The Super Bowl is this weekend, which always reminds me to check my grocery coupons in the Sunday paper to see what the potheads at the Kraft and Pillsbury test kitchens have come up with to amuse us. Never do I get such a strong sense that drugs were involved than when I behold the recipe suggestions. A football field made of lime Jell-O, with yard lines of piped-on Cool Whip. A dip in a hollowed-out bread bowl in the shape of a football. Cheese-stuffed everything.

The year I was a journalism fellow, we threw a Super Bowl party for the overseas journalists, and i tried to come up with the most ridiculous possible nosh, and settled for something fairly pedestrian — guacamole in a low, rectangular dish, with sour cream piped-on yard lines, and PATS and PANTHERS in the end zones.

Of course, if cheese-stuffed deep-fried Doritos had been invented then, I’d have made those. I’ve been weirdly interested in this preposterous recipe for a few days, but I’m not invited to any parties this year, and there’s no way in hell I’d make them for two people. So another year will pass without experiencing cheese-stuffed deep-fried Doritos. I vow that I will pass the time trying to figure out how to add bacon to the recipe.

What’s your favorite Super Bowl food? Don’t say chili; it’s pedestrian.

So, Eric Zorn asked the other day if it’s sexist to describe Hillary Clinton as “shrill,” even if her voice does occasionally rise into the higher registers. I didn’t have to think for a second before thinking yes, it is sexist, and we should stop using that to describe not only Hillary but any woman. I think we’re just going to have to stop it the same way we stopped telling our black friends that they’re great dancers. Because “shrill,” even if it describes a person with a high, screechy voice, is making common cause with Rush Limbaugh and all his minions. You sound like the people saying stuff like this. Speaking of shrill.

Just one bit of bloggage before the weekend starts. Planned Parenthood was blocked from using public funds to serve poor women in Texas, and so had to stop serving them. Guess what happened? Pregnancies rose. Color me astounded, and I wonder what happened to the aboriton rate.

Whatever your Super Bowl plans are, I hope they include cheese. See you Monday.

Posted at 12:15 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 73 Comments

Try to remember.

I was always an excellent speller, missing only one or two on a typical test, and often getting perfect scores, but one time the teacher dumped a wowser on us in the weekly list: “arithmetic.” Ten letters, with a tricky vowel sound – the whole class groaned. Nonsense, she said, and wrote out, on the blackboard, “A rat in the house may eat the ice cream.”

Thus began my first exposure to the mnemonic device, or memory trick. Remember the sentence and you could remember how to spell “arithmetic,” by using the first letter of each word. Colors in the light spectrum? Roy G. Biv. Notes on the musical staff? “Every good boy does fine” for the lines, “face” for the spaces, and the good boy “deserves favour” if you’re British. The Great Lakes? “Homes.” And of course, we all know the planets in the solar system, in order, because we all know “My very educated mother just served us nine pickles.” I’m sure that’s been reworked since the demotion of Pluto, and will be reworked again if the new ninth planet delivers on its promise.

Ask me how to spell Cincinnati, and I’ll answer “one, two, one,” because that’s how I finally mastered the tricky interior consonants – one N, then two Ns, then one T. I still see Cincinnati misspelled in books and in national publications, less so since spell-check.

Anyway, I’m a big believer in mnemonics. This year I’ve been volunteering as a homework tutor in an after-school program one day a week, and Tuesday I worked with a boy studying for his religion test. I never went to Catholic school, but I took CCD classes one day a week after heathen public school, so my knowledge of basic doctrine is there. We did a sample test together: Which two sacraments can only be received once? Four pairs followed. I taught him the first rule of multiple-choice testing: First, eliminate the obvious wrong-os, i.e., the ones with Eucharist or Reconciliation as one of the choices, because Catholics receive those over and over. I got the feeling no one had ever taught this third-grader about the process of elimination in test-taking.

This is when I feel the most despair, and see an opportunity to actually teach something. These kids are wonderful but, as you’d expect in Detroit, disproportionately disadvantaged, in so many ways. They know the words to crappy songs on the radio, but don’t hear the rhythms of the written word, because few have been consistently read to. They’re tested all the time, but lack test-taking skills. Worst of all, learning is accompanied by rote rituals that strip all the pleasure out of it. It’s not enough to answer “Who wrote most of the Declaration of Independence?” with “Thomas Jefferson.” Rather, grasp your pencil in your fist and write, “The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson.” (Or, worse, “The person who wrote the Declaration of Independence was Thomas Jefferson.”)

I see the need to get students accustomed to writing in complete sentences, but when a writing assignment asks a high-school student, “What do you think of X?” and the automatic first line of the answer is, “I think X is…” we’re doing it wrong. The other day a bright high-schooler and I talked about Eleanor Roosevelt. The study guide asked students to explain why the first lady was controversial, and she dived back into the chapter for the facts she’d need to marshall for her answer. I told her to put the book down and we talked a little about Hillary Clinton and the things people say about her – that she rode her husband’s coattails to power, that she meddled in affairs she had no business in, etc. I told her people had said these things about Nancy Reagan, Michelle Obama and pretty much every first lady in my lifetime. I asked whether this said anything about those women as individuals, or about women in general, and about Eleanor Roosevelt in particular. You could see understanding dawning over her face, and people? That is a wonderful thing to see. She went back into the chapter for her facts, but now she understood not just what she was looking for, but why.

I am not a teacher, I have no skills in teaching. I’m not always a very good explainer. I’m not creative about dreaming up new ways to impart knowledge. But when I read Mother Goose and A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter to little Kate, I held her on my lap and jiggled my leg in time to James James / Morrison Morrison / Weatherby George Dupree / Took great care of his mother / though he was only three. And today? She plays a rhythm instrument. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.

After we settled on the correct answer to the religion question (Baptism and Confirmation), we matched details of various rituals to their symbolism and significance. Why do converts put on white garments? Why do priests baptize with water? He knew most of them, but was having a hard time with the laying on of hands. It signifies the power of Christ, the book said. Hmm…the kid’s dad is a boxing trainer, so I told him to connect the power of Christ with the power of a punch, delivered? Through the hands. Mnemonics!

Even though Jesus wasn’t much of a brawler, even when he was kicking the money-changers out of the Temple.

On to the bloggage.

Speaking of people who didn’t learn well in school, an atrocious rewrite of a TV script, featuring the fun neologism “rigamortis.”

I guess my old newspaper’s new letters policy is that they’ll run any old crap that comes over the transom.

My local Trader Joe’s is nothing like this. Is yours?

Skating into week’s end, I am. We all are. Happy Thursday.

Posted at 12:15 am in Same ol' same ol' | 89 Comments

January, now on ice.

What a difference a weekend makes. I went into it a teetotaler and came out free to imbibe again. The Whole 30 is over. January is over. And I discovered I have knack for curling. Sorta-curling, anyway.

I was invited to a fundraiser by a woman in my boxing club, for a new group that’s trying to help women in difficult circumstances. Alan was under the weather, so I went stag. (Doe?) The house was large and beautiful, but the party was in the back yard. Where I found this:


Now that’s a backyard ice rink. The host said he’s been doing this for his kids since they were little, just knocking the frame together and filling it with a hose. They skate a couple hours a day, and then he goes out after they’ve gone to bed and manually Zambonis the surface, with scrapers and a big squeegee. But we weren’t there to play hockey; backyard curling was the night’s entertainment. I found their homemade curling stones charming — two mixing bowls filled with cement, with pipe handles. We played backyard-curling rules, which was basically ice bocci: Throw a puck down the ice, then try to get your stone as close to it as possible.


The temperature was just above freezing, so the brushing was pretty inconsequential. Mostly we just slid the stones down the ice. Our team was trailing in the final, caught up and was down by one on the final point. The other team had two stones in scoring range and our last player sent his down the lane and knocked both to kingdom come, leaving his close enough to the puck to kiss it. A real Michigan-Michigan State 2015 finish. The prize was any bottle from the booze table, and I chose a nice bottle of champagne. A great way to end Dry January.

And that means the Whole 30 is over, too. Truth be told, it was more of a Whole 15 and a PrettyMuch 15, but it accomplished what it was supposed to do. I lost seven pounds, and while I didn’t break my sweet tooth in half, I held it at bay and learned it was not my master. Didn’t miss alcohol even a little bit. Bread was different, but I broke some habits there, too — I no longer consider eggs without toast a pathetic excuse for breakfast. And not only is it possible to add vegetables to every meal, sautéed vegetables make scrambled eggs pretty damn special, as Mark Bittman can attest.

