Category Archives: michigan

The Case for Spring

While I know that it is controversial, for me, the end of February marks the end of Winter. With March comes the beginning of spring. I don’t wait until that whole March 21 thing, or even daylight savings. I want spring, and I want it now.

I abhor February. It is my least favorite month of them all. It’s dark and dreary. This year, we had a wonderful warm snap in which I almost forgot that it was February. I even (perhaps ill-advisedly) ran outdoors several times. I even got to drive home in the sun a few times. But it was still February. I did some googling, and found this quote, which about sums up how I feel.

“February is a suitable month for dying. Everything around is dead, the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”
– Anna Quindlen, One True Thing

But now we’re in March. And March is Spring.

Here’s why:
1- March is warmer than February. I found this graph that proves it.

2- I fell into the Huron in March. If it were winter, #1 I wouldn’t have been able to fall in and #2, if I had, I would have been much colder than I was. You can’t see it in this picture, but my feet are bare also. Would I be walking around barefoot in the winter? No, I would not.

3- You can fly kites in March. Doing so in February is just dumb.

4- Sometimes, Easter happens in March. Bunnies wouldn’t lay eggs in winter, would they?

5- You couldn’t Spring forward for daylight savings time if it weren’t spring. (Don’t forget, March 8th this year!)

6- If you talk about spring snow storms, it feels like they might go away soon. When you talk about winter snow storms, you just get depressed.

7- According to this website, maple syrup production in Michigan starts in spring, which is clearly at least in March.

Last but possibly most important:
March isn’t February. And while every day in February feels the same, every day in March could be something completely different. One day in March, the birds will be back. One day in March, the Huron will flow again. One day in March, the flowers will bloom and the grass will green. These are not things you can say about February. They are only things you can say about March.

I know it isn’t full on Spring yet. It’s definitely not even the best part of Spring. That comes later, in April, in Michigan at least. (Not until at least the end of May in some parts of Wyoming, and then it is only iffy at best). But for me, March is like reading your favorite book. You know how it’s going to end, and you can’t wait to get there.

Citrus Season


citrus
Originally uploaded by niznoz

I realized the other day that I have an unhealthy relationship with Citrus.

It’s like one of those on-again, off-again marriages. I never really know when winter starts if I am going to have one of those years where I love citrus or one where I hate citrus.

It’s truly unnerving how inconsistent I am. Last winter was definitely an on-again season. I was eating all of the oranges that came my way. This winter, however, I’ve been even more back and forth about it than usual. To start the season off, sometime back in November, I was at Meijer, and they had a 2-for-1 special on oranges. Usually, I wouldn’t even consider purchasing two bags of oranges. I would never get through them in a normal season. Something clicked in my head, and I ended up with a lot of oranges at home. Fortunately, it just so happened that these were some of the best oranges that I’d ever had (or at least since last winter), and while I did share them out, I did manage to get them all eaten.

However, at some point just before Christmas, I purchased three lemons. I have no idea why. There was a good reason in there somewhere. Maybe I was going to zest them and some oranges and maybe some limes, and dehydrate the zest so I’d have delicious zest any time I wanted. I don’t think I was planning to make lemonade. That would have stuck with me. They’re sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for me to remember what I was going to do with them.

But then for New Year’s, I picked up a box of Clemantines, and after they weren’t finished at the party I took them to, I feasted on them, multiple times a day until I ran out. (Which wasn’t that long, incidentally, because of the multiple feastings.) I couldn’t get enough of them.

And so I thought I was having a good year for citrus. I bought another bag of oranges… and this time they’re just sitting there on my microwave. I even managed to finish a bunch of bananas before they all went black (which never happens) but my oranges just sit there. Every once in a while I’ll eat one out of obligation. I took one to work for an afternoon snack at some point last week, and I didn’t eat it until Friday, and then only because I needed a break, and peeling it would give me an excuse to get away from my desk.

In the world of citrus, there are only three things that are certain for me:
1- I will always hate grapefruit.
2- I will always love lime.
3- I will always ask about lemonade at a restaurant, but very rarely order it. (I can’t take a cloyingly sweet lemonade. The drink is supposed to be about the lemons, not the sugar.)

That’s all I really know. I wish my relationship with citrus could be as predictable as my relationship with say, apples, or cookies. (love both, by the way.) I have theories as to why it’s not. Most of them have to do with scurvy. But at the very least, figuring out if I’m going to like citrus in a given year makes for an interesting guessing game.

