One chilly day.

Where is July these days? It barely scraped 70 degrees today, and then only when the sun was out, and it wasn’t out much. I was in the office in no sleeves, and practically froze to death.

It’s shaping up to be an insane week — deadlines, deadlines and…houseguests! Plus we have a failing car; the Passat now requires a repair that will cost more than its value, and it’s just sitting in its parking spot, being disappointing. I really hoped it would go well past 165K, but it doesn’t look to be in the cards. So we spent the weekend trying to find a used wagon (has to hold an acoustic bass, or bass/amp/drum set, the standard rhythm-section quandary). We think we found one in an eight-year-old Volvo wagon, but it won’t be paid for for a few days, which means…complications.

So, some links:

These anti-vax people. I have no words.

Those of you who remember the towering documentary “Streetwise” from 1993 might be interested in how it turned out for the filmmakers, and Tiny, the central character of the film about Seattle street kids. A nice column.

A fascinating explanation of how the FDA approves, or fails to approve, sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen.

Happy Monday, all.

Posted at 12:29 am in Same ol' same ol' | 35 Comments

Summer snapshots.

I said expect some photo posts this summer, so here you go.

I found this video on my phone, having utterly forgotten it from a couple of weeks ago. It’s from Port Huron, at the start of the Mackinac race. When the boats start to make their way out of the river to the starting line, the Port Huron Yacht Club hosts a troupe of pipers to send them off. Sort of cool. Click here if you want to watch it.

The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad had a big weekend — five gigs in four days, one of them on the University of Michigan student radio station. It was to promote some local-music festival. They made the Metro Times listings:


Look at Justin Timberlake, checkin’ out my girls. Step off, pop star. You can’t handle the DVAS.

The best gig of the weekend was Thursday’s, at the Magic Stick. The theme was Space Jam, so decorations were in order:


They were very energetic. I will say, that after years of dragging Kate around to jazz gigs and other music lessons, six months with this band has done far more for her confidence than all that sophisticated repertoire she played with various ensembles. She’s having a ball, and so a ball she will continue to have.

How was y’all’s weekend? I spent it working on the book, and was rewarded with a strongly ass-smelling Mitch Albom column. The past week included Detroit’s 313th birthday, and if you’ve ever called someone here, you know that’s the city’s area code. So there were a number of parties, festivals, throwdowns and the like going on all week. These included: A “body-positive,” i.e. semi-nude bike ride, a street-band festival, about a million other things. A guy I know who’s involved with the people who own and operate Gon KiRin, aka the dragon art car that shoots actual fire out of her nostrils, got her out and about. They got pulled over by the cops. Let me just set up the punchline by sketching out what this thing offers:

The beast is 22-1/2 feet tall and about 80 feet long, weighing in at 8 tons. It’s an “art car,” built onto the frame of an old Dodge W-300 Power Wagon with a 318 engine. There’s a 1,500-pound second-story DJ booth encased in steel wicker, mounted on a Marine Zodiac attack boat under the monster’s spine. The whole contraption can carry more than a dozen riders, with seats in the mouth and in a party couch on the back, where riders can make the tail sway back and forth.

So guess what the offense was? One of the artists had his 2-year-old son with him, and he wasn’t in a child safety seat. On a dragon.

With all this going on, with this vast buffet of snacks and bonbons to choose from, here’s part of Mitch’s offering on the 313 celebration:

What we are — what we remain — is a place that celebrates things like its 313th birthday. A place that immortalizes an annual car cruise down Woodward Avenue. That treats Opening Day of the baseball season as a religious experience. That considers walking around new cars in tuxedos and black dresses the biggest party of the year.

We are resilient in our traditions. Fiercely proud of own. We act as if Tim Allen still walks down our streets and Bob Seger is releasing a top 10 song this week, as if Motown is a thriving business, not a museum, and Gordie Howe could lace them up and play a few shifts if he wanted to.

Tim Allen. Bob Seger. Motown. The Dream Cruise (which doesn’t come near Detroit). If this guy were any more out of touch, he’d be living in California. All of the above details about the goings-on could have been gleaned from a cursory run through the free weekly’s listings. I can’t stand it.

OK, then. I just sent this David Carr column to my colleagues. It’s about the use of immediate social-media technology to report on breaking news, and the complications and rule-bending it brings with it:

Tyler Hicks, a longtime photographer for The Times, was at a hotel in Gaza City across from the beach where the four Palestinian boys died. He tweeted the news immediately, took a photo that was hard to glance at and then wrote about what it was like to be standing there.

