Midweek. More week.

There are times, in the middle of a busy week, when only “The Great British Baking Show” and a glass of wine will work to calm one’s shattered, or at least frayed, nerves.

Frayed. Yes, that’s it. It’s been a long one, and it won’t stop until…a few more days. I have weekend stuff, too. But there’s a long weekend coming up eventually, and it’s not like I’m digging coal here.

Lifeguard training is going well, in the sense that no one has actually drowned. I had difficulty doing the deep-water rescues, as either the victim or the saver, because I float like a cork. I think it’s Charlotte who has difficulty floating? I can’t sink.

“Adipose tissue,” I said as I failed to touch the bottom of the deep end yet again. “I’m a manatee.”

But little by little, we four are getting it. You wouldn’t necessarily want to hire us at your water park, but we can certainly be useful assistants in an emergency. At least I hope so.

Man, water parks. I’ve been to the one at Cedar Point a time or three, when Kate was at an age to enjoy it. I always liked the lazy rivers, and could have stayed in one all day, if I were allowed a cocktail every third circuit or so. But guarding them must be maddening; so many people simply don’t know what they don’t know. (How to swim, for starters.) Not that this keeps anyone out of the water. I’d go nuts in 15 minutes.

So. Shame about Ossoff, although I wasn’t getting my hopes up. I’m done with that. Grim resignation, that’s my new default. Pendulums swing. Let’s just hang on for the ride.

In the meantime, some bloggage: A WashPost story about Kosciusko County, Ind., just west of the Fort, where the demand for skilled factory workers to fill the artificial-joint plants is acute and not being met by the market:

Kosciusko is only one of 73 counties in the United States with unemployment rates of 2 percent or lower, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many are in ­energy-rich counties in the Midwest and Colorado, where the fracking and natural gas booms have vacuumed up the workforce.

They also include communities that defy the heartland stereotype of industrial decay — like Warsaw, in northern Indiana, and Columbus, about three hours south.

Cummins, a global engine builder based in Columbus, recently opted to open its new distribution center an hour north in Indianapolis, where the labor market is much larger. (Columbus is the seat of Bartholomew County, which also has a 2 percent unemployment rate.)

Companies in Warsaw probably would not move manufacturing jobs abroad, said (economist Michael) Hicks, who follows the region. Firms are more likely to transition to Indianapolis or Chicago, he said, since quality control is crucial for medical implants, and businesses want to protect their designs from foreign competitors.

This is where the importance of talent comes in. And that is where the importance of good schools comes in. I’ve been gone from Indiana long enough that I can’t recall the quality of the schools in rural Indiana, but I think it’s safe to say they’re hit-or-miss. And the legislature has been working mightily to strip the public districts of funding, so that vouchers can be issued for religious schools. Dunno how they do in preparing the workforce of tomorrow. They need to be good. They better be good.

(We talk about this issue in Michigan a lot. Safe to say the legislature is not entirely in agreement.)

And the Senate health-care bill is set for its big reveal. Discuss.

Posted at 10:03 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 95 Comments

So scripty!

It looks like we all need a fresh thread. Day one of lifesaving went well. Three women, one man, the latter of whom is tall, lanky, and over 200 pounds, i.e., no picnic to tow back to the side, but we made it work. I’m sure much of the class looked like a comedy of errors, but once I got the hang of how to deploy the rescue tube in different situations, it got better.

And I slept like a baby last night. Excellent.

This was the view from day one of morning swim yesterday, which I share just because:

I won’t see the sky like that for a while, because I showed up extra-early. But the solstice is just after midnight tonight (dammit) in my time zone, so come it will. (Dammit.)

One link today: Politics in Cooz’s state. No wonder he’s grumpy. I would be, too. Not that Michigan is much better.

Still growing used to the new fonts. As always, we are a work in progress around here.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Posted at 8:37 am in Same ol' same ol' | 41 Comments

Drowning in…something.

So, Father’s Day is upon us. Barely noon, and I have already tired of the social-media parade of World’s Greatest Dads. (Admittedly, I contributed.) Holidays like this turn us all into Mitch Albom; there’s just no room for shadows, even though shadows are what give figures dimension and make them more interesting.