Top 10 Moments in 2008

I’m going to try to do this in as few words as possible

10- Voting for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney for President

The fact that I had a choice to vote for a Mormon for President. Awesome!

9- Convincing my nephew in less than half an hour that we could be friends


That was quicker than my dad won him over.


8- Geocache #600


A walk in the woods, in the snow, with friends. Priceless.

7- Ceder Point


Proof that when I am dead, I will be buried in an amusement park. (I actually had fun at the amusement park that day!)

6- Hiking in the Big Horns



The view from the top. The real top.

5- The Regency Ball


Who knew that English Country Dancing was so much fun?

4- Tweleve Reunion

You probably wouldn’t understand… But it was awesome.

3- Kayaking the Huron

Ever heard “Peace like a River”? Well, that, except, with a river.

2- Thanksgiving Turkey

It tasted just as good as it looked.

1- Turkey Trot

A goal completed!

Top 5 Recipes of 2008

As well established readers of this blog will know, I enjoy cooking. So what retrospective of 2008 would be complete without a list of recipes that have influenced me this year. I’ve tried out a lot of new recipes this year, and these are the ones that I loved the most and wanted to share with you all.

5- Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

Amy made this recipe for one of our regular get-togethers to play Settlers. I loved the recipe so much that I tried and failed to replicate it by myself, and eventually just broke down and asked Amy for it. With my CSA this summer I had no dearth of zucchini and summer squash, and this became an easy dinner recipe that I relied on time and time again. This recipe is very easy to both scale and tweak. Add extra little bits of whatever you’ve got (ham, cheese, other veggies, whatever) or vary the spices and you’ve got a completely new experience.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning TM
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well.
Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

4- Amy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I blogged about Amy blogging about these cookies. I’ll refer you to her recipe for the details, but these are far and away the best cookies you could ever make. Ok, maybe I’m gushing, but this recipe sings. And instead of hoarding the recipe to herself, she shared it! And now you can try them too. I’ve made them several times and they’re great.

3- Cranberry Relish

I’m a cranberry geek. I love cranberry sauce, but its very rare for me to get well prepared sauce not from a can. (Has anyone ever gotten good stuff from a can? I don’t know!) For Thanksgiving this year, I decided that if I wanted good sauce, I would have to make it myself. So I did. And it was good. I trialed the recipe twice, and got slightly different results, but the outcome was great both times.
Cranberry sauce

Here goes:

Cranberry Sauce
1 C Water
1 C Sugar
1 Bag Cranberries (12 oz)
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
Apple Pie Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Bring water and sugar to a boil, dissolving sugar. Add orange juice and cranberries. Return to boil (It’s hard to tell, because there are now more cranberries than anything else in the pan, and not terribly important, just get the temp back up). Lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cranberries will start to pop. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the liquid starts to gel. Add zest and spice to taste. (I just dumped it in, I didn’t measure… probably 1-2 teaspoons.) Mix on the heat for another minute or so. Remove from heat, pour into serving dish. The gel will harden as it cools. When it has come to room temp, put in the fridge until showtime.

My first go with the recipe, I simmered for less than 10 minutes, and the berries were more whole and the gel less firm. The second round, which I brought for dinner, I simmered a little longer (I wasn’t paying attention), and it worked out fine, and set up a lot harder.

2- Spring Rolls

When I went out to Salt Lake this spring, I surprised my MBA friends. They’re always inviting me over to dinner, but rarely give me enough advance notice to get out there. This time I told them I’d go (which was the part that surprised them!). Jodie was hosting the dinner, and since I was staying at her place, I weaseled my way into helping make it. Or mostly watching Jodie make it. The appetizer course was Spring Rolls, which are fancy and very simple to make.

Spring rolls

I later hosted people for a roll your own dinner, and also forced them upon my family over the 4th of July. I think I ended up taking them to a mingle as well, except I called them Summer rolls.

This is another recipe that is very customizable to whatever you have available.

