Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - A Total Sack of Crap

Was 2008, when taken as a whole, as bad as I am currently remembering it? It's hard to say for sure, but I'm leaning toward yes - a real sack of crap. Most people's homes, their primary asset, crashed around 20% from a year ago today, so if you own a $200K home, that's about $40K less dollars upon which you can depend. The stock market is uniformly down 40-50%, so if you're lucky enough to have money to invest, you have half as much today. For one-third of the year, it would cost you upwards of $40-50 to fill up your tank with gasoline and everyone was freaking out that the price of oil and gas would continue to climb indefinitely. A whole bunch of new reports came out continuing to indicate that earth is melting. A warmer earth means a whole lot more than rising sea levels. Warm water streams that fork through the oceans sink when they get to the polar ice caps as cold water rises to the surface, resulting in a conveyor-belt effect that keeps ocean water from stagnating. Melted ice caps will stop this movement. Stagnate ocean water means death of many lifeforms on a global scale.

The local news was not any better. The mayor of our largest city is a convicted felon. The primary employers in our area faced/face the very real threat of bankruptcy for the final quarter of 2008 and into 2009. The Michigan population has declined about 40K residents since the last census. The Lions are the Lions. National and local employment are not near the percentages of The Great Depression, but because of the great population increase since the 1930s, there are far more people who are out of work than during that time. The Kuwaiti government decided to pull the plug on a multi-billion dollar business venture that would have been headquartered in Michigan (though this one isn't Michigan's fault). I gained 10 pounds.

And yet, despite all of this, people get excited by the change of one integer in the way that they write the date. Starting a new year isn't like starting a new semester in school or embarking on a new set of responsibilities in a job. Nothing has changed, and there is no reason for anything to change because thousands of years ago someone invented the Julian calendar and decided that tomorrow will be the first of something new. That just doesn't make any sense.

This is, perhaps, what I find most enjoyable about the human spirit. We have the ability, based on subjective delineations, to compartmentalize the sack of crap that was 2008, put it behind us, and say "2009 will be different." That is quite amazing. 2009, for no real reason, brings hope, excitement, optimism, and a virtual elimination of anything from the past that we choose to put in the past. The New Year is an artificially generated opportunity to make new opportunities. Maybe, instead of eliminating remembrance of a difficult past year, it is a fresh chance to uniformly acknowledge that we are where we are right now, and let's move forward in closer lockstep. It is the time to collectively acknowledge the failures and successes of the past 365 days and figure out how to use that knowledge for something better. This rarely, if ever, happens, but the opportunity reasserts itself at 12:00 AM, January 1st every single year. That is why it is exciting. It's like going on a date for the first time with a new person, leaving a hated high school for a fresh start at college, watching the pilot episode of a new Joss Whedon series - everything is new and no one has yet screwed anything up.

Like everyone else, I very much look forward to putting the great 2008 sack of crap behind me, but it is also important to remember that not all things were bad. Everyone has their own pleasures from the year - the Red Wings won the Cup, I traveled to Europe with my brother and fiancee, I got engaged, my sister had a baby, my brother started his career, my parents got a puppy, you got a new iPhone, whatever it may be. While I know that 2009 doesn't really mean anything and there is no reason to truly believe that tomorrow will be different or better than today, I am going to hold on to the good things that happened in 2008 and work on ways to make 12:00:00 AM January 1st, 2009 better than 11:59:59 PM December 31st, 2008. Maybe this is the best thing of all - even knowing there is no new reason for hope, we can still produce it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm the Third Conchord

For part of this break, Steve and I have been tearing through the first season of a show from almost two years ago called Flight of the Conchords that airs on HBO. The second season is going to start pretty soon. We're a little bit behind the curve on this one, but it is a show that is hilarious in pretty much the complete opposite way of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Sunny is funny in a very un-nuanced, in-your-face, make fun of your groin kind of way. Conchords is far more subtle but equally hilarious. For the uninformed, the show is about a pair of lovable New Zealand losers, Brett and Jemaine who are in a band called, coincidentally, Flight of the Conchords, living in the U.S. They have a manager named Murray who works for the New Zealand consulate and is about as inept a manager can be. They don't have jobs (though Brett was a sign holder for a stint), they do play the occasional gig to a crowd of about 2-5 people in unfortunate venues (and they always seem to be playing a song called "I Rock the Party"), but mostly they hold band meetings and failingly attempt to come up with ways to increase the band's popularity. For example, Murray suggested they try walking around with a piece of straw in their mouths so they can appear rockstar-like. The show is based on a pre-existing comedy act of the musical duo and they intersperse some of their songs into the plot. Actually, much of the plot is written around the songs.

We're well on our way to the season finale, called "The Third Conchord". I don't know how they filmed me and included me in the season finale from two years ago, but as I've watched more and more of the show, I'm increasingly convinced that I, Ken, am the third conchord. These two loser guys from New Zealand pour time and energy into the creative outlet that they love, they have one diehard fan, but no matter what they do or someone does for them, they have zero success in finding success and popularity. The main difference between them and me is that the fictional in-show band is hilarious but unappreciated, whereas the real life guys and the show itself are much-beloved. I figure what I need to do now is convince HBO to make a show about me writing on my blog. It could include interactions with my family, me watching television in the basement, and as a Charlie Kauffman-like Adaptation plot twist, I could write about shows on HBO while I'm on an HBO program. There is absolutely no way this wouldn't be a massive success. Here are two songs from the show. Part of the brilliance of Flight of the Conchords is that it could almost air on network television because there are only minimally objectionable moments. The two clips below are about as inappropriate as the show gets. Check it out.

0-16 Isn't as Bad as 0-4

Do events, even if they are inevitable or at least fully anticipated, still constitute interesting or worthwhile news? This is the main question I'm asking myself as the Lions completed the official worst season in the history of the NFL on Sunday. There are some arguments as to whether they are the worst NFL football team ever or the second worst team ever, but that's probably a pointless debate because of our inability to time travel. You may think I am exaggerating if you are not a sports fan because I do have a tendency to cheat and exaggerate a little bit with the English language, but in this instance, I'm not not exaggerating even the slightest bit. The Lions are the first NFL team ever to go 0-15 and, subsequently, 0-16. Yesterday, the organization fired their coach, Rod Marinelli, who was unable to lead the team to a single non-preseason victory in more than 12 months. Both of these events have been very well covered in the past couple of days, and there has been much discussion through the months regarding whether or not the Lions could succeed at complete and utter failure for the 2008 football season.

We here, in Michigan, have become accustomed to failure of many of our professional organizations - particularly the Lions. We spend our time and mental energy preparing for failure and bracing ourselves for the locally-directed national hostility and general good time at our expense. For now, it has become a way of life, and I find myself to be very impressed by our people's ability to manage with the crappiest onslaught of news since the SciFi Network decided to pull the plug on Farscape one season early. Those were dark times. The way that the creative team decided to end season 4 was intensely mind blowing.

I would have thought, at the beginning of the season, that my team going 0-16 would be supremely distressing. Now that the fat woman has rung the final bell, I'm more upset about a hole in a pair of my socks than the Lions. It was far more difficult to watch the team go 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4 - because you could almost tangibly feel the optimism slipping away. By the time we got all the way to 0-5, it was virtually impossible to feel any more embarrassment or pain about the team. I find it far less enjoyable to make fun of someone when they don't care that I am making fun of them. While others seem to have great joy at reveling in our football failure, I want to do my part to reduce their enjoyment by proudly stating that we genuinely stopped caring a long time ago. If your goals is really to get to us, first off, congratulations. It's just like when someone walks around downtown and kicks the homeless. "Maybe if you had a home, I wouldn't be able to kick you. Ever think about that?" Instead of football, you should focus on making fun of our employment levels, automobile industry, loss of intelligent young minds, and/or declining population levels. As long as it makes you feel better about your life, fire away.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

BurgerFest-O-Rama #4 - Shamrock Irish Pub

The first review on Google Local declares "... The Irish pub is a nice spot to go to when I don't want to go to far from home. It's by my house and the people there are down to earth." Oh yeah, interviewer monique w.? Don't want to go far from home? That sounds like a challenge to me, Steve, and BurgerFest-O-Rama newcomer and good friend, Craig.

