Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rally 'Round the Sparty, Pocket Full of, uh, Sparty

Tradition dictates that Michigan Wolverines do not like Michigan State Spartans. In simpler days, I would have said something like Spartans are inferior to Wolverines at everything but farming, drinking, and jealousy, but those days are behind me. There are not many people out there who lean toward sympathy, empathy, and understanding for the Great Lakes State and its residents, and it's no longer worth maintaining any type of real or imaginary feud with one of our few remaining allies. When times are flying high in our state years down the road, I will rejoin the ranks of the anti-Spartans with far more appreciation for having the leisure of focusing any time or attention on booing another in-state school.

I say all this, of course, because the Spartans are coming home to Detroit to fight for continued national glory in the Final Four this coming weekend. It is not as though a Michigan State victory will cure any of the ails we face or otherwise improve any of the real issues we encounter, but in more difficult times, any victory or piece of good news takes on so much more importance. It is fascinating to watch people from all collegiate walks of life banding together in Michigan sports bars and homes to cheer for the Spartans in the hopes of some success to add a small light to the gray.

I'm proud of Michigan State and genuinely happy for the students and fans that continue to follow the school through all of its basketball success. I don't think that college or professional sports actually mean anything of significance or that I'm saying anything deep right here, but with all the significant and painful battles currently on the table, I'm semi-permanently forgoing the pointlessness of this one and officially jumping on the MSU bandwagon. Go Spartans! Win one for Michigan.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Of course you are all waiting on pins, needles, and other conifers for my thoughts on the BIG news of the last 24 hours, and here it is:

I, too, am outraged that state gas prices have risen 8 cents in the last week. What am I, made of gold?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gauging my Devotion

A pleasant and talented young chap named Matt Giraud is representing Michigan in the final 9 of the juggernaut we all know, love, and are sucked into the immense gravitation force that is American Idol. The good news is that he's legitimately talented and I don't have to throw blind support behind him simply because he is from Michigan. Here's where it gets complicated - in American Idol terms, support really only means voting for the person. Long ago when I started dabbling in the black arts that are American Idol, I swore to myself that I would never, ever participate in any variation of voting in this show.

"Dude, you watch American Idol?"
"Yeah, but it's cool, I don't vote."

Yesterday, Matt was in the bottom two and barely avoided elimination this week. This would have been disappointing for a number of reasons, but mostly because he definitely did not deserve to be in the bottom two based on the performances of Wednesday night (and the last few weeks). So begins the mental anguish of internally debating whether or not to pick up the phone and vote for the man, at which point I will have to sacrifice my firstborn male son per an earlier compromise between God, Satan, and Simon Cowell.

The Craziest F#@king Thing I've Ever Seen on TV

Late tonight Steve and I were catching up on an episode of Lost from Wednesday night, and without giving anything too specific away, there was a room full of people and one of these people was all like "blah ba dee blah blah blah ba dee Ann Arbor." WTF??? Ann Arbor???? I missed it the first time around and Steve was like WTF and then I rewound it and he was right and I was like WTF!

I know that Lost has had some loose ties through the years to the University of Michigan, but this one was crazy and halfway knocked me out of my chair. I've been following the show relatively closely since its debut, and I would personally like to thank the creative team for incoporating the maize and blue into a clearly significant portion of the show's mythology. Ann Arbor. Kick ass. I'll always remember it - "blah ba dee blah blah blah ba dee Ann Arbor."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Craziest F#@king Challenge I've Ever Heard

Again for the three of you who frequent my website, I know that you read about this and immediately thought of me. This assumes that you were not already thinking about me, which I admit, is not a good possibility. There's quite a bit to think about when thinking about me, so it could occupy more time than you're comfortable admitting. That's ok.

Long story big, the Grand Rapids Whitecaps, a minor league baseball team, proudly announced the Fifth Third Burger (named after their ballpark) this week. The burger is 4,800 calories, 1 and 2/3 pounds meat, 1 pound of bun dough, and I think an elephant takes a crap on the burger or something like that. Yes it's quite a few calories, and yes this one food item contains about 4 times the amount of my recommended sodium intake in a day, but have you ever felt a greater calling in your life, and just knew that you had to do something? People are called into the priesthood or to give their lives to community development, and I am called to eat this burger. I have to devise a game plan (as an aside, the movie The Game Plan featuring The Rock was called Maxi Papa in Spain for some non-translatable reason), and this is no simple undertaking. Someone who successfully eats the burger in one sitting gets the burger for free (otherwise $20) as well as a free Whitecaps hat and shirt. I'd rather have a shirt with a giant talking burger on it.

