Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas and Family Anticipation

Christmas has recently taken on a new meaning for me. In the past, unlike many American families, all of my relatives were local, and we were able to gather for Christmas dinner with relatively little planning or travel. Recently, when my parents decanted to Arkansas, this has all changed. This will be the first year that they do not own a house to stay in over the holidays. Now I know that I am entering territory that many, if not most American families already experience. For example, the Wife's family is scattered just about everywhere, from Texas to California and Colorado back to Michigan.

So, I am starting to see Christmas in a new light, as a chance to finally see everyone together. I have not seen my parents since late summer, when we ventured down to their place for a week long vacation. So needless to say I am truly excited for the family aspect of the holidays. The planning portion...not so much. I never knew how complicated logistics of visits can be when time is short and there is soooo much to do. Hopefully it will all come together and we will be able to enjoy a good few days together, because after this, I have NO idea when I will see them again, it may be next Christmas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whacked Out Winter

The Michigander in me loves the concept of global warming. I mean honestly, who in the northern states would REALLY object to a few degrees warmer of a winter? Certainly not I, that is for sure. We would get a climate more along the lines of....Kentucky, while still having the seasons and lots of fresh water to drink. Not too bad actually.

The side effect of this concept called global warming however, is more whacked out weather. Some seen to think that global warming means it should be hot all the time, or that winter should always be milder. That is part of the reason I disdain the term global warming, and vastly prefer the term global climate change. Global Climate change more accurately sums up what is going on anyway.

This weekend was strange, weather wise. We has rain and balmy 50's on Friday and early Saturday. Then yesterday we received a good inch or two of snow courtesy of an Alberta Clipper. Now a dusting of snow at this time of year is not unfamiliar to me, it is the fact that we will be in the 30's all week as a high that is a little strange. It looks and feels like December out there. So apparently there is no global warming, because it is cold out earlier then normal. But if you believe, like me, that we are experiencing climate change, then this is just par for the course. I do agree that global warming sounds better, maybe we should just stick with that and hope.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Redux

I wanted to wait a few days to post me election reaction, just to make sure that it had officially sunk in. I think the best way to describe my experiance is to take you through my election day.

It began at 8:30 in the morning when I showed up at the local Obama office here in Plymouth to help with the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) effort. With a quick training they put me on my turf and let me go to work. To give you an idea of how advanced the Obama ground game was, we were only targeting sporadic voters who tend to LEAN democrat. That meant that out of my local precinct we were targeting 47 homes.

I wandered around and knocked on peoples doors, more reminding them to vote then anything else. I did have two particularly memorable experiences. The first was when canvassing a 19yo woman. She came to the door and was AMAZINGLY excited to vote. This being her first election, she was almost shaking she was so excited. It was very refreshing to see someone woo fired up about democracy. The second encounter was when I stopped into a party store to buy a pop. The guy behind the counter asked who I was canvassing for, and after I said Obama he told me "You must have drank the jungle juice", and that "If you vote for Obama you are going to hell." Now for a Christian that is a hard thing to hear, but knowing that it comes from a probable racist, I think God is on my side...ya know that whole love your neighbor thing.

So I wrapped up canvassing and went and voted and then headed home to eat some lunch and generally relax. This was definitely the hardest part of the day. From about 2pm until 5pm I just bounced back and forth between CNN and my computer. The Wife got home from voting and we ordered some pizza (from a new place that gave us very mediocre pizza) and sat down to watch the returns start to come in. At first we were slightly nervous because they were not calling any of the big states. I know that CNN was just being cautious, but it was nerve wracking.

At 8:30 I was meeting up with a friend to head over to the local Obama worker party in downtown Plymouth. The funny part about this is that the party was at a pretty swanky place, and our table was initially next to a bunch of McCain supporters. As more and more Obama people got there, I am pretty sure they decided to watch returns somewhere else. As the returns started rolling in the cheers got louder and louder. When Ohio was called we all got really excited. At this time my friend and I decided to head over the a larger party put on by the Democratic Party in Livonia.

This party was pretty nice as there was food and beverages and band. Hardly anyone was paying any attention to that though, we were all looking at the giant screens showing the coverage of the presidential election. At just before 11pm, when CNN called Virginia, I knew that the math was impossible for McCain, as long as the West coast did it's thing. The entire room, probably 500 people counted down till 11pm second by second. When CNN called the election at 11pm, the entire room went crazy, and I felt a sensation I have only felt a few times in my life. That immeasurable pride in being part of something that is truly historic. I hugged a lady behind me stood up on a chair, raised my fists in the air and cried. It was truly one of the great moments of my life.

Now I know that not everyone out there voted for Obama or even thinks he is a decent guy. Even if that is descries you, the historic nature of the election must be recognized. The old black lady sitting at the party just balling her eyes out and telling her son standing next to her that "he can do anything, just like Barack" should move any soul in America. For that alone I am proud of my country.

After this I hightailed it home to watch Barack's speech on TV. I also heard John McCain's concession speech was masterful, and completely appropriate. I bet a lot of McCain supporters were asking themselves where was that John McCain over the course of the campaign. I was also impressed with Barack's speech not because of it's grandeur or boastfulness; but rather because of it's humility and call to service. It is easy to gloat in victory, but hard to be humble and I thought he did that sincerely.

So congrats to America, land of the free and home of the brave; the place where truly anyone can grow up to be President if they just work hard enough and are bold enough.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Life of Blessings

As many of my readers know, I recently lost my job. This has definitely been a trying time in my life, and there have been tough times in the past few weeks. Overall though, I have tried to remain positive and focused. I have also been focusing on letting God speak to me in the direction He wants me to go with my life. This is HARDER than it seems! One thing that has become evidently clear to me in this time of transition is the incredible blessing that my life is.

Firstly, I have been blessed with the presence of incredible people in my life, especially my Wife. You realize WHY you were put with that person in times like these. When there is the chance for you to fall down she is there to help lift me back up, to help re "run the race" that is my life. My family and friends have also helped me tremendously in dealing with this transition.

Secondly, I have been blessed by an amazing church. First Presbyterian of Plymouth has really become an integral part of the person that I am, and the chance to have a church that really shows the love of God is something that I will always be thankful for. From the head pastor asking me how it is going to the prayers of my Bible study group, I know that God is using FPCP as a community of faith to help me through this time.

Lastly, I have been blessed with such an incredible gift of being born and raised in the United States of America. I think we all often take this for granted, but from the young men and women in Iraq to the Elks club around the corner, there are so many people here vested in the future of this country. Whatever your political stripe, I know that you probably have the best interests of this country at heart. As the recent election has shown (more about that soon), we are still that shining beacon of light on a hill, the place where all things are possible through work and sacrifice. We are all truly blessed to be living in the USA.

So thank you God, thank you for this time of introspection and soul searching. As I move on to other, hopefully better things, I know you are with me always. JD

Monday, November 3, 2008

Live Election Updates

Here is a great little widget for monitoring the election.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama's Economic Plan

Mike Thompson at the Detroit Free Press hit the nail on the head with this one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Death Knell of "Conservativism"

Remember when the term "liberal" used to be whispered around political circles like a swear word? Conservatives would keep it in the campaign bag-o-tricks to pull out in an emergency. No longer. If this election has proved one thing is that public sentiment has turned away from the classical "conservative" point of view, and has trended more liberal. All the conservative movement has left is the abortion and gay marriage arguments. These two issues are of course important to many voters, but if that is all you can campaign on you end up with a campaign like John McCain's.

