an ancient Indian cliff dwelling. Wandering the ruins in solitude is awe-inspiring. One of the trails, the Pueblo Alto, provides spectacular overlooks and access to ruins and many surprises (like shrimp beds 270 feet above the canyon floor). I had the trail to myself the entire 2.5 hours I walked it. And I even had cell phone service at the top of the mesa, although I am ashamed to say how I know that.

Bison and calf2) Black Hills in South Dakota. Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse monument, the town of Deadwood, Custer State Park and more. Just a beautiful place to visit with lots to see and do. It’s quite “touristy” but the natural beauty of the area makes it all worthwhile.

FLower in bloom3) Badlands in South Dakota. Although the Badlands cover more than just the National Park, I only was able to visit the park. I loved the stark beauty and colorful bands in the eroding rock and clay. There were even flowers blooming in the parched ground when I was there. Oh and I saw my first Big Horned Sheep.  I walked the Notch trail, one of several in the park, which climbs through the landscape and uses a rope ladder to help reach the top. Good hike.

Fox on a big rock hunting for breakfast4) Zion National Park in Utah. My brother lives near there and I’ve been to Zion several times. I always find something new both inside and outside of the park. This time I biked through a portion of the park along the Virgin River, something I’d never done before (and passed a fox atop a large rock waiting to find breakfast) and found another huge rock with petroglyphs right near the park entrance. And, as usual, my brother and I looked for potsherds and arrowheads on some private land we have access to. Oh, and my sister-in-law is also the owner operator of the Doggy Dude Ranch outside of Zion. DDD boards pets so their owners can visit the park. And although I may be a bit biased, they are very caring people and pets are in good hands there.

Florida Sunset5) Siesta Key in Florida. My aunt has a condo on the Key and has asked me to visit numerous times. Finally, had the chance to take her up on her offer. Walked the sands, basked in the warmth of the sun, attended an Easter sunrise service on the beach and enjoyed the company of two wonderful people.

I never did figure out what to do with my life. But I’ve got some great memories as a result. And a high Visa bill. I took the trip when gas was averaging $3.85 a gallon and 8,147 miles translates into a LOT of gas.

As for the places I saw that I had not planned. Well, those are the subject of my next blog.

Categories: ecology, Life, Travel and tourism, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Doggy Dude Ranch Fills a Niche

Zion National Park canyonZion National Park is Utah’s most popular park welcoming more than 2 million visitors a year. And with good reason. The park is filled with beautiful canyons and colorful rock formations, and has trails for people of all abilities. There also is an historic lodge within its boundaries.

Many visitors bring their pets with them on their vacations. However, Zion, like many national parks, is not pet friendly. Pets are not allowed on Zion’s trails or are they to be left unattended in campgrounds, as summers in Zion are brutal with temperatures easily exceeding 100 degrees. Those temps mean pets cannot be left alone in cars–even for a few minutes–while their owners enjoy Zion’s beauty.

Filomena, owner of the Doggy Dude Ranch walks one of the dogs in her care.And that is where the Doggy Dude Ranch comes into the picture. Located just 3.7 miles outside of Zion,  on Highway 9 between Rockville and Springdale, the ranch fills a niche for travelers who want to see Zion but need someone to care for their animals while they do it.

Filomena Diaz-Johnson (pictured at left) has owned and operated the Doggy Dude Ranch since 1990 when she spotted a need for animal careand filled it. Since that time, Filly as she is called and the Doggy Dude Ranch have boarded dogs, cats, horses and has even a camel on its 10-acres of land along side the Virgin River. The ranch has a large–and largely shaded–outdoor kennel and an inside air-conditioned facility for animals Aerial view of Doggy Dude Ranchthat may not like the heat. There is also a large play area (with pools) and animals are given a chance to play and to socialize  with others  (if they are play well with others, that is). A staff member is always on site day or night. Owners can have their pets bathed if they so choose. Filly even offers pet training for those who have problem pets or want to prevent problems.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must state that Filly is my sister-in-law and married to my brother Stephen pictured with her in the photo at right. Filly and her husband Stephen in front of their signThat said, I find her a remarkable woman and one in tune with animals, especially dogs. One could call her a dog whisperer, although it’s not a term she herself uses. She just loves animals and even boards rescue dogs and works to find them homes.