Shamrock Irish Pub is in downtown Utica (who knew Utica had a downtown?) on Auburn Road near Van Dyke. This part of the world is about 30 minutes from my home, and while you may feel that is a little bit excessive from a travel distance perspective for a burger, you are not on a mission greater than any mission since the moon landing, as I am. Don't blink or you'll find that you missed downtown Utica. Since it is break and reviewer monique w. put forth a specific challenge to my burger-eating crew, Friday afternoon was an optimal day to make the trip out to Utica. I thoroughly enjoyed BurgerFest #3 because it motivated me to go to a local restaurant that I have passed up time and time again. This trip is another major intrinsic benefit of these outings - I'm encouraged to dine at establishments far outside of my normal life radius. Off to the Shamrock Pub we go.

The Shamrock Pub is listed in The Free Press as a "Best Old-School Burger", which is weird because I never saw them eating burgers in Old School. The Freep calls out the burgers because "First, they're grilled over live flames; you can even see the grill marks. And second, owner Joe Mayernik gets his beef fresh daily from Eastern Market in a custom grind designed for cooking over fire." I like how cow meat can be made to sound fancy, like by referring to "a custom grind designed for cooking over fire." It's hamburger meat, lords and ladies.

The Shamrock Pub was not at all what I expected. I was thinking it would be a tiny, dirty, smoky, packed, but charm-filled location; more like a dive than anything else. It definitely did not have the feel of a dive. There were a few flat screens around the restaurant and some of the high tables even had those little speaker boxes where you can (for free) listen to the audio from any of the TVs. It was not huge, but spacious with high ceilings and exposed ventilation work. Even at 1:45 on a Friday, it was pretty busy, but we were lucky that we did not have to wait for a table. The only thing I would like to be changed, internally, about the bar is that the Michigan state legislature pass the FREAKING SMOKING BAN. Some guy was smoking like a wildfire right near the front door, blowing all of his smokiness into the rest of the restaurant. If you are unaware, smoking causes cancer, my readers. We were joined for the first time by our great friend Craig, who was also an active participant in our previous Tour De Nacho around Ann Arbor. He lives out Rochester way, so it was a convenient location for him. Let's all give Craig a rousing round of applause for his first attendance and take a look around inside the pub.

The menu itself is pretty minimal, though we didn't look too closely at it because of our laser-like burger focus. They had a reuben sandwich offering (I think this was the most Irish thing about the pub, though that's not a complaint by my book), burgers, fries, appetizers, and maybe some other things. The prices are phenomenal. A 7 oz burger starts at $3.95 with onion and pickles, for 30 cents more you get American, cheddar, or swiss cheese, and for 30 cents more you get lettuce, tomato, and mayo. That's a whopping grand total of $4.55. Fries are $2.50 and their seasoned fries are a tiny bit more than that, though I can't exactly remember how much more. We each got burgers with all the fixins (with varying degrees of mayo inclusion and ranging from medium to medium-well) and an order of regular and seasoned fries for the table.

Pros: As Craig stated and the table agreed, "This burger tastes like something that could come off the grill, but I could not make anything this good off the grill," meat cooked to perfect doneness all the way around, waitress indicated preemptively it would be easy for them to throw the meat back on the grill if we wanted to increase doneness, tomato uniformly perfectly ripe, burger could be picked up and put down and picked up again without problem, seasoned fries were a knockout, crazy inexpensive for almost half a pound of meat, friendly waitstaff, meat juicy but not annoyingly so, food just looked tempting

Cons: Bun a little bit soft - particularly on the bottom (squished down to very thin bun strip), Craig thought the fries were too-potatoey and I thought that the seasoned fries probably should have been the regular fries (regular fries were pretty under-seasoned), identification of need for refills a little bit slow, paper plates and plasticware seemed wasteful - maybe ask if we need before putting plastic utensils because we did not need them and probably had to be chucked, in Utica

For some reason, as soon as the food hit the table, we knew that we were in for a special experience, and we were not disappointed even a little bit. I don't know if they actually have some magical custom grind as is claimed or what, but we each found a little place of burger happiness at the Shamrock Irish Pub.

A new standard has been set, folks. For super extra brownie points for The Shamrock Irish Pub - my brother likes to be able to make it rain as quickly as possible, so he carries around his cash in a slipshod wad in his pocket. After we had left the building and were taking our outside photos, the waitress came rushing outside with a ten dollar bill and asked if any of us had left it behind. When Steve pulled out his mismanaged role for his part of the bill, a lonely ten slipped to the floor. He would not have known, and we would not have known if the waitress simply provided herself with a little extra sugar for having to deal with the three of us jerks. She did not, and we were impressed. The whole meal, with tip, set us back $25. That is not bad. 4 down, 36 to go.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Turnaround Schmurnaround

The Boston Celtics, possibly the most storied franchise in all of professional sports, won the 2007-2008 NBA championship. That piece of information was for those who are completely unaware of professional athletics. There was a stretch, decades ago, in which the Celts were an incredibly dominant force in pro basketball, and them not winning the championship during that period of time would have been more of a news story than them claiming the league championship. For many years, the Celtics fell into a state of disarray and the team was pretty absolutely terrible. Not quite as bad as the 2008 Detroit Lions, but close. The year before they won the championship in 2008, the Celtics went a total of 24-58. For exactly every two games they lost, they won one. During their championship season, their record concluded a stunning 66-16. That's quite an impressive feat, and it appears as though the Celtics may be headed in this direction for the current season. Because of this monumental swing, sports writers and television announcers gushed over the amazing "turnaround" of the Boston Celtics, and today I was really set off when ESPN: The Magazine declared 2008 as the year of the turnaround and cited the Boston Celtics as a prime example. Makes sense, right? They were terrible in 2006-2007, but they were world-beaters in 2007-2008. Of all of the sports stories and commentaries I've heard in the past year, this is the most disingenuous, false, and unrepresentative statement of all.

I'm happy for the current generation of Celtics fans and it is hard to argue that they don't have a great basketball team. Having said that, declaring the Celtics as a turnaround team is complete and utter bullcrapolla. Why do I say that? Between their abysmal season and fantastic seasons, the Celtics acquired a former league MVP in Kevin Garnett, one of the best pure shooters in recent NBA history in Ray Allen, and managed to keep their all-star Paul Pierce. Kevin Garnett remains one of the most dominant and versatile big men in the league and Ray Allen, while losing his stroke more often now than in the past, can be deadly when he turns his game on. Doc Rivers, derided as a terrible coach during the previous season, was highly-regarded for his excellent coaching ability during their championship year. Are you kidding me? You could put a dog in a hat and suit in charge of this team and they would probably perform at a championship level - better than under Doc Rivers. It would be far more accurate to claim there was a reemergence of the Celtics franchise. There was no missing role player that was added to the puzzle, no draft pick that filled a critical void on the roster, no new coach who took a mostly-same team and instituted a new system - just two superstars added to a roster containing one superstar. This would be like saying that General Motors had a great turnaround year in 2009 because they traded the boring Chevrolet Aveo for the Honda Civic and the Buick Lacrosse for the Toyota Camry. On top of these trades, Toyota threw in their existing labor contracts as a swap with GM and offered to take some of the additional capacity off of GM's hands. This is exactly what the STUPID Minnesota Timberwolves did when they traded Kevin Garnett for, get this, "Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Boston's 2009 first-round draft pick (top three protected), the return of Minnesota's conditional first-round draft pick previously obtained in the 2006 Ricky Davis-Wally Szczerbiak trade and cash considerations." Hey, we'll give you all of our crap plus one token good thing (but not the best of those good things - we'll keep that if it's a top 3 draft pick), and we'll take that one really good thing that you have.

