Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fat And The Year You Were Born

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

New Year’s resolutions are being put to the harshest of tests. Gone are the days of early January when all things seemed so easily possible. Now we are in the tougher phase of the year when the will to establish new patterns is being sorely tested by the tug of old habits.

One of the most popular resolutions Americans make, year after year, is to lose weight. Earlier studies have shown a correlation between being overweight and having a specific variant of the gene called FTO. Now a study reported in PNAS Early Edition makes the case that the year you were born plays a crucial role in fat accumulation — whether you have the variant of the FTO gene or not. In short, there is no correlation between FTO and obesity in people born longer ago, but there is a correlation for people born more recently.

This work comes out of a very long-running study called the Framingham Heart Study that follows individuals over decades. The lead author of the PNAS report is Dr. James Niels Rosenquist of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rosenquist told ScienceDaily that “(our) results…suggest that this and perhaps other correlations between gene variants and physical traits may vary significantly depending on when individuals were born, even for those born into the same families.”

The new work comes out of long-term follow-ups with the children of participants in the original Framingham Heart Study. Called the Framingham Offspring study, the later research consisted of following people from 1971 — when the people ranged from 27 to 63 years old — through 2008.

Looking at body mass index (BMI), the medical researchers found that only for people born in later years was there a correlation between the FTO gene variant and obesity.

What’s so magical about the year of your birth and the struggle to win the battle of the bulge? The study couldn’t nail down specific answers, but it seems likely there are a couple of factors. For instance, more and more of us have sedentary jobs. But beyond that, there has been an increasing reliance on processed foods, with less cooking from scratch — a fact that may shape eating habits particularly for the young. Eating processed foods tends to correspond to consuming more calories, a double whammy for those of us who don’t get exercise at work.

“The fact that [the] effect can be seen even among siblings born during different years implies that global environmental factors such as trends in food products and workplace activity…may impact genetic traits,” Rosenquist said. “Our results underscore the importance of interpreting any genetic studies with a grain of salt.”

My take away from the report is that both diet and exercise remain the keys for taking off weight. Good luck to all of us as we try to reform habits early in this New Year.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

Muskegon County Calendar of Events 01/31/15 – 02/02/15

Presented by the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau

01/31/2015 – Wine & Dine Event
Saturday, January 31, from 11:00am to 6:00pm, come to the Lakes Mall for the Wine & Dine Event, celebrating all things romantic!  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’ll be wineries, chocolate makers, cheese makers, breweries, hotels, bed & breakfasts, restaurants, limo companies, jewelry businesses, florists and travel companies present to help you plan the perfect romantic outing.  Wineries from local and statewide will be selling bottles and cases of wine and offer wine samplings in our “Tasting Room.”

For registration information please contact Laura at

01/31/2015 – ‘Dance the Night Away’
‎Tickets: $12.00 per person at door or from Ruth Lofton at 231-747-6853. Optional – BYOB – snacks provided Attire: Dress to impress or Blue Jean Best. Ballroom, Swing, Line Dancing – easy line dancing lesson provided. Proceeds benefit Greater Muskegon Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund.

02/01/2015 – Michigan Winter Triathlon
‎Come to the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex inside Muskegon State Park for your opportunity to try out three exciting Winter Olympic sports (luge, ice speed skating and cross country skiing) in a family-friendly competition smack in the heart of “Pure West Michigan.”  The event is geared toward those that have never done at least one of these sports.  There are age divisions for everyone.  The entire family is encouraged to participate in this unique winter adventure in the snow-covered dunes along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Don’t worry, you will finish in time to catch the Super Bowl on tv in the cozy comfort of the complex lodge or you are welcome to keep on luging, skating or skiing into the night at the fully lighted sports complex.

