Monthly Archives: March 2013

‘Curious Critters’ exhibit to be featured at Stoney Creek Nature Center

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

The critters are coming.

Courtesy of David FitzSimmons

Courtesy of David FitzSimmons

Stoney Creek Nature Center will be filled with the works of Sigma Pro Nature Photographer David FitzSimmons, from March 26 to April 24.

The 24, 2-by-3-foot print photographs feature animals against white backgrounds, which FitzSimmons said expresses his love of nature and helps others appreciate it.

“I really enjoy interacting with animals,” FitzSimmons said. “I make a closer connection with nature, almost always photographing animals from eye level.”

The exhibit will be the first of its kind held at Stoney Creek’s new Nature Center building, according to Mark Szabo, Stoney Creek Metro Park Interpreter. The new facility, built five years ago, replaced the old home that had been there since 1964, which he said was not ideal for hosting this type of event.

“We’ve been in this building for about five years and this is something we’ve always wanted to do,” Szabo said. “(The new building is) big enough to keep the exhibit up for a month while still providing school programs. It’s such a beautiful space.”

FitzSimmons and Szabo met at a nature conference, where Szabo was performing nature songs.  He noticed FitzSimmons’ booth with the books, and talked to him about hosting the photo exhibit at Stoney Creek.

The exhibit was based off FitzSimmons’ children’s book, “Curious Critters.”

Courtesy of David FitzSimmons

Courtesy of David FitzSimmons

After taking the photos for Sigma Pro, he decided to make them into a book to share them with young people.

During the exhibit, the Nature Center will also be hosting photo workshops April 13 and 14. For $5 admission, people to learn “the basics of outdoor photography,” according to a press release from Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

“It’s something different,” Szabo said. “Most of our visitors are repeat visitors so we have to continue offering new things to keep people visiting. What (the event) really provides is photography done differently. David isolates animal using white background. The exhibit fits our mission and is just another way to get people into nature.”

For more of FitzSimmons’ photo project, visit


Somebody’s watching you: Spy Shops USA provides equipment and guidance

Gary Kaye, manager. STEPHANIE SOKOL/OU News BureauStephanie Sokol for OU News Bureau

People sometimes feel like they are being watched. That very well could be the case because Gary Kaye can make anything into a nanny cam.

“I tell people, ‘Bring in an object, give me an hour, let me take it apart and see what I can do,’ ” said Kaye, general manager of Spy Shops USA.

Spy Shops USA in downtown Rochester carries monitoring equipment for the curious and suspecting shopper. The store shares location and ownership with a private investigative company.

Professional investigator Mark Ford founded Risk Security & Investigations.

Professional Investigator and Spy Shops USA owner Mark Ford works on the company’s website. While the company is local, the site is wholesale and sells to other suppliers. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

Professional Investigator and Spy Shops USA owner Mark Ford works on the company’s website. While the company is local, the site is wholesale and sells to other suppliers. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

The Michigan-licensed company provides investigation and security guards for local businesses.  

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” Ford said. “I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a cop, or a P.I., so I followed my dreams.”

Ford has seen many cases of divorce caused by infidelities.

He talked about going undercover in the company van to catch footage of cheating spouses, in addition to bigger cases featuring government officials or missing persons.

“There’s nothing typical,” Ford said.

One case involved a woman who suspected her husband of cheating. After doing research, Ford went out with his team in a worn-out van and sat in the parking lot with a camera.

The husband and his secretary pulled up next to the vehicle and began getting intimate in the back seat. Ford’s team caught them on tape in the act, confirming the wife’s suspicions.

“My philosophy is if you get to the point where you’re sitting in that chair, or that couch, coming to see me, you know what’s happening,” Ford said. “You just want proof — you just want the facts.”

Another instance led Ford’s team on the hunt for a missing person — a college student who went missing on a spring break trip to Mexico. He and the mother searched for the young woman, who had been murdered. Ford, who found the student’s body on a beach, described it as the “most difficult case” he’s dealt with.

“(I like to help people because) it’s the right thing to do,” Ford said.

Ford’s wife persuaded him to pursue his dream of opening a Spy Shop. When they were visiting downtown Rochester 10 years ago, they rented a building and moved the detective agency there.

