Dogs and how they sleep.

A restless night last night, which meant a gritty-eyed morning. When I really can’t sleep and know it’s going to be a while before I can, I move to the guest room. Wendy moves with me. She jumps up on the bed — forbidden elsewhere — and makes herself comfortable. Sometimes she cuddles up to my back; sometimes she’s down at my feet. Inevitably, though, come morning? She’s smack in the middle of the bed and I am clinging to the side. This is how it always ended up when Kate was a toddler, too. How do they manage that? I think it’s by asserting the rights of the innocent to take all the damn space they want. If you needed the middle of the bed, you’d be there, right? Dogs and kids need that space.

As you can see from that bang-up beginning, it was a long day in the saddle today. I watched the temperature fall as the wind picked up and had that mournful spring experience of closing the windows for a chilly day following a warm night. Tried and failed to get a bike ride in, although the day was salvaged with dinner with friends passing through town. Fortunately, there’s some pretty good bloggage.

I don’t know how you can fail to love a story that includes an old man trying to hit a reporter with a crutch, an antisemitic mayor who says he’s “hurt” to be called antisemitic, the quote “I personally know and love a Jew” and a local establishment called the Hillbilly Gas Mart, and if you do, come and sit by me.

The American middle class is no longer the world’s richest. Quel surprise.

Mumps are on the rise at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Again: Quel surprise. Yes, there’s a vaccine.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events | 47 Comments
 

That’s *my* pie.

I’m reviving the long-dormant NN.c tradition of the Pie of the Month, now that I have an office and co-workers again. Today, I made Betty Rosbottom’s raspberry mousse pie in a chocolate brownie crust. The cookbook it came from is 30 years old, and whaddaya know? Here it is, sans copyright but pretty much word for word the way it appears in Rosbottom’s book.

Can you copyright a recipe? That’s an interesting question. I wonder if I care enough to look up the answer. Probably not.

But the pie was very good, although not very good for an office offering. Soon, fruit of all sorts will be back in season, and the PotM will be something that draws the FBI agents from their several individual offices in our Detroit building. I don’t know what they’re up to, only that every so often when I go to the vending machines on the tenth floor for a soda, I run into some guy with a gun and a badge on his belt. Today we ate lunch at a restaurant around the corner, and sat next to a table of uniformed and plainclothes state police. It’s the safest corner in the city.

The state boys — I prefer the U.P. usage — had one of their cruisers parked outside the restaurant. I was unaware we are the last state police department to still use the gum ball roof light design, even though they’re now equipped with LEDs. I just like the cars, as long as they’re not pulling me over.

So, a lovely day today. I took the first early-morning bike ride of the season. It was chilly and the sun was blazing over the water. I tried not to look directly at its dazzle, but at one point I glanced over and thought, huh. Sharks. Don’t see that very often in fresh water. It was two swans turned ass-up to root for whatever they eat off the bottom, but for the life of me, it looked like a couple of dorsal fins.

I’m making no sense, right? Skip to the bloggage, then.

I found this excoriation of Franklin Graham via Neil Steinberg, who noted that Franklin’s father skipped every chance to take a strong moral stand on the issues of his day, preferring to suck up to presidents. I’m not well-versed enough on my Billy Graham Crusades history to know whether that’s true, but his son is certainly a shit.

If a motor vehicle has to crash into my house, please, let it be the Wienermobile.

And so the week is underway. Forward!

Posted at 12:30 am in Uncategorized | 31 Comments
 

Fine weather for a resurrection.

I know bad weather happens on Easter, but honestly, I can never think of any in my recent memory. Maybe it just doesn’t register, or fades quickly, like the pain of childbirth. Whatever the reason, we had a pretty glorious Easter, weather-wise, and most of the other -wises, in that we had good food and chocolate and ham and eggs. I’m sure Jeff was working overtime and then some, but it is the busiest day of the year in his line of work.

As for me, I saw a Muslim girl at the Eastern Market, wearing a hijab, with a pair of bunny ears on top. Our wonderful country of weirdness.

We went to Toledo to meet my sister-in-law for Easter lunch — it’s about halfway between us. Somehow we got to talking about this and that, and she said her employer-paid health insurance offers a rebate for people who exercise four times a week for 30 minutes. It’s self-reported, she said.

And how much of a rebate do they get? Fifteen bucks per quarter. It’s hardly worth lying on the reporting forms.

