Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Moderate Time Saver

This space here is intended for rudimentary, barely perfunctory analysis of the state of the state of Michigan as well as how I feel about things ranging from appetizers to desserts. Pretty much covering the gamut of the human condition.

In the spirit of rudimentary, it is time for another one of my computer time savers. "My" is used very liberally here because this information is documented all over the place (like cnet.com), but there is little doubt that I have far more computer-savvy readers than one of the most widely read tech and gadget websites in the world. The actual truth is that I typically find when I am given a large list of computer shortcuts, I am lucky to remember maybe one of the shortcuts, but when someone points out one shortcut of high utility, I am far more likely to remember that specific shortcut.

This one is as basic as they come, but it is a useful incremental time saver. When you're browsing (be it on Firefox, Explorer, Chrome, or Opera), hit the F6 button and look up at your address bar. It's highlighted, isn't it? If that's not way better than mousing up to the address bar and manually highlighting the address so you can type over with a new address, I don't know what is. This is one of those tiny tips that I've heard about many times in longer lists, but it never really stuck in my head until earlier this week, and since that time I have been F6 crazy. At one second per day, you'll saved yourself 6 minutes over the next year. Know what you can do with that 6 minutes? read my blog.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Happy Holidays! and sorry I haven't written in awhile. Of all the funny things I attempt to say, I think the funniest may be when I apologize for not writing, as if anyone actually noted and cared that I have been slacking.

Last year, the Westin Book Cadillac opened with much fanfare as a symbol of possible rebirth (not literal - literal rebirth would be gross and difficult to replicate though my brother has kind of tried to replicate the experience) for the city of Detroit. The Book Cadillac had been abandoned for many years and some kindly developers from Ohio were nice enough to renovate the building inside and out, bring the Westin hotel chain to the party, and also include a few new restaurants to boot. The most prominent restaurant to be launched was Michael Symon's Roast to strong reviews and positive word of mouth. Michael Symon is a meat kind of guy and the restaurant is heavily slanted toward the consumption of meat stuffs. After hearing good things from friends, Maureen took me there for birthday dinner last summer and we enjoyed the experience and the food quite thoroughly.

It was with some trepidation that I returned to Roast last night with Maureen and our buddies Stephanie and Reid because since the last time I had eaten there, Michigan has faced ongoing tough news (GM declared bankruptcy shortly after my inaugural Roast dining experience) and the global economy hasn't taken a strong turn for the better (despite what the stock market shows) with Michigan and Detroit bringing up the rear. I was nervous last night that we would show up at a restaurant slowly slogging toward death, half-empty, with the wait staff clearly attempting to steal silverware and plates before the lenders show up to repo whatever copper wiring was left in the walls.

Somewhat to my surprise on a Sunday night, Roast was packed and apparently still going strong. This brought a degree of optimism to my hardened heart that splashy openings and stories of renovation aren't necessarily destined to insta-failure in the Motor City. Granted, the story of the new Book Cadillac still has a ways to go before it plays itself out, but my dining experience last night actually moved my mind away from assumed catastrophe, and I like that quite a bit. The only thing I didn't like was when Maureen and Reid attempted to spike my water with salt, the only reason being I had to pee three times during the dinner because I had too much water to drink. My astute observational skills prevented me from ingesting salt water, and I will begin planning my revenge immediately.

This isn't meant as a review of Roast, but I, and my fellow diners, have loved everything I have eaten there in my two visits. I say everything because the sides at the restaurant are crazy delicious. We decided last night that we'd like to go back soon and have a meal entirely of side dishes. I'm still not sure how is it possible that with the millions of variations of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese I have eaten in my life, I can eat the Roast variations and have such a strong positive reaction. If you have never eaten brussel sprouts (they're Maureen's favorite vegetable, which is evidence to me that she is crazy) and would like to put a toe in the brussel sprout pool to swim with Maureen, there is surely nowhere better in the world to eat brussel sprouts than Roast. You'll just have to take my dining party's word on this one.

The meal can get a little bit on the expensive side, but you need to treat yourself every now and again if possible. This made it a little more surprising to me how busy the restaurant was despite "the dark times." I hope that I am not forced to eat my brussel sprouty words if the restaurant goes under in less than 12 months' time. I think we're all pulling for the success of the Book Cadillac and further hard evidence that trying to make things beautiful within the dilapidated is not a waste of time and money.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joe Cool

With Christmas comes people returning home if they live far away from home and fleeing from home if they live there. This is good and bad in that it provides a great opportunity to see people who are more than a car ride away, but it also highlights how nice it would be if some of these individuals were around more often (related to my last post). Over the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with someone who I went to school with up to sixth grade named Joe, and when he is in town, we try to make time to go grab coffee or lunch at Panera or something like that. Joe and I were friends all through grade school and parted ways for about 15 years through divergent school choices. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we picked up more or less right where we left off. It's weird to go 15 years with only passing knowledge of someone, and then to return to a place in your mind playing roller hockey in his driveway for hours on hours without a hiccup.

Joe and I grabbed coffee this morning, and you know what? I'm more convinced than ever that Joe is a cool guy. This is true for many reasons, but the reason that sticks out to me is the unabashed and proud way he speaks of Royal Oak and Michigan. Joe currently lives and works in Virginia, a stone's throw from Washington D.C. (the place where jobs are plentiful and numbers are growing from an ever-expanding federal government), a place where many people desire living and the climate is more moderate than here. Despite this, Joe wants nothing more than to, sometime soon, find work and purpose back home.

To someone like me, this is incredibly touching and valuable. Over the past years, we have been taught to feel something approaching shame and embarrassment when it is time to tell others that we live in Michigan. You turn your eyes down in shame and feel like when you say "I live in Michigan" there's almost an immediate need to explain away our situation so as to avoid pity from our discussion partner. The bad news, the media, the economy, the foreclosures, the Detroit school system - they all conspire to take the pride away from our home. It really does make it harder than it should be to love Michigan.

And every once in awhile you talk to someone like Joe, someone who shares my point of view of pure love and appreciation of this state, and it reinforces to me again that I am not alone in a lake rowing in circles. I don't have to feel shame when I talk to Joe about our pros and cons, and I don't have any reason or need to explain to him why I choose to live here. He understands because there is nothing to understand. It just makes sense and my position is one of envy, not of pity.

Aside from my massive ego and need for self-indulgence, this is the real reason why I am still using valuable possible TV-watching time to maintain my weblog. My readership remains one hundred thousand miles from where I would like it to be (and even my rudimentary expectations are not that high), but it is more than worth it if it helps you to know that there are at least two other people in this world (me and Joe) who need no explanation from you. If this is your home, if this is where you would like your home to be, or if you stand up for Michigan wherever you are, we're with you, and we're glad to have you on the team.

One Year Later

368 days ago, baby Louis was born, and 357 days ago, Steve and I were on a plane to visit our new nephew in Minnesota. That's a whole bunch of days, a bushel of minutes, and just a ton of seconds. It was a quick year and it's hard to believe that Louis is already on his feet and moving around. It's exciting to see new life develop and even more exciting that pretty soon, I'll be able to teach Louis the fine art of crushing your enemies through sarcasm. We're going to have so much in common - our love of shoes and boxes, our hatred of Santa Claus, and our strong interest in putting our hands into our mouths.

It's also exciting that Gail and Jeff have now been living in Minnesota already for 2.5 years, and if things go according to plan, they'll be on their way back to Michigan in 2.5-3.5 more years. Residency takes a long time, and I guess brain studyology isn't as easy and requires a bit more training than whatever it is that I do. So on that front, the time thus far has flown by and I feel somewhat optimistic that we'll be able to spend more time with them in the not terribly distant future, and the time between now and then will go by somewhat fast. This is all good and well, but the biggest heart pain I feel now is that even though this time is moving by quickly, this time is moving by just too quickly. It's hard for me to comprehend simultaneously enjoying and fearing the passage of the time living away from loved ones - because you want the time to float right on by, but that just means that is time that you don't have with those people. Fortunately, we have Christmas and other holidays to all come together and remind us that the times between don't last forever. However, I still wish the times between didn't have to exist.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Local Celebrities

No, I'm not talking about me, but I can definitely understand how you could easily assume this is the case. My status as a local celebrity stretches from that wall I see over there to that wall behind me that I can only see if I turn around. Local is all relative.

