Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bummer of the Week

The bummer of the week this week is most definitely not that YouTube video I posted a couple days ago of that girl trying the high jump. It's one of those things where every time I watch it, I have a reaction that includes laughing. Maureen accused me of laughing so hard about it with my family the other night that I peed in my pants a little bit. I vigorously deny peeing in my pants while laughing about that video, so that is also not the bummer of the week. If I did pee in my pants from laughing too hard, this would have easily been elevated to the bummer of the week.

No, the bummer of the week comes out of the downtown Detroit restaurant scene. Over the past several years, restaurateur Frank Taylor has been developing and running a series of relatively swanky restaurants downtown. These restaurants were a part of his Southern Hospitality mini-empire, and included some pretty prominent locations. Among these locations - Seldom Blues in the RenCen (formerly the Freep's restaurant of the year), Sweet Georgia Brown, The Detroit Breakfast House and Grill, The Detroit Fish Market, Magnolia, and maybe another one or two that I can't remember. Most of these places were some variation of downtown Detroit fine dining, with either a unique concept or upscale service, location, and/or food. As each of these restaurants opened through the years, I thought to myself "who is this Frank Taylor guy, and why is he so cool opening so many nice restaurants in downtown Detroit?" Each of the restaurants was greeted by pretty strong reviews and was considered "the place to be seen" when they opened (particularly Sweet Georgia Brown in Greektown). At one point or another I tried to make it a point to get downtown and go dine at these establishments to enjoy a nice evening, but more importantly, to support the downtown dining scene. With each new place under Frank Taylor's umbrella opened, I had a growing admiration in my heart for the guy as it seemed like he was legitimately trying to raise the level of dining options in downtown Detroit through good food and a little style. The restaurants were not cheap and at least some were probably overpriced (Seldom Blues in the RenCen, for example, was pretty expensive, but the view could not be beat and the live music was unique touch for Detroit), but sometimes you're willing to overpay for the city experience.

Earlier this week, I was quite saddened to read about the likely demise of the entire restaurant empire. Without knowing who is right or any of the details beyond what is reported in the news, Frank Taylor and Co. seem to be in the process of being sued out of existence. The specific claim is that revenues from The Detroit Fish Market are being funneled to his other property's to pay the bills. Because of this, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. is claiming that he owes them money because the rent he owes them is based on his revenue at this establishment. Essentially, he's accused of playing the shell game with his cash to keep his expenses artificially low.

The downfall has been slow but consistent. A few years ago Sweet Georgia Brown went through some financial and legal difficulties and declared bankruptcy. Last year, Seldom Blues declared bankruptcy and shut down. This year, the wheels appear to have come off and complete game over can't be that far away. This is sad for a couple reasons, but the real reason for the failure isn't completely clear. Was there some fishy business going on here? We'll probably never have definitive evidence. If there was, well then it's less sad - somebody didn't follow the rules and got in trouble. Either way, it'll go down in the books as more proof that downtown Detroit isn't friendly for business and, especially, fine dining restaurants. That is a shame, and as usual Detroit comes out looking bad.

I guess all that anyone can do or recommend is to support your Detroit (or otherwise local) businesses. Consider heading downtown, and if you don't feel too safe doing that, consider lingering before or after a sporting event or concert when there are way more people down that way. Otherwise, there will always be a bummer of the week.

Monday, April 26, 2010

You Suck at Soccer

Oh this is great. I try not to use this website as a clearinghouse for various pieces of garbage that float around the internet, but something about the simplicity and cuteness of this made me smile even after a few re-watches. I was directed to this video from an inappropriate website to an appropriate website, which made the cuteness of it even more surprising and funny. Maureen is a big fan of, so this video is also in the spirit of "things my wife likes." Enjoy. or don't - what do I care.

Update: Well, now I'm just in a goofy mood. I saw the above video before I saw the below video, and the below clip made me laugh again and again and again. There are more of these, but this is probably enough for now.

Friday, April 23, 2010


As I sit here and watch my first hockey game of the season (I like the intensity of playoff hockey but don't particularly love the game in the regular season) and flip back and forth to the Tigers' game, the thing that stands out the most is the fans. The Wings are playing in Phoenix and the Tigers are playing in Texas, and yet despite the fact that both locations are more than a days' drive from Michigan, there is a considerable contingent of Detroit fans at both venues. At the hockey game in particular, there seems to be almost as many Wings fans as Coyotes fans. Over the past few years (based on general assessment of television audio), this has been a growing and increasingly noticeable trend.