He said that he felt horrified, but that in a clinical sense, he also felt exposed. “If children are being killed, what is there to protect me, or anyone else?”

The act of witness, a foundation of war reporting, has been democratized and disseminated in new ways. The same device that carries photos of your mother’s new puppy or hosts aimless video games also serves up news from the front.

Are you middle-class? Feeling poorer today? There’s a reason.

OK, I’m outta here. Have a great week, everyone. Expect more spotty service.

Posted at 12:30 am in Detroit life, Media, Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments

Cultural exchange.

When we travel, we make plans to see national landmarks, great museums, the crown jewels. And then we get there, and we remember things like one of our German guests last week, who, when asked about her impressions of America so far, mentioned the toilets.

Apparently they have a button system in Germany – one button for liquids, another for solids. Kate immediately chimed in, having traveled there last summer: “Yes! The buttons!”

So I guess that’s how memories are made: In the room you visit multiple times a day.

Later in the week, Johanna showed us an aerial photo of her house, and I asked what the crops were in the surrounding fields. “I don’t know the word,” she said. “It is a seed for making oil.”

Soy? No. Canola? No. She reached for her translator, pecked out the word and blanched.

“Oh, rapeseed,” I said. You can imagine how awkward.

Speaking of Germans, here are ours:


Johanna and Henrike are the ones on the outside – ours. The inner pair stayed with a friend, and this was the day we took them to Comerica Park, duh, where they capered under the big Tiger and took many pictures. We didn’t take them to the game, because they would have been bored, so we took them to the mall, where everything is so cheap! Their suitcases were already hernia bait when they arrived, and that was before two shopping trips, with Windsor and Boston still on the itinerary.

So it was a fun trip for them, I hope. The first night we went to a bar in Hamtramck where Kate’s band was playing, but the music was delayed and the bar is one that doesn’t enforce the smoking law, so they mostly stared at their phones.

“I dunno, I thought a couple of German kids might want to see an authentic Detroit rock club,” I told a friend afterward.

“Oh, come on,” he said. “You know there are pictures of that place all over German Twitter hashtagged #fuckyeahdetroit.”

If only. They mostly seemed to enjoy the shopping, and watching “Mean Girls” on Netflix. (German-dubbed name: “Girls Club.”)

And that was just one part of the last action-packed week. There were also trips to and from Port Huron and Mackinac for the race. Kate took off for the weekend, so there was an airport stop-off. Essentially, this weekend was the first down time I’ve had. Did some yoga — man, did that feel good after a few hundred miles of driving — and took a long bike ride. We ended up at the Eastern Market’s new Sunday market, where the vegetable stalls are replaced by crafts and other summer-festival sorts of stuff. I had a booze-infused popsicle and headed for home.

This week, and the next few, threaten to be just as crazed, but I will strive to keep up here. Thanks for being such great commenters in my absence. You all are the best.

In the meantime…

Pro-Russian separatists are said to be collecting the bodies of the dead plane-crash victims and? Holding them. Who ARE these people?

I can’t stop watching this Elaine Stritch performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and I thank Roy for finding it:

And another crazy week begins. In English.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments

Ain’t nothin’ but.

A distant neighbor owns a hound of some sort. He’s baying now. Hounds bay because you’d never call the sound they make barking. I always kind of wanted a hound dog, maybe a bloodhound, but hound people are always waving me off. “They have that hound smell,” they say, without actually elaborating on it. Oh, the hound smell. OK.

Foxhunters call it “the music,” the sound of the pack baying as one. I don’t think they mind the smell, but a pack of working foxhounds generally lives in a kennel and not in a home, so there.

I just like the way making noise seems to take some effort, and the bigger the dog, the more effort is required. A bloodhound starts with some awrs, and then some awr-roo, and only after priming the pump can he do a full-throated awr-roo-roo-roo. It sounds wonderful. Surely the hound smell can’t be that bad.

Just checked the internet. I guess it is. Particularly with bassets. Noted.

As you can surely tell, I’d really rather watch “Orange is the New Black” or something similar on the telly right now. I think I’ll do that. The week is winding down, and my mind is seeking another gear. So a little bloggage:

This story is pitched as a medical miracle, but honestly, it’s a story about child abuse. An infant mauled in her crib by a “pet” raccoon? Because she had a propped bottle in there with her? It’s sick-making. (Note: The current parents are not the ones who let this happen.)

