Monday, August 30, 2010

The Least Controversy

The Catholic Church has suffered its fair share of controversy over the past life of its existence (and particularly the last 10 years), and I don't mean to take away from those involved in these difficult issues, but there is one additional Catholic church controversy that everyone who attends a mass is confronted with in every mass: Should you sit down or stand as you wait to take communion? Everyone knows that after you take communion you kneel and either pray or pretend to pray because at that moment you are said to be as close to God as you can be (since you are eating his Son), but there is more confusion in the church before receiving communion than you can shake a confusion-finding stick at.

The reason this comes to mind is because this past weekend, my sister-in-law had her Catholic church wedding to another family friend on Friday evening. The ceremony and reception both went great and everything went smoothly up until the moment that the priests took their chalices and made their way to the front of the church.

For as long as I have been attending mass, the same awkward process has played out in churches ranging all the way from Birmingham to Ann Arbor to Royal Oak. It's probably going on outside of this church triangle but I can't say definitively. Here's how it goes.

First, the people in the front pews start to shuffle into the center aisle. At that moment, everyone behind the fifth row starts to look around the church in search of helpful signals. The fifth row is key because the people in that row and forward know that very soon, they will be making their way up for the wafer so they don't necessarily have to choose between sitting and standing. No one wants to make eye contact as they look around for the sit vs. stand signal because that would indicate that they are unsure whether or not they are supposed to sit or stand. As soon as people start to look around, everyone feels a little bit guilty because even though they have likely been attending mass for years and years, they're still not sure if they're supposed to be sitting or standing. It is also at this moment that an even broader guilt settles in as the confused individuals realize and accept for another week that not only do they not know when to sit or stand throughout the entire ceremony (without explicit cues), but they often don't know the exact correct verbal responses at the end of readings.

"Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ." or "Thanks be to God." or "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." and don't even get be started on the whole Nicene Creed. That thing is absolutely ridiculous. I love the people who know it and shout it out proud to demonstrate their excellent levels of Catholicism.

After this awkwardness, the people in the very back of the church realize that they're pretty sure they're supposed to be sitting, that they'll have to wait the longest to get to the front, and so they take their seats. After this, the remainder of the back third identifies that some people have led the way and are already sitting, and the whole back third flings themselves down to the pews. By this time, the front third of the church has already been served their Lord, the middle third sees that the back third is seated, and they're torn because it's almost their turns to eat. Because of this confusion, some of them sit, some of them stand, and some kind of do the squat sit to hedge their bets. You don't want to choose the wrong option lest God get angry and banish you to Hell for improper sitting approaches.

I contend that God is OK with you sitting during the entire communion process, even after you've ingested the host. It's the Greater Power's award to the congregation for both showing up to praise and making it all the way through communion. Don't even get me stared on everyone who leaves right after Communion. For those people, it doesn't matter if you sit or stand because God is keeping score and you don't get a point for the Mass at all if you leave right after Communion. And, as with most things, he who has the highest score wins.

Who disagrees?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Up That Guys'

Remember the good old days where I had the pride in my work to come up with a good title? Man those were heady times during which I had the time and inclination to wow you with my cleverness. Time is just a little bit more limited these days, but one thing that is completely independent of available time is my willingness and ability to get super pissed with someone.

Over the past few days in the sports world, there has been a pretty interesting story evolving on the Detroit sports scene. I've tried not to comment on it because it is pretty saturated in the media and from everything I was hearing, it was difficult to formulate a clear opinion on it. In basic terms, Tigers' player Johnny Damon was requested by the Boston Red Sox (his former team) to return to them to assist that team with their run toward the playoffs Because of some stipulations in his contract, Damon had the option of going to the Red Sox or staying a Tiger, and after much consideration, he decided to stay with our hometown good guys. There are many possible reasons for this decision - Damon himself claimed that "I definitely thought long and hard about it, and the bottom line was my happiness here and the guys here telling me this is a good place for me." Others have suggested that his decision was entirely based on the likelihood that he would get a better contract next year if he stayed with the Tigers instead of moving back to Beantown. He also had a difficult relationship with the Boston fans after he decided to leave their team for the hated Yankees. It's not possible to say with 100% certainty the true reason for his decision, but I would like to take at partial face value that he genuinely enjoys playing for the Tigers organization, the Tigers' fans, and living in Michigan. I'm happy whenever someone publicly speaks positively about the Detroit area, so maybe I'm fooled by the right words.

