Saturday, April 26, 2014

Alright, Let's Try This

Today, my sister posted something on Facebook which reminded me of something I wrote years ago on this universally under-appreciated blog.  This caused me to go back and find this post, which in turn caused me to start to re-read many of my old posts, which in turn caused me to laugh heartily at my generally amazing loquaciousness.  It was a great pleasure writing almost daily because I really felt that everyone deserved to experience all sides of me.

I think we all deserve a loud and proud CONGRATULATIONS for that period - me, for being so excellent, and you, for deciding to enhance your life by reading about me.

Now that we've all agreed upon this, let's also take a moment to acknowledge that not writing anything in a little over three years is not excellent overall performance - if you measure performance by any of the possible metrics on which one may measure such a thing.  As Adele Dazeem says, "the past is in the past."  You can't say I didn't warn you...

So then what's happened in the past three years?  Man, I ate so much ice cream.  So, so much ice cream.

Before we had Dean, I always felt relatively occupied.  I had a busy job, a newish wife, I had just spent every free moment fixing and updating the house we now live in, ice cream to eat, and most likely some other stuff that kept me busy.  Having just one (just ONE) child redefined my concept of free time, and in truth, all I ever wanted to do was not to do anything if I ever had the opportunity to not do anything.  And this is why I haven't written Jiminy Cricket in 3+ years.

What else is new...my sister moved back to Michigan from Minnesota and now has three children, my brother moved back to Michigan from California, my lovely wife Maureen has (1) not divorced me and (2) is pregnant with our second child, my sister-in-law has 2 sons, my parents participate in dog competitions every weekend and compete nationally, my softball team has won two or three league championships, my volleyball team has won one, Breaking Bad, Fringe, and The Office are done, and a million other things.  It has been a batshit crazy 3 years.  Why are bats known for their combined shitting and craziness?  I've done a little Googling and the answer is unclear.  Was Google invented between April 2011 and now?  It's amazing!  I can write words into a box and then it attempts to give me answers to my words.  Batshit crazy!

With another child on the horizon in early June, it seems likely that I will be amazingly successful at failing to take a new run at writing.  I anticipate my desired use of free time again morphing to reflect something akin to a catatonic state.  Who knows?  I don't know much, but I know I love you, and that may be, all I need to know.

Well I do know this - we've pretty much entirely fixed the state of Michigan through positive thinking and jokes. However, pretty much entirely is not entirely the same thing as entirely, so maybe, just maybe, there can be a little time for this avocation.  Or maybe not.  Who do I look like, Angie Dickinson?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Something in the Air

Good morning, Michigan.

Several months have passed since my last blog post, mostly for reasons outlined in my last post, but also because of what I will chalk up to excessive sloth and scurvy. My brother knew someone in college who got scurvy because the kid literally ate noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is almost impossible to get scurvy in this day and age because Vitamin C is in pretty much everything - it is so prevalent in our world that Vitamin C even manifested itself as a human and performed that one song about being friends forever. So this one kid with scurvy that my brother knew I guess literally almost died because the doctors were not able to diagnose him because scurvy was so far from being a possibility in their minds. I don't have the facts to back this up but Steve hasn't gone out of his way to lie to me in the past to make me look dumb in a blog post 3 months after my last post. Don't start a precedent, Steve. Also, it has been so long since I've written that it is going to be hard for me to recall if I've repeated a life story of my own or someone else's. Don't hold that against me.

So I'm up this wonderful Saturday morning at about 5:30 am because of one of the fun things about being a parent - specifically, Dean decided that he did not like us last night and he did not very well embrace the sweet world of sleep. Because Maureen is fantastic, she managed him most of the night, but this time I volunteered to bring him downstairs so she could catch a little reasonable shut eye. Through a combination of Simon, Garfunkel, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong, the baby finally calmed down and is now sleeping on the couch. Since he is asleep and I am wide awake, I thought it made sense to return to writing a little bit to talk about something kind of neat that I see going around me these days. And no, I am not talking about the damn frozen snow flakes that have been caked on my windshield every day the last two weeks. Go the hell away, frozen snow flakes. It's April, dudes.

On to my subject of choice, I wanted to talk about something happening with some of my peers that I find both encouraging and refreshing. Michigan has not recently been known as a place of innovation, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship. This does not mean that there are not great entrepreneurs in Michigan or that they have not been working hard at creating new technologies, businesses, and corresponding jobs, but Michigan is definitely viewed as a distant follower in this space. People have been saying for years, if not decades, that Michigan has to become more entrepreneurial and innovative if it really wants to find an economic way forward out of it's troubles. The problem has been that our success of the last century, driven by world-changingly creative and innovative people, has bred generations of citizens who understandably focused their lives around supporting the businesses that created our present. The need to create was, unfortunately, just not that important to the immediate well-being of a standard individual or the state as a whole.

People from my generation have heard this refrain for as long as we can remember, and it isn't going anywhere in the near future. It is in the fabric of who we are as Michiganders. The most difficult thing for us has been the fear that there really wasn't anything that we could do to change a problem so systemic, it has cost the state millions of jobs and severely hindered population growth. For example, I'm not really an "ideas guy." I find that I have a proficiency for taking others' ideas and tweaking them for improvement, but I'm not an inventor. If we're out to dinner together, I'm much better at taking something funny that you said and putting my own punctuation on it than writing the sentence myself. Realistically, as a good worker but not necessarily an innovative person, what can I do to change our state's entrepreneurial culture?

This is not an easy question to answer, but it seems like more and more people I know have been asking themselves some variation of the same thing. I don't run in a huge social circle, but in just the last year, four people that I would deem pretty good friends have taken very significant steps to position themselves in whatever way possible to contribute to solving the part of the problem that they are capable of solving.

I'll start with Mike because he has taken the most direct step in this regard. Mike is a well educated guy who had a good job at a large medical devices company based in Ann Arbor. If he continued on that path, he would have had a great and comfortable career filled with promotions. Last year, he decided to leave that firm to become one of the first three employees of a new startup based in Southfield, while at the same time starting business school at night. This is a company with a medical technology coming out of research done in Michigan based around preventing spinal nerve damage during invasive surgeries. Here's some info about them. I couldn't root for them more, but the truth is, who knows if they will be successful? Despite this uncertainty, Mike has taken the massive step of leaving his comfort zone with an awesomely possibly upside but also a realistic chance of failure. In Michigan, the general public probably might not view this risky move as wise, but this is exactly the type of risk that starts to foster a culture of innovation and startup business.

Next up, Todd. Todd is a pharmacist who manages a series of pharmacies. I'm sure he makes plenty of bank and could easily cruise down this path until he retires and decides to try to be a DJ on the electronic music scene. Despite this, over the last year, Todd has learned to code and has been feverishly working with a small team in their own sandbox, bizibly.com, to figure out how to commercialize some of his ideas. Now, Todd has a bit of the wanderlust and I'm doing my best to push back against that, but he, too, is using much of his free time to actively pursue the path of starting some form of business. Why? I'm not exactly sure, but it is clear that he has a drive to create and he's taking specific steps to become a creator.

Now, Reid. I was an undergraduate with Reid and we were good acquaintances during that time. Years later, he started dating one of Maureen's good friends, so I have had the pleasure to spend more and more time with him recently. Reid is a full time student in business school with a great job offer lined up for after school, but he has been working with a team of other students over the past two years on developing a company called "Are You a Human" (can't find their website). They are developing a very cool method to replace the standard captcha (those annoying, squiggly, hard-to-read words you have to type in when you want to buy a ticket from Ticketmaster). They are on the verge of turning this into a very real technology company based in either Detroit or Ann Arbor.

Finally, me (I mentioned four friends, and I am the best friend I know). I left my very enjoyable consulting gig surrounded by brilliant minds last year to work on a non-profit initiative called The MORE Program to create a previously non-existent entrepreneurial support ecosystem throughout the state. Our work is going quite well and we are excited about what we will be launching in the near future. In my role, I have had the chance to travel around the state and meet with entrepreneurs and economic leaders of all shapes and sizes. Some of the work going on around the state to support business in some of the places you would least expect is truly amazing.

