Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dummies, We

Normally my ridicule of others is intended to throw you off the scent of my wide and deep swath of personal insecurities. It's standard grade school bully stuff, and it works even better on the internet when people a) have no idea who you are and b) don't care enough about you or even know you exist to fight back. Through a carefully crafted plan and messaging over the past approaching two years, I have undoubtedly convinced you that I have my shiz together and I am the gold source for all of your opinions about pretty much everything.

I am pained, then, to pull back the curtain on the absurdly exciting details of my life to reveal that I am as big a dummy as most of the dummies that regularly bother me.

For at least the past 3 or 4 days, maybe ranging up to a week, I have been absolutely freezing. It had all the preliminary trappings of one of the rare instances in which I get sick - I get so cold it is impossible to get warm and this transitions into a fever with the possibility of vomiting or butt vomiting. Yup, butt vomiting. The weird thing about it was that every day I was freezing, but no other symptoms were forthcoming. It was odd enough that I mentioned exactly this to Maureen when I was showering last night prior to inadvertently giving myself a nosebleed. By the way, giving yourself a nosebleed while in the shower may be the worst time to get a nosebleed. You'd think it might be optimal, but there are several reasons why it's not so great. Contact me directly for additional naked shower nosebleed information.

The solution to all this is obvious. The heat in our condo went out at some unknown point in the past (surprise, surprise). We called the repair service, some talkative guy came out tonight, and bam, not so freezing anymore.

My dummyness comes through in a few different ways in this situation. First, it took me like 2 or 3 days to check the thermostat temperature after I first realized I was freezing. At that time, there was a 7 or 8 degree variance between the temperature setting and the internal temperature. Did this strike me as odd? No. I turned up the setting and called it a day, happy to have diagnosed the disconnect, and content that the problem was solved. Second, on following days, I remained freezing but not once did I check to see if the thermostat setting and internal temperature were out of whack even though I WAS ALREADY AWARE THIS WAS A PROBLEM. Third, a tiny part of me thought that Maureen was trying to cleverly and subtly kill me by freezing me to death. I accused her of this a couple days ago. Finally and simply, at no point prior to tonight did it even enter my mind that being freezing for multiple consecutive days in the middle of winter may have anything to do with a broken furnace.

I'm going to be a fantastic homeowner.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who Wouldn't Want Increased Mileage

Wait, millage? Hold on....

OK thanks to the internet, I now have a better understanding of why some people may confusingly be pro-mileage but anti-millage. I mean, it's almost worse than a regular tax because it's hiding a tax under a fancy word that combines machining solid materials and growing old. I'm not sure how putting milling and aging together means taxes, but that is the crazy world of 2010 in which we live. Whenever it snows more in North Carolina than Michigan for a season you know things have gone freaking bananas. B - a -n -a -n -a - s. And that, my friends, is what we call filler.

Earlier this week was one of those election days that you don't even know is going on if you don't live in a city with an election and you only watch television via a TiVo. The biggest elections seem to have been in Troy and Bloomfield Township where there were millage proposals on the ballot. Pro-millage people said that without this new tax, police would need to be cut, libraries closed, and no more free hot dogs on Fridays. Neither place currently offers free hot dog Fridays, but they could guarantee that there definitely wouldn't be free hot dogs if the millage proposals didn't pass. Anti-millage people, channeling the brilliant Glenn Beck (who Jon Stewart hilariously pointed out claimed that he learned from "free" books from libraries which are ironically paid for by the taxes that he was arguing against in the speech that he praised free library books) argued that all of life's problems can be solved by "slashing budgets", "stopping services", and "removing free hot dog Fridays."