That's the background to the story. The foreground to the story is that giant poophead columnist from The Boston Globe Dan Shaughnessy took this opportunity to take a dig at Detroit, and that is the kind of shitty thing a giant poophead would do (because his head is made out of poop). He wrote "Think about it: For the next five weeks, you could live in downtown Boston and your wife could shop on Newbury Street. Or you could live in downtown Detroit, amid the boarded-up buildings and the proverbial skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets. Is this really a tough call?" What the hell, dude? Do you know shit about this place that you are insulting on a national level? Do you feel jilted that Michigan was chosen over Massachusetts?

The biggest problem I typically have with many people from the coasts in particular, and I've written about this before, is their absolute certain belief that they are simply better than you - if not for any other reason than they live in Boston, or New York, or L.A., or Seattle. These are all great cities with many positives, but is it so impossible to believe that many people who don't live there are actually making a choice not to live there? That's how it is for me and many of my friends. Maybe we couldn't stand the thought of being close to more people like you. It's impossible to ignore that there are many legitimate reasons to take a dig at Detroit, but it is really crappy that this dude chose to make someone saying positive things about the area one of these reasons. That is hurtfully unwarranted. He must have known exactly what he was doing though - he's from Boston!

In response to this, for his part, Johnny Damon was pretty awesome. He said "Detroit gets a bad rap. I love it here, my family loves it here, a bunch of the players who have been here a while love it here, the new guys love it here. There's a lot to offer here." He's only been here a few months, and already knows what so many of us know.

As the story continued to spread, Matthew Stafford responded to this story with the following: "Oh, yeah. I am going to be here and I want to be here for a long time. I am from the south but this is a place that I've started to adopt. I've had a great experience with the fans and all the people." These are professionals who know what to say to get the fans behind them, but just maybe there is some truth to their sentiment.

From all this, what it really comes down to is: Up Yours Dan Shaughnessy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Milestone 1

I did not forget and we celebrated appropriately, but yesterday was the one year anniversary of my wedding to my smart, funny, caring, and beautiful wife. In addition to that, we spent part of the weekend house sitting for my parents and doing some additional required shopping for our house, so I have not had the necessary time to focus on giving you the incredible amount of pleasure that my writing is known to provide.


I will also be in California from Tuesday night through Friday morning for work so that will be keeping me busy, but I do have to say that some very big, exciting things are going on right now that I am at liberty to discuss in a little over a week. So stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, stay tuned for all of the small, boring things on which I typically focus. If the promise of small, boring things doesn't sell the blog to you, I just don't know what will.

Happy Anniversary Maureen! It couldn't have been a better (or busier) year.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

False Alarm

Around the time Maureen got home from work today, the air was filled with the horrible wailing siren of the tornado warning that is on top of a big pole a little less than half a mile from our home. Should we have run downstairs in terror? Of course not - it was sunny and warm outside without a breeze in the air. There weren't even any dark clouds on the horizon. Someone must have fallen asleep and hit their head on the "turn on the tornado alarm" button as their head drifted downward into dreamland.

This misappropriation of tornado warnings has been increasing and increasingly annoying over the past couple of years, but seems to have really peaked this year. At least three or four times over the past few months, the Northville sirens have gone off in situations in which any reasonable person with or without a degree in meteorology would not have any concern regarding getting sucked away in a funnel cloud (which, truthfully, is one of my biggest unrealistic fears in life. Like if I actually got sucked into a tornado, would I fly around in circles for awhile and then be deposited in some random location hundreds of feet away from my home? Do I hit flying debris while circling around in the funnel cloud? Do you have time to consider your circumstances?) Someone was telling me recently that these errant sirens are a function of the way cities and municipalities have changed their approach to setting off tornado sirens. Not too long ago, a city would not set off the siren unless someone actually spotted a tornado or the formation of a funnel cloud. Because of this, when these alarms went off, I would be huddled in the basement with my family playing some board game waiting for at least 30 minutes after the cessation of the siren before getting back to normal life at the level of the earth dwellers.

Now, though, cities set off their alarms if a condition or series of conditions is met (barometric pressure changing by a certain amount over a certain length of time, measured wind speeds of a certain level, etc.). This is absurd and terribly frustrating because now every time I hear the noise it's kind of like the boy who cried wolf, and if one day I don't go downstairs (as I mostly don't budge now) and I do get sucked away by a tornado, I would be super pissed at myself before I smash into a barn. Worse would be if Maureen got sucked away and I would be responsible for all of the mechanical fixes in the house from then on. That would be disaster on at least two levels.