Now to keep the trend going. My opinion of Paleo recipes has changed, but not by much. I still think most of them suck (TOO MUCH SEASONING), but I’ve found a few exceptions. But I’m never buying a bottle of coconut aminos, and I sorta regret this coconut oil, too, because it makes everything taste like coconut. I like coconut, but not that much.

I was regretting the bottle of unfiltered organic apple-cider vinegar I bought a few months back, once I realized I could never find a way to choke that stuff down like the healthy people do, and why would I want to anyway? Until I started using it to treat a small patch of toenail fungus that appeared on one of my tootsies last spring. It never spread or got worse, but never got better, either. OTC remedies were expensive and did nothing, and my doctor said the Rx solution wasn’t much better, had a potentially serious side effect and wasn’t something he liked to recommend for a non-critical case. “It might go away on its own, or you might have it for years,” he said. “They’re stubborn.” So I sadly stripped off my summer nail polish (that would make it worse, the Internet said) and scowled at it, week after week. Toenail fungus. It sounds like something bums get. I’m sure it is.

Until I thought, what the hell, and started dabbing the spot with cider vinegar twice a day, and dripping a little under the nail. One sock smelled like vinegar, but that was the only side effect. After a few weeks of this, damn if it didn’t get smaller, and smaller, and today is on the verge of disappearing altogether. An old-timey remedy that’s actually a remedy! Could this January get any better?

A little bit of bloggage to start the week.

Michael Phelps in a gold Speedo and a chest full of medals would certainly distract me. I guess he’s the ultimate shiny object. Check out the core strength on that young man. Not to mention the quadriceps. #swimminggoals

Welcome back to DellaDash, aka St. Bitch, who showed up in comments over the weekend. She’s an Iowa caucus voter. I have to say I’m very glad I don’t live there, because I would grow weary of shooting my TV over and over:

A super PAC supporting Mike Huckabee produced an ad for both radio and TV in which two women express doubts about Cruz’s commitment to Christian causes, saying that he speaks in one way to Iowans and in another to New Yorkers whose campaign donations he needs.

“I also heard that Cruz gives less than 1 percent to charity and church,” says one of the two women.

“He doesn’t tithe?” asks the other. “A millionaire that brags about his faith all the time?” They conclude that he’s a phony.

Thanks, Mike Huckabee, you loser, you also-forgotten piece of crap. Thanks for all you do for your country.

Grr. I guess I’m ready to start Monday, then. Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 61 Comments

Water, everywhere.

Another …day. Another day, but it started with a pretty good swim, and so there’s that. This is why I work out with the dawn patrol; if the day goes well, it goes well. And if it doesn’t, at least you got a workout.

I’m working on learning the butterfly. I’m terrible at it. Wikipedia explains why:

The breaststroke, backstroke, and front crawl can all be swum easily even if the swimmer’s technique is flawed. The butterfly, however, is unforgiving of mistakes in style; it is very difficult to overcome a poor butterfly technique with brute strength. Many swimmers and coaches consider it the most difficult swimming style.

But like I said a while ago: Just keep swimming.

Water is sort of a theme around these parts. Today this story broke:

The state provided its workers in Flint with bottled water in January 2015, 10 months before officials would tell residents the water was not safe to drink, according to state emails released Thursday by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan.

The decision was unrelated to elevated lead levels that were later found in Flint’s drinking water, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Instead, the management and budget department decided to provide water coolers in a Flint state office building after the city sent out a notice saying it had been found in violation of the state’s Safe Drinking Water Act because of high levels of disinfection byproducts.

It just keeps getting worse. This is going to be such a mud bath.

I had the world’s most boring task today (transcription), and a lot of busy work, so my brain feels steamrolled this evening. But hey! So some pix today.

My colleague Chastity did a story on breed-specific legislation, i.e., banning pit bulls, and it’s attracting the expected slapfest in the comments, but I only want to call your attention to this puppy:


That pup is the offspring of, wait for it, a Chihuahua and a pit bull. They lived under the same roof, and the owners never had them neutered because they figured, what are the odds? So now there’s this litter of chia pets (or chit bulls). For some reason, it reminded me of the puppies we meet in the final scenes of “Babe: Pig in the City,” one of my favorite kid movies, and maybe movies, period:


Supposed to be 40 degrees this weekend. Woo. Have a good one.

Posted at 12:27 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments

They still believe.

