Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Me - In Pictures

As an addendum to yesterday's post, here are some photos of the guy writing this right now and some of the people who, for some reason, spend time with him.

1. Maureen and I
2. Steve pointing at me with dad in background
3. Me angry at the Roman Coliseum. Screw you Coliseum!
4. Gail and Jeff being wed
5. All the family dogs hanging out with mom


Well that was a difficult day today, huh? This evening when I was driving my friend Carolyn home from kickball, she commented that it felt more like a Wednesday than a Monday. I couldn't agree more with her. The emotional toll and weight of the day combined with the clouds, rain, and ever-earlier night went a long way to suck the energy out of the remainder of the week. At the moment, things are in the pooper and it is hard to be positive about very much. So, I thought I would dedicate today's post to a topic that I've been thinking about a fair amount recently - Me.

I have been at this blogging thing for over three whole months now, and I endeavor to create as much worthwhile content as possible. Many blogs start off strong and have some interesting material, but the writer's time and attention are diverted, and the blog is left to wither in the ether of the internet. I don't want to stagnate, and I am working very hard to keep thinking about and writing new material for this website.

I have directly and indirectly received comments from people who might say things like "I enjoy when you write about Michigan, but I really don't care very much when you write about your life or your random musings." I have a few thoughts about this type of response. First, I am very appreciative of anyone and everyone who takes time to read my posts. I find it very touching and it is difficult to verbalize my thanks. Second, I try to focus on positive Michigan news and ideas as much as possible, but it is difficult and slightly limiting for me to contain my thoughts entirely to this space. When I fork into a tangent or want to talk about Heroes or elevator buttons or eating cake, I am mostly hoping to differentiate myself by trying to be as...accessibly idiotic as possible. If you know me well or hardly at all, I am trying to help you understand exactly the kind of person that I am, the way I think, and that I am writing as if I am talking to you over a pizza. There are many phenomenal writers and fantastic blogs and most of those people can write and structure their thoughts far better than me, but I hope to keep you around as a reader, and maybe even attract new readers, by being as conversational as possible. So, I periodically might tell you that I put too much toothpaste on my toothbrush. I don't have much in my arsenal to stand out from other media sources except for that, hopefully, you feel like you know and understand me - the opinions are coming from a real person typing in his parents' basement at 12:30 in the morning.

With all that said, I have already made pretty clear my love of Maureen/family, friends, the state of Michigan, food, and television. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan (completed in 2005), and I can play the piano and saxophone. I am very frustrating to some people because I can simultaneously be the most over-confident, proud, unabashed individual as well as a self-doubting and easily embarrassed person who wants nothing more than to be liked. In less than one minute, I will tell Maureen about how proud I am of a joke in my blog while lamenting that my entire effort is boring and unworthy of anyone's time. I've gotten to this point in my post pretty proud of my writing, and now I'm starting to feel that it is self-indulgent and pointless.

Mostly, I love my state and I want to change the way that residents and non-residents think of Michigan for the better. I am often wrong and sometimes offensive, but I am trying hard, and hoping I can convince others to try along with me. In this fight, the only thing that I might have to my advantage is that I am interesting enough to garner your attention. Some people might only like the Michigan articles, some people might prefer my appreciation of White Castle hamburgers - If everything is interesting and new enough, I can keep you coming back for the greater purpose of promoting my pro-Michigan agenda.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Things I Hate #2

The word "Crisis" is being thrown around an awful lot these days (even by me - if slightly tongue in cheek), and I have become increasingly interested in the true meaning of this word. Largely this interest has been driven by the fact that I am becoming increasingly aware of how my word choice, written or verbal, can shade the way people feel about not only what I am saying, but about me as a person. I find it genuinely interesting how a single word choice can sway a large group of people from panicked to reassured and back again. I have always had a clear sense of what I felt crisis meant based on the context in which it is most typically used, but I have never actually looked the word up in the dictionary. I still have never technically looked the word up in a dictionary, but I did use dictionary.com to read up on the definition of this word. The definition that I think most consistently is used by the many dictionary sources that feed dictionary.com is the following:

crisis - An unstable condition, as in political, social, or economic affairs, involving an impending abrupt or decisive change

Based on this definition, I have grown hateful of the way the word crisis has been used in the news over the past year. Again, I understand that the news must do things to capture our attention and the "crisis" has a certain morbidly romantic allure, but imagine if all the CNBC headlines declared "The Financial Unstable Condition" or "Wall St. Decisive Change". Not quite as captivating or terrifying. A crisis sounds like imminent implosion, and using the word in this way, as opposed to a time of instability, contributes to one freaked out consumer and emotionally-based decisions like making a run on a bank.

I don't want to become one of those people who is always harping on responsible journalism and on small decisions like diction, but right now everyone needs to calm the hell down, and everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the level-headed thinking we require to move past this difficult time. This applies to Michigan and to the United States. Advertising and promoting chaos never helped to fix anything.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Today's Credit Crisis Story About Me

No one can get any credit! House loans, car loans, business loans, student loans - no one can get a loan of any shape or size. The reason, they say, is that in the past 5 years in particular, lenders were willing to grant credit to individuals who were not deserving of credit. As a result of this, the pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction, and even the most credit worthy individuals are having trouble acquiring a loan. The whole world is going to end! Or......

About three months ago, I decided to add an American Express Blue Cash card to my George Costanza-sized wallet (I know it is huge, I don't need you to point that out to me every time I pull the wallet out of my pocket. Am I paying more than my share, and maybe part of your share? Yes? Then leave me and my wallet alone) and I was initially granted a woefully low credit line (less than $5K). As a guy who has very high credit scores and good fortune enough to have a regular income from my non-blogging job, I was actually shocked by how pathetically low the credit line was. I called AMEX to see if I could get my line increased, and they said "no, credit lines in general are limited now, try in three months." I waited patiently for my three months, and tried again today. I called AMEX, talked to a person, simply stated my annual income (without any sort of proof), and they were able to instantly triple my credit limit. According to the woman, I can try for another tripling in three months. Huzzah! At this rate, I'll have a $1 million credit limit in 2 simple years. What credit crisis?

While I am quite grateful that American Express was able to increase my credit limit, I was amazed by the fact that they could increase my limit with an unproven verbal statement from me about my income. Isn't that part of how we got into this mess in the first place? I am pro $700B bailout for several reasons, but it is a much harder sell to the American populace if lenders do not have a clearly defined good faith effort to lend the appropriately high amount of credit to the deserving, and keep an intelligent lending limit to risky individuals. My experience with American Express today does not convince me that this is yet the case, and that is a problem.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Heroes is a Jerk

I'm 2/3 of the way through the 2 hour season premier of Heroes, and I am compelled to step outside of my Michigan wheelhouse to write about my current dissatisfaction with several elements of the show. Overall, I would say that I give the show 3.5 Costco cakes out of 5 Costco cakes, mostly because certain episodes (like "Company Man" from the 1st season) are deserving of 5 Costco cakes and a container of Costco cookies , but if the season continues with some of the problems I have already seen in the season premier, it is in serious danger of being downgraded to 2 Costco cakes. Herein I lay forth my beefs:

1) One of the show's chief plot elements was ripped completely out of a lower budget, similar, and excellent show called The 4400 formerly on the USA Network. To make matters worse, The 4400 dealt with the concept in a much cooler manner. Specifically, both shows have dealt with some sort of serum that enables non-super powered individuals to acquire super powers. In The 4400, anyone has the opportunity to take the serum, but there is a 50% chance that you will die, and a 50% chance that you acquire some special power. I recommend you watch The 4400.

2) My brother brought this point up, but EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has powers on Heroes is constantly moaning about having special powers and needing to hide the power. That is maddening. Any moron with a power in real life would be like "hey check this out ladies, I can fly," not "hey let's get some coffee so you can hear me whine about my ability to fly." All the heroes are idiots. Freaking idiots.

3) All three seasons have been based around Hiro going to the future, seeing some big city blow up, and then everyone has to try to keep that from happening. It was a pretty cool plot device in the first season, mildly amusing in the second season, and painfully redundant in the third season.

4) Have you seen The Bourne Supremacy or Oceans 12? Let me give you a few sentence rundown. In the first 10 minutes of both movies (which are sequels), the entire reason for the first movie existing is completed eradicated. In Oceans 11, the whole gang steals stuff from Andy Garcia and it's all like "hey cool crime caper. Way to go Ocean's gang." Right off the bat in 12, Andy Garcia hunts everyone down, says "I know you stole my money give it back or I beat you up," and then all the guys were like "OK." What??? Ridiculous. In The Bourne Identity Matt Damon spends the whole movie trying to make a life with his lady friend, and then before the opening scene is completed in Supremacy, she gets made dead. It's enough to make me mental. The whole first season of Heroes, with all of its marketing of "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World" was annoying enough. In fact, that might have been the most annoying advertising promotion ever. Fortunately for the heroes, cheerleader and world were saved. However, in the first 10 minutes of the season 3 premier, the whole thing that they were trying to avoid in season 1 happens in a matter of moments. Apparently, Heroes is comfortable with wasting 22 hours of my life with no forward storyline progression.

On a positive note, the show has added Marlow Stanfield from The Wire, so great casting choice on that one. As I have made clear before, I love TV and I give most shows the benefit of the doubt, but even I have my limits. If I could change just one thing about the show, I would make all the heroes shutup with their complaints about having powers. YOU HAVE POWERS. SHUTUP. OH MY GOD SHUTUP YOU HAVE SUPER POWERS.

Millen and Beatty...are People Too?

Cold off the presses is news that Matt Millen has finally been removed as the president of the Detroit Lions organization. Like almost everyone in the entire world, I am satisfied that Millen has finally been stripped of his responsibilities and I can again dream of a brighter Detroit professional football future. Like Kwame Kilpatrick, everything hateful that can be said about Millen has already been said, but I harbor resentment for him because he is in some way responsible for ruining 17 weeks of possible fun and anticipation by the second week for just about 7 years running. There would be no reasonable way to say that he is entirely at fault, but his role in the process has been pretty clear and undeniable.

Even colder off the presses, Kwame's former chief of staff, mistress, text message buddy, and all around frowny (not actually a word) woman Christine Beatty is broke and in foreclosure. Like Millen, she can not claim that she is free of responsibility for her actions' outcomes, and she even (allegedly) broke more than a few laws along the way. Piling on a little more, her (alleged) relationship with Kwame tarnished an already-struggling city and has thrown the metro area into months of uncertainty and ridicule. I am unhappy with Christine for her role in this debacle and wish that she and Kwame had made much better decisions along the way.

It is easy to clearly outline the offenses by these two and how their actions have negatively affected my/our state, and I believe that most of the anger against them is well-deserved. However, I felt my heart wrench just a little bit for Ms. Beatty and (less so) for Mr. Millen when I read today's headlines. I think in our collective criticism of these individuals, it will be important to keep the personal attacks at a minimum and to not celebrate and revel in their downfall. Now is the right opportunity to work on our public image as a people who do not celebrate the failure and disgrace of others. These two individuals, whether you think so or not, are suffering more than plenty in their own personal and professional lives, and they will be paying penance in some form or another for what will likely amount to the remainder of their existence. I am not trying to claim that these people should not have to deal with the consequences of their decisions and actions, but these consequences should not amount to a public lynching. We're better than that.

The Today Show and You - Advertising Juggernauts

Tomorrow, NBC's The Today Show is going to be partially broadcasting from Campus Martius park in downtown Detroit. Partially means that we get the 'B' team of Al Roker and Ann Curry while Vieira and Lauer hang back in New York, but half of the team definitely deserves half of our jaded anticipation.

The Today Show B team is travelling to various cities that are contained within election battleground states, and tomorrow, they cast their attention on Michigan and Detroit. It is nice to be important for 3 months out of every four years. Locals are encouraged to head to the production area in Campus Martius just like the tourist bumpkins in New York to huddle behind Al and Ann with crudely drawn signs with slogans like "GO TO HTTP://WeAreOfMichigan.BLOGSPOT.COM" or "THE BEST BLOG IN THE WORLD IS HTTP://WeAreOfMichigan.BLOGSPOT.COM" If you successfully pull that off, I will give you $20 - quantity negotiable.

I find The Today Show to be one of the funniest shows on television - not because of its comic merit, but because of the show's progression from the first hour to the last hour (hosted by Kathy Lee Gifford). The first couple hours are typically pretty legitimate national and international news, the third hour is news mixed with human interest stories, the fourth hour is cooking demonstrations and toothpaste recommendations, and the fifth hour is about how to wear tankinis that hide your trouble areas. The show thinks they know exactly who they are targeting after 10 am on a weekday morning, but little do they know, I am also interested in what types of tankinis will hide my trouble areas for summer fun.

If you happen to have some free time tomorrow morning or are taking a touring Today Show-related vacation, I recommend joining the crowd behind the show and advertising your favorite blog and mine, this one. I will not be there, but that is only because of Al Roker's restraining order against me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Victory to the Strong

For all those fascinated by my developing kickball season, I am proud to announce that we won our game yesterday evening. Team Big Ten (or Team Big Ten + Carolyn as she refuses to outwardly acknowledge our Big Ten heritage) vanquished our mortal enemy of those other guys in a thrilling kick fight to the finish.

On top of our victory, I had a grand slam, triple, and two doubles. There are many things at which I am not so good, but kickball is not one of those things. I promptly returned home and pampered my kicking leg with the necessary steroid injection and ice bath to ensure successful kicking on into the future. I hear there is a lot of money to be had on the professional kickball circuit.

There aren't too many things that one can enjoy more than evening sports with friends on a beautiful late summer Michigan night.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Irresponsible Journalism

I frequent the CNN Money website because I find it to be an interesting combination of financial news and editorials for the person with an interest in finance and the financial markets, but without a masters degree in the subject. This website has been particularly useful to me of late because of the rapid and scary changes in the financial world, from the major fluctuation in oil prices and the stock market to the downfall of investment banks to the conversion of investment banks to commercial banks. Today I read a headline, gasped, and clicked on the link because the implications of the headline were too awful to bear - "Here Comes $500 Oil"

The very first sentence in the tag line of the article actually states "If Matt Simmons is right, the recent drop in crude oil prices is an illusion." The article goes on to discuss Mr. Simmons' (and others) theory that we are at or fast approach the point of peak oil production and this will result in a significant, sustained supply/demand mismatch - resulting in skyrocketing oil prices. This is not a new concept or argument, but CNN decided that today was the right day to add front page credence to this theory. For a reputable news source such as CNN, declaring in a headline that the price of oil is an impending quintuple of the current price is a flagrant and irresponsible act of journalism. I understand that the job of a headline is to gain my attention, and this one certainly serves that purpose, but at the same time with the weak psychological state of the worldwide consumer and the fact that financial markets are driven by reactions by groups of individuals and their decisions, CNN should act more responsibly. I know that one article on one website will typically have no effect on the financial markets, but this story proves otherwise. <--Seriously, read this story. Headline: CNN Declared Dangerously Irresponsible
Story: Some idiot blogger somewhere said today that he was angry with CNN Money for being irresponsible. However, as the phrase "idiot blogger" implies, this guy is an idiot and we have no reason to take his point of view seriously.

If you only read the headline without actually going to the story, someone might actually take me seriously. CNN and other news sources should be held to a higher standard.

Staying, Playing, and Kicking

Tonight is the second game (supposed to be third except the first game got rained out in the great Michigan Monsoon of 2008. Speaking of that weekend of storms, Maureen and I were driving back from Meijer on Saturday morning a couple weeks ago outside of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, and there were some poor students standing outside in the pouring rain attempting to convince drivers to take part in their "free" car wash. Visually it was one of the best things I've ever seen because these students were out there in the driving rain in ponchos jumping up and down with these soaked cardboard signs. I felt bad for the kids - when do you decide to give up on a car wash because it is raining harder and more consistently than in Michigan's entire history? That was a long aside, back to my main point...) in my team's kickball season. Kickball is entirely like you remember it from grade school, expect it is harder to kick the ball as far as you think you should be able to. Maybe that is because in grade school, the gyms were so tiny and any halfway decent kick made you feel like a stud. Perhaps the best part of the game is that you are allowed to hit the other team's base runners (below the neck) to get them out if they are off of a base. You should have seen my friend Jon wind up and crank this guy in the back last week. He got an "unsportsmanlike" warning, but it was definitely worth it.

Right now, if you are a young professional or just someone interested in participating in a wide variety of intramural sports leagues, I'd like to point your attention to the Stay and Play Social Club. I have played flag football, kickball, and volleyball in leagues organized by this organization, and have always had a really great time. There are divisions of varying competitiveness within each sports league, so almost anyone should be able to find a league at the appropriate (non) competitive level. They also organize events like Happy Hours and holiday parties to bring together all types of people.

I don't think it would be a stretch to say that groups like this are very important to the vitality and energy in an area, but unfortunately, many people are unaware that they even exist. If you're looking for social events, sports leagues, or other ways to enhance your social life and/or interconnectedness, look into the SPSC. I do have to warn you, though, that if my team plays you in volleyball, I will not hesitate to spike the ball into your face, and if we play you in kickball, Jon will crank you in the back with the great force of Thor.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Guest Post - All Hail Muskegon Brewing & Distilling Company

I love Michigan, but my knowledge of Michigan's west coast is severely lacking. To add onto that, my knowledge of beer is also severely lacking because I am only 1/2 man. Here I present to you the first guest post from my friend and fellow Michigan blogger Tim. It's a small world - his wife works with my fiancee, and through that I was connected to his pro-Michigan blog that he began many moons ago. Bit-by-bit we are doing our small part to grow the grassroots movement we need to revive our home. For your reading enjoyment:

Great Lakes Guru and We Are of Michigan are partners in blogging, fighting the good fight to promote Michigan and celebrate the Great Lakes State.

Does the name Steve Buszka ring a bell? If not, how about Bell's Oberon, Amber, Third Coast, Porter, and Two Hearted Ale? As a Bell's brewer for 11 years, Buszka brewed some of Michigan's most popular beers. And as head brewer, Steve accepted two medals at the Great American Beer Festival on behalf of Bell's, for the Expedition Stout and Two Hearted Ale. Sound familiar now?

I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Buszka and one of his business partners, Seth Rivard, on the topic of their new venture, the Muskegon Brewing and Distilling Company. These two beer enthusiasts are clearly thrilled to be brewing in Muskegon, and while they are far too humble to accept such praise, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Muskegon Brewing & Distilling Company is likely to be the savior of Muskegon, with Buszka and company rising the city from ashes and rubble, back to respectability, even prosperity.

Steve grew up on the shores of Lake Huron, in Alpena, Michigan, so he understands and shares Muskegonites' affection for the Great Lakes coastlines. While brewing in Kalamazoo, he would drive along the shores of Lake Michigan, often stopping in Muskegon to visit his uncle. "Then," he said, "we drove through one summer and it looked like a bomb went off. It was surreal. It was just empty," referring of course to the demolition of the old Muskegon Mall.

Having witnessed firsthand the revitalization of Kalamazoo, with Bell's playing a large role in that development, Steve is dedicated to making a similar positive impact on his new city, hopeful that Muskegon is about to turn the corner as well. "There's only so much lakeshore left, so Muskegon is bound to take off," Buszka said. "Making that shift from an industrial town to a resort town isn't easy, but change is going to come and I want to be a part of that change. Sooner or later everyone is going to come back. It happened in Kalamazoo and it will happen here. Muskegon is the last affordable place on Lake Michigan," and lucky for Steve, as he put it, "It's a beer drinking town."

Ripe for the picking, Muskegon proudly touts itself as "The Beer Tent Capital of the World," but is the only major city in west Michigan without its own microbrewery or brewpub. This lack of quality beer is, in this writer's opinion, the result of a few problems - a formerly nonexistent downtown, a lot of loyal Bud and Miller drinkers, and, as frequently discussed on Great Lakes Guru, a mass exodus of college graduates from Muskegon and the state of Michigan - the same WMU alums that grew to love Bell's during college, now hooked on microbrews.