The local celebrities that I have in mind today are the popular and omnipresent bar cover band The Killer Flamingos. If you live in southeast Michigan and you've ever been to a bar, there is an amazingly good chance you've heard of the band. I believe they have written some original music, but the odds of hearing that while out on the town are in the 0% range. I am fascinated by this group of individuals who seem to really, really love playing music at bars.

What interests me the most about them is when do you decide/accept that you've reached the apex of your fame? I think that they're actually quite a talented group of individuals and they do an admirable job of getting the crowd up and moving, with each member of the band representing a different stylistic stereotype from the 1990s. They've been playing music at bars as long as my legal memory goes back, and they're still playing those same bars today. Do the Killer Flamingos anticipate one day breaking into the more national scene, or are they fully content with adding a $5 cover to the local bar and continuing to play out their cover rock and roll hearts until they come to find that playing at the bar 6 nights a week is quite the commitment?

I don't want to come across as insulting because I admire people who put themselves out there for my entertainment, but this question (which is on my mind because of a night at the bar last night starring a particular band named after homicidal birds) is something with which I regularly struggle - specifically, when should you be satisfied with the success that you do have, and when is trying for more success counterproductive? It's not easy to pick the right level, and once you try, you constantly second guess whether or not you made the right decision. Which is why tonight I announce a casting call for my brand new bar cover band, the Flamingos of Killerville, featuring Ken.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wheel of Fortune Makes Me Feel Dumb

The same thing with crossword puzzles. More than most of the time, I think of myself as someone who is probably way smarter than you. Way, way, way smarter. This feeling of general superiority lasts through most of my day, up until the moment I try to do a crossword puzzle or if I happen to catch a show that combines the concepts of fate, words, and boring personal stories.

The thing that really gets me about crossword puzzles and Wheel of Fortune is that people who I can pretty objectively prove are my intellectual minors are hundreds of thousands of times better than me at these word games. I'll look at a puzzle like "_ombination Mi_rowa_e and O_en" and if you granted me all the time in the world, I would not be able to figure it out. Maureen suggested that maybe this means I'm not as smart as I would like to think I am, but that sounds like an absurd notion to me. My brain has no flaws except for my inability to make words with letters, and lots and lots of other things.

While I am taking an in depth look at Wheel of Fortune, do you hate prize puzzles as much as I do? These make me furious. There is no way that the contestants should get the value of the prize puzzle toward their aggregate "winnings" over the course of the show. Give them the prize, give them the money they won fair and square during the puzzle, but absolutely do not count the cost of the trip toward their total winnings. The prize is often on the order of $7-8K, and this is way more than any individual typically wins in any given puzzle. I wish someone would do a study to figure out what percentage of people who win the prize puzzle go on to the bonus round. My guess is that it is somewhere on the order of 70-75%, and that does not leave enough fortune up to the wheel.

Now that I'm thinking about the bonus round, how much does this suck these days anyway? Man it sucks. They claim that somewhere on the mini-wheel there is a prize for $100K, but I can't remotely think of the last time someone opened up the $100K envelope either in victory or in crushing failure. It's always the stupid $25K, $30K, or car that there is no way they can possibly prefer over the money envelopes. Stop playing cheap Wheel of Fortune. Unlike most people, though, I can not fault Pat Sajak or Vanna White for their completely undeserved level of fame and (assumed) fortune. If I could make bank by pressing a square of light, I would ride that horse until it bucks me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Crazy Ideas #10 - Trick 'Em

It was been almost an entire year since the last time that I had an idea. I think there is a strong positive correlation between how many ideas I have and how cold it is outside while I am running. The colder it is, the more I need to try to distract myself from my face slowly turning to ice, so there is a tendency that more really stupid things pop into my mind in the winter. When it is warmer outside, all of my focus is on trying to get my body into bikini-ready shape, so unfortunately there is almost no time to worry about single-handedly saving Michigan. This week was particularly chilly for December, even though I wasn't around for a fair amount of the cold.

My most recent crazy idea is an enhancement and update of the tax credit for first-time home buyers. If you don't know, if you have your contract in place by the of April, close on a home before June 30th, and are a first-time home buyer, the federal government will give you $8,000 for free. If it's not your first home, you can still get $6,500 if you meet a couple of additional conditions. This is a national program and is good in every state. In many regards, this plan has been a pretty solid success (at the very least, there is some pretty hard evidence that this tax credit has driven quite a bit of movement in home purchasing). Realtors love it because homes are actually selling, home buyers love it because it is some free money without which they may have not been able to buy a home, and it does some to be assisting with shrinking the glut of houses available on the market.

With all this in mind, I propose that the state of Michigan add a little boost to this national program if you a buy a house in Michigan - maybe something on the order of 1 or 2 large. This plan will help to solve two major problems:

1) Reducing the significant quantities of abandoned and otherwise foreclosed homes in the state
2) Trapping people who might one day want to leave the state by making it way harder for them to do so (insert evil laugh here)

Everyone agrees that one of Michigan's biggest problems is ongoing population decrease and brain drain for all sorts of reasons. If you can successfully trick people into buying a home here, they will be way more inclined to try to figure out how to make things work here rather than there (wherever there may be). Brilliant, yes. Also, vacant homes are problems for many reasons, including depressing property values, increased crime, and being generally depressing.

The next natural question is how to pay for all this. My initial response would be prostitution, but I don't know how you would go about accounting for income from prostitution for tax considerations. Borrowing can only take you so far and some would likely say that borrowing for a reason like this would mortgaging our children's future or "robbing Peter to pay Paul" (I've always wondered about this metaphor. I'm pretty sure it refers to the apostles Peter and Paul, but why would I rob from Peter or Paul to pay any of the apostles. I'm pretty sure the apostles were in a volunteer-type sort of business and their CEO, Jesus, would not be a fan of his lieutenants taking any sort of kick backs or payment. They're apostles, for God's sake. I think this metaphor works way better as a reference to Peter, Paul, and Mary, because even though they were hippies singing about civil liberties, they still wanted to get paid), but I'd be willing to mortgage my children's future. Then, they can mortgage their children's future and so on until Haley's comet collides with plant Earth.

I think what could have been a legitimately decent idea if it had been implemented earlier would be to use some of that sweet, sweet free TARP money we got to act as a Michigan-specific addendum to the federal housing credit. I'd rather lock up some population in the state than to have better painted lines on the road.

Home ownership, despite the major national real estate problems, remains a big part of the American dream, so we could help to make that dream a reality here in Michigan.

And no, this has nothing to do with the fact that we're looking to buy a home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Travel Dining

99.9% of the time when we read about something interesting to see or buy on the web, the only option available to us is to catalog that thing away in our minds with the ultra slim possibility that we remember that we read about that thing some time long ago. I find this particularly true for me when I read about a restaurant or watch various chefs do their thing on Top Chef. I think it would be very nice to eat most of the food that they are creating, but I will likely never be wherever they are, and in the instance I am where they are, I will not remember that I ever cared in the first place.

That is why I found it pretty neat when I read this post in Slashfood about the former Google executive chef and chef to the Grateful Dead, Charlie Ayers. He left Google several years ago with probably billions of dollars in stock options and just recently reemerged with a restaurant called Calafia right across the street from Stanford University. Hey, that's only about 5 miles from where I'm staying right now, so I hopped in the mustard yellow Ford Focus (peculiarly, parked next to the exact same mustard yellow Ford Focus), drove 5 miles down Camino Real, and found myself dining moments later at Calafia. The best part of this is that I typically agonize for 45 minutes or so when traveling for work about where I should eat on any given evening, and by the time I decide, it's well past dinner time, and I feel guilty that I could have just had an apple and made it to bed but instead I eat a large pizza. On the way home some guy who looked like Tiger Woods was following me, but I don't think it was Tiger Woods because he was driving an old Toyota Corolla, and he wasn't in the process of sleeping with one of ten women who isn't his wife.