Here’s a basic recipe:

Spring Rolls

1/4 pound vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in boiling water to barely tender (2 to 5 minutes), drained, rinsed, and drained again
1/2 pound Asian barbequed pork, lean beef or chicken, thinly sliced, or thinly-sliced tofu, or any fairly dry cooked vegetable or meat
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise (optional)
12 lettuce leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
1 to 2 cups shredded carrots, or other vegetables shredded on a cheese grater
1 bunch spearmint, washed and dried
1 bunch coriander or basil, washed and dried
20 rice paper rounds (6 to 7-inch diameter)

1. Moisten rice paper by rubbing with water, or dipping in hot water for a few seconds. Let stand a few moments until softened.

2. On the bottom third of the rice paper round, make a small pile of rice noodles, a few shreds of meat, half a shrimp, some lettuce, carrot, and a leaf of each herb.

3. Roll up the rice paper over the filling, taking it halfway up the uncovered portion of rice paper. Now fold in the side flaps and continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Put on a plate and keep covered with a damp cloth.

You should serve these with dipping sauces. One easy dipping sauce is Sweet Chili sauce, which you can find in most Asian sections at the grocery store. Another easy sauce is Peanut Sauce. In a small sauce pan, add 2 parts peanut butter (natural and chunky is the way I like it!) to 1 part hoisin sauce (another Asian section staple). Heat it up a bit while stirring. When it seems well mixed, add some coconut milk or water (or both) to thin it down. Whisk vigorously and serve.

It’s that easy! (Special thanks to Jodie for helping me refresh my memory of how to make these, especially the peanut sauce. She is absolutely awesome!)

1- Indian tomato sauce

I love this next recipe. I’ve blogged it before, but I’m going to go ahead and put it here again. Because I love it that much. And because you probably won’t click the link. I discovered this in my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook (by Mark Bittman), when Melanie, Leilani, and I were having one of our Vegetarian cooking nights. We did Baked Garbanzos with Fresh Cheese and Spinach (basically a fancied up saag paneer). But this sauce was the star of the show. I’d make this for dinner every day if my stomach wasn’t so sensitive to tomatoes.

Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups.

4 T butter or 1/4 c neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
one 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 T minced fresh chile or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
2 T garam masala or curry powder
1/2 t chili powder
large pinch sugar
2 c chopped ripe tomato (about 1 lb. whole), preferably peeled and seeded, or drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cream or coconut milk
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds

1. Put 3 T of the butter or oil in a deep skillet over medium0-high heat. When the butter is melted or oil is hot, add onion, garlic, ginger and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garam masala, chili powder and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir until spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.

2. Add tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to release its liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

3. Turn heat down so the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up and the mixture comes together and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (The sauce may be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

4. Put remaining butter or oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they begin to pop. Spoon over the sauce just before serving.

And now two bonuses:
Bonus #1: My favorite new spice: Garam Masala. Technically, a mixture of spices, garam masala is an Indian spice, which packs such an incredible punch of flavor. I had been using my own mixture until I realized there is an Indian grocery just down the road a bit. I found it, and I’ve been finding ways to use it ever since. So far, I have seasoned my Thanksgiving backup ham with it and a lentil soup. I’m looking forward to the other ways that I can use it!

Bonus #2: A Christmas cookie recipe: Rolo Cookies.
I got a great response to these on my cookie trays, and thought I’d share the joy. Clicky the linky above. Mmm!

So there you go. My favorite recipes of 2008. What are yours?

Questions and answers

This will probably be my last post about the auto industry for a while.  I’m sure that you’re tired of reading these long winded posts with me begging for your understanding.  Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act on the bill, largely due to resistance from Republican Senators.  Fortunately, it looks as if the Administration will tap the TARP funds to provide short term relief until the next Congress is sworn in.  
One of my friends saw my previous post about the bridge loans and asked me some questions, which I think are fairly common.   I spent a good bit of time responding, and felt like the results were good enough to share.  With her permission, I’ve attached her unedited questions and my unedited responses.  I am by no means an expert, but I feel fairly confident in my understanding of the issues.  

