Friday, August 24, 2012

20th Anniversary of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

September 16, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. When it opened in 1992, it was three times larger than its predecessor, Scripps Aquarium, which operated for forty-one years next to the Scripps Pier.

The mission of Birch Aquarium at Scripps is to provide ocean science education, to interpret Scripps Institution of Oceanography research, and to promote ocean conservation.

Nestled comfortably between the University of California and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Birch Aquarium overlooks the famous Scripps Pier with La Jolla Shores to the south and Torrey Pines to the north.

My granddaughter and I spend an enjoyable afternoon there yesterday. Besides learning about the local sea life off our Pacific Coast from the Northwest to Baja, there are hands-on exhibits on energy conservation, climate change, and innovative energy resources that were quite interesting.

The most striking feature of this aquatic science complex is the huge floor to ceiling Kelp Forest Tank which houses many species of local marine life, weaving in and out of amber forests of kelp. The Kelp beds, off the Southern Californian coast, provide shelter and habitat for hundreds of species of marine life as this massive tank demonstrates.

What seems to be the most popular attraction for everyone at Birch is Tide-Pool Plaza. Many life forms found in tidal pools along our San Diego coastline are concentrated in an accessible, hands-on, outdoors exhibit built on a deck that overlooks the grandeur of the Pacific Ocean.

If you find yourself in the San Diego area, this is an affordable and lovely way to spend an afternoon. For more information, check the link:

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Handicapable Car - The Kenguru

Wheelchair, be damned!

Here is a product that gives movement and freedom to people who need it the most - the handicapable among us!

The engineers and the research and development teams must be proud of their work.

Check these pictures out:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Eastern Michigan University "72-73" Campus Directory - The John Norman Collins' Edition.

Eastern Michigan University - Halle Library Archives
Back in 1972, the student population of Eastern Michigan University was decidedly non-Ivy League in their attitudes and their dress code.

Wanting to maintain a conservative image for the alumnae and parents of students at the university, editors for the campus phone directory chose to dip into their photo archives for a picture from 1966.

Ground was broken on Sill Hall, the Fine Arts building, in 1964, and it was open for the fall semester of 1966. Not only do the clothes and hair styles date the photograph, but the fresh sod and the sapling trees do as well.

I remember this directory and used it many times, as I graduated with a bachelor's degree in December of 1972. What makes this telephone book relic relevant to me now is what I discovered only last year.

The university made a grievous error in their choice for a cover photo. Sitting on the wall with the dark shirt in the lower left hand corner of the cover shot sits alleged serial killer, John Norman Collins. He was convicted in 1970 of just one of seven possible murders of young women in the area he was suspected of killing between the summers of 1967 and 1969.

Looking at the full sized actual cover of the directory, the photograph is unmistakable to anyone who knew John Collins. In 1966, Collins was beginning his first year at Eastern as a sophomore transfer student from Central Michigan University.

This photograph was taken ten months before the murder of the first victim took place. Mary Fleszar's ravaged body was left to rot in the countryside, found a month later by two thirteen year old boys. Her murder remains officially unsolved.

The university denies this is Collins, but they can't identify who it is. I lived a block up the street from John Norman Collins and saw him numerous times. That's him!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kirkus Indie Review of Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel



A Detroit Riot Novel


By Gregory A. Fournier

Pub Date: June 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1604945850
Publisher: Wheatmark

In Fournier’s thoughtful debut novel, a young man comes of age in the tense atmosphere of a city teetering on the edge of chaos.
Jake Malone, a white college kid in suburban Detroit in 1967, gets kicked out of school and decides to earn a little money to get a car of his own. He ends up at Zug Island, a steelworking plant that’s a world away from his suburban home. When he first sees the place, it reminds Jake of Dante’s Inferno, but he doesn’t know yet how literal that perception will become. After a tense fight at the plant, he’s befriended by Theo Semple, an African-American man who came to Detroit for better wages but left a family and a tragic history back in the South. In their spare time, Jake and Theo hit the town seeking adventures. As the story unfolds, what they find is eye-opening for Jake—from prostitution and police brutality on the streets of Detroit to the casual racism found in the all-white suburbs. The racial tension builds, until one day it explodes in riots that turn Detroit into an inferno. Told from Jake’s perspective, the short novel—part journey through hell, part social document, part adventure story—depicts his struggles with race and class pressure. Fournier reveals what life was like not only on Zug Island, but also on the streets of Detroit, in its white suburbs and in white and black churches. Readers may wish the author had spent more time in some of the scenes, particularly the riots, which are described from a distance. The Vietnam War is mentioned, but its impact is left unexplored. Also, at times, Fournier steps back from the story to fill in general history that is illuminating, even though it breaks the narrative flow. On the whole, however, the novel is tightly written with a dramatic plot, well-rounded characters and clear insights into social history.
An engaging, dynamic story that grapples intelligently with themes of race, class and morality.

Available at and in the Kindle e-book format. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quick Party Caricatures by Walt Griggs

While doing research for my next book, In the Shadow of the Water Tower, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, I ran into Walt Griggs, a caricature artist preparing to set up for a party he was working at The Corner Brewery.

I struck up a conversation with him about my reason for being in town and he was quite intrigued. He had never heard of John Norman Collins or the co-ed killings.

"Would you like me to draw you? I need to warm up." The party hadn't started quite yet.

"Sure," I said. "Do you want me to pose or anything?"

"No. Just sit there and tell me more about your book."

Five minutes later, he handed me the drawing you see above. I was really pleased with it, though I don't think I'm that gleeful in real life. Of course, that's why it's called a caricature.

What a great idea! Hiring someone to caricature quests at a party. The artist gets a commission for being there, and he earns tips and future referrals for other jobs at the same time.

As people began to arrive at the private party, I traded him a copy of Zug Island and thanked him. We both made a good deal I think.

Check out Walt's website at: