By the time I get to Toronto…

…you’ll be reading this. Because friends, I have to disconnect for a couple of days. I’ve been trying to finish three novels since Christmas, and can’t, because I keep checking Twitter like a rat in a Skinner box. I have to keep up with the latest news — IT’S MY JOB — but this is simply wearing me out.

So Alan and I are off to a sophisticated Ontario city before the border closes or we start a trade war with them. Like we apparently already have with Mexico.

Peeps, I can’t even. We may have to assume protective coloration up there. You’ll know we mastered our accents if we don’t come back. But plans are to be back on Sunday.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane and can anyone else rustle up another women’s march? I need something to calm my nerves. Maybe some Canadian whiskey will help.

Posted at 4:07 pm in Current events | 97 Comments

Bridges, all sorts.

Greetings, good people of NN.c land. Sorry I missed the update last night, but I was in a January kinda mood. Seriously, yesterday I told Alan he needed to start with the Vitamin D along with me, because like Johnny Cash, we haven’t seen the sunshine since I-don’t-know-when.

But I’m rested and I’m between phone calls, so here goes, quickly.

First up, a question for LA Mary: Is this the bridge near your neighborhood that we drove over?

There’s just something about it that rang a bell in my head.

And yeah, that’s from “La La Land,” which you may have heard got a few Oscar nominations Tuesday.

In December, I did a story on this guy, who has done that rare thing – figured out a way to make news on the internet pay. Admittedly, only a narrow slice of news (the Iraqi oil market), but still. His readers pay about $2,000 a year to subscribe, and if you’re in the oil bidness, I bet it’s worth every penny. Anyway, one of the things they do is a daily, or near-daily, update from Mosul, which is still partially held by ISIS. It’s so smartly organized, with incidents exhaustively detailed, categorized and sourced (anonymously, for obvious reasons). I wish I could link, but valuable information isn’t something you just give away.

Anyway, I thought of this because apparently POTUS is talking about “taking the oil” again, and even as a casual reader of Iraq Oil Report, I can’t even.

Here’s a roundup of the remarkable leaks coming out of the Oval on, what? Day five? Man, we have a long road ahead.

Related, and nifty: Red feed, blue feed, or what Facebook looks like, depending on how your friend network shapes up. Illuminating. I wish Bridge had the budget to do stuff like this. Instead, we have to rely on good old legwork. Here’s our red/blue project, Divided Michigan, which kicked off this week. Feedback welcome.

Phone just rang. Back to work and see you tomorrow, I hope.

Posted at 3:26 pm in Current events | 87 Comments

The alternative fact is, this is genius.

Well, this is what you call a weekend. I’m sitting here bathing in the news firehose, and I think I need to just do the shotgun thing, just write stuff down, whaddayacallit? Stream-of-consciousness, yeah. See what pops up.

My autocorrect keeps changing “Melania” to “Melanie,” so I think the first lady needs a new name. I choose Natasha.

Sean Spicer definitely needs a new suit. Although maybe badly fitting suits are a Thing now.

Is Barron Trump on the autism spectrum? I know speculation has been going around on that topic, and yeah — no one’s business and leave the kids alone. I’m only curious, as it would explain much, including why Andrew Wakefield attended the inaugural celebrations and the new president supposedly plans to put a vaccine questioner on a committee investigating them.

That march. Whew. I had no idea so many people I knew were going, and now I feel like I should have at least come down to take some pictures. My favorite single march? Antarctica.

I’m not the first person to observe that when people who believe the government can’t do anything right rise to power, they put in charge people who can’t do anything right. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, a week doesn’t go by that I’m not astonished by how much regular people distrust their government. Two quick examples drawn from that bottomless pit of stupidity, my Facebook feed:

We’ve had some sewer line problems in an adjacent county, and a lot of rain, and some raw-sewage overflows into the lake have occurred. It happens, it’s not good, all freely acknowledged. Crews are working on it. On Facebook, a movement is rising: BOIL YOUR WATER. A person with an adequate understanding of how water systems work steps in to point out that the overflow is into the water source, “raw” water, and it is all treated at the plant before it goes out as potable. So you’re fine, this person said, which only prompted a torrent of how stupid do you think we are? Do you think they’d TELL us the water was unsafe to drink? Boil your water! As though water-plant management, with absolutely zero reason to lie because the problem wasn’t theirs in the first place or to fix, would just lie to nearly 3 million people who drink it. Because GOVERNMENT.

