Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Heavy Hitters

Congratulations, Michigan! Another annual list has come out and we rank high enough on it to simultaneously feel a sense of victory and defeat. Victory for being in the top 20% but defeat in that the victory is a result of fatties roving our streets. The Top 10 fatties in the United States, that is. Michigan has an adult obesity percentage of 29.4%. Where does that rank compared to last year? Let me check....could you move? I can't see the computer screen to compare last year to this year past YOUR FAT.

This analysis makes perfect sense to me. How can anyone expect anything different from the state that champions the paczki? I think Michigan is well on its way to being a stronghold and safety zone for people who are pretty fat, but not as fat as those fatties "In Mississippi". At number 10, people can know that they are pretty fat, but still find comfort in the fact that there are a whole bunch of fatter (on average) people all across the country. Why go for a jog or a walk when you could just as soon hop in your car, support the local automobile economy, and drive down the streets you were going to run on? - but faster! Everyone is a winner. The other advantage of having so many fat people around is that those of us who are kind of in the middle can continue to feel a sense of moral superiority because even though we would be considered absolutely disgusting in California or Colorado, we live in fat Michigan. I'm no Brad Pitt, but I'm also no Kevin James. It lowers the bar of acceptability so much that even the most average among us have the opportunity to be Casanova.

What are we to do about being a bunch of fatsos? I'll think about it over my dinner of cookie dough and I'll let you know tomorrow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend Entertainment

Earlier this morning, my parents, grandma, uncle, Maureen, and I went to go see Toy Story 3. If you are a human being with a beating heart and you don't enjoy kicking puppies, you need to go see this movie. If you have all the previously-mentioned characteristics and also have the slightest interest in Pixar, you should also try to check out a CNBC special "The Pixar Story" from 2007. Just based on when this documentary was produced it is a tiny bit outdated, but it is mostly about the development and early success of Pixar, and that is not affected by the time. Maureen and I are watching it right now and it is absolutely fascinating.

I don't watch enough movies to consider myself anything resembling a movie aficionado (as you know my true non-human, non-living love is television), but watching Pixar movies throughout the duration of the movie and for a period of time after makes me feel like an awe-inspired and giddy little boy. Most importantly for me, their productions consistently cause me to pause and appreciate all of the great things about being alive. I'm not one to really ever cry, but the first five minutes of Up! and last 10 minutes of Toy Story 3 had me welling up. It's not easy to try to casually wipe away the stray tear with those stupid 3-D glasses on your face. The upside to them is that the glasses give you a couple of additional moments to compose yourself and let any eye redness reduce or hopefully completely go away.

The only downside to the pleasure that Pixar has contributed to the lives of people all over planet earth is that I believe the Steve Jobs is, was, and will always be a major prick, but I'm sadly forced to appreciate his early financial backing to the Pixar machine.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What a Great Day

Smashed in between meetings, I had the luck to watch the last 35 minutes of the U.S. game against Algeria in a Chili's. Regardless of what you think about chain restaurants, the bottomless express lunch remains a great deal with all you can eat tortilla chips, soup, and salad. You can make it is healthy or not as you choose. I fully conceded to another year of World Cup failure, but then, magically, GOAL!!!!! Landon Donovan in all of his wonderful petiteness drove home the best (not prettiest, but best) goal I have ever seen. At that moment, I damaged my throat through overly zealous cheering and hurt my finger because I still haven't learned how to perform a celebratory clap with a ring on my finger. That really hurts when done incorrectly.

The entire Chili's exploded with noise, people were throwing about high fives with reckless abandon, and my brother called me to celebrate even though neither of us really had anything to say except "YEAH!" It gives me hope for America's future soccer fandom. If lucky, we only get three World Cup games every four years, so extending the run by just one more game is a great victory in and of itself. Every time I see the goal replayed, my face is consumed by a big, goofy smile and I want to start hitting hands with palm outstretched with whoever is nearby.