These four individuals do not make up a huge sample size (that is my engineering background at work), and who knows where any of us will go. Despite the outcomes, this is exactly the type of culture we must continue to encourage. If you have a friend considering starting a business or starting to look down that path, don't tell them if you think they have a good idea or a bad idea (though if they have a bad idea that you believe will cause them financial harm, do suggest they seek out a seasoned mentor or adviser like at the statewide SBTDC offices), but rather give them unlimited encouragement to pursue their interest. If they ask your help and you're interested in participating, throw in for the challenge. Continue to support our state's entrepreneurs until they decide it's not what they want to do. Someone else succeeding does not mean that you have failed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Compromise


Good evening to all. I just wanted to say that I promise that I have not (yet) abandoned the world of writing on the blog. Often people go at it for a while with some strong energy, then slowly but surely entirely stop writing because they run out of things to say. It is clear that it is pretty impossible that I will ever run out of things to say (unintelligent and nonsensical things do technically count as things to say), but I decided over the past couple months to really enjoy the first months of Dean's life while also appropriately committing myself to my still pretty new employment path. Trying to do both of these things as well as possible has resulted in a massive degradation of time directed toward many things I care about, including consistent running, watching TV, and chunks of sleep greater than 1.5 hours. They say that life is a series of compromises, and I now realize that this is only the case when you have children. Prior to that, there is absolutely no need to compromise on anything, ever. This is exactly the message that I will communicate to Dean. For now, I will continue to enjoy the first months of our new family member and just stockpile my ingenuity, waiting to be unleashed like a torrent of things that happen really quickly when they have been leashed for a long period of time. Just like one of those things.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patent This Intellectual Property

Quite a bit of news has been going around Michigan these days, with the primary focus being the birth of baby Dean. Dean!

Aside from that, our longtime buddy and all around good guy, Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted for organized crime as well as his dad and a few other fantastic people who run in the Kilpatrick circle. I have no idea how his mom has not yet been named in anything. If I was running or a significant part of an organized, or even disorganized, crime organization, I am absolutely certain that my mom would be all over that. Moms know everything, and that has always been a little bit scary. There will be many more hilarious and enjoyable things to say about this story, hopefully ending in longer term incarceration of the Kilpatrick family.

In better news, the city of Detroit was tonight named to house the United States' first ever satellite office for the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. The current plan is for the office to employee about 100+ individuals. Detroit beat out some pretty big and substantial other likely contenders, including cities like Boston. I'll have to look up the specifics but I can't right now because I have a baby (best excuse ever from now on to not do something I should be doing), but Michigan is definitely a leader in patent applications because of the amount of R&D in the automotive industry that goes on here. Believe it or not, the auto industry is actually a pretty high tech industry with lots of innovation.

In addition to immediate personnel at the office, I would guess that there will be a pretty decent amount of tangential job creation to support the intellectual property legal work going on at this new location. Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Gary Locke, indicated that there were many reasons why they chose Detroit for this new office, and I choose to believe that "pity" was not one of these reasons. We are going to intellectual property the hell out of this country.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dean's Birth Story


It has been just about two weeks since Maureen gave birth to baby Dean on November 28th. The dust has settled and we've now had time to process what all of this means on a day-to-day basis. While our schedule is anything but settled and he has no desire to sleep after 11pm, being a parent for two weeks has been pretty wonderful and filled with important time together as a new family, with our nuclear families, and with some really nice visits with friends. We'll keep figuring out what all this means, but right now I just would like to share our story from Dean's birth day and some observations because it's just a really nice thing on which to reflect a little bit.

Sunday November 28th at about 3:00 am Maureen woke me with a nudge and told me that she was going to head downstairs. She was feeling some regular contractions but it was not yet clear if these were going to transition into full born labor. A couple nights earlier at about the same time of the morning, she was experiencing some similar sensations, but after heading downstairs for a little while, the length of time between contractions expanded and eventually petered out, so this was a likely outcome for this morning. About 15 minutes later, Maureen gave a holler up the stairs to me to let me know that she thought this was the real thing, and I should probably come downstairs to attend to her. About 5 minutes later, things got even a little more intense and we decided it was time to call our doula and the midwife answering service to tell them that we thought that we would be heading to the hospital soon. Our doula, Deb, got to our house at around 5 am, and at about 6 we decided to head to the hospital. We arrived at Southfield Providence Hospital at 6:30 and Maureen and Deb made their way into the hospital while I parked the car. I very quickly made my way up to the room and that's when the real party started.

Without going into too much detail on the specifics of this part, Maureen labored for the next 7 hours, and we had our then-unnamed boy at 1:38 pm. The labor process was very much like what you would learn at a birth education class and absolutely amazing to observe. Maureen was just incredible throughout the entire thing, and I would like to talk a little bit more about that.

Several months ago, Maureen decided that she would like to attempt a natural birth. Natural birth is most certainly not all the rage in the United States these days as as epidurals and C-Sections are extremely prominent, but there is small movement back toward natural birth in the U.S. This is a very personal decision to every couple and there isn't a wrong option for this. Some people want medication, some people want or need surgical intervention, and others attempt a natural birth but it just wasn't meant to be because the baby wouldn't cooperate with this goal. Our baby cooperated and Maureen was able to successfully have the baby without any medication, and I remain so impressed by her and the whole natural birth thing. The process certainly was intensely hard work for her, but there were at least a few moments during those hours that our marriage and love and my appreciation for her strengthened and grew by amounts I did not realize were possible, and at least for me, made the entire thing something I will forever cherish (beyond just the fact that we got a pretty cool baby out of it). My job was to remain as cool, collected, and supportive as possible before, during, and after the labor and that's not terribly hard to do if you're appropriately educated and prepared about everything that happens. I realize this, so I hope I don't come across as "hey this was a piece of cake." The real heavy lifting is on the mom. However, having a fully mentally present wife during and immediately after the labor made for two moments that touched me and forever changed me as a person.

First, as Maureen was fully entrenched and near the long completion of the immensely strenuous push phase, she was a little drunk from exhaustion and hard work. I was doing my best to communicate positive things to her and my pride in her, and she had a moment of extreme lucidity, looked at me, and quietly said "he's almost here." I'm not sure what it was exactly about these words, but the combination of her hard work, our months of preparation, the knowledge of our future life changes, and her ability to put this thought together made me immediately burst into tears. I cried for about the next 10 minutes and the baby wasn't even quite out yet. When the baby came, Maureen was able to immediately hold him, with a clear mind say "I love you so much", and then immediately start nursing and bonding. This is much harder to do under medication because the baby comes out too groggy to respond. Just fascinating. The overarching component to the experience was just knowing how much Maureen was going through, and that she was bearing it because she was amazing and strong and capable and she wanted to bring her baby into the world as naturally as possible. I've never been more impressed with anyone or anything. How about this - 45 minute crown. Damn. I guess from our experience what I would say is that I would encourage you to consider going this route, but if you don't want to, your birth experience will still be beautiful.

Now, a few things that made this experience possible:

We had Dean at Southfield Providence Hospital and its Alternative Birthing Center. They've been around for something like 30 years, but are not especially well advertised or broadly well known. They are a unit of the hospital, owned by the hospital, and if you decide to go to them, they will work with you on natural child birth. This means many things - moms and dads get big rooms all to themselves with big tubs to assist with pain management. Because moms are not on a constant fetal monitor, they are encouraged to move around the room and into the large tubs to try to find the position that is best for them. It could be on a birthing ball, on the toilet, in the bed, or anywhere else that the mom may want to try for comfort. They regularly check the baby's heart rate with little hand held monitors to make sure that the baby is healthy, but that is pretty much it. However, if the mom decides she wants medication or a C-Section is necessary, they will move you down the hall to the fully staffed and capable labor and delivery unit. It's very close to a home birth, but with a whole bunch of medical staff if you need them. And speaking of staff...

The nurses in the ABC absolutely love what they do, and the births are attended by a midwife from Metro Partners in Women's Health. This organization is based out of Novi Providence Hospital and they have midwives, OBs, and nurses who work for them. They have a team of about 5 or 6 midwives that you regularly see leading up to the birth. Our birth was attended by Sarah Sutton from Metro Partners and a whole team of Providence nurses based on their shift. Between the certified nurse midwife and the nurses, we felt blanketed in constant support the entire time. They were medically proficient, made intelligent recommendations/suggestions, had encouraging words, and in the end, caught and handed us a healthy baby. They are not pushy or negative or even overly positive - just what you need when you need them and supportive of whatever decision you decide or need to make about the birth.

Finally, I recommend a doula. Our doula's name, as mentioned before, was Deb, and here is her website. A doula serves many purposes, but mainly they meet with you a couple times before and after the birth to talk through your plan and any thing that may be on your mind, they are there with you throughout the entire birth, and then they meet with you a couple times after the birth to discuss lactation, any postpartum issues you may be experiencing, and again anything else you might want to discuss about parenting. The most valuable part of her services, I felt, was just having someone there during the entire birth, 100% committed to supporting the mom (mainly) and the dad. The nurses and midwives have other duties and they need to come and go, but Deb was just there for us. When we got to the hospital and I needed to park, Deb stayed with Maureen. She helped us decide it was time to go to the hospital, and if our parents were pushy (which they're fortunately not), she would have kept them patient in the waiting room. She also made suggestions to Maureen throughout the labor and provided other physical support services. It enabled me to focus on purely being what Maureen needed from me - mental support and encouragement. Deb served Maureen's needs which let me do my job.

