Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New L&O Trend Data Point

Last week around this time, I wrote about how Law & Order is walking down a dangerous path this season. Mostly from this I learned that other people out there still watch the show and are in agreement with this concern.

This is why it is with regret that I must again formally request that L&O stop sucking so hard in the last 10 minutes of the show. This week after a whole convoluted and crazy crime plot in which no one was actually killed, Cutter again fooled the bad guy into admitting on the stand and under oath that, yes, he did it because he loves his daughter. For an instant, I thought the show was going to take it in the other direction and the baddie would successfully get away with it after standing up to the questioning. In fact, I was praying for this outcome just to deviate from the ever-establishing pattern of unthoughtful conclusions. What makes matters worse is that they had to drag Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development) into the whole "admit to everything" vortex of the show. Even Buster could have done a better job defending his innocence, and he was a complete nincompoop whose hand was eaten by a seal. Is this the future of Law & Order, and if it is, do I have the ability to make myself stop watching it? I'm going to monitor the situation closely and may just have to start a Facebook group about it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

Subtitle: Stop Making Us Look Like Dicks

I have a vague memory from many years ago of either my mom or dad (the memory is that vague - I can't gender distinguish) explaining to me the Michigan militia. At the time, the whole concept seemed ridiculous and I was only about 14 years old.

"Wait, people in Michigan are preparing for war against our own government and have huge stockpiles of weapons? That sounds crazy!"

14-year-old me was and is right, and it is a crying shame that so many people who are unarguably insane live and "train" in Michigan. This week, the FBI arrested and is charging nine people with plotting to kill police and "use weapons of mass destruction" - though no articles I've found indicate the specifics of these mass destruction weapons. If this whole story was just a little more over the top, it could be something right out of 24, and it is not easy to top 24. Whenever I feel the urge to stop the Antichrist embodied by the U.S. Government, I pause for a moment, remember that I'm not crazy, and move on with my life. Haven't these people ever heard of Lazer Tag? It's SO MUCH FUN! You can shoot people with lasers, check your score, and call it a day. If you want to shoot more, pay a few more dollars and go shoot some more people with lasers. It's a perfectly fun and danger-free way of shooting people.

Can anyone explain to me the relative stronghold and proliferation of the Michigan militia when compared to other states? I wouldn't think we necessarily have more crazy people than other states, but I guess it's a possibility and would explain most of it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unrelated to Anything

Courtesy of the aforementioned busy things going on right now, general TV watching has been way down. Despite this indescribably sad drop off in my life, I still try to make time for Days of Our Lives for an occasional workout.

I'm starting to think that I'm not in the prime expected demographic for the purposes of advertising for the show. The primary reason for this is the potty dance. What's the potty dance you ask? Thanks to the power of the internet, I would like to share the potty dance with you right now:

The potty dance is played over and over and over during the show, and Huggies must pay for the prime spot at the very beginning or end of the commercials in a somewhat feeble attempt to bust DVR watching. I guess in some ways they are succeeding toward this end because I find myself both wanting to do the potty dance and to buy diapers for someone - anyone. Unlike the embedded YouTube video, the commercial typically runs 30 seconds, whereas the full on version runs a full 2 minutes. I hope the guy who wrote and performed the potty dance made big dough for this. Huggies probably paid him was booze right upfront and demanded the final version of the potty dance in the next ten minutes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Disturbing L&O Trend