My dad did OK. He could be a jerk, but he was my jerk, my dad, and he did well enough. That’s all you need to get a headstart in the world. Good-enough parents, not great ones.

And in the Department of Pre-emptive Apologies, I have a week’s worth of evening stuff coming up. And guess what it is? One of the women in my swimming cohort is training a few of us to be lifeguards. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I haven’t had a CPR refresher since I took a class in the ’80s, and my first aid is equally rusty. Tim, our coach, is 77 and creaky, and has said often that he’d really like to have some backup on morning swims, so here we all go. It should be over in a week, but I have another conflict Thursday, so it might take a little bit longer.

I did the qualifying stuff Saturday: 300-yard swim, two minutes of no-hands water treading and the infamous pick-up-a-brick exercise. That’s where you swim 20 yards or so, surface-dive to pick up a 10-pound brick in 10 feet of water, then take it back to the starting point, get it out of the pool and then heave yourself out behind it, all in a minute-forty. The last was harder than I expected, but I made it with plenty of time to spare. The two women I was testing with needed multiple tries, but then again, none of us are planning to get jobs as lifeguards. But you never know. The siren song of the red tank suit and the privilege of sitting on the high chair in mirrored shades may well lure me out of journalism.

Speaking of which, this is an outstanding “This American Life” segment on a 66-year-old lifeguard who sued New York City for age discrimination. A NYT account of the same situation.

Who knows, I may not pass the final. But I’ll be fresh on my CPR and first aid. I have this fantasy that my post-retirement career will be as a personal trainer to postmenopausal women. Step one!

Just one link today: Mark Bittman is doing regular food writing again. For New York magazine, no no registration, no paywall. Huzzah.

So, maybe see you guys on…Wednesday? That’ll work.

Posted at 1:31 pm in Media, Same ol' same ol' | 66 Comments

In which I am doctor-shamed.

Guys! I’m feeling much better! After a week of misery, I finally dragged myself off to the doctor, and told her about the ears and the sore throat and the fever and the non-arc of this affliction, so it must be an infection and I need some serious meds and oh my I feel terrible and–

“Your right ear looks normal.”

Well, the pain is mostly on the left side, and–

“Your left ear is fine, too.”

But, but, fever! And pain! In my ears! I’m a swimmer!

“I’ll just do a strep test, then.”

You know the end of this story. The test was negative. My ears were fine. Diagnosis: “Viral blah-blah.” Her words.

“Don’t put that on the internet or anything.”

I wouldn’t dream of it.

The next day, the very next day, I was much improved. Enough that I headed out for a quick dinner with a friend, and posed in my boss Mike Tyson T-shirt in front of one of Midtown Detroit’s dwindling number of corner stores:

This time next year it’ll be an artisanal paper store, or something. Just you wait.

But now the hour is growing late, and I want to go to bed. A couple quick links:

This was on Slate Plus, and I’m not a member, but I was able to open it: Is Trump experiencing cognitive decline? Yet another examination of the StatNews piece a couple weeks back.

Obstruction of justice and the world of hurt to come.

Let’s hope the weekend heals me fully. Have a good one, all.

Posted at 10:46 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 82 Comments

Feverish morning.

Again with the apologies, and I’m sorry. Sorry to be scarce around here, sorry to be always apologizing for it. Monday afternoon I seem to have been struck down by an illness, and I’m not sure what it is. Might be allergy-related; this year has been an absolute mofo for pollen. It reminds me of the ear infection I got the last time I swam before I made wearing earplugs a regular habit, but my ears don’t hurt (yet). I considered going to a strip of doctors’ offices nearby and walking the halls until I found a nurse with an otoscope. But then the low-grade fever rose again, and I decided to go back to bed.

So that’s me, today. Alternating chills and sweats and really not wanting to do anything other than watch “The Great British Baking Show” from the couch.

Instead, I have links. They’re old links, because I gathered them on Monday, but maybe you haven’t seen them yet.