The next day, a person inexperienced with eggs reported getting a double yolk in one. “I threw it away, just to be safe,” she wrote. Smart! replied one of her network. You never know what the government is doing with these chickens! Of course a double yolk is a perfectly natural, if unusual occurrence in laying hens, but please: Blame the government.

Of course, water and food safety in the U.S. are two triumphs of government oversight, with one notable exception.

I could be amused by this stuff if the stakes weren’t so high.

A copied cake? What’s HAPPENING???!!?

Sherri posted this Rick Perlstein piece, low in yesterday’s comments. You should read.

And with that, I gotta scoot. Happy Monday, all.

Posted at 8:26 pm in Current events | 98 Comments

Last day/first day.

We all know what day it is. The outgoing president has been generous with his time this week, with his presser, various other interviews and one I’m halfway through on Pod Save America, the podcast that succeeded Keepin’ it 1600.

You can read/listen/watch those, or you can join me in Tom & Lorenzo’s retrospective of FLOTUS’ style, which I’m enjoying. Daywear, parts one and two, plus separate posts on the gowns and the coats.

So many pretty clothes to look at. I’m so sad. I’m going to look at the pretty clothes and try not to think of the incoming administration’s extended family trying to cadge free haircuts.

Here we go, America. Try to have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:32 pm in Current events | 70 Comments

Last days of this.

One of those days, folks. Long and not terrible, but one that didn’t yield much material. Did a radio thing at 9 a.m. about the governor’s state of the state address. Fortunately, the other guest had taken very detailed notes, and can say that Flint didn’t come up until 34 minutes in. My notes read, “says ‘shoutout’ incessantly.” Which he did, enough that I looked up “shoutout” on Google Ngram. It’s hiphop slang, now over deployed by our nerd governor.

Then I came in to the office. Had soup for lunch. Had soup for dinner. Didn’t get enough done; my bullet journal will scold me tomorrow.

But I got some bloggage! It’s a bit infuriating.

Another one of those Vox things — I voted for Donald Trump, and I already regret it. Oy, these people:

Since that 60 Minutes interview when Trump went back on his promise to investigate Clinton, I haven’t been able to look at him the same way. Witnessing his open admittance that he made promises simply because they “played well” during the campaign was disturbing. He has shown himself to be guilty of all of the same things he accused Hillary of — lying to the public, refusing to do press conferences, putting himself and his business interests above the American people.

Since the election, Trump has repeatedly spat in the faces of those that cast their ballots for him. I did not cast my vote for his Cabinet members, many of them rich millionaires and billionaires, despite Trump’s lambasting of Hillary Clinton on her association with Wall Street. I did not cast my vote for his sons who sat next to him during his meeting with tech titans, potentially representing the vast business interests of the Trump company that they now run. I did not cast my vote for Ivanka, whose clothing brand was working out an ongoing deal with a Japanese clothing company when she sat in on a meeting with her father and the Japanese prime minister. I did not cast my vote to enrich the very swamp that Trump promised he would drain.

Today’s talker will be this NYT piece on Rick Perry, which made the blood drain from my face:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”

It’s fashionable these days to go around muttering “we’re so fucked,” and it’s easy to see why.

Finally, this Bridge story goes live at 6:20 a.m. Thursday, and I’m eager to hear what people think of it. It’s very strange, and there’s a twist at about the three-quarter mark that I’d rather not spoil until more people have a chance to read it. But I want to hear opinions.

Onward to the week’s downside. And…Friday.