Truthfully, I'm not feeling any sour grapes because the Celtics beat the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. I'm just incredibly annoyed that anyone thinks that the Celtics are a turnaround "Team." Let's trade the Detroit Lions for the New England Patriots and wait for everyone to herald the great team improvement in 2009.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let's Hang

With Maureen on her way to Virginia, Steve in Ann Arbor for the evening, many of my friends scattered in the wind, and the balance of my family in Minnesota, I am sitting here alone in my long underwear post-run waiting for something so fun to come along I shan't be able to pass up the opportunity. With that in mind, what's going on world? Thanks to the joys of Facebook and my blog, I have increasingly started to comfortably reconnect with people from my earlier life. This has given me increasing motivation to continue socializing and interacting with people both inside and outside of my usual circle. Drop me a call, leave a comment, write an email, or send a telegraph so that I may be lucky enough to spend some time with you, whoever you may be.

I'll be more or less accessible until the evening of December 31st, at which point my life starts to get just a little bit busier. We can talk about Michigan, the holidays, the last X years that we have not been in contact, Diet Snapple, or whatever else may flit through our minds. Based on the lackluster response to my $1 offer for leaving a comment, I am not expecting much of a response, but it can't hurt (except my fragile feelings) to give it a go. Otherwise, I have a great backlog of Stargate SG-1 episodes to enjoy over some eggnog ice cream and tears.

(update: Maureen said that she thinks this post makes me look a little bit pathetic - perhaps a fair argument, but I have never indicated my goal wasn't to be pathetic, so everything could be going perfectly to plan. or something)

Memories #3 - Starting Anew

As I have been cataloging, this has been an atypical holiday celebration for my brother and me. The parents, sister, brother-in-law, and new nephew are out of town, and that literally meant no Christmas presents under the tree on December 25th (they're on their way later so don't feel too bad for us). Instead, Steve and I slept in, watched the Muppets Christmas special I TiVo'ed, and avoided pretty much all of the stress that typically surrounds the holidays. A stress-less holiday? It's possible - all it requires, we found out, is to pretty much ignore that the holiday is going on within your own household. Schedule all holiday meals at other people's houses, don't buy presents for your siblings, and eat a cup of yogurt for breakfast. Very classy.

It's weird how authority figures, even at my age of 26, prevent my life from falling into great chaos. On Tuesday, the furnace in our house temporarily stopped functioning and it took several pairs of layered pants, socks, coats, and blankets for me to realize something was amiss. Steve and I aren't particularly messy people, but we're increasingly finding crap accumulating around the house. All of a sudden the sweater I was wearing yesterday is in the middle of the living room floor and I have no idea how it could have gotten there. Didn't I just do the dishes? How is there a double load still waiting for me in the sink? Why do my socks no longer magically replenish in my sock drawer? I thought that's what the Underpants Gnomes were for. How did I survive college with minimal parental oversight and support? As far as I can recall, when my clothes all disappeared and I found myself starving, I was able replenish my clothing and food supplies and successfully remove the lid off of the pineapple can for my delicious dinner of canned pineapple. I really have lived the life, haven't I?

We have always had lovely family Christmas traditions in our family, Steve and I more or less maintained most of these traditions this year, and I'm sure that we'll be back to normal operating procedure over the next couple years - possibly and hopefully with the new toddler in tow. However, this is the first of many years where I will start to view Christmas as a genuine adult. It is my last Christmas as a single person (with the standard caveat that Maureen does not drop me in the next 8 months, I do talk about underpants with abundant frequency), my parents and sister's family were not here to celebrate, I had to produce some food for the family meals, and I am no longer the youngest generation in my immediate family. At Christmas Eve dinner yesterday, I took my father's small role and generated the prayer for the meal (Steve declared me as barely adequate). After the meal, instead of laying on the living room floor with my brother and sister, I had to help clean up and distribute the remaining food. Taken individually, none of these things is much of a big deal, but when I view them as a whole, it is an interesting shift in the direction of my existence.

I have uncountable (greater than 3) Christmas memories with my family from the last 26 years of my life, and in each of those memories, I remain more than happy to be the impetuous, witty, and handsome youth. Now, while I doubt I will make any sort of drastic leaps in maturity, it seems as though Christmas will continue to evolve and change as those I care about continue to grow and change - more so and faster than ever before. It seems we've reached critical mass with respect to moving away from the status quo, and life will continue to move in new and interesting directions. A small part of this is sad and hard to deal with - growing up and starting to develop an extension of your immediate family is a little bit scary and intimidating. Things have worked so well in the past, it's a shame that anything has to change.

However, that is the inevitability of life, and it is important and necessary that I learn how to adapt and develop as a responsible adult. Leaving behind at least a part of the past, or my role in the past, is a challenge, but doing so opens up so many doors. At this juncture, I probably don't even have a clue as to where most of these doors lead. In one sense, there appears to be a clear delineation indicating the beginning of the second phase of my life. I hope that this somewhat arbitrary second phase includes as much excitement and joy as the first phase (and that the second phase includes far more blog readers than the first. I just had to throw that in there). Added to this, I hope I have the choice to live at least part of this second phase in Michigan.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Under the Wire

Merry Christmas!!!

You didn't think I would pass up this opportunity, did you? If you do not celebrate Christmas, that is fine, I also wish that you have a Merry December 25th, the day I refer to and celebrate as Christmas. If you wish to wish me a Happy Hanukkah or solemn Yom Kippur, I will be appreciative. If you do not celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, then I wish you a pleasant Chinese Food Day or a restful Television Marathon Extravaganza. One way or another, I'm going to force pleasantness upon you. Have a nice 10 minutes left on December 25th.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Babies+Hats = Brilliance

Earlier today, I dove a bit into ways in which I could continue to attract people here. Baby photos and dogs in hats seemed like a good place to start, but my dad came up with the brilliant idea of combining babies and hats. I requested baby+hat photos from my sister and brother and I think we're really onto something here. I'll see if they have different hats around the house they can place on the baby's head for the purposes of exploitation. Merry Christmas Eve's Eve!

Shame and Buchanan

My brother is watching Hardball in the next room, and I hear some guy valiantly (more specifically, loudly) supporting the U.S. automobile industry and encouraging the U.S. government to take the necessary steps to support the Detroit-based manufacturers. Intrigued by his enthusiasm, I got up from my computer and made my way into the other room. You know who that guy was? Pat Buchanan - one of the craziest men on planet Earth. Because I have never found myself agreeing with anything Pat Buchanan has ever said, I'm beginning to fear my understanding of everything and my position in support of the U.S. automobile manufacturers. Up is down, left is right, and fruitcake is delicious.

Wait a second, fruitcake is not delicious, and it will never be delicious. I am shocked and saddened to be in agreement with Pat Buchanan, but I continue to support my hometown companies. I find some solace in the fact that he is all crazy-man arguing for evil globalization and the polluted Chinese and hooray America, but my opinion is less that of a crazy person and more based on my broader understanding of the intricacy and breadth of the automotive supply chain, the major auto debt held by financial institutions (the downfall of the car companies will result in additional massive write-offs of the troubled houses of finance), and the selfish effort to keep me and my family from having to eat dirt for meals because we can't afford anything else.

Buchanan may be a nut and I may not share his same arguments, but I do agree with the desired outcome.

Some More Self-Perspective

Perhaps the funniest and most challenging part of this "Have my own website" journey is the way in which people do or don't respond to what I write, how many people come here to read, and what message people actually take from the posts. It is enlightening how points I try to make come across as unclear to others when I am under the impression that I'm being crystal-clear when I do my standard re-reading for proofreading and to revel in my general excellence.