Another cray day past and ahead, but since y’all are sharing adult-coloring stories in the comments of the last post, here’s one: Kate was tickled to learn that the U-M library brought in puppies for students to pet for stress relief during finals week. At least, that’s what she was told at orientation. It turned out to be therapy dogs, not puppies, and so many students showed up to greet them that she couldn’t get near the beasts. But there was an alternative! Both coloring AND Legos, at which point, hearing this, my fingers tightened around the steering wheel. They tightened, and whitened. Because it was really hard not to say ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Hank Stuever and I have a shared belief that Kids Today could stand to grow up a little more, and a little sooner. For all the worry, so often expressed in mass and social media, that children are “sexualized” at ever-earlier ages, there’s a corollary that’s equally evident — some are staying young, or maybe babyish, for way too long.

In “Tinsel,” Hank’s book about Christmas in modern suburbia, he talks about older students who claim to still believe in Santa Claus, and around here, in a very similar community, the Cult of Keeping Them Believing is vast and strong. There was a whole Facebook thread about it among local moms, which I read in slack-jawed amazement. “This will NOT be the year they stop believing!” mother after mother vowed. There was talk of a coordinated effort to make sure older children didn’t spill the beans to the younger ones. One mom complained in a recent exercise class about paying a pretty penny to attend a Santa Claus event, and the Santa underachieved, with a crappy costume and a strap-on beard that didn’t fool her kindergartener. This was seen as a tragedy.

Are we raising a generation of fornicating, social media-dependent wimps who need puppies to endure a college finals week (we made do with beer), or is this just me? I ask you.

One or two links today: A great Bridge story on a local (Detroit-local, that is) Chaldean kid who was born in Iraq, traveled at great peril with his family to Michigan to start a new life after Gulf War I, and has since returned. He now lives in northern Iraq, in ISIS country, and flies the flag of Motor City hip-hop in his job of running a radio station called Babylon FM. If you don’t have time for the whole thing, don’t miss this gem within, a sound clip of the young man interviewing a Kurdish rapper going by the name of Frank Flo. Listen to the rapper and tell me hip-hop hasn’t conquered the world. Dear Donald Trump: AMERICA IS ALREADY GREAT, YOU MORON.

Back later. Thanks for just being you.

Posted at 10:09 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 74 Comments

One day at a time.

Maybe some of you with nothing better to do are wondering whether I embarked on the Whole30, and if so, how it’s going. I did, and OK so far. I probably wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have two friends who are doing it as well. We got together for dinner on New Year’s Eve, the night before the launch. The first course would be entirely Whole30 “compliant,” as they say:


That’s barbecued prawns with portobello mushroom caps. Mmmm.

And the main course was certainly compliant:


Mmm, beef tenderloin.

But you don’t go on a 30-day sugar/grain/legume/dairy/booze purge without one last fling. Which was dessert:


For the last few days, we now text one another pictures of our meals. To be supportive, you know.





And dinner:


I have but this to say: I miss bread. I don’t miss booze. I don’t miss sugar (too much — the fruit helps). But man, that lunch would have been better as a sandwich.

One day at a time. And if I give it up, no biggie. It’s all about learning.

Is there anything as boring as another person’s chow? No. But that was a lovely, delicious chocolate-Chambord mousse. February isn’t so far away.

So, the tree is now at the curb, the ornaments are back in their boxes, Kate is back at school and I’m back at work. Threw some stuff out, sent a million emails, did a bit of spadework for the next eight weeks of assignments. Ate that grim lunch at my desk and tried to explain the Oregon situation to Kate on the drive to Ann Arbor. Honestly, I think the Onion nailed it:

What are the protesters’ demands?

$5 million in cash and safe passage to 1874.

Deconstructing the semiotics of Bill Cosby’s grandpa sweater.

I also slept terribly last night, so I think I’m going to turn in early. Have a great Tuesday, all.

Posted at 9:06 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 72 Comments

How we got here.

Well, happy new year to y’all, too. I hope you had a pleasant pair of long weekends, or in my case, TWO SOLID WEEKS of not having to think about work (too much). I had a particularly fine time reading the comments on the last entry, about how so many of you made it here, and why you stick around.

To clear up some points made there, which I might as well do now, because I’m not sure when, precisely, this blog began, although J.C. probably does:

NN.c was born out of boredom, restlessness and a sense that things were changing in my business, and some skills in the new era might be useful. J.C. had already launched his own site — and that’s what we called them, just websites or “personal websites” — which was updated then more often than it is now. I always looked forward to reading it, and in his always-encouraging way, he urged me to try it myself. At least secure your name.com, he said, so I did, at Network Solutions, for something like $25. I only got the .com, because $75 to secure the .net and .org seemed like a lot of money to spend on something I might not ever even do.

