Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Lameness Knows No Bounds...

Music Right Now:

The Waco Brothers

So, with some intentions of going to the Wings/Bruins game last night, Astroman and I made it down to Honest? John's for a sandwich and some beers, but we never made it to the game. I wish I could say that it was because our plans were sidelined by a wild adventure, but the truth is, we're getting old and lame.

Sidebar: Honest? John'sis probably my favorite bar in the city. It's a simple straightforward bar with great food in a not-too-wonderful neighborhood. John is always there, with a hello and a smartass comment, and he's always patrolling the street around the bar, keeping an eye on his patrons and their cars. It's a bar that TFN and have given the affectionate and honorable nickname of "The Winchester," and those of you who've seen the movie that bar is from understand the significance: it's a tried and true favorite that we somehow always end up at, and it's on the top of our list no matter how many times we been there. When the world is coming to an end, if I can't be in a cafe in Tuscany, hopefully I'll be sitting in a booth at Honest? John's drinking cold Ghettoblasters and eating their (awesome) chicken and waffles.

So, anyway, we had a few beers, and by that time, the game was well underway. We discussed the possibility of catching a band somewhere, and instead came back to my house to watch some of the debate. After that, we went downtown to grab one more drink. After walking out of several bars that were too crowded (crowded was not on our agenda for the evening), we ended up at my favorite Cajun place, where I ordered a bottle of wine, drank a glass and a half, and had it recorked to go (smartest liquor law this state has ever made!). Then I was home and asleep by two AM. That was guy's night out.

Lame. But fun.

This morning was CSA day, where we go to the farmer's market in Ann Arbor and pick up the produce from our CSA membership. It's a fun tradition for TFN and I, a ritual which involves bloody marys and brunch at little French bistro too, but TFN is on a business trip this weekend, so I was flying solo.

My first stop was to go to the bank.

I hate going to the bank, and I hate going to the post office. Those are two places I really hate going to. Because of this, I do all my banking via ATMs and/or online. Except when it comes to expense checks from TFN's employer.

You see, our bank went "state of the art" with their ATMs, creating an ATM that doesn't use envelopes. When you are depositing money in the ATM, you feed the bills or checks into the machine, and it scans them. It can apparently scan 99% of all checks, with TFN's expense reimbursements one of the checks it can't read. So they need to be manually deposited.

This requires banking on a Saturday usually, Saturday being the only day we can get to the bank. It requires going in the lobby, filling out a slip and standing in line. There were two people in front of me, and only one teller working. One person made a deposit, and the second didn't know what the hell she was doing. She stood there for 10 minutes exploring options about how to take money out to give to someone else, getting very distraught and confused before settling on a cashier's check. I got impatient and frustrated. Then I finally deposited the check and went on my way.

Shaking my head and mumbling about how people need to learn about things like how to complete a basic financial transaction in a timely fashion, I got ready to pull out of the bank parking lot, when I saw a Ghost Bike chained to a sign. For those who haven't seen a Ghost Bike or don't know what they are, they are a cyclist's version of those roadside altars. A Ghost Bike is a bike painted completely white and locked to a sign in memory of a cyclist who was hit or killed on the street. They are also meant as reminder to cars to watch for cyclists, and a quiet statement about the rights of cyclists to be on the road.

It was a sobering sight, the sort of thing that told me to knock it off. It was the sort of sight that reminded me that if the worst thing that I had to deal with was standing in line while some woman figured out what way she wanted to withdraw money for a few minutes, I had it pretty good. It even got me thinking about her; why was she in that position? Why was she, probably in her 50s, unaware of what a cashier's check was? Maybe her husband always took care of the finances? Where was he? Maybe he passed away. Maybe he left her. The white bike had me silently hoping that everything would be OK for this woman who was in front of me in line at the bank.

This white bike had me smiling to myself when I stood in line forever at the coffeeshop because the old couple in front of me were regulars, chatting with the staff about families and stuff. I was quietly happy to myself that this old couple had what seemed like a daily ritual at the coffeeshop, and didn't make me impatient as I waited for my coffee while they caught up with the girls behind the counter.

I try to not be a sour person when I'm inconvenienced. I don't want to be a pushover, but I understand that shit happens, and I'm willing to go with the flow whenever it's really no big deal, or even when it is a big deal but isn't anybody's fault.

It's just that sometimes I need a reminder to remember how fortunate I am.

Unfortunately, today that reminder was in the form of a monument to a cyclist who'd been struck down.


One morning, TFN and I went to brunch at a local creperie. While we were there, a shuttle from a local retirement home came in as well, with about 20 seniors from the home, who came for brunch as well. At one table sat two old sourpuss ladies, who scowled and frowned and rarely said anything unless they found something to complain about - food, weather, other people, anything.

At another table sat two old guys, who were smiling and laughing and joking. The creases in their faces were just as deep as the ones on the ladies, but where the ladies carried their creases in the form of frownlines, the men had deep laughlines around their eyes.

They were probably about the same age as the two women, but they looked 20 years younger. Their backs were just as bowed, but they still had a spring in their step.

That's the old person I want to be. I want to be happy and easygoing no matter what life throws at me.

The hardest part of it all is remembering that this is the person I want to be. It sometimes takes a reminder.

TFN will be home in a few hours. That gives me just enough time to drink a leftover glass of wine from last night's wild adventures, catch a short nap, and straighten up.

I hope everyone's weekend is going swimmingly, and I hope you all take a moment today to remember one thing that makes you lucky.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I never realized my iPod was so un-American.

I saw this ad today for the Zvue Spirit, though, and all of a sudden I realized that I can never truly hope to be a real ‘Merican unless I owned this starred and striped monstrosity, and honestly, during election time, we should be doing all we can do to prove that we are true ‘Mericans, voting for the most ‘Merican of the candidates.

The best part of this little handheld MP3 player, is that it comes pre-loaded with a stack of real ‘Merican music! You get:

  • "I Feel Good" by James Brown
  • "Back in the U.S.A." by Chuck Berry
  • "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • "Drive South" by John Hiatt
  • "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" by Trisha Yearwood
  • "Fly Like an Eagle" by The Neville Brothers
  • "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh
  • "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • "Rock and Roll All Nite" by KISS
  • "(You Can Still) Rock in America" by Night Ranger
  • "America Is My Home (Part 1)" by James Brown & The Famous Flames
  • "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • "Some Gave All" by Billy Ray Cyrus
  • "God Bless the U.S.A" by Lee Greenwood

That’s right! You get no less than THREE SKYNYRD TUNES, because Skynyrd is the most ‘Merican band of all time!

Seriously though, if you don’t mind it’s gruesome nature, it’s on sale for 12.99 on right now. That's a pretty good deal for a 1GB MP3 player, even if it’s as obnoxious as all hell.

Also, how much you want to bet it's made in China?

Even so, I bet this girl has one:

Watch CBS Videos Online

The debate is on tonight, but I’m going to the Red Wings game. Hockey is distinctly Canadian, which probably brands me as somewhat unpatriotic. Please don’t judge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No More Biking...

Today I scheduled my hotel room in Traverse City for this year's Iceman. I am really looking forward to it, as always, but this year it's a little bittersweet.

It seems that this will be my last Iceman. Indeed, this will probably be my last year on a bicycle.

It was bound to happen sooner or later, because this is the thing that the blue-collar workforce of my parents' generation always warned us about.

Did we listen? No.

But now, my position as a cyclist has been replaced by a robot.

I'm not sure what I'll do now, but yep, robots have forced people out of the cycling community. Next thing you know, they'll be building cars, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where have I been?

I've been rather busy lately. I rode my bike 40 miles in the Tour De Troit this weekend, plus I have been somewhat busy fighting a war against corporate conglomerates.

Even so, I guess that if this issue is the worst of my problems right now, I should consider myself fortunate. There are worse things that could happen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bad Moon On The Rise...

Maybe I'm on my way to being more political in this forum. I seem to have been consistently saying recently, "I don't like to talk about politics, but..." and then, you know, discussing politics.

It's just that I get disgusted and scared when I see stuff that's going on. Stuff that makes me worried enough to talk about it in this space.

There have been a lot issues rising up from events that took place at the RNC, like Rage Against The Machine getting the plug pulled on them at their scheduled protest show. Were the police trying to incite a riot? The way the band handled it though, was in my opinion, a supreme display of class as well as political activism.

Another display of the "security measures" at the RNC.

Pepper spray a flower girl in the face, then do it again for good measure as she walks away. That'll learn her.

I think I have this supreme fear of living in a police state. And the fact that we're not too far away from being there; all we need to do is roll over and let it happen.

I recently read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, and was mesmerized on so many levels. Essentially Little Brother is the story of a kid in San Francisco when a 9-11-style attack takes place. At the wrong place at the wrong time, the teenager is swept up into an unmarked van and whisked off to a Gitmo-style prison. Nobody knows where he is, and nobody needs to, because the Dept. of Homeland Security has that right.

The book is somewhat subversive and inspirational, sort of a cyberpunk version of 1984. And, best of all, it's young adult fiction; written for a 13-year old reading level, yet so well-written that grownups will like it, too. Just don't be surprised if a grown up reading this feels very old - the book is written to inspire a new generation. We may have already blown our opportunity.

Anyone who reads this, especially you youngsters, should read Little Brother. And, because I am not simply trying to boost Doctorow's book sales, and neither is he, the book is even available for free download through a Creative Commons license on his Web site. If you don't have the cash, download it and read it. I think it will help inspire a new generation of political activism, as well as technological awareness.

OK, I'm done plugging the book; we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

There are other scary murmurs regarding this upcoming election; regarding a certain group who is trying to keep other groups from reaching the polls by supllying them with misinformation. In Virginia, college administrators issued a series of press releases incorrectly warning students that, should they register to vote on campus, they could lose their dependent status, as well as health insurance coverage and scholarships. Here in Detroit, local Republican Party members are reportedly planning on using foreclosure lists to prevent people who've lost their homes from being able to vote, robbing the people who need economic change them most of their voice.

Finding ways to screw people out of their votes, reacting violently to peaceful protesters, I'm not sure what's next, but I am honestly frightened to find out.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

In your grocer's deli case...

Mac & Cheese
Originally uploaded by alpharat
I was, sadly, not allowed to purchase this.

Making serious decisions...

I'm getting political today, so I first wanted to share this video that Against Me! (the same guys behind "White People For Peace") produced for Rock the Vote. I think it's really important, because it points out that when you step into the voting booth in November, what you're really voting on, and it's not Obama vs. McCain. Believe it or not, that's not what this election is really about. There are much bigger ideas at stake.

Politics is gettin' real thick around here. For one, the Governor is holding a hearing right now to remove Detroit's mayor from office, while at the same time, he is expected to go into court this morning to enter a guilty plea.

Why would he finally plead guilty after waiting so long? Because there is apparently a deal on the table right now that if he pleads guilty and resigns, he can look at reduced jail time. If the governor removes him from office, that deal is no longer on the table and they'll nail his ass to the wall.

Personally, although I'd love to see him go to jail, I really would just like to see him out.

Granted, the new boss is most likely going to be the same as the old boss, but hopefully, there will be so much scrutiny from now on that the corruption that has plagued this city for a long long time will be reduced.

Moving on, I want to mention a little bit about Palin, and what a colossal mistake I think she is.

First off, I'll lay it out in the interest of self-disclosure so you know where I'm coming from. While I am all over the range on a lot of issues, I am a social liberal, and these social issues are issues that I think trump over my decisions. I believe human rights supersede economic issues, and that environmental are prominent as well.

As such, I was not voting Republican. Even so, man did they eff up. She just wasn't a good choice, and everyone seems to know it.

I'm not going to attack her for having a pregnant teenage daughter; shit happens, and that's really not anybody's business except her family's. They'll deal with it, like families have forever. Even so, it doesn't seem like the best display of the "abstinence only education" that Palin advocates.

It just seems like little or no examination of her background happened, like she was a last-minute choice made with little or no forethought.

"Wait, you know what would be great? Let's offset the groundbreaking nature of Obama's campaign by choosing a woman to fill out our ticket!"

"Great idea! Who should we pick?"

"I don't care, a woman should be home cooking, cleaning and making babies anyway..."

Sorry, that was a social conservative stereotype I need not have made, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want.

I also, and I'm speaking way off the hip here, because this is so out of my realm, but I can't understand how a woman could be in favor of surrendering choice regarding her own body to the government. Again, I have no background or basis, just personal beliefs.

And the last thing I'm going to say about Palin (for now anyway, and then I'm done trashtalking the poor woman), is that, even though it contradicts what I said before, she has a 5-month baby with Down Syndrome. I think, as a parent of an infant, whether or not it had a disability, a public office is the last thing I'd want to take on. Typically, I guess that's partially a reason why our presidents have been older. Four or eight years from now, should the 'Publicans get elected, and if they somehow have managed to not start a global war that has us all dead, will she look back and regret missing time with her little ones? I think I might.

But you, know, that's just me, and it's not my place to say, even though I just said it.

I hate talking politics, as much as I hate talking religion. It's not that I don't care about them, I do deeply. It's just that I don't feel like it's any of my business to force you to hear my beliefs, and I don't need to hear yours. I am going to vote with my conscience; I will vote for what I believe in. I will practice my spiritual beliefs in a way that is personal to me, and that's that.

At the same time, man, Palin was a bad choice.

OOOOOH! This just in:

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will spend 120 days in jail and pay $1 million in restitution. He pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of obstruction of justice. He will serve 5 years of probation and announce his resignation immediately. Full story here.

It's looking good today.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The band plays on...

Originally uploaded by alpharat
Short and sweet, an affirmation of my safe return.

We are back, safe and sound from a weekend that somehow managed to include music, booze, kayaking, motorboating, lots of food, lots more booze and almost no sleep.

Among the musical offerings: Mucca Pazza, the 30-piece "circus punk marching band." Truly sweet, a party that one must see to wrap one's mind around.