Thursday, April 30, 2009

Those Beautiful Trees that Smell Like Poop

The title says it all, folks. I love almost everything about spring, even when the dogs get really wet and muddy from all of the rain. Ah, there is nothing better than the start of baseball, the greening of the trees overhanging the streets in Royal Oak and across Michigan, people returning to the outdoors - it's just about perfect. The singular thing that I absolutely hate about spring are those terrible, horrid, disgusting flowering white trees with blossoms that smell like a combination of turd and vomit. An almighty creator was in the midst of creating these trees on the 6th day, but then got a serious case of food poisoning and really screwed something up. People say that God is infallible, but this is the closest evidence in nature I have to a couple of mistakes here and there. I'm not insulting your faith, just these trees. From everything I can tell, they are called "bradford pear trees", but instead I call them "those trees that smell like poop and make me want to die."

These trees range from quite small to gigantic, and the bigger the tree, the bigger the dump you think someone took on your lawn. They line the streets of Ann Arbor, are incredibly prominent along most of the path of my run, and make me love life just a little bit less. The most frustrating thing about them is that they are visually pretty and they seem to be fairly robust, and I fear that their popularity is picking up steam. If only people would get close enough to smell and realize where that smell is coming from, I think that could finally be the end of the bradford pear tree. Go out for a walk, and when you think you stepped in something, you're standing near a bradford pear tree.

I am a bit hypersensitive when it comes to all of my senses - taste, touch, smell, hearing, telekinesis - and often when I am bothered by something, I am overreacting to reality. In the case of these trees, I am dead on. The smell invades your lungs and makes it hard to breathe. Similar to how I want less nuts in my trail mix, I want less of these trees on the planet.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thanks 'Stones

Unlike the past several years, sports fans (and unwitting significant others of sports fans) will not have the privilege to cheer for our Detroit Pistons until the very end of spring. For the past decade+, the Pistons have been a successful force in professional basketball. They have won a championship, barely lost in the finals the following year (Bowen!!!!), and have consistently gone deep into the playoffs. They proudly represented Detroit's "every man" work ethic and maintained a streak of consistent basketball dominance. Dominance doesn't necessarily mean "best team in basketball", but they were a part of basketball's ruling elite for consecutive years. This group of core individuals really defined and stayed true to the concept of team, and the fans gave their Pistons an abundant supply of support (and money).

Without going into the specifics of when, over the last year or so, our team fell off of its leadership perch. The team aged, a key player was traded, coaches changed many times over, and many of the guys on the team seemed to turn into a group of grumbling and complaining old men shaking their fists at the basketball authorities and unkindly asking them to "get off their lawn." You know things were getting hard when the team thought they were playing basketball on a lawn.

This weekend, the end came swiftly when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Pistons out of the playoffs in the first round. For the few minutes I caught of several of the games, it didn't seem like the Pistons cared. The Cavaliers would drive to the hoop, take a brief respite in the key for tea, and then finish off the scoring drive without any interference from the Pistons. It was like our boys couldn't be bothered to participate. It was sad and difficult to watch after so much success, strength, and swagger, but the end was bound to come, and we could see it coming for the past couple years.

With the series being so difficult to watch and the unceremonious ending, I haven't been surprised by the negative onslaught toward the Pistons from fans and media. It was ugly and people are right to feel disappointed, but you shouldn't allow this year to tarnish the years of fun, excitement, and success the Pistons provided to Michigan sports fans. Perhaps people are angry because the Pistons downfall seems to mirror the current struggles of much of Michigan, and every single loss hits a little bit too close to home.

I would love the Pistons to return to the highs of years past sooner rather than later, but I also hope team ownership, management, and all of the players feel the pride they imparted to me and others as we were able to throw ourselves into the Pistons every spring during the playoff run. The end, as with every end, is difficult to take, but the rest was so damn fun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Auto-Tune is Ruining the World

