Friday, January 23, 2009

Day One is Done, and the repairs have already started

I think I may have stumbled upon the one job that is recession-proof, and indeed may be quite the opposite.

Working in the unemployment office.

As Michigan’s unemployment rate rises to the double digits and continues to climb, it seems that our unemployment offices don’t have the staff or resources to accommodate all the people trying to get their benefits, and they are beefing up there.

I wonder how many people are trying to get into those jobs?

I truly feel sorry for Mr. Obama, because he has truly inherited a rundown amusement park. I watched the inauguration (as we all did), got excited, got hopeful, and then when it was over, got realistic. Now it’s time to get back to work.

No matter what you think of the guy (and I think very highly of him), he’s probably not a superhero or a miracle worker, and fixing this mess is going to take a lot of sweat and hard work from him, his staff and the rest of us.

If I only knew what to do, I’d start working on it right now.

In the first few days of his administration, though, I think he has already started to prove whose side he’s on - ours. On day one, the new president sent out a memo to all federal agencies telling them to commit to an era of open government. This means they need to start following the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This overturns one of the actions of our internal axis of evil, John Ashcroft, who, in the wake of the big nine-one-one, ordered all government agencies to disclose information only after they looked for every possible reason to not disclose it, essentially shutting down the FOIA.

Obama’s administration is already looking friendlier to the public, and a transparent government is a government that (in a democracy) is one that is held to a high standard and an obligation to protect the interests of its citizens. It gives me hope in that sense. (Link to more)

Obama also ordered a suspension of a ton of 11th-hour regulatory changes that the Bush administration pushed through in its last days – with good reason (He didn’t have our best interests in mind throughout his presidency, why would he start at the end?). Among those was an order to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Michigan. Hopefully, scrutiny of that order puts them back on the list, because, let me tell you, we don’t really have a thriving wolf population here. Coyotes, yes, but that’s a whole different story.

So, yeah, I am hopeful based on what he’s already done, and I’m ready to do what I can to do my share. Who knows what it will be, but I’m realistic in the knowledge that state of affairs for the past eight years have left us needing a bit more than a fresh coat of paint.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snowmen on a smoke break

Snowmen on a smoke break
Originally uploaded by alpharat
It's cold here, and we're buried in snow.

But people seem to having fun anyway.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bad asses, warm hearts.

I love this photo.

It's from a story about a group of bikers who rescued a neglected bunch of kittens in New York.

That alone makes for cool enough story, located here.

But that story made me want to research it more.

The guys are part of a group called Rescue Ink.

Rescue Ink is an animal welfare group composed of big tattooed hot rodders, bikers, bodyguards and other people associated with positions that call for the big and badass. They perform animal rescues.

How awesome is that?

These guys know they're intimidating looking, and rather than simply use that to get ahead, they use it to help the ones who can't help themselves.

Seriously, these guys probably can perform an easier animal rescue action than your average 90-pound scrawny vegan animal rights activist.

No offense intended to the 90-pound scrawny vegan animal rights activists. Animals need all the help they can get, and you're important too.

It's just nice to have these guys in the corner of the animals as well.

Also, the guy in the photo?

He's 74.

I hope I look that good when I'm 74, facial tats or no.

Link to Rescue Ink.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The World's Largest Car Showroom

I was at the North American International Auto Show yesterday, and like everything else associated with the auto industry, it's hurting.

Gone are the big elaborate multimedia displays that make up most of the glitz of the thing. Instead, the automakers are simply displaying their new cars. Granted, that's what NAIAS is supposed to be about, but the end result is that the whole thing simply looks like a giant showroom.

For a "car person," I'm sure the allure is still there. I am not particularly a car person, though, and I like the spectacle of it all. At least the spectacle of what it used to be.

There were some fun funky concepts and new electric cars, but I can't wait for the car companies to recover so we can see more flashy lights and interactive displays again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


This is Amani. Amani is a baby aardvark who was born at the Detroit Zoo in December.

The zookeepers are waiting on blood tests to find out if Amani is a boy or girl yet, so don't feel bad if you weren't sure either when you looked at this little bucket of cute.

Amani is more important than you realize, because this little lump of snuggles represents Detroit making national news with a story that has nothing to do with a failing auto company or the worst football team of all time.

Any time we can get that, we're blessed.

Welcome to the world, little one.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Winter Reading List

I just got the preliminary list of bands that will be at SXSW, and I am stoked. Among the list is Futomomo Satisfaction, and I have to say I am quite interested in seeing this Japanese band’s… live show. I hear their music is pretty good too.

Don’t worry, we’ll get photos.

With the enforced hibernation that the weather has created lately, I’ve found myself getting a lot done in the house. Of course, it’s not the stuff that needs to be done; my office, basement and kitchen cabinets are still a mess, but I’ve accomplished a lot of reading, and some video games.

As for reading, I plowed through two books this week, and am just about finished with a third.

First up was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time, ever since I heard an NPR story on it last year. Now, with a movie in the works, I really thought I should read it.

The Road is post-apocalyptic fiction, focused on a father and son as they travel across the country, trying to stay alive. It’s a realistic version of Mad Max; rather than all of the road warrior stuff, you have a dad and his kid scrounging for canned goods to carry in a shopping cart. It’s frightening in its realism; if a bomb ever gets dropped, this will probably be what it’s like afterward.

Following that was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. This was lighter reading than The Road, but still rather dark. Essentially, The Graveyard Book takes the idea of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and moves it, you guessed it, to the graveyard, where a little orphan is raised by ghosts rather than wolves. It’s a lot of fun. Really, it is. Share it with your kids.

Apparently, I can’t stray too far from heavy topics, though, because right now I am finishing up Aron Ralston’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place. You may not recognize the name, but you know the story: Ralston was the guy whose arm was pinned by a boulder in a climbing accident, and he ended up amputating his hand with a pocketknife in order to escape. It’s a really good story about self-evaluation and the choices we make and why we make them. Also recommended.

During my reading binge, TFN also read The Watchmen, which I had read a long time ago and recommended to her when I saw they are making a movie (if it ever comes out). She agreed; it's probably the best comic ever written, and I hope she forgives me for outing the latent geekiness in her love for comics.

The reading has been due to the cold combined with a lack of snow. The lack of snow is of course our fault; we haven’t gotten decent amounts of snow in these parts ever since we bought our cross-country skis, and it's too cold to bike right now.

This is going to change, though. We are due to get four or five inches tonight, and skiing is on for the morning.

Wish me luck that I don’t get my car stuck in the snow out there this year (last year was a close call). I’d hate to have to perform a car part amputation. It’s paid off.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Wicked thoughts about dressing up

Saturday, we went to see Wicked at the Detroit Opera House. It was amazing.

If you haven’t read the book, Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Her story, like most when you look into them, is complex, full of ambiguities.

That’s one thing I liked about the whole story – it has no villains. There are a bunch of characters, some less likeable than others, but they’re all three-dimensional, like in real life. There rarely exists someone who is truly good or truly bad.

There are also a bunch of underlying themes, dealing with politics, xenophobia and racism. It’s a complex bit of musical theater.

It was cool to catch it at the Opera House, too. It’s a beautiful building, and they had it all decorated for the holidays still.

One thing I do want to pick apart has to do with some of my fellow patrons.

I’m not a snob by any means, especially not a clothing snob. I’ve worn cut-off fatigues and a punk rock t-shirt to business meetings. That being said, the theater is a special place, it’s a dressy occasion.

You don’t wear jeans to the theater.

You don’t wear tracksuits to the theater.

Now, I’m not talking about the little arthouse theaters. We have one that’s BYOB, and the environment is more relaxed. You can wear what you want to those. But a spectacle like a Broadway musical at the Opera House calls for a little more decorum. Suits are not essential, but would it kill you to put on some khakis and a sweater at least!?!

Then there are entire families; parents and kids all dressed like slobs. If dads wearing jeans and a t-shirt, it’s no surprise that little Timmy looks like he just rolled out of bed. Perpetuation…

Then, while we’re on the subject of kids, there is a certain age at which it becomes OK to take a child to a musical. That age isn’t set in stone, but it’s once the child is past the point where they’re old enough to be entertained, rather than flailing about in the seat next to me and talking to her mother. I didn’t blame the kid; she was just bored. And she was bored because she didn’t want to sit still and listen to singing, no matter the subject. Then, mom made the stellar choice of feeding her candy so she was bored and wound up.

I know what the tickets cost, and know that Mom could have hired one of the best babysitters in Detroit Metro for the cost of that seat that her little one occupied. Seriously, if the kid is too young to care, don’t bring her to the theater.

All my bitching aside, we had a wonderful time. The play was amazing.

Afterward, we scoped out a little Cuban place that just opened up, and we went for a BIG pitcher of sangria and some topless tapas dining. Among the fare was a dish that consisted of shrimp, cream cheese and jalapenos, mixed into a little ball and wrapped in bacon, then deep fried.


We became so inspired that on Sunday we cooked Cuban Pork with mago papaya salsa and some Cuban rice. I think we are definitely fans of Cuban food now.

To buy the pork loin, I went to a different meat shop than the one I prefer (Holiday Market). At Holiday, the meat guys are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The meat guy at the other place we happened to be at was not any of these things, and refused to cut down a pork loin for me, leaving me with four pounds of pork for the two of us. As we were standing there while he wrapped it up, TFN asked why he wouldn’t cut us one down. I just looked at her and audibly said, “because he’s not very nice; surely not as nice as the folks at Holiday.”

The recipe came out wonderfully, but now I’m figuring out what to do with the rest of this pork loin. I’ll let you know.

One more note: the salsa recipe calls for fresh coriander. I could not find this. At home, I consulted the interwebs and found out what the recipe calls "fresh coriander" is more commonly known as cilantro. I'm not a fan of cilantro, and usually substitute parsley, which is what I did here and it was good.

But yeah: fresh coriander = cilantro. Now you know.

Elsewhere, Ron Asheton of the Stooges was found dead today. I saw the Stooges on a reunion tour in ’03, and they are still a rock and roll powerhouse. This is the show I was at:

RIP, Ron. We'll not see the likes of you again.