On the one hand it's pretty cool that there are so many Detroit sports fans around this fine country of ours. There are only a few truly great sports towns out there, and Detroit is one of those places that is generally acknowledged as one such great sport town. It is weird to hear as many cheers as boos when the Wings score in a foreign city, or the standard "Let's Go Tigers" chant in Baltimore. Unarguably we love our teams, and often the place (or the memory of the place) those teams represent.

On the other hand, it is also a bummer that there are so many Detroit fans out there. They're not fans because even though they were born in Seattle, they just really liked Jack Morris or thought that Vinnie Johnson had the best nickname in sports. This may be the case in some rare instances, but it's almost certainly more a matter of Michigan ex-patriots who have either chosen or been forced to leave. For those who chose to leave and never looked back, does it feel weird to go to the Tigers, Wings, or Pistons (Lions are excluded from this list until they manage a 4 win season) when they swing into town and cheer your heart out for your"home" team? Does it make you want to consider trying to get back home? Many people have little choice when they're forced to leave for work or other considerations, but I hope that when they do go to a game wearing their Michigan State t-shirts, it makes them at least briefly consider trying to find a way back to the Great Lakes State. You can always go home, and when you do, you can watch your favored Detroit team year-round.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Working On It

As far as shortcomings go, I am not in short supply. I am so rich in this area of my life, it is surprising that anyone would be willing to spend any time with me. Of all these shortcomings, the one that probably troubles me the most is my inflexibility. It is bothersome because it is a totally self-induced and unnecessary neurosis. I make plans, I follow those plans, and if events deviate from those plans, I get pretty broken up about it. This inflexibility takes many forms, including obsession with timeliness (mine and others), emphasis on routine, and aversion to change. It's nowhere near an actual disease like OCD, but that makes this area of life even more frustrating because I should have the ability to loosen up a little bit.

Over the past few weeks, some pretty major things have gone not according to plan. However, yesterday I was feeling pretty good about myself, because with some of these unexpected occurrences and changes, I was bending and flexing with relative ease and taking the events of life as they came. It felt like a major milestone and possibly a turning point in me sucking less in this one area. For example, despite the flooding issue we had on Saturday and subsequent annoyances, I'm not all that put off that my normal life routine is severely interrupted. Here are a couple of photos of our place that reflect some of these subsequent annoyances.

You may be thinking "Hey, there shouldn't be a million holes in your drywall" or "why are the washer and dryer perpendicular to each other sitting in the living room with a closet door on them?" and those are good questions. Another good question is "Does it really need to be 87 degrees in the condo to assist with drying out the flooded areas?" I guess this is the way it needs to be, because this is what the professionals say. It's imperfect, but these things happen in life.

Yesterday I was feeling proud of embracing flexibility and not being frustrated by the littlest things, but today I was reminded by some greater power to not get too proud of some version of personal "progress" - there's still a lot of work to do. Here's the story:

My car is a pretty good workhorse. The only thing that absolutely sucks about it is that the tires are incapable of holding air for an extended period of time. It must have something to do with poor construction of the rims, or a poor rim/tire interface design. Regardless, I have to refill the tires all the time. One downside to this is that sometime the tires get so low, the 50 cents paid at a gas station will actually not provide enough air to fill up all (or sometimes even one or two) of the tires, and it is difficult to get an accurate pressure reading from the tire gauge, so I'm left either feeling cheated of air or uncertain of the tire air pressure correctness. For these reasons, today I decided to take my car in to the mechanic to fill up the tires (and replace a missing tire cap), and while there (because a tire fill up is not reason enough to go to the mechanic) change my oil and take a look at an alignment problem. I emphasized "please fill up the tires, give me a new tire cap, and change the oil."

They changed my oil and when they took a look at the alignment, they said I had a big problem with my control arm, and this should be immediately replaced. I have no idea what a control arm does or why it exists, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't a scam because a mechanic told me a few months ago he saw a budding problem with the control arm and it would need to be fixed at some point in the near future. Today was the near future. I told them to go ahead and make the fix and then to complete the alignment. Three hours later, the car was ready to go, so I paid my $550 and took off to do some painting in Northville.