I'm not normally one to throw in a video that is completely irrelevant to anything else, but I saw this just a few minutes ago on TV Squad and I thought it warranted further exposure to the We Are Of Michigan family (and we are family, so get ready to give me your kidneys when I need them). There are two reasons why I wanted to include this video. First, I haven't had anything multimedia (even non-moving pictures) in my blog in quite some time. Second, this video is based on a technology called Auto-Tune that I absolutely hate (you can read more about it here). This technology takes anything that you are saying/singing, and puts it exactly on key. It's nifty technology, but it completely removes the need for actually having talent. It's a performance enhancer, just like steroids, viagra, or my pheromones. If Auto-Tune is legal for artists to make billions of dollars performing, why is it not OK for athletes to use steroids for the same purpose? I'm not saying that I am pro-steroid use (definitely not), but I feel this is an apt analogy (otherwise I would not have attempted to use it). If you require technology to make you sound good, you shouldn't be in the business of sounding good. There have also been numerous artists who do not sound good and still have figured out how to make money with their talent (Neil Young), so stop cheating already! Auto-Tune is Ruining the World, and you know it's true as soon as Katie Couric and Hillary Clinton have teamed up in a single that could legitimately make it onto the Billboard Hot 100. However, this video is pretty cool and I have no problem using Auto-Tune for this kind of thing. Shawty.

New Marketing Approach: Our Air Won't Kill You Any Faster

A couple days after Earth Day, 2009, let's all take a moment to celebrate this article from The Detroit News. I have some Simpsons reference on the tip of my brain based on the reading, but I just can't bring it to full recall, so you and I will both have to imagine that whatever I was going to say here was going to be absolutely hilarious.

In the article, it states “Metro Detroit and its surrounding counties now are considered within the federal standards for the amount of smog in the air.” This indicates that prior to April 2009, Metro Detroit was not within federal standards for the amount of smog in the air. I would be interested (and probably could find out with the slightest bit of research) to find out if metro LA meets EPA standards and other places that are known for their smog and other gross air thingies. Michigan should really latch on to this type of standard-matching feedback and develop some momentum behind it. “Michigan: The number of people who die in factory accidents is not significantly greater than other states.” I want to celebrate our no-longer-failed grades in air quality, but it’s too bad that this topic even required a mention. It’s not like you would say to someone on your first date “Good news Jill ! I no longer have herpes.” Maybe you would say that on your first date, but then it is very unlikely that you are the kind of person who has first dates.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Where are you Going?

I find the airline industry fascinating. Perhaps of the many things that fascinate me in this business is that at all times of the day, there are is a subset of several people in one location who want/need to go to every other location in the world. Right now it is Wednesday at 8:40 pm PST and I am sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting for my 9:40 flight back to Detroit (unfortunately I will not be able to post this until I am back in Royal Oak with an internet connection. Seriously, what is up with that? The airport is 20 minutes from the most technologically based center in the world and they charge you for airport internet access. That makes no sense). This flight does not get back home until 5:00 am, at which point I need to groggily drive back to my home to grab a few hours of sleep. This isn’t the most pleasant time to fly, and I always get so hungry on red-eyes that I want to eat my arm. Despite these facts, this flight is absolutely, totally , completely full. How can that be?

I absolutely love Michigan and it is the place that I want to be, but I can think of no possible reason that this many people have a reason to take an overnight flight from San Francisco to Detroit. I imagine some of them have connecting flights out of DTW, some of them are on business (though probably not many – Wednesday night is a pretty light business travel night), and some of them live in Michigan, but it’s hard for me to imagine that the combination of these three things amounts to a completely full airplane. It’s an enigma to which I will likely never know the answer, and the next random night I’m flying from California to Detroit, I bet you that plane will be completely full as well. I don’t claim to fully understand the business model, but with all of the newer flying fees (I had to pay $50 extra for something called an “ego accommodation fee”) and full airplanes, is it even possible for the airline business to make a profit?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Simple Soup and Salad

As you have assuredly been anticipating with excitement, I would like to tell you about my saga yesterday of ordering a soup and salad combo.