Check out the rocket trail on this chart, tracking overdose deaths in the U.S. Appalling. Wait until all those Trump voters realize they voted away their health care. This New Yorker story is instructive:

Michael Barrett and Jenna Mulligan, emergency paramedics in Berkeley County, West Virginia, recently got a call that sent them to the youth softball field in a tiny town called Hedgesville. It was the first practice of the season for the girls’ Little League team, and dusk was descending. Barrett and Mulligan drove past a clubhouse with a blue-and-yellow sign that read “Home of the Lady Eagles,” and stopped near a scrubby set of bleachers, where parents had gathered to watch their daughters bat and field.

Two of the parents were lying on the ground, unconscious, several yards apart. As Barrett later recalled, the couple’s thirteen-year-old daughter was sitting behind a chain-link backstop with her teammates, who were hugging her and comforting her. The couple’s younger children, aged ten and seven, were running back and forth between their parents, screaming, “Wake up! Wake up!” When Barrett and Mulligan knelt down to administer Narcan, a drug that reverses heroin overdoses, some of the other parents got angry. “You know, saying, ‘This is bullcrap,’” Barrett told me. “‘Why’s my kid gotta see this? Just let ’em lay there.’” After a few minutes, the couple began to groan as they revived. Adults ushered the younger kids away. From the other side of the backstop, the older kids asked Barrett if the parents had overdosed. “I was, like, ‘I’m not gonna say.’ The kids aren’t stupid. They know people don’t just pass out for no reason.” During the chaos, someone made a call to Child Protective Services.

At this stage of the American opioid epidemic, many addicts are collapsing in public—in gas stations, in restaurant bathrooms, in the aisles of big-box stores. Brian Costello, a former Army medic who is the director of the Berkeley County Emergency Medical Services, believes that more overdoses are occurring in this way because users figure that somebody will find them before they die. “To people who don’t have that addiction, that sounds crazy,” he said. “But, from a health-care provider’s standpoint, you say to yourself, ‘No, this is survival to them.’ They’re struggling with using but not wanting to die.”

We are all West Virginia now, or soon will be.

In 2018, the GOP strategy will be all about the media. I wonder if those of you who don’t work in this business know what it’s like to be universally loathed by the general public. I expect you do, because you’re in similar fields. We just keep doing the job, as strange as it can be in these times. I was doing spadework on a story a few weeks ago that was put on the shelf until the whipsawing in D.C. leads to a coherent policy, if it ever does, and this week I’m doing the same – working on something that could be overtaken by events before, like, Friday. And I’m sick, too. Woe, woe is me.

I don’t think it’ll be overtaken by events, though, because the event we’ll all be watching is the Comey Show, starting tomorrow.

I believe J.C. flagged this on Monday, but if you didn’t see it then, I wish to do so again: A teacher deep in Ohio’s coal country tries to school his students on climate change. This guy’s a hero.

Finally, Neil Steinberg wrote something elsewhere, on the science of falling. Interesting.

Back to bed for me. OK, no. I’m actually in bed. But back to work, anyway.

Posted at 7:40 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 122 Comments


Man, how do you people who garden on the regular do it? We embarked on a long-overdue project this weekend — replacing the landscaping in front of the house. This involved tearing out the ancient arborvitae, holly and yew bushes — can’t forget the pachysandra — then tilling the beds and adding 14 bags of enriched soil, so as to provide a soft bed for what comes next. Which is largely TBD, although it includes a hydrangea and this bush that is sorta lilac-y, but not.

I haven’t done hard labor like this in years. Can I just say this? They call those fuckers Chinese yews because the minute they’re planted, they start sending their taproot to Beijing. It’s a long way to China, so it works on adding girth as well as length. The arborvitae and holly bushes came out fairly easily, but Alan had to use a Sawzall on the yews, down in the hole he dug out around them.

And that’s the way the last two days went — lots of digging, sweating, chugging water and Sawzall-ing the fucking yews.

Oh, and all the pachysandra in the world can kiss my ass. But it’s all stuffed in one of eight separate leaf bags at the curb. I got to use the Sawzall on the arborvitae, because it is super-boring and should all be killed. It felt good to rend one limb from limb and put it on the curb.

That was part of the weekend. I’d hoped to get to at least some Movement events — Movement being the techno fest — but no dice. So many of them are held at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., and after a day of yanking yews, I decided I was better off sleeping. Crazy, I know.

