Thursday, September 30, 2010


Maureen and I are now at less than two months, if timing goes as is estimated, to having our first child. Like television tells me most first time parents feel, I am both excited and scared at the prospect of being a parent. There was never a question that at some point we wanted to be parents, but the impending reality is miles different from the concept. We've done the classes and Maureen has performed her baby product research and we have removed most of the barbed wire from the soon-to-be nursery, but none of these things actually prepare you for caring for a human life form.

My biggest concern about me and being a parent is that, as I've written about before, I'm extremely selfish. I have spent 28 years cultivating a life that wonderfully serves me and all of my shallow needs. I exercise for as long as I want on any given day, I can stay late at work as necessary, and any time I don't want to spend with family or friends I can spend blogging or watching way too much television. On top of these things, ice cream is a regular meal and I can play Howard Stern on the radio in the house whenever I want - things not conducive to actually being a parent.

So while my excitement about being a loving parent has consistently grown over the period of Maureen's pregnancy, I have had a nagging fear that my selfishness would prevent me from being the kind of selfless dad that my son and wife will need. I know in my heart that this will not be the case and I will be able to happily adjust as necessary to be what everyone wants and needs me to be, but without actually having raised a child, it is not entirely clear what would cause this positive change in personality and corresponding reduction in self-absorption. My mom and others have been quite valuable in trying to explain the process of falling in love with a baby after it is born and that often, for many people, this is not an instantaneous event - it can be a process of learning to love your baby and the changes this child creates in your life.

The reason I mention all this is because as the day of birth grows closer, this subject makes me increasingly emotional. A few days ago, I read a great column by humorous columnist Joel Stein in Time about how he wants a second child, but his wife is not currently in the mood for #2. There are a few things in particular in this article that I found to be especially beautiful and touched me because they directly relate to the process of loving and appreciating your child. I just wanted to call a little attention to these (because Time does not have a broad enough reach. They really do require my broader audience) for any moms or dads to be or people who may be seriously considering parenting. They're not new or groundbreaking concepts, but I like to think that Joel Stein has a similar level of sarcasm and a relate-able worldview to my own. I guess you don't need to be groundbreaking to be touching.

"Still, Laszlo, despite his inability to cure even simple, nonmetastasizing diseases, makes me so happy and interested in life that I want to watch it all happen again, and I want to see him interact with another child I love."

In fact, before we were married, I was sure I never wanted children. Having Laszlo has made me feel closer to Cassandra than ever — as if we're alone exploring a beautiful continent that happens to be filled with human excrement. I love when he makes the curious raised-eyes face she makes, and I've cried watching her sneak into his room at night to straighten his pajamas while he's asleep."

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Forward that Didn't Suck

As a general rule, I hate forwarded email. I'm not even talking about just forwarded jokes, videos, pictures, links, and other miscellaneous crap that makes my inbox a more annoying place to hang out. I also hate useful forwards like conversations, valuable links, and invites. Mostly, I dislike how I have to figure out where the email originated from down the chain, how the email progressed from there, and why/how at some point that wasn't initiation of the email I was brought into the stupid loop. Forwards are an unavoidable piece of information gathering and the business world, but I don't anticipate ever being much of a fan. However, my friend/co-worker Brian sent me a forwarded link today that was quite interesting and touched on many of the things I've been feeling for the past few years. Actually, looking back at the email, it wasn't even a forward. It was an email sent directly to me with the link included in it, so you can really ignore the title of this post that I don't want to go back and re-write and every word in the paragraph prior to this one. As it turns out, forwards still suck.

So now on to the non-forwarded link. Here it is:

San Francisco Business Times

This is a great article that indirectly addresses the new professional direction of my life, and as such, it really is something on which you, the world's most bored office workers and therefore readers of mine and therefore Michigan and scifi television lovers, should be intricately versed. This is of the more valuable category of articles about Michigan because it does not originate from within our biased borders.

Did I mention I got pooped on today? A bird pooped right on my suit coat jacket while I was walking the streets of downtown after a meeting. The poop deflected off my suit and also landed on Brian's suit coat - the second time that he has been pooped on while walking around downtown with me.

Back to the article - it starts with these words that really hit the key message:

If California wants to get its innovation game back, says venture capitalist Tom Baruch, it should look at Michigan.

That wasn't a misprint — much-maligned, Rust Belt-tagged Michigan.

