Monday, December 28, 2009

This Week's MC-D Beagle / Colts Haiku, Plus BONUS SONG LYRICS!!!

This week our esteemed Colts/Beagle haiku reporter struggles to deal with the ignominy of a loss, and finds that 17 syllables just aren't enough to continue her angst:

Colts: a record streak
And 50,000 yards. Kate
Beagle simply shrugs.

[And now, to the tune of "Blowing in the Wind"]

How many games will we see Indy tank
Despite setting records again?
And how many questions will Caldwell deflect,
Painter getting boos from ev'ry fan?
The answer, my friend, lies with Bill Polian;
The answer lies with Bill Polian!

--Mary Campbell-Droze


Meanwhile, in Lions Land we note that the Colts took 23 games to gather their 23 wins prior to that game, while it has taken the Lions most of a decade to earn* their last 23 wins. And so, your esteemed Lions correspondent finds that just nine syllables can contain his feeling about the Lions' twentieth consecutive road loss, a streak that threatens to soon pass the NFL record of 24 consecutive road losses set by ... you guessed it! ... the Detroit Lions, earlier this decade.

Anyway, here are my nine syllables on this week's Lions stinker:

"Thank you sir may I have another?"

*"Earn", "Luck into" ... eh, whatever.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Katie the Reindeer

Katie The Reindeer,
Despite her embarrasment,
Barks, "Merry Christmas!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comics from the University of Michigan - Flint

Yesterday I went down to Vault of Midnight comics in Ann Arbor to attend the in-store signing by Ryan Claytor's comics studio class at the University of Michigan - Flint. I always enjoy student work in a variety of fields because it's a chance to see people trying something new and different. And I especially appreciate when people are willing to put their work out there for other people to see.

By the time I got down to Ann Arbor, there were seven creators with seven books left. I put a good dent in my comics budget for the next couple of weeks by making a clean sweep at three bucks a pop. Here's a panel or two from each:

From Ew by Garrett Blondin

From A Small Collection of Comics by Chelsea Case

From Stars Beneath Stars: 3 Short Comics by James Barclay

From Tales of Marvinism by Marvin J. Dabideen

From Art in Sequence by Brian Hunt

From The Tales of T. by Travis Larkin

From The Extraordinarily Ordinary by Elizabeth Sevick

Each of the books contained three parts: an artistic statement a wordless comic, and another short comic. I saw a lot of Ryan's influence on the artistic statement sections in each. (Though that could also just be that Ryan's the only comics artist I know who has dedicated multiple books to exploring a theory of autobiography, so any comic statement of artistic self-examination is likely to remind me of his work.)

Not surprisingly, they were all a bit uneven, but all of them contained interesting images and cool bits. There were a few things that particularly struck me: Elizabeth Sevick's feel for facial expressions, Travis Larkin's storytelling in The Tales of T., James Barclay's "A Night in Amsterdam", and Chelsea Case's amazing anthropomorphic sponge, Gary the Loofah. I've read a lot of comics, but I've never see one that featured a loofah sponge as the protagonist.

Ryan also taught a class at MSU this semester, and he has both another MSU class and three UM-Flint classes in the Spring. If you get a chance to attend one of their signings next Summer, stop by and pick up a few. You'll see something entirely different, and the students can probably use your three beans more than the corporate overlords of DC and Marvel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Week's MC-D Colts/Beagle Haiku: In light (enlight?) of yesterday's exchange.

Nam Myoho Indy Kyo

Manning is Dharma.
Katie Beagle is Buddha.
The Colts? Nirvana!

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More High-Falutin' Poetry Analysis

Just thought I'd share a recent e-mail chain among friends that uncovered some deep thoughts regarding poetry and current events:

From: Campbell-Droze, Mary
Subject: The Poetry Koan-er meets the Zen Masters

Surprise! Buddhist monks write a lot of stuff I wouldn't expect they would. One dreams about a very specific attribute of his sweetheart, another flings cusswords at a crow that would make a 20-year Marine proud, and one likens the air to elephant flatulence.

Some of the pieces hew more to what I anticipated:

I'm trying to tell you something I can't say
Like eating mist or chopping your shadow in half

but you never know what to expect from guys who simultaneously write about insight and picking their noses.

From: Magee, John

They're simultaneously writing about insight and picking their noses?

Are you sure you haven’t accidentally picked up a volume of Vogon poetry?

From: Campbell-Droze, Mary

Good grief, where's my TOWEL???

From: Kardos, Tim

Okay, Zen master, here’s some fodder for you:

NZ gal's Bulgarian airbags halt traffic:
Flashes jubs, gets run over

By Lester Haines

A New Zealand teenager whose mates dared her to flash her chesticles at passing motorists brought traffic to a standstill when an appreciative driver ran her over, the Southland Times reports.

Cherelle May Dudfield, 18, stood in the middle of an Invercargill road with her assets exposed on 27 September. This turned out to be ill-advised, and despite her attempts to evade an oncoming vehicle, she "rolled over the bonnet, cracking the windscreen".

