Friday, October 31, 2008

So That's the Problem

The news today is that 7.5 million homeowners are underwater with the largest percentage of underwater homes in Nevada and Michigan, followed by California and Florida. Well come on, of course that is going to be a problem. How would you expect anyone to be able to move into a home when the mortgage, and the home financed by that mortgage, are underwater? And who in the heck put the homes there? On top of all this, the article states that the homeowners themselves are underwater, so why was I not informed that humans can now breathe underwater?

Because I am so smart, I would have realized that putting a home underwater is not the best place for it to go if people hope to increase the value of their homes. We're always complaining about our state and federal leadership and I try to take a measured approach to these complaints, but I'm definitely on board with the complaining if they keep leading us to put our homes underwater. What's next? Our cars in volcanoes? Mayonnaise in the microwave? Obi-Wan Kenobi kissing Colonel Carter on the Enterprise while giving Baltar advice (hooray geeks! - if you can identify each of these characters we should hang out)?

As with most of the problems I solve, this one is simple. Vote Obama! I am convinced that he is the best candidate to manage the surging water levels and return our homes to above sea level. Plus, if Obama is President, people can continue to use witty negative catchwords and phrases like "NObama", and "Obamanation". The best one we have for McCain is "McCainiacs", and that one isn't even negative. What about "McSucksAlot"? Ha.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

People. Earth's Greatest Resource

I've done this a few times before and I can pretty much guarantee you I will do it more in the future because I find it immensely funny. Yesterday, a search engine directed someone to my website who was searching for the word "Orgees". I love you person who thinks the word is correctly spelled orgees, and I urge you to find a safe outlet for your hobby.

Today, someone else found my website because they searched for the phrase "the gayest thing on earth." This was actually my master plan when I wrote this post back in the earlier days of my blog. Based on these two searches, people may start to get the seriously wrong idea about my website, but I have no problem with that if it leads to more readership. Orgee on.

Way To Go!!!

My heartfelt congratulations to Exxon Mobil, who today announced record profit of $14.83B for the third quarter. We could all learn a little something from Exxon Mobil and how a little innovation, go-get-them spirit, and unregulated pricing control over a finite resource that everyone in the world needs to survive without falling into chaos can really take you someplace special.

So good job, Exxon Mobil. We are all proud of your stewardship, vision, and ability to somehow, magically, make record profits - despite having to manage all-time high oil prices, and oil prices at 50% lower than the all-time high within the same fiscal quarter. Most companies struggle mightily when the costs of their raw materials increase and they do much better when their raw material costs decrease. But not you Exxon Mobil, because you make profit off of both the raw material AND the finished goods. That is just fantastic.

The American public will always remember, appreciate, and respect that in their darkest personal days during the summer of 2008, partly due to the astronomical price of gasoline, and when the world was falling into economic despair, Exxon Mobil showed us the way. Sometimes, when times are hard, I think to myself "What would Exxon Mobil do"? I then proceed to start a multinational oil conglomerate and make $14.83B in profit. Then, things don't seem so bad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stem Stells and Orgees

There is a pretty big day coming next week. That's right - Wednesday marks the longest possible time before the next national election. What's not to like about that? The election is big news in the United States, Michigan, and the rest of the world. Based on the sheer quantity of press, Proposal 2 has received the most attention in Michigan. For the uninformed, you can read the entirety of Proposal 2 here. Let me just get this out of the way and say that I am INCREDIBLY FOR Proposal 2. That said, most of Michigan's pro-lifers are vehemently anti-Prop 2, and I could not be more dissatisfied with this viewpoint.

On top of that, the anti-Prop 2 campaign is one of the most flagrantly insane media campaigns of all time. For example, one specific commercial (that I am having trouble finding online) takes place in a human classroom, and then a cow raises it's hoof to answer a question in that class. First and foremost, having a cow that could take a class would be totally and freakingly awesome. How could anyone object to that? Second, the commercial leads the viewer to believe that Proposal 2 will open the floodgates to the most ridiculous and scary kind of genetic experimentation. The party line against Proposal 2 found in this article in The Free Press (which has come out for the proposal) is "...that the law could open the door to rampant, unregulated research that could never be checked". That is nuts, and explicitly rejected in the wording of the amendment.

The first statement of the amendment is as follows:

"(a) Nothing in this section shall alter Michigan’s current prohibition on human cloning." The second, and most damaging argument against the anti-Prop 2ers is also explicitly written in the amendment:

"(b) The human embryos were created for the purpose of fertility treatment and, with voluntary and informed consent, documented in writing, the person seeking fertility treatment chose to donate the embryos for research; and
i. the embryos were in excess of the clinical need of the person seeking the fertility treatment and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research; or
ii. the embryos were not suitable for implantation and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research."

So, explicitly, these embryos were volunteered for research in writing AND the embryos would absolutely otherwise be discarded or are not suitable for life creation.

On top of this, Michigan needs the opportunity to find cures to some of life's greatest ailments. I see no harm if these cures for the world also have a positive economic benefit on our state. The University of Michigan has a huge and beautiful building opened in the last five years (The Life Sciences Institute) entirely intended for this purpose, but it is handcuffed by current state regulations against embryonic research. Those who are against Proposal 2 I would guess are the kind of people who don't read Time Magazine (the liberal media), but here is an interesting article from four years ago breaking down the (non) life-qualities of stem cells.

