By Mark Mathis
Recent events caused me to ponder just how much Facebook knows about me. My journey to find out has been rather informative, and disturbing.
If you are like me you’ve enjoyed Facebook’s brilliance. How else can I keep up on Aunt Judy’s travels and all the goings on at my Dad’s church? The Newaygo Watercolor and Croton Crawlers groups makes the behemoth corporation feel like a buddy hanging out in my own back yard. Plus, I get the priceless benefit of letting the world know my dog doesn’t like sailboats. And those Facebook likes, who among us doesn’t enjoy a couple of those?
Where else can I hang out at the digital watering hole? Instagram? WhatsApp? Messenger? All are owned by Facebook. I’m a tad too wordy, and like free speech too much, for Twitter. Everything else is basically a niche product that maybe 500 people in Newaygo County may have heard of.
If you’ve used Facebook for long the platform will give you the creeps at times. I’ve gone to events far from home and stood by a random collection of people I hadn’t seen in a year — only to find Facebook recommend each one as a possible friend later in the day. Yuck.
Who hasn’t been amazed by the wisdom of Facebook’s ad targeting? In a weaker moment of late night infomercial viewing I made the mistake of looking at the $79 “My Pillow” on the web. Somehow “My Pillow” became my best FB friend ever, jamming my feed full of offers for weeks. My new best friend even offered to sell me two pillows for $120 if I acted in the next twenty-four hours!
The sad reality I’ve found is that If you are one of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users you are the product that produces the profit. That’s right, you are little more than a “widget” that is monetized at every opportunity. All of your likes, check-ins, clicks, and posts have value to others well beyond your 2nd cousin. Your contacts, locations, and interests also have value. The more FB knows about you, the more valuable you are.
Facebook was recently in the news after Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users. They eventually used some of that information to target digital ads for the Trump campaign. This is far from the first time that Facebook data has been harvested, sold, and used on campaigns.
Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was coyly testifying in front of Congress about this data breach. It was at that moment I decided to look and see what exactly Facebook knows about me. Facebook doesn’t make it easy, but they will share all the details they keep on you.
I’m far from a power user, and only joined the platform two years ago. I don’t share location. I don’t accept people I don’t know as friends. I’m careful with what I post and what photos I share. In general, I’d categorize myself as someone who values security and privacy. I imagined my file was going to be pretty small.
In a mere hour I found the one link hidden deep inside of Facebook that would allow me to peer into the data that was kept about me. Soon I had a downloaded zip file that contained all the goodies FB had on me:
Facebook had the entire contents of my phone contacts. Hundreds of numbers and addresses for people that I’m not even FB friends with.
Apparently I’ve clicked on ads for “Why toilet seats are U-shaped” and “This is what happens when you ask the wrong guy for photoshop help.” Ad clicks stay forever. (So does anything you choose to upload onto Facebook. I already assumed that my family photos and videos were circulating around the Zuckerberg home.)
The list of advertisers that have uploaded my info is very long. This is where the real money is. Fitbit Ireland, Dairy Queen, Miranda Lambert, AmeriGas, Yahoo Sports, and Gun Dog Supply all care about me. So do hundreds more. Dozens of companies and people I don’t even recognize.
My information has been “shared” (which apparently sounds nicer than sold) with 39 politicians or political action committees that I recognize. Facebook now tells me that everyone from Barbara Boxer to Mike Pence has uploaded a “contact list with your information.” I’d think how much of my giant Facebook file is being shared has to do with how much is being paid.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Facebook keeps the device and IP information from wherever I log into Facebook. They then use this to figure out my location. When I’ve been in Florida, Vegas, or North Carolina I wasn’t alone. Facebook knows just about where we all are at any given time. They also keep it as a history. Whenever you log on to your phone, tablet, or desktop Facebook enjoys your “secret” shout out from Newaygo County. It doesn’t matter if you don’t share location data, they know.
In all the FaceBook file on Mark Mathis was fairly complete. I think I know myself even better after looking at it. I know after a career of investigating criminal complaints that all this information would be an investigator’s dream. The information Facebook has on you is hundreds of times more complete than what is available to your local police department. We should all be concerned if a government agency maintained this kind of file on it’s citizens.