While Michigan's traditional industries and job-generating companies have faltered and somewhat failed over the last several years, many locals actually saw this coming and start to build the infrastructure of the future of Michigan jobs. Believe it or not, Michigan has actually done some things better than the vaunted land of Google and Stanford to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. In the article, they reference some of the many good things going on right here at home like tax breaks for small businesses, transforming the automobile industry, SmartZones (mentors, funding, lab space), and ongoing economic diversification.

I can feel it. You can feel it. Underneath the tough economic times, the flailing auto industry, the high unemployment, and my kickball team only being .500, something is happening. It has been happening for a long time, slowly, painfully, but it is moving forward, and other people are finally starting to notice. Hell yeah.

While Rome burned, not everyone fiddled. Instead, they used their fiddles to build the most fiddle-ing-est fiddle orchestra hall at which they could fiddle once all the other fiddlers were forced to stop fiddling because they died while Rome was burning. Fiddles!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TV Time

Fall TV season! This is the third new fall TV season during the lifespan of my blog, and the first with a major network television show that included the word 'Detroit' in the title. My personal happy place is Fall TV season. All the shows I know and love are tying up loose ends from last season, rebooting from a bad year of writing, or just bringing additional joy and happiness into my life through continued excellence. On top of this, all the hard work, expectations, and excitement of the new series starts to either pay off or crash and burn in the matter of mere weeks. It is actually tough for me to overstate how sincerely and deeply I appreciate fall TV.

This year, two brand spanking new shows are highly featuring parts and pieces of Michigan. The first and more obvious, is the show that debuted last night and I'm finishing up as I type: "Detroit 1-8-7". I feel the dashes between the numbers are unnecessary and they make it a little bit more annoying to type. Maybe if they used stars of little hearts between the numbers that would be cool. 1*8*7 or Detroit 1 <3 8 <3 7. The show is pretty decent, and I really do get a kick out of seeing different cinematic shots of the city where they actually want the shots to reflect the city of Detroit instead of some other metropolis. I know that a good portion of the pilot was shot in Atlanta (the only thing that upsets me about that is that I would like our blight on television to be OUR blight, not Atlanta's. Give us the blight respect we deserve). At this point I have no specific commentary on the show except to say that it definitely doesn't suck - I'm just not sure if it's awesome or something that I'll just watch because I love Detroit.

The second major connection to Michigan on TV this season is the lead actor on a Fox series called "Lonestar". This show premiered on Monday and it didn't do great in the ratings, but it is getting pretty rave reviews across the board. I must have been drunk or something when I saw early commercials about the show, because I could have sworn it was about some sort of law person in Texas (which interested me very little), and it turns out that I had no idea what I was thinking about. It's actually about a conman leading at least a couple different lives. The lead guy in the show is named James Wolk and he is from Farmington Hills. Maureen and I also watched that show and we definitely enjoyed the pilot. Mr. Wolk impressed me rather soundly with his acting chops. He had a way of emoting without being annoying. He could do subtle, he could do direct, and he could do everything in between (by the way, I heard a speech today where someone said "from the poor house to the crack house and everywhere in between." I immediately thought "what is between a poor house and a crack house?" I simply cannot imagine that type of establishment). I fear for the life of "Lonestar" because despite its strong reviews, its ratings were pretty low. Fox sometimes gives shows they believe in a chance to pull through initial low ratings so all hope is not yet lost. That's all part of the fun of Fall TV Season.

My heaven.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lists and Links

Thanks again to Alex for keeping a close eye on all the great lists of the world, Michigan has been again appropriately represented in some form or another on many of the recent "best place to..." or "smelliest township that..." or "top incorporated city you ate..." etc. Starting at the end of life and working our way back:

Fortune magazine has again placed Ann Arbor as the 11th best place in the United States at which to retire. The description of the selection starts like this:

"Retire to... Michigan? Ann Arbor's lack of year-round balmy temperatures may be a deal breaker for some retirees, but those who relish four seasons could do worse than to settle in this bustling college town about 40 miles west of Detroit."

First, yes, retire to Michigan. Yet again, why would a positive ranking have to start with a broader implied negative about the state. Unnecessary and kind of stupid. Second, retirees - grow some balls. In fact, everyone grow some balls. It is not summer year-round, but that is one of the greatest things about the state. Most winter days are very manageable and for the really, really cold days, put on some long underwear, get under a blanket, cozy up to a loved one or one of those hot packs you can put in the microwave, and enjoy the sensation. Finally, again to insult the writer, why would you rate a place at #11 if the retiree "could do worse" than Ann Arbor? Yes, you can do worse according to you, writer person, if you were to retire to any of the rest of the 19,418 municipalities in the U.S (yup, I looked it up).

