Thursday, November 15, 2018

Friends of Rouge Park to meet

Save Rouge Park sign - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The nonprofit advocacy group Friends of Rouge Park will hold their next general meeting on Tuesday, November 20. This gathering will happen from 6 - 7 p.m. in the Westside Christian Academy (9540 Bramell St.).

Items on the agenda for this meeting include updates on upcoming plans and goals for 2019 as well as an update on the Sorensen signage project. There will also be elections for the board of this organization.

Everyone who is interested in the future of the largest park in Detroit is welcome to attend this meeting.

Michigan named the best place for fall foliage

Fall foliage in Michigan - Photo by Madison Shealy
Those of us who live in Michigan know how spectacular the leaves around these parts get every autumn. Now, however, it looks like the rest of the country has discovered this portion of what makes Michigan magical.

For the third year in a row, Michigan has been named the best place in the United States to see fall foliage in Nikon's fall foliage competition. While the Great Lakes State came in first place again, New York came in second place while Colorado placed third. There were also some impressive entries from California, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Utah in this contest.

“Now in its fourth year, this campaign continues to provide a platform for people to show their state pride through photography that displays the natural beauty of our country, while also highlighting the uniqueness of autumn in each individual state,” explained Lisa Baxt, Associate General Manager of Communications, Nikon Inc. in a prepared statement.

I could fill this blog with words about how spectacular the fall colors are in Michigan. However, I think it's best to let the pictures speak for themselves. They, after all, are why Michigan has been named the best place for fall foliage three years in a row.

Fall in Michigan - Photo by Thomas Bos
I love this photo by Thomas Bos. It perfectly captures the beautiful colors that are found across Michigan every season. Adding a dog into the photo really gives a sense of scale to this scene.

Michigan road in autumn - Photo by Shannon Hart
This photo of a Michigan road in the fall by Shannon Hart is spectacular. In my opinion, there's something about a long stretch of empty road that invites one's imagination to ponder what is just over that hill or around the next bend.

I believe this is one of the reasons why we as humans are natural explorers of our environment. The fact that the road is enveloped by the wonderful colors of fall foliage in Michigan simply takes her photograph to the next level.

More than anything, this photo inspires one to take a long road trip through Michigan.

Michigan river in the fall - Photo by Izzy Cagalawan
I love the fact that Izzy Cagalawan incorporated a gently flowing river in this landscape of fall foliage. I feel that it adds a dimension to this photo that is missing from most other landscape photographs of Michigan.

Michigan is, lest one forget, a state that is defined by water in many ways. There are more than 11,000 lakes throughout the state, according to the Michigan Historical Center. In fact, no matter where one is this state, a person is never more than six miles from a body of water and never more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes.

All of this makes me look forward to 2019 when Michigan will presumably win the Nikon fall foliage competition for the fourth time.

Friday, November 09, 2018

First snowfall of the year



One of the first things that I saw this morning, before I even looked outside, was a cheerful message on Facebook from an old friend of mine from high school who happens to run a snowplow business.

Even if you're not excited about the first snowfall of the season in Detroit, I hope all of my readers are able to confront the day with the same level of enthusiasm as my friend Wayne has about it.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Record voter turnout in Warrendale

I voted - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Today is the day.

Today is the midterm election; where we will choose a new governor for Michigan, a new Member of Congress to replace the retired John Conyers, as well as a new state representative and state senator. All of this is in addition to deciding who will be our United States Senator and a host of other elected offices at the state and local levels.

Precinct 337 in Detroit, which is a portion of the Warrendale neighborhood that is south of W. Warren Ave. and closer to the Southfield Freeway, is reporting record voter turnout today. The number of people showing up is eclipsing not only a normal midterm election but is better than normal for when there is a presidential race.

The other precincts in Warrendale - as well as the rest of the Detroit area - seem to have rather large voter turnouts.

Polls will still be open for another couple of hours. Let's keep it going, Detroit.

If you haven't already voted, please get out and do so.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Gas prices in Michigan hit 7 month low

Gas pump - Stock photo from Pixabay
Drivers across Detroit and the rest of Michigan are finding the lowest prices at the pump since April. According to a survey conducted by AAA of Michigan, the state average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.72, which is 39 cents less than this year's high and the same as this time last year.

The AAA of Michigan survey also showed that gas prices continued their downward trek last week, declining another 9 cents.  The state average declined for the 10th consecutive day on Sunday, for a total discount of 12 cents.

The most expensive gas price averages were found in Marquette at $2.89, Ann Arbor at $2.81, and Metro Detroit at $2.76. In contrast, the least expensive gas price averages were in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland area at $2.65, Benton Harbor at $2.66, and Jackson at $2.66.