An uninjured Dudfield earned herself an appearance before Invercargill District Court on a disorderly behaviour rap, where she pleaded guilty to improper use of Bulgarian airbags.

Duty solicitor John Fraser suggested the driver involved could have been a little more careful, but conceded he may have been "distracted".

Judge David Holderness said Dudfield was lucky the consequences weren't more serious and slapped her with a NZ$275 fine.

From: Magee, John

Oh, there’s at least a limerick in that incident

Now let’s see, what rhymes with “Bulgarian airbags?”

From: Campbell-Droze, Mary

Airhead Bagged

Dugs-field fell, was fined.
No noses were picked, and no
Elephants fahrted.

From: Magee, John

Oh sure, it makes a fine haiku. But I think you can see my problem here:

A young lady from Southland, New Zealand,
Thought she could improve traffic’s wheelin’
By standing in streets
And exposing her teats
Until one driver lost control and hit her in her Bulgarian airbags.

It just doesn’t quite scan.

From: Kardos, Tim

Close enough!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What you should be reading instead of this blog

Hey, you! Yeah, you with the mouse.

What are you doing reading this blog? You should instead be reading Arsen Darnay's Symphony in Ghulf Major saga. The first two books in the trilogy (Ghulf Genes, In Search of Anna Magna) are finally available at both and directly through Lulu press.

The third book (Anna's Song) is coming very, very soon, and I'm sure you'll want to be ready to greet it when it's hot off the presses.

Ghulf Genes

In Search of Anna Magna

Go. Order. Read. Enjoy. You can thank me later.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Another Beagle-Haiku Sports Commentary

This one rescued from the comments on another post:

Katie the Beagle
Hangs her head in shame. Bye-Bye
Curtis Granderson.

--Michelle Darnay-Paret

The Beagle Karma

Item #1) Mary Campbell-Droze begins writing weekly Beagle / Colts haiku.
Item #2) Indianapolis Colts start the season a perfect 13-0, and set the NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories.

Coincidence? MC-D, Katie the Beagle, and I think not. The Beagle Karma is here, and it is real.

Of Equine and Canine Perfection (Part 2): Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Season

In thirteen Colts games,
The only thing more perfect
Was Kate the Beagle.

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Friday, December 11, 2009

Homebrewing Tips

I heard recently from somebody starting out in home brewing who was wondering if I had any tips for beginning homebrewers to pass along that might not be obvious from a book. I reckoned a book would hammer home the first commandment of home brewing -- "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" -- so I thought I'd pass along a few others that might be worth considering for the beginning brewer:

1) Find a brewing buddy or two if you can. Both the brewing and the tasting are more fun with a couple of good friends.

2) It might be worth planting a couple of hops vines this Spring. As you start to move beyond the simplest brews, you'll need some hops, and hop prices have risen a good deal over the past few years, which means that you might fine yourself shelling out $3-$6 per batch for hops.

The vines themselves usually start producing a lot the second year, though you may get a few flowers the first year. Planting them now means they'll be ready when you are. Monique and I planted a couple of hops vines this spring, and got just enough to flavor a batch of stout we made this fall. It was genuinely fun to use our own hops for the flavoring, and I'm really looking forward to hopping most of my beers next year off our own vines.

3) Don't be afraid to experiment. Feel like dropping a quart of maple syrup in your stout? Go for it! Want to try adding some vanilla to an ale? Why not? (I can now tell you from personal experience that if you do try some vanilla, the beer really does need to age a couple of months afterwards.) The point is that whatever you do, the end product is likely to contain alcohol and to be something interesting.

And drinking the mistakes can still lead to a fun evening!

4) Most importantly, have fun! Some bits of brewing can get pretty technical, especially if you're just starting or if you're trying something complicated. But at its heart it's not much trickier than baking a cake or a pie, and you'll figure out the tricky bits as you keep trying. Once you've known the joy of drinking the fruit of your labors, no other beer tastes quite as satisfying.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facebook vs. The Blog

I came across a post (Facebook, Twitter, and so forth) on Sailor Jim's blog (Sailor Jim; Storyteller 2.0) in which he discussed the fact that he recently joined Facebook but finds the hubbub of it all less appealing than blogging. He uses a pretty good metaphor for the two:

It seems to me that the Facebook / Twitter model is that of a large room, full of people saying things at random as it occurs to them, each with several other people standing there commenting on whatever random thing was said, whereas blogs are more like one person on a stage with a mic, standing in front of an audience. After they get done with their performance, someone out of the audience takes their place and does a turn, while various critics still in the audience write reviews of and suggestions for the performance they just watched.

I thought it was an interesting metaphor, and I wrote a few comments on his entry to try to extend his metaphor to explain why I see the two mediums as complements to one another, not competitors. Then I reckoned I'd copy them here, which just goes to show that self-plagiarism spans all technologies. Here's what I had to say:

Just think of the blog as the stage, and Facebook as just all the folks out there at the tables chit-chatting with each other and not paying too much attention to the stage, the bar, the wait staff or really anything other than their Farmville farms. There's no need for performance pressure on FB; it's just a place to chit-chat.