But all that's changing. New downtown development, coupled with a growing demand for craft beer has created the perfect environment for introducing quality product to a city thirsty for interesting brews and desperate for successful new businesses. Thankfully, Buszka has plenty of experience growing a small business. When I asked him about the fame surrounding Oberon, he was modest as usual, but also displayed an expertise for marketing and a dedication to his profession -

"Writing the recipe for Oberon was not the hard part - reproducing it is where the art and science comes in. Larry [Bell] has marketed that beer to the utmost, and a lot of it is the label. When it was called Solson we would guerilla market it, driving in a van with 100 bucks through old town Chicago. We'd drink and cause a ruckus until we convinced the bars to put us on tap. If you tried to pull that now you'd get in huge trouble, but at the time we did whatever needed to be done." Telling this wild west story, there was a fire in Steve's voice, the way a parent might talk about a child - proud, nostalgic, defensive, excited, and most of all, committed.

Muskegon Brewing & Distilling Company will be located on Pine Street, near the new Harley Davidson shop, anchoring the downtown proper. They've already secured 35 letters of intent from local businesses to sell their beer, and there is a lot of excitement among local restaurants to carry the product. More important, like baby birds waiting to be fed, Muskegonites are holding their mugs, wide-eyed, mouths agape. I've personally been praying for this to happen for years, so when I met Seth Rivard at this summer's Founder's Fest and he told me about Muskegon Brewing I nearly wept - new business and good beer in Muskegon - I chirp with joy. Just speaking for myself, Muskegon Brewing alone will bring me to the city at least two more times a year, so I guarantee it's good for tourism, to say nothing of jobs, tax dollars, downtown traffic, and culture.

So what can we expect from Muskegon Brewing & Distilling? When the doors open to the public, sometime in late 2008 or early 2009, Buszka plans to make a wide variety of beer right off the bat, and while they intend to pour unique, craft varieties, Steve promises plenty of "very accessible 'lawnmower beers,'" as he calls them, for a client base that is sure to include tourists and locals, from the hardcore craft beer drinker to the newcomer.

Though I would like to puff out my chest as a hardcore craft beer aficionado, many of the intricacies are lost on me - I just know I like good beer - IPA's are usually my favorite. So when I asked Steve to talk about his favorite beers, I expected an elaborate diatribe, way over my head. Instead, Steve's down-to-earth response proved to me that he belongs in Muskegon. "Making a Budweiser," he said, "is way harder than making a robust, heavy stout. When I go to a new brewpub, the first thing I try is the light beer, because if that's palatable, then the other stuff might be interesting too."

In addition to producing delicious beer for the masses, in keeping with the spirit of Muskegon's economic development, Muskegon Brewing & Distilling Company is also working with local artists to make sure the names of the beers and the images on the bottles are strongly associated with the city, with possible themes to include the lakeshore, the lumber industry, and the Hackley House, further displaying ownership's understanding and appreciation of Muskegon's culture and history. Could this get any better?

Yes - I haven't even got to the best part yet - What really sets Muskegon Brewing & Distilling Company apart from other Michigan microbreweries is going to be their micro-distillery production, which, per new Michigan law, allows on-premise sale of a wide variety of spirits, including brandies, whiskey, gin, and, "if we're lucky enough to get heavy juice," according to Steve, "'tequila,' though we can't technically call it that." The spirit movement is relatively new to Michigan, but it's quickly growing in popularity, giving Muskegon a leg up as the frontrunner in new business - could it be true? Muskegon, a frontrunner - I'm pinching myself.

Housed in a three story building, the brewery will be the center production, with a dining area, bar, and tasting room. There is also a plan to put in a beer garden to capture Muskegon's one-of-a-kind natural beauty, creating a lakeshore beer drinker's paradise. Initial production plans call for approximately 800 barrels per year, with bottling and local distribution to boot. There will also be a 200 person Mug Club, with discounts and exclusive tastings.

Steve and Seth are clearly excited about Muskegon's economic development, and gracious to those that have helped them along the way, citing Larry Bell, their Michigan microbrew contemporaries, and Muskegon Mayor, Steve Warmington. Buszka is just what Muskegon needs - a man of business at the top of his trade. If this artist lets his beer speak for itself, the rest is sure to fall into place.

"Beer styles and trends are wide open," Steve told me, "and while there's a formula for making good craft beer, which I'll be following, I'm also looking for new trends - expect some very good beers. I'm going to make craft beer that Seth and I like, and, worst case scenario, we'll have a lot of beer to drink." Count me in too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ken, TV Recommender

If you are here and reading this, I would like to think that in some form or another you either appreciate my viewpoint, or you are a kindly soul who has the time to humor me. I like both types of people. I have a few great loves in my life, and one of those great loves is television. I don't belong to a fantasy football league, I don't spend my weekends golfing all day, but I find pure joy in watching quality (and less than quality) television. The sheer breadth of television series of which I have seen every episode would shock and sadden you, but I am proud of my efforts.

With that in mind, I heartily encourage you with all of my amazing encouragement powers to watch the season premier of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia tonight on the FX television network at 10 pm. If you miss it at 10, I'm sure it will be regularly replayed for the next week, and you can catch new episodes on Thursday evenings for the next several weeks.

Many people who review the show say that it is full of "low brow, goofball laughs." I agree and disagree with that statement. The show does have some pretty low brow moments and goofball laughs, but it is so much more than that. They offensively deal with the issues of underage drinking, dumpster babies, dating special needs people, pretending to have cancer, setting each other on fire, and looking like a registered sex offender. On top of that, the show is entering its fourth season, so they gotta be doing something right (but that argument fails because According to Jim is entering its one millionth season). In the time I have available to me now I don't want to go too much into the plot of the show, but it is about four people (3 guys, 1 girl) and Danny DeVito who own a bar in Philly, and they are the most self-centered jerkstores in the universe. Hilarity ensues.

: Charlie, I need a woman. I need a woman to... to cook for me, and clean up after me, and somebody that will do everything I say.
: Well, thats just a maid, you want a maid?
: Yeah, that's right, a maid. A maid I can bang.

I do not even understand the smell coming from your body dude.
Oh my god dude relax dude I forgot to put on deodorant OK.
I have never once, never once seen you wear deodorant Charlie never once.
Yeah well you never seen me once wash my testicles either but that doesn't mean I don't do it every Friday.

Happy watching!

Wayne State University <3 s Breasts

Over the past couple of days, I have probably been a little bit too much on the negative side of building Michigan up by knocking other places down. This isn't entirely fair to other geographical areas, and everyone is allowed to be proud of the place in which they were born or choose to live. This is the easiest method to make me feel better, but others shouldn't have to feel worse toward this end.

