Thursday, November 06, 2008

Schadenfreude, Football, and Elections.

We all have our dirty little secrets or what should be dirty little secrets but aren't because we write about them in our blogs. One of mine was how often I find myself rejoicing in the suffering of others. Not all the time of course as I am not without compassion. But man, sometimes when some boastful jerk gets taken down a peg, I swear I get giddy in my toes.

I first noticed this tendency a few years after I moved to Ann Arbor. You see, Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan which has a football team...a good football team...a football team that wins most of the time. Winning football games is a big deal on Saturdays in the fall. It is what Ann Arbor does. In fact, if you arent especially into football, you hardly notice it except for the occasional bragging by people who seem to think that being a Wolverine fan makes them a better person (because they have the good judgment to be a fan of a winning team I guess) The team wins and everyone goes about their business as usual...UNTIL...

They lose. Then, the whining begins. And it is serious whining. It is whining mixed with anger and rage. And I love it. There is something about watching someone get enraged over a FOOTBALL GAME (ferchissakes) that fills my heart with joy. I hardly ever watch football but when I do, there is a part of me that always roots for the team playing Michigan only because I know that if that team beats Michigan, the fans will sulk and pout and rant and rage and so on.

It turns out that I get the same feeling after elections. Not towards everyone who voted for McCain. I actually like McCain and can totally understand why a reasonable person might vote for him. But there are people on the right who just were jerks in the weeks leading up to the election, who are now rivaling Wolverine fans in the sore loser department. And I love it.

I keep reading craigslist because they keep entering rants like this one. They are losing it and I LOVE IT!!! I keep hoping that someone will interview that mean lady in Grosse Pointe who wouldnt give candy on Halloween to Obama supporters or their children. How do you feel today lady? That's what I want to know.

So that is my secret. If you see me grinning and all giddy. That's why. These guys might rant for four whole years. Elections are way better than football as it turns out. boo yah!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Summertime and the Living is Easy

This is just an update. I dont have anything special to write about so much. It is just summertime and for me, summer in Michigan means all is good. I've had friends staying with me most of the summer which has been nice. I've been swimming in the lake a lot which is also nice. Lots of hanging out, drinking beer, watching fireflies and the usual summertime pass times. It's all good.

Here is a photo of me from a couple of weeks ago. This is the first time I held my nephew Joey. I am not sure which one of us is more uncomfortable. I think I'll be a better Aunt when he is older. Then I do stuff like take him out and get him all sugared up on ice cream and overexcited about whatever activity I can drag him on before returning him to my sister. Ha ha.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Think of the Children

So today, after enduring 45 mins on the bus with a screaming child, a man at the bus station stopped me and asked me if I was interested in saving children. I told him "no thank you" It was only after walking away that I realized that I had said "no thank you" in the exact same tone I might have used if he had just asked me if I would like him to take a crap in my hand. Oops.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Art Fair

I havent had any trouble working downtown during this art fair. I have a
parking pass so even though I had to drive downtown Wednesday and
Thursday due to after work plans, I had no problems with parking.
Traffic was actually easier in the morning, I suspect because a lot of
people who usually drive downtown werent. Afternoon traffic has been
crappy causing me to try to remember all my old "back ways" but I
surprisingly did manage to drive all the way from downtown to Trader
Joe's yesterday on side streets. Today it was even easier as I took the
bus to work. My office is on Washington so, with the exception of one
loud kid with a lemonade stand, there hasnt been any noise.

My favorite things so far:

1. There is a booth with interesting stone sculpture on Main Street in
front of National City. They are way out of my price range of course but
if I had the bucks, I might consider buying one of those.

2. I have a friend who is a photographer and also is REALLY into crafts.
She isnt part of any of the official juried art fairs but knows the
people who own the building where A Vault of Midnight is located so she
has some arrangement to set up outside their store. She has a lot of
photos on magnets so I bought one of those. She also has some pretty
cool bowls she makes by melting vinyl records and notebooks with covers
made from the record covers.

3. I always end up checking out that King's Chosen area or whatever it
is called. There was one woman with silly drawings of pub signs with
dogs that probably are the artistic equivalent of those dogs playing
poker posters but I really liked them. Since I now own a pure bred dog,
there was one picture with a yellow lab that I liked.