I may be over-inflating my eating abilities, but I am not particularly impressed by the size or scope of this burger. I'm pretty sure I've eaten this much weight, easily, in White Castle sliders at a few different times through my adolescent development in one sitting, and while I didn't feel perfect afterward, it was quite a quantity of foodstuffs. Nay, my biggest concern is truthfully the calories. As someone who regularly battles my hunger cravings and fluctuating weight, I know that I can eat no more than 2,500 calories in a day if I want to maintain my weight - even with my regularly running and workouts. On top of that, I'm trying to keep my weight down pre-wedding and bikini season is right around the corner. This burger would be my only allowable meal for almost two whole days, and there's no way I could make it through the second day without eating something. I don't need to eat the whole burger by myself, and this could be a great opportunity to get out and see Michigan and some minor league baseball with friends and/or loved ones and drop $20 on a burger to share.

This is a great marketing ploy by my friends on our west coast, and it may just have a desired affect of drawing me in to see some baseball. If they could combine a simultaneous viewing of Battlestar Galactica with burgers, baseball, and Michigan, I would much more seriously consider permanently setting down roots in Grand Rapids.

The Craziest F#@king Thing I've Ever Heard

This is a less funny version of a segment that I've stolen from The Colbert Report, here's an example.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Craziest F#?king Thing I've Ever Heard - Barreleye Fish
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Sometimes, crazy things strike you as hilarious, other times crazy things sort of stop you in your tracks, and there are those rare times when a story just seems too crazy to be true. Here is one such story The Detroit News pointed me to. In a small western Pennsylvania town of about 1,700 people called Ligonier, two brothers were forced to close down their auto dealership under the weight of the recession and declining automobile sales - something with which we are all too familiar. This could have been one of those stories where it is a melancholy reflection on the decline of the automobile industry and the impact on people in large towns, small towns, and employed by major corporations. Instead, it is a like a bizarro-world version of Where the Red Fern Grows where the boy kills his first dog, then the second dog killed the boy for killing the first dog, and then the second dog sets itself on fire, running through the corn fields setting them ablaze and destroying them before passing, and a whole field of red ferns grows over the disaster setting.

The older brother, Gregory, went out to his dealership in the middle of the night, set fire to several of the cars, and then had a heart attack as the burning continued. I don't know how one self-induces a heart attack, but assuming the attack came about in the natural way, this is a crazy coincidence and the model example for future generations for going down with the ship. The younger brother, Randolph, was found in his car, thought to have committed suicide that very same weekend.

This is an incredibly tragic story, and I don't have much to add to it other than when I read it for the first time, it seemed far enough out there that I was 85% sure it was entirely fictional, plus it enabled me to half-swear on the internet. I'm a trailblazer of inappropriateness. Today when I woke up and still had it on my mind, it was automatically elevated into the "worth mentioning category" so here it is. Suffice it to say, I do not believe this to be the solution to your problems.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Enterprising Youth

Except for the fact that they don't approve of you or 95% of the things that you enjoy, they say that western Michigan houses the key to our future - unique companies in industries that have more growth potential than some of our more traditional industries. I'm sometimes skeptical regarding the promise of western Michigan, that is until I read things like this.

A 23-year-old from KZoo figured out how to scam Apple into shipping him about 9,000 iPod shuffles, and then he turned around and sold those shuffles for less than retail. He would give Apple a prepaid Visa number that would be rejected as soon as Apple eventually tried to cash in on the inventory they had just sent him, and then, for some reason, they would just let the situation slide - over and over again.

Unfortunately for this young man but fortunately for justice, this guy has been charged with fraud and money laundering. This is another one of those times where you have to be impressed by his enterprising spirit, and a little bit bummed that someone who clearly has some business ability and intelligence opted down the less-than-legal path. I don't know what's in the water in Michigan's west, but apparently it allows you to guess serial numbers for products so that you can make undue profit from those guesses. Naturally, a few questions have to come up from this story - how long did he actually think this ride would last, what the heck took a "smart" company like Apple so long to figure out the scheme, and at what point does someone take a look at himself in the mirror, furrow his brow, and decide "evil genius"? We will likely never know the answer to this and many of life's other questions, but we do know that it takes a stupid cartoon owl three licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Finale and My Verdict

It was hard to focus my mind on too much over the past 7 days. First, I spent a few days thinking about the Battlestar Galactica series finale on Friday night, then I spent two days avoiding any information about the show and thinking about eventually watching it, then I used two hours to actually watch the episode, and finally, a few more hours to reflect on the results and think about how much I'll miss the show. Man, I am going to miss this show.

