Friday, August 29, 2008

The Tide/GM/Snickers/Penzoil/Lowe's Belle Isle Grand Prix

"We can hike anytime, this is our chance to see cars driving." - Homer Simpson

There are many exciting things going on in Michigan this weekend, but this event is the one with the most pertinent quote from The Simpsons, and that is how I typically decide what I am going to write about each day. This is also why tomorrow I will be writing about communism.

"My Homer is not a communist. He may be a liar, a pig, an idiot, a communist, but he is not a porn star." - Abraham Simpson

I have never really understood car racing - Nascar, Indy, street, or slot - but this seems to be one of those interests that continues to thrive and grow among the American population and worldwide. I don't think I will ever completely understand car racing, but other people don't seem to understand my interest in Battlestar Galactica and Days of Our Lives, so who I am to judge. One of the world's top 1,000 Michigan bloggers, that's who (note: metric invented and calculated by myself).

All weekend starting today (Friday) and running through the actual race on Sunday are a series of race-related activities on Belle Isle in the middle of the Detroit River. The people I know who went to the Grand Prix last year had a phenomenal time. Actually, Detroit did not hold the race from 2002-2006, but was fortunate enough to bring it back through the stewardship of a fine Michigan fella named Roger Penske (much more on him at a later time). Now I have done my job and communicated my knowledge of the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and The Simpsons. It is your job to keep the city alive and go to the event.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Power of Mustache

I mostly try to to dedicate my time and effort to the state of Michigan and the fine people who live here. There are some other times, though, in which I just want to mention something that I found funny or worthwhile. This is one of those times.

Today, someone was directed to my website because I mentioned "mustaches" and the word "percentage" in my last post, and this person did a search for, no fooling, "states with highest 'percentage of mustaches.'" This is just one of the infinite number of things that highlights the awesome power of the internet and the human mind.

Why do you suppose this person is trying to identify the state with the highest percentage of mustaches? Do you think he or she loves or hates mustaches and wants to live in or avoid the state with the highest percentage of mustaches? Perhaps it is a woman who does not enjoy dating mustachioed men or a man such as myself who has trouble growing a worthwhile mustache and would not feel comfortable in a state with a high percentage of mustaches. Maybe it is an evil villain who plans on growing a mustache as a disguise and does not want to look out of place. It boggles the mind to try to identify the actual reasoning behind this web search, but without the internet, this person would probably never know the very important answer.

I guess you could make the argument that Michigan is inextricably linked to mustaches because of Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I. and the fact that he always wore a Detroit Tigers hat. Relevance.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Political Posturing and Us Not Being Dummies

This week I have spent a little bit of time watching the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado and the associated commentary on any one of the many possible channels commenting on the convention. There are a few things in particular that I did not know about Democrats and have now learned since watching coverage of the convention. Democrat women wear ridiculous hats and love to put an abundance of pins on those hats. Democrats are terrible dancers. Democrat men have an unnaturally high percentage of mustaches (many of them cool with twisty cartoon villain ends). Democrats are very effective at passing out different placards and signs. Joe Biden is a silver fox. Finally, they seem to have a problem with some guy named McCain.

What I'm actually wondering is would Michigan go McCain in the instance that McCain takes Romney to be his VP? Without trying to be too political, this would be a crazy reason to vote for McCain (or anyone) and I would be severely disappointed in Michigan's citizens if this turns out to be the case. Here are the reasons why this, specifically, would be a terrible reason to vote for McCain.

1) The Vice President has, in my limited and possibly false view, absolutely no power of worth and is pretty much entirely intended to shore up the credentials of a Presidential candidate (or, alternatively, get votes for the President in a much needed Michigan).
2) While Romney was born in Michigan and his father is a former governor, he moved away in 1965 (read: greater than 40 years) and has not been a resident since that time. Why would we throw our presidential loyalty to someone based on his Vice President - someone who has not shown loyalty to us?
3) The dude only graduated cum laude in his dual degree from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. I mean, come on. A trained monkey could at least make magna. You're slipping Romney.
4) Do we want to be viewed as that easily manipulated? It's like cheering crazily for some band because they said "Hello Detroit!" even though they are in Auburn Hills.
5) Have you seen that episode of South Park called "All About Mormons?" That's a funny TV show. I don't know why I thought of that right now. Good show.

If you choose to vote for McCain, please have other, much better, reasons than "Yeah Romney! You lived here once! Yeah!" Maybe he will pick Romney, maybe he won't pick Romney. Either way, watch that episode of South Park I linked to, which I am conveniently adding another link here just in case you missed the first one. Good show.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crazy Idea #3 - The Green Belt

(Picture of a real Tasmanian Devil. Is it related? Not really. It is cute though)

One of the joys of being a member of "new media" in the form of blogging is that I can essentially steal the work of others as long as I provide the appropriate link to that information and credit the source. Ta-da! Post for the day completed. How does someone actually report on news that the individual actually discovers? I have no idea. I also can not claim that this is my crazy idea or that it is even that crazy, but if I said something like "solar panels are the devil's children" then maybe, just maybe, I can make it crazy enough to be my own.

On that note, here is a very interesting and pertinent article from Fortune magazine regarding Midwest manufacturing and the slow but noticeable shift into environmentally-forward products that do not include cars. These are the types of industries in which the Midwest must continue to actively expand to attract investment, develop jobs, and transition away from the tired "Rust Belt" moniker with which we are stricken. Perhaps more importantly, I want you to be aware that many of these industries also have current significant operations in the Midwest and also in Michigan. According to the article, "Thin-film solar company Energy Conversion Devices, meanwhile, operates three factories in Michigan and is currently doubling the production capacity of one of its plants." These are small advancements to diversify Michigan's economy and the way that people view Michigan's economy, but they are moves in the right direction nonetheless.

The next wave of industrial and corporate innovation is the "green tech" industry, and Michigan, partly because of its unfortunately high unemployment rate, is ideally positioned to fill this need with its large and highly motivated workforce. Somehow, we have to continue to latch on to these types of companies at an accelerated rate to transition the Midwest from the Rust Belt to the Green Belt. With our unparalleled manufacturing background and willingness to take less than the going rate just to get to work, it is not out of the realm of possibility for us to take first place in this race. Not only will our people be working, but they will be doing work that could be of substantial benefit to the environment - something for which we have certainly not been previously credited. This is not a pipe dream. The seeds for this kind of work and the development of these industries in-state are already planted. Now we have to figure out how to take it to the next level.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Confluence of Perfection

Hello all! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I had one of those weekends that, despite the bad news and regionally difficult times, was one of those perfect weekends that both confirms my commitment to the state and reminds me of why I use some portion of my time writing on this website trying to convince people that we are worth saving. In this instance, the reminder is again based on the people who largely define my love of the state and my hope that these people will continue to be able to make their lives here.