Should we be equally concerned when a private company holds this much information about each of it’s 2.2 billion users? That’s a question for each user, and perhaps Congress, to ponder. With Facebook being the only game in town individual users get one real choice, to participate or not.
I’ll keep logging in, but I am under no illusion that Facebook is my friend. I also understand that the politics and culture of the company certainly will influence its product, and ultimately my online experience. I’m a commodity that FaceBook gladly sells, and perhaps tries to influence.
Facebook is like a furry, toothy, cute monster that shows up at your doorstep. It can be fun, entertaining, and great for conversation. It also takes some time to feed and water, and has the potential to grow into a one of those ugly horror movie beasts.
In a true display of irony, I can’t wait for this article to get uploaded to Facebook. Don’t forget to like this and shoot me a friend request. If you really love me make sure you validate my existence and share it. Just kidding.
Always remember - “If it’s Facebook, it’s forever.”
Site misuse could lead to closure if unchecked
By Ken DeLaat
We all like the idea of recycling correct? You minimize your trash while maybe reducing your carbon footprint for those out there who believe that such things are part of our stewardship of old Mother Earth.
The Newaygo area recycling site exists due to the generosity of Brooks Township for providing the space, the county of Newaygo for funding the program and the kindness and patience of neighbors who live near the site and endure the times when irresponsibility reigns in the name of misguided environmentalism.
Unfortunately this ongoing irresponsibility is placing the site at risk of falling to the same fate as the Fremont site that closed a year ago.
“If the bins are full and you throw your stuff on the ground that is literally a littering violation,” said Brooks Township Supervisor Corey Nelson. “ It not only hurts the cause but it hurts the city that we operate in. No one wants to have floating recyclables in their yard or street.”
“This has also become a issue with commercial business using it and leaving the bins so full that it has been almost impossible to keep it clean. It was never intended for commercial for profit business, it was provided for our constituents.”
Recycling is expensive and does not pay for itself. Not even close. It is a service provided by the county and supported by funding from the county and the Fremont Area Community Foundation. While every very effort is made to maintain the bins and keep the site in some sense of order there are times when the input overwhelms these efforts.
This site is also operated on the honor system with the hope that citizens will use a little common sense when it comes to recycling.
The responsibility for your material does not end when arriving at the site so if there is no place to put it in a way that does not involve cramming styrofoam into the shed when the bags are full or stacking material outside the bins, then the option is to take it back and return later, not leave it for someone else to deal with.
Cardboard was once was placed in a separate bin, but now GOES IN THE DUMPSTERS!
STYROFOAM is removed as a courtesy. There are no other styrofoam drop offs in the county.
See the guide at
“The county has busted their butts trying to keep this important service here,” added Nelson. “We feel the however if things don't change it will go away. We cannot have something meant for good violate simple city ordinance (law) because people abuse the site.”
And there you have it folks. With a little effort we can continue to enjoy this valuable service.
“We understand people want it,” said Nelson. “The question I would ask is, will the actions of few ruin it for the rest of us?”
To The Editor:
Poppy Sias-Hernandez, candidate for State Senate 34th District, will be hosted by Flying Bear Books at a Meet and Greet on Thursday, May 31 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Flying Bear Books is located at 79 State Road in downtown Newaygo. The event is open to the public.
Ms. Hernandez has been a community leader throughout her professional career, serving in non profit youth oriented organizations as well as Muskegon Public Schools. Her campaign platforms include supporting public education, improving access to general and mental health care, protecting natural resources and supporting small businesses, among others. "I want to strengthen the connections between people in the community and the policy makers in Lansing."
John Reeves, owner of Flying Bear Books, was inspired by Ms. Hernandez, stating, "After hearing Poppy at another meet and greet I was impressed with her message and desire to represent her constituents." Mr. Reeves expressed a need to become more involved in our political system than just voting. "Flying Bear Books is a friendly place to ask questions and get to know Ms. Hernandez. I hope many community members will take this opportunity to come and meet her."
Ms. Hernandez will be vying for the Democratic win in the August primary against Collene Lamonte.