Late last night, Steve and I cobbled together enough time to watch the series finale, and I don't think I could possibly have been more satisfied by the show - the miniseries, its 4 running years, the webisodes, the made-for-TV movie, and the wrap up of the whole story. Much like Arrested Development, I hope that many people of the world accidentally stumble on a rerun in a year late one night, get sucked into the BSG world, and then spend the next 5 years telling me about this great show that you're watching and then quoting back lines or plot elements to me. I like the show so much, I won't even mind.

Without giving anything away to those who may one day enjoy the show, suffice it to say that the show makes me reflect upon my life and simply enjoy my journey more. Allow me to rip off a quote from James Poniewozik, Time Magazine's television critic.

That, to me, more than any part of the ending, is pure BSG, a distillation of why I love this series. What finally makes your destiny is not prophecy, not gods, not a certain set of coordinates and constellations. What tells you you have reached the place where you should be is that you journeyed there. You fought and grieved and loved, did the right thing as much as you could, did the wrong thing more often than you care to remember, and did the necessary thing as often as it took. You spent nearly every ounce of life and will and got somewhere with as many people you loved as you could bring along with you. You have expended yourself and provided for the next generation and are getting ready to die, and you are in your last place.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's my Liability?

Yesterday, local news sources reported that a live jazz supper club just inside the border of Detroit called Baker's may need to close down within the next few months in the event that they do not see a surge in business during these months. That is sad news, but not exactly out of place in this day and age. Baker's has been in regular operation since 1934 and has attracted some pretty big jazz names through the years to perform there. I often carry quite a bit of guilt with me, so what I've been wondering about is might there have been anything I could have done, in my own insignificant way over the past years to prevent this piece this unfortunate likelihood.

Baker's Lounge is located on Livernois Avenue, just a tiny bit south of 8 Mile Road, so it's barely even inside the city of Detroit. It's actually in quite a nice neighborhood with some surprising large and well-kept houses. Know how I know? Because I probably passed by Baker's Lounge about 1,440 times on my way to and from my high school, the University of Detroit High School and Academy. Over the course of those years, I never stopped into Baker's once, largely because I was not aware it was a famous jazz club.

Several months ago, I read a review in The Metro Times for the food at Baker's because they had updated their menu to a southern home cooking type of vibe and MT seemed to enjoy the food, especially when added to the jazz experience. On top of all this, I really like jazz music (as long as it isn't the incredibly unstructured and the aurally maddening type of jazz). After reading that review, I was convinced that I would find myself at the club sooner rather than later, and yet I still have not made the time for the trip. Clearly, something is wrong with me. I love food, I love jazz, and I love Detroit, so why have I never taken the time?

This is one of those issues we encounter from time-to-time when we are upset by something, but we don't do any of the things we could to prevent that thing. Am I even allowed to be saddened by its potential closing because I have never done anything to prevent it? Most importantly, would my patronage be far too late and in no way help the club or its owners? It's a disappointing situation, but I find myself even more disappointed that I have done nothing, big or small, to keep it from happening.

Michigan has lots 'o' problems, but one of them is that we (and absolutely I am included) spend too much time being bothered by things. Some of that energy would be far better used working on solutions. I don't know if Baker's is going to make it, but hopefully you and I can give it the probable last hurrah it assuredly deserves. So, who's going to solve this problem for me?

Come on CBS

Are you kidding me, CBS? I've waited 10+ years to watch Michigan play in the NCAA tournament, and now that they've finally made it after a very weird season and uncertain selection Sunday, you can't work out your HD television feed? I will have someone's head, and that person's name is CBS. I will never forgive you for this, and when I turn over 50 and I am finally in your desired demographic, I will refuse to watch CSI: St. Louis or The Ghost Whisperer's Daughter.

Update: You appear to have fixed your feed, but I still won't watch The Ghost Whisperer's Daughter. Maybe CSI: St. Louis

Much Later Update: Go Blue! Upon further reflection, I might consider giving The Ghost Whisperer's Daughter a shot in 24 years. I can't dismiss it out of hand just because it's a story about a girl who whispers to ghosts and I had zero interest in her mom. You need to have an open mind.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bargains and Bargains

Now that St. Patrick's Day is done, I can safely say with 100% certainty that I did not see my favorite commercial on all of television this season - and I am incredibly disappointed. I wait all year long to see this one commercial and if it doesn't come, it's like a kid on Christmas who has been waiting to see his favorite Christmas commercial and it never comes on because Santa is dead. Yup, a tragedy and exactly like that. You know the commercial, and it goes a little something like this.

We've got......
Bargains and bargains and bargains and bargains
And bargains and bargains and bargains and bargains
And bargains and bargains and bargains and bargains
And bargains and bargains and bargains galore.