On Friday evening, my sister flew in from Minnesota for a wedding I attended with her on Friday night for a good friend from college. My sister currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and they both work at the Mayo Clinic, so it is always a joy whenever we can manage to schedule some time to spend with them either here or in Minnesota. My brother also recently started his career as a consultant requiring a large amount of travel, but he too was home on Friday. On that night, my brother, sister, and I all shared a house with my parents and while it was crowded, everything seemed just about right with the world.

As I usually spend most of my weekends, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning with my beautiful fiancee, we made dinner together and watched some of the Olympics, and nothing else really mattered beyond being together.

Sunday morning, my siblings, parents, grandma, and uncle got together for a buffet-style brunch for eating in mass quantity and talking at an above average volume level to ensure my grandma could hear our words. Those kinds of meals are always the best because everyone becomes accustomed to the loud volume and even the most pleasant conversations consist of people yelling at each other.

Sunday afternoon, we had our annual Block Party where all the good people of my block pull chairs together into a circle, bring their potluck contributions, throw water balloons, and catch up on all the parts of their lives that are not necessarily easy to share with your neighbors while taking out the trash or cutting the front lawn. It is difficult to explain why this can be so much fun, but all of these people are tied together by sharing a small piece of the earth and working to make it presentable. At the end of the night, the weather turned absolutely perfect and I took a sunset run as the sky transitioned from brilliant orange to red to purple to gray to blue.

I dream of weekends like this for the rest of my life with my family, friends, neighbors, and eventual children, and this is only possible if there is profitable work to be had, strong schools to attend, and a consistent belief that the future can and will be better than the present. I genuinely believe that we can and will develop into a stronger state, and that I will perpetually share weekends like this with all of my Michigan brethren. The hardest part for us, but the one that we can most directly affect, is to believe and promote that the future holds unlimited promise and we are united in our effort to get there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Take that Green Lake, Wisconsin

(Photo of Lake Charlevoix in Michigan)

Nothing personal against Green Lake, Wisconsin, it was just the easiest lake town to find outside of Michigan doing a quick Google search. Yesterday, a much appreciated idea contributor named Alex pointed me to this article in Yahoo! Travel naming Charlevoix, Michigan one of the best lake towns in the entire country. They only name 7 towns on the list and Charlevoix made the cut. That is what I am talking about.

Offhand, I don't have the slightest idea how many "lake towns" there are in the US. My best guess is probably about 10, which means that we are in the top 70%! The article also does not do much to specifically quantify how they developed the list or what sort of comparison and contrast they performed among the contenders. It was probably one guy going around saying "I like this place more than that other place," which is exactly the reason that on the Ken! Travel website (not yet existent) the name 'Ken' is listed a top 5 sexy name.

I have not spent significant time in Charlevoix, but I have eaten at that one Mexican restaurant on their main street that I will never forget (old whats-its-name) and every summer I drive through Charlevoix on my way to Michigania in Boyne. I can definitely tell you this about the city - the people there drive incredibly slowly. The speed limit is 25 about everywhere and it is the one place in the US that people consistently drive 5 under the speed limit. It is just about enough to make you crazy. Beautiful city, though.

Regardless, Michigan's abundant lakes, lake towns, rivers, brooks, fjords, puddles, aquifers, water holes, bird baths, sprinkler systems, Slip-N-Slides, Crocodile Miles, and resultant natural beauty are quite possibly THE THINGS that set Michigan apart and above most of the other places that you could choose to live in the United States. Scottsdale, Arizona for example has newly developed "riverfront property" which is actually a bunch of condos built next to a drainage ditch. I am not kidding. I have not visited even a small percentage of most of Michigan's lakes and lake properties, and would love to hear from others highlighting the lake towns and houses in which they have vacationed in Michigan. If you wouldn't mind, I could even post some thoughts of yours on this website. I know that is wishful thinking because a) no one reads this blog and b) no one wants to write an article no one would read, but maybe I will be surprised. Maybe not. Either way, try to make it to beautiful Lake Charlevoix and eat at that one Mexican place. It's only about 3.5 hours north on I-75.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Old Man and the Cane

On my way to work, one of the roads that I take at the very beginning of the commute slices between a large Catholic church and the parking lot that serves that church. On Sundays, this road and the foot and car traffic it produces are incredibly annoying, and it also produces some pains on weekdays. Just think about the demographic that has the desire and the capability to attend weekday morning mass (i.e. old people) and you can image tons of cute but geriatric individuals slowly teetering and tottering across the road.

Today was no different, and as I took the turn to go down this road, my view was a little bit obstructed by a parked SUV. By the time I got past the SUV, I noticed that there was one old fella waiting for me to pass before crossing the road for church. Since I was only about 5 feet from his location and it would have taken him between 20-30 minutes to cross the road, I decided to proceed without first coming to a complete stop to first let him cross. In retrospect, this probably would have been the best and most polite solution, but for whatever reason, I did not want to wait until my next birthday to proceed. As I passed by him, he raised his cane perpendicular to the ground, and shook it at me. Yes, I was cane-shooked-at. It is difficult to encapsulate the entirety of the hilariousness of this situation without the visual, but imagine any elderly person shaking his cane at you, and try not to laugh because of the perfection of the cartoonish stereotype alone. The only thing that could have made this more perfect is if he was rushing home to take out his dentures and watch Matlock.

If this old man is familiar with the internet and has somehow found his way to this blog, I want to apologize for not stopping for you this morning. Your cane-shake made me feel both guilty and giddy, and I want to thank you for starting my day off on the right foot. Shake on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I "Expect" You to Read This

Unfortunately, this article was a little bit more out there yesterday, before what I'm sure had to be a very angry mayoral office informing The Free Press that they better change or remove some of the content. It is still pretty interesting as it stands, but crazier would have been better.

The mayor of Warren (which you might be surprised to hear is the 3rd largest city in Michigan), Jim Fouts, "expects" each of his mayoral appointees to make their next vehicle purchase a Detroit 3 vehicle. In concept, I feel comfortable saying that I agree with the mayor's sentiment. Warren's two largest tax payers are Chrysler and GM, and a mayor typically desires taxes to fund city projects and initiatives. OK, I get that. I have also not hidden my thoughts that all people, but particularly Michigan residents and lovers, should at least consider an American vehicle for purchase.