So the big question, then, is with the defeat of the millage in Troy, what happens next? Troy city leaders said that if this measure did not pass, the police force would need to be drastically cut. Who is going to protect your new Gucci bag as you're walking out of Somerset, you ask? Not the mall cops once you're out of the mall. Unfortunately, I don't think city leaders have any option but to carry through with their threats to send the appropriate message to cities across the state - if we say there will be a consequence, there will be a consequence. It's not a punishment, just the realization of the choice specifically and clearly made by the people of the city. If A, then B. Opponents said "the city must now cut costs, hooray we win." Perhaps you do citizens, but who is going to stop me from peeing on various city buildings? I've been drinking water all night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Slow Down

This is officially my first mention of the whole "out of control Toyota" thing going on right now. I refuse to provide a link to any specific article about this vehicular issue because if you do not know to what I refer, you are a disconnected person and there is no redeeming you. It is OK to be disconnected, but you should really take a look at your life and figure out how to get better connected to the world (hint: keep reading my blog). It's not that events, pop culture, or other current goings-on are necessarily that critical to your life, but if you are aware of almost nothing, how is anyone ever supposed to engage you in conversation at the bar or elsewhere. No one cares about whatever weird hobbies you have, they just want to talk about this week's LOST and that Vonn girl from the Olympics.

Point being, I haven't touched on this big issue that has the possibility to shake up the global automotive industry and have a long-term profound impact on Michigan. It's not that I have a problem with kicking someone when they're down. That's the best time to kick someone because you can take your biggest and best shot at that moment. It's the ideal moment to unleash all that kick training in which you've engaged over the course of your life because there is nothing to stop your leg flow except a squishy pile of human to cushion the slowdown of your foot. I've just been trying to avoid sounding like a Big 3 apologist despite my strong apologist tendencies. Without specifically addressing the issue of unstoppable Toyotas flying through the streets, there are a few things about this constantly unfolding story that are of particular note to me:

1) I will never understand why Toyota owners are so unfailingly loyal to their Toyotas. "Because they're dependable and great cars." Well, it appears as though there is some small degree of contrary evidence in the form of 8+ million vehicles that may or may not be able to stop. "But that's only one part of a car and my car has never given me a problem." With all respect to the newly associated tragedies out there, it only takes one of these kinds of problems. Yeah absolutely other manufacturers have had various safety and dependability issues through the years, but for some reason people fled from these issues and never looked back. With many Toyota owners, it very much seems like the other guys remain evil, and these owners would far rather defend their speedmobiles than consider an option they abandoned years ago. The is indefensible. That's a challenge. Defend yourself.

2) In the same vein as (1), why is it cool and praised for Toyota to throw up the "we suck, sorry" commercial all over the place on TV and when the Big 3 went that route back during bankruptcy times, people responded with "yeah you suck, and you shouldn't have spent money on that commercial."

3) I can't get off of point number 1. Sometimes I think we live in bizarro world. Here's a quote from the CEO of AutoNation - "What's fascinating about the American people is that if they see a company that's done it right for decades, but has a bad moment and makes a mistake and owns up to it and commits to change and does everything possible to make it right, the American people will understand and forgive." That thought is inherently flawed. If I've been doing something wrong for the last ten years and someone only caught me doing the wrong thing this year, did the last ten years never happen? Because that's what this guy seems to be saying. This statement becomes even more bizarro when one realizes that there is evidence that they may have been aware of potential problems and dismissed these problems during that ten years.

Alright so maybe that is one point repeated three times. It's kind of fun for once to have a shield.

Friday, February 19, 2010

From the Department of Forbes' Douches

For the third year in a row, Forbes publishes its list of "10 Most Miserable Cities in America". First let's get the first Forbes bashing out of the way and say that in two years' time Forbes will be entirely irrelevant as it will have declared liquidation-style bankruptcy as print media continues its march into irrelevance and struggles to find profit in the transition to web-based news and media. To try to cling to some small corner of the public consciousness, they go about a few times a year inventing lists that help them ignore their own failings by highlighting the flaws of other places. The quality of their lists and metrics can be shown to be false nearly quantitatively, as I will address shortly. So for the second year in a row, I say screw you Forbes.