"Michiganders are saving 40 cents per gallon, compared to when gas prices peaked during Memorial Day weekend," explained Nancy Cain, spokesperson, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "Gasoline is becoming less expensive to produce-and-sell thanks to lower crude prices and cheaper-to-produce winter blend fuel. Retail prices have not quite caught up with declines on the wholesale side, so motorists should see another round of discounts this week. However, fuel prices definitely have the potential to reverse course based on any fluctuations in the stock market due to Election Day and the activation of U.S. sanctions against Iranian crude. Regardless, AAA believes the highest prices of the year are behind us."

Why are Crude Prices Falling? 
Crude oil prices are hovering near 7-month lows. On Friday, WTI settled at $63.14 per barrel - nearly $4.50/b less than the week before, and the lowest daily settlement since April 6, 2018. The weekly average price for U.S. crude has declined the past four consecutive weeks. Before then, crude prices faced upward pressure amid growing concerns that U.S. sanctions against Iranian crude would cause a global supply shortage. However, those concerns are being quelled by increased production by countries like the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Crude production in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia all remain strong. U.S. oil inventories rose for the sixth consecutive week, according to weekly data from the Energy Information Administration. Domestic supplies rose 3.2 million barrels from the week before. Meanwhile, gasoline inventories dropped by 3.2 million barrels. Meanwhile, OPEC production levels for October reportedly reached the highest output levels since 2016 as some members boosted production in preparation of the Iran sanctions.

More on U.S. Sanctions Against Iran
Friday, the Trump Administration announced the U.S. would re-impose sanctions on Iran that were lifted in 2015 under the Obama Administration. The sanctions, which will go into effect on November 5, 2018, target the Iranian energy sector and impede Iran’s ability to sell oil.

According to the Energy Information Administration, Iran ranks as the world’s fourth-largest reserve holder of oil. Iran also ranks among the world’s top 10 oil producers, producing almost 4.7 million b/d of petroleum and other liquids in 2017. While Iran is an oil powerhouse, Saudi Arabia (9%) and Iraq (6%) are the top two OPEC countries exporting to the U.S. and two of the top five countries overall that sell oil to the U.S.

In May, when the decision to re-impose oil-related sanctions was announced, the market reacted quickly with crude oil prices peaking at $77 per barrel this summer. As the crude market saw big upward price swings due to concerns about restricted global supply, Iran started to feel the impact on oil exports. According to the Trump Administration, Iran went from exporting 2.5 million barrels per day in May to 1.5 million barrels per day in October and over twenty countries have reduced their imports of Iranian oil to zero. Exports are expected to drop further, but not immediately.

Bloomberg reports that the U.S. has granted temporary waivers to eight countries - including Japan, India and South Korea - allowing them to continue to import Iranian oil. Those receiving the waiver are expected to continue cutting imports.

Detroit start-ups to compete for funding

Women business owners - Photo from Pixabay
This Wednesday, November 7, 10 woman-owned businesses will go head-to-head in a pitch competition. This event will start at 5:30 p.m. at NextEnergy, which is located at 461 Burroughs in the Midtown neighborhood.  This is a public event that is presented by Michigan Women Forward with support from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

The participating companies are divided into lifestyle and growth companies. The 10 finalists have been narrowed from an initial field of more than 140 applicants.

The five woman-owned businesses to make it to the finals in the lifestyle category are:
  • Birch Bride from Whitmore Lake;
  • GreenHouse Soups & Chilli from Allen Park;
  • Jo’s Gallery 2 from Detroit;
  • Buttons 2 Button from Northville; and
  • Team Fit from St. Clair.
The five woman-owned businesses to become finalists in the growth category are:
  • Dough from Ann Arbor;
  • PocketNest also from Ann Arbor;
  • FrontWest Customs Brokerage & Services from Romulus;
  • SignOn from Grosse Pointe Farms; and
  • Dearborn Career Academy from Dearborn Heights.
Each of the ten finalists will receive support services and technical assistance. Winners in each category at each location will get cash prizes ranging from $10,000 to $1,000

Similar competitions are scheduled in Grand Rapids on November 8 as well as in Jackson on November 14.

“We at Consumers Energy are committed to creating opportunities for everyone in our state, particularly female entrepreneurs who can bring new ideas to the table,” explained Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, the Vice President of Customer Experience for Consumers Energy. “The Woman Up Pitch Competitions illustrate the diversity that exists in Michigan’s workforce. When these businesses can thrive, we all win.”

“We are proud to bring this opportunity in Detroit, Jackson and Grand Rapids in 2018,” added Carolyn Cassin, president of Michigan Women Forward. “This influx of capital can make a big difference to our winning companies as they start or grow their businesses.”