ENTRY FEE:  $20 Ages 12 and under, $25 Ages 13 and over, $50 Family rate (mom/dad and children living in the same house) To sign up, or for more information, visit

02/02/2015 – 02/28/15 ‘Off the Wall’ Teen Poetry and Art Contest
‎”Off the Wall” is Hackley Public Library’s Creative Writing & Drawing Contest for middle & high school students.  Young people in grades 7 – 12 can enter poems, stories, drawing, comics, or any other original creative work.  (Flyers with details are available at the library.)  Entries will be accepted beginning February 2 and are due at the library by 5:00pm Saturday, February 28, 2015.  The best work will be published in HPL’s “Off the Wall” booklet.  Winners will be recognized in an awards ceremony.  For more information, call 231-722-7276.

02/02/2015 – Hackley Handicrafts
Monday, February 2 at 6:00pm, come to Hackley Public Library to learn a new craft with Nancy Hartman! This month she will introduce you to homemade butter making.  Brought to you through the generosity of the Friends of Hackley Library.  For more information, call 231-722-7276.

Free Community Glaucoma Screening Held

There are approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older who have glaucoma, and half of those are at risk for going blind because they do not know they have the disease. You could be one of them.

Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve, responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, is damaged. Although the nerve damage is usually associated with elevated pressure inside the eye, other factors can be involved. It may begin with the loss of peripheral vision and then advance to a reduction in central vision. Glaucoma can potentially lead to vision loss or blindness.

This January 31st, from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Shoreline Vision in Muskegon, MI held a Free Glaucoma Screening for anyone who has concerns of glaucoma. For more information please call 231-739-9009.

“Most people who have glaucoma don’t notice symptoms until they begin to lose some vision. But vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented if it’s detected and treated in time,” said Dr. Mark Kinziger, ophthalmologist at Shoreline Vision. “As part of Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, we urge you to get a complete eye exam if you’re at risk for developing glaucoma.”

So, who’s at risk? “African-Americans over age 40, Hispanics, people with a family history of glaucoma, individuals over age 60, people with other health conditions, such as diabetes and those who have experienced a serious eye injury are considered at risk,” says Dr. Kinziger. Anyone who falls into one or more of these categories should talk with an eye doctor about how often an eye examination should be conducted to ensure good vision.

Although glaucoma cannot be cured, early detection and treatment can usually preserve vision. Know your risk factors and have your eyes examined at the intervals recommended by your eye doctor. This 6th Annual Glaucoma Screening was completely free and open to the public.

For more information, call Jennifer Scofield, Shoreline Vision Marketing Director at (231) 739.9009

Winter Asthma – Don’t Let It Take Your Breath Away

Tips on improving inside air.

For many people, asthma attacks may happen more often in the winter. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Staff Neurosurgeon, Emory Clinic; CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, “almost all asthma is allergic. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential in preventing deaths.”

What does asthma sounds like?

  • Wheezing – you can hear when you breathe.
  • There’s also silent asthma, which is more of a chronic cough.

Common indoor Asthma triggers:

  • Home cleaning products
  • Scented candles and oils
  • Cigarette smoke
  • High indoor humidity
  • Drafty windows
  • Dust mites
  • Pets
  • Mold
  • Smoke from wood burning stoves
  • Changing weather

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), triggers may be different for each individual with asthma. To improve air inside your home look at how energy efficient your home is. A recent study by Oregon State found:

  • Poorly ventilated homes – contribute exposure to biological, chemical and physical contaminants that can worsen asthma
  • High humidity in the home – keep the house cool and dry to avoid dust mites and bacteria, which can affect breathing

Outdoor asthma tips:

  • Cold air – cold air entering the lungs can cause airway constriction and is therefore a common

trigger for asthmatics. Control your exposure, wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth. This will help warm the air before you breathe it in.

  • Chimney smoke – avoid areas of heavy pollutants.
  • Have your relief inhaler ready and/or use it before you know the cold air will trigger your asthma.

Since asthmatics may be more likely to need their inhaler during the cold months, make sure to review the Asthma Action Plan and keep it handy. Included in the action planning are tips, including:

  • Run the fan in your bathroom when taking a bath or shower.
  • Use the exhaust fan in the kitchen when cooking or using the dishwasher.
  • Be sure your gas stove is well-ventilated.
  • Fix leaky windows.