Next, additional big ups to Ann Arbor for making Yahoo's 10 Great Cities for Raising Families list. I tried to raise a family of chipmunks while I attended school there, and that didn't work out very well for me or the chipmunks, but I'm sure that it is far easier to raise a family of humans than chipmunks.

Finally, for a little Michigan respect outside of Ann Arbor, Birmingham was selected for Yahoo's list of Coolest Suburbs Worth a Visit. I can't say that I love Birmingham and in my opinion there are way better Detroit-area suburbs to visit, but I also won't turn down national Michigan love. Man in high school I spent so much time on the corners of Birmingham trying to figure out WHAT THE HELL TO DO THERE. Should we go to Caribou? How about the Birmingham 8? Now to Starbucks. What about the park? Library is closed. Back to Caribou. You know what I'm talking about high school friends. The video I've posted below is directed at Royal Oak where I was raised and I think this video pertains infinitely more to Birmingham than Royal Oak. Even if it is misdirected, it's still a little funny and worth a brief viewing:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Michigan Jewish

As I quickly made my way into work this morning, I was struck by how much less traffic there was today than the last few weeks. When I posed the question to my co-workers as to why this may be the case, one of them suggested that it is because today and tomorrow are Yom Kippur. Because I have no idea when Yom Kippur falls, I looked it up online and found out that Yom Kippur falls on the Hebrew calendar date of 10 Tishrei. The same website also told me that is the equivalent of the 17th and 18th of September, so Happy 10 Tishrei to everyone. I am not Jewish.

So it turns out that today and tomorrow are, in fact, Yom Kippur. However, if the reason the traffic was so much lighter today is because of this holiday, I have severely underestimated the number of Jewish people in Michigan (or at least those who are traveling east on I-96 from I-275). Like way, way underestimated. Based on the reduced traffic flow, I would improperly estimate that 50% of drivers on the road on any given morning are Jewish. If true (highly unlikely), that is absolutely amazing.

From this, it is clear that I have certainly not been properly serving Michigan's Jewish population. At least half of my religious based articles (in the past 3+ years rounding out to a total of zero religious based articles) should be Jewish-centric.

Happy (?!) Yom Kippur my Jewish friends. Whether or not Jesus resurrected and is the son of God, I think you are pretty great.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You Can Always Go, Downtown

I've successfully completed two weeks in my new professional career. "Success" is a very ambiguous term, but I feel comfortable declaring a successful two weeks because I have not yet been dismissed from the role and zero people have threatened to beat me up. Every day that no one wants to beat me up (or at least makes this threat to my face) is a victory.

First, I'd like to thank everyone who has wished me luck and encouraging words on my new endeavor. Changing jobs isn't necessarily an easy thing to do, especially when you like what you did do, and encouragement is very...encouraging. That makes sense.

Second, my usual apologies for the reduced writing over the last couple of weeks. There was a time many years ago when I envisioned a time where enough people were readers that if I took a break, be it for vacation, laziness, or a terrible case of diarrhea, hearts would break across the state and possibly even the greater Midwest. Now that I'm slightly (I said slightly!) less of a moron, it is abundantly clear that, if anything, the world is a happier, funnier, and more Michigan-appreciating place when I am on break. Based on this, you may just be lucky enough that I more regularly contract terrible, terrible cases of diarrhea. How lucky that would be for both of us.

Third and finally getting to the point, let me just say how awesome it is to work in downtown Detroit. Really, no fooling, working downtown is the greatest surprise of the new work. It was something that I was originally looking forward to, but it is even better than I anticipated (you are not allowed to hold this against me when I have to make the painful commute from Northville to downtown Detroit in the middle of winter as opposed to the zero minute commute of working from home and I complain about it as I most certainly will do). Our offices are in the 34th floor of the Guardian Building (pictured above), which is just a few blocks from the RenCen and Cobo. From the window I can look out from my seat, I can view the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit River, Joe Louis, and Cobo. From our conference room, I can see Campus Martius, Ford Field, home plate at Comerica, and pretty much all of metro Detroit out to the Silverdome. It is beautiful gazing across the land I love. On top of the great outside views, I was shocked the first time I walked into the Guardian Building and it looked like this. What a great building.

So all this is great. However, there are many other things about working downtown that I never really appreciated until I was based there. I've spent quite a bit of time visiting clients downtown in my past life, but it just isn't the same. There is an energy about working in the heart of our state's biggest city that adds some real excitement to the day. It's also kind of amazing who you can run into by constantly being downtown. A few days ago I had a catch up lunch with a friend from high school who is in a building right near mine, and he introduced me to the city deputy ombudsman who was having lunch where we were. That was random, but something that certainly would not have happened in my underpants on the couch in my home - or if that did happen then something seriously wrong happened in my life or that guy's life.