Despite my normal focus on Michigan, I would like to strongly recommend the restaurant Califia in the event you accidentally find yourself in the downtown Palo Alto area. I had a turkey meatloaf with swiss chard and ginger yams, and man that was a delicious plate of food. There's not much in life better than a plate of meatloaf and potatoes, and this one certainly ranks up there. I returned home, quite full, and parked my rental car back next to the identical mustard Ford Focus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm Going, Going, Back, Back

California here I come - I'll be spending Wednesday through Friday this week in the Golden State for some work-related things. I don't love California half as much as many people do, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the two best things many people say California has going for it:

1) The weather
2) In-N-Out Burger

Regarding the weather, I was a little disappointed to find that it is going to be 50 and rainy in the Palo Alto vicinity. I can get that kind of weather just about anywhere in the world, so that benefit of the trip seemed to fall away quickly. However, when I checked the Michigan weather, I was fairly surprised to see temperatures plummet into the 20s with some high probability of snow. Then the question that arises is 50 and rainy in California or 20 and snowy in Michigan? I think California gets the win on this one at this time of the year - it's not that I don't like the cold and snow, it's just that this seems a little extreme for this time of the year.

On the next point, I am regularly conflicted by In-N-Out Burger. Every time with only minimal fail that I go to California, I make a trip to this fast food establishment for a double double meal with grilled onions. I like the burger and my time at In-N-Out, I really do, but I can't help but feel that this place suffers from its lofty (exaggerated?) hype. People who hear you are going out west always emphasize "you have to stop here" and people near In-N-Outs seem to enjoy them as well because they always seem quite busy. I more go now out of habit and obligation to eating meat than anything else, but I'm just not convinced that it is the greatest fast food burger place out there. Some might say its minimalist menu is a highlight (the secret menu does not count - I don't think getting another meat patty or additional sauce , but sometimes I'm in the mood for a good chicken sandwich or even a cup of chili. There is also the unique quality of being able to do something there that I can't do here, but I didn't get gay-married when I went to California and it was legal just because I couldn't get gay-married here in Michigan.

If anyone cares to comment (probably not), what are your views on In-N-Out? Better than the rest or just a pretty good place to stop on the way to the airport home? Keep in mind that if you do comment, you owe me the standard 50 cent comment fee.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Reflections on Meijer

It has been a few days since I last sat down to write as it has been a pretty busy couple of days, so I bet you are excited to hear what I've come up with after all this time! Are you in for a treat today....

First off, how is it possible that the Meijer at I-96 and Middlebelt has Edy's Ice Cream not on sale for $3.86 and the Meijer at Haggerty and 8 Mile has the exact same product for just a shade under $6.00 also not on sale. Is it a demographics thing? A few years ago Edy's downsized their ice cream containers by several ounces but kept the prices on the items the exact same. This terribly angered both my sister and me and we contacted Edy's directly to demand an explanation about these shenanigans. We both received the same form letter saying that commodity prices had increased so significantly that it was critical for Edy's to either increase the price of the current product or downsize the product and keep the current price. After much testing, they decided on their current route and that we should go sit on it. They also included a couple of coupons for .50c off our next Edy's purchase, but my rage about this issue has not subsided through the years.

Last year with the crash of the stock market and real estate values, commodity prices also fell significantly. In my heart I knew there was no chance, but I considered the possibility that Edy's would decrease the price of their new smaller containers or increase the size. Of course this did not come to pass, but I wanted to hop back on the ringer with the good folks at Edy's and try to figure out why their explanation about their ice cream pricing did not work both ways. This is not the way business works and again they would have told me to go sit on it, but I always had a dream that I would get on the phone with some customer service representative and really let him/her have it. Now it appears as though Edy's has actually done something to align the price of their product with the price of their raw materials, but only if you shop at this one Meijer. For this $2/container savings, the Meijer on Middlebelt is now the only choice for me.

While on the subject of Meijer and other grocery stores, how is it possible that U-Scan technology does not work with the speed and efficiency of They-Scan technology? It's not that we're idiots, it's just that the scanning machines suck hard at the U-Scans. I dream of the day when I can pass my groceries over the glass pane with the speed and devil-may-care attitude of the regular cashiers.

And finally, how is it possible that the signature machines at the U-Scans possibly count as any sort of legal tender. Sometimes I write K-+-asdfAfasldfjasdflkj as my name (or so the screen approximately reads) and this is enough for American Express to grant me credit? Every time I sign one of those things I'm struck by the sheer terribleness of the technology.

I lied before when I said "and finally" as I'm clearly not done yet. How is it possible that two breads next to each other have a sell by date that differs by more than a week? Whenever I purchase bread, even after a thorough search, I fear that I have bought the bread with the closer sell by date, and that fear lives with me until mold starts to inevitably form on my bread. In addition to this, it adds minutes to my day to search through the various loaves in a vein attempt to find the one with the best expiration date. Same thing with milk.

Why does Cape Cod popcorn not come in even slightly bigger packaging options? Is everyone who eats Cape Cod popcorn a little person? Popcorn by itself is not a filling snack (though quite yummy), and I don't want to buy multiples of any snack just so that I can feel I have been snack-satisfied. At the very least, Cape Cod making corporation, give me a couple of size options.

Is there any way to keep the bottom of every single milk jug from having milk coating the bottom? Maybe they could just swap out the solid metal shelves for some wire shelves to allow for drainage of gross exploded milk.

I spend significant quantities of time thinking about Meijer. I still believe it is without a doubt the greatest store in the world, but I would be willing to consult for this Michigan-based grocery wonderland just to help to clean up a few of the loose ends.

And you waited four days for that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seeking Some Stability

Times feel most confusing when you can't even get a grasp on how confusing things are. Two very confusing things happened yesterday just to remind us that occasional signs of stability we seek and find were probably never there in the first place. First, CNBC came out of nowhere at around 4:15 to report that the former largest corporation in the world had just parted ways with its CEO (to make way for the third new CEO in one year - 5 years ago this would be the most shocking thing that could possibly happen in the business world) and even earlier in the day, TNT announced that they were canceling their legal drama Raising the Bar starring Mark-Paul Gosselar. If Mark-Paul can't carry a dramatic series, I don't know who can.

Saved by the Bell references aside, I'm so very weary of change. The departure of Fritz Henderson has approximately zero immediate impact on my life, but it's just another variation of the expected that I could have done without. So obviously Michigan reached a point in time where the current status was years past unsustainable, warranting extreme change, but I don't think it is unreasonable to want nothing to change ever again for all time. Maybe I need to take this a step or two farther and say I wish we could go back in time like 4 years and then have nothing ever change again. Perhaps best of all, I could be ruler of the universe and determine what is allowed to change and what isn't allowed to change. My aging? No dice. I'll stay 23 years old me but I will allow personal career progression so that I can be 23 and have a halfway decent income. Do you want to have a baby? Clear it with me first. I'll probably say yes, but you'll first need to provide me with a business plan laying out the NPV of your baby.

This me as emperor of all things vision is about as unrealistic as TNT un-canceling Raising the Bar and change is also what makes life fun and exciting, but for now it just feels like too much in far too short a period of time. Change is fun because it is different from stability, but what happens when you forget what stability means? Anything loses its luster with time and repetition, and it's no fun when the thing that is repetitive is that nothing is repetitive.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Curious Case of Cobo

Lucked upon this article over the weekend in The Free Press (I'm not sure how I would possibly have anything to write about without this fine publication combining freedom and presses). The piece focuses on what, specifically, should happen to Cobo Hall with the planned $280 million dollar expansion. I found it particularly interesting because for some reason I always assumed that this expansion would include "bigger, grayer, with an extra dose of even more dreariness and a slightly bigger opportunity to rip on Cobo."'