I need to include some links, but as you might imagine, I was only on the internet long enough o bathe in Jared Kushner’s tears. Started reading Jeffrey Toobin’s great On the Nightstand book, and more later on that. For now — bed.

Posted at 9:57 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 46 Comments

The grind goes on.

Ugh. A…not grueling day, but a frustrating one. Lots of dry holes, unreturned calls, all that stuff. And deadline is approaching like death, so double the frustration. The people you meet when you don’t have a cattle prod, know what I’m sayin’?

And yet, as you newspaper people know, sometimes everything can come together at the last minute. You just have to be patient. And then you have to panic. Because it’s important.

But at the end of the day, there is little that a grilled pork tenderloin, asparagus, roasted potatoes and a big glass of wine can’t fix. I was out last night for a bit — met a couple friends/colleagues for drinks overlooking the river, where we relaxed deeply, laughed loudly and downloaded an app to settle bets over the passing freighters. In the middle of this the Comey news landed. Truth be told, I didn’t pay attention to it until afterward, and it was like a really bad fart in the room, which perhaps explains my frustration last night. Is this ever going to end? Of course it will, but I fear not before I forget what it’s like to spend days, weeks not thinking about what’s happening in Washington, because I trust the nation is in, if not good then at least competent hands.

Times like these, we need our friends, we need our laughter overlooking the river. I hope you have something where you live — a river, a lake, an ocean, the healing water from which we all came. And friends, or family.

What do I have for you to read tonight?

There’s this, which has been around for a while, but worth your time — Laurie Penny on Princess I’s book:

Ivanka does not directly call herself a feminist; that plays badly among the base, for whom those of us who believe in justice and equality are baby-killing, castrating, terrorist-sympathising man-hating riders of the vaunted cock carousel. The word “feminism” does not appear in the book; the phrase “my father” appears thirty times, and “brand” or “branding” fifty-nine times. While we’re counting words, in a book about women balancing the demands of work and family, the word “nanny” appears only once. Ivanka has at least two of these, plus other household staff, which you’d think would make it a lot easier to attain this model of feminine self-production and reproduction. However, this book is part of a marketing strategy pitched to sell one of the world’s richest and most powerful women as everywoman—she has problems just like you do, after all. She worries about how to manage her time. “Get some servants” is not yet an acceptable motivational hashtag, but give it four years.

For your science nerds: How the Soviets turned a wary fox into a friendly dog in only 56 generations:

“How to Tame a Fox” sets out to answer a simple-seeming question: What makes a dog a dog? Put another way, how did an animal that started out as a bloodthirsty predator become one that now wants nothing more than a nice belly rub and the chance to gaze adoringly at a member of another species? In the late 1950s, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Belyaev decided to address this puzzle by taking the unheard-of tack of replicating the domestication process in real time. He and his colleagues took silver foxes, widely bred in vast Siberian farms for their luxurious pelts, and made them into friendly house pets. It was a deceptively simple process: Take the puppies from only the friendliest foxes, breed them and repeat.

When you’re feeling sad and stressed, you can hardly do better than five minutes with Tom & Lorenzo. Rosamund Pike should have checked with them before getting dressed.

Night, all.

Posted at 9:04 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments

Aging in a new place.

Well, that was a relief. Four days away was just about exactly what I needed, even if the cottage did have wifi and I was able to read the news. Alan told me early on that he didn’t want to hear about our president or anything else emanating out of Washington, and I mostly honored that request.

I didn’t tell him about the French hack. I had a feeling it wouldn’t come to anything, anyway.

It’s weird traveling to northern Michigan these days. Passing through Cadillac, we saw a billboard proclaiming WE LIKE OUR PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! It flew by too fast to get a photo, sorry. I used to remember going up north as a series of increasingly deep exhalations, as the air cools and clears and the landscape turns green and rolling. Now I feel like I’m entering enemy territory, with so many towns looking so down on their luck, and the gas station/minimarts, all of which have some version of “family,” “America” or “pride” in their names. It occurs to me that putting “family” in a market name is a way to indicate they sell groceries as well as beer; “party store” is the Michigan jargon for a mostly likka-and-snacks emporium. Still. What’s the other side’s equivalent of the American Pride Family Market? The Diversity Emporium? (Under the name on the sign: “Bathrooms for all!”)