On one of J.C.’s swings through town, he showed me how to work Adobe GoLive in sort of an all-thumbs, basic way, and in about 10 minutes, mocked up the first NN.c. Dominant color: Blue. He showed me how to make new pages, how to upload to the server. I understood what a server was. And so I tapped out a tentative first entry, introducing myself and telling the world that I now had a personal website. There were pages devoted to my scary-clown news clippings, and my postcard collection, links to sites I regularly visited, and that was about it. All this was in January 2001.

I sent emails to everyone I know, saying hey, I now have a website. And I told my editors, just in case there was a conflict. They decided there wouldn’t be, as long as I didn’t try to sell anything that might be construed as competing with the paper. Everyone looked at Day One, patted me on the head and said, “Isn’t that nice” and went back to putting out the paper.

I believe I got 104 visits that day. Clicks, anyway. Google analytics didn’t exist yet.

As Day One drew to a close, I called up my page and looked at it. The question “now what?” seemed to announce itself. Guess I should write something new, I thought, starting the first weekly archive page, pasting the first day’s content to that and starting anew in the now-blank box on the home page.

On that second day, I considered a few things when at the keyboard. First, that one of my great regrets in life is that I haven’t kept a regular journal, and large swaths of my life are only committed to my increasingly faulty memory. Another is that I couldn’t keep a real journal on a site that was called by my real name, because it’s the internet and I don’t want everyone reading the intimate details of our household, or that my boss was a jerk that day, or whatever. So I fell into a style that had become familiar to me over the years, in my long-running correspondence with my best friend, who now lives in Milwaukee: A letter to a friend. Sort of easy and breezy and a report on the day’s events, trivial and less-so. A journal with some intimacy, but not total access. And that’s really how it went, for quite a while.

But then a couple things happened: 9/11, which was followed by an explosion of these things called weblogs, or blogs for short (a horrible word, in my opinion). Most of them were atrocious and rightly died a swift death, but they led to a shift in the conversation about websites that weren’t established and maintained by an institution, but by an individual. New tools — Blogger, Typepad, et al. — made it easy to get your own version of NN.c up and running in a matter of minutes. Suddenly it wasn’t just me and J.C. and a few others. It was everyone.

The other thing that happened was the Humiliation and Firing of Mr. Bob Greene, which happened over a weekend. I saw the news via Jim Romenesko, probably, and dashed off a column-length piece about it. I announced what every young woman who’d ever passed within 10 yards of the guy knew — that he was a horndog, a fact so widely known in media circles that it hardly even counted as gossip. I also said he was a hack, and had been for some time, another observation that barely rises above Duh. And I mentioned his stupid toupees, because are they not a metaphor for his hackitude and desperate need to paw women? They are. I uploaded it and went to bed.

The next morning, I looked at my email. “Great rant,” said someone with an address from thenewyorker.com — a staff writer. More continued to arrive through the next few days, one from none other than Lucianne Goldberg. It turned out I’d been linked by Romenesko, and then by Slate, and then by many other blogs and publications and whatnot. Newsweek magazine quoted me. A Japanese magazine writer conducted a phone interview, in halting English, through a bad phone connection. For the first time, I was Internet Famous.

I told the executive editor, expecting an explosion of whatthefuck, but got little more than the that’s-nice head-pat he’d given me on day one. And that, more than anything, exposed a few things in sharp relief. First, that the newspaper business had no idea what was coming for it, and second, that if I wanted to be known outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, I should stop trying to get carried by the Knight-Ridder wire service (which had turned me down more than once) and start writing more stuff like 700 dashed-off words about Bob Greene. If it’s true that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, it’s equally true that no one knows you’re a nobody toiling for a fading daily in the Hoosier state.

I’ve said it many times, in many places: Every good thing that’s happened in my writing life has happened because of this site. I was routinely ignored by hiring K-R editors who passed through the Fort, but here? Here’s where I met Laura Lippman, and her husband Mr. Lippman. Here’s where Ben Yagoda found me, and put me in a textbook about finding your writing voice. (Take that, stupid hiring editors!) This here place is what I wrote about in the essay that got me a Knight Wallace Fellowship. Here’s where the career of Tim Goeglein, White House aide, went up in flames. (And Tim? I am pissed I didn’t get mentioned in your book. Not once.)