Information about the meet and greet can be obtained from Flying Bear Books at 231.414.4056.
By Jessica Cobb
Over the past 15 years my view of autism awareness has evolved from a personal and private experience to a public and universal one. At first, autism awareness began in our home. As our family went through the process of understanding and accepting autism, my understanding evolved, and my passion shifted to sharing autism awareness with friends, family, and the community.
Raising autism awareness is vital and our community is fortunate to have a group that brings autism awareness to Newaygo County, especially during April, Autism Awareness month. April is a time that helps to bridge the community with those individuals with autism and their families.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls. Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism.
Each year, the Newaygo County Autism Community helps to bring families together at their annual Walk for Autism. As a parent, it is amazing to see the support of businesses and community members that give generously and attend the Walk each year. Also, having our 1st Responders from local fire and police departments participate in this day helps build positive relationships with those on the Autism Spectrum.
While autism awareness is growing, a continued effort to raise understanding and acceptance is still needed. As a parent of two on the autism spectrum, these community events are so important in making sure that everyone is accepted and understood. Only through this understanding and acceptance, will bullying and teasing stop, allowing for friendships to be made and individuals with autism to be valuable, contributing members of the community.
The thing that makes me most proud of the Walk for Autism is hearing families talk about having a safe and accepting place, and how they can find other families like them and learn from each other and celebrate with each other.
One parent shared with us, “It felt really good to see all the people there supporting those (including our son) with Autism, learning more about it and coming together as a community. It really “takes a village” to raise a child and we feel good knowing that this community cares about learning more and supporting those with Autism. We have seen the walk grow in support and excitement every year and are looking forward to next year.”
Another parent, Tanya Mendoza stated, “As a parent, coming to the Walk for Autism is a time of acceptance and understanding. Everyone there understands your child’s behavior, instead of judging. I enjoy seeing friendly faces that know the same struggles. Every year I go home with less stress than I came with. Thank you to all who volunteer their time to make this possible.”
The 4th Annual Walk for Autism was held April 28, 2018. The Walk for Autism is a day for our community to come together to show their support and to help raise autism awareness. There is no fee to participate.
Thank you so very much to Newaygo County for helping to raise autism awareness, so that we may achieve autism acceptance.
For more information about the Newaygo County Autism Community, please visit their website at www.newaygocountyautismcommunity.org
By Alicia Jaimes
The month of May is always a conflicting time for me.
Will I find summer work? How many times can I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy before heading back to school in the fall?
However, this May has been particularly weird for me.
You see, I’m 22 and coming up on my final year at Ferris State University; and as my friends and colleagues walked across the stages at their universities, I think of the Newaygo County high school seniors eagerly counting down the days ‘til their own graduations and am left with a sense of...I’m not quite sure yet.
If I close my eyes tight enough, I can still remember my graduation from Grant High School.
My hair was absurdly orange, I was modeling a ridiculous tennis tan and I was a mixture of sad and excited. A chapter of my life was closing, and I had no idea what I wanted to do next.
I remember the nerves as I heard the band playing and as my classmates began filing through the gymnasium doors in alphabetical order. Everyone was so nervous they might trip during their grand entrance.
We took our seats as speeches were given about our bright futures full of hope and possibilities and I looked through the sea of caps and gowns in search of my best friends, and before I knew it:
“I give you the class of 2013.”
And then I blinked.
Now, five years later, I find myself preparing to wear another cap and gown, except this time, I won’t be peering through a crowd of familiar faces. Where has the time gone?
All I can think about are those eager students posting photos of their caps and gowns saying, “I’m ready.”
Boy, I hope they are. I hope they are prepared for living away from home, roommate squabbles and the inevitable “all-nighter.” I hope they are ready to embrace college life with open arms and absorb all that this experience had offered to me.
A taste of adulthood.
From the eager teenager, ready for anything, to the awkward adult I am today. I can confidently think of where I’ll be this time next year and say, “I’m ready.”
I just hope to God I don’t trip.