I was wondering about this because I read something recently about “the internet of things” — all the interconnected devices that make our lives easier. I think we’ve discussed the Next thermostat here before, but there are also all these fitness trackers like the Fitbit and Nike Fuel Band, et al. I got one of these for Christmas, the Misfit Shine, and I really like it. It meshes narcissism with tech geekery with data analysis. I cannot deny that I check it several times a day, and that it motivates me to walk more often in pursuit of the points that make it blink and send me attagirl messages via my phone. I’m on a long-term, low-pressure quest to chip away a few pounds, and stupid stuff like this makes a difference

I don’t have to spend much time on the website, though, to see a definite dark side — the bundled packages “ideal for office groups,” where everyone gets a wearable tracker and competes to reach fitness goals. Is it so crazy to imagine a time when your insurer wants to know how often you’re making the 1,000-point standard, and determines your premium based on it?

I think it’ll happen. And I think the technology will advance, but also the shadow economy that will collect your tracker and attach it to a dog for 45 minutes or so before dropping it back in your mailbox.

Honest, boss, I don’t know why I can’t lose these extra pounds. I’m working my ass off at the dog park.

Let’s not let fear of surveillance put a pall on a gentle Sunday night, fading into golden light with a dog nearby and a single hot dog on the grill. (After that midday feed, I don’t feel like eating much.) Time to skip to the bloggage:

A friend of mine here in Detroit is one of those urban farmers you’ve heard so much about — the one with the ducks. She had her annual Easter Eggstravaganza, and I know a few of you threw her some money so she could make it free for all the neighborhood kids. Here are the event photos, at least the series where every kid in attendance got his or her picture taken with a duckling. Don’t know if that was the same duck in every picture, but you get a sense of the fun that was had. Lots!

I liked parts of this essay about Elmore Leonard, which ran last week in Grantland’s Detroit series. The writer understands which books were the best (at least, he agrees with me). Other parts, not so much, but it’s a fine effort.

And that’s enough for a day when we’re all recovering from chocolate poisoning. Happy week ahead, all.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Saturday morning market.

Everything’s coming up green. Finally.

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Posted at 11:02 am in Uncategorized | 21 Comments
 

Another reason to stay open all night.

Again, sorry for the day off. I was out until after 9 — clear until after 9 — at a journalism awards banquet. Yes, like all but the top j-awards banquets, it was too long. Not as long as the Hoosier State Press Association, thank God, which had something like six or seven circulation categories and enough award classifications that the actual plaque-passing was like my high-school graduation, with its 750-strong senior class. I recall “Pomp & Circumstance” playing and playing and playing.

But Bridge did OK. And the boss bought the drinks.

And I got home too late to blog. There are nights when I think I have flat run out of everything there is to say about everything in the world, and think I should just pull the plug on the whole thing. Usually it’s on nights when I’m tired. So let’s get going, then.

I was not much of a Walmart fan from the very first time I set foot in one, before I knew much about the company at all. They always struck me as overcrowded and aggressively ugly, the sort of place where there’s not even a polite nod toward the idea of seduction in sales, the attractive arrangement of a $6 T-shirt on a mannequin or something. No, it has all the charm of GUM, the Soviet Macy’s: Here is shirt. You buy shirt. Is cheap shirt.

So it’s obvious what the target market is for Walmart’s latest brand extension: Wiring money. Could there be anything more depressing than this?

Lower-income consumers have been a core demographic for Walmart, but in recent quarters those shoppers have turned increasingly to dollar stores.

“Walmart-2-Walmart leverages our existing footprint and the large-scale systems that our company can bring to bear to enable a low-cost service such as this,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart United States.

More than 29 percent of households in the United States did not have a savings account in 2011, and about 10 percent of households did not have a checking account, according to a study sponsored by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And while alternative financial products give consumers access to services they might otherwise be denied, people who are shut out of the traditional banking system sometimes find themselves paying high fees for transactions as basic as cashing a check.

What a country this has become, when this one demographic bloc can support a chain as enormous as Walmart. Meanwhile, those aforementioned dollar stores are everywhere in Detroit.

Let’s skip to the bloggage:

First, one of mine, a profile of a rising gay public intellectual who actually engages his opponents with respect and moderation. Friend of a friend.

With the start of “Mad Men” comes Tom & Lorenzo’s Mad Style posts. I admit I hadn’t thought of the blue dress/black “Zou Bisou” dress connection. I’m surprised they haven’t pointed out how much Lou Avery, the temporary creative director, resembles Duck Philips, the headhunter who hired him.

It’s Detroit week at Grantland. Personally, I think nostalgia like this is not a healthy thing, but it’s a good story: Saving Tiger Stadium.

Watch some Real Housewives cry: “I never said you were a stripper!”

Have a good weekend, all. I hope the well refills.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life | 44 Comments
 

Downward-facing bore.

A friend of mine started inviting me to this yoga class on Saturdays. And I started going. I have to confess: I’m not much of a yoga girl. I find it impossible to clear my mind, let alone breathe shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip. I plugged my way through some hot yoga a year ago, but everything else has been oh-this-stuff-again.