I imagine most of the money will be used on some of the critical updates like trying to keep the rain from falling inside of the building. That is always a good goal with a building and one that Cobo has failed at over the past few years. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to do away with the carpet on the main floor of the building. I don't really need a whole bunch of patterned squares, each reminding me that I'm in COBO.

Some of the ideas mentioned in the article along with some of the corresponding mock-ups do seem like pretty fantastic variations of the most auto show-holdingest convention center in the land. The included pictures of the Boston, New York, and San Diego centers go quite a long way to really help me understand the opportunities that exist if we could get Cobo Hall right, or even closer to right. The article also mentions that the building is on the Riverfront, and yet does nothing to take advantage of this prime water frontage. There is so much that I assumed about this location, this building, and Detroit's general inability to make a legitimate splash, I completely closed my mind to some of the prospects that could make for a very cool building and another foundational block on which to slowly rebuild the prime areas of the city.

This post isn't intended to be funny or even all that clever. I just find it amazing that two days after reading ideas about Cobo, I'm still surprised by how my limited mind was not even capable of conceiving of something different for Detroit. What I'm saying is that even I am surprised by how short-sighted I can be.

Friday, November 27, 2009

3 Thanksgivings

Do you remember that movie from last year where those two Hollywood actors had their Christmas vacation flight canceled and they had to go to celebrate FOUR WHOLE CHRISTMASES? That's OK, no one saw or remembers it but it does exist. What an insane premise. How did those two Hollywood actors survive FOUR WHOLE CHRISTMASES?

This Thanksgiving marked our first holiday as a married couple and we hit the dinner-littered road with enthusiasm and excitement. This first married Thanksgiving consisted of three gigantic meals that began and finished over the course of 6 hours, and three sides of the extended family. The food hasn't yet started to work its way out of my system, but I coordinated my Google Calendar with Maureen and I have the majority of tomorrow blocked off just in case. I'm pretty sure that the rest of my life is going to be like the movie Four Christmases Minus One except Maureen will not be married to Vince Vaughn and the people at the family gatherings will actually be funny and interesting. We are very lucky to have family with whom we actually like to and look forward to spending time. I am really not a fan of "Things I'm Thankful for" declarations on and around the Thanksgiving time of year, but I must this year be the most traditional and cliche of all to again reflect on how grateful and undeserving I feel to have an old family I love and a new family I love. We are also fortunate that most of these people either live relatively nearby in Michigan or make the effort to return home for the holidays. The multiple meals and family events also gave us the opportunity to take in a pretty good portion of southeast Michigan, as our route is roughly outlined below (with names and addresses changed slightly to protect the innocent so that no one actually has to admit that they know me or spend the holidays with me). Here's to a long life of family, friends, and at least three holiday meals per holiday.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Return of My Pet Peeve

For as long as man as spent time in the great outdoors, idiots have refused to quarantine their domesticated dogs. The explanation for this is simple and with no nuance - these people are idiots and most of them should be maimed by other dogs on the loose.

Today on my neighborhood walk I was charged by no less than three dogs who were outside of their homes with minimal supervision and attached to no type of dog-holding rope-like device. Fortunately the sum total of the weight of these dogs was roughly equivalent to my left leg, but that does not mean that any one of these dogs did not have the capability to puncture one or both of my testicles. And I need those.

My mother, sister, and I have been charged by dogs a sum total of probably 150+ times over the last 5 years, and every single time the dog owner is near the charging dog they say the exact same god damn thing "my dog has never done that before. Oh I'm so surprised." Every single god damn person. My sister was mauled by her own puppy when she lifted it up to protect it from a rottweiler that was attacking her and her dog. My parents have one super dummy neighbor who I'm pretty sure does not read my blog who had a dog killed by a car because the dog ran into the street and the man refused to leash his dog, and this dummy still does not leash his dogs and they continue to run into the street after us whenever we pass by on a walk or run. It is devastating to lose a pet, and equally devastating to kill someone else's pet because they are too freaking stubborn to leash their god damn dogs. The reason this is so maddening is because I am not exaggerating when I say that every single person reacts the exact same way and says the exact same things when they realize that their dogs are not actually humans and do not behave with rational thought. Add that on to the fact that three dogs tried to beat me up today and it makes for a frustrating reminder of why I sometimes hate people so very much.

My message is simple - your dogs are not as smart, trained, or controlled as you think; therefore, LEASH YOUR GOD DAMN DOG YOU ASSHOLES.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fine By Me

After people, pets, and TV, nothing is more important to me than dessert. As far as dessert goes, my hierarchy (why I may have written about before) goes:

ice cream > cake > cookies > brownies > cupcakes (a lesser version of cake) > donuts > cheesecake > sweet breads > puddings (including bread pudding) > souffles > fruit > pies > tarts > anything savory you dare try to serve me for dessert

I call this my controversial "almost everything is better than pie and tarts" theory of dessert, wherein I enjoy most all kinds of dessert more than pie and tarts. It's self-explanatory, sure. If you are lucky enough to have me over for a dinner party, don't think I will shun whatever pie or tart you put before me for dessert (though I will spit up on you if you try to give me something savory), it's just that almost everything is better than pies and tarts.

That is why I am not very concerned about this - America is about to undergo the most serious canned pumpkin shortage since America started canning pumpkin. The article says that markets are well stocked with pumpkin right now, but if this is of concern to you, FOR GOD SAKE MAN GO BUY PUMPKIN! The one area that this is of more significant concern is for this recipe. It's like what pumpkin pie should taste like if it wasn't originally invented by people with no tongues and appreciation for dessert. The upside to this recipe is that if pumpkin is unavailable, you could do peanut butter, chocolate, and pineapple - all of which have been greatly enjoyed by my family at one time or another. Another reason I'm not overly concerned about canned pumpkin shortage? Here is my pie hierarchy:

Pecan > Boston Creme > Blueberry > Oreo > Apple > Chocolate Creme > Key Lime > Cherry > Peach > Lemon Meringue > Banana Creme > Coconut Creme > Sweet Potato > Pumpkin > Rhubarb > Mince Meat (chicken pot pie rules all but does not count in this comparison)

The only way to convince me I'm wrong is to make and serve me the pie of your choosing. Go ahead, I dare you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ever so modest Improvement

For this first time as long as I have been alive (untrue), Michigan's unemployment rate fell between September and October from 15.3% to 15.1%. That's the kind of massive improvement we can all get behind!

In other news that is still bad but slightly better than you originally thought:

The Detroit Lions, worst team ever, have a legitimate chance to defeat the Cleveland Browns but will still probably lose.

The city of Pontiac finally has the Silverdome likely off of its books, but at the fire sale price of around $500K. I did not know that I could have been a legitimate bidder for the Silverdome. Why did no one tell me? Can you imagine the kind of things someone could do with an arena this massive at the age of 27? You got it, laser tag.

Michigan football will probably have several scholarships removed and remain impotent in collegiate football for years, but it's OK because Rich Rod quickly filed the missing practice logs.

Kwame Kilpatrick remains the worst person ever born but may be forced to pay his restitution to the city. I hate you Kwame. Hate is when you actually wish damage and suffering upon a person, and I can say that I legitimately wish damage and suffering upon Kwame; therefore, I hate him.

GM is almost certainly still going to move many of its employees out of the RenCen (boooo) but will probably retain a "significant" presence in the building thanks to the almighty tax credit.

The Tigers suffered one of the worst collapses in baseball history this year but will freeze ticket prices for 2010, so you still won't be able to afford to go to a game but next year you won't unafford it any more than this year.

Your mother left not because of you, but because it turned out she was a lesbian.

Your mother's new girlfriend left your mother for your dad because it turned out she was a heterosexual.