In the first year, Detroit ranked number one on the miserableness scale. Last year, Detroit was number 7, and this year we've fought our way back up the list to number 4 - trailing Cleveland, Stockton, and Memphis (and while we're not number one, this doesn't stop some websites from showing a picture of downtown Detroit as an introduction to their slideshow). Screw you as well,

This year I want to take issue with one particular element of the list to which a writer for The Detroit News drew my attention and automatically throws into question the validity of every single measure that forms the miserable index. Detroit (the metro area) ranked as having the 2nd worst commute in the entire country. Are you kidding me? How the hell can anyone get off saying that we have worse traffic than Chicago or LA? You can't drive through Chicago anytime from 12:01 AM Sunday morning through 11:59 PM Saturday night without being caught in an hours-long traffic jam. There isn't even an argument here, so it's obvious to say that Forbes is wrong at least on this point, and if you disagree, you are a moron. Yes, you.

My favorite line from The News' article is from some guy named Dennis Zitny. He couldn't have put it more clearly or concisely:

"'I find that study not to be relevant to my lifestyle and most of the people in the state, so I reject it.'"

It's not possible to say it better, except maybe if at the end he added "...and the people at Forbes are a bunch of douchebags. Screw you Forbes."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crime Always Pays

Today is a magical, but falsely so, day for this endeavoring and endearing blogologist. On February 25th, 2009 (the last Heavy Tuesday) I wrote a dumb piece highlighting why I thought it made sense for America to move to a Paczki-based currency system. I'm still behind the general concept of baked goods backing our currency and Paczki as this baked good makes as much sense as any other baked good (they all make no sense), so I have no reason to update my thoughts from this time last year.

Where this is most interesting is that earlier today, friend and all around good person Katie, emailed me that when she did a search for "paczki" in Google Images, an image that popped up near the top of her search was the photo I stole for my currency article linking to this article. That seemed pretty interesting, but I assumed it was an anomaly. However, at the time of this writing, I have just under 200 unique website visitors on the day - easily an all-time high. This is a spike of approximately 199 visitors on a per day basis (and I come almost every day), and this spike must certainly be entirely driven by the photo I borrowed from the internet. I know this because, ironically, no one cares about the Michigan governor race (see yesterday). This day has taught me a few valuable lessons:

1) I'm not sure if a picture of a doughnut constitutes "intellectual property", but if it does, stealing intellectual property is a great idea.

2) The key to generating website traffic is to focus on a topic that no one cares about 1/364th of the year, but that one day of interest can really make a difference.

3) I am incredibly heartsick that a paczek (singular for paczki) did not find its way into my tummy this Lardo Tuesday. This is an insult to my Polish heritage and I will focus for the rest of the year to eat as many donuts as possible in an attempt to approach the number of calories I would have otherwise consumed in the form of a paczek.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Help Wanted

You would think that during times such as these with unemployment stagnantly sitting at uncomfortably crazy highs, people would be clamoring for every last available job. This logic appears to break down when you consider the non-race for the governor of Michigan. Today another realistic governor candidate, Bob Bowman, decided that he also wanted no part of chief executive of Michigan.

I say also because he is the most recent in a long line of individuals (it's not that long a line when you compare it to the line of a roller coaster or a line at The Red Coat Tavern but still kind of long in the realm of viable gubernatorial candidates) who has backed out of the race without really actually entering the race. His departure-without-entering is a shame because he looks like kind of a handsome guy from the picture and something about him reminds me of a young Santa Claus with both less fat and beard but the unmistakable Santa twinkle in his eye. The following people were all considered potential (maybe likely) candidates for governor who bailed:

Denise Ilitch
Hansen Clark
Dennis Archer
John Cherry
L. Brooks Patterson.