Remember when the conservative movement was the champion of fiscal responsibility? Well you have to go back to Clinton, a Democrat, to get a balanced budget and deficit reductions. Obviously it looks a little funny to be campaigning on fiscal responsibility when your guy in charge for the last eight years has overseen the largest expansion of the federal government since FDR.

Remember when the Neocon's hawkish attitude looked bold and aggressive. These guys were going to go above and beyond to protect America's freedoms and interests around the world. Now we have a world where more people dislike us then like us. We have managed to squander the goodwill of the world in eight short years. Looks like the Bush Doctrine was maybe not the best idea for protecting out interests LONG TERM. Sure we would secure the goal right now, but if 15 million people in the country hate us for it, has that really advanced our interests?

Remember when tax cuts and less regulation seemed like the be all, end all of economic theory? Not so much anymore. Wall Street has taught us that unregulated markets behave like they always have in our history, as a greed inducing orge of temporary profit followed by a massive collapse. Tax cuts are great, I mean who want to pay taxes...right? We have seen over the past few years that tax cuts for the wealthy DO NOT trickle down to the lower groups. If we want to stimulate the economy, how about trying from the bottom up?

On these three critical areas, it appears what has been orthodox conservative thought has been failing the American public for quite some time. The McCain campaign has tried the "liberal" label without much result. Now they are trying to go even further by throwing around the "socialist" label. My guess is that it won't work either. It may fire up the base to yell obscenities even louder at a McCain event, but the American people are looking past the insults and fear mongering to results, and that may just mean the death knell of the conservative movement as we know it today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Greatest Fake Caption Ever

"Ok Lou, I’ll explain this to you one more time. Yesterday we fixed the economy but Gerry forgot to hit ‘save’ on his computer last night and now it’s all jacked up again."

-October 14th on the fact that the DOW was up over 900 points on the 13th, and now is down over 300 points on the 14th.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hey, that 8.9% Unemployment Rate, Bump It Up a Little.

Yes faithful readers, it seems that I find myself in a position that more and more people are in...unemployed. This would be the reason that I have not blogged in a week or so, it has been a REALLY crazy week.

On Monday, I was sat down and told that my company would be closing the Ann Arbor facility that I manage. I was told this was not my fault, as I had only been running it six months, but just a victim of the economic climate. The good news for me was that they were going to give me a position in Toledo (corporate HQ). I went about my life knowing that I at least had a position open to me. So of course Friday afternoon rolls around and I get a call from the corporate lawyer and my regional. It seems that after evaluating the staffing in Toledo, I was no longer needed. My offer to relocate had been rescinded.

So if anyone out there need someone experienced in sales, purchasing, management, HR or inventory control, let me know. As of the 31st, I am available. JD out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Between Debates

We are at a precarious time in the election cycle. We have already witnessed the first Presidential Debate, which almost did not happen (I tend to think it was going to happen all along). We are also at the cusp of the only Vice-Presidential Debate. I feel the need to talk a little bit about both.

The first debate was pretty interesting, and I am of the opinion that it was a tie. Both men looked Presidential and had that certain gravitas that is associated with the office. I tend to think that Obama won the portion where they talked about economics, and McCain slightly won the foreign policy section. I did not like how Sen. McCain kept talking down to Obama, saying "he just does not understand". If that is his strategy, he needs to rethink it. It comes off as condescending and cold, and may play to his base, but probably alienates those critical swing voters. For his part, Obama could have hit back a little harder, and also could have taken the chance to step up and claim leadership on the economic crises. I really think his campaign is scared to turn him loose, they are afraid of the "angry black man" characterization.

Most of the public opinion has called the debate for Barack. I can see this, as this was supposed to be McCain's home turf. By holding his own, Obama essentially won. The polls have trended for Obama since the debate, but I personally think that is just a general trend is his direction with the current focus on the economy.

Onto the VP Debate. I am VERY interested in watching this tomorrow. There are all kinds of subplots here. Is Sarah Palin really a ditz, as evidenced by her previous interviews? View the videos here. Is it all a ruse, and she is going to kick some Biden butt? Conventional wisdom has Biden rolling in this one... but I have two questions: Does anyone besides me care? Should anyone care at all? I mean this is the VP debate, and we are voting for the President. I will be sure to write a post-op on this one.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homecoming at Albion

Both the Wife and I attended Albion College, the home of Liberal Arts at Work. This year was the Wife's 5 year reunion, so we decided to venture back to campus for the reunion and homecoming.

We were of course late leaving...I'm blaming the Wife on this one, and arrived with barely enough time to go to the requisite receptions. We started off at the education department reception, which was odd, because it had moved buildings. I guess you can tell that you are not a student anymore when a department moves buildings and you don't know. So after some wandering we ate cookies and chatted with some current students in the Ed department. Funny enough, one of the students there is the current president of APO, and she informed us that the chapter is still going strong.

Then we headed over to the Kappa Delta reception. This was interesting because the chapter is trying to recreate all the family lines and had GIANT posters up trying to get the lines all connected. So if any readers out there were KD's and have not provided your information to the chapter, please let them know.

Our stomachs then beckoned us to the DOW for lunch (this was a hard choice over Lopez, but we thought more convenient). I was ecstatic to see that the boston creme pies in a cup were still there and had to restrict myself to eating just one. Those things were handy in college. The best part came when the British Eighth came marching in. See the picture below. All in all a great lunch.

Then there was the football game, which Wife abandoned me for. She decided, probably rightfully so, that exploring the campus would be more fun. Unfortunately Albion lost 13-12, but at least it was a close game. We then wandered over to check out the new science complex. HOLY COW! They did an exceptional job integrating all the new buildings. I remember when Palenske and Putnam looked a lot like my Junior High, full of institutional painted cinder block. These were beautifully done with paneling and all kinds of scary science stuff. Below is a picture Wife took of the beautiful lobby.

We then ended up at the Alumni Dinner at Cascarelli's. It was nice to see people, but it was kind of lame. There just was not that many people there. our opinion is that just 5 years out a lot of people are just finishing up graduate school and probably do not have the funds or time off to come back. We did get a really fancy Albion pen, and unlimited mediocre pizza! At elast there was good conversation with the people that we sat with. See picture below. It was a busy day, but overall worth the time and drive.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Campaign Suspension and Letterman

So the news today is that John McCain is going to be suspending his campaign to take care of the economic crises. Personally I see this as a desperate ploy by someone who is trailing in the polls and whose campaign loses momentum seemingly every day. Some will argue that this is bold leadership, but really, this problem is getting "solved" one way or another, with or without McCain. Remember this guy just said two weeks ago that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," and now he wants to suspend his campaign to address the economic crisis. Also, no one has mentioned this, but could this be a cash saving measure??

The pressure he is applying to switch the debate day is also a desperate move. He comes off as whining and unprepared. Why suspend a debate, is that not the exact kind of forum to discuss these matters? He is the one who wanted more debates and forums, and now he wants to rearrange the schedule.

Beyond all that McCain apparently stiffed Letterman last night, but found time for Katie Couric. The LA Times has a great article on that blow up, and Letterman's response. It has got to be one of the greatest responses ever to being stood up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Newsflash... McCain Invented the Blackberry

One of John McCain's top economic advisers was recently answering questions about what John McCain knows about the economy. Douglas Holtz-Eakin -- in a response to reporters’ questions about what McCain did at the Senate Commerce Committee to understand how markets work -- whipped out his BlackBerry. "He did this," he replied. “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did."