I don't know if my concept held throughout the post, but it's close and I don't care. I'm going out to celebrate a 0.2% employment improvement.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MSC and U of M

Or Mary Sue Coleman, as those of us who are close buddies call her (close buddies referring to people who have never been closer than sitting somewhere in the Big House during commencement) was named the 3rd best university president in Los Estados Unidos. I apologize that I have become somewhat list focused over the past few months. What makes the matter even worse is that they're not even lists that I'm inventing. It's more like I'm list-reference intensive of late. Is it a sign of laziness or lack of creativity? I would like to think not, it's just that I have come across lots and lots of Michigan-related lists over the past couple months.

The write up of MSC focuses on her fund raising prowess, specifically her leadership in guiding and mostly finishing a massive fund raising campaign for U of M prior to the economic crisis in Michigan and the rest of the states. Mary Sue and company raised approximately $3.2B to fund university activities between 2000 and 2008. That's a lot of cashola (that looks like another inappropriate word) and an impressive feat to be sure, so maybe she deserves her very high ranking in the world of university presidents (painfully, the guy from Ohio State was declared #1).

The one thing that kind of bugs me near the end of the article is this quote:

Coleman also wants to help prop up nearby Detroit, where the school has just launched a "semester abroad" for students. "We have a responsibility," she says, "to use our strengths and our economic muscle to help with Detroit's recovery and resurgence."

This, too, is a good sentiment, but from my experiences at U of M, it really feels like too little, maybe too late. Feel free to disagree with me on this subject and I would like to hear your thoughts if you do, but I can only speak from my own experiences and feelings on this subject. Michigan was a great school and I will forever fondly remember my experiences there, but it always seemed like U of M collectively felt better, separated, and above the rest of the state and Detroit in particular. Sure, the school would annually sponsor some sort of "Project: Detroit" day where people would go and paint depressing walls in Detroit with less depressing colors, but aside from individually or other group-motivated service projects, U of M stood alone in the economically and socially isolated pseudo utopia of Ann Arbor.

There are likely many reasons for this - Michigan has a very broad national and international draw beyond some of the other state schools so students from elsewhere go back to elsewhere when they are done, local students who go to Michigan seem to have more wanderlust than other local students (again, my feeling) and therefore care less about the long-term viability of Michigan and Detroit, or people in and around Ann Arbor believe that Ann Arbor can remain infinitely successful independent of what is happening around them. That's the joy of the university economic system, right? To get a good job, people have to get college degrees, so colleges can, in lock step, continue to increase their tuition, and students have no choice but to pay whatever is required for their education. Universities can continue to grow and fund research because students have to keep paying and paying and paying, and university towns can theoretically flourish indefinitely, so who cares about the neighbors?

In all of the time I spent in and around the various Michigan campuses, I heard many speeches about social responsibility, but I never felt like the University of Michigan felt like it was part of the state of Michigan and had any responsibility to the well-being of its home state. There were no "we give you a scholarship, you try to find a job here or pay us back" programs, though I do know several people who had their educations paid for by the state or the University and felt no obligation to even consider sticking around. Much of this is on the individuals, but the University has an obligation to at least try to make a case. I also would disagree with the argument "well, look at the local job market. Why would anyone agree to look for a job here." Right now, sure, but there was a time not very long ago when Michigan had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and was top 10 in average personal income. If some of the brains had stuck around or even been encouraged to stick around, just maybe efforts would have already been in place to moderate the bad times before the bad times were upon us; intelligent people working on creating new businesses, industries, whatever creates and maintains jobs.

Maybe I'm wrong and U of M has always cared deeply about Detroit and Michigan, or maybe now U of M realizes the error of insufficient local concern and will use its intellectual and financial muscle to craft a new future. Maybe (somewhat) publicly funded universities have no responsibility to the public funding them and my entire thinking here is out of whack. It seems that Mary Sue agrees, now, that U of M does have a broader responsibility, but it is upsetting that historically, one place that I love seemed to care so little about another place that I love.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Happening and I'm Missing It

Big news, fans of crappy television. A collection of stars from Days of Our Lives are spending a part of this week in the greater Detroit area. Part of the week is for charity, and part of the week (Friday and Saturday) there is some sort of talent competition to get a part on the soap. This part is likely even less than a walk-on role, but I am crushed that I was not made aware of this earlier so that I could have better planned my life around participating in the talent competition. The number of talents that I have is genuinely amazing. I did it all in grade school - 3 weeks of yo-yo here, 2 months of magic there, pogs for a few seconds, a dalliance with juggling, an enduring appreciation for the piano and saxophone, and an encyclopedic knowledge of television.

In the past, I have made no secret of my appreciation for Days. I know that it is terrible, and yet I have seen at least 95% of the episodes over the last four years. In today's new media economy, it is increasingly difficult for soaps to make a profit for their networks so I may have to soon face the devastating day where Days of Our Lives is yanked from the air.

Instead of waiting in line to participate in the contest to earn a role in this great show, I'll be going to the stupid Bruce Springsteen concert followed up by the terrible open-bar auction for my Time Magazine featured high school. The only upside to this is that when I won the contest and the role, I would most certainly be elevated to cast regular and, soon, #1 fan favorite. I don't think it would be as easy for me to perform my exercise routine to the show while I am simultaneously fathering 3 children to 2 women - one of whom is in a coma and the other of whom put the first one in that coma. Life is complicated.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Biden Knows the Score

You know what's weird? When I type into Google "Joe Biden Coney Lafayette Freep" no where near the top of the search results is the link from The Free Press about the story I wanted to write about right now. Technology is fantastic, but sometimes even Google fails me. This one in particular is kind of crazy because I know EXACTLY what I'm searching for and even the website I am looking at, but still no luck. I don't want to go through the hassle of some of the power user searches like "inurl: freep.com Joe Biden Coney" - my basic search should be sufficient so don't think I'm unaware of the tricks of the trade. The point of all this is thanks again to John on the West Coast for sending me the link in Facebook, otherwise I wouldn't be able to find my precise search.

Two days ago on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph Biden made a stop in Detroit to participate in a couple of fundraisers in Detroit for Gary Peters and Mark Schauer. After those, he joined our governor lady Jennifer Granholm for a Coney Dog at Lafayette Coney Island. Joe Biden's presence at the fundraisers isn't that big of a deal, but what does matter is that he made the right choice in Lafayette Coney Island.

Pretty much every show that in any way profiles the city of Detroit spends some time on the fabled Lafayette Coney Island vs. American Coney Island rivalry. They are two locations of hot dog selling attached in the middle and they have stood that way for decades. Most people who have eaten at these places always return to the same restaurant and refuse to even consider the other location. I'm a Lafayette guy, and it's good to see that Joe Biden agrees. I wish no ill will on American, but in the event of a tragic Barack Obama circumstance, Lafayette Coney Island would become the default coney dog of the United States of America.

Having refused to ever enter American, I did not really know the difference in the two dogs until just last week when the show Man vs. Food hit the Motor City. The host, lovable eater and general guy-next-door look-a-like Adam, ate at both places and spent a minute explaining the differences between the coneys. As it turns out, American uses a "greek spiced" Chili that is less meaty, and also uses sweet Vidalia onions. Lafayette, on the other hand, uses a "meatier, more traditional" chili and spicier Spanish onions. I got to say, I prefer Vidalia onions, but on a coney, noting is more important than the chili. Lafayette has the more traditional and meatier chili, so I'm confident that my blind preference has been upheld by Man vs. Food and Joe Biden.

Futhermore, Lafayette is where I had my non-encounter with Jerome Bettis, so that is another point for the grey lady (that's the name I invented for Lafayette Coney Island and nothing else in the world uses, thus enforcing my creativity).