With your healthcare provider’s help, you can control your asthma and enjoy winter!

For more information about asthma and other chronic illness, visit your local Michigan State University Extension office and

All That Glitters Is Not (Pure) Gold

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

Recently I had the pleasure of going to the wedding celebration of my assistant at work — whom I count as a good friend — and her new husband. Theirs is an international marriage: the bride was born and raised in this country, the groom born and raised in China. The wedding celebration had elements of traditions from both the U.S. and China: the bride wore red, as is the custom in China, and the marriage was celebrated with a ring, as is the custom here.

Engagement and wedding rings interest geologists from a technical point of view. Long ago, I did geologic research related to gold mining. My Ph.D. thesis was on gold-bearing hot springs in California and the associated gold-mercury ore in the ground. Gold has been a precious metal since time immemorial. Its warm color and the fact it doesn’t tarnish made it a favorite for jewelry long ago. So even though the hot springs stank of sulfur, they smelled like gold to me.

The wedding I went to featured a traditional gold ring with a diamond solitaire. Apparently, it bucks the trend of what’s in fashion these days — when many engagement and wedding rings are made of “white gold.” What, you may ask, is “white gold” when gold — the metal itself — is known for its warm yellow color?

The answer depends, in part, on understanding that gold in jewelry is an alloy, a mixture of gold and other metals that have various properties. In the jewelry biz, the purest gold is called 24 karat. It’s 99.7 percent gold. Eighteen karat gold is 75 percent gold. Fourteen karat gold is about 58 percent gold.

Why not use pure gold in jewelry since the color and value of the metal are so high? Twenty-four karat gold is too soft to be used in jewelry that gets worn every day. Other metals added to the gold make it more durable. When metals are mixed, they create alloys. A wide variety of alloys are available in jewelry. Here are the ingredients of just two types of gold alloys you may see in stores:

“Red gold” can be a mixture of gold and copper.
“Green gold” can be an alloy of gold and copper, possibly with some silver, and a little bit of cadmium.

It makes sense that higher karat gold tends to be more golden in color — it’s the addition of other metals that makes a variety of other colors possible.

To get back to the white gold that’s in fashion for wedding rings these days: it can be a mixture of gold and palladium, nickel, manganese, copper, silver or zinc.

The color of white gold doesn’t come from the alloys in the ring itself. Rather, white gold jewelry has a coating of a metal called rhodium. It’s the rhodium that makes white gold rings white in color.

Personally, I’m glad my friends went with a traditional golden band. It is, to my old mind, “as good as gold” — as I hope their international relationship will be for the decades to come.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

MSU Product Center and Mid-America Cooperative Council Conference Upcoming

The MSU Product Center is pleased to announce the Michigan Cooperative Executive Manager and Director’s Conference at the MSU Henry Center for Executive Development on January 27-28, 2015.

This year’s conference topics include effective recruitment and training of young members for leadership roles in cooperatives, “hot” legal topics for boards, and training on policy governance for board members. A special dinner program on effective communication with elected officials will be offered as well. The conference is scheduled for January 27-28, 2015 at the MSU Henry Center for Executive Development and registration is available at

The two-day event features educational sessions that will bring together industry leading experts to help guide attendees in refining and growing their roles as cooperative board members and managers.

More information and conference registration information is available at Those interested in attending can also call Greta McKinney at 517-353-7185 or send an email to or contact Mollie Woods at or call (517)353-4380.

Muskegon County Calendar of Events 01/20/15-01/27/15

Presented by the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau

01/20/2015 – 01/27/15 January Series
Throughout the month of January, Muskegon County will be treated to a series of lectures via webcast within the Beardsley Theater of the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts.

The lectures are part of Calvin College’s annual January Series, which runs throughout the month in the Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium on the Calvin campus in Grand Rapids. The Beardsley Theater is one of at least 40 remote locations the lectures are being simulcast at in the United States, Canada and Lithuania.