When I got out of the car in Northville, I noticed that the tire with the missing cap was...still missing the cap. Slightly bummed out, I checked the tire pressure and it came in well below where it should be. I called the mechanic to ask if they filled the tires and I was getting a bum reading, or maybe there was some other problem going on. Somewhat apologetic, he said they must have forgotten to fill up the tires and give me a new cap. Of course, the whole car process started because I wanted about $2 worth of air, a new tire cap, and the assurance that the tires were filled to the right pressure, and it ended with none of those things and approximately $600 in unexpected repairs.

Maybe one day when I do finally get to the point of fully accepting life's flaws and unexpected events, the little negative things like not getting tires filled with air will pass by with nary a negative thought, but for today, I'm pissed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

If Only We Had a ShamWow

*Line courtesy of my lovely, smart, and funny wife.

Frustratingly, things don't always go as you hope and plan. Today, we had a wonderful day with my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and parents before my sister's family head back to Minnesota tomorrow. We got to eat some lasagna, see Louis dance, and do all of the lovely things that make a day with family enjoyable. Maureen and I parted ways with them at around 9pm and made our way back to Livonia. We'd spend the next three hours watching TV (reveling in the end of day that included no refurbishment work on our house by plan) and then probably gently fall asleep on the big couch in front of the TV.

I parked the car, opened the garage, and walked toward the door into the condo. I was greeted by a (not very) gentle high pitched scream as soon as I opened the door and instantly started to freak out. What the hell was going on? The carpet area immediately around the basement house door was wet - very wet - and the ceiling around the fire sprinkler system in that area was also fairly soaked. First thought was that we must have had a fire in the house, and the fire extinguishing system kicked on to keep the whole place from burning down. I couldn't smell any smoke, so I ran upstairs to try to figure out what was going on before Maureen came inside. Every smoke detector in the house was also screaming, but there was no fire, sign of fire, or any visible water anywhere else in the house. We had no idea how to get the system to stop making noise, so we called the fire department (via 911) to come and help us work through whatever was going on in the condo. Before they arrived, Maureen (being far more everything-inclined than me) identified that the water heater had sprung a leak, and this had either tripped a water sensor or had some other adverse affect on the intertwined house alarm system and everything went haywire.

When the fire people showed up (why do they absolutely HAVE TO send an ambulance and fire truck when you clearly indicate on the phone that everything is cool and you just need assistance turning off an alarm) we showed them to the problem, and they did some electricity magic stuff to make the noise craziness stop. They took a little information, and we spent the next hour or so calling our landlady, talking to her insurance people, and then sopping up some of the flooded basement (no standing water, just tons of it in the carpet down there. It's not our responsibility to clean up the mess, but we'll be living here for a couple more months and we don't want the whole place to smell like mildew), and trying not to be too annoyed that the relaxing evening plans were exploded in a fiery ball of slowly dripping water.

All told, this was a fairly minor house emergency, but we'll now have to deal with the process of reconstruction on a property that isn't even ours all while we're spending all of our free time reconstructing the property that is ours. Regardless of who is at fault, I blame LandArc. Jerks.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

News But Then Not

We are within 15 days of the happiest day of my life minus all the other days that were way happier for far better reasons. 15 days from now, you will not be able to smoke and eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner in any of the Michigan restaurants in which I will be eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If this is disappointing to you - haha you suck!

I think we're something like the 38th state to finally achieve such a ban, but this makes sense because Michigan people like to bowl, join unions, and kill deer. I'm not stereotyping, I'm just saying that most of the people who I know who like to bowl, join unions, and kill deer also have a thing for inhaling carcinogens in the form of a smoke stick. I will never know the joy of bearing my own child internally, but I have had an internal ticking clock in the form of "WHY HAVEN'T WE BANNED SMOKING YET?" We're only 15 days away.

Earlier today, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson made news when he said that he was going to sue to stop the ban. Without being a lawyer, his argument against the ban was just about the dumbest (and potentially most frustrating) thing I have ever heard. He said that because the law was passed without funding, he would not be able to pay the necessary resources to enforce this ban in Oakland County. That is [expletive deleted] crazy. When a law is passed in the state that promotes individual health and well-being, additional funding doesn't have to be allocated to support any such law. Do I have to pay separately (out of my taxes) to be defended from murder, manslaughter (they are different you know, watch Law & Order), extortion, assault, aggravated assault, dangerous drivers, jaywalking, counterfeit, and on and on? Absolutely [expletive deleted] not. That would be [expletive deleted] insane. A law is passed, and the good police people who protect the state citizens and the well-being of these citizens are then charged with enforcing this law.