I think I do a pretty darn good job at this internet thing with respect to relevance, personal point-of-view, and above all, quantity (real writers argue that quantity is far less important than quality, but I hold quantity in the utmost respect). With all of these good things, the main goal remains to increase readership and provide a wider-reaching interesting voice during these difficult times.

To keep my aspirations and bloated ego in check, it is appropriately humbling to be reminded how much people care about everything other than what I think. For example, this photo of my sister's new baby generated more interest than anything I've written in the past 6 months. Granted, I do have an exclusive on this piece of digital information, but it kind of cracks me up that no matter what, a photo of my new nephew who can't even talk or formulate abstract thought is considerably more interesting than anything I could ever write. This is why I am proud to announce that instead of all of my old rubbish, I'm converting to a format of posting nothing but new baby photos and dogs wearing hats - and the dogs wearing hats isn't even my own idea. I stole it from South Park.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Times for the "Good Times for the Repo Man" Story Writers

My finger is on the pulse of the American public, and that pulse is telling me that, financially, times are tough. People are losing their jobs left and right, housing values are falling like a hard, roundish, dark, heavy object from the earth, the most major stock market indexes have lost about 40% of their value from their peaks a little over one year ago, and rich people are taking less private jet flights than ever. However, one area of the economy that has picked up significantly from last year is that of people who write stories about Repo Men who are doing more repossessing than ever! A couple years ago, society had declared the golden goose of writing about repo men a dead opportunity, but it has really come back swinging. Technically, it's the Repo Men who are doing far more business than the people who are writing articles about them doing more business, but over the past several months, I feel like I've been inundated with people who thought they could put a lighter spin on everyone's pain and despair. "Think things are tough? Well Mr. Repo disagrees!" A quick search of Google News and the words "repo man economy" immediately brings up several articles written by people who think that this subject deserves story after story after story. I have also seen on television more than a few local and national news reports about how thriving the repo business is these days - a real growth opportunity.

This type of story reminds me of something they have done on The Simpsons several times with local newsman, Kent Brockman. They cut in to the TV with him saying something like "...Leaving thousands without left hands. Now on to the lighter side of the news..." and then he tells a story about a kitten who ate a set of keys or something like that. I am not a journalist and I can't get scoop on anything because all of my thoughts are about stories that have already been scooped and it is hard to break news when you spend almost all of your time in the basement, but this is one subject area that I would let pass, at least until everyone stops having all of their stuff repossessed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Baby Photo #1

Here is the first official (as far as I know) photo of my new nephew. I don't expect my website to turn into a "follow the baby through life" internet destination (much better version of this type of idea here), but it is my first nephew, my parent's first grandchild, and you better believe I'm going to teach this baby to love Michigan. Michigan, sarcasm, and Battlestar Galactica.

My dad described the baby on the phone today, seriously, as "its face is attached to its head." I'm not quite sure what he meant when he said that, but it does appear to be an accurate assessment. There are not many better body parts to which the face should be attached. Thanks to my sister in-law-in-law Alycia for providing me with the photo.

Uncle Me

And I'm back. It's not like very much Michigan related news has been going on over the past three or four days, so you haven't missed that much - only U of M buying Pfizer's former R&D site in Ann Arbor, President Bush announcing a loan program for the automobile manufacturers, the Lions are the first NFL team ever to go 0-15, and my sister had her first baby close to 36 hours ago. It's a boy, he weighs 8 lbs 2 ozs, and he has longer sideburns than me and my dad. That trait almost certainly came from my sister's husband, because males in my immediate family can not grow reasonable-length hair below the top of the ear. We're very un-manly.

The birth of the baby boy has led to some events setting my brother and myself up for a very unusual and peculiar Christmas. We have always been a very close-knit family and everyone has always been together for Christmas. This has historically included Christmas Eve at my Grandma's, presents under the tree on Christmas morning, lunch with my dad's side of the family, and then often dinner again with my mom's side of the family. Over the last several years I have also been able to work in time with Maureen's family - all the more important now that we are betrothed.

As my sister lives in Minnesota, my parents hopped into the family minivan yesterday morning with the dogs in the great Midwest blizzard of 2008 and made their way to Minnesota. Steve and I plan on heading out that way as soon as we have fulfilled some of the family holiday responsibilities around these parts. The next several days are going to be quite weird, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity for some introspection. Christmas Eve, Steve and I will be soldiering to my Grandma's for the traditional delicious and starchy meal, but where there have been up to 8 or 9 of us around the table in the past, there will only be four this year. For Christmas morning, we have informed Santa that he can skip our house with the hope that he can find time for us possibly in a couple weeks. For lunch, my brother and I will do our part to talk up a storm at the family potluck and then return home to an empty house. The dogs went with my parents to Minnesota, so they won't even be here to run around and make some noise.

The next week is going to be super weird and unconventional (for us), but it is all for a joyful and exciting reason - the newborn. I have always been fortunate enough to be close to my family for pretty much every important event in my life. This week, I will have the opportunity to remember and further appreciate the value of this proximity.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Old People are Tough and Dangerous

While growing up, I'd be all like "Hey old person, sucks to be old." Old people warned me that one day, a super powerful and rich old person would rise up and scam lots and lots of people out of $50B. "Just try it," I'd say, "cause if you do, I'll push you over and break your old person hip, then what'll you do with all that money?"

Well, it looks as though the old people have fulfilled their part of the threat as evidenced by the recent arrest of Bernard Madoff and his masterful ability to rip off life savings. Unfortunately, though, it appears as though I am going to fail on my part of the bargain. Here is a quick clip of Madoff heading into his apartment in a bit of a shoving-match with the paparazzi. This Madoff guy is 70-years-old. I would have thought he would go down in an instant from a shove. I am afraid that my best days of taunting the elderly are behind me, because all I really had in my arsenal was the broken hip thing. Now what am I supposed to threaten? Loud music and technology?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Real Muppet Reviews Pretend Muppets

I hope anyone who has returned here on a semi-regular basis is well aware of the fact that I am quite the fan of the entertainment medium known as television. During the holidays, I particularly enjoy television that is relevant to that holiday. What can I say - I'm a sucker for seasonal programming. Tonight at 8pm on NBC, there is a new holiday Muppets special called "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa". The Muppets are the greatest. If you're planning on going to DisneyWorld any time soon, you have to make sure to go see Muppets 3D. I could watch Muppets 3D every day and not get bored of it.

It goes without saying, then, that I recommend you check out the Muppets holiday special tonight. The real reason I'm writing is because I insist that you read this review of the television program. It is the greatest review of all time not because of anything the guy says, but because I'm pretty sure the reviewer is a Muppet, comes directly from Jim Henson's brilliant mind, and he managed to break away from the Muppet commune. Like Homer Simpson on an old Halloween special, he walked through a vortex and was transformed into a mostly-human creature in our real world. They should make a Muppets Meet the Simpsons holiday special for next year.

(Update: I'm told that I'm not as obvious as I think I am. To be clear, my personal opinion is that I think the reviewer looks like a Muppet that magically transformed himself into a human being. This may not be "clever" humor, but I will always think farts are 'A' material)

On Behalf of Another

My soapbox is small but my feet are big, and those two things, when taken together, have absolutely no bearing on each other. I just thought I would let you know that I wear a size 16 shoe.

One of the first people who supported me and continues to encourage me to write despite the fact that it is absolutely impossible for me to get more than 30 readers a day is Alex. Today he contacted me and asked that I post something about a cause very close to his family, and I am happy to assist in my own small way. His aunt has authored a bill with the very descriptive name of "HB 5046, The Restroom Access Act" that is currently considered for vote in the Michigan State House. As you may be able to tell from my last post, restrooms are very near and dear to my heart, and this bill would enable people with Crohn's Disease (and some other medical conditions) to have access to Employees Only restrooms only when a public restroom does not exist. If you have access to Facebook, here is a note written by the bill's author. If you do not have access, here is a longer quote from the note:

The legislation will provide people with fecal or urinary incontinence - including those with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis and expectant mothers - access to private, "employee only" restrooms in businesses open to the public when a public restroom doesn't exist. We have the support and votes to get this passed this year, and Senator Bishop is the one responsible for bringing it up for a vote. Call Senator Bishop and tell him Michigan needs to fall in line with the five other states that have passed this legislation since it was first introduced in Michigan. Tell him to order a vote on the measure this week before the lame duck session is over!