Then sometimes a good act comes on stage and people pay attention for a while.

I tend to use FB as a place to keep track of my family and friends, and I reckon the ante is that I pony up a status update when I check in. (Thus the hundred-plus "lunchin' in the cube" updates I've posted in the last year.) No pressure, just a quick sentence on whatever comes to mind.

That my seem like it's filling the Internet with trivia ... er, more trivia ... but really getting to know somebody over time involves knowing both the important stuff (got married, got a new job, had a kid, etc.) and the little things. And since my family members live all over the place, what I like most about FB is that I feel I have a much better sense of the little things in their lives. For example, I would have known that one of my brothers travelled to Norway for work recently, but I wouldn't have known that he was really thinking about buying a viking hat while he was there. That sort of stuff.

I tend to use my blog as a place to write out my longer, more coherent thoughts on things. And every now and then when there's something there that I think might be of general interest, I link to it from my FB account.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What a Depressing Christmas Season

I was recently struck by the inherently depressing messages of TV Christmas classics:

  • A mentally disturbed child suffers peer rejection, then kills a plant. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
  • A community mocks and shuns a deformed youngster until they learn that they can exploit his freakish physical difference for profit. (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
  • It's okay to steal a hat if it belongs to somebody you don't like. (Frosty the Snowman)
  • A burgler avoids prosecution and is instead feted by his gullible victims. (The Grinch That Stole Christmas)

    Hmmmn ... maybe the problem is that I need to go back a bit farther. How 'bout some good, old-fashioned Christmas movies from the good ol' days?
  • Fiscal irresponsibility and banking irregularities are okay if you seem like a nice guy. (It's a Wonderful Life)
  • A single mother learns that it's okay to lie to your child as long as the lie is backed by powerful corporate interests and corrupt politicians. (A Miracle on 34th Street)

  • Uh-oh. Well, so much for the 20th Century. What does 19th Century literature have to say on the subject?

  • Miser grows wealthy by exploiting workers, but buys his way out of eternal damnation with a pittance in indulgences. (A Christmas Carol)

  • Dang.

    I reckon I'd best go a bit farther back in time. Let's go all the way back.

  • Men in power don't care if the poor give birth in stables, presumably because they have no health insurance. (Luke, 2.1-8)

  • Okay, so much for going backwards. Maybe it's time to start a new Christmas tradition, a cheery tradition. Let's find a happy Christmas season tale in today's news!

    Curtis Granderson Traded from Tigers to New York Yankees.

    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Detroit.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Michelle & Stella's Visit: A Few Random Photos

    It's nothing I'd call a true photo-documentary of Michelle & Stella's visit to Michigan for the last couple weeks of November but I reckoned I'd at least throw a few pictures up on the ol' blog. For more pictures, go check out the images captured by the visitors themselves over at the Pontoon Pirates blog.

    Suddenly, Arsen and Baldy regretted asking John to do his famed tornado-siren impression.

    Now a few from the Novi Pet Expo:

    Flying dogs!

    An unusual species of kitty cat.

    Photographing the photographer.

    Afterwards, Katie the Beagle badgered Michelle incessantly with questions about what she saw at the Pet Expo.

    We also visited a Lions game:

    Here Stella and John discovered that our tickets were so high up in the cheap seats that Stella needed to affix the binoculars to the zoom lens of her camera to see the field.

    And now, a photo series I like to call "Gift Wrapping the Boat" starring Stella and Monique!

    On Thanksgiving Day we (Monique, Arsen, Brigitte, Michelle, Stella, Wendy, Anna, Lexi, and I) all lazed about the house and then ate waaaaay too much turkey.

    Katie the Beagle helps Arsen with a game of My Word.

    Wendy reading "How Fletcher Was Hatched" to Katie the Beagle, Lexi, and Anna.

    Arsen and Lexi reading on the couch.

    And after dinner? Mmmn ... pie! (From left-to-right: pumpkin, chocolate pecan, apple, and pecan.)

    On the last Saturday night Arsen, Michelle, Monique, and I went for a walk in Grosse Pointe and amused ourselves by taking pictures of Christmas lights while spinning the camera. This might have had something to do with the growler of beer we drank before we went for the walk.

    Stella created her own art the next day, a couple of music videos.

    Finally, we close with a few photos of the Darnay girls with their mother.

    Monique and Brigitte:

    Brigitte and Michelle:

    It was a great visit.

    Wherein MC-D realizes that Beagles have an inherent advantage over Colts

    Colts go 12 and 0!
    But then, Katie the Beagle's
    Perfect EVERY year!

    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    Another quick update on Susan

    Just passing along another quick update on my sister Susan's status for anybody who hasn't heard. She got out of the hospital yesterday, and is back home for now. It sounds as if a lot of bed rest may still be in the cards. She'll still be able to nurse wee Emerson, which is a great relief to her.

    She hasn't yet updated her blog (Gettysburg Family) but she did pop a post up on Facebook yesterday, so she's back online at least a bit. Thanks for everybody's good wishes, both here and on her blog.