Each of the speakers go on at 12:30pm at Calvin College and will be broadcasted live to locations including the Beardsley Theater as it’s happening. Topics of the January Series include technology, media, religion, foreign affairs, diplomacy and topics of sociology, among others.

Jan. 20: Dr. David Katz, “The Rational Un-fattening of America’s Families.”
Jan. 21: Elizabeth Dias, “Covering TIME.”
Jan. 22: Adm. James Stavridis, “A Navy Admiral’s Thoughts on Global Security.”
Jan. 23: Larry Louters, “Demonstrating the Wonders of Chemistry: Discovering God’s Majesty in the Minuscule.”
Jan. 26: Paul Marshall, “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.”
Jan. 27: Jerry Sittser, “Adversity and Spiritual Formation.”

For more information on attending the free simulcast of the January Series at the Beardsley Theater in Muskegon, contact the Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts at 231-722-2890 or online at Frauenthal.

01/22/2015 – Brown Bag Film: Forbidden Planet
Thursday, January 22 at 12:15pm, come to the Muskegon Museum of Art for the Brown Bag Film: Forbidden Planet!  A pulp-fiction sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet stars Leslie Nielsen as a heroic starship captain who finds the paradise planet Altair-IV, which is inhabited by Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), and his daughter, the sole survivors of an earlier expedition. Free film admission. This fun film is screened to complement the MMA’s Japanese Warriors toy robot exhibition!  Call 231-720-2570 for more information.

01/22/2015 – Art Talk Writing Salon
‎Thursday, January 22 from 5:30-8:00pm, come to the Muskegon Museum of Art for an Art Talk Writing Salon!  The Art Talk Poetry Competition will kick off with a Writing Salon on January 22. The artwork selection will be revealed at the event and writers are encouraged to attend, enjoy light refreshments, and begin writing! Admission to this event is free.  Art Talk is sponsored by the Muskegon Writers’ Center and the Poetry Society of Michigan.

Artwork: Maria Tomasula,

Please Don’t Go, 2010, oil on panel. Purchased in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Muskegon Museum of Art, through the Shaw and Betty Walker Foundation Fund.

For more information, call 231-720-2570.

01/22/2015 – Checkers Morton
Come to the Book Nook & Java Shop Thursday, January 22 at 7:00pm for live music from Checkers Morton.  The cover charge is $5.  For more information, call 231-894-5333.

01/22/2015 – 01/24 Muskegon Civic Theatre Presents: ‘Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks’
Muskegon Civic Theatre presents “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” in the Black Box venue on the Frauenthal Stage.  There’ll be 6 Performances over 2 weekends; January 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24. Thursday, Friday and Saturday Performances are at 7:30pm.  The Sunday Matinees are at 3:00pm. A touching comedy with music and dance, this play also addresses serious issues of ageism and intolerance. Tickets are available through StarTickets at 800-585-3737 or the Frauenthal Box Office at 231-727-8001.

01/23/2015 – Muskegon Lumberjacks Home Game
‎Come to the L.C. Walker Arena Friday, January 23 at 7:15pm as the Muskegon Lumberjacks take on the Fargo Force.

01/23/2015 – Alley Door: Deni Hunter and the House Rockers
The Alley Door Club is located on the 3rd floor of the Hilt Building in the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts. Doors open at 6 PM. Deni Hunter and the House Rockers will play 7 PM – 10 PM Cash bar available. Valid I.D. required. Tickets $7 in advance at the Frauenthal Box Office. 4-top $55.00* price includes 4 admission tickets 8-top $80.00* price includes 8 admission tickets Monday – Friday 11 AM – 5:30 PM. For more information call 231-727-8001 Tickets also available at the (door) from the Frauenthal Box Office.

01/23/2015 – Legal Rehab
Come to the Book Nook & Java Shop Friday, January 23 at 7:00pm for live music from Legal Rehab.  For more information, call 231-894-5333.

01/24/2015 – 01/25/15 White River Steelheaders Perch Fest
‎The White River Steelheaders present the White River Steelheaders Perch Festival January 24-25 headquartered at the White Lake VFW, located at 9370 Walsh Rd. in Montague. There will be an ice fishing tournament, chili cook off and more. For more information call Mike at 231-759-4527 or visit . This event is located at White Lake VFW, 9370 Walsh Rd. in Montague.