After publicly declaring something so idiotic, L. Brooks Patterson said he received over 100 phone calls and emails within one hour of people kindly asking him to stop being such an idiot. Surprisingly, it worked! Patterson withdrew his lawsuit, and he will let the law come into effect. He does claim that the law will likely be largely/entirely enforced by bar and restaurant owners and their patrons so he still thinks it will be ineffective, but he better know he's [expletive deleted] right that I will shut down any smoking in my vicinity. Unless the person smoking is bigger or scarier than me.

*To enhance your pleasure of the post, every expletive deleted is the F-word (with "ing")

Monday, April 12, 2010

As Dumberer as Everer

For a period during my life, I was consumed with calorie count. I could account for every single calorie in a day excluding food that I accidentally ingested (happens more often than you would think). During this period I lost something like 50 total pounds and life was without joy and happiness. There is still some mental holdover from this time of life and I remember the calorie count of most commercially available food items. That is why I sometimes find myself at Wendy's when I'm looking for a fast and relatively healthy lunch or dinner. The Ultimate Chicken Grill meal swapping out a small chili for the french fries and a Diet Coke comes out to a total of only 560 calories (340 for the sandwich, 220 for the chili). For the health-conscious who also love fast food, this is a pretty amazing option. It feels only a little bit like you're restraining yourself from food happiness and the meal is decently filling for 560 calories.

For all these reasons, I found myself at Wendy's for lunch today. Waiting in line, a sign above the soda machine read something along the lines of "Due to the cold weather conditions in Florida, the quality and availability of tomatoes at Wendy's locations has suffered. Because of this, tomatoes will only be available UPON REQUEST." I read the sign, appreciated and understood the cause and effect, and felt bad for all those poor suckers who neglected to get tomatoes on their square hamburgers. Sandwiches are almost universally better with tomato. It's a fact of life and tomatoes.

I ordered my Ultimate Chicken Grill meal, grabbed a spoon for my chili, and sat down for sustenance. Unwrapping the foil around the sandwich, I pulled it open to add just a little salt (I said I was concerned about calories, not sodium. What are you, the salt police?). "Hey, where's my toma....oh crap." Despite having read the sign and eaten several hundred ultimate chicken grill sandwiches with tomatoes, I neglected to make the connection that my sandwich fell into the UPON REQUEST category clearly outlined by the sign. I haven't felt such indecision for weeks as I was torn between going up to the counter and asking for a rare, possibly low-quality tomato slice to manually add the tomato to my sandwich, or accept the shame and tomatolessness of my partial sandwich. In the end, I suffered through the results of my terrible thought process. Without suffering, there can be no progress.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Show Me

Jealous of my midnight Friday blogging? Probably. Wake up, work, jog, paint, eat a piece of pizza, go to bed. And so it continues.

Anyone who has taken a rudimentary class in forecasting or has ever talked to someone who has taken a rudimentary class in forecasting has heard the following statement: "The first rule of forecasting is that forecasts are always wrong." At this point in the class, some moron (probably me) says something that they truly believe to be original - "Then what's the point of this class." If I was the teacher, this is where I would say "Well, this is where the first rule of forecasting fails, because I was predicting that someone as dumb as you would be in my class this term." Yeah eat that fictional student that was probably me in fictional class that I probably took.

For the last 10 years, economists forecasting the Michigan economy and job growth have always said "this year will be bad, next year will level out, and the year after that we'll return to slow but steady job growth and economic improvement." The one exception to this was last year when economists were pretty much saying that nothing would ever be good again (until, in my humble opinion, the federal government saved our collective bacon. Thank you good people of the federal government). With all this background, then, I am both encouraged and cautious when I read another article that says that economists are predicting that job growth will return to Michigan next year. Nothing could make me happier, but there isn't much about which I could be more skeptical. Same tune, different year. If this forecast does, in fact, come true, this could be further legitimate evidence that we have come through a bottom and the future may finally be better than the past for the good people and businesses of our state.