You can reach Mike Bishop at 517-373-2417. One of our greatest rights as Americans is bathroom solidarity.

I'm always trying to figure out ways to write as much as possible on my blog, so if you'd like me to promote anything that isn't illegal, let me know. Anime conferences? Sure. Your cat stuck in a tree? I'm happy to help out. I am your mouthpiece, people, just taller and with bigger feet.

Toilet Time - What Now?

Are we seriously expected to lug our laptops into the bathroom when we want to read our The Detroit Free Press or The Detroit News? It is entirely possible that I am already doing that (I'll never tell), but I could see this being viewed as unsanitary by at least 30% of the Michigan population. Plus, it can be an awful lot of work to disconnect all the various wires from the laptop for the big move, unless you want to move your mouse and power source with you. If you do take the time to disconnect everything, you have to put it all back together again when toilet time is completed. The American landscape is changing, and it all starts on the toilet.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this. Again working under the assumption that you did not read this link, the two major metro-Detroit area newspapers are going through some major structural changes, including eliminating home delivery on all days except Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, and they are going to be focusing more of their resources to online news delivery. I guess they are still planning on having smaller print editions available at those cash boxes you see in some suspect areas, but you have to go out of your way to pick up one of those copies (currently priced at 50 cents). I am dim-witted and would not have thought of this myself, but a reporter on Channel 4 yesterday suggested that some entrepreneurial spirit may go out and buy all of the copies from the cash boxes and then deliver them at a small premium. Since you can unfairly snatch as many copies of the newspaper from an open cash box once you have paid the 50 cents to open it, it seems like it might be time to revamp the cash box system.

How do I, important blogger, feel about these changes, you ask? I am concerned that these two major news sources are muscling in on the medium that I helped to invent, popularize, monetize, and lead to this day. From a purely habitual standpoint, I am going to hugely miss having The Free Press sitting on our kitchen table every morning. This has been the case for as long as I can remember, and now they are forced to make some difficult changes. Change is always difficult, particularly when you are changing away from something that has always been truth. It would be like you not having my blog to read every single day. I can't begin to imagine the sadness. I also feel for all of the people who are going to have to take a huge personal income hit because they are not delivering the newspaper on Monday-Wednesday and Saturday.

There are a couple things I admire about the move. While I enjoyed having the newspaper on the table every morning, I rarely would read the actual physical paper beyond the front page. Most of my local news-reading has been tons and tons of articles online for the last several years. In this respect, I don't think there will be much of a forced change to a large percentage of Michigan's population's news-consumption behavior. At a time when Michigan is widely criticized for always being reactive and way too far behind the curve, it is refreshing to see these two organizations jumping miles ahead of the rest of the country in their attempt to modify themselves to align with current (or future) news-reading habits. These moves are also reflective of the economic turmoil in Michigan and that readership and paper advertising in Michigan must be way down, but they are trying to react before they have to go to the government and kindly request $34B so they can keep publishing news. These moves take grapefruit-sized balls and must be wrenching for traditional journalists and the tradition of metro-Detroit as a whole, but if not for these grapefruit-sized balls, there may not be any balls of any size left to make this type of move. I want an orange.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Guest Post: Goodbye, Jimbo

This is a guest post from my dad's good friend Jeff. Of course, I was aware of the story when it happened, but when I re-read Jeff's words about the day and some of the after affects, I was genuinely touched and wanted to share it with you with his permission. My proximity to the story itself makes me cry, the imagery makes me want to cry, and the eye toward the future and the next steps of life evokes other strong emotions within me about my hope for the future. All three of the men in the story (one of whom is my dad) have led proud, professional, and socially-aware Michigan lives. Not including the great sadness within the story, I dream that I will have a place in Detroit and Michigan to get together with my 30-year running buddies and share our own secret and ramshackle place in the world. You can read more of Jeff's writing at Caminsky's World.

I visited Detroit Police Headquarters at 1300 Beaubien today, after lunch with my friend, Bob A. at the Old Shilellagh---the bar in downtown Detroit where we pay off most of our bets, the ones we use to give us an excuse to go out to lunch. It was the first time I'd been to the Police Gym back since July 1st. I came to clean out my locker...and to say a last goodbye.

Bob and I have been running buddies for almost thirty years, dating from 1980---when I was a new prosecutor and he, having been around for several years before that, was one of the young "old veterans." We've each gone on to a measure of professional and personal success together---Bob as a crackerjack trial prosecutor, me as a somewhat well-regarded appellate lawyer. But somehow, we always seemed to make time to exercise together.

At least, until last July 1st.

There was a third member of our team. Jim Metz was a funny, mischievous, and charming member of the office who, upon rejoining the Office after a stint as a private lawyer, started running with us. We'd try to go every day. (Well, every day we couldn't think up an excuse). And between the three of us, we usually managed one person's worth of gumption...which was enough to guilt all three of us into going. We preferred the police gym for a couple of reasons: it was dirty, which cut down on the crowds, and meant we wouldn't have to share the running track with any real athletes; and it was free. More importantly, it was an excuse to sit around and talk, while trying to work up the ambition to start jogging---about life, love, politics, and anything that happend to pique our interest. And, for nearly twenty years, we managed to keep each other healthy, happy, and reasonably fit.

July 1st started out like any other run: we sat; stretched; talked...and, reluctantly got onto the track to run.

This time, though, the run lasted less than half a mile. Jim collapsed as her rounded a turn in the track, and died as we tried to save him.

Today was the first time I'd returned to the gym since that day. In many respects, I was probably putting it off...knowing that to clean out my locker meant that Jim was really gone, and that we'd simply have to move on. So, I stuffed my gear into three plastic bags and left.

But before leaving, I went back up to the running track, one last time. It looks just the same: the track was still dusty and old; the basketball courts, crinkled and wavy from the water dripping from the leaking roof, still lay unused. And the stairs still creak when you climb them.

I rounded the track once, pausing at the spot where Jim breathed his last. And then, I left.

Bob and I are planning on resuming our exercise the downtown YMCA, right after the first of the year. It's a lush, well-run facility---without grime, without crystalized drippings from the leaking water pipes, and with a reliable supply of hot water for the showers. Life, after all, must go on.

But, it won't be the same.

BurgerFest-O-Rama #3 - Vinsetta Grill

One of the things I thought I would most enjoy about my epic burger eating adventure is that I would force myself (and maybe others) into experiencing a whole subset of dining institutions at which I have never previously eaten for one reason or another. One place on The Free Press' list in particular stood out to me for this purpose.

I am a creature of habit, and as such, I complete the same 4 or 5 mile running route every day. At about the 1.5 mile mark, I round a bend at the intersection of Vinsetta (one of Royal Oak's prettiest roads) and the great Woodward Avenue. The northeast corner of this intersection is home to the popular local eatery known as the Vinsetta Grill. Over the past five years, I have probably run within 40 feet of the Vinsetta Grill about 1,000 times, and yet, I have never eaten there. That statement held true until Sunday evening for family dinner. I'm not sure if a waitress likes or dislikes when all four members at her table order a hamburger.
The Vinsetta Grill is quite popular for it's traditional American fare, including dishes like ribs (several different varieties). I did not spend too much time looking through the non-burger menu as my sole purpose in life is meat-consumption, but the selections I did glance at on the menu and other's tables looked scrumptious. The main (and only) room was a fairly low-light environment with a dark-hue theme (blues, greys). This isn't a sports bar, but there are two TVs for all those who can not remove themselves from the current football or basketball game. It was also very clean, organized, and some unfortunate person spent a large amount of time attaching a festive Christmas tree ornament to every single intersection of the panelled ceiling. This must have created quite a cramp in this person's neck, but I approve of other's cramping for my satisfaction.
The Vinsetta Grill is called out on the list as a "Best Loaded Burger". If you trust nothing I say, at least trust that this place knows how to load a burger. Every burger is of the "make your own" variety where you check off your desires on a little sheet and hand the sheet to the waitress. They do not have any pre-selected burgers. I haven't seen options like this since a party I went to recently and dessert was a buffet of jars full of different types of candy. You can choose 1/3, 2/3, or 1 lb of beef, turkey, chicken, or veggie for your burger. Standard with the burger order is the choice of one of 10 cheeses (gruyere?), 4 toppings (20 choices including dried cranberries and hard boiled egg), and 1 sauce (18 choices like caramelized onion marmalade and sun dried tomato vinaigrette). Everyone in my family got something quite different and diverse, and I went with 1/3 lb beef with grilled pineapple, grilled onions, iceberg lettuce, roasted red peppers, American cheese, and soy-ginger glaze sauce. We also ordered one order of regular fries and one order of sweet potato fries for the table. The burgers hit the scene, and like I said, loaded (I recommend clicking on the photo below for a slightly higher resolution version):

This one is a hard one for me to review. The massive pile of toppings worked as both a positive and a detriment. As a general food-eating event, it was quite good, but as a pure burger experience, I found it lacking in some regards. I don't mean to say it was bad because it definitely wasn't, but some things were a struggle for me. There were so many toppings, the burger itself was almost entirely lost. It also may have been the toppings I chose, but everything on top of the meat kind of turned into a big pile of soft. The lettuce was shredded the thinnest I have ever seen lettuce shredded, and the texture of the lettuce was lost because of this. The sauce, which I expected to be pre-glazed on the burger, was served in a separate little cup. Because I poured it over the top of all the rest of the toppings, the sauce got all over the bun, the bun got super soft, and then the whole thing became pretty impossible to hold. Steve did not want to put the burger down for fear of not being able to pick it back up, and he ended up pounding the thing. The only way to counter the toppings would be to get more meat, but 1/2 lb is not an option and 2/3 lb is far too much for most people. A knife and fork became the standard operating procedure for the other 3 of us at the table.

Pros: burger loadability (like the burger gods threw up delicious topping options and they fell all over the Vinsetta Grill), best sweet potato fries I maybe have ever had, very courteous wait staff, all burgers initially assumed as medium unless requested otherwise, regular fries tasted like McDonald's fries (believe it or not, a huge plus for me), burger-in-a-bowl option for the carbohydrate conscious, local establishment that has stood the test of time, quick service, on my running path

Cons: meat was overwhelmed and could be lost in the fray, meat itself could have had more seasoning, cooked correctly but food not as hot as it could be, Steve and I had some red-ness in our buns (maybe blood?) and that was unexpected (hamburger buns. Don't be a weirdo), lettuce too thin, would have liked selected sauce pre-sauced

Again, I remind you that pretty much everything on my burger scale is a good burger (I have maybe only once eaten a "bad burger" and I'm pretty sure that it was made of asbestos but even still I ate the whole thing), so my goal is not to discourage anyone from eating anywhere (unless I have a truly terrible experience somewhere). The Vinsetta Grill served a great food product, but when taken purely as a burger, we have our first...
I have nothing against lots and lots and lots and lots of toppings on my burgers, but it is critical that there is the proper balance between the meat and the non-meat. Unfortunately, the meat lost the battle today, but I know you will enjoy yourself and your meal if you eat at the Vinsetta Grill. Until next time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sam McGuffie, Tackling Dummy

On Friday, The Free Press and other news sources reported that freshman tailback, Sam McGuffie, will be leaving the University of Michigan's football program. I am disappointed about this decision for a couple of reasons. Unspecific to Sam, this could easily be taken as a larger representation of the football program heading in the wrong direction. Not only did the team lose many games, but the players are not remotely convinced that there is a pot of gold (NFL contracts) waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. There is bound to be some dissatisfaction when a team loses so consistently, but the hope would be that Rich Rodriguez would be able to paint a picture of future successes to the team participants.

I also did not mind Sam McGuffie. There were a few plays here and there where you could catch glimpses of what made him such a star in high school. By the end of the year, he seemed to be losing some of his elusive qualities, and I think this is because...

When defenses were able to tackle him, they would tackle him HARD. Like crazy hard. I can distinctly remember four separate instances near the end of the year where immediately after the tackle, I thought to myself "holy crap that must have hurt." I don't know if it was something about the way he ran, his smallish size, or that maybe he was made of marshmallows, but I did not think it was physically possible for a human's linear momentum (mass times velocity) to be so instantaneously reversed. Two summers ago, my brother worked in Phoenix, Arizona. At the end of the summer, I flew down to Arizona, got in his car at the airport, and then we started the long drive back to Michigan. Immediately after we left Arizona, the car's air conditioning stopped functioning. It was August and we were in the southwest, and not having refridgerated air was a huge imposition. To try to manage, we opened the car windows all the way (which I dislike doing on the highway) and we tried to angle our hands and arms out of the window in such a way that we could direct some airflow down our sweaty backs. As we drove through Texas, dusk was falling and the bugs were coming out in force. I should have anticipated this, but about halfway through the state, I was shocked when a gigantic bug exploded on my outstretched hand. It stung badly and there were bug insides covering my hand. I think Sam McGuffie got hit harder than this poor exploded bug.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

President Bush

Hello Mr. President Bush. I, and all of the state of Michigan, have always said that you are an incredibly handsome, powerful, and intelligent man. Sure, we voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama, but that does not mean that we, in any way, were not able to perceive just how handsome, powerful, and wise you are. People have given you crap through the years for so many things, and I just wish there was some way that I could take the pain that you are feeling from these mean insults away from you. If only people could understand the real you - as we do in Michigan. As you move out of your current home and start to take in the rest of the United States, may I suggest you come and spend some time in the beautiful state of Michigan. I will purchase you an omelette and, if we're both lucky, I'll have finished BurgerFest-O-Rama and can take you to consume the champion burger. I'm sure that is something a handsome, powerful, and intelligent man would enjoy.

Also, if you could loan us $14B as soon as possible from the pre-existing TARP plan that would be just swell. How lucky we are to have such a benevolent, concise, funny, and clear-minded President.

Connecting Work and Workers #2

I very much enjoy taking credit for obvious ideas that anyone with two halves of a brain (equals one whole brain) could generate. I would be shocked if no one had written about this idea before, but I will still take 100% credit for the existence of this story in The Detroit News. Apparently, the state of Michigan has finally compiled about 40K job listings (they claim) throughout Michigan. What is most dumbfounding about this website is that it did not exist at an earlier date. As far as I know, the internet has been around since June 2008 when I started the WeAreOfMichigan blog, so there is really no excuse for a Michigan aggregated job posting website not existing as early as July 2008.

While this jobs website is a step in the right direction, there still seems to be some missing connective tissue. Many people have previously tried to apply for a job on the internet using Monster or CareerBuilder, but the resume disappears into the internet and nothing seems to ever come of this type of application process. If Michigan really wants to make this happen, it is essential that there is some variety of support structure to specifically connect potential workers with prospective companies on a personal level. This will cost money and may initially be an inefficient process, but it would be a vast improvement over the current system. I would say the current system is like me walking in the front door of Meijer, yelling really loud "I want ice cream" and then waiting patiently for someone to bring me ice cream. Believe me, I've tried, and it does not work. People also get really mad at you. If you are one of the many Michigan residents looking for a job, I sympathize and empathize and suggest that you please check out the website:

It may be difficult for me to get ice cream by demanding ice cream inside of Meijer's front door, but it will be even more unlikely if I wait patiently at home. This is one of those situations where it would be very easy to dismiss this website effort as throwing a pebble into an ocean of oceanic pebbles of people throwing pebbles into an ocean, but I greatly prefer it to the alternative - nothing.