However, I do not agree with this pseudo-ultimatum made by Fouts. He did not say "Buy this or you're fired", but since he is talking about his mayoral appointees, I don't think it would be particularly difficult for him to de-appoint any of these individuals. When you were younger and your parents said to you "I expect you to not crash your car into the house" they were not saying "eh, I hope you don't crash your car into the house, but either way it'll be ok." The parents controlled the access to the car, and you did not want to mess with that.

At this juncture, we also do not want to generate any sort of resentment for Michigan cars, and unfortunately this is the kind of story that can gather some national momentum. It is not that the story is that interesting, but the news has to come from somewhere. It also seems pretty clear that national media is more than happy to level claims at us of being closed-minded, ignorant, or incapable of understanding our own shortcomings. Having a Michigan mayor "expect" his employees to buy American will do nothing to change this perception. The idea is just, but the execution is errant.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Connecting Work and Workers

Jobs, of course, are on the forefront of almost everyone's mind when it comes to the difficult position of Michigan's economy. 8.5% of people in the state are currently either actively looking for work, or alternatively enjoying a high-stress "vacation" in which they are collecting unemployment and waiting until their unemployment runs out. On top of that, increasingly more people are feeling less confident that their jobs will also be around tomorrow. Factoring in all of this and the fact that an employment turnaround does not seem imminent, I find articles like this highly confusing.

To briefly summarize for those of you who are too lazy to go to that link, the state of Michigan is suffering from a shortage of IT and computer science-related workers. In fact, there are in-state companies actively seeking individuals (to whom they would pay salaries!) to fill spots within their organizations. These companies need the necessary resources to grow their businesses, so they are forced to find non-local contractors or even offshore their employment base just to fulfill their basic needs. This is surprising on many levels, and I think the article fails to address a major underlying cause of this problem.

In my humble but incredibly insightful opinion, there is a fundamental ineptitude within the state (and also across the country) to connect the companies that need the workers with the workers that need the employment. There are many websites out there with job postings from companies -,,, etc., intended to fill this gap, but for some reason or another, these methods do not seem to effectively connect the interested and needy parties. In the past, I have spent some time scouring these websites looking for work opportunities, but it reminds me of reading my way through the Yellow Pages to try to find an appliance store for repairs. Do I got to 'Appliances' or to 'Repairs' or to 'Home Improvement' or what? I first have to find the correct category within the Yellow Pages, and then have to pick from one of dozens or even hundreds of possibilities within each category. Which one is best? Which one is cheapest? How many do I have to call before one can schedule a decent appointment time? I can use the dictionary to help me figure out how to spell a word, but if I don't correctly know the first 4 or 5 letters of the complicated word, I won't be able to find it in the friggin' dictionary. It is incredibly discouraging, frustrating, and once you find a company with whom you would like to leave an application, the app just disappears into the internet ether, seemingly forever with no clear outcome or next step in sight.

At the moment I don't have a great solution to this problem, but I know there must be one out there - some sort of centralized system or well publicized state sponsored office intended to vet potential job candidates for open positions and to direct these candidates to the right place for employment consideration. Maybe this organization exists, but if it does and no one I know is familiar with this organization, it is not fulfilling its advertising obligation to make the public aware of its existence. Such an organization would reduce the time wasted for both the companies looking for employees as well as prospective employees praying for work, and more importantly, reduce the unemployment rate in a meaningful way.

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to fend entirely for themselves, but in times of extreme need, the state should play some part to help fill this need.

Monday, August 18, 2008

One More Thing

I neglected to mention one of the main reasons to actually visit my blog rather than just read what gets sent over to Facebook - I often try to include pertinent YouTube or Hulu clips that do not properly embed in Facebook. You don't want to miss half the fun, do you? DO YOU??? You really need to settle down.

Movin' On...Over

For a few weeks now, I have been contemplating pushing my blog into the Facebook Notes application in the vain and likely failure of an effort to bring a few more people into the 'We Are of Michigan' blog fold. Blog fold somehow sounds inappropriate. I started running out of new phrases to encourage people to click on my link in the status message and only a few people a day actually click on the link in my status message, so maybe this will be a more effective and slightly less annoying method to increase readership. Will this work? Likely not, but there is no harm in trying. Maybe there could be harm in trying, but only if I injure my finger when I click on the "Publish Post" button or hit my head when I stand up to leave the computer.

So, for anyone reading this on Facebook right now - if you would like to see a slightly more aesthetically pleasing version of my efforts, please head on over to or first read this or this to understand what I'm about. If you do not care, which would also not surprise me, then I will exact the most extreme revenge upon you that I can possibly imagine - not reading your blog that doesn't exist. Take that, world.

(W)righting a Disservice

On Thursday, I spent a little bit of time expanding on some of the pros and cons of the Woodward Dream Cruise that took place on Saturday. In reading back through my thoughts that day, I would definitely say that I put more emphasis on the negative than the positive. There are still several things about the cruise about which I am not a particularly big fan, but I failed to touch on one of the truly beautiful and positive elements of the event.

Since I have had more than enough experience with the Dream Cruise over the last many years of my life and I don't want to be bothered by the crowds and the traffic, I go out of my way to not involve myself as much as possible even though I live only about half-a-mile from Woodward. This sometimes include minimal time even going outside on the day so that I am not reminded by the news helicopters and the advertising airplanes. In the early afternoon on Saturday, my little puppy was extremely rambunctious and in dire need of a walk, so I gathered the energy to put on more clothes than my underwear and take her out for a few miles.

As we moved through my neighborhood, I was both excited and moved by the sheer quantity of people outdoors and enjoying each others' company. People were throwing backyard and driveway Dream Cruise parties, teens were walking around in packs, families were going on bike rides, large groups were assembled at the local park for activities, and everyone was there to mind their own business and just to have a good time. The Dream Cruise is more than a zillion cars packing a crowded road. It is a magnetic gathering event for the people of the state, a time to be outdoors with family and friends, and a day of celebrating - even when there might not be anything specific to celebrate.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Sad Day for Deliciousness

Friday, August 15th 2008 marks the reported bankruptcy filing of Mrs. Fields cookies and the TCBY brand also owned by Mrs. Fields Famous Brands LLC. An open letter to Mrs. Fields:

Dear nonfictional cookie woman,
I did not find your cookies to be the best cookies in the world, and I also considered them relatively over-priced. However, you did know how to knock the cookie/cake hybrid out of the park and your cupcakes were not altogether terrible. My heart weeps for my friend Dave who truly loved his TCBY frozen yogurt mixed with M&Ms and Gummi Bears (I know, incredibly weird combination, but that is why I love Dave). When you are at the pearly gates of cookie heaven and the Cookie Monster is there to greet you, I hope you remember with pride that you did your part to help make America just a little bit fatter. We shall miss you. In the honored words of the greatest cookie enthusiast of all time -

'C' is for cookie, that's good enough for me. Oh Cookie Cookie Cookie Cookie starts with 'C'

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mark Spitz Got Lost

Mark Spitz is currently on the television doing an interview with Bob Costas and Michael Phelps...from Detroit. Apparently, he has a son who is in a basketball tournament in the Detroit area. This can only mean one thing - Mark Spitz also knows that Detroit is cooler than both the Olympics and Beijing.