The argument that allowing thing X might result in outrageous things W,Y, and Z has been used by the closed-minded and bigots for centuries. "We can't give women equal rights. What's next? BLACK PEOPLE????"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

All Hail Hail

Weather is a gift to the conversationally inept. I have no problem with those who use weather as a discussion crutch, and Michigan is probably the best place in the country to take advantage of this assistance. I emphatically support all those who do not feel comfortable in casual conversation to come to Michigan and take advantage of one of our most readily accessible social tools. Today was an absolutely perfect day to represent the brilliant variance in our weather - or as I call it, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Copyright and Trademark, Me.

I woke up this morning under gray but moderate skies and a temperature around 50 degrees. At 9am, the dork on Fox 2 News Weather told me that there was a good chance that at some time today I would be seeing 60 mph winds and corresponding frigid temperatures. I left home for my daily run at noon, ran the first three miles in brilliant sun and 55 degree weather, and ran my last mile in ice rain falling from the sky and crazy winds. The weather gods are clever and enjoy irony, so my very brief cool down walk was a return to 50 degrees and bright sun with another blast of rain on the last half-a-block before my home. That was all a bit random, but not as unexpected as the marble-sized hail that fell from above for 5 whole minutes immediately after my shower. I've never seen hail like that before. 1 hour later, the skies cleared, the sun found its place again in the sky, and my car thermometer read 57 degrees on my way to Sunday bowling fun.

Some people do not like this level of randomness in their weather, but I find it to be another spectacular component of our state. This is one of the many reasons why my mom always makes sure that I never leave home without my football helmet. Other people despise cold weather, but they are forgetting the advantages of cold weather in helping people identify that their fly is in the down position. This is a serious benefit that should not be overlooked. Perhaps most importantly, extreme variations in weather give you something to talk about with your barber, pedicurist, coworkers, neighbors, public servants, and ents (read a book. I won't tell you which one, you'll have to pick from the 10 available). This would simply not be an option in San Diego. "How about that weather?" "It's nice today." Boring.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Michigan and Madden

Today, my university of choice (U of Michigan) was bested by my university of less choice (MSU) - but a place I respect nonetheless for its contributions to the state of Michigan. This has been a pitiful season for the maize and blue, and after watching the entire season to this point, I would like to draw the following analogy.

I'm not a very good Madden player (for the ladies out there, Madden is an NFL football video game), but in the rare instances that I do play, I can sometimes figure out a way to defeat my opponent. I don't really understand the different defensive schemes available to me, and because of that, I don't really know how to pick an offensive play that will best take advantage of the defense the other team is throwing at me. I'm pretty convinced it's all baloney. There are certain defenses in the game that are meant to stop the run, but I've seen many a soul have no problem ripping off a 30 yard run when the other team is in run defense. Point being - I don't really understand the intricacy of the game. However, when I'm losing or I have no idea how to advance my team down the field, I randomly pick one of the many available Hail Mary plays, hike the ball, wait a few seconds, and then launch the ball to whichever guy is running down the left sideline. The game is intended to have a very sophisticated and realistic physics system, but I would say that in more than 75% of the instances, my receiver either magically catches the ball even when a defensive player is covering him tightly, or my receiver has managed to gain about 5 yards of separation from his coverage, catches the ball in stride, and cleanly runs the rest of the way to end zone. It is a crap way of playing the game, but it works often enough that I can sometimes pull off a victory.

Over the course of the entire Michigan season, the other teams seem to be playing offense like me playing offense on Madden, and Michigan can do absolutely nothing about it. Second and twenty, third and forty, it's all irrelevant. The other team loads up on their "launch the ball down field" play, hikes the ball, waits a few seconds, and then launches the ball to whoever is running down the left sideline for a comfortable first down. It's ridiculous and comical. As I am not a football coach I can't contribute a particularly good piece of football advice, I sometimes find that throwing my controller at the video game system helps.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crazy Idea #5 - Time Slipping

As a fair warning, if you have not seen the most recent season of Lost or you plan on watching Lost at any point in time, I recommend against reading this. If you're not a fan of Lost and have no plans to ever watch the show, there is something wrong with you because it is a pretty phenomenal show.

Upon much reflection, I have determined the best immediate way to solve Michigan's problems. Some people say "End Entitlement", others argue "Economic Diversification", still others promote education reform and entrepreneurship. These ideas all have their own merits, but they overlook the best and easiest path to success in overcoming the economic strife of Michigan. Time Travel. More specifically, time slipping, like we learned about at the end of Season 4 of Lost. At the end of the season, we were informed of several crucial components of the Lost mythology. Most importantly, the island, through the magical turning of a big frozen wooden wheel, can "disappear". We are not explicitly told what happens when the island disappears, but it is pretty clear that the island temporarily ceases to exist in the current time frame and reappears at some indeterminate future date. That is why that pirate ship managed to end up in the middle of the island - the island reappeared when the ship was sailing but at the geographic center of the island. Obviously. One key component of this disappear/reappear interaction is that while the world continues to age at the "normal" rate, time does not progress on the island. I don't want to spend too much time diving into relativity here, but it is kind of like what happens when something travels at speeds approaching the speed of light. Things traveling considerably slower than the speed of light (earth, turtles, my fastball) "age" faster than the thing traveling crazy fast, so it is kind of like time travel into the future. Going backwards in time is just silly, so let's not be ridiculous here.