So there you go. Now we have a baby who is two weeks old, and we love him very much. He refuses to sleep after 11 pm and he wants to feed 5 minutes after a 50 minute feeding (his father's son in this regard), but everything about him is perfect. He is right on track to tell me in 14 years that he temporarily hates me because I wouldn't let him get the iPhone 47.

Being a parent is exactly like I thought, yet somehow completely different. Changing diapers isn't a nuisance (at least for a brief while), it is actually a sign that the baby is well fed and his system is working correctly. Ever time we feel a poop I'm like "YES!" whereas before him, the thought of this made me not especially happy. I'm still changing diapers, but it just doesn't mean what I thought.

What is my point in writing all this, most certainly my longest post in quite some time? First, it is a love letter to my wife who carried and birthed our son. I love you honey and while I've said it to you privately, maybe it will mean something different if I declare it publicly - I'm so proud of you. You are easily tied with all the best moms in the world. Second, it is a little history for Dean, and I will use these words to guilt him into taking me to movies when I'm old. Finally, it is just a general declaration of the love and amazement of life. So many things have to go right for any one baby to be born, and yet, there are billions of us alive at this moment and billions came before us. The fact that I'm here and Maureen is here and we had a baby is a testament to how incredible every moment can be. Not every moment is perfect, but it is always perfect that perfect moments are possible. Now I've had a few more of these.

Thanks for bearing with me on this extremely personal and lengthy indulgence. It's a story I wanted to tell. Welcome to the world, Dean.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life and The Start of It

For the zero of you who read this and are not friends on Facebook, on Sunday afternoon at 1:38 pm, Maureen birthed our new baby son, Dean. Don't believe me? Here's a picture.

As a result of this momentous life event, it will be difficult for me to, for at least a little bit, create any sort of interesting thoughts. I actually have way more to say about the birth process than I would have thought, and I'm really looking forward to getting my thoughts down here as soon as possible. In the meantime, I need to tend to my wife and my beautiful son. You'll be able to assess how much the baby is napping by whether or not I'm knocking out any posts. In the meantime, let me just say that while I love Michigan and all the amazing things about our state, I love my wife and son a little bit more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kid Rock Will Save Us

It was the summer of 1999. That was not my favorite summer of all time for many teenage-angst reasons, but there were also some non-teenage-angst reasons, and one of those reasons was the song Bawitdaba by KIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD................KIDDDDDDDD ROCK! There was some sort of a motor cycle rally taking place on top of a mobile home and a bunch of people (guys and girls) wearing glittery clothes and dancing around in a provocative manner. No one knew or cared what the song was about, but it was conducive to aggression and included the phrase "topless dancers", so it was primed for success before it even hit the pre-iTunes airwaves. There was even a swearing and angry little person - another sure sign of success. The guy who sang (yelled the song at you) had a terrible haircut, always wore hats, and apparently, was a proud southeastern Michigan native. He had been growing through the Detroit music scene for many years, slowly developing his local fan base until his album Devil Without a Cause found strong success on the national level. At that time, it seemed clear that Kid Rock would be a temporary and annoying distraction until the next Backstreet Boys song hit the streets.

The haircut hasn't changed and he still wears the exact same hats, but Kid Rock has clearly become much more than a temporary and annoying distraction. In fact, he is likely one of the most diverse and popular endearing popular music artists of the last decade. He can and does swing styles from performance to performance, and he has played at events ranging from The Rally to Restore Sanity to Hope for Haiti Now to wherever you can find moonshine across the United States. All the while, The Kid has been a proud and strong representative of Michigan, publicly speaking out on behalf of Michigan and the many good things going on here. Humorously, he often acknowledges something along the lines of "I don't know why you have me here to talk about this. You're the smart ones," but he soldiers on as a good native son.

He took this support farther at the American Music Awards last evening when he performed a song called Times Like These from his new album. Why was I watching the AMAs, you may be thinking. I would never under any circumstance watch the AMAs. I'd rather listen to Bawitdaba. This song was entirely about Michigan, and the performance included images of Michigan behind him throughout the entire song. It was sweet, sincere, and touching to anyone who has any ties to the state and is not a jerk. I have to say that there are lines that don't make a whole lot of sense, like "and even though it's bittersweet, it brings us to our knees" (normally a thought structured in this way would have clearly conflicting elements, but I just don't see it here. Like "Even though I knew it would make me vomit all night, I ate the entire bag of Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips." True story.), but I can look past the simplicity of parts of the song and just appreciate someone out there publicly and extremely visibly positively representing Detroit. It's not that deep and you may not love the song, but I greatly appreciate anyone who is proud to stand up and tell them you're from...Detroit! Who could have possibly guessed 10 years ago that this person would be Kid Rock. I still think he would look way better with a haircut. I really like my barber, Rudy, and I would definitely recommend him if I meet Mr. Rock.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The End of a National Nightmare

The end of two national nightmares, actually. First, in case you haven't heard, this week marks an extremely significant development in the world of Apple and iTunes. Specifically, we will never, ever have to hear another rumor about Steve Jobs announcing that The Beatles will be available through iTunes. This is a rumor that has run rampant on average 9.4 distinct times a year for the last 5 years, including the last 3 years when absolutely nobody was left to care whether or not The Beatles were available through iTunes. The regularity of this rumor was on par with whether or not the show Seinfeld would pick up right where it left off or if Barry Sanders was going to return from retirement. Come back, Barry! The Lions have won something like 1 game since you unexpectedly left the team 700 The Beatles are coming to iTunes rumors ago. To me personally, this Beatles thing has been particularly annoying because I tend to root against the behemoth that is Apple and I just don't understand the love of Beatles music. I don't dislike it by any measure, it's just kind of average and nondescript sounding. It's like how Shakespeare invented a whole bunch of words and phrases and the like, and when we read them now, they feel really overused even though he invented them. That's how I feel about the Beatles. "They invented modern rock and roll!" yes, but The Great Train Robbery invented modern film and I wouldn't really chose to watch that anymore. What's that you say? The best analogy ever? Thank you.

The next national nightmare that has ended is England can finally, FINALLY stop waiting for Prince William to get engaged. He is going to marry that millionaire commoner peasant, Kate Middleton, who will now have to figure out how to not be ashamed of her family's millions and millions of dollars. Life as a millionaire marrying a billionaire is tough. The best part of this story is that, like The Beatles on iTunes, we'll no longer ever have to hear Meredith Viera say "is it finally time for Prince William to tie the knot" or whatever other colloquialism the writers of The Today Show choose to represent marriage. My favorite is "hug the exercise waterfowl", which I just made up right now.

The best part of these two things together, as Maureen pointed out, is that this means at the reception of Kate and William, they'll be able to include legally downloaded copies of songs from The Beatles when they build their wedding playlist to play directly off of their iPod shuffle through the speakers at their local Elks Lodge. DJs are expensive. Do they have Elks Lodges in England? Likely not, but if so, they're probably only for weddings for lowly commoners like Kate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Timing is Everything

By my calendar count, we have 7 days until the due date of one baby male human being, probably preliminarily incapable of both speaking and basic calculus. When I found that out, I said to Maureen "why even have a baby?" She then informed me that on top of these developmental facts, your average child can't understand sarcasm until they're 10, to which I responded "well isn't that GREAT."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Worst Place in Michigan

Focus, of course, is usually on the great people and place in Michigan, what I ate for dinner, or how much I dislike gypsies. I actually don't have any opinion about gypsies, but I thought I needed a third subject beyond Michigan and what I ate for dinner. As it turns out, that's all I got. I have a very limited view of the world.

Today, as Maureen and I drove through a very busy interchange on Michigan's extensive and great freeway system, I started to feel my blood boil. I'm no civil engineer or construction expert, but what in the damn crap poop hell are they doing on I-96 just west of I-275? They have been working on this stretch of freeway since the earth cooled from the great rains after the magma solidified to create Pangaea. At this time, the creator of earth, Martha Stewart, planted a sign near the middle of Pangaea and wrote on the sign "I-96 Under Construction. Seek Alternative Route." For as long as I can remember back, there have been bulldozers, concrete breakers, piles of rubble, concrete barriers, and port-a-potties stretching along this forsaken stretch of road. Nights like tonight are especially frustrating because I hadn't been on this stretch of road for months, and when I finally return to it, absolutely nothing has discernibly changed. Nothing. The same damn traffic shifts, the same damn concrete barriers, the same barren median just screaming with open space on which you and I are not allowed to drive because this is the worst place in Michigan.