It's for ABC Warehouse, and it's not just a store. I'm never sure what ABC Warehouse's deal is. I don't think it's a local company, but from the quality of their Gordy commercials, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to find out that ABC Warehouse is run out of my next door neighbor's basement and the commercials are taped in their backyard. Either way, St. Patrick's day will never be the same until this commercial makes its triumphant return to the television plasma tube filled with LCDs. There are certain things that make a holiday special and worth remembering, and I will remember this St. Patrick's for all the wrong reasons, mostly because the commercial Santa is dead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quit Your Belly-Aching, Melon Head

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! ‘tis a holiday I never have and never will fully understand, but celebrate to your heart’s content.

I’ve been trying to figure out my own reaction to the recent news that AIG planned on paying out $146M in bonuses to executives because “contractual obligations.” It seems like people of all persuasions are outraged by this disregard for taxpayer money. The news sources in Michigan - TV, radio, internet, and print - have certainly been quick to point out the double standard between the forced disregard of the “contractual obligations” to the UAW and the odd insistence on adherence to contracts in the case of AIG. Most of the articles I’ve read can present the case better than me, so here’s one such article from Daniel Howes of The Detroit News. I, too, think this whole situation is a little bit stinky, but that is not what I want to write about right now. No, rather I’d like to suggest that the state of Michigan appoint one or two individuals to the chief executive of the office Double Standards, Unfairness, and Complaining. I don’t suggest this because I think Michigan needs to do more complaining about unfairness and double standards, but we need to focus and coordinate efforts so as not to appear a state of raging crybabies.

Most people outside of the state are already angered by knowledge of these new AIG bonuses, and we can only make ourselves look worse by complaining over and over again that it is unfair. On top of that, we don’t need to continue to draw attention to our situation that other people already feel is a little bit nuts and undeserved. Even away from those who are close to the situation here, people are acutely aware of the different standards to which the automotive and financial industries are held. This is an opportunity for sympathy and understanding without having to directly remind the world that we think we deserve sympathy and understanding.

My loyalties are obvious and will always be that way, but I just don’t think the right approach right now is to stand up and yell “UNFAIR!” – especially if there is already agreement on that subject.

Friday, March 13, 2009

BurgerFest-O-Rama #6 - Town Tavern

So the journey continues, but I really need to pick up my game. If not for any other reason, it is increasingly difficult to remember the highs and the lows of the burger experience as the time from my enjoyment of the experience increases. I guess if I forget stuff, I can just make things up because you'll never know - which is why today I'll be writing about the world's first self-levitating restaurant that also cures cancer in downtown Royal Oak, Town Tavern. A few weeks ago on a Friday much like today, my brother and I headed to downtown Royal Oak for lunch together. Unfortunately, this will also be my first review that doesn't include firsthand pictures of the establishment and food. I took the digital camera, but unfortunately the batteries were as dead as batteries can be. How is it possible that camera batteries are so consistently out of commission? That was a frustrating start to the burger lunch, but I will make it back there and take a few personal pictures to add to the website and my archives. Here is a boring stock photo of the outside sign, as well as a picture of what it would look like if it had been taken with my brilliant sense of photography. I did live with a photography student two years while in college, you know.

The Town Tavern is part of a small family of successful and very well-liked restaurants in the northern suburbs, including the Beverly Hills Grill and Streetside Seafood. The management team has identified a method of making their menus seem both somewhat classy and within financial reach for a night out. They don't produce the once-a-year or the once-a-week kinds of restaurants, but maybe more like the once every few months. They feel like upscale but accessible establishments and attract a slightly wealthier clientele. Another not very useful and far too thin picture of the interior:

Those frames you see on the wall in this very thin picture are mostly filled with old-school Michigan and Royal Oak photographs. I like that quite a bit, and you will always win bonus points with me by reminding me of my Michigan heritage. The service is typically attentive and crisp, and they normally serve complimentary bread to the tables. For some reason Steve and I were not given complimentary bread, which made me sad because it tastes like exceptional crazy bread. Sometimes restaurants have rules regarding what necessitates free bread (like a particular type of entree being ordered), but these rules, if they exist, were unclear and thus frustrating. I was in the mood for some crazy bread.

For the burger on the lunch menu, it quite simply stated "Tavern Cheeseburger* Bleu, Cheddar, Jack or Swiss", at a cost of 10 units. They don't include the type of unit on the menu, so when I tried to pay them in Legos, they were super pissed. Steve and I both ordered our burgers medium, not exactly knowing if fries were included or what types of condiments or toppings came on the burger aside from the cheese. The burgers came out a little slow, but when they came out, we were starving and ready to dig in. Here's a picture of Steve waiting for lunch. Hungry!!!