2008 Ford Focus Washington State Drive

I promise to post something not auto industry related shortly.  Maybe a recipe or something.  We haven’t had one of those in a long time.
Questions and Answers:

Ok, if I am wrong or you see a different take on things, maybe you can explain them.  But here’s my problem with giving Ford and the other motor companies a loan…
 
Why do they need a loan in the first place?  If Ford made a profit in their first quarter and made some cost reductions, well, gas prices are down and while the credit crisis is still very serious, I think that it might be getting better.  So why do they have to have this loan to survive?
Here’s the long and the short of it.  Last year, the US auto sales were something like 17 million new vehicles (This is industry sales, all cars sold in the US).  During the first quarter, the sales rate was trending around 15-16 million cars for the full year, not great, but not shabby either.  By the time the second quarter got here, it had fallen a little more, primarily due to gas prices.  At the same time, the price of steel doubled, from about $500 / ton to $1000 / ton.  Over the summer, the credit crisis starts really fouling things up.  By October, industry sales are trending at 10 million units on an annual basis.  By November, the Year over year (That is, Nov-07 to Nov-08) sales dropped by about 35-40%.  Simply put, the # of cars sold in the US has fallen dramatically to levels that are unsustainable for the industry.  We have a fixed cost base that requires we sell a certain # of cars to pay the bills (bills that we will have to pay regardless of how many vehicles we produce.  Think health care benefits to our retirees, or energy costs to keep the assembly plants heated, things like that).  The American consumer simply isn’t buying right now, not from Ford, nor from anyone else.  
In normal times, the companies would just go to the credit or equity markets and get the funds to cover it.  Unfortunately, no one is lending to anyone.  People can’t get loans for their houses, the auto companies can’t get loans for their fixed costs.  
Ford is fortunately in the best situation of the Detroit.  GM and Chrysler are on the verge of running out of cash.  Ford obtained credit and lines of credit back in 2006, before the credit markets froze up, and so isn’t facing the same liquidity problems.  In fact, we aren’t asking for loans right now, but rather a line of credit (think a credit card, available when you need it, but the cash isn’t in your pocket right now.) in case of a failure of one of our competitors or in case the recession doesn’t end as quickly as people are projecting.  
Ford’s biggest fear right now is that the failure of one or both of the other two Detroit companies would cause a large scale disruption within the supply chain. Basically, as an industry, we have something like 75% overlapping suppliers.  We buy our parts from the same people that build parts for GM and Chrysler.  Now, imagine if one of those suppliers suddenly lost a third of their business.  It’s not an easy obstacle, but you might be able to get past it, maybe.  If 700 or 1000 suppliers and sub-suppliers suddenly lost 1/3 or more of their business, not all of them would stay in business.  Suddenly, Ford wouldn’t be able to build cars, simply because they can’t get nuts or seats or steering wheels.  Obviously, it would take time to find someone to make the new widget, test it to make sure it is safe, and get that new part to the assembly plants.  If Ford couldn’t sell cars for all of that time, it would put us in a very dire position.  That’s why we are asking for the loans to be given to the other two companies. 
 
What is Ford going to do once they get this loan to make things better for the American citizen?  Are they going to lower the cost of all their vehicles?  Make it easier to get a car loan?  Maybe build even more factories and create more jobs? 
I’ll answer this one in general, because Ford isn’t asking for the loan right now.  The other two need the money simply to survive a few more months to restructure their costs.  They will probably use the money to continue development of new cars, including the Chevy Volt, and other new green technologies.  They will use it to retool plants to make these new cars.  But with the legislation as it stands right now, basically they are buying themselves some time.  According to the bill that the House passed, they have until March 31 to develop and implement cost reductions.  This will probably  include wage cuts and other concessions, a restructuring of debt (i.e. reworking the terms of loans, swapping GM stock for debt, other things like that).  I haven’t read the GM or Chrysler plans, so I don’t really know what they are planning.
I do know that Ford has dramatically shifted development of its product line up to focus on smaller cars and more fuel efficient cross-overs.  We are doing that independent of the government financing, but that requires that we retool plants that once produced trucks and SUVs to be able to produce Focuses and Fusions, etc.  Not inexpensive.
I doubt that the companies would lower the prices of the cars, because the cost of material and assembly hasn’t fallen off that much.  Selling at a loss, especially when you have a big government loan to repay, probably isn’t a great idea.  Hopefully, they would be able to make car loans more available, but that has more to do with the ability of the financing companies to raise capital.  Ford Credit is still making loans and leases, although I’ve heard that isn’t true for many of the other car credit companies.
 
Who is to say that this loan will be put to good use and not wasted?  Is there any guarantee that jobs will not be lost and things will get better even if it is made?
It’s hard to say how you would be able to tell if it is put to good use.  The current legislation would have the President appoint a “Car Czar” who would monitor the progress of the restructuring, report back to Congress on a regular basis, and would have some say in the decision making process, especially large expenditures.  During the Chrysler bailout in the early 1980s, this kind of watchdog was put in place, and it seemed to be effective.
There is of course never any guarantee.  From my point of view, I’d rather take the risk that it might not work than the certainty of failure.  
 
