Funny Money

July 9, 2007
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Jeff and Tami VandenBerg, owners of the now-under-construction Meanwhile Bar at

1005 Wealthy St. SE
in Grand Rapids, formerly the TwoStansBar, got some play last week on NPR for printing their own money to support the venture.

Yes, they are printing their own money. For $10, patrons/investors get $12 in Meanwhile Money, to be used at the bar when it opens.

The currency is designed by Jeff, artist, founder and owner of Friction Records, and founder of the Division Avenue Arts Cooperative. It features a chicken, a proletariat fist, lighting bolts and variations of the all-seeing eye and other "creepy Masonic imagery" standard on federal currency.

The practice of distributing local currency is perfectly legal, provided it does not look like legal tender. The VandenBergs have raised $2,000 with theirs.

  • Also getting noticed this week was State Sen. Patty Birkholz¸ R-Saugatuck, who earned a story in The Wall Street Journal for her efforts against invasive species. A court case surrounding legislation aimed at regulating deep sea freighters is currently embroiled in a federal lawsuit, as reported recently in the Business Journal.

On a related note, the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative will hold its fourth annual meeting this Wednesday through Friday at

DeVos Place
. Public and private stakeholders from throughout the St. Lawrence SeawayBasin will gather to discuss key strategies to protect and restore the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Water conservation, ballast water controls, climate change and emerging issues will be prominent topics at this year's conference. Representatives of the deep-sea shipping industry should steer clear.

The conservation group was formed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in 2003. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell serves as secretary and director; Toronto Mayor David Miller is chairman.

A "major announcement" regarding water conservation is planned for Thursday afternoon.

  • Holland startup Crayon Interface hit a hitch recently with its launch of a cell phone remote car-starter system. The manufacturer licensing its technology, JBS Technologies, launched CellSTART late last year as its entry into the higher-end automotive security market. But the value segment where JBS had most of its market share was severely affected by an unseasonably warm December and January. When Wal-Mart returned several million dollars worth of unsold product, the company went into the red, and its venture capital backers pulled stakes.

With that setback behind it, Crayon Interface is looking forward to a new launch with a new partner later this year. Meanwhile, its home monitoring technology debuted in stores this month. Distributed by Hawking Technologies, the HomeRemote System allows users to control and monitor household appliances, lighting, temperature and security features from a cell phone or Internet connection.

Users receive e-mails and text messages on their cell phones when motion detection devices are triggered. Users are then able to view home security cameras through the phone.

"We were able to survive with having our first distribution partner fold up," said Crayon Interface co-founder Kevin Virta. "Now we're coming back to market in a big way."

The HomeRemote System is now available at CompUSA and Fry's Electronics, and will launch at Best Buy and Home Depot by fall.

  • Regarding this week's Retirement Living Focus, the Business Journal dug up an e-mail that was in wide circulation this year.

In "No nursing home for me," the narrator and his wife are on a cruise through the western Mediterranean aboard a Princess liner. At dinner, they notice an elderly lady sitting alone in the dining room who seems overly familiar with the ships' officers and staff. Expecting that perhaps she owns the line, they ask the waiter who she is, only to discover she has been on board for the last four cruises, back-to-back.

Later in the trip, they approach her and inquire why she has been on ship for the better part of a season. She replies, "It's cheaper than a nursing home."

"So, there will be no nursing home in my future," explains the e-mail narrator. "When I get old and feeble, I am going to get on a Princess Cruise Ship. The average cost for a nursing home is $200 per day. I have checked on reservations on a Princess, and I can get a long-term discount and senior discount price of $135 per day."

According to the e-mail, that leaves $65 a day for the following amenities:

1. Gratuities, $10 per day.

2. As many as 10 meals a day if you can waddle to the restaurants, or you can have room service (including breakfast in bed).

3. Use of as many as three swimming pools, a workout room, free washers and dryers, and shows every night.

4. Free toothpaste, razors, soap and shampoo.

5. Being treated like a customer, not a patient.

6. Getting to meet new people every week or two.

7. TV broken? Light bulb need changing? Need the mattress replaced? No problem! Staff will fix everything and apologize for your inconvenience.

8. Clean sheets and towels every day, and you don't even have to ask for them.

9. If you fall in the nursing home and break a hip you are on Medicare; if you fall and break a hip on the Princess ship, they will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.

10. If you want to see South America, the Panama Canal, Tahiti , Australia , New Zealand, Asia , or practically anywhere else, Princess will have a ship ready to go. And when you die, they just dump you over the side — at no charge.

True enough, the 2006 MetLife Market Survey of Nursing Home & Home Care Costs  identified the average cost per day for a semiprivate room in a Grand Rapids nursing home as $191, $212 for a private room. The Royal Caribbean International has a seven-night voyage on its Vision of the Seas listed last week for $439, or $63 a day.

Of course, that doesn't come with licensed nursing staff.    

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