Filly has turned her passion for animals into a thriving business and all because she was able to recognize a need and fill it. It’s a recipe for success and I am happy for her and proud of her. We all should be so lucky.

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A good read. A good listen

I don’t read a lot of books. Now that is NOT to say I don’t read, or that I don’t complete a large number of books.  While I do READ magazines and newspapers, I LISTEN to books.  In fact, I am hooked on audio books. I have a couple of books on CD in my car, several downloaded to my mp3 player and even one on my smartphone.  And I highly recommend audio books to others.  Listening to a good audio book by a terrific reader makes sitting in traffic jams almost enjoyable, long road trips less tedious and lines at the Secretary of State nearly bearable.

I pick up many of the books from my local library that has a wide assortment of books, fiction and non-fiction.  Books on CD have allowed me to meet a lot of new authors and become reacquainted with several I hadn’t read since high school. I also subscribe to It’s a $14.95 per month luxury I allow myself despite being on a tight budget. Audible provides me access to some of the latest published works along with books that are available in the local audio library.

Some of the books I’ve come to enjoy because of the people reading them: George GuidellDavid Case (who also recorded as Frederick Davidson), Patrick Tull and Simon Vance. All could read phone books and make them sound interesting and manage to give a different voice with a distinct personality to each person in it.

I do read some good marketing books (I like those by David Meerman Scott) and recently listened to 50 Success Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon, and while they may help me in my next job, they don’t fire the imagination. That’s where good fiction comes in.  And I’ve been lucky to come across some great fictional characters while looking for other things.

One of those characters is Richard Sharpe, a soldier who fought for England around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Sharpe is a self-described “gutter rat,” an orphan who joined the service to escape poverty and fought his way up from private to command a regiment because of his bravery and daring and service to the Duke of Wellington, and despite not being a gentleman. I have have followed Sharpe, his Irish friend Patrick Harper and Sharpe’s Riflemen from Spain and Portugal to France and even to a battlefield in Belgium where the English beat Napoleon for the final time. And it because I chanced to pick up an audio book by Bernard Cornwell entitled Waterloo and thought it might tell me a little about that particular battle.

Little did I know that it introduced me to Richard Sharpe and I’ve been forever grateful. After completing that first book (which was about the last in the series), I listened to others in roughly chronological order. I’ve also listened to many of Cornwell’s other books of historical fiction and recommend them, especially when read by Case or Tull.  Whether Cornwell is writing about Vikings or English archers, he creates memorable characters, exciting plots and descriptions of battle,  and the readers do the words justice. By the way, Cornwell has also written books about the American Civil War and the Revolution but I have yet had the pleasure of listening to these books.

Two other, and probably more well-known, fictional characters are Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium series.” Although I keep up on the news and such, this series slipped under my radar until this past summer I read a review of the final movie in the series.  The series sounded interesting and I liked the fact all the books and movies were complete so I wouldn’t have to wait to read or view them. So I downloaded the three books and I can see why they became best sellers. I’m on the final book now and have come to root for the characters. I’ve seen the first two movies and while they do not do the books justice, they are still worth seeing.

There are others I’ve met and come to enjoy. Some like Hiro Protagonist appear in just one book. Some are part of longer series (Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys and even Tom, Dick and Susan). I know there are many more wonderful characters out there. And like a good paying job that is enjoyable and challenging, I aim to find them. What are some great fictional characters you’ve run across?

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Hit Me, I Dare You 2

Fred Doelker, who writes a great blog called “The Doak TC Safety Page,” recently posted a weekly safety reminder entitled, “Hit Me, I Dare You.”  The entry has to do with people who ride bikes or walk and, because they have the law on their side do such things as ride their bikes side-by-side in the street because it’s legal to do so or enter an intersection on a green light without ensuring oncoming vehicles are stopping.  Individuals like these are not properly respectful of the damage a two-ton vehicle hurtling down the street (or even cruising slowly) can do to the human body.