 
Why should a company get a loan when we, the average American family, cannot even get a loan to consolidate our debts and make it a little easier to get by each month?  Is that really fair?
We can’t get a loan from anyone either.  However, if we don’t get the loans, and the industry fails, by some estimates between 3 and 5 million people will lose their jobs.   I don’t think that’s a good solution, by any stretch of the imagination.  I, like many others, thought that the other bailout was supposed to make it easier for the average American family to get loans.  Somehow, that hasn’t happened yet.  The government has serious questions to answer about that, but I digress.
 
I love ya and want you to keep your job, but if not giving this loan helps to make things just a little bit more fair, if that money could go somewhere else to help more people, then why shouldn’t it?  (And I’m not talking welfare and food stamps either)  Why can’t this loan money be put directly into the hands of those who have high amounts of debt and are trying to pay it off instead?
Again, I don’t have a really good answer here.  The government previously approved $700 Billion for just that purpose.  The amount of loans that are being requested by the auto companies isn’t chump change, by any stretch, but it also isn’t (relatively speaking) a huge amount of money.  The principal difference that I see between large scale debt relief and a bridge loan to the auto industry is where that money will be going.  Debt relief is basically paying back money that has already been spent, (an investment in the past), while the bridge loans will be investments for the future, investments that will pay back by creating value in the economy.  Both would add liquidity to the larger economy, but only one creates ongoing value. 
 
I’m not trying to be mean or cruel.  I just want to understand why this will make such a difference and why it is so needed.
I understand that many people don’t understand the gravity of this.  Some people don’t understand the complexity of the auto business, or the long lead times, or the costs.  Thanks for giving me the chance to explain some of it.  If you’ve got any more questions, I’m willing to answer any and all of them.  

A favor to ask

Hey Folks-
Brady again, asking you to support the Domestic Auto Industry. It appears that an agreement has been reached to provide about $15B of loans to GM and Chrysler so that they can last until March. During that time, they are to negotiate with creditors, labor unions, shareholders, and other stakeholders to bring themselves into a reasonable cost structure. Some are calling it “Bankruptcy Lite”. A “Car Czar,” appointed by the president, would monitor progress and ensure that taxpayer dollars would be well spent. Additionally, the government would benefit on the upside with stock positions in the companies.

This plan seems reasonable and will protect the taxpayers. However, even though there is reportedly agreement between the House of Representative and the White House, Republican Senators are threatening to block passage of this bill.

If the automobile companies are allowed to fail, hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs. You know at least one of them. Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens may lose benefits from their pension plans. You probably know at least one of them too.

There has been lots of talk lately about Energy Independence, the concept that we rely too much on foreign countries for oil and other energy. If we allow the largest domestic manufacturing industry to fail, we could find ourselves in a similar situation, relying on foreign countries for cars and other heavy manufacturing. Do we really want to go there?

At the end of the day, I am asking you, my dear readers, to do me a personal favor. If you live in, or have a credible connection to, a non-Michigan state, will you call or email your state senators and ask that they support the Auto Industry Bridge Loan program? This is especially important if you live in a state with Republican Senators. (Cough… Cough… Texas… Cough… Utah… Cough… Wyoming…)

Tell them that you are calling to support the job of one of our friends, the pension of one of your grandparents, the future of one of your children. Please, as a favor to me, call them. Here is a link that will help you find your Senators:

Here’s some more reading for you, if you’ve got nothing better to do:
Seven Myths about the Automakers

And don’t forget the Ford Story!

A well kept secret

It is a fairly well kept secret that I really enjoy dancing. Mostly because the only dances that I usually have any association with are the frenetic, frantic, mostly arrhythmic, awkward “Mormon Singles Dances,” which I kind of hate. Unfortunately, I think my cover is blown as of last night.

I have been pointedly avoiding these types of dances for the last four years, ever since I moved from Laramie to Salt Lake. At some point, they became very unpleasant for me. I was speculating last night that it had something to do with when I became fat and lazy in Salt Lake and my endurance took a nosedive. My interpretation of this kind of dancing requires a whole lot of energy and staying power, which I didn’t really have in Salt Lake. Add to that the whole “Make a fool of yourself in front of people that you barely know and maintain at least some hope of asking out on dates,” and it was a recipe for disaster.