    Oh, and the whole pulmonary embolism thing has led her and Rich to rethink their stance on smoking. They've quit.

    Thanksgiving Leftovers Update.

    This will be my eleventh straight day of turkey. There have been turkey dinner platters, turkey sandwiches galore, turkey burritos, turkey tacos, turkey fajitas, turkey-wild rice casserole, turkey spaghetti, and turkey omelets. Katie the Beagle has eaten so many turkey scraps that she's starting to grow feathers. We'll probably take the rest of the meat of the carcass tonight and make turkey soup.

    Monique and I ate the last slab of pumpkin pie last night. We're down to two servings of mashed potatoes and gravy, one wee scoop of cranberry sauce, and 1/3 of a container of andouille sausage stuffing (which is oh, so yummy on turkey sandwiches!)

    'Round these parts the Thanksgiving season lasts nearly as long as the Christmas season. And that's just the way we like it.

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Your Local Government's Work Is Never Done

    This story in today's New York Times' Week In Review section amused me this morning. It's from 100 years ago this week:

    Back Then: Dec. 3, 1909

    The Improvement Association of Edgewater Park, N.J., has found much cause for complaint recently in the whistle shrieks of the Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives. ... Men placed near the tracks by the Improvement Association noticed that one train, which passed through the town three times a day, was the principal offender. A fair-haired girl was found to be the cause of the tooting of this train, for no sooner would the shrill sound issue forth than this young woman would come out on the porch of her home and throw kisses to the engineer, who would return them, and give a few extra blasts in recognition of the salutation.

    The Improvement Association has decided that if the engineer cannot woo his fair young friend without annoying the whole town he had better have her home moved further away.

    This sounds like just the sort of thing that might come before our own village council in 2009. And it also sounds like just the sort of way we'd investigate it. However, given the general depopulation and real-estate collapse in Metro Detroit, we're not enouraging anyone to move farther away, no matter how annoying her beau's train whistle is.

    (And I can't help but whatever happened to that engineer and the blonde.)

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Quick update on my sister Susan

    Just a quick update on Susan for folks who haven't gotten an update elsewhere. She's still in the hospital, though she might get out in another day or two if she continues to improve. It sounds as if her condition was worse than we had heard: clots in both lungs and in both legs, plus a collapsed lung. Not good. She's going to be on blood thinners for a while.

    The good news is that she seems to be on the mend. She's not happy about being separated from her kids, of course, especially Emerson. But Rich has been taking them to the hospital to visit. There's also good news in that it sounds as if she'll be able to nurse Emerson again once she gets off one of her medications (an anti-nausea med) despite being on the Coumadin.

    If you haven't yet had a chance to wish her well on her blog, I'm still encouraging folks to go to her most recent post -- The New Normal -- on her Gettysburg Family blog and post a get-well note in the comments. I don't think she has internet in the hospital, but I'm sure she'll be glad to see them all once she gets out.

    And that's about it. We're all still worried, but also encouraged.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Last night, level at Fl 410

    Last night, level at Fl 410,
    above the clouds,
    silvered by moonlight,
    the stars scattered far and wide,
    above, beyond, and around us,
    a beaming Mars rising red/orange in the east,
    and some distant storms flash/flashing in the far distance,
    we knew for an elusive moment a sense of peace.

    Beneath us a northeaster was raging,
    and that turbulent, rain-swept, crosswind battle at Morristown
    was yet to come (Joy !)

    God is good to us.

    --Tony Buttacavoli

    This was a Facebook post I came across this morning by a friend of mine who's a pilot. I don't think he particularly meant it to be a poem. But I really, really liked it. So I've added some linebreaks and posted it here.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Hey, everybody, send your "get well soon" wishes to Susan!

    Hi, everybody. Just passing along a quick update via blog to let folks know that my sister Susan is back in the hospital today with pleurisy and an embolism in her lung. (Harrumph. So much for her theory that she could minimize her hospital time by arriving just fifteen minutes before she gave birth.)

    It sounds as if they expect her to recover fully, but it will probably take a while. If you're reading this, I think it would cheer her considerably if you go to her blog at Gettysburg Family and post a comment at her latest post (The New Normal) to wish her a speedy recovery.

    (While you're there, click on a few ads, too. I'm sure a sudden jump in her AdWords revenue would also help her recuperation.)

    You can also send along wishes for a speedy recovery to Susan's husband Rich and his brother Michael. No, they're not sick, but they're watching the whole unruly Gettysburg Family crew while Susan's in the hospital, and I'm sure it will take them quite a while to recover from THAT!

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Looking for a gift idea? How 'bout the gift of beer!

    A friend of a friend (I shan't say more, for fear of giving away surprises) was directed to me for some advice on the beermaking kits on as a Christmas present. Since I wrote it up, I reckoned I'd pass it along for anybody else looking for advice.

    When I started brewing again a couple of years ago it was with a Mr. Beer kit, which is one of the ones listed at the top of the listings on Amazon. It's really pretty easy and fun. The regular kit just comes with enough mix to make one batch, so adding in one of those three-mix variety packs is kind of a good idea.