And here’s where I met all of you guys. Because after 15 years, frankly, there are days when I sit in front of my blinking cursor and can barely think of one thing to say. Now that I’m a working reporter again, I have to be more circumspect in what I write here, and that chafes sometimes, believe me. But I know that if I put up just a little something, someone here will take it and run with it, or will introduce something else and go in another direction.

Something else I’ve said many times: This place, and its commentariat, is the world’s greatest and friendliest bar. Some people teetotal, some cry into their beer, some fall off their stools (a moment of silence for Prospero here). If “Cheers” had a bigger set and cast, it would be like this site. Which is really one of the things the internet did for everyone, right? If you were a lonely gay boy in Nowhere, Nebraska, you could find other gay boys out there. If you collected paintings of chickens and only chickens, somewhere out there someone is keeping a blog for you. Not all of these communities have been good and healthy ones, but this one? It’s pretty good. After all, it has Coozledad, who not only amuses us here, but also at his own site. (Read that one — it’s pretty good. I so wish he’d write a book.)

And just now, looking at my word count, I’m struck by the horrible feeling I’ve written this thing before, probably many times.

Anyway, today isn’t the anniversary of the blog. That was either the 14th or 21st, maybe? Those dates stick in my head. But I’ll take today to say, once again, how happy I am to have you guys in my life, even on days when I feel like pulling the plug. Because a writer without readers is just shouting into the void, and a writer with readers who can talk back and contribute is lucky indeed.

On to the links:

What the hell is going on in Oregon? Discuss.

If Boston Globe reporters and editors were going to moonlight as carriers, they should have just done it and kept it to themselves. This just comes off as self-aggrandizement, to me.

One of the trainers at my gym just announced she’s planning to attend one of these learn-to-surf camps this summer, to commemorate her 50th birthday, and invited others to come with her. I cannot. Get it OUT. Of my mind. Someone talk me out of spending a September week in San Onofre, Calif. making a fool of myself. But I cannot deny, being able to get even one ride on a surfboard would be a total bucket-list item for me.

Here’s to 2016, all. It can be a pretty great one, if we make it so.

Posted at 3:09 pm in Housekeeping, Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

This is this, and that is that.

I made split-pea soup yesterday, to use up the Christmas ham and some yellow split peas I found deep in the pantry. While googling the difference between yellow and green splits, just in case cooking times needed to be adjusted, I found this gem — DifferenceBetween.com, a site that does guess-what.

Ranging from the trivial — the difference between pumps and platform (shoes) — to the far less so — the difference between photoelectric effect and photovoltaic effect — it promises hours of time-wasting. Which everyone needs more of, right?

There is no appreciable difference between yellow and green split peas, by the way. The soup was delicious. Gonna eat up my legumes while I can. (Still undecided on Whole30.)

Another bit of bloggage for the day is this pretty direct analysis of how Donald Trump destroyed the modern GOP.

I cleaned the biggest, most overstuffed-and-overdue closet yesterday, and friends? The feeling of accomplishment was astounding. I should have pursued a more task-oriented career, something with a blue collar, maybe. Set the job down before you, do it, send it on down the line. Shoveling snow, maybe. It’s that satisfying.

So, on to the next one. Happy Tuesday.

Posted at 8:42 am in Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments

The interregnum.

Another Christmas in the books. When Kate was younger, I used to think of the Three Hurdles of Autumn — Halloween, birthdays and the holidays. By this point, with Christmas behind us and only the new year and tree-dismantling ahead, I’d feel like a racehorse halfway down the stretch.

It’s not as grueling anymore, so I’m enjoying these last few days. It helps that I don’t have to work, that the past year was a good one, that 2015 brought only the normal wear and tear to me and mine. Still, I have this pipe dream of organizing the house before 1/1/16. We’ll see if I can at least get a couple of rooms done.

Meanwhile, I hope you all got the presents you wanted, and a few you didn’t know you wanted. We all did just fine here.

With the 30 Days of Abstention ahead, I’m wondering if I should go whole-hog and try a Whole 30 in January, too. A friend of mine posted about it on Facebook, saying it got his pre diabetic blood-sugar numbers down in a shockingly short period of time, but I dunno — a whole month without bread, pasta, rice, sugar, dairy AND alcohol? Talk about a shock to the system. On the other hand, if I’m already going to be booze-free… What’s the harm of trying?