Posted at 9:37 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments


I’ve been a scarce girl this week, haven’t I? Sorry about that, but it’s been a bit busy around here. Also, last night I was doing research for a story. More on that when it drops.

It so happens I wrote the last entry just a couple hours before the urine-soaked mattress hit the fan, so to speak. I’ve been wrestling with my thoughts on that issue ever since, and I think they come down like this: The link above, to a NYT story, is probably how I would have handled it if I were editing this thing. That is to say, talk about the bigger story, that there is such a dossier, and that it was circulating, and the basic facts of what it is said to contain, because otherwise it makes no sense to readers. You have to have a sense of the stakes. Would I have included the part about Natasha, Olga and the extra orders of Aquafina sent by room service to the Ritz Carlton presidential suite? Eh, probably not.

But I’m glad someone did, even though it’s a very risky move; after all, Peter Thiel could decide he is displeased and fund another lawsuit in a friendly jurisdiction. There is something distasteful about the idea that this dossier had been leaked all over D.C., was something everyone was talking about, and yet that information couldn’t be shared with the American public. Once it goes to Congress it’s Game Over as far as keeping a lid on anything. I respect the role of gatekeeper and I think the gate needs to be kept, but maybe not in this case. It is, as they say, extraordinary. These are extraordinary times. We are flying blind, without a map, and one engine is on fire. We are going to have to make a lot of stuff up as we go. That’s just the way it is.

Life is now a “Black Mirror” episode, isn’t it? And this is Season 1, Episode 1, only with Russian hookers.

One amusing detail I gleaned from this river of sludge: I think it was the Daily Beast that, in one of its subheads or other teasers to this story, said the president-elect hired “sex workers.” The dossier said “prostitutes.” You have to be fairly well-versed in sex-work vocabulary to know that “prostitute” is not their preferred description. “Sex worker” is. I laughed, anyway.

So, for bloggage? I don’t have much, but there’s this, a piece done mostly by my colleague Mike, with some help from me: County maps of where the ACA/Medicaid expansion has been most-used. Please to not guffaw when we note that these were places that went hard for Trump.

Tomorrow is the auto prom. I will wear a red dress and take some pix for ya. See you after the weekend.

Posted at 3:29 pm in Current events | 65 Comments

The cars have come to town.

Our outstanding webmaster J.C. has done the thing he’s done for a number of our late commenters — made a separate comment thread for Maggie Jochild’s contributions. It being January and all, it has me thinking of whether I should shut down the blog before this becomes a weekly occurrence, and all that’s left is for some 25-year-old reporter for a yet-to-be-founded website by an as-yet-unborn tech guru to do a story on this curiosity that’s been publishing regularly since 2001.

Old people! They’re so funny!

Maggie was a wonderful writer. I read a few of her poems here. I think that’s the best tribute you can pay to a writer — keep reading them. You’re never really dead until no one remembers you anymore. Reading is remembering.

Is this too much of a memento mori to kick off the week? I hope not. Don’t want to be one of those people who complains chronically about winter and gray skies and all that. Friday night I went out with a friend and he told me a wonderful story about an edible (that’s medical-marijuana lingo for weed you don’t smoke), a 300-pound security guard in a Santa hat and an assault rifle. I chuckled well into Saturday over that one; it was one of those stories that tells me I’m in the right place, gray-bowl skies and all. There’s a certain kind of hijinks that only certain cities produce.

We were in a bar, a new one for me and nearly new for him. The bartender had been a witness in a high-profile murder case a few years back, and the experience had left her shaken — or “deeply shaken,” as the newspapers inevitably put it. But she had valuable evidence to offer: How the accused, her landlord, had shown up at the apartment building the night of the crime and made a big show of sweeping the parking lot — an activity he had never done before, at least in her tenure — and introducing himself by name to everyone who walked by. That is to say, he was establishing his alibi. He might have gotten away with it if he had spent a little more on a hit man; the one he hired (for something like $1,500 and the title to a used Cadillac) walked into the police station a few days after the crime and confessed. He still might have gotten away with it if the police had been successful in sending the hit man away as a crank, which they tried to do.