    It's a good idea to pick up a good book to go with it. The Mr. Beer pamphlet is pretty short on detail, history, and theory of beer. But a great book for a beginning home brewer is Charlie Papazian's Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

    In the long run, the best thing to do is to hook up with a local home brewing supply store, especially if you want to start building a kit around some existing pieces like your glass carboy. Those sorts of stores a great source of expertise and advice, as well as a handy place to pick up some of the little do-dads that make it all a bit easier. If you don't know of one nearby and can't find one in the Yellow Pages, there's a pretty good listing of local stores here: (It's set to Michigan as the default, but you can change states.)

    Happy brewing!

    Katie the Beagle says, "Finally, a Morning at Home with Monique!"

    The beagle welcomes
    The return of her routine,
    And returns to bed.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    MC-D reveals her true haiku-writing priorities

    With this week's Mary Campbell-Droze Colts / Beagle haiku, we begin to suspect her commitment to the Katie-the-Beagle side of the equation. Is it possible that she's exploiting the world's leading beagle-haiku source as a platform on which she can express her Colts love?

    Eh, as long as the haikus keep rolling in, it's all good:

    Merely Incidentally Beagle-y


    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    I fear for the future of General Motors

    I was innocently reading the sports section of the ol' New York Times this morning when I came across this review of the new Cadillac station wagon:

    Behind the Wheel 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon: The Wagon of Cadillacs

    There's a lot of interesting stuff in there about the reasons for the decline and fall of station wagons in North America, the continued popularity of station wagons in Europe, and the decision of Cadillac to start making a station wagon this year, the only American-brand station wagon.

    But here's the part that caught my eye:

    Particularly unusual for a wagon are the ultraslim rear-quarter windows and extra-wide rear pillars. They make it look as if Cadillac’s designers were afraid to let their wagon look like a wagon — and they were.

    “There’s a stigma of what a wagon is and I think what we were trying to do is something that was not a traditionally defined wagon,” said Clay Dean, Cadillac’s chief designer, who is also executive director for G.M. global advanced design. “The D-pillar is thicker than you would normally do; normally you’d thin that thing up as much as you can for visibility, but it was a conscious choice.”

    From the driver’s seat, the low priority given to visibility is painfully evident, as the chunky pillars have a tendency to make cars in the adjacent lane disappear. Before changing lanes, precise adjustments of the side mirrors are advised, along with over-the-shoulder glances. ...

    The firm front seats, however, earned low marks for comfort. In the rear, space is adequate — a 6-foot passenger can sit behind a 6-foot driver—but the seat cushion is short and low, and the rather small door openings impede access.

    In another compromise to style, the rakishly sloping roofline and forward-canted rear window shrink the luggage space. The cargo hold is well-finished — there are movable tie-down loops set in tracks on the carpeted floor, shallow bins underneath and a cover that can be propped up to help keep items from tipping over — but it is small.

    In other words, according to their own chief of design, Cadillac deliberately chose to sacrifice visibility, safety, and space to style for their station wagon.

    There are a lot of cars in which style can and should drive the design. But a station wagon? A station wagon?! The point of moving from the sedan version of a car to the station-wagon version is that you pick up a lot of additional functionality.

    To be honest, General Motors cars haven't been very high on my "to-buy" list for quite a while, but it has nothing to do with oft-cited GM problems with reliability, durability, mileage, or performance. It's because what they like to call their "aggressively sloped" rooflines don't leave me enough room to sit upright in the damn cars. I'm a pretty tall guy (6'3", for anybody reading this who doesn't know me) but I'm not Shaquille O'Neal. And, honestly, all of the other stuff doesn't matter if I can't sit upright in the car without turning my head on its side.

    And I've sat in a lot of GM cars over the past ten years. In fact, it's become an annual highlight of my tour of the Detroit Auto Show, the portion we like to call, "John sits in a couple dozen different Chevrolets, Buicks, and Cadillacs, bumps his head into the roof, and gives up the thought of ever buying a GM car."

    By choosing your low rooflines, GM, not only are you making it physically impossible for me to justify shelling out for one of your cars, you're also telling me that you don't care about me, that you think style is more important than me, the driver and purchaser. You are doing the same by choosing style over visibility and cargo space in a station wagon. This is not a customer-centric vision of the future.

    The only possible silver lining in all this is that I'm sure that this car was designed before GM went bankrupt. So I can only hope that this proud "conscious choice" is a leftover of now-discredited policies. I don't see any reason to believe that to be true. I just like to vaguely hope that somebody GM will have learned from utter failure. I'm an optimist.

    Finally, since I am now a majority owner of your company (as are all of my fellow taxpayers) and you're pissing off your boss, a note directly to GM's board of directors, CEO, and executive director for G.M. global advanced design Clay Dean:

    Please stop making crap and trying to sell it to us all on the basis of style. That strategy already wrecked your company once. Just make good cars, and sell us good cars. C'mon, you used to be able to do that. Really, I'm rooting for you. But sometimes you make it very, very difficult for me to keep doing that.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Mmmmn ... pie

    No deep blogging thoughts, but I'm taking a break from the kitchen and thought I'd take a quick break for a quick pre-Thanksgiving update.