When the burgers arrived, they were almost completely disassembled to display the pretty and fresh lettuce and tomato. I typically prefer to have my food pre-assembled, so when I pulled my burger open to add the toppings and some condiments, I was confronted with the weird situation that the cheese was 100% stuck to the top bun. I'm not sure how this happened, but I find I greatly prefer the cheese sticking to the meat. There is some mystical chemical reaction that takes place when the cheese is attached to the meat that makes them both taste better, so the cheese sticking to the wrong component was not preferred. Some quick hits -

Pros: Half pound of meat, very fresh seeming condiments, running-down-the-hand-juicy, fries included in total price, very good fries, we both felt very filled after finishing our lunches, pleasant ambiance making you feel like you have money even if you don't, Michigan paraphernalia always a plus, food looked picturesque (see above photo)

Cons: 10 units is very expensive for a burger and the dinner burger is 11 units, tomato was cut very think and overpowered the rest of the burger, cheese stuck in wrong place weirdness, while fries were good, they were relatively sparse on the plate, inexplicably no crazy bread included, having to assemble the burger myself led to very messy and non-cohesive dining experience (I think I went to knife and fork at some point which is close to a sin)

We enjoyed the Town Tavern experience and I feel great warmth for any restaurant group that has tentacles around Michigan and constantly works to raise the quality of eating options in the area. However, at 10 units for lunch, I have had (only when including BurgerFest-O-Rama) better and far less expensive options. I've had other foodstuffs from the Town Tavern that I thought were worth every penny, but if you know you're in the mood for a burger, I would probably recommend you consider another option.
Is it ironic that I grew up Catholic and posted about burgers on a Friday during lent? As your mostly true fact of the day, this "no meat on Fridays" thing was invented to prop up the fishing industry in the land of Jesus. Go forth and eat meat.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unite, You Idiots

Flipping through the digital copy of The Freep yesterday, I was directed to a different kind of blog entry from my old friend Zac B. at a website called WalletPop. Flipping through a digital copy of anything is extremely unsafe and includes me throwing my computer from hand to hand hoping that what is on the screen will eventually change. It doesn't work very well and can be very expensive. I have had a silly but fun internet feud with Zac over the months, but you may be surprised to know that I have actually had direct and cordial contact with him about a couple of different things.

This specific post from Zac is about an idea to work on turning the city of Detroit into a retirement community, mostly because of shrinking wealth and the extreme affordability of houses in the city. There are a couple of the customary digs in the post, but I appreciate that even a basher is willing to throw out some creative ideas for the benefit of Michigan's largest city. There are some reasons why this idea could work or could fail, but I was most interested by the comments left by readers in the post. Detroit's suburbs have a huge problem, and that problem is that we are full of idiots.

The comment section contains the usual amount of love and hate for the city and surrounding areas from locals and non-locals. None of that is too surprising, but what I genuinely hate to be reminded about is the way that many of the holier-than-thou suburb residents regard the big city. They genuinely hate Detroit, and appear to be largely misinformed on many of the ongoing issues in the city. Here is what you have to get through your head, jerks - you may live in one of the Pointes because your daddy's daddy invented the muffler or in Birmingham because your slightly racist parents fled the city during our fun with busing, but when people around the country and around the world think of Michigan, they think of Detroit. The connotations people put on the word "Detroit" have a greater impact on the way outsiders think about our homes and Michigan than anything else. Michigan will never be perceived as an attractive place to live for those with no ties or familiarity with the beauty of greater Michigan as long as Detroit is perceived as the craphole of the universe - I don't care how safe and beautiful West Bloomfield is.

Trust me, in no way am I saying that Detroit is ideal and its challenges aren't incredibly daunting, but there are a few areas of the city that are perfect in their own way, and more people who are working and rooting to improve the city than you may know. We are in a war of image and perception, combined with the pain of reality, so stop fighting the war for the enemies. Isn't this an incredibly easy concept? Do you want to attract businesses and bright individuals to the greater Detroit area and Michigan as a whole? Stop taking a dump on your city because that is all people know and will hear. This is the kind of post where someone can accuse me of being simple and that I actually believe that "if I only believe hard enough, everything will be ok." That is not what I am saying and if you think that about me, I genuinely hate you.