In the effort of educating others on positive things going on in Michigan, I would like to draw your attention to a recent finding at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit about a possible vaccine for certain types of breast cancer, and to prevent the recurrence of other types of breast cancer. This vaccine actually eliminated tumors in laboratory animals. That is pretty amazing! I'm not a boob scientist, but my understanding is that rats are injected with this vaccine, and then humans eat the rats to gain the rats superhuman powers. I don't think it is fair that rats can have superhuman powers and humans only get regularhuman powers, but that is the science of breasts I guess.

Wayne State is often under-respected when compared to other university and research institutes in Michigan, but maybe this finding can continue to change some of this perception. Wayne State is also a bit of an evolving and growing oasis, and I salute some of the work they have done in their portion of Detroit. On top of that, if this vaccine is proven effective and safe for actual humans, it has the potential to bring some serious bank to Wayne State and Detroit. They could either hold the patent or sell the patent based on liquidity needs, and money flowing into the state is a victory pretty much any way that you look at it. I don't know if Big Mastectomy (similar to Big Oil but with less of an impact on food prices) is going to be a fan of this possible vaccine, but I've always thought to myself "I don't really know if the world really wants a Big Mastectomy industry. That just seems offensive." Much like the phrase "boob scientist."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did Someone Get Paid for That?

Since I thought this was fairly ridiculous and the first time it has happened, it seemed like I should dedicate a few sentences to it. I'm always very excited when I get a comment from anyone about something that I have written (thanks again to anyone who's ever left a comment!), but today I got a comment from someone named "Samantha" who was trying to advertise something about subliminal thinking...or something. I do know someone named Samantha so I thought that maybe she had gone crazy and really, really wanted me to know about this type of thinking, so I checked out the provided link and conclusively determined that I had received my first comment-spam. Comment-spam schmomment-schmam.

In case anyone has ever been put off by the fact that I don't let comments slip through without approval first, this is truly the only reason why I have it set up so that I have to first approve of the comment before it shows up on the website. I have some better things to write about tomorrow (in fact, I've already written it but I must control my mind trickle to you for your own good to manage your addiction), but for now, let me leave you with another Mitch Hedberg quote.

"If you drink O'Douls, you don't drink. But if you drink 20 O'Douls in a half hour, then you're a f***ing non-alcoholic. Non-alcoholism is a problem too. And there are symptoms, like when you fall down, does it always hurt?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slanted Playing Field

Yesterday I spent a little bit of time spinning my thoughts on the collapse of Lehman Brothers (man Michael Phelps was the worst ever on Saturday Night Live. Sorry, I have the show running on TiVo in the background. Just terrible). I want to add on to some of those thoughts right now, so if you did not have the chance to read that post, I would recommend taking a moment and doing it right now.

Specifically, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about how the recent meteoric growth of firms like Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and JP Morgan have contributed to the sapping of Michigan talent, and why this is baloney (a very scientific word) as evidenced by the downfall of these institutions. Someone fresh out of school with no work experience, including bonuses, could easily clear $100 large at a big investment/brokerage bank. Because of this immediately available wealth, fantastic brains with future executive talent flee wherever they are from and head to the operational centers of these gigantic financial houses. Huge salaries and bonuses were not a problem for these types of companies because their profit essentially consisted of Monopoly money, and these firms owned the Parker Brothers factories (oh yeah, that's an analogy). It was nearly impossible to compete with these salaries.

And where do you suppose a small company with an entrepreneurial outlook would prefer to start its business? The place where the average household makes closer to $50K a year, or a place where the average household makes upwards of $150K a year? That's a no brainer. Year after year, individuals and companies cluster closer to the wealth hubs and continue to draw some of the best and brightest away from everywhere else. These individuals and companies have put down roots, and now it would be unreasonable to expect them to leave their homes and centers of business.  It would be impossible to touch on the cyclical elements of this population draw - artificially wealthy people pay higher taxes to the cities and states in which they live, leading to better infrastructure enhancements and public institutions like museums and libraries.  Property developers build huge and beautiful high rise buildings to attract a slice of the wealthy residents living in that area and the quality of the police protection increases as the wealth of the clientele increases.  And so on, and so on.

Now the problem is so ingrained and part of this county's culture that there is almost no way to backtrack.  Businesses and their corresponding work force have grown up around these financial centers and have reaped the rewards of the flawed financial system.  The saddest thing is that we didn't stand a chance, and part of the reason is that the other team was always cheating.

I am not so naive to think that every person who went to go work for an out-of-state bank would otherwise have come home to work for Compuware, GM, Ford, Arvin Merritor, Masco, or other Michigan businesses, but those companies could not put up a competitive offer.  I also know that those in opposition to my viewpoint would say "but Michigan has profound structural flaws that have been evolving for a generation."  To you I would reply "how does one work to fix these flaws? Intelligent, energetic, and inspired leadership.  Exactly the types of people who have been systematically drawn away from here."  The money pulled in the people and the businesses, but the money never really existed after all.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Join the Party

I don't know how much insight my readers have into the inner-workings of the United States financial system, though there are so few of them I could probably ask each person individually. I studied finance only minimally in school, but I do a lot of reading on finance these days as I try to figure out if the $10 I have invested is going to increase in value, or if I will have to redevelop my long-term plan to purchase all the cheeseburgers I can eat for the rest of my life from this investment. My current outlook: I may have to figure out another way to fund cheeseburger consumption.

Maybe if the interest is out there, I can work to put my simplistic spin on an extremely complex financial problem that the United States is currently experiencing. If the interest is not out there, then I will work to put extra time into this subject - because we should all be really, really interested and aware of what is going on right now.

The news at hand today is that in the last 18 hours, Lehman Brothers, an investment bank and brokerage, had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch, one of the best known names in finance, was purchased by Bank of America. This is big news for lots of people all over the world, but we in Michigan are relatively insulated from these events because the finance industry is not really our forte. There are lots of individual topics to discuss regarding these events, but the one I want to mention here is this article about layoffs in the finance business, including probably more than 20K employees at Lehman alone.

Truly, my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a job recently in these and other financial institutions, and this problem is compounded further by the fact that the industry as a whole seems to be inevitably shrinking for the foreseeable future - also meaning that individuals will have a much harder time finding work in their field. Clearly and unarguably this is terrible news, but it does highlight to me (and my Michigan focus) some of the problems with the way that the media covers (or fails to cover) some of the problems with Michigan's economy. This coverage also indicates some of the anti-Michigan sentiment that exists in the media.