Based on this principle, the solution to all of our problems seems incredibly simple. We figure out some way to make the state travel forward in time without actually traveling forward in time. Then, Michigan will return in 2010 or 2011 when the economic situation is resolved and people are ready to purchase products again. Problem solved. If we can not figure out how to make the state slip in time as an independent entity, perhaps we could figure out a way to move the state onto the island in Lost and then take advantage of the island's time slipping capabilities. In this day and age we need new ideas, and I think time travel should be considered at the top of the list. I don't have all the kinks worked out yet (like what do we do about technological development we will miss out on, non-Michigan based manufacturers will pick up all the available market share, etc.), but I would like to throw some of these questions out to the public so that we can work on jointly solving our complicated challenges within the framework of temporarily making Michigan disappear to then reappear in the future.

Here are the kind of ideas I'm looking for - before we make ourselves disappear, we have some sort of global auto summit that includes executives from all over the world. Then, when the summit is in its second day, we enact my master plan. Other companies will then have trouble capitalizing on the available market share because all of their quality leadership will be in time-slip mode.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Real Life vs. Blogging

Sorry that it has been a couple days since I've last been able to post something! I'm sure that both of you are very upset and are considering finding a new purpose in life. My goal is to post as often as possible, and the hope is that if I type enough words in succession, something interesting is bound to come out in some form or another. Work and other responsibilities have kept me away from posting as much as I typically prefer over the past couple days, so that is one part of the point of the title "Real Life vs. Blogging". Finding the balance is not always as easy as I would like because I make $0 and 0 cents and 0 hay pennies from the blog. In fact, it is more likely that I make negative money when I spend time writing because that is time I could be spending on developing value for myself - learning a new language, reading up on investing, doing my job, etc.

The second part of Real Life vs. Blogging is something that I often think about but have stumbled upon even more today. This website is my own site and it is meant to highlight my feelings about everything - but mostly Michigan. The question that I have is at what point can someone realistically hold my point of view against me? Everyone certainly has their own positive and negative thoughts, but most often these thoughts are not available for all to read on the internet. I use the term "all" very loosely here. I should say tens and tens of people. Maybe just tens of people.

Since I started writing this blog, I have meticulously tried to stay away from blatantly offensive thoughts, words, and alliteration. Significant swears are non-existent on my site, and my most controversial viewpoint is that I think gay people are pretty great and should be welcomed with open arms in Michigan. However, different people find different things offensive and bothersome, and something as ridiculously inoffensive (to me) as the phrase "What the hell" has caused some small amount of dissatisfaction. I'm struggling with the concept of where can my thoughts, as lame and generally neutral as they typically are, get me into trouble?

Let's say I'm applying to school and someone on an admissions board finds his way to my website. This person then realizes that I am very Michigan-centric ("Doesn't have a significant global understanding and is too insulated") and that in this specific sentence I wrote "his way" when referring to the admissions board member ("This guy is sexist - admissions boards can have male and female members"). Maybe a future employer is anti-homosexual and is so upset with my pro-gay stance that this person will choose not to hire me. I don't think this would be legal, but no one would know aside from the potential employer that this is the true reason that he (SHE) chose not to hire me.

The most likely scenario is that none of this will happen because this website is a literal nothing in the great ocean that is the internet, but it is a little bit of a concern. In the meantime, all I can do is share my thoughts and love of Michigan with you, try not to be too offensive, and hope that anyone who does come here can acknowledge that I am free to share my thoughts with no expected repercussion, as long as these thoughts are not universally unacceptable (advocating puppy abuse, listening to Chumbawamba, encouraging people to shop at Wal-Mart - see what I did there? Very clever.)


Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Guy Named Zac I Really Do Not Like

Part of my life is spending a reasonable amount of time hanging around online, seeking out some valuable piece of information about Michigan, the financial markets, pastry stores opening in my area, and not playing Text Twist. Over the past couple months as the markets and Michigan news have gotten increasingly more challenging (GM/Chrysler Merger, etc.), I have become increasingly aware of a blogger by the name of ZAC BISSONNETTE. Primarily, I have noticed him writing on a stock market blog that I regularly read (originally established and run by AOL) called Blogging Stocks. In the world of blogs, this is a fairly gigantic one and many eyeballs find their way onto this website with regularity. The most consistent aspect of his writing is his overwhelmingly negative attitude toward the domestic auto industry. Every time I have read one of his articles I have thought to myself something along the lines of "Holy Crap - this guy who must be some sort of market guru with incredible insight is important enough to write for Blogging Stocks, AND he absolutely hates us. This is bad."

So that I don't sound like a complete jerk who is blowing off this guy's points, I am first going to give you some brief information about him, then give you some of his quotes, and then I will allow you to develop your own point of view about this person. In fact, in many respects I think that he is on or close to the mark in what he says when he is being objective, but when he delves into editorializing, you will almost certainly find the little information I know about him to be fascinating considering the fairly visible soap box he has at his disposal.

