Beep torture.

Being a terrier, Wendy is a little high-strung, although not overly so. But today she came upstairs where I was working, jumped up next to me and cuddled up, trembling like a leaf. It took me a while, but I figured it out: There was a smoke alarm chirping with a dying battery, down in the basement. Spriggy was also high-strung, but brave as a mongoose, and chirping smoke alarms had the same effect. One day I came home and found him in an absolute lather — trotting from one end of the house to the other, panting, frantic. All over a little beeping.

And that? Was pretty much the extent of the news developments at this end today. That, and the usual household annoyances, plus 7,000 emails.

God, I can’t wait for warm weather. Thirty-seven degrees today was the best it got. Worst cabin fever I’ve had since…last year.

So a quick stop by the bloggage, and I’m headed to bed.

This site has been around for a while, but I’m just finding it: The Reductress, the Onion of women’s magazines. Case in point: Local woman wins stress-eating contest:

The third annual Häagen Dazs-Frito Lay Stress-Eating Contest was held this weekend at Morgantown County Fair in Morgantown, West Virginia. Eight competitors from the area took their places on the stage with one goal in mind: to stress-eat heaping piles of food until their feelings went away. But only one woman would come out on top: head server at Rocky’s Water Hole and recent, Mica Sullivan.

“I fucking deserve better, you know?” said Sullivan, in a rambling Facebook status posted at 3:14 this morning as she scraped the bottom of a bag of chips. “He’s trash.”

It appears Ben Carson is crazier — or just more offensive, in every way — than we thought. Here’s Carson and Armstrong Williams watching the SOTU:

“He looks good,” Williams said. “He looks clean. Shirt’s white. The tie. He looks elegant.”

“Like most psychopaths,” Carson grumbled. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.”

For those unfamiliar with the mood of America’s far right, casually branding the president a psychopath is exactly the sort of talk that strikes a chord—and just the thing that has made Carson a sensation in the GOP. Today the former pediatric neurosurgeon—who’s never run for elected office—is suddenly besting candidates like Jeb, Marco, and Rand in some 2016 polls and preparing to announce his campaign for the White House. As for the current resident, well, Carson is sometimes encouraged to cut him just a little slack before he hands over the keys.

Psychopath. Good one. Keep it up, guys. This is a winning strategy if there ever was one.

Facebook as the great publisher of the future. Oh, joy.

Killer Wednesday ahead. Expect…not much posting until Thursday.

Posted at 12:24 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 127 Comments
 

We dance just as good as we walk.

It’s strange around my house these days. After years of Kate turning up her nose at every album I ever loved, including the Beatles and Stones, suddenly we’re drowning in it here. The other day she stayed in bed with a sore tummy for the first hour of school. I stuck my head in to ask how she was doing and heard Neil Young singing “The Loner.” This was after the previous week, when it was “Volunteers,” on vinyl of course, a record I once knew by heart but haven’t heard in at least a quarter century. All those deep cuts came back to me like old friends.

But all this was topped this weekend, when I heard her in the bathroom, with her music of course — it goes everywhere with her — putting on makeup to Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No! We listened to it over and over last weekend in Chicago,” she said. They were there playing a gig. Unchaperoned. Hey, they gotta grow up sometime, and they already did this once last fall, in Grand Rapids. The thought of these four teenagers cruising around Chicago listening to “Tighten Up” on a loop is sufficiently amusing that I choose not to be alarmed. (Although maybe I should be.)

“Fun fact: Your uncle served in the army with Archie Bell,” I said. “He was drafted. They both were stationed in Germany.” Family history.

She came home from Chicago with a few records, including the Mamas and the Papas’ “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” and the Stones’ “Between the Buttons.”

Her boyfriend’s favorite band is Buffalo Springfield. Kids these days.

How was your Monday? Mine was back to the mangle, i.e. the gym, then drive to Ann Arbor, drive home, make a million phone calls, collapse. Along the way I found a li’l bit of bloggage:

It’s all over for Jackie no-last-name and her ridiculous tale of gang rape at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone’s own independent inquiry will be reporting soon, and that should be an interesting read.