4. In the same area there was a booth with what looked like wind chimes
made out of melted and smooshed liquor bottles. I thought those looked

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Labrador Lessons

I just got back from the lake. First I stopped off at my sister's house to meet my new nephew. I didnt hold him though because he only weighs five pounds and is too little. People who are that little are scary. But I poked him and that made him cry. And I swear, he waved good bye to me when I left.

Then I went to my parents' house and went swimming with the dogs. When I adopted my five y/o Labrador last fall, I was kind of disappointed because she both didnt know how to swim and didnt know how to fetch. So this summer we have been spending a lot of time at the lake and she has spent some time with Larry the Labrador who lives at the lake. He's been very good about showing her how Labradors are *supposed* to behave.

Anyways today, even though Larry was no where to be found, Tasha fetched and swam all on her own. She even went WAY out into the deep. Then she and I and my sister's dog Buddy swam around together. It reminded me of how people pay money to swim with dolphins. I wonder if I can charge people to go swimming with the dogs. Haha. Probably not.

Oh yeah, I went to Art Fair today too. It is nice working downtown. I was able to walk around for an hour which is about my limit for Art Fair. It was hot but then I was able to go back to my air conditioned work place. And I get to do it again tomorrow. And Friday.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Watch Out!!! There is another Fremont in the world

My sister had a baby boy tonight which is very good news. What is not good news is that he is premature. He was born fast apparently and weighs in at just over 4lbs. But, considering his early arrival, he is healthy. I guess we wait and see at this point.

But I know someone who had a premature baby and that baby grew up to be a healthy, beautiful, smart, kid. So it seems hopeful.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Ginger RIP

I took my cat Ginger to the vet this morning and had her put to sleep. I think she was 19 years old but I dont really know since she wasnt a kitten when I got her. I had her for 17 years or so. She was pretty out of it but still wasnt happy about going. Still, it was a short irritation for her since I took her to the vet closest to my house, Ypsilanti Animal Clinic. They were really great there and the procedure was quick and painless. She had a pretty uncomfortable night last night. She wasnt in pain especially but was so weak that she could hardly walk. She could walk about a foot and then she would have to lay down and rest for several minutes. She was crying in frustration every time she tried to move. I know she just wanted to get to whatever spot she wanted to go to and I would have carried her if I knew where she meant to go. She was pretty dehydrated too as she had stopped drinking water for the most part and I could tell that wasnt especially comfortable for her. It was time.

I buried her in my back yard right in the middle of all the rose bushes.

The Story of Ginger

Ginger was a stolen cat. Her first owners abused her terribly. From what I understand, they beat her and starved her. I was working at a pet store at the time and one of my co-workers stole her from her neighbor in order to protect her. I think some of the odd behaviors she had throughout her life were a result of living in such a bad environment. For instance, she loved to open up packages of food and when she was young and spry, she often would get into the cupboards, open up boxes and bags of dog treats and then eat some and knock some down for the dogs. Needless to say, that increased her popularity with the canine members of the household.

The owner of the pet store agreed to take her as a pet store cat. It turned out, though, that Ginger did not have the makings of a pet store cat. She never was especially social (guests to my house often wondered aloud if I was lying about having a cat since they'd never seen her) so she hid from the customers all day. By night she prowled the store until one night either someone left the giant finch cage open or she figured out how to open it herself. Let's just say that Ginger was an excellent hunter which turned out to be another reason she was ill suited to be a pet store cat.

I had kind of been looking for another cat to be a companion for my cat Fred. The owner of the pet store agreed to pay to have Ginger spayed if I took her in so she came to live me me. I dont remember what her name was before but I changed it to Ginger because I thought Fred and Ginger were good names for a pair of cats. Her first week with me was awful. She went into heat and made my life miserable. She made Fred's life miserable as well as she kept getting amorous with him but with no success because he was neutered. Eventually, she went out of heat and I was finally able to get her fixed.

We moved around a lot. Some of my roommates liked Ginger and some didnt. Her favorite thing is the world to do was to claw up furniture and harass other cats (and especially Jeanne's cat Spock). But she got declawed and after Spock, she never had to live with any more cats other than her buddy Fred.