While on the subject of exaggerated warnings, is every center of a thunderstorm now magenta? Before, only the rarest of strong storms encroached on the red/magenta space, and now my farts have been measured as magenta. This is like a worse version of grade inflation, because how I am I to know if I have actually experienced a severe storm or not? Magenta validation used to be the greatest kind of validation - "man, that storm I was in was freaking MAGENTA. You only got green. Suck it green." Get it together, meteorologists. You are encouraging the wussification of America.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wocka Wocka (that's a reference to Fozzie Bear, you dummy)

There is a lot to be said about coming up with a good title. Sometimes titles are funny, sometimes they're clever, other times nuanced, and every once in awhile, you come across a title that is none of these things. This article title I saw earlier today is none of these things, but it is still a beautiful title.

Woman Accused of Hitting Levin's Face with Pie in Big Rapids

This one short phrase includes many of the things that I so very love in life - women, dessert (albeit pie, one of the worst kinds of dessert), Michigan, and things getting hit in the face (oh yeah, that's a throwback reference to more than 2 years ago). However, these things combined in the order in which they have been combined to make up the story frustrate me, because a woman threw a pie into the face of one of our state Senators. Like....why would you throw a pie into someone's face? Wait, don't answer that, because if you do have an answer for that, you should still have the wherewithal to not follow through on that reason and therefore not throw a pie in someone's face. The only time dessert should be flung about with such reckless abandon is celebration throwing, like "hey you don't have herpes let me throw this brownie in your face" or "the Lego you accidentally ate will pass through without harm enjoy this vanilla custard - IN YOUR FACE." You get the idea.

Imagine if you were just doing your job, regular day with a set of regular tasks, and some turdbucket decides that she is unhappy with your effort, bakes (or perhaps if she's less committed purchases from Bakers Square) a pie, and then throws that pie in your face! I don't think anything could be more confusing - "Did you just throw a pie at me?" (who throws a shoe??) That would be entirely uncool, and I think no one deserves this outcome unless they intentionally enter into a profession where crust is a known work hazard. Well, I hope this MSU student knows that she has opened the floodgates on my willingness to throw pie in her face if I ever encounter her. Turnabout is fair play.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Like most places, Michigan has its fair share of weirdos. In fact, writing about and appreciating weirdos is one of my favorite things to do. Weirdos are wonderful people who typically happen to love one thing or category of things so much, they distance themselves from the rest of the regulars. Weirdos enable non-weirdos to define themselves as regulars only because weirdos do exist. They serve many important purposes.

Today on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Chris Matthews was doing a profile piece on a southeastern Michigan militia group. These people use their free time in the winter out in the woods training in survival tactics in preparations for the Y3K computer bug that will inevitably prevent sliding doors from opening correctly. They also do other things like arm themselves for, among reasons, protecting themselves against the tyranny of the United States government. Homegrown militias have been common in Michigan for years and they tend to cover the complete spectrum of crazy. Because they are so out there, major media outlets like television news frequently do stories on these many groups of weirdos, highlighting without any effort how insane they truly are (no effort is required because you really just need to put group representatives on TV, ask them regular questions, and then wait for the inevitable wacky).

Even though I tend not to agree with their politics (or, more broadly, general view of the world), I continue to welcome all groups of weirdos who choose to call Michigan home. We need every last person we can get. However, my one request is that they apply the smallest degree of effort to stop being so weird so very conspicuously. It's like they can't help themselves - "Hey, we're crazy. We spend winter free time preparing for the end of the world and we do it in MICHIGAN." The problem with this is that it is another one of those instances in which people from elsewhere will have no choice but to assume that many of the people in this fine state are as nuts as state militia members. This really isn't the case - just no one will put me on TV for laying on the couch, eating dinner at Macaroni Grill, and watching television. Believe me, I've tried. Name of my show - "World's Worst Reality Show"

Laid Up

From a personal perspective (the perspective at which I'm best at providing), this has not been the best week ever. For the past month or so, I've had low-level back pain primarily on the lower left side of my back. The discomfort was actually most noticeable when driving in the car or sitting through a meeting. It was pretty bearable and didn't really have any bearing on my ability to do anything - just a little imperfect and uncomfortable. However, this changed on Monday night while I was sliding after a softball during our playoff loss to a team that was probably too good for our division. As soon as I started to slide to the ground, my back tweaked, I lost my breath, and I knew that I was going to be in trouble.