Since 2014, MWF has loaned $2,391,200 to 93 businesses, in addition to 74 pitch competition prizes and investments totaling $468,400. The Consumers Energy Foundation has contributed $200,000 to Michigan Women Forward this year toward its Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The session is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.  For information, visit www.miwf.org.

There's help to buy a home in Detroit

Homes in Warrendale during the winder - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Anyone who is looking to buy a home in the Warrendale neighborhood - or many of the other outlying neighborhoods in Detroit - can get some great incentives thanks to the Step Forward Program from the Michigan State Housing Authority. For starters, MSHDA is offering $15,000 to eligible homebuyers to cover their downpayment, closing costs, and other prepaid expenses.

While $15,000 to put towards the purchase of a new home in Detroit is great in and of itself, MSHDA and their Step Forward Program are offering even more for qualified homebuyers. They are also working with a coalition of more than 45 lenders to offer a 0% interest rate as well as no monthly payments for eligible homebuyers.

The Michigan State Housing Authority will even forgive 20% of the home loan per year. This means that 100% of the loan amount will be forgiven within five years. Eligible homebuyers essentially get a free house in the Warrendale neighborhood or elsewhere in Detroit, with no monthly payments along the way, provided that they live in their home for at least five years.

There are, of course, several conditions are requirements for homebuyers to gain access to this program. For starters, there is a maximum income limit that ranges from $85,080 to $99,260 depending upon the size of one's household as well as an asset limit of $10,000 excluding retirement savings. Anyone who makes more than that amount or who has assets worth more than $10,000 is not eligible for this program.

The purchase price of the home may not exceed $224,500, which means that any home in the Warrendale neighborhood easily qualifies. Homebuyers will also be required to complete a homebuyer education workshop.

The home that one buys must be in the Warrendale neighborhood or one of the other qualifying neighborhoods in Detroit. (Although, let's face it - buying in Warrendale really is the smartest bet.) The Michigan State Housing Development Authority also requires that homebuyers use an MSDA MI Home Loan for this purchase.

Finally, in order to qualify, homebuyers must have a minimum credit score of 640 (or 660, if buying a manufactured home). If anyone is uncertain about their credit score then I recommend checking out Credit Karma or WalletHub. Consumers can use those sites to get their score for free and do so without a credit card. They also offer a variety of tips on how to improve one's credit score.

There will be a housing and resource fair this Wednesday, November 7 from 4 - 7 pm at the Northwest Campus of Wayne County Community College (8200 W. Outer Dr.) in Detroit. Additional details can be found on this flyer from the Michigan State House Authority.

$15,000 to purchase a home in Detroit, as well as all of the other benefits of the Step Forward Program, are your Tip of the Week for November 5.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our semi-regular Tip of the Week feature. Please check back every Monday for more advice on your home, money, and life.

Also, be sure to follow the author, Frank Nemecek, on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great information.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Three bits of good news

Artists depiction of the Core of Cygnus A - Public domain image from NASA
I feel like bad news, division, and drama have been dominating our news cycles forever. Therefore, I want to share three bits of good news with everyone this morning.

First, a new astronomical survey was recently published, which confirmed that the planet Jupiter has 10 newly discovered moons. This brings the number of confirmed moons in orbit around Jupiter up to 69. (Insert your own filthy joke about 69 moons here.)

Second, speaking of moons, Robert Zubrin, a rocket scientist and president of The Mars Society, has unveiled plans for low-cost colonies on our Moon. His proposal can be found in the summer/fall issue of The New Atlantis.

Finally, on the subject of cool sciency stuff, my science-fiction novel The Roswell Chronicles is currently available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback formats.

Oh, wait - did I just bury the lede?

Yes, I wrote a science-fiction novel and it has been published.

My novel is called The Roswell Chronicles and it's the first book in a planned series that is also entitled The Roswell Chronicles.

The Roswell Chronicles series tells the story of Samantha Haut and her cousins as they find themselves caught between a group of greedy Wall Street bankers and some pissed off aliens from outer space.

Ever since the Roswell crash in 1947, the Haut family has secretly held onto a series of journals that contain details of advanced alien technology. Whenever the family has needed money, they quietly sold one of the inventions in those pages.

This is fine until an investment banking executive learns about these journals, steals them, and begins selling the technology much faster to generate more profits.

The problem here is that the Haut family was never supposed to have those journals. They were supposed to be returned to the aliens more than a half-century ago under the terms of the secret Roswell Treaty between the aliens and the United States government. If and when the aliens learn that those journals are still in existence - which becomes much more likely once a whole bunch of their technology hits the market - they will undoubtedly be back.

And they won't be happy.

The Roswell Chronicles is currently available on Amazon.com.