I have been pointedly avoiding the Hill Street Soiree for the last few years. My first year, I really didn’t know people well, and my second year, I may or may not have purposely procrastinated writing a talk to have an excuse to leave before the dancing got underway.

Some background, I think might be in order. The Hill Street Soiree is what some might call a Big Deal. This is the one Hill Street Ward activity each year to end all activities, quite literally. The Soiree, in its 8th incarnation last night, is a semi-formal dinner dance held in December each year. The HSAC goes all out: a catered dinner, a marvelously decorated space, and lots of music to dance the night away. The other singles wards in the area are typically invited to the dance (We’ve selfishly kept the dinner to ourselves in the past.) This year, it was an official multi-stake activity, and much better attended than the other activities this year.

I had planned to go last night, and avoid dancing. You know, to go along with the plan of keeping my enjoyment of dancing secret. During dinner, we discussed leaving to test out my new surround sound system. As the dance started, I moved as far away from the dance floor as possible to talk to others who weren’t dancing. Everything was going according to plan. I decided that I should probably make an appearance on the dance floor. So I headed out on what I thought would be a good crowd dance, but which turned out to be some bizarre hip-hop-like called line dance. Talk about genre defying music. I don’t line dance, I haven’t got the coordination for it, so I sat it out, but I was close to the dance floor. Way too close…

At some point, my resistance cracked. I ended up on the dance floor, and I. Had. A. Blast. I couldn’t stop. My endurance has been finely tuned over the last year, to the point that a 9 mile run seems challenging only in trying to find 9 miles to run it in. I couldn’t use that as an excuse. The headache that I had been planning to use as an excuse went away. I had nothing.

I tried to leave early towards the end of the dance. That didn’t work. I got sucked into a few dances that I couldn’t avoid dancing too (such weak will power, must… keep… dancing…) and suddenly it was the Last Dance. I’m principled enough to not skip the last dance. That’s just bad form. But suddenly, my chances of showing the front that I don’t like dancing was clearly gone. After all, I had stayed to the end, and ended it on the dance floor.

Ah, well, at least we got to dance to the Numa Numa song.

I’ll add some photos once I can steal some from Facebook. Strangely, by 10:30 the day after the Soiree, no pictures have turned up yet.

A call to action

As you probably know, I work for Ford, which is facing a crisis of its own caused in good part by the on-going credit crisis. We have been aggressively restructuring our business and re-inventing ourselves. The crisis we now face is not of our doing. Because of the uncertainties in the economy at large and the scarcity of credit, people have quite literally stopped buying cars. Ford has positioned itself to be profitable at lower volumes than in the past, just not this low.

I have struggled with my own ideologies, saying that “Too big to fail is too big to play.” At the time, my job wasn’t at risk. I still believe that it is true. However, somehow the US automotive industry got to a point where we are too big to fail. The failure of one of the Big 3 auto companies would likely drive many of its suppliers into bankruptcy as well. Because the supply base is so intertwined between all of the major players (including the foreign automakers), wholesale disruption in the supply network would likely cause the failure of the domestics and a suspension of domestic production by the foreign automakers.
I believe from everything that I’ve read and heard that Ford is well positioned to survive a short economic downturn. However, if GM were to fail, the economic fallout would likely also drive us into bankruptcy.
Melanie asked me if the bailout is good or bad. I don’t know. I do know that it is neccessary. I don’t advocate a free ride for anyone. There should be pain for all involved, as we all got into this together. The union, the executives, the employees, the shareholders, and the taxpayers.
Here’s an excerpt from an email I got at work:
There are many who question why the U.S. industry should receive any additional assistance and are quick to assert that the current situation is due to the failure of the automakers to bring new technology to market and an alleged resistance to producing fuel-efficient vehicles. Here are some important points that clearly illustrate Ford’s commitment to a new way of doing business and to bringing the newest, most fuel-efficient technologies to market quickly:
· Ford’s product-led plan to deliver more of the safe, affordable, high-quality and fuel-efficient vehicles that consumers want and value remains solidly in place. We are also well-positioned to take advantage of our global scale and strengths.
· Ford has committed to leading in the development of advanced technologies, including EcoBoost, Flexible-fuel vehicles, clean diesel, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen cars.
· Ford alone has invested more than $22 billion in research and development (2005-07).
· Ford’s quality is now on par with Honda and Toyota and rising every year.
· The new Ford Fusion Hybrid beats the Toyota Camry Hybrid in fuel mileage.
Please take a few minutes to act. There are links below with contact information for your Senators and Representative. Please call them or email them. Tell them that the failure of the auto industry should not be an option. Give us the time that we need to finish restructuring without the added pressures of the credit crisis and economic downturn.