Before “Seinfeld” is eclipsed by the brilliant Twitter of @SeinfeldToday (“Jerry gets paranoid about his girlfriend’s past when her iPhone automatically connects to the wi-fi at Newman’s apartment.”), let’s remember when it was new. Really new.

I do yoga, so does Lady Gaga. Only she dresses a little differently.

That’s all, folks.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments

What’s that green stuff?

Two weeks running now, I’ve happened upon an exchange between one of my favorite vegetable sellers at the Eastern Market and a skeptical customer who will not be ripped off by these sharpies in overalls, no sir. Last week it was about their offerings of shelled peas.

I used to avoid them, thinking that part of the true Alice Waters Total Authenticity Experience of peas is shelling them, and then I actually looked at the boxes of gleaming peas and asked how they managed it.

“We got a machine,” the owner said, shrugging. I bought a box. The peas were delicious. I haven’t looked back.

I was buying another one when a woman came by and expressed extreme skepticism that such a machine existed, perhaps believing that pea-shelling by hand is what all those Latino farm workers are up to, this time of year. She seemed to believe what she was looking at was thawed Bird’s Eye being passed off as the real, fresh thing, and her questioning indicated she hadn’t been born yesterday. The seller opened a box and offered her a pea. She ate it in amazement, then said she’d come back.

I wonder if she did.

This week, it was another woman who pointed at a bundle of rhubarb stems and said, “Rhubarb? Or Swiss chard?”

“Rhubarb,” the seller said.

O rly? her expression replied. You sure about that?

I remind you, these were rhubarb stems only — no leaves. While I will agree that there is some resemblance between red chard stems and rhubarb, I know no one who eats only the stems. You buy chard for the greens, lady.

No wonder America is fat. We managed the technology for putting peanut butter and jelly in the same jar, but lost our plant-identification skills.

I bought some rhubarb. It’s downstairs cooling in a pie as we speak.

Now watch: Someone will say that many people buy chard and throw the leaves away.

How did everyone’s weekend go? Besides feeling superior about my rhubarb skills, I went on a long, hot bike ride, saw the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad play a festival, did a ton of laundry, some light cleaning and a yoga class with one of those nutso teachers who kills you dead and namastes right in your face. “Use your eyes! Use the muscles of your eyes!” she said at one point. Later, she corrected my shoulder position — in corpse pose. I didn’t know where was a correct way to hold one’s shoulders in the final moments of the class, when you’re striving for ultimate relaxation. But it was fun. So there.

A little bloggage:

I heard the first International Men’s Rights conference was going to be held in Detroit last Friday, but complications ensued — the hotel wanted them to hire extra security, and to save face they claimed the place couldn’t hold all their throngs — and the event was relocated to St. Clair Shores and a decidedly less upscale venue: A VFW hall.

It turned out about how you would expect:

Janet Bloomfield, an anti-feminist blogger and spokeswoman for the conference, has suggested in the past that the age of consent be reduced to 13 because of a “mistake of age” can get unwitting men in trouble.

“The point being that it can be incredibly difficult to know, just by looking at someone, how old they are,” Bloomfield wrote, calling some teenage girls “fame whores.” Bloomfield also called protesters of the event, “Wayne State cunts.”

Also this, and also this. And you can find the Time stringer’s Twitter and scroll down to Friday. Gems:

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their time in our fair city — and its suburbs.

And I hope you enjoy your week ahead. Hot here, then storms, then by Friday? High of 71! In July! Heaven.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 54 Comments

Cut the cake.

It’s summer, the world outside is lovely and we all want to step away from our computers more, but sometimes you have to work, and you have a down moment or three, and maybe you found yourself watching this, a short video on how you’re cutting your cakes wrong:

If you don’t have time to watch the thing, here’s the gist: There’s a right way and a wrong way to cut cake. Allegedly. The wrong way is the “pie” way, whereby you cut triangular slices from the center. This is wrong — allegedly — because the exposed cake gets dry. Um, OK. And so this guy, drawing on some supposedly ancient text of cake-cutting written by a mathematician, proposes a system that requires some fairly fancy knife work and — I shit you not — rubber bands.

Only a mathematician could come up with something that dumb, or find dry cake — a phenomenon I’ve never noticed with cakes, maybe because they don’t last that long in our house — a problem that needs to be solved.