There isn't much better than the brilliant consistency of Law & Order. Not the sex one, not the one starring Lilith from Cheers that isn't on TV anymore, not the one with that guy from Full Metal Jacket, but the original L&O originally starring Michigan native (and graduate from my high school) Michael Moriarty. I think according to L&O lore he is actually hiking through the mountains in Nepal or something like that right now (and astute TV watchers know that he was returned to earth on the show The 4400 and was given the ability to make minor earthquakes). A few months ago I wrote about a developing personal plot line in the series regarding one of the characters (played by S. Epatha Merkerson who is ALSO a Michigan native) and her ficitional battle with cancer in the show. This still remains a troubling part of the series because the show is attempting to veer into the personal character interest side of things that they have typically glossed over in the past via occasional mention (McCoy slept with an assistant lawyer who he later married and then divorced, Detective Curtis cheated on his wife with Julia Roberts [see correction in the comments section on this point] and later his wife was diagnosed with MS , Detective Briscoe had a drug addict daughter who was killed by a drug dealer). This cancer component is still a regular component of the show and I mentally tune out when we're forced to watch Lieutenant Van Buren in the doctor's office. If I was a good blogger, I would place a link here to this original post, but I can't find the original post in my history so I'll leave it up to my rabid readership to hunt it down (which means no one will ever see it again). update: I found it

After watching the episode from this week, I've noticed an even more disturbing trend in the direction of the conclusion of the individual shows. Going back over the past 20 seasons of Law & Order, one of the tried and true approaches of the ADAs has been to trick the bad guy into saying something incriminating on the stand. Sometimes it is a subtle slip up from the defendant, sometimes it is catching the person in a lie, and every once in awhile the perpetrator gets worked up and says something stupid like "I DID IT BECAUSE HE DESERVED IT." This last occurrence is the absolute best because most of the time the defendant carefully crafted the crime, perpetrated the act, and then painstakingly concealed it, but despite this level of planning and intelligence, the New York ADA could fool the criminal into shouting out publicly on the stand in front of the jury and declaring personal guilt.

I accept that sometimes the story writers have written themselves into a corner and there is no other way to cleverly reveal the defendant's guilt, so this is just one fallback solution in the bag of guilt-identification tricks. However, this season, the show is relying far too heavily on this crutch. It's kind of painful to watch 30 minutes of police investigation, 30 minutes of law process, and then Cutter says something to the criminal like "you can't control your girlfriend" and then the criminal says "that's not true, I made my girlfriend have SEX with that one member of the jury because I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT." I love you original Law & Order and I pray that you never leave this world, but endings like this make it easy to understand why it is so easy for some people to poke fun at the predictability and weaknesses in the show. You can do better.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Government Makes no Sense

I have absolutely no understanding about how my government actually functions. I swear that I took the mandatory social studies classes in grade school and in high school I excelled at AP U.S. government. Including college courses, that was probably the most insane class I ever had. The teacher required 3-4 one page essays 4-5 days a week, every week for the duration of the class. I exaggerate not, and any of my fellow classmates can corroborate this. This class is probably the one that taught me to type better and faster than all of the instant messaging on AIM that a high school person did during the true explosion of instant messaging. This class also taught me how, above all, to generate reams of content - even if I have nothing important to say. Astute readers and dumb readers alike can probably see this trend in almost every single post.

As I type right now and watch MSNBC, there is a larger window of C-SPAN with the big heading:

"On Motion to Recommit with Instructions" - Yea 192, Nay 227

What the hell is going on? The internet tells me that this is big news because the health care bill passed, but what is recommitting with instructions and how did the Nays beat the Yeas but yet the Yeas are really the people who won? And why was Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan so instrumental in the Nays beating the Yeas but in bizarro voting world? If I want pulled pork, I don't say "no thank you on everything but pulled pork", I say "Hellz Yea, give me that pulled pork." Furthermore, how did this bill actually pass? The Senate couldn't pass something but then they did because they sent it to the House and it went through something called Reconciliation and then it has to go back to the Senate for adjustments (even though it has already passed) - but then after all that I think the American voter can vote this bill down in the next major election despite everything else. This reminds me of absolutely nothing I learned in AP U.S. Government about 10 years ago. What does this have to do with the Hamilton letters?

Other things that have bothered and deeply confused me quite recently about the government - how was one person (Senator Jim Bunning) stop a bill extending unemployment benefits when every other person voting on this bill wanted it to pass? They didn't teach that in U.S. Government either. What statutory language regarding abortion and how is it relevant to an executive order regarding abortion? I feel like the concept of Executive Order was invented 10 years ago that gives the president the right to do whatever the hell he wants (prove me wrong, she's out there) without any checks or balances from the other branches of government (I guess that's the only thing I learned from U.S. Government).