To call your elected officials as a “Friend of Ford” please click here (hint: it will be easier to call if you click on “Print this alert” link on the site below as a complete document will be printed with each of the officials names and phone numbers provided): http://capwiz.com/ford/callalert/index.tt?alertid=12192861 To email or send a printed letter to your elected officials as a “Friend of Ford” please click here:http://capwiz.com/ford/issues/alert/?alertid=12192906

Please feel free to send these links to your family and friends and ask them to take action to support our industry and our economy.

Running: A history

I recently crossed an important milestone… According to my Nike+ iPod system, on November 8th, I ran my 500th mile since I started using the system back in November 2006. So 500 recorded miles in 2 years, plus some amount of non-recorded miles. Not too shabby!

Mike made me this logo in celebration of my 100 miles since his last run. Awesome what you can do with Paint and WordArt, isn’t it?

To me, what is really impressive about all of this is that amounts to approximately 475 more miles in those 2 years than in the previous 8 years. In high school, I was a runner. Ok, kind of a runner. I did run cross country for two and a half seasons, and long distance track for a season. I was consistently middle of the pack, but I’m pretty sure it was in the front middle. The important part was that I enjoyed running, and was at least in enough shape to do it regularly.

Some persistent injuries and high levels of stress during my senior year forced me to drop cross country that year, and I fell out of the habit of running. Over the next several years, I tried occasionally to run again, but I was never able to hold the habit consistently. My best attempt was during my last year of grad school. My roommate over the summer, Adam Miles, was crazy into running, and he talked me into a nice pair of running shoes, which I did in fact really use to run in multiple times. But grad school was more important, and I didn’t have a real goal in mind, so I fell off the bandwagon again.

With this in mind, once I moved to Michigan to start at Ford, I decided that for once and for all, I was ready to become a runner again. I had a good deal of time on my hands, as I was living by myself in Canton, and hadn’t really integrated myself into the ward here yet. I decided that beginning in September of 2006, after the completion of a travel audit in New York City, I would buy myself new shoes, and reacquaint myself with the road.

I did some research, being the meticulous type, and decided to use the Coach Potato to 5K training program. It is designed to ease you into running. My failures in the past were probably from trying to do too much too fast, and this program, which I highly recommend, keeps it simple by moving from walking with jogging to jogging with walking to jogging. I made my own music mixes with the timing built in, and eventually found that someone else had done that too.

To keep myself motivated, I have used running to bribe myself. For example, I really wanted a new iPod nano to replace the clunky iPod classic I had that would skip after exactly 20 minutes of running, and of course, if I was going to get the nano, I wanted the Nike + to go with it. I determined that if I could consistently make progress on my Couch Potato plan, I could have the whole setup for my birthday in 2006. It did, and I got my running bling. (Leilani once asked if I liked running for running’s sake, or for the gadgets… I’m not ashamed to say that its for both.)


I also used it to earn my Wii, which I officially earned last Saturday when I crossed the 500 mark. I decided that if I was showing adequate progress, I could open the Wii at 400 miles… which I also did, as long as I made it to 500.

One of my tricksiest motivation techniques to keep myself going, and to remind myself that I was a runner again was to take out a 4 year subscription to Runner’s World. On eBay, you can get anything… even 4 year subscriptions for less than $10. Now, I get a monthly reminder to get back on the boat.

It took me a year to be ready to run a race after I started running again, but last Thanksgiving, I finally decided I was ready for it, and talked Amy into running the Turkey Trot in AA with me, on a whim and at the last minute. She did very well, and I finished, and that was enough for me. It was possibly the best thing that happened to me in 2007.

Amy placed and I finished! Sweet Victory!