Detroit is not respected as a place to live or work by people both in and out of the state, and it isn't the nicest downtown out there, but I love it. My dad has worked downtown his entire career and he has always talked about how much he likes working there, and I couldn't fully understand it without having a similar experience under my belt. I've only been at it for two weeks, and I'm anxious to experience more. That might be asking for trouble, but that's all part of the experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Because it's Friday

It's been a little while since I last wrote about my genius nephew, so when I received this link from my sister, Gail, I was certain that now is the right time to return Louis to the blog. Watch him here as he works his way through a variation of the ABCs (thanks to daycare, according to my sister). I asked a couple people at work if this was objectively cute or only cute to me because I'm related to him, and they assured me that it is both objectively cute and funny, so I feel justified including it here. If I don't get angry enough to write before or during the weekend, have a great couple days!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

F*@K Rahm Emanuel

I just want Rahm to feel the sting of turnabout when he will undoubtedly stumble upon my blog when he performs his nightly self-Google check. The biggest national Michigan-related news of the last week are the early excerpts from the forthcoming book from Steven Rattner, former head of the automotive task force. That's the group of random individuals appointed by President Obama who decided to not kill the state of Michigan by bailing out Chrysler and GM (thanks again, guys, you're the best!). The excerpts and early stories from the book tell a harrowing story of how close those who call Michigan home or otherwise have some employment relationship with GM or Chrysler were to having a lot more time on their hands to read this fine blog. It is pretty amazing stuff and a great majority was effectively hidden from public awareness. For example, if it were not for the automotive task force, GM would have entirely moved out of the RenCen and into the Warren Tech Center, effectively tearing the metaphorical head off the wobbling body of the (also metaphorical) body of the great city of Detroit. In my opinion, this would have been an instant death knell - like a fatality from Mortal Kombat (specifically, Scorpion's Spear Shot). Other points of interest include the allegedly true story that Chrysler wanted the Treasury Department to force GM to purchase Chrysler (as opposed to the public image that GM was voluntarily considering acquiring that company).

It's kind of weird, from an outsider's perspective, how informally the automotive task force seems to have addressed some of the biggest issues to face Michigan in the last 50 years. For example, they decided whether or not to bailout the companies through a hand raise vote. I'm not sure exactly what method would have been better because a vote is a vote, but at least they could have broken out the paper and pencils. That just seems so much more official. Relating this back to the well-known firebrand Rahm Emanuel:

"By the time the auto team met with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing, they doubted whether Chrysler should be allowed to continue to survive as an independent entity. Emanuel was characteristically blunt: "Why even save GM?" he asked, according to Rattner. Reminded of tens of thousands of autoworkers whose jobs were at stake, he barked out 'Fuck the UAW.'"

This might not be the best thing for the chief of staff of a pro-union president to have forever on the record. I'm not talking about whether or not I support the UAW, but this bull and dick-headed response is especially insulting when considering the flippancy with which he clearly disregards the union employees of the Michigan auto manufacturers and the state as a whole. I don't really care what happens with Rahm Emanuel, but the next time I see him, I will certainly let him know that I am entirely displeased, and that if I ever have the choice to destroy his personal wealth and career, I will certainly take that option.

My last thought on the Rattner Memoirs is this - shut up Steven Rattner. I really do appreciate the challenges you must have gone through and the support you eventually threw our way, but I can't imagine what benefit you imagine this upcoming book is going to serve aside from your personal wealth - and you're already super rich. It could be that you think the American public deserves to know some of the details as we are collectively on the hook for $80B in bailout dollars, and I don't disagree with this, but it damages the public perception of the government's ability to intelligently make big decisions without high school style bickering. I think the public would have enough information if the task force came out with a unified message about the whole process - something in the vein of "many options were on the table (include a few options here) and there were pros and cons to every option (include some pros and cons here), but in the end, we could not allow the failure of GM and Chrysler and the loss of tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's the tough decision we made and this decision is in the past." End of story.

And it would be the end of the story, except for now I have a personal tie to the widely reported douchiness of Rahm Emanuel. I don't swear very often in my blog, but at this point I do feel comfortable saying this right here - Fuck you Rahm Emanuel.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Only Reason to Hate Idaho

Last night past my new bedtime with the new work schedule, Maureen and I watched Boise State defeat Virginia Tech on yet another end-of-game drive and then Virginia Tech unable to respond with a field goal or touchdown of their own.