Then, as the ice cream sundae that was my day was concluding, I read this! God is surely smiling on me today. Kwame has finally been indicted by the feds for being a moron 19 times. I can't say I expected these indictments to focus on mail fraud and tax-related charges, but what the hell. You know what they say - never look a gift 19 federal indictments in the mouth. I have to say, though, that 19 seems absurdly high. With 19 charges just focusing on mail and tax, it makes me feel like the feds could indict me for at least 15 things right now and I don't even have a clue what those things might be. I guess the bottom line is this - don't piss off the feds. On top of that, don't be the worst person in the world. What a great day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Welcome Home Cubbies

This weekend marked my 10-year high school reunion. I know what you're thinking - "how can someone who is out of high school only 10 years look so haggard?" I'll give you my secret to accelerated aging - eating cookie dough for a period of two weeks for breakfast and dinner. Don't tell your friends unless you want them to absolutely love you! It was a great weekend. 1/3 of the Class of 2000 from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy Established 1877 reunited in memories of the inappropriate things guys tend to do in an all-male high school. These inappropriate things aren't really that bad, but guys can be pretty interesting in the complete absence of female peers. Let's just say that you'd never want to know more personal records regarding how many times someone does something in a day.

I had a few reactions based on my experiences over the weekend. Friday was stag night with dinner and drinks at The High and Saturday was mass, drinks, and dinner with significant others/spouses if existent. Most of my very close friends from high school made it into town for the events and it was a joyous weekend to catch up with everyone in person. Here are my extended thoughts in no particular order except for that I numbered them because lists are at least 20% better with numbers:

1) At one point during the mass, the 50-year reunion men stood up and were briefly celebrated for their presence. These types of recognitions happen all the time, but this was the first one that emotionally resonated with me. Some people age better than others and some take care of themselves with more attention to detail, but I was struck by how depressing and sad it would be if, in 40 years, any one of my friends was not around to join me (hopefully!) at our 50 year reunion in front of a bunch of 28-year-olds. Life is precious, and it is odd the things that help one remember this. Take care of yourselves, everyone but my enemies. You know what? Take care of yourselves, too, enemies. Even if you are a jerk, someone out there certainly loves you.

2) U of D produces far too many lawyers in proportion to engineers. Both of my folks are lawyers and you know I love Law & Order, but Michigan NEEDS engineers. I have no idea what it is about the curriculum at the school that encourages students to eventually enter the law field and less the math and sciences, but for a school that does love it's heritage, it should figure out a better way to encourage professions in math and the sciences for the betterment of Michigan.

3) We've got to figure out how to positively differentiate Detroit/Michigan from Chicago. This is nothing knew, but holy jeez there are too many guys from my graduating year who live in ChiTown. Chicago is a fine city and the Shedd Aquarium has a great dolphin show, but there's got to be something we can offer, even if it starts with simple nostalgia for home. Did you hear? We don't have the lowest unemployment in the country anymore. Come home, Cubs (and everyone else).

4) Facebook really changes the complexion of reunions. This is probably brand new within the past 1-2 years, but that sense of reconnecting with old friends is really lost, because we probably reconnected on Facebook months or years ago. I know where you live, what you do, and how fat you are or aren't, so some of the excitement felt reduced. In some ways that is a good thing because we can catch up on substantive subjects beyond the very basic, but the very basic are often the most interesting.

5) I really loved and continue to love my friends from those days. The bonds that are possible through daily co-experiencing the trials, highs, and lows of teen life are amazing and special. If any of my friends read this blog (and you also know they don't because most of them suck pretty hard), you're pretty great.

6) If you didn't enjoy high school all that much, I still highly recommend you seriously consider returning for the reunion. At least in our environment, most or all of the pretense of high school had entirely evaporated and people just wanted to talk.

Thanks to everyone who put in effort toward the successful weekend, and also the fellas who traveled from far and wide (and close and narrow) to come home. See you in 5 years!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not #50 Someday

Current favorite number? 13.6%. Not 0.136 because that would be a stupid favorite number, but 13.6% isn't stupid at all.