So now we have John McCain inventing the BlackBerry. This is of course from someone who does not use email or a computer. But he revolutionized telecommunications in this country. All this on the same day that Carly Fiorina said that neither Palin or McCain were qualified to run Hewlett Packard. She is supposed to be speaking FOR them not against them. They want our trust to run the NATIONAL economy when one of their top business supporters does not think they are qualified to run her company...hmmmm. Welcome to the chaos that is the McCain campaign.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ike's Wrath or Human Idiocy

I have to say, that from the relative safety of the Upper Midwest, all this hurricane stuff is pretty theoretical. We NEVER get winds of over 100 mph for sustained periods of times. We NEVER receive 7-10" of rain in a day. We do occasionally get tornadoes, but they are brief and fleeting. The pure sustained destructive power of a hurricane is something that I have never experianced in my life.

However, I do consider my self intelligent enough to know that if people with advanced radar and degrees much higher then my own tell me to "Get out or face probable death" that I am going to get the heck on up out of there. I swear humans have a death wish. This is a quote from an article on CNN. "Galveston had ordered evacuation of the island, but City Manager Steve LeBlanc said about 40 percent of the city's 57,523 residents chose to stay. "It's unfortunate that the warnings that we sent out were not heeded," he said"

WHAT........40 percent! Are you joking. This is an ISLAND that is just above sea level.

I am sick and tired of my tax dollars going to pay for the rescue and rebuilding of people and areas that do not deserve to be. You want to build you house on an island in a hurricane prone area, fine, free country. But do not come whining to the government to help rebuild your home. If you avoid the "mandatory" evacuation, fine, but you better be ready for the bill when the Coast Guard Chopper has to come grab you off the roof. Nothing like the idea that you might get stuck with bill for helicopter fuel use to get you to heed that evacuation order. Especially considering that the Coast Guard HH-60 uses 16.56 lbs of fuel per MINUTE. By my not so advanced math, that means roughly 15 dollars a minute in fuel costs.

We need to take care of our people, but we also need to reward people for making smart decisions. I am not saying we let these people die out there. I am just saying that there needs to be logical consequences for your actions.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Let's Get Ready To Rumble

I thoroughly enjoy this time in an election year. This post-convention, lets actually talk about the issues, debate filled few months. Up until now, despite all the coverage and the bantering, it was the preseason. If the conventions this year proved anything, it is that the conventions themselves are still very relevant. On the Republican side we had the surprise VP pick, and subsequent speech that has everyone talking about the future of the GOP. On the Democratic side, we saw a historic moment, as an African-American accepted the nomination at an open convention on the anniversary of MLK's famous speech. (I am positive that just an accidental coincidence...HA).

There are still questions on both the candidates; is Obama experianced enough and not just talk, and will McCain just bring us 4 more years of Bush? Does Palin have the experience to step in as President is what is arguably the best chance of that happening in a long time? Is Joe Biden just another Washington insider? All of these questions will be mulled over and we get to watch several debates. I am particularly interested in watching the VP debate. I am also excited because as a Michigander, the candidates seem to be spending a lot of time here. Maybe I will be able to catch them in person.

Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In Defense Of The "Rustbelt"

People often make fun of the Great Lakes region. We are the "rustbelt", the old industrial heartland of America. There are abandoned steel mills and old refrigerator plants all around. We are the place that put America on wheels, and the place that has the highest unemployment in the nation. People routinely compare Detroit to Bruit or Iraq. Milwaukee is known for it's beer, and Cleveland...they set their river on fire a few years back, so we have that going for us.

The reality of the situation is that this is a great place to live, and will be even more so in the future. We have a great cost of living, amazing natural environment and resources, and really nice people. We will have even more of an advantage in the future with the Great Lakes. When Phoenix runs out of water, we will be here watering our lavish lawns and going swimming in the largest amount of fresh water in the world.

I ran across this article recently about companies moving or expanding here in the Great Lakes area. I think it points out some of our strong points. The link is here. Long term as oil/transportation costs continue to rise, the Upper Midwest will continue to look more attractive to advanced manufacturing with its plentiful water, low electricity costs and abundant and experianced labor pool. Check out the MEDC website for some more information on why moving a company here is not a weird choice. Just look at our friends Asterand, who moved to Detroit from England. Chances are if medical research needs a tissue sample it came from Detroit. Maybe all new drugs involving cultured tissue should come with a "Made in Detroit" sticker.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hmmmmm...Is It 6 Or 7 Houses I Own?

Yesterday, John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee was asked a pretty simple question in a forum sponsored by Politico. He was asked how many houses he owned. Now I can assure that many Americans could answer this before the guy was even finished asking it... it would be a simple 1. Many could also answer 0, but that is an entirely different blog. John McCain thought for a second and then said that he did not know how many homes he owned, and that he would have his staff get back to the reporter who asked the question.

Now I cannot think of a single thing that would put McCain more out of touch with the average American then not knowing how many homes he owns. Imagine the internal process(In thought bubble...Well there in the Virginia House then Florida and Colorado...oh yeah, the beach house in Malibu...wait am I forgetting somewhere..well I guess I don't know.) Rough. Life. Man. Well it turns out the man that has your best interest's at heart as a Middle-Class American has 7 homes worth about $13 million dollars. Looks like the latest layoff's at General Motors have not hurt him.

In related news, the Obama campaign, in probably the fastest turn around in presidential advertising history, had an ad up TODAY criticizing the comment. Presented below just because it is amazing they got it up so fast. Thoughts and comments please.

Monday, August 18, 2008

True Love Is Going To The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum

People say that true love takes many forms. I would tend to agree with them. It can be seen in a number of ways in any relationship. Often the example of a serious trial is used, or the showing true love comes out in the mundane and ordinary. I am of the opinion that true love is best expressed by what you are willing to do/give up for your spouse or significant other. This brings us to the Little House on the Prairie books and a little side trip tacked on to the end of our recent vacation.

Recently, my parents moved to Arkansas to be on a lake and so my mother, a sufferer of childhood diabetes, could be in a warmer climate. So our vacation this summer was to drive down and see them for a week. We were able to hang out and swim in the pool and also go out on the lake on their pontoon boat. Rest assured I will provide a blog with serious pictures very soon (Wife in a tube behind the boat IS pretty funny).

So when we were planning said vacation Wife suddenly turns to me and says with much exclamation.... Do you think our route takes us near Mansfield, MO? Now here I am, racking my head thinking of what could POSSIBLY be in Mansfield, MO. So of course Wife proceeds to tell me that Mansfield, MO was the town that Laura Ingalls Wilder spent her adult life, and where the Little House on the Prairie books were written. She then got that dull glazed over look from me that basically equates with....what does this have to do with OUR vacation.

One month later as I am standing in Mansfield - freakin - Missouri, and I am struck but what a supreme act of love I am giving my wife. For some reason, I had agreed to go to a little tiny town in the Ozark Mountains to check out a house and a museum to a writer of books I had never read, or really had any interest in. All because the woman I love had a STRONG desire to do so. I am not pointing this our to pat myself on the back, but rather to show as an example the things you are willing to do for the one you love. I am sure she would be willing to go to someplace just as obscure for me, and that is just about all you can ask for in a companion.

P.S. Check out the blog three years from now when I talk about how much I love my wife because I just went to Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood home in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Why she could not have written them in say...Jackson, Mi is beyond me...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Out Where The Cell Signal Dies

My joy goes up by incalculable levels when my cell phone stops getting a signal. This would normally seem like a contradictory statement to someone who is plugged in to the modern world, but that is precisely why it is true. Sometimes, I want to be where no one can reach me. The modern world can be overwhelming. I think that I have way too many way of getting a hold of me. I constantly have to monitor at least 3 emails, 3 phone numbers and of course Facebook. Being uncontactable can be incredibly freeing.