A great story about the prison-written history of the Indiana Women’s Prison. Fascinating. It turns out the Hoosier state likely had its own Magdalene laundries.

As for Ted Cruz? I can’t even. Can you?

Posted at 12:14 am in Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments
 

Low-rent lunch.

Today at work we had a lunch meeting with some important people, and we ordered in subs from a well-known national chain that, I guess I should say, is not Subway. My bun was stale and the cookie was cold, which made it tough and not particularly good. Of course, even with these shortcomings, I pretty much ate it all, because that’s the way I was raised. Leave edible food on your plate? Unless you’re gagging or maggots are crawling on it, you clean your plate, girlie.

Hard to break those habits, isn’t it? But we filled out a very sternly worded feedback form on the website.

Are French children taught to clean their plate because of the starving ones in China? Good question. Answer: Probably not.

The food was bad, the meeting was better, the day was a parade of sniffles, but! Fewer sniffles than yesterday. The corner may have been turned, and I feel better, although my voice is worse. So what, I don’t work in radio. But let’s skip to the bloggage.

Eric Zorn looks at the Michael Brown/Ferguson situation and observes the truth is complicated:

Yes, Brown never even said nor pantomimed “hands up, don’t shoot.” But Wilson’s exoneration is not tantamount to an exoneration of American law enforcement in how it interacts with minority communities.

Yes, the explosion of destructive rage in Ferguson was rooted in a lie, a lie that advocates should disown, as Capehart did. But that lie is rooted in a broader truth.

A lie can reveal a truth — such an ironic message, and it’s the one many are missing about Ferguson. Brown may not have done what we’d like him to have done, but the incident didn’t touch off weeks and months of protests over nothing, which is what the DoJ report revealed.

I’m beginning to think of “Empire” as the guy you fall madly in love with for three days and then wake up, climb out of bed and say, “What was I thinking?” Tom and Lorenzo at least partially agree. Great fun, but the season is over, and you just know they’re gonna fuck it all up next year.

At least John McCain tried gentle correction. Rick Santorum just stands there. What a profile in courage.

Have a great weekend, all. I’m-a try to get better.

Posted at 12:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol', Television | 67 Comments
 

St. Blah’s Day.

Day two of the cold was no better. The first Sudafed I took had little effect, so I popped another at bedtime, only to learn anew why pseudo ephedrine is a base ingredient of crystal meth — if there’s anything more miserable than having a cold, it’s having a sleepless cold. Tonight it’s a double shot of Nyquil, plus melatonin.

Maybe some whiskey, too. My own little St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

How was yours? I spent part of it reading about Aaron Schock, whose existence hadn’t really hit my radar screen yet. What a train wreck. The mad redecorating had to be a giveaway of something seriously wrong. Downton Abbey? That show is so OVER.

Cathy Cambridge does her duchess-y duty in a spectacular coat. I was buying a coat for Kate last winter, and thought I’d found the perfect one, at Nordstrom. It was well-cut, buttoned up well, even showed off her figure a little. I was ready to order it wrapped up when I thought to grope for the tag: $900. Um, no. Cathy Cambridge’s coat is way more than $900.

Privatization means rodent cake for prisoners. Eh, they just nibbled one side — the rest of the cake is perfectly fine.

Back to bed.

Posted at 12:20 am in Same ol' same ol' | 63 Comments
 

Crumpled tissues.

Sorry for the no-show yesterday. Work intruded, and I planned to update Monday morning, but alas — I woke up with a cold, which will teach me to make plans for what promised to be (and was) the warmest day of the year so far.

I’m not a good cold sufferer. I’m very whiny. If I didn’t have another big project due in two weeks, I’d have taken the day off and mainlined “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” all afternoon. You shouldn’t take sick days for a cold, though — it’s burning your sick-days seed corn.

So I worked. But I’m watching “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” now. And enjoying it very much.