The reason it is my current favorite number - Michigan's new unemployment rate! I know that this number is still pretty terrible and tomorrow when all the state's rates are reported there will be some sort of line in the various articles like "Michigan again had the highest unemployment rate at 13.6%", but I see this as pretty good news. It's not too difficult to paint this bad number as somewhat good news. Michigan's unemployment rate peaked 14.5% in December (my current least favorite number. It's at least as bad as .145) and overall employment has increased every month for the past five months. At this rate, we'll have 100% employment in 15.111 months. Mark your calendars for September 20th, 2011 because everyone person you know will be working. Also using this extrapolation, we'll have 13.6% negative unemployment by January of 2013. What does this mean? People who don't even exist will be employed. That's how good things will be assuming that we stay on the current trend and that people who don't exist can hold jobs. I studied me some math during my learnin' years.

My dream is a little more simple than this - I hope that at some point in the not terribly distant future, I won't have to read the sentence "Michigan again had the highest unemployment rate..." The two reasons I could see this working out are we keep creating jobs, or we change our name to something else like Awesomevania. I vote for the first approach, but I also wouldn't mind having the name Awesomevania, so that could work too. Good luck with continued success at finding work people of Awesomevania. Hopefully our unemployment rate doesn't go down because you have to leave, thereby (quick vote: does therefore also work here? I originally had therefore but it seemed less fitting than thereby) reducing the denominator.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Something You Didn't Know

As a long time big fan of the show Good Eats on The Food Network, I have a little more food science knowledge floating around in my head than your average bear. The host of the show, Alton Brown, strives to inform and educate, while making a few homemade weird contraptions and throwing in a recipe here and there. It's that devious type of programming that informs as it entertains, and that is dastardly. Often as the show cuts to commercials they'll throw a little tidbit of information at you or a food fact that is most often related to the just-concluded segment.

The new episode this week was about Asparagus. It is hard to imagine a more exciting subject than Asparagus, but when the good folks at Good Eats combined this vegetable with a little Michigan trivia, it's almost like they were writing a blog mention for me. The interesting food fact was something to the effect of "After California and Washington, Michigan produces the most asparagus out of all other states." Correct, friends, we are the third most contributory state to creating rank pee in America. This is a fact of pride to hold near our hearts.

While this is an interesting fact, perhaps more interesting, as Maureen pointed out, is the way that it was phrased. Why didn't they say something like "The three most asparagus-producing states are California, Washington, and Michigan" or "California produces the most asparagus"? Who specially calls out third place in any contest after quickly casting aside first and second place? That was kind of peculiar.

But now I know that Michigan is the third best state at producing asparagus and this is something I did not know before yesterday. I will now endeavor to find ways to incorporate asparagus more frequently into my daily routine - asparagus milkshakes, cut up asparagus in my cereal, throwing asparagus at various Tigers' opponents, using it as an wash cloth in the shower, and so on. Do you know what's even more amazing? Asparagus is genetically predisposed to grow in opposition to gravity - even when cut! That's why they always put the asparagus vertically at the supermarket. Otherwise, if they are placed on their sides, the tips of the asparagus will try to grow toward the sky and the asparagus will shape into L's. The earth is a fantastic place. You may now go to bed a little smarter, and probably a little happier.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prison is for Dangerous People

A couple weeks ago when Kwame was sentenced to prison, a million fairies got their wings. However, at the time, I opted to not make my feelings known because I have admittedly directed too much thought and space to the worst person in the world. Without even being fully aware of the reason why, the world has been in balance for the last two weeks. Dessert tastes a little bit sweeter, the air feels a little crisper, and I think we all felt just a little bit thinner. What more could a spiteful young man ask for?

Now, just two weeks after this fantastic prison sentence, the Michigan Department of Corrections is recommending Kwame have the opportunity to get out of prison in just 90 days. More than that, he wouldn't even exactly be in prison for the next 90 days - he would be in some sort of prison "boot camp" for 90 days and if he "successfully" completes this boot camp program then he will be on his fat way with parole. A few questions: 1) what the hell? 2) what the hell is prison boot camp? 3) what the hell is a successful completion of boot camp? 4) what the hell?