While on the subject of unformed meat product, Steve told me yesterday that in parts of upstate New York (and maybe elsewhere), Sloppy Joes are called "Michiganders." I am not sure if this is true, but Steve hasn't intentionally lied to me before, so if I get sued for this controversial fact, I can plead ignorance. Actually I can't because ignorance isn't a viable legal defense, but whoever would sue me over Sloppy Joes would be a total jerk. What are you, the father of the Sloppy Joe?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thoughts on Bob Dylan

Far be it for me, Bob Dylan ignoramus, to attempt to review the concert that I saw on Friday, but the fans (my aunt-in-law) have been clamoring, CLAMORING, for my thoughts, so here they are.

1) A whole bunch of people yelling "How does it feel" is way cooler when Bob Dylan is actually on stage than a bunch of drunken morons at the bar. I like the drunken morons at the bar, but it's still cooler with the writer of the song performing the song on stage.

2) I'm pretty sure the lead guitarist for the band would be able to house me at Guitar Hero if he ever played Guitar Hero. I'm pretty good at that game, but this guy seemed like the kind of person who would really be able to shred the plastic axe.

3) I'm convinced that 50% of the time, Bob Dylan was often not even attempting to generate entire words. What was coming out of his mouth resembled words, but they seemed to lack the correct order of consonants and vowels.

4) My whole concert-going group was surprised at the sheer intensity of most of the music. All the songs were a very hard blues verging and encroaching into full-on Rock and Roll. I think we were expecting an old guy playing a jug and waxing poetic about folk music in spoken word. This was not at all the case and it was a bit surprising.

5) Finishing with All Along the Watchtower made me wish that Battlestar Galactica had 4 more years on the air. Congratulations to all those who know what I'm talking about. You are way cooler than everyone has told you throughout your life.

6) Way less guitar playing from Bob D. than I would have anticipated. I heard that he is suffering from some bad arthritis, so he played keyboard and harmonica for much of the show. Actually, only one guitar song from him. I guess arthritis is inevitable if you're 68.

7) People seemed very in love (with each other) at the show. Quite an abundance of hugging, kissing, rubbing, touching, etc. I had no idea that people reacted with so very much love to the music of Bob Dylan.

8) I need a powder blue suit coat and matching wide-brimmed hat

If you don't have a specific aversion to the guy, even if you don't know the music well at all, I would recommend a Bob Dylan concert to you with 3 "How does it feels" out of 4. If I could have understood more of the words, it would probably have reached the coveted 4 "said the beggar to the thieves" out of 4.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A New Approach

Tonight, I'm going with my family and Maureen to see the Bob Dylan concert at the Fox Theater downtown. Jealous? Yeah I'm not sure if you should be.

The thing is, I don't really know all that much about Bob Dylan and if pressed, I could probably name about 5 Dylan songs on a good day. I can tell you that he looks like a ghost come to life and that his voice has a...unique quality to it. Maureen and I saw a very, very old video of him and I was shocked to see that he was actually somewhat handsome once upon a time but his voice even at this young age sounded like a wheezy fart. Someone I regularly work with said this is a typical Bob D. lyric:

"I dhhht knaa wahh yuuve bee toll .... do yooo? Yoo uss to tal ou loaa ...." That sounds about right to me.

Tonight marks the start of a new approach to my life. If I have the opportunity, privilege, and means to see or do something, why not? It's not so much carpe diem as much as I need to stop sitting around in my sleep pants when I'm not working. I've tested the limits of the phrase "you can only watch so much TV" and I disagree with it, but I do think there are more things out there in which to participate. Today, then, marks the first big test of my new life approach - going to see a musician in a live show who has a specific appeal and I may not fall in that specific group and his shows are known for being fairly hit-or-miss. But hey, it's Dylan and I'm alive, so why not?

Here's a cartoon. My apologies for the Priceline commercial at the beginning. I'm trying to decide if the obviousness of the concept outweighs the humor.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Case You Were Wondering

Statistics are a very tricky thing. Anyone who has taken basic or advanced statistics is immediately introduced to the concept of a sample vs. a population, and how to properly account for a population using a sample. Sometimes you have to put an additional symbol over your mu, sometimes you have to put a straight line over your x or a hat above your p - most all of these things are an attempt to say "we don't really know for 100% certain but this is a good approximation." This is all I learned from essentially three years of statistics related classes. I also learned about all kinds of new symbols that can be added to the standard alphabet.

Because statistics are a tricky thing, it is difficult to say whether 7,000 people are enough to indicate anything other than the specific statistics of these 7,000 people. There are all kinds of rules and methods to try to use a representative sample, and then additional rules and methods to calculate whether this sample is close enough to representative and what type of resampling may be required to keep working on the sample size. And so on.

For all these reasons, what I'm about to tell you doesn't really mean anything, but I do find it somewhat interesting that this study of 7,000 people tells us that about 10% of people between the ages of 25 and 45 are virgins. Men who attend church weekly are five times more likely to be virginal and women are 3.9 times more likely than those who are having sex instead of going to church. What does this mean? Nothing. Nothing at all. Why do I waste your time with this information? It gave me an opportunity to show off my vast knowledge of statistics. Most importantly, I just made approximately 10% of you feel a little bit better about life.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The World is Over is Over

Yup the good times are here again. Yesterday, Ford reported a profit for Q3 2009 of just under 1 billion dollars and today Ford and GM reported sales increases month-over-month comparing last October to this October. I think these two things are evidence enough to allow Michigan to return to its wasteful and uni-industry oriented ways. Long live the motorized carriage!

I guess the question now is how stupid are we really, as a state? I fear there are more than some who believe that the cyclical nature of industry will suffice to pull Michigan out of our economic swine flu and that if we just continue to trust in the almighty auto industry prosperity is bound to follow forever! One small (and by small I mean major) piece of evidence that we are still idiots is that the UAW rejected their proposed new contract with Ford that would make Ford a much more cost competitive firm. There are many UAW Ford workers who work outside of Michigan so it's not all our fault, but if bankruptcy isn't evidence of an unsustainable business model, I don't know what is. While Ford didn't technically declare bankruptcy, they did borrow $30B before the credit market died and this is the sole reason that Ford didn't have to declare super duper bankruptcy. It would be just plain stupid for anyone to think that everything was and is OK with that company and that the existing contracts are good for Ford and "the people". It's hard to defend unions, even for a fan of the working man, when the people somehow believe that they can get paid if their company doesn't exist. The logic just doesn't work. I will always love you Michigan, but sometimes you are as dumb as Dude, Where's My Car? (which I paid to see in the movie theaters. I also paid to see Pootie Tang)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Magic

The TV machine has been filled with images over the past 2-3 weeks of a spiffy new device called the Motorola Droid. The Droid is a cell phone machine that enables people to use the telephone while not connected to a phone line. Perhaps making more news than this new cell phone machine is the catchy but not-too-saccharine popular music song that runs during the iDon't portion of the advertisement before it is rudely interrupted by the television machine advertisement for the phone machine. I know it is hard to keep track of all the ins-and-outs here, but I have confidence in my readership and our collective intelligence . After a little bit of internet machine searching, I discovered that the singer/songwriter of this song is a woman my age born with the name Maureen McDonald in Detroit, Michigan. Her artist name is MoZella and she seems to have some sort of soft spot in her heart for Michigan because the name of her second album machine is Belle Isle. I guess she's had some degree of success because the Wikipedia machine tells me that she has toured with the likes of David Matthews and the band of said David Matthews. Way to be from Michigan, Maureen.

Enjoy the song in its entirety right here from the YouTube machine. I promise it won't be interrupted by any gadget machine commercials.

Here's to U of D High School

Facebook was filled yesterday with former classmates of mine linking to this story that is currently featured in Time's special Assignment: Detroit feature. Awesomely, this story is about the greatest high school in Michigan, if not the galaxverse, The University of Detroit High School and Academy Established 1877. The year after I graduated, a guy named Drew started a popular cheer that went "Give me a T - T - Give me an H - H - Give me an E - E - Give me a U - U..." and so on until the entire fan base had spelled out "The University of Detroit High School and Academy Established 1877." The cheer took several minutes to complete and most often people forgot what part of the cheer they were spelling, but it was OK as long as Drew kept his focus. As great as the school was and is, they didn't discourage us from idiotic cheers.