What's worse, this stretch of road has been creating backups to Telegraph road on westbound I-696 for as long as this terrible construction has been going on. Ridiculous. We are all accustomed to road construction projects in this great state, but this is the grand mama of Michigan road projects. It is the Alpha and Omega. The Simon and the Garfunkel. The "acrossed" of Michigan road projects. It is the worst stretch of land in the state.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Acrossed, A Farewell

I don't know when or where or why or how it happened, but over the past 5 years, the word across, a simple, wonderful word, has been replaced by people everywhere by "acrossed" or "acrosst" or some variation of the word across with a "t" sound at the end. Many people have a word or words that aren't actually words that are upsetting to them, but I believe that acrossed may be the most insidious non-word in the world. The reason why is the stunning breadth and depth of the infiltration of this devolution of the English language. From my own personal experience (which I would feel very comfortable saying is interaction with people of above-average intelligence) , it now seems that more than 50% of people I know fail at not using "acrossed." Every time I write it down it makes me feel like my soul is dying a little bit. These are smart, professional, accomplished individuals who, for some reason, feel compelled to make me hate them by putting together letters in this utter failure of letter arrangement. Acrossed is everywhere and it sucks. I hate it, and probably you if you say it.

This is one of the small benefits of writing a blog. It enables me to say to any readers without explicitly telling individuals that you are frequently using a nonsensical sound combination. In this way, I can slowly begin the defeat and eventual death of acrossed - which, if you haven't been able to tell by now, is a WORD THAT DOESN'T EXIST.

Again I acknowledge that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these non-words that people use every day, but I sincerely believe that this one has entered a pantheon of its own in the terrible realm deserving of special acknowledgment right here, right now.

You may be wondering right now, "Do I say this stupid thing and is Ken talking about me right now." And the answer to this question is "yes, you are almost definitely doing this." So stop, dummy. Really, stop. Even Urban Dictionary agrees, except that they emphasize that this happens primarily in the Midwest, and I know more than a few very smart guys from California who also happen to use this word.

Now that you know, if I hear you using acrossed, I'm going to slap you acrossed the face.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Understand

Over two years ago, the college football world was like a big, ripe melon. Much like purchasing and eventually cutting in to a delicious cantaloupe, it was unclear what the future held for U of Michigan football, but it was unarguably exciting. Michigan was entering a brave new world of offensive firepower, insanely in shape athletes, and possibly even black quarterbacks! If that last statement alone didn't imply significant changes in the program, I don't know what statement would. This old, stodgy guy was leaving and a new, successful guy who "got modern football" was breezing into town bringing only a moderate amount of controversy up from West Virginia. As we now know, this time of great anticipation was not one of waiting to cut into the perfect cantaloupe, but rather the precursor to an alien hatching out of a shell that looked like a cantaloupe, infiltrating your body, killing most humans and taking over the world, and then you found out that the supermarket at which you were shopping for the first cantaloupe doesn't even carry that particular melon, or any melon at all! Yes, exactly like that.

It has been a terrible, terrible almost three seasons of Michigan football. I really don't care that the team is 5-3 this year. They are terrible. I fear we are in the midst of an unturnable long-term downturn, and we will end up as something even more terrible like Notre Dame or Tennessee. Poor Notre Dame and Tennessee.

As a prideful person, our suck has been embarrassing and emotional. Like that time I bought the alien that I thought was a cantaloupe. Even the rare victories have felt like defeats. Against abominable teams, Michigan would have to navigate last minute drives or big second half comebacks to avoid losing to teams like UMass. I don't know a ton about some of the really deep, dark details of football strategy, but it hasn't been hard to realize that neither does Michigan.

As an alum, I could not figure out why this level of performance was acceptable to the athletic department. Also as a young alum, I find myself sometimes wondering what the university is doing for me now that I (my parents) am not paying tuition and I can only donate modestly each calendar year. Finally, these two pieces came together and I'm feeling a whole lot better. The University of Michigan football team is sucking for me. Thank you U of M!

The past couple years have been a really busy period in my life. I was wedding planning, moving, changing jobs, getting married, acclimating to married life, trying to find time for scripted TV viewing and working out with all of these changes, and trying to keep up with a number of other significant life events like getting ready for a baby. Thanks to the terror of U of M football, I was able to claim Saturdays as my own and not be chained to the TV rooting for a run at the Big Ten title. I didn't even have to root for a run at The Motor City Bowl. I could do the things that I needed to do, maintain all my responsibilities, and still have a little time to relax and center myself thanks to those hours on Saturday I did not have to commit to maize and blue football.

Now that I've made this realization, I just wanted to send a big thank you to Michigan football. The extra free time has really been appreciated and has enabled me to live a fuller, happier, and less football-filled life. Michigan even took this a step further and coordinated with the Lions to ensure that they also were embarrassing, so that I could take the entire weekend as my own. Those are the kinds of sacrifices that really make you feel like you have a personal connection with your team.

Now that the baby is almost here, I also wanted to let Michigan know that you don't need to worry about me anymore. We're as ready for what comes next in life as any two people can be, and I feel selfish making everyone suffer just so that I don't have to concern myself with football on Saturday. This post constitutes my formal permission for Michigan Football to pretend I don't exist and perform like a team with the full complement of 11 players on the field at any given time.Your sacrifice of respectability as a program just for me has been a very special gesture, but I think it's time that we both move on. I'll always remember what you did for me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

D.C. Envy

Washington D.C. was the proud recipient of me and my positive attitude from Thursday of last week to Sunday. I had to go for a couple meetings on Friday, and then my traveling companion and I stuck around that part of the world for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It's really a good thing that I did go to help flesh out the crowd. Barely 250,000 people showed up. I don't want to say that I was key to making the event a success, but I can't think of another way of finishing that sentence. It was one of those weird things where you go to a event and you can only barely see a giant monitor and you're literally about a mile from the stage, but you're still happy that you went. This phenomenal partial view of the monitor was the payoff of standing in one place for six hours next to a group of 7 or 8 freshman-aged wastes of life that must have smoked about 30 joints and 60 cigarettes over the course of the 6 hours. Really, they were just absolutely terrible people, maybe the worst I've ever experienced in my entire life. Here are a couples quotes from one of the guys:

"You don't even know what it takes to be me. I have to spend three hours in the gym everyday."

"I've done every drug in the world. Name a drug and I'll tell you if I've taken it. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, so many times I can't even count, yep, yep, cocaine really clears out my system."

The good news is that this guy is a proud member of the U.S. Army.

Aside from the busy rally attendance of Saturday, I had a good amount of time to tool around D.C. between Thursday and Friday evening. I walked the national mall, quickly saw most of the key monuments and buildings, and found myself envying the majesty of Washington D.C. As the center of our nation, it is understandable that it should be an impressive destination. In addition to the traditional biggies, there were several new buildings near the mall, any one of which, if built in Detroit, would be the BIGGEST DEAL OF THE DECADE. I'd even take the Newseum in the D (which opened in D.C. in 2008) and enjoy it thoroughly despite its immense lameness. In addition to this, property values in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs (especially those in Virginia) have benefited immensely from D.C.'s largesse and the fact that if you want to do business with the federal government, you probably have to have a pretty big presence in the D.C. area. I don't fault any particular individual act or person for our country's trillion dollar deficit, but it does bother me a little bit as someone from a depressed big city that every federal tax dollar flows through D.C., and they can do pretty much whatever they want with it to keep the D.C.-area economy rolling along.

What's my point in all this? It has been five years since my last trip to D.C. and I forgot how much I enjoy it, but I do envy the leg up that region has on most other areas in the U.S. including our own. However, when I think about it, not that many areas in our country have clear economic advantages - the Bay Area has incomparable technology talent, D.C. has the feds, Connecticut has GE (which is an advantage unto itself), and a few tourist hot spots like Miami also tend to be a strong draw for businesses. Metro Detroit, while certainly not sexy, is one of these rare places in the U.S. that has a specific and significant business advantage. We have lived and died by the automotive industry (mostly died of late), but having these gigantic manufacturing+technology companies within a pretty small radius for about 100 years has provided a backbone for continued manufacturing and technology development if we just figure out how to harness this power as a state. I'm a pretty jealous guy and clearly very defensive of my home turf, but I just can't use "everywhere else has an unfair advantage over us" as a reasonable excuse for our troubles. We are the ones with an unfair advantage. Can we figure out what to do with it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No ________, Sherlock

The New York Times is the greatest publication that I never read except for when my attention is directed toward a specific article for a specific purpose. I'm not sure why I don't read it as a standard, but it just hasn't called to me. It may also have something to do with the fact that the publication for years had quite a phenomenal time taking its all-too personal shots at Detroit from the fabulous, urine-soaked and rat-infested mecca of New York, New York. Perhaps if Detroit could smell slightly more urine-like in the vein of NYC, they would feel more kinship with us and like us more. I also don't like that the publication costs a cajillion dollars to have it delivered to your home and half-a-cajillion dollars to have it only delivered as part of the weekend package.