It was a mess. But a juicy story.

So that was Friday. Saturday was the usual blur of chores, and here I sit for the next few days, a virtual widow as Alan deals with his Hell Week, i.e., the Detroit auto show. The gala is next Friday and I will take some snaps, I promise. Got a new dress, too. Red.

I won’t be getting one of these. But it might make useful protective coloring if you have to travel through hostile territory in the next four years.

The other thing that’s getting me down is what’s happening Jan. 20. The dread is starting to catch up, because every day I see awful things in the news and I wonder why my street isn’t filled with people screaming as a result. I recall also feeling this way during the financial crisis, which was a useful lesson: When momentous events happen, life as it’s lived on a daily basis doesn’t change abruptly, until it does. I read this piece on Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions, our soon-to-be attorney general, and felt icy dread inside. If you click through, WTF with those women in those dresses, and one of them is… black? Really? They found an African-American woman to put on plantation drag complete with parasol? Maybe I’m missing something.

Not all the news is terrible today, though:

Got to sit down with my bullet journal and make a plan for what will be a pretty busy-ass week. Also, I’m gonna vacuum. Enjoy the remainder of the weekend and Monday, all.

Posted at 4:31 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 72 Comments

Owl in the ‘hood.

Well into the cold snap today, I bought a pair of clever lights that go on your bike shoes like spurs. I ride less than I used to, in part because I have these premonitions that I’m going to be flattened by a car. So anything that can move and lights up and flash and perhaps tear a driver’s attention away from his or her phone? I’m all for that stuff.

At this time of year, it sometimes seems we’re never going to see bike season again. I bought those lights because I believe in spring, dammit. Also because they were only $10, and accepted ApplePay.

Winter is a series of milestones, like a drunk walking home, lurching from parking meter to lamppost. I’m already seeing pitchers-and-catchers-report numbers here and there. In one month, I’ll start noticing that the days are in fact growing longer. Then snowstorms will give way to freezing rain, then the first false hope of an early spring, then spring itself.

There’s a screech owl hanging in my neighborhood. It’s pair-bonding season, and it’s been raising a ruckus all night, calling to its mate, or potential mates. It’s a wonderful sound, and I wish I could throw a window open to listen to it, instead of catching it in snatches through the double-pane windows, or when taking the recycling out.

Which strikes me as a better use of my time than worrying about what the people of Mt. Airy think of the rest of us. Y’all chewed this one over in comments, and parts of it are appalling, but I can’t deny this made me laugh:

A group of developers has been working on a project to redevelop an old mill, Morrison said, but the proposal has moved slowly because of resistance from residents. Similarly, Vann McCoy, who runs a whiskey shop called Mayberry Spirits, said that residents recently opposed a traffic roundabout because there is no traffic circle visible on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

And people think city folk are smug.

You want some comic relief? Years ago, someone persuaded me to subscribe to Quora, sort of an ask-the-crowd-anything service. I mostly ignore it, but I get regular emails, and this one was pretty amusing. Someone asked

If you had to choose between Donald Trump and Barack Obama to adopt your kids, who would you trust the most to look after your kids?

You’ll never guess who won that one. But some of the answers are funny.

OK, then. This week is short, but it is long, if you catch my drift. I plan to limp through the weekend on fizzy water and protein. Have a good one.

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 49 Comments

Winter is here.

I woke up this morning to wind — the flap of the bathroom vent…flapper, or whatever you call it. The housing timbers creaking. The sense of a new chill in the air, even as you can’t actually feel it, snug in your bed.

And sure enough, the temperature had fallen 20 degrees overnight. Plus the wind. It happens. January. Time to dig in. Except all the snow melted when it was in the 40s for the last few days.

Fortunately, I got up early and put some short ribs in the slow cooker. I set it on Low but still came home seven hours later to find them press seriously cooked down almost to goo. Delicious, delicious, mouth-melty goo, perfect for a night like this.