Warp 9 Point Awesome

Reading back over the past several posts, I have yet again had a heavy slant toward the negative and being an utter jerkstore. I hope that no one blames me too much - things feel pretty negative and ominous. It is then with great pride and nerdy excitement that I announce that I read that Star Trek: The Exhibition is coming to the Detroit Science Center (website appears to be down right now, hopefully working later) from February 14th-September 7th. This is great news for so many reasons, I can hardly count. Note that the first day of the exhibition is on Valentine's Day, and I really couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of my first date with Maureen. Our first date was something stupid like dinner at a romantic Italian restaurant, but I remember talking with her at that meal about how cool it would have been if we could have been at some sort of traveling Star Trek exhibit instead of getting to know each other over cannelloni. This is the exhibit's first stop in the Midwest, so it is great that the Detroit Science Center was able to procure the rights to host.

Some thoughts on Star Trek - I give my absolute highest recommendation in the Star Trek universe to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This show is not given as much respect as The Next Generation, but having seen every episode of both series multiple times (hell yeah), DS9 is a superior product. Ron D. Moore, the primary creative force behind the current version of Battlestar Galactica, also served as a major creative force in DS9 for the vast majority of its run on television. It was the first foray in the Star Trek world into a future that was complex and not so black and white. It dealt with some contemporary issues in a serious fashion like religious fanaticism, cultural genocide, war, Ferengi business associations, shape shifting, union formation, and genetic manipulation. It may sound stupid (we all know about the Ferengi but genetic manipulation is just ridiculous), but the show works brilliantly when taken as a whole. I choose Picard over Kirk, Troi was a waste of space, and I wish nothing but the best for the new movie. It is a little weird to live in a world with no new Star Trek property on television, and with some luck, maybe the movie can rekindle a whole new generation's interest in Trek.

I will absolutely attend this exhibit at some point, and I will make sure to take pictures, post about my experience, and be the happiest person in the world while I am there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Arianna Huffington, My Guide

Arianna Huffington was on The Daily Show recently to advertise a book written by the editors of The Huffington Post about how to be a successful blogger. Rule #1, according to Huffington, is to write about a subject in which you have passion. Rule #2, I've decided, is to already be famous before starting your blog and having massive media access to advertise your blog before it has even launched much like Arianna had. It is a simple rule, really. Similarly, there is a young boy in the news quite a bit recently who wrote a book on how to pick up women. I don't know if he has a rule system, but similar to Rule #2 from above, it is of massive assistance to be tall, handsome, and wealthy. I'm not saying this is a guarantee for success, but it does not hurt.

As you may have noticed from my last post, I have followed Rule #1 to a T. If you are offended by the phrase "stupid face", then remember that I am following Arianna's first rule - though I have not yet found the success I seek. You should also work on not being such a wuss because there are infinitely worse things you will hear over the course of your life.


Quiet Your Face

I spent my few rare free moments today trying to think of something biting and wise to write about Senator Shelby (as the most vocal opponent of automotive support) from Alabama. After much thought, revision, rewriting, more thought, and consulting Mad Magazine, here is what I came up with - SHUT UP SENATOR SHELBY YOU BIG STUPID IDIOT. Take that you big stupid idiot.

Listen, I don't think I claim anywhere to be objective in anything that I write. My viewpoint on most things is all kinds of biased and I am very protective about my state. I do know that there is no guarantee that loans to the auto industry will result in a completely viable business model and set them up for perpetual success. It is abundantly obvious, however, that doing nothing will have heart-breaking affects in Michigan for the remainder of my natural life. Fortunately for me, they will be able to store my conscious head in a jar like in Futurama so there is some small chance that these affects will start to wear off near the end of my unnatural life. For all of these reasons, I would like Senator Shelby to shut up his stupid face. He proudly declares in all of his public statements that "I do not want these companies to fail", but really, his big stupid face wants them to fail. It is no secret that foreign automakers have substantial operations in Alabama and they will benefit greatly if 48% of U.S. market share immediately becomes available to them (that's right, 48%. Apparently in the statement "no one wants to buy American cars", "no one" is exactly equal to 48%. That must be why I failed math in school. No I didn't. I did great in math. That must be why Senator Shelby failed math in school.)

This is a very emotional subject to people on both sides of the issue. For me, Senator Shelby is effing with my life, he's effing with my family, he's effing with friends, he's effing with the local restaurants, he's effing with millions of jobs around the country, he's effing with my ability to focus on writing about something non-automotive related, and he's effing on copyright infringement on the song "Effington" by the great Ben Folds. The song actually does exist though I don't think it's his greatest. I would respect Shelby far more as a person and not be even close to as upset if he just stood up in public and said "Look, here's the deal - these companies going down is GRRRRrrrrreat for me and I have no problem with watching them and the associated jobs go away. Furthermore, I do support sending tax dollars to public businesses when it benefits my constituents because that is exactly what we have been doing in Alabama for the last 15 years. I poop on Michigan."

Here's a website I overheard someone talking about today during a meeting and then my friend Craig directed me to it a little bit later tonight. I don't think they have anything as well thought out as my SHUT UP declaration, but that is fine. Not everyone has access to Caps Lock. Some of their "Facts" are also more like informed counterarguments, but facts can be easily manipulated, like this:

Fiction: Senator Shelby does not need to shut up his big stupid face
Fact: Senator Shelby does need to shut up his big stupid face

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Boy I Suck

$1 isn't much of an incentive for anything, but holy cow, I had no idea I was even more insignificant than I originally assumed. That is saying quite a bit, because it would be difficult to place myself any lower on any sort of totem poll where I subjectively rank my value. Yesterday, I offered 1 free U.S. dollar to anyone who left a comment on my blog. I received six responses - 2 from my dad, two from my sister-in-law-in-law, one from my eventual mother-in-law, and one from a very loyal reader and commenter named Dan A. The only one who expressed any interest in the dollar was my future mother-in-law, and she is welcome to the riches I offered. It is a very difficult economy out there, and I thought at least someone would have some interest in taking hold of a free buck. You win, humility. I'm not too personally offended, hurt, or upset about this misadventure, but it is part of the process of humanizing me to you. Otherwise, you would think that my wit and outstanding knowledge of terrible references places me on a superhuman level well above your understanding of the human consciousness.

Speaking of Dan A., I wanted to again specially thank him for so consistently reading and commenting. He also sometimes advertises on my behalf with no particular benefit to him on Facebook and MySpace. Because of the awesome combined power of alphabetization and uncreative seating assignments, Dan's sister sat behind me in every single class for my middle school experience. It is satisfying to know that the English alphabet has landed me a supporter. When the alphabet was being invented, I recommended zqxwcevrmpnobtiuylaksjdhfg, but I lost the bid. In this instance, she probably still would have been seated behind me, but there would have been a chance that she would have been a row over. Perhaps in an effort to increase readership, I can return to middle school and have a new girl sit behind me in every class and then have her brother become a reader. Genius.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Charlie Brown

I am highly skeptical that anyone will read this between now and 8pm EST, but as I did with the Thanksgiving special, I would also like to let you know that A Charlie Brown Christmas is airing tonight on ABC at 8pm. Without a doubt, this is the most famous of the Charlie Brown series, and if you have not yet seen it, then there is simply no way that you can appreciate the full meaning of Christmas. You are the kind of person who probably thinks that "Last Christmas" is the greatest Christmas song of all time. I hope that you particularly enjoy the musical score of the show, also by Vince Guaraldi.