I'm this close to throwing a scrapbooking party to celebrate. If I could have all the time back that I currently use trying to convince people that we don't suck, I could waste my time in other ways like writing more about television and working on that elusive karate brown belt. Hi-ya.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Family Commercial

I always loved my dumbphone. People could call me, I could call people, and every once in awhile I could talk to people at the same time. If someone had the gall to send me a non-plan text message I would take the next 10-20 minutes to peck my way through the 123456789 alphabet system to respond with something clever like "sounds good". If I was not at my computer, I could not receive an email from you, and I could also use that as an excuse for work - "Sorry I can't stay longer, I don't have internet access here." Friends and coworkers have had more advanced phones for years and years, always taking the time in the middle of our in-person conversations to ignore me and read an email or text message from someone else. I would continue on with what I was saying, knowing all the while that I would have to repeat whatever it was I just said when the person returned their attention to me from the phone. I'm a fairly technologically inclined person, so I'm not sure what kept me away from the smartphone. Part of it must have had something to do with being a person who enjoys gadgets and technology, yet for inexplicable reasons held on to a years-old phone with a missing battery cover. Even without the technology that everyone else seemed to enjoy so very much, I got along more than just fine.

Over the past several months, work has required me to be increasingly mobile. This mobility has required longer stays at various locations all around the southeast corner of Michigan, and at most of these locations I did not have access behind the corporate firewall. Without this access, I was going days without internet and this was actually starting to put a hamper into my productivity and usefulness.

This, and one other piece of information, finally gave me the push I needed to jump up to 2005. Last weekend, I purchased a Palm Pre Plus and added the necessary unlimited data plan. Why a Palm Pre Plus instead of an iPhone or Blackeberry, you most certainly are asking right at this very second? A few very good reasons.

First and most importantly, starting last week, Verizon starting offering free 3G tethering through the phone for up to 5 devices at a time. That is a pretty big deal. This means that if I have my phone with me, I can access the internet on my laptop pretty much anywhere in the country. I can stream internet radio, watch my Slingbox, send and receive sizable work emails, and any of the other sordid internet things about which you are currently thinking. It's free! Literally, free. The only downside is that I'm limited to 5GB a month without incurring additional fees, but 5 gigs is pretty generous for this type of internet usage. Second, I hate how many people would legally marry their iPhones if given the opportunity (maybe in Vermont), and I like to throw my support behind the down-and-out guy (see: my support and love of Michigan). Third, the operating system (webOS) is pretty phenomenal. It's not absolutely perfect, but it is possible for me to do two (and fifty) things at the same time on the phone. 2 > 1. Finally, a much beloved family member recently took a job at the fine company responsible for this software and hardware. If you can't get behind a family member, you should go and marry your iPhone in Vermont. Look out, world - I can send a text message in less than 3 minutes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day

With only slight exaggeration, there is nothing better than your home baseball team's opening day. It is so important, it is called "Opening Day". Of all the sports popular in the United States, including cricket and backgammon, none of the professional leagues have anything resembling the magic of opening day. People get equally excited about the beginning of the season of their preferred sport, but it's just not the same. My biggest shame of the year to this point is that I actually did not realize today was the Tigers' opening day because I always had in my mind that Friday (their home opener) was their season opener, so I almost let the whole game slip by me. That would have been an unacceptable outcome and not deserving of forgiveness.

Opening Day is so important, it was the one thing for which my high school would actually excuse absence. That is huge.

The Tigers were victorious today in what will almost definitely be the first ever undefeated season in the history of modern baseball. Not only did the Tigers win, but they managed the win by slowly pushing Zack Greinke out of the game and then taking charge against the Royals' bullpen. I feel bad for the Royals, but it's hard to feel too bad because Kansas City has what I consider to be the best variety of barbecue in the country. Arthur Bryant's is there - what else needs to be said. My heaven consists of opening day and a pile of Arthur Bryant's pulled pork on a slice or two of Wonder Bread.

Opening Day marks the start of optimal Michigan weather, lazy summer weekend afternoons, and thinking about how much less stressful the new closer is than Fernando Rodney. Today marks the return of happiness and unicorns, the athleticism of Brandon Inge, and explaining to my foreign co-workers what the hell is going on in a baseball game. People who didn't grow up with the sport find it very confusing.

Welcome back, baseball. You were missed. Please don't let the Yankees win anything else.