She did have to live with dogs though. After Fred died, 11 years ago, I brought Brooke into our household. She was 10 months old and had some issues of her own. Ginger always liked Brooke though. Sometimes when I would leave them home alone together, I would come home and Ginger would be crusty with dog saliva since Brooke seemed to like kissing her all day while I was gone. I cant say that Ginger liked that treatment but it is a testimony to how much she liked Brooke that she allowed it to happen. My next dog was Crissy and Ginger loved Crissy too. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye, I would catch Ginger giving "love bites" to Crissy. Then came Cookie who only was with us a short time. Ginger *hated* Cookie. Cookie was part Border Collie and had a hobby of herding cats. Ginger, it turns out was not very fond of being herded. She tolerated Cookie although sometimes Ginger would sit in the middle of the floor and hiss when Cookie walked by. And lastly, Ginger had Tasha. She didnt like Tasha at first but Tasha treated her very much as Crissy did, i.e. with a lot of respect and an acknowledgment that Ginger was the one who wore the tail in the family. Ginger warmed up to Tasha quickly and for the last several months, I sometimes found them sleeping in large dog bed together.

Ginger was a very bossy cat. She pretty much ran the show around here. I sometimes joked that if there were such a thing as reincarnation, she surely had the soul of a great general. I wonder if I will know what to do with myself without her to boss me around.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sick Cat

My cat is probably going to die very soon. She isnt eating and can barely walk. She isnt in any pain though and trust me, she is the sort who would let the world know if she were. So for now, I am not going to take her in to be put to sleep since her least favorite thing in the world is to go anywhere in a car but she especially always hated going to the vet's office. She's 19 years old. It is the end of an era of my life, for sure.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

C'est Bon, Non?

I am back from my lovely trip in Paris. I will probably spend some time this weekend writing a long boring post with lots of photos :) But for now. All I can say is that Paris is awesome but it is nice to be back home too although I wish the weather were a bit nicer here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Well Regulated Capitalism with hints of Socialism on the Side.

I am leaving for Paris tomorrow. Yay! And I should be packing and cleaning my house. But as per usual, when I need to be doing one thing, I find reasons to do something else. In this case, blogging!

Since I am going to France tomorrow, I have been thinking about the economics of the place. It is funny because one of the first papers on economics I ever wrote was one where I compared and contrasted the economic systems of the USA and France. I was in eight grade and while it was a good paper for a person of that age, I still remember that I called France's economy Capitalist and in the margins where I wrote about all the state owned and operated businesses (mostly utilities and transportation if I remember correctly) my teacher wrote, "Isn't this Socialism?" *

And so it was. France has a economic system that imho combines some of the better parts of capitalism with some of the better parts of socialism. It is a system that has worked for decades. They have universal health care coverage. They have government services that Americans can hardly imagine. But most industries are private and generally the economy is a capitalist one these days. France is from everything I have heard a nice place to live and a nice place to work.

Here is the thing. There probably is no perfect economic system. But France seems to have come close in that they have a well regulated capitalist economy with large socialistic safety nets. In many ways, their economy is similar to the economy in the USA except they lean a bit more towards the regulation and safety net while we have a slightly more laissez faire approach.

I honestly believe that the US government could look to France and other European countries for guidance in our economy. I dont advocate pure socialism. I believe that those Chicago School economists were right about some things although goodness knows they werent right about everything. For instance, the state cant control all aspects of an economy for the simple reason that there are so many variables in any economic system that no one can know all of them. There are market forces and like the forces one finds in the field of physics, those forces are present no matter what one does. One can no more legislate away forces of supply and demand any more than they can legislate away the force of gravity.

But a government can and should influence the forces that are present. A government can perform certain tasks more efficiently than the private sector while the private sector excels in other areas. e.g. fire and police protection are probably better accomplished by government bodies than by private firms. And the production of ordinary goods and services are usually best accomplished in free markets (although still with some regulation).

Basically it comes down to this. Economic systems that are too socialist are inefficient. Think Soviet era state control. Not so great. But unregulated capitalist systems have their own problems. Think about how long that free market would stay free if the capital gets too concentrated into the hands of a few. Monopolies are a product of capitialism and are, in their own way, hugely inefficient.

The best bet is a combination of the two. Regulated capitalism with strong social safety nets. There is more stability (and trust me, stability is good for free markets). There are fewer social costs. It's not all about money.

My dream economy would have things like universal health care and a guaranteed minimum income. More social security benefits. More social programs including free higher education. More government run businesses like utilities. Better roads, better public transportation, better funding for scientific research including things done just for the fun of it like going to the moon. A highly regulated labor market with lots of laws protecting workers. And yes, higher taxes. I believe that if we spend our money in good ways that build infrastructure, it will allow the regulated but otherwise free capitalist firms to go about their business with the most efficiency.

* That paper was written shortly after the Mitterrand government had implemented a big socialist reform which created a backlash such that many of the previously socialized and state controlled institutions were placed into private hands.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My job rocks

I had my six month review today. It rocked. I got a big raise. I love it there. I have seven windows to look out of from my desk. I have a fancy office chair. I work with some seriously awesome people.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I am still alive

I have, alas, been very bad about blogging lately. And the funniest part about it is that it hasnt been because of a lack of things that I have wanted to write about. I swear, at least once a day I find myself thinking, "this would make a good blog post" and sometimes I even compose the whole post IN MY HEAD where it does no one any good.

I have wanted to tell the world about the people I see on the bus. Last week, I saw a mentally ill woman I used to know a long time ago. She didnt recognize me. But she was on the bus with a man who was clearly in love with her and with whom she apparently lived. I listened to their conversation for the entire TWO HOUR bus ride home (snow storm). It was funny because I found their words to each other very touching and very nice and it made me feel kind of good. But I was still stuck on the bus for TWO HOURS and I had a pee a little bit and I was hungry and frustrated and wanted to scream. Anyways, this woman was just so happy that she was, perhaps inappropriately, spreading it around by talking to people on the bus. There is, after all, bus etiquette that strangers only rarely speak to each other. As I got off the bus downtown, she said to me, "sweetie, if you need the eleven, you need to wait right by me" but I had to decline her offer since another bus which could get me home had just pulled into the transit station.

I wanted to tell everyone about my car which has now broken down twice in a week. I just spent five hundred bucks on it and now it is back in the shop and who knows how much else I will need to spend. The timing is bad because I need all the money I can get for my upcoming trip to Paris. I am going to do my taxes this weekend and I am going to hope that I get my refund before I leave. Still, on the money front, except for the car repairs, I am digging myself out of a financial hole that I am ashamed to have found myself in because I am smarter than that. Sometimes smart people do dumb things. But anyways, I have recovered from an earlier financial crisis and have enough money to live my life without the horrible budget I have been living with for the last several months. But, of course, I am going to still live with the horrible budget but just knowing that I dont HAVE to somehow makes it easier to do it. Weird I know. But there you go.

I wanted to tell everyone about last night. There was a lunar eclipse and everything worked out perfectly for it which as anyone who lives in Michigan can tell you, the chances of a clear night in Michigan in February arent especially high. But last night was crystal clear and the moon turned this cool orange color. I was at the lake where there are few city lights or at least fewer than here in Ypsilanti. So I stood on the deck there for a half an hour in the cold and looked at the beautiful moon and the stars which just seemed to get brighter as the moon got darker. I looked up at my favorite constellation, Orion for a long time and I thought about things I learned in my astronomy class about how Orion is in a part of space where new stars are being born and about how I'll be dead before any of the light from a star being born right now ever gets to earth. The nebulae in that part of space, such as the Orion Nebula, are just about the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

There has been more stuff too but I will have to save it for another time...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ann Arbor Coffee Shop Blogging

It is really cold and windy here in Michigan today so I didnt want to go far for lunch. I figured it would be fun to take my laptop over to the coffee shop across the street.

Coffee shops are such interesting places and coffee shops in Ann Arbor are especially interesting....

It's mostly women here at the moment. I dont know if there are actually more women in the coffee shop but the there is only one guy in the back room here. Maybe women prefer this back room because it has an intimacy to it and is a good place to sit around unnoticed. I have had lots of people tell me that this particular coffee shop is known as a "pick up place" so maybe people sit back here in order not to be noticed. I like to sit back here so I dont get distracted by people coming into and leaving the coffee shop.

The conversations are what you might expect. Lots of liberal politics. Some gossip. Some business conversation. That sort of thing. One of the reasons I like the back room is that it actually is difficult to eavesdrop because the conversations blend together. I interviewed for my current job here and didnt worry about people listening in.

I come to this place often enough that they know my name but I usually just get coffee in the morning before work and dont hang out so it is kind of neat to sit here and see whats going on. There is such a different atmosphere here than there is at coffee shops in Ypsilanti. The people in Ypsilanti feel more real to me somehow. I always feel like I am "hanging out with the cool kids" when in the coffee shops in Ann Arbor. Isnt that funny? I think it is just that so many people are clearly very affluent while in Ypsilanti, people look different. I know that if places were like houses, Ann Arbor would be some kind of model home used to show off some designer's work while Ypsilanti has a more "lived in" feel to it. If you went to Ann Arbor's house, the dishes would all be done and the only clutter would be a stack of Russian novels on the bedside table. But in Ypsilanti, you might find things a little less put together and showy and more homey and comfortable. Like you could put your feet up on Ypsilanti's coffee table but you might feel you had to take your shoes off when entering Ann Arbor's house. :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Things Are Good

Ahhhh. The neglected blog.