None of these people really gave a great reason for backing out like cowardly lions, but most likely, they all realized they didn't have the Cojones to step up to the plate and hit a white knight touchdown for Michigan. Sports and Medieval metaphors! Without having more information, every quitter feels like a personal rejection or mild affirmation that some of our problems may just be beyond repair. I refuse to accept this, so again in the absence of better information, we'll have to assume that all these people are no smarter than me - and we are therefore way better off without having them as governor. Maybe we do need a nerd?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Throw in Jail, Make Him Eat Key

Life in Michigan wouldn't be life in Michigan without a very regular reminder of how easy it is to unite in hate toward a common individual, and I wouldn't be me if this hate wasn't directed toward Kwame Kilpatrick.

Recently, an awesome judge forced KK to pay every dollar of his million dollar restitution, and much of this restitution on an accelerated schedule ($320K in the next three months). At the time, this ruling was the sweetest music to my ears I could have imagined and I'm not ashamed to say it moved. KK was trying to get out of his restitution claiming some sort of BS poverty despite the significant quantity of money that had been clearly shifted into his wife's name - Christine Beatty. No wait, Carlita Kilpatrick. It's hard to keep clear which woman sleeping with Kwame is his wife. Basically, the Kilpatrick's were betting that their ability to be brazen assholes would convince the court that no one that brazen should have to pay anyone for anything. Oh happy day, this strategy did not work.

In a new court filing, convict KK claims that he will be unable to meet his bill to the city of Detroit for $79,011 by February 19th. After a little more legal wrangling, the judge would be fully within his legal rights to have the obese guy with the thick beard and text message fetish thrown into jail. Most people are saying that this ultimate action is unlikely because it reduces the likelihood that Detroit will ever receive the $1M that it is owed for the debacle. This is true and there are far better ways to get money from someone than to throw that person in jail, but there can be no better outcome than more jail time for the former mayor. A million dollars is a lot of money and may be able to patch a couple more pot holes in the city over the next year, but Detroit citizens and visitors should be proud to pay for any damage to their vehicles from running over said potholes. Those potholes represent vengeance, pride, vengeance, other types of focused hatred, and vengeance. This sack of a man nationally made us all look like dillholes and there is no punishment too severe for the worst human being who ever lived who was not directly responsible for someone's death (oh wait again, I guess we're not sure about that either).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Technology for Pity

The internet lords of Google made a big splash today when they announced that they are hoping to build a fiber network with download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. That's like 60 gigabits in one minute (do the table conversion you learned in chemistry, but only if you're a genius). The current plan is to service somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 individuals who will have the ability to watch one million minutes of Hulu in one day. The connection is going to be so fast, it will actually create more minutes in the day for the purposes of viewing internet video. The interesting thing about this project is that Google has put out a public RFI (Request for Information) in which they are receiving feedback from communities and governments regarding why Google should build this monster network in their respective backyards. For these kinds of speeds, Google will likely receive thousands if not millions of submissions from individuals and governments trying to convince them to choose their town.

Based on this, it is abundantly obvious to me that there is no way that any one person will be able to read through all of the RFI submissions. This means a few things. First, all submission readers at Google are going to be using different subjective criteria so there will be no good baseline for comparing an area's worthiness for this project compared to another area. Next, Google has to have a predetermined list of a few hundred cities or communities that they are already targeting for this work. It is simply not possible to read and compare all the returned RFI's, so first they will almost certainly filter on a given state/city combination so they can focus their efforts. Third, a highly coordinated effort from a community or city may have the ability to pull Google's eye away from some of the typical destinations like Boston or the Bay Area (or somewhere random but well known like hanging around with Buffett in Omaha). If they see a few thousand responses from a place like, say, metro Detroit, this may cause them to expand their focus list and make otherwise un-selectable places selectable.