As far as I can tell, ZAC BISSONNETTE is a 20 year-old sophomore student at the University of Massachusetts. That's it - all the information that I have. That means that last year he was 19 and a freshman, and one year before that he was concerned about whether or not he could find a date to prom. I know nothing about his intellect or his character beyond that, but he is a student with 20 total years of life experience. Please keep that in mind as you read every one of these quotes that he has written on Blogging Stocks:

"What better way to create more faith in General Motors than to hand over ownership of the company to anyone who buys a Pontiac? I'd rather have the $300, thank you very much because there's an overwhelming probability that GM equity will end up worthless."

"As negative as the sentiment surrounding GM is, the outlook is even bleaker."

"For investors, it's hard to see any long-term upside in shares of General Motors."

"The sad thing is that, given the pivotal role that the Rust Belt can play in swinging elections, the special interest groups may be able to sway lawmakers into scraping the bottom of the broken piggy bank to fund this abortion." - That has got to be offensive to several people.

"If General Motors is anywhere near as bad at selling car brands as it is at selling cars, shareholders are in trouble."

This is only a smattering of his thoughts, literally since OCTOBER 18TH - that's Saturday and today is Monday. What the hell is this guy's problem? Does he have any experience in the automobile industry, or direct link to financial analysts? To make matters worse, perception and confidence are ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL in today's difficult markets, and this Detroit-automobile hating boy has an incredibly loud microphone in which to spew his clear and unarguable hatred. With my Michigan pride and no knowledge about ZAC BISSONNETTE, these articles have scared the Jesus out of me, and I can only imagine what other kind of havoc they are wreaking on people's mental state in Michigan and other places around the country. All of this from a 20-year-old kid in Massachusetts who is probably in Calculus 2 right now at his university. I have an overwhelmingly huge problem with this. What can we do? Is there any way to fight back?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Connecting to Detroit through Tiredness

As I type, I am reminded by The Detroit Free Press Marathon website's countdown clock that the Detroit Marathon begins in 1 day, 22 hours, 3 minutes, and 38 seconds. For the purposes of being a little more clear, the marathon begins Sunday morning at just about 7:10 am. I have been involved with this run for either 4 or 5 years now - for the last two years I've run in the half marathon, the three years before that my family participated in the marathon relay, and I plan on running in the half marathon again on Sunday. We're not here to talk about my Grecian physique or my amazing commitment to health and being generally impressive. The Detroit Marathon is one of the single best events of the year for any person to feel connected to the State of Michigan and the largest city in our state. This connection through the run can most clearly be felt by those who are actually participating in the event, but it is also a great opportunity for friends, family, and spectators of the runners to be reminded of their love for Detroit.

Detroit is a city that is beautiful and haunting, and both the beauty and the haunt explode throughout the race course. Individuals start near the Theater District, run by the remains of old Tiger Stadium, twist through Mexican Town, cross over the Ambassador Bridge, run along the Windsor-side Detroit River bank looking back into our beautiful city, through the tunnel back into the D, around Belle Isle, through Indian Village, the Detroit River Walk, Greektown, and finish in Campus Martius. There is no better way to tour the city's sights, and in the past few runs, I have sincerely felt the urge to weep while running through many of these stoic Detroit landmarks. As the feet hit the pavement, the urge to protect this place, to help it grow and thrive, to see the city homes and proud or once-proud buildings, is amplified millions of times over during the marathon experience as the runner soaks in the surroundings. It's a little bit like what I perceive will be my heaven, except with painful legs. It is impossible not to contemplate what I can do - what we can do - to encourage, promote, and work toward the rebirth of this city over the course of the run.

Running in, out, around, and through the city that drew earlier generations of my family to this state makes me proud, energized, hopeful, and sad. I have found much happiness in this place called Michigan, and it is because of this city and industrial icons who found Detroit to be the right place to start their businesses. Believe it or not, Detroit, at one point in time, was the oasis of promise throughout the entire United States. Throughout the entire world. The sadness I feel during the run is because of the way that I now know the world perceives our city (OUR city) and our state, and how difficult and time-consuming it will be to change this perception. Detroit is perfect in its imperfection. It represents America - the historic opportunity for success and wealth, the damage from poor planning, racism, and lack of diversification, and the great optimism of a better future.

If you are running, walking, or cycling in one of the variants of the race on Sunday, great job(!), and take a moment to contemplate what the city of Detroit means to you over the course of the race. If you can't think of anything, determine if you have found some happiness in Michigan, and remember that the probable reason you are here is because of this city. If you're not in the marathon, I heartily encourage you to come downtown and cheer on the people who will be losing their toenails that evening. Your cheering helps more than you think, and maybe you, too, will strengthen your connection to Detroit.

If you see what looks like a beached humpback whale flailing his way through the course, the odds are good that you are looking at me. Send up a cheer for Ken or, perhaps, turn to the person to your side and say "That fella there writes quite the blog," and then proceed with my blog address.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stephen Colbert is Always Right

I am amazed that Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report has the capacity to be as consistently funny as he is. Unlike The Daily Show (which I also enjoy), Colbert is entirely responsible for carrying the show from start to finish, including making his guests funny and worth watching. I just caught an old episode back from the end of September with a segment that I think perfectly captures my opinion about Las Vegas. The whole clip is hilarious, but the specific portion of the clip that I love starts about 1:05 minutes into the video. I do not understand desert cities, and quite frankly I think that forcing civilization into a place that God has clearly decreed "You shall not live in this place" is evil. Michigan is intended for life, not Las Vegas. Jagoff.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

(Not) Live Blogging the Debate

It is now apparent why political commentators are most often not humorists. Within half an hour of the debate conclusion, I heard at least three different people try to make the lame joke "The winner of the debate was Joe the Plumber." I have to give the nod for the Joe the Plumber joke to Tom Brokaw who I believe was the first person I heard make this comment, so congratulations to Mr. Brokaw.

But really, come on guys. It would be like if I was running for President and my last name was Boner and everyone thought it was funny to make up catchphrases like "America needs more Boner" or "Boner is good for you". Name jokes are only good if they're creative. That is why I am sad to say that the last name of an incoming quarterback for U of M next year is Beaver. Clever college students around the world will be proudly wearing shirts like "I Heart Beaver". Genius.

Was anyone else frustrated by the lack of insightful post-debate feedback? Soledad O'Brien was standing up in a room full of Ohio people, counted 10 hands for McCain and 20 hands for Obama, and then declared that Obama was the winner of the debate. After a second, she then added "based on the panel in this room," but why do I, you, or Ziglorg of planet Boner care about a room full of 30 Ohioans. "Ziglorg likes Boner"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roy - iAintMadAtcha

The sports world was rocked, ROCKED today to hear that Roy Williams (not the North Carolina men's basketball coach) was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a total of three draft picks. The word rocked is probably not appropriate because no one was even remotely surprised that the Lions were working to unload Mr. Williams. Perhaps a better option would be the world was expecting, EXPECTING to hear that Roy Williams was traded to the Dallas Cowboys. People seem to be pretty happy with this trade and I would also argue that it was the best option for the Lions, but I also want to say a few positive words on behalf of Roy. He wasn't all bad.

For the past four years, Roy Williams has been a proud member of the worst team in the history of athletic competition. He came out of college a massive talent with the prototypical look of a new-age NFL receiver, and he had nothing but great success throughout his career up to the death spiral of the Lions. His rookie year, he made some pretty amazing catches and gave many suffering Lions fans glimpses of an exciting future. He also made some pretty amazing drops, and this malady has plagued him up through and including his last game in a Lions uniform.

Despite all of the hardship, Roy never turned into the standard raging douchebag receiver so common in the NFL. Every time he was asked over the past couple years if he wanted to remain with the Lions, he always responded in the affirmative with no room for negative interpretation. He didn't use those questions as an opportunity to negotiate salary, lobby for a trade, and rarely did he make an outward showing of what had to be great discontent. Finally this year he spoke up declaring that he wanted to be a more central part of the offense, but even that was said diplomatically with minimal hostility toward the team's coaching or ownership.

I don't want to saint the man or claim that he is the greatest wide receiver of all time, but I do think that he often gets a bad wrap and there is far too much emphasis placed on the negative parts of personality that may not even exist. In the end he was another talented human being destroyed by the Lions, but I don't regret his presence. He could have been way, way worse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Coping with the Possibility of Doomsday

Michigan and Detroit are synonymous with the wheeled motor vehicle for transporting passengers, also known as the automobile. This has been true for just about one hundred years now, and the motor car will always be a proud part of our heritage. This is an obvious statement, and more than a few books have been written about the automobile industry. The companies responsible for the automobile industry in Detroit, including the Fords and GMs as well as the suppliers and suppliers' suppliers, have periodically brought population, prosperity, and stability to our great state as well as other states and countries around the world. To this day, the automobile industry remains the primary pillar of Michigan's economy, and the bankruptcy/failure of GM, Ford, or Chrysler would certainly have devastating shockwaves. These shockwaves will start and be centralized in Michigan, but will ripple throughout the world. In saying this, I am not trying to be overly dramatic, but it is easy to overlook all of the tangential people who are in some way related to the domestic (US) auto industry. This week (well, really the last two years but this week in particular) has renewed concerns about the failure of one or all of the Michigan automobile manufacturers. Everyone in the world is hurting right now, but Michigan is staring catastrophe in the face in a very unique and individual way. Last night, news emerged that Chrysler and GM were considering some sort of merger as another attempt to keep operations moving until the broader economy can get back on track. This is all quite scary for those of us who would like to continue to call Michigan home. Selfishly, I wish nothing but great success for all domestic automobile companies, but I want to spend some time reflecting on how, over the long term, Michigan can survive and thrive despite the possible destruction of US auto. Without having a contingency plan (or hope) for Michigan's future, the present can be pretty difficult to deal with.

Let's start with an easy and non-inflammatory issue. Michigan has a ridiculously huge quantity of engineers. Currently, the vast majority of these educated people are somehow employed in the car realm, because that is where the jobs currently exist. At the same time, there is a general perception that Michigan is strongly lacking in entrepreneurial spirit because most of us have grown complacent in the former safety and comfort of the automobile industry. In this safety, the drive toward entrepreneurship, industry diversification, and company creation (those companies not affiliated with cars) is discouraged - or at least not as necessary. This fire, the kind of fire that can be found in Silicon Valley and the Boston area, has been almost genetically removed from Michigan residents. Don't rock the boat, keep the autos alive, and all shall be provided. I don't fault us for developing this viewpoint because it worked well for so long, and I think it is a natural result of our previous industrial environment.

Hypothetically tomorrow, GM, Ford, and Chrysler call all their employees into a room and say "That's it, game's over. Thanks for the memories." In that moment, all of the educated and experienced professionals in these companies are free agents. This includes executives and managers, engineers, sales people, marketers, consultants, laborers, IT people, computer programmers, administrative staff, facilities managers, and on down the line. However, before most of these people can move on and take a job elsewhere, they need to be able to sell their primary asset - their homes. Uh-oh...since the major employers are no longer viable, selling these homes is not really an option, so what's a person to do?

I envision an explosion of entrepreneurship in Michigan. Intelligent, incredibly motivated, and hungry people will do whatever they need to provide for their families and themselves. People will be forced to learn how to create jobs in industries that are non-existent or only currently bit players in Michigan. I think it would be incredibly foolish to undersell the capabilities of those currently employed in the automobile industry because of the challenges of that industrial sector. Google started in a garage. So did Microsoft, and mostly Apple for that matter. William Durant, the generally accepted founder of GM, was a high school drop out. Nothing can force innovation like the biggest kick in the butt in the world, and doomsday could be the necessary reboot for revival.

Entrepreneurship will be one of the structural supports of Michigan's future. However, this is not mutually exclusive from attracting other stable and growing companies and industries to Michigan. Because of our former industrial fortitude, Michigan has world-class infrastructure capabilities. Freeways, railroads, shipping lanes, and manufacturing and testing facilities, are already established to support multiple industrial powerhouses. On top of the infrastructural elements, Michigan will sport a huge and qualified available working population (remember, all those people who were put on the street from auto and are closely tied to the state for some reason or another).

"OK, I agree so far," you're thinking, "but why hasn't Michigan been able previously attract other companies and employment opportunities?" A few reasons, to be sure, but my understanding is that there are three main reasons why companies have been reluctant to set up any operations in Michigan. First, companies are reluctant to work with the UAW. The UAW has some truly fantastic accomplishments through the years, including establishing and increasing quality of work conditions, wages, and employee protection. The UAW continues to admirably support its members, but in some respects, this organization has strongly discouraged other companies from coming our way. Straight out, they refuse to work with the UAW. It's hard to say exactly what the end of the domestic auto industry would mean for the UAW, but it is abundantly clear that it could not exist in its current form.

Second, Michigan has a convoluted and difficult to understand tax structure that has been born from a history of successful, giant corporations and all of those companies that feed these corporations. I have heard second-hand from accountants the joke that "If you want to start business in Michigan, don't" because of the complicated and disagreeable tax code. In the absence of these giant corporations, Michigan tax law will need to be entirely rethought and rewritten to promote job growth and company creation. Inertia has kept the necessary tax changes from occurring in the past, but this inertia will absolutely have to be obliterated to attract and retain jobs. Third, other companies have historically refused to play second-fiddle to Detroit's car companies. Because of the historic success of the automobile industry, Michigan has had more than a little favoritism for these companies, and the perception of this favoritism has done its part to keep other companies away from our region. No autos, no favorites, what can we possibly do to bring you here?

This potential period of rebirth and growth will be exceedingly painful, but we have proven ourselves to be a resilient and capable people. We have become so historically accustomed to success with minimum pain that the angst of this kind of massive statewide restructuring seems unbearable, and we feel the eventual success on the other side of this effort will never fully present itself. If this doomsday situation does materialize, we will all be deeply hurt, but what else are we going to do? Crawl into a fetal position and give up? Screw that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Solving the Oil Problem

As I have mentioned before, I think that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, while sometimes crude, is one of the funniest television shows out there. Below, I have embedded an entire episode of the show called "The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis". I think Michigan needs some of the enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit that is clearly evident in this group of total jerks. As a fair warning, there is a reasonable amount of impure language in this episode and more than a few references to things that you might find...uncomfortable, but are we going to let fictional Philadelphia out think us? Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad idea in this case. WILDCARD!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm Here to Help You (Freak Out)

I talk about money frequently, because in the end, doesn't everything come down to money? Money and cake. Instead of boring and confusing you with my personal take on the fact that none of our parents will be able to retire until they're 80, I'll let CNN Money / Fortune Magazine do the job for me. If you have a few minutes of free time and are scratching your head trying to figure out why everyone is watching CNBC and sweating, it would serve you well to read the suggested link to enhance your understanding of the current financial turmoil. I find the material to be a pretty straightforward explanation of our international current financial situation with a few useful tidbits sprinkled in for those with both minimal and advanced financial understanding (i.e. what happens if my insurance company goes under).

On another note, here's a brief article about fall colors in Michigan's U.P. See, the leaves aren't green - much like our bank and investment accounts - so why should we worry?

Guest Post - Detroit or Chicago? A Question of Loyalty

For the second time, I present to you a guest post from Great Lakes Guru. Chicago is a swell place and it is impossible to not feel pity for Cubs fans, but it can never hold my heart like Detroit.