For lunch yesterday, my parents, brother, and I headed out to Champps in Troy - a regular family lunch destination. We often head that way because they have an appropriately diverse menu, large portion sizes, and an ice cream dessert big enough to make you want to push over your grandma to eat. One piece of The Mile High Ice Cream Pie is enough for four members of my family, and that is saying a lot. Anyway, I wanted something on the healthier side because I knew I would not be eating that well during my current trip to California, so I ordered a universal menu staple of "Bowl of Soup and Side Salad" with french onion soup and a garden salad. My dad ordered "a cup" of the soup of the day (this is key for later in my story). The first primary offense of the meal was that I absolutely hate when the two items come out at different times. When this happens, I typically remember it is my fault because quite a few restaurants bring out the salad and soup sequentially, but today, THE SOUP CAME OUT BEFORE THE SALAD. On what planet does someone want a garden side salad with light italian dressing as their "entree"? I'll tell you which planet - crazy planet. Not only was it unfortunate that the food came out at different times, but the salad was the main course. I should have remembered to explicitly state "bring out at same time", but also possibly the server should have asked me what would work for me.

The next and more significant sin of the meal was when my soup came out (early), the bowl was the exact same size as my dad's cup of soup. I didn't think too much of it except that it seemed a little bit small, but I assumed I misunderstood my dad's order or something like that. Where it gets really crazy is that as I was trying to nurse this paltry quantity of liquid until everyone else's food arrived, the party at the next table started to get their orders, and they had huge bowls of soup. When the waiter came around again, I asked "is this the bowl of soup" and he said, get this, "yeah, uh, but what we call a bowl is a cup." So I said "what is that they're eating over there," and he said, "that's a crock." On what planet does anyone call a cup a bowl and a bowl a crock? I'll tell you which planet - crazy planet. OK so maybe they have a shifted naming convention, but never in my life have I ordered a "bowl of soup and salad" and not gotten the largest serving size of soup available, except on crazy planet Champps. If you're going to break from all normal practices of the world, at least let me know that a bowl is a cup and a crock is a bowl and that my bowlcup is going to come out 10 hours before my salad. I hope you're as disheveled from this event as I remain, more than 36 hours later.

The last thing that was quite weird about this meal is that the party next to us (the people with the awesome crocks) was some sort of peculiar BMW enthusiast club, or possibly a group of people with 15-20 BMWs who all decided to eat at Champps at the exact same time on Sunday, eat at the same table, and park all of their cars next to each other facing outward. "Hey guys, we're going to lunch. Bring the car!" I don't think I will ever understand roving clubs of BMW enthusiasts. Where were they going next and why were they going there? We don't have sweeping European roads twisting through the hilly countryside, and I don't think you can take road trips in the same way you can if you belong to a biker gang. As best as I could tell, it is a prime opportunity to wear pink polos, pop your collar high, sweep your male bangs to the side of your forehead, and feel superior to all the sad sack non-BMW owners around you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Wild West

Greetings from the land where everyone is pretty sure they know more about everything than you, California. I have some company business in the massively in debt Golden State until I fly back home overnight on Wednesday into Thursday morning. But don't think this means that I don't have lots to say - like today at lunch I ordered a bowl of soup and salad, and I had two whole reasons to be unhappy with the way things played out. Madness. If things feel a little more lonely in Michigan over the next three days and you're also feeling a hole in your soul that you just can't fill, it's probably because you're feeling the distance between you and me. Fill that hole with Twinkies and Battlestar Galactica, and I'm sure you'll make it through. Fret not.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Choose Wisely

This is a brief story from a few weeks ago that I meant to recap the day after it happened, but then I forgot. Because I've momentarily run out of things to talk about that aren't automobile related (wasn't it great to get zero stories today that didn't include the phrase "bankruptcy looms"?), I decided to go back and pull this 0 karat diamond out of the sack.

On this particularly day a few weeks ago, our 1.5-year-old female dog, Echo, got to that point in her life when she was not only capable, but very interested in baby making. This happens with female dogs about once a year and lasts for two very unfortunate weeks if you're not interested in being the proprietor of puppies. Part of managing this period of time (specifically if you also have a male dog that has fully functioning balls) was to make sure that she always had on a doggie diaper. Doggie diapers aren't much more stylish than baby or reverse baby diapers, so we often would put her in some very stylish dog underpants that were subtly colored and decorated with things like paw prints. For a dog diaper, they were about as cute as you could imagine. One of these days when she was wearing her dog undergarments I decided to take her on a run so I strapped her to my waist and hit the road. Right outside of our front gate was a mom and her three or four children between the ages of 6 and 12. They all kind of took a look at Echo and the mom asked me "We're wondering why your dog is wearing pants."