Another name for the article could have been "Why Catholic Central is a Bunch of Pussies" - ZING CC

Ah, just a little bit of lingering high school rivalry against a school that has generally vastly superior athletics (but is filled with pussies - ZING).

I'm a white suburban boy, born and raised in the 'burbs, but aside from my family, nothing shaped the person that I am today more than my experiences at The High. The statement that resonated most strongly with me in the article is how the school, which remains inside the border of Detroit despite dropping enrollment and White Flight in the mid-1900s, allowed surbanites to cross over scary 8 Mile and better integrate with the great city of Detroit. Admittedly, the school remains in a safe and well-kept area on the outskirts of Detroit, but the school lived and breathed Detroit. Students volunteer thousands of non-compulsory hours every year to service projects in and around the city - donating and delivering food, cleaning up parks, standing fast against Russian communists, all sorts of great things for the city. The administration, faculty, staff, and students hold so much pride in regard to the simple location of the school. We stand with our city for no reason other than choice. This city birthed the school, and the school chooses to stand with its sexually ambiguous parent of Detroit.

It's impossible to really begin to hit on every thing that makes students and alums feel their high school is special, but the Time article is a decent place to start. Cubs are not known for being particularly fierce, but they do love their mommy. Someone decades ago must have known that if the school stayed in the city and Michigan went through some crazy hard times, years later Time Magazine would write an article about it and, eventually, allow me to write this post. That person is the true hero here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Why, L&O?

Law and Order is a show that is now, has been, and forever shall be, story driven. I like Lupo and Bernard as much as the next guy, but in the 400 years that L&O has been on television, they have solved one zillion cases, thrown at the viewer two zillion twists, and that guy who voiced Lumiere was a star for more than a few years. Lumiere! It was amazing watching them integrate a candelabra week-in/week-out. It was nice for someone to finally break through the candelabra glass ceiling that has been so very prominent in TV through the years. Sure there was always that subplot that if his wicks ever burned down he would suffocate and we couldn't Be His Guest, but that just made the show that much more exciting! That Lumiere sure could sing, though. I miss Jerry Orbach.

I just can't understand why this season they have introduced the undercurrent of Van Buren's cancer. I have seriously seen every single episode of L&O (most multiple times) and I can't remember a single time where they had some sort of ongoing personal story arc like this. When they killed off police officers or DA's after they had been on the show for 1-5 years they would forget about that by the end of the freaking episode. Detective Green was on the show for oodles of seasons and the reference to his departure was "he something something police something". That's about as much explanation as they gave his character.

I find it very depressing and completely unnecessary to incorporate the personal story of cancer into the show. I also find it upsetting that this problem I have with the show has caused me to say cancer in back-to-back posts. I know that they're setting up for some sort of Benjamin Bratt return and it will likely be related to Van Buren's cancer, but let's get back to supermodel murder, pawn shop suspects, and in the end the supermodels younger sister did it because she wanted to marry the husband of the supermodel, kill him, and then take the life insurance policy of her sister and her new husband. Cancer just makes things too confusing.


According to this article from Time, Michigan is the nation's number one grower of blueberries. Congratulations Michigan! Of course, Time is just jumping on the bandwagon from my award-winning post On Blueberries that I wrote back on August 13rd. Award-winning is not exactly an accurate statement in that it is not at all accurate. Of course, this article focuses more on the fact that one of the Michigan farms that grows our nation-leading blueberries utilized some variety of illegal migrant and child labor, but that's not that important when you consider all of those delicious balls of blue (hehe) our state produces. If children are required to lead the nation in this category of blueberry production, I'm all for it (for the purposes of any future political career, this is where I must unfortunately say that I am against child labor because of humor shortages across the land).

Here's why I think it's OK that children are picking our blueberries - the antioxidants. I know that when I was younger (and less younger as in today), it was absolutely impossible to work with food without eating mass quantities of that food. As a result, you end up with a bunch of children who are probably cramming their faces with blueberries in the hopes of turning into that girl who turns into a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And what comes with all of those blueberry-stuffed faces? Antioxidants and whatever antioxidants may or may not provide in terms of positive health effects (people claim they help with cancer and coronary heart disease - help meaning the reverse of help in this situation). If anything, we should put more children to work in fruit and vegetable fields. In Michigan, we can parlay our blueberry leadership into leading the world into a future of a cancer-immune human through illegal child labor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Poor Decision Making

This is just a short little story and people have lots of these kinds of stories, but this one is pretty funny. Maureen was shopping at Meijer today (which I continue to believe is the greatest store of all time) and was stuck in line behind an individual who was also making some purchases. This kind of thing makes sense because the person in front of her was at a great store like Meijer and was also at the cash register, so that is a natural time to be making purchases.

What is less natural, though, is a combination of things about this person. She was using a "bridge" card, which is government subsidized food assistance parsed out in monthly allocations, and the amount varies by an individual's circumstances. So when you put all this together, the person in front of Maureen was purchasing cigarettes and crab legs. The bridge card does not work for cigarettes, so this component of the purchase had to come out of the customer's hard-earned cash reserves. I'm not a fan of the cigarettes but I understand and appreciate that people are addicted. What I do not understand or appreciate is why this person who is on government assistance was spending $65 on crab legs. Do you know how many boxes of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese you can buy for $65? Somewhere between 65 and 130 based on the day. We are in a recession and this person receives the equivalent of food stamps, so I am genuinely amazed by how much she must really love crab legs. Crab legs and blue spandex sweatsuits. Feed my family for a month? Screw that, I'm having two ounces of nearly impossible-to-access meat tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Get on the Barge or Get Out of the Way

Yes, friends, when kickball season ends, there is only one appropriate way to celebrate - 23 scoops of ice cream of various flavors, covered in toppings of several varieties, and piled together onto a green plate. They call it a "party barge" and it is $25 of severe tummy troubles for those who suffer from lactose intolerance. If I was forced to choose between hepatitis and lactose intolerance for me, I don't think it would be slam dunk that I would choose lactose intolerance. I have no idea in what unfortunate situation this type of decision may arise, but they are doing many good things with fighting hepatitis these days. Steve, Brian, and I would like to think that we were being generous when we purchased the party barge for our party of 11, but really we just wanted the opportunity to eat as much ice cream as we could handle and then drink whatever ice cream and topping soup remained at the bottom of the barge (or the "bilge" in ship parlance - see, you learned something today).

I'm proud of our kickball team this year. It was a far more competitive league and we ended up at around .500 ball after starting the season with a whole bunch of bad losses. Our team of ragtag kicking misfits really rallied and pulled together as a group and started playing some truly fundamental kickball - taking the extra base, advancing runners, knocking over opposing team's beer cups that are carelessly resting on the playing field. Way to go guys and girls!

On to more important things, specifically the party barge, you really need to consume one of these things. We bought this one from Rosie O'Grady's in Ferndale - a really beautiful remodeled bar and restaurant at Nine Mile just off of Woodward. I read somewhere that they recently completed their multimillion dollar renovation and upgrade, and it is an impressive and tasty place to eat party barges. I have no affiliation with this establishment, but I have got to appreciate a restaurant that is investing millions of dollars into itself in one of our many fantastic downtowns to beautify itself, the area, and of course just maybe to generate a little additional revenue. You would think 23 scoops of ice cream would be reason enough to eat somewhere, but no, they also offer 1/2 off pizzas on Monday night. That lactose intolerance thing again. If my stomach wasn't what it is, I would be writing this post from the toilet right now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Further Evidence that I'm a Jerk

Today work was at my parents house instead of the usual locations because it sounds as if someone has installed a lawnmower in my laptop. It is the most annoying computer-related thing I've ever encountered. Every time the fan turns on, the entire computer starts to vibrate and make a noise that you could easily hear from across the room, if not on an entirely different floor. The computer works fine, but that sound, oh that sound. I've started to do things that I convince myself will fix the computer like "punch the fan area on the computer really hard" with the hope that repetitive punching will convince the fan to stop making noise. Not only does that risk serious actual damage to the laptop, it makes me look like an idiot punching my computer in the same place over and over again. I have a new fan module coming tomorrow so hopefully that will fix the problem, but in the meantime, my mom's laptop is the one spare computer I can get my hands on during the day.

