Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sorry, Michigan is closed for business

So, unless the people in Lansing reach an agreement by Monday, Michigan is gonna close. Well the government will, anyway.

What’s that mean?

No state parks. No mountain biking for Angry Monkeys. That’s the one I care about the most. That, and no booze.

There’s a ton of other stuff, too. No Secretary of State Offices, no Lotto, no casinos. Some schools will even have to shut down, because they won’t be getting state aid.

I sent a letter to my local representation. I got a form letter back that didn’t even address that they had read my letter far enough to find the proper form letter to send back. I’m not even sure what issue this form letter was meant to soothe me over, but it had nothing to do with my desire to keep the state parks open (or stay stocked up on booze – although I didn’t mention that in the letter).

Really, it’s embarrassing. When I was in college, we got the phone turned off at our apartment. It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of our psychotic roommate who took the phone money and did hell knows what with it. But the fact is, the phone was turned off and it was embarrassing to admit I was living in a place where the phone had been disconnected for failure to pay the bill.

That’s exactly how I’ll feel about being a Michigan resident if this shutdown happens.

On a positive note, November’s vacation has been booked. We decided to revisit our favorites. We’re flying into Paris, spending a few days there, then taking an overnight train to Florence. After a night in Florence, we’re going to Siena for a night, then back to Florence for a few more days.

Maybe by the time we get back, the state will be open again. If it’s closed, we might end up having to sit outside until we can get in and get our stuff.

Michigan is hurting economically, and all this partisan posturing just makes things worse. We need to attract new businesses and money as the auto industry is failing us, and yet the gov’ment doesn’t seem to really be into helping us out.

All I know is that the only thing that is halting the mass exodus of Michigan residents right now is the fact that we can’t sell our houses. Given the choice, I’d be heading to Chicago, Austin or Seattle right away.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bachelor's Weekend

bacheloring it
Originally uploaded by alpharat
TFN is off to Chicago for the weekend, leaving me to a weekend of crazy bachelor antics.

Yep, beer, records and hanging out with the cat. I'm a wild man.

Gotta go, my food is about to come out of the microwave!

This one's for Moose...

Not much of a horse
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Moose asked Z, "Why don't people ride zebras?"

Why indeed?

Tell me that riding a zebra wouldn't look wicked-ass cool, especially if one were dressed right. I am thinking that one should either be decked out in a pin-striped zoot suit with two-toned patent leather shoes. I think one could also get away in a totally glam-trash getup consisting of other animal prints, like a leopard-print trench coat, or some other distinctive real (or imaginary) animal print. Plaids would be acceptable as well, as long as they were obnoxious enough. A distinctive wide-brimmed hat would be necessary as well.

That's right, in order to properly ride a zebra, one needs to either be dressed like a pimp or a glam rocker.

Unfortunately, even with the proper wardrobe, pimps and rockers do not ride zebras. Why is that? Surely, given the option, Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie would have made more than a few appearances perched upon a striped steed.

So I consulted the Interwebs. Apparently there are two reasons.

One is that zebras have weaker backs than horses. They have the ability to carry a person, but it has to be a lighter person and it can't do so for an extended period. This still would have allowed for Ziggy Stardust to make brief trips to the pub on his zebra though, were it not for the other reason people don't ride them.

Quoting an expert, one George Hinkey of Nature Australia Magazine:

Generally, zebras are too cantankerous to ride. They are vicious and unpredictable and it takes a lot of effort to train them to a stage where you can saddle or harness them. That is why they have never been domesticated. Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, however, managed to harness a team of four zebras to pull his carriage, which he rode from his zoological museum in Tring, in the English county of Hertfordshire, to Buckingham Palace.

Neither horses nor zebras
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I don't know why an Australian should be accepted as a zebra expert (they have kangaroos there, not zebras, and kangaroos really can't be ridden, even if they are nicer), but I am willing to accept that he knows what he's talking about. Perhaps he has tried to ride a zebra and saw firsthand how mean they are, or maybe he once attended a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Macbeth and sat next to a zebra who talked throughout the performance, and crinkled a candy wrapper during quieter moments of the production, and he made an educated guess that, given the zebra's rude behavior, it probably wouldn't like to be ridden.