01/24/2015 – Party in Your Parka
‎January 24, The Watermark and The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex Present: “Party in Your Parka”!  Enjoy great Michigan food, brews, winter sports and live music as the MWSC celebrates their 30th anniversary!  This is an all ages, day-long family-fun event. Bundle up the kids and come out to celebrate all that the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex has to offer and the great outdoors. In addition to all the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex offers, several kid and family activities are planned throughout the day.  This is a FREE event, however; if you choose to participate in some of the winter activities available at the Winter Sports Complex, there are costs associated with attending the party. The Muskegon Luge & Sports Complex, Muskegon State Park’s pricing list regarding trail fees, equipment rental, and luge lessons and that pricing may be found here: are available for purchase throughout the day.

*NOTE – Because the Winter Sports Complex is nestled in the State Park – You will also need a Michigan State Park pass to park for free. If you do not have a sticker, one may be purchased the day of the event at the complex for $11 and it is good all year for every state park in Michigan!

10am – Complex Grounds/Activities Open – WSC will be open all day for luging, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and sledding – please enjoy these activities all day and at your leisure
11am – 4pm – Made in Michigan vendor art fair/tent
11am – 4pm – Kids activities in the Made in Michigan art tent
Noon – 5pm – Live music with Christopher Cordle, RJ Nordlund and Jason Bryant inside the heated Made in Michigan art tent.
1pm – World Snurfing Classic
3pm – 4pm Snurfer Awards
6pm – Lounge Area Opens at Luge Lounge with a Dance Party featuring DJ Jef Leppard and hosted by Watermark Live. Concessions and live entertainment – see below.

Help us toast the Winter Sports Complex and celebrate Michigan in the winter – our Luge Lounge area features a beverage area showcasing Michigan beer and wine from around the state as well as local craft favorites. Beer and wine will also be available throughout the day as well inside the Made in Mitten art tent.

7pm – 11pm All Ages – Free – Luge Lounge Live Entertainment and dance party featuring DJ Jef Leppard and hosted by: Watermark Live

For more information, call 1-877-TRY-LUGE!

01/24/2015 – Cinderella’s Ball
Saturday, January 24 at 2:00pm, come to Hackley Public Library for HPL’s rendition of Cinderella’s ball with you as a guest.  Cinderella will lead guests through songs, dance and fun games.  Come dressed as your favorite princess/prince or character of your choice to enjoy the festivities.  Guests will make a “royal craft” and enjoy a “royal treat”.  Ages 2 – 12 are welcome!  Call 231-722-7276 for more information.

01/24/2015 – West Michigan Lake Hawks Basketball
‎The West Michigan Lake Hawks will be playing at home against the Oakland County Cowboys, Saturday, January 24 at 6:00pm at Muskegon Heights Academy!  Tickets are $8 per person, or ask about special family pricing.

01/24/2015 – The Smiths
Come to the Book Nook & Java Shop Saturday, January 24 at 7:00pm for live music from The Smiths.  For more information, call 231-894-5333.

01/24/2015 – Muskegon Lumberjacks Home Game
Come to the L.C. Walker Arena Saturday, January 24 at 7:15pm as the Muskegon Lumberjacks take on the Fargo Force.

01/24/2015 – Rusty Spoke Grand Opening Party
‎You’re invited to the grand opening party of The Rusty Spoke Saturday, January 24 at 9:00pm, featuring AC/DC tribute band Let There Be Rock!  Admission is $4 and includes food and drink specials like 99 cent tacos.  To find out more, check them out on Facebook.

01/25/2015 – West Michigan Lake Hawks Basketball
The West Michigan Lake Hawks will be playing at home against the Chicago Fury, Sunday, January 25 at 5:00pm at Muskegon Heights Academy!  Tickets are $8 per person, or ask about special family pricing.