Just moments ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table doing some coding, and that always-annoying mid-afternoon phone call came with the extended pause between me saying hello and the person on the other end of the phone saying hello. This almost always indicates some sort of telemarketer, and I think I may have written about something similar a few months ago (bonus quiz for my great fans! - have I? and if so, what was I talking about at that point because I have no idea). A split second before I hung up I got the broken "Hello?.....Mr....Ag......(seriously failed name attempt here)." Since I'm at my parents home, this person was referring to my father who is at work, so I had the joyous privilege to cut the person off halfway through the name attempt with a curt and clearly annoyed "I'm sorry he's not here." At this point I was feeling pretty superior and ready for the quick hang up, and this is exactly the moment when my opinion of myself took a painful and enduring hit.

You see, the person on the phone was calling on behalf on one of the Multiple Sclerosis Societies, thanking my dad for his support and to let him know his "packet" was on the way. This also means that the person that I was angry at for the delayed telephone response and terribly botched name was almost certainly a person with MS. Yes, I was feeling superior and smug talking to someone with multiple sclerosis because this person had slight trouble pronouncing my family's last name. Wow, it is not easy to recover from something like that. Why don't I just go outside and kick a homeless person or push over someone's wheelchair with that person still in the chair? I finished the call as cheerfully as possible, embarrassed and ashamed by my lack of patience and understanding. I wish I had a better answer when I think "what is wrong with me?" I also wish that I didn't have to ask myself that question so often.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Life is Unfair

Yesterday morning, I got home around noon, put my feet up, and watched TV for the next several hours. Pretty much everything went according to plan - I finished my run for the half marathon in less than my ideal time, my mom and her friend did great, I saw Maureen and my dad cheering, and I had the chance to cheer for Craig at the 26 mile mark. My stomach was not too upset at the end of the race, and by 5 o'clock, Steve and I had washed away a great quantity of our television backlog. It was a great day - the city of Detroit was alive, the sun was coming up as runners crossed over the Ambassador Bridge, the race was at maximum capacity, and people local and less local were celebrating life and health without any fear of Detroit. No fear of getting there early, walking around the streets to the starting line, running through the heart of downtown, and taking it easy on those same streets on the way back to everyone's cars.

And 3 people died.

These were people of different ages from different places running the half marathon, and they passed away at various locations along the race course. The medical examiner can not yet conclusively declare the cause of death, but each event was likely an unfortunate heart attack or a latent heart condition that manifested itself from the exertion of the run. It is impossible not to feel terrible for these people and their family and friends, and their passing is incredibly tragic. No one has died at the Detroit Marathon since 1994, and then this year on a nearly perfect day for running it happens three times. Not only was this a human tragedy, but also a geographical tragedy. Everyone is tied to the news of their locale, and here is yet another instance in which, through no likely fault of anyone, anywhere, the city of Detroit, state of Michigan, and their beleaguered people are again seen through the negative lens. There is no way to fight back or dispute the facts, just to again sit and wait for the jabs.

This morning I was listening to Howard Stern, who I believe has a firm appreciation for human life and does not take news like this lightly, but he quipped about how fast he would be able to run the Detroit Marathon just to get out of the streets (ha........ha) - another opportunity for those who do not live here and understand the acuteness of the local struggles to take some unobstructed pot shots at Michigan.

These are the types of moments that are utterly depressing to me despite my generally optimistic demeanor. A day of cheer and enthusiasm, replaced by tragedy, enhanced by insult, and what is left is completely undeserved shame. Why must I be made to be feel bad about my accomplishment and my home on a day of positive action?

With all that said, I don't really have a conclusion. Sometimes things just suck. When things suck, I am heartened by the vision of my wife asleep on the couch, TV with Steve, dinner with my family, the thought of the next video of my godson and his parents, and chasing Echo around the garage. Maybe I do have a conclusion from all this, though it is not at all original. I could write it out, but I'd like to think it is pretty clear, and I'm glad I figured it out before I hit "publish."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cheer for This Guy

Less than 36 hours from now marks my annual dalliance with exercise - running the Detroit half marathon. That is far less impressive than running an actual marathon, but for the time it suits me quite well because I only have to train minimally and the negative post-marathon effects are non-existent. I can also enjoy the excitement of the complete event with half the displeasure, and I get to keep all my toenails.

However, my good buddy Craig (seen above) is running his first complete marathon this weekend. Go Craig! He's a real runner and is hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, so he will actually be trying hard. It's also cool that he could have done his first marathon in Chicago or somewhere like that, but he stuck with his home state and Detroit. It will be difficult for me to give him the appropriate amount of encouragement because I will likely be in the Port-A-Potty after I am done with my portion of the run, so it is up to the internet community that I have founded and adores me to cheer Craig on through the finish line. If you already are heading downtown Sunday morning to cheer for family or friends, please feel free to add Craig (and to a much lesser extent, me) to your list of people who's name you should yell loudly when you see that person. If you don't already have plans to go downtown for this purpose, what's your problem? Get downtown.

To give the perception that I write more than I actual do, I am going to cut and paste the entirety of a long marathon post that I wrote last year about the marathon experience in Detroit. It's funny because there are some things in there that are less accurate than they used to be, but that's OK because no one read it then, and no one will read it now. But look at how long it is!!

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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Internet Has Failed You

I've been on board with the internet since late 2008 when my brother showed me a video of a fatso singing along and dancing to a German song. You can send a letter without a stamp, see a live view of the official times of the world (and broken out by time zone!), and check sports scores all the way out in California. What a Golden Age in which we live.

Information is valuable and nothing provides information better than the internet. One type of information is news, and one well-known and mostly reputable news source is cnn.com. This site serves me well for the most part, but tonight down at the bottom of the main page in their "From Our Partners" section there was a link to people.com with the title "24 TV Characters Who Turn You Off". I admit, I was somewhat interested by the article because I'm a big fan of TV, and the phrase "Turn Me Off" was intentionally luring. Do these characters make me angry, turn me off to the show, turn me off sexually, or something else? Intriguing premise, and so I clicked on. The first character that popped up was Izzie from Grey's Anatomy. I have never watched nor will I ever watch this show, but this one made sense to me because lots of people these days seem unhappy with Katherine Heigl. I glanced at the description and clicked through to the next character who is Mohinder Suresh from Heroes. "Yeah," I'm thinking, "I see where they're going with this. Mohinder sucks." I clicked through to a few more characters with an increasing disagreement with the characters outlined by People.com, until I realized that every character and the description of why they "turn you off" is written by someone as stupid as me - as far as I can tell it's just regular people describing characters in 2-3 sentences and why they don't like the character. People.com took feedback from people, put all the feedback in a hat, and then pulled 24 names from this hat, put together a list that requires you to click through 24 times to see it all, and it is all from idiots. One such jewel from one idiot named Drew, seriously, is "I can't stand Miss Piggy." Really, People.com? And more importantly, really, Cnn.com? Linked from your main web page? Really?

I know there is a lot of stupid stuff out there on the web, mostly because you are reading something stupid right now and I have been writing stupid things for over a year, but this is the most stupidest thing I have ever had the displeasure to read, enhanced by the fact that I was connected to this terrible, terrible list through Cnn.com.

#1 on my list of internet thingies that Turn Me Off - this list from People.com. I'm having trouble controlling my anger just thinking about it. I feel both tricked and betrayed, with a hint of abused.

And I love Miss Piggy, so screw you Drew.