The Internet worked as Ford’s guide in spy product research. He said it now dominates the industry in this area, and while there are a few other spy shops, his is “the biggest and the best” in metro Detroit.

GPS tracking devices, cell phone or computer monitoring systems, and nanny cams are among the store’s top-sellers, Kaye said. The surveillance security cameras sync to all devices, from computers and televisions to cell phones, so people can view footage anywhere, anytime.

Spy Shop employees build much of the equipment in-house. Kaye builds the nanny cams, which started with people bringing in household items.

People with suspicions who don’t want to hire an investigator come in for devices to watch their children or cheating spouses, Kaye said.

He has put cameras into household objects, including pens, sunglasses, wall clocks, air purifiers and books. Kaye said people like these nanny cams because they aren’t noticeable.

A popular item is the AC Adaptor camera, which plugs into the wall and holds a standard SD card. Kaye said he can install nanny cams into a variety of household objects, to fit into a natural setting. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

A popular item is the AC Adaptor camera, which plugs into the wall and holds a standard SD card. Kaye said he can install nanny cams into a variety of household objects, to fit into a natural setting. PHOTO/STEPHANIE SOKOL

One of Kaye’s favorite products is the AC adaptor nanny cam, which looks like normal charger but has a DVR camera that records to a memory card.

“I hate to say it, there’s no perfect product out there for every situation, but if you can give somebody the right direction, usually if it fits 70 to 80 percent of what they want, they’re happy,” Kaye said.

“And I’ve had quite a few people come back where I sent them home, they got the information they wanted and were happy about it. That’s what keeps me going, is the good feedback afterwards.”

GMOs: Consumers should be informed of food ingredients

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Genetically modified organisms are used in many foods to preserve freshness and make them “better.” But controversy is arising about whether or not products made with these ingredients should be labeled, as the scientific community discusses the use of GMOs beyond plants.

The FDA defines GMO as a change in plant genotype, with modification having “a broad context that means the alteration in the composition of food that results from adding, deleting, or changing hereditary traits, irrespective of the method,” and states that “most, if not all, cultivated food crops have been genetically modified.”

The process of genetic modification involves taking DNA from different species to make healthier, stronger plants. GMOs are now part of about 80 percent of processed foods, including corn, soybeans, sugar beets and canola crops, My Fox Detroitreported.

Farmers and scientists like the process, because they say it has positives. It rids plants of insects and can create better tasting, larger produce.

“We harvest more high quality crops with less fertilizer and less pesticide and less water than we ever could before,” said corn farmer Mark Lauwers in an article with My Fox Detroit.

Despite praise by growers, some studies reveal the negative side of GMOs.

The process can lead to “higher risks of toxicity, allergies, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer” in humans, according to the Center for Food Safety.

Genetically modified foods can also pose environmental threats, with genetic engineering in agriculture leading to “uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.”

Some manufacturers and stores are labeling GMO foods, but the government does not require it. The FDA feels that labeling products GMO “may be misleading on most foods, because most foods do not contain organisms (seeds and foods like yogurt that contain microorganisms are exceptions). It would likely be misleading to suggest that a food that ordinarily would not contain entire ‘organisms’ is ‘organism free.’”

The problem arises because the genetic modification process will soon be applied to animals for the first time, in attempt to create a quicker growing, larger salmon.

Most countries don’t consider these foods safe, with about 50 countries around the world putting restrictions or bans on the products. The NON GMO Project aims to provide foods that haven’t gone through this process, encouraging labeling on foods that do.

In partnership with the project, Whole Foods announced last Friday that it would label all foods with genetically altered ingredients by 2018 in North American and Canadian stores for people who do not want altered products. Other stores are doing similar actions.

In a nation promoting health and fitness, the government should inform people about what’s in their food, so the consumer can make an educated decision.

If these foods are allowed to enter grocery stores and markets, the government needs to require labeling of genetically modified organisms in food, rather than keeping it a secret. Why put a nutrition label on food products, when the real genetic makeup is being hidden?

‘Top Concrete’ award given to Rochester construction

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Rochester’s 2012 reconstruction work earned the city the honor of being named ??????????????????????????????? a “Top Concrete” project by the Michigan Concrete Association at the end of February.