Can’t say so much for “House of Cards,” which has already lost me, but I may power through anyway. It has skated so far from Realityville that it’s not even fun to hate-watch anymore. However, Claire and her wardrobe — actually, everybody and their wardrobe — never fails to entertain. I’ve never seen a show where everyone dresses to match the sofas.

“Who are you wearing?”

“Restoration Hardware!”

So, as you can tell, I’m pretty tapped out. Not much bloggage, either. There’s this very good story from the NYT’s ongoing occupation of Detroit’s North End neighborhood, a look at the city’s scrapping economy, and the parties who oppose one another in it. It’s very good — glosses over a few fine points, but for a national audience? First class. Recommended.

Me, I’m going to bed. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe a shot of whiskey will cure me.

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

The wrap, nearly wrapped.

Sometimes I think this blog is reaching its sell-by date, and then we push past it and find a new sell-by date. Seriously, though, it’s been 15 years now. How much longer can it go on?

Long enough to warrant another two-pack of Costco plastic wrap, maybe. Yes, those of you who’ve been marking days on your calendar and wondering who will win the Nancy-and-Alan bet on the longevity of the Costco two-pack? I think those who chose Alan will get this one, because the second roll is dwindling.

This all started when the first two-pack ran out, and I said, “Jeez, I think I bought this not long after we moved here. That means it lasted almost five years. So this two-pack will last until, what? Kate’s senior year in high school.” At least, that’s how I remember the conversation: Kate’s senior year in high school. The blog reveals I said, “Kate’s freshman year in college.” But they will both happen in 2015, won’t they? I’m considering this a draw. Alan differs.

Neither of us remembers what the stakes are. Probably best that it’s lost to the mists of time.

So.

Another interesting piece by Conor Friedersdorf on the Ferguson case, posting a key question, i.e., why aren’t conservatives more incensed about the Justice Department report on the little kingdom of official larceny by the Mississip’? After all, a founding principle of the movement is that government will naturally overreach, and that it should be resisted. But this virtual definition of government overreach has been greeted by…not exactly crickets, but certainly not a unified front of resistance.

If nothing else, it gives you a sense of what a hack factory the National Review is these days.

Any “Game of Thrones” fans in the house? Then you’ll be interested in this Zapruder-esque fly-specking of the latest Season 5 trailer, with all sorts of fly-specky details.

What else do I have? Not much. It was a deadline day, and my energy was elsewhere. We’ll try tomorrow.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments
 

A burden, lifted.

Not a great weekend, but a productive one. Taxes, filed. (REFUND!) FAFSA, updated. (LESS EXPECTED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION!) And after it was all over, I stood up and put my hands on my hips and felt infrastructure.

I should explain. Six months ago I started adding side planks to my workout. One minute each side, three times a week at the end of the session. Today? Infrastructure. So y’all run out and start doing some side planks. Your waistline will thank you.

Seriously, though, there’s something about shoveling this great chore into the Outbox that just feels like springtime. A few years ago, I filed and immediately went on Craigslist and bought a Tiffany chain — this one, although not this one — from a woman, exchanging goods for cash in a Costco parking lot. I wear that chain several times a month and don’t regret a penny of the $75 I paid for it. (“My grandmother bought it for me, and I just…don’t like it,” she said. Excellent. She wasn’t the plain-silver-chain type, anyway.)

And why do I do the taxes? Because Alan does stuff like paint the dining room and bleach the mold out of the washer, which was his weekend project.

There was some fun, too: The Deadly Vipers played Friday night at the Hamtramck Music Festival. They were the last act at one of the venues, and the crowd seemed to dig it. I shot a bunch of hail mary pix with my phone, and they were the usual mixed bag. I was trying to capture the moshing, which was too close to the band for my comfort, but that’s how it goes in bars:

moshing

And then every so often you got a fun moment. BUDWEISER:

beerdrinker

We also watched “Foxcatcher” because I was too tired to go out Saturday night, and it was, what’s the word? Disappointing. Tonally self-important, and the story was just sort of boring. Vanessa Redgrave, meanwhile, has three scenes as a nearly-dead WASP dowager, and manages to steal every one. Because she’s Vanessa Redgrave.