Welcome, Greedy

Today I am introducing my brand new marketing plan. This plan smacks of utter desperation, and I feel comfortable with this level of despair. I need you, person of above-average intellect and taste, to come here and read my blog. Because of this need, I will be hand-addressing an envelope and sending a $1 bill to the first person to leave a somewhat-pertinent comment anywhere on the blog. Just think of all of the things that you can buy with $1 - an apartment in NYC, one song from iTunes, one McChicken sandwich, 400 shares of GM stock, and my undying appreciation. I plan on saving diligently for the rest of my life so that I can periodically offer $1 to you with the same string attached - that being leave a comment somewhere.

While you're here, may I also recommend taking a few minutes to read through some of the other things that I've written? Yes, yes I can recommend that. You're not the boss of me. Here are some suggestions:

Fantastic article #1
Fantastic article #2
Fantastic article #3
Fantastic article #4
Fantastic article #5
Fantastic article #6
Fantastic article #7

Thanks for dropping by, and please consider coming back sometime soon.

(Small update: immediate family not allowed to win the massive prize of $1. My love and presence in their life is worth at least $10)

How Wham! Ruined Christmas

Around this time of the year, naturally, radio stations across the country convert to their holiday music format. Some radio formats, like Sirius satellite radio, have four, count 'em four, holiday stations. One is Christmas modern and traditional classics, one is symphonic Christmas music, one is country Christmas music, and one is Hanukkah. Listening to holiday music is probably the easiest way to put oneself in the holiday spirit, and many people find much joy in both secular and non-secular holiday music. For all of The 40 Year Old Virgin fans out there, I've put together a mixtape for you called "Lose-your-boner jams" from the music played on these channels.

There is one song that is played constantly around the country at this time of the year that has, sadly and maddeningly, become some sort of new-age Christmas classic. That song, is called "Last Christmas" by the 80s pop duo Wham! If it was up to me, I would not have ended that sentence with an exclamation mark, but Wham! is Wham! If emoticons existed in the 1980s, it is probable that people like me would have called them Wham >=(

Anecdotally, I have not been able to determine whether or not people born in the 80s typically love or hate 80s music, but I know that I am not the biggest fan. I do know, deep down in my heart, that this song is the worst thing to happen to Christmas since Caesar Augustus decided not to take a census and have every person in the entire Roman world go to his own home town to register. Rimshot. Bow. Applause.

Seriously though, I can not figure out how this song has found a place for itself in the pantheon of standard Christmas songs. My interactions are typically with a non-representative subset of the human population (i.e. people like me), but I have not come across a single person who finds happiness, joy, worthwhile memories, or anything redeeming in this song. Why does it invade my life and aural cavity at this time of the year? Every time I hear it, my love of the Christmas season dies just a little bit. On that note, here is "Last Christmas" from YouTube. If you do find the song enjoyable, please let me know why. If no one likes it, perhaps we can start some sort of petition to forever remove it from the holidays under penalty of karate chops.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Welcome Home to Me

Back in Michigan and loving the 20 degree weather as opposed to the 60 degree weather in Silicon Valley. You may think that I am being sarcastic, but there truly is no place like home. Since I've had a full few days with travel, Go-Karting, and recuperating from Go-Karting, I'm going to let Jon Stewart be my content generator for this fine Michigan evening. Here are two clips from Thursday's episode of The Daily Show. The beginning is a little bit harsh, but if you stick with it, there is a pretty funny and pro-automotive payoff. There is another part of the video that does not exist, but in my mind it consists of me as Jon Stewart's guest on the show, being discovered, and winning a sponsorship deal with The Macaroni Grill. From that point, I am entitled to all the The Macaroni Grill that I can consume for the remainder of my life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Do Not Worry, Fan

After reading this post, you may have been terrified that I, your friendly neighborhood internet-thing-writing guy, would be pulled under from the mighty media recession. Do not worry, no one pays me anything for anything, and yet, I continue to write. If the economic turmoil has the unfortunate effect of removing me from my actual job, you may just be lucky enough to have even more mundane thoughts to read right here. They will probably be depressing and a lamentation of the fact that I have nothing to do and that I am incredibly bored, but still, I will be writing. So go ahead, you can remove that sweat from your brow. I may not have the readership of Gawker, the cleverness of The Onion, the scoop-ability of Politico, the reader interest of Engadget, the pitching arm of Nolan Ryan, or the brains of an amoeba, but I do have the ability to type words interspersed with punctuation very quickly. Words? and punctuation--!! That skill, more than anything else, makes me unique.

Worst Entrance Ramp Ever

With only minimal exaggeration, I present to you the worst-conceived piece of traffic construction since the last time I was frustrated in traffic. This particular piece of earth is very close to Google's Mountain View headquarters near Stanford in California.

View Larger Map

Every day, traffic in this cluster of entrance and exit ramps is the most ridiculously chaotic thing you can imagine. If you are unaware, this area of California is a very crowded place, and most of the crowd is not blessed with the best of driving abilities. Yesterday, I was following someone driving straight down a main road, and then this person decided to entirely stop forward progress at a green light at an intersection. This person stayed stopped for an extended period of time, then decided that crossing the intersection on green was the best course of action. What was even more weird about this situation was that this kind of driving behavior in California did not surprise me.

Waiting for Something

Today was yet another what's-the-opposite-of-rare opportunity for national and international talking heads (it is 10:30 pm in CA and 1:30 am in MI so I am forced to watch CNBC World) to rip into the Detroit-based automobile industry based on errant information and flawed catchphrases because of today's Congressional testimony of Wagoner, Ford, and Mulally. Being me and so narcissistic that I have invented my own blog because I know that everyone is just dying to read my thoughts, I have just a few thoughts to add to the day.

First, I want to acknowledge Ron Gettlefinger and the UAW for, at least verbally, accepting in public and vocally that they are willing to make significant concessions. Some may say that the prospect of these concessions is not enough and that they are long overdue, but this is not an easy thing to accept for a union, and I can understand how the UAW fears that it will become a slippery slope toward completely giving up a decent standard of living. This is in stark contrast to my earlier post about Ron Gettlefinger and the UAW, and this is one instance in which I am happy to eat some delicious, delicious crow. Issues like union concessions, even for the purposes of survival, are not as black and white as I, and others, would prefer to assume.

Next, I want to present the simplest case for supporting a bailout that I possibly can - going beyond the massive job loss, significant reduction in domestic manufacturing capacity and output, destruction of domestically engineered and produced technologically for moving away from foreign oil, blah, blah, blah...According to this article from The New York Times, GM has $85B in pension obligations (obligations that they currently have the capacity to pay from their pension fund). In the event of GM bankruptcy, these pension obligations will likely be transferred to the Pension Guarantee Corp., an organization responsible for ensuring pension payments. Let's say GM, Ford, and Chrysler combined eventually require 2 times their current request from taxpayers (total of $72B), which I hope is an aggressive assumption. That is still $13B less than GM's pension obligations alone. And do you know where the money from the Pension Guarantee Corp. comes from? U.S. Taxpayers (and also borrowed from other countries)! I'm not saying this is a good thing, but the math on this issue alone is pretty straightforward. This is only one of several similar examples where the cost of a loan, while painful, is significantly less than the cost of the alternative. It is a bitter pill to swallow, but it is true.

Finally, I just want someone to make some sort of decision and allow the people affected by this decision to figure out the next steps in their lives. Loans, Chapter 11, Chapter 7, nuclear bombing, whatever the heck it ends up being, there are millions and millions of Americans and non-Americans who need a decision. America may be suffering from "bailout fatigue", but those affected by this decision are suffering from "will I have my job tomorrow, will my home be worth anything, when will people stop hating my state, why do people hate my state, will I be forced to move away from my family, will my kids be able to grow up in my home state fatigue." I hope the cards fall in our direction, but even if they don't, I just need someone to push them one way or the other.