But it was nice to get out of town, where it rained and rained and rained; up north it was dry and sunny, if chilly. We drove over to Frankfort, on the big lake, to see what we could see. We saw Lake Michigan, and we visited a microbrewery/restaurant called Stormcloud, which I bet they’re very glad they didn’t name Stormfront. Had lunch there, and was surprised by the size of the crowd, still a good month before the season really starts. Well, the food was good, and a tabletop sign advertised a spelling bee that very night, open to all. Man, was I tempted, but we took the long way home and spent the evening reading in silence. Alan had an Elizabeth Strout novel, and I found this at the local bookstore:

I’m unfamiliar with Ian Brown, so this is one case where the cover blurbage sold me, and I’m not sorry I read it. Sixty looms for me in November, and I winced at many things between these covers. Currently, I’m ashamed to say, I’m obsessed with examining photos of women around my age and deciding whether I look older or younger. It is a supreme waste of time, un-sisterly and betrays a lack of character, and yet? I cannot stop. Ooh, age spots! She has age spots at 57, on her hands no less, and I am age spot-free at 59! #WINNING. It’s crazy; I never worried about my looks before, because one of the very few advantages of being basically average is, you never really go up or down. Oh, you can have a “makeover” at a cosmetics counter and learn that, for a mere $125 worth of products and 45 minutes every morning with brushes and paints, you can look a little bit better, but really? It’s not worth it. So why am I suddenly noticing these things? Because death is lurking just around the corner, that’s why. One of my old boyfriends recently died of liver cancer, and another has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s! For fuck’s sake, these are rattling events. My high-school class is having yet another of our endless reunions this summer, and the last one (40) was full of In Memoriams and moments of silence and all the rest of it. I’m not that old yet, at least in my head. I went surfing last summer, goddamnit.

Brown is refreshingly honest about these and many other insecurities, and the book was a nice diversion. Back to Neil Gaiman next. (Why are people so hot on Neil Gaiman? He’s OK, but I don’t understand the worship, frankly.)

This was the view from the porch:

The Betsie River, sliding on past, like the river of time itself.

Maybe this is why I pay so much attention to the news. To distract myself from my own mortality.

Now the week ahead yawns, with good news from France and the usual fuckery out of Washington. Let’s have a good one.

Posted at 7:03 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 113 Comments


I swim for exercise three mornings a week. Swimming doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but a swimsuit is essential, unless you work out at one of those old homoerotic men’s health clubs where they won’t let women in because swimming is a nude sport. (Don’t laugh. They exist.) I’ve experimented with various suits, and found one that works for me. Speedo’s list price is high, but if you watch the sales, you can find closeout discounts or, mirabile dictu, a BOGO sale.

As it happens, last week’s BOGO colors included one I bought last summer, before I headed for California. That suit is about done, but I loved the color, so hey, I’m in for round two. You want to know why swimmers have green hair and dry skin? Behold, the power of chlorine:

If you’re reading this Wednesday and I didn’t die overnight, I swam this morning. Don’t have time or motivation? You just aren’t Princess Ivanka, then:

It’s in her description of her daily life, in which she somehow — until the election, anyway — managed to run her own company, serve as an executive vice president in the Trump Organization, train for a half marathon and spend time alone with each of her three children. Absent locating a wormhole in space, there’s really only one way to find time for all of these commitments, and that is with the help of staff. Yet her household help barely rates a mention in this discussion.

That’s from the NYT review of her new book, “Women Who Work,” which sounds about as lightweight and information-dense as other books of the Trump brand. I’m glad the mommy wars are over, truly I am; as a combat vet, I’m thrilled that today’s new mothers aren’t guilted by the ones who choose a different path. I think of that time as a benefit of the Clinton economy, when expensive cigars were burning, salaries were still pretty good and a lot of middle-class women could actually quit or downshift their jobs into something that allowed them to spend more time at home with their young’uns. The next administration put a stop to that once and for all; I know lots of women wished they had a second income when their husbands were thrown out of work during the financial crisis.