    The fifth and final pie is in the oven, and the Thanksgiving preparations continue apace. We're having five pies this year: two pumpkin, a pecan, a chocolate pecan, and an apple pie. We probably would've only had four pies, but the big can of pumpkin was on sale at the store yesterday. I reckoned nobody would complain about a second pumpkin pie.

    I've been on vacation this week, so I did the Thanksgiving shopping yesterday. I shan't type up the full list, but there is indeed a 25-pound gobbler from Roperti's Turkey Farm waiting to go in the oven tomorrow morning. We've been getting our Thanksgiving turkey from there for quite a few years now, and they're really delicious.

    The nice thing about doing the shopping early was that I had all day today to get up early and get everything ready. Instead, of course, I slept in, read the virtual paper, and then watched about three hours of "Match Game" on the DVR. Nonetheless, pies have been made and we're well on our way to a feast.

    Next stop: prepping the andouille sausage stuffing. Yummy!

    Preview of coming attractions: Our first stop in yesterday's erranding and shopping came at the little beer supply store where Monique bought me a lovely glass carboy for my birthday. We also picked up ten pounds of honey, and then later during the day I tracked down five gallons of fresh apple cider. Tomorrow as we cook and laze about the house we're also going to brew up a batch of cyser. (Cyser is a variety of mead brewed with honey and cider.) I'm sure there'll be lots of photos, but don't get too excited for the tasting. It'll need at least six months of aging before it'll be drinkable, so don't expect a review until next summer.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    The Colts Continue Their Winning Ways, Just Barely

    Clutch Games and the Hue of Beagles

    Colts fans turn Colts Blue
    From always holding their breath.
    Kate stays Beagle Brown!

    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    And for those who wondered about Katie's Colt habit, I add this:

    She lives in Detroit.
    Why did Katie watch the Colts?
    The Lions were blacked out.

    Fortunately, John, Monique, Michelle, and Stella were all down at Ford Field to watch the one good game the Lions have played in the last decade. Alas for Katie, she was stuck at home on the couch with the remote control in one paw, and a half-pint of Beagle Beer in the other.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    A few assorted updates

    With Michelle and Stella visiting Wolverine Lake I've been doing more "having fun" than blogging, but I reckoned I'd send along a quick update for those who worried the recent lack of updates means that the flock of trumpeter swans ate us.

    There are lots and lots of photos, but I haven't yet downloaded or organized them, and won't do so this morning. So you'll just have to read this stuff the old-fashioned way.

    Cold update:
    I'm much recovered from the cold that had me down earlier this week. Stupid cold. And I'm glad to report that it doesn't seem I've passed it along to anybody. Stupid cold.

    Trumpeter swan update:
    The trumpeter swan flock is still hanging around the lake, though they've moved on to other arms. Last night we could hear them trumpeting up a storm in the dark.

    Arsen, Brigitte, Baldy, Peggy, Susie, Michelle, and Stella all came over for dinner Thursday night. Monique cooked up a delicious pan of baked pasta. Baldy, Peggy, and Susie had been visiting A&B this week, but alas, they all headed back South Friday. We had thought they were staying through Saturday, so this was the only chance I got to see them. Stella stuck around and stayed here afterwards.

    Michelle came over and we all (Monique, Michelle, Stella, and me) had nachos for dinner and a lovely conversation in which Monique, Michelle, and I patronizingly tsk-tsked -- at length -- the violence in modern movies. Then after sufficiently scolding contemporary Hollywood we decided to step back in time and watch a classic from back when movies were just good, clean fun. We went way back in time and picked Total Recall (1990). It was a great choice, especially the cool part where the dude's head exploded and the brains got all over everybody on the escalator.

    In Blu-Ray HDTV.

    On the big plasma TV.

    Gosh, it's a shame we didn't dig up a director's cut that restored the minute-and-a-half of assorted blood and guts that was originally trimmed from the movie to get it down from an X rating when it was first released.

    Irony, thy name is Friday night's movie choice.

    There was a bit of lovely lazing about the house in the morning. Then Monique, Michelle, Stella, and I were off to the Pet Exposition down at the Novi convention center with our neighbor Wendy and her daughter Lexi. Photos aplenty to follow, so I shan't go into detail here. We had an excellent time.

    Afterwards, we stopped at the Sunshine Herb Farm and picked up a clump of dried hops for future brewing. Unfortunately, the woman who runs the Sunshine Herb Farm is ready to retire, so she's put it up for sale. This is the place where we pick up all of our heirloom tomatoes, pepper plants, and herbs when we plant our garden every spring, so we're watching the sale with great interest. Anybody want to buy an herb farm? (They also raise Morgan horses.)