On Friday evening I had a discussion about the differences between Chicago and Detroit, and the perception among many of Michigan’s 20- and 30-somethings that Chicago is a superior city. To be clear, I make this disclaimer - I think Chicago is a great city, one of my favorites - plenty of culture with a good mid-west vibe.

That said, I choose Detroit over Chicago any day of the week. Detroit is a great city, definitely lagging behind Chicago for now, but Detroit has an incredible upside, and Detroit is part of Michigan, which is a huge plus in my book. Think of it this way - would any reasonable person choose the state of Illinois over the state of Michigan? No way. Michigan wins every potential category except our competing major cities. Maybe, with the backing of all of Michigan, Detroit will quickly catch up to Chicago, could even pass the Windy City in style and culture.

But making Detroit competitive with Chicago requires some effort from Michigan’s young college grads and professionals - love, loyalty, a revitalized entrepreneurial spirit, and a little elbow grease. Most who leave Michigan espouse their love for the Great Lakes State, and claim their only reason for leaving is lack of jobs. I can most certainly sympathize - I only wish that more Michiganders would sacrifice and stay home, use their talent to create jobs instead of waiting for jobs to miraculously appear.

And if you choose to leave Michigan, or if you feel you have no choice in the matter, I point you to a recent blog post on Detroit Army (editor's note: I strongly recommend reading this post). Continue to wear the old English D with pride, and spread the good word about Michigan whenever and wherever you can - we hope you come back, but if you never do return, let your love for Michigan manifest itself in your salesmanship - be positive and hopeful for Detroit - let the world know of Michigan’s greatness and potential.

But don’t boast Michigan pride only to bash our state’s job rate and shortcomings at every turn - if that’s how you really feel, just put on your Cubs hat and stay away. And even worse, if you live in Michigan and spend all your time complaining about Detroit and fantasizing about a move to Chicago, pack your treasonous bags - I’ll buy your train ticket.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heaven Must Be Missing Some Polish in You

Thanks again to Alex for pointing me to another interesting piece of information about our fine state.

Yahoo! Real Estate published an article on September 29th that ranks metro areas that have the highest percentage of people who would say that they are single. Detroit ranks number two immediately behind San Francisco and ahead of New York, Boston, and New Orleans. Another interesting statistic is that Warren is the #1 city in the country with the most even male/female split of the population. I could say something inappropriate here like "If you're looking for some hanky panky, come to Detroit", but that would not be appropriate for a family website, except I did use the phrase "hanky panky" when I could have gone way worse than that. I could also say that if you would like the most even odds when throwing a water balloon into a crowd between hitting a man and hitting a woman, come to Warren.

This is a pretty interesting statistic, and I don't know if it means that people from metro-Detroit have particularly high and unrealistic expectations of their mates, people in the D are enjoying the single life, we are a little more liberal with our definition of "a relationship", or if we are particularly poor at making a move on the opposite sex. "How about those Tigers....and sexual intercourse." You might think that this would be a perfect pickup line, but you would be seriously and sadly mistaken. Next time, try the Red Wings.

There's got to be some good way to market the value of a high percentage of singles in any particular area, but who would pay for and coordinate that effort? I guess that is my purpose.

If you're looking for some hanky panky, come to the D.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Shockingly Underappreciated...Ha....ha......h

Yesterday evening, the Detroit Shock were crowned the "world" champions of the WNBA by finishing their sweep of the San Antonio Silver Stars. The collective sound that you hear is everyone turning off the 'Who Gives a Crap' channel. I did not even know there was a team called the San Antonio Silver Stars. On top of that, the Shock weren't even able to complete this victory in their home stadium of the Palace of Auburn Hills because of a scheduling conflict. They had to play at the Eastern Michigan Convocation Center. Could you imagine the Pistons playing for the championship at Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor? Not a chance.

Not that they need or care about my pity, but I feel quite bad that the Shock cannot build momentum for broad appreciation from people of Michigan. Did you know that they have 3 championships in the last 6 years, and they barely lost in the last game of the finals last year? That is a pretty stellar series of successes. I agree that the WNBA is not that exciting and it is hard to commit attention to the games, but the Shock should probably be placed up there in the pantheon of successful sports franchises in Michigan. If I was in a debate with someone about sports teams from different cities and we were debating the highs and lows of the teams from our respective states, I would certainly place the Shock miles above the Lions. The WNBA is not particularly exciting to me, but that doesn't make me less proud of the Detroit Shock and their accomplishments. I could never have guessed that Bill Laimbeer would have been a good professional coach of anything - unless he was coaching professional donning a mask and throwing them 'bows.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Inferiority Complex - California

While I have no hard evidence of this beyond anecdotal, I feel that like most Michigan residents, I suffer from an inferiority complex when I mentally compare the way that people perceive a place like Michigan and a place like, say, California. There are many reasons for this - the weather, proximity to ocean, technology sector stability and growth, large cities in which people have a strong desire to live, and abundance of cheap and questionably legal labor. I work with some brilliant and kind men who live in California, but I always feel (whether true or not) that they cast pity on me because I can not possibly understand the glory, wonder, and perfection of living in California. On top of all this, the state rubs itself in my face by putting "Come Live and Play in California" advertisements on television during Michigan football games. Hey, look at all those celebrities who lives in California - I should go there! Man I hate those commercials (perhaps a future topic for the Things I Hate series).