Michigan workers have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, primarily in the automotive industry, over the past decade. Non-local news sources cover Michigan layoffs and buyouts in the following paraphrased manner "Another 20K lost their jobs in Michigan. That's too bad, boy do they suck, but I don't care that much because it doesn't impact me." However, the job losses in the financial system are a huge deal because they indicate that rich people may lose their money. All of a sudden, 20K people losing their jobs at Lehman is the end of the world, but 100K in Michigan is essentially irrelevant. The 20K people at Lehman who make over $200K in a year are significant, but the 100K who make $60K are not worth worrying about. That is outrageous to my simple mind. Isn't it the people who are making less than $100K in a year who are going to be struggling more? On the issue of job loss, there is significant inequity in the way the news is reported based on who is losing the job.

All of this comes to a main point of valuation that I want to make - specifically the value of a goods-based economy (such as manufactured products) versus that of a magical economy where people in New York and San Francisco invent money from nowhere. We here, in Michigan, are responsible for mass producing and selling actual products that people want to buy. Our industries are not generating profit these days, but they continue to produce actual, specific products that are available for purchase - not collateralized debt obligations that were generating greater than quarter-million-dollar-a-year salaries for former employees of Lehman and almost no one understands. And yet, almost no one outside of Michigan and other parts of the Midwest values that we continue to produce products that are desired in all places on the globe. We are struggling mightily, but our economy is understandable, quantifiable, and fixable. Our jobs may not provide the type of wealth that you might find at Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns, but at the same time, it is not hard to explain to someone where the employees' salaries come from and how to fix a struggling business (i.e. sell the product for more than it costs to produce the product). We are considered an undesirable place to live because job opportunities are not available, but the jobs that we do have are not based on (clearly flawed and failing) razzle dazzle. It is time for the rest of the U.S. to realize that we are an important component of the backbone of our national economy and we are not second-class citizens because our available work doesn't offer BS humungous salaries.

I'm all over the place here and I know that. I'm a little jumpy because I was stuck inside all weekend from the rain, but maybe I managed to make a couple of points that make sense. If not, WHAT'S THAT?!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sandbag, Meet Ocean

I spent the vast majority of my day Friday at an event called Spotlight! (yes, the italics and exclamation point are mandatory for the branding of the event).  While in college at the University of Michigan, I was a member of a program called the Tauber Institute for Global Operations during my undergraduate and graduate education.  Without going into too much detail, this program is an interdisciplinary organization driven by action based learning where students in engineering and business team up to work on large-scale projects for some very well-known companies.  Suffice it to say, those who join this program are typically highly competitive, motivated, and extremely bright individuals who aspire to the highest levels of executive management.  I am not sure how I slipped through the cracks, but I am a better person for my experiences in this organization.  Spotlight! is the culmination of the summer projects where the teams present their results to other teams, students, professors, executive sponsors, alumni, and staff over the course of the entire day.  It happens once a year, I have attended for 6 years straight, and it provides a great opportunity to catch up with my former contemporaries from school.

Because of the type of ambitious people who join Tauber, they are driven to take jobs immediately out of school with companies like General Electric, McKinsey Consulting, Intel, Dell, and Boeing.  In talking with them year after year, they clearly state their belief that the opportunity for them in Michigan is less than in other states and that the only true professional path for them is one outside of the state.  Many of these people are not originally from Michigan so they do not have the emotional ties like me, but year after year I stand in front of the wave of criticism and negativity, and I fight for the respect of my state.  It is daunting.  I wish they could be dummies so that I could work my ninja-like verbal gymnastics on them.  Then, if I was losing the argument I could be like "What's that" and when they look I would run away.

More than anything else, this group is a representative microcosm of the problems Michigan curently has in retaining the brain power to stabilize our economy, develop new industries, attract established businesses, and continue with the push to make our state an attractive place to live for those born and raised anywhere.  After spending a lot of time with this group, I am inspired to dedicate several (at least more than one, including this one) of my postings this week to the issue of brain power in Michigan.  I don't know if I know what this means, but I imagine I will figure it out when I start and finish writing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Things I Learned Today #4

The title of this post is deceptive, because I actually learned this four days ago and I don't have conclusive evidence that it is, in fact, true. But that's OK because as I have stated before, the truth isn't really that important on the internet.

Like many crotchety people over the age of  40 (even though I'm 26), I am increasingly confused by why an individual chooses to wear his pants somewhere from 6 inches to 2 feet below the actual waste line.  I don't really mind the style and don't find it remotely offensive, but I could never understand why someone would want to constrict his ability to move the knees independently of each other.  That reminds me of a good visual joke.  This is the perfect medium for such a joke.

Q:  What's this?
A:  A Polish person stealing a pair of shoes from KMart (it would be funny if you could see what I was doing when I said "What's this?")

For some reason, on the radio they were explaining the origin of this fashion, and apparently it is based on the fact that prisoners are not allowed to have belts while in prison, resulting in some pant-related downward slippage.  Because of this, wearing the pants low is an emulation of prisoners, and I guess provides some sort of prison cred to individuals who wear their pants low.  Fascinating stuff.  This is most interesting because it also explains why I walk around stabbing people - because that's how prisoners got into prison.  Everything is logical if you just take a second to think about and understand it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Irony is a Dish Best Served with Applesauce

Part of trying to grow interest in my website is promotion. I only took one marketing class in college and that was not particularly difficult, but I did gather from the coursework that it is necessary to grow brand awareness in order for anyone to care about any product or service. I would consider this website both a product and a service - a product of my need to spill my thoughts and a service to all those looking for an alternative to Ambien.

As I've mentioned before, I have started to develop an internet friendship (the best and most sincere kind of friendship) with the author of the GreatLakesGuru blog, and we have agreed to periodically share our work with each other. This serves two purposes - first, we can hopefully capture some of the readers of the other person, and second, it enables each of us to be a little bit lazier by occasionally pooling our efforts. I mention this because in the near future, some of his thoughts will start to periodically crop up here, and also because my first guest post recently made its way to his website.

The funniest thing that I find about this process so far is that at this point, he has 400% more comments (seriously) about my article on his website than I do on my own blog. That is a little bit sad for me because it is some more empirical evidence that as hard as I try, it is incredibly difficult to convince people to take some of their time to be a reader of mine. However, I guess this is kind of the point of our sharing effort - to help make possible readers aware of the other person's existence.

I don't exactly know the purpose of this post. I guess I'm feeling a little bit sorry for myself and I'm hoping to gain a little bit more of the pity vote. Even more ironic - if you are the kind of person who read through this post, then I've already somehow convinced you to come here and I don't need to make you feel sorry for me. In that case, thanks again and I sincerely appreciate you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Calling the Rich and/or Geriatric (a.k.a Take that San Luis Obispo, California)

Lists are amazing. There is something intangible about them that draws the attention of the reader like a moth to a list. That is part of the reason why there are so many mundane, subjective lists at the very end of every calendar year such as "Best TV Shows of the Year", "People of the Year", and "Best Use of Frosting in 2008". Lists are also a device bloggers use to try to stir up some controversy, discussion, or just to grab a few more readers. I am not yet clever enough to come up with my own lists, but I am developing quite the skill to point to someone else's list and comment about it. It is like a lesser version of list development, without the creativity, thoughtfulness, or effort.