The problem with government is I don't even know how to ask a question to get an explanation for things I don't understand, because I don't have the slightest idea where to start. No one has the time to make understanding government their full time hobby, and it seems like this is the only way to figure some of this stuff out. Let's take a vote!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Busy as a Busy Person

I see my mom, dad, and Maureen almost every day these days and they're pretty much the only people who read my writings, so this whole exercise is pretty pointless. Just in case someone accidentally stumbles upon the website, I felt obligated to just make a quick mention of the fact that right now I am extraordinarily busy and I have to split my free time between my loves of catching a few moments of recorded television and writing about Michigan. Every once in awhile, I attempt to combine these things and it never really goes that well. My current weekday goes like this: Wake up, perform analysis, go to meetings, try to get in a run, paint new house, fall asleep. My weekend goes like this: Wake up, check email, paint new house, sand new house, take a work call, do some work based on the call, return to painting house, go to sleep. This won't go on forever, it just so happens that work has greatly intensified at the same time as this whole home ownership thing. Whoever told me (no one) "there is no less work than owning a home" was totally full of it. In this instance, "it" means crap. Stick with me people.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm Not Irish

I love joviality, but I don't much care for St. Patrick's Day. Every year it reminds me just a little bit of everyone who was cooler than me in high school through college who had something fun to do on St. Pat's evening, and I was left to wonder why I could never reach their levels of cool. Because I remain uncool, the memories still sting and I don't know if I'll ever get over my aversion to this day. I did marry a girl who is largely Irish who is far cooler than me, but she doesn't have any special love for the day so I can get away with my dislike.

However, since it is the singular day to celebrate Irishness, it seems appropriate to write about something to do with Ireland. Yesterday my brother messaged me (if you're wondering he's still in California but we'll get to see him on a visit home soon) with a link to this website to which you should go immediately. It's a battle of the Irish bands thing and the winning band gets a free trip to Ireland. This is a good opportunity for me to promote Ireland, Michigan, and to test the awesome power of my pen because you should go and vote for the band called Finvarras Wren. In the past, I've mentioned a family named the Perkins clan that makes up a pretty great Irish band based out of Michigan (also, Mr. Jim Perkins performed at our wedding and was absolutely fantastic).

Unfortunately, you have to register for the contest to try to ensure no one places multiple votes, just make sure that you uncheck the one box that would allow them to send you a newsletter at some regular time interval. Mostly because of my influence, we were able to get Brandon Inge to the All-Star game last year, so let's see if we can get the Perkins to Ireland this year. If you vote for Finvarras Wren, I can guarantee a psychotic leprechaun will not not ruin your evening tonight. No promises about tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mis Represent

Some things are worth nitpicking and other things are not worth this level of attention. For example, if you have nits, it is totally worth your energy to go through the picking process. One thing that to me is worth this additional energy and makes me crazy is when Michigan is subtly slighted in forms of national press. There are plenty of things that don't require subtlety, so the perceived modest digs are all the more frustrating and unnecessary.

Despite our modest recent house purchase, the national housing market did not instantly bounce back as Maureen and I anticipated once word got out that we were in market for a home. Apparently, not even my influence stretches that far. These types of reports are coming out less frequently than mid-to-late last year, but a new report came out today that indicates that mortgage delinquencies/foreclosures are at a new all-time high. The situation in housing continues to worsen, but the pace of deterioration has slowed since last year (we still live in an interesting world where things getting bad slower is a victory). As usual, the write ups on the study are innocuous and boring, but there is one part in the CNN Money article that, while minor, is offensive to the image of Michigan. This part reads:

"The worst-hit areas are the usual suspects: the boom-and-bust states of Florida, Nevada, Arizona, California, plus the economically savaged areas of Michigan and Ohio. Also up there are Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana and Illinois. But few states are escaping the problem; it's just that the worst states are so, so bad it makes the others look relatively good."