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer made the Olympic mascot called Springy which was a spring with googly eyes? And speaking of googly eyes, here is a clip from Saturday Night Live from last year with Christopher Walken. I saw it last year but was reminded of it today by my good buddy Craig. I had to take you on a long walk to get to this clip, but I think I have done it.

No Way to Avoid It

(Ignore the first 30 seconds, then melt away in the velvety sounds of Smoky Robinson)

What other event can simultaneously motivate such polar opposite feelings of hate, love, appreciation, and revulsion? That is why there is only one, there can only be one - the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. Pull out your 1957 Corvette, throw on your tank top, club your local polar bear - the dream cruise cometh on Saturday. No act, be it of God or of Man, can cease it.

If you live remotely close to Woodward, you have been keenly aware of the Dream Cruise for many years now. The week leading up to the cruise results in significantly increased traffic on the road and significantly increased commute times home from work. Starting in the late afternoon and early evening for the whole preceding week, people pull up lawn chairs or sit on the hoods of their parked cars to watch the odd combination of classic cars, modern marvels, sports cars, and me driving home from work.

On Saturday morning and throughout the day, the world turns out in droves, packing along the curbs and into the lining restaurants to see the world's most dense population of Dodge Vipers and morons taking videos with their camcorders out of the back of their minivans and pickup trucks. If you have never, ever been to the Dream Cruise you owe it to yourself to see it at least once. If you have been to the dream cruise - well, that might be another story.

Personally, I am incredibly torn by the Dream Cruise. I truly value and enjoy the tangible, manifest history of the industry and culture for which our state is largely responsible. These vehicles and the companies responsible for them drove the population growth in our state and the wealth that we have enjoyed at different intervals of history. The people assembled to watch the cruise are individuals who, for one reason or another, value the car culture or just want to participate in one of the most significant Michigan events of the year. Furthermore, people travel from all over the world to participate, bringing money into the local economy and publicity to the state.

On the other hand, there are many things to dislike about the day. On the small scale:
  • Traveling on and around Woodward is a virtual impossibility for the entire day (not to mention the week leading up as discussed earlier)
  • Many of the attendees may not be the kind of people with whom you would like to share an aged bourbon and a discussion of Proust
  • The commercialization is just insane. Every single light post has a sign for 104.3 WOMC - "Your Official Summer Cruisin' Station"
  • The smell, oh the smell. A mix of human, car exhaust, warm booze, and more human
On the large scale, the Dream Cruise represents many of the things for which the Michigan automotive industry is currently reviled:
  • A complete and utter waste of gasoline derived from oil, which, for those of you who ride a bike everywhere, is slightly more expensive than fairy dust
  • Blatant disregard and Screw You to global climate change
  • A representation of the Michigan automobile companies' perceived or real inability to respond quickly and effectively to changing demand of the mass market
The Dream Cruise and what it represents are inextricably linked to who we are as the people of Michigan. There are many things to love and many things to hate, but either way, it is quite the spectacle. Please wear deodorant.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Something Clever Combining the Words Blog and Community

I spent forever trying to come up with some sort of a pun or joke or something for the title, but the words 'blog' and 'community' just do not go well together. I even tried to change the words themselves to cheat, but then I failed to come up with other comparable words. It is an evening of failure.

Late last week, Maureen directed me to another blog called Great Lakes Guru written and maintained by another Michigan enthusiast named Tim. I contacted him, he wrote me back, and now we are best blog-buddies united in our love of Michigan and boring you with our thoughts. In fact, he was kind enough to include me in his list of links and even directed some readers my way. That part of things is pretty exciting because I genuinely yearn for mass appeal in my goal to slowly change the mindsets of downtrodden former and current Michigan residents seeking some positive messages.

I highly recommend taking some time and reading through his website. It is pretty enjoyable and it somehow seems that we do not have very much overlap in our subject matter and we write in a pretty different voice. You may be thinking "why would I waste my time reading the recommended website of someone who's blog I don't like in the first place" and to you I respond "why have you read this far into the post if you don't like my blog anyway." You will say "because I was bored and wanted to catch grammatical errors and logical inconsistencies to belittle you" and I will say "starting a sentence with because is a grammatical error if it is not a dependent clause." Boom.

There is more than enough love to go around and you know that you are bored at work, so check out his writings. I think knowing that there are others who care as much as you and me makes it that much easier to keep going.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Earth is Round

In today's "I can't believe someone got a government grant for this" news, is reporting that "Researchers have found that regular jogging, or any consistent aerobic exercise, in middle age and late in life may reduce people's risk of disabilities and help them live longer and healthier."

Time is a tradition-rich and respected publication, but I can not believe that the results of this study actually made it to their website. What's more, I'm sure that these results are going to be all over the news and pop up on the internet over the next several days. This finding is right on par with other obvious quality findings such as:
  • Crashing your car into a wall increases your chances of death
  • Sun exposure increases the chances of sunburn
  • Reading this blog will give you the power to fly
I wonder why someone, somewhere did not stand up and say "instead of spending the money on this, why don't we put the money toward repairing our interstates, school systems, and homeless programs." We could use a little bit of that money on all three of these things, and many more, right here.

We Will Crush You

Far be it for me to make fun of someone's "minor hand sprain", but now is the best time ever to make fun of someone's minor hand sprain. According to WDIV (local NBC affiliate), today in West Bloomfield, an overly enthusiastic supporter of the McCain clan agitated a "preexisting carpal tunnel condition" in Cindy McCain's hand during a vigorous handshake or some such BS.

Let this be a lesson to you - whoever you are future present of the United States. If you mistreat Michigan, we will give you minor appendage injuries resulting in medical treatment ranging from nothing whatsoever to aspirin.

Those Weird Woodward Motels

As this week runs up to the world's largest intentional F.U. to climate change in the form of the Woodward Dream Cruise, I thought it makes sense to shed some historical light on one of seedier elements of mid-Woodward particularly near 12 Mile Road: the Woodward motels.