The Detroit city council seems hell bent on mutually-assured destruction, there are vast tracts of vacancy, and for a brief period of time, Detroit was affiliated with Kwame Kilpatrick. I get all that, but I am going to love and positively promote the city in spite of itself.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Important Milestone

For the first time, as far as I can tell, I am at the very top of a natural Google search listing. You may think that "We Are Of Michigan Blog" or something like that would shoot me to the top of Google, but you are wrong. That search gives number one priority to someone riding my coattails at http://wearemichigan.com. Isn't that insane? I can't even get the top search result with the name of my freaking blog. My new goal in life is to defeat "wearemichigan.com"

No, the exciting news is that if you type in "little people convention detroit" (as of this writing), my website is proudly displayed at the very top of the natural search results. No one ever finds me for the things for which I want to be found. People searching for information about mustaches in America, "Crazy people in Michigan", and "selabit definition" find my website, but it's not as easy for someone who is actually looking for my little piece of the web. I find that frustrating.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Crazy Idea #9 - 2 Solutions

Like that ball of rock and ice flying through the sky that will one day inevitably be the end of us all (some people call it Haley's Comet), the Dow and S&P 500 again streaked to 12 year lows today. I'm a solution kind-of-guy and while watching a few minutes of Mad Money today, I came up with two solutions to help bring the world out of the doldrums. One of the solutions is a big stupid idiot of which I am a fan, and the second solution may be incredibly stupid but I think is legitimately clever. Let's start with the first.

As regular readers probably know, I will be getting married in late summer. Weddings make for a great celebration through the combination of family, friends, and invitees out of obligation. One traditional element of the wedding is the giving of the gifts, where people who are invited to the wedding typically provide a gift that "covers" the cost of their attendance at the reception. It's a general rule of thumb and most people who have the means tend to stick somewhere within this guide. The gifts of home accessories and money help the newly-married couple start their lives together on the right foot, with the possibility of eliminating or paying down debt. It is a great tradition when you are getting married, and a slightly less great tradition when you are invited to a wedding.

One of the biggest reported problems in the economy right now is the cessation of consumer spending. Without consumer spending, companies can't grow, and growth is king of all. People are concerned about their jobs and are therefore reluctant to buy just about anything that they wouldn't deem an "essential". For things like weddings, though, people still do their best to pull out the stops. Because of this, I would like to offer everyone in the world an invitation to our wedding. I won't tell you where it is or specifically when it is happening, but I will provide you with an address to which you can send gifts (remember, you're on the hook now because you've been invited). Consumer spending will receive a much-needed shot in the arm, and it will be all for a great, the greatest, cause. I don't know how many Kitchen-Aid mixers or strainers I'll be able to fit into a kitchen, but I won't know until I try.

For my second trick of the evening, I would like to suggest an idea that combines the fun of taxes (sort of) with the excitement of a stimulus package. Tax season is upon us and American's are starting to look forward to their federal tax returns. Tax returns exist because we essentially pay too much in taxes to the government as a type of zero interest loan over the course of the year, and then the government pays us back after we file our taxes. The only online source I could find said that in 2004, the average federal tax return was $2,436 for early tax filers.

As a country, we have committed to borrowing $728 B as part of the formally approved fiscal stimulus package. Most of this money will come from China (just how did the Chinese get this much money anyway??) and borrowed from whoever else will be willing to lend. I have no idea what kind of interest rate the U.S. government pays on loans of this size, and that is one important piece of the information I am missing. What I suggest is that this year, all tax filers are given the strongly-encouraged (possibly forced) option of temporarily (for the year) forgoing their tax return as a real loan to the government, and the government will pay 0.5% less in annualized interest to its citizens than they would owe to foreign governments. Do you know what $2,438*300M is? That's right, $730.8 billion dollars. This would not lead to any growth in federal government beyond what has already been signed into existence, so those who are concerned about very big government are already screwed, so why not take the money out of our own pockets? Many people already think of their tax return as "free money" - to them it has been lost to the government and getting it back at any time is a bonus. I know more than a few people who do not use this money in the most intelligent way. I believe in personal responsibility AND big government (at least to the extent that, again, it's coming despite anyone's objections), and this seems to be one way to satisfy those who support personal responsibility and those who demand stimulus. If we expect other governments to believe that the U.S. will not default on its loans, we should exhibit that same level of trust in our own country. To steal a phrase commonly used by Jim Cramer - "Invest in America".

If we're going down, let's do it on our own terms.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Arthritic Thumbs

Tomorrow, we are expecting that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,400+ text messages between Kwame and Beatty will be unsealed for our simultaneous reading pleasure and dismay. It's hard to imagine what new pieces of information may be revealed within these text messages, and I'm sure Jon Stewart is looking forward to another field day. I await these text messages like a child on Christmas Eve because they are guaranteed to be absolutely hilarious and further evidence of just how sexy Kwame can be.