Last weekend I was on the annual canoe trip with the guys in my family on the Pine River in Northern Michigan. This annual jaunt Up North serves the purpose of allowing some guy-like behavior and also getting away for a weekend with no chance of contact.
I was distressed to see some of my family actually using cell phones at the campground. This was always a place of no service, and as such, was a place of incredible freedom.

Being there was like you were suddenly cast back in time. If someone wanted to talk to me there, they would have to just be old fashioned and gosh...speak to me face to face. The good news is that my phone did not work up there anyways, apparently Nextel has not thought to put cell service there yet. Of course, even if it did, do you think I would tell anyone??

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wordle of American Life

I recently discovered a great site that creates a "wordle" of your blog. It searches the blog and displays the most common words larger and then decreases in size from there. Here is a link to my Wordle.

What Ya Think?

Monday, July 14, 2008

On Self-Letdown

I find it hard to not meet expectations, especially my own. I am someone who will generally strive as hard as possible (although Wife might disagree) to meet the expectations that are presented to me. I do not say this to brag, but to more to point out dreadfully incompetent feeling that I get when I don't meet my own expectations. Doing well is fine by me, and I thrive in it. Becoming the youngest Branch Manager in the 65 year plus history of my company....great; not meeting sales expectations....harrowing. I try sooo hard dang it. It is such a letdown to NOT meet the expectations.

I have been struggling for a year plus with getting back in shape and losing weight. I know this sounds like 17 million people that you already know, and you are already worried where this will be going. No, I am not looking for sympathy. I am more wanting to express that feeling of failure/frustration we all feel when we fall short of our goals...real or imagined. For some reason I thought I would just be able to pick back up a tennis racquet and start jogging a couple of times a week, and I would be back out there playing with the best of them. I was wrong!

This past week, I was in the Ann Arbor City Tennis Tournament 4.0 singles division. I played last year, but was really just at the start of getting back into shape, and lost in the first round. I felt much better going in this time. I set some expectations for to the ability you know that you can play, don't lose the mental battle, and make it past the first round. I DID meet some of my expectations, winning the first two round and making it to the quarterfinals. Then came the letdown. I played my quarterfinal match like someone wholly different then the passionate, experienced player who had gutted out victories in the first two rounds. This is where I became disappointed in myself... if I had just lost to better player, I could have dealt with that, but I had beaten myself, and there is no worse letdown then that.

So on to the next stage of my tennis/getting in shape plan. It is time to really start working the body. I need to play tennis a lot, and work on the mental aspect of my game. I also need to recommit to keeping track of my food and burning off lots of calories via exercise. I have found in the past when I get into a funk with self-expectations, I need to sit back and think about why I set them in the first place. That often makes me focus on them more intensely and realize what needs to be done to accomplish them. So my goal for next year is to make the finals of 4.0. I have a year to make it happen...

Does anyone out there have any thoughts on self-expectations, or how to discipline oneself to meet goals?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

America's Long Slow Crawl to Mediocrity

I am a lover of America. I firmly defend America's preeminence in the world. We have been a beacon of hope and opportunity for as long as I have lived, and certainly much longer then that. Heck, I am BORN on the 4th of July, how could I not be US booster. Lately however, that has begun to change.

I believe that we, the people, which in the end is America the country, have begun to accept and even crave mediocrity. We no longer seek out the high moral road like we have done so many times in the past. Instead we take the easy way out, whether through using our military resources, or just throwing money at the problem and hoping it will go away.

The people on the surface would seem frustrated by the lack of leadership in this country, giving the President a 23% approval rating, the worst in a long time. They also throw the Congress under the bus, giving them a mere 19% approval rating. This proves that the discontent is not with a particular party, but more with the general way of things. If you dig deeper, I think people are frustrated at THEMSELVES. How many of you would approve of the job that YOU are doing to help solve some of the serious problems facing the country.

We have serious problems here. There is or soon will be a global food shortage, the ongoing war on terror, peak oil, global warming...etc. Soon the United States and the world will face an incredible problem when we all realize that oil cannot be pumped out the ground fast enough to satiate our demand. Standards of living all across the globe will be threatened. What are you doing about it, are you even aware of the problem??? Or are you just complaining because gas is $4 a gallon. The Unites States is the worlds greatest supplier of food aid, but even this is not enough, as many developed countries (Japan and milk, The Philippines and rice) have recently faced food shortages. Are you learning how to grow your own vegetables, or just assuming McDonald's will always be able to provide you with a $1 double cheeseburger?

So many of us are content to just get by. This makes me worry about possible Orwellian outcomes where people are afraid to speak up because they don't want to lose what they have. What we need to as a country and as individuals, is to stand up and take notice of these global problems. Then we need to put the burden of solving them on our shoulders. America once again needs to dig deep and pull the world through the coming transition away from the traditional industrial economy. It is coming whether we want it to or not. There is not enough cheap energy out there to supply us and China and Europe. Somewhere we will hit the wall. Let us be the leaders in this, moving the world to a more sustainable economic model. We can do it, and by being the leaders again, can restore the world's faith in America as that beacon of hope that we have been for generations.

So please, I beg you, get educated. Take some time to delve into some world issues. See what can be done and get involved. If you need somewhere to start, I suggest you start by finding out what peak oil theory is all about, for it is the root of all of many of these problems. If you want to know more, let me know and I will give you additional links of interest.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Things Annoying Me Lately

Here is a short list of things that are annoying me as of late:

1. The Wife and I were looking to plan a long weekend camping at Jewell Lake, and between the two of us, we are booked solid every weekend through the end of September! I mean what ever happened to lazy summer days and relaxing. Between me working and various weddings, we have no weekends available. So if you are a friend looking to get together, please consult our administrative assistant. You know how to reach him.

2. Barack Obama was recently in Detroit and I could not go see him. This is annoying because I have been a supporter of Barack since before Iowa, and he was not allowed to campaign here for soooo long. Alas, his staff did make a fool of him by not allowing some Arabic women to sit behind him because of the whole name thing. They could have been better informed by the campaign, as Detroit has the largest concentration or Arabic people outside the Mid-East. At least the women slighted are still supporters.

3. My addiction to Taco Bell. I have been on a 6 month quest to eat better and get in better shape. To a large part it has been successful, as I am 15lbs lighter then at Christmas. One thing I cannot shake is my love of Taco Bell. I seem to have an affinity for beans, beef and cheese. It does not matter how Taco Bell assembles these things, I love them all.

Now for one thing that has been impressing me lately:

The Foundation for a Better Life

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We put the "Crack" in Crackers

A few times in the history of this blog, I have pointed out what I thought were strange or worthless products. See my rants on Colonblow and on Oder Alert Cat Litter for proof on that.

So this time I decided to highlight a product which is AMAZING. It is a new flavor of Tiscuit named Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil.

These people have truly put crack in this cracker, because they are completely addicting. Now I will warn you, if you do not like the flavor of pepper, then do not buy these. Otherwise, you will quickly find yourself constantly munching on them. I quickly found myself actually upset that the wife had eaten THE REST OF THE BOX. Any food that does that must be good. Be prepared to battle the spouse for this high-fiber tasty treat.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Miss the Thundercats

I was reminiscing about some of my favorite childhood cartoons today at work (why I am doing this at work is a whole additional post). I had a bunch in common with everyone else, but seemed to be all alone when it came to Thundercats. This was an amazing show that was on when I was a kid. It was kind of an animated precursor to all the Power Ranger crap that has been out recently. There were several characters and it followed the very formulaic plots of the time. Just to give everyone a stroll down memory lane, here is the into from the cartoon. 1.7 million views means that I am not THAT weird. Anyone else out there want to admit a childhood cartoon addiction??

