Friday, March 6, 2009

A new visitor from Santa Lucia

A blogger from Castries in Saint Lucia stopped by here this week, making it 57 countries who have sent visitors here. An Eastern Caribbean country it looks like a great place to visit.

Still no one from North Dakota, however.

You never write, you never call, a Facebook divorce

OK, I'm too old to be on Facebook (or so my stepdaughter says) I spend too much time blogging, surfing the web and learning new technological tricks.

No longer is breaking up, "so hard to do."

But one thing I wasn't prepared for was the subtle way you can be dumped on Facebook. When someone no longer wants to be your "friend" they don't have to call, they don't have to write, they simply move the mouse to an "x" and you're cut off.

No more long, emotional phone calls: "I just need some space."

No more writing a "Dear John" letter: "It's not you, it's me."

No more driving by the house in the middle of then night to see who is parked in the driveway. Just kidding, I never did that. Wanted to, but didn't go.

Breaking up on Facebook is simply as easy as clicking an "x."

Recently my "Friends" list shrunk by a couple (it could be more, but I really haven't taken an exhaustive look) people. I know because suddenly I went from 105 friends to 103 friends. Could be someone upset by the blog, I don't know. Or maybe someone died, may they rest in peace.

But how impersonal will it be in the future, or now, that people who call you "friend" can just eliminate you with the click of a mouse. But that's what we're all becoming, faceless friends at the electronic end of the Internet.

So whoever you were, those mysterious departed friends. I think I miss you, but I'm not sure.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Zora's Zoo slides into history, Krystal Jo's takes over

For my former Flint Journal colleagues who used to visit Zora's Zoo, an eclectic and fun old style neighborhood diner I've got a little news. And for those who don't want to hear about what or where I eat, now would be a good time to read something else.

Zora's is gone.

Replacing Zora's is a remodeled and refreshed restaurant called Krystal Jo's, but before I tell you about that, a little history.

Zora's was always an interesting stop on our Flint-area lunch forays. It was small, maybe five little tables squeezed into an 10-foot wide business. There was a long dining counter with maybe 15-20 stools.

But the center of attention was always Zora. A tall, not bad looking woman, who was tough, nail tough. But she was also a great cook. If you could get past the insults and the abruptness of her demeanor you actually got a really good meal at a pretty good price.

What happened behind that counter was street theater. Every day, starting about 5 a.m., Zora held court behind the counter and in front of her large gas range. The decor was decidedly anti-male with photocopied papers of male hated.

The bread was homemade, just like the epithets, and you never wondered who was the owner of the place. Her mother often hung around and helped, but Zora was the main attraction. Once in awhile Zora hired a street walker trying to go straight as a waitress, and if you could get by the tattoos and needle marks they were always pretty nice people.

Ask for rye toast and you might get slapped in the head, like I did, with the single page laminated menu.

"I have wheat and white and that's all I make," Zora said. Actually, there were more offerings on various days.

Want a refill? "Get up and get it yourself, can't you see I'm busy," Zora would yell across the razor thin restaurant.

In a bizarre lapse of judgement I once took our friends, a couple we dine with weekly, to Zora's for breakfast. The four of us sat at the counter and my friend, Diane, likes her food cooked a certain way.

As Zora cooked up the eggs, Diane (who had been warned about Zora's temperament) told the cook to make sure her yolks weren't running. Worried that she might get slapped by a menu, I was pleasantly surprised that Zora merely turned around, looked at Diane, and said: "I knew you were going to be trouble."

We used to walk into the restaurant through the back door and the kitchen and we always marveled at how this one woman kept this place going. The other problem was the while Zora cooked breakfast and lunch, she often closed the grill down at 11:45 a.m. A couple times, including the last we were thrown out of the restaurant without eating when we showed up at 11:50 a.m. for lunch.

We always tried to get there early, but sometimes work got in the way.

So today, Thursday, I was meeting a friend for breakfast and thought it would be cool to see Zora and the Zoo again. I hadn't been there in awhile and I nearly drove by it this morning without seeing it.

Instead of the sandwich board sidewalk sign there was a 6-foot tall "Restaurant" Flag and a new sign "Krystal Jo's Diner." Well, we were already there, so I persisted, wanting to see what remained of Zora's.

"What happened to Zora?," I asked.

"She retired last April," the new owner said.

But what really caught my eye were the walls, the clean, painted walls. The owner said they took a full day to strip all of the insulting copy paper off the walls. Many of those items were given to old customers who wanted them as souvenirs.

Instead of the old copy paper on the walls, the new owner has family photos, including a photo of himself in a Kearsley High School football uniform. The white tile behind the stove was bright and clean. The place looked great.

And it's not only open past noon for lunch, it's open for dinner too. The menu is simple, but includes a variety of lunch sandwiches and a Spicy Chicken wrap. There are salads, soup and chili and dinner offerings of pot roast, Country Fried Chicken, Battered Fish 'n Chips, Chicken Parmesan and Cajun Chicken Alfredo.