So choose your path, and God be with you, but you can probably do it without Princess Ivanka’s special brand of vapid advice, I bet:

But here’s what really matters about parental leave, as far as Ivanka Trump is concerned: She seems to still believe — as she did during the presidential campaign — that Americans ought to be paid for it. She waits until the penultimate page of her book to say so. But she does. (She talks about affordable child care, too.)

These final pages were written before Nov. 8, 2016. (Trump says in the preface that she turned in her manuscript before she knew the election results.) And what’s remarkable is that she wrote them as if she thought her old man was going to lose: “We need to fight for change, whether through the legislature or in the workplace.”

Well, her father didn’t lose. Ivanka Trump now has a formal White House role, as a special adviser to the president. She has security clearance and an office in the West Wing. She has access to the ultimate C-suite. At any moment, she could walk in and demand her father put forward a plan that mirrors precisely what she provides her own employees: Eight weeks of paid maternity leave. By European standards, that may be paltry. By American ones, it’s extremely generous and a very big deal.

Don’t bet on it.

There’s also a sympathetic profile of Princess I in Tuesday’s edition. It left me unmoved.

Folks, this may be the last update for the week. I’ll be running crazy errands to get ready for our trip this weekend, and can’t commit. If there’s wifi up there, maybe some pictures. Otherwise, I’m ducking out with a clean conscience.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and I’ll likely see you Monday.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 151 Comments


And justlikethat, the weekend is over. Kate is back from school, summer plans still unformed, despite her best efforts. She was literally home for 90 minutes before taking off for the U.P. with a friend, I guess because the highs are going to be in the 40s for the next few days and who doesn’t want that kind of weather in May, right? But she’s home, and it’s nice to have her here, at least for an hour and a half.

This will be a short week for me here, too — we won a weekend at a cottage on the Betsie River in a recent charity raffle, and we’re taking it, plus a couple more nights, at the end of this week because why the hell not. But I hope to have lots of pictures, too.

I don’t know how I forgot to mention Tom Thumb Donuts in the last entry, although it’s been ages since I’ve seen one. They were always a must-stop at the Ohio State Fair, and it’s been ages since I’ve been to that throwdown, too. I covered it for the paper one year, and ate a bag a day. Tom Thumbs were mini doughnuts, and half the fun was standing, mesmerized, in front of the window on the booth, watching them go through their manufacturing process – seen here – then walking around the midway, working your way through your allotment, maybe trying to spot Miss Citizen Fair or just inhaling the unique aroma of a big state fair — manure and junk food and sweat and hot pavement all mixed together and not nearly as bad as I’m making it sound.

I wonder how the fair is doing these days. It used to be the single biggest thing in a kid’s summer in Columbus, but I imagine it’s been screwed up one way or another. Too expensive, too big, too much to police. It was fun for me, both to attend and later to cover. The assignment came soon enough after my time as a teenage patron that it combined the best of both worlds – I get to go the fair and write about whatever I want, and there’s an air-conditioned trailer office and the paper is renting me a golf cart? Best fortnight of the summer.

But now it’s still springtime, and the lambs and calves that will be shown in August are new in the barn. A friend of mine here in Detroit has a duck flock in her back yard, and is so overloaded with eggs that she brought a case of them to a local bar on Friday night to sell. I bought a dozen. The eggs are thick and the yolks big and pudding-like, almost a neon orange. I recall Coozledad’s observation, some years back, that ducks will basically eat anything, and vow to cook them thoroughly, but Saturday night’s duck-egg spinach soufflé was delicious with a prime ribeye.

I’m looking over the weekend’s news, and am feeling a little numb. Another propaganda rally, another jaw-dropping foreign-affairs blunder, another enormous march in Washington against the status quo. How can it possibly have been only 100 days? What are the next four years-minus-100 days going to be be like? I think I really need this long weekend; I’m going to try to ignore the news and hope we don’t start something with North Korea. The cell service is probably pretty spotty up there, and for once, that’ll be a blessing.

Got a link to share? Feel free.

Posted at 7:57 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 51 Comments