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stanley is Back Home

I just wanted to write a short post saluting the Detroit Red Wings. I give a lot of credit to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the experience of the Wings trumped the youth of the Pen's, so Lord Stanley's Cup is back in Hockeytown. To salute the Wings, here is video of perhaps the greatest fight sequence in hockey history, with two goaltenders going at it at center ice... Detroit V. Colorado:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tool Time

On one of my recent walks around the area around my house, I walked by a very intriguing sign. It was for the local Airgas dealer, and it proudly proclaimed that they were selling "Radnor Plasma Cutters." Now I don't know about you, but as a guy, whatever that is, it sounds really dang cool.

I always thought of plasma as either something in your blood, or something on a science fiction TV show. One of those words that the science guy on a spaceship would throw in to add some authenticity... "Sir, the plasma inducer has stopped inducing, we are going to have to reverse fire the Gimmelstob engines or the ship will blow up." You know that kind of thing.

I never thought the common man could own something that apparently uses plasma as fuel. So like all American's with a healthy curiosity and an internet connection, I then spent two hours researching something that I would never, ever purchase or probably even use. Here is the concise entry from Wikipedia:

"Plasma cutting is a process that is used to cut steel and other metals (or sometimes other materials) using a plasma torch. In this process, an inert gas (in some units, compressed air) is blown at high speed out of a nozzle; at the same time an electrical arc is formed through that gas from the nozzle to the surface being cut, turning some of that gas to plasma. The plasma is sufficiently hot to melt the metal being cut and moves sufficiently fast to blow molten metal away from the cut. Plasma can also be used for plasma arc welding and other applications."

How cool is that. I think I might throw it on my Christmas list..why you might ask. I have no idea. Happy plasma cutting...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the Jungle....The Mighty Jungle

Normally, I am ruler over the domain that is my lawn. I have no problem pulling out the weed whacker and attacking the evil things that sprout up behind the garage. I imagine most guys are like this. There is something special about the smell of lawnmower exhaust and fresh cut grass. I revel in the clean cut lawn, that for just a day, hides the fact that there are 72 varieties of grass and 32 weed types growing in my little 1/3 acre.

Recently though, my lawn has been kicking my butt. I think it happens every year about this time. The combination of rainy spring days and an truly amazing explosion of growth means that I am always behind. Currently I have a rain forest growing behind the garage and the shed. I meant to break out the almighty weed whacker this past weekend, but a fun little power outage prevented that. The dandelions continue to sprout unabated, and the front flower bed is starting to look a little like a high desert plain.

Why is it that us men judge part of our self worth by the quality of our lawn? Is it ingrained in us a children, when the men of the block used to gather around over a beer and talk about the type of fertilizer they used, or what brand of grass seed works best by the pool. I don't know the answer here, but I do know I will feel better after this long weekend, after I reclaim the JD lawn kingdom.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RLS - The Lamest Disease Ever

Everyone has seen the commercials... "You may have Restless Leg Syndrome... contact your doctor today to see how they can help."

This is quite possibly the lamest disease on record. Instead of using their research dollars to combat AIDS, or cancer, we find out that the drug companies are instead spending it on magic drugs to keep our legs still. Thanks for stopping by.

Then I thought about it. When you see the commercial, you immediately think..."Hey, maybe I have RLS, sometimes my legs won't stop moving around in bed. Maybe I should call my doctor." BANG, big pharma has just accomplished it's goal. I fell victim to this as well, what clever marketing.

Then I thought about it a little more.... Are these people crazy?? Everyone that I have asked says that occasionally their legs get a little jumpy. I would take a guess that say this condition is part of... oh you know BEING ALIVE. So please don't call your doctor, don't contribute to the United States being the most medicated country on earth.

Peace, love and lots of leg movement...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Human Condition

On the whole, I am a pretty positive guy. If you asked almost anyone who has daily contact with me, one thing they would say about me is that I am that annoying relentlessly optimistic guy. When I was in Junior High, I read a poem, "The Cold Within." It points out the sadness that is apparent in the human condition; racism, classism, things that still haunt us today. I remain positive that we as a species are making progress, but I use this poem as a reminder that humans are still striving to be better. Read...think....and love your neighbor as yourself.


Six humans trapped by happenstance
in black and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
the first woman held hers back
For on the faces around the fire
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking 'cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death's stilled hands
Was proof of human sin,
They didn't die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Money Pit

I have no shame in stealing the name of a cheesy movie for the title of one of my blogs. Does that make me unscrupulous?? I think not, just resourceful.

So recently on a Friday night, Wife goes out to our chest freezer and discovers that lo and behold, the evil thing has stopped working. Now of course these thing always tend to happen to us late at night and on a weekend. First it was the flooding of the basement... 4 months after buying the house, and now a dead freezer full of food.

I was discussing this event with a coworker and he expressed a theory that houses know when you are finally starting to get ahead financially. The house hears you say how nice it was is that there is finally some cash in the account, and WAM, there goes the water heater, or your garage door opener stops working. The house just knows! It is as if the house has ears.

So now, the Wife and I will NEVER discuss surplus funds in the house, we must keep this valuable information from our domicile. But then I was wondering where we could discuss it, certainly not the car, that would just be asking for trouble. Not the lawn...lest the lawn mower crap out on me. Maybe via facebook or email, but then we would need a new laptop. Finally I figured the only safe way was in someone else's house. This way, if anything breaks, I probably won't own it. HA, nothing like out thinking the system.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Roles We Play

I watched an excellent movie last week. It was called Darkon, and it is a documentary which examines the phenomenon of LARP, or Live Action Role Playing. Now, this is role playing in the Dungeons and Dragons Style, and Darkon is in fact an entire make believe world where people take roles and act them out in real life. Check out the web site for the Darkon Group here.

One of the people in the movie pointed out a fact which has inspired me to do some thinking. He said that everyone role plays all the time, and all that makes the people who do Darkon different is that they have fun doing it. This is a pretty profound thought, and made me think about what roles society forces us to play and how that all works. 

At first I thought of the nervous guy on a first date. He is doing everything that he can to impress his date. Is he really being himself? Or is he roleplaying the guy that he thinks the girl wants him to be. What about the first time you meet your boyfriend/girlfriends parents? Are you really yourself, or a version of yourself you rarely see.

There is also the work version of yourself... do you play a role there? Are you really happy to answer the phone EVERY time it rings? If we were naturally that happy, we would not have to go through training to teach us how to be happy. Are you more polite when in public then in private? Is that even a role?

Are we constantly roleplaying...or are the roles we play the things that define us a person? I lean more toward the second. All the things we do, we do for a reason, and the roles that we play participating in those activities define us as an individual. The fact that I am a husband, and a church elder, and a tennis player all blend together to create the amazing thing that is an individual human begin called Me. I am a function of my roles, and my roles are not avoidances of the true me. To think the opposite is to avoid taking responsibility for your own being. If you like to run around in a field and hit other people with big foam weapons, be proud of it, and don't write it off as something you do that is separate from your true being.



Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Solo Life... In Perspective

So the week of solo living has come and gone. I figured that I would give it some time to put things in a proper perspective before writing about them. So here are my thoughts.

1. It truly is good and healthy to get a break from your partner every once in a while. I don't care how in love you are, you do something that annoys the other party in your relationship. I know that I constantly annoy my wife with how laid back and relaxed I am (read lazy). She bothers me with her slight (ok, not so slight) tendency to be anal. We both have agreed to accept these flaws in the other so we can be together, but man is it nice to not have to worry about it for a bit.