    When we got home, it was beer-bottling time at the Old Sloshingforth Brewery. We bottled ten gallons of beer: five gallons of the very promising Pumpkin Holiday Ale, and five gallons of a little brew I'm calling Old Slosh. I think the Holiday Ale is going to turn our really, really well. I think the Old Slosh will contain some level of alcohol. With any luck it will probably not cause blindness.

    After the bottling, we settled down to watch a good, old fashioned non-violent movie, His Girl Friday (1940) with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It featured theft, attempted insurance fraud, public graft, hanging, a prison escape, counterfeiting, bribery, lots of shooting, machine guns, kidnapping, an attempted suicide, and at least a dozen instances of "obstruction of justice." Good clean fun.

    Monique, Michelle, and Stella don't know about any of that, though, since they all fell asleep while the film had only advanced to a little racketeering. Apparently the violence level was just too tame for their tastes. Perhaps we'll try The Wild Bunch (1969) tonight.

    Sunday morning:
    Speaking of meaningless violence, the four of us are just about to head off to watch today's Stupor Bowl: the Hapless Browns (1-8) come to Detroit today to take on the Feeble Lions (1-8). (City names have been changed to protect innocent bystanders in those two cities.) On the bright side, this is a game that the Lions may have a chance to win.

    Goooooo, Lions!!

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Trumpeter Swans on Wolverine Lake

    All night long I was wondering why the flock of swans out front was so loud. They are "mute swans" after all, aren't they?

    Nope! When I woke this morning and looked out the window I saw black bills and black feet. We have a large flock of trumpeter swans in front of our house today!

    Mute swans aren't really mute, but they sure are quiet compared to their chatty trumpeter-swan cousins.

    There were about 60 trumpeter swans in the main flock, and another 10-20 scattered among the mute swans that were mostly outside this photo. This is the first time since we moved in almost ten years ago that I've seen trumpeter swans on Wolverine Lake.

    Based on their wingspan (nearly eight feet) and weight (25-35 pounds) trumpeter swans are generally regarded as the largest wild waterfowl species in the world.

    They're pretty rare in Michigan. They were hunted out about a century ago. They were reintroduced in the 1980s and their current statewide population is estimated at around 400.

    Their population count in the continental U.S. was fewer than 70 in the 1930s. That's fewer than the size of the flock out front today. By the start of the 21st century there were about 15,000 in Alaska and Western Canada, and another 1,500 or so East of the Rockies.

    Some of the little black-and-white bufflehead ducks that always migrate through in the Fall and Spring flocked together with them, just beyond the edge of the main flock. What would be really exciting would be if this means that we're now on a trumpeter swan migration flyway. That would mean they'd be back every year.

    I had only seen trumpeter swans in the Detroit Zoo before. I always find it especially encouraging when I see a natural species that was once on the brink of exctinction out in the wild. It reminds me of the grey whales I used to see migrating up the coast in California or the bald eagle that we saw out on the ice of our lake last winter. It makes me feel that all the effort put into environmental and conservation efforts isn't in vain, and it makes me hope that there may even be hope for the polar bear. (Mind you, I don't want a polar bear in my front lawn anytime soon, no matter how cold the winter!)

    Unlike our usual mute swans -- and our Canadian geese, mallards, seagulls, etc. -- the trumpeters were a bit shy. When I stepped off the porch towards the water, they all swam away towards the middle of the lake.

    A little later in the day I tried sneaking between some neighbors' homes and creeping up on them from behind a hedge. But this was as close as I could get before they started to swim away again.

    Truly wild waterfowl.

    I always hoped that one day I might see one in the wild. I hardly expected 60 of them to show up at our front porch!

    For more on trumpeter swans:

    Wikipedia entry: trumpeter swan.
    Michigan DNR fact sheet: trumpeter swan.
    Cornell Lab of Ornithology: trumpeter swan.
    The Trumpeter Swan Society.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    The All-Time Speediest MC-D Colts/Beagle Haiku

    I'm pretty sure Mary was writing this one up the moment Patriot coach Bill Belichick made the inexplicable decision to go for it on 4th-and-two on his own 28 yard line with just two minutes and eight seconds left in the game. For those who didn't stay up last night to watch the game, the Patriots made one of the all-time great coaching blunders to give the Colts the opportunity to make a miraculous comeback and extend their winning streak to something like 18 games. Peyton Manning took advantage and stuck a dagger in their heart with 13 seconds left. Indeed, much to everybody's surprise, the game hyped as "The Game of the Year" turned out to be the best game of the year.

    Indy Noogies New England

    Colts beat Pats! Katie
    Beagle's ears rise at the sound
    Of Belichick's screams.

    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Ambitious, High-Achieving, Type-A Beagle

    The alarm rings and
    Katie trots to her next stop,
    The home-office bed.

    This Week's MC-D Colts/Beagle Haiku.

    In which MC-D praises the errant leg-lifting of the Houston Texans' kicker. Because she's a class act, she doesn't mention that beagles also know a little something about lifting a leg.

    I, however, am not a class act.

    Cockeyed Kick Keeps Colts Campaigning

    Texans shank left and
    All is right. Did Katie the
    Beagle hold her breath?