A couple weeks ago, I ranted a bit about the artificial inequity that Michigan has in competing to attract or retain employee talent in the battle against companies in other states - the finance industry in New York in particular. My dad reminded me of similar feelings I have regarding the technology industry in California. In the 90s, California exploded as the leader in technological innovation and internet business. Companies and employees clustered in this area because this was where funding could be easily acquired and some important technological companies were already well established (like Yahoo!). Companies were flush with venture capital funding, stock options to grant prospective employees, and the possibility of riches beyond imagination in the event of success. As we all know, there was quite a major bust in the early 2000s and the possibility of vast wealth turned out to be much more of an illusion than reality (with many notable exceptions, of course). From this evolution of events, entrepreneurs, technological leaders and innovators, and other talented employees have now grouped together in California, and they aren't going anywhere. Would you, surrounded by talent, professional opportunities, good weather, and entrepreneurs founding businesses at an astounding rate? Again, the thing that pains me most about this is that this aggregation of the technologically inclined was driven and motivated from a place of perceived and (as it turned out) mostly artificial wealth.

It is easy to look back and complain about the way that things are now and how it is unfair, and in relation to my inferiority complex, it sometimes makes me feel just a little bit better. It helps me to understand and contextualize how Californians have gotten to the point where they feel superior to me and that we are somehow worthy of their pity. California didn't get to the place it is now because it is inherently better, but rather it is the continued beneficiary of a mirage from 10-15 years ago. In this instance, the mirage begot reality, and many currently profitable companies are an outgrowth of this mirage. Some may argue that Michigan and the automobile industry from 5o years ago is no different from my California example - but I completely disagree. Speculative wealth with no proven business model can not be compared to selling product X for an agreed upon amount.

This is why, in my own Michigan self-serving way, I feel California might finally be coming back down to earth when I read that California is struggling from financial difficulties like the rest of us. The Governator claims that because of the credit freeze, California requires an emergency $7B loan to pay for their teachers, police, and everything else that is state funded. Part of this is that the state is so huge and populated that their budget outstrips much of the free world. Another big part, though, is a decline in tax revenue. In the next several months, perhaps all states will suffer from declining taxes and corresponding budgetary shortfalls resulting from job loss, and that is sad for every state (including California) and the country as a whole.

California is a beautiful state and has many things to offer a wide array of people, but the grass isn't always greener, and California is not as perfect as it would have you believe.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I do not know who you are, though I think I can hazard a pretty good guess. The odds are that you are a friend or close acquaintance of mine who at some point clicked on my blog link through Facebook, or was otherwise bullied into checking out my site by me. On top of that, you are probably bored at work and trying to figure out what other things you could be doing right now to use your time as you try to make it toward the end of the work day. That is pretty clear from the rapid readership decline over the course of the weekend and subsequent increase on Monday. The odds are also in my favor that you, at some point, lived in Michigan or had family or close friends who lived in Michigan, and you have at least a passing interest in the success or failure of this state.

I find many fascinating things about you (or non-you, as the case may be). For example, it is sometimes absolutely impossible to convince some of my best friends (a certain fellow by the name of Brian M. comes to mind) to come to this website, even if they like me and the state of Michigan. I know that nothing I write is really that important, but I'm astounded that there are some people who absolutely refuse to read blogs - even if the subject matter is close to their hearts and composed by a friend. Can anyone help me with some insight about this? That is one side of the coin, but the other side is those people who keep coming back because they care about Michigan, believe in the cause, and think I am a halfway decent communicator. This is a verbatim message I received from someone with whom I have not spoken since grade school (> 12 years), reprinted with permission:

"When I left Michigan 8 years ago, I can honestly say that I despised the state due to the fact that it couldn't stay warm (or what I consider to be warm) for more than
1/4 of the year. However, after reading your blog, I do have to say that my love for my hometown state is starting to grow on me again. I guess it just took someone that I haven't seen in 13 years, along with some witty commentary, for me to see everything in a new light! Thanks."

This is the entire reason that I spend probably minimum 5 hours a week writing, and this message made me both proud and hopeful that more converts (or re-converts) could be brought into the fold. We have many reasons to be proud, and it is our job to convince others of these reasons.

Now, this brings me to you and how and why I need you. My breadth and reach is fairly limited - I can tell friends and family about the blog, post a link in Facebook or other away messages, and work with other bloggers to spread the good news about Michigan. This has been effective to a point, but I think my readership growth has mostly stalled. The problem with this is that I need people, at a minimum, to read to make the type of impact of which I dream.

And so, I beg for your help. As I've written right here, you are likely to have positive feelings and hopes for Michigan, and its success is important to you. If you feel that I am a decent spokesperson toward this end, is there anything I can do to convince you to tell some friends, post my link somewhere in your profile or away message, or spam the universe with my website information (you can handle a 10 year felony in federal prison for spamming. I will bake you cookies when I visit you)? I know I am shameless and I have always disliked shameless people, but I did not realize how little this would matter to me in my attempt to make a difference. You bear no responsibility for my success or failure, but I am appealing to your sense of purpose, hope, and pride in Michigan.