2. Being alone is fun...for about three days. It is great to be able to stay up till 1 am playing video games. It is great to be able to eat pizza every day and scoff at the recommended daily input of vegetation. all of that was fun, then I actually missed being responsible. I know this will come as a shock to those of you who know me, but yes, I have reached a point in my life where responsibility beckons.

3. I am madly in love with my wife, and being without I know this may sound all sappy and stuff, but it is literally true. This, in my opinion, is how you know you have found the one to marry. You just know. So, yes, I was very excited to get my wife back, and to proceed with life as normal. I realized that my life IS with her, and without her, life is pretty sad.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Boys of Summer

Thats the best logo in all of sports right there. Yankee fans might have a beef, but hey, we have gone to the World Series more recently then them, so they can just be quiet for a little bit. I am a tried and true Tigers fan. I watched them in high school, and back when they were really really bad. But this post is less about the Tigers, but what the idea of them starting to play invokes.

When I think of Tigers baseball I think of many things. The small of hot dogs, beer and peanuts, which is a surprisingly pleasant smell. The sight of the most amazing green lawn you have ever seen. Lazy summer days sitting at the beach listening to the game on the radio while you self-bake. The wave. Cheering so loud when they beat the Yankees in the 06' playoffs that I could not talk for two days (this was by far the highlight of my sport attending life). The hot dog opera guy. Watching the fireworks after a weekend game and wondering if the noise annoyed the people who bought the new condos next to the ballpark.

When it comes down to it, I am ready to cheer for my Tigers, but I am even more ready to relive some of these cherished tastes, smells and experiences. Happy Summer in the D

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy and Content

I read an excellent blog from a writer I have come to appreciate as of late. The link to the article is right here. In it, she basically covers what it is like to be poor. Not dirt poor, but certainly not all set either. I have fond memories of the same type of living when I was in Chicago working for a non-profit. I think at the time, about 60% of my income just went to pay rent on the smaller-then-my-dorm-room room I rented. My meals usually consisted of a granola bar or some reconstituted vegetable beef soup.

My fun was found in doing things that were free. I used to ride my bike all over Chicago in my free time, or go to the beach, or just ride the El to a new and exciting location. These were the simple pleasures that constituted a good day. Did I long for something more... of course. It is hard when friends are going out and you cannot because you know it will be $40 you do not have. As Chelsea says in her article.. "Working out sounds nice... the weight of the machines, the sound of people breathing heavy and the smell of sweat, I miss that all....the first thing I'd do is get a gym membership, if I had the money."

I am not usually one to spew out advice, but let me tell you, you do not need a gym membership to be happy. I am also speaking as someone who, while not well off, is certainly NOT in the same position as I was in Chicago; and in fact someone who ironically belongs to a gym. If I want a really nice pastry from the bakery, I just get it. Ditto for a new pair of shoes or even my new Playstation 3. So it is NICE, not to have to worry about eating the food you want to, but I don't know if it actually makes you happier.

There is much joy to be found in the simple pleasures of life, and sometimes, keeping life simple is it's own reward.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Solo Life...Updated

Here us a quick snapshot of the solo week so far:

Saturday - Woke up and drove my wife to the airport....bye bye wifey. Then I went and had two showings at my parents house to people interested in buying it. Then I played some tennis in Ann Arbor at HVTC. Then I ordered some stuffed crust pizza on the way home. Ding - this would be where my day deviated from a normally scheduled Saturday. Then I proceeded to veg around ALL day and kill lots of fake people on Call of Duty 4. I ate the leftover stuffed crust pizza for dinner.

Sunday - Easter alone. Lets just say that church alone on Easter is not that great. If all of you want to see my church it is here. Then I went and picked up my brother and we went over my Grandma's... YEAH. My family ....all 45 of us, had a grand ole' time. On the way home my brother and I went grocery shopping at Meijer, which for those of you from the Midwest, you know is the originator of the 24 hour superstore...Wal-Mart is just a copy cat. We proceeded to buy such various things as a toaster oven, new plates, a griddle and lots and lots of Jose Ole' Chimichangas. No new tires or pet fish, but they were all there for the taking.

Monday - I had Monday off to celebrate my temporary singleness, and while fun, it got really really lonely later in the day. You know the time that your spouse would normally come home from work. I even busied myself with chores, washing some dishes and doing some laundry. I even went to the gym on a day off...I know shame on me. The highlight of the day was spending time talking to my wife, because she was finally somewhere in Texas in cell range. I ended the day watching Evan Almighty, which was surprisingly good.

Tuesday - Back to work. This was actually good to get back to work, as it helped me find purpose in something. I am a kind of person who likes to have SOMETHING to focus my energy on. My wife may think that i love to just sit around and read or play video games, but that is usually when my mind is overloaded and I NEED a break. When I have lots of free time I tend to want to focus on accomplishing something. Here is something that I would never have eaten if Wife were home.... Ore Ida Zesty Fries and a can of wax beans. That was my dinner, could you get any more man basic?

Wednesday - Another day at work, nothing too exciting there. I actually had a arealy hard time sleeping last night. I think I only got about 4 hours. I think that this is a true measure of how used I have gotten to sleeping next to Wife... Today my brother and I had decided we would meet up for dinner. We went to Mongolian BBQ, which is another Michigan Classic, although I understand that they are expanding and doing quite well. Check them out HERE, and be jealous. So now I am home and writing this and planning on going to bed soon. I am excited about talking to Wife tomorrow, so there is hope, and she will be here on Friday.

Check back then for another update.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Solo Life...For a Week

This coming week is going to be a bit strange around the JD household. That is because Wife is going on a trip. You see, wife is a teacher, and that means she gets spring break. She gets to go to Texas to see some family for a week. This presents two conflicting ideas in my head:

1. Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy: Wife is gone so I can do things like order pizza, play loud video games, stay up late...etc. This idea is attractive to my carnal male side. I mean no one asking me to fold laundry or help with dishes. What more can a guy ask for?

2. Lonely...I'm so lonely. It's going to be an awfully empty house this week. No one to greet me or give me a hug when I come home from work. No discussion of the day's events over dinner. Not to mention the fact that after being married for 2.5 years, sleeping alone in bed for a week is going to be a tad weird.

I think that overall, I will start the week more along the lines of No. 1, but probably end up strongly in the No. 2 category. it is amazing when you in love and married, how much the other person becomes a part of your life. It really as if you share all things. She is part of me and I part of her. Separation is a horrible idea, I imagine that I am addicted to my wife much life someone addicted to crack. Going a week without a fix does not seem like a good idea. I will report back at the end of the week on this and how I fared.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My 4-Mile Adventure

So those of you who know me know that I am not the prototypical runner. I am about 6-1 and weigh in at a solid 245. I am built more like a linebacker or tight-end then a runner. But there I was on a cold March day running a 4-mile race in Corktown.

This race has become something of a tradition with me. I ran it back in high school when I was a bit thinner. Then I took a nice long break that coincided with my getting an education and getting slightly out of shape. The last two years I have also ran, with my 1st years time being about 44 minutes or 11 minutes a mile. Last year it was 41:23. This year it was my goal to run it in under 40 minutes. Even I had my doubts.

The weeks before I was really trying to ramp up my training. On last Sunday I ran 4 miles on a treadmill on 37:55. This was an amazing experience for me, and frankly I thought that it was just luck or something else. It is conventional wisdom that what is run on a treadmill DOES NOT translate into a real time. Fast forward to race day.