These individuals may be right but they may also be dead right.  As Fred so aptly puts it about riding his bike in the street:  “Unfortunately, that law won’t protect me from the mom zipping her car around the curve yelling at her kids in the back seat, or the 15 year-old that got their license half an hour ago and is texting all his pals to let them know how fast he’s going, or the driver who’s swatting a bee that flew in the window.”

Fred’s post reminded me of a poem I wrote back in college about the topic.  It took a while, but I tracked it down and I submit it for your consideration…and maybe to let you know why I did not become a poet.  Anyway, it fits the topic.

Is Right Might?

There’s a grave up on a hillside, near a road that’s paved with tar,
that’s the grave of Henry Strickle,  who was run down by a car.
Now this Henry was good-looking; a handsome creature he,
with long blond hair all shiny and his eyes blue as the sea.
But Henry wasn’t perfect, he had faults like me and you.
For Henry was real stubborn, just as stubborn as a mule.

But Hank would not admit this. He would say that’s just not true,
“It’s that I’m not fickle, what I first decide, I do.
I do not go ‘round changing, my mind 10 times a day,
like all the spineless creatures you meet along life’s way.

“If a man’s to be a true man, he must also do what’s right.
He cannot back down from his stand, even though it means a fight.”
Do not back down, defend your rights, was the motto he repeated.

For whenever right is on your side, you’ll never be defeated.

And Hank was not a hypocrite. He lived by what he’d say.
He did at least ‘til late last year (t’was a dark and rainy day).

He was at a busy corner and was crossing with the green,
when a lady right beside him let out a mighty scream.

For a big old black Desoto was headed right their way,
now the lady ran back to the curb, but Henry chose to stay.

So it’s clear our Hank was in the right and his principles were strong.
But he now is lying just as dead as if he’d been all wrong.

I ask you keep Hank top of mind, when crossing with the light.
And even when you have the green look both ways: left and right.
For standing strong for what is right will often get you far,
but that, my friend, is not the case, should you tangle with a car.

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Of Mother-in-laws and the Internet

The Internet never ceases to amaze me. I’ve been online since 1992 and still remember the first time an Australian website popped up in my search effort–something I never expected to happen from my little computer tucked away in a upstairs bedroom in Westland, Michigan.  And that was more than a decade ago.

Now, I found out I have relatives in Sheboygan, Wisconsin thanks to the Internet and my mother-in-law Virginia Braun.

Virginia is the nicest lady you could ever meet and a  genealogical wiz on the Internet.  A week or so ago Virginia emailed me saying she had found  a four-year-old posting on one of the genealogy sites she monitors from someone looking for information.  The request said simply, “Peter and Julius Jankowski Michigan.”  Virginia, who knew a bit of my family history, asked if she could contact the person who posted the request.  I assented wondering if the seeker was a rich relative or perhaps some unknown offspring of my grandpappy (who was the wandering type, according to my father).

Paternal grandfather Julius Jankowski, a native of Lithuania

Anyway, almost immediately Virginia got an answer from Linda who had posted the message and who had about given up hope of getting an answer.  Linda, as it turns out is the granddaughter of Julius’s sister Alice.  I guess that makes Linda my cousin, although I never met her and barely remember her grandmother.

Linda and I talked on the phone and I provided what little information and photos I had of Julius and connected her with another cousin who was able to supply even more information.

Since there first email, Linda and my mother-in-law have delved deeper into the history of Julius.  Though I still don’t know much more about him, I did find out that he passed away in 1964, which was well after I was born.  I never did meet him as my father and he were estranged.

It’s nice to know that I have a nice cousin in Sheboygan if I ever get up that way. It all makes me wonder if I have any other relatives out there.  If so, my mother-in-law will ferret them out. I wonder if I could just have her search for the rich ones?