By Ken DeLaat
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”- Wayne Dyer
I attended the city council meeting in White Cloud last week. Having been to many such meetings whether at the county, local cities or townships, the attendance is generally sparse.
Unless of course there is an issue that has divisive viewpoints and far reaching effects.
On this night the Council hosted a packed house with nearly 30 folks taking up all the chairs and some standing room as well.
There was none.
Oh, the council took a complaint or two about taxes and blight enforcement during public comment but that’s pretty perfunctory for such meetings. There was no ‘hot button’ issue to light up the citizenry, it seemed to be more a crowd who turned out to see what was going on.
And what they learned was that after years, well decades perhaps, of watching the city’s roads deteriorate into the kind of streets that are generally driven more like an obstacle course than a road, the streets were going to be repaired.
Mayor Jamie Denslow told the crowd at the recent City Council meeting that the new budget included a fix for the roads in the city,an issue that has been a thorn in the side of residents for far too long.The motion was made to include in the upcoming budget the road repair funds.
It was passed unanimously
“It’s not the ideal fix we want. We’re not digging up the streets and replacing everything but we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got ”
“It’s certainly better than what we have now,” said Council Member Jeff Murchison.
The meeting had a tone of optimism. There are people in our county seat who are dedicated to seeing the city improve and remain undeterred by the sprinkling of negativity and naysayers who tend to forever be lurking about when progress is attempted.
Also at the meeting were representatives of the Boomerang the grass roots group of folks who have done themselves well by shining a light on the positive aspects of the community through activities, involvement and a little pushback at pessimism. This group strives to harness the energy of the community and channel it in an upbeat direction. As a result while most of the community has embraced their efforts they also received some feedback knocking their endeavors. To their credit this group has persevered and remain seemingly eternal in their buoyancy..
We have heard a lot over the years about the glory days of White Cloud when they possessed multiple businesses (“We even had two car dealerships!”) and a much different level of prosperity. Generally accompanying this is the implication that if city leadership would merely make the right moves to encourage such a revival those days could return. This coincides of course, with the mandatory chastisement that comes when the decisions made don’t align with the thoughts of those registering complaints (generally through social media).
Here’s the deal. White Cloud is not going to be what it once was any more than Fremont or Newaygo or Grant or any other small town in America is. We are not the 1960’s we are half a century beyond and in case you haven’t noticed things have changed. It’s a different world and small towns across this wonderful country are striving to adjust. The ones who survive and even thrive are those who reinvent themselves, make the most out of what they have and create a culture of confidence and creativity.
A few years back the city was designated as a Trail Town and has made efforts to promote this and the area’s natural resources.
About a year or so ago the street lights came back on.
Soon the roads will get a bit of a makeover.
Changes are being made to improve the appearance of the city and make it more attractive.
There is action in the long dormant industrial park and a new business, a dispensary for medical marijuana, will be opening soon across from the airport after city leadership made the decision to join other cities across the state in welcoming this burgeoning industry to town.
And most of all there is a collective feeling of hopefulness among many in this little town “where the north begins and pure waters flow.”
There will still be those who will only see the downside of it all. Some folks thrive on providing a gloomy outlook and can be dismissive of any positive efforts.But these days they’re being drowned out by those who have embraced the opportunity for change.
White Cloud is trying. They are really really trying.
And from a very interested outsider looking in?
Well done White Cloudians.
Candidates Attend Newaygo County Democratic Party Grand Opening
The Newaygo County Democratic Party held its new headquarters Grand Opening in Fremont on May 2. Over 60 people who attended the event had the opportunity to shake hands with three candidates running in upcoming elections.
Poppy Sias-Hernandez kicked off her campaign for a primary win for the 34th District Senate seat currently held by Republican Geoff Hansen. Flanked by her staff and husband, Ms. Sias-Hernandez informed the crowd of her desire to get to know the people of Newaygo County and their unique needs as rural Michiganders so she can represent them well.
Dr. Rob Davidson is a local emergency room physician at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial who is hoping to win the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. Dr. Davidson’s decision to turn to politics came shortly after a town hall meeting last year with current representative, Republican Bill Huizenga.