And now the winds have finally shifted and a breeze is blowing out of the southwest, and by Wednesday we are promised 50 degrees. Mirabile dictu.

So, did you catch the president’s speech at Selma? If you have only one thing to read about it, make it this. It was such a great speech; I can’t wait to see what the lunatics find to hate about it.

Comic relief: Tom and Lorenzo and a million pictures of “fashion clown Kim Kardashian,” who looks incredibly weird. (That said, I’m adding some blonde chunks to my hair the next touch-up I get, because why the hell not.)

Seems a good note to start Monday. Enjoy yours.

Posted at 12:17 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 34 Comments
 

Dirty work.

I was following the comments about stinky factories in the previous thread. It made me recall a line from an older Jim Harrison novel: If you think a belching smokestack is ugly, try one that isn’t. It was a fact underlined over and over when I was up north last month — good jobs for working-class people are likely to be smelly and/or ugly.

We pulled up to the foundry that’s the heart of East Jordan Iron Works, and it’s this big, steam-belching deal on the shores of a lovely lake. It doesn’t look right, but the parking lot is full of $50,000 pickup trucks and everyone who works there loves their overtime.

A few years ago, there was a photo story in the New York Times about the foundry in India where Con Ed, the local electrical utility, has their manhole covers made. East Jordan Iron Works makes manhole covers for virtually every city in Michigan and many more around the world. The NYT photos showed conditions that would horrify most modern eyes, of barefoot men working around cauldrons of molten iron, sparks flying, the whole bit, all for the usual wage of third-world peanuts. The plants in Michigan pay very well.

Work is frequently done in ugly, smelly places. We can’t all be college professors.

So, how was your weekend? The cold hung on and hung on and is supposed to let up…Tuesday. Well above freezing, 37 whole degrees. Woo! And then? Cold again. FML. I could use a week in Mexico right around now.

And then we went out to the movies. Saw “Maps to the Stars,” yet another David Cronenberg cup of poison that, when the lights go up, make you cackle bleakly. The screening was at Cinema Detroit, located in an old elementary school in the heart of the Cass Corridor — the film is shown in the school auditorium. But the seats are in surprisingly good shape. So much in Detroit is strange, and so much of the strangeness is being paved over by a certain pan-yuppie familiarity, it’s nice to see some things are still the old way.

News: Grand Rapids revels in its low murder rate, the headline says. For some reason, it makes me giggle.

NYT: How to dress to complement your dog.

And that’s what I got. I hope you got a little more, and a good week ahead.

Posted at 12:30 am in Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments
 

Protected.

Something I learned today: Michigan is the only state in the nation that explicitly forbids discrimination based on height and weight.

There’s been talk of adding sexual orientation to the state’s civil-rights law, but in the current legislature, that’s unlikely to happen. A little googling reveals that height and weight were added in 1976, and it was the foundation of a suit brought five years ago by a Hooters waitress — 5-foot-8 and 132 pounds, who was pressured to lose more weight, so as to fit into a size-XS uniform.

In the comments, some guy refers to her as “a porker.” Which put me in mind of this, semi-NSFW. We are so cruel to one another, but only in the comments sections are we cruel to young women who can’t squeeze into an XS.

The other thing worth reading today is this Frank Rich piece on Ben Carson, or “Dr. Ben Carson,” as he’s popularly known. Cutting right to the point:

Thanks to his status as the political equivalent of a unicorn, Carson qualifies for the most elite affirmative-action program in America, albeit one paradoxically administered by a party opposed to affirmative-action programs. Simply put: If an African-American raises his hand to run for president as a Republican, he (they’ve all been men) will instantly be cheered on as a serious contender by conservative grandees, few or no questions asked. He is guaranteed editorials like the one in the Journal, accolades from powerful talk-show hosts (Carson would make “a superb president,” says Mark Levin), and credulous profiles like the one Fred Barnes contributed to The Weekly Standard last month. Barnes’s piece regurgitated spin from Carson’s political circle, typified by his neophyte campaign chief Terry Giles, a criminal litigator whose clients have included Richard Pryor, Enron’s Kenneth Lay, and an estate-seeking son of Anna Nicole Smith’s elderly final husband. “If nominated, can Carson beat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat?” Barnes asked—and then answered the question himself: “Yes, he can.” How? By winning 17 percent of the black vote in swing states—a theoretical percentage offered by a co-founder of the Draft Carson movement.