There are less of these motels than there were 10 years ago, and way less of these motels than there were 75 years ago. None of them belong to any chain with which you are or will ever be familiar, and at least externally, they are none too aesthetically pleasing. In younger and more innocent times, I had no idea why anyone would choose to stay at one of these places when they could easily go stay at a Marriott or Holiday Inn. While they are not beautiful pieces of architecture, homes of luxury, or places in which you would like your children to play, these motels are a reflection of Michigan fame and glory in the late 1920s and 1930s.

In 1923, Father Charles Coughlin moved from Windsor, Ontario to Royal Oak, Michigan to be a priest at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Church, located at 12 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. In 1926, he began radio broadcasts on the WJR radio station, and in 1931 when CBS removed free sponsorship of his program, he became an expert fundraiser. There is a ton to say about Father Coughlin and you can read much of it here on Wikipedia, including that he was estimated to have more than 40 million weekly listeners of his broadcast and that he is accused of being antisemitic as well as sympathetic to Hitler's and Mussolini's brand of fascism.

The Woodward Avenue motels arose because this man was a true cult of personality. People would travel from around the country to be near the church at which the "Radio Priest" preached and broadcast. While his program was broadcast to many areas of the country, it couldn't reach everywhere, and other people came to southeast Michigan just to be able to listen to Father Coughlin during his weekly broadcasts on Sunday at 2pm. All of these people needed places to stay and sleep, and the motels were born.

In 1939, father Coughlin was forced from the airwaves, the visitors ceased, but the motels remained. One-by-one they have been torn down through the years and replaced with strip malls and auto dealerships, but there are a few of these motels that still exist. They are more than just temporary housing, more than just eyesores - they are a direct result and reminder of past glory.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Why Not Viagra?

This is non-Michigan related, but it is my blog so shut up.

After having just watched one of the more pointless but insanely cute video packages about pandas on NBC's coverage of the Olympics, I think preservationists are overlooking the easiest and most straightforward solution to avoid extinction of pandas and other sexually adverse creatures.

Why aren't they using, or at least researching, Viagra on the pandas? The NBC video indicated that the Chinese zoologists feed special "Super Stud" (no joke) pandas an enhanced menu, work out their back legs with panda aerobics, and finally resort to videos of panda coupling (again, no joke). All of this seems like an awful lot of work, when the solution might be as easy as popping one little blue pill. It is possible the pandas would require more than one pill because they are so big, but I think the panda insurance should kick in to pay for the additional requirement. It would not be good business for the many panda insurance companies to let their primary demographic go extinct because then who would they insure and service? Big picture, people, big picture.

NBC has way too much airtime to fill and not always enough worthwhile material to fill the time, but it does allow me to think of ways to solve the world's panda shortfall epidemic. If they heed my words, we may have to start eating panda to quell their overpopulation.

Memories #1 - Start at the Absolute Beginning

This is my very first attempt at writing about my memories in the blog. In this post from a few weeks ago, I tried to explain why I am going to spend some time doing this. Through some select memories, I hope to further justify and explain the passion I have for the state of Michigan, as these memories are what have formed and developed the entirety of my emotional existence. I can't guarantee this will hold all of your attention, but I also hope to reconnect you with some of the memories that also make Michigan important to you. Similar memories could have happened in many places of the world, but they didn't. They happened here, in my home.

As far as I can tell and recall, my life started when I was 3 years old. This may not initially make sense, but I can specifically date the very first memory I hold in my consciousness - the birth of my younger brother on August 17th, 1985. The individual pieces of that night are foggy, but when taken as a whole, it is the first night that I was alive.

My older sister and I were waiting at my grandparent's house in Warren, and my parents were not there for some reason. I can associate fractures and slivers of the time we specifically spent there like lying on the floor and watching some television and playing with their bird, but mostly I recall a feeling of anticipation. We waited, and waited, and watched Wheel of Fortune and waited, and the phone rang. Excitedly, we got into the grandparent's car and drove to the hospital. There lay my mother with my father standing over her and my new baby brother in her arms. My sister and I climbed into the hospital bed with her and I got to pretend-hold the baby. I think they had his name picked out at the time, Steve, but I can't remember that right anymore. I'm sure they could tell me, but then it wouldn't be my story. I also can't remember if we spent 30 minutes there or two hours there, but man, was I pumped. After the unknown amount of time, we were forced to leave so my parents could rest.

Then, the terror. I had never slept in a different building from my parents before, and this was to be the first night that we spent at my grandparents' house. Dad took Gail and me downstairs in the hospital, hugged us goodnight, and we climbed into the backseat of the car. Grandpa drove away and I was freaking out watching my dad disappear through the rear window. Eventually my terror faded and when we arrived back at their house, I couldn't fall asleep for hours in excitement over having a new baby brother. I think we had oatmeal for breakfast. Grandparents love serving oatmeal.

Births and birth-related introductions happen everywhere, but this one is unique to my family. I still sometimes drive on the roads that we traveled to meet the new member of our family. Grandpa is now gone, but he was also there on that perfect night. I cannot get that anywhere else.

Monday, August 11, 2008

You Can Break the Law If God Tells You It's OK

Just a little more insight on Kwame Kilpatrick - I am sorry but he seems to be an unstoppable fountain of screw-up.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is filing yet another charge against Kwame that he allegedly violated the terms of his bond over the weekend. When someone is granted bond (i.e. they don't have to immediately go to jail if they can pay a judge-determined quantity of money and follow a slew of rules) he is typically not allowed to visit witnesses or victims of an open charge. Cox is now alleging that Kwame met with his sister over the weekend - the same sister who witnessed him (also allegedly) assaulting a police officer. The fun never stops with this guy, but here is something that many people do not know.

Kwame Kilpatrick has a J.D. (law) degree from the Michigan State University College of Law. This is not a man who can plead ignorance with respect to the finer points of the law. In fairness, he has not been a practicing lawyer, but I don't think you need special higher education to understand that it is against the law to lie under oath, assault a police officer, and violate the terms of bond. The fact that he has a J.D. just makes it a little more clear that this is a fellow who truly believes that his "mission from God" exempts him from the laws of humankind. Either that, or the Michigan State University College of Law really needs to tweak their curriculum.

Ridiculous Race

For those of you who were not lucky enough to see it live a few minutes ago on NBC, the U.S. men just won a crazy 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay Race - barely edging out the French. That, France, is why you do not talk smack prior to actual victory. It is consistently amazing how many people do not learn that lesson in competition. Unfortunately, this also includes the likes of Rasheed Wallace, but we can forgive 'Sheed because we all know he is borderline crazy.