Without a glass of wine, but I don’t even miss it. (Too much.)

A day at the office today. I like those; it’s good to be around people, even without my Aeron. No food truck, though, and with the wind and the 20-degree temperatures, we ordered in Jimmy John’s, aka the world’s most boring sandwich, redeemed by delivery. I got mine as a lettuce wrap, for extra disappointment. Really hope they bring the food truck back, soon.

So now it’s Wednesday night, I’m on the couch trying to think of something to blog about while letting “The Big Short” run in the background. Just glanced up to see this quote on the screen:

“Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.”

― Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Which of course made me think of the upcoming inauguration. Then I looked at the NYT home page. Saw this:

Who looks at that second bullet point and doesn’t just let one’s eyes glide away? Four years of this ahead. May we live in interesting times.

No wonder the world went apeshit over Mariah Carey last weekend. Something else to think about.

Read Jon Carroll today. He doesn’t have any great ideas, but it’s something to read.

Sorry to read about Maggie Jochild in the comments yesterday. I honestly consider it an enormous tribute that other writers show up to read here, and she’s a Writer. From her own Twitter bio:

Third generation lesbian, 6th generation Texan, radical poet pacifist novelist disabled optimistic freakishly-good memory strong strong strong

Let’s hope so.

Posted at 7:39 pm in Current events | 57 Comments

Pine needles.

Well, I did it. We did it, that is — took the tree down, and the outside decorations. God, that feels good, sweeping up the big pile of pine needles and dragging that sucker down to the curb. Let 2017 get underway, for cryin’ out loud.

One great thing about working for a startup is, things rarely stay the same for long, and lots more will be expected of all of us in the new year, so I have to get my organization under control. I’m trying a Bullet Journal — i.e., “making lists and taking notes in a paper notebook” — and seeing how it goes. I love my digital systems, but I’m old enough that writing something down seems to stick in my head better.

Bullet journaling seems to be a cult. Someone have me deprogrammed if I slide too deeply into this stuff.

January is also my dry month, which I’m happy to see arrive, frankly. Alcohol is a depressant, and this is a depressing time of year. Dry January also has its cult, and even a name — “Drynuary.” Its leading adherent:

“The first week, you’re overenergized,” he said. “I’m having lucid dreams more often.”

The second week, his clothes fit better, but after that, it’s all uphill. By the fourth week, he said, “I’m sick of whatever it is that used to be interesting about this.”

That sounds like my experience last year, although I hung on until the final hours of Jan. 30, when I had a few sips of wine. The next night, a single glass. We’ll see if I can go all the way.

Feeling boring at the moment. Let’s get to the bloggage, eh?

Whatever you know about Richard Nixon, dial your opinion down a few notches. He was worse than you thought:

Richard M. Nixon always denied it: to David Frost, to historians and to Lyndon B. Johnson, who had the strongest suspicions and the most cause for outrage at his successor’s rumored treachery. To them all, Nixon insisted that he had not sabotaged Johnson’s 1968 peace initiative to bring the war in Vietnam to an early conclusion. “My God. I would never do anything to encourage” South Vietnam “not to come to the table,” Nixon told Johnson, in a conversation captured on the White House taping system.

Now we know Nixon lied. A newfound cache of notes left by H. R. Haldeman, his closest aide, shows that Nixon directed his campaign’s efforts to scuttle the peace talks, which he feared could give his opponent, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, an edge in the 1968 election. On Oct. 22, 1968, he ordered Haldeman to “monkey wrench” the initiative.

Meanwhile, our toddler president-elect promises even lower lows:

“And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

When asked what he knew that others did not, Mr. Trump demurred, saying only, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Mr. Trump, who does not use email, also advised people to avoid computers when dealing with delicate material. “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Mr. Trump said.

“I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”

My new favorite health-care news site is StatNews, worth a visit every day. I liked this piece about the dangers of the alt-medicine movement.

Time for an hour of non-digital reading and an early bedtime. The new year is under way.

Posted at 9:06 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments