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.