It is funny how little I feel like writing these days. I guess things like writing come in waves. At least for me anyways.

So things here in Michigan are good or at least as good as can be when the temperature is down in the teens and single digits (that's below zero with the wind chill). I am constantly reminded that I cant find my winter stuff -- gloves, hat, etc. I always tell myself in the summertime that the cold will motivate me to clean up my stuff so that I can find things like my hat and gloves and yet here I am with none of those things.

It is kind of like my washer. It broke last August. And every time I go to the laundromat, I tell myself that going to the laundromat will motivate me to clean up my basement so I wont be embarrassed to have someone come deliver a new washing machine. Not that I have the money for a new one at the moment. I figured I wasnt going to get around to buying one so I bought a plane ticket to Paris instead! I guess there are rewards to procrastination.

Anyways, all in all, life is good. I still love my job and still have it. I have a really cool house. I have wonderful friends. I went to my friend Burt's 40th birthday party on Saturday night. I had a really good time. I lost touch with him and that whole crowd for years but have reconnected with them (because of MySpace of all things) and I am just so happy about that. I met Burt when I was in the 7th grade! It is nice to talk to people who knew me whan I was young because I was so different then that no one I meet now can ever get to know that kid that I was. But Burt knows. As it happens, I was kind of an asshole but Burt is kind enough to have forgotten that part or at least kind enough to say that he does. But then wasnt everyone kind of a jerk in junior high/middle school? I suspect that my sister who teaches kids that age might agree with me although I've never asked her.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Work, Dogs, and TV

I havent been doing much this past week except the usual going to work, walking the dogs, and watching TV.

Work - Man, I have to say that my job totally rocks. I know I am always going on about it to people but I have really been fortunate to land here. My co-workers rock. The bosses rock. I get treated well all the time. I am generally good at what I do but I have found out that even if I make a big mistake, I get treated a lot differently at this job than at my other one. I still have days where I wake up and dont feel like going into work but they are much fewer and far between than before. All in all, in that area, things are going well.

Dogs - they sure are fun. Last week we had lots of snow and it is so funny to see how differently each of my two dogs deals with snow. Brooke LOVES it. She always runs out and dives right in. She gets her whole head under the snow, she runs around in it, she makes snow angels, and generally just has a blast with it. Tasha on the other hand will walk outside and then will turn around and try to walk back in the house as soon as she realizes that there is snow on the ground. I have to make her go out to pee. It is hilarious!

We have been having some really unseasonably warm days for the past couple of days. I think it got up to 64F yesterday which was a record high. There has been a lot of rain too which combined with the melting of all the snow from last week has meant a lot of mud. There is so much water and mud down at the park that the paved path is mushy. That is too bad since I am pretty sure that the city doesnt have money to replace it. They did replace the lighting down there though but, so far, they havent turned them on. Oh well. I went down there yesterday and there were lots of people with dogs there. It was cool. Tasha LOVES meeting people and other dogs. Brooke likes it too but with less gusto than this yellow lab.

TV - I have just discovered Friday Night Lights. has full episodes all the way back to the pilot on their web site. I have watched the entire first season in a week and a half! When I first heard of it, my thought was "A show about high school football in Texas? It sounds perfectly awful" But it turns out that it is well written and quite interesting. Even the football parts are decent. I would even go so far as to say that this show's fake, staged football games are much better than real live football games. For one thing, they only last a few minutes and they just show the "good parts" ;) I am learning things about football from watching the show though.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

What can I say? 2007 was a good year for me. I can only hope that 2008 will be just as good. I hope everyone's 2008 will be good too. There are 104 chances to win the lotto this year. I hope that me and my closest 103 friends all hit it big. Haha. J/K I am sure that if that scenario were to actually occur, I would find myself behind bars since no one, not even me, would ever buy such an occurrence :)

I am not big on New Year's Resolutions but I do have some goals this year.

I am going to go to Europe.

I am going to work to improve my external environment (i.e. keep my house cleaner)

I am going to challenge my mind somehow. Maybe this will be the year I spend more time playing video games :)