The Free Press article about this debacle states "Schwartz [Kwame's defense attorney] said prison is for dangerous people, and Kilpatrick is not dangerous." I agree with 50% of Schwartz's statement. Prison is definitely for dangerous people, and no one is more dangerous to the state of Michigan than Kwame. Every day that he is not in prison he could go around sleeping with people that aren't his wife and sucking out southeast Michigan's willingness to live. Mass depression inducing is dangerous, and no one can dole that out better than this guy.

This whole thing seems ridiculous. First, the former mayor went to jail and was released under a set of conditions the world knows and loves as parole. He decided that he did not respect or appreciate these conditions, so per the social and legal contract to which the world adheres, he was sent back to prison for violating parole. Now, he can go to boot camp and get another chance to screw up? And trust me, he will screw up again. If he does get out of prison again earlier than his sentence defines, his parole should consist of 18 hour days of cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Damnit Dude, Not Cool

Maureen and I are probably within 2 or 3 weeks of finally moving into our new home. That is immensely exciting and would officially mark the end of the major fixes/updates/improvements to the home for some short time. I think today, a greater power must have thought I was getting a little bit too cocky about the promise of putting the major work temporarily behind me.

That empty space to the upper left of the photo is where one half of our large, shade-giving patio tree used to reside.
This is where that part of the tree now resides - our backyard.

This happened at about 8:30 tonight and was the result of the largest storm of which I have ever been a part. While I was cleaning a paintbrush in the basement tonight I started to wonder why it was so loud in our house from the rain, and I wrote it off to shoddy insulation. As it turned out, the noise was a function of massive hail being blown by 60 mph winds off the siding. That was crazy.

I was in the process of cleaning up the paintbrush because I was about to finish up work at the house and join Maureen at our still-rented condo for the evening. At the condo, contractors and painters have been in and out of the place the past two days fixing the damage from the water heater that sprung a leak a ways back. Because of this, we were without hot water or air conditioning the past two days. It was weird to take a freezing cold shower yesterday and then get out and immediately start sweating because the condo was 85 degrees without the air on. So anyway, today everything was back working, except for that the storm that blew out power and blew down our tree in Northville also blew out the power in Livonia. No power anywhere, so Maureen and I are currently in the basement at my parents house watching TV right now. I don't mind being at my folks', but this has been an annoying couple days.

Back to the tree briefly, we'll now probably have to get the whole tree removed (after first removing part of the brick patio) and plant something that doesn't offer shade for 20 years. So...that sucks. It's not like we're not pooping out money right now on all the other house work, so why not have an act of nature cause us to poop more money. The silver lining is that the branch didn't actually fall directly on the house. I truly don't think my heart could have taken that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Problem with Confabs

This week, lots of important Michigan people go to Mackinac Island to talk about things related to Michigan. I guess my invite was lost in the mail. That is the only solution that makes sense. While everyone who is cool is there, they talk about stuff, reporters tell us what they talked about, and then everyone comes home and looks forward to summer camp in Mackinac next summer.

Like most people in Michigan, I have no idea what goes on there, but I do know that reading about the keynote speeches every summer is annoying. The reason it is annoying is because, as with most events like this, with all the attention focused on this group of important Michigan people, it is entirely unclear what, if anything, happens from this assembled brain and power trust. It's not that things don't happen - I really have no idea - it's just that with all of the local media attention and press focus during the Mackinac vacation, there is zero follow up until next summer, editors start writing about how this is the year that the Mackinac conference has to be more than just talk. Is it really just all talk? What is the point of this conference?

Networking is one reason people go to events like this and networking can be a great thing, but is it too much to ask for a little information on some of the outcomes of this opportunity? Person A was introduced to person B and together they started a foundation, or person B introduced person A to person C who a month later had a meeting with company D and started a community outreach program. Maybe these things happen, maybe the don't, but all I know for sure is that Newt Gingrich wants no taxes in Detroit for ten years and that Governor Granholm disagrees. Progress? I don't know, but maybe this idea triggered another thought that led to a new plan for the city. Is this too much to ask for?

This isn't an anti-conference pile-on like many of those that start to crop up before and during the conference, I'm just asking for more information to figure out if this should be an anti-conference pile-on.