Sandy Clarke was the third candidate to make an appearance at the open house. She is looking for a Democratic win against Republican Scott Van Singel, who holds office in the 100th District Congressional House.
“We had a very enthusiastic crowd of Newaygo County community members,” states Dallas Dean, chair of the local Democratic Party. “People are very eager to get to know all of the potential candidates so they can decide who might best represent them in the November elections. We will have more events that will include other candidates who could not make it here for the Grand Opening.”
Newaygo County shares the 34th Senate District with Muskegon and Oceana Counties; the 100th State House District with Lake and Oceana Counties; and the 2nd Congressional District with several West Michigan counties.
“Our State governing bodies can seem complicated,” states Shelly Ross, Fundraising Chair. “One of our goals is to help community members understand the different parts of our Michigan administration, what roles they play in governing our lives, and help to inform about the candidates who want to represent us.”
The Newaygo County Democratic Party, located at 26 W. Main Street in Fremont, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Monday through Friday and some Saturdays. Parking and entry is in the rear.
The next general meeting is Monday, May 15 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Spanky’s Pizza, 1042 W. Main Street, Fremont.
The birth of Gerber Memorial 100 years ago
By Randy Stasik, president, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial
Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial turns 100 this year and we are blessed to have served this community since 1918.
Gerber Hospital started out as a home, remodeled to care for a few patients. Newaygo County and Fremont were growing in the first decade of the 20th century and a medical facility was needed to serve the needs of local families. After the death of Joseph and Agnes (Moyer) Gerber in 1917, their children donated their family home at 212 West Maple, built by Matthew Mullen, “for the establishment of an institution for the care of the sick.”
In May 1918, a committee was formed to organize the establishment of the municipal hospital. The committee members were: W.J. Branstrom, Harry Reber, Frank Gerber, C. Gerber, F. H. Smith, Rev. R.A. Thibos, Rev. H. Keegstra, H. C. Buck, John Pikaart, Don VanderWerp, Mrs. C. Gerber, Mrs. W. H. Barnum, Mrs. Milo A. White, Mrs. Dirk Kolk and Mrs. Ben Dill.
As the Fremont Times-Indicator reported May 2, 1918: “With very little remodeling, the Gerber property will give the city a splendid hospital building. The house is large and commodious and is surrounded by beautiful grounds. Its location is ideal for hospital purposes.”
In July 1918, articles of incorporation were adopted. And in August 1918, officers for the hospital were selected from nine trustees: President, W. J. Branstrom; Vice President, W. H. Burns; Secretary, Mrs. Milo A. White; Treasurer, John H. Ensing. Trustees were Keegstra, Nellie Gerber, Frank Newlin, William DeKuiper and Mabel Barnum.
The next step: remodeling the building and purchasing medical equipment. To raise funds, membership certificates were sold for $10, and the State of Michigan issued the hospital’s charter in September 1919. The new hospital was official called “Gerber Memorial Hospital.”
For some context, the health care landscape at the time was very different from what it is today. Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid did not exist. Country doctors made house calls. Home remedies were the first line of defense and house calls were a last resort.
A doctor’s visit at the time could cost around $4, which is an estimated $72 today. Insulin was still three years away from being discovered. The global flu epidemic of 1918 was just beginning in America.
On Aug. 1, 1918, just before kicking off the fundraising drive, Gerber Memorial’s board of directors appealed to the community through the Times-Indicator: “This hospital means much to this community. Its value cannot be measured in dollars. The sick and afflicted can be as well taken care of here at home, where they will be near to those that are dear to them, as if they were taken to some distant institution. The institution will be non-sectarian. The same treatment will be accorded to all.”
On Aug. 15, about a week into the fund drive, Gerber Memorial had raised $1,500 from the community, the equivalent of around $27,000 today. Still in its infancy, Gerber Memorial was taking solid first steps toward the future.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of columns to commemorate Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s centennial, coinciding with National Hospital Week May 6-May 12. Next month: Leading Gerber Memorial.
An interview with our local cab service
When Uber came on the scene in San Francisco less than a decade ago it ushered in a whole new approach to the transportation needs of the citizenry that went beyond the often inefficient and many times unavailable traditional taxicabs.