I think it was one of my more trusty go-to publications, Time, that directed me toward this article in The Times. It is about one of my favorite subjects on which to vent, which also happens to be one of the general areas that is most upsetting to me - water. Much of the southwest of the United States, including down in southern California, is fed water from Lake Mead, the lake created through the man-made awesomeness that is the Hoover Dam. Lake Mead is a function of the Colorado River smashing into the Hoover Dam, providing a body of relatively still water that can be channeled to whatever part of the southwest is in need.

Lake Mead is about to cross below a crucial altitude of 1,075 feet, at which point it will become difficult, if not impossible, from an engineering standpoint to funnel the water to its necessary destination. Furthermore, much below this level, there will not be enough water to spin the electric turbines at the Hoover Dam that power much of the southwest. This unfortunate situation is for two reasons:

1) There are too many people using too much water in the southwest
2) ALMOST THE WHOLE SOUTHWEST IS A DESERT.

As I've written about before (I'm too lazy to go back and find the link), I feel strongly that the southwest and all of its Michigan and Midwest-resident sucking attractiveness should not exist. It should not exist because IT IS A DESERT. You should not have golf courses or swimming pools in a desert. You should not have a lawn in a desert. You should not have a water park in the desert. You should not keep houses and workplaces cooled to 72 degrees in the desert. You should not use a Slip-N-Slide in the desert. You should not have misters at every bar in Scottsdale, Arizona because it is too hot to spend time at the bar without misters. You should not transport water hundreds and hundreds of miles from the Colorado River to do any of these things that make the southwest a somewhat bearable place to live.

But, because they do transport water hundreds and hundreds of miles to make the unlivable livable, people flock from all over the northern half of the country to the southwest because they are too weak to handle a little cold for a few months out of the year. Perhaps we could just have hundreds of thousands of heating lamps outside and next to every house and public place just blasting warmth into the air during the winter to approximate the waste of making the cold just a little more manageable. We could run heat elements through the sidewalks of every downtown area just to keep the snow from being too much of a nuisance.

In the event that Lake Mead does drop below the critical point, people in cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas will have to severely curb their water usage, making that beautiful rock lawn (as in a lawn made out of rocks) all the more necessary. Who wouldn't want their kids to play on a lush front yard made of 100% sharp rocks? It'll teach them character. I don't know if it'll be in my lifetime, but the water civil war is coming, people. I just hope that the southwest won't be able to power their electrical weapons and guidance systems because the Hoover Dam doesn't have enough water to generate electricity. Irony will be our victory.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Been Too Long

Shamefully, it's been 5 whole days since the last time that I wrote anything, and that was four days after the thing I wrote before that, and the thing from 5 days ago wasn't even a complete thought beyond "oh man it has been awhile." The last week has been pretty filled as we tried to get our house together for a couple of weekend events, but I also realized during this time the true holdup in me pumping out material in the manner to which you have been accustomed.

In my last job, I often worked from home with a pretty flexible work schedule, so in the middle of the day I would read a headline or see a news story, have a reaction, and then share that reaction with the blog. The reaction was fresh and because there was no delay between information reception and dissemination, I did not have the opportunity to realize that issue was not as important as I perceived or that my opinion about that issue was not half as funny as I thought. Now with a bit more of a normal schedule, I don't exactly have the time to intersect the regular working day with a brief respite because I thought it was funny that the guy from the new Al-Qaida video looks as non-threatening as a terrorist could possibly look (by the way, did you notice that he is so weak in appearance that they had to add a rifle to the background of his video? Like the Al-Qaida guys were like "oh shit, this guy needs props. Look at him. No one can take this seriously unless we add a gun.")

Because I no longer have the opportunity for immediate feedback, I've taken to emailing myself links and thoughts so that I can get back to them at the end of the day. The tough thing when I get back to these emails after the work day is that my reaction has faded and has instead been replaced by the evening's viewing of Detroit 1-8-7. I hope the show makes it at least one whole season. The show is good not great, but for some reason I am really enjoying seeing shots of the good and the bad parts of Detroit on television. Whoa there's the Greektown Casino! Hey I've driven under that street sign before! That's the place that the one bird pooped on me when I was walking out of that meeting! Everything great about the city is perfectly captured in those three exclamatory sentences. My friend told me he wasn't paying attention in downtown Royal Oak and he almost hit Michael Imperioli with his car. They could then do a "ripped from the headlines" show where the character Imperioli plays is hit by a car in downtown Royal Oak and then I can tell them who did it - it was Joe. You did it Joe.

Despite this new blogging difficulty and my (temporarily) reduced output, my love of Michigan and the metro Detroit area is stronger than ever. It's a little bit ironic because my work time in Detroit reduces my ability to evangelize, but this same work time is strengthening my resolve to do my part to get Michigan back on its feet. That may be a stupid thing to say (it is) for someone with a readership of two, but the battle for our state PR is a war of attrition and everyone can do something about it.

Please don't kill me, Al-Qaida. I just think it's a good idea to have a sense of humor about yourself and your spokespeople.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nesting

Good morning - house and baby preparations have kept me fairly occupied over the past several days, so I regret that I have not had a great chance to even open up my laptop at home to do some writing. If I wasn't tired from all the things going on at home right now, I might even be upset about my poor showing. Yet again, I implore you to stick with me good people. As always, I will return with as many Days of Our Lives references as you can handle. For the next tiny bit though, hopefully you can find happiness in knowing that I was getting wrinkles out of curtains for about 6 or 7 hours on Sunday afternoon. Thank heaven that ironing boards are portable and can be moved directly in front of the television, or my head likely would have exploded.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Agree with Your Agreement

Before I start to talk about the main subject for the day, let me first congratulate my 2010 kickball team. We ended the year with a record of 4-4, but we were able to get to that record because we went 4-1 in our last five games. As with every year, despite my absolute certainty at the beginning of the season that there is no way that we are going to win any games, we always end up doing pretty decently for a group of people with minimal soccer backgrounds. We also do not play kickball more than one season of the year (you'd be surprised at the number of teams that play something approaching year-round), so we always start with a pretty significant disadvantage. Our game last night was particularly exciting because we were losing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, and we somehow scored 2 runs and won the game with a walk-off bunt. A Walk-off Bunt!! Man that was some exciting kickball. I'm sure at this point you regret that you were unable to attend our last game of the season as a fan, but you can probably catch us kicking ass 50% of the time next season. After the game, we continued our 2nd year tradition of celebrating the season with a party barge from Rosie O'Grady's in Ferndale. That party barge is hilarious. In one bite, you get peanut butter cup ice cream, strawberry ice cream, whip cream, chocolate covered peanuts, and pineapple. The mere fact that these items go terribly together makes the barge that much better. It is a truly exciting dessert.

Before I move on, what is the deal with the look of the one detective from Law & Order: Los Angeles? It seems too easy to go the route of comparing him to a sexually liberated 70s porn star, but holy cow does he look like a sexually liberated 70s porn star. He's bald, has a thick almost entirely linear mustache, and defines the prototype of a bear. My description can't do him justice. Here is a picture. If this is what cops look like in LA, then I understand how this city is the porn center of the U.S.

Now on to the real deal - the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign. There has been a lot of press about the campaign over the last month. The biggest issue is that because of Michigan's reduced tax receipts from our economic pain, the fall and winter advertisements (starring Buzz Lightyear!) were being diminished down to zero budget and thus killed. Because of this seasonal elimination, there was quite a bit of speculation that the 6th best tourism campaign in the world of all time would be completely canceled, thus pissing off everyone in Michigan with a brain cell. This would not be cool.

Yesterday, The Free Press was reporting at around 2 o'clock that Jennifer Granholm would be making an announcement about the Pure Michigan campaign at 3:30, and that I, the reader, should stay tuned for additional breaking news. This was exciting potential news as it would seem pointless for Jennifer Granholm to make an official announcement about the end of the campaign. Only good things could be in store for Buzz Lightyear.

This is why I am completely befuddled that her announcement was that she is officially calling for funding to restore Pure Michigan. That is boring. That is as boring as you reading my thoughts about my kickball season and eating a trough of ice cream. This is so boring, I would prefer to watch an episode of Two and a Half Men. For God's sake, Two and a Half Men.

Homer Simpson: "I've seen plays that were more exciting than this! Honest to god, PLAYS"

Is this a failure of The Free Press reporting or Jennifer Granholm? Mostly I don't care. Don't cancel Pure Michigan, but more importantly, don't hype an announcement that does not amount to a cat fart. Stop the presses! I may or may not eat a second piece of pizza for dinner even though I was pretty sure that I was only going to eat one.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Working for the (Awesome) Weekend

I can't remember the last time I was so excited for a weekend. Awesome things going on in life this weekend:

1) Steve is back in town

2) We received our new entryway tables, dining room table, and chairs today. We're also getting our sprinkler system fixed right now for next summer and we started the process of getting crown molding today.