All of which brings me to yet another list that highlights a fine town in Michigan that CNN's money section has declared one of the 6 best places to retire for 2008. This city is St. Joseph, Michigan. Way to represent St. Joseph. Among other positives, the article mentions that "While lots of appealing little towns dot this 'Riviera of the Midwest,' St. Joseph - with its vibrant year-round community, topnotch medical care and proximity to Chicago - stands out." The article also mentions the very reasonable cost of property in the city as a great reason to spend your post-working years there.

The one main thing I don't like about the piece is what seems to be some sort of backhanded compliment. Specifically this statement: "Long, sandy beaches, clear blue water, brilliant sunsets...in Michigan? You bet." What is the writer going for with this introductory thought? Have they never been to Michigan? It would be like saying "Warm, humid weather, lots of oranges, and retirement communities everywhere...in Florida? You better believe it."

Anyway, I would like to use this opportunity as a call to old people everywhere. Please come and spend your retirement dollars in the great state of Michigan. Together we can ensure that Michigan has the highest volume of ribbon candy offered but not consumed per capita ratio in the world.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crazy Idea #4 – The Detroit/Windsor 2020 Olympics

A few weeks ago, the world collectively stopped watching a two week party, also known as The Olympics, thrown by our Chinese overlords. Many commentators referred to the event as China’s “coming out” party, as in “Hey we’re China, we own all your national debt, we produce most of the things that you use, there are 1.3 billion people in our country, and we’re using a proportionately larger and larger percentage of global commodities, and our table tennis development program beats the crap out of your table tennis development program” That kind of coming out party. The opening ceremonies were quite a spectacle, as were the closing ceremonies, and everything in between was surprisingly engrossing. As I watched bits and pieces of the events and coverage, there was one overarching message that was really driven home by the commentators – “Check out China. I can’t believe what they’ve done with the place.” CNN.com reported earlier this summer that it cost $45B for Beijing to prepare for the Olympics, compared to a relatively paltry sum of $1.5B for the Atlanta games in 1996. In China, this money was spent on literally everything you could imagine to prepare the country, but largely the investment was on infrastructure. Billions were spent on roads, building and stadium construction, mass transit improvements, environmental cleanup (though it was hard to tell from all the smog-filled city shots), and hiding all of the stray dogs in Beijing. Any way you look at it, that is an insane amount of money, but everyone seemed to walk away impressed with Beijing. All of this money spent on development and improvement and the positive light that was cast on China really made me think – does it really have to be impossible for Detroit to someday be awarded the Olympics? I don’t think so. And don’t scoff.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is the organization responsible for selecting the host city for each Olympics event. The key to convincing the IOC that Detroit is a worthy location is to convince them that the Olympics serve a greater purpose than an exciting couple weeks of international competitive events. The Olympics, if treated correctly, are an opportunity to give a region the huge kick in the bum it needs to finally implement many of the oft-discussed but never acted upon changes. For literally generations, people have discussed the critical need for mass transit in the Detroit area. One of the criteria the IOC uses in selecting a host city is the quality and availability of mass transit. At this point, we clearly fail on this front, but the promise of the Olympics will almost certainly provide the final spark needed to bring real, tangible mass transit development. Beyond that, the Olympics brings road improvements, uncountable aesthetic enhancements (think about what happened in Detroit during the Super Bowl times 14), cleanup, jobs, construction, tourism, and, if everything goes smoothly, the chance for Detroit to finally prove “WE DON’T SUCK.”

So, my first argument to the IOC is that they can initiate considerable and invaluable change in the city that needs it more than any other large city in America, and the people of Detroit and Michigan will never relent in their appreciation to you. You can be not just A, but THE catalyst for change in a place that is begging for it. Your altruism would never, ever be forgotten.

My second argument is that in addition to the good the IOC could do for us, aside from some necessary improvements, Michigan could be an ideal location for the Olympics. In Detroit alone we have 2 almost brand new stadiums next door to each other, with Joe Louis and Cobo a mile down the road. On top of these core locations, The Big House in Ann Arbor seats >100K (bigger than The Bird’s Nest), a few miles down Washtenaw you have all the facilities of Eastern Michigan, and a few more miles in the other direction and you have the beautiful campus of MSU. If that is not enough, we’re surrounded by water that tourists and athletes alike can enjoy before, during, and after the games. Let’s also not forget about the three new beautiful casinos and attached hotels right near all these downtown sports venues.

Third, the Detroit Games would be more than the Detroit Games – they could be the first ever dual-national Olympics with Windsor only a baseball’s throw away. Inter-country cooperation seems like the kind of theme on which the IOC could really hang its hat.

Fourth, the most immediate likely year for the Detroit Olympics would be 2020, just about enough time for the American auto manufacturers to be the primary driving force in the virtual elimination of carbon dioxide emissions and the widespread use of renewable fuel sources. The Detroit Olympics would be a celebration of an environmentally healthy world, with the former culprit now standing center stage as the hero. What better way to reward this gut-wrenching effort and transition?

Fifth, the people of Michigan yearn for approval. Take a look at the Baseball All-Star Game and Super Bowl from a few years ago. Media reviews about the reception from the people and the city were overwhelmingly positive for both events. We know the way the world thinks about us, and when we have the opportunity to alter this viewpoint, we unify and present a friendly, cordial, and enthusiastic front. With the whole world watching, I can’t even imagine the effort that would be contributed by all Michigan residents. I have quite a bit more to say about this subject, but I think I will end my thoughts here for now. I don’t expect it, but I am quite interested to hear any feedback from whatever kind soul may have an opinion about this.

Detroit/Windsor 2020! I don’t see why this has to be an unattainable goal. If we want and expect big changes, we have to shoot really, really big.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Memories #2 - I...Think We Should Leave

Today, there is a story in The Detroit News about a shop in downtown Royal Oak called Noir Leather. For detail about the shop itself, its inception and its 25 years in downtown Royal Oak, click on over to the story in The Detroit News. For a better story about the store, stick right here.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I got it into my head that I really wanted a leather beret. I didn't exactly want a beret, but kind of a leather Kangol thing I could wear around on my head. It was the 90s, so I think I may have been inspired by Zach Morris in Saved By the Bell: The College Years. Anyway, I of course could not drive, so my dad was kind and obliging enough to hup me around town in search of the one clothing accessory that could truly make me cool. We went all over metro Detroit and were having absolutely no luck anywhere. It was surprising that we couldn't find anything even remotely close to the headwear I was seeking.