01/27/2015 – Pedal 4 Pints
Pedal 4 Pints is a fun collaboration between City Hub Cyclery, Pigeon Hill Brewing & Unruly Brewing as a way to be active (pedal on a stationary bike) and earn points for prizes (maybe even a pint). Wear your comfy clothes and check it out Tuesday, January 27 from 5:00pm-8:00pm at Unruly Brewing, located at 360 W. Western Ave.

Ongoing Events:

Japanese Warriors Robots Exhibit
The Muskegon Museum of Art showcases selected robots from Schwartz’s collection of over 2,000 pieces produced from 1972-1982, during the peak of these action figures’ popularity. This show will thrill audiences of all ages!

The Essential Elijah Pierce Exhibit
The Muskegon Museum of Art is pleased to present The Essential Elijah Pierce, an exhibition of more than 40 woodcarvings by barber, carver, and lay preacher Elijah Pierce! “Your life is a book and every day is a page,” Pierce believed. This is an exhibit you don’t want to miss!

Collector’s Corner: Hat Pins
The Collector’s Corner exhibit at the Lakeshore Museum Center features the Hat Pin collection of Martha Giacobassi. Hatpins, the decorative yet functional objects that held women’s hats in place, have been popular since the 1800s. Styles range from plain and utilitarian to highly decorative and ornate. Hatpins grew in length as women’s hat styles grew in size, which meant that some hatpins were well over a foot in length. After injuries and attacks with hat pins began to receive news coverage in the 1910s, laws and ordinances were passed in many states limiting the length of hatpins and requiring that they have covered tips.  The collection features 263 hatpins as well as hat pin holders, photos, and hats. Her collection will be on display through early March in 2015.

Armchair Archeology: From Hobby to History
“Armchair Archaeology: From Hobby to History” is on display at the Lakeshore Museum Center!  The exhibit explores early archaeology practices and philosophies that would be considered controversial today and showcases the local men who did it right.  The exhibit features ten Muskegon residents from the late 1800s to early 1940s who were working in the area to learn about who and what was living here before them.  Artifacts on display from the local digs include pottery shards, arrowheads, projectile points, and tools.  Visitors will have an opportunity to take a seat and spend some time reading books and journal articles written by and about the men featured in the exhibit.

Change of Seasons Juried Art Show
“Change of Seasons” is hosted by the White River Gallery and Nuveen Community Center for the Arts.  Local artists of all ages compete for cash prizes in this annual juried art show.  Entries are due by February 13.  Get all the details by visiting the website below or call 231-893-2524.

Exhibition of 3-D Prints
‎An exhibition of 3-D prints and other digital work entitled “Nagas” by Saritdikhun Somasa opens in Overbrook Art Gallery on January 20, 2015 and will run through February 27. The exhibit is linked to the annual MCC Global Awareness Festival, which this year focuses on the Pacific Rim region. A special reception for the artist will be held in the Overbrook Lobby on Monday, February 9, from 6:30-8:00pm, with Somasa’s lecture in the Stevenson Center Room 1100 beginning at 7:00pm. Somasa, a 2-D and 3-D computer graphic artist, was born in Thailand and grew up in a Buddhist environment. For the past 10 years, he has been teaching Digital Arts at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  For more information on the exhibit, contact the MCC Arts and Humanities Department at (231) 777-0324.

US Army Nurse Corps Exhibit
‎Through February 22, come to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum for the exhibit Women in the Military:  WWII Nurses, explaining the training and military services of Muskegon Nurses during WWII.  For more information, call 231-755-1230.