I, as a potential outsider harshly judging Michigan, would take this sentence to indicate Michigan as the 5th worst state in the country in terms of mortgage delinquencies and/or foreclosures. The vague wording "also up there are..." would lead ignorant me to believe that the immediately following list of states has its share of problems, but nothing like the "economically savaged" state of Michigan. In fact, if you look at the table corresponding to this poor analysis, every one of those "Also up there states..." has a worst delinquency/foreclosure rate than Michigan, some several percentage points worse. My frustration with consistent poor Michigan reporting like this, I believe, justifies me actually stealing the chart from CNN and including it below.

Michigan reporting like this is nothing new, but it remains my responsibility (and you if you're not a terrible person) to point out inconsistency like this to others in the nonstop image battle in attracting residents, businesses, tourists, and whatever other types of creatures (excluding Komodo Dragons) want to live here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where in the World...?

If you finish those ellipses points with the name "Mitt Romney", then I can tell you.

For most of today, I was at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, MI for mysterious and secretive reasons (world-famous bloggers convention). Upon returning from lunch, a red Chrysler minivan was pulled in front of the main entrance of the hotel. A handsome man stepped out of the passenger's seat and his handsomeness struck a familiar chord with me. Awkwardly, I pointed directly at him and said to the person next to me "Hey Look! It's Mitt Romney!" Smooth as silk I am.

A few hours later, there was a Fox2 news van pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, so they must have read my post before I even wrote it and tried to hunt Mitt down at the hotel because of my breaking news.

This is simply more evidence that famous people can't help but be pulled toward my natural gravitational force. I guess putting on the extra pounds since Christmas has had some benefit.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Calling a bottom to most anything (excluding roller coasters and limbo contests) is an extremely tough thing to do. It always seems like there is at least a little farther to fall. This is why I'm not about to call a bottom for Michigan, but rather consider the implications of what it means if we have passed our low point. Michigan continues to lead the country in unemployment, but the state notched another decrease in unemployment to 14.3% in January. That is a lot of unemployed people, but since last year when unemployment in the state was about 15%, there has been a steady decline in this painful metric for the last several months.

On top of this, the automobile industry (in terms of U.S. sales volumes) shows maintained signs of picking up (with Ford seriously picking up in volume) and the rate of decline in home prices is declining (the overall prices are also declining, but the pace is slowing. It's like at the bottom of the sledding hill when you're still going down but slower).

Michigan faces continued massive budget gaps but considering the events of the last year, this budget gap is considerably smaller than several states with better unemployment and housing numbers. Kwame Kilpatrick may actually end up in jail and spring is within reach. The Red Wings are back in the playoff hunt and there is a chance that Dontrelle Willis will land a regular spot in the Tigers' pitching rotation this year. If we have experienced the Michiganocalypse, is the future guaranteed to be bleak? Maybe, but maybe not.

It often takes years for the full effects of massive job loss and reduced tax base to hit a state and its inhabitants. Public services over time degrade and eventually cease, and simple things that are annoying but we take for granted like road repairs become more infrequent and untended. Without knowing what might happen in some future years because of the difficult past couple years, I very much look to the future with hope. This hope is primarily based on the knowledge that despite a year (starting almost a year ago today) in which everything went wrong for the state, we're still here. This is a message that I, and others, have fallen back on before, but that does not make it any less significant to me. People still go out to eat in restaurants and Best Buy is still filled with people buying things that they should be buying from Amazon. Traffic isn't half as bad as many major metropolitan areas, but the roads are anything but abandoned. Just the other day I saw the new sign for the battery manufacturer A123 systems go up on a building off of I-275, and Dow keeps plugging away in Midland creating jobs in the state. Quicken Loans, while smaller than when it was at its peak, is maintaining its commitment to move it's headquarters into the Compuware Building downtown. The city of Detroit is considering a crazy but awesome Hail Mary of shrinking the city to match the reach of city services to the actual population (I know this will likely never happen but it's never been so clearly discussed by anyone in Detroit leadership as Mayor Bing). Houses may not be selling for as much as the sellers would like, but "Sold" signs are popping up at this time of the year all over the place.