The program looked at more than 50 submitted projects and awarded 21 based on quality, innovation, complexity and speed of construction, according to Kerry Sutton, MCA director of engineering.

The work in downtown Rochester received top ratings for the annual award, out of all projects in its category.

“This was a very complex project, with the underground work and coordination with local businesses,” Sutton said. “It was high-impact and timing was critical. The work was done quickly and efficiently.”

A plaque was given to contractor Angelo IafrateOakland Michigan Department of Transportation Service CenterFishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber and concrete supplier Superior Materials, in addition to the city’s recognition, Sutton said.

Rochester’s projects lasted one construction season, from April to December, though the design took two years, according to Lori Swanson, MDOT project manager on the Rochester road reconstruction. She said the lifespan of pavement is about 20 years, so it will have a lasting impact.

Construction included:

  • Reconstruction of Main Street, from the Clinton River bridge to the south and to the Paint Creek Bridge north
  • Reconstruction of the roads and sidewalks
  • New storm sewers, water mains, lighting, planter boxes, trees, landscaping, benches, trash receptacles and exposed aggregate sidewalk

Nik Banda, Rochester deputy city manager, accepted the award at a ceremony last Monday.

Though there are some finishing touches to be made on the renovations this spring, like planting of flowers and finishing work on a new-found well, the project was “the most important in the history of the city,” with partnership and team effort by all involved, Banda said.

“We really worked hard on making sure everyone – residents, business owners, commuters – knew what was going on so that it would help them to still come downtown and also to get people around town and just make traffic flow a lot easier,” Swanson said. “So that was probably our biggest success. We delivered an excellent project that’s going to give many years of beautification and good pavement, but engagement was key.”

Lucky Leprechaun Race leaves Utica seeing green

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Post

Click for slideshow

People flaunted their green apparel and clover leaf accessories early this ??????????????????????????????? weekend, as Utica DDA hosted its first-ever
Lucky Leprechaun Race.

A costume contest gave 471 runners and walkers an opportunity to show off their St. Patrick’s Day style, while the 5K and Green Mile races encouraged physical fitness, according to Thomas Gray, chairman of the Macomb Health and Fitness Foundation.

“(It was) great weather and everything I thought it would be,” Gray said. “Once the runners assembled at the starting line, I think the community felt the power of so many people gathering for this race in their city.”

Tutu skirts, tinsel wigs and green tuxedo shirts were popular among runners. In ???????????????????????????????the costume contest, best group went to Traci Cunningham, Celeste Hall, Melissa, Shelby, Dakota and Kendel Evans, who called themselves “the Lucky Charms.” It was Dakota’s first race.

In the best adult costume, Sarah McCormick won first place for her green tutu look.

Max Woodford, who ran with his family, won best costume in the child category for his fluorescent green wig and cape. His mother, Danielle Woodford, said they were going for the “family superheroes” look. ???????????????????????????????

“We thought (the race) would be a fun family activity to kick off spring,” Dan Woodford said. “We started with the green clothing and went from there.”

First place in the 5K went to Danielle Miller of Clinton Township. She said ran for her father, Dale Miller, who has cancer.

Members of the Sterling Heights Chamber participated in the race, and volunteers from Macomb Children’s Hands On Museum and City of Utica Park and Recreation Department helped make the event possible, Gray said.

???????????????????????????????Sponsors included Team Fit, The Macomb Daily, Macomb Health & Fitness Foundation Inc., Renewal by Anderson, Health Quest, Muldoon’s Local Tavern, Rizzo Environmental Services and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Runners’ ages widely ranged from Harrison Hensley, 81, who ran the 5K, to Diana Vandoren, 2, who ran the Green Mile with her grandfather Richard Howell.

“I had a good time (running),” said Marilyn Myrna, Harrison Township resident. “This is my third 5k this year and was my best time so far. It was a good course. I’d never been through the graffiti tunnel. It was really fun.”


San Francisco Street Style: Photo Gallery

This gallery contains 30 photos.

I spent last weekend in San Francisco for the Associate Collegiate Press Convention. In our free time, we discovered the city. Style was all around. Skinny jeans, boots, moccasins and scarves were among top popular looks for Californians in the … Continue reading