It has been a very long time since I cared the slightest bit about the Olympics, but watching this race took me back to my early childhood when the Olympics actually meant something to me. Of course, Michael Phelps spent the last several years training in Ann Arbor while at the University of Michigan, so there is some degree of pride to be had there. The real star of the race, though, was the U.S. anchor named Jason Lezak (possibly my new hero until I remember how boring I typically find competitive swimming. I have a ton of respect for the actual swimmers because those guys are in the pool all the time, but I might prefer watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 to swim races). I know some people who are not the biggest fans of Phelps, but it is possible to forgive some pretty big sins if he can manage to take home all 8 possible gold medals.

I can't wait for Table Tennis!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Run Brian Run

As I have previously mentioned, one of my favorite hobbies is jogging, not so much to go fast or to beat personal bests, but to avoid become larger than Jabba the Hut. The malady from which I suffer is that my stomach does not tell my brain that it is full and I eat indefinitely. On Thursday evenings, my sister and I would meander down a street called Vinsetta Boulevard, and on some of those Thursday evenings, a team of super-humans would dash down the other side of the street and disappear into the distance almost instantly. My sister told me that this was a team of runners called the Hansons runners, and every time I run I keep my eyes open for these mythological creatures.

Kevin and Keith Hanson are two brothers who, in 1999, developed a team of runners because they were disappointed with the fading prominence of Americans in distance running. This is a unique and world-class group of runners. Members of the running team spend part of their time working at the four Hansons Running stores in the metro-Detroit area, and the rest of their time running and recuperating from running. In 2003, the organization joined forces with the company Brooks Running and the Saturn brand of GM vehicles in 2006, and they are now known as the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

The reason that you care is because on August 23rd, one of the members of their team named Brian Sell will be representing the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the marathon. That is freaking awesome, and it is due, in part, to the Michigan-based Hansons running organization. Also, if you have any need for running equipment, including shoes or clothes, definitely check out the Hansons network of stores. The workers are extraordinarily knowledgeable and friendly, and no one is even paying me for this plug. I need an agent.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kwame - The Untold Suffering Masses

Yesterday I mentioned that it is very difficult to write about Kwame Kilpatrick and his affect on Michigan because it has all been said hundreds of times before, but I would not give up on trying to develop an original thought on the subject. I think I have done it!

To this point, I am fairly convinced that the public and the media have entirely ignored a huge group that is currently suffering from Kwame-related fallout on a near daily basis. Of course, I am talking about those who enjoy morning and afternoon television programming on the local affiliates of FOX, CBS, NBC, and/or ABC. Please allow me share with you a tale of woe, and it's all Kwame's fault...

For the past many years, I have been regularly TiVo'ing an artful and high class program called Days of Our Lives. In metro-Detroit, this program airs at 1pm in the afternoon on NBC. I don't have much of a good excuse for this act, but I can truthfully say that the only time I actually allow myself to watch the show is when I am performing my workout at the end of the day when my work is done. It's a perfect workout show because there is absolutely no need to closely follow the activities onscreen, and there is a 0% chance of the show making me laugh (which makes it impossible to lift something heavy). The solid quality narrative, though, helps continue to motivate my near-daily workout.

You can only imagine my discontent, then, when I turn on the TV at the end of the day for my routine and instead of the show I want being recorded, I am forced to view 8-hour-old breaking news of a Mike Cox press conference, another Kwame arraignment, or rehashed analysis of Kwame's mental state. This has been going on for months now.

I know exactly what you're thinking - why don't I just TiVo Days of Our Lives Today or Days of Our Lives Yesterday on the SoapNet network? Good question, but here is the problem with that idea. SoapNet recently introduced two original programs on their network, one called MVP and the other called General Hospital: Night Shift, and these shows just happen to run at the same time that the Days of Our Lives reruns would be on SoapNet. To make matters even more confusing, these other shows are only aired on Thursdays and Fridays, so it just becomes too much work to try to capture the variable schedule of the Days of Our Lives reruns.

Surely you are all touched by my tale of struggle and despair, but think of the other people in Michigan who sit down to watch their daily The Price is Right to instead be faced by more and more Kwame news. The madness must be stopped, and Bob Barker is the right person for the job. Beat that human interest story, Huel Perkins.

Things I Learned Today #2

Dental hygiene is very important to me, but if you're ever squeezing the toothpaste tube and WAY more toothpaste ends up on the actual brush than you typically use, do not proceed with tooth brushery as usual. For starters, the excessive foaming of the toothpaste ends up everywhere; face, hands, clothes, floor, etc. Also, some of the excess toothpaste will inevitably find its way down your throat and into your stomach. Next, when you try to rinse your mouth when you're done, the leftover toothpaste in your mouth foams even more on contact with the water, so you have to waste even more water in the effort to get all the residual out. Your mouth will have an unpleasant tingle for far longer than you may hope, and, perhaps most importantly, you are just wasting toothpaste. They say "you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube", but those people have never tried a funnel and pneumatic pressure - like that device the guy used in No Country for Old Men but for the purposes of toothpaste good, not killing evil (I just wanted to figure out how to get in a plug for the movie so I could include the awesome trailer).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Theme Merchandising

In the past two days, on four different occasions, at least one person has been directed to this website because he or she did a Google search for the exact phrase "why i want to punch my neighbor in the face". For any of my much-appreciated regular readers, this search could be affiliated with my burgeoning face punching series, found here and here. Alternatively and more humorously, this search could just be from one very angry person who is not a fan of his neighbors. If that is the case, I recommend any number of activities shy of actually hitting your neighbor. Perhaps try more passive-aggressive approaches like playing your music too loudly, taking up the available parking space in front of their house, or writing clever messages in chalk on their sidewalk.

While it is not in the theme of my general attempts toward optimism, there could be a real opportunity here for some merchandising. I have visions of people across the world wearing t-shirts with slogans like "Your Face/My Fist", "Michigan is for Lovers (of Face Punching)", and "Eat 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day".

If someone would like to mock something up for me, I would be excited to throw it up on the internet. I don't realistically expect anything from anyone, but I would be forever in your debt. You can email me at:

We can change the world one t-shirt at a time.

What's Left to Say?

For all those coming out of a coma right at this moment, there is some small amount of news today about Detroit's mayor, Mr. Kwame Kilpatrick. As the general purpose of my blog is to discuss all things Michigan and Detroit is the hamster wheel that drives the state, the natural conclusion of even the shortly post-coma readers would be that this would seem to be ripe subject matter for me. You're right, it should be great material, but I just have absolutely nothing to say at the moment. Maybe I will eventually, but right now, nothing.