‘Dynamic Earth’ Planetarium Viewing
Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth’s Climate Engine” is a NEW, 30-minute planetarium program that will have you riding on swirling ocean currents, diving into the heart of a hurricane, and flying into fiery volcanoes. FREE shows are Tuesdays and Thursdays @ 7:00 p.m., January 13-April 2 (closed March 3 & 5 for semester break), at Muskegon Community College (221 S. Quarterline Rd., Room 135). For more information, or to schedule a private show, please call (231) 777-0289, or email

Branching Out: Michigan Woodworkers
‎December 11, 2014 through February 8, 2015, come to the Muskegon Museum of Art for “Branching Out: Michigan Woodworkers”.  Branching Out features the art of Michigan artists who work in wood. Sculpture, fine furniture, and craft objects will be on display, highlighting the range of techniques and forms these artists are incorporating to create their pieces.  Branching Out is part of the MMA’s ongoing Made in Michigan Artist Series, a commitment to supporting and exhibiting the work of Michigan artists.  For more information, call 231-720-2570.

Art Talk: Regional Ekphrastic Poetry Competition
‎January 22-March 26, you’re invited to be part of the Art Talk: Regional Ekphrastic Poetry Competition of the Muskegon Museum of Art.

Ekphrasis: The graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art

All adult/college writers residing within the state of Michigan are invited to create original ekphrastic poems based on works of art from the Muskegon Museum of Art’s permanent collection.

  • The 10 artworks may be viewed on-line at or at the MMA on January 22.  Competition guidelines and entry forms will also be available for download or to pick up in the gift store on January 22.
  • Cash prizes, Museum memberships, and gift certificates will be awarded to the winning poets.
  • Competition entries will be accepted through March 26. The awards ceremony and award winners reading will take place April 23.

Call 231-720-2570 for more information.

Muskegon Recreational Club Fish Fry
‎It’s Muskegon Recreation Club’s Fish Fry Time again!  Every other Friday from September 19 – through Good Friday, April 3, you’re invited to take part in their popular fish dinner.  Take out is from 5:00pm – 7:30pm.  Dine in from 5:30pm – 7:30pm.  The cost is $9 for 1 lb. of lake perch, your choice of potato, coleslaw and bread.  Onion rings are available for $3.00.  The club is located at 1763 Lakeshore Dr.  For more information, visit

Muskegon Farmers Market
Shop for your fresh, local products during the winter months inside at the Muskegon Farmers Market from 9:00am-2:00pm each Saturday in their warm, cozy barn at 242 W. Western Ave., downtown Muskegon.

Let the Sun Shine In

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

My scientific training tells me that the days are getting a little bit longer now. And I do believe that. But my spirits say it remains dark awfully long into the morning and the sun surely sets early in the afternoon.

Even if you aren’t affected emotionally by the short days of winter, could they affect your health? That depends on whether low levels of vitamin D in the body are bad for you.

One way we get vitamin D is by manufacturing it in our bodies when sunlight strikes our skin. In the winter, not only are the days short, but we often are covered up for warmth, making the manufacture of vitamin D fall considerably from summer values.

Doctors have struggled for some time over the question of whether a low vitamin D level in the blood causes disease or whether poor health is the cause of low vitamin D values. A recent study in Europe makes the case that a low level of the vitamin is, itself, a factor that increases the death rate. The study used a technique called Mendelian randomization to pick apart what was causing what in a large data set.

Shoaib Afzal of Copenhagen University Hospital was the lead author of the study recently published in the journal BMJ. The research used information from over 95,000 people in Denmark. The entire group was tested for a natural genetic condition that reduces vitamin D in the body. Over 35,000 people in the group also had their serum levels of vitamin D measured. Using medical records, the researchers knew 10,349 of the people in the group died from the period from 1981 to 2013.

The study hinges on the fact that it had two large sets of people to study: one that had the genetic condition for low vitamin D and the other that did not. The researchers assumed that so-called confounding factors — like cigarette smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc. — were similar in the two groups. In other words, the only difference between the two large groups was the genetic condition and its associated impact on vitamin D levels.

The researchers found that having the genetic variant — and hence low vitamin D levels — increased the risk of death by some 30 percent. It increased the risk of death due to cancer by more than 40 percent. Interestingly, it had no effect on death caused by cardiovascular disease.

When it comes to vitamin D levels and death, “this study shows there may be a causal relationship,” Afzal was quoted as saying to The New York Times. But more work must be done before Afzal’s team would recommend you take vitamin D tablets.