That said, my mother had her own method.

She took the cake and isolated a quadrant, then cut four slices or so out of it, parallel to one another. I’d make a diagram, but lack the graphic-design skills. I hated this method because the outside piece got tons of icing, and the rest, not so much. As the young person, I rarely got the icing piece, which was reserved for the guest. Yes, it’s my own version of “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait.” Seen here:

When I got older, I vowed that every cake I made would be cut in an egalitarian style, where everyone got an equal amount of icing, except for special cases — like getting the buttercream rose. And dammit, I have stood by this.

Since we’re on an eating theme and a video theme, here you go, one more, the gluten-free duck:

And just to snap us out of our video-cake reverie, how about that Indiana? Wedding cakes for all, cut however you damn well please.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments

Lessons to be learned.

I was just looking over Kate’s class requests for senior year when I noticed one we stuck in on a whim: “Living on your own,” class content self-explanatory. I pushed for it because in the midst of all those honors and AP classes, a kid has to have one thing that might actually be useful information in years hence, and I’ve been struck many times on how long my high-school health class stayed with me. Just the unit on quackery has stood me in good stead through oat bran, chiropractic, vaccine refusal and “toxins,” among many other ridiculous attempts to part me from my money.

Add to that the fun of seeing the teacher tell us in all seriousness that black men had larger penises than white ones, and I call that a good education.

So when I found the Red Flags of Quackery today, I knew I had to pass it along.

I’m not one of those who believes it’s the schools’ job to teach our children everything, but I’m equally aware that there are some things they just don’t want to learn from their parents, because PARENTS. So if some teacher can handle checkbook-balancing and credit-card smarts, then my hat is off to him or (more likely) her.

Yesterday in comments some of you skated off into a small discussion about teacher tenure, and the coming battle over it. I don’t have a lot of developed thoughts about it, but a few general beliefs. They are: While tenure evolved as a protection for scholarly research that might be unpopular for various reasons, it’s true that secondary teachers can fall victim to the same sorts of popularity crosswinds. Principals change jobs a lot more often than teachers; should they lose their jobs because they had a bad boss for a couple of years? Teacher evaluation systems are still a mess, for good reason — it’s a very difficult job with a million moving parts, and no one has really figured out how to grade them. Do teachers lose their jobs because they have the wrong group of students?

It goes on, but I best keep my mouth shut.

Quick bloggage: Men, sex and guns. From NYMag, so you know where it’s coming from, but:

Rather than back away from the theme, the gun lobby is leaning into it. A recent episode of “Noir,” a National Rifle Association–sponsored web series by a popular YouTube vlogger and gun enthusiast named Colion Noir, features a sexy shot of a woman in Jimmy Choos, alone on a dark street. “Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There’s got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something.” The voice-over continues, “She’s not easy, and she’s not flawless. But she’s never wasted her time thinking about it.” It’s the sort of feminine ideal put forth in a million lad-mag profiles.

“She is the HK MR556.”

Oh, wait. She’s a gun.

Yep. Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 12:29 am in Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments

Vocab test.

I think I set a land-speed record today. At 7:42 a.m. I was a sweaty post-workout mess, and by 8:20 I was dropping into my seat on the bus. In between: All the grooming/makeup/morning stuff. It seemed a good omen for the day, but most of it was spent sitting in a chair, with a brown-bag lunch. But it wasn’t a bad one, and for that I’m grateful, because who wouldn’t be.

Tonight is the Detroit fireworks, always a crapshoot. If you’re lucky enough to have a prime viewing spot — by which, I mean “access to a high office suite or loft with a good view or maybe a roof” — it’s a pretty good time. If not, you run the risk of being hassled by police or, y’know, shot. Shot or trampled. I haven’t the former, so I left work a.s.a.p. after 5 p.m. and still got a little delayed by traffic. The older I get, the less I like crowds.

Of course, the best way to view fireworks is from a boat. Not this year.

Fireworks means it’s midsummer, right? Why doesn’t winter pass this quickly?

For bloggage, one thing I really found interesting: The gender gap in vocabulary, or 10 words that are most known by only one gender. I’m pleased to say I knew all of them, but was shy of definitions on only two, although I was pretty close; I knew a solenoid is something to do with electricity, and a dreadnought was a weapon. Close enough.