About 10 years ago when I got my first cell phone telephone (watch the Futurama movie Into the Wild Green Yonder) I would sit for hours and work on my mastery of the classic Nokia cell phone game Snake. I would steer my stupid snake around in a square using the 2, 4, 6, and 8 buttons eating dots and growing to the size of several thousand, if not million, pixels. It's hard to measure the length of things in pixels, so get off my case. There was a time when I would have the TV on in the background and I would be playing Snake for hours and hours. By the time that phone died, I was a top 10 Snake player in North America (by my own measure), but this excellence came at a serious price - to this day when I use only my thumbs for an extended period of time, I start to get the old Snake pain in my thumb joints. I don't know if I will ever truly experience a complete Snake recovery, and I'm trying to figure out how I can get insurance to pay for thumb braces.

With this in mind, does anyone else find it truly amazing that in either the second or third batch of released text messages from Detroit's Romeo and Juliet, there are still 1,400 text messages out there? That is a gigantic number of text messages, and this was before texting really even hit full steam. If memory serves me, earlier batches of text messages also contained around this number of texts - and this only includes the messages that are being officially released. How on earth did these two manage to generate so many text messages in such a short period of time? As a fan of efficiency, how much time did it take them to produce so much drivel, and what could they have been doing with their time instead of texting?

We must study their thumbs in a laboratory and learn how to cure those of us who suffer from less evil thumb-related injuries. I played Snake to bring my thumb reaction time into perfect harmony with my brain, not to find love at the local Motel 6. If we harvest Kwame's and Beatty's thumbs we can learn so many things about avoiding or treating repetitive stress disorders. Let's take this embarassment and learn something from it through a blessed combination of justice and science.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Greater Travesty

As I engaged in general snacking yesterday, I reached into our massive family bag of "Fruit and Nut" mix from CostCo, and pulled my hand out largely filled with a combination of peanuts and almonds. There are some specific occasions when I very much enjoy peanuts and almonds, but this event reminded me of another very similar disappointment experienced by many when they try to snack on another nut+something mixture - specifically, trail mix. This got me to thinking about which is the greater snacking travesty - not enough M&Ms or chocolate chips in trail mix or too many nuts in general in Fruit and Nut mix.

There is a minority of the population who feel that nothing chocolate whatsoever belongs anywhere near trail mix, and to those people I say I never want you anywhere near my very important and pertinent blog ever again. If you are staunchly anti chocolate in your trail mix opinion, I fear you are not good people and we don't want your kind around these parts.

Both of these imbalanced proportions are very upsetting for the happy snacker. The real sinner here is the nut lobby and their strong influence over whoever it is responsible for combining nuts with other goodies. We all know the real reason that we eat these two types of mixes - the not nuts. Really what we want is 95% other stuff, 5% nuttiness. You may be thinking that I may as well go ahead and make my own snack mix variant based on purchasing foods in bulk and combining these items to my liking, but then you clearly do not know me and my preference for complaining over finding incredibly easy and workable solutions. In the end, I just don't think it is possible to say which of these situations is worse because they are both pretty terrible. Maybe the better question is why I spent any time writing about this and, more importantly, why you spent time reading it. I think it is because we are all united in our stance against misproportioned foods. Furthermore, nuts are surprisingly high in calorie and low in deliciousness. We are the Lobby for Eating Smaller Nut Units To Snack (L. E. S. N. U. T. S.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Going Concern

The business news started with excitement today when GM officially reported its "substantial doubt" about its survival. I don't make the news, I just report the misfortune of it all. I've had back and forth discussions here and in real person face-to-face talking about the future of the four-wheeled mobile transportation unit, and I don't want to go down the path right now. There are those who take one side of the argument, those who take the other, and very few people who cross the boundary from one side to the other. I don't believe this official report contains anything new or different from last week or last December, but it appears to be in a more official format resulting in headlines and renewed fear. I don't expect people outside of Michigan or possibly the Midwest to care very much about any of this, and most people are happy to oblige and not care. At this point, I'm finding myself increasingly caring less (I could have used the word decreasingly, but then I would not be embracing some of the intrinsic redundancy of the English language) about the best solution, but I'm also decreasingly caring less (i.e. increasingly) about my desire for a resolution. It's like studying for a final exam in college and then realizing that you'd just be happier to stop studying and accept a worse grade.

My going concern is that the constant specter of fear for my home state I hold within my heart will prevent me from embracing and enjoying many of the things that life has to offer, and that millions of Michiganders are likely stuck in the same mental cycle. While historically people would argue that the solution would be to leave for California ($20B in debt!) or somewhere like that, our worldwide recession makes this a far less feasible solution. In a chicken-or-egg irony, if everywhere else was doing just fine, people would probably be purchasing more cars and naturally strengthening Michigan's future.