The biggest problem from which I am suffering is two-fold. Fold the first: Every media outlet in the world is covering this story in some form or another. The story even made the front page of and Perhaps I could comment on how Kwame's actions are devastating the already-tarnished view of Detroit both inside and outside of Michigan, but you can already find better written commentary on this subject without too much looking. Perhaps I could write about how the possible revival of the city is on hold until someone with honor and respect is elected mayor, or that the citizens of Detroit are not doing enough to demand the ouster of Kwame. Again, though, professional journalists have been writing about this subject for months and months.

Fold the second: It is abundantly clear that no matter who writes what about Kwame, the man appears distressingly bulletproof. Mitch Albom could dedicate an entire article tomorrow to developing news that Kwame kills and eats babies. For dinner, Kwame would then hold a news conference at the Manoogian where he publicly kills and eats a baby and then returns to work with a smile the following day with a necklace of baby teeth.

For having nothing to say, I guess I have a lot to say. I will endeavor to somehow have an original thought on this mess, but for now suffice it to say Kwame Kilpatrick kills and eats babies.

Fourth-Rate Information

In an act of uber-irony, I am currently passing along a link to you that was passed along to me from my friend John that is to another blog that comments on a special that was shown on CNBC called "Saving GM". This chain of understanding and information dissemination is just one of the things against which the Michigan automakers struggle daily in their current fight to survive.

Here is the fundamental problem: I have not yet had the chance to watch the actual CNBC program, but I did read the blog to which John directed me. Instead of the specific information that CNBC opted to edit into their program (which may not be entirely correct in the first place as it is intended for equal parts entertainment and education), I am receiving the interpretation of one of probably hundreds of commenters on this television special. Until I watch the actual CNBC program (which is unlikely as I am busy opining on the ripples caused by it), this person's point of view, in turn, somehow becomes an authority on the subject and almost acts as a spokesperson for CNBC - regardless of actual correctness of either CNBC or the writer. One example of the writer's insight with which I partially disagree:

"And I'm less sympathetic since they (GM) did a lot of this to themselves. Are you as sympathetic when an alcoholic has cirrhosis compared to a kid who has a congenital liver disease? Probably not."

First, since the writer indicated that (the assumed) he worked at GM building engines, he has some sort of worthwhile insight into the current ins-and-outs of the organization, their progress, their setbacks, the multitude of reasons they are facing struggles, and what they serve for lunch in the cafeteria. Second, an individual who reads those comments can take the easy walk to the assumption that CNBC also indicated that they feel that GM is largely responsible for their issues, and this could also convince that individual that the Michigan automakers are not worth saving. Third, while cirrhosis is frequently caused by alcoholism, the hepatitis B virus is probably the most common cause of cirrhosis worldwide and maybe the alcoholic's cirrhosis is independent of the alcoholism. What kind of jerk doesn't feel sympathy from those suffering from Hep-B? Not cool, dude.

All this brings me back to the irony I mentioned in the first sentence. Now, hopefully, you have read this post about my opinions about another's opinions about something which may be unintentionally or intentionally opinionated in the very first place and why these opinions have the potential to be damaging. For as long as these companies are struggling, they will remain under such intense scrutiny. Whether you live in Michigan or elsewhere, regardless of your love or hate for Chrysler, Ford, and GM, I urge you to seek out as many outlets of news and information as possible so that you can combine the many different viewpoints into your own unique viewpoint.

And that is my PSA for today.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Who Did She....

Warning: PG-13 humor

This Saturday, a comedienne by the name of Chelsea Handler is performing at the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills. She has a show on the E! Network called Chelsea Lately and you might also see her pop up on other countdown-related shows on networks like VH1. Generally speaking, I find most of her commentary, comedy, and the few times I have seen her on other people's talk shows pretty funny, but her own show is terrible. Just terrible. A funny story about that -

I listen to the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Radio (note the new name change) whenever I have the opportunity. One of Howard's sidekicks is named Artie Lange. Artie isn't exactly known for his elegance and grace, but he does know how to drop in hilarious one-liners or stories from time-to-time. Several months ago, they started talking about Chelsea Handler for reasons I can't remember.

Artie said something along the lines of "Have you seen that Chelsea Handler show? I think she is pretty funny comedian, but her show is just unwatchable. Who did she have to bang to get that awful show."

Well, as it turns out, Chelsea Handler is the girlfriend of a gentleman by the name of Ted Harbert, who, as the CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, oversees the entire E! Network. That is one of the greatest things I have ever heard in my life.

I See You North Carolina

In the brief history of this website, I have periodically chronicled the ins-and-outs of a web program called Google Analytics that enables me to track anonymous information about visitors, including what city and state a visitor is in when they visit the site. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of people who are tricked by me into visiting come from the great state of Michigan. Most surprisingly, though, is that the state that sends the second most visitors to me is North Carolina, with almost all of the NC visits coming from Charlotte. As far as I can remember, I don't have any immediate relatives in NC and most of my former college cohorts live in the Midwest or the coasts, so I have no idea who you are. I am not trying to scare you away, but I do want to thank you, anonymous person, for keeping up-to-date on my Michigan thoughts.

All of this raises another key issue that I again want to encourage here. One of the joys of the internet is anonymity (listen, I don't care if you prefer Tinky, Winky, or Dipsy from the Teletubbies), but I would love if some small portion of that veil of anonymity were to drop away on this website. If you are taking a few of your precious minutes to read the site, I hope that you have strong feelings either similar or in opposition to my own, and I would love to hear them in the comments section. With some luck, other people reading the website may also respond to your comments, and we may actually begin some worthwhile dialogue.

And for anyone who may be living in or traveling through North Carolina - it is illegal to use an elephant to plow cotton fields there. Be careful.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Go Vote

Hey you - go vote in today's election. They are only expecting 20% of the voting-age Michigan public to actually vote today, and that is pretty pathetic. Mathematically, 20% works out to 20/100, 0.2, 2.0 x 10^-1, 2/10, or the percentage of time I spend on a daily basis thinking of other ways to write 20%.

If you don't vote, well I don't have a good threat to offer you. Think of something that would be threatening to you and then let me know what that is and then I can say that to you.

(yes on zoo!)

Not So Crazy

After reading this report on McCain, I am increasingly convinced that I could seriously run for president. I'm younger, more energetic, and arguably just slightly more handsome than John McCain. On top of that, I have both a broad and deep understanding of almost everything related to popular culture and can easily eat at least 15 White Castle burgers in a single sitting. Imagine the money I could save the country by doing away with the executive presidential chef and just eating Campbell Chunky Soup and White Castle burgers.