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Learning How to Live

Thursday evening I began my orientation at Angela Hospice as a volunteer.  I recently completed my 8-week training course and the next step is to spend time in their care center on Newburgh Road in Livonia.

Orientation involves everything from learning how to assist and visit with patients, to emptying garbage cans to learning latex gloves worn when working in patient rooms are not worn in the hallways.

My mentor, whom I met that evening, works for Ford during the day and volunteers at Angela on Thursdays after his shift.  He’s been there for a couple of years so was well-versed in the ins and outs of the care at the facility.

He and I talked during the evening to get to know each other and the topic about choosing to volunteer at a hospice came up.  I offered that I had felt a gently tug for many years to do so and added that working here might better prepare me to die when my turn came.   My mentor countered that it was his belief that volunteering at hospice teaches one to be better prepared to live. “Here you learn what is important in life.”

I look forward to those lessons.

Categories: Life | 2 Comments

A good Reminder from Mother Teresa

Nothing original here.  A friend sent this my way and I thought it was a reminder worth repeating:

Mother Teresa’s Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

This poem was posted on a wall in Mother Teresa’s room in Calcutta, India.  While it is attributed to her, the poem was really written by Dr. Kent Keith for students in a program he taught.  Dr. Keith’s version was less spiritual, but apparently Mother Teresa liked the idea and altered the poem to create this familiar version.  The two poems can be found at paradoxical commandments. com.

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Emailing Senator Levin: An Exercise in Futility

I realize our senators get a lot of mail and can’t read it all.  After all there are only two of them for this state and a whole lot of us–maybe not as many of us as there were a couple of years ago before the economy tanked, but still a whole lot.   That means our senators won’t read everything sent their way.  They don’t have the time.  I’d be surprised if they even read half the stuff they vote for or against. (gasp!)

I suppose I really don’t expect their staffs to read the letters or emails either. After all, they are busy cranking out press releases and sending out tickets to constituents who want to visit the Capitol or White House or send flags to those who ask for them.

That’s why I wasn’t too surprised to get a canned response to the recent email I sent Senator Levin concerning the need to improve infection reporting by hospitals. The idea being that forced reporting will cause (shame) hospitals into increasing the precautions they take to cut infections, therefore saving lives. It’s all in a recent posting I did.

Anyway, I got a response back from Senator Levin’s office today. It’s below. Apparently, his staff didn’t have a canned response that matched my particular request and they didn’t have time to draft something, so they used what they had–a message on health care reform.

Too bad it has nothing to do with infection reporting by hospitals. Here it is:

Dear Mr. Johnson:

Thank you for contacting me regarding hospital safety standards in health care reform. I appreciate hearing from you. I have long supported the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to stable, reliable, and affordable health care.

In November 2009, the House of Representatives passed health care reform legislation, and on December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its version of health care reform legislation (H.R.3590). The Senate bill would strengthen America’s health care system by preserving personal choice, ensuring people can keep their health insurance if they like it, and reducing cost through competition. This bill would eliminate existing insurance company practices that discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, and that impose annual and lifetime limits on benefits. These limits on benefits have allowed insurance companies to deny coverage for an individual’s medical treatment if that treatment is too costly. In addition, this legislation would reduce waste and fraud in the health care system and would reinvest those savings to strengthen that system.

Recently, President Obama released a health care reform plan that includes several provisions contained in the bills passed by the House and Senate. As Congress and President Obama continue to debate health care reform and the most practical and prudent way to enact those reforms, I will keep your thoughts in mind. Again, thank you for contacting me.

Carl Levin


I don’t want to just pick on Levin.  Senator Stabenow’s office did something similar in response to an email I sent her way a while back. I would think Republican senators in other states do the same thing.

I’d like to someday visit either Senator’s office to see just how staff members decide what canned responses to use with a particular message, or if they even bother to read either the email when it arrives or their response before they send it out.  Or maybe they don’t read it.  Maybe a piece of software does it for them and then just spits out a response.

I do know that if I decide to visit I won’t make the request via email. Who knows what kind of weird response I’d get.

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