2) We're going to see Louis C.K. at the Detroit Opera House tonight. About a year ago, I caught up with what much of the world realized 15-20 years ago when they identified that Louis C.K. is hilarious. You can't exactly blame me for being behind the times because 20 years ago I would have been 8 and my parents would have been absolutely terrible parents if they let me listen to his comedy.

3) Football game tailgating tomorrow morning and early afternoon. I enjoy tailgating quite a bit, but I find a like it less than most dudes. The reason, I think, is that I am fearful of awkward silence, and it is hard for me to make conversation with people for 6+ hours. Real tailgaters are out there for at least that long, so I parachute in, make a couple of jokes, eat someone else's sausage, and hit the road. If they're lucky, I will also drink their drinks, eat their brownies, and play whatever game they have that consists of throwing something at something else. There are a million variants of the game of throwing something at something else, and if there is one thing I love, it's throwing something and something else.

4) Football game!!!! UM vs. MSU with me leaning heavily toward the good folks from the University of Michigan. This is the first college football game I've been genuinely excited about in some time while Michigan has struggled through the dark times. I will be upset if Michigan does not conquer, but either way, Michigan wins, and that is good by me.

5) If I'm doing nothing after the football game, I have a massive queue of TV shows to watch. All of them fantastic! Thursday night TV alone is simultaneously ruining and enhancing my life. What a great, great night of television waiting for me on TiVo. 30 Rock, The Office, Community, Fringe, Bones, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Just thinking about it is stimulating me a little bit.

6) Sunday family get together to celebrate Steve being in town.

7) The weather is going to be BEAUTIFUL. I can exercise outside, breathe in the crisp fall air, do some yard work, and anything else to fill my time that isn't already filled.

8) The colors in southeast Michigan are peak fall colors.

Life is great. This is one of those times where I feel compelled to say if you're feeling down, give me a shout. Time is undoubtedly best spent with others.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Neighborhood Violence

Detroit is often cited fondly as "the murder capital of the world". On It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this year, Mac was wearing a shirt with the word "Detroit" spelled to look like a pistol. It was a pretty cool shirt, but the message is pretty clear. People far and wide talk about entering the city limits as a death-defying feat that should only be attempted absolutely never. Of all the perceived negativity around the city, fear of violence probably stands near the top of the heap, particularly for those who might even consider moving into the city. Even for people who have an affinity for that rundown metropolis on the banks of the Detroit River, there is a subliminal and constant fear of something bad happening. Someone might rob you or beat you up or Lafayette Coney Island may run out of hot dogs - all equally terrible outcomes.

For these reasons and more, I was not looking forward to looking through the list of the 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in the U.S. for 2010. My basic underlying assumption was that neighborhoods in Detroit and thereabouts would populate the entirety of the top 10 and then probably a few more in the 15-25 range. I looked through the complete list, and when I finished looking through the list, I had to read the description of what was going on to make sure that I didn't miss something of key importance. You see, no where in the top 25 did a neighborhood from Detroit (or anywhere else in Michigan for that matter) fall. Detroit, "the murder capital of the world", does not have a single neighborhood in the top 25 most dangerous list. That is amazing. When I didn't see anywhere from Michigan on the list, I re-read to try to see if they called out "of course, this list intentionally excludes Michigan because Michigan has the top 10 most dangerous neighborhoods and we just wanted to be more diverse than that." As I did not see that or anything resembling that in the description, I take this list as pretty good news. The article explains "that even the cities with the highest crime rates can have relatively safe neighborhoods, and thus it is less useful to generalize about an entire city."

Something like this won't actually cause people to stop generalizing about the entire city, but it is good fodder to counter enemies of Detroit. The only thing better than arming yourself with armaments is information - neither of which you'll need in Detroit's neighborhoods.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kid

Maureen and I are now at less than two months, if timing goes as is estimated, to having our first child. Like television tells me most first time parents feel, I am both excited and scared at the prospect of being a parent. There was never a question that at some point we wanted to be parents, but the impending reality is miles different from the concept. We've done the classes and Maureen has performed her baby product research and we have removed most of the barbed wire from the soon-to-be nursery, but none of these things actually prepare you for caring for a human life form.

My biggest concern about me and being a parent is that, as I've written about before, I'm extremely selfish. I have spent 28 years cultivating a life that wonderfully serves me and all of my shallow needs. I exercise for as long as I want on any given day, I can stay late at work as necessary, and any time I don't want to spend with family or friends I can spend blogging or watching way too much television. On top of these things, ice cream is a regular meal and I can play Howard Stern on the radio in the house whenever I want - things not conducive to actually being a parent.

So while my excitement about being a loving parent has consistently grown over the period of Maureen's pregnancy, I have had a nagging fear that my selfishness would prevent me from being the kind of selfless dad that my son and wife will need. I know in my heart that this will not be the case and I will be able to happily adjust as necessary to be what everyone wants and needs me to be, but without actually having raised a child, it is not entirely clear what would cause this positive change in personality and corresponding reduction in self-absorption. My mom and others have been quite valuable in trying to explain the process of falling in love with a baby after it is born and that often, for many people, this is not an instantaneous event - it can be a process of learning to love your baby and the changes this child creates in your life.

The reason I mention all this is because as the day of birth grows closer, this subject makes me increasingly emotional. A few days ago, I read a great column by humorous columnist Joel Stein in Time about how he wants a second child, but his wife is not currently in the mood for #2. There are a few things in particular in this article that I found to be especially beautiful and touched me because they directly relate to the process of loving and appreciating your child. I just wanted to call a little attention to these (because Time does not have a broad enough reach. They really do require my broader audience) for any moms or dads to be or people who may be seriously considering parenting. They're not new or groundbreaking concepts, but I like to think that Joel Stein has a similar level of sarcasm and a relate-able worldview to my own. I guess you don't need to be groundbreaking to be touching.

"Still, Laszlo, despite his inability to cure even simple, nonmetastasizing diseases, makes me so happy and interested in life that I want to watch it all happen again, and I want to see him interact with another child I love."

"
In fact, before we were married, I was sure I never wanted children. Having Laszlo has made me feel closer to Cassandra than ever — as if we're alone exploring a beautiful continent that happens to be filled with human excrement. I love when he makes the curious raised-eyes face she makes, and I've cried watching her sneak into his room at night to straighten his pajamas while he's asleep."

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Forward that Didn't Suck

As a general rule, I hate forwarded email. I'm not even talking about just forwarded jokes, videos, pictures, links, and other miscellaneous crap that makes my inbox a more annoying place to hang out. I also hate useful forwards like conversations, valuable links, and invites. Mostly, I dislike how I have to figure out where the email originated from down the chain, how the email progressed from there, and why/how at some point that wasn't initiation of the email I was brought into the stupid loop. Forwards are an unavoidable piece of information gathering and the business world, but I don't anticipate ever being much of a fan. However, my friend/co-worker Brian sent me a forwarded link today that was quite interesting and touched on many of the things I've been feeling for the past few years. Actually, looking back at the email, it wasn't even a forward. It was an email sent directly to me with the link included in it, so you can really ignore the title of this post that I don't want to go back and re-write and every word in the paragraph prior to this one. As it turns out, forwards still suck.

So now on to the non-forwarded link. Here it is:

San Francisco Business Times

This is a great article that indirectly addresses the new professional direction of my life, and as such, it really is something on which you, the world's most bored office workers and therefore readers of mine and therefore Michigan and scifi television lovers, should be intricately versed. This is of the more valuable category of articles about Michigan because it does not originate from within our biased borders.

Did I mention I got pooped on today? A bird pooped right on my suit coat jacket while I was walking the streets of downtown after a meeting. The poop deflected off my suit and also landed on Brian's suit coat - the second time that he has been pooped on while walking around downtown with me.

Back to the article - it starts with these words that really hit the key message:

If California wants to get its innovation game back, says venture capitalist Tom Baruch, it should look at Michigan.

That wasn't a misprint — much-maligned, Rust Belt-tagged Michigan.

While Michigan's traditional industries and job-generating companies have faltered and somewhat failed over the last several years, many locals actually saw this coming and start to build the infrastructure of the future of Michigan jobs. Believe it or not, Michigan has actually done some things better than the vaunted land of Google and Stanford to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. In the article, they reference some of the many good things going on right here at home like tax breaks for small businesses, transforming the automobile industry, SmartZones (mentors, funding, lab space), and ongoing economic diversification.

I can feel it. You can feel it. Underneath the tough economic times, the flailing auto industry, the high unemployment, and my kickball team only being .500, something is happening. It has been happening for a long time, slowly, painfully, but it is moving forward, and other people are finally starting to notice. Hell yeah.