There’s no reason that a small-government black conservative Republican couldn’t be elected president—a proposition that might have been tested by Colin Powell and no doubt will be by other black Republicans one day. But not today. There have been three Great Black Presidential Hopes in the GOP’s entire history, Carson included—all of them in the past two decades. None has had a chance of victory in a national election, not least because none of the three ever won any elective office. None can be classified as presidential timber without a herculean suspension of disbelief. Indeed, the two Great Hopes before Carson were a buffoon with congenital financial woes and a two-time settler of sexual-harassment suits. But they, too, were praised to the skies by their Republican cheering section up until—and sometimes past—their inevitable implosions. And not without reason. There is a political method to this madness that reaches its culmination with Carson.

If nothing else, it’s an entertaining walk down memory lane. I’d forgotten about Alan Keyes. And Herman Cain is probably best left that way.

Whoa, but I’m sort of whipped. Let’s try again later.

Posted at 9:46 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 40 Comments
 

(Nearly) done with February.

The cold abated this weekend. It went clear up to the high 20s, which felt like beach weather. We were promised snow, just in case we thought the near-thaw was a prelude to spring, but only a dusting fell, and the forecast is for more subzero cold, arriving today (Monday).

On Saturday I bought a pair of fleece-lined tights, and if you were reading this on a text message, I would insert a thumbs-up emoji right here. Instead I’ll note that today is a prelude to spring, because everything in winter is, in some way. Sunset is a full hour later than it was at Christmastime, and sunrise ditto. Believe me, the early-morning exerciser notices these things. It takes our minds off the fact our hair is freezing.

It hasn’t been a terrible February. We’ve had parties to attend each of the last three weekends, and Saturday’s was at the home of one of the old filmmaking crew’s, so there were lots of jokes about getting the band back together. I doubt we will, but it was fun to catch up. One of our number is a pretty high-level IT guy, and was describing an incident in which some guy nearly crashed the internet for a very large ISP through one mistake. “The more you learn about any complicated system, the more you come away thinking it’s a miracle it works at all,” he said. Amen to that, brother.

Sunday I read this story in the NYT:

On the nights when she has just seven hours between shifts at a Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla., Shetara Brown drops off her three young children with her mother. After work, she catches a bus to her apartment, takes a shower to wash off the grease and sleeps three and a half hours before getting back on the bus to return to her job.

…Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: “clopening.”

This is the second story about this phenomenon I’ve seen recently; the other was also in the NYT, and looked at a single mother at a single business – Starbucks, if I recall correctly. The story led to some red-faced corrections on the part of Starbucks, but as this one makes clear, the practice is widespread across fast food, retail and other service businesses. There are some reasons this isn’t 100 percent a human-rights issue…

Some managers say there are workers who don’t mind clopenings — like students who have classes Monday through Friday and want to cram in a lot of weekend work hours to maximize their pay.

Tightly scheduled shifts seem to have become more common for a number of reasons. Many fast-food restaurants and other service businesses have high employee turnover, and as a result they are often left with only a few trusted workers who have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning.

…but at the same time, you have to ask yourself: Hmm, why high turnover? Maybe because the money is bad and the hours are torture. What’s the solution? Keep the money low and the hours ditto, and hope a unicorn drops off an application.

Come the revolution, the quants and MBAs who dreamed this stuff up will be the first to the guillotines, and who will cry for them? Maybe their mothers. Meanwhile, our own Jolene passed this along, via her Facebook network:

parttimework

That’s the workaday world these days.

And here’s the workaday week, upon us. Another thumbs-up emoji here for a good one.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 52 Comments