Dejected, I returned home and my parents did a little Yellow Pages research to try to find some sort of leather store in the area to appease my desire. They stumbled upon a shop called Noir Leather that, conveniently, was located only a few minutes from our home. Dad and I got back into the family minivan and headed over to the store with some anticipation. We just weren't exactly anticipating the right things.

Noir Leather is not a place for a seventh grade boy to be with his father, mother, grandmother, or siblings. They do have many exotic leather goods, but they tend to stray away from the 90s fashion-statement kind of hat. More like...leather collars, and human leashes, and strappy leather body suits with special holders for nipple rings. That kind of thing. At that age, I was pleasantly oblivious to some of the activities in which individuals participate in their free time, but I had an inkling that this store represented a universe with which I was completely unaware and unfamiliar. To not look completely ridiculous in front of the two employees in the store, dad and I did a quick sweep of the floor, verified that they did not have the product I wanted, and left the store, implicitly acknowledging that we had made a hilarous and uncomfortable error in our shopping effort. Now, we give each other gift certificates to Noir Leather for birthdays. No, not so much.

Also note - this is the second time AC Slater has been included in a picture on this blog. I should develop some material entirely devoted to Mario Lopez.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Things I Learned Today #3

What's that, Michigan? You want a tech support tip that will save you somewhere between 0 and 5 seconds a day? Then do I have some magic for you!

Yesterday I somehow accidentally deleted my "Show Desktop" icon from my Quick Launch toolbar in Windows. This is a borderline disaster in my world because I often have upwards of 10 windows open at any time on my computer and I don't want to have to minimize every single window just to get to the desktop. After spending part of the day clicking minimize way too many times, I found out after a very tiny bit of looking that holding the windows button next to the space bar plus 'D' at the same time has the same effect as the "Show Desktop" icon.

I know that I just blew your pants off with that one. Tomorrow, stay tuned for exciting tips on how best to remove dirt stains from your clothes (hint: use soap).

Things I Hate #1

A new and negative semi-regular installment. Can you feel the excitement? No?

In many ways, blogging is very cathartic. It gives me the opportunity to dump my mind about things I love, find interesting or funny, hate, and enjoy eating. Like that one time that I ate one of those candy Valentine hearts with the message "I dump you."

Today I decided that I want to dedicate "Things I Hate #1" to one of the greatest injustices to the human race ever invented - the non-functioning elevator close button. There are some elevator close buttons that when you press them, the elevator doors magically react and close, and the elevator is kind enough to expediently take you to your desired destination. There are other elevator close buttons, however, that are worse than one million hellfires.

Here I am, a regular guy in a hurry, trying to get up to the 18th floor for a meeting. There it is, the button that could make this all possible. I press the button, and press it again and again and again, and absolutely nothing happens. Why? Because the elevator close button in this elevator was never intended to make the elevator close. It is the promise of a time-saver which only makes me look stupid while I repeatedly press the button with clearly no reaction from the doors. Then, when it is time for me to go back to the first floor, I get into the elevator after my meeting, hit the elevator door close button again and again and again, and of course, no response. Since it is lunchtime, the elevator stops on every floor, people get on, hit the elevator close button, and wait looking foolish as the Otis Elevator gods laugh at them from their perch at the top of the great golden escalator (escalators and elevators were created from the same larger subset of movement-device gods).

Is it possible that there is only one template for elevator button creation and that this template always includes an elevator close button, even if this button is not actually wired to close the elevator? What is the possible benefit of not including a functional elevator close button in an elevator? If this button works at the Holiday Inn in Backwater, South Carolina, can it be that hard to wire the button to freaking work everywhere else in the world? If you're not going to give me the option, don't even include the button.

"We sell Big Macs, but only to not anyone." Screw you, Otis Elevator.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tatum Bell, Master Thief

There's always something interesting happening somewhere. This story speaks to that fact.

The Detroit Lions start their regular season next weekend, and people around these parts are, as usual, cautiously optimistic about the 2008-2009 season. The thing that I am most optimistic about is that the Lions will continue to churn out these types of stories on a regular basis for the next several months.

Perhaps the biggest questions in the Lions' lineup is at running back. The expected starter for this year is named Kevin Smith out of the University of Southern Florida, and the backup (until yesterday) was Tatum Bell. Yesterday, the Lions signed a former Pro-Bowler named Rudi Johnson to a one year contract to likely be Smith's primary backup. The story becomes great when evidence (including surveillance video) indicates that Tatum Bell stole Johnson's bags from outside of president Matt Millen's office when Johnson was actually in the office about to sign his contract. Totally awesome. It also appears clear that this was not a "Welcome to the Lions" kind of prank, but rather an "I'm going to steal your stuff because you're taking my job" kind of prank.

I also want to make clear that at this point the story is only alleged, but I choose to believe that the news is 100% accurate because I'm pretty sure God also wants this story to be true. Go Lions!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ways in Which I Have Failed You

So clearly my primary goal is this whole "Yay Michigan support your state" thing, and a big part of that is to advertise as many as possible of the fun, interesting, or hand-shaped things that take place here on a regular basis. Labor Day weekend, while the most ironically named holiday weekend, is full of formal and informal things to see and do, and I severely botched my responsibility to communicate some of these things to you. I made mention of the Belle Isle Grand Prix on Friday, but that only scratches the surface of activities in Michigan over the weekend. I feel a little bit bad that I did not do a better job with this, but at the same time, I would feel even worse if I spent alot of time writing about stuff, and that writing went unread. I performed a brief cost/benefit analysis, and the loser of the analysis was the internet. The saddest thing is that 30 years from now when someone thinks "I wonder what was going down Labor Day Weekend 2008 in Michigan and what did Ken think about those things?" there will be no way for that person to find out.

Here are some of the things this weekend that I did not talk about:

The Detroit Jazz Festival
The Michigan State Fair
Arts, Beats, and Eats
U of M's first home football game of the season
MSU's first away football game of the season
Steve and I eating our first pizza from Uncle Andy's pizza

I understand the desire to cram many of these different festivals and events into the extended Labor Day weekend, but I could definitely see some substantial benefit in some intra-regional cooperation and understanding and spreading out the events among separate weekends. People are always looking for something to do on the weekend, but most people won't be able to attend several different festivals or events in one weekend. It would be quite cool if Michigan had some different, major, worthwhile festival or event every weekend instead of all shoved into Labor Day weekend. When people think about summer in Michigan, on top of the water and sun and nature and Tigers baseball and lawn darts, they can think about all of the fun and diverse summer festivals almost every weekend in our energized state.

"Michigan - where there is so much crap to do it's hard to decide and you'll probably just watch TV instead."