I'm no spring baby rooster at the age of 26, and this week's concern morphs into next week's concern, and that holds over to the following month, and then all of a sudden I'm 50 and never able to live free of some of these worries. It paralyzes life decisions like home purchases or planting a tomato plant because it takes tomatoes too long to ripen and things are changing too fast and maybe I would never get to enjoy my tomatoes. I come from a long and proud lineage of worriers and this can prove a very worthwhile and useful trait in preparing for some life events, but it can also slowly sap away life bit-by-bit when the need for worrying is above the fold news across the country and world.

No one knows when some of these concerns will ease or what form that easement will take, but until it finally does, I need to focus on not focusing. Despite the obvious bad that regularly lingers like a malignancy, most of us are lucky to have even more things that bring us joy and escape. Maybe it's time for a new weekly feature: "things that aren't terrorizing me this week." I kind of like that idea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Two for Tuesday

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to write about one specific thing in particular. Then, when I visited one of my favorite daily dalliances introduced to me by my brother-in-law Jeff, woot.com, I knew exactly how to steal something from their website today and re-purpose it for my needs. On this Tuesday, I would like to wish a very, very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of the most important people in my life - Maureen and my dad.

I strongly recommend that when you develop your network of loved ones, you do your best to coordinate as much overlap as possible between important dates like birthdays, because it minimizes things that you need to remember. The possible negative flip side to that is that if you miss one of these overlap days, you have now upset two people with whom you need to frequently interact, but then you just need to make sure that you absolutely do not make this error. In this respect, Maureen is extra good because her mom and my brother have only one day difference in birthdays between each other. I'm not sure which is more important - love or memory convenience - but if you can get both without having to choose, then you've won the game of life.

To start with Maureen and to add a dose of well-deserved sap to my blog - of all the people I have met in my life, I believe that she is truly the only one outside of my immediate family who will be able to regularly deal with me and my many quirks on a daily basis, while also forcing me out of my periodic idiotic ways. She's supportive, witty, bright, thoughtful, and beautiful. I am lucky to be marrying her and I couldn't be happier with the way things have gone over the past several years.

To move on to my dad - not many people could be more selfless for his wife or children than my dad. He seriously spent about 8-10 hours over the past weekends calculating the cost basis for mutual funds for tax season in which he and my mom have scrapped, saved, and invested for many years of my life at the detriment of their own personal pleasure. I haven't done much to deserve this level of unfailing support and assistance, but all of his children know and appreciate all of the things that he does for our family despite when we make fun of him about technology.

A very happy birthday to dad and Maureen and to all other people celebrating something on March 3rd. Next year for your birthdays, I'd like to give you a stock market that is 50% higher. How much do you suppose that costs?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not Sure It Matters

One of my favorite things to do since starting the blog is linking up to people with whom I agree, and mostly ignoring people with whom I disagree. In this wonderful tradition, I present to you a column from The Washington Post about the Detroit automakers. I think the guy is thoughtful and includes some points I had never really before fully considered - for example generations of people who strongly object to support are in their current financial and life positions as some direct or indirect result of the contributions from the U.S.-based auto industry. (here's another good supportive read, just as a reminder that not everyone outside of MI hates us)

At this point with the way the economy continues to go, I'm not sure if any of this matters. I'm reminded of last week's episode of 30 Rock when Tracy Jordan whips the world into chaos through an appearance on Larry King unfortunately timed with a major drop in Asian financial markets. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify who deserves to be saved, who deserves to fail, and if any of it matters. As far as I know, it is impossible for the stock market to go negative, so there seems to be a natural stopping point in the destruction of the global economy. I know I reference TV far too much (never gonna change, get used to it), but Michigan right now is like that poor ambiguously foreign guy on You Can't Do That on Television who was shot to death in front of the firing squad just about every single week by being fooled into saying the word "Fire". Was that appropriate for children viewing?

Building a Better Mousetrap

After reading this article in The Free Press this morning, it got me thinking just a little bit about how certain ingrained words and practices make us far less effective assassins because of tradition. Relative to this specific column, why do time bombs tick? I can't count the number of TV shows or movies I have seen in which the eventual explosion of a bomb was foiled because an individual identified that the bomb was, in fact, ticking. Why don't people say "like a silent time bomb" or perhaps "like a quiet explodie sort of device". Even when the bombs aren't ticking they're making some sort of beeping noise indicating a count like on 24, and that is just a dead giveaway. On that note, why do the bad guys even still refer to them as bombs? They should invent some sort of new and secret word that refers to a bomb but with no evidence that this is the case.

"I need to go put this lollipop in the parking garage." I'm just saying.