And I had a difficult choice to make.

All of these children were of the age where as soon as I answered with almost anything to their mom, I would instantly hear the chorus of "Mom, what's that mean?" I didn't want to put the mom in this position, and on top of that, I didn't want to be these children's anti-Peter Pan. "You mean dogs do what? Why do they do that? Gross!!!" My mind raced as I tried to figure out the best possible answer that would be explanatory but cryptic, clear but boring enough to the children that they wouldn't have any followup questions for their mom. I paused for a moment, raised my eyebrows and said, "Uh...she'" with an inflection that wasn't quite a question and not quite declaratory. I couldn't have just said something like "we like our dog to wear pants" because that would make me look like a dillhole and if I had to choose between this woman's discomfort or me looking like a dillhole, I'll chose other person's discomfort the great majority of the time.

My main point is that if you see a dog wearing pants around town and there are children nearby, I recommend not asking the dog owner why his dog is wearing pants. If the answer is something non-biological, there is a very good chance that you don't want to be talking to that person in the first place. Dogs can wear sweaters, ponchos, sombreros, sunglasses, Uggs, necklaces, bowties, and gold chains, but never pants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Demonizing Bonds

One of the most interesting issues (in my partially-informed view) about the slow crawl to nowhere that is this (hopefully not last) U.S. automobile industry chapter is the issue of the bondholders - specifically with respect to General Motors. The issue is quite simple - GM owes about $70B in debt to bondholders and the government is requiring the bondholders forgo a gigantic portion of this debt (somewhere around 80% or so) in exchange for equity (stock "ownership") that may or may not be worth anything weeks or months from now. (At this point, I have noticed that I have used more parentheses than even I typically use in a post, and I typically use a lot of parentheses. My apologies, but not really.) This seems like a good deal, right? If I owe you $70 and I say to you "here's $15, and then you own a small part of me, maybe my two big toes" I would say that I definitely come out ahead on that transaction. How are you supposed to recoup the value of my very valuable big toes? You can't, and that is kind of the situation bondholders are being asked to accept.

This group of debt holders almost entirely holds the key to GM's immediate bankruptcy or non-bankruptcy. If they accept this deal, along with the UAW and similar concessions, the government has indicated they will continue to support GM financially to keep it out of Chapter 11. Because they seemingly hold so much power and have mostly seemed entirely unwilling to compromise, they're kind of coming across and being portrayed as a bunch of huge dicks. I've felt my anger and resentment toward the bondholders growing exponentially as I regularly read articles that say that those with the debt holdings are not budging at all. The pro-GM side of the argument seems obvious as well - if GM does go into bankruptcy, it is likely that the bondholders will end up with even less value from their bonds than GM is currently offering to them. Why not just take the deal and save everyone a little heartache?

Today, I came to the conclusion that while I want nothing more than for the bondholders to take the deal and GM to stay completely out of bankruptcy (everyone loses, but less than in the alternative), this group is getting a little bit of a bum wrap - at least from me. If I give you $5, I sure as sunshine want you to give me back my $5. If I give you $5B, I will handcuff myself to you until you pay me back with interest and maybe a nice big hug because of my benevolent generosity. We're in one of the biggest, craziest, scariest, most ball-bustingest games of chicken of all time, and I fear that neither of these lumbering steamboats are going to swerve. This is a pleasant and unplanned segue into a quote from the brilliant but dead (don't do drugs kids) Mitch Hedberg.

"I wrote a letter to my dad - I wrote, 'I really enjoy being here,' but I accidentally wrote rarely instead of really. But I still wanted to use it so I crossed it out and wrote, 'I rarely drive steamboats, dad - there's a lot of shit you don't know about me. Quit trying to act like I'm a steamboat operator.' This letter took a harsh turn right away... "

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bang the Drum

After a very nice Easter weekend with no less than 3 family events on Sunday, I was feeling pretty good last night. I had taken care of some work over the weekend, the Tigers had swept their series with the Rangers, I had caught up on most of the reserved shows on my TiVo, and everyone on all sides and angles of the family seemed to be in pretty decent spirits. The weather is currently holding steady in the spring range and Americans seem to be regaining confidence that they can purchase whatever they want with no repercussions. It almost seems like I could start to believe that Michigan will find a way to pull through all of this with some major casualties, but still alive. That is, until The New York Times reports on another story about a possible bankruptcy at GM. At this point, it's not that I have a problem with the specific subject matter of the story. I accept that there are increasing odds that GM will need to file for bankruptcy prior to the June 1st deadline with the intent of quickly emerging from bankruptcy as a leaner, stronger corporation. However, there are (that I can think of right now) two specific things that I find extremely frustrating and upsetting in the way this story continues to evolve.