Of course it had been in the 40's all week, but on race day it was only supposed to get barely above freezing. Let me give you a picture of what I looked like before the race.

OK, so it was not that bad, but lets just say it was not warm. Well we all started and I was feeling pretty good, and I crossed the 1 mile mark and looked at my watch it said 8:55. Now that was a little faster then I had even wanted to go, I was scared I would run out of gas later in the race. The second mile marker came and went and I was at 18:10 when I went by it. Now by this time I was mentally feeling pretty good, but there was a dreaded sidestitch forming on my right side.

This was the point in the race, and there is one in every run, where you really want to give up. The idea of stopping starts appealing to just about every sense in your body. Pain makes you want to stop, breathing hard makes you want to stop. The only thing that keeps you going is your brain. That inner drive to complete a goal. So this time the brain won over the body and I somehow managed to run the last two miles in 20 minutes. Thus completing my goal by running the 4 mile race in 38:13. not exactly an Olympic qualifying time, but great for me. This is an actual picture of me after the race.

OK, maybe not, but that is EXACTLY how I felt.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

7 Random Thoughts In My Head Right Now

1. My friend and great blogger extraordinare Srah, has recently posted on the merits of various girl scout cookies. Check out the blog here. I have to say that in general I agree with her, although I do believe that the Thin Mint is the Queen of cookies, especially frozen in the summer.

2. I am reading a great book right now titled "Serve God and Save the Planet" by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD. This is an excellent read about his personal experience and how his family has drastically reduced their footprint on our planet. He also sees it as a call to serve God's most basic commandment, love thy neighbor as thyself. Excellent read, pick it up here.

3. Spring is wonderful. The past few days have been in the high 40's, and around here that constitutes spring. The crocuses are coming up in our front bed... it is great to see life emerge again.

4. I have recently been humbled by my wife, and a discussion we had about purity of heart, and not just action. Thanks wife, I will try to do better :)

5. We had a good friend over for two nights, as he was in town on business. What a great thing friendship is! It reminds you that there are many many good people in this world. Should not we all try to treat everyone as a friend? It was a great time, and we passed it by eating voraciously and playing a crazy game of monopoly.

6. I am running in a 4 mile race tomorrow, and I am a little nervous. I have ben pretty good about my training, and think I should be able to hit my target of under 40 minutes. Everyone wish me luck, and pray that I do not hurt myself.

7. I will soon go outside and attempt to do some long needed maintenance on our 2003 Chevy Cavalier. I am the only one out there completely intimidated by cars? It seems there is always something that needs to be worked on, and it is always just out of my knowledge range. I am just glad if the thing is running when I am done...

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Great Quote About Elliot Spitzer

Sorry for the short post of little or no consequence, but I just had to get this quote a little attention.

"If stupidity ever gets to $200 a barrel, I want drilling rights to Eliot Spitzer’s head."

You can read the full article behind this at Politico.

You Know You're In a Recession When...

There is a radio contest about it.

Officially the way we classify a recession in this country is “2 quarters of negative growth.” This is a bunch of mumbo jumbo for the fact that the economy is shrinking. Well being from the Detroit area, we have experienced “negative growth” for a couple of years now, but I truly knew we were in a recession when I was listening to a radio station the other day and they were talking about winning money off the “Recession Wheel.”

Apparently, you call in, and if you are the right caller, you get a set amount of cash as part of your “stimulus package.” Then they spin a “Recession Wheel” which lets you win additional cash. You cannot ask for more proof then that.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sodium...Stupid Sodium

I hate sodium, which for all us unedumacated folk is salt. I have been trying to eat better over the past few months, and have been generally succeeding, except for one problem: sodium. It seems that contrary to popular belief, our economy does not run on oil, but in fact on sodium. Everything has sodium.

The crazy thing is that even the reduced sodium stuff still has waaaay to much sodium. The standard stuff is just off the charts. A healthy amount of sodium is 2400mg per day. To give you an idea, a double cheeseburger from CrackDonalds contains 1150mg, get it with a large fry and you are over half your sodium for the day. I have been trying to eat more soup, you know vegetables and stuff. Soup, it turns out is like sodium central. A can of Cambell's Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder, while respectable in almost all other health categories has over 1700mg of sodium. This makes it very very hard to keep your sodium under 2400mg's while also eating at work and trying to eat enough to stay alive.

Now I know that all you super annoying healthy people out there are saying...just eat fresh fruit and veggies, they don't have sodium. Or maybe make your lunch and bring it. My lovely Wife does make a lunch for me often, and those are not usually too bad, but even then, if there is a sandwich, the lunch meat is loaded with sodium. Also, I do eat fresh fruit and veggies, but one cannot subsist on bananas alone.

Anyone out there got any ideas...?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thoughts on Snow

I like snow. It has amazing properties: solid but squishy, easily moldable, and it is cold. Being born and raised in the Detroit area, I am pretty familiar with the stuff.

When you grow up around here, you love the stuff. It has the magical ability to cancel school; which, when you are a kid, is something that even your parents cannot do. It is also the thing that all winter fun is based around. You build snow forts, and you attack and tear down snow forts. Snowballs are constructed and then hurled at your brother or his snow fort. It is truly an amazing substance.

This year in the Detroit area, we have received 58.9 inches of the powdery stuff, and we are forecast for another 5-10 in the coming few days. This is actually quite a bit above our average, which is 41.1 inches. Thank you NOAA. Now Detroit has a reputation as a snowy cold place, but rest assured there are places much much snowier then we are. The king of all snow hauls belongs to a city called Valdez, Alaska, where they receive a whopping 326 inches per year. That is ever 27 FEET of snow a year. I am from the cold North, and I don't even know how to conceptualize that much snow. For those of you who think it is unfair to bring in Alaska, the king of the lower 48 is  Mt. Washington, NH with over 21 feet, and 2nd is Blue Canyon, CA with around 20 feet per year.

If they cancel snow around here for 8 inches, to get the same effect in Blue Canyon, CA, they would have to cancel when they receive 45 inches. If we ever got that here, I am pretty sure I could not get out of my house. So I guess it really is not that bad here, and it always good to have something on hand to hurl at your brother's snow fort.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I Believe that the Word "Synergy" has Synergy with a "Pile-O-Crap"

Synergy - A mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts).

That is synergy defined by my good friends over at Merriam-Webster. Normally I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but this time I have to call them out. Synergy, is not as defined above, instead it is really a corporate BS word. Basically, if you are ever in a meeting, and someone starts spouting on about synergy, it is ok to start napping or checking out the danishes on the food table; because what the presenter is about to say will have absolutely NO impact on your day to day operations.

This word was invented by corporations to speculate on future possibilities. It just sounded better then saying "We think that SOMETIME in the future their MAY be a way to make these things work better and more efficiently together." The problem with that statement is that it is too vague and speculative. Now they just use synergy and it is all OK. When airlines want to merge, they make it sound all good by spouting on about synergies, as if this magical process will make everyone crap tons of money. The problem is this rarely happens. Ask K-mart about it's synergies with Sears, or maybe Cerberus and it's synergies with Chrysler.

Bottom line, when people higher then you on the food chain start talking about synergies, start looking for a new job. And if you are the person spouting off about "synergistic opportunities", realize that everyone you are talking to knows it is straight up BS.

Until tomorrow at about 6:30 A.M., I am going to explore possible synergies between myself and my bed. Later.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baseball Season is Coming...

I know that the only baseball story that anyone out there seems to care about right now is the Roger Clemens thing. But, I, being a proud Detroiter, am more entranced by the amazing team that has been put together for my watching pleasure this year.