First, it's great to have college football back. I'm not one of those crazy football people who knows the jersey numbers and hometowns of ever single slightly significant player in Division 1. It's just not worth the mental energy to me. Welcome back, collegiate and professional football sport. However, there is one thing that happens every year that makes the second half of the college football season nearly unbearable; specifically, the terrible crapiness of idiots going on and on about whether or not college football should do away with the BCS system. It's an imperfect system with its set of annoyances, but these annoyances do not pale in comparison to the annoyances of people debating its validity. The number one reason for people to complain? GD BOISE STATE. I hate you Boise State.

Let's start with the easiest reason to hate them - their blue football field. That blue football field is offensive even to the Smurfs. It's one of those things where they were probably like "hey, let's be quirky" but they accidentally mistook insanely annoying for quirky. That football field sucks almost as much as the football team. Why does the football team suck? Every year Boise State nears the end of the season with an undefeated record, not because they are the best team out there, but because they generally play terrible teams and even against those teams, they have to win with trick plays. Trick plays are fun, but I believe a legitimate team can/should consistently win without having to regularly resort to them. No team relies on trick plays for success more than Boise State. So anyway, because they are undefeated, journalists starts to opine that Boise State may deserve a place in the BCS title game. Every year.

With about 4 minutes left in the game last night, I guaranteed Maureen that even though they were losing, Boise State was going to pull off the victory for another year of BCS debate, mostly because God hates me. Wouldn't you know it - they won (though I must admit without the use of a trick play, however there was a very questionable personal foul call in their favor on the final drive. Everything always works out in their favor). I hate them so much.

I just can't stand the BCS talk with Boise State as the prime reference for another year. For the whole season, I am going to pray that Boise State loses so that we don't have to hear about the subject anymore. If they feel so disrespected, JOIN A LEGITIMATE CONFERENCE. Do you know how easy it is to join a legitimate conference? No? That's too bad, I was hoping you would because I have no idea. Remember when a few years ago several people thought that Hawaii should play for the national championship, but then when they played against a legitimate team in Georgia, they got crushed hard? That made me so happy. I wish the same for BSU. Lose you blue losers. I hate you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Changes

The past year has been undoubtedly the most dynamic year of my existence. It's not that anything has been different from what most people experience during the course of life, just that everything has probably been a little more compact than typical. The last year has had all the major milestones - our wedding, a first (rented) condo, our first couch, our first two self-financed vehicles, our first house and major house renovation, moving family members, our first incoming baby, and a bunch of new furniture to fill up the home. It's been quite a shock to the system for a person who loved the mundane consistency of being alive. Not to sound too boring, but routine makes me happy.

To this list, I'd like to use this relevant space to announce one more major life change - a new job for me. This was a very difficult step to take voluntarily because I absolutely love what I did, the people I worked with, and the flexibility this work afforded me. On top of this, my job was exactly what I studied in school, and I had the opportunity to work from home with some frequency (especially brilliant when the snow was pounding down and my commute was a walk to the kitchen table). Why, then, would I ever consider leaving this position?

It is finally time to, almost literally, put my money where my mouth is. I've been talking about Michigan and supporting Michigan for so many years, and acting as a cheerleader to out-of-towners and negative in-towners, that after awhile, the thoughts and then words started to feel numb in my mouth. It can be tiring to espouse the virtues of one place constantly to people, and then it became a running joke with some people that I was a walking, talking, relentless billboard for the state - kind of like a Pure Michigan Tim Allen without anyone knowing or caring that I exist.

With great excitement and a fair amount of anxiety, I am happy to announce that my next professional step is directly aligned with the state of Michigan. A few months ago, a friend and professional acquaintance approached me to see if I had interest in directing a start up non-profit organization based in downtown Detroit. This organization is charged with creating a critical and necessary backbone for the state to promote entrepreneurship and small business development throughout the state of Michigan. Our primary goal is to intelligently and systematically match entrepreneurs and innovators with the tens of thousands of resources intended to support entrepreneurs available throughout the state. There is a little more to the work than this, but that's not a bad one-sentence description.

Thanks to the hard work by many people that aren't me (because yesterday was my first official day on the job), the (federal) Department of Commerce actually announced a formal partnership with my organization yesterday. That is quite exciting - now it is largely up to me to make sure that I don't screw it up.

This is an opportunity and a somewhat corny chance for me to actually make a difference - beyond the many dumb, irrelevant things that I try to write about regularly. For these reasons, the only right choice for me was to leave the work I love to actually work toward strengthening a state that I love. It wasn't necessarily an easy change, but it's one that I'm happy to have made.