When I imagine the worst specific things that could happen to the state and people of Michigan, most of them have happened in the past 1-2 years. Things will remain tough for some time, but we're a tough group (well, most people except me. My girlish hands are all kinds of scratched and bruised from home repairs). Things can always be better, but I'm thinking that just maybe we've seen the worst. That is the kind of statement that drives my mom absolutely crazy because you're asking for trouble. Screw you, trouble. We've proven we can take you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

spring but then winter but then really spring

As has been the case since at least 1982, it is again clear that winter will break and be replaced with good things like leaves and birds and increased warmth. This is a spectacular thing and can only be legitimately appreciated by those who have have temperatures that vary by 100 degrees over the course of the year. Kids are out riding their bikes and people who haven't walked their dogs for the past 4 months are increasingly in my way on my runs. Before you know it, I'll be complaining about losing to some softball team that brought in ringers during the playoffs. Stupid ringers.

As has also been the case since at least 1982, Michigan weather is inconsistent. It gets warm, it gets cold, it gets really warm, and then it snows before it hits 75 that same week. This is obvious, and while we all talk about "how surprising it is that it's snowing in April," it's really not that surprising, it's just something to talk about with people with whom you otherwise have nothing about which to talk. This is all fine and good and part of working with people in offices, so we continue on with the farce of surprise. Plus, no one likes the guy who challenges the social norm and says things like "it snowed in April the last three years." Just go with it, that guy.

Today The Detroit News wrote up a quick article on the current warm weather. They mention that it is going to stay at or near 50 all this week, which is pretty great, but the best part of the article is the last sentence, where it says "Though spring officially arrives March 20, meteorologists warn that past years suggest it may be too early to rule out another snowfall." Is that what meteorologists warn from their years of specific training to deliver the weather to us? Geologists warn that California may be prone to earthquakes due to recently experienced earthquakes. At the very least, I'm happy to know that meteorologists are no dumber than the rest of us in using past experiences to vaguely predict the future. If it was anyone but meteorologists, I would probably call whoever it was making this prediction a bunch of idiots, but now they have legitimacy.

Every year I forget how boring the Oscars are until I try to watch them. What is it about optimism that causes me to give something so bad another shot year after year?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vigilant of the Vigilant

Just a fair warning to the Michigan residents trying to make their way to or from work or the grocery store these days - I'm not sure what is going on but it appears as though cops are EVERYWHERE right now. Is anyone else observing the same thing over the past week (Maureen just said that she totally agrees so that's two people)? I know there are certain weeks or weekends when cops around the state perform some variation of a sting operations where they are particularly focused on speeding tickets or other moving violations so they hit the streets in force with the intent of generating as much revenue and ruining as many people's driving records and auto insurance bills as possible, and maybe this is one of those weeks. In particular, I can speak primarily to the Ann Arbor to Royal Oak stretch of freeway and side streets thereabouts, but there have been cops all over the place and lots of poor folks waiting anxiously to figure out what kind of ticket(s) they're about to be stuck with.

What really sucks about this to someone like me is that I'm not much of a speeder, but I do kind of regularly hover about the 74/75 mph range to help me to get to places a little faster. This is typically easily slow enough to keep away from speeding troubles, but when the cops are out in force like right now, they'll pull you over for just about any speed over the posted limits.

So, friends, stay vigilant and try to make it through this crackdown without any new infractions. Don't break any laws, but if you do mildly break some laws, keep your eyes open.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Something for Everyone

Revel in the development of a human who is much like a regular person, only way smaller and unable to make words and memories. One day when he's an anorexic neurosurgeon, we'll reflect back on his dexterity at 14 months, as well as his strong interest in preferring his food on the ground as opposed to his tummy. I dare you not to smile, and if you win this dare, you are a joyless person.