Let me go back a few years though, back when the Tigers were the worst team in baseball. I was still a loyal fan, and went to 5 or 6 games a year, and even watched them on TV, as Bobby Higginson struck out and Nate Cornejo racked up a huge ERA's. My point is that I am not some fairweather fan... I am in it through thick and thin.


My Tigers experience has evolved with the team, culminating in the high point of my sporting life, when I witnessed the Tigers sweep the Yankees, live from Comerica Park in 2007, and promptly lost my voice for a week. The team that is assembled this year is fearsome and scary by any measure. They will have Pudge Rodriguez batting eighth and Edgar Renteria, who batted .332 will set Pudge up batting 7th....7th! Lets just say I am in for a good year, pity those poor Yankee fans.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Democratic Superdelegate Watch

I just wanted to give everyone out there a link to fantastic site that is keeping a real time count of the superdelegates on the democratic side. These guys are doing a phenomenal job, and if you are a political junkie like me, this is better then a Starbuck's coffee at 5am. It is called Democratic Convention Watch. Check it out and let me know what you think. Notice the serious trend toward Obama in the past few weeks.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Classical Music and a Nation's Character

Has anyone else out there noticed that a nation and the way in which is functions, and the will of it's people often come across in its classical music? When I hear a piece of classical music written by a Russian composer, it always makes me think the composers main message was "there is no bread," or "were all going to die." As opposed to an American piece where you can often feel the hope and optimism.

In the Russian music, matter how triumphant many parts of the piece are, the main message seems to be one where hope BARELY beats out despair. My main example of this is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Especially with the movement commonly called "The Great Gates of Kiev." This is a triumphant piece, but some parts make you want to give up hope for the motherland and get in line for some bread.

American pieces, on the other hand, practically exude optimism. Look at John Phillips Sousa or Aaron Copeland. One of my favorite pieces is Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." You can not get more optimistic then that.

Now I am no expert when it comes to music and it's sociological aspects, but it seems to me there is a definite correlation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Those Damn Automatic Faucets

Ok, it is officially time for me to rant. Sometimes on this blog I have pointed out useless products... take for example my blog on Odor Alert Cat Litter. I have something similar to rant about today: automatic faucets and paper towel dispensers. Does this not seem a little over the top?

Half the time you walk over to a sink and start doing the karate chop dance to try and get the damn thing working right, or it suddenly stops sensing your hand in the middle of scrubbing. The other half of the time you are caought seriously examining the faucet for stupid hidden sensor, when there is not one at all.

The other day I was in a movie theater and was frantically waving my hand in front of a paper towel dispenser, only to find out that it had an old fashioned crank on the side. The reason I was confused was because the faucet WAS motion sensor about confusing, and way too much work.

I just want to wash my hands in peace and be able to confidently walk over to the paper towel dispenser and get out the right amount...this should not be that difficult. So instead of inventing new ways for me to make a fool of myself in a public bathroom by doing the karate chop paper towel dance, someone should be focusing R & D budgets on something important.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Simple Pleasure of a Day Off

There are many simple pleasures in life. Some things I would include in that category are: the sublime moment when you climb into bed and let your mind completely wander for the first time all day, the smell of garlic and onions browning in olive oil, and a slurpee on a really hot day. Above all of these I would put a random day off.

I am not talking about a vacation day. That would imply that you are taking the day off for some express reason. I am talking about a day off just to use up a day off. That is what I have coming up on Friday. My wife has it off because she is a teacher and it is her mid-winter break, so I decided to take time off so we could relax together.

This idea of unfettered time off is great. It literally made my whole week better. I was halfway through on Tuesday and as I am writing this I only have one day left in my week. This idea is excellent. Maybe if I get enough time off one day I will take every other Friday off, now that would be great.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Obama and McCain Rally Differences

I was watching the Potomac Primaries this Tuesday, and both Barack Obama and John McCain swept all the contests. If you want my opinion, John McCain needs to work on his rally set up, because after the contests, both he and Obama had a victory rally. Let me give you a photographic representation of both their rallies:

1st John McCain:

2nd: Barack Obama:

Now of course this is a gross graphic misrepresentation, except for the Obama rally because that is a real picture of his. I am serious about the feel though. Standing behind McCain at his rally were 25 of his closest white buddies who are over 70. The guy immediately to his left almost looked DEAD. Now maybe that is his core constituency, but if he hopes to win the general, he might want to get the support of some non-white people who are not already collecting social security. This is a diverse country. Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Fallacy of Valentines Day

I love my wife deeply, madly and so thoroughly it sometimes makes me hurt. My love for her permeates the very core of who I am, and I cannot imagine existence without her. Hugging her is often the very best part of my day. I say all these things not to brag or self promote, but rather to point out that this is my way of life. Loving my wife is part of the fabric of who I am. I do not need a day to remind me, prod me, or goat me into saying or thinking that I love her. That would be false, momentary and fleeting, what I have is eternal. The truth is I will will love her no more tomorrow then any other day, which is to say, immensely.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cool Pictures of 2007

I just wanted to throw up some cool pictures that I took in 2007. These are a small sampling of pics that I took, but I would consider them some of my best. Please click on the pic for a better version.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The "Stimulus Package"

I just wanted to write a quick comment on the proposed stimulus package that the Congress and the President have come to agree on. The just of it seems to be a $300-$600 check per person, with an income cap. There are also going to be measures that allow businesses to write off depreciation faster then normal.

I think the fact that we are resorting to this kind of thing is despicable. Of course everyone loves getting a check in the mail. I mean who would not want $600 to go blow on a PS3 or something like that. The problem is that the government is already running in perpetual deficit. America is paying its living expenses on the visa card, and this "stimulus package" will do more of the same. We are borrowing money from China to pay for the war in Iraq, so why not borrow from them to pay our people to buy more Chinese made products. Does anyone else out there see the problem here. Check out this article at CNN's website about the cost of this kind of thing. Why can't the establishment see that borrowing more money is not the solution. Lets get fiscally sound, even if it does involve some short term pain.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Primary System is Flawed, and What We Can do to Fix It.

I wanted to write a note about why I think we need a new primary system and what I think would be a good idea. Now I know that this has absolutely no bearing on reality and is not about to spur a national discussion, but I am willing to give it a go anyway.

The primary system as set up now completely stinks. I don't feel that I need to elaborate on this, as it has been talked about many many times. Two or three states get to have all the say in who becomes the candidates for their respective parties. This has caused a jockeying among states to get as early as possible in the schedule. My own state, Michigan, tried this and was punished by the democratic party by removing all of our delegates from the national convention. I personally am proud of my state, and Florida for stepping up and making this a national issue. At the same time I recognize that if Michigan and Florida were first all the time, it would represent a similar disparity. Instead of always talking about corn and ethanol, the candidates would always talk about saving the domestic automobile manufactures. So below you will find my wacky off the wall solution.

We need a rotation based model for the primaries. What I mean by this is that the states that go first would be rotated on a set schedule. This would eventually allow all sates to play a major part in the election. So one year it would be Iowa and New Hampshire. The following it would be Nebraska and South Carolin...etc. I don't know if it would be better to set up the rotation schedule far in advance, or work more like a lottery system that is drawn after the previous primary season is over. I am more inlined to support a straight rotation model. This way every state would get their time in the sun. This would also preserve what many see as the hallmark of early voter contact. That is the main reason I am agasint a national primary day. It would eliminate intimate voter contact, and require that any candidate have massive funds available to them so they could run a national campaign from day one.

Anyone out there have any opinions of this plan....?