I’ve managed to run 3 5Ks this year, each with slightly better times or finishes (2nd place in my age group at the Tara Grant Memorial!) and I’ve trained myself up to a 10K finally. It took two attempts, but here I come Turkey Trot. Here I come. This may be one of the few New Year’s Resolutions that I actually keep!

That’s me, streaking to the finish line at the 2007 Turkey Trot.

I’ve also managed to conquer new distances, ones that seemed impossible. The day of the Tara Grant memorial was supposed to be my first 7 miler, and I was terrified. But once I knocked it out, those longer distances don’t really scare me anymore. You’ve seen my casual talk of an 8 miler that may have been a 9 miler. I’ve got a 10 miler on the horizon, and I’ve realized that I’m practically at the half-marathon distance. If I can keep myself healthy and running during the winter and into the spring, I’m seriously considering a 2009 half.

This was the run that put me over the 500 mile mark. Amazing!

I have found peace while running, and for the hectic world we live in, I’ll take peace where I can find it. Running has brought me a sense of purpose, as well as a sense of pride. These last 500 miles have been a wild ride, and here’s to 500 more!

So what are you waiting for? Go running!

Happy Halloween!

So, probably not the most timely of posts.   I’ve been fighting with my computer, my browser, and Blogger to get these photos uploaded.  I have finally vanquished the computer gnomes that prevented this post.
I’ve officially been 29 for 12 days now, but I wanted to post about what I did on my birthday.  I had a wonderful time, thanks in great part to some wonderful friends.  I took the day off, to take advantage of the quirkiness of Ford’s holiday schedules and work my way into a 5 day weekend.  
I had been having a hard time trying to schedule a get-together with friends.  The timing was just off.  Someone took it on themselves to organize a breakfast at the Northside Grill.  I’m still not entirely sure who it was, but I am very grateful to that person or persons.   I would have never thought about breakfast.   The waitress brought out a brownie cake with candles for both me and Seth who shares my birthday.  Brownies at breakfast.  Who’da thunk?
The second plan of the day was to go hiking after Friday Forum.  I had managed to convince Jonathan that he should come hiking, as it would probably be one of the last great days of the fall.  Together we persuaded Amy to join us, and Amy brought Jin

 
We drove out to Pinckney Rec, and it was a beautiful day!  The leaves were still  colorful and mostly still on the trees.  The temperature was perfect for hiking!  We set out on the Crooked Lake trail, a five mile hike.   Amy and Jonathan weren’t on vacation like I was, so they walked part of the trail with me and then went back and did important things, while I did my best to wear out Jin.
 
Jin and I did fairly well together.  I think he didn’t realize that there might be squirrels off trail.  He did get a little impatient with me when I stopped to take pictures.   Right towards the last half mile of the trail, Jin noticed something off trail.  Unfortunately, we were at the top of a steepish hill, and the squirrel or woodland creature or whatever was at the bottom of that hill.  It was a fun ride down.
 
The final part of the day was the Monster Ball.  I had been intending to exercise my birthday right to not dress up on Halloween, but it came to me that I should go as Dr. Horrible.  I posted the video a few posts back to get a few of my friends up to speed, because i knew many wouldn’t really know who I was.  
 
I think I pulled it off fairly well.  For an internet meme that not many people around these parts had heard of, I only had to explain myself a few times.  My welding goggles and my freeze ray made it.
One of the events at the Monster Ball was a Mr. and Miss Monster Ball 2008 talent contest.  The HSAC had invited a few people to participate, Mike and Brian notably.  I was not in the original set of contestants.  However, someone didn’t show, and I got asked at the last minute if I could do something so there was an even number of guys and ladies in the contest.   Fortunately, I had my iPod in my car with the sound track for Dr. Horrible on it. 
 
I quickly put together a lip sync to the Laundry Day / My Freeze Ray song.  I convinced Amy to be the Penny to my Billy.  She had seen the show, and knew what was going on.  We ran through it once before the show, me listening to the iPod and narrating the actions as we went along.  The lip sync went well and got a rousing round of applause.
 
Somehow, against Mike’s rendition (and real singing) “The Monster King” and Brian’s excellent song about vampires, the crowd gave its approval to my obviously lip-synced song and crowned me Mr. Monster 2008.  Still no real idea how that happened.  
 

Kara Stowers, dressed as Kimmy Gibler, was crowned Miss Monster Ball. It was a fantastic way to end the night. Thanks to all who shared a part of their day with me. I couldn’t have picked a better day