    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Welcome to the world, Emerson

    One more Facebook post of interest to pass along this evening:

    Rich Riordan Emerson Collins Riordan was born on Nov. 8th at 7:54 am, weighing 8lbs 13oz, 20.5 inches long.

    Congratulations, Susan & Rich!

    Those of you non-Facebookers out there who want to pass along your own congratulations can, of course, find Susan at Gettysburg Family, where the family has grown by one baby boy.

    Slacker Blogger

    Holy cow, I haven't posted since last Tuesday? I'd like to claim that this is because I've been a bundle of activity out in the real non-digital world. But that would mostly be a fib. However, worry not blogosphere. You haven't been forgotten. Here's a quick update on my week, cribbed from Facebook:

    John Magee has nothing to vote for today in Wolverine Lake, but is thinking good thoughts for some good candidates in other communities. Good government starts with good elected officials. November 3 at 10:56am


    John Magee finds himself checking Facebook more often these days, to see if his sister Susan has had this darn kid yet. Emerson, where are you? November 5 at 11:26am

    Susan Magee Riordan - Same place he was yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Think of poor Rich who's had to curtail his evening cocktails in case he needs to drive me to the hospital. November 5 at 11:29am

    John Magee - Good God, the situation's even more desperate than I thought! November 5 at 12:02pm

    Krista Magee Morehouse - The horror! November 5 at 3:18pm


    John Magee is drinking Michigan-cherry-flavored coffee this morning because I forgot to buy more of our regular beans last night. (We got it as a gift from somebody and hadn't tried it yet.) It's not bad for a novelty, but it's no threat to replace the standard brew. Friday at 9:48am


    As a Democrat, I'm disappointed. As a citizen, I'm irked. But as an investor with his 401K money in a small-cap fund, I'm deeply disturbed. High and Low Finance - Goodbye to the Accounting Reforms of 2002 - Fri at 10:21am


    John Magee and Monique had a good time working the Commonwealth Club fish fry tonight. Added bonus: our tummies are now really, really full of fish and chips. Fri at 10:23pm


    John Magee, Monique, and our neighbor Wendy just took an unbelievably beautiful late-season / early November sunset cruise on the Stealth Pontoon. I always leave the pontoon in too late hoping for a weekend evening just like this ... and this year that evening showed up! Sat at 7:11pm


    The Lions are the stupidest team ever. They fell for the "no play" fake play on fourth down and jumped offsides. Even Pee-Wee teams don't fall for that. Yesterday at 6:44pm


    John Magee can't believe how quickly this beautiful day disappeared. I want a do-over!Yesterday at 8:30pm

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    The Top Disasters of the 1980s

    Some days interesting topics come across my e-mail inbox at work. Today, somebody asked whether we had enough coverage of natural disasters of the 1980s in one of our planned online history products. To answer that question without further ado, I present my nominees for the Top Five Disasters of the 1980s:

    5) This hairstyle on the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls.

    4) The movie Heaven’s Gate (1980).

    3) Ozzy Osbourne’s liver, years 1980-89 inclusive.

    2) David Lee Roth leaves Van Halen, replaced by Sammy Hagar, 1985.

    1) The Columbia University football team’s 44-game losing streak, 1983 to 1988.

    Indianapolis Colts, Week 8, in beagle haiku, plus some newspaper whining

    Katie the Beagle
    Thinks Indy's Niner win is
    Nothing to bark at.

    --Mary Campbell-Droze

    Sadly, these 17 syllables aren't much less informative than the full game report in my Monday paper. Or, rather, in my Monday no-paper, since the Detroit Free Press is only home-delivered on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, and the paper itself continues to shrink while growing ever-more-expensive at the stands. The dead-tree edition of Monday's full paper ran 30 pages and cost a full dollar.

    And for the last week or so their iPhone/Mobile edition has been broken, so that you can only read the top ten or so stories.

    Quite honestly, I'm considering replacing the whole thing with a Xeroxed single page of haiku. You may think this is a bad business model, but I don't see how it's worse than building a news business model based on not providing news to your readers. And as near as I can tell, that has become the Free Press's business model.

    I was willing to follow them into their digital experiment, since the proposal was that they would provide all the news they used to, just in a different format. But I'm increasingly wondering where the news went.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Pumpkin' Carvin', 2009

    It was once again time for our annual pumpkin carving festivities. Arsen and Brigitte came across town, and Wendy, Anna, and Lexi came over from next door.

    But first, a beagle haiku:

    Lexi and Katie:
    Two beagles, separated
    Only by species.

    There were also some pre-carving birthday presents for Monique, the birthday girl!

    A skoosh ball from Lexi!

    An angel from Anna!

    And a beautiful orange scarf/wrap from Paris, thanks to the fashionable gifting of the Parets of Pontoon Pirates fame.

    Now, on to the pumpkins!

    Wendy and Anna.

    Katie and Lexi, still beagling around.

    Lexi takes an interest in things human, with Brigitte.

    Be careful, or Arsen will spoon you next!

    This year's crop!

    In the dark!

    Happy Halloween, everybody!