Typically after an injury like that, I have the next few hours to enjoy life, then after I lay down or sleep for the night, things go all down hill for awhile. True to form, I enjoyed the next few hours of happy life through celebrating another fun softball season with my team and team family members at Shield's in Troy, drove home, went to sleep, and since then, I've been just about the most pathetic person you'll see. The couch has been my home since Tuesday morning, and it has been hard to focus on very much. It takes me about 3 minutes to stand up and five minutes to put on my right sock. The only way I can put on the sock is to roll onto my back like a big naked turtle (as opposed to turtles who wear clothes - and you know they wear turtlenecks) on our bed and s----t----r----e----t---c----h out with my right hand until minutes later I make approximate contact with my foot. I've learned that it's not easy to put on a sock with one hand.

It's frustrating because I'm a pretty active person, so by the end of the day I've done absolutely nothing active or semi-active and I have barrels of energy to burn and no way to burn that energy. The two good things to come out of this injury are the following:

1) I finished watching The Shield yesterday. That show is crazy.
2) This story happened yesterday because I could be home for it - our new fridge has a super annoying click every time it is opened. Maureen and I were sure that we'd just need a new part, but we had to have a repair person come out to verify this requirement. After a couple weeks, we were finally able to schedule an appointment for yesterday because I definitely wasn't going anywhere else. The store called me in the morning to tell me the repair person would be arriving between 10-2. That's kind of a standard four hour window for things like repairs, deliveries, and installations, so while it sucks to have to be available for a full window, it didn't seem unreasonable. By about 2:30 no one had yet arrived so I called dispatch to say "hey, just wanted to see if someone is still on the way because we're now comfortably past the stated window." I understand that appointments and appointment windows are missed, and that doesn't bother me so much, but what did bother me was that instead of saying something like "sorry" or "let me find out what's going on", the woman on the phone said "well, these are estimated times." That was just about enough for me, so I definitely didn't let that one slide by. "Estimated times? I thought that's why you give people a FOUR HOUR ESTIMATED TIME WINDOW," I said to her. After a little more push back from me she eventually called her repair guy and got him on his way to our house. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend 5 hours.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Detroit is in Detroit?

News bubbled up today that the Ilitch clan, owners and proprietors of most of the fun things to do downtown, are interested in purchasing the Detroit Pistons and moving them downtown. This would be a ridiculous outcome. I don't own three of anything, let alone three professional sports teams. Once I owned two pizzas and was thinking of buying a third, but the time I got around to buying a third, I had already eaten one of the pizzas, so technically the purchase was really only a second pizza.

On one hand, it would be pretty amazing to put another Detroit team inside the boundaries of the city, possibly resulting in some variety of positive economic impact on our poor major city. It would be hard to argue that Comerica and Ford Field have no positive benefit to the city, especially on game days and nights. If the Ilitches do get the Pistons and build a new arena for the Red Wings+Pistons, all four of Michigan's major sports teams would likely be in a less than one mile radius from each other. I can't think of any city in the country that has any setup like that. Detroit could be FootBaseketey Town instead of just "Hockey Town". Think of the T-Shirts: "Hey, Hey, FootBaseketey Town". Everyone would ask you what the hell is up with your shirt, but that wouldn't make it a less awesome shirt. In addition to this, the Ilitches buying the team would keep the Pistons from leaving the state, and right now, there is a pretty decent chance that out-of-state investors would buy the team and move them somewhere super duper crappy like Las Vegas. Las Vegas! Nothing could possibly be worse.

On the other hand, the suburbs like Pontiac and Auburn Hills really depend on their sports arenas. One sports arena doesn't turn a city like Pontiac around, but there is some really intense sadness around the mostly ghost town of the Silverdome. It looks more like an alien ghost town than a human ghost town, but it's still kind of depressing - even with the new ownership and occasional events. There is pretty much nothing to do or see in Auburn Hills except The Palace and Chrysler HQ, and Lord knows there is not much going on at Chrysler HQ. The people in Auburn Hills don't deserve blight any more than the people in Detroit.