First, is there any news here beyond a headline from The Wall Street Journal last week that GM is in "earnest and intense preparations" for a bankruptcy filing? This headline was captured by all news dissipation services mid-last week and caused quite a stir at that time. Now, someone rearranged some of the words, added a couple comments about Obama's concerns, and reprinted the article in a different newspaper. Again today, the news dissipation services have grabbed this story and are essentially touting "nothing new to report since last week but here we are reporting it anyway - just to freak you out."

Second, stories like this about GM are always based on people "who are not authorized to speak on the matter." I know that confidential and unauthorized sources are the way that news is created, but Fritz Henderson (GM's current CEO) and Obama have pledged transparency in this subject. If this is the case, why does our fear continue to be driven by unnamed and unauthorized sources? I have as much reason to believe these sources are correct as they are incorrect. Our collective psychology is being ripped around by unnamed sources when what we need, good news or bad, is someone who is authorized to tell us something to tell us the truth.

I don't think anyone can truly know which path is best (short and long-term) for the company, its employees, shareholders, bondholders, communities, and tax recipients, and yet, people argue with so much vigor and certainty about such a complex and wide-ranging issue it amazes me. You don't know the answer, and if you're lucky (not smart), you'll happen to turn out to be right. The next 1-2 months are going to be difficult enough for all of us affected by this story, and this will be made even worse when the story continues to be owned and driven by the mumbling and grumbling of unknown shadowy figures. The truth will likely hurt, but we need to hear it from someone truthful and authorized. Here's hoping for the best (whatever that is).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One of Them, One of Us

Yes, for some unknown reason Steve and I continue to watch Heroes. To its credit, the last couple episodes have been far more focused, far less idiotic, and there is a small chance that the show will return to less suck with the full-on return of Mr. Brian Fuller (R.I.P. Pushing Daisies). The only reason I mention this now is because in the show, there are several repetitive mantras and one of those mantras is "One of Them, One of Us." I normally fall asleep before they finish explaining what it means, but I believe it has something to do with teaming up one person with super powers and one person with unsuper powers to do...something - maybe making babies I'm not too sure and I don't care if I ever figure it out. I prefer to think they're making babies.

A couple years ago, Comerica Bank gave Detroit the middle finger when it picked up camp and fled to the second or third nicest sand bucket in Texas, Dallas. They took with them some corporate jobs, an ages-old Detroit institution, and another handful of our local pride. Today, we return that middle finger back to Dallas when home builder Pulte Homes announced they would be purchasing Centex Homes (based in Dallas) to combine to make the biggest home builder in the United States. Shockingly, the home field of this combined corporation is going to be in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and retain the name Pulte Homes. In some respects, home builders carry some blame for the current economic malaise by producing far too many unnecessary homes, creating a glut of inventory, and driving down the price of your house. This is a bit of a shortsighted view because they would likely not have produced the homes if people who did not qualify for loans were offered loans. All of these issues aside, it's kind of cool to have the biggest home builder in the country based in Bloomfield Hills. Don't get too excited - with the way things are going, there's always a chance that the newspapers tomorrow will be like "April 8th Fools - Pulte's moving to Texas!" but it's one day of decent Michigan corporate news in a sea of less good days. Don't look now, but we have the biggest home builder in the country, the second biggest hub of the largest airline, Little Caesars and Domino's, and 48% of the entire domestic automobile market. With Hollywood essentially deciding that it's moving to Michigan (wouldn't that be awesome? Jerks everywhere - but also maybe a few more jobs) and my blog, Michigan is also well on its way to being the media center of the universe. Now if we could just corner the revenue-rich pornography empire, we'd really be moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In Stride

Almost every single day, something bad happens to you, me, or that guy over there. It is an unfortunate circumstance of life, and most of the time, I'd like to think that the number of good things that happen far outweigh the bad. Regretfully for now, it seems like bad and good are racing neck and neck with the real chance that bad is going to win this round. Super sucky, yes. In Michigan we are face-to-face with the bad on many levels and yet continue to embrace any silver lining that may creep onto the horizon.