While Rome burned, not everyone fiddled. Instead, they used their fiddles to build the most fiddle-ing-est fiddle orchestra hall at which they could fiddle once all the other fiddlers were forced to stop fiddling because they died while Rome was burning. Fiddles!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TV Time

Fall TV season! This is the third new fall TV season during the lifespan of my blog, and the first with a major network television show that included the word 'Detroit' in the title. My personal happy place is Fall TV season. All the shows I know and love are tying up loose ends from last season, rebooting from a bad year of writing, or just bringing additional joy and happiness into my life through continued excellence. On top of this, all the hard work, expectations, and excitement of the new series starts to either pay off or crash and burn in the matter of mere weeks. It is actually tough for me to overstate how sincerely and deeply I appreciate fall TV.

This year, two brand spanking new shows are highly featuring parts and pieces of Michigan. The first and more obvious, is the show that debuted last night and I'm finishing up as I type: "Detroit 1-8-7". I feel the dashes between the numbers are unnecessary and they make it a little bit more annoying to type. Maybe if they used stars of little hearts between the numbers that would be cool. 1*8*7 or Detroit 1 <3 8 <3 7. The show is pretty decent, and I really do get a kick out of seeing different cinematic shots of the city where they actually want the shots to reflect the city of Detroit instead of some other metropolis. I know that a good portion of the pilot was shot in Atlanta (the only thing that upsets me about that is that I would like our blight on television to be OUR blight, not Atlanta's. Give us the blight respect we deserve). At this point I have no specific commentary on the show except to say that it definitely doesn't suck - I'm just not sure if it's awesome or something that I'll just watch because I love Detroit.

The second major connection to Michigan on TV this season is the lead actor on a Fox series called "Lonestar". This show premiered on Monday and it didn't do great in the ratings, but it is getting pretty rave reviews across the board. I must have been drunk or something when I saw early commercials about the show, because I could have sworn it was about some sort of law person in Texas (which interested me very little), and it turns out that I had no idea what I was thinking about. It's actually about a conman leading at least a couple different lives. The lead guy in the show is named James Wolk and he is from Farmington Hills. Maureen and I also watched that show and we definitely enjoyed the pilot. Mr. Wolk impressed me rather soundly with his acting chops. He had a way of emoting without being annoying. He could do subtle, he could do direct, and he could do everything in between (by the way, I heard a speech today where someone said "from the poor house to the crack house and everywhere in between." I immediately thought "what is between a poor house and a crack house?" I simply cannot imagine that type of establishment). I fear for the life of "Lonestar" because despite its strong reviews, its ratings were pretty low. Fox sometimes gives shows they believe in a chance to pull through initial low ratings so all hope is not yet lost. That's all part of the fun of Fall TV Season.

My heaven.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lists and Links

Thanks again to Alex for keeping a close eye on all the great lists of the world, Michigan has been again appropriately represented in some form or another on many of the recent "best place to..." or "smelliest township that..." or "top incorporated city you ate..." etc. Starting at the end of life and working our way back:

Fortune magazine has again placed Ann Arbor as the 11th best place in the United States at which to retire. The description of the selection starts like this:

"Retire to... Michigan? Ann Arbor's lack of year-round balmy temperatures may be a deal breaker for some retirees, but those who relish four seasons could do worse than to settle in this bustling college town about 40 miles west of Detroit."

First, yes, retire to Michigan. Yet again, why would a positive ranking have to start with a broader implied negative about the state. Unnecessary and kind of stupid. Second, retirees - grow some balls. In fact, everyone grow some balls. It is not summer year-round, but that is one of the greatest things about the state. Most winter days are very manageable and for the really, really cold days, put on some long underwear, get under a blanket, cozy up to a loved one or one of those hot packs you can put in the microwave, and enjoy the sensation. Finally, again to insult the writer, why would you rate a place at #11 if the retiree "could do worse" than Ann Arbor? Yes, you can do worse according to you, writer person, if you were to retire to any of the rest of the 19,418 municipalities in the U.S (yup, I looked it up).

Next, additional big ups to Ann Arbor for making Yahoo's 10 Great Cities for Raising Families list. I tried to raise a family of chipmunks while I attended school there, and that didn't work out very well for me or the chipmunks, but I'm sure that it is far easier to raise a family of humans than chipmunks.

Finally, for a little Michigan respect outside of Ann Arbor, Birmingham was selected for Yahoo's list of Coolest Suburbs Worth a Visit. I can't say that I love Birmingham and in my opinion there are way better Detroit-area suburbs to visit, but I also won't turn down national Michigan love. Man in high school I spent so much time on the corners of Birmingham trying to figure out WHAT THE HELL TO DO THERE. Should we go to Caribou? How about the Birmingham 8? Now to Starbucks. What about the park? Library is closed. Back to Caribou. You know what I'm talking about high school friends. The video I've posted below is directed at Royal Oak where I was raised and I think this video pertains infinitely more to Birmingham than Royal Oak. Even if it is misdirected, it's still a little funny and worth a brief viewing:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Michigan Jewish

As I quickly made my way into work this morning, I was struck by how much less traffic there was today than the last few weeks. When I posed the question to my co-workers as to why this may be the case, one of them suggested that it is because today and tomorrow are Yom Kippur. Because I have no idea when Yom Kippur falls, I looked it up online and found out that Yom Kippur falls on the Hebrew calendar date of 10 Tishrei. The same website also told me that is the equivalent of the 17th and 18th of September, so Happy 10 Tishrei to everyone. I am not Jewish.

So it turns out that today and tomorrow are, in fact, Yom Kippur. However, if the reason the traffic was so much lighter today is because of this holiday, I have severely underestimated the number of Jewish people in Michigan (or at least those who are traveling east on I-96 from I-275). Like way, way underestimated. Based on the reduced traffic flow, I would improperly estimate that 50% of drivers on the road on any given morning are Jewish. If true (highly unlikely), that is absolutely amazing.

From this, it is clear that I have certainly not been properly serving Michigan's Jewish population. At least half of my religious based articles (in the past 3+ years rounding out to a total of zero religious based articles) should be Jewish-centric.

Happy (?!) Yom Kippur my Jewish friends. Whether or not Jesus resurrected and is the son of God, I think you are pretty great.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You Can Always Go, Downtown


I've successfully completed two weeks in my new professional career. "Success" is a very ambiguous term, but I feel comfortable declaring a successful two weeks because I have not yet been dismissed from the role and zero people have threatened to beat me up. Every day that no one wants to beat me up (or at least makes this threat to my face) is a victory.

First, I'd like to thank everyone who has wished me luck and encouraging words on my new endeavor. Changing jobs isn't necessarily an easy thing to do, especially when you like what you did do, and encouragement is very...encouraging. That makes sense.

Second, my usual apologies for the reduced writing over the last couple of weeks. There was a time many years ago when I envisioned a time where enough people were readers that if I took a break, be it for vacation, laziness, or a terrible case of diarrhea, hearts would break across the state and possibly even the greater Midwest. Now that I'm slightly (I said slightly!) less of a moron, it is abundantly clear that, if anything, the world is a happier, funnier, and more Michigan-appreciating place when I am on break. Based on this, you may just be lucky enough that I more regularly contract terrible, terrible cases of diarrhea. How lucky that would be for both of us.

Third and finally getting to the point, let me just say how awesome it is to work in downtown Detroit. Really, no fooling, working downtown is the greatest surprise of the new work. It was something that I was originally looking forward to, but it is even better than I anticipated (you are not allowed to hold this against me when I have to make the painful commute from Northville to downtown Detroit in the middle of winter as opposed to the zero minute commute of working from home and I complain about it as I most certainly will do). Our offices are in the 34th floor of the Guardian Building (pictured above), which is just a few blocks from the RenCen and Cobo. From the window I can look out from my seat, I can view the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit River, Joe Louis, and Cobo. From our conference room, I can see Campus Martius, Ford Field, home plate at Comerica, and pretty much all of metro Detroit out to the Silverdome. It is beautiful gazing across the land I love. On top of the great outside views, I was shocked the first time I walked into the Guardian Building and it looked like this. What a great building.

So all this is great. However, there are many other things about working downtown that I never really appreciated until I was based there. I've spent quite a bit of time visiting clients downtown in my past life, but it just isn't the same. There is an energy about working in the heart of our state's biggest city that adds some real excitement to the day. It's also kind of amazing who you can run into by constantly being downtown. A few days ago I had a catch up lunch with a friend from high school who is in a building right near mine, and he introduced me to the city deputy ombudsman who was having lunch where we were. That was random, but something that certainly would not have happened in my underpants on the couch in my home - or if that did happen then something seriously wrong happened in my life or that guy's life.