With respect to White Castle's, my brother always says, "if the meat they use is dog, the rest of the world just needs to figure out how to prepare dog better." So true.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Trombone Guy and Granimal

For high school, I attended a fine institution known as The University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy (Established 1877). I am immensely proud of this school and my experiences there, as well as the young men it annually churns out. This is why I was not particularly shocked to find out that two of my peers, one in my graduating class and one a couple years younger, are vying for positions as Michigan state representatives in tomorrow's election. Both of these guys are younger than 30, which is pretty ambitious. Their names are Dan Grano and Marlon Brown.

As far as I can tell, their political leanings could not be more different from each other, but it is exciting that there are people who are in my age group (we are now officially known as "millennials", though I would have gone with something original like "the greatest generation" were I in charge) who are actually doing more with their time to make a difference than blog. Zing me.

I haven't talked to Dan in a few years and Marlon wasn't actually in my class, but I can say that Marlon was in the high school band with me and that he played trombone. That makes both of us very, very cool. On top of that, he could mostly march on the beat, which unarguably makes him suitable for state government. Yup - that means we were in the marching band. Very, very cool. I guess that Marlon has also been endorsed by both The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, but there is no way those endorsements can compete with trombone-marching.

Check out their websites with the links I provided, and if you happen to be in their districts and agree with their viewpoints, take to the streets and place your vote. While you're there, why don't you also remember to vote FOR the zoo millage.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How Magnanimous

Does today's news of Barack Obama requesting that the Democratic National Committee seat all of Michigan's and Florida's democratic delegates at the National Convention ring extraordinarily hollow to anyone else? This is such a ridiculous declaration/request by Obama that I am stumbling for suitable analogies.

It's like telling a team of kindergartners that they can have as many other kindergartners on their team as they want in a basketball game against Shaquille O'Neal.

It's like me betting you today, in 2008, that the Tigers are going to win the 1984 World Series.

It's like I had the Gray's Sport's Almanac from Back to the Future II (and where are my freaking flying cars).

But mostly, it's like someone with a guaranteed victory attempting to appear gracious and generous by siding with irrelevant delegates (since the outcome of the convention is now pre-determined) to allow them their "full vote" in the convention. Where was this direct request to the Democratic National Committee several months ago when the actual Democratic nominee was still undetermined?

Politicians, of course, are going to play politics, and Barack's request is meant as a gesture of party unity. However, I am unfortunately forced to question whether or not this request would have been made had Barack's nomination not been locked-up prior to the convention. Pandering for the important electoral college votes of Michigan is important in this election, but this one is even too transparent for Transparent Pete (A fictional character that I made up during this sentence who is also displeased with Barack Obama. If I had to develop some exposition for Transparent Pete I would probably say that he is some sort of gullible ghost who leaves slime on walls when he floats through them. I guess he's kind of like a combination of Bill Cosby from Ghost Dad and Slimer from Ghostbusters).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Detroit Zoo and You

(Picture taken at the Polar Bear Exhibit at The Detroit Zoo)

My father has spent his entire career employed in the law field, but when he retires, he has two dreams:

1) Sell Mickey Mouse Ears ice cream bars in Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World (between the Haunted House and Splash Mountain)
2) Work at The Detroit Zoo and clean up after the rhinos

These are lofty retirement goals, to be sure, but the second one in particular speaks to the memories and enjoyment The Detroit Zoo holds for many people across Michigan as well as visitors from other states. Unfortunately, the zoo is experiencing some significant financial hardship and requires the forced contribution (i.e. taxes) of Michigan residents in the Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties to keep its gates open to the people and closed to the animals. The August 5th election includes a "zoo millage" that, according to the Oakland Press, will cost the average household in these three counties about $10/year for 10 years. That works out to a reduction to you of about 2 Big Mac Extra Value Meals from McDonald's per year (unless you are ordering the Big Mac Meal in Amsterdam where they force you to also get an ice cream sundae with the value meal. weird).

Without a doubt, the zoo is another one of our family jewels and its importance should not be under-estimated. The biggest concern regarding successfully passing this tax is that the zoo is loved and adored most by children, and this is sadly the group that can in no way influence the outcome of this proposal through voting.

Times are financially difficult for most everyone right now and I absolutely understand that, but losing the zoo because we couldn't individually contribute an additional $10/year would be almost too much to bear (ha. bear. bears live in zoos). Come August 5th, please please please make your way to your local polling location and vote in favor of the zoo millage. Your children and my dad will thank you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Banding Together

Economically, it has been a particularly difficult couple of weeks for the Michigan automakers - which is saying a lot compared to the last few years. Last week, Ford announced a quarterly loss (that's three months people) of $8.7B, and GM today announced a quarterly loss of $15.5B. I don't want to use this space to delve into the numerical intricacies of the losses, but for both companies, the entirety of these losses was not necessarily evaporated cash. On top of this, all three Michigan automakers recently announced either the elimination or significant reduction of leasing programs to help move their vehicles off the dealer lots. Historically, leasing programs have been a great way to generate income and continue to generate traffic for the newest and most profitable vehicles.

This is a lot of pain, and the pain is widespread. Employees, shareholders, contractors, suppliers, dealers, states that benefit from the taxes of these companies, homeowners and home values, all suffer from this difficult news. This list doesn't even begin to stretch into some of the more tangential groups that are suffering from this bad news - "disposable income" can no longer be spent with restaurants, gardeners, and dog-walkers because the disposable income is working its way toward extinction in entirety.

So far, everything I have said has been incredibly bleak and (I think) truthful, but bleakness is not the goal of this blog. The goal of this blog is to try to seek out some small light, some reason to keep going despite the waterfall of bad news. There are fun events and activities in which one could participate, television or movies to watch for a small degree of escapism, and many other things which can help direct the mind away from the gloom. All of these things are wonderful and certainly have their place, but nothing can help someone deal with the difficulty and bad news better than the family and friends with whom we have the privilege of surrounding ourselves.

As I spend some time reading through my previous posts to edit spelling errors or to respond to the few comments that may trickle in, I am primarily struck by how many of my thoughts are inspired by or make a reference to my friends. I am not particularly popular and am sometimes known for a relatively short fuse which can tend to alienate some people, but I am blessed to have some people who are willing to put up with my ridiculousness. What's more, unlike my family, these people aren't obligated to put up with me! Wednesday evening, when GM pre-announced "dismal" results for the 2nd quarter of this year and I was feeling pre-depressed, I was able to put away some of those fears and concerns because of the company of the great guys (and affiliated ladies) on my softball team. Having this type of support group is critical to just keep moving forward - even when the silver lining seems out of sight.

The last four paragraphs probably come across as pretty preachy, but for this subject, I don't mind so much. Please don't forget that your family, significant others, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are all dealing with the same difficult issues, and that these people will provide the support and relief that you need. We keep going and hoping and working for the best, and we keep going together.