With this in mind, I'd like to remind you that no matter who you are, no matter what you're doing right now, things could be oh so worse and that alone may be able to help you take your day a little more in stride. For example, I was taking my early evening run during today's unseasonably cold day, when a large white lump fell from the sky and landed not more than 2 feet away from me directly in my path. If that bird had decided to wait just 2 more seconds to hold his poo, I would have had bird turd frozen in my hair, about 2 miles from my house. So despite everything else that is challenging right now, I'd like to thank that bird for not holding it and keeping me relatively clean and comfortable on this slightly-better-than-it-could-have-been day .

No matter who you are, no matter what you're doing, I promise you things would be worse if a bird took a crap in your hair right at this second. This is a ridiculous (and true) example, but take just a second today/tomorrow/next week to appreciate all of the things that you do not have to deal with right now. These don't have to be crazy things like "I built a time machine and ended up on the maiden voyage of the Titanic", because there are several very possible things that, for now, we do not have to confront.

Keep going guys.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

BurgerFest-O-Rama #7 - Fiddleheads (the sad edition)

As I previously mentioned, my sister, husband and nephew made their way from Rochester, Minnesota to Royal Oak, MI for a very enjoyable family weekend together. They rolled into Michigan very early Friday morning, and one of my primary goals of their visit was to make sure that my sister and brother-in-law participated in my ongoing period of burger appreciation. After much discussion and thought to identify the best place to go (mostly didn't want to stray too far from home), we settled on a restaurant in Royal Oak called Fiddleheads. As with several of the restaurants on the list, I have long wanted to eat at Fiddleheads because anything I ever read about the place was quite positive. The one point of concern was that I knew the food was a little bit expensive, and because of this, the burger was categorized as another "Best High End Burger" (the second fancy pants burger I've eaten after the Town Tavern). To make things just a little bit more complicated, the burger isn't even technically on the dinner menu (the time at which we would be eating), so Steve took the time to call to make sure the burger was offered at dinner. The person he talked to seemed genuinely surprised that such a question was even on the table and enthusiastically responded that the burger was absolutely available for dinner. Success! We picked a place that met all the criteria.

And then the sadness fell.

Before we left for dinner, I fired up and read the headline "Royal Oak Fiddleheads eatery to close tomorrow". I've joked before that maybe one or two places would go out of business thereby reducing the number of restaurants at which I must eat burgers, but this is the very first time that this issue confronted me square in the face - another unfortunate victim of our challenging economic circumstances. We had a pow-wow and decided that either way the restaurant was going to close, so we might as well contribute our dollars to the outgoing staff and owners instead of steering clear. So Friday night Steve, Gail, Jeff, Maureen, and I hit the road to celebrate and mourn the five year life of Fiddleheads, located on 13 Mile Rd. just a bit east of Greenfield.

Fiddleheads more or less stands alone in a sea of condos on 13 Mile down the road from Beaumont Hospital. I fear that some people would not have anticipated fine dining in this unique location. The inside of the restaurant had a bunch of hanging light bulbs, the tables were covered in tablecloths, and the servers were dressed like those in an upscale casual establishment. The newspaper article indicated that the staff was aware of the situation, but they did not do anything sad or negative to indicate the unfortunate plight. I was more sad than most of the group, largely because it forced me to again reflect on our collective dream for better times and prosperity. Most of the items on the menu were in the $18-$30 range, so it definitely isn't (wasn't...sniff) a cheap night out.

As expected, the burger was not on the menu, but all of us knew that we wanted to order a burger. Jeff, Steve, and Maureen each took one for the team by ordering the Salmon, soup, and a salad (respectively), so that we were not a table of 5 people ordering the cheapest thing available that wasn't even on the menu. This is one of the occasional complications of BurgerFest-O-Rama. It's somewhat odd for a whole table to order a burger when there are so many other delicious-seeming things available on the menu. We placed our orders, and after a slightly longer than expected break, the food hit the table. Unfortunately in my hunger and sadness, I forgot to take my normal picture of the whole table filled with food. Here was the only morsel left on Maureen's plate as we neared the end of dinner.