There are some gray areas when it comes to Vitamin D — just like the gray weather common this time of year. Ask your doctor if you should be tested for Vitamin D levels or what her opinion is about the risks versus the benefits of supplements.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

Beginning Farmers On-Line Training Offered by MSU Extension

Attention beginning farmers!

The MSU Extension 2015 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series is available for you to gain knowledge needed to plan your start-up farming operation, or add a new enterprise to an existing farm. A series of twenty, 2-hour evening webinars covering a wide variety of farm- related topics is available, including:

“Getting started with….”
…Small Grain Production, Jan. 26
…Cover Crops in Organic Vegetable Crop Rotations, Feb. 2
…Integrated Pest Management, Feb. 4
…Manure Storage, Handling and Mortality Management on Small Farms, Feb. 11
…Beekeeping for Pollination and Honey, Feb 13
…Value-Added Agriculture, Feb. 18
…Farm Food Safety, Feb 23
…Sheep and Goat Management, March 2
…USDA Organic Certification, March 9
…Hop Production, March 11
…Season Extension, March 16
…Marketing, March 18
…Small Fruit Production, March 23
…Beef Cow-Calf Production, March 25
…Direct Marketing, March 30
…Managing Soil, Irrigation and Fertilization Interactions, April 1
…Cover Crops in Field Crop Rotations, April 6
…Poultry Production, April 20
…Small Farm Equipment, April 27
…Beef Feedlot Management, April 29

A fee of $10 per webinar is required, or you can register for the entire series for $100. Webinar recordings will be provided to all registered participants. Participate from the comfort and convenience of your own home or office. Registration, a brochure containing details on each individual program, and on-line or mailed payment options can be found at

Each program begins at 7pm eastern time and will last about 2 hours. A high-speed internet connection is required. You will receive webinar connection information after you register.

Contact the Alger County MSU Extension office at 906-387-2530 or for more information.

Seas on Titan and Your Heating Bill

By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

Like most regions of the country, the area where I live suffered through colder than average temperatures in mid-November. If you pay for your heating bill month by month, you are now facing the sticker shock that results from those bitter times. Happy holidays.

I heat my home with a natural gas furnace supplemented by a woodstove in the living room. It’s a small stove, really designed only for emergencies and for fires built for fun on a Sunday afternoon. In other words, it doesn’t heat the whole house, and it works only with constant tending. But during our cold snap, I built some fires in the woodstove to try to take the edge off the natural gas bill I was incurring. The woodstove is in the same room as the thermostat for the house, though, so heating with it caused the temperatures in the rest of the house to crash. Still, I was doing what I could to lessen what I would later owe the power company.

The main ingredient in natural gas is methane. It’s colorless and odorless, so utility companies add a “rotten egg” smell to it. That way, if there is a leak, your nose becomes aware of it and you can evacuate your home, then call 911.

Methane occurs elsewhere in the solar system besides the Earth. It’s abundant on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. On Titan, methane is a liquid because temperature there is almost 300 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Scientists have now plumbed the depths of three frigid seas of methane on Titan. An article online at told me that the second largest of the seas, called Ligeia Mare, holds enough methane to fill Lake Michigan three times.

NASA’s Cassini probe reached the neighborhood of Saturn in 2004 and it’s still sending back data. The spacecraft was told to send radar pulses directed toward Titan’s seas. Results in some places included two sets of reflected energy. The first set of waves were from radar bouncing off the surface of the methane sea. The second, weaker, set of waves were from radar bouncing off the floor of the methane sea, under the surface. Together, these indicate the depth of the liquid methane.

The shallow parts of the sea are some 20 to 40 yards deep. In other parts of the Ligeia Mare, however, the methane is so deep no reflections from the bottom were detected, indicating places that are more than 200 yards deep.

It’s amazing to me what we are continuing to learn about our solar system — information ranging from data beamed back from a spacecraft landing on a comet to this information about Titan’s methane seas. I’m also amazed by what I owe the power company for methane I used in November — but I’m trying to keep some perspective about it.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.