They also offer a Flint favorite - a coney dog - and of course a variety of hamburgers. Dinner prices range from about $5.99 to $8.99. The owner said his coleslaw is very popular.

But we were there for breakfast and it was a good one. I had a meat omelet and Dustin had the breakfast special. The eggs and potatoes were very tasty and the bread, while not homemade was very good too.

I had rye toast and I didn't get slapped in the head with a menu for asking.

So if you want to see the old place, stop by Krystal Jo's at 3616 Fenton Road in Flint. You won't be disappointed in the food or prices. But if you liked getting bossed around or hit in the head with a menu by Zora you might leave a little nostalgic.

Where were the auditors?

So today I went to my local credit union for a routine bank business trip. While I was there I noticed a group of people huddled over piles of papers in an office near the front lobby.

I asked a manager what all the commotion was about and she said it was simply a routine audit, one they undergo at least twice every 18 months. OK, that's a good idea, but it got me to thinking.

Who the heck were the auditors for AIG and Lehman Brothers and, well you name the big named banks and insurance companies who suddenly have no money and need our help?

Are auditors accountable for what they observe and sign off on? Certainly some auditor noticed something amiss well before last September when Treasury Secretary "Chicken Little" Paulson told us the sky was falling.

So Congress and Bush scrambled to throw a pile of newly printed billions at the problem, and Voila!, it again disappeared. So where are the auditors anyway?

Here's my little credit union, still solvent and loaning money by the way, undergoing massive audits twice a year and no doubt having to make corrections or modifications, while the massive financial institutions in this country operate like a high plains rancher in the mid-1800s.

Sort of like watching (and counting the peanuts) while the elephants walk by.

What's the point of auditors if they don't really audit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How many subscribers does the Journal currently have?

That was the question from one of the people participating in this mornings online give-and-take between readers of the Flint Journal and the new Editor. Unfortunately I was busy this morning and unable to monitor the whole exchange which is available here.

Following is the brief exchange (and the time it occurred):

[Comment From FlintRiverMan]How many subscribers does the Journal currently have?
To be honest, I'm not positive. But I'd say it's around 100,000 on Sunday and less than that daily.

Here is the answer (as of 9/30/2008) from the Audit Bureau of Circulaton: (This is a copy of what is on the website):

Search Type: United States
Circulation averages for the six months ended:9/30/2008
State: Michigan
Selection: Flint (Contains)
Sort By: Daily ASC
Results Found: 3
Preliminary figures subject to audit as filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.* Total Circulation = Total Average Paid Circulation
Publication Name
Circulation Type
Total Circulation*
Filing Status

I guess 88,897 is "around 100,000" if you give or take ten percent. And you certainly can't argue that 73,013 and 74,876 is less than 100,000. That's not going to look good on the daily chart of reporter and editor errors. It's kind of hard to believe that the editor of a newspaper wouldn't have those figures pretty well memorized.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How to get rid of teenagers at the mall

Some of you know of my long feud with my sister over Barry Manilow and his trite music. Well, someone has found a good use for it in New Zealand.

A mall in Christchurch, New Zealand is going to pipe in only Barry Manilow music to drive out the teens that have taken it over. You can read it all here.

New York Times: Getting local

The New York Times has a good new idea (actually it's a very old). Refocus its efforts on the local news from the communities it serves.

Thanks to a frequent and loyal FFE reader for the tip.

Reuters: It can always get worse

Some economists are borrowing the motto that we at the Flint Journal used to use when considering the impact of yet another new editor: "It can always get worse, and usually does."

The difference is Reuters is talking about the effect of all the government interference: Bush's and Obama's effort to fix the problem is likely to just make it worse.

Cartoonists find reason to laugh about newspapers

If you are interested in all the dire newspaper news, do yourself a favor and head over to Inside Out and check out this post about how cartoonists are dealing with the demise of newspapers.

Also do yourself a favor and follow the links in the story to the Washington Post comics page.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Talk to the Editor

Hey, if you're off tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. (Wednesday, March 4) the Flint Journal editor will be taking your comments and suggestions on

Just a heads up for all the current and former FJers here.


Some of you may have found a blank - or partially blank - screen when you visited here earlier today. That probably made some folks happy, but I have bad news for them.

I changed an archive setting and it seems OK now.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Frontline: Inside the Meltdown

If you have high-speed Internet and an hour to spare, this is a very good outline of how our financial system melted down in such a very short time. This ran on PBS on February 17.

Our new toy

Well, we did it. With Joan's retirement coming in June we went out and put a down payment on a travel trailer. It is a 2008 Laredo. It is about 30-feet long and includes many of the bells and whistles.

First trip is scheduled for April and the destination is Kentucky and Arkansas. Just a short test run to learn the ropes. Longer trips are planned for next year.

At least we are doing our part to stimulate the economy. And, by the way, the banks and credit unions were eager to lend us money.

I've attached a photo of the trailer in the RV center's garage where it is undergoing some conversions before we take possession of it. We are looking forward to having granddaughters, family and friends join us on our new adventures.
We're planning on a new blog to keep track of our travels, so stay tuned.