And that's a fair assumption. I once went to a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar and at a climactic moment, when Jesus was dying on the cross and the entire theater was silent, a large woman about four rows back was tearing into a package of Reese's Pieces. Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle. Based on that, I assume her to be rude, unaware of public decorum and probably rather opposed to being saddled and ridden to the grocery store.

That's how logic works. Even in Australia.

So, Moose, that's why people don't ride zebras. It's because they are not nice, have no manners, and say mean things about one of America's founding fathers, Teddy Roosevelt. I'm not sure what their problem with Roosevelt is, or even if they all have a problem with him, but I think there was at least one I heard say something about his moustache. That particular zebra also made fun of Gandi's bald head, so he may have simply been especially cantankerous.

I also have a cat that is stubborn and angry, and to this day has resisted any attempt to teach her to make a pot pie. So that would be an answer to the appropriate followup question: Has anyone taught a cat to make a pot pie?

No. No they haven't.

Next question?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back in the Saddle

tour de troit
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Believe it or now, there is for once a decent reason for my extended absence lately. I have been in the saddle. A lot. Somewhere between 120 and 140 miles last week.

There have actually been quite a few road rides. On evenings after work, we've been getting on our bikes and taking off, not returning until after midnight. It feels good to just be out there pedaling, putting mile after mile behind you.

Saturday, we did the Tour De Troit. 40 miles through the city. It was a really cool experience, with hundreds of riders...

A police escort....

The escort for tour de troit

And a beer by the abandoned train station when all was said and done.

train station and beer
So that's where I've been, and where I'll be until after Iceman.

I am getting stoked about Iceman, we have our hotel (with hot tub!), and are getting in prime shape for it.

I have a lot of things to be stoked about, actually. In November, we're going back to Italy. We're setting the itinerary for that now.

And I just found out that we've been approved to go to SXSW in March of next year! The cool thing about that is that we were able to get a hotel room downtown, by the festival, and we don't need to do what we did last year, which was stay at a hotel by the Interstate, rent a car, and drive into the city each day, spending a nightmare hour getting parking, then back to the hotel at 2 am, repeat each day. The hotel was expensive, but cheaper than a dumpy hotel and a rental car.

Also, we took the Bean to the vet Monday. Despite the fact that she went for the vet's face (yeah, she does that), he said her diabetes is improving, and switched her to one shot a day. Which means that she's easier to treat, and that, when we need to hire a catsitter when we go out of town, we only need to pay them for one visit/day.

Now, I just need to find a dogsitter... anyone want to watch a lazy, mellow husky while we're in Traverse City, Italy and Austin?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No Ponies Here

It's kind of like a pony
Originally uploaded by alpharat
Unlike some other people, my newest acquisition is not two ponies, or even one pony, or even really a zebra.

I got a new camera.

My little point-and-shoot digital camera that had been given to me by MM, and had done so well for a couple of years, has finally decided to opt for retirement. It's been heading that way for a while, requiring a thwap on the lens cap to get it to open and such. While that was cool and impressive in a "Fonzie bangs on the jukebox" kind of way, it was getting annoying, too.

So I went to the local Schmest Schmuy and bought another little point-and-shoot from a salesman who bore the distinction of being incredibly uninformed about any of the cameras available, but was, however, more than willing to attempt to talk me into a more expensive model that he knew as little about as any of the lesser expensive ones.

Originally uploaded by alpharat
I like the new camera; it's compact, and as I discovered when we took it to the Detroit Zoo to play with it, it takes nice pictures, especially when TFN plays with it, as in with the little photo of Shane.

Sha also got something that she's pretty excited about this weekend. The Silver Spoon is a highly respected Italian cookbook - in Italy, which says a lot. It was first published there in 1950, and wash just recently published in English. It's like an Italian version of The Joy Of Cooking, and it demystifies a lot of Italian dishes.

Originally uploaded by alpharat
If you're looking for something that explains the history of Italian dishes, or the regions the dishes come from, this is not the right cookbook for that. It was simply translated into English - not Americanized. As long as you're aware of that, it's an incredible compendium of recipes (there are somewhere around 400 billion recipes in here I think, give or take 400 billion), and based on making one recipe - gnocchi - it's going to be a lot of fun.