Taking into account these pros and cons (there are lots more of both but these are the ones I want to address right now), but without a doubt if I had to choose between losing the Pistons or gaining FootBaseketey Town, I'm all in for FootBaseketey Town.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

California Freezin'

Bah, I'm back in California through Saturday morning. I can't believe how cold it is here sometimes. I got off the plane in San Francisco last night and it was like 50 degrees, then all day today it barely touched 70 degrees, tonight back to 50-ish, and then tomorrow more of the same. I like my summers hot, my winters freezing, and my women making me brownies when I complain about the heat and cold. That's just the Michigan way!

You'll also be happy to hear that I was upgraded to first class on my flight home tomorrow. This is an infrequent occurrence, and I couldn't be happier because the flight leaves here at 10:45 tomorrow night. I'm not sure what Delta did, but they replaced all of the seats in their planes in coach with rocks covered in leather or some sort of leathery substance. It is the worst seating experience I could imagine, with the exception of sitting on the plane with someone farting in my face the whole time, and that would be only marginally worse. Anyway, thank you Delta for the favor but reverse thank you for making your seats suck so hard (literally, hard).

See you in 36 hours, Michigan!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fame, Political Style

Yo dudes and some dudettes (definitely not all dudettes). I'm back from northern Michigan and had a great time on Lake Walloon. It's hard to have any reasonable complaints when the weather is between 78-84 and sunny every single day for a whole week. I also have my first and only tan of the entire year where if I stand up against a white backdrop, you'll actually be able to identify me as a human being instead of a possible shadow or stain on the backdrop, so that's pretty nice, too. Now I have to play some catch up as I must try to get back up to speed on some of the responsibilities that slipped while on vacation. For example, my parents, Maureen, and I spent about 12 hours adding a tile back splash to the kitchen (no, we're not 100% done with house now or ever) yesterday. It was a pretty successful-feeling day, until Maureen and I were headed up to bed and I somewhat slashed the sole of my foot on a glass shard that must have followed me into the house during one of my hundreds of tile cuts yesterday. That was not super great.

Aside from that biographical catch up for all you somewhat important people, today is a good day to update you on one of my favorite pastimes, assessing how much famous or slightly famous people like to spend time with me. Today I was dining on a Subway submarine sandwich down in Campus Martius and who came over and talked to my table? None other than gubernatorial candidate in the primary tomorrow, Andy Dillon. Sure he looks a little bit like a villain from a science fiction show, but his hair is amazing in the way that it says in place. Really stunning hair. Anyway, he came over and told us about how the election was super important and pivotal this year and I very much agree with that sentiment. After his brief speech, I asked him what time he is going to bed tonight. I wasn't trying to be a smart ass, but really I wanted to know how late a candidate goes to bed the night before the primary (thinking that maybe they stay up really late campaigning and shaking hands).

He didn't seem to love the question, but answered that he would be getting home at about 9 and then going to bed somewhat shortly after that. That seemed a little bit early to me, so my follow up question was "Are you going to watch America's Got Talent tonight?" He responded that he doesn't follow that show and doesn't have much time to watch television to which I said "that's OK, the show's not that great." At this point Andy Dillon walked away, happy not to have to talk to me anymore. in retrospect, I really should have said something like "I respect the way you tried to bring all state employees under one insurance plan, thereby instantly saving Michigan hundreds of millions of dollars", but instead I asked him about America's Got Talent. Lesson learned for next time, I guess.

In addition to Mr. Dillon, Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh was also walking around and telling people to go out and vote for Andy Dillon (I think that's what he was saying). He was following up behind Andy D., so I think his handlers steered him away from our table so he wouldn't have to talk to me. However, I did hear him talking to the table next to us and felt like he said something kind of weird. He told that table that the election was really important and they needed to go out and tell "everyone, even Pookie and Ray Ray" (Rae Rae?) that they needed to go out and vote. I'm pretty sure that he didn't know them personally, so Pookie and Ray Ray seemed to be some sort of weird thing to me. What I didn't really care for is that if I said that phrase to the table next to me, I would not be able to blog right now because all of my fingers would be broken.

With this level of political exposure I'm experiencing right now, I wouldn't be surprised if I come across Alvin Greene tomorrow.

Oh yeah, also while I did not hang out with them directly, Harold and Kumar were filming right across the street from me in pretend New York at the intersection of pretend Wall Street and pretend Broad Street during pretend Christmas. I felt bad for all the extras wearing winter clothes (hats, gloves, coats) on the hot day. Hopefully part of their compensation package was water. If someone had gone and told Harold and Kumar that I was across the street, I'm pretty sure they would have rushed right over to spend some quality time with me and Andy Dillon.