Few could predict the explosiveness of such an endeavor and these days travelers and those in metro areas who opt to not drive have alternatives to public transportation and cab companies.
Rural areas such as our county, however continue to wrestle with how to widen the transportation alternatives for our residents.
About a year and a half ago Janet Clark launched one option for those who might find themselves in need of getting from one place to another and either have no vehicle, have a vehicle but would prefer not to drive or have a vehicle and truly should not be driving.
JC Subercab has helped folks get to the airport, the store, a doctor appointment or sometimes just home from an evening of celebration swiftly and safely since opening her doors (car doors that is) and has watched her business grow as folks have become aware of her services.
We caught up with Ms. Clark for a small chat.
N3: When did you start JC SuberCab?
JC: The concept really came together during the summer of 2016. I really tried to plan everything out before I "launched". However, it's really been a learning process from the first day November 5, 2016.
N3:Why did you start it? What gave you the idea, how did you make the decision to go ahead.
JC: I had the idea of a taxi service about 30 years ago. I always hoped someone else would start one but....In the summer of 2016 I was listening to a Christian radio station and the guest speaker was urging everyone who had ever had a dream to FINISH IT!!!! GO AFTER IT!!! THAT'S GOD'S PLAN FOR YOU!!!!! So I just felt it was time for me to be obedient to that calling.
I had also read a transportation research article in the archives of Newaygo County website that stated that Newaygo County is the only county in Michigan that has NO public transportation. The. Only. One.
N3: What has surprised you most about the business, the people, the work and what kind of things have you learned?
JC: I thought my time would be spent being everyone's designated driver on Friday and Saturday night. While true, that's not where most of my business comes from. Most of my business is taking care of the regular folks of Newaygo County. People need groceries, visit their doctors, meet legal appointments, socialize with friends, and catch a bus or an airplane out of town. I provide that service.
N3: Your favorite thing about what you’re doing.
JC: The best thing is feeling like a rock star when I walk into an establishment. Another thing I really enjoy is the variety of people I get to meet. Giving folks a helping hand when they need it really makes you feel good, too.
N3: Future plans?
JC: I see nothing but growth for JC Subercab. I believe this because the need is so great and isn't going away. I hope to sub-contract several drivers, too.
N3: Why should people us JC SuberCab?
JC: Why wouldn't you? Listen, I've heard getting a drunk driving ticket could cost $10,000. My fees are usually about $9, 980 less than that. I work hard at being on time and providing good care to my riders. Why wouldn't you?!
By Ken DeLaat
Well, 198 to be more precise but medications no longer needed or no longer wanted or simply far past their expiration date made it into the coffers of the Sheriff’s Department and the Hometown Pharmacy site manned by the Newaygo Police department.
Add that to the 3,285 pounds of medications collected since the program began four years ago and you get over 1 ½ tons of medicine not going into the water system, the landfills or most importantly not into the hands of those who were not prescribed the meds.
Prescription drug use is a significant issue among youth and has contributed to the opioid epidemic by allowing access to potentially harmful and/or addictive drugs via the family medicine cabinet or sometimes through a visit to grandparents house.
The program began as a way to reduce the availability of prescription drugs by providing a way for folks in the community to rid themselves of medications some that have been laying around the house for years. Starting with a drop off box at the Sheriff’s Department, there are now drop off sites in each of the county law enforcement agencies as well as at the Commission on Aging,Hometown Pharmacy, and TrueNorth Community Services.
“The Headway Coalition is thrilled with the success of the Take Back Day. The success of the event wouldn’t have been possible without the many community partnerships the coalition members have worked so hard to establish. These partnerships are instrumental in reducing the access Newaygo County kids have to medicines, alcohol, and nicotine products.”
The Headway Coalition , a collective of community members with a common goal of preventing substance abuse through local efforts spearheaded this effort.
The work of Headway as well as other substance abuse services in Newaygo County is funded through the Mid State Health Network a multi county agency based in Lansing and through The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, a federal government organization.
Letter to the Editor Policy
Near North Now welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Simply fill out the form below. Letters submissions are limited to 300 words.