The actual vocabulary test — embedded here — is fascinating. I got 91 percent, and even though it’s at the top level, that’s not a brag. Nothing like a vocab test to tell you what you don’t know. It’s sort of insulting to think that most of the female-recognized words were about clothing (taffeta, bodice) and the men’s were about weaponry (dreadnought, claymore), but the world wouldn’t fall part with more bodices and fewer claymores in it, I guess.

How about some cooking notes? Been grilling a lot, of course. I keep meaning to do some pineapple and fruit projects, but the success of the summer has been spatchcock chicken, also known as a way to grill an entire chicken in under an hour. Our dinners tend to be scattershot these days — I never know when Alan will be home — so I’m all in favor of anything that can be fixed once and provide a lot of leftovers. One butterflied chicken = several meals. Big ups here. And it’s pretty and tasty.

And now, with Monday in the bag, time to turn in and get Tuesday under way.

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 38 Comments


For some reason, this felt like the first weekend of summer. Probably because, technically, it was. I spent a couple of previous June weekends working on the book project, but this was the first where I was free to spend an afternoon sailing, and that? Is a way to feel like summer.

So this week should be relaxing, because the next deadline is…checking…oh, next weekend. So much for that.

Seriously, though, it was a great weekend. Lots of sunshine, hot but not oppressively so, festivals and farmers’ markets. Got my hair did. Bike ride, yoga. The usual.

And on Sunday, because this summer is actually last summer, I watched “World War Z” again. (Netflix.) My editor at this time last year was very disappointed with it, because it didn’t hew closely to the book, but I loved the stupid thing. I loved the sound the zombies made, the way each one’s method of attack seemed to have something to do with the root personality of the victim; there’s a snippet where one freshly zombified victim turns and very precisely snaps his jaw three of four times, like he’s warming it up for the feast ahead. Others writhe and snarl and some seem almost sad about what they’re about to do. Dumb movie, but smart, if that makes any sense.

In bloggage today? The Freep had part one of what promises to be a deck-clearer on the subject of charter schools in Michigan. I must hold my tongue on much of this, but I should point out that one of the biggest players in the game, in Michigan and elsewhere, is Bill Coats, who was one-time superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools. The conservatives in town hated him with a white-hot passion. It amuses me that he’s entered their own “school reform” movement and come out a winner.

The pilot of the Malaysian airplane was playing hmmmmm games on his home flight simulator before the day of the flight. Hmmm.

And so the week begins.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments

The new oasis.

I call this one, “Nancy and a friend watch the World Cup.”


Sorry no post last night. Up late writing (not this), then slept badly, then blah blah blah excuses excuses blah blah. It seems a fitting day for a photo post, so I can get back to work. This will be it for the week, because it hath been a long one. But a big chunk of it is behind me, and will remain there for a while.

So. How’s the back yard looking? Goooood.


I wish I’d been more diligent about taking a full set of “before” pictures, because the difference really is amazing. As I think I’ve mentioned, two or three owners ago, in search of an obscene amount of parking, they picked up the garage, rotated it 90 degrees and stuck it smack in the middle of the lot. Then they built a deck and paved everything else. While you could comfortably park five cars in the driveway, and it was a great place to skateboard, it wasn’t good for much else. Since we’ve been here, the deck has only gotten crummier, so last fall, we tore it out, opened a HELOC and hired a concrete guy and a fence guy.

The concrete guy tore out two big sections and poured us a new walkway, and the fence guy fenced it. Alan built the patio and added a shit-ton of topsoil. We got it covered with leaf mulch just in time for the winter.

This year we went to the nursery and became big spenders. Cute dog sold separately:



Look, there’s Kate, taking my car away for another day. Good thing I’m a cyclist.

It’s still a work in progress, but already I can feel that oak tree sighing in relief; the deck was cramping its growth.


The furniture was expensive, but it’s year-round, because we thought it might be nice to sit outside and enjoy a fire in the warmer spells of winter.


I’m so happy with it, and we’re not done yet. (You’re never done.) Once we get the garage repainted, we’re erecting trellises along the full side, for a green wall.

In the meantime, no more places for raccoons and possums to hide with the deck gone, and Wendy has her green space. Sometimes I let her out and check on her later, only to find her lying on her side in the sunshine, absorbing solar energy.

So that’s the changes at the homestead. Tips and criticisms welcome. Let’s all enjoy our weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

Posted at 12:15 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 68 Comments