Detroit is not respected as a place to live or work by people both in and out of the state, and it isn't the nicest downtown out there, but I love it. My dad has worked downtown his entire career and he has always talked about how much he likes working there, and I couldn't fully understand it without having a similar experience under my belt. I've only been at it for two weeks, and I'm anxious to experience more. That might be asking for trouble, but that's all part of the experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Because it's Friday

It's been a little while since I last wrote about my genius nephew, so when I received this link from my sister, Gail, I was certain that now is the right time to return Louis to the blog. Watch him here as he works his way through a variation of the ABCs (thanks to daycare, according to my sister). I asked a couple people at work if this was objectively cute or only cute to me because I'm related to him, and they assured me that it is both objectively cute and funny, so I feel justified including it here. If I don't get angry enough to write before or during the weekend, have a great couple days!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

F*@K Rahm Emanuel

I just want Rahm to feel the sting of turnabout when he will undoubtedly stumble upon my blog when he performs his nightly self-Google check. The biggest national Michigan-related news of the last week are the early excerpts from the forthcoming book from Steven Rattner, former head of the automotive task force. That's the group of random individuals appointed by President Obama who decided to not kill the state of Michigan by bailing out Chrysler and GM (thanks again, guys, you're the best!). The excerpts and early stories from the book tell a harrowing story of how close those who call Michigan home or otherwise have some employment relationship with GM or Chrysler were to having a lot more time on their hands to read this fine blog. It is pretty amazing stuff and a great majority was effectively hidden from public awareness. For example, if it were not for the automotive task force, GM would have entirely moved out of the RenCen and into the Warren Tech Center, effectively tearing the metaphorical head off the wobbling body of the (also metaphorical) body of the great city of Detroit. In my opinion, this would have been an instant death knell - like a fatality from Mortal Kombat (specifically, Scorpion's Spear Shot). Other points of interest include the allegedly true story that Chrysler wanted the Treasury Department to force GM to purchase Chrysler (as opposed to the public image that GM was voluntarily considering acquiring that company).

It's kind of weird, from an outsider's perspective, how informally the automotive task force seems to have addressed some of the biggest issues to face Michigan in the last 50 years. For example, they decided whether or not to bailout the companies through a hand raise vote. I'm not sure exactly what method would have been better because a vote is a vote, but at least they could have broken out the paper and pencils. That just seems so much more official. Relating this back to the well-known firebrand Rahm Emanuel:

"By the time the auto team met with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing, they doubted whether Chrysler should be allowed to continue to survive as an independent entity. Emanuel was characteristically blunt: "Why even save GM?" he asked, according to Rattner. Reminded of tens of thousands of autoworkers whose jobs were at stake, he barked out 'Fuck the UAW.'"

This might not be the best thing for the chief of staff of a pro-union president to have forever on the record. I'm not talking about whether or not I support the UAW, but this bull and dick-headed response is especially insulting when considering the flippancy with which he clearly disregards the union employees of the Michigan auto manufacturers and the state as a whole. I don't really care what happens with Rahm Emanuel, but the next time I see him, I will certainly let him know that I am entirely displeased, and that if I ever have the choice to destroy his personal wealth and career, I will certainly take that option.

My last thought on the Rattner Memoirs is this - shut up Steven Rattner. I really do appreciate the challenges you must have gone through and the support you eventually threw our way, but I can't imagine what benefit you imagine this upcoming book is going to serve aside from your personal wealth - and you're already super rich. It could be that you think the American public deserves to know some of the details as we are collectively on the hook for $80B in bailout dollars, and I don't disagree with this, but it damages the public perception of the government's ability to intelligently make big decisions without high school style bickering. I think the public would have enough information if the task force came out with a unified message about the whole process - something in the vein of "many options were on the table (include a few options here) and there were pros and cons to every option (include some pros and cons here), but in the end, we could not allow the failure of GM and Chrysler and the loss of tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's the tough decision we made and this decision is in the past." End of story.

And it would be the end of the story, except for now I have a personal tie to the widely reported douchiness of Rahm Emanuel. I don't swear very often in my blog, but at this point I do feel comfortable saying this right here - Fuck you Rahm Emanuel.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Only Reason to Hate Idaho

Last night past my new bedtime with the new work schedule, Maureen and I watched Boise State defeat Virginia Tech on yet another end-of-game drive and then Virginia Tech unable to respond with a field goal or touchdown of their own.

First, it's great to have college football back. I'm not one of those crazy football people who knows the jersey numbers and hometowns of ever single slightly significant player in Division 1. It's just not worth the mental energy to me. Welcome back, collegiate and professional football sport. However, there is one thing that happens every year that makes the second half of the college football season nearly unbearable; specifically, the terrible crapiness of idiots going on and on about whether or not college football should do away with the BCS system. It's an imperfect system with its set of annoyances, but these annoyances do not pale in comparison to the annoyances of people debating its validity. The number one reason for people to complain? GD BOISE STATE. I hate you Boise State.

Let's start with the easiest reason to hate them - their blue football field. That blue football field is offensive even to the Smurfs. It's one of those things where they were probably like "hey, let's be quirky" but they accidentally mistook insanely annoying for quirky. That football field sucks almost as much as the football team. Why does the football team suck? Every year Boise State nears the end of the season with an undefeated record, not because they are the best team out there, but because they generally play terrible teams and even against those teams, they have to win with trick plays. Trick plays are fun, but I believe a legitimate team can/should consistently win without having to regularly resort to them. No team relies on trick plays for success more than Boise State. So anyway, because they are undefeated, journalists starts to opine that Boise State may deserve a place in the BCS title game. Every year.

With about 4 minutes left in the game last night, I guaranteed Maureen that even though they were losing, Boise State was going to pull off the victory for another year of BCS debate, mostly because God hates me. Wouldn't you know it - they won (though I must admit without the use of a trick play, however there was a very questionable personal foul call in their favor on the final drive. Everything always works out in their favor). I hate them so much.

I just can't stand the BCS talk with Boise State as the prime reference for another year. For the whole season, I am going to pray that Boise State loses so that we don't have to hear about the subject anymore. If they feel so disrespected, JOIN A LEGITIMATE CONFERENCE. Do you know how easy it is to join a legitimate conference? No? That's too bad, I was hoping you would because I have no idea. Remember when a few years ago several people thought that Hawaii should play for the national championship, but then when they played against a legitimate team in Georgia, they got crushed hard? That made me so happy. I wish the same for BSU. Lose you blue losers. I hate you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Changes

The past year has been undoubtedly the most dynamic year of my existence. It's not that anything has been different from what most people experience during the course of life, just that everything has probably been a little more compact than typical. The last year has had all the major milestones - our wedding, a first (rented) condo, our first couch, our first two self-financed vehicles, our first house and major house renovation, moving family members, our first incoming baby, and a bunch of new furniture to fill up the home. It's been quite a shock to the system for a person who loved the mundane consistency of being alive. Not to sound too boring, but routine makes me happy.

To this list, I'd like to use this relevant space to announce one more major life change - a new job for me. This was a very difficult step to take voluntarily because I absolutely love what I did, the people I worked with, and the flexibility this work afforded me. On top of this, my job was exactly what I studied in school, and I had the opportunity to work from home with some frequency (especially brilliant when the snow was pounding down and my commute was a walk to the kitchen table). Why, then, would I ever consider leaving this position?

It is finally time to, almost literally, put my money where my mouth is. I've been talking about Michigan and supporting Michigan for so many years, and acting as a cheerleader to out-of-towners and negative in-towners, that after awhile, the thoughts and then words started to feel numb in my mouth. It can be tiring to espouse the virtues of one place constantly to people, and then it became a running joke with some people that I was a walking, talking, relentless billboard for the state - kind of like a Pure Michigan Tim Allen without anyone knowing or caring that I exist.

With great excitement and a fair amount of anxiety, I am happy to announce that my next professional step is directly aligned with the state of Michigan. A few months ago, a friend and professional acquaintance approached me to see if I had interest in directing a start up non-profit organization based in downtown Detroit. This organization is charged with creating a critical and necessary backbone for the state to promote entrepreneurship and small business development throughout the state of Michigan. Our primary goal is to intelligently and systematically match entrepreneurs and innovators with the tens of thousands of resources intended to support entrepreneurs available throughout the state. There is a little more to the work than this, but that's not a bad one-sentence description.

Thanks to the hard work by many people that aren't me (because yesterday was my first official day on the job), the (federal) Department of Commerce actually announced a formal partnership with my organization yesterday. That is quite exciting - now it is largely up to me to make sure that I don't screw it up.

This is an opportunity and a somewhat corny chance for me to actually make a difference - beyond the many dumb, irrelevant things that I try to write about regularly. For these reasons, the only right choice for me was to leave the work I love to actually work toward strengthening a state that I love. It wasn't necessarily an easy change, but it's one that I'm happy to have made.