In going through the reasons for Google to choose one place over another for this endeavor, I've been trying to figure out things to write that would bring metro Detroit onto Google's radar. Sure they have the office out in Ann Arbor and they are working to get the Detroit Public Schools (and other school districts) onto the common Google Apps platform, but Michigan has never really been considered a boon for technological innovation (after, say, 1980) or testing. For example, Verizon has their FiOS internet and cable service which is supposed to be amazing, but when searching for the availability in Michigan, their website essentially says "hahahahahahahahaha......never"

Then it struck me - can we beg for their pity and associated mercy? Google has always expressed visions of changing the world for the better with their technology, so how can we leverage the power of pity to convince them to build their network here, and through the power of the internet and quickly watching YouTube videos, they will be solely responsible for bringing Michigan mass transit, improving the education system, eliminating the budget gap, and turning every car on the road into a hybrid with functional brakes. There's got to be some angle here, and if pity is a selectable attribute, we should be able to take advantage of this better than most any place in the country. It's not about feeling bad about ourselves, just trying to convince others that we are worthy of their concern and unnecessarily fast internet tubes.

Only Google can save us!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Not Empty Yet

Way back in May 2009 (back at the ripe age of 26), there was a bit of talk about GM moving it's headquarters out of the Renaissance Center into a few locations. After that, it seemed likely that they would keep their HQ in Detroit but move lots of people out of the Renaissance Center and into several GM locations, with most of the displaced finding new homes in the Warren Technical Center. These were actually the formally announced plans, so the most prominent building in the city of Detroit on the waterfront was about to lose about half of its occupants, thus reducing the time between now and Detroit becoming a virtual ghost town. Back in May, I wrote:

Michigan needs a healthy Detroit in its ongoing fight to change perception of Michigan as a whole. GM has put in a considerable amount of money toward this end - from massively overhauling the RenCen to funding a significant portion of the RiverWalk to bringing additional employees downtown to fill Detroit's streets and stores, and probably lots of things I can't recall off the top of my head.

While I can't recall any new things off the top of my head (very disappointing because I've had almost 9 months to think of something new) I remain quite grateful for this company's contributions to our struggling largest city. Because of this, I was borderline ecstatic from the warm confines of California last Friday when I read that through a series of bargains, tax breaks, and more than a little influence from a blog containing the words "Michigan Are Of We" in some sort of order, GM has decided to keep about 5K employees (including consultants) in the walls of the Renaissance Center. I'm sure this story isn't quite done yet, but the possibility of employee movement out of Detroit was so bothersome to me, it feels like Detroit has been granted a stay of execution, thanks to the generosity of the state and city governments, its taxpayers, and of course, the rest of the taxpayers of the U.S. for essentially providing enough funding to keep the state of Michigan from liquidating in mid 2009. This probably comes across as an exaggeration (like most everything I say - how meta), but for anyone who is a big state supporter and fan of Detroit, this would have been very tough from which to recover.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Blog of the State

Not sure why, but I think for the last three years I have been in California the night of Michigan's state of the state speech by Governor Granholm. This tradition held true this year and the best option available was to skim through the excerpts and analysis the following morning. As much as I love Michigan, and I do love Michigan quite a bit, there is almost nothing worse than the state of the state speeches. Does this make me a bad state supporter? It's not that the care about the subject matter isn't there, but regardless of one's political affiliation, it is borderline impossible to believe that anything that any governor has to say has any relevance on the direction of the state. At heart, I believe that governors of all beliefs mean well and genuinely believe that they have the capacity to do anything about anything through their leadership. However, it is somewhat depressing that these speeches are nothing more than a reminder that governors exist at times beyond a month before and after the state budget is due. It would have been honestly refreshing if Granholm stood up and said "holy god this last year sucked hard. I'm not sure how we made it out alive with unemployment beneath 20% and with absolutely zero non-Michigan State sports-related riots, but we're here and fortunate that things aren't worse." That kind of statement doesn't go far toward solving problems, but it would help me to believe that the state executive isn't coming from a place of baseless optimism and is in clear touch with reality. With that, it is time for my first and likely last annual state of the blog review. I know that I suck, so you can trust the assessment.