But you can never step into the same river twice, as some yogi undoubtedly said at some point, and this time, I dunno, it sort of clicked. I couldn’t clear my mind — that is never going to happen, sorry — but the breathing suddenly made sense and I could feel how it’s not just fancy stretchin’ but actual isometric exercise. And then I downloaded Neal Pollack’s book of yoga essays — yep, it’s on the right rail — and long story short, today I ditched Gentle Flow for Power Lunch and oh, I fear I’ve stepped onto a train that is leaving the station and all I can do is hang on and wave until it crashes into Boring Station. It may already be there, in fact. I may be That Person at the party, but if I am, I’d really like to have that incredible posture that person always has. Not there yet.

Yoga is fucking awesome. Let that be the last thing I say about it.

No, this: The other day I was lying in bed, reading, and stretched my leg out at a strange angle, just for the feels, and it not only went there, it went beyond. This is how they hook you, those yoga people.

So, how was everybody’s Tuesday? Mine? Cold and snowy, but I got out in it anyway. The snowfall finally broke the last record and I’ll give it this: It was pretty. But now it should go away. Back in the 60s by Thursday.

One of my neighbors had a pet raccoon. She said the family came down one morning and found the animal had escaped its cage, wrecked the kitchen, and was sitting on its fat ass, legs spread and an open bag of marshmallows between them, dipping them one by one into the canister of sugar. (Not sure if I believe every detail of that.) Anyway, things worked out better for her than it did for this girl. Mauled by a raccoon as a baby, now having her face reconstructed.

Don’t keep raccoons as pets.

I haven’t been watching CNN since the Malaysian plane went down, but apparently they’ve gone mad? New York magazine has a roundup, with video links.

Happy hump day, all. See you tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments
 

Monday, Monday, Monday.

Roy had a post the other day that led to the American Spectator, which led me down a rabbit hole of weirdness and nostalgia. I started reading the Spectator in the ’80s, when I would filch it from the editorial page’s mailbox when I was bored. It was the first magazine I read that made me think, “These folks are not only wrong, but insane.” I think it was the column opposing curb cuts for wheelchairs that did it.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing down the rabbit hole was this entry in the long-running — and apparently endlessly amusing to readers — Ben Stein’s Diary. The rabbit hole has since been gated (maybe it won’t be to you), but there was a jaw-dropping passage in it. In the context of a long rant about the awful Barack Obama, he laments that California is dying of thirst, and how can this be? Michigan has more than enough water; why is there not a great aqueduct running from Michigan to California? Why? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THIS ONCE-GREAT COUNTRY THAT WE CAN’T SEND MICHIGAN’S WATER TO CALIFORNIA?

How is it possible to be this clueless? To answer the question, and with all due respect to our California readers: Because any number of Michigan residents would dynamite an aqueduct to water California’s golf courses, or go anywhere else. You’re welcome, Ben Stein. You putz.

So, what a Monday. Woke up to howling winds, and walked to the bus stop in what seemed like a gale, the sort of wind that makes you lean into it, so you don’t get knocked over. It was coming up from the south, and I calculated that I would be disembarking and walking north to my office. So after the usual rattle-bump ride downtown, I stepped off the bus and turned north. Caught a blast to the face that had grit in it, because this is of course the gritty city.

At least it was warm. Was. The temperature is dropping like a rock, and it is supposed to snow overnight. Snow.

When I got to work, my co-worker said, “Did you see the cloud of grime over the city, coming in?” See it? I tasted it.

And now it’s Monday night, and I survived. Tuesday? We shall see.

With 1.9 more inches of snow, we can break the all-time record. Part of me wants to see it happen. The other part — the biggest part — says fuck that noise.

So, a little bloggage, but not much, because I want to go to bed early.

Tom and Lorenzo on last night’s “Mad Men.” The part about the Helter Skelter coincidence is a little unsettling, but that’s not the first place I heard it. Let’s assume Matthew Weiner will continue to be all obtuse ‘n’ stuff. That’s a little too on the nose.

I’m about halfway through this NYT magazine cover story about two lost artists of early 20th-century blues, and I’m enjoying it very much. It looks like the online presentation is the usual bells-and-whistles stuff. Nice.

Is that my faraway bed calling? I believe it is. See you Tuesday. Oh, it’s Tuesday already? You don’t say.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol', Television | 47 Comments
 

Fandom.