The burgers came out looking exactly as I hoped. There was probably around 8 oz. of meat, stacked high on a bun that barely contained the burger. Standard condiments included tomato (two slices sliced to my ideal thickness), one small piece of romaine, red onions, and mayonnaise. There was even one tiny ring of onion actually baked into the top portion of the bun, which I thought was quite a nice touch. The burgers also came standard with cheese (pretty sure it was cheddar) melted very nicely over the meat, and the plate was filled out nicely with shoestring-fried potatoes. I thought the meal was delicious.

Pros: Of all the burgers so far, the meat had the most flavor (maybe just my optimal amount of salt), despite small bun, burger had stellar structure, I could actually taste the cheese (something I've been losing in recent burgers), shoestring-fried potatoes were in keeping with the more classy overall theme of the restaurant and also nicely salted, $9 with fries is a good deal for a "high end burger", wait staff very professional, the bun played a great supporting role in that it had its own distinct but not-overpowering flavor.

Cons: We all asked for medium and somehow some parts of the burgers were a bit less than medium, too much mayonnaise, the high surface area of the fries caused them to loose their heat almost instantly, too small piece of romaine, burger could have used more general warmth, no salt shaker on the table.

Overall, the flavor experience was probably the best I have had in this entire endeavor. My flavor memory can still taste the burger two days later, and there was a pretty strong consensus of deliciousness around the table. If the burgers were cooked more to our exact desires and contained more excited atoms and molecules (i.e. heat), I would proudly declare this burger my first FOUR HAMBURGLAR burger. In a normal world where the restaurant wasn't already closed (as of this writing), the official ruling would be three hamburglars, but in memory and honor of the fine establishment and its staff, I am going to award three hamburglars plus one sadness hamburglar.

Fiddleheads, I apologize for never eating within your walls before Friday night and I am sad that I will never again get to eat there. Now that I know what I was missing, I probably would have had more than a few burgers in your restaurant. You will be missed.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sparse or Regular Updates

Hello all, and a happy weekend to ye. As a quick reminder, MSU will be fighting to save Michigan's entire economy tomorrow in a basketball game of "winner takes all bailout money", so make sure to throw that on and cheer for your home state.

On another note, my sister, her husband, and their baby blew into town last night, so I am largely going to be focusing on baby over the next couple days. This may or may not result in more or less updates than usual or unusual, so I just thought I would mention that things may or may not be different or the same. I'm leaning toward maybe.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Today's edition of The Detroit News includes another obligatory article about the departure of young, smart, talented individuals and families from Michigan to perceived greener pastures. We've been hearing this for years, and I fought the instinct to click on the link and read this revision of the same story because there is absolutely nothing that it can add to my life or my understanding/appreciation of the problems. Yup, jobs are sadly scarce and I don't want anyone to have to leave family, friends, or home, but in our shrinking portion of the economy, this is an inevitable (though highly undesired) outcome.

As the domestic automobile industry shrinks and Michigan claws to find additional jobs to bring in to the state, the only natural outcome is that the population will undergo a downsizing much like the employment forces of the companies contained within our borders. To me, while disappointing and sad, Michigan became bloated to a completely unsustainable point, and there is simply no way that in the absence of new work, the same amount of people will be able to live here. The key is not to focus on people leaving, but to identify the point at which Michigan and its residents can hit the not-seen-in-a-long-time break even point and to work toward that size. Once you hit break even, you can look more effectively and successfully at how to grow. It is just another component of the painful changes required before success can again return. This is a sucky but necessary component of the road to possible recovery.

There is no point in trying to regain past glory or to realistically bring back the same quantity of high-paid manufacturing jobs, because that is not a path forward. People are going to leave and I am going to quietly mourn for every single one, but unfortunately, this may be the best option for these people and for the state. It could be me, it could be you. Perhaps with some planning and substantial luck, Michigan will have the opportunity to lure back its lost children because those children left. I don't want it to be this way and am open to different options, but I also realize that this may need to be the way.