Never mind the self-improvement for now. How about the weekend’s pleasures?

Alan got stuck working Christmas Day, so Kate and I took ourselves to “The Big Short,” which I can’t recommend highly enough. Hide all the weaponry in the house, however, lest you be tempted to go out and knife random investment bankers afterward. It’s very entertaining and does a tremendous job explaining some frankly impenetrable financial instruments, although there were moments when I was at sea. It didn’t matter — the narrative carries you through the rough parts, and the fourth-wall breaking is a stroke of genius. Go. You won’t regret it.

Then we came home and watched “Inside Out” on iTunes, and that was equally fine, although in an entirely different kind of way.

This is pretty much all I want to do on this break — lie on the couch, let entertainment wash over me and clean closets.

A little bloggage to start the week, whether you’re working or not:

The worst and stupidest health claims of the year, kicking off with none other than Gwinnie Paltrow:

Gwyneth Paltrow told women to steam clean their vaginas. Don’t do this.

OK, I won’t!

For you Michiganians, a particularly harsh take on the legislature’s year.

And in the Freep, a lovely farewell from one columnist to another, who happens to be his wife. (And isn’t leaving anything other than her job.)

More laziness in the week ahead. Enjoy yours, eh?

Posted at 8:08 pm in Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments

Keep swimming.

You know, even if you have the holidays handled, even if you completed your shopping and so forth well ahead of the deadline, even if you have money in your pocket and a smile on your face, the last days before Christmas are always a grind. Is that toilet scrubbed? No. Scrub it, then. Did you remember to tip the newspaper carriers? Oops, go get some crisp bills at the bank. Is there gas in the car? You never know when there will be a catastrophe and you’ll have to flee the metro area, so you better have at least half a tank, preferably more.

All of these things involve long lines. Except the toilet-scrubbing. You’re always the only one volunteering for that job.

At times like this, to keep the blog from collapsing into a spiral of capital-B Boring, I cast around for material. Here’s the last photo I took with my phone:


Those are Kate’s hands. She’s performing her final-exam project for her digital-music class, a piece she composed and performed for the class. It’s untitled. That glowing board is a controller for a program called Ableton Push; if you’re into techno or EDM, you probably know about it, or at least have heard music created with it. She borrowed the controller from a guy in Windsor, as the single one owned by the University was signed out at the beginning of the semester and kept, well, all semester. But she got an A+, so booyah; it must have had good mojo, as it was last used by some big-deal techno guy for his latest album. Final factoid: The piece contained a sample from “Finding Nemo,” Dory saying, “Just keep swimming.”

That’s good advice in many things, I’ve found, particularly swimming; oftentimes those first few laps just don’t feel great. Keep swimming, and you loosen up. What do we do, we swim.

We also scrub toilets. Can you tell what job I’m putting off right now?

So, a little bit of bloggage:

As this is the season when lots of people who don’t think about religion get themselves into a church for at least a little while, a thoughtful piece about President Obama’s faith. It won’t change anything; the people who think he’s a Muslim will continue to think so, and believe this is another snow job by the liberal media, and those who think highly of him will think, perhaps, a little more highly. But it’s still a good piece, encapsulated in these nut grafs:

Obama did not grow up in a religious household and became a practicing Christian as an adult. He has written more extensively about his spiritual awakening than almost any other modern president, addressing it in two books before he was elected to the White House and in more than a dozen speeches since.

His faith had been central to his identity as a new kind of Democrat who would bring civility to the country’s political debates by appealing to Republicans through the shared language of their Judeo-Christian values.

With just one year left in his second term, Obama now holds a different distinction: No modern president has had his faith more routinely questioned and disparaged. Recent polls show that 29 percent of Americans and nearly 45 percent of Republicans say he is a Muslim.

Everybody’s seen this by now, but it’s so perfect, let’s all watch it again: Meet your second wife! Tina Fey, can we be best friends?

Finally, while this screenshot says much…

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 5.18.37 PM

…including the update on the Bridge story about the homeless EMU student — you can see his financial situation is much improved — I think what we really want to know about is that stabbing, right?

Well, here ya go. The girl was not seriously injured.

Tidings of comfort and joy! Off to buy tamales tomorrow, my last-promise-last errand of the holiday. Now to scrub the damn toilet.

Posted at 5:24 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 91 Comments