If Nance is in the kitchen making deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches and chocolate cream pie, it can only mean one thing:

She is invited to a “Mad Men” viewing party, and needs period snacks to bring to the potluck. But surely deviled eggs are outdated by now in the series, right? We’re into 1969, Megan’s making fondue, and deviled eggs and WASPy little sandwiches are too Betty-in-season-two. However? I don’t care. Deviled eggs are tasty, so deviled eggs it is.

But I put in extra dijon, a mustard that didn’t exist even in sophisticated Megan Draper’s refrigerator, I’d wager. Gotta update.

I am looking forward to this season, but I am not optimistic. I want the holy-shit verve of season 5, not the bourbon-soaked ennui of 1968. If this is Matthew Weiner’s idea of a slow glide to the finish, I will be pissed. Vince Gilligan may have written the manual on how to go out in style with “Breaking Bad.” Weiner may not have it in him. After all, he made his own kid a minor player in this ensemble.

Soon it will be time for me to jump in the shower, so let’s bloggage it up:

This is a developing story, so I may update the link: Someone’s shooting at …elderly Jews? Why? At least they got this one alive. I guess more will be revealed.

One of my social-media connections described going out to a restaurant Saturday night and seeing a couple of mother-daughter pairs, dressed identically in skin-tight this and stiletto that. Chances are, they were headed for the Palace, to the Miley Cyrus concert. She entered on a slide shaped like a tongue and exited on a flying hot dog. And she earned thousands and thousands of dollars doing so. That’s entertainment! Mercy:

“Drive,” aided by an arsenal of lasers, was a power moment, where her vocals took center stage over production tricks, and she dropped the stunts and let her voice carry a set of covers performed at a B-stage in the back of the arena, taking on Bob Dylan (“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”), Lana del Rey (“Summertime Sadness”), Coldplay (“The Scientist”) and Dolly Parton (“Jolene”). She returned to the main stage for “23,” the one song of the night that felt expendable. But she was soon on to her killer encore, which packed “We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Party in the USA” – complete with dancing versions of Mount Rushmore, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — back-to-back-to-back.

Speaking of “Mad Men,” I think Andy Greenwald gets it right.

And another action-packed week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Television | 27 Comments
 

Fixed.

Every time we have computer trouble, I find myself both irritated (haven’t we reached the point in the internet that it should just flippin’ work?) and — if I solve the problem — amazingly satisfied. Problem-solving has never been my most marketable skill, so it feels good to do deductive reasoning from time to time. Is it this? Let’s take it out of the chain and see what happens. Is it this? Yes.

It was the router, the ugly-ass Cisco that wanted me to install all its stupid software, added a Guest network and couldn’t find the damn printer until J.C. passed through town and brought it to heel.

The new one’s an Apple. Yes, I paid the premium. My reward? I plugged it in, and it worked. The lagniappe? It’s pretty. Good enough for me.

So, on Wednesday I experimented with what the urban planners call “last-mile” bike commuting. That’s where you ride your bike to the bus stop, put it on the rack on the front of the bus, commute to the urban center, take the bike off and ride to your office. It worked swimmingly both ways, unless you are the sort who would be bothered by the raving homeless guy who lingered at the downtown stop for a time. Bonus: I had a bike for lunch, and a friend and I rode down to Eastern Market for a slice at Supino’s, the best pizza in this or many other towns. The crust is so thin you can eat it entirely without guilt, because they don’t lard the cheese on, either.

And then it was back to the office, passing between a major-league baseball park and the housing project where the Supremes grew up, now abandoned and undergoing demolition. All under china-blue skies. That is what I call a lunch hour.

The only potential sour note in this is the lack of a rack at my office building, and the management’s refusal to let me bring it upstairs. I can’t even lock it in the vestibule, which meant I had to secure it to a parking meter outside the front door. I invested in a bomb-ass lock, but nothing works all the time. That’s when I rely on my time-honored strategy of never having the nicest stuff. Today, a woman rode past me on a racing bike that looked like it had been imported from the 23rd century. If I recognize her blond ponytail, she’s a local amateur racer and probably needs it, but I wouldn’t want to leave it anywhere without a 50-pound anchor secured to, I dunno, maybe a car.

OK, so bloggage for the weekend?

Here’s the WashPost Wonkblog thing I posted in comments Wednesday, for you non-comments people. It explains why ophthalmologists are among the highest-billing Medicare doctors out there. Spoiler: Pharmaceuticals.

I guess some people won’t be watching Stephen Colbert when he takes over for David Letterman.

And then Jesus said, “Take my wife. Please.” Can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Great weekend, all. And happy birthday, J.C. Burns! You make this thing happen every single day.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol', Television | 53 Comments
 

Alas.

We had a power surge today that appears to have fried our internet. Open thread until we get it sorted out? As always, thanks for your patience.

Posted at 8:01 pm in Housekeeping | 37 Comments