I use the words "I" and "me" far too much. Despite great and focused efforts, it is too much of a struggle to express thoughts without saying I. I finish a thought (like this one), read it back, and wonder how anybody can knock out an entire narrative from the third person. This problem has plagued me since second grade and early book reports. "My brother Joe Hardy and I talked to my dad, Fenton, and then we found the submarine." I want to apologize for this, but I can't do so without saying "I" 'm sorry. How do people do it?

BurgerFest-O-Rama is not dead, but it is on accidental hiatus. This remains my greatest and saddest failure to date. You can chalk this one up to "too much ambition". Now that Steve is gone, this may be a good place to reinvest some of my available energy and time. The bummer is that Steve was either my #1 or #2 burger companion either ahead or behind Maureen. The concept of this adventure was also darkened when Fiddleheads closed the day after we had our burgers there. It was too sad to bear and nearly broke my spirit.

People like simple computer shortcuts and tips. For example, don't spill Coke on your keyboard.

I regularly struggle with what people want to read about, because no one ever indicates any subject matter interest whatsoever. It's kind of like feeding a pet - I buy you the nice dog food, but you're just about as happy eating some other dog's vomit. What do people care about? Since it's so hard to tell, the focus remains on things that this writer finds awesome or less than awesome, with a bigger emphasis the last few months on unawesome things. It's a bit of a crapshoot, leaning toward crap.

I was able to pick up a few regular valued readers this past year, but aside from BurgerFest hiatus, my inability to gain any sort of broader interest is my biggest life failure. Seriously. Some guy friends told me that they thought the focus on me, TV, and food might reduce the overall appeal to the fairer sex. Glass Ceiling, Panties, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sex and the City, Shoes, Vampires, ERA, Empowerment. Love me ladies!

Thank you again to everyone who has ever commented, told a friend, come back, or at least didn't say something negative directly to me.

Baby Louis remains painfully cute and a great dancer. I'm so glad Gail and Jeff had him, and this finally convinced me that people don't have babies just to satisfy their parents' desire to be grandparents. It just might be worth the work.

Despite some of the occasional jaded feelings and great quantities of wasted writing time, my hope remains that I can convince you to love, enjoy, and speak up on behalf of Michigan. The weather is sometimes better in other parts of the world, right now jobs are hard to find, and property values aren't doing so hot, but Michigan, its resources, and its people made us who we are. There's got to be something great about a place that can produce someone who has stuck with this self-indulgence to this point.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Obligations

Man, things have been quite busy around these parts. Between working on purchasing a home, traveling for work, dog sitting for the parents, getting the internet fixed, actually doing a job, and all the other personal and professional things that come with life, it's just a little bit hard to find the right time to sit down and gather my thoughts. Don't think this means I'm missing any of the valuable TV that defines my self-worth, but other things are slipping slightly (such as writing). Up until a few years ago, this would have made me crazy.

Life is a series of obligations, and for most of my life, I really, truly hated doing anything for just about anyone. It was pretty fantastic. I wouldn't say that I didn't do anything for anyone, I just didn't find much pleasure in it. Aging, even though I haven't done too much, has slowly started to change this self-centered approach to life. I also wouldn't say that I'm not still self-centered, because I definitely am, but every day I find increasing value in doing non-me-based things for others. It is almost as fantastic as doing exactly what I want, when I want, with the added benefit of actually helping out someone else.

The best thing about all this is that it's becoming increasingly easy to find satisfaction through fulfilling these obligations that previously woulda/coulda made me violently angry. People have always said that getting older enables a person to better appreciate how their actions and willingness to help out positively impacts others, but it always seemed like a load. Maybe there's hope for me and book reading yet.

After writing the above, I didn't press publish for about 30 minutes because it felt pretty self-aggrandizing. Eventually I decided it was OK because I am pretty aggrand.